LibreOffice Turns Five 147

An anonymous reader writes: Italo Vignoli, founding member of The Document Foundation, reflects on the project's five-year mark in an article on "LibreOffice was launched as a fork of on September 28, 2010, by a tiny group of people representing the community in their capacity as community project leaders. At the time, forking the office suite was a brave -- and necessary -- decision, because the open source community did not expect to survive for long under Oracle stewardship." The project that was does still exist, in the form of Apache Open Office, but along with most Linux distros, I've switched completely to LibreOffice, after some initial misgivings.

Romance and Rebellion In Software Versioning 86

joabj writes: Most software releases more or less follow the routine convention of Major.Minor.Bugfix numbering (i.e. Linux 4.2.1). This gives administrators an idea of what updates are major ones and might bring compatibility issues. As Dominic Tarr points out in his essay "Sentimental Versioning," a few projects boldly take on more whimsical schemes for versioning, such as Donald Knuth's use of successive Pi digits to enumerate new updates to TeX, or Node.js's punk-rock careening between major and minor releases. If you break convention, Tarr seems to be arguing, at least do so with panache.

Jeff Atwood NY Daily News Op-Ed: Learning To Code Is Overrated 300

theodp writes: Responding to New York City's much-ballyhooed $81 million initiative to require all of the city's public schools to offer CS to all students, Coding Horror's Jeff Atwood has penned a guest column for the NY Daily News which cautions that learning to code isn't all it's cracked up to be. Atwood begins, "Mayor de Blasio is winning widespread praise for his recent promise that, within 10 years, all of New York City's public schoolchildren will take computer science classes. But as a career programmer who founded two successful software startups, I am deeply skeptical about teaching all kids to code." Why? "If someone tells you 'coding is the new literacy' because 'computers are everywhere today,' ask them how fuel injection works. By teaching low-level coding, I worry that we are effectively teaching our children the art of automobile repair. A valuable skill — but if automobile manufacturers and engineers are doing their jobs correctly, one that shouldn't be much concern for average people, who happily use their cars as tools to get things done without ever needing to worry about rebuilding the transmission or even change the oil." Atwood adds, "There's nothing wrong with basic exposure to computer science. But it should not come at the expense of fundamental skills such as reading, writing and mathematics...I've known so many programmers who would have been much more successful in their careers if they had only been better writers, better critical thinkers, better back-of-the-envelope estimators, better communicators. And aside from success in careers, we have to ask the broader question: What kinds of people do we want children to grow up to be?"

Reports: Volkswagen Was Warned of Emissions Cheating Years Ago 161

An anonymous reader writes: More fuel was thrown on the Volkswagen fire today after two German newspapers reported that Volkswagen's own staff and one of its suppliers warned years ago about software designed to thwart emissions test. Volkswagen declined to comment on the details of either newspaper report. "There are serious investigations underway and the focus is now also on technical solutions" for customers and dealers, a Volkswagen spokesman said. "As soon as we have reliable facts we will be able to give answers."

Meet the Michael Jordan of Sport Coding 103

pacopico writes: Gennady Korotkevich — aka Tourist — has spent a decade ruling the world of sport coding. He dominates TopCoder, Codeforces and just about every tournament sponsored by the likes of Google and Facebook. Bloomberg has profiled Korotkevich's rise through the sport coding ranks and taken a deep look at what makes this sport weirdly wonderful. The big takeaway from the piece seems to be that sport coding has emerged as a way for very young coders to make names for themselves and get top jobs — sometimes by skipping college altogether.

The #NoEstimates Debate: An Unbiased Look At Origins, Arguments, and Leaders 299

New submitter MikeTechDude writes: Estimates have always been an integral part of the software development process. In recent years, however, developers, including Woody Zuill and Vasco Duarte, have begun to question the efficacy, and even the purpose, of using estimates to predict a project's cost and time line. A fierce debate has sprung up on Twitter, between those calling for an end to estimates and those who continue to champion their use in a professional setting. On the surface, it would appear that the debate is black and white. Proponents of the #NoEstimates Twitter hashtag are promoting a hard stop to all estimates industry-wide, and critics of the movement are insisting on a conservative approach that leaves little room for innovation. However, the reality of the debate has unfolded in far more complex, nuanced shades of gray. HP's Malcolm Isaacs digs deep and pinpoints where the debate started, where it now stands, and what its implications are for the future of software development. Meanwhile, Martin Heller offers his less unbiased approach with his post, #NoEstimates? Not so fast.

How Did Volkswagen Cheat Emissions Tests, and Who Authorized It? 618

Lucas123 writes: The method by which Volkswagen diesel cars were able to thwart emissions tests and spew up to 40X the nitrogen oxide levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency was relatively simple. It was more likely no more than a single line of code used to detect when an emissions test was being performed and place the emissions system in an alternate mode — something as simple as a software "on/off" switch. Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn, who stepping down as the result of his company's scandal, has said he had no knowledge of the emissions cheat, but software dev/test audit trails are almost certain to pinpoint who embedded the code and who authorized it. You can actually see who asked the developer to write that code," said Nikhil Kaul, a product manager at test/dev software maker SmartBear Software. "Then if you go upstream you can see who that person's boss was...and see if testing happened...and, if testing didn't happen. So you can go from the bottom up to nail everyone."

Bjarne Stroustrup Announces the C++ Core Guidelines 262

alphabetsoup writes: At CppCon this year, Bjarne Stroustrup announced the C++ Core Guidelines. The guidelines are designed to help programmers write safe-by-default C++ with no run-time overhead. Compilers will statically check the code to ensure no violations. A library is available now, with a static checking tool to follow in October.

Here is the video of the talk, and here are the slides.The guidelines themselves are here.

Video Security is an Important Coding Consideration Even When You Use Containers (Video) 57

Last month Tom Henderson wrote an article titled Container wars: Rocket vs. Odin vs. Docker. In that article he said, "All three are potentially very useful and also potentially very dangerous compared to traditional hypervisor and VM combinations."

Tom's list of contributions at Network World show you that he's not a neophyte when it comes to enterprise-level security, and that he's more of a product test/analytical person than a journalist. And afraid to state a strong opinion? That's someone else, not Tom, who got flamed hard for his "Container Wars" article, but has been proved right since it ran. Tom also says, in today's interview, that the recent Apple XcodeGhost breach should be a loud wake-up call for developers who don't worry enough about security. But will it? He's not too sure. Are you?

Cassandra Rewritten In C++, Ten Times Faster 341

urdak writes: At Cassandra Summit opening today, Avi Kivity and Dor Laor (who had previously written KVM and OSv) announced ScyllaDB — an open-source C++ rewrite of Cassandra, the popular NoSQL database. ScyllaDB claims to achieve a whopping 10 times more throughput per node than the original Java code, with sub-millisecond 99%ile latency. They even measured 1 million transactions per second on a single node. The performance of the new code is attributed to writing it in Seastar — a C++ framework for writing complex asynchronous applications with optimal performance on modern hardware.

Google Launches Brotli, a New Open Source Compression Algorithm For the Web 215

Mark Wilson writes: As websites and online services become ever more demanding, the need for compression increases exponentially. Fans of Silicon Valley will be aware of the Pied Piper compression algorithm, and now Google has a more efficient one of its own. Brotli is open source and is an entirely new data format that offers 20-26 percent greater compression than Zopfli, another compression algorithm from Google. Just like Zopfli, Brotli has been designed with the internet in mind, with the simple aim of making web pages load faster. It is a "lossless compressed data format that compresses data using a combination of the LZ77 algorithm and Huffman coding, with efficiency comparable to the best currently available general-purpose compression methods". Compression is better than LZMA and bzip2, and Google says that Brotli is "roughly as fast" as zlib's Deflate implementation.

Girls-Only Computer Camps Formed At Behest of Top Google, Facebook Execs 449

theodp writes: Reporting on Google exec Susan Wojcicki's appearance at DreamForce, Inc.'s Tess Townsend writes: "The YouTube CEO said her daughter had stated point-blank that she did not like computers, so Wojcicki enrolled her in a computer camp. The camp made her daughter dislike tech even more. Wojcicki reported her daughter came back saying, 'Everyone in the class was a boy and nobody was like me and now I hate computers even more.' So, mom called the camp and spoke to the CEO, asking that the camp be made more welcoming to girls" (video). Fortune reported last July that it was the urging of Wojcicki and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg that prompted iD Tech Camps — which Wojcicki's and Sandberg's kids had attended — to spin off a girls-only chain of tech camps called Alexa Cafe, which was trialed in the Bay Area in 2014 and expanded to nine locations in 2015. Earlier this month, Fortune noted that Wojcicki's daughter attended the $949-a-week Alexa Cafe summer camp at Palo Alto High, which was coincidentally hosted in the multi-million dollar Media Center (video) that was built thanks to the efforts of Wojcicki's mother Esther (a long-time Paly journalism teacher) and partially furnished and equipped by sister Anne (23andMe CEO) and ex-brother-in-law Sergey Brin's charitable foundation.

'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."