snydeq writes "Python creator Guido van Rossum discusses the prospects and criticisms of Python, noting that critics of Python performance should supplement with C/C++ rather than re-engineering Python apps into a faster language. 'At some point, you end up with one little piece of your system, as a whole, where you end up spending all your time. If you write that just as a sort of simple-minded Python loop, at some point you will see that that is the bottleneck in your system. It is usually much more effective to take that one piece and replace that one function or module with a little bit of code you wrote in C or C++ rather than rewriting your entire system in a faster language, because for most of what you're doing, the speed of the language is irrelevant.'"
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
New submitter greatgreygreengreasy writes "According to NPR, 'Lawmakers in New York approved a bill that will make the state the first to require DNA samples from almost all convicted criminals. Most states, including New York, already collect DNA samples from felons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. What's remarkable about the New York bill is that it would expand the state's database to include DNA from people convicted of almost any crime, even misdemeanors as minor as jumping over a subway turnstile.' Gattaca seems closer than we may have thought. Richard Aborn, one of the bill's backers, said, 'We know from lots of studies and lots of data now that violent criminals very often begin their careers as nonviolent criminals. And the earlier you can get a nonviolent criminal's DNA in the data bank, the higher your chances are of apprehending the right person.'"
Barbara, not Barbie writes with this quote from an article at AlterNet about how the average work week is becoming longer, and why that's not a good thing: "... overtime is only effective over very short sprints. This is because (as Sidney Chapman showed in 1909) daily productivity starts falling off in the second week, and declines rapidly with every successive week as burnout sets in. Without adequate rest, recreation, nutrition, and time off to just be, people get dull and stupid. They can't focus. They spend more time answering e-mail and goofing off than they do working. They make mistakes that they'd never make if they were rested; and fixing those mistakes takes longer because they're fried. Robinson writes that he's seen overworked software teams descend into a negative-progress mode, where they are actually losing ground week over week because they're so mentally exhausted that they're making more errors than they can fix. For every four Americans working a 50-hour week, every week, there's one American who should have a full-time job, but doesn't. Our rampant unemployment problem would vanish overnight if we simply worked the way we're supposed to by law. We will not turn this situation around until we do what our 19th-century ancestors did: confront our bosses, present them with the data, and make them understand that what they are doing amounts to employee abuse — and that abuse is based on assumptions that are directly costing them untold potential profits."
snydeq writes "Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister discusses the proliferation of programming languages and what separates the successful ones from obscurity. 'Some people say we don't need any more programming languages at all. I disagree. But it seems clear that the mainstream won't accept just any language. To be successful, a new language has to be both familiar and innovative — and it shouldn't try to bite off more than it can chew. ... At least part of the formula for success seems to be pure luck, like a band getting its big break. But it also seems much easier for a language to shoot itself in the foot than to skyrocket to stardom.'"
In this video, Brian Alspach tells you how Gamestar Mechanic helps turn kids from game players into game authors, which helps them learn a lot about programming and how computers work in easy steps while having a good time. If you're a parent, you'll especially want to read this page on their site, which will help reassure you that these folks know what they're doing, and might even (hint hint) give you the idea of suggesting that your local school should subscribe to Gamestar Mechanic, which several thousand schools already do. The price varies between free and $6 per month, which is a great deal for something that can engage children for many hours every day -- and just might keep a parent or grandparent interested, too.
First time accepted submitter X10 writes "Google announced some time ago that they want only developers to attend their Google IO conference. They hinted at developing a 'programming test' that you have to pass before you can register. Now, they have introduced the Input Output machine at the same time they announced that Google IO registration will open on March 27. I take it that registrations will be ordered according to the quality of one's IO machine. Cute idea ..."
Sparrowvsrevolution writes in with a link to a Forbes story about the lackluster code produced by government agencies."Humans aren't very good at writing secure code. But they're worst at it when they're paid to do it for the U.S. government, according to a study that will be presented at the Black Hat Europe security conference in Amsterdam later this week. Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer of bug-hunting firm Veracode plans to give a talk breaking down a vulnerability analysis of 9,910 software applications over the second half of 2010 and 2011. Government-built applications came out far worse than those created by the commercial software industry or the finance industry. Only 16% of government web applications were secure by OWASP standards, compared with 24% of finance industry software and 28% of commercial software. By SANS standards, only 18% of government apps passed, compared with 28% of finance industry apps and 34% of commercial software. Wysopal and others blame the difference on a lack of accountability of federal contract developers, who aren't held to security standards and are even paid extra to fix their bugs after creating them."
sl4shd0rk writes "Hackers can now build applications directly on their Android devices with the beta release of AIDE. The Android IDE is at beta version 7, and already allows editing and compiling of apps as well as integration with LogCat. AIDE is even compatible with projects started on Eclipse so you can move a project over and work on it. Finally, a reason to get yourself that Transformer keyboard dock?" sl4shd0rk also provided a screencast which is attached. InfoQ has a short interview with the developers. Mildly interesting is that it does the compilation on device instead of shipping the work off to some network service or other. The app is, like a lot of Android stuff, only free cost with no corresponding source code at the moment.
New submitter 0111 1110 writes "Attempting to emulate Double Fine's success to fund another currently dead genre of computer game, Brian Fargo of Interplay fame has started a kickstarter project for a sequel to Wasteland, his1988 post-apocalyptic RPG which inspired Fallout. It will be turn-based and party-based, with a top-down perspective and 2D graphics. Fargo has managed to attract many of the original developers, such as Alan Pavlish and Mike Stackpole, as well as Jason Anderson, who was a designer for Fallout, and Mark Morgan, who did the music for Planescape: Torment and both of the original Fallout games. Fargo's goal has been set at $900,000. Anything above that will be used for additional game content. At $1.5 million he will offer an OS X version. An interview with Fargo by Rock, Paper, Shotgun provides some additional insight into what he and his group are planning, as does a video interview with Matt Barton."
Esther Schindler writes "Plenty of people want to get involved in open source, but don't know where to start. In this article, Andy Lester lists several ways to help out even if you lack confidence in your technical chops. Here are a couple of his suggestions: 'Maintenance of code and the systems surrounding the code often are neglected in the rush to create new features and to fix bugs. Look to these areas as an easy way to get your foot into a project. Most projects have a publicly visible trouble ticket system, linked from the front page of the project’s website and included in the documentation. It’s the primary conduit of communication between the users and the developers. Keeping it current is a great way to help the project. You may need to get special permissions in the ticketing system, which most project leaders will be glad to give you when you say you want to help clean up the tickets.'" What's your favorite low-profile way to contribute?
mikejuk writes "This video will change the way you think about programming. The argument is clear and impressive — it suggest that we really are building programs with one hand tied behind our backs. Programmers can only understand their code by pretending to be computers and running it in their heads. As this video shows, this is increadibly inefficient and, as we generally have a computer in front of us, why not use it to help us understand the code? The key is probably interactivity. Don't wait for a compile to complete to see what effect your code has on things — if you can see it in real time then programming becomes much easier."
New submitter es330td writes "I'd like to write a program that takes the old cannon game to another level, but instead of the path being a simple parabolic arc, the projectile will move through a field of objects exerting gravitational attraction (or repulsion) and the player will have to adjust velocity and angle to find the path through the space between launch point and the target.In an ideal world, this would end up as one of these Flash based web playable games, as that would force me to fully flesh it out, debug and complete the app. I doubt this will ever be commercial, so hiring somebody doesn't make sense, and I wouldn't learn anything that way either. I have been programming for almost 20 years, but the bulk of my work has been in corporate programming, primarily web (Cold Fusion, ASP & C#.Net,) or VB6 and then C# Windows GUI interfaces to RDBMS. I have never written a graphics based game, nor have I ever written something using the physics this will require. Once upon a time, I could program in C but I think I would be much better off to work with someone rather than try to roll my own unless good books exist to flatten the learning curve. Any advice on how to proceed?"
angry tapir writes "While Android is open source, it won't work on a phone without software that generally isn't open source. The Replicant project is an attempt to build a version of Android that doesn't rely on binary blobs for which the source code isn't available to end users, and the software currently works on a handful of handsets. I caught up with the project's lead developer to talk about their efforts to make a completely open source version of Android."
First time accepted submitter null action writes "Want to have your code run on a satellite in space? Take a look at this. MIT Space Systems Laboratory and TopCoder are hosting a DARPA competition to create the best algorithm for capturing a randomly tumbling space object. Contestants in the Zero Robotics Autonomous Space Capture Challenge will compete in online simulations, and four finalists will have their algorithms tested aboard the International Space Station on small satellites called SPHERES. 'In this challenge, you have no advance knowledge of how it will be rotating. We're pushing the limits of what we can do with SPHERES and we hope to break new ground with this challenge,' said Jake Katz of MIT."