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Submission + - 5 ridiculous tech fees you're still paying

Esther Schindler writes: None of us like to spend money (except on shiny new toys). But even we curmudgeons can understand that companies need to charge for things that cost them money; and profit-making is at the heart of our economy.

Still, several charges appear on our bills that can drive even the most complacent techie into a screaming fit. How did this advertised price turn into that much on the final bill? Why are they charging for it in the first place? Herewith, five fees that make no sense at all — and yet we still fork over money for them.

For example: "While Internet access is free in coffee shops, some public transit, and even campsites, as of 2009 15% of hotels charged guests for the privilege of checking their e-mail and catching up on watching cat videos. Oddly, budget and midscale hotel chains are more likely to offer free Wi-Fi, while luxurious hotels — already costing the traveler more — regularly ding us."

Submission + - Solr: The Most Important Open Source Project You've Never Heard Of

Esther Schindler writes: When Steven-Vaughan Nichols researched a recent article on the open-source jobs most in demand, he was startled to learn that one hot keyword was Solr. Solr? What the heck is that? (We're so cute when the dollar-signs light up in our eyes.) So he investigated Solr: The Most Important Open Source Project You’ve Never Heard Of (which is part of Apache Lucene) to answer the question for all of us. And he ends up with a good overview of what it is and why you might care... even if you aren't looking for a job.

Submission + - The Mad Scientist's Construction Kit (

Esther Schindler writes: Software developers are uniquely suited to become mad scientists, points out Carol Pinchefsky: "What with the ability to go unnoticed, a few extra dollars in your pocket, and your background in technology, obviously you have what it takes to be the next Bond villain."

But sadly, there’s no one-stop shop for the on-the-go megalomaniac, so the future Doctor Doom has to do some advanced research. That doesn't stop Carol: she can give you all the information you need to rule the world. Let's see, we need a private island... an inner sanctum... don't forget the robot army... several more items. It's quite a list. Well, here's all the places to find any self-respecting geek's requirements for world domination. (If you don't giggle, I will be very ashamed of you.)

Submission + - How to Turn Your Pile of Code into an Open Source Project

Esther Schindler writes: You’ve written some code, you think it would be useful to the world, and you’d like to give back to the open source world. But how do you do it? Andy Lester provides a checksheet for developers for how to release an open source project and get it noticed. For instance: Before you release the project to the wild, write some documentation, create a mailing list, create an issue tracker, and so on. You think he's missing anything?

Submission + - 5 Signs That Your Team Member Wants a Promotion (as told by Star Trek) (

Esther Schindler writes: A good manager needs to be constantly on the lookout for signals of ambition, lest their subordinates move on to a job where a career path doesn't have a stop sign or they may look to Mirror Chekov as an example. Carol Pinchefsky uses examples from Star Trek to show managers how to tell that a protégée, assistant, team member, or red shirt is looking to move up in rank. Or maybe just get a different shirt.

And, as with so many of her articles, the article is both funny and a truly useful guide.

Your assistant has been busy lately. He isn’t just doing his job; he also is helping the new hire with hers. In addition to showing her the workings of the office coffee machine (obviously the most important part of the job), he has been answering the little questions that crop up every day, as well as the bigger questions such as procedures.

And when the new hire slips up, your assistant never once asks her for her agonizer.

Comfortably guiding a new employee and making her feel welcome in your group is one of many ways that your assistant plays well with others. And that’s something any decent corporate culture needs more of.

Besides, how often do you get to watch Star Trek clips and tell yourself they are helping you be a better team lead?

Submission + - 7 Signs Your Project is Headed for Failure (

Esther Schindler writes: How can you recognize that your project is headed for disaster? Look for these warning signs.

For example: Everybody is “the Vision Guy.”: "Another political landmine is the flip side of nobody being in charge: Everyone thinks he is in charge. To demonstrate the need to be “part of” this important, career-defining project, every single stakeholder sees himself as a dog that needs to mark his territory by peeing on it."

Submission + - Promoting Agile in a Waterfall Culture (

Esther Schindler writes: It’s all well and good to say that you want to adopt Agile practices. But sometimes, waterfall development processes are an ingrained part of the business culture. Changing the behavior for the team — and the executives and users — takes dedicated attention and a deft hand. In Promoting Agile in a Waterfall Culture, Certified Scrum Trainer Mark Levison shares one anecdote to show how it can be accomplished. Maybe you can add more suggestions for ways to change that waterfall status-quo...?

Submission + - Answering (and asking) dumb IT job interview questions (

Esther Schindler writes: Really, if I ever have to answer "What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?" in a job interview, ever again, it'll be too soon.

And certainly there are equally dumb questions asked in an IT or developer setting, from arcane technical facts to "just to know how you think" questions ("If you were an animal, what would you be?"). The only thing worse than being asked such things is knowing that you have to give some kind of answer that does not eliminate you from consideration for the job. Which is why Andy Lester wrote Bad Tech Job Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them). So when you're asked for a "pop quiz" arcane fact, he suggests:

Whatever you answer, don't just give facts. The interviewer may ask you questions off a checklist, but you don't have to answer like it's a test in school. The interviewer should be finding out if you know how to do the work, but if he's not, then help him along.

For example, if the interviewer asks, "What is a reference in C++?" don't answer by parroting, "A reference is a quantity that holds the address of an object but behaves syntactically like that object." You can start with that definition, but then explain why you use references, and how you know when to use a reference and when to use pointers.

But in reality: It isn't always that easy to be on the interviewing side of the desk, either. There's a reason people ask less-than-ideal questions of candidates: They aren't sure what they should ask. Which was the motivation behind Andy Lester's companion article, What To Ask Candidates In Job Interviews (Without Being Insulting and Wasting Your Time). "Before you consider the questions to ask, you have to know what you're looking for. Going into the interview without knowing what you want is like starting a programming project without software requirements or user stories," he says.

Which dumb questions would you add to his lists? And how do you answer them (assuming you want the job)?

Submission + - 'World of Warcraft' candidate for Maine State Senate wins election (

Teancum writes: "Colleen Lachowicz, candidate for the State Senate District 25 of Maine, won the election yesterday against her opponent Thomas Martin. This race was notable in part because her World of Warcraft character that was mentioned earlier on Slashdot, where the Maine Republican Party turned her game playing into a significant issue. It is also notable that she was able to raise a total of $6,300 in campaign contributions from gamers who came to her defense in her successful campaign. The Maine GOP even tried to block these contributions where Lachowicz was cleared of any wrong doing and the investigation was dropped."

Submission + - The Future of Languge Translation: CompSci/Biz challenges (

Esther Schindler writes: "Online services do a remarkable job at translating from one language to another (even if they occasionally mess up, yielding results like, "What Will the Future of Machine Translation?”). But linguists and computer scientists are hard at work on a truly Herculean task: rendering the subtleties of human language into a combination of 0s and 1s to provide translations that are not just more-or-less correct, but idiomatic and flowing. Can they get it done? In your lifetime? Teresa Meek looks at The Future of Language Translation, in both the business sense and as a compsci problem.

Because, of course, with our delightfully global world, we depend on translation more than we ever did. But as she writes, "If you’ve ever used them, you know that both machine translation and its cousin voice transcription often sound like kittehs on I Can Has Cheezburger? In an age where the press of a button displays an instant, error-free translation of dollars to pounds or euros to zlotys, why can’t computers get languages right?"

It's not so easy. Meek discusses some of the linguistics background as well as the business realities:

“Customers are wanting more, faster,” says Shannon Zimmerman, CEO of translation company Sajan. They want the highest-quality translations, they want machine services, and they want it yesterday. “It’s polar opposites, what they want,” Zimmerman says.

“How are you going to perform a quality check if your deadline is in the next 24 hours? You can’t,” agrees Smith Yewell, CEO of Welocalize, another translation company.

...and how computer scientists are working to improve the technology:

At a recent TAUS convention in Seattle, one presenter had the courage to demonstrate his speech-to-speech translation device to audience volunteers, who were requested to think of a sentence, any sentence.

“Get out of the car and show me your driver’s license,” said one volunteer.

The presenter spoke the words into his machine. A couple of minutes later, the machine played back the sentence in comprehensible Spanish.

“But it’s not good,” said a native Spanish-speaker. “It’s the wrong gender. It’s the wrong number.”

Want to see where they're headed... and the barriers in the way? Dive right in."

Submission + - James Bond film 'Skyfall' inspired by Stuxnet virus (

Velcroman1 writes: No smartphones. No exploding pens. No ejector seats. No rocket-powered submarines. “It’s a brave new world,” gadget-maker Q tells James Bond in the new film “Skyfall.” The new film, released on the 50th anniversary of the storied franchise, presents a gadget-free Bond fighting with both brains and brawn against a high-tech villain with computer prowess Bill Gates would be envious of. What inspired such a villain? "Stuxnet," producer Michael G. Wilson said. “There is a cyberwar that has been going on for some time, and we thought we’d bring that into the fore and let people see how it could be going on."

Submission + - World's first 100 percent biofuel-powered flight of civil aircraft (

cylonlover writes: Earlier this year, Air Canada joined a growing number of airlines conducting flights using biofuels. Like similar flights by Boeing and Lufthansa, the aircraft was powered by a mix of petroleum and biofuel. Now the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has removed the fossil fuel component completely with the first flight of a civil jet powered by 100 percent unblended biofuel. In the milestone flight over Ottawa on October 29, the twin engines of a specially equipped Dassault Falcon 20 business jet were powered by a biofuel derived from oilseed crops. The Falcon 20, with NRC pilot Tim Leslie at the controls, was tailed by a T-33, which collected data on the emissions generated by the biofuel-powered aircraft. NRC researchers will use the information gathered during the flight to gain a better understanding of the environmental impact of biofuel.

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