MOTD::Archive::Summer 1998 (13 July 1998)

Spring 1998 MOTD

Some good news on the Y2K front... A ten-day-long test by the Securities Industry Association's Year 2000 project found no problems during a simulation involving 29 brokerage firms, all major stock exchanges, and the corporations that conduct trades for them. Project manager Leslie Tortora hopes that the success of the project will encourage a similar effort by telephone companies, and says: "People are feeling good. An enormous amount of energy and preparation has gone into making this successful." (New York Times 23 Jul 1998)

COBOL Center is the place to find out about what is happening in the world of COBOL.
What's COBOL? From Whatis.com:
COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) was the first widely-used high-level programming language for business applications. Many payroll, accounting, and other business application programs written in COBOL over the past 35 years are still in use and it is possible that there are more existing lines of programming code in COBOL than in any other programming language. While the language has been updated over the years, it is generally perceived as out-of-date and COBOL programs are generally viewed as legacy applications.
Should I learn COBOL? If you are working on a Computer Science degree, taking a COBOL class will probably be of little value to you (I doubt if most CS programs offer a COBOL course); however, if you are trying to break into the programming profession w/o a degree and w/o any experience, then knowing some COBOL could help you get that first job.

But, I always hear people say that COBOL is dying? Me, too! But I've been hearing that for many, many years. While you are reading this, there are probably hundreds (if not thousands) of new lines of COBOL code being produced. Yeck, there are even OO versions of COBOL these days. I am pretty confident that COBOL will be around for a few more years. Most of the software that has Y2K (Year 2000) problems is written in COBOL; therefore, I think there will be a strong demand for COBOL programmers the latter half of 1999 through the year 2000. Not all COBOL programmers are related to Homer Simpson.

Does the CSC program offer a COBOL course? No, it doesn't. However, if you want to take a COBOL course, then checkout the schedules for the CIS (Computer Information Systems) courses offered at SCC and MCC. They have a COBOL class in the course bank ( CIS158) and sometimes they offer it.

Since we are writing a program to generate passwords... Compaq is working on a system called Fingerprint Identification Technology that will replace passwords with unique fingerprints. While passwords can be duplicated or stolen, Compaq says, fingerprints cannot. Let Your Fingers Do The Login is an article from wired.com that discusses this technology.

Related links:

Picture of a fingerprint reader.
Biometric Consortium serves as the US Government's focal point for research, development, test, evaluation, and application of biometric-based personal identification/verification technology.
Fight the Fingerprint is a website that is strongly against the use of Biometrics.

Here is another quote from the Students Are Dropping Out, Tuning in to Industry Paychecks NY Times article.

But some computer experts say that universitities have failed to keep computer science curriculums up to date. "Universities have done such a bad job of providing what you need to know that a B.A. in computer science is almost considered worthless."
See the Sunday, 05 Jul 1998 issue of the AZ Republic (page A6) for the complete article.

Happy 4th of July!
How about some fireworks?

For the last few months the comp.lang.c and comp.lang.c++ Usenet newsgroups have had ongoing discussions about the type of questions that should be asked during the interview process. The Wanted: Senior C++ Programmer article by Al Stevens (Sept-96 issue of Dr. Dobb's Journal) contains a good set of potential questions.

Y2K Problem Worries CIA Central Intelligence Agency director George Tennant is warning that the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer bug "provides all kinds of opportunities for someone with hostile intent" to gain information or plant viruses. "We are building an information infrastructure, the most complex the world has ever known, on an insecure foundation." (USA Today 25 Jun 1998)

For more stuff about electronic warfare, see A Prelude to Info-War? article from Wired magazine.

Teachers Turning Tech is an article about teachers in Texas moving from teaching to industry because of $$$ (i.e. money).

Students Are Dropping Out, Tuning in to Industry Paychecks
Reacting to the increasing numbers of both graduate and undergraduate computer science students who drop out of school for high-paying jobs in industry, George Mason University professor and administrator Peter Denning worries that fundamental research will suffer and says:   "I'm afraid we're eating our seed corn."   The students may also be hurting their own long-term interest, and California Polytechnic's James L. Beug explains:   "My fear is that these kids who haven't finished will last about seven years on the job market. If they haven't learned to learn and can't go sideways into management, what happens to them?"   But the temptation for immediate rewards is great. Santa Barbara multimedia lab director Guy Smith says:   "Without wanting to sound hysterical, this is really changing the shape of education in a fundamental way. You hear of kids leaving high school and making almost six figures. Recently we brought in 30 computer information officers and asked them about entry-level skills. I didn't hear the word 'degree' come up very often."   (New York Times 25 Jun 1998)

NewHoo: HUMANS do it better
If you want a Yahoo!-like subject guide that is void of advertising and flashy stuff, then give NewHoo! a try.
"Project NewHoo's goal is to produce the most comprehensive directory of the web, by relying on a vast army of volunteer editors. NewHoo! is a self-regulating republic where experts can collect their recommendations, without including noise and misinformation."

Yet Another Ezine C-Scene is a free online magazine devoted to C and C++ programming. Only three issues have been published, but I have come across some good articles. For examples, see the articles 10 Steps to Better C++ and Programming Structure and Style.

Thanks to Tom Ognibene (CSC200 @ MCC) for the URL to The Comedy Zone's Amazingly Useless FACT-O-MATIC. The first time I tried it, I got the following amazingly useless fact:

Two of the three members of the band ZZ Top have beards. The one who doesn't have a beard is named Beard.

Pick 3 Missing '9'  headline from the Friday, June 12, 1998 edition of The Arizona Republic.
"The Arizona Lottery halted the nightly Pick 3 game late Thursday because a  programming glitch  meant anyone who chose the number 9, had no chance at the top prize. The digit was left out of the software that picked winning numbers."
In the past, valid numbers ranged from 1 to 9, but they changed it so that 0 was now a valid choice. I wonder if the use of a  magic number  was the culprit?

Some Bad News... Finally First, Intel announced that it was eliminating 600 jobs. Now Motorola - a major employer here in the Valley - has announced that it is going to be getting rid of some people (mostly from the semiconductor side of the business). Has the Valley's high-tech job market gone cold? I don't think so. Many of those let go from these companies will be hardware jocks; therefore, it may not impact the software job market too much. It could provide a short term boost for the CS program at the community colleges: hardware professionals needing some software education.

Motorola is doing something that most large companies must do on a periodic basis -- adjust their roster. Although it causes short term discomfort, it usually results in numerous long term benefits.

IEEE has done an interview with Bjarne Stroustrup for the June issue of Computer Magazine.

Summer Vacation Prior the start of the summer session, I completed a short trip to Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. Find out what I did on my summer vacation. (Here are links to some of my favorite places.)

See if you can figure out what the artistic.cpp source would print if it was compiled and executed.

While updating my C/C++ links, I sent email to Bjarne Stroustrup telling him that MCC had linked to his website. This was done on a Sunday morning and about twenty minutes after I sent the email a reply was received.

Books, books, books... how does one decide? Good question! Hopefully, this page can help you out a bit.