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Comment: Re:Change Jobs (Score 1) 275

by lrichardson (#47953303) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Avoid Becoming a Complacent Software Developer?

I take the opposite view - when I see version control, bug tracking, and automated testing, it sets off alarm bells that a company is in the compartmentalization downslide. An IT group that is stretched too thin, asked to do too many things, or held accountable for things beyond its control, and has therefore devised methods to insulate itself from complaints ... and accountability.

"Thank goodness for quality control; without it, who knows what heights quality could soar to!"

Take HPQC (please!) ... the overwhelming majority of people who use it are challenged by anything more than drag-n-drop. Worse, management of these groups goes for the easy metrics it can provide (e.g. # of typos), rather than anything meaningful. One project I was part of had nearly thirty testers checking on such important things as 'Did Field A make it from Database 1 to Database 2?'. Checking the financial totals matched? 1.5 people, not using HPQC, which simply couldn't do that testing. Needless to say, the HPQC team put out lots of reports showing how the number of defects was rapidly decreasing ... and the entire project went down in flames.

(I have a theory that Mercury, the company that originally devised this product, simply hit upon something that appealed to management; the reality was that it did more to destroy quality than improve it was part of their scam. And the company, and subsequently HP, ended up paying tens of millions in fines when all their other scam-like behaviour came out. It's hard to imagine something useful ever evolving out of a criminal origin)

"When people start to value process over product, it's time to kick them to the curb."

The use of these tools _can_ have value. But, more often, it results in people who take refuge in the cry "But I did what was required of me!" Yep, 'The patient died, but the operation was a success!' mentality.

Comment: Re:That kinda sucks (Score 1) 172

by lrichardson (#47605345) Attached to: Sony Tosses the Sony Reader On the Scrap Heap

I thought Sony had learned their lesson after losing completely and utterly to VHS. Most would agree Betamax was a superior product, technically speaking, but being the 'better' product is no guarantee of success - pricing and marketing are critical. They priced themselves out of existence.

Blu-ray was a much better roll-out. They enlisted major studios before the product hit the market. Licensed it to many other companies. And the pricing - while still not making most happy - is keeping them in the game. (And Toshiba's HD DVD died just like Betamax did before it)

I had a pair of the Sony eReaders. They were great - insane battery life, excellent controls. And no stupid touch-screen - like any sane person wants fingerprints on their reading surface? OTOH, the software, as you said, sucked big-time. And then, both readers died within a few months of each other. And my customer experience with Sony pretty much drove me to the competition. And while that is a technically inferior model, I don't suffer from the software pains that Sony caused.

My Sony library still exists - inaccessible - on my hard-drive, thanks to their !@#$ DRM insanity. Again, part of the friendly service from the Sony people - their advice began and ended with 'Buy a newer Sony eReader!'

Comment: Maybe ... (Score 2) 218

by lrichardson (#46551811) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Re-Learning How To Interview As a Developer?

It's not you.

I've had some odd interviews over the years. One in which the head of IT was a Luddite - and proud of it. One in which the phone and HR interviews went well, but the interview with the manager left me wondering if she had psychological problems ... later, from my headhunter, I learned her sister was going though a very bad breakup, including stalking, and I was very similar to the ex.

And, of course, sometimes the interview is for show. They've got someone they want, but have to keep HR happy, and demonstrate they considered other candidates.

My best advice is a) research the company/position, b) be honest, and c) try and be positive. Note that 'being honest' doesn't preclude omitting horrendous things. e.g. "I made an internal transfer as soon as I realized my boss was a lying, backstabbing hypocritical s.o.b., and was much happier with my new position." can be reworded as "I made an internal transfer, after achieving some great things in my first position, because the new job offered more opportunities for professional development."

Comment: Re:Simply put.. (Score 2) 328

by lrichardson (#42598861) Attached to: How Do You Detect Cheating In Chess? Watch the Computer
The first series (1996) was a PR scam. It is incorrect to say he was playing 'Deep Blue'. It is far, far more correct to say he was playing a team, comprising many of the top players, who used Deep Blue to test their moves before implementing them. The programming on the machine changed daily. In the second series, the program was - according to IBM - only changed between games ... although there was a serious question of a mid-game change (Game 1) that led to the computer's loss.

That said, yeah, a lot of modern machines leave their predecessors in the dust, computationally. Chess algorithms ... not so much. Deep Blue's 'innovation', such as it was, was simply to numerically rate a sequence of moves, discarding the lowest scoring, and then continuing its computation from that point. (...and it was a supercomputer) Contrasting with the previous 'Brute force, try all possibilities, select the best after _n_ moves.' As chess is, practically, a finite game, once computers reach the level of _n_ that is about the end point of all games, they aren't going to lose anymore. A lot of the modern chess programs that are free/cheap follow the brute force model, not the more analytical method pioneered by Deep Blue. The top machines do have better coding that Deep Blue ... more importantly, the number of plies has improved, due to better weighting (far more situational / far less point oriented).
Media

1928 Time Traveler Caught On Film? 685

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-hate-time-travel-stories dept.
Many of you have submitted a story about Irish filmmaker George Clarke, who claims to have found a person using a cellphone in the "unused footage" section of the DVD The Circus, a Charlie Chaplin movie filmed in 1928. To me the bigger mystery is how someone who appears to be the offspring of Ram-Man and The Penguin got into a movie in the first place, especially if they were talking to a little metal box on set. Watch the video and decide for yourself.

Comment: Re:Three words (Score 3, Insightful) 328

by lrichardson (#33364998) Attached to: Searching For Backdoors From Rogue IT Staff
Yes and no. I've done so flashing-star, how-the-heck-did-you-get-that programming, mostly because of a unique position that straddled various corporate silos.

Two killers, i.e. 'making them so complex only ...'

1/ Not having the time to clean stuff up. If it works, management generally wants you to move on to the next fire.

2/ Documentation oversights and assumptions. "Check the syslog for errors" doesn't cover what to do when errors arise. I'd reached the point of coding the automated sending of e-mails on errors - with the fix included - to the person running a job, on dozens of issues. Things that one just assumes after years of experience are complete show-stoppers to someone who doesn't have that same experience. And it only shows up when someone else does try and run something, per the documentation.

&, of course, 1.5, not having the time to do any documentation ...

I like automating the heck out of stuff, handing it off to some poor schlub to run as needed/scheduled, and moving on to the next problem. But I also recognize that it's done me out of a job a couple of times. Which really, truly sucks.

The best advice I received from a friend was "Don't make yourself indispensible. You won't get vacations."

It's a trade-off. I think I prefer being viewed as a valuable asset, getting new challenges, rather than the only guy who knows how to fix something.

Science

The Fruit Fly Drosophila Gets a New Name 136

Posted by timothy
from the hope-you-used-pencil dept.
G3ckoG33k writes "The name of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster will change to Sophophora melangaster. The reason is that scientists have by now discovered some 2,000 species of the genus and it is becoming unmanageably large. Unfortunately, the 'type species' (the reference point of the genus), Drosophila funebris, is rather unrelated to the D. melanogaster, and ends up in a distant part of the relationship tree. However, geneticists have, according to Google Scholar, more than 300,000 scientific articles describing innumerable aspects of the species, and will have to learn the new name as well as remember the old. As expected, the name change has created an emotional (and practical) stir all over media. While name changes are frequent in science, as they describe new knowledge about relationships between species, these changes rarely hit economically relevant species, and when they do, people get upset."
Image

Son Sues Mother Over Facebook Posts 428

Posted by samzenpus
from the check-your-family-status dept.
Most kids hate having their parents join in on a discussion on Facebook, but one 16-year-old in Arkansas hates it so much he has filed suit against his mother, charging her with harassment. From the article: "An Arkadelphia mother is charged with harassment for making entries on her son's Facebook page. Denise New's 16-year-old son filed charges against her last month and requested a no-contact order after he claims she posted slanderous entries about him on the social networking site. New says she was just trying to monitor what he was posting." Seems like he could just unfriend her.
Games

Games Workshop Goes After Fan Site 174

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-anger-your-base dept.
mark.leaman writes "BoingBoing has a recent post regarding Games Workshop's aggressive posturing against fan sites featuring derivative work of their game products. 'Game publisher and miniature manufacturer Games Workshop just sent a cease and desist letter to boardgamegeek.com, telling them to remove all fan-made players' aids. This includes scenarios, rules summaries, inventory manifests, scans to help replace worn pieces — many of these created for long out of print, well-loved games...' As a lifelong hobby gamer of table, board, card and miniature games, I view this as pure heresy. It made me reject the idea of buying any Games Workshop (read Warhammer) products for my son this Christmas. Their fate was sealed, in terms of my wallet, after I Googled their shenanigans. In 2007 they forbid Warhammer fan films, this year they shut down Vassal Modules, and a while back they went after retailers as well. What ever happened to fair use?"
Software

Canada Rejects Business Method Patents 68

Posted by timothy
from the as-ought-we-all dept.
"Canadian Patent Appeal Board Rules Against Business Method Patents," says a new post from Michael Geist; Lorien_the_first_one writes "Looks like the US courts could face some peer pressure," and supplies this excerpt: "[T]he panel delivered very strong language rejecting the mere possibility of business method patents under Canadian law. The panel noted that 'since patenting business methods would involve a radical departure from the traditional patent regime, and since the patentability of such methods is a highly contentious matter, clear and unequivocal legislation is required for business methods to be patentable.' ... In applying that analysis to the Amazon.com one-click patent, the panel concluded that 'concepts or rules for the more efficient conduct of online ordering, are methods of doing business. Even if these concepts or rules are novel, ingenious and useful, they are still unpatentable because they are business methods.'"

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