Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hotel offers choice of Mac or PC OS on one computer terminal


Something interesting, maybe wicked, came this way to me in the boutique Hotel Angeleno in Los Angeles on the 405.

I went to the business center to print my return airline boarding passes, and I found computers with Apple keyboards but a choice of PC or Apple when logging on.

I’ve never seen this before. For example, at Kinkos you go to a different terminal for Mac vs. PC.

I clicked PC, somewhat thoughtlessly, got into Internet Explorer, and then had a lot of trouble getting the tickets to print, with javascript errors, until finally the whole Delta thing worked.  But all of the shortcuts, of course, would fail from a Mac keyboard. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

ABC reports best job market for recent grads since 2008 collapse


ABC News is reporting that the job market for new college graduates is now the best since the 2008 financial crisis and recession, in a story here by Alan Farnham, link here

Still, graduates, often debt-saddled, have to network heavily, and use social media effectively to advance their careers rather than their own personal expression, which seems like an ironic outcome from the Facebook experience (especially the week that Facebook goes public).

Don’t assume grades will get you a job, or even that an internship will, the article says.  And internships have recently come under criticism as an exploitation of free labor in a weak job market (disguised as a “pay your dues” step). 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Does the "Oracle v. Google" battle of API's test the distinction between "free software" and "open source"?


There is an interesting legal battle going on between Google and Oracle, over Google’s use of a few lines of code “calling” some Oracle java api’s.  A judge instructed the jury to assume that the sequence of method calls could itself be subject to copyright, and said that he would decide on his own whether the java code inside the calls could be copyrighted. 

The whole idea is frightening to a community of programmers that offer and depend on  “free software”, as explained in this link at the Free Software Foundation website, link. FSF provides a link to Groklaw for more legal details.

An important point is the distinction between “free software” and “open source” software, the later concept being a little more restrictive.  The GNU/Linux operating system site has a white paper (“Why open source missed the point of free software”) explaining the differences, which are subtle, here

From a practical viewpoint, it would sound as if the dispute could have a major impact on future innovation by individual developers who work outside conventional employment channels.

The case also perhaps illustrates the danger for corporate programmers, of leaving in redundant or possibly unnecessary code, to find that there are potential legal consequences later.  I recall this issue in the mainframe era with just leaving in monitoring "Display" statements. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Houston reporter fired for past outside employment in "adult" entertainment and not disclosing it


The Huffington Post has a story about a reporter, Sarah Tressler, who was fired from the Houston Chronicle for not disclosing she had worked as an “adult entertainer”, when the newspaper did not even ask the question. She had worked infrequently in this manner, but only as an independent contractor, afterwards.

The story by Juan A. Lozano is here

Back in the mid 1990s, a female reporter for a newspaper in Tacoma, WA had been reassigned to copyediting for advocating gay activism publicly.  A Washington state supreme court upheld the right of the paper to do so because professional journalists must maintain a public face of absolute objectivity.

If you think about it, that’s the opposite of many careers these days, so based on hucksterism.

Tressler has filed a complaint with the EEOC, claiming gender bias/ 



Wednesday, May 09, 2012

TSA rules for electronics and laptops: where does the iPad fit in? Is it a new extra item?


These days, with people needing to stay connected, TSA checkpoint policies at airports can become a major concern.

The basic rule is “1+1” – one carryon, and one other item, which can be a laptop.  The dimensions of the second item cannot add up to more than 36 inches (American Airlines).  TSA says that laptops in approved bags need not be remove (link). It appears as if the maximum size, if a second item, is governed by the 36-inch max for the case.  Netbooks have been popular but not so much recently because of being slower and maybe not as reliable for extended use. Apple's netbook is an Airbook as is much more expensive. 

The TSA writes that netbooks or laptops up to “standard size” in an approved bag do not need to  removed for screening and can count as the “+1” item.

What about bringing an iPad and a netbook (or airbook)?  This would sound necessary because the new iPad still doesn’t do everything well; for significant updating of websites or blogs you probably need your netbook (not for Facebook and twitter only). 

I would seem that the iPad would need to be placed carefully inside the carryon luggage, which should be flexible and sturdy and meet carrier size standards.  It would appear that it should not be carried separately because that would be “2” extra items.  I’ll check further on this.   Keep in mind that other small electronics items, like the cell-phone USB charger and cord, need to be carried, in the same bag (as well as the iPad charger).  I plan to use the new iPad as a hot spot (it’s much more powerful than the MiFi card).  The TSA should be familiar with these traveling arrangements.

I have carried a small camera and Verizon hotspot card and cell phone in a suit jacket and simply put them on the tray, along with shoes and belt, without problems.  But you have to be very careful.  Some airports have mechanically easier security than others.   Think carefully how you dress in the morning and keep it simple.

TSA has this blog reference for packing, here. The TSA also recommends that travelers tape a business card or identification to their laptop computer (or approved laptop bag) and carry on before going through the security checkpoint. 

It has a practical entry on netbooks and readers that doesn’t exactly spell out what is “#2”, here.

Livescience has a reference here.

USA Today also has a reference here.

Update: May 11:  On my network neutrality blog, I have a story mentioning a case where a passenger was not allowed to bring a viola onto carry-on luggage. 


Sunday, May 06, 2012

NYTimes covers internship abuse by employers (especially in Hollywood)


Steven Greenhouse has a front page story in the New York Times this morning, “Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships,” link here. I had reviewed Ross Perlin’s book on the issue June 8, 2011 on the Books blog.

Employers are not allowed to use unpaid help for jobs of immediate business importance, and the work must fit into some kind of educational objective, since colleges sometimes give credits for internships. Nevertheless, in a weak market with the practical difficulties of enforcement from the EEOC, abuses are rampant.

Eric Glatt has sued Fox Searchlight Pictures over the work he did for “Black Swan” (Movie blog Dec. 3, 2010).

The article also tells the story of Joyce Lee, who did six unpaid internships in Hollywood, including one for Scott Rudin.

I have recently began to think about what it would mean if I hire help even for a relatively primitive documentary.  I will certainly follow accepted means of compensation (which are somewhat mediated by unions and guilds like SAG, so I’m surprised to see Hollywood getting away with these internships).
In information technology, it used to be common for companies to hire “rookie programmers” from “programming schools” in the mainframe area to do repetitive tasks, such as “librarian” entry work.  I’ve even seen resumes with cover letters from people willing to work as “volunteers” for a while in mainframe IT.

Here’s a British video on whether internships are fair. Does unpaid work benefit young people? Here’s someone interning for paid work as a journalist!


Back around 1989 or so, a headhunter once told me about mainframe sweatshops, "You're paying them to work there!"

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Remember the good old days in the mainframe job market?


Remember how the mainframe market was in the 70s and 80s?  I started my “commercial” programming career with the Univac 1108/1110, so in the mid 1970s, the first step was to “get IBM”, particularly because I wanted the convenience of New York City.  That led me to switch from NBC to Bradford and New York State MMIS.  (Actually, during my Univac years I had “switched” from FORTRAN to COBOL).   

After a move to Dallas (with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield consortium), I got exposure to database and teleprocessing monitors, IMS and CICS, but only at the design level.  I needed code in these areas.  I got that at Chilton (now Experian), but that was with ADR’s Datacomm DB and DC, which failed to stay competitive with IBM (just as Univac and Burroughs had failed in the whole mainframe box area).  Got it?  I also got experience in “low level” code with mainframe Assembler. 

At Lewin-ICF, for 18 months, back in DC, I got some SAS experience, and found they actually used Fortran and even VM (this was 1989).  When I went to USLICO, which became ReliaStar and ING, I thought they had everything.  There was IDMS, CICS, MSA-IE, Vantage, and in Minneapolis, we added DB2.  And there was the usual big effort for Y2K.

Why didn’t I remain marketable after the big 2001 layoff and forced retirement?  Because, after Y2K, the market really became short-term-focused and demanded expertise in very narrow areas.  The market would look for people who could go from one TDY assignment to another to keep an old IMS shop running.  Or it looked for people with at least five years in MMIS.  Or five years of Vantage (where you really need to know the system, because “it rules the world”).   All the sudden, the market rewarded short term specialization, even if dead-ended.  

Picture: Is "WMWare" what I think it is?