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Comment Support? WHAT "support" ? (Score 2) 412

I just finished 30 years working for a municipality (Calgary) with about 12,000 desktops.

We were mixed DOS/Mac at first and when the IT department finally admitted that they were not toys, and that their beloved mainframe was dying at last, they took over PC IT from the departments, and immediately insisted on getting rid of Macs because of "one environment".

It was always about "support costs" and "total cost of ownership", a number they never actually had to calculate. They also never had to prove it was cheaper to do everything their way - but as a gross measure, our costs never went down. Not even on a per-PC basis.

We always had Unix, from when you had to have a workstation to run drafting software. Because IT clung to the mainframe to the bitter end, it was the engineering department Unix server room that took over running servers (this was happening around 1996, with the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China imminent, when the joke was "will it actually be Hong Kong that takes over China" was big - in our shop, it really was a bunch of drafting-support staff that took over the server room!) We also ran all the E-mail servers on Solaris because 'e-mail' was "an Internet thing" and all corporate E-mail until then had been IBM PROFS. Finally a few Windows servers were allowed to provide Outlook, but only after Windows 2000 Server got decent. Everything else is still Unix.

Unix support staff were NOT hard to find for a large server room. Windows server staff that could support a LARGE installation were rarer! MS courses turn out lots of guys that can run a dentist's office but very few that can run a city.

After all support went to IT...there was no actual support, except re-installs. They re-install the software, they re-install your whole machine, but they. will. NOT. come to your machine and help you with your difficult spreadsheet. None of the alleged "support" staff understand any of our software except for basic MS-Office apps they themselves have to use (and, as mentioned, the won't come help with that, either). But for any special office software of the type that the article speaks of, departments have to drum up their own local "power users" for support, who by the way are discouraged from it by IT and certainly given no passwords or special access.

And for that matter, what does the client even matter to IT? They hate clients. All business software that can possibly be moved to web apps for easier admin, has been. It would run on Android just as well.

So I just don't see what the big deal is. Here's an experiment: Offer, gasp TWO alternatives with internal costs that match the actual support costs of each choice, then let your customers choose which desktop they want.

Comment Re:NPR advertising Kapersky this am (Score 1) 194

A more recent story? Not being tasked as your research assistant, no, I've only got the story I came in with. Google is your friend.

And, by the way, did you have some reason for anybody to imagine that the editorial direction or fact-checking standards of Fox news have changed since 2003? I don't recall any major changes of senior staff in that time until Ailes was forced out in disgrace - he set ALL the standards around there, nobody crossed him. WHY would he have changed any standards in his late 60s while the old ones were making money hand-over-fist?

Getting a few simple facts right or wrong absolutely addresses the issue. If a school cannot successfully teach that, say, the British Queen is Head of State but not Head of Government and thus has only ceremonial power*, then it's pointless to discuss whether it has accurate stories about Theresa May having low-polling with professional women in the Midland Counties.

Perhaps you did not read the study, but those simple facts that heavy Fox viewers got wrong were 1) whether the rest of the world was generally in support of the American invasion of Iraq, 2) Were there links between AQ and Saddam (Bush explicitly denied it on TV) and 3) Had WMDs been found in 2003 [Infamously not]. 80% of Fox viewers had more than one misperception out of the three. And really, "The rest of the world supports the invasion", "WMDs have been found" and "Saddam is working with AQ" are the very genesis of what we are currently calling "Fake News".

(*Example chosen because Sarah Palin did not know that.)

Comment Size != Power ... on the Net (Score 4, Insightful) 194

Man, if you`re a nation of 350 million people who invented the Internet and have a larger security budget than the rest of the world put together, it must totally burn you to be hacked by a half-starved, half-drunk nation of 150 million.

But not as much as being told about it by a nation of 8 million.

Guys, we don`t agree with all your foreign adventurism and neo-colonialism, but if you`re going to run around the planet just making enemies hand-over-mailed-fist, you really need to up your cybersecurity game. You have WAY too many of your human IT resources trying to figure out how to out-snapchat SnapChat.

And hire Snowden back. That guy could run a computer.

Comment Re:NPR advertising Kapersky this am (Score 4, Interesting) 194

This issue is not immune to the scientific method. Much of the approbation for Fox, and kudos for NPR, comes from the Knowledge Networks study almost 15 years ago:

It IS possible for everybody to agree on a few simple facts, no really. Then you can survey news consumers for whether they are right on those really simple facts, and find which consumers have the best score. In this 2003 poll, you actually had the amazing stat that people who watched a lot of Fox had lower scores than the Fox fans who watched a little - a lot of watching actually subtracted from your factual knowledge. And NPR listeners had the highest score.

This study should be repeated yearly, about multiple news stories, and the results should be common knowledge. News sources should be competing on whether their viewers get 80% of 90%, not whether they get 90% or 25%.

Comment Where DOES the money go? (Score 3, Insightful) 206

It's hilarious to read comments and posts about how this is due to "budget cutting". These cuts are not perceptible at taxpayer level. ...yes, there's a "drop" in there from 2011-2016, but I believe that's in overseas adventuring. Far more importantly, the "drop" is to the 2008 budget, more than double the 2000 budget, when there were few of these collisions. It's now nearly $2000 per American citizen. Add up all spending on Pentagon, DOE (nukes), DVA, and the spy/surveillance services, debt servicing, and it's a trillion a year, nearly $10,000 per household.

And yet, there isn't enough money for the PEOPLE in the American military, not even enough for their really basic training. Is is really all blown on overpriced weapons systems? Can't you include training in the weapons-system budget or something? Sneak it in.

Comment Lack of understanding inflates code (Score 3, Interesting) 397

Tight code that just does the job and no more can be done, but the writer, or the guy standing over him, has to *deeply* understand the problem, from the inside. Frankly, I think it's easier to teach the problem-expert programming than it is to teach a programmer the problem.

I worked for my local water/sewer utility, first as their IT head, then moved back to my first degree, engineering - but it was my IT that got me the engineering job, which was putting all our pipes, valves and other assets into a giant database that was also a "GIS", a map. We had already for years been switching to mapping with CAD, and had various macros and programs written within its development environment to make, say, placing a hydrant a single graphic operation.

So I got the one contract CAD programmer to greatly expand his "macros" into a comprehensive drafting system where the draftsman first drafted the underlying network, then all the pipes and other assets on top of that; the database understood the connected network and could trace it, analyse flow. The coding from the one former draftsman, who completely understood the drafting problem and the needs of his fellow-draftsman customers hired a couple of young programmers,made sure they were doing what his customers needed, and was done in a year for about $400,000. The IT department charged me much more than that to just supervise him and make sure he "met all corporate standards"!

Well, the IT and Mapping departments hated this software because it ran on top of the CAD package, Microstation. They insisted this was at end-of-life and all mapping was going to an "All-GIS" environment in the 800-lb gorilla of the GIS market, ESRI. They went over me (multiple levels) to get a huge project approved to replace my little $400K amateur effort from a mere engineer.

Long story short, that project peaked at 35 staff, went 3 years, spent $8 million and generated I can't imagine how much code because it was all with Microsoft programming tools that load in whole libraries every time you do anything.
At that point, management realized that it was another $2M-$3M to finish it, and testing showed it would offer no improvements and maybe some slowdowns.

They cancelled it.

My $400,000 CAD software is still there, not yet "end of life" at the age of 20, some 8 years after it was declared good-as-dead. Pity about the lost $8M. What I could have done with that! (There is, by the way, no sign of the whole CAD market vanishing in favour of GIS. Not surprising. Our IT and mapping people also picked Microsoft Silverlight as a winner.)

Whenever I read about giant code messes, I wonder if good, working software for the same problem would be less than a tenth that size. And it isn't bad programmers, it's bad project management. You should never put IT in charge, always their customer. This absolutely requires IT-savvy customers, and these horrors will go on until we get some.

Comment Meanwhile in Vietnam... (Score 2) 170

A bank head was just sentenced to death for a fraud involving less money than this guy's payout. "Dozens" of former employees of the bank have received long jail terms.

Now on the one hand, while Vietnam is on one of its periodic anti-corruption sweeps, this is mostly about the guy being a political opponent.

But, really, it's the very idea of the senior officials of a bank showing up in a criminal court at ALL, receiving jail time at ALL (rather than the bank paying a highly-affordable fine) that's the remarkable sight, here. Western culture can offer no comparable example.

Comment Industry started off wrong; needs professionalism (Score 1) 268

Alas, the programming industry started off on the wrong foot because employees arrived self-trained. I refer to the industry after microcomputers changed it completely. When it was all IBM mainframes, programmer was something of a profession, guys in ties and coats, math degrees and training in the shop.

When the notion of just writing software alone, not as a free add-on to a million-dollar computer, came along for PCs, the programmers were all enthused self-taught hobbyists and industry, well, got spoiled early. The book "Hackers" (Steven Levy, 1984) writes of Sierra On-Line "training" game programmers, but just about the gaming tricks in 8-bit: they only hired already-fanatic young hackers.

So everybody tried to become a self-taught hacker; after Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and got rich, dropping out of U became almost a badge of honor, of your willingness to risk your career on your talent and hard work alone.

If IT could become a profession - like Medicine, Law, Engineering, Teaching, Accounting - with actual requirements and competence tests - it would change a lot of things. Women piled into Medicine and Law despite the sexism they encountered: Medicine and Law are our best-compensated, most-respected professions. Why should they put up with sexism to get a shit-job competing with foreign wages and tossed at the first grey hair?

And you'd find people lining up to get the degrees that would get them into this respected profession. RIght now, you see CS class enrollment bounce up and down with every bit of good and bad news out of Silicon Valley.


Why You Shouldn't Use Texts For Two-Factor Authentication ( 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: A demonstration video posted by Positive Technologies (and first reported by Forbes) shows how easy it is to hack into a bitcoin wallet by intercepting text messages in transit. The group targeted a Coinbase account protected by two-factor authentication, which was registered to a Gmail account also protected by two-factor. By exploiting known flaws in the cell network, the group was able to intercept all text messages sent to the number for a set period of time. That was enough to reset the password to the Gmail account and then take control of the Coinbase wallet. All the group needed was the name, surname and phone number of the targeted Bitcoin user. These were security researchers rather than criminals, so they didn't actually steal anyone's bitcoin, although that would have been an easy step to take. At a glance, this looks like a Coinbase vulnerability, but the real weakness is in the cellular system itself. Positive Technologies was able to hijack the text messages using its own research tool, which exploits weaknesses in the cellular network to intercept text messages in transit. Known as the SS7 network, that network is shared by every telecom to manage calls and texts between phone numbers. There are a number of known SS7 vulnerabilities, and while access to the SS7 network is theoretically restricted to telecom companies, hijacking services are frequently available on criminal marketplaces. The report notes of several ways you can protect yourself from this sort of attack: "On some services, you can revoke the option for SMS two-factor and account recovery entirely, which you should do as soon as you've got a more secure app-based method established. Google, for instance, will let you manage two-factor and account recovery here and here; just set up Authenticator or a recovery code, then go to the SMS option for each and click 'Remove Phone.'"

Bacteria In Tumors Can Inactivate Common Chemotherapy Drugs, Study Suggests ( 38

Researchers caught the bacteria Mycoplasma hyorhinis hiding out among cancer cells, thwarting chemotherapy drugs intended to treat the tumors they reside in. The findings have been published this week in Science. Ars Technica reports: Drug resistance among cancers is a "foremost challenge," according to the study's authors, led by Ravid Straussman at the Weizmann Institute of Science. Yet the new data suggest that certain types of drug-resistant cancers could be defeated with a simple dollop of antibiotics alongside a chemotherapy regimen. Dr. Straussman and his colleagues got a hunch to look for the bacteria after noticing that, when they grew certain types of human cancer cells together in lab, the cells all became more resistant to a chemotherapy drug called gemcitabine. This is a drug used to treat pancreatic, lung, breast, and bladder cancers and is often sold under the brand name Gemzar. The researchers suspected that some of the cells may secrete a drug-busting molecule. So they tried filtering the cell cultures to see if they could catch it. Instead, they found that the cell cultures lost their resistance after their liquid broth passed through a pretty large filter -- 0.45 micrometers. This would catch large particles -- like bacteria -- but not small molecules, as the researchers were expecting.

Looking closer, the researchers noticed that some of their cancer cells were contaminated with M. hyorhinis. And these bacteria could metabolize gemcitabine, rendering the drug useless. When the researchers transplanted treatable cancer cells into the flanks of mice -- some with and some without M. hyorhinis -- the bacteria-toting tumors were resistant to gemcitabine treatment.

Comment Re:Yup, he proselytized - ineffectively... (Score 1) 221

Sorry, didn't intend to: what were those previous goal posts? It was fair to say a few suborbital flights are "opening up space as never before"? I always had the goalposts of "doing more than NASA has already done" for that sentence, and my reply did admit that if he meant "by private industry" then his comment was agreed to.

Comment Yup, he proselytized - ineffectively... (Score 3, Interesting) 221

I recently had a "whatever happened to" moment and spent an evening reading his more recent opinion posts, and it was kind of sad to see him become more hardened into an increasingly bitter-sounding, yes, even Trumpist view of the world over time. The one where civilization is always falling into disrepair from the gradual takeover of ever-expanding bureaucracy and government control.

Go back a ways and you can see all the attitudes there - the "Fallen Angels" book from 1991 isn't just about how an ice age is far more likely than this liberal global warming theory (which the liberals in the book stick to even as mile-high ice sheets wipe out Canada and are eating Wisconsin), it's about how government with liberal concerns becomes a kind of fascist dictatorship, controlling individual economic choices and oppressing honest scientists who won't toe a party line.

And then there's Mote in Gods Eye which proposes an enemy which must be inherently treated like an enemy no matter how nice and reasonable they are as individuals, because as a race, they breed like flies... and just can't help but displace us utterly from the universe if we let them out of their cage. Which are defeated by a hereditary nobility, because feudalism turned out to be the best way to bring order to our race in an age of star travel.

But you know something? It didn't work. Not on me, nor on a bunch of friends I have that all enjoy SF; we all read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress without turning libertarian, and I must have read Starship Troopers 3 times but am not militarist, and certainly Jerry and Larry didn't turn me into a feudalist who fears that the teeming hordes of populous countries will overrun us like army ants. It was all just fiction, I enjoyed it, by my core politics were not particularly affected by it.

People who get upset when authors weave their opinions into their work all need to take a deep breath: if YOU can see it, can you possibly credit the rest of us with seeing it, too? We can filter our own inputs, honest: we live in a world of advertising. [Criticized for advertising certain products to the very young, advertisers today plead back that their sneakiest approaches can't break through the suspicious natures of modern kids: by nine, they know the toy isn't really as fun as it looks on TV.]

So, yeah, I sputtered with disbelief at his column when Obamacare was enacted, raging that for the first time in his life he was now held responsible for the medical care of complete strangers - I supposed he'd never before in his life considered complete strangers over 65, despite being there himself - but I bid him farewell with sorrow. He gave me a lot of fun hours in fantasyland, and a lot of fun hours reading about the latest in WORM drives (look it up) and literally a hundred other technologies that have come, and mostly gone, all building the world's most exciting industry. I thank him for his opinions even though I shared few; testing my reasoning against his was good for me.

Jerry-haters can take some comfort, if you feel mean today: Jerry's fondest youthful dreams for The Future (i.e. now) were all cruelly disappointed. We got no moonbase, no space industries, no asteroid miners. Worse yet, while Jerry may have convinced himself that NASA bureaucracy and general liberal anti-science budget cutting were at fault, I doubt it; he was opinionated but not irrational. And the painful fact is that no private industry was ever found for space.

Jerry's stories always featured a booming space industry by 2020 because zero-gee manufacturing was going to lead to ultra-fast computer chips, amazing new drugs, and ultra-strong materials. No such private, commercial reason to build in space ever materialized, despite billions of dollars of publicly-funded experiments to find such industrial processes. That's a shame for a space dreamers, but it's nobody's fault, it's just a scientific fact about the universe: space is way harder to conquer and way less rewarding than we hoped. Some frontiers turn out to be America, full of rich returns, and some are Antarctica, no reason to go except science that only governments will fund. Leaving the science dreamers waiting hat-in-hand in some mouth-breathing congressional hearing room, awaiting the pleasure of the hated bureaucrats. Ouch. [I cannot even guess if it occurred to Jerry that America actually had a low-if-anything budget for welfare and medicare, and what prevented NASA from having $100B a year was not masses of unproductives but rather multi-trillion-dollar wars of choice; but either way, the Government got to decide whether there would be a large space program, and they decided No.]

The Dream, of course, is not dead. The plot is just turning out to be a 10-volume long-term opus rather that a 200-page paperback where the whole solar system is "conquered" in the 21st century, with star flight in the 22nd. Jerry would have still loved to have been along for the ride.

Comment Yes, regulation CAN solve this (Score 4, Insightful) 401

...not perfectly, of course. A previous poster is correct that no system is perfect. But systems that are well-regulated can be pretty good. The airline industry used to drop planes as frequently as we hear about major data-breaches today: like every month. Now it's less than one per year, despite travel having increased over 10 fold.

We could be hearing about 1/100th as many data-breaches, as well. A bunch of financial services would get a little more expensive, but only a little, just like airline fares have not gone out of sight - they didn't even go out of sight after 9/11 when new regulations made flying more expensive. Just not much.

This company has NO reason to spend more money on security next year. Why would they? The actual financial consequences of this event are really quite minor for them. No fines, no lawsuits, and almost no compensation. (The "year of monitoring" will cost about as much as a coffee for each of the 1% that sign up for it.)

If Corporate Death Penalty were the consequence of an event like this, you'd see OpenBSD web sites with custom web servers written to only provide the application; you'd see humans paid to monitor the logs in real time, and more humans to watch them. You'd see the difference between how civilians do things and how the military do things, not caring that they spend a hundred dollars where a civilian would spend five. And you'd see some real results. Right now, failure is not just an option, its the cheaper one.

People prattling on about how "nothing could have prevented this" are exactly like those who said the same about the Titanic - until new regulations that were "utterly unaffordable" the day before Titanic were suddenly gospel: double-hulls were very expensive, watertight compartments that go 20ft above water line, enough lifeboats for everybody, 7x24 ice patrols, 7x24 wireless monitoring on every ship. All of that was "impossible" the day before Titanic. The security equivalent is still "impossible" here, because there is essentially no penalty for failure.

Comment They might work for existing professionals (Score 1) 139

Learning a whole profession in a matter of weeks sounds pretty tough, might be why there are no "engineering boot camps" or "accounting boot camps". But I can imagine an "accounting for engineers" boot camp that gave an engineer enough mental tools to talk productively with their accountant, do simple accounting if they run a 1-man consulting firm, that sort of thing.

Accounting is one thing that engineers, doctors, dentists and lawyers and many other professionals could all stand several weeks of. Programming is another, especially for the engineers like myself. I got a whole CompSci degree after my P.Eng. and it changed my whole career, very much for the better. But I effectively *gave* that coding boot camp to several engineers that worked under me over the course of my career. Posters on /. sneer at "VBA coders" but I can't overstate how much more productive a professional engineer can be in certain jobs (in my case, managing over 200,000 underground pipes) with decent "201 level" skills in SQL and VBA.

My suggestion would, alas, *eliminate* programming jobs. Right now, all those professionals have to turn to their I.T. department, which charges them $10,000 for coding and $25,000 for "requirements gathering", "systems analysis" and "enterprise architecture integration", that resulted in a sweet shiny C# application.... that also does what they could have done themselves with Excel and VBA in an afternoon if they'd been through about 50 hours of instruction and 100 of practice.

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