[TAG] Issue #106
jimregan at o2.ie
Sat Sep 25 16:47:36 MSD 2004
Jason Creighton wrote:
> On Thu, 23 Sep 2004 14:50:33 +0100,
> "Jimmy O'Regan" <jimregan at o2.ie> wrote:
>>Jason Creighton wrote:
>>>On Mon, 20 Sep 2004 13:36:00 -0700,
>>>Mike Orr <mso at oz.net> wrote:
>>>>The reason people are so uniquely enraged at Wal-Mart is that its
>>>>famous low prices are borne by the employees to an extent not seen at
>>>>other stores. Low wages, no benefits, "off the clock" work,
>>>>part-time positions, etc.
>>>Then why do people work there?
>>I can answer this one, as I am working in a place with conditions not
>>For those who either are unskilled, lack documentation of these skills,
>>and/or have not got the self-marketing ability to sell their skills to
>>employers, there are few options available when it comes to jobs.
>>Using myself as an example, I dropped out of college because I had
>>chosen the wrong course, and couldn't afford to return. I took the first
>>job that came my way, as a web designer, but soon got loaded down with
>>other tasks I simply wasn't being paid for. I quit that job, got
>>"unemployment assistance" (?37/week - roughly $50), quickly built up
>>debt, and had to take the job I'm currently in, where I'm earning enough
>>to pay my child support payments, but not enough to set aside money to
>>make a break from where I am.
> What would you need to make a break from where you are? Collage?
Free time. Free time, unimpaired by hand injuries :)
> I'm 17, and will graduate from high school next spring. I think I'm
> interesting in a job in programming (or software engineering, or
> whatever they call it.) but I'm really trying to avoid going to collage,
> unless there's some practical way I could do it without going into debt.
Well, there's the big difference. In Ireland, fees are paid by the
government; there are at least two grants, which cover rent, for those
with lower incomes; and anyone over 21 who has been collecting social
welfare payments for at least 6 months can go to college, with fees
paid, a full grant, full weekly social welfare payments plus rent
allowance, which is roughly 2/3 of the average rent price, and an annual
Now, even with that, I'm surrounded by people who couldn't afford college.
> And plus I need to see how I do with large projects. Most of the coding
> I've done is just small stuff that I hacked together because I needed
> that tool. So I'm trying to hack up a tetris clone in C using SDL (about
> 375 LOC, working okay, color scheme and keys hardcoded, two player
> support is an UGLY kludge, but I feel pretty good about it) in order
> to determine if I could work on larger programs. The jury is still out
> on that.
Well, you have to learn to walk before you run. Small projects can
become large projects if you keep at them.
Basically, it takes 2-4 years to become good at something, 2-4 to become
great, and roughly 10 to become a master.
> I don't care very much which language I'm using. It would be great if I
> could use a "fun language" like Ruby or Python, (or maybe even Lisp, if
> I could wrap my mind around it.) but it looks like you have to go with
> "what's cool" at the moment. It looks like Java used to be cool. Now it
> looks like C#/.NET is the cool language, the one that everybody wants to
> use, just because it's new and it's from Microsoft. At least it has
> garbage collection.
Learn the "fun" language, and at least one "work" language. Smart
employers will still look for Java or whatnot, but knowing Python or
Ruby (or Perl, or Lisp, or ...) screams "I *like* programming".
I wouldn't rush to follow fashion here. C# is basically Java with all
the features they haven't gotten around to adding to Java yet. If you
know Java, you can get the gist of C# in a few hours.
> And that's why I'm writing this tetris clone in C: C isn't the most
> popular language around, but it's a whole lot more popular than Ruby. It
> seems to me as if I should learn as many marketable languages as I can,
> and C seems simple and scary, whereas C++ seems complex and scary.
C++ looks complex and scary when you take a distant look at it, but if
you take it in stages, it's not as bad. Look at it as a better C first -
use function overloading, and default values. Then add classes, then
constructors/destructors, then virtual classes, then operator
overloading, then templates. It starts to make sense after a while :)
> So, if you were me, wanting to get that kind of a job, what would you do?
Well, as it happens... I'm learning Java servlets and JSP, because
that's where 9/10 jobs are. I'm learning C++ because it *is* scary, and
looking at C# because the niftiest desktop software for GNOME is being
written in it.
I'm also looking at C, just because I want to learn how to use mmap()
>>One of my friends from college, the second most gifted programmer I ever
>>met (and that's because chance found me sharing a taxi with rms the
>>first time he gave a talk in Ireland), currently stacks shelves in a
>>supermarket. (Just to illustrate, in his third year in college, while
>>trying to write a game, he wrote his own windowing system.)
> His own windowing system? Like, doing raw hardware access like most X
> servers do, or just chaining onto something else? (Like Xnest, except,
> of course, not doing a mini X server, but doing a mini
It was in DOS, so there was assembly which controlled DOS's video
interrupt, on top of which he wrote various functions to draw shapes, on
top of which he had higher level windowing functions.
>>I know plenty of people who didn't even get the chance to screw up in
>>the ways I did, and who had no other choice but to accept these sorts of
> Yeah, I figured it certainly wouldn't be because thay *want* to work at
> Wal-Mart. Or a gas station. Or any other low-wage dead end job.
Well, just to point out that it hasn't been all negative, I would never
have found the drive or sense of self-acceptance I now have without
working in the worst place I can imagine :)
I've also learned how well I can keep my head in a crisis, which pretty
well. I've been faced with large fires in an area covered in fat,
massive gas leaks - the steps I took are now the company policy,
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