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Comment Re:Glass House, throwning stones... (Score 3, Interesting) 104

Exactly. Large companies have been assembling software and process patent portfolios for years, either to threaten their competitors or to defend (via countersuit) against patent claims from competitors. But the landscape changes completely when trolls with nothing to lose can sue based on some patent they picked up for a few bucks. Hey, big companies, wake up and smell the coffee: your strategy just doesn't make sense any more.

So ratchet up the pain, trolls. Go for it! I call for more pain. "Pain, Captain." Intense pain. The faster big tech companies wake up to a dismal future of slow death, the faster they'll wake up their trained congresscritters to invalidate the whole ugly, stinking mess. Guys, I'm sorry that your billion-dollar patent portfolio suddenly becomes a zero-value patent portfolio; but it's either that, or you can have your lifeblood sucked out by trolls.

And, let's not forget that the rest of the world (ahem China ahem) will blithely ignore all of this nonsense. Because their engineers are unencumbered by legions of lawyers, they will innovate us into the Stone Age. I hate to be melodramatic, but this is a national security issue for the USA. Software patents will sink us. They really will.

Comment Re:can't sue those that does not create (Score 1) 162

Indeed, this is the key point. The defensive patent portfolio strategy anticipated lawsuits from *competitors*. Nobody anticipated that law firms full of shysters and hacks -- with no asset except some moldy patent filed back at the beginning of time by a random idiot -- would be the problem.

So I agree with a later commenter, who points out that this is precisely why this is GOOD news. Let the big companies get hurt AGAIN AND AGAIN by trolls. I want blood on the streets. I want them to feel REAL PAIN. Then and only then will our paid-for congress-critters actually wake up and change the patent system, at the behest of their corporate masters, who will have finally realized that there is neither value in their patent portfolios, nor sense.

Comment Re:Evan, the best programmer evah (Score 1) 948

Yes, but no doubt you can describe all of the things that you have done during the interview. Evans is saying, "Here's something you can talk about if you don't have any experience or portfolio."

I suspect you'd agree that people graduating with a 4-year degrees in CS are somewhat suspect if they don't have some sort of interesting term-time or summer employment, personal project, or whatever, that created something that they can talk about coherently. A linux box at home with Myth TV on it and some hacked up scripts. A screen scraper written in Perl or Python. Something.

Comment Re:Nice, but not so nice (Score 1) 275

Apparently you do not understand that MIT admissions have always been entirely merit-based. Prior attendance of some relative or parent, or donations from some rich relative, have no relevance whatsoever to the admissions process. In fact, the application, interview, test scores, high school rank (used to bias standardized test scores higher if you are coming from a lousy school district, or lower if you are from some richy-rich suburb where you get a practice SAT for homework every night) are entered into a gigantic linear equation. Out comes a list of candidates divided into three categories: accept, wait list, reject.

That's the process. No favoritism.

Comment Re:And what happens is this (Score 2) 235

If you're interested in IQ, give the candidate an IQ test. That's what "how well do you do on my stupid little problem under pressure" tests actually measure; except they measure IQ badly, because they have not been refined for the last 50 years by cognitive psychologists, and therefore they have no statistical validity. If IQ is the criterion, then give the candidates the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, which is over in 10 minutes, takes no skill to administer, correlates .9 or better with IQ, and has extremely high repeat validity.

With regard to job skills, if a candidate has a solid record of accomplishment, which is easy for an experienced engineer to evaluate with just a few tough questions, then they can probably do the job -- unless it is a job that requires unusually specific skills that they don't have, that cannot be mastered without years of hacking.

If the candidate is fresh out of school, maybe I could see some standard eval tests being devised to try to figure out what the person actually knows. But I can tell you this: the best hires I've ever made wouldn't necessarily have done well on real-time, random, stupid-ass coding tests.

Google's loss, my gain.

Comment Re:And what happens is this (Score 4, Insightful) 235

Hiring is hard, trust me, I've done it for years. However, I claim that silly little tests and so on are just that: silly. I have turned down senior management positions at companies that think they have some sort of Golden Test that candidates need to pass.

There are really only two things to evaluate: (1) Is the candidate smart? and (2) Can the candidate be effective in the position? The first is easy; anyone can tell within the first few minutes of talking to a person whether that person has the minimum IQ necessary to be successful. The second is tougher, and requires a holistic view of communication skills, motivation, and interest level. Skills are secondary; any competent programmer can learn something new, and my personal experience has been that experienced people who are given the chance to learn something new out-perform people who have been doing the same thing for years.

Comment Re:So (Score 1) 709

I think it IS "programming." Is it "programming" when somebody painfully builds the same thing by hand in MFC? OK, so I'd argue it's "programming" here, also.

As you point out, it shouldn't be that hard to produce this kind of IDE/framework for a different/better language. But nobody's really done it (OK, there are some Web tools that are getting there, but we're talking desktop). There was an abortive open-source effort around Python whose name I can't recall, but that fizzled. I suspect it's actually a lot tougher than one might think to make the whole thing work together reasonably well.

With regard to VB5 being the last reasonable version of VB, I've converted a VB6 code base to VB.Net and although the conversion process was extremely painful (no excuse, Microsoft, for screwing VB users this badly), the code is up and working OK, and VB.Net provides a similar level of flexibility and speed as the "old" VB did, with the advantage that you can inherit from classes trivially (and therefore change the behavior and appearance of things) without the enormous pain that was required to do that sort of thing in "old" VB.

Of course, there are new and exciting pain points, largely relating to the task of integrating managed with unmanaged code. There are also (many) bugs and idiosyncratic behaviors in Visual Studio, but once you learn how to avoid them (by trial-and-error), the behavior is tolerable.

Comment Re:So (Score 1) 709

Great post, except you are feeding the Basic-haters too vociferously. So let me undo a bit of the negativity.

VB6/VB.Net and VBA are not just "educational" languages, they are languages that serve an important purpose, and they are NOT replaced by other technologies. Show me how to build a great-looking GUI in 2 minutes, and one that I can change around in another 2 minutes if I don't like it. Why should I spend hours screwing around with C# or Python or Swing and end up with stuff that's hard to maintain?

That's what VB (and its competitors like PowerBuilder) brought to the table. They made it possible for a non-programmer to create a nice-looking GUI, in no time at all. And that makes "real programmers" look bad. Well, tough. Use the technology, don't bad-mouth it. Move the "real" code to C# or C and leave the GUI in VB. You'll save tons of development time, and time-to-market is what counts, not "purity of soul".

Comment Re:Computer programming via punch cards is useful (Score 1) 149

I did not drop the class; I learned JCL, too; learned how to duplicate decks, sort them with a big sorting machine, "interpret" them (don't ask); even program the keypunch terminals themselves (with a punch card -- what a shock); and so on.

One day a couple years later a 3330 pack at my summer-job company (a research organization) crapped, wiping out a whole project related to the Space Shuttle. My boss had made sure our little sub-organization was completely backed up on cards, and so we smiled right through the incident. The rest of the folks, not so much.

There's nothing like the confidence that comes from a box of cards. It's not going anywhere; it won't drop any bits over time; it won't decay like a DVD or CD. I loved cards in a way, even though I hated using them and dealing with them. And that 3270 terminal was SLOW and EXPENSIVE compared to cards. We could copy a file with a skinny little IEBGENER deck for pennies, while logging into TSO to accomplish the same thing could be $10 or more, and cost you many minutes of waiting for the (overloaded) system to respond. Yes, that's right, we paid for every machine cycle with real money.

Comment Re:If you are going to cheat, at least be smart... (Score 1) 467

I don't think it's clear from the context that a "funny" mod here ought to mean "Nixon was guilty as hell and knew exactly what was going on so hahahahahaha aren't I clever by modding this funny." If that's what you meant, OK, hahahaha, aren't you clever. However, if you had lived through that mess as an adult, as some of us did, you wouldn't think any of it was funny. It was scary as hell.

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