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Comment: Re:Engineers do dress well (Score 1) 166

Don't know if I agree with the characterization of engineers; we're a pretty diverse bunch. I do agree with your East coast / West coast anecdote, though, and also point out the difference between industries. Our software engineers (large, east coast defense company) don't wear ties or jackets, but slacks and a button-up collared shirt is the minimally socially accepted dress; even a polo shirt will mark you as a little bit young or casual (not an advantage in this industry). Our subcontractors on the west coast will sometimes even wear shorts to work, which from the perspective of someone who has only lived and worked in the North East US is unthinkable (in the sense that it would not occur to me that it could ever ok, but I think that it is ok now that I've stopped to think about it).

Comment: Re: experts in government contracting (Score 1) 166

I was going to state this in a slightly less cynical way (the lowest bidder doesn't always win) but it is true that if you hire a government contractor, you get an expert in government contracting, which is different than being an industry leader or a subject matter expert. There is a lot of paperwork, regulatory compliance, and face-to-face networking involved in working successfully with the Government, and navigating it requires a certain amount of expertise and overhead in itself. I say that as a (mostly content) employee of a large defense company.That said, I don't think that is a unique problem. Lots of industries (healthcare, civil engineering, maybe finance) have to spend a lot of time and money on regulatory compliance. Maybe not web development, though.

Comment: Teach, don't tell -- and the non FOSS world. (Score 3, Interesting) 430

First, I wanted to link to This blog post by Steve Losh on writing documentation. I think offers some good metaphors as to why 'reading the source', even 'self documenting' source, is insufficient, though of course not everyone will agree with his philosophy.

Second, I wanted to say on the projects that I work on as a systems engineer doing new product development (as in this, not the information technology use of the term) documentation is perpetually threatened. And we usually work on comparatively well funded, non-FOSS programs. Documentation is timing consuming and expensive, and sometimes it is even customer direction to place it at a lower priority than new development. Though inevitably it makes things harder later, sometimes that is o.k. if it works better with the cash flow (saving money now only to pay more later can work if you expect to have more money later). Unfortunately FOSS software projects don't necessarily have people promising a ton of money for the documentation.

Comment: Re: Minivans useful (Score 5, Informative) 205

by quintessentialk (#47500611) Attached to: New Toyota Helps You Yell At the Kids

I've rented minivans on business trips (particularly for outdoor field tests of equipment my employer develops). They work very well for our use: surprisingly large cargo capacity in a weather proof bay, flexible reconfiguration to carry either people or equipment between test sites, low floors and true fold-flat seats (compared to many of the SUVs we've rented) making loading easy, car-like handling to suit drivers without large vehicle experience; and wide availability at car rental companies both large and small.

Now, we are talking about renting for a specific purpose for only the duration of that purpose, which is a completely different economic calculation than buying a car for daily use.Nonetheless, I've been convinced that when I do have kids (young children seem to require a frighteningly large amount of support equipment) a minivan will be the way to go. (Certainly compared to an SUV, which would offer similar features in a less convenient shape, or a small car, which lacks cargo.) Of course, this all depends on my finances at that point in time.... I'm not so well off that I can purchase vehicles arbitrarily.

Comment: Re:Computer Science curriculum (Score 1) 293

by quintessentialk (#47245591) Attached to: Average HS Student Given Little Chance of AP CS Success
According to the Wikipedia article, it's actual object oriented programming, taught in the modern fashion (i.e., directly, and not via 'C first'). It looks like there was originally an second version of the course that included more of the traditional introductory computer science things (data structures and algorithms) though these are still covered to some degree.

As I lament elsewhere in the thread, though that's appropriate for a course called 'CS' I would have preferred, in high school and college, to be taught a more practical 'how to use the standard library and other common libraries'. Granted, that would be more programming than computer science, and it probably would be dirty and pedestrian to people who actually do computer science. But while programming is widely used across technical fields, I don't think many people need to know how to write their own linked list methods or sort algorithms. For me it would have been better to talk about how to solve more challenging 'real world' problems using the existing tools instead of solving 'simple' problems using algorithms we wrote by hand.

We're really talking about two things in the thread -- getting more people to enter the field of CS, and getting people in general to have more useful CS skills. These are different goals.

Comment: Re:Teach CS with Math classes (Score 1) 293

by quintessentialk (#47245469) Attached to: Average HS Student Given Little Chance of AP CS Success
I don't remember receiving any computing instruction in high school, in any course. Now, that was 15 years ago so maybe that has changed. I hope so! If not, 'teaching computing in any fashion' is more important than 'teaching computing in a specific fashion'.

My college mathematics courses did integrate mathematica and to a lesser extent matlab (engineering courses, but I wasn't an engineering student). This was great for learning about math, but maybe less great for learning about computers.

As a practicing non-computer-scientist engineer, it would have been more useful to me have had good applied programming courses and not computer science courses. What I do in my job (which is mostly matlab, but I've used C++ in the past) is patch together various library and systems calls together with some math and flow control logic to solve problems. In my CS/programming courses in college, they taught us about data structures and sorting algorithms. I would never try to write my own sort algorithm or linked list management methods. It's not interesting and as a non-specialist I would not likely do better than what already exists.

Comment: Re:Why would a prospective CS major take the AP te (Score 1) 293

by quintessentialk (#47245255) Attached to: Average HS Student Given Little Chance of AP CS Success
There may be something to this. The principal advantage of the AP credit I earned before college was that I was able to avoid some of the required courses outside my major. Though, I certainly would have taken an AP course in my area of interest had my school offered it, because I would likely score and grade well and that would have helped my GPA if nothing else.

Comment: As a novice... (Score 1) 627

by quintessentialk (#46327549) Attached to: Does Relying On an IDE Make You a Bad Programmer?
My scripting/programming is exclusively in Matlab and similar tools so I can't weigh in here EXCEPT as a novice programmer. I tried in past to play around with android (which is java) and separately to relearn what little C/C++ I learned in my college days. As a novice, learning a new IDE is a sizable wall to climb. These tools are not documented with beginners in mind, and I was spending most of my time just trying to get hello world programs to build and link correctly when I wanted to learn the language instead. The IDE was an impediment at my level -- but maybe I was just learning the wrong way. When I was taught C++, it was 'learn C first, learn objects second, learn STL never'. The new strategy seems to be encourage use of standard library containers right away. Similarly, if I were to learn proper IDE use from the beginning (and I include visual interface layout tools under that heading) my experience would be different. I _have_ used tools which look like IDEs when preparing LaTeX documents (LaTeX is a typesetting markup language used in technical publication). Autocompletion of commands and previously defined labels (variables) is invaluable. I'm an inaccurate typist with a bad memory. Even if I weren't, I suspect computers are better at remembering those kinds of details than I am.

Comment: Oscilloscopes, Absolutely. (Score 1) 215

by quintessentialk (#45477597) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What's On Your Hardware Lab Bench?
It really depends on the project, but where I work (doing system integration) we use oscilloscopes pretty heavily as 'general purpose troubleshooting tools'. Perhaps significantly, we aren't building boards (we have another department to do that) but interfacing those boards with various sensors, motors, equipement from other vendors, and so forth. For example, we use oscilliscopes to help characterize motor/sensor control loops, to quantify noise of all types (in sensors, in power supplies, etc.), to troubleshoot electrical interface problems, and so forth. Especially for the control loop work, I can't imagine being without an oscilloscope.

Comment: Re:idiotic when we have hungry students with no bo (Score 2) 152

by quintessentialk (#45415667) Attached to: A Makerbot In Every Classroom
I wouldn't say 'idiotic' -- I believe you don't need to fix all the problems in the world before you're allowed to do new things. That said, I come from a family of teachers, and that insight leads me to agree with you. I'm especially offended by teachers buying school supplies out of pocket. If I, an employee of a large organization, had to buy office supplies out of pocket, I'd assume the company was on its way down the toilet or at the very least had major management problems. Teachers are somehow conditioned to think having to buy supplies for your classroom and your students/customers is o.k... or they have too much empathy. Again, there's no reason you can't have both makerbots AND fix these problems, but my experience is that investment from technical companies and press celebrate enrichment in either a few affluent schools or in the one poor school that has the luck of being the example case. Meanwhile, there are plenty of schools remaining without enough pens and paper, let alone current generation computers, ipads, makerbots, etc....

Comment: Re:Perception vs actual rating (Score 2) 180

by quintessentialk (#44520965) Attached to: Why You Shouldn't Trust Internet Comments
I'll admit I'm tempted to look at overall number of stars, and assume a 4 star place is better than a 2 star place. But I usually end up looking more closely (because ALL the restaurants in an area will be suspiciously highly rated) at the negative reviews. Like you, I try to judge the relevance of the complaint. For example, if the worst thing that anyone has to say about a restaurant is that service is a little slow on Saturday nights and that they had trouble seating your party of 10 without a reservation, that's probably a good restaurant. Complaints about food quality, bathroom sanitation, etc. are much more noteworthy.

Comment: Re:You're better off without them. (Score 1) 358

Thanks for pointing this out; it goes along with the 'do not volunteer information' rule when dealing with cops/auditors/security people. They aren't looking for reasons to be nice to you. I was thinking more along the lines of having history of topical, well received blog posts of tweets might elevate one's standing... but I'm probably not one of the exception few who can pull that off, and I'm not shooting for a journalism job anyway.

Comment: Clarifications from the questioner (Score 2) 358

First of all, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I don't work in IT or software so some of the specifics don't directly apply, but the generalities do. The biggest clarification I need to make though is by 'online presence' (with my examples of webpages, blogs, and tweets) I didn't mean social chit chat or tools like facebook. I meant 'having a history of making topical posts that are well received by an audience'. If a twitter feed, it would be a journalistic twitter feed, not a 'what I ate for breakfast' twitter feed. The argument (as it has been made to me) is that regularly generating content, and maintaining an audience, shows that you are an active member of your field, and that your ideas have some influence. Especially given that my current work is bound by NDA (no portfolio, no publications, vague resume) having something outside of that would be useful -- but I can't create a reputation ex nihlo. And, since I'm an engineer and not a journalist, it might not matter that much anyway.

Comment: Re:Having it helps, not having it doesn't hurt (Score 1) 358

Thanks! Yours ended up being one of the most useful posts, because you successfully read my mind: I wasn't clear by what I meant by online presence, and most readers assumed I meant social chatter on facebook. By online presence I didn't mean facebook at all, and when I mentioned twitter and blogs I meant those in the journalistic sense of "regular, technically topical postings to an appreciative audience". Your view is what I would have guessed. My current employer may not know social media exists, so I don't they use it for hiring, but the rest of the world may differ..

Only great masters of style can succeed in being obtuse. -- Oscar Wilde Most UNIX programmers are great masters of style. -- The Unnamed Usenetter

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