Monday, April 29, 2013

Software lets employers play "Big Brother" with associates (on work habits) and teachers (on study habits)

Check this story on CNN by Bob Greene, “Is Big Brother Coming to Your Job?” .  Yes.  Read the story here.

The article talks about the way teachers and professors can monitor students’ study habits with CourseSmart e-books (link).   I had covered this on my Issues blog April 9. 
But it’s pretty obvious that this applies to the workplace – first of all, in training courses.  It's difficult to learn a new language (say PowerBuilder or even java) from scratch and solve problems from the Help screens -- without doing a whole project first.  Training is going to get more difficult any way, given the piecemeal nature of most work assignments.  Really great coders start as teens, when they get interested in something on their own (as did Zuckerberg, Fanning, Hughes, Hotz, D'Aloisio). Coders are almost like musicians and composers -- sometimes both.  
More relevant, it’s possible to track how efficient programmers are in getting done. 
In fact, back in the 1960s and early 1970s, when people worked from decks of cards, some employers (especially overseas) tracked how many submissions a programmer took to get an assignment compiled and working.  “Desk checking” as labor-intensive and mandatory, (I heard stories about this from a boss who had started his career at a bank in Pakistan.)
In 1972, I worked for Univac as a site representative, and for a while I was assigned to Public Service Electric and Gas in downtown Newark  NJ (offices right next to Penn Station then).  I wrote, in Univac assembler, a program called “BigBR” (“Big Brother”) that analyzed the system logs for utilization of all utilities by individual programmers.   One time, while I was across the river in NYC, I thought we had lost all the logs, but it turned out we hadn’t.  

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Gild" can help customers find programmers to hire based on all their web activity

There is a company now that helps employers with specific needs search the talent pool by analyzing what people do on the Web, particularly people who code apps and games.  It can aggregate what someone has done and even looked at factors like whether the person’s code gets reused by others.
The company is “Gild”, link here
The detailed front page New York Times story today is “How big data is playing recruiter for specialized workers,” link here
The search could be useful for customers who need to put together very specific sets of skills, as to produce a particular film.  It would be interesting to know how technically savvy music composers are in coding, particularly in Mac versions of music software. 
To wind up in Gild’s “radar” it certain sounds as though you need to be curious and like to tinker.  (A good example that comes to mind might be the iPhone unlock, on my “network neutrality” blog, Aug. 26, 2007).  

I guess this story puts a positive spin on "online reputation".  

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Obamacare drives need for business analysts

Despite my making my resume on Dice inactive, I still get a lot of emails for “Business Analysts” these days, most of them in health care, probably because of the legal changes with Obamacare in 2014.

Some them are ambivalent about specific requirements, but want some experience with statistical packages like SAS.
But they all seem to require fluency with scripting languages like Perl and OOP’s live C++ and java.
But it takes a lot of coding experience to become really fluent in these.  I found myself that you had to develop and implement a project yourself, doing and debugging the coding and supporting it afterward, to be any good at it. 
And it was harder to get this kind of experience than it was in the mainframe world 30 years ago, because the pace was faster – and more youthful.  

The old 80s progression from coding to systems analysis and architecture does seem to be coming back.

A lot of techies got some of these skills setting up their own servers in the 90s (even on 486 or 486 machines) before hosting was so widely available. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Windows 8: How to power off the "machine"

So, if you've got Windows 8, how do you turn off your machine, completely?  Let’s assume you use it for business, as a regular desktop or laptop.  (Maybe insurance agents could get away with just the tablet.)
Here’s one way to configure the power button to shut off the machine, when it is plugged in (instead of sleep). The  piece by Jim Martin is (website url) here.

It involves setting the Power Options on the Control Panel.
Microsoft tells you how to do this with the Charm Bar here.
Why didn’t Microsoft just put down the same Shutdown link it had on earlier releases?  It seems silly, but it seemed to want to design the Start screen as if it were tablets only. 

Today, on one occasion, it took a long time for the light under the power button to shut off (method 1, above).  The button was inactive until it shut off.  Them when I started it again, it took longer than usual to come up (it's usually very fast -- this is a new Toshiba Satellite).  I couldn't see any auto updates from Microsoft today in history.  So I don't know what happened.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Whistleblowing, credit report errors undermine job security in some federal agencies

Politico has an important article about the security of federal jobs in agencies where highly classified or sensitive information is present on site, but where job responsibilities don’t require access.  Some employees in these agencies have lost normal civil service process anyway, and are easily subject to retaliation for whistleblowing, according to an article by Josh Gernstei, called “’Obama v. Obama on Rights of Whsitleblowers: Punishment and protection at odds”, link (website url) here
Employees in such agencies is less sensitive positions still get removed or demoted if they have bad credit, which can have a disparate racial effect or might result from identity theft.  

Monday, April 08, 2013

Toyota billboard: we should try harder to make things at home in the USA

I passed a billboard ad in the Metro for the Toyota Avalon, with a US “map study” showing six manufacturing plants in the United States:  TN, KY, MO. MI. AZ, and two in CA. 
I thought, at least that’s the heart of the silliness in our economy and job market.  We need to make more things back here, do more for ourselves, create real wealth.  It doesn’t do much good if we just serve each other fast food, or sell each other packaged deals for stuff, or live off commissions. 
I came out of my eldercare situation in relatively good shape, without strings attached in the will or trust as far as I can tell.  But it’s easy to imagine things that could have happened.  Suppose there had been terms that I stay employed and struggle “like everybody else”.  What’s left, hucksterism?  I don’t mean to slap the insurance (health and life) industries and tax preparation and financial planning businesses that get touted to seniors.  But so much of it deals with soft skills and social connections, much of it that would be strengthened by having children.  And we constantly see examples of how we have turned into a nation of people trying to invent (and sell) schemes to beat the system.  My email is flooded with it every day, and not all of it winds up in the spam, folder.  Robo calls continue.
I can think back to the way the old fashioned mainframe job market imploded, turning largely into W2 contract gigs and living n corporate apartments.  Not good for family values.   Later we’ll talk again about why it was hard for older professionals to learn “new ways” of doing things.  

There's one little political issue here to watch:  should immigration and naturalization be easier for individuals who really employ people in the United States?

Later today:

This Allstate board on the Metro shows what happens when you're an insurance agent.  You dedicate your whole image, literally, to the purpose of "selling" somebody else's product.  That corruption of identity isn't for me.  But when you have a family to support, you have no choice. 

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Some people need laptop capabilities on iPads or Windows 8 tablets

I’ve had to build myself a reference list of links on how to use Windows 8 on a laptop or desktop rather than as a tablet, as in this ComputerWorld entry by Sharon Machlis, link
I’ve tried to go into my blogs on Blogger on the iPad, but without success.  But I haven’t tried any of the apps that are supposed to make it possible.  There is an article by Darnell Clayton, “How to Blog from an iPad if you must, on BloggingPro, here.  He recommends an app called BlogPress for $2.99, which is said to work with both Blogger and WordPress.
Uzair Ghani discusses a new app from WordPress for the iPad on Redmond Pie here, although earlier there had been controversy as to whether Wordpress would even develop one.
Another Mac forum says that the “HTML tab” will enable Blogger, link (website url) here. 
I haven’t tried these things yet.  I have always traveled with a small Windows 7 laptop as well as an iPad for a hotspot.  But I have to make travel easier and quicker.      

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Pre-employment background checks become even more common

Today AOL offered a career builder article on pre-employment background checks, which are becoming more common for many jobs,by Beth Braccio Hering,  link here

One of the interesting points is that applicants might be expected to have saved pay stubs from previous jobs to verify employment in salary.  I haven’t heard that one before.

Review of driving record is becoming more common.  And credit checks can be foiled by undetected identity theft, which is sometimes difficult to fix.
I didn’t notice any mention of a “social media” background check, to see if the person uses good judgment online or if his or her postings could disturb or drive away clients, or predict future disloyal behavior – but that would make sense. A large percentage of employers check social media under the table.

At the end of 1989, I had to do a drug screening to get a programming job (having just walked through a building downtown with secondhand grass smoke) but the company soon dropped the requirement.

Update: April 3

The New York Times reports that major retailers use their own database to keep former employers accused of theft "blacklisted", even if no criminal charges resulted.  The story by Stefanie Clifford and Jessie Silver-Greenberg is here. It's easy to imagine this with computer hacking.