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An anonymous reader writes "Many years ago, I was a coder—but I went through my computer science major when they were being taught in Lisp and C. These days I work in other areas, but often need to code up quick data processing solutions or interstitial applications. Doing this in C now feels archaic and overly difficult and text-based. Most of the time I now end up doing things in either Unix shell scripting (bash and grep/sed/awk/bc/etc.) or PHP. But these are showing significant age as well. I'm no longer the young hotshot that I once was—I don't think that I could pick up an entire language in a couple of hours with just a cursory reference work—yet I see lots of languages out there now that are much more popular and claim to offer various and sundry benefits I'm not looking to start a new career as a programmer—I already have a career—but I'd like to update my applied coding skills to take advantage of the best that software development now has to offer. (More, below.)
An anonymous reader writes This article in The New York Times shows the clash of purists and people who desire to experiment with "new technology" available to them. The geek in me is really curious about this concept of a digital orchestra (with the ability to change tempos, placement of speakers in an orchestra pit, possibly delaying some to line them up ...). I understand that instrumentalists feel threatened, but why not let free enterprise decide the fate of this endeavor instead of trying to kill it by using blackmail and misrepresentation? Isn't there a place for this, even if maybe it is not called opera ... maybe iOpera?
New submitter fffdddooo (3692429) writes I know it's something that people used to ask every few years, but answers get old so quickly. I'm an electronics teacher, and I'm wondering if it's possible to find some oscilloscope (and why not spectrum analyser?) for recommending to my students, to be able to work at home. I'm thinking of something near $50-$70. Two or three years ago, I'm sure the answer was No, but nowadays? The same reader points out two options spotted on Amazon: one that's "very cheap but Khz" (it's also a kit that requires assembly), and another that aims to be capable of 20MHz, 2-channel operation. What's out there, he'd like to know, that's not junk?
mvdwege (243851) writes "Due to being in a relationship with a comics geek, I have gotten interested in the history of superhero comics. I would like to get a better grounding in the Golden Age (pre-Comics Code) comics, so here's my question to the Slashdot audience: what are your recommendations for essential reading? What collections/omnibus editions of Golden Age comics would you recommend?"
theodp writes: "Where have you gone, Mavis Beacon? A nation of smartphone and tablet typists could use your help. You've seen people type fast-and-furiously on smartphones and tablets, so you know it can be done, but how exactly do these one- and two-fingered wonders (YouTube video) manage to do so? Is it their reaction time? Technique? Both? Back in the day, touch-typing teachers showed kids the secrets to higher word-per-minute scores on their Smith Coronas. Later, typing tutor software got kids up-to-speed on PCs. So, with over 1 billion smartphones and 200 million or so tablets shipped in 2013, what are the best software and tutorials that teach mobile typing techniques? And what platform specific features — iOS, Android, WP8/Win8, BB — do you find make your mobile typing life a whole lot easier?"
theodp writes: "Michael Raithel was polling the SAS crowd, but it'd be interesting to hear the answers to the programming questions he posed from a broader audience: 1. What is the most unusual location you have written a program from? 2. What is the most unusual circumstance under which you have written a program? 3. What is the most unusual computing platform that you wrote a program from? 4. What is the most unusual application program that you wrote?"
First time accepted submitter Viv Savage (3679171) writes "I live in the U.S. but my daughter will be attending college overseas next year (Scotland specifically). I need to purchase a new phone for her and I'm curious what the Slashdot community would recommend. I understand that a GSM world phone supporting 850/900/1800/1900 MHz frequencies would give her the best voice support. There doesn't appear to be a solution for getting high-speed data (i.e., 4G) here and abroad with one phone. Have any worldly Slashdotters figured this out?"
An anonymous reader writes "Here on Slashdot we sometimes see questions about how to get IT jobs while having little experience, changing from one specialty to another, or being (gasp) middle aged. And, we see comments that bemoan various aspects of IT work and express a desire to do something entirely different. This is what I'm wondering about, and I thought I'd put my questions to Ask Slashdot. Has anyone successfully applied their years of IT experience to other lines of work? Is the field that you moved on to entirely unrelated, or is there a more substantial link to your new (but clearly not IT) role?"
An anonymous reader writes "I am the IT director for a large rental property company that owns approximately 15,000 apartments in college towns across America. The board of directors has tasked me with exploring whether we can 'privatize' our network (we provide network access as part of rent in all of our properties) and charge certain commercial entities for access to our residents. Right now the network is more or less open, except that we block access (by court order) to certain sites at the request of various copyright holders. Specifically, they are interested in targeting commercial providers of services directed at college students, such as textbook rental firms, online booksellers, and so on. With approximately 35,000 residents, I guess they are thinking there is a substantial profit to be made here. Personally I don't like it one bit, but I thought I would ping Slashdot for thoughtful opinions. I imagine the phones will start ringing off the hook if students suddenly lose access to places like Amazon.com. I think it has 'bad idea' written all over it. What do you think?"
An anonymous reader writes "What got you into hacking? This is a question that Jennifer Steffen, IOActive CEO, often asks hackers she meets on conferences around the world. More often than not, the answer is movies: War Games, Hackers, The Matrix, and so on. But today, it is the real life hacking that is inspiring the movies of tomorrow. 'Hackers are doing epic stuff,' she says, and they are now inspiring movies and comics. So, what got you started? And what makes a good hacker today?"
An anonymous reader writes "Has anyone else noticed the trend towards 'community forums' where customers are basically being recruited to solve the issues of other customers while the companies selling the products causing the issues sit back and take a passive role in the process? Granted, sometimes the companies' employees play an active part in the forums and provide some value-add by contributing crucial, and often undocumented, knowledge that solves the problem in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case, and this leaves customers with no visibility into whether or not their problems are being addressed, and, if they are, when they might expect to receive assistance. This is bad enough when dealing with consumer electronics that cost up to a couple of hundred of dollars, but it's completely unacceptable when dealing with proprietary design tool vendors that are charging several thousand dollars for software licenses for tools that are the only option if a customer doesn't want to drop an order of magnitude more money to go with 3rd party tools (e.g., Synopsys). Who do you think are the worst offenders of this downloading of support onto the backs of the customers themselves, and what can be done about it?"
cablepokerface writes "We've had a significant family catastrophe last weekend. My sister-in-law (my wife's sister) is 28 years old and was 30 weeks pregnant till last Saturday. She also had a tumor — it was a benign, slow growing tumor close to her brain-stem. Naturally we were very worried about that condition, but several neurologists assessed the situation earlier and found the tumor to be a problem, but not big enough for her to require immediate surgery, so we decided to give the baby more time. She was symptomatic, but it was primarily pain in her neck area and that was controlled with acceptable levels of morphine.
Then, last Saturday, our lives changed. Probably forever. In the hospital, where she was admitted earlier that week to keep an eye on the baby, the tumor ruptured a small vessel and started leaking blood into the tumor, which swelled up to twice its size. Then she, effectively, had a stroke from the excess blood in the brain stem. In a hurry, the baby was born through C-section (30 weeks and it's a boy — he's doing fine). Saturday night she had complex brain surgery, which lasted nine hours. They removed the blood and tumor that was pressing on the brain.
Last Sunday/Monday they slowly tried to wake her up. The CT scan shows all higher brain functions to work, but a small part of the brain stem shows no activity. She is locked-in, which is a terrible thing to witness since she has virtually no control of any part of her body. She can't breathe on her own, and the only things she can move, ever so slightly, are her lips, eyelids and eyes. And even that's not very steady. Blinking her eyes to answer questions tires her out enormously, as she seems to have to work hard to control those. The crowd on Slashdot is a group of people who have in-depth knowledge of a wide range of topics. I'm certainly not asking for pity here, but maybe you can help me with the following questions: Does anyone have any ideas on how to communicate better with her? Is there technology that could help? Like brain-wave readers or something? Does anyone have any ideas I haven't thought of regarding communication with her, or maybe even experience with it?"
First time accepted submitter Dufflepod (3656815) writes "After yet another hardware purchase last week, I realized with some alarm just how drastically an enterprising burglar could increase the crapulence quotient of my life if they ever made off with my hardware. The house is alarmed, but much to my annoyance it isn't always set when people go out for any length of time. Ideally I want to 'alarm' the expensive items among my various PCs, UPS, NAS box, test equipment, and some of the sundry other gadgets & gizmos I require to stroke my inner geek. Over the past few days I have spent hours Googling for every combination of "anti-theft perimeter alarm radius motion detector vibration wireless" etc etc.. I have found various possible solutions, though the cost of some of them does make my eyes water (eg SonicShock @ €150/box). Has anyone out there decided to bite-the-bullet and protect their kit with decent alarms, and do you have any suggested 'do's & don'ts'?" So how would you secure valuable items, as opposed to securing the entire place?
New submitter danzvash (447536) writes "I'm doing some volunteering for a street kids charity in Senegal, West Africa, and they need a new database to store all their information for the kids, and to help the funding organizations like UNICEF. The charity staff have a few computers running Windows 7. Being a die-hard OSS geek I'm more inclined to knock up a MySQL backend with a Django (or similar) front-end and run the whole thing from a reliable VPS. But it needs to be understandable by the non-geeks in the charity — there is no IT expertise here. Is there anything that can allow me to design and edit databases, tables, and forms but doesn't require an MS license?"
An anonymous reader writes "There's a blog post floating around right now listing articles every programmer should read. I'm curious what articles, books, etc., Slashdot readers would add to this list. Should The Art of Computer Programming, Design Patterns, or Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs be on the list? What about The Mythical Man-Month, or similar works that are about concepts relating to programming? Is there any code that every programmer should take a look at? Obviously, the nature of this question precludes articles about the nitty-gritty of particular languages, but I'm sure a lot of people would be interested in those, too. So if you can think of a few articles that every C++ programmer (or Perl, or Haskell, or whatever) should know, post those too."
First time accepted submitter Wisecat (3651085) writes "So we all know that computer programming jobs are hot right now. Heck, even President Obama has been urging Americans to learn the skill. But all of us in tech know that not everyone can hack it, and what's more it takes a while to learn anything, and keep up your skills as technology changes. Add to that the fact that companies (and their hiring managers) are always looking for 'the best of the best of the best' talent, and one starts to wonder: just how good does one actually have to BE to get hired? Certainly, there must be plenty of jobs where a level 7/10 programmer would be plenty good enough, and even some that a level 5/10 would be enough. And perhaps we can agree that a level 2/10 would not likely get hired anywhere. So the question is: given that we have such huge demand for programmers, can a level 5, 6, or 7 ever get past the hiring manager? Or is he doomed to sit on the sidelines while the position goes unfilled, or goes to someone willing to lie about their skill level, or perhaps to an H1-B who will work cheaper (but not necessarily better)? I'm a hardware engineer with embedded software experience, and have considered jumping over to pure software (since there are so many jobs, so much demand) but at age 40, and needing to pick a language and get good at it, I wonder whether it would even be possible to get a job (with my previous work experience not being directly related). Thoughts?"
First time accepted submitter stef2dotoh (3646393) writes "I've got about a year of computer science classes under my belt along with countless hours of independent online and tech book learning. I can put together a secure login-driven Web site using PHP and MySQL. (I have a personal project on GitHub and a personal Web site.) I really enjoyed my Web development class, so I've spent a lot of time honing those skills and trying to learn new technologies. I still have a ways to go, though. I've been designing Web sites for more than 10 years, writing basic PHP forms for about 5 or 6 years and only gotten seriously into PHP/MySQL the last 1 or 2 years on and off. I'm fluent with HTML and CSS, but I really like back-end development. I was hoping I might be able to get a job as a junior Web developer, but even those require 2+ years of experience and a list of technologies as long as my arm. Internships usually require students to be in their junior or senior year, so that doesn't seem to be an option for me. Recruiters are responding to my resume on various sites, but it's always for someone more experienced. Should I forget about trying to find a junior Web developer position after only one year of computer science classes?"
An anonymous reader writes "PBS has an article about the growth of jobs that really don't need to exist. It includes an interview with professor David Graebner, who's known for his 2013 article 'BS jobs.' The premise is simple: as technology has automated huge portions of work that used to fill the days for millions of workers, many jobs simply involve less work. How often have you sat at your desk browsing the internet instead of being productive? If your company is such that you can aggregate that lost time across a bunch of workers, you could probably reduce the headcount significantly if everybody just stayed on task all the time. But that's not even an expectation at a lot of companies. Graebner ballparks the number of effectively useless jobs at around 20%. (It's not that the individual workers are useless, just that there are, for example, 12 people doing the work of 10.) So, how about it: how much actual productivity goes into your 40-hour workweek? What about your co-workers? How many people could your company fire if everybody just paid attention all the time?"
An anonymous reader writes "Every month we submit status reports to upper management. On the infrastructure side, these reports tend to be 'Hey, we met our service level agreements ... again.' IT infrastructure is now a lot like the electric company. Nobody thanks the electric company when the lights come on, but they have plenty of colorful adjectives to describe them when the power is off.
What is the best way to construct a compelling story for upper management so they'll appreciate the hard work that an IT department does? They don't seem particularly impressed with functioning systems, because they expect functioning systems. The extensive effort to design and implement reliable systems has also made IT boring and dull. What types of summaries can you provide upper management to help them appreciate IT infrastructure and the money they spend on the services it provides?"
First time accepted submitter systemDead (3645325) writes "I looked mostly with disinterest at Debian's decision last February to switch to
systemd as the default init system for their future operating system releases. The Debian GNU/Linux distribution is, after all, famous for allowing users greater freedom to choose what system components they want to install. This appeared to be the case with the init system, given the presence of packages such as sysvinit-core, upstart, and even openrc as alternatives to systemd.
Unfortunately, while still theoretically possible, installing an alternative init system means doing without a number of useful, even essential system programs. By design, systemd appears to be a full-blown everything-including-the-kitchen-sink solution to the relatively simple problem of starting up a Unix-like system. Systemd, for example, is a hard-coded dependency for installing Network Manager, probably the most user-friendly way for a desktop Linux system to connect to a wireless or wired network. Just this week, I woke up to find out that systemd had become a dependency for running PolicyKit, the suite of programs responsible for user privileges and permissions in a typical Linux desktop.
I was able to replace Network Manager with connman, a lightweight program originally developed for mobile devices. But with systemd infecting even the PolicyKit framework, I find myself faced with a dilemma. Should I just let systemd take over my entire system, or should I retreat to my old terminal-based computing in the hope that the horde of the systemDead don't take over the Linux kernel itself?
What are your plans for working with or working around systemd? Are there any mainstream GNU/Linux distros that haven't adopted and have no plans of migrating to systemd? Or is migrating to one of the bigger BSD systems the better and more future-proof solution?"
An anonymous reader writes "I've been teaching myself to code recently. I've made good progress so far, and I've written a bunch of little scripts to make my life easier. Here's the problem: most project ideas I come up with now either seem pretty easy or pretty impossible. I'm having trouble thinking of a project that'll stretch my skills without overloading them. I've tried finding open source projects to read through, but I run into the same thing: either it's straight-forward, or it requires reading a half-dozen dependencies, each of which has dependencies of their own. Anyone have suggestions on some intermediate-skill projects to undertake? Or some project files in an online repo that go beyond the basics without getting overwhelming? My language of choice is Python, but other languages are welcome."
First time accepted submitter bdrasin (17319) writes "I've had a series of interviews with a late-term startup (approx. 300 employees) and I think there is a good chance they will make me an offer. The technology is great, my skills and interests are a good fit for the position, I think the company has a promising future, and I like they team. Frankly I'm damn excited about it, more so than for any job in my career. However, I'm worried about what could euphemistically be called 'cultural' issues. I'm a few years over 40, with a wife and kids, and all of the engineers at the company seem to be at least 10 years younger than I am. Being at the company's office gives me a distinct old guy at the club feeling. I don't think the overall number of hours the team works is more than I could handle, but the team does a lot of young-single-guy-at-a-startup group activities (rent-a-limo-and-go-clubbing night, weekends in Tahoe, Burning Man, in-office happy hour) that I wouldn't want or be able to participate in; I need to be home with my family for dinner most nights and weekends and so on. I'm wondering if anyone else has had the experience of working at a startup with, or as, an older programmer, and how it worked out?"
stkpogo (799773) writes "I have several old VHS tapes that I'd like to digitize but my old VHS machine died years ago. What's a good VHS player to get so I can make nice clean digital videos from my old tapes before they're gone? I have a few TV -> USB adapters." How would you go about this, especially with tapes (like old home movies) you might be worried about sticking into a low-end VCR? And with what number of tapes does it make sense to outsource the digitizing?
Capt.Michaels writes: "I need to start sending security alerts and warnings to employees at my somewhat sizable company. My problem: I'm not sure how to send these alerts without freaking everyone out and causing the help desk to get flooded with phone calls. For example, let's take the current Internet Explorer exploit that caused US-CERT to recommend switching browsers. I don't want everyone killing our limited help desk with ridiculous questions like, 'I downloaded $New_Browser, how can I get my toolbar? How do I bookmark things in this browser? Can you tell me which browser you recommend?' Simply put: some vulnerabilities are worth major changes, but many aren't. If we switched software every time a new vulnerability came out, we'd never get anything done. Sooner or later, a patch will come out, and everything will be back to normal. But how do I communicate to end users that they should be aware of an issue and take extra care until it's fixed, without causing panic?"
profBill (98315) writes "Way back in 2002, Slashdot ran a story asking what people thought about C++ and the STL. Well, it's 2014 and C++11 is well out there with C++14 on its way.
I teach a second programming course in C++ with a heavy emphasis on the STL (containers and generic algorithms). I just wondered what people think about the situation today. Personally, I think C++11 has cleaned up a lot of problems, making it easier to use, but given all those who work with C++ for a living, I wondered what they thought today compared to then. Are people using C++11? Does it matter at all? I'd love to share the responses with my students! They are always curious about what practitioners are doing these days."
An anonymous reader writes "After many years I now have a backup of all my digital data in (at least) two physical locations. But what do people recommend to back up my physical data? And then how to prove my identity? I call it the 'gas leak problem,' because a gas leak in my town caused an explosion that leveled a house. If it had been my house, it would have destroyed all my paperwork that proves who I am. If I'd come home from work and found my house was now a pile of rubble, how would I prove I lived there, knowing my key no longer fits the smoldering lock? If I'd left my wallet at home, my bank cards would have been destroyed so I couldn't withdraw money or book into a hotel. Or if I'd left my phone at the office, I wouldn't know anyone's number to call, or get anyone to vouch for me. What preventative steps can you take? Since having this nightmare, I've exported my phone's VCF file to an online repo, made online notes of all my bank account numbers and passport ID, I keep ICE numbers with me at all times (separate from phone/wallet), and I've hidden a spare mobile phone and house key in a box in a nearby field. But there must be more to do!"
MightyMartian (840721) writes "I've been working for an organization now for over seven years, my best run yet. A couple of years ago, the company went through some major changes and I bought in as an owner and as a managing director; my responsibilities encompassing administration, finance and IT. It's a small (20 employee or so, plus nearly that many with subcontracting companies) organization so needless to say I retained my direct IT responsibilities.
My fellow board members have decided that I need to detach myself from the day to day IT operations and take over more management duties; in particular in the finance and budgeting end of things. Right now I'm in the process of interviewing a new IT system administrator who will, over time, take on most of my IT roles. However, since this has been a one-man shop for seven years; namely my shop, I confess some reservations about handing over the keys and moving permanently up to the top floor.
Does anybody have any suggestions on the level of permissions for servers, networks and infrastructure I should start with? Do I, for the moment, retain some of the critical functionality; like superuser passwords, and slowly move the new system administrator into his or her role, or do I move more quickly, give him the basics and then let him fly on his own?"
peetm (781139) writes "Having visited with me and my wife recently, the girlfriend of an ex-student of mine (now taking an M.Sc. in pure CS) asked me to suggest useful books for her boyfriend: '... He recently mentioned that he would love to have a home library, like the one you have, with variety of good, useful and must-have books from different authors. ... Mostly, I was thinking your advice would be priceless when it comes to computer science related books, but .. I would appreciate any sort of advice on books from you. ...' Whilst I could scan my own library for ideas, I doubt that I'm really that 'current' with what's good, or whether my favorites would be appropriate: I've not taught on the M.Sc. course for a while, and in some cases, and just given their price, I shouldn't really recommend such books that are just pet loves of mine — especially to someone who doesn't know whether they'd even be useful.
And, before you ask: YES, we do have a reading list, but given that he'll receive this as part of this course requirement anyway, I'd like to tease readers to suggest good reads around the periphery of the subject." I'll throw out Pierce's Types and Programming Languages (and probably Advanced Topics in Types and Programming Languages ), and Okasaki's Purely Functional Data Structures .
An anonymous reader writes "Despite the high news coverage that large breaches receive, and despite tales told by their friends about losing their laptops for a few days while a malware infection is cleared up, employees generally believe they are immune to security risks. They think those types of things happen to other, less careful people. Training users how to properly create and store strong passwords, and putting measures in place that tell individuals the password they've created is 'weak' can help change behavior. But how do we embed this training in our culture?"
netdicted writes "At the very outset of my career the importance of keeping a daily journal of activities and notes was clearly evident. Over the years I've always had a college ruled composition notebook nearby to jot down important ideas, instructions, tasks, etc. Putting away the rock and chisel was not optional when the volumes grew beyond my mental capacity to successfully index the contents. Over the years I've tried countless apps to keep a digital journal and failed miserably.
In my mind the ideal app or solution is a single file or cloud app where I can organize personal notes on projects, configurations, insights, ideas, etc., as well as noting major activities or occurrences of the day. My original journals saved me on a number of occasions. Unfortunately my tenacity for keeping one has suffered from a fruitless search for a suitable solution. Currently I'm experimenting with Evernote and Tiddlywiki. They approach the problem from two different angles. What do you use?"
itwbennett writes: "When you think about tech products these days, you probably think 'refresh cycle' more than 'built to last.' But there are plenty of tech products that put up with hard, daily use year after year. Here's a few to get you started: Logitech MX510 mouse, Brother black & white laser printer, Casio G-Shock watch, Alvin Draf-Tec Retrac mechanical pencil, Sony Dream Machine alarm clock. What's your longest-lasting, hardest-working device?"
First time accepted submitter DeathByLlama (2813725) writes "Years ago I made the switch from DD-WRT to Tomato firmware for my Linksys router. I lost a couple features, but gained one of the best QoS and bandwidth management systems I have seen on a router to date. Admins can see graphs of current and historical bandwidth usage by IP, set minimum and maximum bandwidth limits by IP range, setup QoS rules, and see and filter graphs and lists of current connections by usage, class or source/destination — all from an elegantly designed GUI. This has allowed me to easily and intelligently allocate and adjust my network's bandwidth; when there is a problem, I can see where it's coming from and create rules around it. I'm currently using the Toastman's VPN Tomato firmware, which has about everything that I would want, except for one key thing: support for ARM-based routers (only Broadcom is supported). I have seen other firmware projects being actively developed in the last few years, so in picking a new 802.11ac router, I need to decide whether Tomato support is a deal-breaker. With solid bandwidth management as a priority, what firmware would you recommend? Stock Asuswrt? Asuswrt-Merlin? OpenWRT? DD-WRT? Tomato? _____?"
thundergeek (808819) writes "I am the sole sysadmin for nearly 50 servers (win/linux) across several contracts. Now a Change Advisory Board (CAB) is wanting to manage every patch that will be installed on the OS and approve/disapprove for testing on the development network. Once tested and verified, all changes will then need to be approved for production. Windows servers aren't always the best for informing admin exactly what is being 'patched' on the OS, and the frequency of updates will make my efficiency take a nose dive. Now I'll have to track each KB, RHSA, directives and any other 3rd party updates, submit a lengthy report outlining each patch being applied, and then sit back and wait for approval. What should I use/do to track what I will be installing? Is there already a product out there that will make my life a little less stressful on the admin side? Does anyone else have to go toe-to-toe with a CAB? How do you handle your patch approval process?"
guises writes: "A recent story discussing the cover of Byte Magazine reminded me of just how much we've lost with the death of print media. The Internet isn't what took down Byte, but a lot of other really excellent publications have fallen by the wayside as a result of the shift away from the printed page. We're not quite there yet, though. There seem to still be some holdouts, so I'm asking Slashdot: what magazines (or zines, or newsletters, or newspapers) are still hanging around that are worth subscribing to?"
April 15, 2014 isn't just a full moon: it's Tax Day in the U.S. That means most American adults have already submitted a tax return, or an extension request, to the IRS and -- except for a few lucky states -- to their state governments as well. I filed my (very simple) tax return online. After scanning the free options, since I live in a state -- Texas -- that does not collect personal income tax, I chose Tax Act's free services. That meant enduring a series of annoying upgrade plugs throughout the process, but I could live with that; I have no reason to think it was better or worse than TurboTax or any of the other e-Filing companies, but I liked Tax Act’s interface, and it seemed less skeevy in all those upgrade plugs than the others I glanced at. The actual process took an hour and 19 minutes once I sat down with the papers I needed. My financial life is pretty simple, though: I didn't buy or sell a house, didn't buy or sell stocks outside of a retirement account mutual fund, and didn't move from one state to another. How do you do your taxes? Do you have an argument for one or another of the online services, or any cautionary tales? Do you prefer to send in forms on paper? Do you hire an accountant? (And for readers outside the U.S., it's always interesting to hear how taxes work in other countries, too. Are there elements of the U.S. system you'd prefer, or that you're glad you don't need to deal with?)
An anonymous reader writes: "Young people, when choosing a profession, are often told to 'do what you love.' That's why we have experts in such abstruse fields as medieval gymel. But let's talk hypotheticals: if there's a worldwide catastrophe in which civilization is interrupted, somebody specializing in gymel wouldn't provide much use to fellow survivors. In a post-apocalypse world, medical doctors would be useful, as would most scientists and engineers. The bad news for Slashdotters is that decades without computers would render computer science and related professions useless. What do you consider to be the most useful and mostly useless post-apocalypse professions? How long would it take for society to rebuild enough for your profession to be useful?"
An anonymous reader writes "Recently my boss has asked me about the advantages of Linux as a desktop operating system and if it would be a good idea to install it instead of upgrading to Windows 7 or 8. About ten boxes here are still running Windows XP and would be too old to upgrade to any newer version of Windows. He knows that i am using Linux at work on quite outdated hardware (would have gotten a new PC but never requested new hardware — Linux Mint x64 runs quite well on it) and i always managed to get my stuff done with it. I explained to him that there are no licensing issues with Linux, there is no anti-virus software to deal with and that Linux is generally a bit more efficient on old hardware than operating systems from Microsoft. The boss seems interested." But that's not quite the end; read on for this reader's question.
DorianGre writes: "I'm working on a new independent project. It involves iPhones and Android phones talking to PHP (Symfony) or Ruby/Rails. Each incoming call will be a data element POST, and I would like to simply write that into the database for later use. I'll need to be able to pull by date or by a number of key fields, as well as do trend reporting over time on the totals of a few fields. I would like to start with a NoSQL solution for scaling, and ideally it would be dead simple if possible. I've been looking at MongoDB, Couchbase, Cassandra/Hadoop and others. What do you recommend? What problems have you run into with the ones you've tried?"
NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) writes "As Whoever57 pointed out, there are some who will still get support for Microsoft Windows XP — the 'haves'. However, most will be the 'have nots.' Anytime you have such market imbalance, there is opportunity. Since Microsoft clearly intends to create a disparity, there will certainly be those who defy it. What will Microsoft do to prevent bootleg patches of XP from being sold to the unwashed masses? How will they stop China from supporting 100 million bootleg XP users? And how easily will it be to crack Microsoft's controls? How big will the Windows XP patch market be?" There are a lot of businesses still on Windows XP; if you work for one of them, will the official end of life spur actually cause you to upgrade? (And if so, to what?)
An anonymous reader writes "I am a new Linux user; I'm on 2nd day now. Currently I am trying out Ubuntu, but that could change. I am looking for a user friendly firewall that I can set up that lets me do these things:1) set up a default deny rule 2) carve out exceptions for these programs: browser, email client, chat client, yum and/or apt. 3) carve out exceptions to the exceptions in requirement 2 — i.e. I want to be able to then block off IPs and IP ranges known to be used by malware, marketers, etc., and all protocols which aren't needed for requirement 2. It also needs to have good enough documentation that a beginner like me can figure it out. Previously, I had done all of the above in AVG Firewall on Windows, and it was very easy to do. So far, I have tried these things:1) IPTABLES — it looked really easy to screw it up and then not notice that it's screwed up and/or not be able to fix it even if I did notice, so I tried other things at that point... 2) searched the internet and found various free firewalls such as Firestarter, GUFW, etc., which I weren't able to make meet my requirements. Can someone either point me to a firewall that meets my needs or else give me some hints on how to make firestarter or GUFW do what I need?"
xyourfacekillerx writes "Not long ago, Slashdot readers answered a question for someone seeking to finish a BS in CS online. I am in a similar situation with a different question. I have spent five years frivolously studying philosophy at a very expensive university, and now I want to start towards an Associate's in CS, and then perhaps a Bachelor's (I want to program for a living; I write code daily anyways). After four hours of combing through Google results, I still don't have much useful information. Problem 1: I am out of money and I have an 8 to 5 job, so on-campus enrollment is not an option. Problem 2: and I have very little to transfer due to the specificity of my prior studies: I don't even have my core English/Language or even math cores to transfer. My questions are: 1) Just where are the open CS courses? Who offers it in a way that's more than just lecture notes posts online? 2) Can any of it help or hinder me getting a degree (i.e. does any of it transfer, potentially? Is it a waste of time? Additionally, any tips about accredited online universities (preferably self-paced) where I can start to get my associates and/or bachelor's in CS at low cost would be useful. I intend to be enrolled online somewhere by Fall, and I am starting my own search among local (Colorado) junior colleges who don't demand on-campus presence like most four-years schools do."
bellwould (11363) writes "Our CTO has asked us to move our entire dev/test platform off of shared, off-site, hardware onto Amazon, Savvis or the like. Because we don't know enough about this, we're nervous about the costs like CPU: Jenkins tasks checks-out 1M lines of source, then builds, tests and test-deploys 23 product modules 24/7; as well, several Glassfish and Tomcat instances run integration and UI tests 24/7. Disk: large databases instances packed with test and simulation data. Of course, it's all backed up too. So before we start an in-depth review of what's available, what experiences are dev shops having doing stuff like this in the cloud?"
Dishwasha (125561) writes "Just a few days ago I incidentally discovered a little known secret called free-to-air. Amazingly enough even in the depths of Slashdot, there appear to have been no postings or discussions about it. Just like over-the-air programming, there is free programming available via various satellite systems that only requires a one-time cost of getting a dish and receiver. Both Amazon and Ebay appear to have a plethora of hardware out there. I personally settled on the Geosatpro MicroHD system with a 90cm 26lbs light-weight dish (queue lots of comments about my describing 26 lbs as being light-weight) and I should be receiving that in just a few days. I'm curious, who else is using satellite FTA? What are your setups? Has anyone hacked on any of the DVR/PVR devices available? Besides greater access to international programming, what are your channel experiences?"
dotancohen (1015143) writes "It is commonly said that open source software is preferable because if you need something changed, you can change it yourself. Well, I am not an Xorg developer and I cannot maintain a separate Xorg fork. Xorg version 1.13.1 introduced a bug which breaks the "Sticky Keys" accessibility option. Thus, handicapped users who rely on the feature cannot use Xorg-based systems with the affected versions and are stuck on older software versions. Though all pre-bug Linux distros are soon scheduled for retirement, there seems to be no fix in sight. Should disabled users stick with outdated, vulnerable, and unsupported Linux distros or should we move to OS-X / Windows?
The prospect of changing my OS, applications, and practices due to such an ostensibly small issue is frightening. Note that we are not discussing 'I don't like change' but rather 'this unintentional change is incompatible with my physical disability.' Thus this is not a case of every change breaks someone's workflow."
An anonymous reader writes "As most of us working in IT may know, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP on April 8th, 2014. Although this fact has been known for quite some time, XP is still relatively popular in companies and also enjoys noticeable marketshare for home users. Even ATMs are running XP and will continue to do so for some time. A lot of companies/users don't want to change because they see no additional benefit to do a costly upgrade, no reason to change a running system, and they may in some cases be right with their assumptions. So what is the best way to secure this remaining Windows XP systems? Installing the latest security patches, checking firewall status and user permissions etc. should be fairly obvious, as Microsoft Security Essentials may also not receive updates anymore, changing antivirus programs seems a sensible thing to do."
lxrslh writes: "Since the dawn of computing, we have read about massive failed projects, bugs that are never fixed, security leaks, spaghetti code, and other flaws in the programs we use every day to operate the devices and systems upon which we depend. It would be interesting to read the code of a well-engineered, perfectly coded, intellectually challenging program. I would love to see the code running in handheld GPS units that first find a variable number of satellites and then calculate the latitude, longitude, and elevation of the unit. Do you have an example of a compact and elegant program for which the code is publicly available?"
First time accepted submitter AnOminusCowHerd (3399855) writes "I have an Associates degree in programming and systems analysis, and over a decade of experience in the field. I work primarily as a contractor, so I'm finding a new job/contract every year or two. And every year, it gets harder to convince potential employers/clients that 10-12 years of hands-on experience doing what they need done, trumps an additional 2 years of general IT education.
So, I'd like to get a Bachelor's degree (preferably IT-related, ideally CS, accredited of course). If I can actually learn something interesting and useful in the process, that would be a perk, but mainly, I just want a BSCS to add to my resume. I would gladly consider something like the new GA Tech MOOC-based MSCS degree program — in fact, I applied there, and was turned down. After the initial offering, they rewrote the admissions requirements to spell out the fact that only people with a completed 4-year degree would be considered, work experience notwithstanding."
First time accepted submitter mandark1967 (630856) writes "With recent advances in working with different filaments (Wood filament, Nylon, etc) and price drops seen lately, I'm curious to know how many of you have decided to take the plung and get into 3D Printing. There are several kits available now or even assembled units that are in the same cost range as a 'gamer' video card (DaVinci 1.0 for $499, Printrbot Simple 2014 — $399, 3d Stuffmaker — $499).
I'm wondering if any of you have purchased a 3D printer and how you like it so far. I've been in the computer field since the 80's but never did CAD work before so I was very hesitant to take the plunge, fearing the steep learning curve of mastering programs like Blender or AutoCAD. What I found, however, was programs like TinkerCAD and 123Design made it very easy to learn basic CAD so I decided to pick up a 3D Printer last week. After a week or so of design work and printing out many items, I think I've picked up a few skills and I can actually see myself making a little money on the side creating and selling items. I don't think I'd trade my current job for one designing and printing items, but it is nice to have a little income on the side if I choose to do that."
An anonymous reader writes "My eastern European tech-support job will be outsourced in 6 months to a nearby country. I do not wish to move, having relationship and roots here, and as such I stand at a crossroads. I could take my current hobby more seriously and focus on Java development. I have no degree, no professional experience in the field, and as such, I do not hold much market value for an employer. However, I find joy in the creative problem solving that programming provides. Seeing the cogs finally turn after hours invested gives me pleasures my mundane work could never do. The second option is Linux system administration with a specialization in VMware virtualisation. I have no certificates, but I have been around enterprise environments (with limited support of VMware) for 21 months now, so at the end of my contract with 27 months under my belt, I could convince a company to hire me based on willingness to learn and improve. All the literature is freely available, and I've been playing with VDIs in Debian already.
My situation is as follows: all living expenses except food, luxuries and entertainment is covered by the wage of my girlfriend. That would leave me in a situation where we would be financially alright, but not well off, if I were to earn significantly less than I do now. I am convinced that I would be able to make it in system administration, however, that is not my passion. I am at an age where children are not a concern, and risks seem to be, at first sight, easier to take. I would like to hear the opinion and experience of fellow readers who might have been in a similar situation."
An anonymous reader writes "Earlier in my career, when I switched jobs every year or so, I was pretty good at interviewing. I got offers about 75% of the time if I got to a in person. But times have changed... my last 2 jobs have been, longer term gigs.. 5 and 3 years respectively, and I am way out of practice. My resume often gets me the phone interview and I am actually really good at the phone screen.. I am 12 for 12 in the last 6 months phone screen to in person interview. It is the in person interview where I am really having issues. I think I come off wrong or something.. I usually get most of the technical questions, but I am not doing something right because I don't come off very likeable or something. It is hard to get very much feedback to know exactly what I am doing wrong. I have always gotten very good performance reviews and I am well liked at work, but if there is one area for improvement on my reviews it has always been communication. So I ask, can anyone give out some advice, I have tried toastmasters a few times, but does anyone have other tips or ideas? Has anyone else had a similar experiences?"