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Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Best Practices For Starting and Running a Software Shop? 176

Posted by Soulskill
from the have-a-lot-of-patience dept.
An anonymous reader writes: I'm a systems architect (and a former Unix sysadmin) with many years of experience on the infrastructure side of things. I have a masters in CS but not enough practical exposure to professional software development. I'd like to start my own software product line and I'd like to avoid outsourcing as much as I can. I'm seeking advice on what you think are the best practices for running a software shop and/or good blogs/books on the subject.

To be clear, I am not asking about what are the best programming practices or the merits of agile vs waterfall. Rather I am asking more about how to best run the shop as a whole. For example, how important is it to have coding standards and how much standardization is necessary for a small business? What are the pros and cons of allowing different tools and/or languages? What should the ratio of senior programmers to intermediate and junior programmers be and how should they work with each other so that nobody is bored and everyone learns something? Thanks for your help.
Operating Systems

Ask Slashdot: Workaday Software For BSD On the Desktop? 267

Posted by timothy
from the clever-little-devil dept.
An anonymous reader writes So for a variety of reasons (some related to recent events, some ongoing for a while) I've kinda soured on Linux and have been looking at giving BSD a shot on the desktop. I've been a Gentoo user for many years and am reasonably comfortable diving into stuff, so I don't anticipate user friendliness being a show stopper. I suspect it's more likely something I currently do will have poor support in the BSD world. I have of course been doing some reading and will probably just give it a try at some point regardless, but I was curious what experience and advice other slashdot users could share. There's been many bold comments on slashdot about moving away from Linux, so I suspect I'm not the only one asking these questions. Use-case wise, my list of must haves is: Minecraft, and probably more dubiously, FTB; mplayer or equivalent (very much prefer mplayer as it's what I've used forever); VirtualBox or something equivalent; Firefox (like mplayer, it's just what I've always used, and while I would consider alternatives, that would definitely be a negative); Flash (I hate it, but browsing the web sans-flash is still a pain); OpenRA (this is the one I anticipate giving me the most trouble, but playing it is somewhat of an obsession).

Stuff that would be nice but I can live without: Full disk encryption; Openbox / XFCE (It's what I use now and would like to keep using, but I could probably switch to something else without too much grief); jackd/rakarrack or something equivalent (currently use my computer as a cheap guitar amp/effects stack); Qt (toolkit of choice for my own stuff).
What's the most painless way to transition to BSD for this constellation of uses, and which variety of BSD would you suggest?
Education

Ask Slashdot: Professionally Packaged Tools For Teaching Kids To Program? 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-child-left-in-a-for-loop dept.
Binestar writes: I've been doing IT consulting for years, but I'm not a programmer beyond bash scripting, perl scripts to make administration easier, and batch files to make Windows easier. I recently found an online course for modding Minecraft that my 9-year-old daughter is really enjoying (she built a custom sword that shoots lightning). Does anyone have any recommendations on online courses that would be age appropriate and worth the investment? It's been easy to get her interested in the Minecraft modding course because, as any parent with young children knows, Minecraft is kinda popular...

The course she's taking now is teaching her Eclipse and Gimp, and I'm sure there are other tools installed that they haven't had her open yet. What other vendors have stuff worth introducing her to? I've also started looking at things like the Kano and Learn to Mod, but as a non-programmer, I'm not really sure which are most useful for introduction and which are accomplishing what they claim vs. being a waste of money/time.

Anyone have experience or suggestions to help sort this out?
Crime

Ask Slashdot: Dealing With VoIP Fraud/Phishing Scams? 159

Posted by timothy
from the our-menu-options-have-recently-changed dept.
An anonymous reader writes I run the IT department for a medium-sized online retailer, and we own a set of marketing toll-free numbers that route to our VoIP system for sales. Yesterday we began receiving dozens and now hundreds of calls from non-customers claiming that we're calling out from our system and offering them $1 million in prizes and asking for their checking account details (a classic phishing scheme). After verifying that our own system wasn't compromised, we realized that someone was spoofing the Caller ID of our company on a local phone number, and then they were forwarding call-backs to their number to one of our 1-800 numbers. We contacted the registered provider of the scammer's phone number, Level3, but they haven't been able to resolve the issue yet and have left the number active (apparently one of their sub-carriers owns it). At this point, the malicious party is auto-dialing half of the phone book in the DC metro area and it's causing harm to our business reputation. Disabling our inbound 800 number isn't really possible due to the legitimate marketing traffic. Do you have any suggestions?
IT

Ask Slashdot: Who's the Doctors Without Borders of Technology? 112

Posted by timothy
from the trespassers-mostly dept.
danspalding writes I'm transitioning into full time tech work after 10 years in education. To that end, after years of tooling around with command line and vim, I'm starting a programming bootcamp in early December. I used to think I wanted to go into ed tech. But the more I think about it, the more I just want to contribute to the most important work I can using my new skills — mostly JavaScript (with a strong interest in graph databases). Ideally an organization that does bold, direct humanitarian work for the people who need it most. So where should I apply to work when I finish bootcamp next March? Who's the MSF of the tech world?
China

Ask Slashdot: Is Non-USB Flash Direct From China Safe? 178

Posted by timothy
from the ask-all-its-previous-partners dept.
Dishwasha (125561) writes I recently purchased a couple 128GB MicroSDXC card from a Chinese supplier via Alibaba at 1/5th the price of what is available in the US. I will be putting one in my phone and another in my laptop. A few days after purchased, it occurred to me there may be a potential risk with non-USB flash devices similar to USB firmware issues. Does anybody know if there are any known firmware issues with SD or other non-USB flash cards that could effectively allow a foreign seller/distributor to place malicious software on my Android phone or laptop simply on insertion of the device with autoplay turned off?
Network

Ask Slashdot: Getting Around Terrible Geolocation? 100

Posted by timothy
from the ok-but-does-this-get-you-irish-citizenship? dept.
First time accepted submitter AvitarX writes W3C has the IP address where I work as showing up in Ireland (we are in the USA). This is a nuisance for a lot of reasons (many dates now display in European format, prices are listed in euros, search results redirect to google.ie). Some of these issues can be worked around, but it's frustrating. I have searched as best as I can, and only can find information on the geolocation API in HTML5. The office is on a static IP address from Comcast. When I visit whatismyipaddress.com all info is correct except for W3C's result. I have submitted that it is inaccurate; is there anything else I can do? Googling, I have only managed to find usage examples for web developers/designers.
Network

Ask Slashdot: How To Unblock Email From My Comcast-Hosted Server? 405

Posted by timothy
from the why-not-hand-deliver-those-messages? dept.
New submitter hawkbug writes For the past 15 years, I have hosted my own email server at home and it's been pretty painless. I had always used a local Denver ISP on a single static IP. Approximately two years ago, I switched to a faster connection, which now is hosted on Comcast. They provide me 5 static IPs and much faster speeds. It's a business connection with no ports blocked, etc. It has been mostly fine these last two years, with the occasional outage due to typical Comcast issues. About two weeks ago, I came across a serious issue. The following email services started rejecting all email from my server: Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail. I checked, and my IP is not on any real time blacklists for spammers, and I don't have any security issues. My mail server is not set as an open relay, and I use SPF records and pass all SPF tests. It appears that all three of those major email services started rejecting email from me based on a single condition: Comcast. I can understand the desire to limit spam — but here is the big problem: I have no way to combat this. With Gmail, I can instruct users to flag my emails as "not spam" because the emails actually go through, but simply end up in the spam folder. Yahoo and Hotmail on the other hand, just flat out reject the traffic at lower level. They send rejection notices back to my server that contain "tips" on how to make sure I'm not an open relay, causing spam, etc. Since I am not doing any of those things, I would expect some sort of option to have my IP whitelisted or verified. However, I can not find a single option to do so. The part that bugs me is that this happened two weeks ago with multiple major email services. Obviously, they are getting anti-spam policies from a central location of some kind. I don't know where. If I did, I could possibly go after the source and try to get my IP whitelisted. When I ask my other tech friends what they would do, they simply suggest changing ISPs. Nobody likes Comcast, but I don't have a choice here. I'm two years into a three-year contract. So, moving is not an option. Is there anything I can do to remedy this situation?
Databases

Ask Slashdot: Choosing a Data Warehouse Server System? 147

Posted by timothy
from the index-cards-and-an-actual-warehouse dept.
New submitter puzzled_decoy writes The company I work has decided to get in on this "big data" thing. We are trying to find a good data warehouse system to host and run analytics on, you guessed it, a bunch of data. Right now we are looking into MSSQL, a company called Domo, and Oracle contacted us. Google BigQuery may be another option. At its core, we need to be able to query huge amounts of data in sometimes rather odd ways. We need a strong ETLlayer, and hopefully we can put some nice visual reporting service on top of wherever the data is stored. So, what is your experience with "big data" servers and services? What would you recommend, and what are the pitfalls you've encountered?
Power

Ask Slashdot: Minimizing Oil and Gas Dependency In a Central European City? 250

Posted by timothy
from the neighbor's-wifi-problem-solved dept.
An anonymous reader writes I live in a big city in central Europe. As most of you know from recent news, most of Europe's (and quite a bit of China's) gas supply comes from Russia and is very likely to be cut off several times during the next few winters (China's time will come in later years). What many might not know is that not just our natural gas supply, but also our petrol ('gas' for the Americans in the audience) often comes partly from Russia and some of our electricity comes from gas powered stations. Most of our leaders, at least in Germany and Hungary, are in bed with the Russians and likely won't do anything about fuel security. I live in an building with a south-facing roof and I own the roof space but I don't have enough land here to put a wind turbine or something similar on. Can anyone make good suggestions for ways to cut down my dependence on unreliable power supplies? Extra points for environmentalism, but I am even willing to pay more to be sure the heating is there in winter and my server keeps running.
Google

Ask Slashdot: Single Sign-On To Link Google Apps and Active Directory? 168

Posted by timothy
from the all-in-the-same-gang dept.
trazom28 writes to seek answers to a problem faced by many businesses (and, as in this case, schools): "We are looking for a solution to a single sign on to coordinate Active Directory and Google. You can sync the passwords easily enough with Google Apps Password Sync, but ideally we would like the students and staff to be able to sign in once and be done. Additionally, the Google login requires the @domain.k12.wi.us so it would have to take the AD username, pass it along and tack on the domain to log into Google.

Has anyone seen any solution for this that actually works, or is this the Holy Grail of all IT? Please hold off on any Google haters, that's a different discussion for a different forum.
Communications

Ask Slashdot: How Useful Are DMARC and DKIM? 139

Posted by timothy
from the survey-says dept.
whoever57 writes How widely are DKIM and DMARC being implemented? Some time ago, Yahoo implemented strict checks on DKIM before accepting email, breaking many mailing lists. However, Spamassassin actually assigns a positive score (more likely to be spam) to DKIM-signed emails, unless the signer domain matches the from domain. Some email marketing companies don't provide a way for emails to be signed with the sender's domain — instead, using their own domain to sign emails. DMARC doesn't seem to have a delegation mechanism, by which a domain owner could delegate other domains as acceptable signatures for emails their emails. All of these issues suggest that the value of DKIM and DMARC is quite low, both as a mechanism to identify valid emails and as a mechanism to identify spam. In fact, spam is often dkim-signed. Are Slashdot users who manage email delivery actually using DKIM and DMARC?
Linux

Ask Slashdot: Can You Say Something Nice About Systemd? 928

Posted by samzenpus
from the use-your-words dept.
ewhac writes: "I'm probably going to deeply deeply regret this, but every time a story appears here mentioning systemd, a 700-comment thread of back-and-forth bickering breaks out which is about as informative as an old Bud Light commercial, and I don't really learn anything new about the subject. My gut reaction to systemd is (currently) a negative one, and it's very easy to find screeds decrying systemd on the net. However, said screeds haven't been enough to prevent its adoption by several distros, which leads me to suspect that maybe there's something worthwhile there that I haven't discovered yet. So I thought it might be instructive to turn the question around and ask the membership about what makes systemd good. However, before you stab at the "Post" button, there are some rules...

Bias Disclosure: I currently dislike systemd because — without diving very deeply into the documentation, mind — it looks and feels like a poorly-described, gigantic mess I know nothing about that seeks to replace other poorly-described, smaller messes which I know a little bit about. So you will be arguing in that environment."

Nice Things About systemd Rules:
  1. Post each new Nice Thing as a new post, not as a reply to another post. This will let visitors skim the base level of comments for things that interest them, rather than have to dive through a fractally expanding tree of comments looking for things to support/oppose. It will also make it easier to follow the next rule:
  2. Avoid duplication; read the entire base-level of comments before adding a new Nice Thing. Someone may already have mentioned your Nice Thing. Add your support/opposition to that Nice Thing there, rather than as a new post.
  3. Only one concrete Nice Thing about systemd per base-level post. Keep the post focused on a single Nice Thing systemd does. If you know of multiple distinct things, write multiple distinct posts.
  4. Describe the Nice Thing in some detail. Don't assume, for example, that merely saying "Supports Linux cgroups" will be immediately persuasive.
  5. Describe how the Nice Thing is better than existing, less controversial solutions. systemd is allegedly better at some things than sysvinit or upstart or inetd. Why? Why is the Nice Thing possible in systemd, and impossible (or extremely difficult) with anything else? (In some cases, the Nice Thing will be a completely new thing that's never existed before; describe why it's good thing.)

We will assume out of the gate that systemd boots your system faster than ${SOMETHING_ELSE}, so no points for bringing that up. Bonus points are awarded for:

  • Personal Experience. "I actually did this," counts for way more than, "The docs claim you can do this."
  • Working Examples. Corollary to the above — if you did a Nice Thing with systemd, consider also posting the code/script/service file you wrote to accomplish it.
  • Links to Supporting Documentation. If you leveraged a Nice Thing, furnish a link to the docs you used that describe the Nice Thing and its usage.
Build

Ask Slashdot: How Do I Make a High-Spec PC Waterproof? 202

Posted by Soulskill
from the lots-of-duct-tape dept.
jimwormold writes: I need to build a system for outdoor use, capable of withstanding a high pressure water jet! "Embedded PC," I hear you cry. Well, ideally yes. However, the system does a fair bit of number crunching on a GPU (GTX970) and there don't appear to be any such embedded systems available. The perfect solution will be as small as possible (ideally about 1.5x the size of a motherboard, and the height will be limited to accommodate the graphics card). I'm U.K.- based, so the ambient temperature will range from -5C to 30C, so I presume some sort of active temperature control would be useful.

I found this helpful discussion, but it's 14 years old. Thus, I thought I'd post my question here. Do any of you enlightened Slashdotters have insights to this problem, or know of any products that will help me achieve my goals?
Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: Smarter Disk Space Monitoring In the Age of Cheap Storage? 170

Posted by timothy
from the percentages-matter-too-though dept.
relliker writes In the olden days, when monitoring a file system of a few 100 MB, we would be alerted when it topped 90% or more, with 95% a lot of times considered quite critical. Today, however, with a lot of file systems in the Terabyte range, a 90-95% full file system can still have a considerable amount of free space but we still mostly get bugged by the same alerts as in the days of yore when there really isn't a cause for immediate concern. Apart from increasing thresholds and/or starting to monitor actual free space left instead of a percentage, should it be time for monitoring systems to become a bit more intelligent by taking space usage trends and heuristics into account too and only warn about critical usage when projected thresholds are exceeded? I'd like my system to warn me with something like, 'Hey!, you'll be running out of space in a couple of months if you go on like this!' Or is this already the norm and I'm still living in a digital cave? What do you use, on what operating system?

"Pascal is Pascal is Pascal is dog meat." -- M. Devine and P. Larson, Computer Science 340

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