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Ask Slashdot: Do You Run a Copy-Cat Installation At Home? 308

Posted by Soulskill
from the yes-but-cat-food-prices-are-getting-oppressive dept.
Lab Rat Jason writes "During a discussion with my wife last night, I came to the realization that the primary reason I have a Hadoop cluster tucked under my desk at home (I work in an office) is because my drive for learning is too aggressive for my IT department's security policy, as well as their hardware budget. But on closer inspection the issue runs even deeper than that. Time spent working on the somewhat menial tasks of the day job prevent me from spending time learning new tech that could help me do the job better. So I do my learning on my own time. As I thought about it, I don't know a single developer who doesn't have a home setup that allows them to tinker in a more relaxed environment. Or, put another way, my home setup represents the place I wish my company was going. So my question to Slashdot is this: How many of you find yourselves investing personal time to learn things that will directly benefit your employer, and how many of you are able to 'separate church and state?'"
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Ask Slashdot: Do You Run a Copy-Cat Installation At Home?

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  • by microTodd (240390) on Friday December 20, 2013 @03:55PM (#45748493) Homepage Journal

    This was an interesting question and I feel like I can give an interesting answer. I'm self-employed, in that I'm the owner of the company. So for me there is no separation. My "work" laptop is also my beefiest and hence my primary laptop. I can dictate how our lab environment is built out.

    To address what you talk about with my employees, generally speaking I'm pretty lenient with what they want to use and do (no porn no pirated software, that's pretty much it). I give pretty much free reign in the lab. I do this by having a development VM server and allowing a dev to spin up pretty much any VM he wants. I got an MSDN subscription to cover all the various MS OS flavors, but I see lots of ubuntu and OpenSolaris VMs too.

    The bigger issue for me is not computing resources, its time. You have to show me that your research efforts are worth our time. If we're building a J2EE project on top of Ubuntu with mysql, I will question why you are doing a python tutorial on the company time, for example.

    For me personally, since we're a small company and cashflow is tight I personally follow a "10% IPA rule". No more than 10% of my time can be spent on non-Income-Producing-Activity. I try to make sure 90% of my time is directly billable to revenue and not spend more than 10% of my time beyond that. Maybe larger companies with bigger profit margins can handle more, but we just can't right now.

    I certainly encourage people to learn new things and I can see the value of doing this out of left field. (For example, last year I decided to finally really learn functional programming, and it gave me a huge positive impact on my vanilla Java/Perl/JS/etc coding). And since most engineering talent is the geeky sort who love to learn for learning's sake then its a positive morale influence to let people dabble. But when I can see the cash flow report every month then I can see where the PHB/clueless MBAs get nervous when you spend too much time doing research and learning.

    Now, when you mention security being an issue.....well, can't help you there. Most large companies have fairly brain-dead security policies so there's not much you can do about it.

  • by PPH (736903) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:04PM (#45748575)

    ... but if they want to take advantage of my skill set, the end product will end up looking like what I do at home.

    Being in the engineering (electrical) field, most of my software projects have been voluntary. Need something done? I can do that. Oh, you wanted it done on Windows? Sorry, I don't do Windows. I know my way around Linux or some other *nixes. If that's not suitable, find someone else to do it. In some cases, after a few months of playing with point and drool with no progress, they come back.

    Most of the challenge in what I build is the domain knowledge. My skill set with tools and environments (the proper ones) is sufficient to get the job done with minimal fussing over those issues. People who agonize over the language, IDE, or O/S of the day are making more trouble for themselves. Since at the end of the day the domain problem is still staring them in the face.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:06PM (#45748597) Homepage

    The solution to that is do not have kids. Honestly unless you really want the single most expensive hobby in the world, raising kids, just do not do it.
    People claim, Legacy: and being remembered... Bah, after 2 generations you will be completely forgotten and your grave never visited. Dont waste precious time and money on children.

    This is from a guy that raised 4 kids. Yes I enjoyed my kids, but if I was able to go back in time and kick my teenage self in the nuts 30 times to keep me from ever having children, I would do it in a heartbeat.

  • I separate. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flaming error (1041742) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:08PM (#45748607) Journal

    I have a life. A wife who loves me, an ex that hates me, ingeniously dramatic kids, engaging friends. I feel slightly bad that I'm not investing extra time to stay at the profession's bleeding edge. But I genuinely prefer the company of warm bodies, music, games, conversation, food, physical work, and laughter.

    So I doff my hat to all you die-hards with the ambition and drive to advance our profession, and I thank you. But that's not for me.

  • Re:Lab environment (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:09PM (#45748617) Homepage

    You can do this inside of a lunch box today. I have a friend that has a complete production system with 2 SQL servers, 2 app servers, and a failover/load balancer all in a lunch box. he brings it to work and tinkers during compiles.

  • Re:Next job? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:16PM (#45748673) Homepage Journal

    I learn things in my free time in order to beef up my skills for the next employer since the only way you can get a raise is to change jobs.

    Anyone notice you only ever get more responsibility but never more renumeration to go with all that extra work?

    Yep, that's been largely true for at least the past 2x decades.

    The days of having a single job for life, raising through the ranks, to get more pay and better positions is long gone. It was ending as MY parents were working, and it certainly hasn't existed (with VERY few exceptions) in my work lifetime.

    You work somewhere, get experience...2-3 years hop to a new job. After that for awhile..I jumped into contracting...never looked back.

    If you're gonna work in an environment with no job security and no company loyalty (today's W2 market), you might as well contract and get the bill rate to go along with it.

  • by unimacs (597299) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:17PM (#45748685)
    A lot of the time, - maybe even most of the time, my personal skill building exercises will benefit my organization as well. I'm OK with that. There are so many posts on slashdot about people finding themselves unemployed or in danger of being unemployed because their skills are out of date. I prefer not to rely on my employer to make sure my skills are relevant.

    Plus, it's fun.
  • by DarkOx (621550) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:18PM (#45748699) Journal

    What do your children think of this viewpoint?

  • Re:Next job? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Touvan (868256) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:49PM (#45748971) Homepage

    What this industry needs is a professional organization and standards (or a trade union, but professional organization would be better). Alas, we are awash with folks who have been duped into libertarianism, and it's obsessive individualism (I gotta do ME, man), a tired ideology that prevents natural tribal grouping for mutual benefit. A locked tight political gambit for sure. Still there are signs that the craziness is ending.

  • Re:Next job? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Yahooti (3401115) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:56PM (#45749027)
    Maybe I was just lucky but I stayed with my last job over 40 years. Retired last summer and a large reason I stayed so long is because I loved my work. So much so that I created a 12 node networked Linux system at home to learn more so I could have more fun at both work and home. The knowledge gained at home did help me get a few better raises though eventually I was promoted to a position not requiring those skills. Now, it remains my main hobby and is the thing helping me enjoy all of this spare time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:57PM (#45749031)

    I recently visited the grave of my forefather, who came over to the U.S. in 1749. Not every legacy is forgotten. In the end, what my wife and I have contributed to the world is our son and daughter, and the impact we (and they, and their descendants) have on the lives of others. Work is just a means to support that.

    (And about how long do you think your employer is going to remember you once your job has been outsourced to Elbonia?)

  • Yeah, this .... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by King_TJ (85913) on Friday December 20, 2013 @05:52PM (#45749509) Journal

    I mean, if you're really the type who spends a lot of time wishing you had kids and have big ideas about all the fun you'll have teaching them new things, watching them grow up, and you look forward to attending all the little league sports games, piano recitals, and school functions -- by all means, have a kid or kids and don't let me discourage you!

    But I know I'm in the same camp as "Lumpy" here.... Got married to a woman who insisted she wanted a kid (or kids) badly. Got talked into the whole thing, with a lot of suggesting that I "wouldn't really have to do much of the work anyway, as long as I was going to work full-time and making most of the money". Not long after we had the kid, things disintegrated. She fell into a state of depression, left me (initially took the kid too, but pretty much handed her back to me after a month or two, deciding she couldn't handle it). So after a messy divorce, I was stuck raising my daughter pretty much on my own. Eventually got re-married, but to a woman who already had a couple of kids of her own, so now I've got 3 to worry about.

    Honestly, it's one of those things where I take the responsibility very seriously, and feel a sense of "duty" to make sure the kids grow up as successful as possible. But if there was some kind of time machine or way to wind the clock back and do it all over again? I would have certainly made different choices.

    I have a buddy who is adamant about the idea that every man should strive to accomplish things that leave something behind that outlasts them. (In fact, he got into woodworking after having a long career in I.T., because he got disgusted with the throw-away nature of all the work put into I.T. related projects. Today's hot new software is discarded tomorrow, and even entire programming languages become obsolete by declaration of a big name company like Microsoft, almost on a whim. He felt that with woodworking, it was possible to build physical pieces of furniture that would last hundreds of years and be used and enjoyed by generations long after his death.) Of course, this also means he sees great value in becoming a parent. I get that, but I also don't feel that need to create people OR things that outlive me? Once you're dead, you won't know the difference anyway, right? Often, I feel like the time (and money) needed for parenting is time/money I could have been doing something more personally rewarding -- especially with kids who are generally ungrateful for what they're given or have.

    I think you definitely want to have good, true friends... Nobody wants to wind up alone, or have nobody else to care for or about. But having kids isn't always the best avenue for that. It actually runs counter to the ability to make and keep good friends, IMO, because your time and resources are stretched so thin taking care of the family that comes first.

  • Re:Next job? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 20, 2013 @05:57PM (#45749581)

    The only things unions do is protect mediocrity.
    If you need a union to make your job safe then your already in trouble.

    Yes I have worked in union positions. I have worked in non union positions. I have seen union rules protect those which should have been fired long ago. I have seen politics protect those which should have been fired long ago.

    What I haven't seen in a union position is someone who is far superior to the schlub next to him get paid better because of their skills. At least in a non union environment it is possible I can negotiate better pay. In a union environment the story goes that job is an X. X get paid on this schedule based on Y. Your Y is not as strong as the other guys Y. Y can be time at company, time in job or any number of other random factors.

    If I find I'm in a situation where it is a non union shop and negotiation doesn't work.. Well I have as much loyalty to a company as they have to me. Which is none.

    You update the resume and go shopping for a new set of problems to solve. With better pay and a signing bonus ideally.

  • by geoskd (321194) on Friday December 20, 2013 @06:10PM (#45749683)

    Not OP. It's one of those positions that make sure your project doesn't turn into healthcare.gov, which is what happens when you don't design the system before you start writing code.

    It is a position that is made necessary because many coders cannot handle co-operation on a large project without an authority telling them how their piece of the project should work. A small group of fully competent coders could have built healthcare.gov in a couple of months. The problem is that the task was given to the lowest bidder, and the coders involved did not have the experience (among other shortcomings), and the project clearly lacked leadership of any kind. One or the other was required, and both were absent.

    I have seen a 10 man group finish a project that ultimately ended up being about 200k LOC in three months. The project was completed early, and was fully functional on completion, including the B and C priorities. The group did not have a leader, and each member of the group had their own area of expertise. In theory, each of them had authority over their own piece, and the others could collectively override decisions made by one member. In practice, no one ever got overridden, because if the decision was bigger than their own little piece, they built informal consensus first. The group held no formal meetings, and management was terrified of messing with the group because of their long track record of success. No manager wanted anything to do with the group, and being assigned as their manager terrified everyone, because if the group ever failed to perform, it would automatically be assumed that it was the managers fault... In the end, some dimwit got the bright idea that breaking up the group, and "seeding" other groups would somehow create 10 groups with the capabilities of the original. Didn't work so hot, As you can imagine it didn't take long for the people to leave. Last I heard, two of them were still there, but the other eight had moved on.

    At the end of the day, the best products are made by *very* small groups of highly capable people. You cannot make people like that, they are born. Experience can improve the quality and performance of all coders, but intuition cannot be manufactured, only purchased. The moral of the story is if you have a powerful working group, don't mess with it, You are overwhelmingly more likely to do harm than good. If you are trying to assemble such a group, all the coding tests in the world will not help, because their strength is not in how experienced they are, nor how well they can solve problems, but how they interact with each other to amplify their productivity. You need a group of people with varied points of view, that can cooperate. They don't have to be super-stars. They don't have to have 30 years of experience. In fact, ego is the biggest impediment to a successful team.

  • Re:Next job? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Saturday December 21, 2013 @03:52AM (#45752345) Homepage

    As the GP pointed out you are assuming you are one of the best so will get promoted/more money. You are also assuming most non-union places will recognize your brilliance, which isn't the case.

    In Europe unions are usually welcome at companies. They understand that happy and well treated workers are more productive and produce a better product/service. Rather than fight them, which basically says "fuck you, peon", they try to treat people like the valuable asset they are.

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