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Comment Officials learn terrorist and criminals use cash (Score 5, Funny) 411

In a combined statement the FBI, DEA, and Homeland Security announce a startling discovery: terrorists and criminals use cash. As a result, law enforcement agencies are seizing cash and "near cash" equivalents such as bank accounts from all US residents. Quoting law enforcement officials, "We have only just learned that cash can be used for criminal and terrorist activities. We hope the public understands the eminent danger of these systems and cooperates with these seizures. Our goal is always to prevent harm to the public and once we learned that cash was used by nearly 100% of all terrorist and criminal activities in some form or another we knew we needed to act."

Comment Clipper and TIA, echoes of the past (Score 4, Interesting) 148

It seems bad ideas never die; they just get recycled. The US Government fighting encryption in the 1990's offered "key escrow" (where the Government had a backdoor into the encryption "just in case") as a way to allow citizens and business to protect their data and secure their privacy while allowing law enforcement a chance to use these transactions should it become necessary. It was wildly unpopular and eventually the idea was shelved. Now the government just comes and demands your keys.

Total Information Awareness, championed by Admiral John Poindexter, former United States National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan, a one time felon over Iran-Contra (overturned on appeal), wanted to do much of what the NSA is doing today. When the details of TIA became public there was an outrage and the plans for it had to be scrapped. Or were they?

The point is this: the public (voters) say "no" to these things... and they just sneak around our backs and do it anyway. Saying "no" once is not sufficient. If, as a citizen, voter, and patriot you believe that these ideas are bad you need to say "no" repeatedly, early, and often. Once whole bureaucracies are constructed to serve a bad aim it is difficult, and perhaps impossible, to stop them.

As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." With all due respect to Justice Brandeis, if some of these bad ideas do survive, though, it might be more because of public exhaustion than of public acceptance. Or, more simply, perhaps once a secret bureaucracy gets big enough in the darkness there is no way to kill it once it comes into the light. Even sunlight has its limits.

Comment Concerns about overspecialization (Score 1) 220

One of the concerns I had as a hiring manager was the narrow overspecialization of the candidates I interviewed. I cannot guarantee that the work assignments six months from now will match the criteria on a candidate's resume today. Hiring them solely on the needs I have today would be a mistake.

I disagree with the conclusion of the article that we need yet more specialization. That said, I do agree with an issue hinted in the text: hiring managers can be lazy and cowardly. Instead of seeking candidates that are smart, versatile, and industrious, they are looking for buzzword matches between the rec and the resume. They are lazy because it is very hard work pouring through big piles of resumes looking for such versatility and intelligence, and they are cowardly because hiring a buzzword match is more defensible to their managers should the candidate wash out. The "he looked good on paper" defense is the last retort of a manager forced to admit they made a hiring mistake.

Computer science as a field of study has grow too large for any four year program to prepare a student for everything. But, that should not be the aim. The degree should not be a "union card" that says the candidate should be effective in this narrow toolset or that. The degree should be an indication that the candidate can move, perhaps with effort, from niche to niche as necessary. Work history on the resume should confirm this.

Students/candidates/programmers must be willing to do the drudgery as well as the exciting. They must continue to learn technologies that are key to their employers success--or search for a new employer. Understanding software testing methodology, requirements capture, configuration control and release engineering objectives, and everything else that would make dull party conversations should be a requirement for all engineering resources, not just those few who test, release, or specify software.

Overspecialization and compartmentalization is crippling the industry. Building intuition and skills across the board for all engineering resources is the better answer. Recognizing those skill during candidate searches by hiring managers, even if the buzzwords don't completely line up, completes the circle.

Comment Just once... (Score 1) 187

... I would like to hear about how some brilliant hacker took control of 3 million computers and used to all that computing power to, say, find a cure for cancer instead of just pissing everybody off.

Comment Clippy (Score 4, Funny) 262

Hi! I'm Clippy! Microsoft Bob is not available. You could leave him a message if you like. Just hold down the #, *, 7, and 3 keys. It looks like you are trying to make a call. Would you like me to help with that? I see you've dialed a 9. There is an area code "978", can I finish dialing that for you? Oh, I see you've now dialed a "1". You might be trying to make an emergency call. I could... ** REBOOT ** Hi! I'm Clippy! Microsoft Bob is not available right now...

Comment Re:Paranoid hippie leader and all (Score 4, Interesting) 514

"You mean like a cult?" No. Like a start-up. There are engineers who thirst to make a very cool thing, something they can look back upon with pride and the knowledge that "I did that." It isn't about the money (though thinking about the potentially big payday helps keep you going when things get tough or weird); it is about the chance for that sense of accomplishment. I never had an opportunity to work on something as cool as the iPad. I wish I had. Most of us will work 40+ years and never have the sense of triumph that the iPad team now enjoys.

Comment Re:As someone totally ignorant in this stuff (Score 2, Insightful) 368

One lament heard repeatedly is, "Why doesn't America BUILD anything anymore?" Americans used to be known for Yankee ingenuity, innovation, and know-how. There seems precious little of that anymore except, perhaps, in software and aircraft. We still write code and build airplanes. It is difficult to thing of much else. The love of building things is best acquired young, I believe. I have it. I learning how things work. I also like to build things. Ham radio is an outlet for me on all these fronts. In an era where so many electronic components are, by necessity, nearly microscopic or monolithic, fully-formed, and impenetrable, you can still build radios from discrete parts, understand each of their functions, and have the joy of using something you made. I cringed when I first heard that freshly graduated EEs may have never picked up a soldering iron! How can one gain that intuition about the physical world without experiencing it?! Ham radio in the 21st century isn't a replacement for the internet, cell phones, video games, or anything else. It is a really fun way to learn about electronics, wave propagation, digital signal processing, and a bunch of other stuff in a hands-on, practical, inexpensive way. Perhaps if fewer were embarrassed about their desire to learn and do things (you won't be one of the COOL kids if you do!) we would have more engineers, more things designed and maybe even built here, and a brighter future.

Comment "timothy" needs a new hobby (Score 1) 469

If this posting looks familiar, it is. With a minimum of effort I found these three (including the latest). "The worst Apple products of all time", Feb 15, 2010 [posted by timothy]. "Apple's first flops", May 17, 2005 [posted by timothy]. "Top 10 Apple Flops", Jan 31, 2005 [posted by timothy]. Um, "timothy", can we stop rehashing stuff that happened 25 years ago?

Comment Re:Ads and proxy placement (Score 3, Insightful) 403

So we're OK with major newspapers having absolutely no standards at all these days?

I believe I said the opposite; I said a failure to have standards will cause problems.

What do you suppose people did back in the days before you could get ads via RSS feed?

They reviewed the advertisements with their clients directly. There were a few hundred per day and it was a manageable problem. Now, advertisements may be served by proxies and selected from among tens of thousands of potential ads, designed to be targeted to readers in specific geographic regions, income levels, purchasing habits, interests, age categories, gender, education level, or other factors.

The point of my post was that the combinatorial explosion of possible advertisement choices to be served-up on my specific page load may not be easily reviewable by NYT staff a priori.

Comment Ads and proxy placement (Score 4, Insightful) 403

The concern I have over the long term is that sites like the NYT may not know what advertisements will appear because they are placed by bulk-buying proxies that dispense them at page-load time, probably based on evil-cookie trails or other demographic markers. So, the question becomes: how should a presumably high-integrity site such as a major news outlet ensure quality when they've outsourced advertisement delivery?

Review of each possible advertisement would be onerous, but failure to have some standards in place will eventually lead to malware (or worse) injected into unsuspecting reader's machines. I just chuckled when it popped up. I run Macs at home. But, when things like this happen to family members running PCs (and we get the phone call) it stops being funny pretty quickly.

Is there a business case for reviewing advertisements (and the associated mobile code whether it be FLASH, etc.) for a 21st century "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval"? After all, the NYT and others are just one virus (or porn advertisement) away from a PR nightmare.

Comment Sale origin difficult to pinpoint (Score 5, Insightful) 532

The problem with this story is that it isn't clear where the sale has taken place. I click a button in Massachusetts, paid for the object with money from a Connecticut bank, the company hosting the web site is in New York, the headquarters of the company is in Arkansas, the shipment is made from New Hampshire, my mom receive the materials in Illinois (I dropped shipped her a gift). Where was the sale? I don't know what the right answer is... but I'm certain that state legislatures rushing to get something passed will end up making a mess bigger than the one they find themselves in now. I don't blame Amazon for pushing back. If I were Amazon management I'd be doing the same thing.

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