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Programming

It's Not Developers Slowing Things Down, It's the Process 154

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-not-the-heat,-it's-the-humidity dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Software engineers understand the pace of writing code, but frequently managers don't. One line of code might take 1 minute, and another line of code might take 1 day. But generally, everything averages out, and hitting your goals is more a function of properly setting your goals than of coding quickly or slowly. Sprint.ly, a company than analyzes productivity, has published some data to back this up. The amount of time actually developing a feature was a small and relatively consistent portion of its lifetime as a work ticket. The massively variable part of the process is when "stakeholders are figuring out specs and prioritizing work." The top disrupting influences (as experienced devs will recognize) are unclear and changing requirements. Another big cause of slowdowns is interrupting development work on one task to work on a second one. The article encourages managers to let devs contribute to the process and say "No" if the specs are too vague. Is there anything you'd add to this list?
Education

"Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer" Pulled From Amazon 522

Posted by timothy
from the made-it-past-the-drawing-board dept.
New submitter clcto writes Back in 2010, Computer Engineer Barbie was released. Now, with the attention brought to the Frozen themed programming game from Disney and Code.org, unwanted attention has been given to the surprisingly real book "Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer". So much so, that Mattel has pulled the book from Amazon. The book shows Barbie attempting to write a computer game. However, instead of writing the code, she enlists two boys to write the code as she just does the design. She then proceeds to infect her computer and her sister's computer with a virus and must enlist the boys to fix that for her as well. In the end she takes all the credit, and proclaims "I guess I can be a computer engineer!" A blog post commenting on the book (as well as giving pictures of the book and its text) has been moved to Gizmodo due to high demand.
United States

Number of Coders In Congress To Triple (From One To Three) 158

Posted by samzenpus
from the small-steps dept.
jfruh writes Last weekend, Tim Berners-Lee said that the UK needs more members of parliament who can code. Well, the most recent U.S. congressional election has obliged him on this side of the Atlantic: the number of coders in Congress has tripled, with the downside being that their numbers have gone from one to three.
Programming

Do Good Programmers Need Agents? 215

Posted by Soulskill
from the agents-sure-think-so dept.
braindrainbahrain writes: A rock star needs an agent, so maybe a rock star programmer needs one, too. As described in The New Yorker, a talent agency called 10x, which got started in the music business, is not your typical head hunter/recruiter agency. "The company's name comes from the idea, well established in the tech world, that the very best programmers are superstars, capable of achieving ten times the productivity of their merely competent colleagues." The writer talks with a number of programmers using agents to find work, who generally seem pleased with it, though the article has viewpoints from skeptics as well.
AI

A Worm's Mind In a Lego Body 200

Posted by timothy
from the with-very-few-exceptions-is-not-a-worm dept.
mikejuk writes The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) is tiny and only has 302 neurons. These have been completely mapped, and one of the founders of the OpenWorm project, Timothy Busbice, has taken the connectome and implemented an object oriented neuron program. The neurons communicate by sending UDP packets across the network. The software works with sensors and effectors provided by a simple LEGO robot. The sensors are sampled every 100ms. For example, the sonar sensor on the robot is wired as the worm's nose. If anything comes within 20cm of the 'nose' then UDP packets are sent to the sensory neurons in the network. The motor neurons are wired up to the left and right motors of the robot. It is claimed that the robot behaved in ways that are similar to observed C. elegans. Stimulation of the nose stopped forward motion. Touching the anterior and posterior touch sensors made the robot move forward and back accordingly. Stimulating the food sensor made the robot move forward. The key point is that there was no programming or learning involved to create the behaviors. The connectome of the worm was mapped and implemented as a software system and the behaviors emerge. Is the robot a C. elegans in a different body or is it something quite new? Is it alive? These are questions for philosophers, but it does suggest that the ghost in the machine is just the machine. The important question is does it scale?
Android

Visual Studio 2015 Supports CLANG and Android (Emulator Included) 192

Posted by timothy
from the exigent-realities dept.
Billly Gates (198444) writes "What would be unthinkable a decade ago is Visual Studio supporting W3C HTML and CSS and now apps on other platforms. Visual Studio 2015 preview is available for download which includes support for LLVM/Clang, Android development, and even Linux development with Mono using Xamarin. A little more detail is here. A tester also found support for Java, ANT, SQL LITE, and WebSocket4web. We see IE improving in terms of more standards and Visual Studio Online even supports IOS and MacOSX development. Is this a new Microsoft emerging? In any case it is nice to have an alternative to Google tools for Android development."
IT

Ask Slashdot: Who's the Doctors Without Borders of Technology? 111

Posted by timothy
from the trespassers-mostly dept.
danspalding writes I'm transitioning into full time tech work after 10 years in education. To that end, after years of tooling around with command line and vim, I'm starting a programming bootcamp in early December. I used to think I wanted to go into ed tech. But the more I think about it, the more I just want to contribute to the most important work I can using my new skills — mostly JavaScript (with a strong interest in graph databases). Ideally an organization that does bold, direct humanitarian work for the people who need it most. So where should I apply to work when I finish bootcamp next March? Who's the MSF of the tech world?
Education

Ask Slashdot: Programming Education Resources For a Year Offline? 223

Posted by timothy
from the maybe-a-local-phrasebook dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I will be traveling to a remote Himalayan village for year and won't have access to the internet. What offline resources would you all recommend to help me continue to develop my coding skills? I think this would be a good time to get better at fundamentals, since I won't be able to learn any new frameworks or APIs. What about other, non-programming skills to practice and learn? Any ideas?" What would you bring?
Education

Education Chief Should Know About PLATO and the History of Online CS Education 134

Posted by samzenpus
from the back-in-the-day dept.
theodp writes Writing in Vanity Fair, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan marvels that his kids can learn to code online at their own pace thanks to "free" lessons from Khan Academy, which Duncan credits for "changing the way my kids learn" (Duncan calls out his kids' grade school for not offering coding). The 50-year-old Duncan, who complained last December that he "didn't have the opportunity to learn computer skills" while growing up attending the Univ. of Chicago Lab Schools and Yale, may be surprised to learn that the University of Illinois was teaching kids how to program online in the '70s with its PLATO system, and it didn't look all that different from what Khan Academy came up with for his kids 40 years later (Roger Ebert remarked in his 2011 TED Talk that seeing Khan Academy gave him a flashback to the PLATO system he reported on in the '60s). So, does it matter if the nation's education chief — who presides over a budget that includes $69 billion in discretionary spending — is clueless about The Hidden History of Ed-Tech? Some think so. "We can't move forward," Hack Education's Audrey Watters writes, "til we reconcile where we've been before." So, if Duncan doesn't want to shell out $200 to read a 40-year-old academic paper on the subject (that's a different problem!) to bring himself up to speed, he presumably can check out the free offerings at Ed.gov. A 1975 paper on Interactive Systems for Education, for instance, notes that 650 students were learning programming on PLATO during the Spring '75 semester, not bad considering that Khan Academy is boasting that it "helped over 2000 girls learn to code" in 2014 (after luring their teachers with funding from a $1,000,000 Google Award). Even young techies might be impressed by the extent of PLATO's circa-1975 online CS offerings, from lessons on data structures and numerical analysis to compilers, including BASIC, PL/I, SNOBOL, APL, and even good-old COBOL.
Programming

Five Years of the Go Programming Language 82

Posted by timothy
from the going-strong dept.
omar.sahal writes Go celebrates five years of its existence with this blog post recapping a little history, future and some philosophy. "Five years ago we launched the Go project. It seems like only yesterday that we were preparing the initial public release: our website was a lovely shade of yellow, we were calling Go a 'systems language,' and you had to terminate statements with a semicolon and write Makefiles to build your code. We had no idea how Go would be received. Would people share our vision and goals? Would people find Go useful?" The Go programming language has grown to find its own niche in the cloud computing word, having been used to code Docker and the Kubernetes projects. The developers also announced details of further projects to be released, such as a new low-latency garbage collector and support for running Go on mobile devices.
Programming

New Book Argues Automation Is Making Software Developers Less Capable 212

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-time-to-browse-the-internet-though dept.
dcblogs writes: Nicholas Carr, who stirred up the tech world with his 2003 essay, IT Doesn't Matter in the Harvard Business Review, has published a new book, The Glass Cage, Automation and Us, that looks at the impact of automation of higher-level jobs. It examines the possibility that businesses are moving too quickly to automate white collar jobs. It also argues that the software profession's push to "to ease the strain of thinking is taking a toll on their own [developer] skills." In an interview, Carr was asked if software developers are becoming less capable. He said, "I think in many cases they are. Not in all cases. We see concerns — this is the kind of tricky balancing act that we always have to engage in when we automate — and the question is: Is the automation pushing people up to higher level of skills or is it turning them into machine operators or computer operators — people who end up de-skilled by the process and have less interesting work?

I certainly think we see it in software programming itself. If you can look to integrated development environments, other automated tools, to automate tasks that you have already mastered, and that have thus become routine to you that can free up your time, [that] frees up your mental energy to think about harder problems. On the other hand, if we use automation to simply replace hard work, and therefore prevent you from fully mastering various levels of skills, it can actually have the opposite effect. Instead of lifting you up, it can establish a ceiling above which your mastery can't go because you're simply not practicing the fundamental skills that are required as kind of a baseline to jump to the next level."
Education

Eben Upton Explains the Raspberry Pi Model A+'s Redesign 107

Posted by samzenpus
from the straight-from-the-horses-mouth dept.
M-Saunders writes It's cheaper, it's smaller, and it's curvier: the new Raspberry Pi Model A+ is quite a change from its predecessor. But with Model Bs selling more in a month than Model As have done in the lifetime of the Pi, what's the point in releasing a new model? Eben Upton, a founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, explains all. "It gives people a really low-cost way to come and play with Linux and it gives people a low-cost way to get a Raspberry Pi. We still think most people are still going to buy B+s, but it gives people a way to come and join in for the cost of 4 Starbucks coffees."
Mozilla

Mozilla Launches Browser Built For Developers 74

Posted by samzenpus
from the made-just-for-you dept.
HughPickens.com writes "Mozilla announced that they are excited to unveil Firefox Developer Edition, the first browser created specifically for developers that integrates two powerful new features, Valence and WebIDE that improve workflow and help you debug other browsers and apps directly from within Firefox Developer Edition. Valence (previously called Firefox Tools Adapter) lets you develop and debug your app across multiple browsers and devices by connecting the Firefox dev tools to other major browser engines. WebIDE allows you to develop, deploy and debug Web apps directly in your browser, or on a Firefox OS device. "It lets you create a new Firefox OS app (which is just a web app) from a template, or open up the code of an existing app. From there you can edit the app's files. It's one click to run the app in a simulator and one more to debug it with the developer tools."

Firefox Developer Edition also includes all the tools experienced Web developers are familiar with including: Responsive Design Mod, Page Inspector, Web Console, JavaScript Debugger, Network Monitor, Style Editor, and Web Audio Editor. At launch, Mozilla is starting off with Chrome for Android and Safari for iOS. and the eventual goal is to support more browsers, depending on what developers tell Mozilla they want, but the primary focus is on the mobile Web. "One of the biggest pain points for developers is having to use numerous siloed development environments in order to create engaging content or for targeting different app stores. For these reasons, developers often end up having to bounce between different platforms and browsers, which decreases productivity and causes frustration," says the press release. "If you're a new Web developer, the streamlined workflow and the fact that everything is already set up and ready to go makes it easier to get started building sophisticated applications."
Mozilla released a teaser trailer for the browser last week.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Computer Scientists Ask Supreme Court To Rule APIs Can't Be Copyrighted 257

Posted by Soulskill
from the pleading-for-sanity dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The EFF, representing a coalition of computer scientists, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court yesterday hoping for a ruling that APIs can't be copyrighted. The names backing the brief include Bjarne Stroustrup, Ken Thompson, Guido van Rossum, and many other luminaries. "The brief explains that the freedom to re-implement and extend existing APIs has been the key to competition and progress in both hardware and software development. It made possible the emergence and success of many robust industries we now take for granted—for example, mainframes, PCs, and workstations/servers—by ensuring that competitors could challenge established players and advance the state of the art. The litigation began several years ago when Oracle sued Google over its use of Java APIs in the Android OS. Google wrote its own implementation of the Java APIs, but, in order to allow developers to write their own programs for Android, Google's implementation used the same names, organization, and functionality as the Java APIs."
Education

Codecademy's ReSkillUSA: Gestation Period For New Developers Is 3 Months 173

Posted by Soulskill
from the four-if-you-want-them-to-play-well-with-others dept.
theodp writes: TechCrunch reports that Codecademy has teamed up with online and offline coding schools to create ReskillUSA. "3 months," explains ReskillUSA's website, is "how long it takes a dedicated beginner to learn the skills to qualify for computing and web development jobs." TechCrunch's Anthony Ha explains,"By teaming up with other organizations, Codecademy is also hoping to convince employers that completing one of those programs is a meaningful qualification for a job, and that you don't necessarily need a bachelor's degree in computer science." In his Medium post, Codecademy CEO Zach Sims calls on "students learning for the jobs of the future or employers interested in hiring a diverse and skilled workforce – to join us. The future of our economy depends on it."
AI

Does Watson Have the Answer To Big Blue's Uncertain Future? 67

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sorry-dave,-i-need-those-TPS-reports-right-now dept.
HughPickens.com writes: IBM has recently delivered a string of disappointing quarters, and announced recently that it would take a multibillion-dollar hit to offload its struggling chip business. But Will Knight writes at MIT Technology Review that Watson may have the answer to IBM's uncertain future. IBM's vast research department was recently reorganized to ramp up efforts related to cognitive computing. The push began with the development of the original Watson, but has expanded to include other areas of software and hardware research aimed at helping machines provide useful insights from huge quantities of often-messy data. "We're betting billions of dollars, and a third of this division now is working on it," says John Kelly, director of IBM Research, said of cognitive computing, a term the company uses to refer to artificial intelligence techniques related to Watson. The hope is that the Watson Business Group, a division aimed making its Jeopardy!-winning cognitive computing application more of a commercial success, will be able to answer more complicated questions in all sorts of industries, including health care, financial investment, and oil discovery; and that it will help IBM build a lucrative new computer-driven consulting business.

But Watson is still a work in progress. Some companies and researchers testing Watson systems have reported difficulties in adapting the technology to work with their data sets. "It's not taking off as quickly as they would like," says Robert Austin. "This is one of those areas where turning demos into real business value depends on the devils in the details. I think there's a bold new world coming, but not as fast as some people think." IBM needs software developers to embrace its vision and build services and apps that use its cognitive computing technology. In May of this year it announced that seven universities would offer computer science classes in cognitive computing and last month IBM revealed a list of partners that have developed applications by tapping into application programming interfaces that access versions of Watson running in the cloud. Big Blue said it will invest $1 billion into the Watson division including $100 million to fund startups developing cognitive apps. "I very much admire the end goal," says Boris Katz, adding that business pressures could encourage IBM's researchers to move more quickly than they would like. "If the management is patient, they will really go far."
Programming

The Effect of Programming Language On Software Quality 217

Posted by Soulskill
from the hold-on-to-your-hats dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Discussions whether a given programming language is "the right tool for the job" inevitably lead to debate. While some of these debates may appear to be tinged with an almost religious fervor, most people would agree that a programming language can impact not only the coding process, but also the properties of the resulting product. Now computer scientists at the University of California — Davis have published a study of the effect of programming languages on software quality (PDF) using a very large data set from GitHub. They analyzed 729 projects with 80 million SLOC by 29,000 authors and 1.5 million commits in 17 languages. The large sample size allowed them to use a mixed-methods approach, combining multiple regression modeling with visualization and text analytics, to study the effect of language features such as static vs. dynamic typing, strong vs. weak typing on software quality. By triangulating findings from different methods, and controlling for confounding effects such as team size, project size, and project history, they report that language design does have a significant, but modest effect on software quality.

Quoting: "Most notably, it does appear that strong typing is modestly better than weak typing, and among functional languages, static typing is also somewhat better than dynamic typing. We also find that functional languages are somewhat better than procedural languages. It is worth noting that these modest effects arising from language design are overwhelmingly dominated by the process factors such as project size, team size, and commit size. However, we hasten to caution the reader that even these modest effects might quite possibly be due to other, intangible process factors, e.g., the preference of certain personality types for functional, static and strongly typed languages."
Mozilla

Mozilla Teases First Browser Dedicated To Devs 132

Posted by samzenpus
from the made-just-for-you dept.
hypnosec writes Mozilla has teased a browser for developers — a first of its kind — in a bid to equip developers with a set of tools at one place for better and enhanced productivity. Speaking about the perils of web development Mozilla says engineers, while building for the web, use a range of tools that don't always work well together. Because of this, they have to switch between platforms. This process of switching from one platform to another makes a developer less productive, Mozilla says. The not-for-profit organization hasn't detailed its browser for developers to a great extent, but has revealed that the browser will be available on November 10.
Programming

The 7th Underhanded C Contest Is Online 41

Posted by samzenpus
from the back-again dept.
Xcott Craver writes The 7th Underhanded C Contest is now open. The goal of the contest is to write code that is as readable, clear, innocent and straightforward as possible, and yet somehow exhibits evil behavior that cannot be seen even when staring at the source code. The winners from 2013 are also online, and their clever and insightful submissions make for fun reading.
Programming

It's Time To Revive Hypercard 299

Posted by timothy
from the overdue-as-open-source dept.
HughPickens.com writes HyperCard, an application program and programming tool released for the Apple Macintosh in 1987, represented the 'computing for the people' philosophy that enabled users to go past the pre-built software that came on their machines, and to program and build software of their own. "Mac users could use Hypercard to build their own mini-programs to balance their taxes, manage sports statistics, make music – all kinds of individualized software that would be useful (or fun) for individual users." Now Jer Thorp writes that the end of HyperCard left a huge gap that desperately needs to be filled – a space for an easy to use, intuitive tool that will once again let average computer users make their own tools. According to Throp, this type of plain-language programming makes sense, particularly in an application that was designed specifically for non-programmers. "I find the largest concern for learners to be not with the conceptual hurdles involved in writing a program, but with obscure and confusing syntax requirements. I would love to be able to teach HyperTalk to my students, as a smooth on-road to more complex languages like JavaScript, Java or C++." By putting the tools of creation into the hands of the broader userbase, we would allow for the creation of ultra-specific personalized apps that, aside from a few exceptions, don't exist today."

HyperTalk wasn't just easy, it was also fairly powerful. Complex object structures could be built to handle complicated tasks, and the base language could be expanded by a variety of available external commands and functions (XCMDs and XFCNs, respectively), which were precursors to the modern plug-in. But ultimately, HyperCard would disappear from Mac computers by the mid-nineties, eclipsed by web browsers and other applications which it had itself inspired. The last copy of HyperCard was sold by Apple in 2004. "One thing that's changed in the intervening decades is that the hobbyist has largely gone by the wayside. Now you're either a user or a full-fledged developer, and the gulf is wider than ever," writes Peter Cohen. "There's really nothing like it today, and I think the Mac is lesser for it."

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