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Comment $70K sounds pretty low (Score 2) 53

I don't claim to know any political internals, but $70,000 to get legislation that you basically write yourself passed sounds extremely low. Wouldn't this cost at least mid 6 figures? How much are the industry lobbyists and body shops paying Congress to ignore issues with the H-1B program and expand it? I'd guess there's a lot of non-reported money following behind that official $70K figure.

Industry lobbying must be the ultimate blank ticket for a Congressperson. It must be nice to just call up a lobbyist, promise to do something and get whatever your heart desires. I often joke with colleagues about "golfware" products like SAP or Oracle where the salespeople just pump the senior execs full of booze, hookers and blow until they sign the deal, but this must take stuff like that to a whole new level.

Comment Interesting design/engineering question (Score 1) 216

Something like this poses an interesting challenge. When you have to build a product that is not quite cheap enough to easily replace, but expensive enough to make it painful to do so, and has a shelf life of about 3 years, what design corners do you cut?

Back when computers of any kind were thousands of dollars, the answer was easy - engineer them to the max since people were paying good money for them and wanted them to last. This is how we get things like the IBM PC case made out of solid steel. Now the equation is flipped, because mobile phones get replaced so frequently. The problem is that you can't get around the fact that you're carrying a laptop in your pocket and it's not just a cheap throwaway toy. This is getting even more noticeable since carriers have pretty much abandoned subsidies and are passing more of the cost of the phone on to the consumer. The top end model is starting to touch that $1000 price point that makes people stop and think hard about replacement costs if they're not getting some deal from their phone carrier.

Comment I'm for regulation in this arena. (Score 1) 442

I know, we're all supposed to be Libertarian free market people on Slashdot, but in this case the tax makes sense. Since Uber and others refuse to be regulated like a taxi service, and are providing the same service cab companies are, this is the penalty for doing business. The thing that regulated cab companies bring to the table is the fact that, in large cities, they provide part of the public transportation system. An Uber driver can choose whether or not to take someone to a sketchy neighborhood at 3 AM, while a regulated cab company can't. In New York, the medallion system prevents traffic nightmares by controlling the number of cabs that can work in Manhattan. Imagine Manhattan rush hour traffic with an extra 50,000 cabs on the road on top of all the private cars, buses, etc. Taxi regulations ensure that cabs are at least inspected once in a while, while Uber has no such requirement other than the driver's personal inspection -- but they don't check that.

I say Uber should just bite the bullet and become a regulated taxi service in the areas they want to do business in. I know disruption and "X on your phone" is all the rage, but think about the taxi drivers themselves. Driving a cab is pretty much a job of last resort for some people. Do you really want to take away yet another way for people to make money in this gig economy?

Comment OMG, I just woke up in 1999! (Score 1) 85

If this isn't an indicator of the top of the Second Dotcom Bubble, I don't know what is.

I'm old enough to remember the first one. Since I'm a systems guy and not a developer, my side of the house had "MCSE Bootcamps." I worked for a consulting company at the time, so I got sent to one. These were some really interesting operations; some people were clearly there to cram for the exams but had real world experience, and others were basically off the street with zero idea what was going on. The second batch had just heard there was a lot of money to be made in computers...lots of former truck drivers, plumbers, etc. Lots of these places had similar business models to ITT Tech, U of Phoenix, etc. in that they would take people's federal trade readjustment (re-training) benefits or veterans' education benefits and return a dubious education.

So, now that we have the cloud doing the infrastructure for most of these startups, the thing they need is a stream of cheap web framework monkeys. Coder bootcamp will certainly give them that...but they'll only be able to copy-paste stuff from one of the millions of JavaScript front-ends.

Comment Re:Microsoft's underestimating their legacy base (Score 1) 400

"Cumulative updates might help with this - because the bugfix will be incorporated into the next month's cumulative update meaning getting the bugfixed version will be straightforward."

The problem comes not from the cumulative bug fixes, but the applications that, for one reason or another, rely on the buggy behavior. Concrete example - Microsoft has for some time now made IE updates cumulative for the very same reasons they're citing here -- better testing, etc. Since then, I have had more than one incident where I have had to hold back that month's IE updates to machines running some crappy web app until our devs or the vendor got around to fixing the problem. It's not the entire user base in most of these cases, but enough to be a concern. Same goes for .NET -- breaking changes in LOB apps that can't be worked around cheaply.

The other problem is that MIcrosoft's fixes have been of pretty poor quality lately. Having to apply one rollup that fixes 10 vulnerabilities, one of which breaks a line of business application, means that update doesn't get applied and leaves the 9 other holes unpatched. Same goes if the update kills the whole machine. Anyone responsible for thousands of desktops/laptops just won't roll something like that out and hope it works.

When you go to cumulative patching that includes feature changes, the OS becomes a moving target instead of a stable development target. Microsoft has a long term stable branch for Windows 10 for just this reason. (I'll bet that's the workaround -- just upgrade your "free with purchase" Windows 7 Pro license to a permanent subscription to Windows 10 Enterprise.)

Comment Microsoft's underestimating their legacy base (Score 5, Interesting) 400

Appy app apps guy is right - the future in everyone's mind is Apps, not some LUDDITE desktop application or "pre-App web app" -- but I think Microsoft is really dismissing how much legacy code is out there and is broken by various updates. I do systems integration work with an end user desktop focus, and there are _so many_ crappy IE-only, ActiveX or Java applet or Flash or Shockwave (!) monstrosities lurking in corporate IT shops everywhere. Most of it isn't even in-house developed - it was written by really expensive consultants who want another few million to modernize it.

It will be very interesting to see how they pull this off - whether there will be an exception for Enterprise, etc.

Comment How to advocate for desktop dev in a phone world? (Score 4, Insightful) 509

One of the problems with anything desktop-related is the fact that it's all getting drowned out by people beating the phone-and-tablet drum. Developers are cargo-culting the mobile design paradigm, even on applications that are aimed at desktop users. I do systems integration work with a focus on end user computing, so I see lots of user-facing software from many vendors. I swear that the big offshore code shops have all just started using the same "touch-first" AngularJS user interface framework and swap in company logos when they build a new web front end for something.

I'm a big desktop fan - and a big terminal/command line fan. People laugh at me for using Midnight Commander for file operations on my various computers...but it's way faster than navigating a GUI or the command line if you know what you're doing! The problem is that the desktop and even the laptop form factor isn't the default anymore for most people. They've become almost a niche now, even in businesses. Most people want the Surface-style convertible tablets now where I work, and I've still got my boring ThinkPad collection.

I'm also a cross-platform kind of guy, but I find myself on Windows machines most of the time. Microsoft actually did the right thing with Windows 10, walking back some of the 8.x "touch-only, tablet-only" craziness. It's not Windows 7, but in my mind it's a good compromise between the two worlds. If most people are mashing the screens on their Surface, you can't get away with Windows 7-sized user interface elements. I wish they'd let people theme Windows 10, but that's a different story. On the Linux side, I do wonder if having several choices for desktop environments, all with extremely different ecosystems, is the right thing. It's nice to have a million ways to do things, but Apple was able to do a decent UI on top of UNIX that hides everything UNIXy about MacOS until the user gets down into the details. The fragmentation of the Linux desktop is one of the things slowing adoption. Some of the more modern Linux desktop environments have gotten more love recently, and are a better choice for the new user. But, just like CDE on the old UNIX platforms, I'm sure KDE will be kicking around for ages. Just like me and my Midnight Commander...

Comment Re:Maybe that explains all the poaching (Score 1) 109

Everyone's work situation is different. Some people want fixed, regular hours with well-defined time off. Some people just seem to want to be exploited to the maximum extent possible. Others have requirements that fit neither extreme.

For example, one of the reasons I work where I do now is the flexibility. I have 2 little kids, one of which is going into kindergarten this fall. My wife has a job that absolutely demands "butt in seat time" and a horrible commute. I make less than I could be making, but I can disappear when I need to and just do the work later on in the day. One very popular option I could see for people that work and have kids is work structured so that at least one parent can be home when the kid gets home from school and when it's time to leave for school, yet both parents still work. My job's not flexible enough to swing that, but I would certainly give up some pay for that flexibility.

I think employers in the long run will see that being flexible lets them keep a higher-quality work force. I've been looking into working in the state university system, since I would then have a 3-minute commute instead of a 25-minute one. Jobs just aren't available because once people get in, they stay. You have to wait until someone literally retires, partially because it's really hard to hire people, but partially because of long service. Several staff members I know have confirmed this, and a huge reason is flexibility...they certainly don't get paid market rates. You're working for the state and have to deal with bureaucracy, but academic jobs give people the freedom that some like more than money.

Comment Re:Look at that shift (Score 3, Interesting) 109

This is what I think too. I have always worked in "normal" environments, but there are plenty of stories about people in tech companies getting worked 90+ hours a week simply because that's the culture. Microsoft in the early 90s was like this, every dotbomb SV startup in the late 90s too -- and it's getting repeated for this current tech bubble.

I think part of it is companies self-selecting people who will put up with no life and love the idea of an "all inclusive" workplace. Not surprisingly, growing up and having real-life responsibilities like a family aren't compatible with this lifestyle long-term. Google provides 3 meals a day, concierge service, beanbag chairs...everything a recent grad needs to continue the college lifestyle. Amazon probably wants to try expanding out of the monoculture they have and see what happens when they don't burn people out. Might just be the effect of a mature company - Microsoft is still famously all-inclusive, but people have the option of going home at a reasonable time. They operate more on the academic model than the sweatshop model.

The problem is going to come when the MBAs and management consultants pick up on this and pervert it into "oh look, Millennials don't want stable jobs. They prefer to string together 4 part-time gigs to get through life." Then it just becomes an excuse to hire part-timers exclusively.

Comment OK, so how did it happen? (Score 2, Interesting) 146

I would think that anyone who actually chose to work for the NSA in an offensive capacity would be quite dedicated to their job. Same goes for most intelligence operatives -- I can't imagine they get paid as much as they could make in a private business or a well-funded covert organization, yet there they are. By contrast, Snowden was basically a contract sysadmin who had access to what was going on -- he wasn't coming up with these plans/exploits. I'd guess anyone voluntarily working on these exploits would be pretty serious about guarding their work and wouldn't take copies home on the train with them.

So -- is it old fashioned espionage tactics, finding out who these people are and squeezing them in various ways? Did whoever is behind this just get lucky and happened upon unencrypted copies of these tools? Should be interesting to watch.

Comment Solar bubble? (Score 4, Insightful) 160

I wonder how much of this solar build-out is due to an economic bubble in the industry. We've been looking into solar since we have a new roof, and the impression we've gotten both from SolarCity and a parade of local contractors is that they're all lining up before the (very lucrative) tax credits go away. Neither methods (leasing or paying for the system outright) seems like a particularly good deal. If you go the SolarCity route, they take your tax credit _and_ charge you monthly for your panels. If you go the local guy route, you pay (in my mind) hugely inflated prices, and they're trying to cover that up by saying "look at how much of a tax credit you're getting!" since it's a percentage of the price of the system.

I'm guessing all these local solar companies are going to be gone as soon as the tax credits dry up...there's no way they can continue selling systems for the prices they're charging. My impression is that these local solar companies are run by the typical hustler type who always has their eye on the next big money making opportunity, and will be on to the next one as soon as the business is inconvenient. It's too bad, because I'd definitely go for it if they would charge reasonable rates and not try to dupe idiotic homeowners who can't see past the tax credit carrot. In my mind, SolarCity is even more of a flat-out scam; they're the ones offering "no money out of pocket!" conversions, conveniently forgetting to mention that you're locked into a leasing contract with them. It's the perfect setup for them - the same mentality that goes into car leasing. Can't afford an S-class Mercedes? No problem, $999 a month, look, it's cheaper than a loan! Such a deal! Sign today!!

Comment Isn't this just a bunch of zero-day exploits? (Score 1) 110

This release would be very interesting if it broke new ground -- finding a computationally-easy way to break commonly used encryption, or a smoking gun universal back door built into OSes or network gear. From what I've read this is just previously undisclosed, easy to implement and potentially dangerous flaws in network equipment firmware.

Here's an interesting question from someone not in the security field -- is this basically what hacking groups do? Are they just collecting a huge inventory of bugs by constantly banging on these devices every possible way they can?

As the investigation goes on, it's going to be enlightening to see how this got out, if it's an actual legit NSA "hack." Was it a spy agency using traditional espionage tactics? Was it a rogue Snowden-esque contractor? Was it some idiot taking work home, then getting his bag stolen on the train or out of his car? Time will tell.

Comment Re:Sometimes a parting of ways is best (Score 2) 239

"My wife is a physician and she tells people who say they want to be a doctor that "if you can imagine yourself doing anything else you probably should". That job is too hard and takes too much from you to bother with if it isn't a calling."

That's a really interesting statement. I've always looked at the medical profession as the model for a perfect employment situation:
- Physicians and to a lesser extent other health professionals have their interests protected by a very well funded lobbying group, which is way more effective than any union ever could be. There's no such thing as the H-1B or "train your replacement," for example.
- The supply of new doctors is kept low by limiting the number of medical schools and making licensure difficult.
- The quality of workers is kept high by making it extremely difficult to get through a medical education and get trained via a residency.
- The practice of specialties is controlled by other boards that further limit who can perform these specialist procedures.
- Salaries are kept extremely high due to low supply/high demand and a regulated practice environment.
- Continuing education is mandatory -- as opposed to the IT world where it's DIY and no employer pays for it anymore.
- Doctors aren't considered replaceable by cheap labor.

I've always thought that if you could get through the educational hazing, it's the ideal profession to be in. A doctor could easily just get a job at a large hospital and make a huge salary if they didn't want to run their own practice. Is it not as ideal as people think?

Comment Re:Good news for their stock (Score 2, Insightful) 239

"Sometimes a reduction in force is totally necessary. I worked for a company that halved it's work force between 2000 and 2005 and just missed getting de-listed from the exchange by 2 days because the stock price was too low. In this case, the MBA's where right and let half the work force walk because the other option was everybody walking when the creditors closed us down. "

That's different. No one is going to close down Cisco. When you get big enough and are still providing an essential service, there's no way to fail so badly you shut down completely. There's just too much money sloshing around. Look at IBM -- the MBAs have been selling the company off in pieces, pinching pennies and offshoring their entire workforce for 15 years now, and the company is still alive. They've done everything in their power to kill it so the execs can walk away with the remaining money by cashing in their stock, and it's still here.

The problem I have is when the MBAs, who have absolutely no idea how the business they're running works, look at spreadsheets and say, "Oh, we don't need these people. Just send the jobs to India." without https://news.slashdot.org/stor... a good look at what those "expensive" workers are actually doing. Often, these people aren't even employees - they're management consultants who have been hired by the exec team to tell them what to do.

Why can't these 14,000 people be trained to write SDN software instead of designing mainboards for hardware? That would save Cisco the restructuring charges they'd have to take, and engender some company loyalty in the employee ranks, which counts for something. There's a lot to be said for the goodwill value that comes from your employees not feeling like you're a heartless asshat employer -- those same employees may even be willing to put in a little extra effort for you.

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