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Monday
Dec022013

How well does higher ed prepare you as a 'software engineer'?

This article is a bit harsh/one-sided, but I still thought it was interesting to see an attempt at comparing programming as practiced in two very different contexts. 

What’s the difference between college-level and corporate programming? | Ars Technica:

Programming in school and programming in the real world are so inherently different to the point where there's actually very little overlap. CS will prepare you for "real world" software development like athletics training would prepare an army for battle.

In a vaguely related article, think about this: In the modern economy/society, is learning to 'code' a fundamental piece of a good education? This article makes a good case that it is not:

Why Pushing People to Code Will Widen the Gap Between Rich and Poor

"So it’s no surprise that we have so many people from Barack Obama (it “makes sense” for coding to be written into high school curricula) to NBA superstar Chris Bosh (it’s “simply about understanding how the world functions”) arguing everyone should learn to code — and that coding ought to be a required part of a complete education. Starting really young, “because it is code, not Mandarin, that will be the true lingua franca of the future"
Sunday
Nov242013

This post might have changed my mind

Scott Adams is the guy behind the famous Dilbert comics. I've not worked in a big corporation for a while and I've not been reading Dilbert for quite a while too. But Scott Adams remains a brilliant humourist. This post however, is not meant as humour:

Scott Adams Blog: I Hope My Father Dies Soon 11/23/2013:

I don't want anyone to misconstrue this post as satire or exaggeration. So I'll reiterate. If you have acted, or plan to act, in a way that keeps doctor-assisted suicide illegal, I see you as an accomplice in torturing my father, and perhaps me as well someday. I want you to die a painful death, and soon. And I'd be happy to tell you the same thing to your face.

Postscript: His Dad passed away a few hours after he wrote this

Tuesday
Nov192013

Intellectual Property on Wall Street?

A fascinating although quite long article by Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair. Michael Lewis is an amazing non-fiction writer, best known to me for Moneyball (about baseball) and Liars Poker (about Wall Street.)

Michael Lewis: Did Goldman Sachs Overstep in Criminally Charging Its Ex-Programmer? | Vanity Fair:

A month after ace programmer Sergey Aleynikov left Goldman Sachs, he was arrested. Exactly what he’d done neither the F.B.I., which interrogated him, nor the jury, which convicted him a year later, seemed to understand. But Goldman had accused him of stealing computer code, and the 41-year-old father of three was sentenced to eight years in federal prison. Investigating Aleynikov’s case, Michael Lewis holds a second trial.

 

Monday
Nov182013

Affordable Care Act Software Fiasco: A Special Report

I came across this video by Armando Fox with his views of what went wrong with the Obamacare website, from a deep technical perspective. It's part of a University of California at Berkley course on SAAS Software Engineering. It's very very good!

Monday
Nov182013

Customer Service Ceremonies

Nowadays, when I am done talking to telephone suport of any company, they seem to be trained to go through a long ceremony before letting me go:

me: "Thanks, I am all set"

They: "Did I solve all your problems"?

me: "Yes, thanks"

They: "Ok then thanks for calling XXXX"

me: "You're welcome"

They: "Thanks and have a good day"

me: "Thanks"

Question: is it impolite for me to hang up before this whole ceremony is complete? Say "Yes, Thanks" and then hang up? Or am I being a rude, impatient, always in a hurry northeasterner?

Friday
Nov152013

Healthcare.gov not working yet (duh)

I feel really bad for President Obama and I am still a big fan. But. As we all know now, this is a total disaster, on a lot of levels. For first hand experience, I tried to create an account on Healthcare.gov about the middle of October. After several tries I managed to do it. Yesterday I tried to log into the site to see how things were going, and after several tries and I managed to log in. But I didn't get too far  before I got a 404 error.

Those of us who have worked on, or seen close up how a complex "web site" is built have a feeling of how complicated this is. And coupled with other factors and complications (like politics and buareaucratic ineptitude) we can't say this is not a movie we've seen before. But that doesn't begin to explain nor excuse it. Here's a good behind the scenes article:

HealthCare.gov: How political fear was pitted against technical needs - The Washington Post:

“They were running the biggest start-up in the world, and they didn’t have anyone who had run a start-up, or even run a business,” said David Cutler, a Harvard professor and health adviser to Obama’s 2008 campaign, who was not the individual who provided the memo to The Washington Post but confirmed he was the author. “It’s very hard to think of a situation where the people best at getting legislation passed are best at implementing it. They are a different set of skills.”

 

Wednesday
Nov062013

Boo for me! Yay! for Massachusetts

Today my first Amazon order with sales tax. Too bad for me, but good for our state!

 

Sunday
Nov032013

(De) bunking some myths about those $1b startups

I want to direct your attention ton interesting article about $1 Billion Startups - "Unicorns" - on TechCrunch today. Some myths debunked and others confirmed:

So, we wondered, as we’re a year into our new fund (which doesn’t need to back billion-dollar companies to succeed, but hey, we like to learn): how likely is it for a startup to achieve a billion-dollar valuation? Is there anything we can learn from the mega hits of the past decade, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Workday? (from: Welcome To The Unicorn Club: Learning From Billion-Dollar Startups | TechCrunch:)

 

Monday
Oct282013

Do it for free!

Tim Kreider's essay could apply as easily to all those people who complain that an iPhone app is not free, or is so so expensive at $5.99. Not too long ago a piece of software would get $99 or $495. Makes you wonder how long Adobe can keep on charging through the nose for Photoshop and Illustrator. Anyway, here's a bit of the article:

"People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors...” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment." (from: Slaves of the Internet, Unite! - NYTimes.com)

 

Friday
Oct252013

[FUNNY] Congress investigates problems with healthcare.gove

Really, this is NO JOKING MATTER

Rep. Upton said that “looking serious and nodding our heads a lot” contributed to the illusion that committee members had even scant comprehension of what was being discussed. “At the end of the day, a lot of it came down to not asking the questions you really wanted to ask,” he said. “Like, ‘What exactly is a Web site?’” (from Congress Spends Several Hours Pretending to Understand Internet : The New Yorker)