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Programming

The Programmers Who Want To Get Rid of Software Estimates 347

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-the-managers-who-want-them-dead dept.
An anonymous reader writes: This article has a look inside the #NoEstimates movement, which wants to rid the software world of time estimates for projects. Programmers argue that estimates are wrong too often and a waste of time. Other stakeholders believe they need those estimates to plan and to keep programmers accountable. Is there a middle ground? Quoting: "Software project estimates are too often wrong, and the more time we throw at making them, the more we steal from the real work of building software. Also: Managers have a habit of treating developers' back-of-the-envelope estimates as contractual deadlines, then freaking out when they're missed. And wait, there's more: Developers, terrified by that prospect, put more and more energy into obsessive trips down estimation rabbit-holes. Estimation becomes a form of "yak-shaving" — a ritual enacted to put off actual work."
AI

The Robots That Will Put Coders Out of Work 266

Posted by timothy
from the uber-drivers-will-be-replaced-by-robots-oh-wait dept.
snydeq writes Researchers warn that a glut of code is coming that will depress wages and turn coders into Uber drivers, InfoWorld reports. "The researchers — Boston University's Seth Benzell, Laurence Kotlikoff, and Guillermo LaGarda, and Columbia University's Jeffrey Sachs — aren't predicting some silly, Terminator-like robot apocalypse. What they are saying is that our economy is entering a new type of boom-and-bust cycle that accelerates the production of new products and new code so rapidly that supply outstrips demand. The solution to that shortage will be to figure out how not to need those hard-to-find human experts. In fact, it's already happening in some areas."
Java

Java Vs. Node.js: Epic Battle For Dev Mindshare 318

Posted by samzenpus
from the hearts-and-minds dept.
snydeq writes While it may have been unthinkable 20 years ago, Java and JavaScript are now locked in a battle of sorts for control of the programming world. InfoWorld's Peter Wayner examines where the old-school compiler-driven world of Java hold its ground and where the speed and flexibility of Node.js gives JavaScript on the server the nod. "In the history of computing, 1995 was a crazy time. First Java appeared, then close on its heels came JavaScript. The names made them seem like conjoined twins newly detached, but they couldn't be more different. One of them compiled and statically typed; the other interpreted and dynamically typed. That's only the beginning of the technical differences between these two wildly distinct languages that have since shifted onto a collision course of sorts, thanks to Node.js."
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Are General Engineering Skills Undervalued In Web Development? 323

Posted by samzenpus
from the skills-to-pay-the-bills dept.
nerdyalien writes After reading a recent post about developer competence, I can't help but to ask the question, "Are general engineering skills undervalued in web development?" I am an EE major. The course I completed, and the professors who taught it; mainly emphasized on developing skills rather memorizing reams of facts and figures. As a result, I have acquired a multitude of skills such as analytical, research, programming, communication, project management, planning, self-learning, etc.

A little over 3 years ago, I made the fateful decision to become a web developer in a small SME in SEA. Admittedly, I have an unstructured knowledge about CS theory. Still, within a short period of time I picked up the essentials of web development craft, and delivered reliable web applications. Most of all, I made good use of my existing technical/soft skills, despite the lack of my CS pedigree.

Recently I went through a couple of job interviews in MNCs, SMEs and start-ups alike. All of them grilled my CS theory or Java knowledge. Almost no interviewer asked me about my other skills (or past experiences) that could be helpful in the developer position. In my experience, web development is a cocktail of competing programming languages, frameworks and standards. Rarely a developer gets exposed to a single technology for a substantial period to learn it inside-out. Even still, in web development world, deep in-depth knowledge in anything will be outdated in few years' time as new technologies roll out. So, what matter's today? Knowledge on a particular technology or re-usable engineering skills ?
Open Source

Removing Libsystemd0 From a Live-running Debian System 755

Posted by samzenpus
from the taking-sides dept.
lkcl writes The introduction of systemd has unilaterally created a polarization of the GNU/Linux community that is remarkably similar to the monopolistic power position wielded by Microsoft in the late 1990s. Choices were stark: use Windows (with SMB/CIFS Services), or use UNIX (with NFS and NIS). Only the introduction of fully-compatible reverse-engineered NT Domains services corrected the situation. Instructions on how to remove systemd include dire warnings that "all dependent packages will be removed", rendering a normal Debian Desktop system flat-out impossible to achieve. It was therefore necessary to demonstrate that it is actually possible to run a Debian Desktop GUI system (albeit an unusual one: fvwm) with libsystemd0 removed. The reason for doing so: it doesn't matter how good systemd is believed to be or in fact actually is: the reason for removing it is, apart from the alarm at how extensive systemd is becoming (including interfering with firewall rules), it's the way that it's been introduced in a blatantly cavalier fashion as a polarized all-or-nothing option, forcing people to consider abandoning the GNU/Linux of their choice and to seriously consider using FreeBSD or any other distro that properly respects the Software Freedom principle of the right to choose what software to run. We aren't all "good at coding", or paid to work on Software Libre: that means that those people who are need to be much more responsible, and to start — finally — to listen to what people are saying. Developing a thick skin is a good way to abdicate responsibility and, as a result, place people into untenable positions.
Programming

Nim Programming Language Gaining Traction 520

Posted by Soulskill
from the jack-be-nimble dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Nim is a young, statically typed programming language that has been getting more attention recently. See these articles for an introduction: What is special about Nim?, What makes Nim practical? and How I Start: Nim. The language offers a syntax inspired by Python and Pascal, great performance and C interfacing, and powerful metaprogramming capabilities. The author of "Unix in Rust" just abandoned Rust in favor of Nim and some early-adopter companies are starting to use it as well.
Programming

Should We Really Try To Teach Everyone To Code? 291

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-recursive dept.
theodp writes: Gottfried Sehringer asks Should We Really Try to Teach Everyone to Code? He writes, "While everyone today needs to be an app developer, is learning to code really the answer? Henry Ford said that, 'If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.' I view everyone learning to code as app development's version of a faster horse. What we all really want — and need — is a car. The industry is falling back on code because for most people, it's the only thing they know. If you want to build an application, you have to code it. And if you want to build more apps, then you have to teach more people how to code, right? Instead, shouldn't we be asking whether coding is really the best way to build apps in the first place? Sure, code will always have a place in the world, but is it the language for the masses? Is it what we should be teaching everyone, including our kids?" President Obama thinks so, telling Re/code at Friday's Cyber Security Summit that 'everybody's got to learn to code early' (video). But until domestic girls (including his daughters) and underrepresented groups get with the program(ming), the President explained he's pushing tech immigration reform hard and using executive action to help address tech's "urgent need" for global talent.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: What Portion of Developers Are Bad At What They Do? 809

Posted by Soulskill
from the very-small-shell-scripts dept.
ramoneThePoolGuy writes: We are looking to fill a senior developer/architect position in our firm. I am disappointed with the applicants thus far, and quite frankly it has me worried about the quality of developers/engineers available to us. For instance, today I asked an engineer with 20+ years of experience to describe to me the basic process of public/private key encryption. This engineer had no clue. I asked another applicant a similar question: "Suppose you wanted to send me a file with very sensitive information, how would you encrypt it in such a way that I would decrypt it?" The person started off by asking me if it was an excel file, a PDF, etc. In general, I'm finding that an overwhelming number of developers I've interviewed have poor understanding of key concepts, especially when it comes to securing data. Are other firms experiencing this same dilemma in finding qualified applicants? (Quite frankly it scares me that some of these developers are building sites that need to be secure)"
Programming

Empirical Study On How C Devs Use Goto In Practice Says "Not Harmful" 677

Posted by timothy
from the not-as-catchy dept.
Edsger Dijkstra famously opined in 1968 on the danger of Goto statements. New submitter Mei Nagappan writes with a mellower view, nearly 50 years later: By qualitatively and quantitatively analyzing a statistically valid random sample from almost 2 million C files and 11K+ projects, we find that developers limit themselves to using goto appropriately in most cases, and not in an unrestricted manner like Dijkstra feared, thus suggesting that goto does not appear to be harmful in practice. (Here's the preprint linked from above abstract.)
Education

WA Pushes Back On Microsoft and Code.org's Call For Girls-First CS Education 288

Posted by timothy
from the when-parity-approache-parody dept.
theodp writes On Tuesday, the State of Washington heard public testimony on House Bill 1813 (video), which takes aim at boy's historical over-representation in K-12 computer classes. To allow them to catch flights, representatives of Microsoft and Microsoft-bankrolled Code.org were permitted to give their testimony before anyone else ("way too many young people, particularly our girls...simply don't have access to the courses at all," lamented Jane Broom, who manages Microsoft's philanthropic portfolio), so it's unclear whether they were headed to the airport when a representative of the WA State Superintendent of Public Instruction voiced the sole dissent against the Bill. "The Superintendent strongly believes in the need to improve our ability to teach STEM, to advance computer science, to make technology more available to all students," explained Chris Vance. "Our problem, and our concern, is with the use of the competitive grant program...just providing these opportunities to a small number of students...that's the whole basic problem...disparity of opportunity...if this is a real priority...fund it fully" (HB 1813, like the White House K-12 CS plan, counts on philanthropy to make up for tax shortfalls). Hey, parents of boys are likely to be happy to see another instance of educators striving to be more inclusive than tech when it comes to encouraging CS participation!
Open Source

Elementary OS: Why We Make You Type "$0" 208

Posted by samzenpus
from the drop-a-dollar-in-the-bucket dept.
jones_supa writes Open source software can always be acquired without charge, but can still incur significant development costs. Elementary OS wants to make people aware of this, and have changed their website to suggest donating when downloading, and make users explicitly enter "$0" if they want a free download. This is the same strategy Canonical has used when offering Ubuntu. The Elementary OS blog explains: "Developing software has a huge cost. Some companies offset that cost by charging hundreds of dollars for their software, making manufacturers pay them to license the software, or selling expensive hardware with the OS included. Others offset it by mining user data and charging companies to target ads to their users. [...] If we want to see the world of open source software grow, we should encourage users to pay for its development; otherwise it'll be underfunded or developers will have to resort to backdoor deals and advertising. And nobody wants that future." Currently the only people who have received money for working on Elementary OS have been community members through their bounty program.
Java

Your Java Code Is Mostly Fluff, New Research Finds 411

Posted by samzenpus
from the mostly-filler dept.
itwbennett writes In a new paper (PDF), researchers from the University of California, Davis, Southeast University in China, and University College London theorized that, just as with natural languages, some — and probably, most — written code isn't necessary to convey the point of what it does. The code and data used in the study are available for download from Bitbucket. But here's the bottom line: Only about 5% of written Java code captures the core functionality.
Education

Will Elementary School Teachers Take the Rap For Tech's Diversity Problem? 493

Posted by timothy
from the would-blame-middle-school-teachers-myself dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Citing a new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (free to Federal employees), the NY Times reports on how elementary school teachers' pro-boy biases can discourage girls from math and science. "The pipeline for women to enter math and science occupations narrows at many points between kindergarten and a career choice," writes Claire Cain Miller, "but elementary school seems to be a critical juncture. Reversing bias among teachers could increase the number of women who enter fields like computer science and engineering, which are some of the fastest growing and highest paying. 'It goes a long way to showing it's not the students or the home, but the classroom teacher's behavior that explains part of the differences over time between boys and girls,' said Victor Lavy, an economist at University of Warwick in England and a co-author of the paper." Although the study took place in Israel, Lavy said that similar research had been conducted in several European countries and that he expected the results were applicable in the United States."
Bug

RMS Objects To Support For LLVM's Debugger In GNU Emacs's Gud.el 551

Posted by timothy
from the purity-in-body-mind-and-spirit dept.
An anonymous reader writes with the news that Richard Stallman is upset over the prospect of GNU Emacs's Grand Unified Debugger (Gud.el) supporting LLVM's LLDB debugger. Stallman says it looks like there is a systematic effort to attack GNU packages and calls for the GNU Project to respond strategically. He wrote his concerns to the mailing list after a patch emerged that would optionally support LLDB alongside GDB as an alternative debugger for Emacs. Other Emacs developers discounted RMS' claims by saying Emacs supports Windows and OS X, so why not support a BSD-licensed compiler/debugger? The Emacs maintainer has called the statements irrelevant and won't affect their decision to merge the LLDB support.
Education

AP Test's Recursion Examples: An Exercise In Awkwardness 252

Posted by timothy
from the best-practice-or-best-illustration dept.
theodp writes "Yet another example of how AP exams are loaded with poor coding practices," quipped Alfred Thompson, referring to a recursive code example that prints the numbers 0 to 6, which was posted to the (closed) AP Computer Science Facebook group. "We are often forced to use code examples that are not ideal coding practice," Thompson notes. "We do that to make things clear and to demonstrate specific concepts in a sort of isolation that we might not normally use. We seem to do that a lot with recursion because the examples that require recursion tend to be fairly complex." So, while asking students to use recursion instead of a loop to print '0123456' serves the purpose of teaching recursion, Thompson opines that it's also a poor example of code practice. "Someone raised on functional programming where recursion is a pretty standard way of doing looping might disagree of course," he adds. "There is a saying that when all you have is a hammer all your problems look like nails. This seems, in a way, to be the case with recursion and loops. If your first tool of choice (or what you have learned first) for iteration is loops you tend not to think of recursion as a solution. Similarly if you start with recursion (as is common with functional programming) you are a lot more likely to look at recursion as a tool for iteration." So, do you tend to embrace or eschew recursion in your programming?