Why I set work aside for a while before calling it done

A former supervisor called me the other day. He’s having quality control issues at his new gig, and quality control was one of the things I did when I was working for him. He wanted my insight. And he was very direct with one question he asked me.

“You would always set work aside and then come back to it,” he said. “Why?”

He knew my tactic worked, but wanted to know why it worked. 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

Rob O’Hara on phreaking, Tesla coils and modems

Rob O’Hara posted a podcast about phreaking today. He explains in layperson’s terms how the phone system was controlled by tones, cites it as an example of security through obscurity, and he talks about his own first-person experience subverting the phone system. He was far from the only one who did that.

Read more

How to use price guides

Pricing collectibles is more art than science, and most guides have some errors in them, so large (or at least very vocal) numbers of people mistrust them.

I still use them, however. Knowing how they’re produced–or would be produced, in a perfect world with perfect data–helps someone to use them to maximum effect. The principles are the same for any guide, whether you’re talking trains or video games or baseball cards or any other collectible. 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.
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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.” Read more

A reasonable analysis of the current copyright mess (updated)

Well, that was a disappointment. It was retracted nearly as quickly as it burst onto the scenes. Crud.

A reasoned, level-headed analysis of the problems that current copyright law creates rocked Slashdot yesterday. The amazing thing is, this thing came from Washington.

Here’s the highlight reel: Read more

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