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Comment Which people? (Score 1) 212

Which people are you talking to?

I've found that I didn't become great at making estimates until I had been programming for 20 years.

For years 21-30 I've been great at making estimates.

If you're working with customers hiring programmers from India with only a few years of programming experience or you're working with companies who practice age discrimination, then you're going to find that nothing ever gets done on time.

If you're working with experienced programmers, then your experience will be the opposite. Being able to accurately estimate how long your work is going to take I think is the last skill that a programmer acquires, and in my experience it takes decades of experience.

The biggest folly of inexperienced programmers is that every programming job is that everything is either a 15 minute hack or will take a few days at most. If this sounds familiar then you're not hiring the right programmers, or you're being penny wise and pound foolish in your hiring.

Comment Re:(sigh) You people still think you're engineers (Score 1) 703

I hate to be overly negative, but based upon my 30 years of experience of writing software for a living, your level of education is usually inversely proportional to your skill level as an engineer.

And yes, I did attend a very expensive and highly-rated engineering school at age 18, but I had been programming since I was a pre-teen.

Comment Commodore 64 (Score 4, Informative) 857

My first computer was a Commodore 64, which my parents gave me for Christmas in 1985 when I was in fifth grade. My grandfather bought me a matching disk drive. I was a lucky kid to get these gifts because my parents were and still are working poor. I now suspect that my grandfather also paid for the computer. In 2017 dollars, it was something like a $1,000 Christmas for me.

I didn't set aside my gifts after a few months like many kids do. A year and a half later I was published in RUN Magazine and received a royalty check for my efforts at the ripe old age of 12. I spent virtually every dollar I had on programming books and magazines. I managed to get on the Internet with my first post to Usenet in 1992 but otherwise I was isolated from any other programmer. I was and continue to be a self-taught, natural programmer. I took all of the requisite computer science classes at the university, but more often than not they managed to suck out all of the enjoyment I had been experiencing programming since I was a pre-teen.

More than three decades later, I'm still doing programming. I switched to 100% Linux in 1994, so I've been doing Linux development for almost exactly 23 years. I still remember those early days.

Comment My COBOL story (Score 1) 300

I'd like to begin by adding that an experienced programmer (let's say somebody with over a decade of experience) should be able to pick up any language. If you have been exclusively using one programming language for your entire career including college, then you must be one in a million. Most programmers that I encounter have picked up dozens of languages and syntaxes over the years. When I received my first royalty check for programming in 1987, I was programming a Commodore 64 in BASIC with as little machine language as possible. In high school followed by college I was exposed to the likes of Pascal, FORTRAN, C, Perl, C++, Java, and the standard UNIX things (Bourne shell, regular expressions, sed, and awk) before I took my first full time job out of school. I think my experience is typical. If you need to learn COBOL for your job, you should have no trouble picking it up. Having to learn a new language or a new programming environment should be no obstacle for an experienced programmer.

More to the point, my first job out of school was working with options traders on a trading system. They supplied the algorithms and I supplied the code. In the end the company folded, because it was too hard to compete against the big guys with their deep pockets. But one bank we integrated with had for the time an amazingly large list of libraries that their library depended upon (kind of like GNOME and KDE and a lot of other things today). One of them was -lcobol. Quite simply a part of their software buried deep in some library was written in COBOL. I don't know how old the code was, but this was the early 2000's so I doubt it was new code.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I think this is the most likely scenario that a modern day programmer is likely to run into with COBOL. You're probably going to be working with a bank, and you will be using COBOL without having to worry about it. The library probably works fine, but the institution itself may occasionally have to delve into the library to add code or fix bugs. It's doubtful to me that people working in small or medium-sized organizations would be exposed to any real COBOL.

Comment Oh please! (Score 0) 274

I'm tired of psychologists telling us that these huge percentages of people have mental illnesses.

There are around 7 billion people alive today. Psychologists are telling us that 1% of the general population, in other words, 70 million people worldwide, are psychopaths.

I'm not buying it. I'm not saying that mental illness doesn't exist. Quite the opposite. Someone very close to me has a mental illness. If you know someone with an actual mental illness then you know how rare, unique, and difficult to diagnose and pinpoint mental illness truly is. Mental illness is not a set of personality traits that conveniently fits in with the type of people that the American culture in 2017 dislikes the most, criminals and corporate CEOs. Most criminals in prison are drug users and poor people who can't afford good legal representation. Most drug users in prison aren't even addicts, if you consider that to be a mental illness.

What people may not understand is that CEOs aren't Middle Class. Most were born rich, so ultimately they aren't taking any risks whatsoever with anything that they do in life. It's not psychopathic or ruthless to start a company when if you fail you will return to your life as a rich man or woman, and if you want you are able to do the same thing again and again without negative consequences. Perhaps you will become even richer, but it doesn't matter.

Most people who claim that they have a mental illness, or have been diagnosed with and possibly given drugs for a mental illness, are in fact perfectly healthy individuals with these things we can't always control called emotions.

As psychologists step away from the DSM and step towards the light known as neuroscience, we will as a society come to realize that there is a much wider range of people that have perfectly healthy brains and nervous systems. We have to accept that normal and healthy people do things we don't like, but we also have to accept that what we like changes drastically over time while our brains are millions of years old and change much more slowly.

Comment Veteran technology columnist? (Score 2) 74

I've been a programmer for 30 years and I've seen tech companies come and go. Google and Facebook and to a lesser degree, Amazon, run their companies on Linux. These are Internet-only companies. There was no Linux 30 years ago, and there was no Internet as it exists today. Linux was created 26 years ago. The general public joined the Internet around 22 years ago. There was no Google, Facebook, or Amazon 30 years ago, and none of these companies would have made any sense 30 years ago.

30 years ago, Commodore was the dominant player in the computer market. Microsoft was seen as small potatoes compared to IBM. Apple existed and the Apple II was fairly popular but the Mac was a machine regular people couldn't afford to purchase so you saw them mainly at schools, where they were discounted.

In 30 years, the present day landscape will be radically different. Maybe all of those companies will exist in some form but I see Facebook as the most likely to not make it, as people's tastes in online computer bulletin board systems are fickle. Facebook is today's Internet BBS. Some companies will exist in different forms. There will certainly be new dominant players.

If your window into the tech world is only 10 or 15 years then you need to do a little bit more research. It's not like I'm an old man. I'm only 41. The tech world did not come into being in the year 2000.

Comment I'm not worried (Score 2) 184

I didn't have time to read all of the comments. My apologies if this is already well-tread ground.

There are hundreds of millions of CRT television sets out there, and if you do a search on Youtube you will find videos of people who are fixing (to a degree at least) television sets that have been sitting out in the elements for decades. Television sets that have not been abused will last, essentially, forever: Even if you have no electronics troubleshooting skills, you can swap parts with other televisions until the set works. The only real wear out component in most televisions is capacitors, and you can train yourself to do cap replacements. I would imagine for really old televisions you will need to make some internal adjustments. That's not rocket science, either. Download the service manual.

Right now people can't give CRT's away. Even thrift stores don't want them. But if for some reason the supply-demand curve swings around the other way, then people like me will start servicing CRT televisions and reselling them. If you can still buy vintage radios from the 1940's, then you can find a television set made in the 1990's. The "problem" is that manufactures can't profitably make them, and they may never do so again. Existing CRT televisions, though, won't be disappearing any time soon.

I'm looking forward to the day that we start going to landfills to retrieve electronics for recycling, but we're a long way from that level of desperation (or technical ability).

Comment Don't work at a place like this (Score 5, Insightful) 232

Programming jobs have been plentiful for the past 20 years or so, and they will continue to be into the foreseeable future, until AI becomes so good that it has not only taken over every job but it has taken over programming itself.

You don't have to tolerate working conditions like this. Exercise your right to quit, and go work somewhere else.

If you are a programmer, you are making enough money to save some of it. Use that savings as your insurance policy in case you have to quit. If you're living in most countries in the West and you're at least a halfway decent programmer, you should be able to find a new job within a few weeks.

Don't be greedy. You won't become a millionaire working as a programmer, but you will make plenty of money throughout your life. If you're hanging on to a bad job because of some promise of future wealth, then you're cheating yourself and you wasted your money on that engineering degree.

The point of being a programmer isn't to become rich. You would have majored in business if you cared about that. The point of being a programmer is to solve interesting problems in novel ways. If you lose sight of that then your career is going to have real problems.

If you get lucky and somehow wind up with shares that you can cash out for big bucks, then that should be a bonus, but let me give you a word of advice. You will be much happier if you are compensated mostly in cash. Your equity compensation is at the mercy of people who aren't smart enough to solve techncial problems, so they got business degrees. Do you understand now why putting up with a shitty job at a start up is a fool's game?

Comment Helium (Score 1) 114

I checked the specific 8 TB hard drive referenced in the article, and it's helium filled.

That's not the type of hard drive I'd want to rely on for any more than a few years, at least until they've perfected helium technology.

Mainly I wonder how they plan on keeping the helium sealed inside the hard drive given that seals degrade over time.

Comment Re:AI does what AI is programmed to do (Score 2) 169

I'm not afraid of the AI programmed by MIT or the US Department of Defense. I am afraid of the AI programmed by Microsoft India outsourced to Microsoft India's Bangladesh office, and then outsourced once again to programmers who one generation ago were subsistence herders in sub-Saharan Africa.

Programming jobs are continually sent down the chain to the least qualified individuals possible, and the AI that escapes humanity won't emerge from our most advanced computer science labs. It will leverage humanity's greatest weakness, greed. The AI that enslaves us all will be unleashed upon the world by people who should have never been given the code in the first place, but were given it anyway to pad some executive's salary.

Comment Onshoring (Score 1) 267

I think onshoring has been a trend for a while now.

What I've been noticing about Chinese goods made by Chinese companies versus Western-branded goods made in China is that while you can still get absolute junk for dirt cheap from the Chinese companies, medium- to higher-end goods from Chinese and Western companies is becoming on par in terms of quality and price. In some cases Chinese companies offer a thing that no Western company offers. That's right, actual innovation. For example, my wooden alarm clock/Bluetooth speaker with Qi and USB charging. No Western company offers anything like that. And it costs what you would expect to pay, closer to $100. The better stuff from China nowadays is not a copy of a Western product, and it commands a price premium. What I'm saying, in other words, is that China is making the same transition that Japan made. China will coexist with Japan and the West and focus on the higher end. What's concerning to me is that economic success seems to be making China more authoritarian, although the Chinese people are great at poking holes through to the West. Perhaps the political situation in China will take care of itself.

As such, as did the Japanese, I would expect the Chinese to bring factories online in the US. There is no substitute for the cheap junk, but as Japan learned there is not much profit in it either. The good stuff like automobiles, you manufacture in the United States, and you employ Americans. Trump gets credit, everybody is happy, but it was the best decision purely in terms of the numbers.

Comment Value of LinkedIn (Score 1) 232

Does anybody actually use LinkedIn for anything? It seems to be the most useless social media company going.

I've had a LinkedIn account since they started and although I'm always typing in my LInkedIn credentials to connect my LinkedIn account to third parties, I've probably spent a grand total of six actual hours using LinkedIn. I use Facebook more than six hours per day.

Rarely does one large tech company acquiring another large tech company (both in terms of valuation) ever work. I foresee Microsoft dumping LinkedIn for $1 billion in 3 years, losing $25 billion in the process.

Does anybody use LinkedIn for anything but a backup location to park their resumes?

Comment UK power, then and now (Score 1) 83

It wasn't long ago that England was the most powerful nation in the world.

What many people don't realize is that if England were a state, it would be 51st, below Mississippi, in terms of economic output. (England is 83.9% of the United Kingdom by population.) If you expanded your measurement to include Great Britain (the UK excluding Northern Ireland), Great Britain would be 50th, right above Mississippi.

What I expect, as the UK completes its separation from the EU, is for the kingdom's role in the world to fall to something more in line with the role of one US state. As such, I'd expect to see measures indicative of economic strength like this one to lag. I'd actually be quite delighted to welcome the United Kingdom to the United States. The only thing that the British people would lose in joining the United States as our 51st state would be titles of nobility.

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I think there's a world market for about five computers. -- attr. Thomas J. Watson (Chairman of the Board, IBM), 1943