the agent man writes "Wired Magazine is exploring how early kids should learn to code. One of the challenges is to find the proper time in schools to teach programming. Are teachers at elementary and middle school levels really able to teach this subject? The article suggests that even very young kids can learn to program and lists a couple of early experiments as well as more established ideas including the Scalable Game Design curriculum. However, the article also suggests that programming may have to come at the cost of Foreign language learning and music."
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New submitter ddyer writes "Java 1.7.0_40 [Note: released earlier this month] introduces a new 'red text' warning when running unsigned Java applets. 'Running unsigned applications like this will be blocked in a future release...' Or, for self-signed applets,'Running applications by UNKNOWN publishers will be blocked in a future release...' I think I see the point — this will give the powers that be the capability to shut off any malware java applet that is discovered by revoking its certificate. The unfortunate cost of this is that any casual use of Java is going to be killed. It currently costs a minimum of $100/year and a lot of hoop-jumping to maintain a trusted certificate.'"
coondoggie writes "In his keynote address at a security conference today, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak admitted he has enjoyed many adventures in hacking often for the sake of pranks on friends and family, especially back in his college days and the early years of working on computers and the Internet. 'I like to play jokes,' said the Wozniak jovially as he addressed his audience of thousands of security professionals attending the ASIS Conference in Chicago. The famed inventor at Apple admitted he also had some fun with light-hearted forays into hacking computer and telecommunications networks several decades ago back in his college years and while learning about electronics and computers."
itwbennett writes "A couple of years ago, developer Sammy Larbi undertook a project to identify which languages had the most instances of the string 'WTF' in their GitHub code repositories. At the time, Objective C topped the list. ITworld's Phil Johnson has updated Larbi's research using GitHub data from the last 21 months, but instead of screen-scraping GitHub search results as Larbi had done, he queried the GitHub Archive for stand-alone instances of 'WTF' in the comments attached to GitHub commits to weed out cases where the string 'WTF' was legitimately used in the code. The three most baffling languages for 2012/13: C++, Lua, and Scala. Objective C comes in at #16."
An anonymous reader writes "LLVM's libc++ standard library (an alternative to GNU libstdc++) now has full support for C++1y, which is expected to become C++14 next year. Code merged this week implements the full C++1y standard library, with support for new language features in the Clang compiler frontend nearly complete." GCC has some support for the soon-to-be standard too. The C++ standards committee is expected to produce a more or less final draft in just a few weeks. The LLVM and GCC C++14 status pages both have links to the proposals for the new features.
jrepin writes "The KDE libraries are being methodically reworked into a set of cross platform modules that will be readily available to all Qt developers. The KDE Frameworks, designed as drop-in Qt Addons, will enrich Qt as a development environment with functions that simplify, accelerate and reduce the cost of Qt development. For example, KArchive (one of the first Frameworks available) offers support for many popular compression codecs in a self-contained and easy-to-use file archiving library. Just feed it files; there's no need to reinvent an archiving function." This is a pretty major thing: "The introduction of Qt's Open Governance model in late 2011 offered the opportunity for KDE developers to get more closely involved with Qt, KDE's most important upstream resource. ... These contributions to Qt form the basis for further modularization of the KDE libraries. The libraries are moving from being a singular 'platform' to a set of 'Frameworks'. ... Instead it is a comprehensive set of technologies that becomes available to the whole Qt ecosystem." The new KDE Frameworks will be layered as three tiers of components, with each tier consisting of three semi-independent groups of libraries (the article explains the category/tier dependencies; it's a bit hairy for a quick summary). A dashboard shows the status of each component.
ananyo writes "An offshoot of Mozilla is aiming to discover whether a review process could improve the quality of researcher-built software that is used in myriad fields today, ranging from ecology and biology to social science. In an experiment being run by the Mozilla Science Lab, software engineers have reviewed selected pieces of code from published papers in computational biology. The reviewers looked at snippets of code up to 200 lines long that were included in the papers and written in widely used programming languages, such as R, Python and Perl. The Mozilla engineers have discussed their findings with the papers’ authors, who can now choose what, if anything, to do with the markups — including whether to permit disclosure of the results. But some researchers say that having software reviewers looking over their shoulder might backfire. 'One worry I have is that, with reviews like this, scientists will be even more discouraged from publishing their code,' says biostatistician Roger Peng at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. 'We need to get more code out there, not improve how it looks.'"
theodp writes "Nate West has a nice essay on the importance of whimsy in learning to program. "It wasn't until I was writing Ruby that I found learning to program to be fun," recalls West. "What's funny is it really doesn't take much effort to be more enjoyable than the C++ examples from earlier...just getting to write gets.chomp and puts over cout > made all the difference. Ruby examples kept me engaged just long enough that I could find Why's Poignant Guide to Ruby." So, does the future of introductory computer programming books and MOOCs lie in professional, business-like presentations, or does a less-polished production with some genuine goofy enthusiasm help the programming medicine go down?"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "ZDNet reports that Oracle's Larry Elison kicked off Oracle OpenWorld 2013 promising a 100x speed-up querying OTLP database or data warehouse batches by means of a 'dual format' for both row and column in-memory formats for the same data and table. Using Oracle's 'dual-format in-memory database' option, every transaction is recorded in row format simultaneously with writing the same data into a columnar database. 'This is pure in-memory columnar technology,' said Ellison, explaining that means no logging and very little overhead on data changes while the CPU core scans local in-memory columns. Ellison followed up with the introduction of Oracle's new M6-32 'Big Memory Machine,' touted to be the fastest in-memory machine in the world, hosting 32 terabytes of DRAM memory and up to 384 processor cores with 8-threads per core."
angry tapir writes "A team of developers has launched a new crowdfunding platform — Drupalfund.us — that's designed to help accelerate development work on the open-source Drupal CMS, as well as potentially fund new training material and other projects of interest to community members. I had a long-ish chat to one of the co-founders about the goals of the platform and how crowdfunding can be used to push forward open source development."
g01d4 writes "I volunteer at a used bookstore that supports the local library. One of my tasks is to sort book donations. For > 5-year-old computer books the choices typically are to save it for sale (fifty cents soft cover, one dollar hardback), pack it, e.g. for another library's bookstore, put it on the free cart, or toss it in the recycle bin. I occasionally dumpster dive the recycle bin to 'rescue' books that I don't think should be pulped. Recently I found a copy of PostgresSQL Essential Reference (2002) and Programming Perl (1996). Would you have left them to RIP? Obviously we have very limited space, 20 shelf feet (storage + sale) for STEM. What criteria would you use when sorting these types of books?"
littlekorea writes "The world's largest web-scale users of MySQL have committed to one further upgrade to the Oracle-controlled database — but Facebook and Twitter are also eyeing off more open options from MariaDB and cheaper options from the NoSQL community. Who will pay for MySQL enterprise licenses into the future?"
gentryx writes "In scientific computing a huge pile of code is still written in Fortran. One reason for this is that codes often evolve over the course of decades and rewriting them from scratch is both risky and costly. While OpenMP and OpenACC are readily available for Fortran, only few tools support authors in porting their codes to MPI clusters, let alone supercomputers. A recent blog post details how LibGeoDecomp (Library for Geometric Decompostition codes), albeit written in C++, can be used to port such codes to state-of-the-art HPC systems. Source code modification is required, but mostly limited to restructuring into a new pattern of subroutines."
reifman writes "In an unusual move, Amazon abruptly pulled the plug on its $100,000 Civic Apps contest for AWS, redirecting contestants to the AWS government site. All entrants through October 15th were to receive a $50 AWS credit. Amazon AWS PR says they, '...accidentally pushed this out early, but please stay tuned for more information on this program later this year.' The contest site, rules (pdf) and FAQ (pdf) of the apparently still upcoming contest can be read from the google cache. Contest prize winners would have had to 'spend' their AWS credits by December 2014."
debingjos writes "Management at my company seems to think that our developers can get extra work done if they work extra long days. However, as one of the devs in question, I don't agree. When I've been coding for eight hours, my pool of concentration is exhausted. Working overtime either fails to produce any extra code, or the quality of the code is very bad. What is the community's opinion on this? This can be broken out further into several questions: What are the maximum number of hours you can work in a day/week and still be reasonably productive? When you absolutely must work beyond that limit, what steps do you take to minimize degradation of quality? If you're able to structure your time differently from the typical 9-5 schedule, what method works best for you? Finally, how do you communicate the quality problems to management?"
kylus writes "The Register is reporting that Oracle's new Java 7 update 40 release comes complete with a new 'Deployment Rule Set' capability which allows administrators to define which particular applets and Java Web Start applications ('Rich Internet Applications') are permitted to run on a given machine. Not a complete solution for the recent trend of Java hacks that have cropped up, but good news for enterprises that have to run this in their environment." Update: 09/19 20:08 GMT by U L : There's an introduction to deploying rule sets on the Java platform group weblog too.
curtwoodward writes "You'd have a hard time picking just one way the traditional news business stumbled into the Internet era. But America's most important newspaper publisher says one mistake sticks out. In a recent discussion at Harvard, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. of the New York Times said newspapers really messed up by not having enough engineers on hand 'building the tools that we're now using.' Instead, the the news business faces a world where outsiders like Facebook and Twitter control the technology that is distributing their work." Or maybe those outsiders are just better.
Lemeowski writes "Open source software projects are seeing some success on fundraising sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. But Warren Konkel believes open source software needs a better funding model that's more aligned with how software is built. So Konkel, who was the first hire at LivingSocial, teamed up with his friend David Rappo, a producer for games including Guitar Hero and Skylander, and founded Bountysource, a crowdfunding and bounty site specifically designed to help developers raise money for their OSS projects, bug fixes and feature requests. In this interview, Konkel talks about how he recently snagged a $1.1 million investment in Bountysource, gives developers tips on launching a fundraising effort for their OSS project, and more."
Damek writes "The OpenZFS project launched today, the truly open source successor to the ZFS project. ZFS is an advanced filesystem in active development for over a decade. Recent development has continued in the open, and OpenZFS is the new formal name for this community of developers, users, and companies improving, using, and building on ZFS. Founded by members of the Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OS X, and illumos communities, including Matt Ahrens, one of the two original authors of ZFS, the OpenZFS community brings together over a hundred software developers from these platforms."
itwbennett writes with a link to a story you'll need to mentally upgrade from "expected to" to "just happened" about IBM's $1 billion dollar investment in Linux officially announced Tuesday morning at LinuxCon (the WSJ broke the story yesterday), by IBM VP Brad McCredie. IBM, says the linked article, will use all that money "to promote Linux development as it tries to adapt Power mainframes and servers to handle cloud and big data applications in distributed computing environments. The investment will fund Linux application development programs for IBM's Power servers and also be used to expand a cloud service where developers can write and test applications for Power servers before deployment. It will also facilitate software development around IBM's new Power8 chips, which will go into servers next year." It's not the only time that IBM has recently tossed around the B-word, and as Nick Kolakowski notes at Slash BI, it's also not the first time IBM has put that much money into Linux.
theodp writes "The fist rule of Hackathon Club is don't talk about Hackathon Club cheating. But ever-increasing stakes — the MHacks Hackathon at the Univ. of Michigan is offering over $30,000 in prizes — prompts Kevin Conley to broach the subject, suggesting it's time for some common-sense measures — including showing one's code or reducing prize money — to discourage Hackathon ruses, which can include pre-coding, faked live demos/videos, and the use of remote teammates."
phlawed writes "I've been a Linux user since the previous millennium. I came from OS/2, which I really liked. I quickly felt at home with icewm, using a suitably tweaked config to give me something resembling Presentation Manager. I may have commented on that before. Today, I find myself in a position where my preferred 'environment' is eroding. The only force keeping icewm rolling these days is the distribution package maintainers. I can't code in any meaningful way, nor do I aspire to. I could easily pay for a supported version of icewm, but I can't personally pay someone enough to keep it alive. I'd love it if someone took a personal interest in the code, to ensure that it remains up to date, or to make it run on Wayland or whatever. I want someone to own the code, be proud of it. Is there a general solution for this situation? How do I go about drumming up interest for an old project?"
theodp writes "Over at Scripting News, Dave Winer has a hobbyist phone on his wish list. Innovative phone manufacturers, Winer suggests, should 'make a smart phone with a really great scripting language, with all kinds of scriptable tools on board. Instead of disallowing scripting, disallow apps that can't be scripted. Make a great simple programming environment that runs on desktops or laptops that plugs right in, but it should also be easy to write scripts on the phone itself. Dave concludes, 'We've already seen the Jobs phone. Now it's time for Woz's.' Having ditched App Inventor, it would appear that Google isn't interested. Microsoft Research has the idea, if not the right implementation, with TouchDevelop (video). Any other existing or in-the-works projects that might fit the bill?"
dp619 writes "Fighting against software patents (New Zealand has banned them) tends to blind FOSS communities to aspects of IP law that actually serve them well. While certainly not perfect, patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret law each has something to offer FOSS communities. Penn State law professor Clark Asay wrote a guest post for the Outercurve Foundation briefly describing some of the ways in IP law can help open source developers."
An anonymous reader writes "Do you think so called 'rock star' developers are necessary at every company? Personally, I don't think so, and I equate it to not needing a college degree to work at Walmart. If you give every problem a complexity value from 1 to 10, and your problems never get higher than a 6 or 7, do you need people capable of solving the 10s? I work for a large software company and I'd rate myself a 7. There are more technically proficient developers, but I don't have an ego about my work, I work well with coworkers and customers, and I bring people up around me. Most 'rock stars' I've seen have been difficult to work with. Most of them are no longer with the company because they were terminated or quit for more money. Is this usually the case? Is it worth the trouble? (Note to any managers reading this: if you have a rockstar who is a pleasant person, pay them well; they are very rare.)"
jones_supa writes "The sudden death of a solid-state drive in Linus Torvalds' main workstation has led to the work on the 3.12 Linux kernel being temporarily suspended. Torvalds has not been able to recover anything from the drive. Subsystem maintainers who have outstanding pull requests may need to re-submit their requests in the coming days. If the SSD isn't recoverable he will finish out the Linux 3.12 merge window from a laptop."
Esther Schindler writes "You've written some code, you think it would be useful to the world, and you'd like to give back to the open source world. But how do you do it? Andy Lester provides a checksheet for developers for how to release an open source project and get it noticed. For instance: Before you release the project to the wild, write some documentation, create a mailing list, create an issue tracker, and so on. 'Users require releases of your software. It’s a disservice to your users to point at the Git repo and say “Just pull from the master branch and install it.” Users don’t want to have to use version control just to get a release of the code. Create a proper tarball (.tar.gz) that is easily downloadable by anyone. Announce each release. Your announcements should not assume that the reader is familiar with your project.' You think he's missing anything?"
Koookiemonster writes "Our company has many projects, each one with a folder on a Samba drive (Z:\). Our problem is syncing only the programmers' current projects (~30 at any time) between Z:\ and their C:\Projects\-folder on five Windows 7 laptops. If we sync the whole Z:\-drive, our projects folders would be filled with too many subfolders, making it difficult to navigate. The folders contain OpenPCS projects (PLC) and related files (Word, Excel, PDF documents); a common project folder is 50 MB. Is there any easy to use, low-budget sync software with scripting, so that we could e.g. only sync folders that exist locally?" (Read more details, below, of what Koookiemonster is looking for.)
hypnosec writes "Linus Torvalds, in response to a petition on Change.org to remove RdRand from /dev/random, has lambasted the petitioner by called him ignorant for not understanding the code in the Linux Kernel. Kyle Condon from the UK raised a petition on Change.org to get Linus to remove RdRand from /dev/random in a bid 'to improve the overall security of the linux kernel.' In his response, Torvalds asked Condon and the supporters of the petition to gain an understanding of Linux drivers and cryptography, and then 'come back here and admit to the world that you were wrong.' Torvalds stressed that kernel maintainers knew what they were doing and the petitioner didn't. Torvalds, in a similar outburst just yesterday, hoped that 'ARM SoC hardware designers all die in some incredibly painful accident.' This came in response to a message from Kevin Hilman when he noted that there were quite a few conflicts in the ARM SoC pull request for Linux 3.12 which were a result of the platform changes conflicting with driver changes going in to the V4L tree."
New submitter Archie Cobbs writes "Last May I encountered a relatively obscure performance bug present in both MySQL 5.5.x and MariaDB 5.5.x (not surprising since they share the same codebase). This turned out to be a great opportunity to see whether Oracle or the MariaDB project is more responsive to bug reports. On May 31 Oracle got their bug report; within 24 hours they had confirmed the bug — pretty impressive. But since then, it's been radio silence for 3 months and counting. On July 25, MariaDB got their own copy. Within a week, a MariaDB developer had analyzed the bug and committed a patch. The resulting fix will be included in the next release, MariaDB 5.5.33."
An anonymous reader writes "Fed up with piracy and the availability of cracked versions of his software, Cobalt Strike developer Raphael Mudge wrote a blog post telling people how to crack his software. Some gifts are poisoned, and Raphael goes into deep detail about how to backdoor his software and use it to distribute malware. Will this increase piracy of his software, or will it discourage would-be pirates from downloading cracked versions?"
rysiek writes "Remember MailPile, the privacy-focused, community-funded FOSS webmail project with built-in GPG support? The good news is, the funding campaign is a success, with $135k raised (the goal was $100k). The bad news is: PayPal froze MailPile's account, along with $45k that was on it, and will not un-freeze it until MailPile team provides 'an itemized budget and your development goal dates for your project.' One of the team members also noted: 'Communications with PayPal have implied that they would use any excuse available to them to delay delivering as much of our cash as possible for as long as possible.' PayPal doesn't have a great track record as far as fund freezing is concerned — maybe it's high time to stop using PayPal?"
whoever57 writes "On Saturday, Oracle Team USA and Team New Zealand will begin racing for the America's Cup in the amazing AC72 boats. However, the Oracle team starts with a significant handicap. It was recently discovered that members of Oracle Team USA made illegal changes to the boats used in the America's Cup Series (which is sailed in the smaller AC45 boats). After a hearing on Friday, the International Jury has decided on the penalty: Team Oracle will have to pay a fine and sail without some team members. More significantly, they lose two points before starting the America's Cup races against Team New Zealand. A tiny amount of weight had been added to the kingpost, in violation of the measurement rules for the class. This was reported to the measurement committee some weeks ago after its discovery by boatbuilders working for America's Cup Regatta Management (ACRM), not members of Oracle Team USA."
Programmer Steve Losh has written a lengthy explanation of what separates good documentation from bad, and how to go about planning and writing documentation that will actually help people. His overarching point is that documentation should be used to teach, not to dump excessive amounts of unstructured information onto a user. Losh takes many of the common documentation tropes — "read the source," "look at the tests," "read the docstrings" — and makes analogies with learning everyday skills to show how silly they can be. "This is your driving teacher, Ms. Smith. ... If you have any questions about a part of the car while you’re driving, you can ask her and she’ll tell you all about that piece. Here are the keys, good luck!" He has a similar opinion of API strings: "API documentation is like the user’s manual of a car. When something goes wrong and you need to replace a tire it’s a godsend. But if you’re learning to drive it’s not going to help you because people don’t learn by reading alphabetized lists of disconnected information." Losh's advice for wikis is simple and straightforward: "They are bad and terrible. Do not use them."
cold fjord sends news that a study by Coverity has found open-source Python code to contain a lower defect density than any other language. "The 2012 Scan Report found an average defect density of .69 for open source software projects that leverage the Coverity Scan service, as compared to the accepted industry standard defect density for good quality software of 1.0. Python's defect density of .005 significantly surpasses this standard, and introduces a new level of quality for open source software. To date, the Coverity Scan service has analyzed nearly 400,000 lines of Python code and identified 996 new defects — 860 of which have been fixed by the Python community."
theodp writes "Friday saw the launch of Rupert Murdoch's AP Computer Science MOOC. Taught by an AP CS high school teacher, the Java-centric course has students use the DrJava lightweight development environment for the exercises. 'If this MOOC works,' said Amplify CEO Joel Klein, 'we can think of ways to expand and support it.' Only the first week's videos are posted; course content is scheduled to be presented through March, with five weeks thereafter set aside for AP Exam prep. Might as well check it out, you may have helped pay for it — a MOOC-related Amplify job listing notes that 'This position may be funded, in whole or in part, through American Recovery & Reinvestment Act funds.'"
New submitter MeatoBurrito writes "The latest iteration of Mechwarrior was crowdfunded (without Kickstarter) as a free-to-play first-person mech simulator. However, despite promises to the founders, the game has been shifted to a third-person arcade shooter and now the community is rioting. This followed a series of other unpopular decisions; the developers decided to sell an item for real money that had a significant impact on gameplay, crossing the line separating cosmetic/convenience items and 'pay-to-win.' Then they added a confusing game mechanic to limit its use, which had the unfortunate side effect of making some strategies completely useless. From the article: 'PGI’s community practices showcase a fundamental misunderstanding of both freemium development and community management. The developer has never had to deal with such a large player base before, and it has never had to deal with the strains of continuous development before. Rather, PGI seems to be handling Mechwarrior Online in much the same way they might a AAA game: by keeping quiet and only discussing its work in vague terms. ... Mechwarrior Online’s road to launch is a cautionary consumer tale, fraught with anger and betrayal. It shows how a company can take a fan base dedicated to an old IP and completely alienate it through lack of communication, unpopular features, and oathbreaking. It shows how players need to be cautious of supporting a project based solely on the IP backing it.'"
rjmarvin writes "Cities are taking coding to the streets through projects like Code for America and CityNext, working with governments on multiple levels to better serve constituents with mobile and cloud technologies. The 'Peace Corps for geeks' is using technology to make everyday life in cities run more smoothly, providing a way to 'connect technologists and designers with their government to solve important problems and reimagine how government could work.'"
theodp writes "Writing in The Atlantic, Phil Nichols makes a convincing case for why educational technologies should be more like graphing calculators and less like iPads. Just messing around with TI-BASIC on a TI-83 Plus, Nichols recalls, 'helped me cultivate many of the overt and discrete habits of mind necessary for autonomous, self-directed learning.' So, with all those fancy iPads at their schools, today's kids must really be programming up a storm, right? Wrong. Nichols, who's currently pursuing a PhD in education, laments, 'The iPad is among the recent panaceas being peddled to schools, but like those that came before, its ostensibly subversive shell houses a fairly conventional approach to learning. Where Texas Instruments graphing calculators include a programming framework accessible even to amateurs, writing code for an iPad is restricted to those who purchase an Apple developer account, create programs that align with Apple standards, and submit their finished products for Apple's approval prior to distribution.'"
New submitter hmilz writes "I've been using procmail for years to filter my incoming mail, and over time a long list of spam patterns was created. The good thing about the patterns is, there are practically no false positives, and practically no false negatives, i.e. I see each new spam exactly once, and lose no legit mail. This works by using an external spam-patterns file, containing one pattern per line, and running an 'egrep -F' against it. As simple as this is, with a long pattern list this becomes rather slow and CPU consuming. An average mail currently needs about 15 seconds to be grepped. In other words, this has become quite clumsy over time, and I would like to replace it by a more (CPU, hence energy) efficient method. I was thinking about a small indexed database or something. What would you recommend and use if you were me? Is sqlite something to look at?"
rjmarvin writes "Two developers were able to successfully reverse-engineer Dropbox to intercept SSL traffic, bypass two-factor authentication and create open-source clients. They presented their paper, 'Looking inside the (Drop) box' (PDF) at USENIX 2013, explaining step-by-step how they were able to succeed where others failed in reverse-engineering a heavily obfuscated application written in Python. They also claimed the generic techniques they used could be applied to reverse-engineer other Frozen python applications: OpenStack, NASA, and a host of Google apps, just to name a few..."
CWmike writes "Windows app developers are taking Microsoft to task for the company's decision to withhold Windows 8.1 until mid-October. Traditionally, Microsoft offers an RTM to developers several weeks before the code reaches the general public. On Tuesday, however, Microsoft confirmed that although Windows 8.1 has reached RTM, subscribers to MSDN will not get the final code until the public does on Oct. 17, saying it was not finished. Antoine Leblond, a Microsoft spokesman, said in a blog post, 'In the past, the release to manufacturing milestone traditionally meant that the software was ready for broader customer use. However, it's clear that times have changed.' Developers raged against the decision in comments on another Microsoft blog post, one that told programmers to write and test their apps against Windows 8.1 Preview, the public sneak peak that debuted two months ago. One commenter, 'brianjsw,' said, 'In the real world, developers must have access to the RTM bits before [general availability]. The fact that Microsoft no longer seems to understand this truly frightens me.'"
New submitter wkaan writes "Last financial year, we had an underspend at work, and it was suggested and agreed that we should give some cash away — $20k to be exact — to open source projects. Four projects were selected. A management catch was that it could not appear to be a donation and it had to be for something we had notionally received in the current financial year. At that time it was early June, our financial year finishes at the end of June. The four projects were emailed using the most relevant looking contact address on their website. Often this was 'Finance' or 'Donations' contact. What do you know, none of the projects that were contacted could work out a way to accept our money. We were unable to give a cent of the twenty grand away, not even a cent. All somebody needed to do was invoice us for something (perhaps 'support' or whatever) and they'd have received $5000. Of the projects contacted, two never replied to our mail — perhaps they thought it a scam? The other two contacted couldn't work out what to invoice and just went away. Is open source too rich to need the money? Have you got a funny donation story? Better still, do you have a way this can be streamlined when we have our next underspend? The goal was not to have a funny (sad) story, but to support the projects that support our business." For those of you with open source projects for which would you would like to take donations but sometimes cannot, what complications get in the way?
Lemeowski writes "Game studios go to great lengths to protect their IP. But board game designer Daniel Solis doesn't subscribe to that philosophy. He has spent the past ten years blogging his game design process, posting all of his concepts and prototypes on his blog. Daniel shares four things he's learned after designing games in public, saying paranoia about your ideas being stolen "is just an excuse not to do the work." His article provides a solid gut check for game designers and other creatives who may let pride give them weird expectations."
Last week you had a chance to ask Guido van Rossum, Python's BDFL (Benevolent Dictator For Life), about all things Python and his move to Dropbox. Guido wasted no time answering your questions and you'll find his responses below.
jfruh writes "One of the biggest challenges Microsoft has faced with its Windows Phone platform is that it's far behind in the apps race against iOS and Android. One way to close the gap is to lower the barrier to entry for new app devs, and Microsoft has done so with Windows Phone App Studio, a hosted service that lets you build applications without actually writing any code. The description of how App Studio works may leave you wondering how useful or exciting the apps created will be, but a surge of developer interest during the current beta program has surprised even Microsoft with its scope."
Guido van Rossum is best known as the creator of Python, and he remains the BDFL (Benevolent Dictator For Life) in the community. The recipient of many awards for his work, and author of numerous books, he left Google in December and started working for Dropbox early this year. A lot has happened in the 12 years since we talked to Guido and he's agreed to answer your questions. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
mikejuk writes "Is it possible that we have been wasting our time typing programs. Could voice recognition, with a little help from an invented spoken language, be the solution we didn't know we needed? About two years ago Tavis Rudd, developed a bad case of RSI caused by typing lots of code using Emacs. It was so severe that he couldn't code. As he puts it: 'Desperate, I tried voice recognition'. The Dragon Naturally Speaking system used by Rudd supported standard language quite well, but it wasn't adapted to program editing commands. The solution was to use a Python speech extension, DragonFly, to program custom commands. OK, so far so good, but ... the commands weren't quite what you might have expected. Instead of English words for commands he used short vocalizations — you have to hear it to believe it. Now programming sounds like a conversation with R2D2. The advantage is that it is faster and the recognition is easier — it also sounds very cool and very techie. it is claimed that the system is faster than typing. So much so that it is still in use after the RSI cleared up."