'Rose' Wins 2015 Loebner Contest, But Big Prize Remains Unclaimed 58

The Next Web reports that developer Bruce Wilcox created the most convincing bot entered in this year's annual Loebner Competition. His latest entry, a chatbot named Rose, passed itself (herself?) off as a 30-year-old security consultant well enough to fool judges for a few minutes. But Wilcox's first-place entry was still not good enough to win the $100,000 Loebner Prize, to be given only for a more convincing impersonation. The article notes: "This isn't Wilcox’s first entry – or win. In 2010, he took first place with a bot named 'Suzette,' and followed that up in 2011 with another win using a new bot called 'Rosette.'"

Apple Cleaning Up App Store After Its First Major Attack 246

Reuters reports that Apple is cleaning up hundreds of malicious iOS apps after what is described as the first major attack on its App Store. Hundreds of the stores apps were infected with malware called XcodeGhost, which used as a vector a counterfeit version of iOS IDE Xcode. Things could be a lot worse, though: Palo Alto Networks Director of Threat Intelligence Ryan Olson said the malware had limited functionality and his firm had uncovered no examples of data theft or other harm as a result of the attack. Still, he said it was "a pretty big deal" because it showed that the App Store could be compromised if hackers infected machines of software developers writing legitimate apps. Other attackers may copy that approach, which is hard to defend against, he said.

Microsoft Spending $75M To Boost K-12 CS Education, Put TEALS In 4,000 Schools 48

theodp writes: An NSF-funded evaluation of the Microsoft TEALS program — which sends volunteer software engineers with no teaching experience into high schools to teach kids and their teachers computer science — isn't scheduled to be completed until 2018. But having declared a K-12 CS education emergency (which it's linked to an H-1B visa emergency), Microsoft is going full speed ahead and spending $75 million to boost computer science in schools. The software giant told USA today that it aims to put TEALS in 700 high schools in the next three years and in 4,000 over the next decade, focusing on urban and rural districts to reach more young women and minorities. "In the U.S. alone, the economy will create 1.4 million new computing jobs by the year 2022," wrote Microsoft President and Board member Brad Smith. "Yet, less than a quarter of U.S. high schools currently teach computer science. That's not enough and we're working with schools and policy-makers to change that."

JetBrains Reconsiders Subscription Licensing Changes 51

craigtp writes: On 3rd September, JetBrains, maker of IDEs and other productivity software, announced big changes to the way they sell and license their software. The changes were not well received by certain members of their user base. Within a few days, JetBrains announced that they were listening to the user feedback and that they would reconsider their changes. Today, they've finally announced their revised licensing changes, and while the subscription model remains, some important concessions have been made. Once a user pays for a year's subscription, they'll receive a perpetual fallback license, so they can keep using the software even if the subscription lapses later. They're also providing an option for offline license keys, so the software can run without needing to phone home.

Twitter's Tech Lead On Making Software Engineers More Efficient 146

Tekla Perry writes: "Engineering productivity is hard to measure," said Peter Seibel, the tech lead of Twitter's engineering effectiveness group. "But we certainly can harm it." Seibel spoke this week at the @Scale conference in San Jose, hosted by Facebook. He says in large companies one third of software engineers shouldn't be working on the company's products, but should be dedicated to making other engineers more effective. "As an industry we know how to scale up software," he said. "We also know how to scale up organizations, to put in management that lets thousands of people work together. But we don't have a handle on how to scale up that intersection between engineering and human organization. And maybe we don't understand the importance of that. We massively underinvest in this kind of work."

NYC Counting On Donations To Fund Required K-12 Computer Science Programs 21

theodp writes: "To ensure that every child can learn the skills required to work in New York City's fast-growing technology sector," reports the NY Times, "Mayor Bill de Blasio will announce on Wednesday that within 10 years all of the city's public schools will be required to offer computer science to all students. New York City, the Times adds, plans to spend $81 million over 10 years, half of which it hopes to raise from private sources. Earlier this year, it was announced that Microsoft would make Office 365 ProPlus available to all NYC students, and that Google would make its CS First program available to 100K NYC students who participate in after-school programs.

APIs, Not Apps: What the Future Will Be Like When Everyone Can Code 255

An anonymous reader writes: There's been a huge push over the last few years to make programming part of the core academic curriculum. Hype or not, software developer Al Sweigart takes a shot at predicting what this will be in a future where some degree of coding skill is commonplace and he has an interesting take on it: "More programmers doesn't just mean more apps in app stores or clones of existing websites. Universal coding literacy doesn't increase the supply of web services so much as increase the sophistication in how web services are used. Programming—by which I mean being able to direct a computer to access data, organize it, and then make decisions based on it— will open up not only a popular ability to make more of online services, but also to demand more.

Almost every major website has an Application Program Interface (API), a formal specification for software to retrieve data and make requests similar to human-directed browsers. ... The vast majority of users don't use these APIs—or even know what an API is—because programming is something that they've left to the professionals. But when coding becomes universal, so will the expectation that websites become accessible to more than just browsers."

It Is Programmer Day - Why So Apathetic? 241

mikejuk writes: Programmers Day comes around every year and yet each year it seems to be increasingly ignored. Why, when we are trying to encourage children to take up all things computing, is Programmers Day such a big flop? If you've not encountered it before, the idea is that on a specific day we celebrate computer programmers. It is designated to be on the 256th day of the year, which in most years is September 13th and this year, 2015, it falls on a Sunday. If you don't know why it's the 256th day, then you probably aren't a programmer and there is no point in explaining. The usual suggestions for things to do on programmer day include telling jokes and other fairly lame stuff. How about instead: Teach someone to program just a little bit.

Hire a Developer, Watch Them Work In Real-Time 100

New submitter alphamore writes: Live Coding, which is like Twitch for developers, has added a service that allows viewers to actually hire someone they've been watching. The aptly named 'Hire a streamer' service works exactly as it sounds. Via the profile of a developer you've seen coding on the site, a 'hire me' button lets you request their time. The service is completely opt-in for developers, so not everyone will be for-hire. When you click on the 'hire me' button, you'll be met with a list of disciplines that developer is familiar with, and their hourly rate. Once you've booked a session, the money is held in escrow (transactions happen via the site) until the developer has completed the work.

Video GameStart Uses Minecraft to Teach Kids Programming (Video 1) 30

You can't teach all programming by using Minecraft to keep kids interested, but you can use Minecraft, Java, and Eclipse to give them a good start. That's what Tyler Kilgore and his colleagues at GameStart are doing. Watch today's video (number 1), tomorrow's video (number 2) and read both days' transcripts for the full scoop. EDIT: "Tomorrow's video" should read, "Monday's video."

Chinese Tech Companies Hire 'Cheerleaders' To Motivate Programmers 371 writes: Lauren O'Neil writes at CBC News that internet companies "across China" are hiring "pretty, talented girls that help create a fun work environment." Dubbed "programming cheerleaders," these young women serve to chit-chat, play Ping-Pong with employees as part of their role, and sometimes smile and clap for male employees who play guitar in the office, as indicated by photos posted to the news service's verified "Trending in China" Facebook page. "According to the HR manager of an Internet company that hired three such cheerleaders, its programmers are mostly male and terrible at socializing," reads's Facebook post. "The presence of these girls have greatly improved their job efficiency and motivation."

However people from all over the world have weighed in to decry the reported role. "This is degrading — both to the 'cheerleaders' and the programmers," wrote one commenter on the original post. "Look at the face of the poor woman programmer in the second picture. Stereotypical 'bro' culture only now with Chinese subtitles." Others suggest that the company pictured should simply hire more female programmers. "What a ridiculous job, why reduce women to only be valued by their looks and to assist males. Let them have a job at the desk using their minds!" wrote one woman.

Do Tech Firms Really Want Liberal Arts Majors? 266

Nerval's Lobster writes: Not too long ago, a Forbes writer declared that a liberal arts degree had "become tech's hottest ticket." At so-called 'disruptive juggernauts' such as Facebook and Uber, George Anders wrote, 'the war for talent' had moved into non-technical realms such as marketing and sales. While there's undoubtedly some truth to Anders's thesis, technology recruiters and executives aren't seeing any less demand for strong technical skills in a wide variety of roles (Dice link). When there's a need for tech professionals with 'soft skills,' at least one recruiter just recruits computer-science majors from liberal arts schools, figuring those recruits will be more 'well-rounded.' To be clear, Forbes doesn't suggest that IT employers have begun mixing liberal-arts graduates into their technical teams; the article talks more about those graduates ending up in supporting roles such as sales and marketing, or else becoming intermediaries who translate the customer's product requirements into engineering solutions. But nobody should think that a strong technical background isn't as valued as ever throughout tech companies.
Open Source

Node.js v4.0.0 Released 128

New submitter TFlan91 writes: The first merge of the popular Node.js and io.js repositories has been released! From the announcement: "The collaborators of the Node.js project and the members of the Node.js Foundation are proud to offer v4.0.0 for general release. This release represents countless hours of hard work encapsulated in both the Node.js project and the io.js project that are now combined in a single codebase. The Node.js project is now operated by a team of 44 collaborators, 15 of which form its Technical Steering Committee (TSC). Further, over 100 new individuals have been added to the list of people contributing code to core since v0.12.7."

Software Is Hiring, But Manufacturing Is Bleeding 102

Nerval's Lobster writes: Which tech segment added the most jobs in August? According to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, tech consulting gained 7,000 positions in August, (Dice link) below July's gains of 11,100, but enough to set it ahead of data processing, hosting, and related services (which added 1,600 jobs) and computer and electronic-product manufacturing (which lost 1,800 jobs). The latest numbers reflect some longtime trends: The rise of cloud services and infrastructure has contributed to slackening demand for PCs and other hardware, eroding manufacturing jobs. At the same time, increased appetite for everything from Web developers to information-systems managers has kept employers adding positions in other technology segments. If that didn't make things difficult enough for manufacturing folks, the rise of automation has cut down on the number of manufacturing jobs available worldwide, contributing to continuing pressure on the segment as a whole, despite all the noise about bringing those jobs back to the U.S.
GNU is Not Unix

The Free Software Foundation: 30 Years In 135

An anonymous reader writes: The Free Software Foundation was founded in 1985. To paint a picture of what computing was like back then, the Amiga 1000 was released, C++ was becoming a dominant language, Aldus PageMaker was announced, and networking was just starting to grow. Oh, and that year Careless Whisper by Wham! was a major hit. Things have changed a lot in 30 years. Back in 1985 the FSF was primarily focused on building free pieces of software that were primarily useful to nerdy computer people. These days we have software, services, social networks, and more to consider. In this in-depth interview, FSF executive director John Sullivan discusses the most prominent risks to software freedom today, Richard M. Stallman, and more.

Get Big Fast: "500 Club" Delivers Teachers For 28

theodp writes: The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier reports that Ben Schafer, an associate CS prof at the Univ. of Northern Iowa, was recognized at's annual summit for training 570 K-12 teachers in Iowa, which is equivalent to 5.5 percent of all U.S. teachers trained. Schafer ranked No. 2 in the '500 Club', a affiliate of trainers who trained more than 500 teachers in the first year of the program.'s K-5 Affiliates "deliver one-day, in-person workshops to local elementary school teachers to teach computer science in a format that's fun and accessible". A Term Sheet explains to potential Affiliates that " will pay you $50 per workshop-attendee to cover costs, including food, and to compensate you and any teaching assistants." According to a White House' Fact Sheet, plans to use $20 million in philanthropic funds to train 10,000 teachers by fall 2015 and 25,000 teachers by fall 2016. You can follow their progress on Twitter, kids!

PHP 7.0 Nearing Release, Performance Almost As Good As HHVM 158

An anonymous reader writes: PHP 7.0 RC2 was released on Friday. In addition to the new language features, PHP 7.0 is advertised as having twice the performance of PHP 5. Benchmarks of PHP 7.0 RC2 show that these performance claims are indeed accurate, and just not for popular PHP programs like WordPress. In tests done by Phoronix, the PHP performance was 2~2.5x faster all while consuming less memory than PHP 5.3~5.6. Facebook's HHVM implementation meanwhile still held a small performance lead, though it was consuming much more memory. PHP 7.0 is scheduled to be released in November.

JetBrains Moving Its Dev Tools To Subscription Model 141

esarjeant writes: For many Java developers, IntelliJ has been our predominant IDE. JetBrains is looking to make their tools easier easier to buy and use by switching to a subscription program. Their plan is to have people pay a monthly/yearly fee for access to the tools instead of upgrading when they're ready. Fortunately, if your subscription lapses it looks like you'll have 30 days to check all your stuff in. How does NetBeans look now? Many members of various developer communities are pushing back against this change: "For a developer with an unstable income, it might be perfectly fine to stay on an older version of the software until they've stashed enough cash to afford the upgrade. That will no longer work." JetBrains has acknowledged the feedback, and say they will act on it.

An Algorithm To Randomly Generate Game Dungeons 77

An anonymous reader writes: Game developers frequently turn to procedural algorithms to generate some of their game's content. Sometimes it's to give the game more diverse environments, or to keep things fresh upon subsequent playthroughs, or simply just to save precious development time. If you've played a game that had an unpredictable layout of connected rooms, you may have wondered how it was built. No longer; a post at Gamasutra walks through a procedural generation algorithm, showing how random and unique layouts can be created with some clever code. The article is filled with animated pictures demonstrating how rooms pop into existence, spread themselves out to prevent overlap, finds a sensible series of connections, and then fill in the gaps with doors and hallways.

Lack of Teacher Training Hampers UK Programming Education 112

An anonymous reader writes: The UK government recently introduced a new computer curriculum to the school system in order to get more kids into programming. Unfortunately, they're running into a serious problem: one-third of the secondary schools tasked with teaching these programs have not spent any money training their teachers on the requisite knowledge and technology. The government has provided £4.5 million for this training, and a number of schools have spent their share and more. But it's clearly not filtering down to every school, and that harms the children enrolled in these schools.