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Programming

Who Wants To Be a Billionaire Coder? 318

Posted by timothy
from the will-settle-for-billionaire dept.
theodp writes "Computerworld reports that 60-year-old billionaire John Sall still enjoys cranking out code as the chief architect of JMP ('John's Macintosh Project'), the less-profitable-but-more-fun software from SAS that's used primarily by research scientists, engineers, and Six Sigma manufacturing types. 'It's always been my job to be a statistical software developer,' explains SAS co-founder Sall. So if you didn't have to work — and had more money than George Lucas and Steven Spielberg — would you be like Sall and continue to program? And if so, what type of projects would you work on?"
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Who Wants To Be a Billionaire Coder?

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  • heh. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SinShiva (1429617)
    PulseAudio.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nmb3000 (741169)

      PulseAudio

      Something so easy? With all that time and money, I would expect you to take on an challenge of Olympian difficulty.

      Me, I'd offer to fix Slashdot's CSS.

      (in before "web design isn't programming")

  • Open Source (Score:5, Interesting)

    by abhi_beckert (785219) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:35PM (#29480513)

    I would work on open source alternatives to software which currently only has good commercial options. Anything which I didn't have the knowledge to work on myself (artwork, interface design, low level algorithms, security...), I would hire experts to work on.

    • I was thinking the same venue: OSS is it. Mostly, I'd start developing games, A-titles, hire a bunch of good artists and programmers, and crank out games for 10 bucks a title.

      I'm convinced the market share of Linux would skyrocket to at least 50% within a year.

      • No, 'cause if they were OSS one week later they would have been ported to Windows, and people would only play when it happened.

  • by wrook (134116) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:36PM (#29480517) Homepage

    I quit my 100 hour a week job and picked something a little bit less stressful. Now I'm only working 35 hours a week and don't program for a living. I live 5 minutes from work. I have plenty of time to do whatever I want including coding. I hate this attitude that you need to have more money that many small countries in order to do what you want. There are many routes to happiness. Programmers are supposed to be good problem solvers -- find a solution that works for you!

    • by Fourier404 (1129107) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:41PM (#29480547)
      Programming something I'm not particularly fond of is better than spending 35 hours/week I'm probably even less interested in. Obviously you have to put in those hours in order to make a living, and the point of this article is "if you didn't have to do it for a living (i.e. you already have more money than you need), what would you be programming?", not "what would you do with a tons of money?"
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:48PM (#29480581)

      I feel you are deliberately misinterpreting the question, and changing to subject to congratulate yourself on your life. The entire premise is set up to eliminate one common consideration in evaluating the many paths to happiness, and then asking if coding is in the remaining options.

      For me, a person who also lives close to work and does 35-40 hours a week in a job I'm happy with and well-paid for, the answer is...no. I would probably not code. I probably wouldn't go back to school for physics, either, but that's at least in the realm of possibility and would be above coding on the list of things to do, despite the difference in time commitments (I mean, I might put together a batch file or something for myself to make my life slightly easier, but no significant coding).

      The vision in my head is of an eternal weekend, and it is a glorious one. The only thing that could persuade me to code again would be the prospect of meeting people that I have something in common with. Like many slashdotters, I'm not naturally very social.

      • by AvitarX (172628) <meNO@SPAMbrandywinehundred.org> on Saturday September 19, 2009 @11:29PM (#29480755) Journal

        You should definitely work on the Linux kernel then.

        Lots of polite discussion with people of similar interests.

      • by steelfood (895457) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @01:57AM (#29481239)

        It's strange. Eternal weekends start to get boring after a while. You start running out of stuff to do. Then you don't do anything. Then a month down the line, you wonder what just happened to the month before.

        Having a job isn't simply about money. It's also about the accomplishment, and feeling accomplished. Some people loathe their jobs. That's unfortunate. But for those who do something they like doing, that they feel is worthwhile doing, the money's just icing on the cake. Or it's really, an extra bonus for what they'd be doing for free anything.

        What happens to people on an eternal weekend after a while is an accelerated mid-life crisis. Life itself becomes meaningless.

        As to answer the question myself, I probably wouldn't code if I didn't have to. I have other interests and hobbies that I'd be interested in pursuing. It's nothing terribly grand, mind you, just things that I'd rather be doing that's not coding.

        • by Grishnakh (216268) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @02:52AM (#29481465)

          Having a job isn't simply about money. It's also about the accomplishment, and feeling accomplished. Some people loathe their jobs. That's unfortunate. But for those who do something they like doing, that they feel is worthwhile doing, the money's just icing on the cake. Or it's really, an extra bonus for what they'd be doing for free anything.

          I doubt this. There's a reason it's called "work", and there's a reason that "work" and "fun" are not listed together in the thesaurus.

          Personally, I could definitely see myself coding if I was a billionaire, except I'd be working on some interesting open-source project. I would NOT be doing the type of work I do at work. It's not that I dislike coding (which is my primary job at work), it's that I dislike everything else: commuting to an inconveniently-located office every morning in traffic, having a shitty desk (not even a real cubicle) in an open work area where I can see all my cow-orkers and be subject to constant noise and commotion, having to work on something that's not exactly the most interesting project to me (unlike an OSS project of my choosing), dealing with deadlines and pressure from management, dealing with the crappy bug database we use, having to use Windows and Outlook which takes 30-60 seconds to read a single email, dealing with annoying cow-orkers, having to use bathrooms that smell like a sewer, etc. ad nauseum.

          Of course, I have some other hobbies I enjoy too when I have the time (not nearly enough), such as woodworking. If I was a billionaire, I'd simply spend all my time pursuing these hobbies, while I'm not traveling. And when I'm coding, I'd be doing it at home in an environment I like without noisy coworkers, working on projects I'm interested in which may have no monetary potential.

          So back to your original statement quoted above, really, how many people would get up every morning and go to an office and deal with coworkers and bosses if they weren't required to for a paycheck? I seriously doubt many would. They might go volunteer somewhere for a worthy cause or whatever, like many retired people do, but I'm pretty sure corporate office work would grind to a halt if everyone had all the money they wanted and didn't have to go work at some boring office for a living.

          • by Burning1 (204959) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @04:17AM (#29481703) Homepage

            I had the opportunity to do something I would consider a 'dream job' for a couple of years. I was living at home, and accepted a job as a Martial Arts instructor, something I had been doing in my spare time for a while, anyway.

            What I learned in the process is that when you take on your hobby as a job, you find that you end up doing a lot of work you wouldn't have originally considered fun. Teaching was great, and I'm proud of it. It could also be tiring. But sales, and accounting? You don't think of that when you accept a job at a martial arts school.

            The same is true of open source projects. How many guys really want to run the entire project themselves -- writing documentation, offering customer support. Even when you're just a coder, you're eventually put in the position of taking on responsibilities that you might not want.

            Personally, I like to work on cars. There's no way in hell I'd do it professionally.

            Conversely... I'd like to be the billionaire, but I absolutely could not stand having an eternal weekend. I'd need pursuits. The money would free me to choose my own work, and hire people to do the stuff I wasn't particularly interested in.

        • by shaitand (626655) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @10:08AM (#29482627) Journal

          "Some people loathe their jobs. That's unfortunate. But for those who do something they like doing, that they feel is worthwhile doing, the money's just icing on the cake. Or it's really, an extra bonus for what they'd be doing for free anything."

          Not really. It starts out that way but then what you started out loving becomes your job. Next thing you know, thats the last thing you want to do in your spare time. Whatever your job is, do the best job of it you can. Not because your employer deserves it, they probably don't, but because you spend a substantial portion of your life doing it. You can also make more money but you can't make more time. Time is not money, it is far far more precious.

          Honestly, given the freedom to ignore financial concerns I would probably leave technology behind at this point in my life. Think private monastery in the mountains and a very zen lifestyle.

      • by Machtyn (759119)
        I've always told my wife, when I get rich I'm going to be a high school teacher. I'll teach the way the kids need to learn and not the way some hack administration wants me to do it. What are they going to do? Reduce my pay? Fire me? It wouldn't matter, my livelihood would not depend on their money... in fact, I'd work for cheap to save the govm't some cash.
        • by mwvdlee (775178)

          Why would your way of teaching be any better than the "hack administration"'s way of teaching? IMHO, the assumption that all children learn the same way is exactly what's wrong with schools.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Grishnakh (216268)

          That would be pointless, because they would fire you before you had a chance to make any kind of difference. They don't care if you're willing to work cheaply (they don't pay teachers much anyways in most places), they want underlings who do things the way they say to do them, just like everyone who's in power.

          If you get that rich, you'd be better off starting your own private school, or funding scholarships at good private schools for kids who can't afford them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Same kind of deal here as well. I left my old stressful job and went with one that has me working the standard forty hour work week.

      Friends ask why I would continue to code outside of work, since that is all I do all week, especially with the minimal budget I live on.(I could quit and live for a few years before I ran out of savings.) They think I should relax and enjoy myself.

      Why? I come up with ideas I wish to try out and that is how I enjoy myself. Most end up in a folder of projects that may never g

    • by nEoN nOoDlE (27594) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @11:27PM (#29480747) Homepage

      you don't need a billion dollars to be happy, but if he loses his job, he still could continue doing whatever he wants to do for the rest of his life, and his children (if he has any) don't have to work a single day of their lives. You might be happy, but you're happiness hangs on the state of the company you work for. If they start downsizing, or go completely bust, you could say goodbye to your 35 hour/week job that's 5 minutes away from home. I don't know about you, but my happiness being beholden to a third party I have no control over adds a certain level of stress which eats away at that happiness. A billion dollars to relieve that stress would be nice.

      • "and his children (if he has any) don't have to work a single day of their lives."

        Why is that a good thing? Paradoxically, in America, for a country that works as many as as it does, which is a lot for a developed nation, it hates the idea of working. Having a job and/or doing what you love gives meaning and purpose to many people's lives. The key is to do what you love, not stop working altogether. There are people who are in situations where they don't have to work, i.e. trust fund babies, and some of

    • by DoctorPepper (92269) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @11:40PM (#29480791)

      I totally agree. I used to program for a living, now I'm a middle-ware systems engineer on Unix systems, for a large U.S. corporation. I get to work from home, play in Unix and Linux all day, make a pretty good living, and still code for myself.

      Am I a billionaire? hardly. Do I enjoy my life a bit more then I did? Most assuredly.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Grishnakh (216268)

      You seem to be attempting to answer a question irrelevant to this article.

      Money buys you freedom: the freedom to do what you want, when you want, without having to worry (as much) about earning money to pay for your own continued existence (food, rent, bills, etc.). Sure, you can decide to make less money and live on this lower income, but that means cutting something: not taking any foreign vacations, living in a smaller house or apartment, having a crappier car, having your wife leave you because she doe

  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShooterNeo (555040) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:42PM (#29480549)

    The man's 60, and the clock is ticking. The number of good years he has left could be 10 or 20, or it could be 1. If you could do anything you wanted, but were sure to die in a decade or two, would you really spend time programming computers? Programming can be fun, but there's more interesting things to do in life.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sylos (1073710) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:51PM (#29480595)
      To each their own. Yeah, if I had 60 billion dollars and 20 years to spend it on doing things I wanted..I'd travel the world, visit the people, etc. But at the end of the day? I'd log on to check my emails, read slashdot (:o), mod someone flamebait for GP, then wander off and program. Just because someone is wealthy as sin doesn't mean they have to stop enjoying certain things. Programming is fun. No need to stop programming. If anything, it removes the stress from deadlines or certain requirements and lets you program completely on your own terms. It would mean that all those things you ever wanted to do, you could do. You could wander off to 'theoryland' and think things through without someone breathing down your neck asking for "results" or a deadline that forces a hack job. It'd truly let someone do what they wanted.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Brian Gordon (987471)

        You'd really be able to peel yourself away from the tropical island with 10 servants on the clock 24 hours a day to serve you 200 year old wine, your private library larger than Google's (except all in hardcover first editions), baths of gold coins, a private jet with built in casino, and your 200 square foot bed covered with silk sheets and priceless animal furs and dotted with down-fluff pillows to just browse slashdot?

        OK I probably would too. I'd do it with the processing power of my private botnet which

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by alexburke (119254)

          You'd really be able to peel yourself away from the tropical island with 10 servants on the clock 24 hours a day to serve you 200 year old wine, your private library larger than Google's (except all in hardcover first editions), baths of gold coins, a private jet with built in casino, and your 200 square foot bed covered with silk sheets and priceless animal furs and dotted with down-fluff pillows to just browse slashdot?

          OK I probably would too. I'd do it with the processing power of my private botnet which I paid Microsoft to build into every NT-based OS since NT4.

          Nah that isn't right either. TBH I think I would buy a nice, small house in some suburb with FIOS. It'd be mostly bare except for ludicrously expensive art I liked which I'd hang inconspicuously in my bedroom. And I'd have a couple of machines which I'd keep updated. Maybe I'd buy some of those $50,000 cisco clunkers to play around with occasionally. I'd browse slashdot, read wikipedia, and learn everything there is to learn.

          And for some reason when I imagine myself rich I see myself doing daily tasks (mail, slashdot, irc) on the very latest MacBook. I just might.

          I absolutely, wholeheartedly second this. (The infomation-sponge and CCNA in me both approve, too.)

    • Well it is a matter of taste, but bear in mind that it doesn't say he's coding 12 hours a day, 365 days a year. He may very well be enjoying some of the more obvious pleasures in life along with his coding. Some folks would happily spend years laying naked on a Tahitian beach drinking Pina Coladas, other folks would find that nice enough for a week or two, but then want to go back something more engaged with world. There is a pleasure and satisfaction all its own in exercising skill, particularly if the pro

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      "Programming can be fun, but there's more interesting things to do in life."

      Maybe he enjoys it? Some people enjoy painting or writing, but I'd hate to spend my entire life writing or painting. And who says he doesn't travel the world and have fun?
    • by Jack9 (11421)

      If I felt I had a fraction of those finances, to fund and produce the software I always wanted to make, I would spend my last breath trying to do so. Just as I am now, but I'm not quite wealthy enough.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

      by rtb61 (674572) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @11:59PM (#29480859) Homepage

      I don't enjoy coding all that much but, there is a great deal of problem solving, expressive creativity in the solutions, intense neural stimulation and satisfaction from a well crafted application. Whilst I would not make it my happy, I certainly wouldn't make a blanket statement that it is undesirable. Things are would rate coding far above in terms of qualitative life experience and contributing to society.

      Sticking my penis non-reproductively inside as many people as possible.
      Aimless global travel, pretending I'm someone special and, deserve to be waited on hand and foot.
      Excessive drug abuse, both legal and illegal.
      Politics as a satisfaction of ego.
      Strutting around with a charitable foundation that only gives away the absolute legal minimum to sustain it's legal status each year.

      I admit I really enjoy learning and using new software applications from games, to office suites, CAD, graphics, databases etc. thanks to all those open source coders who enjoy coding and the value it brings to society and sincerely thank you very much indeed.

    • This guy is obviously statistically speaking deviant.

      John Sall! Leave that keyboard and get a life!

    • by WillKemp (1338605)

      The man's 60, and the clock is ticking.

      The clock starts ticking when you're born. Just because you're young doesn't mean you won't be dead tomorrow.

      If you could do anything you wanted, but were sure to die in a decade or two, would you really spend time programming computers?

      Yes - and particularly so as i got older. The worst thing you can do when you're getting old is let your brain turn to mush. Programming keeps the neural pathways clear.

      • by wootest (694923)

        I'd say that the worst thing you can do at any point in life is something that doesn't give you personal fulfillment. That may come as a response of having fun and being productive (and in a further sense of course from values like being kind and respected and so on). If you don't get any fulfillment from programming, if you neither like the challenge of the logical and structural problem nor the craft itself, it's essentially a chore. That probably explains why half the people in this thread would drop eve

    • by JAlexoi (1085785)
      That was moded insightful? On Slashdot?!?
      Programming is a creative activity, it will never be boring when you are not doing what you told to do(monkey coding). Yes, there are a lot of things to do in life, those other things unfortunately includes getting killed and suicide. And being that rich, he probably has traveled quite extensively, since you are posting on slashdot, I bet you are not as rich and you probably do not know what you would do after doing "more interesting things to do in life".
  • No. (Score:5, Funny)

    by pizza_milkshake (580452) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:43PM (#29480555)
    No, I would buy a nice, quiet island out in the middle of nowhere. And blow it up.
  • the patient tasks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tlord (703093) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:44PM (#29480565)

    I've been programming for, like, uh.... about 27 or 28 years. Arguably longer if you wanna go back to really little kid stuff.

    If I had that much money - was basically (if I wanted to be) in the leisure class - what I would like to believe about myself is that I would try to secure my family's material conditions really well, try to make as efficient as possible my wealth management program, and, as to hacking.....

    There are *so many* really great and valuable potential projects that (a) nobody is investing in; (b) have an investment horizon that is tough because these are projects that will take a good 5 years, let's say, to get to where seeing a return is on the table. A good 10 years before you start to see the possibility of "done".

    I would start an R&D lab but a very small one - perhaps 10 people - and while we'd try to have some positive income spin-offs each year from 0 onward, the goal would be to create the kind of environment where we can take off some of the bigger, long-neglected problems.

    You kids these days don't know what's possible in a GUI framework. You don't know how to do language design, systems software generally, databases, file systems, or a whole lot of other basics. You've inherited really mediocre crap and you take for granted that that's where things are at. And the industry has ceased production of grey-beards. (Also: get off my lawn!)

    "like tears in the rain", -t

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by maxume (22995)

      Your first paragraph is preposterous. Even as little as 1 billion dollars doesn't particularly need to be managed to secure a nice future for dozens of people (let's say you put it in bonds earning 1% (which would be hilariously bad), that's 10 million a year, it takes an utter jackass to successfully squander that much money (you could send 10 people to Harvard, buy a nice house and a Ferrari, and still have to decide to do with the other 7 million), never mind that you could, in an emergency, touch (proba

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tlord (703093)

        You misunderstand. By "managing wealth" I very much include not leaving *too* much of a legacy for kids, making sure as little as possible goes towards evil, and getting as much of the surplus doing good works. Buffet is schematically the right idea here, even if I don't agree with all of his particular decisions. My selfish thing is that I wouldn't want to spend 60 hours / week managing various investments. Nor would I want to just hand most of it over to the Gates foundation. $1B today, if you ca

        • (paraphrasing) "Leave kids enough money to do anything; just not enough to do nothing"

          Warren E. Buffett
        • by mgblst (80109)

          The worst thing you could do for your kids is leave them no reason to work. Morons think they are doing them a favour, they are not.

      • I don't know about you, but I'm not throwing my billion dollars into some bonds- that's ridiculous. Making sure you stay a billionaire isn't as easy as stuffing mattresses with cash. Do you keep your money tied to the US economy? I wouldn't- I'd probably invest in Euros. Actually, I'd hire a team of specialists to manage my assets, and I'd hire the best, and I'd keep them on indefinitely. They'd pay for themselves. After acquiring a billion dollars is not the time to play internet-trained armchair investor.

        • by AuMatar (183847)

          And who cares? Even if you lose 99% of it you can live comfortably for the rest of your life. Its not worth worrying about. Just spread it in bonds from more than 1 country and company. Then only the en of civilization could bankrupt you, and if that happens money won't mean shit anyway.

    • by seifried (12921) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @12:08AM (#29480893) Homepage

      You contradict yourself:

      have an investment horizon that is tough because these are projects that will take a good 5 years

      But then go on to say:

      and while we'd try to have some positive income spin-offs each year from 0 onward, the goal would be to create the kind of environment where we can take off some of the bigger, long-neglected problems.

      So immediately you're pushing to have immediate spin offs, with immediate returns which sort of puts pressure on your people (and you only have 10...) to make money fast, er I mean to show immediate results. Good luck with those long term projects. Stuff coming out of IBM's research lab has in some cases taken 10 or 20 years, but resulted in things like hard drives larger than a gigabyte, etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:48PM (#29480579)

    If he does, he's one sick masochistic sonofabitch. Gawd, SAS is some nasty ass looking code. I once had to replace a SAS program with a much more efficient (and infinitely easier to read) COBOL program. Yes, you heard that right, C-O-B-O-L. COBOL kicks SAS's ass. BAM! Take that, John Sall!

    Now, where'd I leave my beer...

  • Ask the retired (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macemoneta (154740) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:50PM (#29480589) Homepage

    I retired eight years ago. I write code almost every day. Being ultimately lazy, I try to automate everything that I see. If it's a function that has to be performed more than once, and some aspect can be simplified with software, I write the code.

    Most everything is for my own use, and not generally applicable. A few things are more broadly useful, and those I've released under the GPL. Even those only get a few hundred interested people with the same niche interests.

    Some people are carpenters, and they work in their shops. Some people are artists, and they work with their medium. People that are really programmers must write code.

    • by Gazzonyx (982402)
      Retired, eh? So I take it you write ADA-95 ;)
      Seriously, though, what do you primarily write code in these days? Do you find that you have less of a desire to learn new languages and more of a desire to just Get Things Done?

      I'm only 25 and I've found recently that I have a growing disdain for "shiny-language-of-the-month" and really I'd just like to use whatever works. I'm not sure if this is just a preference at this moment or something that will continue with time.

      I'll get off your lawn now.
      • Re:Ask the retired (Score:5, Interesting)

        by macemoneta (154740) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @12:32AM (#29480981) Homepage

        Seriously, though, what do you primarily write code in these days? Do you find that you have less of a desire to learn new languages and more of a desire to just Get Things Done?

        I mostly use scripting: bash and tcl/expect. Over my career, I learned and used about four dozen languages. I see them now as being more the same than they are different. There is rarely an inherent benefit in one over the other. Bash is always available on the platforms I use. When I need more complex code tcl/expect provides command interaction and timer-based processing.

        In both cases, the code executes more than fast enough on a single user modern desktop. Compiling code is unnecessary, especially when the majority of the heavy lifting is being performed by highly optimized GNU utilities.

        I don't have a problem learning new languages, I just see less of a reason to. Just as fewer people see a need to write assembly now (I did that for 15 years), I imagine in another couple of decades (if that long) compiled languages will seem antiquated to most. You'll be telling someone on Slashdot that you coded in a compiled language for 15 years then. And it will seem just as strange. :)

    • I write code almost every day. Being ultimately lazy, I try to automate everything...

      Lazy? Really? You're lazy enough to be unsatisfied with inefficiency, but ambitious enough to effect a change. That curious duo is the coal and fire of progress.

      I think it's wonderful that you still code after retirement - you probably liked your job. All jobs are somewhat means to an end, but some are ends in themselves as well. You really have a good head on your shoulders.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by macemoneta (154740)

        I think it's wonderful that you still code after retirement - you probably liked your job.

        I thought of work in a somewhat reversed manner than most. I like learning, mostly the sciences. My primary interest is in computers and networking. I worked at the places I worked because of what I could learn - I probably would have done the same for free. That they paid me was really a bonus. Fortunately, they didn't know that. :)

        I started reading about computers when I was in elementary school, at a time when

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:54PM (#29480613)

    It's every programmer's fantasy.

    • I'd program two projects at the same time

      It's every programmer's fantasy.

      Come work where I work, you could probably even get three or four if you wanted.

      And yeah, it really cuts down on the boring dead time waiting for people to clarify requirements or get various dependencies in order.

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@NoSPaM.mac.com> on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:55PM (#29480621) Journal

    If I was financially independent, I'd probably be working on flight control systems for UAVs.

    -jcr

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:58PM (#29480633)

    It's always been my job to be a statistical software developer...

    Does this mean his code only probably runs correctly?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Brian Gordon (987471)

      That's useful... probable primes [wikipedia.org] are much easier to test for than true primes, and the error is small enough to be acceptable for RSA. There's a whole branch of complexity theory dedicated [wikipedia.org] to probabilistic algorithms.

  • Work on! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tsa (15680) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:58PM (#29480637) Homepage

    I am jobless at the moment, and the most difficult thing about that is keeping yourself busy. In today's crisis, job-searching isn't a full-time occupation, so there is plenty of time to do other things. The problem is: most of these things can be done tomorrow. So I really have to force myself to do them today. When you work, most of the time someone is waiting for the results of your labour, which is very motivating. So I'd rather work on than 'enjoy' my pension when I'm 65 and still healthy enough to work.

  • Of Freakin' Course! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rary (566291) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @11:15PM (#29480695)

    Of course I'd program if I didn't have to work for a living. I mean, I didn't get into this business because I thought it would be profitable. I got into it because it's want I enjoy doing. The fact that I happen to get paid fairly well for it is just bloody awesome, but if it wasn't profitable, I'd have some crappy day job I hate and would code in my spare time. Likewise, if I simply didn't need the money, then I wouldn't need the crappy day job, but I'd still code in my (much more significant) spare time — in addition to all the other things that I enjoy doing.

    The tougher question is what projects I'd work on. I suppose I could do anything I want, so I'd probably do less useful coding. I'd build things that have already been built just because I want to see how I would do it. I'd build things that are silly just because the idea popped into my head. I'd probably start tons of projects that I'd never get around to finishing.

    • by swillden (191260)

      I'd probably start tons of projects that I'd never get around to finishing.

      Me too... but if I had that much money, when I got a project to the point that I didn't want to finish it, I'd hire a team to finish and polish it for me, diving in whenever it looked interesting. I'd probably annoy the hell out of the team :-)

      Oh, and everything I and my teams produced would be Free Software.

  • Of course. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19, 2009 @11:38PM (#29480783)

    Money buys one the freedom to do what makes one happy.

    • by bit01 (644603)

      Money buys one the freedom to do what makes one happy.

      Less the lack of freedom and amount of unhappiness needed to get that money.

      ---

      The USA is <5% of the world's population. It is statistically insignificant.

  • Given effectively unlimited resources and time, I'd love to buy up the rights and source to the release version of Planetside, before SOE patched it into the dirt and released horrible expansions. Setup a free server with a generous population cap, and sponsor a few pro gamer teams (how hard could it be to find 100 high school gamers willing to play for minimum wage?) to keep the server active. Hire a small team of coders to help me debug what Sony should have, and tinker with whatever gameplay aspects se
    • I think you'd be disappointed with games against high school gamers paid to practice the game. Even against normal high school gamers you'd probably be helpless :)

  • by kurisuto (165784) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @11:46PM (#29480815) Homepage

    At my day job in the software industry, I often feel like a musician who has to make a living writing advertising jingles. At least I get do use my talent, but it's not what I'd create if I had complete freedom.

    I often dream about having the freedom and unlimited time to code whatever I want, on my own schedule, to my own standards, without any concern about whether the product could make money or not. One lifetime would not be long enough to code all of the cool ideas which I'm constantly thinking up.

    • I often dream about having the freedom and unlimited time to code whatever I want, on my own schedule, to my own standards, ..

      Leaping from tree to tree, as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia. The Giant Redwood. The Larch. The Fir! The mighty Scots Pine!

    • Curious. What would you (or anyone that happens to read this) want to code?

      I'm not much of a coder, but I've written code for fun before (because it is fun). But honestly, I get 80% of the way there encounter a few interesting problems, overcome them, get 90% of the way there, encounter some pain in the ass problem and stop. After all, the code technically DOES most of the interesting things I want it to do, just not without a small manual tweak here and there. Am I the only one that gets bored like
      • by khayman80 (824400)

        But honestly, I get 80% of the way there encounter a few interesting problems, overcome them, get 90% of the way there, encounter some pain in the ass problem and stop. After all, the code technically DOES most of the interesting things I want it to do, just not without a small manual tweak here and there. Am I the only one that gets bored like this?

        I'm the same way; short attention span and insufficiently masochistic to bother with the finishing touches. But I do enjoy removing the need for manual tweaks.

        • by hab136 (30884)

          I'm wondering why you wait on the outer for-loop, instead of spawning a separate thread that wakes up every x seconds and prints (or not, depending on your settings).

  • by Roogna (9643)

    Would I continue to code? Of course, but I'd be quite happy to be back to more like my teenage years where I coded things because I simply had an idea, whether I felt the idea could pay bills or not.

  • ... from my cold dead fingers.

    If I were a billionaire, though, I wouldn't just be hacking visualization software -- I'd have an AI/quantum computing research lab.

  • I like what I do (programming) and have loved it since I first discovered computers in 1970. It has never grown old and I would enjoy continuing to do it even if I didn't have to.
  • I'd still do this stuff, but I'd focus on new platforms, new gadgets, expert systems, and other things that don't immediately make me a reliable salary but are fun and engaging to work on. Either that, or I'd get a degree in something more personally rewarding and go that route. No more working on some business app that has been done a hundred times over that I'm only developing because they figured it was cheaper to do in house, or they needed like 3 features they couldn't get elsewhere.
  • by plopez (54068)

    If I were him I would fix SAS. Seriously. It has a nice set of serious, I really mean *serious* statistical and numerical method and simulation packages but boy is it butt ugly. JCL ugly. Punch card ugly. You can still really see the punchcard/mainframe/JCL roots in the basic package roots of the sftware which is sad.

    Why is it sad? It is sad because it causes people to reach for Excel which has some serious problems with it when used for statistical purposes. I esp. wouldn't rely on it for medical or any s

    • by flynt (248848)

      While I agree with your points, the fact is that SAS has such a stranglehold on some industries, specifically the pharma industry, that they haven't had to improve their product much in recent years. I mean, I think in the last few years, the one major feature that their survival models package (proc phreg) got was the ability to include categorical variables with more than 2 categories (i.e., a class statement).

      R, which is a GNU project, has taken over completely when it comes to new statistical methods b

      • by plopez (54068)

        they haven't had to improve their product much in recent years.

        my point exactly. They don't have have to care. Passion shows. If you care, you'll fix it. Or at least give grants to those who have a passion to fix it. IMO.

  • What a nerd.

    Have you seen his blog [sas.com]?

    It's full of charts and graphs. Not [xkcd.com] ones [xkcd.com] like [xkcd.com] this [xkcd.com]. Real ones.

  • Sall or SAS?

    He's 60 so maybe 20 years. SAS is a huge, expensive, and in these days anachronistic package - or rather big mess of packages. It really has not moved on from punch cards. How long has it got?

    If he wanted to provide a legacy he could give some money to open source development - R could do a lot with a million, look what it does with pretty much nothing (www.r-project.org).

    How expensive is SAS? Someone on the R mailing list asked about whether to use R or SAS for a web-based stats server. Someone

  • "Who Wants To Be a Billionaire Coder?" would be a good game show for computer geeks and nerds, especially if it was hosted by Regis Philbin.

  • by Tom (822) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @03:32AM (#29481567) Homepage Journal

    So if you didn't have to work -- and had more money than George Lucas and Steven Spielberg

    You don't have to be reach to be able to do what you want. The idea of Basic Income [wikipedia.org] is getting widespread support and the movement has been growing for some years. What if you didn't have to work? I have a flyer on my desk right now with the exact same question (in german).

    Indeed, most of us would probably pursue their hobby projects, and find out that people are willing to pay for them. I make money with hobby stuff. Not enough for a living, but some here and some there. It's surprising what people are willing to pay for if they don't need every cent for the rent.

    • by janwedekind (778872) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @07:32AM (#29482167) Homepage
      I have seen the video Grundeinkommen [kultkino.ch] (German) and I was very intrigued by the idea. But after (admittedly lengthy) consideration I start having doubts. I'm not so concerned about people not working at all. It's rather about cooperation, i.e. everybody will only do the fun part of his/her work. Why would you continue to align your interest with what society requires while everybody else is pursuing their own interest?
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @04:44AM (#29481753)

    Like, buying out MS and shutting it down. Just to see how company exec starts sweating who lived by the mantra "buy MS, they'll never go away".

  • by mark99 (459508)

    Yes. Coding, and partying. With occastional vacations to nice spots like Thailand or Greece. Kind of like how I spent my 20's ;).

    I would do visualization projects of various kinds - all with some heavy math component.

  • 1) I would built my own computer platform - hardware, operating system and software that would be state of the art; a quantum leap in programmability, usability, reliability and performance.

    2) try to solve the AI problem.

    3) help alternative physics models research, cold fusion, antigravity, zero point energy etc

  • by jimicus (737525) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @08:07AM (#29482281)

    I'd build my own theme park. With blackjack and hookers.

    In fact, forget the theme park.

  • JMP rocks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by waferbuster (580266) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @08:24AM (#29482329)
    As an end user of JMP, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank him for his ultra-cool program. There are times when you need to do something simple, such as graph X vs Y while color coding each point by Z. Try doing that in Excel, and experience frustration (it can be done with macros, but not elegantly). In JMP, such graphs are easily done using the COLOR BY function on the menu. So simple, yet so powerful. JMP is my favorite graphing program, even more than being my favorite stats program.

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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