Software

Ask Slashdot: Everyone Building Software -- Is This the Future We Need? 89 89

An anonymous reader writes: I recently stumbled upon Apple's headline for version 2 of its Swift programming language: "Now everyone can build amazing apps." My question: is this what we really need? Tech giants (not just Apple, but Microsoft, Facebook, and more) are encouraging kids and adults to become developers, adding to an already-troubled IT landscape. While many software engineering positions are focused only on a business's internal concerns, many others can dramatically affect other people's lives. People write software for the cars we drive; our finances are in the hands of software, and even the medical industry is replete with new software these days. Poor code here can legitimately mess up somebody's life. Compare this to other high-influence professions: can you become surgeon just because you bought a state-of-art turbo laser knife? Of course not. Back to Swift: the app ecosystem is already chaotic, without solid quality control and responsibility from most developers. If you want simple to-do app, you'll get never-ending list of software artifacts that will drain your battery, eat memory, freeze the OS and disappoint you in every possible way. So, should we really be focusing on quantity, rather than quality?
Programming

.NET 4.6 Optimizer Bug Causes Methods To Get Wrong Parameters 125 125

tobiasly writes: A serious bug in the just-released .NET 4.6 runtime causes the JIT compiler to generate incorrectly-optimized code which results in methods getting called with different parameters than what were passed in. Nick Craver of Stack Exchange has an excellent write-up of the technical details and temporary workarounds; Microsoft has acknowledged the problem and submitted an as-yet unreleased patch.

This problem is compounded by Microsoft's policy of replacing the existing .NET runtime, as opposed to the side-by-side runtimes which were possible until .NET 2.0. This means that even if your project targets .NET 4.5, it will get the 4.6 runtime if it was installed on that machine. Since it's not possible to install the just-released Visual Studio 2015 without .NET 4.6, this means developers must make the difficult choice between using the latest tools or risking crippling bugs such as this one.
Windows

Windows 10's Automatic Updates For NVidia Drivers Causing Trouble 314 314

Mark Wilson writes: One of the features that has been removed from Windows 10 — at least for home users — is the ability to pick and choose when updates are installed. Microsoft has taken Windows Update out of the hands of users so the process is, for the most part, completely automated. In theory, this sounds great — no more worrying about having the latest patches installed, no more concerns that a machine that hasn't been updated will cause problems for others — but an issue with NVidia drivers shows that there is potential for things to go wrong. Irate owners of NVidia graphics cards have taken to support forums to complain that automatically-installed drivers installed have broken their computers.
Businesses

How Amazon Could Drive Blended Reality Into The Living Room 16 16

An anonymous reader writes: Here's an interesting story on TechCrunch joining the dots on Amazon's interest in computer vision and its connected speaker-plus-virtual assistant in-home device, the Amazon Echo. The author speculates that if Amazon adds a camera to the Echo the device could be used for augmented reality-powered virtual try-ons of products such as clothes, streaming the results to the user's phone or TV. From the article: "The product development process for Microsoft's Kinect sensor took around four to five years from conception to shipping a consumer product. The computer vision field has clearly gained from a lot of research since then, and Woodford reckons Amazon could ship an Echo sensor in an even shorter timeframe — say, in the next two years — provided the business was entirely behind the idea and doing everything it could to get such a product to market."
Education

Senate Passes 'No Microsoft National Talent Strategy Goal Left Behind Act' 132 132

theodp writes: Microsoft is applauding the Senate's passage of the Every Child Achieves Act, a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act, saying the move will improve access to K-12 STEM learning nationwide. The legislation elevates Computer Science to a "core academic subject", opening the door to a number of funding opportunities. The major overhaul of the U.S. K-12 education system, adds Microsoft on the Issues, also "advances some of the goals outlined in Microsoft's National Talent Strategy," its "two-pronged" plan to increase K-12 CS education and tech immigration. Perhaps Microsoft is tackling the latter goal in under-the-radar White House visits with the leaders of Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC, like this one, attended by Microsoft's William "It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway" Kamela and FWD.us President Joe "Save Us From Just-Sort-of-OK US Workers" Green.
Portables

Experiment: Installing Windows 10 On a 7-Year-Old Acer Aspire One 403 403

jones_supa writes: Windows 10 will launch in less than a week and it is supposed to work flawlessly on devices already powered by Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, as Microsoft struggled to keep system requirements unchanged to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Device drivers all the way back to Windows Vista platform (WDDM 1.0) are supported. Softpedia performed a practical test to see how Windows 10 can run on a 7-year-old Acer Aspire One netbook powered by Intel Atom N450 processor clocked at 1.66 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, and a 320 GB mechanical hard disk. The result is surprising to say the least, as installation not only went impressively fast, but the operating system itself also works fast.
Education

Melinda Gates: Facebook Engineers Have Solved One of Education's Biggest Problem 162 162

theodp writes: Asked by the NY Times if Silicon Valley is saving the world or just making money, Melinda Gates replied, "I can say without a doubt — because I've seen it — that some of them [SV companies] are innovating in ways that make life better for billions of people." As an example, BillG's better half suggests that a handful of Facebook engineers have solved one of education's biggest problems with their 20% time project at billionaire-backed Summit Public Schools, a small charter school operator. Gates writes, "One of the biggest problems in American education is that teachers have to teach 30 students with different learning styles at the same time. Developers at Facebook, however, have built an online system that gives teachers the information and tools they need to design individualized lessons. The result is that teachers can spend their time doing what they're best at: inspiring kids." Some people — like the late Roger Ebert — might not be quite as impressed as Melinda to see Silicon Valley trying to reinvent the 1960's personalized-learning-wheel in 2015!
Facebook

New York Judge Rules Against Facebook In Search Warrant Case 157 157

itwbennett writes: Last year, Facebook appealed a court decision requiring it to hand over data, including photos and private messages, relating to 381 user accounts. (Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, among other companies backed Facebook in the dispute). On Tuesday, Judge Dianne Renwick of the New York State Supreme Court ruled against Facebook, saying that Facebook has no legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of search warrants served on its users.
China

Skype Translate Reportedly Has a Swearing Problem In Chinese 82 82

An anonymous reader writes: Skype Translate was supposed to be Microsoft's attempt at the "Star Trek" universal translator, offering real-time voice and text translation. It launched with one of the most challenging of languages, Chinese. And apparently, thanks to the Great Firewall, it has its problems. An American expat using it in China reports: "A glitch in the beta software misinterpreted the words I spoke. 'It's nice to talk to you' was translated as 'It's f*cking nice to f*ck you,' and other synthesized profanity, like the icebox robot in 1970's sci-fi flick Logan's Run, but with Tourette Syndrome. It was quite funny to me - I couldn't help but laugh during repeated takes, to Yan's exasperation - but the tech team were none too happy about it as they worked late into the night."
Microsoft

Microsoft Edge Performance Evaluated 132 132

An anonymous reader writes: Now that Windows 10 is close to launch, Anandtech has put Microsoft's new browser, Edge, through a series of tests to see how it stacks up against other browsers. Edge has shown significant improvements since January. It handily beats Chrome and Firefox in Google's Octane 2.0 benchmark, and it managed the best score on the Sunspider benchmark as well. But Chrome and Firefox both still beat Edge in other tests, by small margins in the Kraken 1.1 and HTML5Test benchmarks, and larger ones in WebXPRT and Oort Online. The article says, "It is great to see Microsoft focusing on browser performance again, and especially not sitting idle since January, since the competition in this space has not been idle either."
Microsoft

Game About Killing Poachers Vies For Top Prize In Microsoft Student Tech Contest 176 176

theodp writes: GeekWire reports on a group of students from Nepal who will be competing for the $50K top prize in Microsoft's Imagine Cup student tech contest with a first-person shooter in which players track down and kill poachers. "Until and unless the player kills all the poachers," reads the description for Defend Your Territory, "he/she cannot progress to next level. To make the game more interesting, there will be lots of weapons and vehicles unlock." So, is this the inspiration Google needs to take their anti-poaching drone program to the next level?
Microsoft

Microsoft Officially Releases Visual Studio 2015 and .NET 4.6 132 132

rjmarvin writes: Microsoft has announced RTM of Visual Studio 2015, the latest version of its flagship IDE, along with the release of .NET 4.6. The release includes a new set of DevOps services featuring the Build vNext cross-platform build service, the IntelliTest automated unit testing tool, and a Dev/Test service delivered both via the cloud in Visual Studio Online and on-premises through Team Foundation Server. Soma Somasegar, corporate vice president of the developer division at Microsoft, highlighted three main themes Microsoft focused on with VS 2015 in an interview with SD Times: developer productivity, "a holistic set of DevOps services" and giving developers choices when it comes to tooling toward the goal of building Universal Windows Apps for Windows 10. VS 2015 and .NET 4.6 are available here.
Windows

Windows 10 Will Have Screen Recording Tool 203 203

Mark Wilson writes: Windows 10 has not even been released yet, but that's a perfect reason to start unearthing a few secrets. Over the coming weeks and months there will undoubtedly be an endless stream of tips, tricks, and tweaks to try out, but how's this for starters? Windows 10 has a secret screen recording tool that can be used to capture on-screen activity as a video file. Taking a static screenshot is very simple. You can either hit the Print Screen key, use the Snipping Tool, or turn to one of the countless screen capture tools out there — many of which are free. When it comes to capturing video, however, it's something of a different story. Before you splash out on a dedicated tool such as Camtasia, you might want to try out Windows 10's hidden tool. It's designed for gamers really, but anyone can use it. The Game bar is a toolbar which Microsoft meant for gamers to use to capture screenshots of their high scores, as well as video footage of their gaming skills. Despite the name, it is not limited to use within games
Businesses

Silicon Valley Still Wrestling With Diversity Issues 398 398

An anonymous reader writes: As major tech companies come under increased scrutiny over the diversity of their workforces, many of them are focusing solely on the "pipeline" of workers educated in a computer-related field. They're pouring resources into getting kids to code, setting up internships, and even establishing mentoring programs for underrepresented groups. But experts say they're still failing to root out their own internal biases when making hiring decisions. "That bias shows up in recruiting, with companies drawing from the same top universities, where black and Hispanic graduates are still lagging behind other groups. ... The problem is particularly acute at start-ups, where black founders are just 1 percent of venture-invested firms, according to a 2011 survey by CB Insights." The tech companies are under mounting pressure to solve this problem, and the solutions they're pursuing won't show results quickly.
Microsoft

Microsoft Uses US Women's Soccer Team To Explain Why It Doesn't Hire More Women 212 212

theodp writes: "It is not surprising that the U.S. women have been dominant in the sport [of soccer] in recent years. The explanation for that success lies in the talent pipeline," writes General Manager of Citizenship & Public Affairs Lori Forte Harnick on The Official Microsoft Blog. "Said another way, many girls in the U.S. have the opportunity to learn how to play soccer and, as a result, they benefit from the teamwork, skill development and fun involved. That's the kind of opportunity I would like to see develop for the technology sector, which presents a different, yet perhaps even more significant, set of opportunities for girls and young women. Unfortunately, the strength in the talent pipeline that we see in female soccer today is not the reality for technology. The U.S. is facing a shortage of Computer Science (CS) graduates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every year there are close to 140,000 jobs requiring a CS degree, but only 40,000 U.S. college graduates major in CS, which means that 100,000 positions go unfilled by domestic talent." Going with the soccer analogy, one thing FIFA realized that Microsoft didn't is that if you want girls to play your sport, you don't take away their ball!
AI

A Quick Leak, As Microsoft Tests the Waters For Cortana On Android 44 44

An anonymous reader writes with the news from Venture Beat that a beta of Cortana for Android (long promised) has leaked into the wild via Finnish upload site SuomiMobiili, and from there to others, like APKMirror. From the article: We asked Microsoft where this leak may have come from. "In the spirit of the Windows Insider Program, we're testing the Cortana for Android beta with a limited number of users in the U.S. and China before releasing the beta publicly in the next few weeks," a Microsoft spokesperson told VentureBeat.
Windows

Windows 10 Home Updates To Be Automatic and Mandatory 627 627

AmiMoJo sends a report stating that Windows 10 Home users don't seem to have any way to disable automatic updates to the operating system. Throughout the testing of the Technical Preview, users noted that this option wasn't available, but it wasn't clear whether that was intended for the full release. Now that the suspected RTM build has been distributed, only two options are available regarding update installation: update then reboot automatically, or update then reboot manually. A quote from the EULA seems to support this: "The Software periodically checks for system and app updates, and downloads and installs them for you. ... By accepting this agreement, you agree to receive these types of automatic updates without any additional notice."

The article notes, "This has immediately raised concerns. Today, if a Windows user finds that an update breaks something that they need, they can generally refuse that update for an extended period. ... For Windows 10 Home users, this isn't going to be an option. If a future update breaks something essential, the user is going to be out of luck." Windows 10 Pro users will be able to delay updates for some period of time, and Enterprise users will have update functionality similar to that of Windows 8.
Windows

Multiple Sources Confirm Windows 10 has Reached RTM 172 172

Ammalgam writes: Multiple sources are reporting that Microsoft has finally hit the release to manufacturing (RTM) milestone with Windows 10. A new build of Windows 10, number 10240, is available to Windows Insiders on both the fast and slow track. Microsoft has made no official statement yet.
Cellphones

Nokia Wants To Make Phones Again 111 111

An anonymous reader writes: Nokia has indicated that it's interested in returning to the phone-making business. In a post on the company's website, spokesman Robert Morlino explains that although they sold their devices business to Microsoft last year, they're still interested in the phone industry. They're not capable of building their own devices, and it looks unlikely that they'll be able to build a new hardware section in a reasonable time frame. Instead, they're looking for a partner to build the actual phones (and support them). Nokia would contribute design and branding. All that said, their deal with Microsoft prevents them from getting back into the phone business until Q4 2016, so we won't be seeing Nokia phones soon either way.
Microsoft

Future Microsoft Devices Will Take Cues From the Surface Tablet 119 119

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says the company is committed to bringing Windows to as many computer form factors as possible — even if they have to do it themselves. He says their plan is to build out new devices with the same mindset that created the Surface line. The Surface Pro tablets (and the regular Surface tablets, now that Windows RT has been retired) have been a rare bright spot among Microsoft's mobile stumbles. Nadella seems to want Windows to become almost hardware agnostic, and he thinks the universal apps plan for Windows 10 is the way to do it.

He says, "Universal Windows apps are going to be written because you want to have those apps used on the desktop. The reason why anybody would want to write universal apps is not because of our three percent share in phones. It's because a billion consumers are going to have a Start Menu, which is going to have your app. You start the journey there and take them to multiple places. Their app can go to the phone. They can go to HoloLens. They can go to Xbox. ... And by the way, when we hook them on that, we have a phone app. This strategy is path dependent, which is a term I use that means where you start is not where you end up. And therein lies a lot of the nuance. The fundamental truth for developers is they will build if there are users. And in our case the truth is we have users on desktop."