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Will You Be Able To Run a Modern Desktop Environment In 2016 Without Systemd? 541

New submitter yeupou writes: Early this year, David Edmundson from KDE, concluded that "In many cases [systemd] allows us to throw away large amounts of code whilst at the same time providing a better user experience. Adding it [systemd] as an optional extra defeats the main benefit". A perfectly sensible explanation. But, then, one might wonder to which point KDE would remain usable without systemd?

Recently, on one Devuan box, I noticed that KDE power management (Powerdevil) no longer supported suspend and hibernate. Since pm-utils was still there, for a while, I resorted to call pm-suspend directly, hoping it would get fixed at some point. But it did not. So I wrote a report myself. I was not expecting much. But neither was I expecting it to be immediately marked as RESOLVED and DOWNSTREAM, with a comment accusing the "Debian fork" I'm using to "ripe out" systemd without "coming with any of the supported solutions Plasma provides". I searched beforehand about the issue so I knew that the problem also occurred on some other Debian-based systems and that the bug seemed entirely tied to upower, an upstream software used by Powerdevil. So if anything, at least this bug should have been marked as UPSTREAM.

While no one dares (yet) to claim to write software only for systemd based operating system, it is obvious that it is now getting quite hard to get support otherwise. At the same time, bricks that worked for years without now just get ruined, since, as pointed out by Edmunson, adding systemd as "optional extra defeats its main benefit". So, is it likely that we'll still have in 2016 a modern desktop environment, without recent regressions, running without systemd?

How Computer Scientists Cracked a 50-Year-Old Math Problem ( 86

An anonymous reader writes: Over the decades, the Kadison-Singer problem had wormed its way into a dozen distant areas of mathematics and engineering, but no one seemed to be able to crack it. The question "defied the best efforts of some of the most talented mathematicians of the last 50 years," wrote Peter Casazza and Janet Tremain of the University of Missouri in Columbia, in a 2014 survey article.

As a computer scientist, Daniel Spielman knew little of quantum mechanics or the Kadison-Singer problem's allied mathematical field, called C*-algebras. But when Gil Kalai, whose main institution is the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, described one of the problem's many equivalent formulations, Spielman realized that he himself might be in the perfect position to solve it. "It seemed so natural, so central to the kinds of things I think about," he said. "I thought, 'I've got to be able to prove that.'" He guessed that the problem might take him a few weeks.

Instead, it took him five years. In 2013, working with his postdoc Adam Marcus, now at Princeton University, and his graduate student Nikhil Srivastava, now at the University of California, Berkeley, Spielman finally succeeded. Word spread quickly through the mathematics community that one of the paramount problems in C*-algebras and a host of other fields had been solved by three outsiders — computer scientists who had barely a nodding acquaintance with the disciplines at the heart of the problem.


High Level Coding Language Used To Create New POS Malware ( 91

An anonymous reader writes: A new malware framework called ModPOS is reported to pose a threat to U.S. retailers, and has some of the highest-quality coding work ever put into a ill-intentioned software of this nature. Security researchers iSight say of the ModPOS platform that it is 'much more complex than average malware'. The researchers believe that the binary output they have been studying for three years was written in a high-level language such as C, and that the software took 'a significant amount of time and resources to create and debug'.

Stack Overflow and the Zeitgeist of Computer Programming ( 167

An anonymous reader writes: Stack Overflow remains one of the most widely-used resources in the developer community. Around 400,000 questions are posted there every month. The Priceonomics blog is using statistical analysis to ask, "What does the nature of these questions tell us about the state of programming?" They see tremendous growth in questions about Android Studio, as well as more generic growth in work relating to data analysis and cloud services. Topics on a significant decline include Silverlight, Joomla, Clojure, and Flash (not to mention emacs, for some reason). The article also takes a brief look at the site's megausers, who receive a lot of credit for keeping the signal-to-noise ratio as high as it is, while also taking flack for how the Stack Overflow culture has progressed. "Others are worried about how Stack Overflow has impacted programming fundamentals. Some critics believe that rather than truly struggling with a problem, developers can now just ask Stack Overflow users to solve it for them. The questioner may receive and use an answer with code they do not truly understand; they just know it fixes their problem. This can lead to issues in the long run when adjustments are needed."

Sued Freelancer Allegedly Turns Over Contractee Source Code In Settlement 129

FriendlySolipsist writes: Blizzard Entertainment has been fighting World of Warcraft bots for years. TorrentFreak reports that Bossland, a German company that operates "buddy" bots, alleges Blizzard sued one of its freelancers and forced a settlement. As part of that settlement, the freelancer allegedly turned over Bossland's source code to Blizzard. In Bossland's view, their code was "stolen" by Blizzard because it was not the freelancer's to disclose. This is a dangerous precedent for freelance developers in the face of legal threats: damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Ask Slashdot: Convincing a Team To Undertake UX Enhancements On a Large Codebase? 192

unteer writes: I work at a enterprise software company that builds an ERP system for a niche industry (i.e. not Salesforce or SAP size). Our product has been continuously developed for 10 years, and incorporates code that is even older. Our userbase is constantly expanding, and many of these users expect modern conveniences like intuitive UI and documented processes. However, convincing the development teams that undertaking projects to clean up the UI or build more self-explanatory features are often met with, "It's too big an undertaking," or, "it's not worth it." Help me out: What is your advice for how to quantify and qualify improving the user experience of an aging, fairly large,but also fairly niche, ERP product?

Julia Programming Language Receives $600k Donation 106

jones_supa writes: The Julia programming language has received a $600k donation from Moore Foundation. The foundation wants to get the language into a production version. This has a goal to create more efficient and powerful scientific computing tools to assist in data-driven research. The money will be granted over the next two years so the Julia Language team can move their core open computing language and libraries into the first production version. The Julia Language project aims to create a dynamic programming language that is general purpose but designed to excel at numerical computing and data science. It is especially good at running MATLAB and R style programs.

Microsoft Open-Sources Visual Studio Code ( 158

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft today unleashed a torrent of news at its Connect(); 2015 developer event in New York City. The company open-sourced code editing software Visual Studio Code, launched a free Visual Studio Dev Essentials program, pushed out .NET Core 5 and ASP.NET 5 release candidates, unveiled Visual Studio cloud subscriptions, debuted the Visual Studio Marketplace, and a lot more. The source for Visual Studio Code is available at GitHub under the MIT license. They've also released an extension (preview) for Visual Studio that facilitates code debugging on Linux.

Python Is On the Rise, While PHP Falls ( 231

Nerval's Lobster writes: While this month's lists of the top programming languages uniformly put Java in the top spot, that's not the only detail of interest to developers. Which language has gained the most users over the past five years? And which are tottering on the edge of obsolescence? According to PYPL, which pulls its raw data for analysis from Google Trends, Python has grown the most over the past five years—up 5 percent since roughly 2010. Over the same period, PHP also declined by 5 percent. Since PYPL looks at how often language tutorials are searched on Google, its data is a good indicator of how many developers are (or aren't) learning a language, presumably because they see it as valuable to their careers. Just because PYPL shows PHP losing market-share over the long term doesn't mean that language is in danger of imminent collapse; over the past year or so, the PHP community has concentrated on making the language more pleasant to use, whether by improving features such as package management, or boosting overall performance. Plus, PHP is still used on hundreds of millions of websites, according to data from Netcraft. Indeed, if there's any language on these analysts' lists that risks doom, it's Objective-C, the primary language used for programming iOS and Mac OS X apps, and its growing obsolescence is by design.

Microsoft Brings Its Embrace-Extend-Extinguish Game To K-12 Schools? 168

theodp writes: A year after it paid $2.5 billion to buy Minecraft, Microsoft has announced a partnership with that makes a Minecraft-themed introduction to programming a signature tutorial of this year's Hour of Code, which hopes to reach 200 million schoolchildren next month in what the Microsoft-funded nonprofit is billing as the largest learning event in history. "A core part of our mission to empower every person on the planet is equipping youth with computational thinking and problem-solving skills to succeed in an increasingly digital world," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a press release, which also notes that "Microsoft is gifting Windows Store credit to every educator who organizes an Hour of Code event worldwide." Of the Minecraft tutorial, CEO Hadi Partovi gushed, "Compared to what you would otherwise be doing for school, this is, like, the best thing ever."

Slashdot Asks: Is Scrum Still Relevant? ( 371

An anonymous reader writes: In an article titled "Scrum is dead: breaking down the new open development method," Ahmad Nassri writes: "Among the most 'oversold as a cure' methodologies introduced to business development teams today is Scrum, which is one of several agile approaches to software development and introduced as a way to streamline the process. Scrum has become something of an intractable method, complete with its own holy text, the Manifesto for Agile Software Development , and daily devotions (a.k.a., Scrum meetings). Although Scrum may have made more sense when it was being developed in the early '90s, much has changed over the years. Startups and businesses have work forces spread over many countries and time zones, making sharing offices more difficult for employees. As our workforce world evolves, our software development methods should evolve, too." What do you think? Is Scrum still a viable approach to software development, or is it time to make way for a different process?

The Next Big IT Projects From the University Labs ( 29

snydeq writes: From unstructured data mining to visual microphones, academic labs are bringing future breakthrough possibilities to light, writes InfoWorld's Peter Wayner in his overview of nine university projects that could have lasting impact on IT. 'Open source programmers can usually build better code faster, often because they have bosses who pay them to build something that will pay off next quarter, not next century. Yet good computer science departments still manage to punch above — sometimes well above — their weight. While a good part of the research is devoted to arcane topics like the philosophical limits of computation, some of it can be tremendously useful for the world at large. What follows are nine projects currently under development at university labs that [could] have a broad impact on the world of computing.'

Microsoft Open Sources Its Machine Learning Toolkit ( 15

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft has this week made its Distributed Machine Learning Toolkit (DMTK) openly available to the developer community. Researchers at the Microsoft Asia lab have released the toolkit on GitHub under an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) license, to encourage the use of multiple computers in parallel to solve complex problems. Its design builds on a parameter server-based programming framework, which allows big data machine learning tasks to be easily scaled, and flexibly and efficiently executed. The toolkit also contains two distributed machine learning algorithms, which can be used to train the world's fastest and largest topic model, as well as the largest word-embedding model.
This is a welcome move, especially after Google did something broadly similar.

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.

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.

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?"

Coming Set-top Box Mandate May Help Break Pay TV Firms' Hold Over Viewers ( 153

Joe_Dragon sends a report from the LA Times about proposed regulations that could disrupt the cable industry's hold on consumers by targeting set-top boxes. These boxes are required to view most pay-TV programming these days, and consumers often require multiples if they have more than one TV. The rental fees add up to almost $20 billion in revenue for the industry each year. Yet the technology within these boxes is nothing special, and alternatives could easily arise if there was incentive to create them. "The changes aren't coming fast enough for some lawmakers and consumer advocates as well as tech companies such as Google Inc., which are eager to jump into the set-top box market. They want the Federal Communications Commission to require that pay TV providers make their services more easily compatible with third-party set-top boxes or similar devices. ... Such a mandate could allow consumers to access their pay TV and streaming services through one device instead of having to switch between two or more. And it could lead to innovations such as an ability to search for programming across services to determine, for example, whether a movie is available on Netflix or on-demand via a pay TV provider."

Badly-Coded Ransomware Locks User Files and Throws Away Encryption Key ( 128

An anonymous reader writes: A new ransomware family was not tested by its developer and is encrypting user files and then throwing away the encryption key because of an error in its programming. The ransomware author wanted to cut down costs by using a static encryption key for all users, but the ransomware kept generating random keys which it did not store anywhere. The only way to recover files is if users had a previous backup. You can detect it by the ransom message which has the same ID:qDgx5Bs8H