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Comment Millions (Score 1) 377

About 15 years ago, a QA engineer in my office (a large Wall Street financial form) placed a fake trade for 1,000,000 shares of company stock in one of our test systems. The test order somehow got out to the New York Stock Exchange and actually moved the market. Backing out that trade was reportedly quite expensive.

The engineer didn't get fired, because he had done everything correctly. The system infrastructure had been set up wrong.. wasn't his fault.

Comment Ads don't "fuel the web" (Score 1) 618

Ads don't "fuel the web." They fuel particular businesses, and most of them I wouldn't be sad to see go. I remember the web before there were ads. It was fun and interesting and helpful anyway.

I've run a web site at my own expense (currently $250/year) for 20 years because it's fun to do so. I like sharing information, just like I enjoy writing open-source code. If the web were just enthusiast sites and shopping, that would be fine with me.

Submission + - Vistaprint runs $10,000 programmer challenge

maiden_taiwan writes: Tech company Vistaprint (my employer) is running a programming contest with a $10,000 (US) prize. The challenge? Creatively compute a shipping box that best holds a set of products. Deadline is end of October. The contest is meant as a fun puzzle (vs. an enterprise-level solution).

Comment Some companies DO walk the walk, but they're rare (Score 1) 533

I've been at a "passionate programmer" e-commerce company for over 10 years. Their definition of "passionate" (of which apparently there are many) is a developer who doesn't simply convert a request into code, but who will also think intelligently about the larger (difficult) business problem and focus on it. When your client says "Build me a proprietary streaming video server," the ordinary programmer starts taking specs for it, whereas the passionate one asks to learn about the business problem being solved. Then you learn that the video server is for playing instructional/motivational videos for the salespeople. So the real business problem is an unmotivated sales force, and a "video server" is not necessarily the only solution. Now you can have a discussion about other solutions.

I'm sure some readers will immediately jump up with counterexamples and pessimism... how the other person won't want to hear about your alternatives because they're threatened, etc. but I have been living this life now for 10+ years at the same mid-sized company and it's real. And yes, I am paid well for it, and so are my direct reports. And no, I rarely need to work evenings or weekends, and neither do my direct reports. And we all get free food. And the company is consistently profitable.

From all the vitriol I've been reading here today, I get the impression my company is extremely rare. Guess I'll stay for another 10!

Comment Here's your answer (Score 1) 252

Tell those interviewers that you've intentionally decided not to be a "people manager," because you are an outstanding individual contributor, passionate about the technology.

On the flip side, leadership skills (as opposed to people-management skills) are indeed important to software developers. You have to know how and when to:

- Push back against questionable requirements from a client (tactfully)
- Advocate your point of view
- Not wilt in the face of authority
- Rally the other members of your dev team around an idea
- Speak your mind in the middle of a heated meeting

Comment A story (Re:Don't scan other people's systems) (Score 1) 633

In the late 1980s, I was the sysadmin of a large Unix server at a well-known university, when suddenly the server stopped accepting logins. It seems that the password file (/etc/password) had gotten corrupted. The reason? A well-meaning graduate student had suspected a security flaw and decided to "try it out" to confirm it and then report it. His heart was in the right place, but his judgment was total stupidity: he corrupted a running server used by dozens of scientists "to see if it would work." If he had just stopped by my office and ASKED (we knew each other well), we could have checked for the flaw safely.

So I have a little sympathy for Mr. Al-Khabaz, but he did exercise very poor judgment in running Acunetix.

Comment We've lost email convenience (Score 1) 662

We've lost the basic ability to store and process email. Back when we all used terminals connected to one big computer (Unix, etc.), it was clear where your mail lived: in specific files. You could access it from anywhere (via modem), and you could process it with tools (grep, sed, etc.), use "tar" to back it up, encrypt it with PGP, or basically do whatever you wanted with it, effortlessly. It was YOURS.

Nowadays, half your email lives on a remote IMAP server: accessible from anywhere, but inaccessible to your local tools, and if your mail provider ever gets shut down, you could lose it all. The other half lives in local mailboxes on your desktop or laptop, accessible only when you're physically next to the machine. Or worse, if you use two desktops (one at work, the other at home), you might have local mailboxes on each, making it impossible to do a full search of your email. Some people work around this by carrying a thumbdrive and putting all local mail folders on it... but then you have to back up the thumbdrive, etc.

This is why I download all email from my ISP to a Linux machine at home (via fetchmail), access it via OpenSSH, and read it in emacs, or run a local IMAP server. This provides all the benefits of the old "terminals" model. The downside is you have to be a computer wizard to set it up.

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