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Comment: Open sourcing device software (Score 1) 147

I'd like to see the FDA (and its counterparts in other countries) require medical device manufacturers to make the source code for their products available under an OSI-approved open source license. Submission and review of the code would be a prerequisite for a device to be approved for sale and use in a particular country. If someone implants a device, e.g., a pacemaker, in me, I'd like to know exactly what it's doing. Does it call home and transmit my medical data to the vendor (or elsewhere)? Does that connection use up battery power that would require earlier surgery to replace it? Can the vendor (or a hacker) perform over-the-air updates to the code? It's not that I would plan to modify the source code or redistribute it, but it would allow non-vendor experts to review and certify the code, thus giving everyone greater confidence in the proper functioning and security of the device.

Comment: 20% smaller? Not likely (Score 1) 247

by twasserman (#47383969) Attached to: Tesla Aims For $30,000 Price, 2017 Launch For Model E
As a San Franciscan, I'd love to have a smaller and less expensive Tesla, even if the range were considerably less than the 200 miles of the Model S. But 20% smaller is unlikely, since that would make it the same of a Mini Cooper. If they are going to compete with the BMW 3-series or the Audi 3 in the $30K price range, then the Model E should be 8-10% shorter than the Model S. At 196 inches, the Model S is about 20 inches longer than the new Audi 3 sedan. Typical extras on the German cars puts their sticker prices closer to $40K (or even above that). But a Model E measuring around 180 inches and selling for $35K would make it my first choice to replace my old Honda, especially when you consider that a Chevy Volt, with only a 40 mile range, lists for more than $40K.

Comment: Publishing in academic journals (Score 4, Insightful) 210

by twasserman (#43689999) Attached to: Why Is Science Behind a Paywall?
Anyone pursuing an academic career knows that there are certain journals that are considered prestigious. Publishing your papers in such journals (typically those of professional societies and many of those owned by Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley) is an essential part of the academic promotion process. Failure to do so means that you are unlikely to be promoted to a senior tenured rank (e.g., Associate Professor), and is typically the end of your stay at that institution. Publishing in some of the new "fake" journals is worse than useless, even though it pads your resume. Many fields also look down upon conference papers, though that is less of a problem in computer science where there are numerous highly selective and well-regarded academically-oriented conferences, such as the Int'l Conf. on Software Engineering. Not surprisingly, many of the proceedings for those conferences are published by Elsevier and Springer.

The whole process, to date, is self-perpetuating, since serving as an Editor or Associate Editor for a prestigious journal also gets you points when you come up for promotion. As noted by others, serving in an editorial capacity or even as a reviewer for these journals is uncompensated. (You might think of it as falling into the same category as contributing voluntarily to an open source project.) The best that one can say for this activity is that it helps build an academic network, making it easier to obtain recommendation letters from senior faculty to include in your promotion case. The best way to disrupt this system in the short-term is for libraries refuse to renew their exorbitantly-priced journal subscriptions. (Money talks.) The high-quality online journals (e.g.,PLoS) have not yet made a significant dent against the biggest academic publishers.

Comment: BRR Project - tried building FOSS eval tools (Score 1) 110

In 2005, several of us started the Business Readiness Rating project. Its goal was to provide an objective (quantitative) evaluation of free and open source projects largely based on metrics, including project activity, downloads, publications on the project, etc. We originally defined 12 areas for evaluation, which I later reduced to 7. We thought (and still think) that such a tool would be a good idea, but we were an unsuccessful project ourselves, unable to attract sufficient funding or volunteers. There's an inactive SourceForge project and a single page website, ready to spin up if there is sufficient interest. I subsequently discovered that people wanted not just the numbers, but also subjective reviews in the style of Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, or Yelp. I also personally believe that we need a way to evaluate FOSS projects against proprietary software so that more organizations will be able to justify FOSS solutions.

Comment: Source code access for medical devices (Score 4, Insightful) 38

by twasserman (#42596407) Attached to: Course Asks University Students To Tackle Medical Device Insecurity
I think that the FDA should require medical device makers to submit the source code of any device that is considered for approval. If someone is going to implant a device in my body, then I want the opportunity to see what it does and how it does it. What data is it collecting? What data is it transmitting? Can the operation of the device be modified or shut down over-the-air? As an example, is the algorithm for a heart pacemaker written efficiently so that battery life is maximized, thus reducing the need for repeated surgery?

This proposal raises the question of whether the creator of a device can protect the associated intellectual property if they are required to include source code as part of their submission for approval. I hope that we can have that discussion instead of continuing to treat all medical devices as black boxes.

Comment: Forward a meter, back a yard (Score 1) 1387

We had a similar conversion proposal 40 years ago, back in the early 1970s. Apart from the very sizable costs of converting everything, the winning argument in favor of the status quo was that the American people wouldn't be able to learn to think in metric. Really! I think that meant that our elected representatives didn't understand the metric system.

In the meantime, virtually all manufacturing is done in metric, and almost every product that is sold includes metric weight, capacity, or dimensions, since that's what the rest of the world knows and expects. But even if the current petition inspires action (highly unlikely), it will take another 40 years before the majority of people use the metric system, and longer for Honey Boo Boo.

Comment: How about NoSQL database systems? (Score 1) 287

by twasserman (#42123763) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Which OSS Database Project To Help?
Not to take anything away from PostgreSQL and MySQL (and their forks), but these are mature systems with extensive communities and a very complex code base. If you want to learn the architecture of a new class of open source database systems, as well as to have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to a project, then you should consider joining a NoSQL project, such as Neo4j or MongoDB.

Comment: What Makes a Good Software Engineer? (Score 4, Insightful) 322

by twasserman (#42014887) Attached to: Computer Science vs. Software Engineering
I have always found that the best software engineers are those people who have a solid background in computer science. That knowledge is valuable throughout one's career and enables one to participate effectively in discussions and reviews of architectures, data models, and more even after being promoted to a position that doesn't include writing code. To me, the two areas are complementary.

Side note: I'm mystified at how someone with a Bachelor's degree in business can earn an MS in Software Engineering. Yes, management skills have an important role in an SE curriculum, but not to the exclusion of the technical skills.

Comment: Re:What do you have to offer an employer? (Score 2) 306

by twasserman (#41924739) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Finding Work Over 60?
About teaching -- don't just think of teaching CS in community colleges. Lots of other options: corporate training departments, software vendors who need field-based instructors for product training and consulting, online education, etc. For example, just think about the number of companies who are going to need Windows 8 training (whether or not we like it). I could imagine an entrepreneurial soul developing a couple of short courses of different lengths, picking a well-chosen domain name, creating a website to promote them, and strategically buying some keyword search terms to attract prospects.

Someone else mentioned teaching certificates - check out the alternative NYC programs at http://schools.nyc.gov/TeachNYC/certification/alternatives.htm and http://schools.nyc.gov/TeachNYC/certification/cte.htm (tech at the very bottom of this list).

Comment: What do you have to offer an employer? (Score 2) 306

by twasserman (#41922923) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Finding Work Over 60?
I suggest that you think about how you could market yourself. What are your top three features that would make you particularly attractive to an employer? Are there specific application domains where your experience would make you more valuable than less chronologically advanced people? Make sure that you have taken all of the modern steps to create an online presence, e.g., LinkedIn. Unfortunately, for many people who have been out of work for a few years, and especially for older people, it's hard to build a strong case for yourself over someone who is willing to work > 60 hours/week and who is more current in terms of technical skills and job history.

It's much easier to find a tech job with a government agency (local, state, or federal) than it is to find a job in industry. Government jobs are publicly posted, and governments are especially sensitive to various laws regarding equal employment opportunity; there's also a higher percentage of older employees in governments than you will find in most companies. There's something positive to be said for a steady 40-hour/week job. While I don't think much of certifications, some government job postings include them, in which case it would be worth pursuing that certification for a specific position.

If you enjoy teaching, you should consider finding a way to teach at the college level. Community colleges and university extension programs often need instructors, and there are numerous for-profit institutions that don't require advanced degrees of their faculty. While teaching itself can be personally rewarding (not so much financially, though), many of your students will be working for companies that might be willing to hire you as a contractor or perhaps even as an instructor for the company's internal education programs.

In summary, be realistic about what you can bring to the party, recognize that many companies simply find legal ways not to hire people over 40, and focus on those opportunities where you are on a relatively even playing field in seeking a job. Good luck.

Comment: HP in permanent decline (Score 5, Insightful) 184

by twasserman (#41543139) Attached to: HP Plans To Cut Product Lines; Company Turnaround In 2016
For the past 10 years or so, going back to Her Worship (Fiorina), HP has been cutting staff. Total layoffs through Hurd, Apotheker, and Meg are now up to 100K. HP has decimated its R&D capabilities, to the extent that they are essentially incapable of creating innovative products, which partly explains their 2100 printers. Too many of the people who are left are lifers who know how to keep their jobs. Anyone who is capable of finding a job elsewhere has done so.

If you are looking for a job, HP is a company without an interesting mobile strategy and a cloud strategy focused predominantly on IT services - not very attractive for entrepreneurial types, who have many other excellent opportunities.

Finally, the 100K HP departees are not likely to purchase HP products or to recommend them in their new settings. That's a very large pool of people who are going to advocate for competing products.

So the turnaround projected for 2016 is unlikely to happen, but it's a pretty fair bet than Meg Whitman won't be around HP when that day arrives.

Comment: Einhorn is losing money on his MSFT investment (Score 1) 410

by twasserman (#36263790) Attached to: Steve Ballmer's Head On the Block?
Sometimes the world just passes you by.... Steve Ballmer at Microsoft, John Chambers at Cisco, Sir Howard Stringer at Sony. Three hugely wealthy and successful men who now seem at a loss to address, let alone control, the sweeping changes affecting their respective companies. They all have loyal Boards that have supported their companies' strategies, at least until now. So it's unlikely that they are going to push their leaders out the door without external impetus or internal scandal.

Whatever you may think of him, Einhorn has a reason to provide that impetus at Microsoft. He's losing money on his Microsoft investment, which makes him and his hedge fund look bad. When his hedge fund performs poorly compared to others, investors take out their money and invest it somewhere else. So Einhorn's complaint is strongly in his own self-interest, since he is unlikely to concede that he made a bad decision to invest in Microsoft. The question is whether other institutional (large and influential) investors will support him. If so, then they can put more financial pressure on the Microsoft Board, and hold down the Microsoft stock price.

Comment: Re:Who pays for the bridge? Tourists or commuters? (Score 1) 349

by twasserman (#35049262) Attached to: Golden Gate Bridge To Eliminate Tollbooths
I live in SF, and have also run a business here. We were at 2nd and Market, very close to all kinds of public transportation, including GG Transit from Marin (bus and ferry). We couldn't do much about the absence of BART, since that issue was decided in 1962 when only San Francisco, Alameda (Berkeley, Oakland, Fremont), and Contra Costa Counties voted in favor of BART. The other counties didn't want to spend the money and were afraid that criminal elements from the urban areas would use BART to reverse commute and rob them and their homes. (Really!) My current commute to Mountain View from SF can be pretty painful, again because of that long-ago vote.

Back to the subject at hand, though...

The GG Bridge toll is now $5-6, depending on the time of day. A fair amount (15%?) of that is out-of-staters and drivers of rental cars, many of whom drive across the bridge Northbound to the vista point on the Sausalito side, then drive under the bridge to return to the City Southbound through the toll booths. The word will quickly get out about the toll system, and most of those revenues will be lost. So I still think that taking away the human toll takers is a bad idea in every sense.

Comment: No human toll-takers will raise overall costs (Score 1) 349

by twasserman (#35047286) Attached to: Golden Gate Bridge To Eliminate Tollbooths
I'm mystified about how the Golden Gate District is going to save money by eliminating human toll takers on the Golden Gate Bridge. Here are some questions that immediately came to my mind -- each has negative financial implications for the District.

1) How will the District be able to collect tolls from drivers in new vehicles? There is no license plate available to the cameras.

2) How will the District collect tolls from out-of-state vehicles? If I have an Oregon or Florida car, I'll just sail right through and ignore any bill that I receive.

3) Who's going to send out the bills to the people whose license plates were captured by photo driving through the toll area without a FasTrak? Apart from the postage, how much will that cost per driver? Will they have to hire back the toll takers to send out these notices? The number of cars without a FasTrak is pretty high.

4) Who's going to open up all of the envelopes that contain the payment checks? Toll takers can collect about 5-6 fares per minute. It takes longer to open and sort envelopes.

5) Who's going to follow up on the bounced checks? That takes time, too.

In all, my sense is that the switch away from human toll takers is likely to result in lower revenues and higher costs for the District. They'll have to hire all of the toll takers for the manual tasks, and then some more people. Overall, it looks like a terrible business decision, even apart from the human costs.

Business is a good game -- lots of competition and minimum of rules. You keep score with money. -- Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari

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