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Comment: Daniel J. Boorstin's "The Discoverers" (Score 1) 293

http://www.amazon.com/Discover...

Daniel Boorstin, Librarian of Congress (1975 - 1987) wrote The Discoverers. It's a book about the people and events surrounding some very early, essential discoveries. Some of the discoveries include

Time (remember, prior to clocks each day had hours of differing duration. The 12 daylight hours were longer in the summer, and shorter in the winter.)

Maps and map coordinates (such as the idea that they should be drawn to scale, or that coordinates were not evil)

the Compass

Money

It's history, not the future view you're discussing, but it does give lots of great insights into the discovery of things that fundamentally changed the world.

Comment: Logitech, probably M570 (Score 1) 361

by opentunings (#45717853) Attached to: How long do your computer mice last?

Mine's a Logitech, probably an M570 but the print's wearing off 'cuz I use it so much. I started with one of the centered-marble trackballs. It forces my middle finger into a somewhat unnatural position, as it has to be over the trackball for me to reach the buttons with my other fingers. Now that I'm on the M570, my carpal tunnel issues have stopped almost completely.

So yes, for some of us the thumb-operated marble is the way to go.

Comment: Re:Bring on the wearable interfaces. (Score 2) 453

But really for most meetings, the individual doesn't need to be fully mentally involved

Dyslexia may explain why you don't need to be fully involved. It's my understanding that a lot of things work differently in the dyslexic mind vs. the non-dyslexic mind. Some are good, some are bad. Ask Richard Branson, Scott Adams or Steven Spielberg.

However, most of the population isn't dyslexic, and for them to contribute to or benefit from the meeting, they do indeed need to be fully mentally involved. What works for you doesn't necessarily work for your coworkers, or neighbors, or...

If you really feel that you don't need to be attentive, I'd suggest that you show some respect for your coworkers and simply dial in to the meeting. You'd be showing respect to them by not behaving in a way that annoys the crap out of them, while you're right in front of them.

Comment: Re:Female programmers (Score 1) 608

by opentunings (#44679663) Attached to: Could a Grace Hopper Get Hired In Today's Silicon Valley?

See the May 1993 issue of Communications of the ACM, which was all about K-12 education. We here in Western culture have a history of telling girls and young women "don't even try doing {math | science | technology}, you can't do it, women are no good at that." And they hear it from both peers and adults. And they hear it from both women and men. When you hear something enough times, you start to believe it no matter how farfetched it is. Modern politics is based on that concept.

http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/1993/5

Comment: Re:Maybe the developers weren't clever...COBOL did (Score 1) 276

by opentunings (#44123107) Attached to: Join COBOL's Next Generation

Features like stream I/O support were in COBOL in the 80's / 90's. As was linking compiled COBOL to compiled non-COBOL. It was one of the very first portable languages (per Wikipedia). Substringing and multidimentional arrays were easy. And when I took my years of COBOL to C++ class, the instructor told me I was "too structured" - the COBOL I'd been writing was more structured than the C++ he was used to seeing. While a lot of people only needed simple COBOL, it actually had a lot of advanced features available back in the late 80's.

Back in 1961, if you were trying to create a billing system for a big company, your options included COBOL, Fortran, assembly language and not much else. Programmers in the 60's were grateful for the ease of COBOL when used in a business setting, which (back then) consisted mostly of reading punch cards and creating pretty reports for pointy-haired bosses. COBOL made their lives much easier at that time.

Easy to write, easy to structure, very versatile, capable of doing menial tasks to tons of data quickly. Doesn't sound too bad to me.

Most computer languages are horrible if you choose to make them horrible. My point is that you don't have to make COBOL horrible, and most COBOL programmers don't.

It's more typing than most languages...but it's not horrible unless an inexperienced programmer chooses to make it horrible. Or unless you haven't spent much time with it in a business environment.

Comment: Maybe the developers weren't clever...COBOL did OK (Score 1) 276

by opentunings (#44104299) Attached to: Join COBOL's Next Generation

In the '90's I was working for BigTelCo on an ordering system.

Unix / C system "A" would enquire about account details based on any of various inputs (account number, main phone number, etc.). They sent a transaction to a central system "B" app server for which I wrote about 1/3 of the code. Well over 90% of system B was COBOL. Typically we were running about 0.7 sec response times. During that 0.7 sec, our system would:

ID the type of access inputs, look it up in an IMS database, figure out which datacenter (Georgia / Florida / Kansas / Colorado / Massachusetts) had the account, send the transaction there.

Pull the transaction, call a dynamic table to see what data were required (could be changed w/o recompiling or bouncing system), pull the data, create stream-style (not block I/O as the mainframe was used to) data, send it back to Unix for parsing.

Did I mention that part of the routing, and all the dynamic tables, were provided from software written in PL/1? So our COBOL modules were linked with PL/1 to create the final executables.

That's not the most clever or the least wanky system I've ever been on, but the old COBOL girl did pretty good. The Unix / C folks got intelligible data as soon as they figured out how to tweak HP's EBCDIC-to-ASCII tool so the non-alpha, non-numeric characters would be handled. And at that point the data stream looked just like what they'd been passing one another, from C to C.

And yes, the last time I heard, people were still creating wrappers around the mainframe system's feeds so that other C / C++ systems could use the data.

Comment: CDC, then HP (Score 1) 623

by opentunings (#43852855) Attached to: How Did You Learn How To Program?
I started in a FORTRAN class on the university's CDC-3600, with punch cards and overnight turnaround of course. Eventually I'd spent enough time hanging around the Physics department that they let me try out the HP 9100-series (9100B, I think: I remember it had TWO memory pages of 192 instructions each). In retrospect, the wallet-sized cards to store your programs were very reminiscent of what a lot of subway systems now use for paper farecards. I tried but failed in my attempt to burn out the plotter with my planetary orbits program, for which I was grateful at the time.

Comment: Company size and culture (Score 2) 332

by opentunings (#43623139) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Handle a Colleague's Sloppy Work?
I've seen this happen more often in small companies than in large. When that's the case, I don't think there's a thing you can do about it. If they helped save the company's skin once, ten years ago, then they've been Teflon coated. Nothing you can say or do will stick to them. Regardless of whether their code is poor, or they never bathe, or they demand their own way...they're beyond reproach at that point. Big companies, otoh, have a large enough talent pool on which to draw that they can say "adios muchacho" and replace the annoying staffer with one who's more of a team player.

Comment: Re:Accountants and salespeople probably love numpa (Score 1) 591

by opentunings (#43377571) Attached to: If I could change what's "typical" about typical laptops ...

I agree, but..do most people need YouTube, visual voice mail and NFL Mobile on their Crackberrys? Probably not, but they all came preloaded on my Crackberry. I didn't install any of them.

Companies are so aggressive for market share lately that anything that might get them a tiny fraction of a percent higher sales must be added to the product. It's no longer 'what most people do'. If it were, my Crackberry would be much less cluttered, and new PC's wouldn't have half as many apps preloaded on them.

I admitted I wasn't a huge fan of numpads. I just suggested why they keep showing up on keyboards.

Comment: Accountants and salespeople probably love numpads (Score 1) 591

by opentunings (#43371837) Attached to: If I could change what's "typical" about typical laptops ...

If you spent much time crunching numbers on a plain old (hardware) calculator, you probably developed the ability to touch-type on it without looking. And folks who do that are FAST. If you'd ever seen a banker working on one of the old Remington adding machines, you'd know why people like numpads. (Not that I'm a huge fan, but...)

On computer keyboards, it works because the 5 key has a little marker bump on it - just like the F and J keys do. Put your middle finger on there and the 0 is the only key that's not either under one of your three fingers, or adjacent to the key your finger's on. I can't remember whether our old Remington had the bump on the 5, but I suspect it did.

Comment: National security issues could mandate desktops (Score 1) 625

by opentunings (#41606231) Attached to: Will the Desktop PC Live Forever?

In this world where people are not allowed to bring thumb drives or cell phones into intelligence agency / military secured rooms...and the agencies want to have absolute control over the computers in use...the desktop will probably stay in demand for a long, long time. After all, these agencies really don't care how inconvenient it is for you to work in their offices: security is their only concern, period. So arguments of "I'm much more productive using my wearable computer" probably won't fly. And it'll be a long time before a wearable computer would be cheaper than a desktop. Even the spook agencies have budgets to meet.

The importance of high resolution in these applications shouldn't be forgotten, either. No small physical display could trump a large monitor. A virtual heads-up type of display might get there, but they're difficult to share.

I expect the desktops will still be around at least until I'm gone.

Mathematics deals exclusively with the relations of concepts to each other without consideration of their relation to experience. -- Albert Einstein

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