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Comment: Re:I'm biased but ... (Score 1) 391

by unimacs (#47921557) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Any Place For Liberal Arts Degrees In Tech?
Are you sure these were people with actual computer science degrees and not graduates of some tech school or possibly software engineering (which is different from computer science)? If not it sounds like you've worked with some bad computer science grads.

I can't imagine anyone doing well in computer science without being very curious and willing to learn. It's been many years but to get my degree I did have a semester of technical writing on top of all english/lit courses I took in my first two years of college. I was required to give presentations and I also had a math class that was entirely about writing proofs. It was painful but forced you to be completely logical. I found it much harder than my English Comp classes that talked about logical fallacies and the like.

I agree that you can be very successful in a tech career without a CS degree but once in awhile you run into a situation where the CS grads will shine and those without will struggle. Often it has to do with wringing the most performance out of a system. I recently viewed a video about MongoDB internals that was immensely helpful. Those without a CS degree would have difficulty understanding most of it.

Comment: Re:Tricky proposition (Score 2) 64

by unimacs (#47914387) Attached to: Funding Tech For Government, Instead of Tech For Industry
I've worked in union environments and non-union ones. Let's just say the union environments don't have the market cornered on dysfunction. In fact, probably the most dysfunctional place I ever worked as a programmer would never happen under a union.

I suppose it depends on your perspective though. If you like 18 hour days and being considered basically being unemployable by the time your 50, a job as a corporate programmer is an ideal career choice.

Comment: Re:Safe deposit box (Score 1) 267

by unimacs (#47911553) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What To Do After Digitizing VHS Tapes?
I did something similar for awhile but instead of a safe deposit box, I just left a drive at work. The only problem with this approach is that you have to remember to rotate the drives and any important content that's created between rotating the drives has the potential to be lost.

So now I have a mac mini (could be a PC or linux server though) that's hooked to our TV as a media server. It has a great big external drive that's used for time machine. Our laptop backs up to it as well. In addition I use CrashPlan to back things up to the cloud for offsite storage. You can schedule Crashplan to work when you want so it's not sucking up bandwidth that you might otherwise be using. You can also select what it backs up.

For me having something that runs automatically is much better than a process that depends on me to remember to do something.

Comment: Re:Batteries? Seriously? (Score 1) 486

by unimacs (#47869325) Attached to: To Really Cut Emissions, We Need Electric Buses, Not Just Electric Cars
I'm not telling anybody how to live, only telling people what's possible. If you live within 10 miles of work biking to work isn't really all that hard (winters excluded) assuming you don't have 1,000 feet of climbing to do and you have a reasonably safe route.

Vegas?

Average August high temp of 106 and humidity probably under 30% - Yeah, I could definitely do it and really most people could as long as they drink plenty of water and don't push it too hard. Think about it, you can walk outside right? Sure on a bike you might be putting in a little bit more effort but how much is really up to you, - plus you're generating a breeze. I've gone on 35 mile fast group rides in heat indexes higher than that. I'm sure that there are some days that it would be too dangerous just like riding in a thunderstorm or blizzard would be, but those days are the exception and not the rule.

Comment: Re:Batteries? Seriously? (Score 1) 486

by unimacs (#47868769) Attached to: To Really Cut Emissions, We Need Electric Buses, Not Just Electric Cars
What sort of clothes aren't safe to ride a bike in? There are such things as chain guards and skirt guards. And as long as you ride at a reasonable pace, you don't need to work up a sweat but it does depend on climate, the time of year, and how far you have to ride.

I have about a 6 mile trip into work. I ride year round in Minneapolis. I usually wear some sort of athletic clothes and shower at work, but a good chunk of the year I could get by with business attire in the morning (when it's cooler) if I was content to go a bit slower. I like to go fast though and have my commute double as a workout. Sometimes I'll add in some extra miles on the way home. Most of the year it's faster than driving since I'm not really affected by traffic congestion. Riding in the winter is harder and slower.

Even if you don't have a shower at work, there are ways to clean up to make yourself presentable (unscented baby wipes are popular but there are other means). Just bring a change of clothes or keep some at work. I generally bring my clothes in everyday but leave a pair of dress shoes under my desk.

Comment: Re:SnapCircuits and RobotShop (Score 1) 115

by unimacs (#47856229) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Robotics or Electronic Kits For Wounded Veterans?
If you have a small workspace, limited dexterity (find it hard to strip wires and shove the ends to small holes), and are just starting out in electronics, Snap Circuits are great.

Lego Mindstorms are good for understanding the basics of robotics and to a certain degree programming but out of the box don't teach a lot about electronics.

If you have some programming experience and at least a basic knowledge of electronics then Arduinos are a lot of fun but I think a lot would depend on the kind of facilities a VA Hospital would have for working on electronics. You would need a computer, a reasonably sized work surface, a place to store components, a soldering iron would be really nice to have, along with a set of tools like small screw drivers, wire strippers/cutters, etc.

Comment: some experience vs fresh grad? (Score 1, Interesting) 546

by unimacs (#47820547) Attached to: Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?
That seems to be the question. Personally I'd rather have somebody with experience AND a CS degree. ;)

I've been in the field awhile and have worked with many people who are self taught and either have no degree or a degree in another field. I've also worked with many CS grads. It's anecdotal but in my experience the CS grads in general will pretty quickly surpass the non grads in programming acumen, - all else being equal (and they seldom are). They often grasp concepts quicker and develop a larger set of tools to draw upon. There are many exceptions of course and I've hired and worked with good software developers that don't have a CS degree. It's not a pre-requisite for working for me but I consider it a strong plus.

It's not surprising to me that half the programmers in the US don't have a CS degree. That's partly because historically programmers have been in high demand. A more interesting statistic would be which group tends to be more successful in tech careers over the long haul.

Comment: Read the blog. He still has something to give. (Score 1) 120

by unimacs (#47764737) Attached to: The Grumpy Programmer has Advice for Young Computer Workers (Video)
I was kind of confused about the message and intent of the videos. If the goal is to give advice to those who want to continue programming as a career beyond their 40's and into their 60's, it might make more sense to interview somebody who has managed to do that. I guess the idea was to avoid doing what he did.

The advice seemed to come down to this: Take care of yourself and work for the government or just skip a career in programming altogether. The rest was made up of miscellaneous recollections.

I was curious enough to look at his blog. Though he's only posted sporadically, he does come across as a very intelligent guy with a graduate degree that still has something to give the industry, though I'm not sure in what capacity. He was a teacher for awhile and that seems to have been a good fit but it sounds like health issues ended that part of his career.

Outside of management, keeping ones career going all the way through to retirement can be a challenge in technical fields. Part of that is pure discrimination but I would also guess that in many cases companies get are getting more per dollar spent out of younger employees. How does one combat that as they age? Some do it successfully. Is becoming a consultant or moving into management the only way to go?

Comment: Re:Living in the country is an anachronism (Score 1) 276

by unimacs (#47717049) Attached to: Helsinki Aims To Obviate Private Cars
So what constitutes a small town vs a city? You talk about Ancient Athens and Sante Fe as if they aren't cities.

I live in a city of 400,000. I grew up in small town. It's population was about 2,000 when I was young. It's evolved/devolved into an outer ring suburb of about 30,000.

I went to college in a town of about 50,000. My wife grew up in what I consider to be a small city, - 80,000

For awhile we lived a suburb of about 30,000 in a metropolitan area of about 4.5 million.

So those are my reference points. My parents knew most of the people in our small town, but most of the socializing was done with extended family. I knew hardly any of my neighbors when I lived in the suburbs. You just never saw them. People drove from the street into their attached garages and went into the house without ever setting foot outside. By contrast I know my neighbors in the city very well.

Anyway, you have some long posts and I could pick at them point by point but I don't have time for that. For decades cities were losing population to the suburbs and that trend has reversed. Assume for the moment that many places in many cities are desirable places to live for a certain segment of the population. Given that, here is my challenge to you: Go to a city or especially a suburb and take a long look at how much infrastructure and space is devoted to the automobile. We don't notice because we are so used it. Look at how much space is devoted to roads and parking. Look at some modern suburban homes where the garage takes up 1/3 of footprint the whole structure. Is that really a good use of limited resources?

Then ask yourself if maybe Helsinki isn't on the right track, especially in a city where there are a number of good and healthier alternatives to climbing into a car.

Comment: Re:which turns transport into a monopoly... (Score 5, Interesting) 276

by unimacs (#47714443) Attached to: Helsinki Aims To Obviate Private Cars
Have you ever lived in a city?

I do. I have a yard and two dogs. Once in awhile we plant a garden. I can even play music. Plus I can walk to local bakeries, breweries, restaurants, hardware stores, beaches, parks, etc.

A lot of the time, between biking and walking your legs are the only transit you need. If not, there are buses, trains, taxis, and services like Car2go and ZipCar.

I understand that kind of lifestyle is not for everybody, but the worst thing we can do is spread out more. That has lead to all kinds of problems.

Comment: Re:Looks like some editorializing by the submitter (Score 1) 89

by unimacs (#47702951) Attached to: Blackberry Moves Non-Handset Divisions Into New Business Unit
In my opinion, in order for Blackberry to succeed in the phone market as a unique platform (not another android device), they have to have hardware and software that is head and shoulders above Android and iOS. Their phones would have to have features that neither of the others have, nor are they likely to get in the near future, - something big enough to excite customers that would take competitors a couple of years to catch up to.

It would have to be long enough for developers to decide they can't wait for Apple and Google to catch up and would have to write apps for Blackberry.

I just don't see that happening. They may come up with a nice feature or two that the competition doesn't have yet, but it's unlikely to be enticing enough to lure many people away from all the apps available on iPhones and Androids. How long can Blackberry continue to sink large sums of money into R & D that doesn't result in enough sales to sustain it?

Comment: Re:Looks like some editorializing by the submitter (Score 1) 89

by unimacs (#47700531) Attached to: Blackberry Moves Non-Handset Divisions Into New Business Unit
I think the market has pretty much abandoned them. They started the year with a market share of a few percentage points in the US, now it's less than .5 percent.

It's hard to survive as a platform if the market isn't big enough to justify 3rd party development. Yes I know it can run Android apps, - sort of. The reality simply may be that they can not get enough traction and sell enough units to justify the R&D it takes to turn out decent hardware and software. Lots of good PC operating systems died when Microsoft was dominating the PC market, - not because they weren't good but because developers didn't want to waste their time on a minuscule market.

Call it shifting focus if you want, but the writing is on the wall and has been for awhile. Now we are beginning to see the signs that BlackBerry knows it too.

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