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We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).

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Comment: Meet awesome people and have adventures (Score 1) 687

by vinn (#49130213) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Terminally Ill - What Wisdom Should I Pass On To My Geek Daughter?
I'd recommend teaching her to go out of her way to meet awesome people. Go work at that amazing summer job that pays crap but lets you be a scuba instructor. Spend a few months traveling around Thailand. Take a NOLS course. Volunteer for a fantastic organization. I imagine to some degree she'll have a safety net in life - she can always move back in with Mom. Let her know that failing won't be the end of the world and risks are worth taking.

Comment: Re:Don't Waste Time Making films (Score 1) 687

by vinn (#49130141) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Terminally Ill - What Wisdom Should I Pass On To My Geek Daughter?

I disagree too. My grandfather died of cancer when I was young and he spent A LOT of time with me those last few years. I look back and I know he did it to pass some wisdom on to the next generation, but unfortunately it's thirty years later and my memory of that stuff is pretty thing. The stuff I remember isn't as much as I want it to be. There were also some things I was just too young to understand and I wish he would have had a way to let me know. I love the book idea above - I really wish I knew what he enjoyed reading. He also had some pretty formative events in his life and I wish I knew what he thought of those.

Now, just be realistic - record these videos late at night after she's gone to bed or in school.

Comment: Slippery slope (Score 1) 182

by vinn (#49101563) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Can Technology Improve the Judicial System?

Do you really want more efficiency? Even the simplest technology adoption would help immensely help that group of self-serving luddites. How about using email to mail copies of documents in advance of actual signed copies? How about using electronic records for managing cases? How about sharing information between jurisdictions? How about better surveillance equipment so we can simply have better evidence? WHOA.. wait.. maybe not some of those.. Hm.. maybe this is a slippery slope and you should be careful what you wish for.

Comment: Use specialized tools designed for this (Score 1) 343

by vinn (#49073993) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Version Control For Non-Developers?
As everyone is suggesting, look for some specialized tools. A lot of the world uses Sharepoint and there's other benefits to using it. You can purchase Sharepoint through cloud service folks and pay a monthly per user fee. There's also some very good companies that just specialize in this stuff Although, I suspect this is a small office and no one wants to pay for a real solution.

If you can't afford to pay for a real solution, you should be prepared to invest an exceptional amount of time in a custom solution, most of which you probably won't bill them for. If they can afford to pay you the proper consulting amount, then they should pay for the right software. If you're willing to dedicated an exceptional amount of time, you can make something like SVN work. To do it with something like SVN - to do the training, to set up the automation, etc - it will likely take WAY longer than you think. And then it will likely fail. Or, it will work and you will be forced to support this until the end of time. If you're getting paid, that's awesome. If you're not, it sucks.

So what I recommend is:

  • stay away from this project if they won't pay the right amount for a solution
  • kindly recommend that they use Google Drive. It's dumb, it's simple, it provides some extra backup for them for cheap. Let them set it up. (Note: there may be regulations involved that prevent them from using a service like that. IANAL.)

Comment: Re:No they did not. They have failed HARD. (Score 3, Interesting) 296

by vinn (#49001427) Attached to: Firefox Succeeded In Its Goal -- But What's Next?
Well, presumably that's what we were told at the time, but truly what was going on was Netscape throwing as much open source code out there before being gobbled up by AOL. There was zero promise AOL would continue browser development, they had a deal with IE. Netscape was very much aware that IE might be the only game in town. Much of the email code couldn't be open sourced because I don't think Netscape had full rights to the code.

Comment: Do what you want and try *not to be afraid* (Score 1) 376

by vinn (#48491451) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: IT Career Path After 35?
Fear is the hardest thing to get over on the road to being happy. And for this purpose, I'll define happy as "doing what you want", both professionally and in the rest of your life. If you want to keep doing what you're doing, then you should just do that. Don't worry about what your friends are doing. If you want to go start your own business, then you should just go do that. If you want to write code until you're 50, you should do that. You're probably pretty bright and perhaps you haven't realized it yet, but because of that you'll always be employed. Don't worry about your job, you'll find another and if you want to switch career paths, it's probably easier than you think. I know those pay checks are comfy and they arrive regularly. That health insurance you probably don't use much is comforting too. You're probably afraid what might happen to your family if you decided to chance upon something different. Just keep in mind, the market or perhaps even the company you work for has very carefully determined the bare minimum it should pay you or otherwise compensate you to keep your job. If you're already happy, keep doing what you're doing. If you're not happy, stop being afraid. (Just a bit over a year ago the company I worked for slowly melted down over the course of the summer. Losing my job was the best thing that ever happened to me. Along the way to where I'm at now, I had to take some small risks - at each turn life got better.)

Comment: Who wants this? You? (Score 4, Interesting) 127

by vinn (#48472243) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Biometric Authentication System?
Having spent a lot of time around such things, I have to ask, who's project is this? Who wants this? Just you?

If your boss or the CEO is asking for this - great. Go do it. That's your job. (The RFID comments seem in the right ballpark.)

If a mid-level manager or you is taking this on as a pet project, then you need to do some soul searching. This doesn't seem to have much immediate benefit to the bottom line of the company. This doesn't drive revenue creation and it doesn't drive product development. Almost every time I hear someone say, "We need to track X", I rarely ever hear someone else say, "Get me the statistics on X". Tracking shit is easy, crunching the numbers to calculate metrics isn't. If this is simply compliance tracking, listen to the guy who says to install cameras and then dump it to a crapload of drives. If there's an audit, hand over the video and let the auditors sort it out.

There is a whole lot of not-your-job in here and very little hero making to be done.

Comment: Finance needs it (Score 1) 179

by vinn (#47995189) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Is Reporting Still Relevant?
Where reporting is really needed is with finance. So all those lovely metrics you collect should at some level get tied to financials. That site traffic has expenses associated with it - labor, acquisition, and hard costs like data pipes. Downtime has costs associated with it. At the end of the day, I'd venture that nearly every company just uses Excel to crunch those kinds numbers. (Perhaps they get stored in a database, in which case the staff accountant who generates the reports likely exports them to Excel, makes a few modifications or fixups, and then emails them on.) So yes, in order to intelligently run your company you need to meld together all kinds of different numbers and that's where reporting typically comes into play. Also, the higher up the food chain you go in any company, typically the older the employees are. The folks higher up typically have very little time to twiddle around with a web interface. In fact, they probably just use Outlook all day long and just send email around. So, if the report comes in via email, there's a reasonable chance they'll look at it. Not every day, but at least occasionally.

Comment: Cost/benefit (Score 1) 182

by vinn (#47967093) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Who Should Pay Costs To Attend Conferences?
First off, if you enjoy your job and this is the single sticking point, then I would consider it to be relatively minor. In which case you either play by their rules, quit, or some how convince them to pay. If I was in the position of your manager, I think their offer is fair. For instance, it might be easy for him to get payments made for an actual training or conference, but employee expenses might involve a lot of scrutiny. So, in your ideal world you want him to pay for it. Well, every time I've been in this situation (i.e. paying for training that wasn't budgeted), I've always told the person that if they can directly show me a cost/benefit that I'll go to bat for them and sign off on it. For example, one guy wanted us to pay for his CCNA and later CCNP training and at the time we had an external support contract in a specific area. Well, he made a convincing case we'd be able to cut back on that support contract. He was right - the first year we went from a $48000 expense to a $24000 expense and later down to a $6000 expense. I wanted to go to a conference to meet some contacts, so I told my boss we'd be able to save on custom reporting that was being outsourced. Sure enough, 3 months later a guy I met at the conference did some simple modifications to a canned report that our vendor would have charged a bunch for. I've almost always been able to send someone to training or a conference if I can directly show how it'll benefit.

Comment: Anarchist Cookbook (Score 1) 231

by vinn (#47828443) Attached to: Did you use technology to get into mischief as a child?

My early years on a computer were spent cracking the DRM (I think we just called it copy protection back then) on Commodore video games and sharing them with friends. It was fun and a good learning experience.

What would have likely landed me in juvey today or possibly jail though was when we discovered the Anarchist Cookbook. We had an AP chemistry teacher who was really cool and we used to try to work out some of the formulas for some of the explosives found in there... so we could "improve" them. I distinctly remember one night being out in the middle of a farmer's field with something consisting of cotton balls soaked in something, stuffed inside newspaper and diesel fuel. A curious sheriff showed up and some how believed we were doing a science experiment for class. (Probably because most people building bombs don't pull out sheets of chemical equations to show off.) We also used to buy black powder, ground it, build into various kinds of pipe bombs along with custom fuses.

In college I fell in love with Sun workstations and loved using in the engineering labs. Workstations all in use? Compile a fork bomb and crash SunOS. Need to start your own business? Acquire some university server space for hosting. Need some fake ID's? Get access to the lab with the Tektronix dye sub color printer.

Comment: Quit (Score 1, Insightful) 209

by vinn (#47578603) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: When Is It Better To Modify the ERP vs. Interfacing It?

Just quit.

1. You don't seem to be the one in control of this project. So, you are stuck on this path. Or, do you have the political capital and will to fight to get your way? You're seriously going to piss in someone's Wheaties and when you're standing in the shower in the morning, you better have a smile on your face knowing it's worth it.

2. You work for a major HVAC manufacturer. That's the most exciting thing you can do with your life? It would make me want to slit my wrists every day with a spoon.

3. You have to re-do these applications and make the data integrity robust. That means seriously looking at things like where you can get the most benefit for least amount of cost and/or where the data integrity is shit. "Oh, Jim manages our entire Northwest supply chain and inventory using that Excel spreadsheet he keeps on his desktop." I don't care if you use and Oracle product to get there or a cloud-based, super-redundant shade of the color blue. The only thing your boss's boss cares about is whether you a) prevent the company from losing money or b) make the company more money.

4. Speaking about data center room makes you sound like a systems or support person. This is an application and developer thing.

5. I'm not sure I understand where your pain points are. Customer relationship management? Supply chain? Inventory? Quality control? Payroll/HR? Quantify.

6. Do they pay you enough to worry about this? That might seem flippant, but it's very valid.

Comment: Licensing/ownership irony (Score 2) 66

by vinn (#47518493) Attached to: Microsoft FY2014 Q4 Earnings: Revenues Up, Profits Down Slightly

I find it a bit ironic that Microsoft has helped usher in this huge digital age where none of us really want to "own" digital content any more. We don't rush out to buy CD's any more, we subscribe to music services or stream Pandora. We don't go out and purchase DVD's, we subscribe to Netflix or rent some viewing via iTunes.

Yet, despite some little things like Office 365, Microsoft still makes its bread and butter via selling software to OEM's and volume customers that runs on hardware, both of which many of us are increasingly not wanting to own. I f*cking hate installing an OS on a server and then making sure the damn thing stays running. I'd much rather rent the VM in the cloud. Even better, just let me subscribe to your web service.

Vax Vobiscum

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