36 Chambers – The Legendary Journeys: Execution to the max!

January 31, 2012

Various Political Notes

Filed under: Curmudgeonliness — Kevin Feasel @ 6:04 pm

January 30, 2012

Dear Dustin Richardson: You’re Doing It Wrong

Filed under: Sports — Kevin Feasel @ 5:58 pm

Dustin Richardson, last seen tooling around in the Braves farm system before he got canned, was suspended 50 games for being caught with five banned substances in his system.  On the one hand, I give him credit for doing it To The Max, but on the other hand, when your main problem is that you couldn’t find the strike zone with two hands and a map, PEDs aren’t going to help you out much.

Via Rotoworld, which doesn’t really let me link to an individual story.

January 29, 2012

It’s Like Planned Economies Don’t Work Or Something…

Filed under: Catallactics, Curmudgeonliness, Economics — Kevin Feasel @ 6:34 pm

(Via Mike Munger)

When the government starts mandating that organizations use things which don’t exist, you have problems.  This kind of idiocy—and then following through on fines because organizations didn’t buy something which didn’t exist!—is a natural outcome of government control.  The major difference between the US and USSR in this case is that at least the government officials in charge of the businesses knew the game well enough to lie through their teeth…

January 28, 2012

Even Better Than Burying Money

Filed under: Economics, Specific Stupidity — Kevin Feasel @ 7:56 pm

Trade with non-existent aliens.  This is another bit of anecdotal evidence against Keynesianism (and against Keynes himself, as this is just a new spin on one of his ideas):  if your theory ends up with destroying wealth making you richer, you may need to rethink your theory.

If it helps, instead of sinking everything in the ocean, they can just leave all it with me.  After all, in terms of aggregate demand, my having all of this stuff won’t change a thing…

January 27, 2012

Early thoughts on Mass Effect 2

Filed under: Video Games — Tony Demchak @ 3:17 pm

I finished Mass Effect a few days ago and have begun Mass Effect 2. For your reference, I play a female Shepard Infiltrator class.

– It’s a lot more action oriented. The “tell other companions what to do” bit is much more streamlined and less finicky. There are fewer skills to research (a pity) but that’s a minor complaint because the skills that do exist are pretty awesome.

– I’m still not really happy with the limited ammo aspect, but given that most classes seem to have some kind of combat skill, it’s not as bad as you might think. The heavy weapons are a nice touch — a huge upgrade from nigh-useless grenades in ME1.

– The carry-over from importing saves is both more and less substantial than I thought. It’s mostly story based, unlike Dragon Age to DA: Awakening, for example. The bonuses are nice, but not really ground-breaking.

– The loyalty mission aspect would be a lot better if there were truly mutually exclusive characters. I’m told it’s different if you’re male, but the loyalty system seems silly if you can make everybody loyal to you.

– No inventory management is a nice change.

Overall, I like it a lot. I’m glad that the Mako is gone; the resource mining is a little dull, but it’s certainly an interesting way to incite you to explore new planets. Credits seem harder to come by.

SSIS OLE DB Tools Not Deprecated

Filed under: Computinating — Kevin Feasel @ 3:16 pm

A while back, when I learned that OLE DB was being deprecated, I was concerned for what would happen with SSIS.  Fortunately, the SSIS components are not being deprecated.

January 26, 2012

Geeks In Space (And Other Security News)

Filed under: (In)Security — Kevin Feasel @ 6:20 pm
  • I like the idea of sending up satellites to combat censorship.  More information here and here.  Governments should not be the only entities controlling satellites—that is, unless you want to have space remain as relatively stagnant as it has been the last half-century.  My concern would be overtly criminal activity happening through these satellites—child pornography and the like.  But the current equilibrium is that “there can be child pornography” implies that “government must have the ability to do whatever it wants.”  The federal government can shut down sites at will, and they make mistakes (or sometimes “mistakes”).
  • UPromise, you’re doing it wrong.  You can also read the FTC settlement.  John Pescatore, on the SANS security newsletter, writes, “The lack of ‘clearly disclosing … data collection practices’ is just as serious an issue as not encrypting the collected data.”  The organization was collecting usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, and the like, and not telling anybody about this.
  • Protect intellectual property, except from government officials.
  • SEAndroid.  Nice.  Even if I never get a phone with this particular kit, there should be good knock-on effects as a result of publishing the specs.
  • Secure your phone and PCs the Scott Hanselman way.  There’s nothing here that isn’t novel, but it is solid advice.

January 25, 2012

Crazy Idea: Trust Employees

Filed under: Wacky Theories — Kevin Feasel @ 6:03 pm

From the Brent Ozar PLF mailing list, I picked up a link on offering employees unlimited vacation days.  There are a few companies which do this, and I think that for a small organization, it’s a great idea.  The rub is that your hiring practices have to be good:  you need to find motivated, hard-working employees you don’t feel the urge to micromanage or monitor constantly.  These are people who want to work, who wake up in the morning ready to go accomplish something.  For those people at those places, this is an outstanding idea, and saves time and money (monitoring has its costs).

In general, my business philosophy is to treat people like adults until they prove otherwise.  If somebody wants to come in at 6 AM one day and leave at 9 PM, and then come in at noon and leave at 2 the next day, let them, especially if you’re in “creative” IT (like software development).  Originally, this is how exempt employees worked:  you worked until you got your stuff done, and then you left, regardless of whether this took three hours or fifteen.  Unfortunately, exempt has turned into “you need to work at least eight hours, and just keep working without extra pay.”  Vacation time turns into “yeah, we offer it to you, but we don’t want you to take it.”  Flexible work schedules become “we need you to come in and work from 8 AM until 6 PM and you can’t come in any earlier or later than that.”

Unfortunately, the standard company philosophy when dealing with trouble employees is, rather than focus on the trouble employee, bring the hammer down on everybody.  That way, it’s “fair” (because punishing people for the actions of unrelated others is fair?).  More honestly, that way, their HR and Legal departments don’t work extra hours and managers don’t need to take responsibility for managing people.  As a result of this shirking, good employees get treated the same way as bad employees, leading to good employees having weaker incentives to remain good employees.

So, going back to my original idea, I’d say that it might be a great idea for some people to start taking some risks.  Give your dev team home access and let them come in whenever they want, work whatever hours they want, and work any days they want, just as long as tasks get accomplished.  If they’re already salaried (which full-time employees in IT typically are), it won’t make a monetary difference.  If you did a good job hiring people (or if you can fire lousy employees easily), I’d be willing to bet that you’d see an improvement in performance as people work when they are revved up and don’t when they aren’t.  You can keep somebody in an office for 9 hours, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll get 9 productive hours.  And when coverage isn’t that important, there’s no reason even to have people stick to certain schedules.  As long as they’re productive, that’s what matters.  And if they aren’t productive, then they lose the extra privileges…or get fired.  I’ll grant that this might only apply to certain subsets of the population (and would make people not in that subset pretty angry), but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it a try.

Speaking of which, any companies hiring that do offer unlimited vacation time—and don’t guilt you into not taking vacation—you’d be near the top of my list if I start looking on the market…

January 24, 2012

This Week’s Security Notes

Filed under: (In)Security — Kevin Feasel @ 5:45 pm
Not too much for this round, though I’ll have a few more links later this week.
  • I ignore Google ads in their search results.  Looks like there’s good reason to.
  • Yet Another Cross-Site Scripting Vulnerability.
  • Social engineering on the rise.  People are the weak link in most organizations, and if you are going to target a specific organization, you’re going to target the people who have access to what you want.  If you’re just out to get control of some machine somewhere, or just looking around for things to do, social engineering doesn’t play as strong a role.  But those typically aren’t the threats we really need to focus on; focus on taking care of the tough cookies and the kiddies will be sorted out automatically.  Any time I read about social engineering, I go back to the site. (Via HNTV)

January 23, 2012

Abolish The TSA

Filed under: (In)Security — Kevin Feasel @ 6:50 pm

The TSA list of things they’re protecting us from.  If that list doesn’t prove the TSA’s irrelevancy, I don’t know what does.  Well, maybe that they’re gung-ho about protecting us from cupcakes.

Schneier himself doesn’t want to abolish the TSA, but I’d consider that too much faith in a government institution.  At one point, I was kinda-sorta of the same opinion—that security has strong enough externalities that private institutions likely would not hit the optimal point—but there are incentives in place…or at least would be if the government wasn’t too busy screwing around with peoples’ cupcakes.

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