What is a cheap, but good, alternative to Polycom conference phones?

Have you tried out Sqwiggle? It uses the hardware built into your computer to provide really great presence with your team throughout the day. You can also start a video discussion with a single click. I'd recommend taking a look!

Sqwiggle – Remote Working, Collaboration and Communication

Full disclosure: I'm a cofounder

What are some things I can try to fix a desktop PC that doesn't turn on?

If absolutely nothing happens when you press the power button, I would first check if the button is properly connected to the motherboard. Second is probably exchanging power supply, and then lastly the motherboard. If CPU starts spinning but doesn't go further, there should be a series of beeps (known as POST: Power On Self Test) which should indicate what is causing the failure. You can read through your m/b manual to see what the beeps mean.

What are the top Application Performance Management (APM) companies/services?

A lot of the top tools have been mentioned here already, but don't forget about new companies like ruxit.  Coming from the background of being in the founding phase of APM startups they often offer innovation that existing solutions fall short. Just to give you two examples. dynaTrace was they first company to introduce end-to-end tracing a.k.a. PurePath technology or New Relic was the first company to offer SaaS-based APM.

New companies like ruxit – which I am a proud member of the first hours – focus on automated analytics and support for really large scale environments. Even if you rather want to go with an established companies. It is worth checking these companies out, just to see where the market is heading and what the answer of existing leaders to future directions in the market is.

When should a technology-savvy startup hire its first corporate IT person?

At Playdom I hired our first IT guy at around 30 employees. There was initial resistance – many thought they could pitch in and do it themselves. But at the end of the day, logic won – it doesn't make sense to have senior staff and engineers troubleshooting printer issues. Our guy came on, was instantly fully utilized and made a big impact.

I'm now onto the next 30-person startup and looking to fill the same role.

How long do universities typically reserve email addresses after you leave?

As of 2009, Cornell's policy is:

Starting with the Class of 2009, students who had a Cmail account when they graduated can continue to use it without taking any action for as long as Google offers the service.
Students who graduated before 2009, or who did not have a Cmail account when they graduated, can use Cornell's email forwarding service to direct their "@cornell.edu" messages to another email account.

Hence, one can use his or her Cornell email "forever," provided that Google provides mail services forever.

Source: http://www.alumni.cornell.edu/se…

Are there schools that do not retain email addresses for alumni?

Stanford does not.

Stanford alums who pay the ~$400 to join the Stanford Alumni Association can get @stanfordalumni.org email addresses, but they are completely separate from the @stanford.edu email addresses distributed to all students, which expire a few months post-graduation. Unfortunately, the user ids are not retired from the @stanford.edu namespace (at least as far as I can tell; people's user ids from 20 years ago are still being held and cannot be reused).

I get lots of autoreply emails around June of every year saying "Please update your address book to my new email address…"

(Earlier in the 2009-2010 school year all graduates from Spring 2009 onwards were promised that they could retain their @stanford.edu email addresses permanently, but this promise was retracted. Luckily for me at least, CS students get to keep their @cs.stanford.edu email addresses forever. One of best perks of studying CS at Stanford :))

Is it dangerous to consider joining Novell at this moment?

I think there is a much more interesting question embedded in this one, which revolves around the use of the word "dangerous."  The question is are you interested in "career security" or "job security?"

For "career security," I think it is never dangerous to join a company where you are learning, are improving, working on great stuff, meeting great people, and are in a geography where you can jump to the next opportunity without relocating.  Obviously this describes most startups as well as some of the better high growth companies.  Even if you lose your job you'll be off to something even better (maybe you'll start a company with some of the dynamic people you have been working with).  You will also have more fun.

For "job security" you can try to find a slow-moving, staid, stable situation where you can try to avoid the axe for as long as possible.  But when the axe comes (and it always does since these companies end up doing layoffs and outsourcing often even at a greater rate than more dynamic companies), you may be stranded with nowhere to go…you may be an alumni of a second-tier company, and your interviews will all begin with "so, why did you stay at X for so long?"

I think one of the great ironies of our industry is that people who disregard "job security" end up with the most "career security" of all.  Folks who seek out "job security" often end up with neither career nor job security. 

My last company (a "career security" startup) got acquired by a larger public company (the ultimate "job security" situation).  I watched a two year bloodbath of layoffs, outsourcing, offshoring, reorgs, and found myself wondering "hmm, where is all of this job security that is supposedly the reason people work here?"   

In the case of Novell, I wonder if you would literally be getting the worst of both worlds.

Why is communication protocol engineering a subset of software engineering?

I've seen all 3 titles (and a few more) used interchangeably.  Many companies assume they are the same, many differentiate the titles greatly.  Generally they all would all involve some aspect of developing a software system.  Historically, I think there has been some academic influence in the job titles as well.  In my experience I've seen:

Programmer:
I haven't seen many job postings just for "programmer" but usually associate that role/title strictly to computer programming (coding).  This person would be specifically writing code, in a specific language, for a specific project.  A lot of colleges teach "Applied Programming" courses which allow graduates to quickly enter the work force with a specific language skill.  Video game courses in college, for instance, teach a specific toolkit for specific platform, allowing their students to easily transition into the industry as "programmers".  The stereotypical "code monkey" is often a "computer programmer".

Developer:
Usually has some prefix with it: Web Developer, Applications Developer, Software Developer.  I think there has been some confusion with this role "developer" specifically in Web Development because it often includes everything from frontend developer/backend development and sometimes even graphic design.  Some graphic designers turned programmers call themselves "web developers" over "web programmers" to avoid confusion.  An "application developer" might work on designing and creating software on a specific proprietary platform, in a specific proprietary environment.  I've experienced "developers" including any aspect of the design/architecture/development of a software project.  I tend to think of a "developer" as someone who is involved in many aspects of the software development phase, not just the coding.

Software Engineer:
This one gets tricky.  A lot of employers and computer programmers have started to abuse this title.  *Formally*, Software Engineering is an accredited branch of engineering.  You can get your P.Eng (in Canada) or Professional Engineering Certification (in the states), I don't know how it works elsewhere in the world.  Mission/Life critical systems, like airplane guidance software, medical instrument regulators are (hopefully) strictly managed and require these kinds of certification (though this isn't always the case). 

In practice, Software Engineering has been used as a more general term which describes software development by one who has a M.Sc / B.Sc in Computer Science or equivalent.  This includes experiences or training in Software Engineering practices like testing, design, development, process, etc.  From an employers perspective, this is a more flexible title and more enticing for international employees because the "Engineering" part of "Software Engineer" is included in the NAFTA list of allowable professions.  A computer "Programmer" or "Developer" will not be able to easily obtain a work VISA.  A "Software Engineer" will have a much better chance.

Again, some people treat these titles as synonyms, I personally do not.  If you are an employer trying to set a job title, try to outline what this person will be doing.  I have personally held jobs with all 3 of the listed titles at some point, and had varying duties (as described above) while holding each title.  From my experience, and some quick browsing on glassdoor.com will show salary expectations as:  $Soft Eng. > $Developer > $Programmer but obviously there are always exceptions.

Hope this gives some insight, please comment if you disagree, this is just my perspective.  You can call yourself whatever you want, I've seen a "Sr. Software Architect Engineer" writing html code all day…

What are the major differences between the fields of IT, Computer Science, and Software Engineering?

I went to RIT (http://www.rit.edu/) , which had each of those degrees and all focused on slightly different areas.

IT: (my degree) Focused on the application of technology. Sure, we learned programming, but nothing as deep as CS or SE. We learned how to write basic programs that got actual work done. We skimmed over sorting algorithms and other theory. Other classes were networking, sysadmin, databases, web development, HCI, usability, etc.

CS: A lot of theory. Lots of algorithms and fundamentals. Assembly, learning 5+ languages in a class. Compilers and finite state machines. After a few years that you moved on to higher level stuff.

SE: Big overlap with CS, but eventually branched out into managing larger projects, communications, etc. Learned processes for developing software.

Students graduating in all three degrees could end up programming. CS & SE students will definitely have an edge when it comes to hardcore jobs, but IT will have an edge for jobs that need a versatile person (web developer, etc). CS & SE could certainly do or learn most of what IT majors know.

IT majors will have an edge for product management with their experience with usability, HCI and some design. I'm not sure any would be suited for business analyst.

What is the difference between Comcast's 50 Mbit "Business Class" connection and a coupled T1?

Upstream, and sharing. So far as I know, even the biz class cable has a lower upstream, and is shared among multiple users – the headline number is the downstream, and is an estimate based on the expected total bandwidth use of the folks connected to it. A T1 is a fat old full-duplex pipe straight into the heart of the internet. Latency and jitter should be next-to-nil, and nobody shares nothing – the whole thing is yours.