Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Amazon wants its employees to convert to the gig economy and start their own businesses with A-trademark; "skin in the game"?

Amazon has most recently attracted attention by announcing that it will pay existing employees a $10000 stipend (and the best three months of salary) and offer various support to start their own delivery businesses. CNBC has a typical story. 

Amazon reasons that this networked arrangement would shorten delivery times for prime customers.
The idea appears to be open only to existing employees.
The plan certainly follows the idea of the gig economy, following onto Uber and Lyft, for example.

A good question would be whether the franchisee’s could have a health care program set up for them to offer employees.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb had warned readers in his “Skin in the Game” book, “You must start a business.”  But does that mean hanging the sign of somebody else’s brand, their trademark?  Do you lose your own identity?

Monday, May 13, 2019

Working in a phone bank, probably this one is illegal; very regimented

Here’s a link inside a spam call center, by Jim Browning.

This looks more like a tech support scam than a robocall center to sell health insurance or warranties.
But imagine what it would be like to work there.  It’s probably in India.

This is what goes on in countries without good job markets. A “phone bank” used to be the only job some people could get.  But they aren’t “bad people”.  I’ve heard that said exactly.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Can your laptop ever be accidentally wiped out by nearby magnets?

Yesterday, while at the Parkway theater in Baltimore, while in a lounge, I put my laptop down on a table at it held the computer like a magnet.

I immediately pulled it away, put it on a hassock, and it worked oK.

I’m told that you don’t have to worry about modern laptops and ordinary household magnets.  I guess you don’t have to worry about being near power lines either.  Also smart phones, tablets, cameras, etc. should be OK.

But I definitely remember that you could not get away with putting old floppy disks next to kitchen magnets.

The TSA tells you not to bring unprocessed film through checkpoints.
It you are in a building, could a neighbor with a flux device wipe out your electronics?  Has this ever even happened?  That’s the idea behind E1 EMP  (a Popular Mechanics article in Sept 2001, just before 9/11). 

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Does under-employment drive the skills gap? Do low wages?

Matthew Yglesias has an interesting piece on Vox about how the skills gap is a result of unemployment or under-employment, not its cause.

During the later years of my IT career (through the end of 2001) it became harder to keep up with the “new stuff” because it was so different in work style from the IBM mainframe world, which everybody needed to have to get a job in the late 1970s.

And IBM was different from Univac (Exec 8), Vax, Unix, Linux, etc, which in the 2000’s began to retake the job market back.

Friday, April 19, 2019

"Not Everyone Should Code": the Dunning-Kruger Effect

OK, “Not Everyone Should Code”, at least according to PolyMatter, which offers a new online class called Skillshare.  It strikes me that Skillshare could help with some projects I have (music - Sibelius -- and video -- Final Cut).  

The average programmer salary is now said to be about $79800 in the US.  When I left ING at the end of 2001, I made $73000.

Tech companies push the idea and politicians in countries with the tech companies (the US) push it because it gives them cultural power.
The video talks about the public perception of a Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Will former Trump administration officials really be blackballed? Dangerous idea

SJW’s are pressuring Fortune 500 companies to blackball former Trump administration officials in hiring, especially over the family separation at the border issue, Phil Bedard story in the Washington Examiner here. 

This sounds a lot like some conservative commentators being cut off by payment processors.
Maybe it sounds like the beginnings of a social credit score system in the US.
Should people be blackballed for having worked for an employer whom we now decide is anti-social?  What about a tobacco company?

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

More techies tell newbies "do not 'learn to code'"; maybe, learn to sell?

There are quite a few videos out there about (don’t) “learn to code”.

This monologue from Silicon Valley is pretty typical. He warns that artificial intelligence may eliminate the jobs.

I can remember being called a “coder”.  I was the grunt who did the work, and fixed the abends in the night cycle (at my own expense, undermining other people’s jobs). Remaining an individual contributor made your personal life freer, however, as to other "choices". 
So I’m glad I’m “retired”, developing the content of websites trying to help people “connect the dots” among policy issues.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Yuppie career guy in NYC explains how he gave it all up and joined the proletariat

“Exploring Alternatives” presents the story of a man of about 40 who gave up a lucrative job and lifestyle in New York City to become a prole.

He became a grocery store (and natural foods store) clerk in a smaller city in upstate New York and downsized to a smaller apartment with no clutter.
I didn’t make the transition in the 2000s after the big layoff at the end of 2001 as well as he did.

I note his minimalist lifestyle in the apartment.  By having fewer possessions, it takes him very little labor and time to keep it clean (unlike my situation after downsizing not so completely from an inherited house).

He could have considered an intentional community, like Twin Oaks in VA if he wanted to make hammocks or tofu. (See Issues blog, April 7, 2012). 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Should getting a job be about "who you know"? It nearly always is

Should individual contributors in technical fields be “groomed for management” or direct sales?
We’re back to the question, “Can techies sell?” that was circulated around 2002.
People Development weighs in on this on Twitter here. 

The “Job Sauce” has a good article on whether knowing someone in a company or org is important to getting a job.  The answer is, often.  After my one early layoff in 1971, I quickly got a job in the government because I knew a chess player there (someone whom I usually beat).

There has been a debate on this question on Twitter, should you help someone you “know” get a job in your company? 

This might really work right now in the small indie journalism YouTube channel market, where there are vloggers who contract out work.  

Friday, March 22, 2019

"False positives" in Internet security scans reminds me of an old "professionalism" issue in mainframe COBOL programming

I gave this link on my “Internet Safety” blog on June 25, 2018 but I thought I would mention again here with respect to a problem that SiteLock sometimes finds in monthly “application scans” of wordpress sites. That is the “1=1” tautology problem.

The English composition (or technical writing – that’s a job description itself) in the piece is a little hard to follow (with typos) but it seems to imply that the application element is there for self-debugging, rather like a DISPLAY statement in a batch COBOL program in the old mainframe world.

The practice of allowing DISPLAY statements was viewed as unprofessional and reviewing that the programmer doesn’t have 100% confidence in what she is moving to production. With in-house written applications, which many shops had developed and maintained well into the 90s (and had to put through Y2K) you could get away with it.  And “in-house” often meant a consulting company that was running a data center for an entire government agency (like New York State MMIS in my own background -- the lower Manhattan HQ for Bradford's processing center in the late 1970s is shown above).

Starting in the late 80s, it became more common for large shops to use purchased application systems.  Vantage for the life insurance and annuity industry is one of the largest and best known. (I barely missed out on getting Vantage experience, and that is a narrative of its own – if I had, the last twenty years might have been very different than they were  -- “Vantage rules the world”).

When you work as an application programmer for a system that will in turn be sold or licensed to other companies to use for their own large-scale application (banking, insurance, securities, etc) you have to follow very strict coding standards, for consistency and professionalism.  You can’t allow “false positives”.

In the culture of Internet security, though, “false positives” are taken as inevitable and necessary.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Ted talk explains quantum computing and maybe even Superman's teleportation

Shoni Ghose gives a Ted Talk on Feb. 1, 2019 explaining Quantum Computing in 10 minutes.

Then she explains how superposition enables the quantum computer to win a coin-toss game at Las Vegas 97% of the time.  Explain it as card-counting on steroids.

The three biggest uses are quantum encryption (“unbreakable”), health care (Alzheimers treatments) and teleportation. At 8:40 in the ten minute video she literally explains the young Clark Kent’s speed on “Smallville”.

This seems to contradict another video from Harvard about faster than light information flow, see my TV blog today.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The WWW has turned 30, and I hadn't realized its existence until 1993

The World Wide Web turns 30 on March 12, and Timothy Berners-Lee reflects on how to fix it in an article in Fortune by Kevin Kelleher.

The misuse by governments and by shallow individuals looking for clickbait has become regrettable.

I first heard of the World Wide Web in early 1993, on an evening news show, sitting in an apartment, with an IBM PS-3 on my desk. I didn’t get email until Aug. 1994, when content came from AOL and Prodigy.

It wasn’t practical for most users to have their own web sites until 1996, after Section 230 passed.

But a few techies had started using it for chat as early as 1989.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

A day in the life of a software engineer in Sweden

Kalle Halden, in Stockholm Sweden, shows a day in the life of a software engineer.

From 5-8 AM (11 PM on the US East Coast) he works on web development.  He makes his breakfast with a neat heater. From 9-12 he does team training.  All the work is at home.  He works out in the gym in the afternoon.

One scene showed the cars driving the wrong way, as if it were shot in the UK.

I wondered, when he did web development, if he was thinking about Article 11 and Article 13, which could severely affect how European content is put on the web.

Wikipedia picture of mountain observatory and bizarre discovery, ESO, CCSA 4.0

Monday, February 25, 2019

The importance of a well-organized desk -- and maybe a clean desk policy

OK, here is some workplace advice from pro “Business Insider”, on what to keep at your desk and what not to.

Cell phones make both lists!  

I’m a little surprised that everyone needs a wireless printer on their own desk.

But it’s true, I used to get criticized for desktop clutter during my career.  But back in the 90s, you kept a lot of paper records of test runs as CYA before production elevations.

Imagine working in a place where your desk is visible from outdoors on the street – like at a bank.

 Notice the clean desks in banks.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Wordpress offers 5.1 today, and some users get warned on their PHP versions -- and then it gets complicated

Today, Wordpress released version 5.1, which is supposed to make improvements to the Gutenberg editor and have security improvements.

I updated the oldest of my four Wordpress blogs – it was a little slow because of the volume of people doing this from Automattic servers – and got a red warning that my PHP version was out of date and not secured.  That led to a document saying that the best version was 7.3.

The help panels led me to a Bluehost document that said that the most recent was 7.0 (special accounts have 7.2) PHP, and that the account could be updated to this from that document. But  my own cpanel said that I had 7.0.33.  I called Bluehost support and was told that this was the latest supported.

But the support person looked further and found that the actual websites were still on PHP 5 .  I guess I could have found this myself in the SQL tables somewhere (from phpMyAdmin).  Apparently if you have more than one domain you have to do this for each domain through SQL.  The support person did the updates.

One of the accounts got a “1=1” warning from SiteLock on a recent applications scan of the javascript includes.  I believe these changes will fix that, should have it done soon.  We’ll talk soon about how SiteLock scans work on another post.

Update: Feb. 23

According to Wikipedia 5.6 was supported until Dec. 31, 2018.  7.0 was deprectaed on Dec 3 and is supposed to be replaced by 7.3.   (now 7.3.2).  I believe that the person put 7.3 on my system yesterday but I will have to check the tables somehow.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Do some sites refuse access from hyperlinks from some other sites (even Blogger)?

I recently encountered a message “Access denied: You don’t have permission to access” (URL) on this server” when linking to the URL (on Fox) from my blog (Feb. 16, “Bill on Major Issue”, post about national emergency declarations).  I was able to access it when keying it in manually. I got the error first on Firefox but then got it on Edge.

The discussion I found was convoluted, here. Mozilla offers this discussion.
But I was still left wondering if Fox doesn’t want to be linked to from Blogger.  I haven’t seen this before (although you can exclude IP’s with HTAAcess settings).  The issue may resembled workplace web blocking.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Windows 10 will replace Edge with something Chrome-like

Microsoft will decouple Edge from later versions of Windows10, and use a new “rendering engine” based on Google’s chromium project.

The newer browser will be downloadable separately.

This default browser won’t rely on Microsoft’s own rendering engine.

This announcement is ironic for me, since my Chrome “broke” yesterday, as I explained in the previous post.

Here is a typical announcement. It's not clear how long this will take.

Monday, February 11, 2019

In Windows 10 Creators Update, Google Chrome suddenly won't open, uninstall and reinstall doesn't work

I’ve noticed that on my HP Envy desktop computer, from 2014, originally Windows 8.1 and converted to 10 in 2016 and now with Creators Update, is a little less steady than a newer 2016 ASUS laptop.

Recently Chrome was getting slow to open.  Today, after being on the AAA Potomac site to check my membership, it simply wouldn’t open the browser.  Maybe installing the NewsGuard extension hosed it, but it was working for a while.

Through the Apps in settings I couldn’t even uninstall, as it kept telling me to close the windows. I was able to uninstall through the Control Panel, but then when I re-downloaded I couldn’t get the installer to run properly.

Here’s the best reference I can find so far.

The video above is older.  I wonder it ThioJoe knows how to fix this now with Creators Update.

Update: Feb, 13
:On my ASUS laptop, Chrome suddenly failed but started working with Microsoft's monthly update.  I've removed it from my desktop and couldn't get it to reinstall but maybe it will work now (when I get home) with the new update.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Respect-Ability advocates for people with disabilities having equal employment opportunities

Someone shared a link this morning from the organization “Respectability” that deals with opportunities, especially equal employment, for people with disabilities.
The master link (fundraising) is here

Alex Daniels has a longer article “AS voice for the forgotten minority”. It is true that federal law protects a group as such.  I’ve always thought about people just as individuals.

In one company, there were two go-to people, on whom everyone depended for technical coding problems they couldn't solve on their own.  One of them was legally blind and had a larger monitor, was a gifted coder and ran his own web hosting service (including mine) and had a family. The other (in applications) had life-long paralysis. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

"Learn to Code" isn't quite out of "The Proles" (to be rated NC-17)

ShortFatOkatu opines on the “Learn to Code” meme (also “get woke, go broke’).

Note how the video ends with Barack Obama encouraging blue collar workers to learn to code and be happy with it.

The Church of Jack Dorsey has threatened to excommunicate those who tweet this meme to laid off journalists.

Back in the 1980s at Chilton our manager would joke, “we should all get real jobs”.  Data processing then wasn’t a real job, even when you were on uncompensated night call.

Janitorial work is a real job.  So is live-in caregiving, which used to be done by undocumented people.

This sounds like the scenario of my unpublished manuscript, handwritten when I was in the Army, “The Proles”.  Actually, it’s Chapter 2 of my DADT-1 book and Chapter 7 (“Fiction”) of DADT-3.
The Trump administration had the gall to tell unpaid federal workers to barter janitorial services to landlords early in the shutdown.
My own father’s favorite meme was “learn to work” along with “formation of proper habits”. Get ready for regimentation.    

Monday, January 28, 2019

Is multi-level-marketing bad for friendships in the era of social media?

Laura Richards has an intriguing article in the Washington Post Outlook section, “How MLM’s are hurting female friendships”, Sunday, January 27, 2019, here 

MLM means “multi-level marketing”.

It was popular when I started working in 1970, and I actually went to an Amway presentation.
But the article suggests that women, especially, pressure friends to become sub-distributors, harming friendships and family ties.
I wondered if, when I was approached to become a life insurance agent in 2005, if such behavior would be expected of me.
Technology has been a double-edged sword, with often many consumers resisting being contacted in person with that “always be closing” attitude.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

For security reasons, it seems necessary to go to Wordpress 5.0.3 now; it worked for me

I did convert my three remaining Wordpress sites to 5.0.3 last night.  I left the Gutenberg editor in place without backfilling the Classic plugin and had no problems this time adding a new post.  The paragraph block icon does seem to copy from Word as text.

I did have to go into text mode to add a video (don’t know why it didn’t embed automatically) and to add an Amazon ad poster embed.

Previously, in mid December, I couldn’t get the new page to come up without the classic plugin.  This time it worked.

You have to give it a little time for the category list to come up.

I had gotten a warning of an app SQL inject violation on the monthly app scan for one of the sites (the tautology always true “If a = a” or the “Atlas Shrugged” SQL exploit.  The site had 4.9.9.  It appears that now all 4.9.9 sites should be upgraded to 5.0.3 immediately to prevent this possibility.  A new WP install should eliminate the violation.

The first time I clicked onto “upgrade” I got a 405 Forbidden.  I logged out of the control panel, logged back in, and tried again and it worked.  Perhaps Automattic was overloaded with too many people doing this at once.
 It seems important to keep Wordpress and Jetpack upgraded to the latest versions to minimize security exposures.

Update:  Jan. 24 

Today I found that Gutenberg would not load when I went to a post.  It acted like it had been deactivated.  I had to install and activate the Classic plugin to post.  I put in a tweet to Wordpress support. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Antideficiency Act seems to contradict the FLSA, forcing some federal employees to work without on-time paychecks

Todd Dickey explains how the Antideficiency Act of 1870 countermands the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and results in a situation where some critical federal employees can be required to stay on the job without knowing when they will be paid. 

To me, it sounds like involuntary servitude, the 13th Amendment.

(Picture: Dec 1, walk to end HIV) 

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Clean desk policies

USA Today had a brief article Tuesday on the desirability of keeping workplace desks clean, and having paper purges. I couldn't find it online. 
My own boss at USLICO back in the 1990s used to get after me about that.

But a site called “shredit” discusses the value of a clean desk policy in detail, when there are any questions about security for customer information.  It has always been common in the military. 

Friday, January 04, 2019

Hiring a "Social Justice Warrior" (don't even let her in the building)

Here’s a comic short “Hiring a Social Justice Warrior” from Off-Brand Entertainment and posted by Hello Generic.

Note the buzzwords, like “occupational identity”. Note the aggressive attitude of the applicant.
I’ve written about conflict of interest at work over “personal social media”.