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Comment Technological Stability (Score 4, Insightful) 140

I work in the defense industry, which inherits some of the problems of its customer, the Government (in particular, a reluctance to spend money on infrastructure, reliance on policy compliance rather than personal accountability, and older, less tech-savvy decision makers). One of the computers on my desk still runs Windows XP, ironically because the security approval to replace it with a windows 7 computer didn't come through until just recently. So it is no surprise we aren't using wikis or IMs or Slack; I don't even know what the last one is (I mean, I can google, but I don't 'get' it; I've never had access to anything like that).

Few modern technologies can survive in this environment. By the time a 'new' technology is vetted by security, approved by the customer, and authorized by finance, everyone will have moved on to something else. But email remains. It works everywhere. It doesn't require 'special' software that the person you are communicating with may not have the IT permissions to install even if they knew how. Even the most out of touch customer representative knows what it is; you don't have to make slides about why you need this thing on your program. It can work over public networks and private networks; you don't need to trust a cloud or a young company. There are well-developed practices for using it. Lawyers and compliance staff thoroughly understand the legal issues (this is no small concern in a large company).

Comment Re:What, yet another thread on this? (Score 3, Interesting) 450

Given the millions of other blogged words on this topic in the past 48hours, Slashdot now needs clickbait too?

(Sigh.) This is cliche, but I can't help myself. If your objection to the 'click bait' was to not only click the link to the content but to interact with it by logging in and posting a comment... you're doing it wrong.

Comment Not a smart watch, a wearable computer (Score 2) 450

I don't know who said this, but I heard one commentator claim that the apple watch was not a smart watch, but a wearable computer. I thought this was apt because when I think of the apple watch as a 'watch' it isn't particularly compelling to me (and this is from someone who still wears a watch, and uses it to tell time). However, when I open up my vision to 'sky is the limit', yet-to-be-invented applications of a wearable computer, I'm more interested to see where this will go. As with the iPhone, the 'included with the first edition' features aren't as interesting as the 'invented by third parties and forced upon a reluctant Apple' (remember, native apps sold through an app store was not in Apple's original vision).

Comment Re:Let me explain.... :-) (Score 1) 309

As you point, out, the way we use email has changed. I could try to set up gpg again, but I'm much less likely to do so now, even though I feel the need for encryption more strongly than ever.. Fifteen years ago I accessed my email through an email program on one computer. I now use webmail almost exclusively (when using PCs) and/or any number of different mobile device clients to get to my email. I don't even know how I would approach trying to set up an encrypted email system that works on 'everything' from webmail on PCs at home and at work to my ios tablet to my android phone to my girlfriend's macbook. If the solution is to travel back in time -- use a non-google mail server, access email with a single computer that I control physical access to, etc. -- that's really unappealing, and there are both subjective and objective costs to taking that path. I'm not unfamiliar with how that can work: we [colleagues and I] run communications like this where is a severe confidentiality or national security need. For lack of a better word, it sucks. If you don't appreciate having off site access to email (let alone smart phone access) go without it for a few weeks and see what it is like. :-) In our environment, it is actually both faster and cheaper to mail people encrypted CDs than it is to get all parties to agree on, approve, and arrange training for an encrypted email or network exchange.

Comment Re:Limited power to change working situation... (Score 1) 348

You should not assume that you can both stay at your current workplace and live long enough to see retirement.

Ok, partially valid point. If my employer doesn't provide standing desks, and I think that standing desks are worth any potential reduction in salary, relocation, and/or inconvenience associated with finding a new employer, then that is logically what I should do.

However, arguments of that type (which could apply to any workplace safety condition) eventually do eventually break down when one considers that employees are not perfectly mobile and interchangeable, and that there may be enough willing workers that employers may not face any market pressure to compete in this area. This is why we have to have government-imposed safety regulations, because 'just get a job at a factory that is safer' was not a reasonable or successful approach.

Comment Limited power to change working situation... (Score 5, Insightful) 348

I appreciate this and other studies that affirm that sitting most of the day is bad for you. What am I supposed to do about this? Like a great many professional workers, I work for a large, un-hip company whose furniture, real estate, and office layout is driven by cost and not ergonomics or health. I can't just decide to have a standing desk or reconfigure my 'workstation' -- arbitrarily, and due to client sensitivities I can't work from home. I guess I can just hope the news gets around and maybe my kids will get to have the choice.

Comment Re:Engineers do dress well (Score 1) 166

Don't know if I agree with the characterization of engineers; we're a pretty diverse bunch. I do agree with your East coast / West coast anecdote, though, and also point out the difference between industries. Our software engineers (large, east coast defense company) don't wear ties or jackets, but slacks and a button-up collared shirt is the minimally socially accepted dress; even a polo shirt will mark you as a little bit young or casual (not an advantage in this industry). Our subcontractors on the west coast will sometimes even wear shorts to work, which from the perspective of someone who has only lived and worked in the North East US is unthinkable (in the sense that it would not occur to me that it could ever ok, but I think that it is ok now that I've stopped to think about it).

Comment Re: experts in government contracting (Score 1) 166

I was going to state this in a slightly less cynical way (the lowest bidder doesn't always win) but it is true that if you hire a government contractor, you get an expert in government contracting, which is different than being an industry leader or a subject matter expert. There is a lot of paperwork, regulatory compliance, and face-to-face networking involved in working successfully with the Government, and navigating it requires a certain amount of expertise and overhead in itself. I say that as a (mostly content) employee of a large defense company.That said, I don't think that is a unique problem. Lots of industries (healthcare, civil engineering, maybe finance) have to spend a lot of time and money on regulatory compliance. Maybe not web development, though.

Comment Teach, don't tell -- and the non FOSS world. (Score 3, Interesting) 430

First, I wanted to link to This blog post by Steve Losh on writing documentation. I think offers some good metaphors as to why 'reading the source', even 'self documenting' source, is insufficient, though of course not everyone will agree with his philosophy.

Second, I wanted to say on the projects that I work on as a systems engineer doing new product development (as in this, not the information technology use of the term) documentation is perpetually threatened. And we usually work on comparatively well funded, non-FOSS programs. Documentation is timing consuming and expensive, and sometimes it is even customer direction to place it at a lower priority than new development. Though inevitably it makes things harder later, sometimes that is o.k. if it works better with the cash flow (saving money now only to pay more later can work if you expect to have more money later). Unfortunately FOSS software projects don't necessarily have people promising a ton of money for the documentation.

Comment Re: Minivans useful (Score 5, Informative) 205

I've rented minivans on business trips (particularly for outdoor field tests of equipment my employer develops). They work very well for our use: surprisingly large cargo capacity in a weather proof bay, flexible reconfiguration to carry either people or equipment between test sites, low floors and true fold-flat seats (compared to many of the SUVs we've rented) making loading easy, car-like handling to suit drivers without large vehicle experience; and wide availability at car rental companies both large and small.

Now, we are talking about renting for a specific purpose for only the duration of that purpose, which is a completely different economic calculation than buying a car for daily use.Nonetheless, I've been convinced that when I do have kids (young children seem to require a frighteningly large amount of support equipment) a minivan will be the way to go. (Certainly compared to an SUV, which would offer similar features in a less convenient shape, or a small car, which lacks cargo.) Of course, this all depends on my finances at that point in time.... I'm not so well off that I can purchase vehicles arbitrarily.

Comment Re:Computer Science curriculum (Score 1) 293

According to the Wikipedia article, it's actual object oriented programming, taught in the modern fashion (i.e., directly, and not via 'C first'). It looks like there was originally an second version of the course that included more of the traditional introductory computer science things (data structures and algorithms) though these are still covered to some degree.

As I lament elsewhere in the thread, though that's appropriate for a course called 'CS' I would have preferred, in high school and college, to be taught a more practical 'how to use the standard library and other common libraries'. Granted, that would be more programming than computer science, and it probably would be dirty and pedestrian to people who actually do computer science. But while programming is widely used across technical fields, I don't think many people need to know how to write their own linked list methods or sort algorithms. For me it would have been better to talk about how to solve more challenging 'real world' problems using the existing tools instead of solving 'simple' problems using algorithms we wrote by hand.

We're really talking about two things in the thread -- getting more people to enter the field of CS, and getting people in general to have more useful CS skills. These are different goals.

Comment Re:Teach CS with Math classes (Score 1) 293

I don't remember receiving any computing instruction in high school, in any course. Now, that was 15 years ago so maybe that has changed. I hope so! If not, 'teaching computing in any fashion' is more important than 'teaching computing in a specific fashion'.

My college mathematics courses did integrate mathematica and to a lesser extent matlab (engineering courses, but I wasn't an engineering student). This was great for learning about math, but maybe less great for learning about computers.

As a practicing non-computer-scientist engineer, it would have been more useful to me have had good applied programming courses and not computer science courses. What I do in my job (which is mostly matlab, but I've used C++ in the past) is patch together various library and systems calls together with some math and flow control logic to solve problems. In my CS/programming courses in college, they taught us about data structures and sorting algorithms. I would never try to write my own sort algorithm or linked list management methods. It's not interesting and as a non-specialist I would not likely do better than what already exists.

Comment Re:Why would a prospective CS major take the AP te (Score 1) 293

There may be something to this. The principal advantage of the AP credit I earned before college was that I was able to avoid some of the required courses outside my major. Though, I certainly would have taken an AP course in my area of interest had my school offered it, because I would likely score and grade well and that would have helped my GPA if nothing else.

Comment As a novice... (Score 1) 627

My scripting/programming is exclusively in Matlab and similar tools so I can't weigh in here EXCEPT as a novice programmer. I tried in past to play around with android (which is java) and separately to relearn what little C/C++ I learned in my college days. As a novice, learning a new IDE is a sizable wall to climb. These tools are not documented with beginners in mind, and I was spending most of my time just trying to get hello world programs to build and link correctly when I wanted to learn the language instead. The IDE was an impediment at my level -- but maybe I was just learning the wrong way. When I was taught C++, it was 'learn C first, learn objects second, learn STL never'. The new strategy seems to be encourage use of standard library containers right away. Similarly, if I were to learn proper IDE use from the beginning (and I include visual interface layout tools under that heading) my experience would be different. I _have_ used tools which look like IDEs when preparing LaTeX documents (LaTeX is a typesetting markup language used in technical publication). Autocompletion of commands and previously defined labels (variables) is invaluable. I'm an inaccurate typist with a bad memory. Even if I weren't, I suspect computers are better at remembering those kinds of details than I am.

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