January 13, 2006

Pube-faced fool

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:57 am by lugnuthorsefly

Ok. This is officially my new insult of choice.

from http://www.b3ta.com/features/classicallookalikes/

January 11, 2006

Security through incorrect passwords

Posted in misc at 7:51 am by lugnuthorsefly

A couple of months back my wife was rung up by someone from her mobile phone provider offering her a free handset upgrade by virtue of being a long-time customer.

In order to confirm her identity etc. they asked her to provide the password she uses to confirm her identity when she rings them. Fair enough, I suppose – wouldn’t want to send a free handset to some imposter (hey – it could happen).

It only occurred to me afterwards that this could have been an elaborate sting in order to harvest people’s passwords and account details with the prospect of free goodies as bait.

It wasn’t, but an easy way to tell if it was would be to initially provide an incorrect password when asked. A fraudster wouldn’t know you’d given them the wrong password. If the person on the other end of the line starts complaining then there’s a good chance they’re legit.

January 5, 2006

The funkiest thing

Posted in development, java at 11:25 am by lugnuthorsefly

Back in the good ‘ol days (by which I mean the dot-com boom) I worked for a quite cool web animation company that suffered the misfortune of building things that, while they were technically very accomplished, no-one actually wanted (such as 3D banner ads and two dollar pig movies).

In late 2001 the founders of this company did the only sane thing and shut down the 3D animation side of the business and segued artfully into the shady world of P2P copyright violation, which was more financially viable but may result in them going to jail.
All of which is beside the point.

My point (and I do have one) is concerned with the interview process at BDE, which went through a number of revisions (some of which were known internally as “heard of 3dsmax? you’re in!”, “impatient frenchman” and “Boss’s girlfriend’s brother”). At one time we went in for what I like to call the gangbang interview, which involved the prospective candidate being interviewed by 6 or more BDE programmers and asked essentially random questions designed primarily to make the asker look smart (we thought we were shit-hot because we were almost (but not quite) in the games business – mostly it was a pose but some of us weren’t faking).

In these interviews, one of our developers (who was responsible for the Sega Saturn port of our 3D engine, poor guy) always asked the same question: “What is the funkiest thing you’ve ever done?”

At the time I thought it was a terrible question, not relevant to the technical requirements of the job and likely to lead to a blank kangaroo-in-the-headlights stare from the geekier applicants as they relived their worst not-cool-enough nightmares from high school.

Now that I’m older and (possibly) wiser? I think the “funky” question (or something like it) is an excellent question for job applicants.

Actually, the question itself isn’t as important as its intent, which is to detect some evidence of passion for software development.

And I have selfish reasons for this. I want to work with people who are passionate. It’s more rewarding and more fun. I also don’t think it’s hard to make the case that it benefits the organisation, too (except for extreme boundary cases like the guy who hacks on the Linux kernel until 3AM and then sleeps at his desk all day).

I don’t do heaps of interviewing but I’ve got a few things I always always ask:

1. If you’ve worked with two (or more) languages (say Java and C++) I always ask what you liked about each one and which you prefer. I don’t care which you prefer, I care that a) You have some understanding of the tradeoffs and b) you have an opinion.
2. What stuff do you do in your spare time. If you like development enough to do something in your spare time then you’ll likely care enough to do it well at work. In my experience the justajob crowd tend to be the worst for cut’n’paste evilness.

3. Can you speak with some animation and enthusiasm about something you’ve worked on in the past.

None of these are prerequisites. They’re a big help, though.