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Programming

A Fictional Compression Metric Moves Into the Real World 49

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the best-thing-since-sliced-scatterplots dept.
Tekla Perry (3034735) writes The 'Weissman Score' — created for HBO's "Silicon Valley" to add dramatic flair to the show's race to build the best compression algorithm — creates a single score by considering both the compression ratio and the compression speed. While it was created for a TV show, it does really work, and it's quickly migrating into academia. Computer science and engineering students will begin to encounter the Weissman Score in the classroom this fall."
Oracle

Oracle Offers Custom Intel Chips and Unanticipated Costs 79

Posted by timothy
from the your-fries-come-with-lobster dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "For some time, Intel has been offering custom-tweaked chips to big customers. While most of the companies that have taken them up on this offer, like Facebook and eBay, put the chips into servers meant for internal use, Oracle will now be selling systems running on custom Xeons directly to end users. Those customers need to be careful about how they configure those systems, though: in the new Oracle 12c, the in-memory database option, which costs $23,000 per processor, is turned on by default."
Businesses

Suddenly Visible: Illicit Drugs As Part of Silicon Valley Culture 402

Posted by timothy
from the roland-hedley-jr-is-on-the-case dept.
The recent death by overdose of Google executive Timothy Hayes has drawn attention to the phenomenon of illegal drug use (including abuse of prescription painkillers) among technology workers and executives in high-pay, high-stress Silicon Valley. The Mercury News takes a look at the phenomenon; do the descriptions of freely passed cocaine, Red Bull as a gateway drug, and complacent managers match your own workplace experiences? From the Mercury News article: "There's this workaholism in the valley, where the ability to work on crash projects at tremendous rates of speed is almost a badge of honor," says Steve Albrecht, a San Diego consultant who teaches substance abuse awareness for Bay Area employers. "These workers stay up for days and days, and many of them gradually get into meth and coke to keep going. Red Bull and coffee only gets them so far." ... Drug abuse in the tech industry is growing against the backdrop of a national surge in heroin and prescription pain-pill abuse. Treatment specialists say the over-prescribing of painkillers, like the opioid hydrocodone, has spawned a new crop of addicts -- working professionals with college degrees, a description that fits many of the thousands of workers in corporate Silicon Valley. Increasingly, experts see painkillers as the gateway drug for addicts, and they are in abundance. "There are 1.4 million prescriptions ... in the Bay Area for hydrocodone," says Alice Gleghorn with the San Francisco Department of Public Health. "That's a lot of pills out there."
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Where Do You Get (or Share) News About Open Source Projects? 85

Posted by timothy
from the just-start-typing-random-ips dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Now that freshmeat.net / freecode.com doesn't accept any updates, I wonder how the Slashdot crowd gets news about new projects, and even new versions of existing projects. For project managers, where could you announce new versions of your project, so that it can reach not just those who already know the project. Freshmeat / Freecode had all the tools to explore and discover projects, see screenshots (a mandatory feature for any software project, even with only a console interface or no interface at all) and go to the homepage of the project. I subscribed years ago to the RSS feed and sometimes found interesting projects this way. You could replace these tools by subscribing to newsletters or feeds from the projects you follow, but that doesn't cover the discovery part." And do any of the major development / hosting platforms for Free / Open Source projects (GitHub, Launchpad, or Slashdot sister-site SourceForge) have tools you find especially useful for skimming projects of interest?
Government

VP Biden Briefs US Governors On H-1B Visas, IT, and Coding 223

Posted by Soulskill
from the at-least-he-was-wearing-pants dept.
theodp writes: Back in 2012, Computerworld blasted Vice President Joe Biden for his ignorance of the H-1B temporary work visa program. But Joe's got his H-1B story and he's sticking to it, characterizing the visa program earlier this month in a speech to the National Governors Association as "apprenticeships" of sorts that companies provide to foreign workers to expand the Information Technology industry only after proving there are no qualified Americans to fill the jobs. Biden said he also learned from his talks with tech's top CEOs that 200,000 of the jobs that companies provide each year to highly-skilled H-1B visa holders could in fact be done by Americans with no more than a two-year community college degree.
Programming

'Just Let Me Code!' 368

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-until-you-finish-your-vegetables dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Andrew Binstock has an article about the ever-increasing complexity required to write code. He says, "I got into programming because I like creating stuff. Not just any stuff, but stuff other people find useful. I like the constant problem solving, the use of abstractions that exist for long periods nowhere but in my imagination, and I like seeing the transformation into a living presence. ... The simple programs of a few hundred lines of C++ long ago disappeared from my experience. What was the experience of riding a bicycle has become the equivalent of traveling by jumbo jet; replete with the delays, inspections, limitations on personal choices, and sudden, unexplained cancellations — all at a significantly higher cost. ... Project overhead, even for simple projects, is so heavy that it's a wonder anyone can find the time to code, much less derive joy from it. Software development has become a mostly operational activity, rather than a creative one. The fundamental problem here is not the complexity of apps, but the complexity of tools. Tools have gone rather haywire during the last decade chasing shibboleths of scalability, comprehensiveness, performance. Everything except simplicity."
Businesses

The Daily Harassment of Women In the Game Industry 956

Posted by Soulskill
from the requiring-a-cultural-shift dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Brianna Wu, leader of a game development studio, has an article exposing the constant harassment of women in the games industry. She says, "I'm not writing this piece to evoke your sympathy. I'm writing to share with you what prominent, successful women in the industry experience, in their own words." She goes through the individual stories of several women targeted by this vitriol, and tries to figure out why it happens. Quoting: "We live in a society that's sexist in ways it doesn't understand. One of the consequences is that men are extremely sensitive to being criticized by women. ... This is why women are socialized to carefully dance around these issues, disagreeing with men in an extremely gentle manner. Not because women are nicer creatures than men. But because our very survival can depend on it. ... Growing a thicker skin isn't the answer, nor is it a proper response. Listening, and making the industry safer for the existence of visible women is the best, and only, way forward."
Bug

Researchers Test Developer Biometrics To Predict Buggy Code 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the subject-was-asleep-when-this-code-was-checked-in dept.
rjmarvin writes: Microsoft Research is testing a new method for predicting errors and bugs while developers write code: biometrics. By measuring a developer's eye movements, physical and mental characteristics as they code, the researchers tracked alertness and stress levels to predict the difficulty of a given task with respect to the coder's abilities. In a paper entitled "Using Psycho-Physiological Measures to Assess Task Difficulty in Software Development," the researchers summarized how they strapped an eye tracker, an electrodermal sensor and an EEG sensor to 15 developers as they programmed for various tasks. Biometrics predicted task difficulty for a new developer 64.99% of the time. For a subsequent tasks with the same developer, the researchers found biometrics to be 84.38% accurate. They suggest using the information to mark places in code that developers find particularly difficult, and then reviewing or refactoring those sections later.
Programming

US Senator Blasts Microsoft's H-1B Push As It Lays 18,000 Off Workers 528

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the good-for-nothing-lazy-programmers dept.
dcblogs (1096431) writes On the floor of U.S. Senate Thursday, Sen. Jeff Sessions delivered a scalding and sarcastic attack on the use of highly skilled foreign workers by U.S. corporations that was heavily aimed at Microsoft, a chief supporter of the practice. Sessions' speech began as a rebuttal to a recent New York Times op-ed column by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, investor Warren Buffett and Sheldon Adelson ... But the senator's attack on "three of our greatest masters of the universe," and "super billionaires," was clearly primed by Microsoft's announcement, also on Thursday, that it was laying off 18,000 employees. "What did we see in the newspaper today?" said Sessions, "News from Microsoft. Was it that they are having to raise wages to try to get enough good, quality engineers to do the work? Are they expanding or are they hiring? No, that is not what the news was, unfortunately. Not at all."
Programming

Math, Programming, and Language Learning 241

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-before-e-except-SyntaxError: dept.
An anonymous reader writes: There's often debate amongst modern programmers about how much math a professional developer should know, and to what extent programming is math. Learning to program is often viewed as being on a spectrum between learning math and learning spoken/written languages. But in a new article, Jeremy Kun argues that the spectrum should be formulated another way: Human language -> Mathematics -> Programming. "Having studied all three subjects, I'd argue that mathematics falls between language and programming on the hierarchy of rigor. ... [T]he hierarchy of abstraction is the exact reverse, with programming being the most concrete and language being the most abstract. Perhaps this is why people consider mathematics a bridge between human language and programming. Because it allows you to express more formal ideas in a more concrete language, without making you worry about such specific hardware details like whether your integers are capped at 32 bits or 64. Indeed, if you think that the core of programming is expressing abstract ideas in a concrete language, then this makes a lot of sense. This is precisely why learning mathematics is 'better' at helping you learn the kind of abstract thinking you want for programming than language. Because mathematics is closer to programming on the hierarchy. It helps even more that mathematics and programming readily share topics."
Microsoft

Microsoft's Missed Opportunities: Memo From 1997 161

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the hyper-cube-os dept.
New submitter gthuang88 (3752041) writes In the 1990s, Microsoft was in position to own the software and devices market. Here is Nathan Myhrvold's previously unpublished 1997 memo on expanding Microsoft Research to tackle problems in software testing, operating systems, artificial intelligence, and applications. Those fields would become crucial in the company's competition with Google, Apple, Amazon, and Oracle. But research didn't do enough to make the company broaden its businesses. While Microsoft Research was originally founded to ensure the company's future, the organization only mapped out some possible futures. And now Microsoft is undergoing the biggest restructuring in its history. At least F# and LINQ saw the light of day.
Education

ChickTech Brings Hundreds of Young Women To Open Source 158

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-engineers-more-cool-stuff dept.
ectoman writes: Opensource.com is running an interview with Jennifer Davidson of ChickTech, a non-profit organization whose mission is to create communities of support for women and girls pursuing (or interested in pursuing) careers in tech. "In the United States, many girls are brought up to believe that 'girls can't do math' and that science and other 'geeky' topics are for boys," Davidson said. "We break down that idea." Portland, OR-based ChickTech is quickly expanding throughout the United States—to cities like Corvallis and San Francisco—thanks to the "ChickTech: High School" initiative, which gathers hundreds of young women for two-day workshops featuring open source technologies. "We fill a university engineering department with 100 high school girls—more girls than many engineering departments have ever seen," Davidson said. "The participants can look around the building and see that girls from all backgrounds are just as excited about tech as they are."
Hardware Hacking

SRI/Cambridge Opens CHERI Secure Processor Design 59

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the dreaming-of-hurd/coyotos dept.
An anonymous reader writes with some exciting news from the world of processor design: Robert Watson at Cambridge (author of Capsicum) has written a blog post on SRI/Cambridge's recent open sourcing of the hardware and software for the DARPA-sponsored CHERI processor — including laser cutting directions for an FPGA-based tablet! Described in their paper The CHERI Capability Model: Reducing Risk in an age of RISC, CHERI is a 64-bit RISC processor able to boot and run FreeBSD and open-source applications, but has a Clang/LLVM-managed fine-grained, capability-based memory protection model within each UNIX process. Drawing on ideas from Capsicum, they also support fine-grained in-process sandboxing using capabilities. The conference talk was presented on a CHERI tablet running CheriBSD, with a video of the talk by student Jonathan Woodruff (slides).

Although based on the 64-bit MIPS ISA, the authors suggest that it would also be usable with other RISC ISAs such as RISC-V and ARMv8. The paper compares the approach with several other research approaches and Intel's forthcoming Memory Protection eXtensions (MPX) with favorable performance and stronger protection properties.
The processor "source code" (written in Bluespec Verilog) is available under a variant of the Apache license (modified for application to hardware). Update: 07/16 20:53 GMT by U L : If you have any questions about the project, regular Slashdot contributor TheRaven64 is one of the authors of the paper, and is answering questions.
Software

Is the Software Renaissance Ending? 171

Posted by Soulskill
from the da-vinci-code dept.
An anonymous reader writes Writer and former software engineer Matt Gemmell adds his voice to the recent rumblings about writing code as a profession. Gemmell worries that the latest "software Renaissance," which was precipitated by the explosion of mobile devices, is drawing to a close. "Small shops are closing. Three-person companies are dropping back to sole proprietorships all over the place. Products are being acquired every week, usually just for their development teams, and then discarded. The implacable, crushing wheels of industry, slow to move because of their size, have at last arrived on the frontier. Our frontier, or at least yours now. I've relinquished my claim." He also pointed out the cumulative and intractable harm being done by software patents, walled-garden app stores, an increasingly crowded market, and race-to-the-bottom pricing. He says that while the available tools make it a fantastic time to develop software, actually being an independent developer may be less sustainable than ever.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Future-Proof Jobs? 509

Posted by Soulskill
from the robot-overlord-exterminator dept.
An anonymous reader writes: My niece, who is graduating from high school, has asked me for some career advice. Since I work in data processing, my first thought was to recommend a degree course in computer science or computer engineering. However, after reading books by Jeremy Rifkin (The Third Industrial Revolution) and Ray Kurzweil (How to Create a Mind), I now wonder whether a career in information technology is actually better than, say, becoming a lawyer or a construction worker. While the two authors differ in their political persuasions (Rifkin is a Green leftist and Kurzweil is a Libertarian transhumanist), both foresee an increasingly automated future where most of humanity would become either jobless or underemployed by the middle of the century. While robots take over the production of consumer hardware, Big Data algorithms like the ones used by Google and IBM appear to be displacing even white collar tech workers. How long before the only ones left on the payroll are the few "rockstar" programmers and administrators needed to maintain the system? Besides politics and drug dealing, what jobs are really future-proof? Would it be better if my niece took a course in the Arts, since creativity is looking to be one of humanity's final frontiers against the inevitable Rise of the Machines?

I find you lack of faith in the forth dithturbing. - Darse ("Darth") Vader

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