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Comment Seems to me this is nothing new... (Score 1) 241

I used to run regional ISP's for a living (~150k users in multiple states). As an ISP, we had "cloud" infrastructure before it was cool. Among other things we had high speed internet connections, PRI connections, and vendor outsourced dial-up pools. As the head of technology for these companies, I was unable to see anything past my router interface (except incoming traffic, of course). When the T-1 to a customer crashed, there was absolutely nothing I could do except make good and damn well sure it wasn't a hardware issue. If my dial-up lines were down, all I could do was, well, make good and damn well sure it wasn't my hardware at fault.

This problem is nothing new. What's new is scale, and in a way that is unprecedented. Back in the day we had T-3's and multiple PRI's, and, at the end, an OC-3, but that was about the extent of it. However, when managing "the cloud", you're talking about the network backbone, along with servers, storage, and who all knows what else. In other words, at the hardware level, you're damn near blind.

What could possibly go wrong? Oh, wait...

Even back then it was complex. My survival tactic was to learn how to make the guys at the other end of the telephone lines believe I worked for them when I called. That, and be really nice to the ones who could actually solve a problem and get their cell phone numbers (and Norm, if you're out there, thank you for your home phone number!).

As someone stated earlier, the "cloud" is that part of the Visio network diagram where you have no idea what the #@$& is going on or what the @#$* it is running on, and you have zero level of visibility to it. Hence, the term "cloud".

I spent many sleepless nights talking to Cisco's help desk in Australia and waiting in a queue at the RBOC's office to solve a problem I knew without a shadow of a doubt was not mine. (Except the one time it was, but that guy was pistol-whipped, sock-partied, and sacked. And then re-sacked to make sure.) I can't imagine how anyone over a decade later figures outsourcing *MORE* could be a fantastic career move, especially when the technology behind it isn't really all that old. At least OC-3's, PRI's, and T-3's had at least a decade of real-world use when I was doing it. Doing it on unknown code with vendors who can't possibly have more than a few years of experience? I don't think so.


Comment A telling point that seems to have been missed... (Score 2) 144

is the fact that we are beginning to accept the term "app" as a distinctly different category/delivery method of software, rather than whatever poor comparisons/facts of the original story. We are now getting to the point where Steam/ITunes/et cetera et al. have become a distinct category of media, even though each one is an "app" in the original sense of the word.

Seems to me that this trend is essentially inevitable, whether it's the game industry or any other category of computer software. Simply put, not having to create, manufacture, and distribute physical media is cheaper, faster, and easier for everyone, and as the percentage of people with acceptable "broadband" speeds (which is pretty low, because it's very likely you'd put up with a 6 hour download of a big game in the background) increases, the drive to move away from physical media benefits everyone.

So, move along, no real story here, just some journalist looking to get paid by the word to repeat the obvious.

Comment As an actual parent speaking... (Score 4, Insightful) 425

You know, I scanned the first 75 replies or so and I cannot recall a single one being from someone who actually claimed to have a kid in a school. So here's my take on the situation, as someone who has had 5 kids in school.

1) This isn't news. This has been going on for a long time now, as school districts strive to stop handling money. As a parent, I would *FAR* rather write a check every few months (or, better yet, this year they take Paypal!) to pay for my kids lunches, than try to find the exact damn change every day for my six year old.

2) I have a child who has struggled with weight issues from birth. Seeing as how she has two rail thin sisters (and they eat the same things), we have been working with her for about a year to emphasize better food choices and controlled portions. However, the simple fact is that schools do have choices in the cafeterias, especially starting in middle school. As such, I consider it a good tool for me to keep track of all my kids *SPENDING* and eating habits. I can tell if my high school freshman is guzzling down four packages of twinkies a day, or eating a real meal.

3) What, exactly, does anyone believe the schools will do with this information? They are already legally restricted in terms of dietary requirements (by state and federal regulation) and they are already legally restricted from divulging personal information of students. So, does anyone her seriously believe that they will start selling Hostess the names and eating habits of every child? Or that they will start writing contracts with companies simply to, what? Increase profit margins? Violate laws by bringing in unhealthy foods? Sorry, it won't happen.

I think that the bottom line here is that this really isn't a privacy violation. It's a tool to allow parents to control diet and spending of kids who might not be able to make the best decisions about such issues.


Comment One of the best places anywhere... (Score 3, Interesting) 140

I'm the parent of 3 youngsters, and we go there all the time. Without a doubt it is one of the most engaging and fun places to take a kid in St. Louis. My kids play to exhaustion every time they go. As a matter of fact, so do I. We always comment (or hear people around us commenting) on how amazing it is that, considering the risk, they have the sort of place where nothing is off limits, and if you can get to it, you can go and climb on it and play on it. Is there danger? Yes, but you can drown in a bucket of water if you try hard enough, and the fun more than outweighs any problems.

I'm just amazed by how little the WSJ article actually said about the place, seeing as how they only mentioned 1/10 of the things you can do there. And they were incorrect about the big slide. It's actually about 9 stories tall, going from the 10th floor to the 1st. Bah, the state of journalism.

Anyway, cool place. Visit if you can.

Comment Re:What about the other morality issue? (Score 1) 2044

I think you are over-simplifying this just a tad. While I agree with the general direction and ideas, there are two poignant facts that you seem to be overlooking in this.

First, every other universal health care system is nearly an order of magnitude smaller than the US. The ones that are continually compared to the US (particularly Britain and Canada) are much more manageable due to the much smaller size. I've been watching our government for years, and I cannot fathom the bureaucratic cock-ups that will inevitably occur in any system we may implement, whether its the current bill, or a public-option, or any other.

Second, based on current experience with both government run health systems, and with other entitlement programs (particularly Social Security), I have little faith that the US government (no matter who is in charge, they are both guilty) will manage to correctly run any implemented system. I have a lot of friends who are veterans, and without exception they all believe that the VA system is fundamentally broken. And look at the cock-up that is Medicare/Medicaid. Do you seriously believe that any government which has legally forgone it's right to negotiate prices (in the case of drugs) or that continually screws up procurement (google Medicare and powered wheel chair pricing) is in any way capable of running a health system of *ANY* sort? I'm sorry, but I don't buy that. Look at how the money taken for Social Security has been used as a slush fund for 50 years. Had it not, Social Security would in all likelihood be solvent today.

I'm sorry, but this isn't better than nothing, if only because the basic tenet, health care "reform" is false. We are not reforming health care. We're doing a backhanded deal with the insurance companies, who, by the way, are spending $1.4 million per day on lobbying and advertising. How much health care could $400 million dollars buy?

Comment As a father... (Score 4, Insightful) 1343

I have five kids, ranging from two college graduates to a kindergartner, and I am not at all surprised. At the risk of sounding like someone who sits on his front porch and reminisces about the good old days and walking uphill to school both ways, while waiting for kids to touch my property so I can yell at them, I firmly and insistently blame primary schools. Over the years, somehow, phonics has increased in teaching, encouraging kids to try and spell more complex words (which is fine), but does not in any way penalize them for misspelling or bad grammar. My 2nd grader routinely turns in papers with words that would be a challenge for a 6th grader, yet I don't see any red ink or corrections, telling them how to spell the word correctly. I can only attribute this three ways: 1) the teacher doesn't have the time to do it (WTF?!?!?) or 2) they don't want to actually make someone feel bad for messing up (WTF?!?!?) or 3) they just don't care. Probably a combination of all three. This is especially prevalent with my 8th grader, whose grammar is only corrected for English class, but anything else she turns in for any other class is remarkably devoid of red ink to correct spelling and grammar.

With a lack of consistent reinforcement of the basics in every class and in every setting, is it any wonder that the kids can't spell when they get to college? I recall getting points marked down in all my classes (including science classes) for misspellings, and I am stunned by the fact that somehow proper spelling and grammar is not considered something that anyone other than an English teacher should be concerned about when grading.

Recently, we allowed our teenager to get a Facebook account, with the proviso that we remain her friends and that we have access to the account. I reply to every post she makes abusively correcting her piss-poor grammar.

Any way you cut it, a consistent use of proper red ink would likely solve this issue quickly, even for high-school aged children who have learned bad habits.


Comment This sounds like a fantastic business model... (Score 3, Interesting) 179

1) Start Web 2.0 web site utilizing every buzzword you can find
2) Desparately woo users until you get large enough to matter
3) Sit down a year or more later to desperately figure out a revenue model
4) Provide Spammers a way to proliferate
5) Sue them!
6) PROFIT$$$$$$$

Not only that, but this also avoids the usual problem in Slashdot business plans in that there is no question marks in either steps 3 or 4.

Anyone got a good idea?

Comment You have some power here... (Score 1) 958

Remember, most piracy is reported by pissed off employees. In an effort to do the right thing, as other posters have pointed out, first inventory everything you can. Next, figure out the extent of the problem. Then go to your boss, or the owner, and let them know your concerns, as well as the legal ramifications. Do this in the best possible fashion for you, of course. And then let them know how much of a risk they are at, in terms of financial impact. All it takes in this environment (or any, for that matter) is one fired or layed off employee (yourself for instance, but I wouldn't mention that, all things being equal) to cost them far more in productivity, time, money, and embarassment than finding solutions.

The response should dictate your further actions. However, if worse comes to worse, you can always report them yourself, should they vindictively attack you over this.

Also keep in mind that the previous IT guy might very well be much better connected if he's still there. Do what you need to do to avoid embarrassment for all parties.


Comment The need is clear... (Score 1) 401

Documentation is critical to business success, no matter what the business. The reality is not about "protecting" your job or keeping the PHB's from mucking with things. The reality is that it may not be what you do, but what the other guy has in his head that is critical information for your business.

In other words, what happens when a critical employee has a heart attack, or gets hit by a bus. What do you do then? If everyone has their little piece in their head, no one else benefits, and the business overall loses. Or, even more simply, what happens when someone goes on vacation? Or when you go on vacation? Do you (or does the business) suffer because there isn't a way to replicate what that person does?

In this day and age, business processes are perhaps the most valuable thing a business owns. Knowledge can be learned, information can be looked up. But utilizing information in a business is *NOT* as simple as having that information. How information is applied to the business is the key. And documenting that information is the *ONLY* way to get it out of someone's head and into the general domain.

I've had this discussion recently both as part of my business (an IT Services vendor) and as part of my customers businesses. In every case the answer is the same. The processes are the most valuable asset for any company, no matter what the size or business. In fact, the smaller the business, the more valuable, because the likelihood is that in a smaller company there are more concentrations of knowledge, more key people who, if hit by the hypothetical bus, would take with them the day to day processes that run that business.

There are many ways to approach the problem. From embedding processes into a help desk program, to external solutions such as Wiki's, to professional programs that are specifically designed to collect knowledge, flowchart it, and also align it to your business processes.

One of the products that my company handles is specifically designed for this: aligning IT processes to business processes. While this is generally a new concept, and a tough sell, when you can map out what you do in your IT department, and also see the business reasons for why you do it, not to mention see the business impact if you don't do it, the value can be staggering. This is one of the greatest untapped barriers to IT becoming part of the larger business, and demonstrating its value. Far too often IT does things because they need doing, but they don't understand how what they do affects the business, or what value their day-to-day activities actually have in the larger business. And the reverse holds true as well: the business doesn't understand how their needs and requests impact IT, or why they cannot simply "make a wish" and have things their way.

Control of your business processes is the single best way to ensure that IT is doing things the right way for the business, and to clearly demonstrate the value (monetary and otherwise) of their jobs to the PHB's and accountants and other ickey people on the business side.

Documenting processes might be the best way to protect yourself, and save yourself grief. Its only a very narrow and stupid point of view that sees this as being a way to protect themselves, and make themselves "valuable" to the business.


Comment Re:In Southeast Michigan... (Score 5, Informative) 299

Its very simple, really, and there is nothing sinister or state-regularted about it (which, in some minds, might be the same thing...

Charter grew up like every other cable provider: acquisition. Cable franchises are granted on a city (or county) by city (or county) basis. In other words, Charter (or a company it acquired) negotiated at some point with the municipalities in question and bought the rights to provide service.

So, they bought those cities.

Note that rural areas are generally much cheaper for a cable company to expand into. Two reasons: one, franchises are cheaper, because of the lower number of potential subscribers, and two, in a rural area the costs associated with building a system are *RADICALLY* cheaper. For instance, in the county of Charters HQ (St. Louis, County, Missouri) the average cost per foot (inclusive) to lay fiber is about $8/foot. (Okay, this was the cost in 2002, but it will suffice for this discussion.) However, if you across the river from St. Louis, into Southern Illinois (also Charter territory) the cost per foot averages about $2 per foot. (also 2002 figures). In other words, a sparsely populated, more rural or rural area *CAN* be a cheap acquisition and buildout for a provider. Obviously, this is dependent on simple cost-ratios, and there will come a point where an area is simply too underpopulated to cost-effectively support.

Also, you have to look at Charter's history to understand why they have lots of rural populations under their belts. The original founders, headed up by Jery Kent, all lived in rural areas of Missouri. When Paul Allen bought into the company, he had completely and totally bought into the "wired world" concept. As a result, between the founders (who desparately wanted service in areas nearly and hour from the edges of St. Louis), Jerry Kent, and the relative cheapness of such systems, there was a gold-rush mentality on these outlying systems that no one wanted.

So Charter ended up in lots of smaller systems and areas.

Not necessarily a bad business plan, just one they screwed up with some unrelated decisions much later.


Comment Criticizing Google...that's just rich... (Score 5, Insightful) 385

Quote: "If I were to be the CEO of Google or the founders of Google I would be very [displeased] that the best search engine in the world continues to provide as a first link, Wikipedia," he said."Is this the best they can do? Is this the best that [their] algorithm can do?"

I don't know...maybe that's because a few hundred million people visit Wikipedia every year, and maybe because someone like me, who remembers when Lynx was the only web browser available, has never actually gone to Brittanica's website? Just maybe? Perhaps if they resolved their rectal-cranial inversion and made an accessible, easy to use, accurate product their PageRank might improve?


Comment A few facts that people seem to be unaware of... (Score 4, Insightful) 897

You know, as much as we've heard about the auto industry in the last few months, and their ailments, as well as endless ad nauseam fixes, there are a few things that *NOBODY* wants to talk about here, at least no one involved.

First off, tage a gander at CAFE regulations, or the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards set by the EPA in the US. This is something which, of course, was instituted after the Oil Crisis in 1972. In theory, its a nice noble set of standards for regulating better fuel economy in the US.

Now, in spite of the fact that these standards are something of a joke (they haven't changed a bit since 1992, and have only been increased a grand whopping total of 9.5 MPG since they were instituted over 30 years ago), there are a few peculiarities in the enforcement of these which, I think, are specifically causing or have caused the problems the Big 3 face today, and, in fact, were specifically caused by Congress and the Clinton Administration.

Now, buried within these standards is a little rule called the Two Fleet Rule. Essentially, what it says is that the foriegn produced cars imported by a company to the US are a different "fleet" from the domestically produced cars. It goes further to say that, in fact, if a car company (by default the Big 3) want to be considered "domestic" producers that the cars they produce in the US are, in fact, the only ones that count for their inclusion in the CAFE regulations.

Now, this has some nasty side effects, the biggest being that, in order to be considered "domestic" car producers, the Big 3 were actually forced to manufacture all of their vehicles in the US, regardless of whether or not they could actually afford to sell said vehicles at a profit. In other words, this "2 Fleet Fule" was a very specific sop directly to the Auto Unions and forced the Big 3 to produce and sell their economy cars a loss for 2 decades. Not only that, but since they were actually losing money on a huge percentage of sales, they were forced to concentrate production on the most profitable lines, namely SUV's and Minivans. Which worked great, sort of, for a decade or so. Until the public decided that a) gas was too expensive to spend in a gas guzzling vehicle, and b) the enviroment matters.

So, a downturn in large vehicle sales causes a double whammy against the Big 3, in that they can't afford not to make them, and the fact that they still have to produce a significant amount of small vehicles to sell at a loss since they can't make a profit anyway. Not only that, but they can't make a profit on increased sales of economically viable vehicles as those were already selling at a loss...

Sucks to be them.

So we need to blame government, specifically the Democrats but I believe the measure had decent bi-partisan support, for this mess. By giving a few people job security, they've endangered the well being of an entire industry.

Oh, and these are the same people we're trusting to solve the mess...

What could possibly go wrong?


Comment Re:You're kidding, right??? (Score 1) 310

The problem with your assumption is that you obviously don't understand bottom line costs to company. Most small companies that I have worked with/for have very tight margins on their products. As this guy said "blue collar", lets assume its manufacturing or something similar.

A manufacturing company is unlikely to make 5% profit on sales. But lets be really generous and say they make 25%.

Lets assume there are 5 developers, and the only thing the company will pay for is the console. (This is patently untrue, but I'll get to that in a moment).

So, minimum outlay is $1000 dollars. Which means that the company has to recoup $4000 in sales just to cover the cost of the consoles.

This is a bottom line hit. Its a ridiculous use of money in a budget that could likely be spent in better places.

Not only that, but its likely that there will, at some point, be a productivity hit directly related to the consoles. I can't imagine a developer worth anything that can't in some way disable/scam the monitoring software. So if they slack off, their salary is also a bottom line hit to the company.

Of course you're next argument will be that they are likely working overtime and such, which is likely (although not certain) to be free, as they might be salaried. However, if others are working that overtime, and the overtime directly affects productivity, this is effectively time that benefits the company in product and revenue, which, again they must make by selling 4x the amount of product completely on top of what they already sell.

In other words extraneous hits to the budget can have a dramatic affect on profitability, with little or no demonstrable gain to the company.

And please don't throw out the strawman on this one: that the company shouldn't expect its employees to work free overtime. That may or may not be right or wrong, but if that's part of their job, its happening and arguing about the morality and ethics of such things won't change the reality on the ground.

And I won't even go into litigation costs if someone sues over the myriad number of issues this would raise in a company.



Submission + - Linux.com | Linus fires latest shot in GNOME Wars

tito2502 writes: "http://applications.linux.com/applications/07/02/1 6/1937237.shtml?tid=26 Some bad blood between Linus Torvalds and GNOME developers is flaring up again. Previously, Torvalds has said that Linux users should switch to KDE instead of GNOME because of the GNOME team's "users are idiots" mentality. Now he has "put his money where his mouth is" by submitting patches to GNOME in order to have it behave as he likes."

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