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Submission + - Defining Useful Coding Practices (

markmcb writes: A NASA engineer wrote about his disappointment that despite having well-documented coding practices, 'clever' solutions still made the code he now has to maintain hard to follow. This got me thinking about the overhead spent at my own company regarding our code. We too have best practices that are documented, but most seem to focus on the basics, e.g., comments, modularity, etc. While those things are good, they don't directly ensure quality, maintainable code is written. As the author points out, an elegant one-liner coupled with a comment from a few revisions ago makes for a good headache. I'm curious what experience others have had with this, and if you've seen manageable practices that ultimately offer a lot of value to the next programmer down the line who will have to maintain the code.

Comment Re:To Mac or Not (Score 1) 672

3 Cables? How do you figure that.

Actually it's usually 2: power supply and monitor. One is a mag connection and the other is mini-DisplayPort so it's super easy to plug them in.

I use a wireless keyboard and mouse. And our network is 802.11n so I rarely ever plug in the ethernet cable, but that would be #3.

I don't use external speakers at work. When I do occasionally need sound, the built-in speakers are quite good.

Comment Re:To Mac or Not (Score 1) 672

Ok, this is my last response as it seems you're not going to be objective about this.

First, if you go to Dell and click "business" they don't list the Studio. That's why it's cheap. It's not in the same class as the Lenovos I listed or the MacBook Pro. Let's review your assessment in detail, shall we?

  • Mac Baseline: $2499.

Let's compare that to the Dell Studio:

  • Dell Studio 17 Baseline: $1099.
  • Upgrade to Windows Vista Ultimate: +$150 (OS X has everything, so you have to pick the Windows edition with everything)
  • Upgrade to 500 GB HDD: +$75
  • Upgrade to CD/DVD Writer: +$29
  • Upgrade to Bluetooth: +$25
  • Upgrade to Backlit keyboard: +$25
  • Upgrade to Sony Imagination Studio (near iLife equivalent): +$100

Total: $1500

Whoa! That's really cheap!!! So why the price gap? Apple must be robbing us, right? Not so fast ...

  • Dell resolution: 1440x900. Mac 1920x1200
  • Dell HDD: 5400 rpm, Mac HDD: 7200rpm
  • Dell RAM: DDR2, Mac RAM DDR3
  • Dell Weight: 7.8 lbs., Mac Weight: 6.6 lbs
  • Dell Battery: 4 hours, Mac Battery 8 hours
  • Dell thickness: 1.7", Mac thickness: 0.9"
  • Dell Video card: 256MB, Mac Video Card: 512MB

You can continue the list if you'd like. All you have to do is actually look at the spec pages. So, nice try, but I've been around the block before. You should go check the Dell business class systems and price them. I just matched specs on the Dell Precision and it's $2884. You get what you pay for. It's not that these systems are overpriced, they're simply better spec'ed.

But hey, as long as you can convince yourself, that's all that really matters. The last word is yours if you want it. I'm done with this thread.

Comment Re:To Mac or Not (Score 1) 672

1) Have you had an experience whatsoever with computers?

Yes, I have a degree in computer science, telecommunication experience, and currently lead a team that delivers ERP reporting solutions to Windows, OS X, and Linux users.

There was an article a while back reviewing OSX server ... not even close to being an integrated and coherent product as Windows Server.

Who's talking about servers? This thread started with me stating that a dock is not sufficient criteria to not allow user to have Macs. I'm focused on my laptop. I do agree that OS X Server isn't that great.

Wrong, spec for spec Apple *is* more expensive.

No, you're wrong. Let's stop bickering and use these crazy things called "facts."

  • Apple MacBook Pro, 17": $2,499
  • Lenovo W700ds, 17" (upgraded to match Mac specs): $3,533, currently on sale for $2,494
  • Lenovo T400s, 14.1" (upgraded to match Mac specs): $2,695, currently on sale for $2,592

It's not 2001 anymore. Time to update your "why I hate Mac" argument.

I think if you'd just step back for one second, you'll see that 1 solution seldom fits all. Windows/PCs have their strengths, but so does any system.

Comment Re:To Mac or Not (Score 1) 672

wrong again, although I don't think you know it. Macs are a terrible choice here because PCs are the target platform, and applications and software are designed and tested for them.

It sounds like your IT staff made some poor decisions. If you are in a situation where you've tied yourself to one vendor, then you may be correct about PCs. However, I recommend you look for software that follows standards and isn't made for a specific version of a specific application on a specific platform.

And in addition, Windows is light years ahead for any sort of administration--in both speed, convenience and simplicity--for any size organization (and would be more efficient the larger the org) than Apple computers.

Not sure what you mean here. Remote login, controlled updates, automatic backups, MS Office, ERP software, etc., etc., etc., is all available on Mac too. Again, this is a dated argument.

And did I mention? The $500-1000 different PER computer cost isn't exactly in Apple's favor.

That's an easy stat to toss out, but I'd challenge you to back it. When you go spec-for-spec, Apple's hardware isn't much more expensive (sometimes cheaper) than the PC alternative. And there's the cost of support to consider too. In general, you get what you pay for. If you buy a cheap PC, it's probably going to cost you time and money to keep it running. If I'm getting paid $50/hr, it only takes a day of me screwing around with my quirky PC to cover your price gap (if it even exists). You've got to look beyond the sticker price.

Anyway, best of luck to you.

Comment Re:To Mac or Not (Score 1) 672

If you had to use a Mac because you couldn't figure out how to use XP, well thank god you're not in charge of administering those computers.

No, this is why geeks who don't know when to "turn off their geekness" shouldn't be put in charge. Low level people tend to have fluff in their schedules. They have time to sit at their desk and think "stupid PEBCAK!" and tweak either their hardware or software to deal with it. As you move up the food chain though, time to do stuff like that goes down as you spend all of your time trying to get the 50 guys that work for you to focus on the business and not PEBCAK. The result is that your time to tweak your system diminishes while the impact of hardware/software issues rises.

I assure you it's not that I don't have the aptitude. I just choose to apply myself elsewhere and expect my hardware/software to just work.

And your implication that Mac is somehow for dumb people is just wrong. If you're in charge of administering anything, I strongly recommend you step out of your geek shoes and look at people as individuals and offer/support systems that meet their needs, not yours.

Comment Re:To Mac or Not (Score 5, Insightful) 672

no corporation should ever consider using laptops that don't have docking ports.

This advise is just silly. I work for a large corporation (10K+ employees) and Mac is fully supported in every area of the business (along with PCs/Windows). I know it's really hard to plug 3 cables into the very accessible ports on the side of my computer every morning when I get to work, but somehow I manage.

So, let's not say "no corporation should ever" about anything. There are tradeoffs with most anything. Where you may want a dock, other people like me couldn't care less (I actually prefer not to have the extra hardware on my desk).

I think in general the "Macs are bad for business" argument died about 5 years ago. It's simply not true anymore. On the contrary, I find myself far more productive on my Mac. The computer I had before at the same company was an HP NC6220 running XP. It was a nightmare.


Submission + - Big Impact from Small Query Mistakes (

markmcb writes: "Matt Vea provides some interesting insight into how so many businesses and government agencies are capable of making seemingly stupid mistakes when it comes to keeping track of people. His article highlights the disconnect between intent of a business/agency and the implementation of this intent by an IT group, and ultimately why that leaves a lot of room for error.

From the article, 'Problems like this result in embarrassment (and possibly lawsuits) at airports for do-not-fly list "confirmation", permit criminals to slip their accounts into "non-risky" categories at banks and drop good employees from ERP systems or have their pay and benefits disrupted.'

Fortunately, he offers several practical solutions that, if used in combination, help to avoid unnecessary and avoidable errors."


Submission + - Practical Approach to Complex Human Name Matching (

markmcb writes: "Making computers do intelligent things isn't always simple. Matt Vea demonstrates the complexities of human name matching and how a combination of techniques can greatly improve the match success rate well beyond the success rate of any single technique.

From the article, 'Anyone can write a simple query to compare two lists ... but could that query find Jon McAndrews from a list including John McAndrews or Jon Mc Andrews or even Jonathon McAndrews? They're all the same person but without utilizing some form of fuzzy logic — they'll never be detected. The problem is that human beings are natural pattern matching machines with an enormous swath of cognitive tools at our disposal whereas a computer is only as capable as the person who programmed it. Fortunately, ... a methodology can be assembled to automatically and efficiently identify people between lists while providing a metric of confidence in the match.'"


Submission + - Building Linux applications with JavaScript ( 1

crankymonkey writes: The GNOME desktop environment could soon gain support for building and extending applications with JavaScript thanks to an experimental new project called Seed. Ars Technica has written a detailed tutorial about Seed with several code examples. The article demonstrates how to make a GTK+ application for Linux with JavaScript and explains how Seed could influence the future of GNOME development. In some ways, it's an evolution of the strategy that was pioneered long ago by GNU with embedded Scheme. Ars Technica concludes: "The availability of a desktop-wide embeddable scripting language for application extension and plugin writing will enable users to add lots of rich new functionality to the environment. As this technology matures and it becomes more tightly integrated with other language frameworks such as Vala, it could change the way that GNOME programmers approach application development. JavaScript could be used as high-level glue for user interface manipulation and rapid prototyping while Vala or C are used for performance-sensitive tasks."

Submission + - Visualizing Complex Data Sets (

markmcb writes: "My company recently began using SAP as its ERP system and as we move into our second year with the software, there is still a great deal of focus on cleaning up the "master data" that ultimately drives everything the system does. The issue we face is that the master data set is gigantic and not easy to wrap one's mind around. As powerful as SAP is, I find it does little to aid with useful visualization of data. I recently employed a custom solution using Ruby and Graphviz to help build graphs of master data flow from manual extracts, but I'm wondering what other people are doing to get similar results. Have you found good out-of-the-box solutions in things like data warehouses, or is this just one of those situations where customization has to fill a gap?"

Submission + - AT&T 3G Upgrades Degrade 2G Signal Strength (

Timothy R. Butler writes: "Much to the chagrin of owners of various 2G cell phones on AT&T Mobility's network, including the highly visible, and originally highly expensive first generation iPhone, we have discovered that AT&T has been quietly adjusting its network in ways that degrade 2G network performance as it has sought to build out its next generation 3G network. Many of the phones affected are still well within their two year contract period."

Submission + - Balancing Performance and Convention (

markmcb writes: "My development team was recently pondering over a finding a practical solution to the problem that's haunted anyone who's ever used a framework: convention vs. customization. We specifically use Rails, but like most frameworks, it's great for 95% of our situations, but it's creating big bottlenecks for the other 5%. Our biggest worry isn't necessarily that we don't know how to customize, but rather that we won't have the resources to maintain whatever customize code going forward, i.e., it's quite simple to update Rails as it matures versus the alternative. What have been your experiences with this problem? Have you found any best practices to avoid digging custom holes that you can't climb out of?"

Submission + - Google Wants You to be its Unpaid Muse

theodp writes: "So where do you turn to for great ideas when tough times force you to abort your engineers' brainchildren? If you're Google, reports Nicholas Carlson, you simply outsource brainstorming to your users. Google's launched a new Google Product Ideas blog as well as a Product Ideas for Google Mobile site where users can submit feature and product ideas and vote on others. So what's in it for you if you come up with Google's next billion-dollar-idea? 'If you post an idea or suggestion and we put it into action, we may give you a shout out on our Product Ideas blog,' explains Google, 'but we won't be compensating users for their ideas.' Lucky thing don't-be-evil Googlers don't have to live up to the IEEE Code of Ethics, or they might have to credit properly the contributions of others."

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