Sunday, February 27, 2005

Interview tips - for interviewers

[I'm waiting for a download to complete so I can unplug my modem, and am housebound, hence the glut of posts at the moment.]

I previously wrote about a rather weird interview process I went through last year, and I got a thoughtful email from a Durban-based psychologist about the topic a few weeks ago. My reply bounced, and I just re-sent it.

The email got me thinking about the interview process, and I also found this guide to interviewing for software developer positions.

The article reminded me of a critical point:

It is important to remember that the people you are interviewing are potential clients [or competitors], and pissing them off is not a good idea.

Some examples:
  • Something in the HR playbook seems to require rejections to be handled by a secretary, rather than the interviewer. That happened to me, and I thought, "WTF...he [the HR manager] phoned me twice, interviewed me twice, emailed me three times, and then pretends that his secretary is rejecting me." (I wrote about this job application previously). I later realized that it was probably a tactic used by HR people.
  • Rejection is tough, and I suppose that using a secretary to issue a letter that a candidate was unsuccessful is supposed to make it seem less personal, or something, but I just found it insulting, manipulative and pointless.
  • Another chap wasted my time, and money traveling for a position that was no longer available (it was painfully obvious from the way the interview was conducted). His company -I had done some research- had made a few blunders, and was having trouble with its projects. I wasn't surprised after the interview. Interestingly, I recently met someone else who went for an interview there at around the same time, and he too was struck by the incompetence of the outfit (he decided against taking their job offer). We have actually discussed the fact that it seemed that there was blood in the water, and that there is a business opportunity in grabbing the company's huge blue-chip client....

Companies that mistreat candidates develop a bad reputation and, through word of mouth, potential applicants will be scared off, or worse.

Links - 27/02/2005

Buying a new computer

I have decided that I need a new computer. I want a computer that has specific functionality. I must be able to...:

  • play Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 on it, to the end, with no performance degradation.
  • write DVD's
  • develop and debug applications using ASP.NET and Visual Studio.NET, with SQL Server 2000.
  • develop J2EE applications, if I ever need to.
  • connect to an Ethernet network, the internet, and to a printer
  • run MS Office 2000
  • use my USB-Bluetooth adapter

I don't have the time to browse technical websites looking for benchmarks, and I don't trust any of the computer dealers in my town - they all seem to be small-time crooks.

Buying from a big chain store is not an option, because specialize in selling overpriced and under-powered computers.

I will probably get my computer from a friend-of-a friend, or a colleague who has an account with a computer wholesaler, and who will make a small profit for their trouble, but I will still probably have to give them the specifications for the system that I want. The wholesalers' price lists, although password-protected, are not too difficult to obtain, so I will be able to see if I'm being ripped off.

This is less than ideal, and if someone developed an application that let me input functional specifications like those above, produced a detailed technical quote, broken down by component, and allowed one to compare prices from different suppliers, they would remove the guesswork from computer buying, and, I think, have a killer app.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci code is an entertaining, fast paced read. But I can see why there was mild hysteria from certain quarters ,regarding the book.

The idea that Christianity borrowed from pagan tradition is widely accepted, however, the book seems to make a fundamentally different statement - Christianity was essentially pagan, until the Church, as part of a power grab, destroyed the "sacred feminine", in the process deifying Jesus. Or something like that.

But it's only a novel, admittedly a fast-paced and engrossing one, but still, fundamentally, a work of fiction. The plot has also got some puzzles, that if one has the inclination for that sort of thing, could be interesting diversions. I didn't bother, and let the characters solve the puzzles, although I did figure out the Westminster Abbey codeword before the characters did.

If you are a bible-thumper stay away from this book, if you want to be entertained, and understand the difference between fact and fiction, then you should read The Da Vinci code.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Angels and Demons

Angels and Demons was a fairly entertaining book. Harry Potter for grownups, with a fast enough pace to cover the implausibility and junk science that fill the book.
I finished it on Monday, so I've forgotten some of the plot already - it's not a particularly memorable novel, but still worth a read if you have nothing better to do.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

One down, two to go

I finished reading Executive Orders, and it turned out to be a painful experience. The book is long, as noted in my previous post.

I can't give an objective assessment of the book, as I raced through it, but I felt a sense of relief after finishing.

The plot is made up of different threads, and, as each one developed, I found my curiosity turn into frustration and finally to relief, as each denouement signaled that the end of the book was approaching, and that I would be liberated from Clancy's acronym-laden and turgid prose.

Maybe I'll enjoy the Dan Brown novels more, especially since I don't think I'll feel the need to rush through them.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Jumping on the bandwagon

One of my teenaged cousins recommended Dan Brown's novel Angels and Demons to me. I did some research and found that Brown also wrote The Da Vinci Code, a book which I noticed being discussed on a few blogs.

So, I went to Exclusive Books, and finding that they were sold out, ordered the books from Amazon, along with Tom Clancy's Executive Orders.

The Clancy book is long and, like his other books, probably filled with insider-technobabble, but I feel compelled to read it because it follows on Debt of Honor, which ended with a plane crashing into the US Capitol while the president gave his State of the Union Address.

My package arrived today, and after powering through Clancy's book I'll see whether Brown's offerings live up to the hype. I am hopeful, however, given the strength of the recommendation by my cousin.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Who won the Iraq elections?

A lot of people are making a fuss about the Iraq elections, but they are oddly silent about the (very tardily released) results. As predicted moderate, pro-western liberals seem to be winning.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The return of sneakernet

One of the first things one learns about when studying computer networks is the bad old days of sneakernet, where people would physically transfer data by using removable media. LANs were supposed to solve all that.

But in the real world, I often find colleagues and friends sharing data by using USB flash drives. These are not computer neophytes, but engineers and software developers. They find it a lot easier to plug in and plug out, than it is to mess with domains and set permissions, or to email an executable (it's blocked by the mailserver, so it has to be zipped first, or have its extension changed).

Someone already wrote an article on this in 2002.