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Comment Working from home is best (Score 1) 484

I have several co-workers, some who work in an semi-open plan office (essentially a bench against a wall with a few tiny airless offices that no one uses), and three remote home workers, including myself.

Without a doubt, the amount of usefulhigh quality work that the remote workers pull off is amazing. The boss noticed, and got two of the guys to do a time and motion study using a 5 minute interval to record what they were working on. The office guys struggle to do 90 minutes a day in billable work, and their work suffers for it. I can easily put in an eight hour day, and produce higher quality work than my on-site co-workers can in a week. Sometimes I trade this for a /. session, but most of the time I do high quality work.

For collaboration, we use Skype.

There are downsides. I get cabin fever regularly. I am somewhat distant to many of my friends, and not seeing them is a hassle. My boss doesn't see my efforts, and thus I tend to get more work than many of co-workers, primarily because I can deliver. Family time often disturb me, even though I've made it perfectly clear that if I was working in an office, I couldn't run down the shops or look after baby girl for an hour or so. This leads to working after hours to catch up occasionally. I'm still to work out this issue despite coming up on two years of working from home.

If you decide to abandon the cubicle rat race, here's my tips:

* Your home office has to be away from distractions. You're not going to win if you're in front of folks watching Dr Phil. I have a separate office with about 200 square feet of space.
* Your own music all the time at whatever volume you want is the birth right of the home worker. Get a good amp and speakers and crank it up baby!
* Communicate at least a few times every day with your boss. No surprises is the best policy. They buy in to your work and deliverable rather than demanding results and wondering where they are.
* Set up your home office properly. Sitting at a kitchen table or coffee shop sounds nice until you've been hunched over your laptop for three hours on a crappy chair.
* Get a big ass monitor even if you have a 17" laptop screen. Your eyes will thank you. Ditto high quality external keyboard and mouse.
* I bought a fax / printer. Waste of money. Do not want.
* Reliable communications is all. Have a backup plan such as a 3G dongle in case your primary net access goes down.

I think I'm broken of the cubicle habit now. It's going to be tricky to stay home for the next 25 years of my working life, but I want to do so. Cubicle life - good riddance.

Comment Prior Art - Acorn Archimedes (Score 2, Interesting) 293

The Acorn Archimedes, circa 1984, had a image animation demo in the default software package which had a rendered page turning effect similar to the one described.

The ARM chip was the only processor in a desktop machine at the time powerful enough to do this by CPU alone. It would be years before an Intel chip would be powerful enough to do the same thing.

Comment OWASP Application Security Verification Standard (Score 1) 105

Use the OWASP Application Verification Standard - this gives you an insight to the controls you need to work on first. A game should be at Level 2B.

Don't worry about the language snobs - ANY language and ANY framework can be secured as long as you do the right thing in terms of design. Where you can go wrong is trusting untrustable data - such as that obtained from the browser without first canonicalizing, validating and ensuring that it meets business logic requirements (such as not being able to pass through walls, or avoiding object collision algorithms, asset or stat manipulation, or score manipulation. The client is completely untrustworthy, and you should be writing your code with that in mind 100% of the time.

I lean towards publishing the code. The only secrets you really need to protect are master authentication tokens in (say) config.php and authorization tokens in flight. So don't publish the master config.php secrets in SVN or similar, but everything else should be completely open.

Comment Re:Financials (Score 1) 1003

Google does not use Microsoft Money to manage a multi-national. It would have to be a major ERP package.

There's two major ERP players out there - and SAP or Oracle Financials are the most likely candidates.

These run on pretty much every server OS out there, including Linux and Windows. Most of the ERPs have web based front ends as well as traditional thick clients. In some cases, the click clients would be Java based, so in theory run on Linux or MacOS X.

However, given that it's Google, wouldn't be surprised if they wrote their own.

Comment Re:A couple of things (Score 1) 117

Every state has its own Electoral Commission. ECs are a retirement grounds for out to pasture politicians who want / still need a salary - but not much work - and very hard working and independent minded public servants. I was fascinated by the process that creates new electoral boundaries and trust it a lot more now.

The AEC and the state ECs compete to run the local council elections. Local councils run elections not for democracy (for which most don't care about), but instead as a method of making quite a lot money, as most folks don't bother to vote and thus get a fine. There is precisely one correct answer to getting out of the fine, but don't use it too often as you won't be believed on your second or third attempt.

The computers are in the back room. Trust me, there's lots of machinery counting your votes. They count about 90-95% of the votes electronically by OCR as a first pass. Some of these batches are also counted manually to make sure that the machines are working properly, but the majority of votes are electronically read. If you scrawl or otherwise waste your vote, it'll be scrunintized by hand and entered manually by temp staff working for a DRO. This is about 2% of all votes.

Don't write offensive crap on your ballot as the community-minded volunteers counting the votes don't work for the parties (in fact, they're not even allowed to be party members) and they are doing it for not much money or no money at all. They've seen it all before.

If a ward / seat vote is close enough to warrant a recount, party goons will watch temp staff re-count the votes by hand. If there's a discrepancy from the machine count, it might be counted again, but this is really rare. Most electorates and wards vote strongly for one party, so they rarely get counted by hand on the night.

If you vote below the line in senate elections (and it sounds like you do), good - you've wasted your vote. Such votes are not germaine to figuring out who the last seat goes to in a Federal election, and thus your vote is simply wasted. If you really want to make your vote count, vote above the line in a party grouping. But be aware that most of the single issue parties, like the Gun Nut party are fronts for (and paid for) by the majors. Your vote will end up in their hands based upon the two party preferred system.

The good news is that our voting system is voter verifiable, has a strong paper trail, and difficult to tamper with. That's why I like it - it's a mix of old and new.

Comment Get off my lawn! (Score 4, Interesting) 117

Converting to Linux for voting machines is a big shift from the VEC of old. Color me impressed.

I remember many years ago (1998-1999) working at the VEC. I was a system admin in my first security consultant job.

DEC/Microsoft was helping the VEC create a Microsoft-only COM+ based voting system called EMS 2000. Previously, it had taken 3+ months to organize an election, despite laws allowing the Premier to call an election within a month at any time. So they had to be prepared a long way out, which was costly. EMS 2000 was essentially a way to roll out an election within three weeks. I believe it was used in at least a few elections. I wouldn't be surprised if EMS 2000 has been maintained and is still in use - it was a lot of $$$$$$ to spend on a project.

EMS 2000 used every single part of the Microsoft stack. One thing I remember was how slowly Outlook 98 opened when it had 4000 tasks. EMS 2000 created Outlook tasks using COM+ custom queuing components over very slow modem and ISDN lines to all parts of the state. Surprisingly, this was still better than the previous system, which was primarily a manual system.

It was a full MS stack with basically every single possible MS product at the time (NT, COM+, Exchange, SQL, queuing components using pre-release NT 5.0 / Win2K, and lots of custom VB code), it hung together well and ran fairly reliably considering the shaky comms at the time.

Comment Remember - it's the Government, not Australians (Score 3, Interesting) 200

This is an EPIC FAIL.

Australia has led technology trends and adoption for so long, and the Government is prepared to kill it and our children's future for a single lousy vote of a Senator who has the support of exactly no one.

The Government is terribly misguided on this one. Conroy might be pushing this as a wedge policy, he might be doing it for Fielding's support, but this issue alone will lose the ALP the next election, as well as many for years to come.

All of Gen i, Y and X will remember this and vote accordingly for years to come. The ALP will be in the wilderness for many elections, and struggle to form a strong government in their own right without doing the independent / Greens coalition tango that is working soooo well for them right now.

Seriously, I could see the Greens take this to the election and coupled with effective climate change policies and no internet censoring, they could become the balance of power for years.

Conroy is Public Enemy #1. He has committed electoral suicide for himself and his Government. I really do think they have no idea exactly how unpopular this policy will be.

In short - how to fight this thing:

* Ring your politicians tomorrow. All of them. Make the phones run hot.
* Write them letters.
* Ask to see them. Talk to them about this issue, and only this issue.
* Write letters to the news sites
* Blog and Twitter and Facebook away.
* Attend rallies. Publish photos and write ups about same.
* Join the EFA.
* Sign up to Get Up if you feel inclined
* Use #nocleanfeed religiously.
* Do not do work for Conroy's department. Resign or transfer if you work there.
* Support ISPs that are against this idea. Leave ISPs that support it or who have no position.

If it becomes law, mass civil disobedience is required. I will be blogging about how to get around the filtering.


Super-Earths Discovered Orbiting Nearby, Sun-Like Star 242

likuidkewl writes "Two super-earths, 5 and 7.5 times the size of our home, were found to be orbiting 61 Virginis a mere 28 light years away. 'These detections indicate that low-mass planets are quite common around nearby stars. The discovery of potentially habitable nearby worlds may be just a few years away,' said Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UCSC. Among hundreds of our nearest stellar neighbors, 61 Vir stands out as being the most nearly similar to the Sun in terms of age, mass, and other essential properties."

Students Take Pictures From Space On $150 Budget 215

An anonymous reader writes "Two MIT students have successfully photographed the earth from space on a strikingly low budget of $148. Perhaps more significantly, they managed to accomplish this feat using components available off-the-shelf to the average layperson, opening the door for a new generation of amateur space enthusiasts. The pair plan to launch again soon and hope that their achievements will inspire teachers and students to pursue similar endeavors."
United States

Barack Obama Is One Step Closer To Being President 601

At 3:00 Eastern time on Monday Dec. 15, 538 electors in state capitols across the US cast the votes that actually elected Barack Obama the 44th President. Obama received, unofficially, 365 electoral votes (with 270 needed to win). The exact total will not be official — or Obama officially elected — until Congress certifies the count of electoral votes in a joint session on Jan. 6, 2009. The Electoral College was established in its present form in 1804 by the Twelfth Amendment to the US Constitution. Electors are not required to vote for the candidate who won their state — in fact, 24 states make it a criminal offense to vote otherwise, but no "faithless elector" has ever been charged with a crime. "On 158 occasions, electors have cast their votes for President or Vice President in a manner different from that prescribed by the legislature of the state they represented. Of those, 71 votes were changed because the original candidate died before the elector was able to cast a vote. Two votes were not cast at all when electors chose to abstain from casting their electoral vote for any candidate. The remaining 85 were changed by the elector's personal interest, or perhaps by accident. Usually, the faithless electors act alone. An exception was in 1836 when 23 Virginia electors changed their vote together. ... To date, faithless electors have never changed the otherwise expected outcome of the election."

At Atlantic Records, Digital Sales Surpass CDs 273

The NYTimes reports that Atlantic is the first major label to report getting a majority of its revenue from digital sales, not CDs. Analysts say that Atlantic is out in front — the industry as a whole isn't expected to hit the 50% mark until 2011. By 2013, music industry revenues will be 37% down from their 1999 levels (when Napster arrived on the scene), according to Forrester. "'It's not at all clear that digital economics can make up for the drop in physical,' said John Rose, a former executive at EMI ... Instead, the music industry is now hoping to find growth from a variety of other revenue streams it has not always had access to, like concert ticket sales and merchandise from artist tours. ... In virtually all... corners of the media world, executives are fighting to hold onto as much of their old business as possible while transitioning to digital — a difficult process that NBC Universal's chief executive ... has described as 'trading analog dollars for digital pennies.'"

Comment Re:It's time to start a union how long before more (Score 2, Interesting) 555

Don't blame the workers - they made the best of a bad situation,. and if the car makers weren't so completely incompetent in the world's largest car market, they would justify their conditions and wages as a small fraction of the overall cost of a new vehicle (it's about 1/4 of the car's cost, if you're interested).

The automakers failed in several ways:

a) To this day, they produce crap cars no one wants, with awful quality compared to their peers. Compare a VW door shutline on the next Jetta (produced in Mexico) you see with a shutline of your average US made SUV. VW's shutlines are 4 mm wide at the top and bottom of the openings, and less than 1 mm wide for non-openings such plastic mouldings to body panels. The Dodge Nitro I hired a while ago had a gap between the rear bumper and the tail gate I could see through, and don't get me started on how much that Nitro sucked - it nearly killed me five times with its terrible road manners.

b) Once they realized that no one wanted their shit products, they moved into SUVs as the other manufacturers were producing cars folks actually bought. I am still surprised that folks bought such agricultural SUVs, but ...

c) They made so much money from these crap boxes that they cut back on designing any other type of car and really scaled back investment in cars the US used to be leaders in (large sedans like the 50's Chevy's and Cadillacs). No US maker has a small fuel efficient car in their domestic line up (say 40 mpg+, which nearly ALL EU cars can manage without difficulty)

d) They forced the US govt to implement effective protectionism, under the guise of safety standards, which prevents cars from outside the US from being imported. This is now biting them really hard because no matter how much Ford or GM WANT to bring in *profitable*, *well made*, *extremely safe* and *desirable* cars from Europe, they can't.

e) they lobbied hard against any form of fuel efficiency standards, and got CAFE. They fought extremely hard to keep CAFE standards low, even to the extent that the SUVs are not subject to safety standards or fleet average fuel consumption figures that slug sports cars and some of their elderly models like the Crown Victoria. CAFE does not address consumption or demand when fuel costs are low. Thus you have the most wildly inefficient country fleet in the world and no domestic models that can manage 30 mpg combined (only the Cobalt comes close, and the Focus is a Euro car). The same manufactures in EU have average fuel consumption figures in the high 30's / low 40's. They addressed the bottom line - CO2 emissions and heavy taxation of fuel to make it artificially expensive. They have efficient cars.

f) Those huge profits they made on SUV's? Wasted on a binge of consolidation, wasteful depreciation inducing inducements ($5k on the hood of perfectly good cars, employee pricing scams, etc), and all sorts of other shenanigans. They failed to invest these bumper profits in new products consumers actually want, saving up for a rainy day or diversifying their range to cope with all buyers, not just guys with exceptionally small penises (Hummer, anyone?) Women buy and / or approve more than 50% of all the cars on the road. Makers and advertising do not target women - at all, which is a huge mistake.

Car makers have royally hung themselves by their own petard. I'd love it if I wasn't a car guy.

But it's not all the car maker's fault. They are burdened with the dumbest idea since dumb idea were invented. No national health care plan.

The US fails all its citizens and burdens its companies unnecessarily because it has no national health care plan like every other first world country. The US pays three times the amount for medical costs compared to Japan or Australia for worse health outcomes and a shorter lifespan.

If the US had a national health plan and decent medical costs, some of the costs now forced on the UAW by the last deal (or other auto makers without the UAW deal) wouldn't be holding them back - it's a significant part of the purchase price of a car in the US compared to ANY other country. This is the sharp end of the stick of the failed laissez faire approach to the most basic of human rights - the right to a healthy life.

I don't think we should bail them out, but if we're going to, let's do it for the long term, not just to keep them going until they fuck it up next time.

Personally, my plan would be that they should go into Chapter 11, strip away all of the protectionism, talk to the EU and Japan about harmonizing measurements (yes, that means you go metric like everyone else), fuel, and safety standards so that cars will be able to be sent where they're needed rather than some countries with an oversupply and others without any cars at all.

If the $25B loan is given, they govt should force regulations on manufacturers so that more of a car can be recycled after a longer period on the road, force investment in products that wean folks off oil in both the short and long term (fossil fuels are a complete dead end, so let's start today and not wait until the next crisis or the one after that). Modern cars do not need a 3000 mile oil change. They need it when the oil is sucky, which is about 20,000 to 30,000 km after it's been put in. Cars can be and should be more environmentally friendly, as they're about the most unfriendly thing we do to the planet today.

It's time to get rid of the maker's current management except for Ford's Mullaly who actually gets it. Dinosaur head in the sand Lutz has to go - his day was gone with Iaccoca's last attempt to kill the US auto industry. The $25B should have a reciprocal investment in public transport and regulations prohibiting satellite cities and extra-urban design that effectively require cars to live there. Any regulations that prohibit public transport, such as anti-compete mechanisms, should be stripped away. Given a real free market and some choices, folks wouldn't drive so much.

Lastly, I would require that car makers employ more artisans and designers. US sedans and SUVs are SOOO boring, literally white goods on wheels with no style. Back in the 30's through the 50's, the cars were beautiful and functional. The crap boxes I hire all the tiem drive like crap too, so some folks who know how to make a good driving vehicle. Ford's EU cars drive well, may be they could import those folks.

But enough hammering the workers. As you can see they are not the problem.

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