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Submission + - Company to employees - Take a blood test or lose your health coverage (bloomberg.com)

schwit1 writes: Dale Arnold, who worked for Wisconsin plastics maker Flambeau, chose not to take his work-sponsored health assessment and biometric screening. The company responded by pulling his insurance coverage.

Like many employers, Flambeau uses a wellness program to cut insurance costs by encouraging healthy employee habits. In the past, submitting to on-site tests of blood pressure, body-mass, and cholesterol meant saving a few hundred dollars. Now companies such as Flambeau have gone a step farther, denying healthcare entirely to those who don't participate. People like Arnold must instead pay for more expensive coverage through the government's COBRA program.

According to several federal courts-including one that ruled in favor of Flambeau-this is all perfectly legal.

Submission + - Why New Antibiotics Never Come to Market (vice.com)

citadrianne writes: “We’ve discovered six antibiotics in the recent past,” Fenical said. “Of those, three to four have serious potential as far as we know, including anthramycin. But we have no way to develop them. There are no companies in the United States that care. They’re happy to sell existing antibiotics, but they’re not interested in researching and developing new ones.”

Submission + - Disney Making Laid-Off U.S. Tech Workers Train Foreign H1-B Replacements 1

WheezyJoe writes: The NY Times brings us a story on the Disney Corporation laying off U.S. tech workers and replacing them with immigrants visiting the country under H1-B visas. The twist is that the immigrant workers are not your nice local visiting foreign guy from the university who wants to stick around 'cause he likes the people here... they are employees of foreign-based consulting companies in the business of collecting H1-B visas and "import[ing] workers for large contracts to take over entire in-house technology units." The other twist? The U.S. tech workers are required to train their replacements before vacating their jobs, or risk losing severance benefits (excerpts of the Mouse's layoff notice are included in the article).

Comment Look on the edges of tech (Score 1) 131

Sometimes, you find the best stuff outside the heavy lifting tech world. I've been going to South by Southwest Interactive for the past 5 years. It's been a nice counter balance to nuts and bolts tech conferences. I get inspiration and some notion of Good Things to Do. There are plenty of smart people, and that's a major refreshment for me. The focus isn't on tech as much as interesting ways to use it.

There's now an education conference under the SXSW umbrella. That may be worthwhile to you, and easier to get funded.

Comment A couple of classics (Score 2) 352

That's a good list of subject areas, and articles for technical areas, but if you're going to be an effective programmer, you need to venture out a bit. There are a couple of good books by Gerald Weinberg that will change the way you look at your profession. First is The Psychology of Computer Programming. It's a bit long in the tooth, but the lessons are still relevant. Same goes for Quality Software Management, Volume 1. Be warned, QSM, in particular, will make you dissatisfied with your managers.

Comment Evernote (Score 1) 170

I've been using Evernote for almost 4 years now. Overall, I like it. Having access to the same information on my desktop, laptop, tablet and phone is amazingly handy, especially at events where I go through multiple sets of batteries in a day. (SXSW comes to mind.)

The key to using Evernote, or probably any personal content management system, is organizing your data so you can find it later. I started using notebooks, but have evolved to a combination of notebooks and tags. It's important to spend some time up front, and create some management system and stick to it. It will evolve, but as with many things, if you have a good base, it will grow well. I use the notebooks to separate major contexts; like work and my various hobbies. I use the tags to keep track of individual subjects. This is handy when a given item can fall into more than one category.

I like that you can use the camera to embed pictures into notes. You can also embed other files. The free version has a fairly modest limit on the amount of data you can upload, but it's been adequate for me. You can upgrade to the pro version for $45/yr, which gives you a lot more upload and I think some enhanced OCR capabilities as well.

I also like the web clipper plug-in. It will extract the content and put it into a note. This is very useful if the content changes or even disappears. They've been steadily adding features. I'm getting into the shortcuts and reminders and finding both useful.

Going back to your original application though; if you want to keep a journal, keep a journal. Adding organized, indexed notes to it will be amazingly useful. I do keep an irregular journal on Evernote. Though, if I have an ongoing need for detailed tracking, I switch to pen and paper, usually in the form of a Daytimer. I do this for legal reasons, and not operational ones.

My only major criticism is that the iOS app is very slow on my iPhone 4.

Please don't construe the above as a diss on One Note. I haven't used it, and haven't been motivated to try it.

Comment All Programmers Need Continuing Education (Score 1) 149

My rule of thumb is that most everything you know now will be useful, but mostly obsolete in ten years or less. That makes extracurricular learning a constant and ongoing process. There are a multiple ways to accomplish this. The best way will depend on your learning style. The areas you study will depend on both your interests and available opportunities.

You already have a Bachelor's from a good school. An additional degree in computer technology isn't going to deliver a lot of value. You've been working in embedded systems, which can be its own little world sometimes. But at least where I live, good opportunities abound. If you like it, you can stay there, or you can branch out. I moved from embedded, to systems software, to application software. I still like embedded programming.

If you want to branch out, it's vital that you know your goal. It can be exploratory, or it can be more concrete. There's room for both. But, be prepared for some major time commitments. You can find lots of resources for self directed learning with a little searching. If you need a classroom setting, Extension courses are good resource, albeit expensive. Don't forget to check your local community college. Our local CC offers an excellent introduction to the Java programming language. It's always filled.

Online tutorials in most subjects are plentiful, and there are more traditional books and study guides. Study groups are another resource, if you find a good one. They have the advantage of expanding your social and professional network too.

My personal mix is mostly books, online articles, and fiddling around doing something useful for someone else. I also attend a couple of conferences I find particularly useful. However, I do appreciate that there are times when a structured approach is best. I find it most useful in abstract areas like UML, or other methodologies and particulary complicated subjects like optical engineering. You get to determine what's best for you. There's no canonically right way.

Comment There's another part to this (Score 2) 70

I'll toss in some more suggestions:

  • Put a unique label on all your cables, at both ends.
  • Prepare to have your cabling documented, and be willing to keep that list up to date.
  • When they wire the building, ensure there are enough power drops with enough current to supply your equipment.
  • Make sure there's enough airflow into that room to keep temperatures reasonable.
  • Try to do everything you can with configurable network hardware.
  • Keep a wiki
  • I'll second the suggestions to color code, and route cabling overhead.
Data Storage

ZFS Hits an Important Milestone, Version 0.6.1 Released 99

sfcrazy writes "ZFS on Linux has reached what Brian Behlendorf calls an important milestone with the official 0.6.1 release. Version 0.6.1 not only brings the usual bug fixes but also introduces a new property called 'snapdev.' Brian explains, 'The snapdev property was introduced to control the visibility of zvol snapshot devices and may be set to either visible or hidden. When set to hidden, which is the default, zvol snapshot devices will not be created under /dev/. To gain access to these devices the property must be set to visible. This behavior is analogous to the existing snapdir property.'"

Comment Mostly about PCs (Score 1) 270

$2B is a lot of money, but not that significant, relative to their cash on hand. So, they aren't putting much at risk. As problematic as Dell can be, their organization works better than HP, and MS execs don't need clown suits for management meetings.

Microsoft gets some interesting things in return:

  • Access to world class manufacturing and logistics operation. Could they be headed toward the Apple model of vertical integration?
  • Maybe a good place to make xBoxen and Surface tablets.
  • Microsoft loses out to Apple in user experience, partly because some of the peripheral OEMs write horrible drivers. If Dell can force them to write good drivers, it gives a boost to Microsoft's software that goes beyond just Dell.
  • A say in Dell's fate should they crater. This might be the most important. What would happen if Google decided to buy up their manufacturing operations?

If Microsoft is going to start investing in partners, it signals a real sea-change in the PC market. Up til now, they've been critically dependent on OEMs to make compatible hardware. Instead, they've been hurt by lousy drivers for incompatible hardware. Dell has enough clout to steer the market. But that assumes this deal produces more than just promises.

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