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Comment Depends on how you present yourself, and to whom.. (Score 1) 435

At our age, the resume says it all. While not originally a technical opportunity, after three years in academia I got a cold-call to interview for a testing job from a major defense contractor based just on my resume. Got that job, used the first three years with them to demonstrate technical chops, and was able to successfully compete for a senior engineer position, happiness ever since. Now, it's not a coding job, but I'm responsible for technical direction, setting the expectations and mentoring for both our developers/engineers and our suppliers' folks. I keep my skills by hobby-programming and such; indeed, I learned networking by dorking around in the basement with 10BASE-T stuff; now, I occasionally conduct failure investigations on long-haul network problems.

Also, look for a company with a solid technical culture; mine has a technical fellowship that forms the basis for senior technical promotions (note: I'm not in that fellowship, replaced that with advanced degrees), also look for signs that they value the technical input. Oh, the most telling aspect of that where I work is that there are separate and distinct paths for pursuing technical versus management careers; I can't just walk into work one day and suddenly find I'm supervising people and trying to figure out earned-value reporting shit. Conversely, managers are specifically forbidden from sitting as members of our engineering boards, and nothing gets done until our boards hack on it.

I Just Love Where I Work...

Comment They want you... (Score 1) 283

The big aerospace companies are grappling with the impending mass exodus of old people like me, and most are looking to hire enthusiastic young folk like you. Go to a decent (regionally accredited) school, get good grades, maybe look for an internship.

One thing to consider: the larger the company, the more opportunity available to you over time. As programs and contracts come and go, you'll stand a better chance moving within a big company than one with just a few things going on.

Comment Thanks, Rob. (Score 1) 1521

Thanks for conjuring the website I've come to daily for about a decade for everything from giggly entertainment to real insight immediately useful in the day job.

Thanks for keeping it largely the same in all that time, I don't brook change very well... :D

I wish you the best in whatever comes next your way, and hope you find another gem to polish and foist upon us...

Glenn Butcher
Colorado Springs, CO

Comment Looking back... (Score 1) 913

1. If you really don't want to take the GenEd stuff, go overseas. When you get back, look us up after a year or so of job-hunting, tell us how it's going. Note this is not meant to be snarky; I am truly interested in how such a pursuit would work out.

2. If you don't want to spend any more time with the GenEd in a US program than possible, take the CLEP/DANTES tests, make sure your school awards appropriate credit for them. This is a seriously good way to meet the requirement, IMHO.

3. If you go into GenEd courses with an open mind, you should come out of your degree with a far greater perspective of your chosen profession in context with the rest of the world than if you hadn't sat through them. YMMV, really; if you take such courses without the motivation to get something out of them, they truly will be wasted time.

4. Speaking of mileage, take note of this: In three degrees (BS CIS, MS CS, DCS), the most perennially useful course I've ever taken was Business Law, of all things. Turns out, every job in my career has been on one side or another of a contract, and having that short introduction to contracting law and the UCC has helped me understand why some things are the way they are, more than any other experience.

For what it's worth, I was a college prof a few years ago, spent a year doing academic advising. After all that, I really have come to believe there is a larger place in our commerce for careers based on targeted training, because the college path does not fit all propensities (maybe the OP is an example), and programming should be a discipline targeted such. But, if you have aspirations larger than just chunking out code, a well-rounded US university program is a good place to hone them.

Comment Well, for me it's about the logistics... (Score 1) 669

When they figure out how to let us read from our devices below 10,000 feet on airplanes, I'll start reading more ebooks... :D

Conversely, traditional books are heavy. I recently schlepped along a textbook on vacation to cover a class I'm teaching, danged thing weighs 3 pounds! Really cut into my wife's souvenir space, and I ended up not even taking it out of my bag...

I do appreciate the discourse on this sea change in the promulgation of literature, but I think the really important dynamics are that people continue to be compelled to write, and that the rest of us can get ahold of their works to read. I think the medium is secondary...

Comment http://ttylinux.net (Score 1) 264

The smallest glibc distro I know. Doesn't come pre-configured with cluster tools, doesn't even have prebuilt packages for them. But, it'll easily compile most of the software you require (C++ is one exception, I had to rebuild the compiler), and, most importantly, has a build system you can use to put together your own .iso which can be installed in under 5 minutes, probably even less. Has recent 2.6 kernel and latest glibc, which means it'll also run executables built in other equivalent distros. I've run the Sun (oh, Oracle....) JVM with it, no modifications required.

Comment Having lived almost all aspects of this issue... (Score 1) 583

...over my career, both as an academic and as professional software engineer, I appreciate fully the distinction made between the mathematical foundations of computer science and the application of computer solutions to mathematically oriented problems. To start a four-year degree in computer science with the same calculus-oriented math series that the "physical world" majors take is a bit wrong-headed IMHO, but not completely. First, the math of computing is discrete, and this deserves first attention in a good discrete math course right after college algebra. And for most of my career, a solid foundation in logic, sets, relations, etc. served me well in both professional software development and college teaching. Indeed, my schooling went as follows: BS CIS, MS CS, and DCS (that's Doctor of Computer Science, as opposed to PhD...), where my bachelor's program had both a solid business core as well as just enough "continuous math" to understand the foundations of calculus. Missing was the discrete math I mentioned above, but I got that in my MS.

But now, I find myself smack in the middle of the defense/aerospace business, and the day-job application involves aspects of both calculus and statistics for which my schooling did not fully prepare me. Now, my role is more about technical leadership than practition-ing, so I'm not floundering, but I've had to dig out the old texts and learn some math on my own that most of you learned (or slept through) in your earliest years of college, or even in high school. What's really important for me to understand are things like the computational complexity of a proposed solution, that a branching structure in a code segment covers both nominal and corner cases (they do let me sit in on peer reviews...), and other foundational computer science things that the schools, in their increasing "IT" orientation, aren't covering much anymore.

I was an academic advisor for a year, probably the worst on the planet, because I told my students things like, "major in CIS, then switch to CS for your masters, avoid the calc hell" and "don't be doing school unless you're really motivated in the major" (ha, the admissions advisors LOVED that one... NOT!)

So, if I were king, I'd make all computer science students take discrete math, so there. After that, the math depends on what industry (domain, applications, whatever) in which you plan to work. For some, that may be statistics, for others the calc series. But the point is that the primary math of all computer professionals is logic, sets, relations, and the rest of the "discrete phylum", and that should be learned for competency, first. Doggonit.

Comment Re:I used to be anal about organization... (Score 1) 235

YMMV, but my experience is that datasets aren't really usable for a particular endeavor without some munging; stripping unneeded columns, common-format date/times, etc. Also, I tend not to work on the seminal copy; too easy to alter it and screw up separate md5 sums, or worse. So, if I have to perform analysis, I tend to round up copies of all the relevant datasets in one directory. Finding them is still the key...

Comment I used to be anal about organization... (Score 2, Insightful) 235

...but then google came along and taught me that it's not about know where things are, but rather about being able to find them. My email, for instance, is "organized" by the year in which it arrives, and I use the search function of my email client to find things. No big folder structure, moving messages around, and I haven't had problems finding any email I need. Oh yes, I keep them all... good fodder for "on x/x/xxx you said..." retorts.

For files, then, the key is to have descriptive file names that provide readily searched text. Including the data somewhere in the name (I tend to use this format because it sorts well: 20100815) makes it easier to sort through multiple versions.

Then, you can spend quality time figuring out how to reliably back up all that stuff.... :)

Comment Java: The Best Transition to OO... (Score 1) 565

Having come from your world and making the same transition, albeit a little more graduated, I'd recommend Java as 1) the best language to transition into object-oriented programming, and 2)widely used.

OO is really important to understand if you want to do GUI programming of any sort.

Java is also very portable among the major hardware platforms.

Comment Re:Well, it would seem to me... (Score 3, Interesting) 398

That's what I get for posting before morning coffee... :)

Yes, the post was probably a bit hard-nosed, but I'm glad you recognized my point: it's what interests you that takes you to interesting places. There are two kinds of achievers: 1) Those that work hard at something, and 2) those that work hard as something that interests them. The latter benefit from the leverage of intrinsic motivation.

For my situation, I modify #2 slightly: Those that work hard at what comes easy to them. I am definitely a poster child for that... well, delete "work hard" and replace with "piddle at"...

Comment Well, it would seem to me... (Score 5, Insightful) 398

...that you're more interested in the recognition than the achievement. Most folks I know who make real breakthroughs in a discipline are genuinely interested in the discipline.

I occasionally teach and mentor in a doctorate program, and my essential observation is that those who are interested in the topic have a higher probability of finishing than those who are "chasing the paper". Even those of the latter category who finish the program eventually find such a perspective catches up with them in the workplace or in academia.

I don't mean to sound trollish here, but you need to search your motivations and go for the thing that really interests you. That'll render reward far past achieving 'just something, anything' And that motivation will overcome obstacles such as home-based, etc. You'll find a way, if it interests you...

Comment Re:SQL - Oh, Bull***! (Score 1) 293

The most complex piece of Java (or any other language for that matter) I've ever worked with didn't have a single line of JDBC, SQL-whatever. There are a butt-load of scientific and real-time applications out there that don't have a DBMS anywhere in the code tree. And, if I'm on the hiring committee, not one of my big concerns for the things my company does (defense-related).

That said, DBMS-oriented programming is useful, but the world doesn't revolve around it. And yes, I have at one time taught it and programmed it (DBMSs, that is), so I'm not a "diametric myopic" here...

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