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Comment: Fear Driven Documentation (Score 1) 231

by mrhippo3 (#47927031) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Have You Experienced Fear Driven Development?
The logical outcome of Fear Driven Development is Fear Drive Documentation. I once had the great misfortune to work for a "vanity" software firm created by an industry legend as a nice place for his kid to work. The "standard" work week was a mandatory minimum of 50 hours, getting paid for 40, of course. I never worked less than 60 and the usual was around 70. Working in docs (solo under ten developers), my job was to fix the paper to match the latest suite of changes. If the developers worked in fear, then I worked in stark, raving terror. To match the shipping schedule, I issued 12,000 pages of docs in a year. Adding to my joy, one project manager had the temerity to complain about 3 typos in a 1,000 page document set. The conversation that given the choice between a few typos and missing documents did not go over well. And yes, the company did fade away, but not before I was replaced by a manager and three worker bees that promised less than half of what I had done and missed even that low bar.

Comment: Automate the process, don't tell, enjoy surfing (Score 1) 228

by mrhippo3 (#47632329) Attached to: What Do You Do When Your Mind-Numbing IT Job Should Be Automated?
I learned a long time ago how to work fast in documentation. Given the task of moving documents into FrameMaker from wherever, I stored the document as text, imported the stuff as Body copy and then used keystrokes to apply the right formatting. Storing the stuff as straight text gets rid of the typical line-by-line format removal. One boss type was initially given the project and gave a three month estimate to move 350 pages. I got the job as, "See what you can do," and finished in a day and half. Being that fast would have gotten me fired. I even dodged that process, quitting first. Being too good is a faster way to get canned than effing up.

Comment: Mix and match in engineering, maybe not so good (Score 1) 205

by mrhippo3 (#47613615) Attached to: MIT Considers Whether Courses Are Outdated
I shudder to think that i am now an "older" engineer. I graduated from Carnegie-Mellon in the mid 70's which means that my curriculum was was developed mostly in the 50's if not earlier. Yes, I did take The Calculus (four classes including a second class in partial differential equations). I was even part of an "experiment" where freshman year Physics and Calculus was taught as a "single" class. The math and physics profs shuffled the class time by first showing the physical phenomena and then the math behind it. This class was 5 hours/week of lecture and 4 hours/week of recitation.
This rigid formatting has worked for me. I have spent a lot of time with R&D and was never showed by the math. I have a lot of simulation experience with FEA as well as chip and circuit design, embedded system compilers, and some real-time testing of mechanical stuff ranging from tires (small) to 17 ton compressor rotors.
More importantly, I learned how to deal with change. I was the first student on campus with an electronic calculator. The acceptance of the technology was instantaneous, the profs just added more problems to the tests. The simple act of "doing more stuff" has followed me during my entire career.
The greatest irony has been my lack of "formal" computer training. I had a single programming class in high school. Yet, my entire career has been computer-based. My computer usage has not been limited to "engineering." I have done a lot writing (trade press) and learned layout work along the way. Doing documentation for a CAD vendor, you learn how to write in a different style and QA just becomes part of the process -- you do want make sure what you write about actually works. Working for FEA vendors, I again learned how to make the stuff work and created simple examples to show the process. (The heavy duty math helps you understand how FEA works). And my coding skills were used in crafting documents with an early flavor of XML.
Learning though a rigid structure has allowed me cope with whatever comes my way.

Comment: Rapacity is not limited to these companies (Score 1) 234

by mrhippo3 (#47164123) Attached to: Tech Worker Groups Boycott IBM, Infosys, Manpower
I was working for a "minority" company (two women) doing documentation and was billed at some absurd rate where I received 20-30% of the rate. When forced to do mandatory 50 hour weeks (a urination contest between my boss and her managers, NOTE: a 20% increase in output would NOT dent a 1.5 year backlog) I was paid straight time for the overage while the contractor collected double time. I could not protest as this would have left me unemployable in the Midwestern-type city.

When a thinking manager was asked how to cure the backlog, he replied, "Triple my trained staff." While he was being truthful, his candor got him moved to job where he could do no harm.

Comment: Best mistake I ever made (Score 2) 521

by mrhippo3 (#47075465) Attached to: Goodbye, Ctrl-S
Once upon a time in a far away land I was pounding away at my Apple ][. I forgot to save and lost an hour and a half of work. That was the best mistake I ever made. Since then I have always saved, made backup copies, sent the text to myself on email, written a CD/DVD, saved to a thumb drive, and so on. An hour and a half was a very cheap loss to have, if I was forever safe thereafter.

Autosave still has not cured me. I will still CTRL-S every few lines. Even with autosave on CAD I will still do other saves. Still, my paranoia does save me.

Not so long ago, I discovered that several years of engineering files had been vanished. We had paper copies but still that loss was annoying.Turns out that I had made a backup of that file set and it was found in my home cache of "work" disks. I slept better.

Comment: We are all affected. (Score 1) 108

by mrhippo3 (#46841483) Attached to: Apple, Google Agree To Settle Lawsuit Alleging Hiring Conspiracy
The "class" is a bit bigger than the direct set of 64,000 affected. For most jobs, "reasonable and customary" was taken as the California wage which was then discounted for the folks NOT working in California. Working on the east coast, you would of course receive less than the folks in Silly Valley. And because your starting salary was artificially depressed, then you would of course receive a substantially lower sum over the span of your career. The one time I was given an actual raise of more than a few percent, I was moved out of my "salary band" and received no further raises. And folks wonder why efforts to promote STEM may fizzle out.

Comment: My only programming class, ever. (Score 1) 146

by mrhippo3 (#46703785) Attached to: Born To RUN: Dartmouth Throwing BASIC a 50th B-Day Party
As a senior at Taylor Allderdice HS (Squirrel Hill) in Pittsburgh, I had my ONLY formal programming class, in BASIC. When I went to engineering school at Carnegie-Mellon, I was not required to take any programming classes, so I chose not to.

So of course my entire career has been spent using computers. I did use BASIC on my first job (HP 9830, dual cassette drives and a whopping 16KB of RAM), doing real-time data acquisition on large centrifugal compressors. I also wrote a resume as a series of PRINT statements in 1976. This resume was handed back to me in 1983 when I went to work at Penton publishing -- separate story. I have done a lot of CAD, structural analysis, software docs (issued 12,000 page of embedded systems compiler docs one year) and webwork. For another doc project, I hand-coded the help as .jsp. I was the doc person for a dozen or so developers. And to the chagrin of my daughter (a redditor) I sometimes hand code the corporate website.

Yes, BASIC started me on the road to ruination. 40 plus years later and I am still at it.

Comment: Accidents waiting to happen (Score 0) 364

by mrhippo3 (#46638223) Attached to: Your Car Will Tell You How To Hit the Next Green Light
Cars, people, and "automation" is a great recipe for more problems. As with the red light cameras, there will be bias in reporting the effectiveness of the solution. wrt the cameras, the number of red lights NOT run and tickets issued are listed as benefits. What is missing from the glowing reports is the number of accidents CAUSED . The deletion is allowed because the accidents happen before the light. "Oh, this is a separate issue," does not cut it when I cautiously stop and then get rear-ended by someone trying to make the light.

Rational behavior in software will not necessarily result in rational behavior in driving.

Comment: Tired of writing fiction. (Score 1) 255

I left tech writing because I became disenchanted with what became increasingly fictional documents. Development rarely bothered including me in any meetings, so I never knew what had changed or even what was supposed to be new.
The kicker at one firm was a sterling developer who demanded -- nope, did not ask politely, that my references to the "host" computer be identical throughout the 150 page manual. I made the requested changes and the idiot developer reviewed the same manual -- yes, the one that had no corrections -- and I was fired because he could not read a date. He insisted that I ignored him when in fact, he was too stupid to realized he reviewed the "old" manual again.
So if developers are that slow, then I guess non-developers are less with it.

Comment: Current tenure (Score 1) 177

by mrhippo3 (#46152845) Attached to: At my current workplace, I've outlasted ...
On my last job at a software company, I had eight bosses in my five years of employment. This includes some double counting when I had the boss again after a few years of gap. While in tech, the average tenure of a boss was under nine months in a long career. I do not regret leaving software.
Yesterday was my eleven year anniversary at a smallish manufacturing plant, doubling my time spent at any software firm. I still do a lot of CAD and some design, but now also do more management. I also do the website, high-level sales, customer support, and whatever else the boss does not have the time for. I check slashdot, reddit, and overlawyered.com among others for IP related issues. Those CAD sketches are also real IP.

Comment: Re:Sheldon would say it's all "hokum" (Score 1) 188

by mrhippo3 (#46035963) Attached to: Python Scripting and Analyzing Your Way To Love
Getting the first date is truly a matter of chance. Despite his massive efforts to "perfectly select" a viable companion, he had an effectiveness of approximately zero (88/[population of OKCupid] = ~ 0.00%. Even his 88 dates are vanishingly small considering the gross number of potential candidates he reviewed.
The real effort is in making/having the relationship last. While my wife and I are very different, we come from a compatible SES and religious philosophy. While she was humanities, I was engineering all the way. The kicker was that the night future spouse and I met, I was playing the rating game with another engineer, en francais. Wife to be heard that and the decision was made. As McKinlay discovered, sometimes a single parameter model does work.

Comment: Re:Engineering's biggest mistake was (Score 3, Informative) 397

by mrhippo3 (#45986283) Attached to: Electrical Engineering Lost 35,000 Jobs Last Year In the US
Getting a PE license is dependent on working on a firm that still employees a PE. As a PE is expensive, this is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Companies will fire high salaried individuals. Yet another complication is that you have to stay employed at one firm long enough to get the time required to qualify. Frequent job switches (which always happen in engineering) make the goal of getting a PE still more elusive. At one SW firm, I had eight bosses in five years. I have not done the math, but the requirement of having a PE boss/supervisor may have declined to the point where getting a PE is not sustainable.

Comment: Re:There goes the neighbourhood. (Score 1) 149

by mrhippo3 (#45494565) Attached to: Users Identified Through Typing, Mouse Movements
I've seen that one before. Still, identification is a lot like a gait analysis of someone walking (or the pedal stroke analysis alluded to earlier). As a person, you will fall into identifiable patterns. You just have to think about how to identify those patterns. Measuring the timing between not so random button pushes (banging on the keyboard) is by no stretch of the imagination a difficult or complex analysis. Quoting Steven Wright, "No matter where you go, there you are."
However, if you can identify a pattern then this is just the first step toward spoofing that pattern. And so the battle for honesty and authenticity continues. According to George Burns, "The most important thing is sincerity. If you can fake that you've got it made."

Comment: Re:There goes the neighbourhood. (Score 1) 149

by mrhippo3 (#45490879) Attached to: Users Identified Through Typing, Mouse Movements
And this is a "surprising" result because...? Of course you develop patterns based on how "fast" you type. As a "some fingers" typist, my timing between key presses probably does not vary too much. It is easy to see how the time difference between key presses (based on the prior and following characters) and even some words can be predicted with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Thinking of these patterns like the "stripes" on a DNA scan you can easily do a pattern match to uniquely identify which set of keystrokes "belong" to you. This does not sound like rocket science as it is pure observation.
The technology is probably similar to the type of motion analysis done with most sports. As a committed cyclist, there are a number of tools to measure your pedal stroke (power, speed, position). Again, you can easily do a pattern match. Muscle memory is visible when plotted.
My only surprise is that it has taken so long for this non-astounding discovery.

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