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Meet Lux, A New Lisp-like Language ( 189

Drawing on Haskell, Clojure, and ML, the new Lux language first targeted the Java Virtual Machine, but will be a universal, cross-platform language. An anonymous reader quotes JavaWorld: Currently in an 0.5 beta release, Lux claims that while it implements features common to Lisp-like languages, such as macros, they're more flexible and powerful in Lux... [W]hereas Clojure is dynamically typed, as many Lisp-like languages have been, Lux is statically typed to reduce bugs and enhance performance. Lux also lets programmers create new types programmatically, which provides some of the flexibility found in dynamically typed languages. The functional language Haskell has type classes, but Lux is intended to be less constraining. Getting around any constraints can be done natively to the language, not via hacks in the type system.
There's a a 16-chapter book about the language on GitHub.
Open Source

Will The Death of the PC Bring 'An End To Openness'? ( 480

Slashdot reader snydeq shared "11 Predictions For the Future of Programming" by InfoWorld's contributing editor -- and one prediction was particularly dire: The passing of the PC isn't only the slow death of a particular form factor. It;s the dying of a particularly open and welcoming marketplace... Consoles are tightly locked down. No one gets into that marketplace without an investment of capital. The app stores are a bit more open, but they're still walled gardens that limit what we can do. Sure, they are still open to programmers who jump through the right hoops but anyone who makes a false move can be tossed...

For now, most of the people reading this probably have a decent desktop that can compile and run code, but that's slowly changing. Fewer people have the opportunity to write code and share it. For all of the talk about the need to teach the next generation to program, there are fewer practical vectors for open code to be distributed.

Open Source

Node.js's npm Is Now The Largest Package Registry in the World ( 133 highlights some interesting statistics about npm, the package manager for Node.js.
  • "At over 350,000 packages, the npm registry contains more than double the next most populated package registry (which is the Apache Maven repository). In fact, it is currently the largest package registry in the world."
  • In the preceding four weeks, users installed 18 billion packages.
  • This translates into 6 billion downloads, "because approximately 66 percent of the installs are now being served from the cache."
  • "shows that the registry's services offer a 99.999 uptime."
  • Every week roughly 160 people publish their first package in the registry

But what about the incident last year where a developer suddenly pulled all their modules and broke thousands of dependent projects? npm's Ashley Williams "admitted that the left-pad debacle happened because of naive policies at npm. Since, the npm team have devised new policies, the main one being that you are only allowed to unpublish a package within 24 hours of publishing it." And their new dissociate and deprecate policy allows developers to mark packages as "unmaintained" without erasing them from the registry.

Programming is Shutting Down ( 30

Social network is shutting down once and for all in March. The company said on March 14 it will be deleting all user data. The announcement comes two years after the company ceased active development on the platform. From the official blog post: Ultimately, we failed to overcome the chicken-and-egg issue between application developers and user adoption of those applications. We envisioned a pool of differentiated, fast-growing third-party applications would sustain the numbers needed to make the business work. Our initial developer adoption exceeded expectations, but that initial excitement didn't ultimately translate into a big enough pool of customers for those developers. This was a foreseeable risk, but one we felt was worth taking.

Apple Planning To Make Original TV Shows and Movies as Hardware Sales Soften ( 130

While investors seem to remain optimistic about the future of Apple, it's no secret that sales of its iconic hardware products have flatlined or fallen over the past year. From a report: We'll have to wait until January 31 to find out how the company performed over the critical holiday period. But for the moment, its most promising category of revenue has been "services," which includes things like Apple Music, and has been on a big winning streak over the past several quarters. Now it appears Apple is getting ready to make an even bigger bet in that category. According to a story just published by the Wall Street Journal, the company "has been in talks with veteran producers in recent months about buying rights to scripted television programs. It also has approached experienced marketing executives at studios and networks to discuss hiring them to promote its content." According to the story, the programming would be part of is Apple Music subscription ($6/month for an individual plan, $9 for a family plan.) The movie bit is deemed to be "more preliminary," according to the Journal.

Implantable Cardiac Devices Could Be Vulnerable To Hackers, FDA Warns ( 60

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned on Monday that pacemakers, defibrillators and other devices manufactured by St. Jude Medical, a medical device company based in Minnesota, could have put patients' lives at risk, as hackers could remotely access the devices and change the heart rate, administer shocks, or quickly deplete the battery. Thankfully, St. Jude released a new software patch on the same day as the FDA warning to address these vulnerabilities. Motherboard reports: St. Jude Medical's implantable cardiac devices are put under the skin, in the upper chest area, and have insulated wires that go into the heart to help it beat properly, if it's too slow or too fast. They work together with the Merlin@home Transmitter, located in the patient's house, which sends the patient's data to their physician using the Patient Care Network. Hackers could have exploited the transmitter, the manufacturer confirmed. "[It] could (...) be used to modify programming commands to the implanted device," the FDA safety communication reads. In an emailed response to Motherboard, a St. Jude Medical representative noted that the company "has taken numerous measures to protect the security and safety of our devices," including the new patch, and the creation of a "cyber security medical advisory board." The company plans to implement additional updates in 2017, the email said. This warning comes a few days after Abbott Laboratories acquired St. Jude Medical, and four months after a group of experts at Miami-based cybersecurity company MedSec Holding published a paper explaining several vulnerabilities they found in St. Jude Medical's pacemakers and defibrillators. They made the announcement at the end of August 2016, together with investment house Muddy Waters Capital.

Streaming TV is Beginning To Look a Lot Like Cable ( 209

The advent of streaming TV services and over the top devices that support them has come at a cost. They used to work on a simple, unwritten principle: being different from normal cable services. You didn't have to pay for large, non-configurable bundles of channels that played shows in linear fashion and required you to use a digital video recorder built into the box (often for an extra fee) if you wanted to create your own collection of programming to watch on your own schedule. But that's not the case anymore, argues veteran technology columnist Walt Mossberg. He writes: The general idea is that each of these TV services will appeal to cord-cutters and cord-nevers who merely consider old-style cable and satellite TV too costly. To overcome that, each offers what are called "skinny bundles" of channels, with fewer choices, at various prices. On Sling, for instance, you start at about 30 channels for $20 a month. On DirecTV Now, it's 60 channels for $35 a month. Both offer other, costlier plans, with more channels, or add-on plans for HBO, or for specialized programming such as sports, or kids' shows. Both are working on DVR offerings. In other words, while the bundles may be cheaper and skinnier, they're still bundles, not unlike the tiers of programming offered by traditional cable and satellite services. And you can't assemble your own custom bundle. Also, unlike in the Netflix / Hulu model, the emphasis here is on networks, not shows.

Author of Swift Language Chris Lattner is Leaving Apple; We're Interviewing Him (Ask a Question!) ( 338

Software developer Chris Lattner, who is the main author of LLVM as well as Apple's Swift programming language, is leaving Apple, he said today. From a post: When we made Swift open source and launched we put a lot of effort into defining a strong community structure. This structure has enabled Apple and the amazingly vibrant Swift community to work together to evolve Swift into a powerful, mature language powering software used by hundreds of millions of people. I'm happy to announce that Ted Kremenek will be taking over for me as "Project Lead" for the Swift project, managing the administrative and leadership responsibility for This recognizes the incredible effort he has already been putting into the project, and reflects a decision I've made to leave Apple later this month to pursue an opportunity in another space. We're delighted to share that we are interviewing Lattner, who says he's a "long-time reader/fan of Slashdot." Please leave your question in the comments section. Lattner says he'll talk about "open source (llvm/clang/swift/etc) or personal topics," but has requested that we do not ask him about Apple, which is understandable.

Update: Lattner is joining Tesla.

Ask Slashdot: What's The Best Job For This Recent CS Grad? 259

One year away from graduating with a CS degree, an anonymous reader wants some insights from the Slashdot community: [My] curriculum is rather broad, ranging from systems programming on a Raspberry Pi to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, C, Java, JPA, Python, Go, Node.js, software design patterns, basic network stuff (mostly Cisco) and various database technologies... I'm working already part-time as a system administrator for two small companies, but don't want to stay there forever because it's basically a dead-end position. Enjoying the job, though... With these skills under my belt, what career path should I pursue?
There's different positions as well as different fields, and the submission explains simply that "I'm looking for satisfying and rewarding work," adding that "pay is not that important." So leave your suggestions in the comments. What's the best job for this recent CS grad?

Is The C Programming Language Declining In Popularity? ( 285

An anonymous reader writes: Java overtook C as the most popular language in mid-2015 on the TIOBE Programming Community index. But now over the last 13 months, they show C's popularity consistently dropping more and more. C's score had hovered between 15% and 20% for over 15 years but as 2016 ended, the language's popularity is now down to 8.7%. "There is no clear way back to the top," reports the site, asking what happened to C? "It is not a language that you think of while writing programs for popular fields such as mobile apps or websites, it is not evolving that much and there is no big company promoting the language."

But the Insights blog at counters that TIOBE "has hammered on C for quite some time. Earlier this year, it again emphasized how C is 'hardly suitable for the booming fields of web and mobile app development.' That being said, job postings on Dice (as well as rankings compiled by other organizations) suggest there's still widespread demand for C, which can be used in everything from operating systems to data-intensive applications, and serves many programmers well as an intermediate language."

i-programmer suggests this could just be an artifact of the way TIOBE calculates language popularity (by totaling search engine queries). Noting that Assembly language rose into TIOBE's top 10 this year, their editor wrote, "Perhaps it is something to do with the poor state of assembly language documentation that spurs on increasingly desperate searches for more information." Maybe C programmers are just referring to their K&R book instead of searching for solutions online?

Google Boosts Python By Turning It Into Go ( 129

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Grumpy, an experimental project from Google, transpiles Python code into Go, allowing Python programs to be compiled and run as static binaries using the Go toolchain... In a blog post announcing the open source release, Google stated the project stemmed from its efforts to speed up the Python-powered front end for YouTube. But Google hit an obstacle that's familiar to folks who've deployed Python in production: It's hard to get CPython -- the default Python interpreter written in C -- to scale efficiently. "We think Grumpy has the potential to scale more gracefully than CPython for many real world workloads," writes Google...

Because it doesn't support C extensions, Grumpy doesn't have CPython's Global Interpreter Lock, which is commonly cited as a roadblock to running Python concurrent workloads smoothly. Grumpy also uses Go's garbage collection mechanisms to manage memory under the hood, instead of CPython's. Grumpy creates close interoperation between Python and Go by allowing Go packages to be imported and used with the same syntax as Go modules.


Ask Slashdot: How Would You Deal With A 'Gaslighting' Colleague? 427

An anonymous reader writes: What's the best unofficial way to deal with a gaslighting colleague? For those not familiar, I mean "bullies unscheduling things you've scheduled, misplacing files and other items that you are working on and co-workers micro-managing you and being particularly critical of what you do and keeping it under their surveillance. They are watching you too much, implying or blatantly saying that you are doing things wrong when, in fact, you are not...a competitive maneuver, a way of making you look bad so that they look good." I'd add poring over every source-code commit, and then criticizing it even if the criticism is contradictory to what he previously said.
The submission adds that "Raising things through the official channels is out of the question, as is confronting the colleague in question directly as he is considered something of a superstar engineer who has been in the company for decades and has much more influence than any ordinary engineer." So leave your best suggestions in the comments. How would you deal with a gaslighting colleague?
Debian Announces The Best Linux Distros for 2017 ( 224

Friday published their list of "what might well be the best Linux distributions to be found from the ever-expanding crop of possibilities... according to task." Here's their winners (as chosen by Jack Wallen), along with a short excerpt of his analysis.
  • Best distro for sysadmins : Parrot Linux. "Based on Debian and offers nearly every penetration testing tool you could possibly want. You will also find tools for cryptography, cloud, anonymity, digital forensics, programming, and even productivity."
  • Best lightweight distribution: LXLE. "Manages to combine a perfect blend of small footprint with large productivity."
  • Best desktop distribution: Elementary OS "I'm certain Elementary OS Loki will do the impossible and usurp Linux Mint from the coveted 'best desktop distribution' for 2017."
  • Best Linux for IoT: Snappy Ubuntu Core "Can already be found in the likes of various hacker boards (such as the Raspberry Pi) as well as Erle-Copter drones, Dell Edge Gateways, Nextcloud Box, and LimeSDR."
  • Best non-enterprise server distribution: CentOS. "Since 2004, CentOS has enjoyed a massive community-driven support system."
  • Best enterprise server distribution: SUSE. "Don't be surprised if, by the end of 2017, SUSE further chips away at the current Red Hat market share."

Wallen also chose Gentoo for "Best distribution for those with something to prove," saying "This is for those who know Linux better than most and want a distribution built specifically to their needs... a source-based Linux distribution that starts out as a live instance and requires you to then build everything you need from source." And surprisingly, he didn't mention his own favorite Linux distro, Bodhi Linux, which he describes elsewhere as "a melding of Ubuntu and Enlightenment".


Microsoft Formally Shuts Down Its TechRewards Program ( 20

From a report on Neowin: A few months ago, Microsoft announced that it was shuttering its TechRewards program in 2017. The project, that was originally started by Nokia under the name DVLUP rewards program, aimed to reward developers with badges, XP, gift cards and other prizes for developing or incorporating new features in their apps. When Microsoft acquired Nokia's devices and services division back in 2014, the program was rebranded to Microsoft TechRewards. Today, Microsoft has formally shut down the TechRewards program.
Open Source

Hands On With the First Open-Source Microcontroller ( 83

The folks at SiFive have offered Brian Benchoff from Hackaday a look at the HiFive 1, the first hands-on with the first Open Hardware microcontroller. From the report: The design files for the HiFive 1 were made with Altium, a proprietary and non-Free software. Basically, the HiFive 1 is the SiFive FE310 microcontroller packaged in an Arduino Uno form factor. The pin spacing is just as stupid as it's always been, and there is support for a few Adafruit shields sitting around in the SDK. There are no analog pins, but there are two more PWM pins compared to the standard Arduino chip. The Arduino Uno and Leonardo have 32 kilobytes of Flash, while the HiFive 1 has sixteen Megabytes of Flash on an external SOIC chip. The HiFive 1 supports 3.3 and 5V I/O, thanks to three voltage level translators. The support for 5V logic is huge in my opinion -- nearly every dev board manufacturer has already written off 5V I/O as a victim of technological progress. The HiFive doesn't, even though the FE310 microcontroller is itself only 3.3V tolerant. It should be noted the addition of the voltage level translators add at least a dollar or two to the BOM, and double that to the final cost of the board. It's a nice touch, but there's room for cost cutting here. Other than that, the only other chip of note on the board is the FTDI FT2232HL, a well-supported but most certainly not Free and Open Source USB to UART chip. This is a two-port chip that provides programming, serial, and debug connections simultaneously. The folks at SiFive realize documentation and SDKs are necessary to turn a chip into a development board. To that end, they have a bare-metal SDK and support for the Arduino IDE. The board itself comes with a bootloader, and when you plug the HiFive 1 into a USB you get the equivalent of the Blink sketch from the Arduino. Yes, you too can have Open Source blinkies. What a magical time to be alive. Right now there are two methods of programming the HiFive 1. The Freedom E SDK, and the Arduino IDE. The Arduino IDE appears to be dependent on the Freedom E SDK, so either way, you'll have to get the SDK running. Right now, the SDK only works under Linux (and OS X, and possibly Cygwin), but support for Windows is coming. For Linux users, the getting started guide is more than sufficient, although it will take quite a while (at least 30 minutes) to build all the tools. Once the Freedom E SDK is installed, support for the Arduino IDE pretty much falls into place. You'll have to futz around with the Boards Manager, but with a few clicks, you get something fantastic. You can blink an LED with Open Source Hardware.

Rumors of Cmd's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated ( 202

Senior Program Manager at Microsoft has responded to speculations that Command Prompt is going away. He writes: The Cmd shell remains an essential part of Windows, and is used daily by millions of businesses, developers, and IT Pro's around the world. In fact:
1. Much of the automated system that builds and tests Windows itself is a collection of many Cmd scripts that have been created over many years, without which we couldn't build Windows itself!
2. Cmd is one of the most frequently run executables on Windows with a similar number of daily launches as File Explorer, Edge and Internet Explorer!
3. Many of our customers and partners are totally dependent on Cmd, and all its quirks, for their companies" existence!
In short: Cmd is an absolutely vital feature of Windows and, until there's almost nobody running Cmd scripts or tools, Cmd will remain within Windows.


Can Learning Smalltalk Make You A Better Programmer? 343

Slashdot reader horrido shares an article that "has done more for Smalltalk advocacy than any other article in memory." It was the second-most popular article of the year on the Hewlett Packard Enterprise site TechBeacon (recently passing 20,000 views), with Richard Eng, the founder of the nonprofit Smalltalk Renaissance, arguing that the 44-year-old language is much more than a tool for teachers -- and not just because Amber Smalltalk transpiles to JavaScript for front-end web programming. It's a superlative prototyping language for startups. It's an industrial-strength enterprise language used by businesses both big and small all around the globe... Smalltalk's implementation of the object-oriented paradigm is so excellent that it has influenced an entire generation of OO languages, such as Objective-C, Python, Ruby, CLOS, PHP 5, Perl 6, Erlang, Groovy, Scala, Dart, Swift, and so on. By learning Smalltalk, you'll understand how all of those useful features in today's OO languages came to be.
The article also argues that Smalltalk pioneered just-in-time compilation and virtual machines, the model-view-controller design paradigm, and to a large extent, even test-driven development. But most importantly, Smalltalk's reliance on domain-specific languages makes it "the 'purest' OO, and one of the earliest... It is often said that programming in Smalltalk or Python is rather like Zen; your mind just flows effortlessly with the task. This is the beauty and value of language simplicity, and Smalltalk has this in spades... Smalltalk, by virtue of its object purity and consistency, will give you a profoundly better understanding of object-oriented programming and how to use it to its best effect."
Open Source

Pull Requests Are Accepted At About The Same Rate, Regardless of Gender ( 94

An anonymous reader writes: Remember that story about how women "get pull requests accepted more (except when you know they're women)." The study actually showed that men also had their code accepted more often when their gender wasn't known, according to Tech In Asia -- and more importantly, the lower acceptance rates (for both men and women) applied mostly to code submitters from outside the GitHub community. "Among insiders, there's no evidence of discrimination against women. In fact, the reverse is true: women who are on the inside and whose genders are easy to discern get more of their code approved, and to a statistically significant degree."

Eight months after the story ran, the BBC finally re-wrote their original headline ("Women write better code, study suggests") and added the crucial detail that acceptance rates for women fell "if they were not regulars on the service and were identified by their gender."


How Russia Recruited Elite Hackers For Its Cyberwar ( 236

Lasrick quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternate source): For more than three years, rather than rely on military officers working out of isolated bunkers, Russian government recruiters have scouted a wide range of programmers, placing prominent ads on social media sites, offering jobs to college students and professional coders, and even speaking openly about looking in Russia's criminal underworld for potential talent. From the New York Post: "Russia's Defense Ministry bought advertising on Vkontakta, the country's most popular social media site, to lure those who were more talented with a keyboard than an AK-47 rifle. 'If you graduated from college, if you are a technical specialist, if you are ready to use your knowledge, we give you an opportunity,' the ad promised, according to the Times. The ad went on to assure recruits that they would be part of units called science squadrons based at military installations where they would live in 'comfortable accommodation' and showed an apartment outfitted with a washing machine, the Times reported. The Defense Ministry even dangled the chance to dodge Russia's mandatory draft by allowing university students to join a science squadron instead and then questioned them about their proficiency with programming languages, the report said."

Amazon Prime Video's Global Launch Looks Soft, But It's Just a First Step ( 19

Earlier this month, Amazon announced that it is expanding its Prime Video on-demand video streaming service to over 200 countries and territories. But how good is the content catalogue? A report on Variety explores: In several countries looked at by Variety, the company hasn't even bothered to translate the website's interface from English into the local language. And its content offerings seem scant and lacking in local flavor. Amazon's strategy appears to be a two-step process: first establish a global footprint, then go back and build out more tailored platforms in key new markets with better-curated and more local-language content, similar to what the company has already done in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Austria, and Japan. In India, they set up a local operation prior to their Dec. 14 launch there. "We are just getting started. It's still day one for us," Roy Price, Vice President, Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Studio, wrote in emailed comments to Variety. "Like everything we do at Amazon, we are focused on continuously improving the customer experience, including adding content and localizing features over time," Price said, noting that Prime will be adding new Amazon originals as well as licenced and localized programming in the future. To do this, Amazon will likely start cutting larger acquisition deals with prominent local players, including leading broadcasters.

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