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Comment Last about five years? (Score 4, Interesting) 237

I've either personally owned or purchased for companies I've worked for dozens of hard drives of all (except ESDI) technologies including MFM/RLL, IDE (parallel and serial), SCSI (original, wide, ultra wide, etc.) of form factors from full height 5.25 inch to 2.5 inch, dating back to 1991, and in my experience most hard drives last until you throw them away after 10 or 15 years because they're too small.

A few hard drives die in the first 6 months, and maybe 5-10% die in 3-5 years. Saying that disk drives last about 5 years just doesn't agree with my experience at all. Hard drives essentially last an infinite amount of time, defined by me as until they're so small that their storage can be replaced for under a dollar.

I do agree with the author's other points. Certain lines of hard drives have more like a 100% failure rate after 5 years. One 250 GB hard drive I purchased was RMA replaced with a 300 GB model because the 250 GB line was essentially faulty.

I think these studies might be looking at 7200 or 10000 RPM SCSI units under extremely high use. That's not how consumers use hard drives.

Comment b should be the first to go (Score 1) 254

802.11b should be the first to go, but not 802.11a. Even though it didn't get good industry support, 802.11a is great. People instead adopted 802.11g, which is not 5 GHz like 802.11a, but it had better compatibility with 802.11b.

I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that my Samsung Galaxy S III supports 802.11a. I took my 802.11a AP out of storage and returned to wireless.

At some point in the near future I'll be purchasing 802.11ac equipment and putting my a network to bed. My two 802.11a adapters are PCMCIA, and laptops don't have that anymore, so I'll be generating three pieces of fairly useless eWaste.

Comment Correct, as usual (Score 1) 1098

Mr. Stallman doesn't have a publicist, a speech writer, or an image consultant; therefore, the way he phrases things can hurt people's feelings. Mr. Stallman has a damned good track record of being correct, though. Sometimes it takes a decade or more for what he says to be proven correct but rarely is he ever completely off the mark.

You can either spend millions of dollars spreading a polished version of your message or be deliberately provocative and offended parties will spread your message for free. If you take a step back and think for a minute, you realize how smart of a man Mr. Stallman is.

Comment You get what you pay for (Score 1) 324

Move somewhere without these types of covenants and this type of association. Sounds a little bit like you're getting what you deserve or you didn't do the research before moving in.

Ham radio operators have been dealing with this since I was licensed in 1991 and probably much earlier. Move somewhere, they forbid you from erecting an antenna, and you can't set up your station, public service or otherwise.

Comment White male advantage (Score 1) 353

You have an automatic advantage in many technical fields in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe and most of Eastern Europe and probably other places as a white male. In engineering fields people of East Asian descent are also afforded an advantage, because they are assumed to excel at math and by extension all technical fields.

That is why it is very important in the fields of computer science, programming, and software engineering (and where the three overlap) to assess people based upon as broad criteria as possible. White men are a tiny minority of the world's population, and even in the United States do not represent the majority of users of computer software.

I'm not advocating that we hire less talented individuals. What I'm saying is that we're not measuring talent correctly. I think most of you know that already when a recruiter asks you about specific skills in a certain computer language or maybe a specific database rather than focusing on your ability to design software, your ability to manage other programmers, and your ability to see an idea all the way through to completion. Beyond this, think about how software can benefit from different perspectives and ideas from different cultures and backgrounds. Software today comes from an awfully homogeneous pool and we all should know by now that the best software comes out of as many competing ideas as possible. And not necessarily one idea will win. Many times several (and a lot of times two) ideas are equally as good.

Comment My 2 bitcoin (Score 2) 396

Bitcoin has fundamental utility, just like Internet companies did in 2000 before the crash, except its price includes manic speculation. I don't want bitcoin to die, nor did I want those Internet companies to die. They all had utility, but manic speculation killed them. Speculation didn't kill them, or even rampant speculation. Manic speculation killed them, speculation without any justification except emotion, herd mentality, or what have you.

In my opinion, Bitcoin will be worth, after a number of years, about a dollar a bitcoin. In other words, what I'm saying is that one bitcoin has about a dollar's worth of long-term utility and [today] 999 dollars worth of speculation.

The two reasons I cite are: 1) Hundreds of groups of people, at least, are sophisticated enough to create a new cryptocurrency, and the interesting world of the future will be dozens of cryptocurrencies being traded like stocks on an exchange. You will be able to buy a basket of cryptocurrencies to minimize risk, similar to buying an index fund. 2) There are many large holders of bitcoin who at some point will want to move on to their next big tech project. They will over the long term bring down the price of a bitcoin to its intrinsic worth to society, let's say about a buck a bitcoin.

If I had risk capital, which I do not because at this time in my life I choose to do less work for less money, I would ride the volatility wave of bitcoin, making a few hundred bucks here, a few hundred bucks there: Definitely not enough money to quit my job. There is no problem with mining bitcoin or using bitcoin at this value, because you go in and out of bitcoin so quickly it doesn't matter. A cynic would say that the long term worth of many assets will eventually die down to zero, for example some highly-valued stock for a technology that is obsolete in 50 years, but I think that the value of bitcoin will fall back down to Earth in more like 5-10 years or less. It will be one useful cryptocurrency among many.

Comment A good lesson (Score 5, Interesting) 232

It's a good lesson, but for different reasons. Here's why.

In the real world, you pick the right tool for the job. You never pick a language because it's the best language. There is no such thing. Factors going into language selection where technical merit plays no role include what the other developers at the company and/or the project are using, what environment you're using (if Apple, then Objective C; if Android, then Java), what language the code you are maintaining was written in 5, 10, 20, or 30 years ago, and (hopefully if you are a great programmer this will be a minor issue) what languages you're comfortable with using.

After 30 years I've learned that basic computer science concepts are helpful, but only to a point. Google may want you to know specifics about certain types of trees for their interview process, but if you need to know that level of detail for a job, you spend a few hours on Google and learn it. The same goes for languages. Figure out what you need with a bit of research before you start the job. You should have a great idea of what environments a language is nearly always used, so you don't try to do something weird nobody can maintain. If you're going to write an iPhone app, you're going to adhere to whatever specific Objective C thing Apple is doing. Maybe I'm slightly out of date and Apple is doing something else, who knows? I don't work in that space.

Python everywhere, be damned with you, is a quick way to make enemies of people 10-20 years down the road who have to maintain your code. I was doing web development in the 1990s, and everybody used Perl. For everything. Now I work with a legacy Perl code base, and mod_perl seems to be completely abandoned, and it certainly hasn't been released for apache httpd 2.4 yet. We're using Perl because we have to, but not for new stuff. But for the Perl part of our system in bug fix maintenance mode, it is the appropriate language. We didn't have the attitude that we'd continue to use Perl for everything just because that's the way things were done. We were flexible enough to slowly switch over to PHP for certain things that we had been using Perl for.

Avoid fads like the plague. After 30 years of programming, I just ignore marketing. I have no gee whiz attitude about anything. I focus on perfecting my craft, learning how to program better, to debug better, to test better. Learning how to deliver code that works now and five years from now. All that is way more important than figuring how how some language is subjectively the best.

Comment Good (Score 2) 221

The NSA is supposed to be working on cryptography technology.

The NSA needs to get back to doing its job, and stop spying on Americans. We already have several branches of government that are responsible for domestic criminal investigations, and they're subject (in theory anyway) to the robust safeguards in the Constitution.

The NSA helps everyone with robust cryptography. It's in nobody's best interest when one government can decipher everyone else's communications, except maybe for that handful of codebreakers.

Regardless of what they say, terrorists are low tech. They do not have access to a large pool of cryptography talent, nor will they ever.

Comment Sorry daddy (Score 0) 199

Sorry, daddy, I have no sympathy for you. You brought Aaron into this world. He did not choose to be born.

Once you bring a child into this world it is your responsibility as his father to do everything in your power to help make him a success.

In legal matters, you take his side unconditionally. You don't take the other other side to save your own ass, or reputation, or something. This is your own flesh and blood, not some abstract person you've never met.

You seem like a real piece of work father, just like my own. I'm very similar to Aaron, a child prodigy computer programmer. I received literature from MIT as a high school junior, could have gone there, in fact. I'm not rich like you, and neither is my father, so I elected to go to a state school instead.

I was able to throw my dad out of my life, fortunately.

Comment Skepticism (Score 1) 223

There is some skepticism of wireless charging, so I will address all of it with some facts and personal experience.

In my opinion, the micro USB port was not designed with smartphones in mind.

With heavy use (such as shooting and uploading video) I can completely drain my Samsung Galaxy S III from 100% to 0% in about 90 minutes. Unless less strenuous use such as gameplay I can easily drain my phone in 3 or 4 hours. With the lightest of use and having a number of useful apps installed on my phone doing things in the background the battery never lasts more than 12 hours. With the first scenario, I have no way to charge my phone and it is out of commission in an hour or two (this is frustrating enough that I might buy a second battery) but to make the second and third scenarios feasible I leave my phone plugged into a charging port continuously. Scenario 4, less common but common enough, is that I can't use Waze the GPS app without being plugged into my car's cigarette lighter unless the trip is under an hour. But if I use the GPS during my trip without being plugged in, I arrive with a completely drained phone. That is not acceptable.

So instead of the charging port being used once every couple of days with the phone more or less stationary (like the designers of micro USB probably intended), most people including myself have the phone plugged in via the charging port continuously, always putting a strain on the connector.

What that means for me is that my phone was dead after 9 months of heavy use. The connector became bent internally. No micro USB cable would fit anymore, and I was in Detroit with only an approximate idea of how to get home with a dead phone. After a while of trying to work the cables I had on hand in, the motherboard cracked.

If you visit your smartphone insurance site, you'll see a failed charging port as one of the reasons why you're submitting a claim, right under lost and stolen. Essentially micro USB is too fragile for this type of application, and Apple and your insurance company know this.

Luckily I didn't have to go through my insurance and I got a new phone under warranty. The first thing I did was buy a Qi module to place inside the phone. Qi charging isn't feasible in the car. It's most feasible at work, so roughly 1/3 of the time I'm wirelessly charging. I expect the port on this new phone to last roughly 1/3 longer, or around 1 year.

Clearly, Samsung needs to figure out how to make the micro USB charging port more robust but Qi will help you until that happens.

Comment Bad company (Score 1) 419

They had the worst selection in the industry and once they pushed out ma and pas they jacked up their prices too high. I don't watch television or movies myself but my mother switched to Netflix by mail. Personally, I don't pay for any video ever. I watch what I need on Youtube.

Comment After 30 years of programming (Score 5, Insightful) 598

Forget about having to learn any specific language or environment. You should be able to pick up any language or environment on the job.

You need to learn how to plan, estimate how long that plan will take to complete, and finish it on time. Very few programmers I've worked with are any good at estimating how much time they will take to complete anything. The worst offenders take double the amount of time they say they will.

Forget about specific computer science trivia. You can look that all up, and it's all available in libraries with various licenses. When you're starting a new job, refresh yourself on how that problem is already being solved. If you need a refresher on a specific computer science concept, take some time and do so.

With this advice you won't burn out at age 25.

Comment Missing the point (Score 1) 381

I didn't read the article, so your mileage may vary, but I have been programming since I was around 7 or 8 years old and I just turned 38.

Here goes. The vast majority of code that you will need to write and maintain does simple things. It should be simple and expressive so the next person can both fix your mistakes and add new behavior.

Every once in a long while you will be given something fairly complex to do, and as you gain experience you learn to isolate that complex piece, perhaps write tests and drivers, special debugging code for it, documentation and wiki entries, and otherwise treat that code specially so it doesn't become a burden.

Under 1% of code does tricky things. It is true that you will find non-trivial code in academic papers, maybe something like a cryptography research paper. Eventually that code will become something like openssl. But 99% of what you write will be simple database, GUI, or text processing work, or something else fairly mundane. That code is arguably much more important. The cryptography routine won't need much maintenance but GUI and database requirements change all the time.

If you find yourself always writing mind-numbingly difficult code, perhaps you need to relax a little bit, because you won't make it 30 years.

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