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Comment Re:Not all educators are stuck in 1976 (Score 1) 182

Congratulations on your elitist prejudice. You've just made the argument that your degree is better than ours, just because it looks like ours can't possibly be as dull and abstract as yours. You're right, it's not.

Do you honestly believe that graduates from a trade/VoTech school are never going to pick up another skill? Can't you learn the underlying skills without resorting to eye-gougingly dull lectures? We still teach OO and MVC and *nix terminal commands. We teach how to refactor code, collaborate via and Google Docs, make project timelines, and gather requirements.

But instead of sending our students home to write papers, we have them in labs 20+ hours per week writing code and building documentation.

Let me ask you this: when was the last time you had to write a linked list? Or worry about malloc and free? Just because it was taught in a CS degree doesn't mean it's useful for the vast majority of developers.

Comment Not all educators are stuck in 1976 (Score 1) 182

I teach for a BS degree in Web Design & Development. If you look at our courses, you'll see that we have a number that are very Open Source friendly. Sure, we partner with Adobe and Apple and have a huge focus on the Adobe CS apps (Flash, Photoshop/Illustrator, Flex, ColdFusion), but we also have entire courses on PHP, jQuery, mySQL, and Red5. And those are just the apps for which we spend an entire course. We also work in Git, CouchDB, Audacity, Eclipse, and many more common OSS apps and platforms. It's an open secret that we're working to launch a BS degree in Mobile Development that will have a very large Android curriculum.

Higher education doesn't have to be all boring theory and no practical application. Anyone who tells you that the university system can't keep up with rapidly-changing technology is sorely misinformed.

Comment Re:pfffft twatter tweeter (Score 1) 157

I don't think you understand the niche that NoSQL databases are trying to fill.

The more interesting aspect of all of this 'NoSQL' movement is how they believe that if they achieve some speed improvement against some relational databases, how that makes them so much better.

It's not a black and white, panacea-type situation. Relational databases are good at some things, non-relational databases are good at others. Where non-relational databases are better is at solving very specific problems, many of which happen to map directly to the needs of web developers.

A Viper is a fun car to take you to and from work, but it's probably not the best to shuttle around a little league baseball team--that's what minivans are for. (Whether the Viper is the relational or non-relational database in the analogy is up to you.)

I teach a course titled Advanced Database Concepts, so I'll give you the same example I give my students: blogs. It's the sort of canonical example--I didn't make it up.

To show a blog's home page, you need a list of recent posts. Each post is probably associated with a category, maybe some tags, and and author. Just to get that data, you're looking at joining 3 tables: Posts, Categories, and Users. What if you want a comment count? That's another join, and the query just got hairier--do you do a simple aggregation (join then group), or do you see that might be inefficient and so transform it into a harder-to-read-but-more-efficient subquery? That might even involve a fifth join, if you have registered user accounts and avatars for your commenters.

All of which is fine and good until you're running LiveJournal or and you have millions of bloggers generating hundreds of millions of posts and who knows how many comments. With beefy machines and proper indexes you're probably okay ... but I wouldn't want to be the DBA who had to tell management that a new column needed to be added to any of those tables.

Enter NoSQL/non-relational databases: why not fetch everything with just one query? (I'd show you some JSON, as that's what many of the NoSQL databases speak, but the /. filter considers it too much junk.) You put your comments in the same document as your posts, and the replies to those comments in child arrays, and the user info right inside the comments. If your users can't change their username, this isn't a bad solution. There are other tricks, but the point is that you reduce everything down to a single denormalized query.

This design makes it trivially easy to build data-driven web pages, as effectively every web language has a JSON deserializer. No ORM impedence mismatch, and you get horizontal scalability pretty much for free.

If you don't really need a database to run your 'website', then who cares if you use flat files or an in memory hashmap for all your data needs?

Because it's still a database, even if it's non-relational. You're still doing inserts and updates and deletes, you just get a nice hunk of denormalized clay to play with instead of the normalized rigidity of Tinker Toys.

I think that relational databases are good at what they do and that many projects may not need them, but if you do need them on the back end, you will end up with them on the back end.

But that's the point I think you're missing: until relatively recently, relational databases were the only game in town. Relational databases are ubiquitous because they solved the problems of the 60s-90s. They aren't going anywhere, as those types of problems (financial, transactional, etc) aren't going anywhere. But now we have a relatively new class of problems (graphs, etc) that need to be nailed down just as thoroughly. Many web applications are straining to fit within the relational model, and this explosion of NoSQL software is because people are realizing that all that straining can't be good for them.

Is there really a huge issue with rdbms speeds?

Others may disagree with me, but I make the point that it's not the speed that is the problem--it's the scalability. Sure, you can keep throwing memory and horsepower at the problem and hope that covers it. Partitioning data across database servers is a tough problem, with no perfect solutions. But why keep fighting on the bleeding edge of technology like that? NoSQL databases are designed to be easily horizontally scalable from the start (in many cases you wouldn't believe how easy it is), even though they may lack the huge feature set of an Oracle or Teradata solution.

But just to reiterate: non-relational databases aren't a panacea, either. Each type of database has it good points and bad points. Each solves a set of problems, some of which overlap and some don't. The reason you should care is because now you have more options--you're not stuck trying to wedge your system into a relational model if you don't want to. And isn't /. all about freedom of choice?

Comment Re:Human reaction machines. . . (Score 1) 56

The public eagerly jumping for the chance to teach corporate bodies how to better advertise to them seems a little preposterous.

Really? Makes perfect sense to me.

You might carry around your Minority Report-inspired retinal-scanning tinfoil hat, worried about the evils that faceless corporations can inflict upon us if they know our buying habits and personal preferences. I'm a bit more pragmatic: they're going to try to make money, and selling me things I want is a pretty good way to do that.

Here's the thing: advertising isn't going away. Yeah, I'd love for the local politicians to get a wild hair and suddenly decide to tear down all the billboards along the highways. But do I think that'll ever happen? MaHellNo.

So instead, why not cooperate with the corporations to at least move advertising to a state where it doesn't make you want to claw your eyes out?

You may not, but I personally love the "You Might Also Like"-type features when done well. I'm a consumer. I buy things. In a world with millions of products, yeah, I could use a bit of help separating the things I might be interested in from the stuff that I won't. Show me something that says "10 of your friends rated this item with 4 stars or better" and I'm going to pay attention.

Movies/films are a great place for this type of work. We've got a history of over 100 years of cinema -- enough that no one has seen everything. Want to help me separate the wheat (Run Lola Run) from the chaff (The International)? Yes, please.

Comment Re:Orlando (Score 1) 538

I tried to start my career in orlando and got nowhere. I found myself competing for low paying salaried jobs against people from colder states with masters degrees who were willing to pay the sunshine tax.

This is a good point that I didn't think about until you brought it up. As Florida is so retiree-heavy, the low- to mid-level tech positions are high-competition and don't pay very well. (This is true of pretty much the entire state, though, not just Orlando.) Why hire a new graduate who thinks they should make $50k on their first day, when you can hire a Navy/Air Force retiree who is living off a pension and will take $40k?

People without a degree run into the same problem. I was one of those people until I went back to UCF and finished my BS.

However, the high-end tech positions do pay well, and aren't nearly as contested. I'm not talking about MS- or PhD-level stuff, more like BS plus 5-10 years experience. And you can't just look good on paper -- you need to have actual skills. You'll start at $65k-$75k and make it into 6-figures quickly. This may not sound like much when compared with Chicago/NYC/LA/SF rates, but remember the lack of state income tax and the cheaper cost of living. You can be self-sufficient on less than $40k here, and be quite comfortable before you hit $50k. At $65k you'd have to be profoundly fiscally irresponsible to have a bad time of life around here.

Did I mention the bugs?

I always forget about the bugs, to be honest. To me, they aren't a big deal. Love bugs are only a problem for a few weeks twice a year. Palmetto bugs (flying cockroaches as big as your thumb) and ants are only a problem if you don't maintain a pest control service like Terminex or Sears. Or, maybe you have cats and don't mind picking up the occasional present.

Another thing visitors always say to me: lizards. I don't really notice them, but they really freak out some people. They are ubiquitous here. But we're talking about little anoles, not the big iguanas they have down in the Miami area.

And the flat -- some people just can't deal with it. Pretty much all of Florida is startlingly flat, especially to people that grew up in New England or out west. All of my NYC/Chicago friends discover how agoraphobic they are when they come down here.

Comment Orlando (Score 4, Informative) 538

I've worked in IT in the Orlando/Central Florida area since 1996. It's not that bad. It's not some perfect Utopia, but nor is it one of the worst places to work.

The Good

  • One of the cheapest costs of living, especially if you don't mind commuting from the burbs.
  • No state income tax.
  • Hundreds of miles of beaches within 90 minutes in almost every direction.
  • More theme parks than you can shake a stick at, most of which offer cheap annual passes to Florida residents. (True story: I used to live across the street from Universal, and would get up at 8am to go ride the roller coasters for an hour before work.)
  • Wide variety of cultures and food, so if you've got a craving for it, you can probably find it within a 10 minute drive.
  • Winters are beautiful and cool.
  • Rails-To-Trails has converted many miles of old railroad tracks into running/cycling trails. My favorite trail is a half-marathon long (13.1 miles) one way, with only 2 lighted intersection crossings.
  • The IT program at the local university (UCF) isn't bad, and is very tech-worker-friendly with its online options. Many of the local community colleges even offer certification programs (such as A+, CCNA, Oracle, and even RedHat) in both day and night school.
  • Shuttle launches are awesome and you can see them by walking outside. Yeah, they're going away in a few short years, but they're still awesome.

The Bad

  • It's a commuter town. Get used to driving everywhere. The public transport ( is laughably bad, especially for IT workers. (The buses don't run useful schedules near the tech areas such as Heathrow.)
  • The nightlife continues to decline, and many local lawmakers continue to nail down the coffin lid.
  • Yeah, we occasionally get hurricanes. Sometimes more than one per season. But they aren't nearly as bad as what you see on TV, and we don't panic like other places do. In most cases we shut down the town for 24-48 hours and then go right back to work.
  • The blue-hairs. Yes, they really do drive as bad as you've heard. Yes, they do get out and vote for things that will make you cry.

The Ugly

  • The heat. Today it is 95F with a heat index of 109F. And it's not a dry heat. It is an oppressive, sticky, walk outside and break into an instant sweat kind of heat.

The tourists aren't that bad, unless you are hanging out in the tourist areas. Which you aren't going to do after your first month here.

In all, there's more good than bad.

Comment It doesn't solve the problem. (Score 2, Insightful) 354

Here's the thing: it's not just the path that is the problem, it's also the domain name. You can shorten "/blog/2009/apr/save-the-internet-with-rev-canonical" to "/abc123", but if your domain name is something plus-sized like "" or worse ... how much have you really gained?

It's a little helpful, but not really. What you've done is remove the little bit of semantic meaning from the link, all in the name of being able to ego surf easier. Huzzah.

Comment Re:Botnet Speculative Fiction (Score 1) 214

the previous poster's point, which you clearly missed, was that people who know a little [..] about computers took one look at the graphics and said "that's not real"

I didn't miss the point, I disagreed with it.

Yeah, the technology may have been real. Yeah, the little pre-teen proto-geek might have somehow been exposed to it. Each link in the chain may have been perfectly plausible.

But when you look at the whole chain from end to end, doesn't it make you roll your eyes at how nigh-impossible it is?

For me, that happened to be one of those times that the suspension of disbelief was just too much. Yes, even amidst the dinosaurs stomping about.

The contemporary example would be Shia Labeouf's character in Transformers suddenly finding himself in control of a MQ-9 Reaper, and saying "hey, it's a Reaper, I know this!". Yeah, the technology may be sound, and yeah he may have read about it in a magazine or had a friendly uncle or something dumb like that ... but really? Really?

Maybe instead you would have preferred I used an even more ridiculous example? Praetorians and Mozart's Ghost?

Here's the thing: I picked that example because Crichton was one of the few authors who took the time to get it right, or close enough, without sacrificing the story. So to have the filmmakers come along and insert a cutesy scene where the girl saves the day in a wildly improbably way, yeah that's an especially egregious misuse in my book.

I think it's a good bet your book sucks.

Probably. It's pretty clear to me that we have wildly different tastes in literature and realism.

Comment Re:Botnet Speculative Fiction (Score 1) 214

Of course you're right. I'm not sure why I would have rolled my eyes at a pre-teen walking up to a GUI system running on a workstation, worth more than a car, running an OS that maybe a couple tens of thousands of people in the US had ever seen, and exclaiming "it's a UNIX system".

How silly of me. I forgot they spared no expense.

Comment Botnet Speculative Fiction (Score 0, Offtopic) 214

I'm going to burn some Karma here and pimp myself out a bit.

I'm currently trying to sell a novel, Trust Network: a contemporary techno-thriller about a woman who stumbles upon a group of people doing pretty much exactly the kinds of stuff with botnets that we're talking about here. She has a great idea involving social networks and online trust, which is at odds with what these people want to do. From there it's a fast-paced cat-and-mouse to see who can get the upper hand.

One of the reasons I wrote it was because I got tired of all of the contemporary fiction with computers that made you roll your eyes at how absurd the technology was. You know what I'm talking about: "It's a UNIX system -- I know this!". I wrote it to prove that you could get the technology right without sacrificing the story or making you want to scrape your eyeballs out. In other words, it was written specifically for the Slashdot technorati.

I haven't found an agent yet, but until then I have made the complete book available for anyone to read: you can read it online at Scribd, or download a free PDF or have a print-on-demand copy sent to you from Lulu. The cost of the printed book ($9-$17) from Lulu is 100% publishing cost, with nothing going to me. In the US, you can get it shipped to you for as little as ~$15 total. I've even got a sort of money-back guarantee if you decide it was a complete waste of your money.

If you are intrigued by the thought of what you could do with a million zombie computers at your command, and you enjoy geektastic fiction, then have at it. I hope you enjoy it. Meanwhile, I've got about a zillion query letters to agents that I have to get back to writing.

Comment Re:MMS (Score 1) 606

Yes, MMS is wicked expensive past a certain point. As is SMS. But I'm not talking about using MMS/SMS as a primary means of communication. For my family, MMS and SMS occupy the space between zero communication and 15-20 minute conversations or emails. We don't always need to have full-blown conversations, but the quick notes of SMS and pictures of MMS help us keep in touch.

When someone goes out fishing and catches something nice? MMS. When someone gets the first big snow of the season? MMS. When someone sees a movie and wants to encourage or discourage others? SMS. When someone goes out to a particularly nice restaurant, or maybe to a place that has significance to the family? MMS. Got a question that doesn't need answering immediately? SMS. Just finished a good book? MMS.

We're not talking about a Twitter stream level of traffic here. Maybe a few pictures and texts per week. No one goes over their cell plan's allotment, and if we do the $0.25 per message isn't an issue.

It's a small price to pay for the feeling of cohesiveness we have in a geographically diverse family.

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