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Comment My first important estimate back in 1992, or '93 (Score 1) 216

My third job, a contract with a, well, sort of a utility company. I was originally hired to work on the implementation of a new accounting system, which did so poorly that the Major Accounting Consultant Firm was fired one afternoon. But I was personally doing well, and so got a new assignment, to be project lead to convert a system written in COBOL that called multiple FORTRAN subroutines (doing scientific computations) using VSAM files to use DB2 databases instead of flat files.

Lots of screens to update the files/databases. But it was relatively cut and dried. I worked out how long each revised program would take, counted the programs, did my homework, gave the estimates and background data to my manager, who said "That's too long... make it shorter!"

So I make it take the length of time he wanted. Then one of the contractors finished his first big task, it was horrible. Barely functional. We let him go, I gave that task to another guy. Most of my guys were in another state, which shouldn't have mattered. But of course it did!

Anyway, when we reached the time I "estimated" as instructed, we weren't done, and I was moved back to that horrible accounting project that had died a year ago. The people who took up my "failed" project finished right on time - that first estimate that was "too long"... using my specs and designs.

TL:DR Even if you do a good estimate and hit it right on, it still won't be right.

Comment PL/I was the first language I learned...but before (Score 1) 629

Before PL/I I used to key in octal commands to enable a Digital computer to bootstrap the OS, which was on punch tape. This was in the mid-1970s.

In publishing punch tape was a common data transmission source inside a shop, so using it for the OS and code was a no brainer. Plus 6 level and 8 level tape gave you two common byte sizes.

I enrolled in a BS/CS program in 1980 which used PL/I as the main instructional language. I never used it professionally, but it was common in Grad School too.

Comment I wrote the new manager a letter this morning... (Score 1) 286

I told him that they had executed their organization's credibility, and that no one with academic credentials would work for them once the meaning of this management decision soaks into everyone's mind.

Also that they were dead to me forever.

It was longer than what I have quoted, but I went to physical therapy after sending it and now all I remember is the stretching of my shoulder.

I can't believe that the place where I learned what anthropology and wildlife biology and archaeology and photography were all about is now a political propaganda arm of a political party that expressly does not believe in science and the scientific method. That was also in my letter.

I put in that if he was lucky he would have to report to Megan Kelly, but I took that out, she isn't management track with Rupert.

Comment Best coverage seems to be Verizon, (Score 1) 142

Especially in rural areas. It is the only service that is available for reception at our winter camp in Arizona, and is more widely available in West Virginia than other cell companies. Their hot spot only costs $25 for the hardware, and it works in rural areas where geography doesn't interfere with connections to the cell network.

They offer 12 GB monthly if I recall their advertising correctly, but you are correct, it isn't cheap.

Good luck. We are so screwed compared to Europe, Japan, S Korea, etc. Terrible availability, tiny bandwidth for data, terrific prices for the companies, all of them.

Comment When a government itself breaks the law... (Score 1) 165

I think someone has to do something about that. Should do something about that. Because it is wrong, and because governments need to be held to the letter of the law if we're to be safe from them.

I managed a software development shop for a state agency until I retired, and we had contractors in the shop for large development projects, as there was a huge resistance to actually hiring people. So we would spend $140,000/year for really good developers, instead of hiring someone as a FTE for $50,000.

One governor had the HR agency implement a requirement that we ask interviewees what their minimum salary would be to join our shop, and then would approve a max offer several thousand dollars lower than that minimum. That made it kind of impossible to hire anyone with good skills and an understanding of their market worth.

I think you should hang these law breakers out to dry. But you need to understand that whistle-blowers often are hung out to dry themselves, and frequently have career ending events as that process winds up.

Comment Off grid already about 25% ... (Score 1) 533

because when I built a small winter time camp in SE Arizona the local power co-op was charging nearly $30,000 / mile to run new power line. A solar panel / battery system was spec'ed out at $28,000. The co-op offered a "rebate" to customers who decided not to connect to their grid, I got $6,000 in a one-time check. This rewarded us for not causing the Co-op to need to build out new capacity for an additional housing unit over the foreseeable future.

At the time there was also an income tax credit against the cost of installing solar systems. A credit is better than a deduction, as it applies to the actual tax amount, rather than to your income, like deductibles. So for 2 or 3 years our federal income tax was much lower than it would have been. To the point where the installation didn't really cost much at all.

I have a 2Kwatt Honda quiet running generator in case of overcast/stormy weather, a wood stove for winter heat, along with a ton of standing dead wood that everyone is glad to see cut as it lowers fire hazard. The house is stuccoed with Portland cement based stucco, which makes the walls fireproof, and the roof is metal, also nominally fireproof.

So for the time we spend in Arizona avoiding winter storms, we're off the grid, completely. January, February and March. Sunshine every day nearly. Cold at night, so we build a small fire in the wood-stove at bedtime.

Comment You won't be a software developer anymore... (Score 1) 397

If you take a job as software director, you won't be developing software any more, you'll be managing software developers. I took that promotion myself, and enjoyed the new and different work. But it meant lots of meetings where I talked to other managers who didn't know anything about software development, trying to explain why systems take so long, cost so much, and can't be developed correctly without participation by the senior members of the "customer" work group.

I also met with funding providers for the software unit often, to justify progress, schedule changes mostly doe to discovering new complexity in the data requirements or interfaces.

I worked in management for about 10 years before retiring, and I became a wizard at grant applications, spreadsheets, project scheduling, interviewing potential developers, but I didn't really ever code, or even do system analysis at the specification level, ever again.

If you're good with that, then maybe a 10% raise is a good thing. But dealing with personnel problems, people's health problems, needs, and family problems, HR requirements, etc is not the same as coding at all.

Just sayin' ...

Comment Sat service will work everywhere... (Score 1) 365

We live in rural W Va, and have no hi speed option but sat dish service. Now I commonly see sat dishes for RVs that will even work while moving for TV... not sure about for data connection.

Of course no gaming works well with orbital distances, the time lag get you shot/fallen/lost/abandoned almost immediately. But for systems work, or other types of telecommuting for software related careers it seems to be fine.

As you see, it gets me on /. just fine...

Comment BSCS 1984, used Discrete Structures in 1985 (Score 2) 1086

I went to college (for the 3rd time) at the age of 30. I had a hard time with Calc etc. and hated the first two semesters of Comp Sci, but got over that. I literally had to ask the Prof in 101 where the switch was on the machine.

My first job was with a government tax department. One of their biggest problems was that small businesses kept changing their names trying to escape from last quarters' tax bill. I got assigned to write a routine to track business names - really to invent a way to track businesses changing their names. This led to designing an artificial key for a business, and assembling a list of all their names and date the changes.

Then after some work I found that some of the businesses randomly changing their names would reuse a name eventually. Not smart if you're fleeing debt associated with that name, but what can I say? That created a closed loop that would circulate endlessly, or until a main frame operator got suspicious and stopped the job; or until I wrote code to escape a closed data loop.

Making a really long story a little shorter, you will need math, and the skills learned working on math, no matter what kind of work you do, unless you are just a code monkey coding things with all the complexity designed by a systems analyst with 2 degrees in math.

If that's all you want, to be a code monkey on a system you don't understand large parts of, then you don't need a degree in Computer Science. If you want to be any kind of scientist, or systems designer, like those who build gaming engines or rastor graphics programs, or tracking genetic variability in organisms being studied in labs in Research Triangle Park, NC; or at C-M University, in Pittsburgh; or Cal Tech where they just landed a curious robot on F'Ing MARS, then don't get a degree, don't study math, stay ignorant.

That kind of work is actually going on everywhere now, not just these examples I pulled from my a**, I never left my home state to have a good career doing important work. I didn't use Calc every day, but I knew that I could if I needed to.

"You can cure ignorance, but there is no cure for stupid."

Comment Hillbillies, you left us out! (Score 1) 841

I'm a proud Hillbilly, lived my whole life in the WVa hills, even managed to have a career as a software developer, only moved out while I was in the service/drafted.

Not that we don't like NYC, Caribbean Islands, the different hills and mountains in Colorado, WY, AZ, NM, etc.

But you can call me Hillbilly and be accurate. I think it's illegal to discriminate against Hillbillies in Cincinnati, where lots of us have gone looking for good jobs.


UK Man Prevented From Finding Chipped Pet Under Data Protection Act 340

Dave Moorhouse was elated when he was informed that a microchip provider had information on the whereabouts of his stolen dog. This joy soon faded when the company informed him that it could not divulge the Jack Russell terrier's location because it would breach the Data Protection Act. Last week a court agreed with the chip company and refused Mr Moorhouse's request for a court order compelling them to reveal the name and address of the new owners. Steven Wildridge, managing director of the chip company said: “This is not a choice, it’s an obligation under the Data Protection Act. If the individuals involved do not want us to pass on their details to the original owner then we cannot do so unless compelled to following a criminal or civil proceeding."

Comment Back in the 1990s our Ford Ranger... (Score 2, Interesting) 930

Had a wide-open throttle condition, that happened with my wife driving from Charleston WV to Beckley, WV on the Turnpike. A limited access toll highway, where towing is really expensive.

She drove all the way to the Ford dealer in town, slowing at toll-booths with the brakes and throwing money at the staff. It was a 4-cyl Ranger and mostly uphill, which helped too. She shut the engine off to stop, and when she started it, full throttle. We were 12,000 miles and a year out of warranty and the Ford dealer replaced the ECM no questions asked. It wasn't even the shop where we bought the truck!

This was before cars had black boxes, but as others have commented, when a computer screws up, often the .log file is as screwed up as the rest of the output. But don't tell me that complex code can't have unintended results. Maybe Toyota outsourced the code to Elbownia?

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