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The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: Undervalued, Livable American Tech Towns? 464

An anonymous reader writes: I've been working in tech as a software developer for about 15 years. As I've gotten older I'm starting to see the appeal of living in a city that's not crazily blown out and expensive like most established tech markets (think San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Los Angeles, etc.). Are there are any good tech job markets that are normal, affordable, livable, American cities, or am I forever doomed to be subjected to the rat race found in these overheated and overcrowded markets? Lots of cities have at least some vibrant tech scene; Omaha, NE, Raleigh, NC, and Ann Arbor, MI are three that spring to mind, but everyone's tastes and tolerances will vary. What do you find in your neck of the woods? (Even if it's one of those "crazily blown out" examples.)

Hour of Code 2015 Star Wars Tutorial: Spare the IF Statement, Spoil the Child? 156

theodp writes: Teaching U.S. K-12 kids their programming fundamentals in past Hours of Code were an IF-fy Bill Gates and a LOOP-y Mark Zuckerberg. Interestingly, the new signature tutorial — Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code — created by Lucasfilm and ("in a locked room with no windows") for this December's Hour of Code, eschews both IF statements and loops. The new learn-to-code tutorial instead elects to show students "events" after they've gone through the usual move-up-down-left-right drills. With the NY Times and National Center for Women & Information Technology recently warning against putting Star Wars in the CS classroom ("Attracting more female high school students to computer science classes might be as easy as tossing out the Star Wars posters," claimed an Aug. 29th NCWIT Facebook post), the theme of the new tutorial seems an odd choice for, whose stated mission includes "increasing [CS] participation by women." But if Star Wars is, as some suggest, more aimed at boys, perhaps has something up its sleeve for girls (a la last year's Disney Princesses) with another as yet unannounced signature tutorial that it teased would be "just as HUGE" as the Star Wars one. Any guesses on what that might be?

Boot Camps Introducing More Women To Tech ( 196

Nerval's Lobster writes: A new study from Course Report suggests that boot camps are introducing more women to the tech-employment pipeline. Data for the study came from 769 graduates from 43 qualifying coding schools (a.k.a. boot camps). Some 66 percent of those graduates reported landing a full-time job that hinged on skills learned at the boot camp. Although the typical "bootcamper" is 31 years old, with 7.6 years of work experience, relatively few had a job as a programmer before participating in a boot camp. Perhaps the most interesting data-point from Course Report, though, is that 36 percent of "bootcampers" are women, compared to 14.1 percent coming into the tech industry via undergraduate programs. Bringing more women and underrepresented groups into the tech industry is a stated goal of many companies. Over the past few years, these companies' diversity reports have bemoaned how engineering and leadership teams skew overwhelmingly white and male. Proposed strategies for the issue include adjusting how companies recruit new workers; boot camps could also quickly deepen the pool of potential employees with the right skills.

PostgreSQL Getting Parallel Query 83

New submitter iamvego writes: A major feature PostgreSQL users have requested for some time now is to have the query planner "parallelize" a query. Now, thanks to Robert Haas and Amit Kapila, this has now materialized in the 9.6 branch. Robert Haas writes in his blog entry that so far it only supports splitting up a sequential scan between multiple workers, but should hopefully be extended to work with multiple partitions before the final release, and much more beside in future releases.

Mozilla Plans To Remove Support For Firefox Complete Themes 267

AmiMoJo writes: Mozilla's engineers have announced the removal of Firefox complete themes as a way to lighten the browser core and remove a feature they don't see as heavily used any more. "Personas", or lightweight themes that are basically just wallpaper images, will remain. The Firefox community did not respond well to this piece of news, most seeing it as the engineers "chromifying Firefox." The change is part of Mozilla's Great-or-Dead initiative, which plans to simplify the Firefox codebase and remove features that are not popular.

Interviews: Ask Stack Overflow Co-Founder Jeff Atwood a Question 129

Jeff Atwood is an author, entrepreneur, and software developer. He runs the popular programming blog Coding Horror and is the co-founder of Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange Network. In early 2012 he decided to leave Stack Exchange so he could spend more time with his family. A year later he announced his new company the Civilized Discourse Construction Kit, Inc. and the Discourse open-source discussion platform which aims to improve conversations on the internet. Jeff has agreed to give some of his time to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.

With TensorFlow, Google Open Sources Its Machine Learning Resources ( 37

smaxp writes: Google has announced the open source release of TensorFlow, its machine learning software library. "TensorFlow has extensive built-in support for deep learning, but is far more general than that -- any computation that you can express as a computational flow graph, you can compute with TensorFlow (see some examples). Any gradient-based machine learning algorithm will benefit from TensorFlow’s auto-differentiation and suite of first-rate optimizers. And it’s easy to express your new ideas in TensorFlow via the flexible Python interface." This comes alongside some dramatic speed increases (PDF). The code is available at GitHub under an Apache 2.0 license. "Deep learning, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are all some of Google's core competencies, where the company leads Apple and Microsoft. If successful, Google's strategy is to maintain this lead by putting its technology out in the open to improve it based on large-scale adoption and code contributions from the community at large.

How Outsourcing Companies Are Gaming the H-1B Visa System ( 284

New submitter shakah writes: The NY Times has a straightforward summary of how the H-1B Visa system is being gamed by companies inside and outside of the United States. Particularly interesting for me was their clarification on the argument that "VISA holders have to make prevailing wages, so they won't depress wages." Quoting: "Under federal rules, employers like TCS, Infosys and Wipro that have large numbers of H-1B workers in the United States are required to declare that they will not displace American workers. But the companies are exempt from that requirement if the H-1B workers are paid at least $60,000 a year. H-1B workers at outsourcing firms often receive wages at or slightly above $60,000, below what skilled American technology professionals tend to earn, so those firms can offer services to American companies at a lower cost, undercutting American workers."

Open Source Anniversaries: 6 Years of Go, 11 of Firefox ( 65

digitalPhant0m writes: Six years ago today the Go language was released as an open source project. Since then, more than 780 contributors have made over 30,000 commits to the project's 22 repositories. The ecosystem continues to grow, with GitHub reporting more than 90,000 Go repositories. And, offline, we see new Go events and user groups pop up around the world with regularity And notes that Mozilla Firefox has just hit 11 years of age, too.

Symbolic vs. Mnemonic Relational Operators: Is "GT" Greater Than ">"? 304

theodp writes: "Mnemonic operators," writes SAS's Rick Wicklin as he weighs the pros-and-cons of Symbolic Versus Mnemonic Logical Operators, "tend to appear in older languages like FORTRAN, whereas symbolic operators are common in more recent languages like C/C++, although some relatively recent scripting languages like Perl, PHP, and Windows PowerShell also support mnemonic operators. SAS software has supported both operators in the DATA step since the very earliest days, but the SAS/IML language, which is more mathematically oriented, supports only the symbolic operators. Functionally, the operators are equivalent, so which ones you use is largely a matter of personal preference. Since consistency and standards are essential when writing computer programming, which operators should you choose?"

Vulnerability In Java Commons Library Leads To Hundreds of Insecure Applications ( 115

An anonymous reader writes: Stephen Breen from the FoxGlove Security team is calling attention to what he calls the "most underrated, underhyped vulnerability of 2015." It's a remote code execution exploit that affects the latest versions of WebLogic, WebSphere, JBoss, Jenkins, and OpenMMS, and many other pieces of software. How? An extremely common Java library. He says, "No one gave it a fancy name, there were no press releases, nobody called Mandiant to come put out the fires. In fact, even though proof of concept code was released over 9 months ago, none of the products mentioned in the title of the blog post have been patched, along with many more. In fact no patch is available for the Java library containing the vulnerability. In addition to any commercial products that are vulnerable, this also affects many custom applications.
Open Source

Corporations and OSS Do Not Mix ( 213

An anonymous reader writes: Ian Cordasco, a prolific open source developer, wrote a lengthy post about his experiences working on code that gets used by companies as part of their business. His basic thesis is that the open source development process is not particularly compatible with for-profit corporations, and having them involved frequently makes progress more difficult. "As soon as a bug affects them, they want it fixed immediately. If you don't fix it in 24 hours (because maybe you have a real life or a family or you're sick or any number of other very valid reasons) then the threats start." He adds, "When companies do 'contribute,' it's often not in the best interest of the community, it isn't enough, or it's thoroughly misguided." Cordasco is quick to note that there are exceptions, but he has an idea why the majority behave that way: "I don't have the complete answer, but one important point is that there is toxicity in the community, its leaders, and or its contributors, and the companies have learned their behavior from this toxicity." He provides a list of suggestions both for companies using open source software, and also some further reading on the subject from Ashe Dryden, David MacIver, and Cory Benfield.
Open Source

$1 Bid Wins Government Open Source Software Purchasing Experiment ( 124

An anonymous reader writes: A couple weeks ago we discussed a project from a software team within the U.S. General Services Administration. Its goal was to set up a portal to let developers bid on the creation of open source code needed by the government. From the beginning, they said it was an experiment, and now the results are in from their first project. The project was quickly bid all the way down to $1, and on Wednesday, the winner delivered a functional solution that met their criteria. They say, "When we received the $1 bid, we immediately tried to figure out whether it was intentional, whether it was from a properly registered company, and whether we could award $1. We contacted the bidder and we confirmed that the bid was valid, that the registration on was current, and that the bid would be the winning bid. It was a plot twist that no one here at 18F expected. This unexpected development will no doubt force us to rethink some of our assumptions about the reverse-auction model." Despite their surprise, the team feels this is proof that the system can succeed. They're now working to refine the process.

Ransomware Found Targeting Linux Servers, MySQL, Git, Other Development Files ( 93

An anonymous reader writes: A new piece of ransomware has been discovered that targets Linux servers, looking to encrypt only files that are related to Web hosting, Web servers, MySQL, Subversion, Git, and other technologies used in Web development and HTTP servers. Weirdly, despite targeting business environments, the ransomware only asks for 1 Bitcoin, a fairly low amount compared to other ransomware.

How a Mobile App Firm Found the XcodeGhost In the Machine ( 69

SpacemanukBEJY.53u writes: A Denver-based mobile app development company, Possible Mobile, had a tough time figuring out why Apple recently rejected its app from the App Store. After a lot of head scratching, it eventually found the XcodeGhost malware hidden in an unlikely place — a third-party framework that it had wrapped into its own app. Their experience shows that the efforts of malware writers can have far-ranging effects on the mobile app component supply chain.

The 'Trick' To Algorithmic Coding Interview Questions ( 208

Nerval's Lobster writes: Ah, the famous "Google-style" algorithmic coding interview. If you've never had one of these interviews before, the idea is to see if you can write code that's not only correct, but efficient, too. You can expect to spend lots of time diagramming data structures and talking about big O notation. Popular hits include "reverse a linked list in place," "balance a binary search tree," and "find the missing number in an array." Like it or not, a "Google-style" coding interview may stand between you and your next job, so it's in your interest to figure out how to deal with it. Parker Phinney, founder of Interview Cake, uses a Dice column to break down a variety of example problems and then solve them. But it's not just about mastering the most common kinds of problems by rote memorization; it's also about recognizing the patterns that underlie those problems.

Should Programmers Be Called Engineers? ( 568

New submitter nervouscat writes: Game designer Ian Bogost argues that programmers shouldn't use the term "engineer" to describe themselves. He says the tech industry has "cheapened" the title, and that it's more aspirational than anything else. Quoting: "Traditional engineers are regulated, certified, and subject to apprenticeship and continuing education. Engineering claims an explicit responsibility to public safety and reliability, even if it doesn’t always deliver. ... Today’s computer systems pose individual and communal dangers that we’d never accept in more concrete structures like bridges, skyscrapers, power plants, and missile-defense systems. Apple’s iOS 9 update reportedly “bricked” certain phones, making them unusable. Services like Google Docs go down for mysterious reasons, leaving those whose work depends on them in a lurch. ... When it comes to skyscrapers and bridges and power plants and elevators and the like, engineering has been, and will continue to be, managed partly by professional standards, and partly by regulation around the expertise and duties of engineers. But fifty years’ worth of attempts to turn software development into a legitimate engineering practice have failed."

The $6,000 Computer Desk That Lets You Lie Down While You Work 116 writes: We've all read about standing desks and treadmill desks but now Rachel Gillet reports at Business Insider about the Altwork Station, a workstation that allows users to sit, stand, and recline while they work on their computers. Designed to accomodate two computer screens, the manufacturer says their new product is the ultimate combination for workplace productivity. "Most experts agree that humans should change positions and move throughout the day. We believe movement throughout the day is important," says the company who targets "high intensity" computer users, which it defines as people who spend at least four hours a day in front of a computer and are required to focus on complex tasks for extended periods of time. If the $5,900 ($3,900, if you pre-order) reclining workstation is not for you, there are other options you may want to consider including the scooter desk, bicycle desk, and hamster wheel desk.

Celebrating 30th Anniversary of the First C++ Compiler: Let's Find Bugs In It 153

New submitter Andrey_Karpov writes: Cfront is a C++ compiler which came into existence in 1983 and was developed by Bjarne Stroustrup ("30 YEARS OF C++"). At that time it was known as "C with Classes". Cfront had a complete parser, symbol tables, and built a tree for each class, function, etc. Cfront was based on CPre. Cfront defined the language until circa 1990. Many of the obscure corner cases in C++ are related to the Cfront implementation limitations. The reason is that Cfront performed translation from C++ to C. In short, Cfront is a sacred artifact for a C++ programmer. So I just couldn't help checking such a project [for bugs].

Google-Supported CodeGirl Documentary Makes "Exclusive YouTube Premiere" 289

theodp writes: As part of our Made with Code and media perception initiatives," wrote YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki over at the Official Google Blog, "I'm excited that we're supporting award-winning documentary filmmaker Lesley Chilcott — of An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman [and] fame — on her next film, CodeGirl. Until November 5 Lesley's film will be available for free on YouTube, before its theatrical debut in the next few weeks." Microsoft is pretty jazzed about the movie too, as is Al Gore. Decidedly less excited about CodeGirl is film critic Inkoo Kang, who writes, "CodeGirl, a chronicle of this year's Technovation contest, is just as well-intentioned as its subject. It coasts for as long as it can on the feel-good fuel of watching smart, earnest girls talk about creating an app, but with virtually no tension, context, narrative or characterization driving the story, the documentary grows to feel like a parent describing their daughter's involvement in an international competition. The girls' achievements are impressive, but you definitely don't want to hear about them for nearly two hours.