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Edison vs. Tesla, or DC vs. AC

and more on the great IT job hunt.

In the “Millennium in Review” article by Michael Finley [December 2000], he discusses how some technologies became industry standards, and states: “Likewise, Thomas Edison’s alternating current (AC) over Nikola Tesla’s direct current (DC) …”

He’s got it completely backwards! Tesla championed AC when he worked for Edison, and quit working for Edison (who was wedded to DC) over this issue and Edison’s failure to pay Tesla a certain premium for some of Tesla’s innovations. George Westinghouse realized that Tesla’s system of AC power distribution was superior and hired Tesla to harness Niagara Falls for hydropower. Edison tried mightily to convince the public that AC was dangerous, going so far as to arrange public demonstrations where he electrocuted dogs with AC. He referred to these demonstrations as “we’re going to Tesla this dog.” This is a part of what became known as the “war of the currents.”

Tesla’s system of power distribution is now the industry standard and is uniformly used throughout the world. If Edison had had his way, we’d have a power plant every mile or so, because DC doesn’t travel well over distance due to its inherent inefficiency. Clearly, Tesla is far more important in the field of power distribution, although Edison outranks him in “commercially useful appliances.”

It doesn’t surprise me that Finley got this wrong. Most history books overlook Tesla completely, and even attribute some of his discoveries to others, such as the development of radio. Marconi is the name you’ll find in the history books here, but the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 1943 patent case (after Tesla had died), gave Tesla priority here. – Jim Gianelli, jgianelli@totemocean.com

I am writing in response to a letter published in your November 2000 issue. The letter basically said jobs are hard to come by despite certifications. Prior to becoming a training consultant in the IT industry, I worked as a career consultant in the Houston area, under contract to the Texas Workforce Commission. Seeing the growth in the IT industry, I made the move, announcing my job search on a Wednesday. By Thursday morning I had an interview and on Friday morning I had a job offer.

Based on officially published statistics and my experience as a career consultant, I have to disagree with the anonymous writer’s complaint that the jobs are not out there. It may be true that a specific area may have a shortage of IT jobs, but in general, there are more openings than there are people to fill them.

More often than not, the reason a person is not getting job offers is not due to a shortage of positions, but rather as a result of the job-search techniques being used. I attended a high-tech job fair two weeks ago, and at times there were more recruiters than there were job seekers. Two key points to remember are that the résumé gets the interview and the interview gets the job offer. As a career consultant, I met many people who had excellent skills, but their résumés were not competitive. As a result, they got very few calls. However, once they developed competitive résumés and interviewing techniques, they began getting jobs at a much quicker rate.

If you are having trouble getting beyond the application phase, contact the local office operated through your state’s employment commission under the federal Workforce Investment Act. Funded by the Act, this office can provide you with résumés writing and interviewing assistance, along with other job-search technique information.

When you go for your certification, make sure you get one that will still be useful in the foreseeable future. Choose a school that provides job-search assistance. Ask the school about the employment rate for its graduates. Research the workforce needs in your geographic area.

A person with no experience in the IT field may want to consider starting with an A+ Service Technician or Network+ certification prior to jumping straight into the MCSE, thereby building experience and developing a better understanding of career options before spending money on a certification. Salary is based on certification and experience. Simply getting a certification doesn’t mean getting $100,000 per year. According to the Salary Wizard at salary.com, the average salary for a CIO with 10 years of experience is $128,335 in the United States. Starting pay for an MCSE with no experience ranges from $30,000 to $35,000.

Simply put, don’t expect life to be handed to you on a silver platter just because you have a certification. Everyone has to start somewhere. But with patience and effort, the silver platter will come. – Mark Stolarski, marks@avatar-cs.net

Regarding the anonymous writer and his difficulties in finding an IT job, I sympathize, but I must say that he is laboring under several very common misconceptions.

Sending résumés is not the only way to find a job. Many jobs are not found through résumés; people get hired because they know someone. What is our job seeker doing to network? Does our job seeker belong to any professional groups, such as the local Win NT/2000 group? Professional groups are good avenues for networking.

And what kind of résumé is our job seeker sending out? Is it the one-version-fits-all, bulk résumé with a job objective like “A job in IT in which I can use my skills and training”? The résumé needs to be rewritten for every job, with a specific objective, and sent with a real cover letter to a real person.

Certifications have limited value. There are hundreds of thousands of MCSEs and other certified people out there. Most IT managers will not hire someone solely on the basis of certifications. Certification tests usually don’t contain real-world content such as: “Make this shopping cart work by noon Friday.” Experience–any experience–is crucial. Does our job seeker have any internships, or part-time work in the field? Even a short period of low-end paid or volunteer work for a real IT department can make all the difference.

Those thousands of unfilled $100,000 tech jobs will not be filled with entry-level people with certifications. Companies need Java architects, XML B2B project managers, and other positions requiring experience in cutting-edge technologies. As in any field, IT specialists make more money.

Being an MCSE is not cutting-edge. But it is an employable skill. I’ve seen hundreds of students make the transition from one field or another to IT. Their employability has depended upon two key factors: how smart they work to get the job, and how competent they are to do the job. – K. Anthony Iannone, kiannone@hotmail.com

I have to say I’m somewhat disappointed and more than surprised at the info not covered in Matt Lake’s article “More free domain registrars.” (December 2000) To a certain degree I think it’s irresponsible not to cover the cons as well as the pros regarding free products and services. He talks about the time it takes for a registration to go through, but not the legal issues of registering a domain to which you may not get the rights. I picture the thousands of Internet newbies out there who might be blindly following his advice only to learn the hard way that his article was incomplete.

Many of the free domain services refuse to assign domains that are too attractive for one reason or another. Also, often someone may register a domain with one of these services only to find out that it was taken before the service had a chance to register it officially.

Plus, once you’re locked into one of these “free” domains, you’re subject to certain restrictions. Did he even read the legal agreements that are attached to these free services? For example, in the event a person wants to develop a full site and requires the domain to be transferred, these free domain-registration services have clauses that state they don’t have to transfer the domain if they don’t want to–for any reason–or they charge a transfer fee that costs more than if an individual had registered the domain themselves in the first place.

Imagine a person thinking he was getting a great deal for his dream domain himself only to find out he can’t take full possession of it. Sure, it’s great for testing a domain for traffic, and it’s the customer’s responsibility to read all the fine print. But when you’re writing an article on such services you should be more thorough. Not once did Lake mention that potential users of these services should go over the disclaimers with a fine-tooth comb and realize that certain domains may not get released if the company deems them too valuable to let go. It’s in writing and deserves emphasis. – Vince Kernaghan, vince@praxismedia.com

Matt Lake’s response:
Register.com (NameDemo’s parent company) and NameZero are Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)-accredited domain registrars, not street-corner hustlers trying to steal domain ideas. Their business is getting paying customers to register domains, and their giveaway is an opportunity for them to upsell (which they’re currently doing at a discount, not at a premium). My reading of the companies’ service agreements shows nothing to cause concern. Certainly, they retain a lot of rights at their sole discretion, but this is clearly legal insurance for them–they are listed as the registrants of the free domains, so they have to cover themselves against potential trademark litigation. Consumer suspicion is a good thing, but in this case, I’m not being a Pollyanna in thinking that it’s unfounded.

To start a discussion or ask a question, e-mail james@ computeruser.com. Letters may be edited for style, length, or content. No anonymous letters will be published.

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