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Comment Re:Yes, but... (Score 2) 222

It isn't hubris.

I can estimate fairly accurately. But Management/user grimaces and says "It can't take that long, All You Have To Do Is..." and forces me to chop it in half.

Then when it takes twice as long as the accepted estimate, it's My Fault.

I allow a fudge factor in my estimates. Even the simplest projects almost invariably develop complications. Plus I know that a good deal of my time is going to be spent in one small module finding that misplaced comma.

Comment Re:Dangerous oversimplification (Score 1) 249

Automate the SSA? Their target clientèle is the biggest bunch of techno-incompetents in the country - old people!

And, incidentally, those people are all paying into the Social Security system themselves, so it's not all lost money. If we laid them all off, would the savings on an automated system be enough to compensate for their lost income?

Comment Re:Question for the Physicists. (Score 1) 79

No, magnetism isn't a force. It's a field. Much like a gravitational field - a distortion of the continuum. Magnetic force is what you get when two such distortions interact, much as gravitational force comes from the interactions of 2 objects with masses. There is potential energy, but until something moves, it's not "real" energy.

Comment I bought my last cheap computer 2 weeks ago (Score 1) 206

It was a Raspberry Pi Zero. Cost me a whopping $5 and since it was part of a larger order, shipping was essentially free.

Already have too many keyboards, mice and monitors. And the best thing is that it's not networked, so it can't go tattling back my entire life to OS vendors, app vendors, ISPs or the NSA. But it can play multimedia and run office software.

Of course, if I'd needed it as an Internet computer, I could pay twice as much and get a Pi Zero W. Or jack in an Ethernet USB, since I've got one of those left from an old tablet.

Comment Re: News for nerds huh? (Score 1) 399

True. I think of cash flow in both directions, myself.

On the income side, poorer households are more likely to see frequent job shifts, add a temporary second (or third) job, pick up overtime pay or be docked (you've probably got fewer options when you unexpectedly have to take care of a sick family member as an example).

Middle-class people are more likely to hold longer-term and salaried jobs, but there are still bonuses and windfalls. I knew a company where quarterly profit-sharing checks were a significant (and not totally predictable) part of many people's incomes. Dividend checks may count as "found" cash, and rebates coming out of class-action suits on everything from overcharges at the Apple store to washing-machine recalls. Medical overcharges refunded when insurance kicks in or billing mistakes were corrected. The rebate from buying a major appliance might not seem like "real" income, but it's usually far enough away in time that the pre-rebate price had to be factored into the budget (and you don't always actually get the rebate).

Even a bi-weekly paycheck in a month with 5 weeks can be manna from Heaven.

Comment Re: News for nerds huh? (Score 2) 399

Major dip every year in December. Xmas shopping, annual fees on certain accounts. Secondary dip in june - bi-annual insurance bill.

Tertiary dips in odd months as various home or health maintenance services have to be paid for.

Random dips - the fridge or water heater dies, cat gets run over and rushed to vet. Bart needs a ton of expensive sports equipment. Little Maggie catches pneumonia (or did you really think that US insurance plans keep you from having to hit your wallet even when they'll - eventually (hopefully) - pay for it?

Some of these can be factored in and budgeted by those rare people who have their financial act together. Some come out of the blue. No such thing as an "average" month's expenses, just averaging expenses over the months and hoping that you don't get that back-breaking surprise.

Comment Re:Translator (Score 1) 300

A database is not a programming language. Even when you have decimally-precise data storage, if your computational facilities are not precise, you'll lose data.

I wouldn't say "every" language has a fixed-point decimal data type or library, although many do. The point was that in COBOL, fixed-point decimal numbers were a language primitive. Relatively few modern-day languages do that. An approximation can be made in C++ where you can define a fixed-decimal class and operator overloading, but C++-style operator overloading is itself rare in most popular modern languages. Failing that, you have to fall back to possible non-standard libraries and coding computation by function calls instead of the more convenient mathematical formula notation.

Comment Re:Translator (Score 3, Insightful) 300

Yeah. "All You Have To Do Is..."

Think about human languages. Translate "Out of Sight, out of Mind to a language like Chinese, where a literal conversion might be "no-see, no-think". Now take another automated translator and translate it back: Invisible Idiot.

Every language - computer or human - has its unique characteristics. There's an old saying, in fact that "Translators are traitors".

Case in point: COBOL didn't support variable-length strings. Most modern languages have little or no tolerance for fixed-length strings. IBM COBOL supported a hardware-level data type (COMPUTATIONAL-3) which can store penny fractions precisely. Most modern languages don't allow for that, and tend to use floating-point (COBOL COMPUTATIONAL-2). Which cannot store decimal values precisely. Fuzz the pennies on people's paychecks and see how long before the torches and pitchforks come out. It's one of 2 reasons why so many payroll and accounting systems are written in COBOL (with the other one being that there's not exactly a lot of leading-edge technology in basic financial systems).

Some of these things can be automatically dealt with - albeit with some inefficiency - some of the more subtle issues have to be dealt with more directly, just as we've never yet managed to construct truly generic software-writing systems and have to continue to use programmers instead of robots like we do with truck driving and day-trading.

I have, actually worked with/supported automated code translation projects using commercial translator products. Every one of them has required a time and manpower budget for the clean-up crew. You can get about 80% of the job done automatically (although the resulting code may look horrible to a native human programmer). But to get something actually working, the tools need human help.

Comment Re:In other news (Score 1) 95

Sometimes I wonder what would actually happen if all countries just said f*** it and allowed free trade and free immigration (so long as you dont have a criminal record etc) anywhere?

People from poor countries would migrate to wealthier countries causing a collapse of the wealthier country's economy because of the burden imposed by the massive population surge without jobs. No thank you.

If that were true, then Appalachia would be totally depopulated by now. You can find plenty of wealthier places in the USA without encountering any immigration or trade barriers at all.

Sure, places like Detroit and West Virginia have been losing population slowly because there's no money to be made there. But an awful lot of people have also remained right where they were and would continue to do so until there was either no way to live there anymore or they died.

Ripping up one's roots and moving isn't something that most people would like to do unless they have no choice. The rootlessness of the post-WWII American Middle Class isn't typical of most times and cultures. And even there, you don't see mass migrations.

Comment Re:Short Term Cost Savings = Ruby on Rails Disaste (Score 2) 329

I can learn new techniques and tools. And I use them, when I can gain an advantage. However, I'm also quite happy to use the old well-worn stuff when it's appropriate.

Not everything new and shiny is gold. Some of it - a LOT of it - is just tinfoil. RoR was a case in point. Used well, it could make you productive (or at least apparently so). But the problem was that it was not in and of itself designed for performance or security and that too much of its attraction to management was that untrained monkeys could spit out shiny UIs quickly using wizards.

The kicker was that as long as it was a matter of simply re-writing the same set of programs over and over again, it was fine, but the minute you had to reach outside the box, the untrained monkeys couldn't deal with it. They were, after all, untrained. working with a "black box" that they didn't know how to extend. That's what's probably killed more "programmer-less" development systems over the last 3 decades than anything else. Including the ones that were based on otherwise capable platforms.

Comment Re:Still influencing my reports (Score 2) 174

More precisely, the I/O services wrote 133-column lines, but only 132 columns were actually written to the printer.

The first column was pinched off and used as the print control character by the printer driver. It was either a printable character or an actual low-level printer opcode. If it was a character and the I/O control block options were configured right, then the driver simply converted it into its machine opcode equivalent.

Since you didn't have any control over font faces, point sizes, or even italics and boldfacing (short of overprinting) a single carriage-motion command was sufficient for an entire print line. Later, more flexible printers (typically dot-matrix ones to begin with) offered mid-line changes, and so they employed escape sequences embedded within the text, but technically the column-1 print control was never part of the text at all.

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