Training hackers in schools

I found this piece advocating teaching kids to be hackers. That’s hackers in a probing, discovering sense, rather than the trouble-causing, nefarious sense.

I found myself agreeing and disagreeing with this article at the same time. Not every hacker is a bad guy. And hacking is a mindset. But not everyone has the right mindset. Read more

Getting past your own biases

I read Andy Grove’s Only the Paranoid Survive last week. I always figured it was an autobiography or memoir, not a business book. But it’s a business book.  A very good one.

I avoided it because I didn’t like Andy Grove. I’ve never been a fan of Intel’s business practices during the 1990s and 2000s, including using payola to keep competitors’ chips out of large computer systems, but after reading this book, I’m more disappointed than anything. Whichever company had Andy Grove wins, period. No need to cheat. Read more

Deconstructing the healthcare.gov website fiasco

By reader request, I’m going to grab onto the third rail and talk about the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare/healthcare.gov website fiasco.

As someone who has been involved in a large number of IT projects, inside and outside the government, successful and failed, I can speak to that. I know the burning question in everyone’s mind is how can three guys banging away at a keyboard for three days build a better web site than the United States Government?

The snarky answer is that the best projects I’ve ever worked on have been when someone asked for something, then one or two other guys sat down with me and we banged away at a keyboard for a little while and didn’t tell anyone what we were doing until we were done.

But it’s probably more complicated than that. Read more

How to maximize a Computer Science degree

Yesterday an interesting question popped up on Slashdot, asking for an alternative to a computer science degree for an aspiring web developer. He complained that what he’s learning in class doesn’t relate to what he wants to do in the field.

Assuming that by “web developer” he means someone who can code stuff in ASP and/or PHP with a database backend and do stuff in Javascript–as opposed to a designer who just does HTML and CSS–I think he’s best off staying where he is and asking better questions.
Read more

The lines between white hat/gray hat/black hat hacking and moral laws

Longtime reader/commenter Joseph asked two questions yesterday: What’s the boundary between gray and black-hat hacking, and is it moral to pick and choose between moral and immoral laws?

The first question is easier than the second. So I’ll tackle that one first. Read more

University computer science programs need to teach security, not demonize it

I saw this on Slashdot today: A computer science student was expelled from a Canadian university for practicing what most people would call white-hat hacking.

Their reasoning: “Schools are supposed to teach best practice, which includes ethics and adherence to reasonable laws.” But there is such thing as ethical hacking. Read more

Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson needed to explain himself

I understand Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson’s predicament. I don’t agree with how he handled it.

You see, both Scott Thompson and I work in the technical industry, and neither of us have a degree in computer science, computer engineering, some other kind of engineering, high mathematics, or another socially accepted relevant-to-the-industry field. Read more

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