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Comment Some huge reasons (Score 1) 474

Reasons I moved from pure tech / software engineering grunt roles to entrepreneur, startup co-founder, business owner, hedge fund manager...

* Non-tech workers are often in over their head: People without technology skills frequently end up as managers, executives and owners, and often don't have the skill to make business decisions that deeply involve or affect the underlying revenue-generating technology. Or they don't hire strong enough people under them. This is why Google and Apple are strong. The founders were technically strong, understood the needs of their customers, understood their products, maintained enough control, hired highly skilled tech people and consequently did quite well. On the other hand there are many companies founded by people who violate one of the biggest rules for creating a startup: "That a startup founder must deeply understand their business, customers, products and the competition." So many owners find themselves running a business or moving into a customer market they don't understand. So when the ship loses its rudder, morale gets bad, key people start jumping ship early, then the ship crashes spectacularly.

* Labor market supply/demand: Consider two facts: Tech is ultra competitive (lots of tech workers entering the work force). And most tech employees tend to be inward focused and may not realize the level of competition they face. By inward focused, I mean most tech workers convince themselves that: “Technology is my passion in life”, “I must find a job in tech”, “If I love tech and I work hard enough I'll be promoted and have an exciting career!”. It all seems logical. But they often don't look around at the world, realize that everyone else in tech feels the same way and fail to consider: “Will I be happier in a tech career versus a non-tech career versus a related career?” or “Is there so much labor competition in tech that wages are pushed down, jobs are miserable, hours too long, employee turnover is too high?” Most true tech workers I know (including some amazingly capable software engineers) are definitely inward-focused. Not management/executive material. They just want to write code. And that's why they are miserable. They never consider alternatives and never realize that tech actually sucks (some areas more than others obviously).

* The reality of the employee-employer relationship: Current-day expectations on the employee-employer relationship are all wrong and fly in the face of long-term history. Its especially rampant in technology. Today's tech workers have a view on employment extending from World War II forward, a time of unusually strong growth and prosperity (and substantially in the USA) and somehow expect this will continue, despite globalization. The reality is we are slowly reverting back to the exploitative capitalism that was seen in 19th / early 20th century industrialized England / USA and in recent decades in China. Employers require loyal employees while employers don't reciprocate and will fire/lay off/kill employees at the drop of a hat. And I mean kill as in overwork, burn out, ridicule, destroy careers, directly or indirectly (by encouraging bad lifestyle habits) Why should tech workers be treated any different than factory workers?

* Business risks: Many corporate attorneys advise corporations against awarding equity or controlling authority to employees. Until an employee demonstrates appreciation of all aspects of the business and is willing to be responsible (and maybe accept liability) and not just quit or litigate when bad things happen, employers will be hesitant to award real power (ownership, share of profits and control) to their employees (so the employees can help steer the ship and enjoy the rewards). This is partly why so many tech workers choose to become entrepreneurs and start and own their own companies.

Comment Much more complex (Score 1) 353

90% of replies have been "you'll be fired" or "get an attorney".

The reality is much more complex.

If the owners trust OP, believe he can produce a new line of revenue, or that the company would benefit from OP's entrepreneurial spirit, the owners might offer OP a promotion or a better deal than a standard employment agreement, such as shareholder, partner/founder of a spinoff company or licensee on the IP in question.

If the owners do not trust OP, or see their employees purely from the "employee relationship is the best relationship" point of view (which many corporate attorneys preach) then OP is putting his job at risk, should carefully research the situation and seek legal advice.

I own a corporation (with employees) and an LLC (consultantcy services). I've pushed companies to their limits (was fired once) and built $50 million/year lines of business in 2 years. I've recently been offered equity on two start-ups. So I've seen the point of view of several owners, their corporate attorneys and attorneys who represented me.

Some attorneys who litigate a lot of partnership disputes will tell you "employee relationship is the best relationship" or "never give out equity because it gives others legal interest/cause to sue you". Others will say the opposite, namely "provide incentive with equity or options to breed entrepreneurs within the company". A third group of attorneys will admit that this is a terribly difficult decision filled with trust issues and risks and will suggest a very detailed shareholders/employeement agreement to manage expectations and contingency plans for the partners/shareholders should things not go as planned.

The reality is these matters are potentially very complex. In my opinion everything boils down to the details of the situation and the preferences, skill and experience of those involved, whether it be the preferences/skill/experiences of OP's company's management, owners or attorneys or OP's own attorney. Ask enough business owners and attorneys and you'll get tremendously different responses, just like everything else in the world.

Comment NASA trolling (Score 2) 83

Here we see NASA trolling for more funding at the expense of real exploration.

A ground vehicle is hands-down the cheapest, most effective, capable and and least risk vehicle for exploring terrain on a planet.

Mars rovers too slow? Put more solar panels on it and drive faster. Solar panels getting covered with dust? Cover the panels with UV resistant and abrasion resistant windows and install wipers or vibration based dust removal systems. Metal wheels getting torn up by rocks? Thicken the metal on the wheels and use a better suspension design. Can't see very far ahead? There are things called telecoping masts.

A helicopter is prone to catestrophic damage (crash) and probably won't have much payload capacity. Its merely an elevated platform for visual, maybe LIDAR sensing.

So instead of building better rovers NASA now wants you to believe we need a helicopter on Mars!

Comment Re:Works as designed (Score 1) 191

Patent and copyright laws have never been about compensating inventors or creators. If they had been, they would be mandating actual payment to them.

This is nonsence. The entire reason for the patent is to bring knowledge into the public domain, to stop that knowledge being hidden as a trade secret.

I think you're both a little off. Patent and copyright laws grant the inventor with court-recognized rights. Such rights are definitely a form of compensation and constitute legal property like other assets.

My understand based on my work with many patent attorneys and agents is summarized by the following statement:

"The purpose of patent law is to encourage innovation, by granting inventors legal rights which permit them to protect their original inventions."
( from )

Bringing knowledge into the public domain may be a secondary goal or was an unintentional consequence of a system that needed to protect these rights (the ability to discover someone is infringing on a patent and litigate against them). Its also a consequence of doing business (putting products into the hands of customers who may reverse engineer them).

Comment Re:Poor delusional old man (Score 1) 191

This is an interesting topic.

IP is recognized as property by default, or perhaps if it complies with trade secret, copyright or patent law. Either way if the employee has documents (emails, etc) proving creation and ownership of such IP, can the employer legally sieze this property?

I wonder if there are court cases which show precident here.

I realize anything can be written into employee agreements and anyone can bring a lawsuit. The key is understanding how courts have ruled on this.

Comment Re:Expected value of contributions (Score 1) 191

Why not? If you have the bargaining position to negotiate a better deal after the fact why shouldn't you?

Sadly in my experience the more valuable IP the employee creates the less power they have to negotiate. The employee's value and power to negotiate is based on the expectation of of future value generated by that employee, not just based on their past work, skills, loyalty, etc. If their past work (IP they generated) is deemed to be so spectacularly valuable that one doubts repeated breakthroughs most employers don't care to negotiate and will gladly show the inventor the door.

And there are other factors working against inventors. Companies and managers tend to butcher good ideas. They'll undersell, oversell, institute arbitrary management policies. People fight over jobs and job security. Money and success only magnify these problems. The inventor is usually the one who has a clue how to advance the technology and often becomes a lone voice against the crowd.

I just spent the last three years building a $50 million/year 80 developer line of business for my previous employer. I invented the core technology which was labeled a "google killer" by some. And despite all that I walked away because management was flying blind and I had less negotiating power than I wanted. I wasn't allowed to recruit like I wanted. Management hired less capable friends and neighbors. I spent less time as a software engineer and more time training and teaching developers who could barely code. They made offers to keep me alright. But they all paled compared to what I could find elsewhere, at least in the long term. Upside is I have a great resume and LinkedIn and I'm now being offered business development deals with equity ownership. Downside is I have to hire a new team and start over and a huge customer was deprived of my services.

Comment Not for the US Army.... (Score 1) 96

The US Army now favors commodity Android smartphones with well designed cases over tablets like these.

$3000+ tablets that weigh several pounds do not make sense in many roles.

What does make sense is $200 - $400 Android smartphones/tablets with waterproof shock cases that weigh less than a pound with better battery life.

Comment Phone Conversation (Score 1) 83

Phone conversation between two data center techs:

Tech 1: "There's a cloud in the Facebook datacenter!"

Tech 2: "So? Facebook is built on cloud technology!"

Tech 1: "No I mean a real cloud!"

Tech 2: "Facebook is built on a server cloud architecture. It IS a real cloud you idiot!"

Tech 1: "There is a real cloud with real rain in the data center you geek retard! Its shutting down the servers!"

Tech 2: "Servers shutting down? Maybe the rainfall service is flooding the network with raindrop packets? That would be an emergency! Facebook's cloud is overloaded!"

Tech 1: "WTF are you talking about? There's real water in the servers. The water is causing electrical faults. Humidity is really high."

Tech 2: "There's a humidity problem? Probably the flood of raindrop packets interfered with the environmental control service.

Tech 1: "You might be on to something. Maybe that's what caused the cloud in the first place?"

Tech 2: "Caused the cloud? The environmental controls have nothing to do with the Facebook cloud!"

Tech 1: "You idiot! There is a real meteorological cloud in the data center, complete with real rain! Everything is getting wet! I'm not talking about the Facebook cloud!"

Tech 2: "So what's the problem? Just adjust the environmental controls and reduce the humidity. At least the Facebook's cloud and raindrop service are ok. You really had me worried about Facebook's cloud for a second."

Tech 1: "The entire data center is powering off you flaming moron!"

Tech 2: "Wow that's a real emergency! Facebook can't operate without its cloud!"

Tech 1: "Right. So back to the real cloud in the data center. I'm looking at it right now. Its unreal! You should see it!"

Tech 2: "Great! Now that the power is back I'll VPN in and check on the cloud. Are you seeing a lot of raindrop packets on the network?"

Comment Re:He has a point (Score 1) 376

You're spot-on about Google Maps. I've never seen a better example of an app solving anti-problems and a few real problems but earning little revenue for it, when it could actually solve big and financially valuable problems if Google chose to.

I'd love to ask Larry Page and Sergey Brin: "How are you content to spend $1.5 billion a year on research yet $12.9 out of $14.4 billion of your 2012 revenue is from showing ads on search results?" $1.5 billion a year can solve a lot of big and valuable problems based on what my software development team can do on a few million a year.

Comment Re:Misdiagnosis (Score 1) 376

Disagree on many points:

Guaranteed minimum income is a socialistic recipe for disaster. Take away all financial incentive to providing value or solving valuable problems and people will just sit on their asses, eat and watch porn all day long.

The "structural malaise" is caused by years of poor education in the US, which leads to poor motivation, depression, bad choices, etc. Why do you think US employers push so hard for H1B visas? I receive a couple resumes a day for positions at my employer, a major tech company. The average skill set, experience and motivation in "tech" workers is abysmal today. People padding their resumes right and left with skills they were only briefly exposed to and didn't actually learn or use. Resumes and interviewees that naively don't convey the value they bring to an employer. My favorite interview questions are "as an engineer... what problems in the world have you thought about solving?" or "do you have any software engineering hobbies?". Yet I get so many blank stares in response to those questions. It can be scary when we actually draw an algorithm problem on a white board and merely ask them to try and think of a solution.

I work in government research. Its not drying up. Its expanding by leaps and bounds. Sequestration has been a good thing. Its encouraged Govt agencies and contractors to trim their fat. Large prime contractors with high rates have lost their contracts and their top talent to contractors with lower rates. Its survival of the fittest / adaptation towards a better future.

There is no human tragedy coming. The employment landscape is changing. We rode high and affluent in the last 20 years on the backs of low interest rates and trillions of investment dollars combined with dirt cheap labor in Asia resulting in unusually high growth and economic expansion. Money and jobs were everywhere. This is the correction to more normal times. Biggest examples are people driving smaller and more efficient cars and manufacturing moving back to the USA now that China's workforce is smarter and can't be exploited like it once did. Did you hear about Motorola hiring 2000 workers in Texas to manufacture the first ever US-built smartphone?

The sooner people forget about the last 20 years and adapt to the current world the better everything will be.

Comment My perspective.... (Score 1) 376

I have pursued both anti-problems and big problems.

"Anti-problems" are everywhere and discussed frequently because the public and press are familiar with the problems, solutions and rewards. Everyone knows the possible financial reward from Facebook/Yahoo buying your social networking website/app, developing the next great web technology at Google, or developing financial software on Wall Street. These "anti-problems" are very sexy too. Investors buy into the hype. I used to work in finance. I saw investors bringing $50 million investment utterly fail in their due diligence and believe total lies. So anti-problems can attract a ton of easy investment... if conning investors is your thing.

But anti-problems bring deep risks, which you don't generally hear about. I've seen great software engineers work for very low pay because their employer or partners are trapping, baiting and exploiting them with equity promises, shared ownership obligations, using financial pain and desire to own their IP as motivation. I have seen careers ruined due to unseen risks that only good (and expensive) legal counsel would have helped you avoid in advance. But you rarely hear about these risks because they're just not sexy enough to print or are deeply confidential.

I've developed solutions to anti-problems that generated millions in revenue. I'm not a millionaire today because of simple greed. I did not secure ownership in advance and faced a costly litigation to regain my ownership or fair compensation from a very large company. I learned from these experiences. I learned to walk away from lead engineering employment positions where I was planning to generate or advance IP worth millions or billions and my employer refused to compensate me fairly based on the value of the IP.

Nor do you hear about "big problems". Sometimes its because fewer understand the limits of physics. Fewer understand the deep math and technology expertise involved. But mostly its a matter of the general public and press not knowing a solution was even possible. Best example was the original iPhone which offered the first effective touchsceen on a cell phone. That simply wasn't on anyone's radar.

I work on one of these big problems. I am a technical lead on software that is currently saving the lives of US soldiers and improving their lethality... right now as we speak. Nearly every solider we demo our software to says to us "I need that NOW". We truly feel like Steve Jobs demonstrating the first iPhone. That's part of the reward when you pursue solutions to big problems. Yes we're also compensated very well.

Yet we struggle to recruit top engineering talent away from all the "anti-problems". I've been pursuing a few local software engineers for a few years. One is developing a social networking app and probably earning a small fraction of what we pay. I get the feeling certain engineers have pursued anti-problems for so long, they're afraid to abandon their hopes of a big buyout, switch to working on big problems and have to admit to themselves that pursuing anti-problems was a bad choice.

Comment Re:An (Score 3, Interesting) 272

You are exaggerating.

First of all, US government solicitations can be vague or specific. When they are vague, it is intentional in order to encourage a wide variety of proposals. Have a look at:

Now here is where you are very wrong. Bids and proposals are anything but "a very vague description of a project and associated budget". Maybe years ago, in some areas of the US Government this was true. Maybe its still true in a handful of areas. But right the majority of DoD proposals are very specific. I've composed, won and lost SBIR proposals. Vague SBIR proposals are rarely awarded.

Comment Based on my experience... (Score 1) 680

First what not to do:

Don't invest in RAID-5 or RAID-6 arrays unless you can afford a high quality controller and SAS drives. Cheaper RAID arrays often have significant problems rebuilding. They're also expensive and large. You're also gambling that you choose a hard drive model that doesn't have any serious systemic problems. Choose poorly and you're risking total data loss. Besides, they key desired feature here is mirroring and one doesn't need RAID just for mirroring.

Forget about recordable DVDs or BluRay discs. The media capacity is small and thus cumbersome to mange. The recording dyes can degrade surprisingly fast, again varying greatly with manufacturer or lot. There's lots of research on this and you can download software to measure correctable errors before the discs become unreadable. I've had some discs become unreadable within 6 months. Some discs test with significant error rates immediately after being burned, before even leaving the drive tray. Basically if you're not testing error rates of your dye-based media, the joke's on you for buying them.

Tape drives are inconvenient for random access. Longevity could be better or worse than hard drives. Without hard data one can't recommend tape drives. Like everything else, longevity probably varies quite a bit between media brands and drives/recorders.
Internet backup services aren't going to scale depending on how much you need to access.

Here is what I do to manage about 3 TB of family photos and video, including about 0.5 TB of encrypted (truecrypt) content. Its not a perfect solution. However its cheap and easy to set up and maintain.

1) I have several "master" directory trees on my main computer. It runs Linux currently, but windows could work too. There are several drives and partitions, all mounted in a master "media" directory tree. There are subdirectories organized by year for which the media was generated. This helps with locating media of interest.

2) I have a large number of 1 to 2 TB external USB 2.0 hard drives from different manufactures (mostly Seagate and WD branded external drives from Sam's or Costco), each one clearly labeled. Some have one partition. Some have two partitions with the second partition being a truecrypt partition. The external drives are grouped together such that each group is a complete backup.

3) For each drive I have a unique shell script that calls the 'rsync' command.

4) I keep one group of drives at my house (the local backup), a second group in a bank safety deposit box and a third group at a family member's house. So that's the original plus three backups.

5) I sync the local backup about once or twice per week, or after significant media generation. This only takes a few minutes and is fully automated.

6) Once every month or two I will do a local sync, swap the local with one of the other groups then do another sync.

7) I periodically reformat the drives and check the SMART data.

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