Microsoft

Microsoft Considers Adding Python As an Official Scripting Language in Excel (bleepingcomputer.com) 181

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is considering adding Python as one of the official Excel scripting languages, according to a topic on Excel's feedback hub opened last month. Since it was opened, the topic has become the most voted feature request, double the votes of the second-ranked proposition. "Let us do scripting with Python! Yay! Not only as an alternative to VBA, but also as an alternative to field functions (=SUM(A1:A2))," the feature request reads, as opened by one of Microsoft's users.

The OS maker responded yesterday by putting up a survey to gather more information and how users would like to use Python inside Excel. If approved, Excel users would be able to use Python scripts to interact with Excel documents, their data, and some of Excel's core functions, similar to how Excel currently supports VBA scripts. Python is one of the most versatile programming languages available today. It is also insanely popular with developers. It ranks second on the PYPL programming languages ranking, third in the RedMonk Programming Language Rankings, and fourth in the TIOBE index.

Open Source

Avast Launches Open-Source Decompiler For Machine Code (techspot.com) 113

Greg Synek reports via TechSpot: To help with the reverse engineering of malware, Avast has released an open-source version of its machine-code decompiler, RetDec, that has been under development for over seven years. RetDec supports a variety of architectures aside from those used on traditional desktops including ARM, PIC32, PowerPC and MIPS. As Internet of Things devices proliferate throughout our homes and inside private businesses, being able to effectively analyze the code running on all of these new devices becomes a necessity to ensure security. In addition to the open-source version found on GitHub, RetDec is also being provided as a web service.

Simply upload a supported executable or machine code and get a reasonably rebuilt version of the source code. It is not possible to retrieve the exact original code of any executable compiled to machine code but obtaining a working or almost working copy of equivalent code can greatly expedite the reverse engineering of software. For any curious developers out there, a REST API is also provided to allow third-party applications to use the decompilation service. A plugin for IDA disassembler is also available for those experienced with decompiling software.

Databases

Searchable Database of 1.4 Billion Stolen Credentials Found On Dark Web (itworldcanada.com) 72

YVRGeek shares a report from IT World Canada: A security vendor has discovered a huge list of easily searchable stolen credentials in cleartext on the dark web, which it fears could lead to a new wave of cyber attacks. Julio Casal, co-founder of identity threat intelligence provider 4iQ, which has offices in California and Spain, said in a Dec. 8 blog his firm found the database of 1.4 billion username and password pairs while scanning the dark web for stolen, leaked or lost data. He said the company has verified at least a group of credentials are legitimate. What is alarming is the file is what he calls "an aggregated, interactive database that allows for fast (one second response) searches and new breach imports." For example, searching for "admin," "administrator" and "root" returned 226,631 passwords of admin users in a few seconds. As a result, the database can help attackers automate account hijacking or account takeover. The dump file was 41GB in size and was found on December 5th in an underground community forum. The total amount of credentials is 1,400,553,869.
Microsoft

Microsoft Releases Free Preview of Its Quantum Development Kit (zdnet.com) 31

Microsoft is releasing a free preview version of its Quantum Development Kit. "The kit includes the Q# programming language and compiler and a local quantum computing simulator, and is fully integrated with Visual Studio," reports ZDNet. "There's also an Azure-based simulator that allows developers to simulate more than 40 logical qubits of computing power, plus documentation libraries, and sample programs, officials said in their December 11 announcement." From the report: Quantum computers are designed to process in parallel, thus enabling new types of applications across a variety of workloads. They are designed to harness the physics of subatomic particles to provide a different way to store data and solve problems compared to conventional computers, as my ZDNet colleague Tony Baer explains. The result is that quantum computers could solve certain high-performance-computing problems more efficiently. Microsoft officials have said applications that developers create for use with the quantum simulator ultimately will work on a quantum computer, which Microsoft is in the process of developing. Microsoft's goal is to build out a full quantum computing system, including both the quantum computing hardware and the related full software stack.
Bitcoin

In-Store WiFi Provider Used Starbucks Website To Generate Monero Coins (hackread.com) 30

hjf writes: On December 2nd, Twitter user Noah Dinkin tweeted a screenshot that showed that Starbucks' in-store "free WiFi" is using their captive portal to briefly mine the Monero cryptocurrency during the 10-second delay splash screen. Starbucks has not yet responded to the tweet, and neither has their wifi provider, Fibertel Argentina. While Dinkin mentioned that the culprit behind the scheme could be Starbucks' in-store wifi provider, it's possible that a cybercriminal could have hacked their website to place CoinHive code secretly. HackRead notes that "just a few days ago researchers identified more than 5,000 sites that were hijacked to insert CoinHive code, yet Starbucks' direct involvement is still unclear." CoinHive is a company that produces a JavaScript miner for the Monero Blockchain that you can embed in your website. Any coins mined by the browser are sent to the owner of the website.
Python

Did Programming Language Flaws Create Insecure Apps? (bleepingcomputer.com) 100

Several popular interpreted programming languages are affected by severe vulnerabilities that expose apps built on these languages to attacks, according to research presented at the Black Hat Europe 2017 security conference. An anonymous reader writes: The author of this research is IOActive Senior Security Consultant Fernando Arnaboldi, who says he used an automated software testing technique named fuzzing to identify vulnerabilities in the interpreters of five of today's most popular programming languages: JavaScript, Perl, PHP, Python, and Ruby.

Fuzzing involves providing invalid, unexpected, or random data as input to a software application. The researcher created his own fuzzing framework named XDiFF that broke down programming languages per each of its core functions and fuzzed each one for abnormalities. His work exposed severe flaws in all five languages, such as a hidden flaw in PHP constant names that can be abused to perform remote code execution, and undocumented Python methods that can be used for OS code execution. Arnaboldi argues that attackers can exploit these flaws even in the most secure applications built on top of these programming languages.

Programming

What Mistakes Can Stall An IT Career? (cio.com) 207

Quoting snydeq: "In the fast-paced world of technology, complacency can be a career killer," Paul Heltzel writes in an article on 20 ways to kill your IT career without knowing it. "So too can any number of hidden hazards that quietly put your career on shaky ground -- from not knowing your true worth to thinking you've finally made it. Learning new tech skills and networking are obvious ways to solidify your career. But what about accidental ways that could put your career in a slide? Hidden hazards -- silent career killers? Some tech pitfalls may not be obvious."
CIO's reporter "talked to a number of IT pros, recruiters, and developers about how to build a bulletproof career and avoid lesser-known pitfalls," citing hazards like burning bridges and skipping social events. But it also warns of the dangers of staying in your comfort zone too long instead of asking for "stretch" assignments and accepting training opporunities.

The original submission puts the same question to Slashdot readers. "What silent career killers have you witnessed (or fallen prey to) in your years in IT?"
Android

Google Puts Android Accessibility Crackdown On Hold (slashgear.com) 28

Last month, Google issued a warning to Android app developers that they will no longer be able to access Android accessibility service functions in their apps, unless they can demonstrate that those functions are specifically used to help users with "disabilities." Since a lot of password managers use the Accessibility API, as well as poplar apps like Tasker automation and Greenify battery saver, there was a large amount of backlash from developers and users alike. According to SlashGear, Google is putting the Android accessibility crackdown on hold. From the report: Google has now sent another email that basically says "we'll think about it." It is evaluating "responsible and innovative use" of those services on a case to case basis. It is also requiring developers to explicitly inform users why they are asking for accessibility permissions rather than just informing them. This, of course, puts a heavier burden on Google, as it has to be more involved in the screening of apps rather than just rely on good ol' machine learning and automation. Developers and users probably won't mind, if it means still having access to those features that make Android a platform above all the rest.
Chrome

Chrome 63 Offers Even More Protection From Malicious Sites, Using Even More Memory (arstechnica.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: To further increase its enterprise appeal, Chrome 63 -- which hit the browser's stable release channel yesterday -- includes a couple of new security enhancements aimed particularly at the corporate market. The first of these is site isolation, an even stricter version of the multiple process model that Chrome has used since its introduction. Chrome uses multiple processes for several security and stability reasons. On the stability front, the model means that even if a single tab crashes, other tabs (and the browser itself) are unaffected. On the security front, the use of multiple processes makes it much harder for malicious code from one site to steal secrets (such as passwords typed into forms) of another. [...]

Naturally, this greater use of multiple processes incurs a price; with this option enabled, Chrome's already high memory usage can go up by another 15 to 20 percent. As such, it's not enabled by default; instead, it's intended for use by enterprise users that are particularly concerned about organizational security. The other new capability is the ability for administrators to block extensions depending on the features those extensions need to use. For example, an admin can block any extension that tries to use file system access, that reads or writes the clipboard, or that accesses the webcam or microphone. Additionally, Google has started to deploy TLS 1.3, the latest version of Transport Layer Security, the protocol that enables secure communication between a browser and a Web server. In Chrome 63, this is only enabled between Chrome and Gmail; in 2018, it'll be turned on more widely.

Google

Inside Oracle's Cloak-and-dagger Political War With Google (recode.net) 86

schwit1 shares a Recode report: The story that appeared in Quartz this November seemed shocking enough on its own: Google had quietly tracked the location of its Android users, even those who had turned off such monitoring on their smartphones. But missing from the news site's report was another eyebrow-raising detail: Some of its evidence, while accurate, appears to have been furnished by one of Google's fiercest foes: Oracle. For the past year, the software and cloud computing giant has mounted a cloak-and-dagger, take-no-prisoners lobbying campaign against Google, perhaps hoping to cause the company intense political and financial pain at a time when the two tech giants are also warring in federal court over allegations of stolen computer code. Since 2010, Oracle has accused Google of copying Java and using key portions of it in the making of Android. Google, for its part, has fought those claims vigorously. More recently, though, their standoff has intensified. And as a sign of the worsening rift between them, this summer Oracle tried to sell reporters on a story about the privacy pitfalls of Android, two sources confirmed to Recode.
IT

Amazon Opens Registration For .BOT Domain Name (amazonregistry.com) 44

Amazon began accepting registration requests for .BOT domain name from the public this week as the e-commerce giant comes to realize the potential of the top level domain name it secured rights for two years ago. For now, Amazon is keeping the registration for .BOT domains limited. "Creators with published bots who use Amazon Lex, Microsoft Bot Framework and Dialogflow can validate a bot and register a .BOT domain name," the company said, noting that the limited registration phase would end on March 30, 2018. At the time of registration, Amazon requires users to sign into their Amazon account and validate their published bot.
Windows

Lead Developer of Popular Windows Application Classic Shell Is Quitting 97

WheezyJoe writes: Classic Shell is a free Windows application that for years has replaced Microsoft's Start Screen or Start Menu with a highly configurable, more familiar non-tile Start menu. Yesterday, the lead developer released what he said would be the last version of Classic Shell. Citing other interests and the frequency at which Microsoft releases updates to Windows 10, as well as lagging support for the Win32 programming model, the developer says that he won't work on the program anymore. The application's source code is available on SourceForge, so there is a chance others may come and fork the code to continue development. There are several alternatives available, some pay and some free (like Start10 and Start Is Back++), but Classic Shell has an exceptionally broad range of tweaks and customizability.
Programming

'24 Pull Requests' Suggests Contributing Code For Christmas (24pullrequests.com) 30

An anonymous reader writes: "On December 1st, 24 Pull Requests will be opening its virtual doors once again, asking you to give the gift of a pull request to an open source project in need," writes UK-based software developer Andrew Nesbitt -- noting that last year the site registered more than 16,000 pull requests. "And they're not all by programmers. Often the contribution with the most impact might be an improvement to technical documentation, some tests, or even better -- guidance for other contributors."

This year they're even touting "24 Pull Requests hack events," happening around the world from Lexington, Kentucky to Torino, Italy. (Last year 80 people showed up for an event in London.) "You don't have to hack alone this Christmas!" suggests the site, also inviting local communities and geek meetups (as well as open source-loving companies) to host their own events.

Contributing to open source projects can also beef up your CV (for when you're applying for your next job), the site points out, and "Even small contributions can be really valuable to a project."

"You've been benefiting from the use of open source projects all year. Now is the time to say thanks to the maintainers of those projects, and a little birdy tells me that they love receiving pull requests!"
Encryption

PHP Now Supports Argon2 Next-Generation Password Hashing Algorithm (bleepingcomputer.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: PHP got a whole lot more secure this week with the release of the 7.2 branch, a version that improves and modernizes the language's support for cryptography and password hashing algorithms.

Of all changes, the most significant is, by far, the support for Argon2, a password hashing algorithm developed in the early 2010s. Back in 2015, Argon2 beat 23 other algorithms to win the Password Hashing Competition, and is now in the midst of becoming a universally recognized Internet standard at the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the reward for winning the contest. The algorithm is currently considered to be superior to Bcrypt, today's most widely used password hashing function, in terms of both security and cost-effectiveness, and is also slated to become a favorite among cryptocurrencies, as it can also handle proof-of-work operations.

The other major change in PHP 7.2 was the removal of the old Mcrypt cryptographic library from the PHP core and the addition of Libsodium, a more modern alternative.

Republicans

Valuable Republican Donor Database Breached -- By Other Republicans (politico.com) 73

Politico reports: Staffers for Senate Republicans' campaign arm seized information on more than 200,000 donors from the House GOP campaign committee over several months this year by breaking into its computer system, three sources with knowledge of the breach told Politico... Multiple NRSC staffers, who previously worked for the NRCC, used old database login information to gain access to House Republicans' donor lists this year. The donor list that was breached is among the NRCC's most valuable assets, containing not only basic contact information like email addresses and phone numbers but personal information that could be used to entice donors to fork over cash -- information on top issues and key states of interest to different people, the names of family members, and summaries of past donation history... Donor lists like these are of such value to party committees that they can use them as collateral to obtain loans worth millions of dollars when they need cash just before major elections...

"The individuals on these lists are guaranteed money," said a Republican fundraiser. "They will give. These are not your regular D.C. PAC list"... The list has helped the NRCC raise over $77 million this year to defend the House in 2018... Though the House and Senate campaign arms share the similar goal of electing Republican candidates and often coordinate strategy in certain states, they operate on distinct tracks and compete for money from small and large donors.

Long-time Slashdot reader SethJohnson says the data breach "is the result of poor deprovisioning policies within the House Republican Campaign Committee -- allowing staff logins to persist after a person has left the organization."

NRCC officials who learned of the breach "are really pissed," one source told the site.
Perl

Perl, Perl 6, and Two Application Frameworks Release 2017 Advent Calendars (perladvent.org) 38

An anonymous reader writes: Friday saw this year's first new posts on the Perl Advent Calendar, a geeky tradition first started back in 2000. It describes Santa including Unicode's "Father Christmas" emoji by enabling UTF-8 encoding and then using the appropriate hexadecimal code.

But in another corner of the North Pole, you can also unwrap the Perl 6 Advent Calendar, which this year celebrates the two-year anniversary of the official launch of Perl 6. Its first post follows a Grinch who used the but and does operators in Perl 6, while wrapping methods and subroutines to add extra sneaky features, "and even mutated the language itself to do our bidding."

Perl/Python guru Joel Berger has also started an advent calendar for the Mojolicious web application framework (written in Perl), and there's apparently also an advent calendar coming for the Perl Dancer web application framework.

Chrome

Wondering Why Your Internal .dev Web App Has Stopped Working? (theregister.co.uk) 311

Kieren McCarthy, writing for The Register: Network admins, code wranglers and other techies have hit an unusual problem this week: their test and development environments have vanished. Rather than connecting to private stuff on an internal .dev domain to pick up where they left off, a number of engineers and sysadmins are facing an error message in their web browser complaining it is "unable to provide a secure connection." How come? It's thanks to a recent commit to Chromium that has been included in the latest version of Google Chrome. As developers update their browsers, they may find themselves booted out their own systems. Under the commit, Chrome forces connections to all domains ending in .dev (as well as .foo) to use HTTPS via a HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) header. This is part of Google's larger and welcome push for HTTPS to be used everywhere for greater security.
Software

Amazon Will Let Alexa Developers Use Voice Recognition To Personalize Apps (theverge.com) 30

Amazon today announced that third-party developers will be able to make use of the Alexa assistant's voice recognition feature to personalize apps for its line of Echo speakers. The news builds on the company's announcement in October that Alexa can now identify individual users' voices to personalize responses. The Verge reports: Until today, that recognition feature only worked for Amazon-built services like shopping lists, flash briefing news updates, and Amazon Music, among other built-in skills. Starting some time in early 2018, however, developers will be able to tap into those voice-based profiles to make apps more personalized to various members of a household. This yet again puts Amazon ahead of rival Google in the smart home and digital assistant fields. In addition to announcing voice recognition for third-party apps, Amazon also revealed today at its re:Invent conference that it's bringing Alexa notifications on Echo speakers to a wider pool of developers starting today.
Sci-Fi

Destiny 2 Misrepresented XP Gains To Its Players Until the Developers Got Caught (arstechnica.com) 112

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Destiny 2, like its predecessor, depends largely on an open-ended "end game" system. Once you beat the game's primary "quest" content, you can return to previously covered ground to find remixed and upgraded battles, meant to be played ad nauseam alone or with friends. To encourage such replay, Bungie dangles a carrot of XP gain, which works more slowly than during the campaign stages. Players are awarded a "bright engram" every time they "level up" past the level cap; the engrams are essentially loot boxes that contain a random assortment of cosmetics and weapon mods. Everything you do in the game, from killing a weak bad guy to completing a major raid-related milestone, is supposed to reward you a fixed XP amount. As series fans gear up for the game's first expansion, slated to launch December 5 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, its eagle-eyed fans at r/DestinyTheGame began questioning whether those rewards were really as fixed as claimed. Some players began to suspect that they were actually getting less XP than advertised each time they repeated certain in-game missions and tasks, such as the game's "Public Events."

With stopwatch in hand, a user named EnergiserX tracked the modes he played, keeping an eye on any shifts in XP gain over time. He put enough data together to confirm those suspicions: the XP gained in certain modes would shrink with each repetition. Worse, the game gave no indication of these diminishing returns. The XP-gain numbers that popped up above the game's XP bar didn't reflect the game's hidden scaling system. Thus, there was no way for a player to accurately calculate how their XP gain had been affected or scaled without going through EnergiserX's exhaustive process. With findings in hand, the tester posted on Reddit with calls to the developers for a response, which the community received on Saturday. Bungie confirmed its use of an "XP scaler" and added that it was "not performing the way we'd like it to," which meant the developer would remove that XP-scaling system upon the game's next patch. However, Bungie didn't clarify how the developers actually would have liked for this XP-scaling system to work, nor what factored into it announcing any changes beyond the system simply being discovered.
Bungie issued a patch on Sunday that removed the XP-scaling systems, but it introduced another unannounced change to the XP system. "Bungie decided to tune the speed of XP gain by doubling the required XP needed to 'level up,' from 80,000 points to 160,000," reports Ars Technica. "Patch notes didn't mention this change; Bungie, once again, had to be questioned by its fanbase before confirming the exact amount of this XP-related change."
Android

The Pixel 2's Dormant 'Visual Core' Chip Gets Activated In Latest Android Developer Preview (techcrunch.com) 32

The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL both feature a custom Intel "Visual Core" co-processor, which is meant to improve speed and battery life when shooting photos with Google's HDR+ technology. The chip has been hanging out in the phone not really doing much of anything -- until now. TechCrunch reports of a new developer preview of Android 8.1 due out today that puts the chip to use. "The component is expected to further improve the handsets' cameras, which were already scoring good marks, production issues aside." From the report: According to the company, Pixel Visual Core has eight image processing unit (IPU) cores and 512 arithmetic logic units. Using machine learning, the company says it's able to speed things up by 5x, with one tenth of the energy. Access to the chip, combined with the Android Camera API means third-party photo apps will be able to take advantage of the system's speedy HDR+. Sounds swell, right? Of course, this is still just an early preview, only available to people who sign up for Google's Beta program. That means, among other things, dealing with potential bugs of an early build. Google wouldn't give us any more specific information with regards to when the feature will be unlocked for the public, but it's expected to arrive along with the 8.1 public beta in December.
Programming

Why ESR Hates C++, Respects Java, and Thinks Go (But Not Rust) Will Replace C (ibiblio.org) 608

Open source guru Eric S. Raymond followed up his post on alternatives to C by explaining why he won't touch C++ any more, calling the story "a launch point for a disquisition on the economics of computer-language design, why some truly unfortunate choices got made and baked into our infrastructure, and how we're probably going to fix them." My problem with [C++] is that it piles complexity on complexity upon chrome upon gingerbread in an attempt to address problems that cannot actually be solved because the foundational abstractions are leaky. It's all very well to say "well, don't do that" about things like bare pointers, and for small-scale single-developer projects (like my eqn upgrade) it is realistic to expect the discipline can be enforced. Not so on projects with larger scale or multiple devs at varying skill levels (the case I normally deal with)... C is flawed, but it does have one immensely valuable property that C++ didn't keep -- if you can mentally model the hardware it's running on, you can easily see all the way down. If C++ had actually eliminated C's flaws (that is, been type-safe and memory-safe) giving away that transparency might be a trade worth making. As it is, nope.
He calls Java a better attempt at fixing C's leaky abstractions, but believes it "left a huge hole in the options for systems programming that wouldn't be properly addressed for another 15 years, until Rust and Go." He delves into a history of programming languages, touching on Lisp, Python, and programmer-centric languages (versus machine-centric languages), identifying one of the biggest differentiators as "the presence or absence of automatic memory management." Falling machine-resource costs led to the rise of scripting languages and Node.js, but Raymond still sees Rust and Go as a response to the increasing scale of projects.
Eventually we will have garbage collection techniques with low enough latency overhead to be usable in kernels and low-level firmware, and those will ship in language implementations. Those are the languages that will truly end C's long reign. There are broad hints in the working papers from the Go development group that they're headed in this direction... Sorry, Rustaceans -- you've got a plausible future in kernels and deep firmware, but too many strikes against you to beat Go over most of C's range. No garbage collection, plus Rust is a harder transition from C because of the borrow checker, plus the standardized part of the API is still seriously incomplete (where's my select(2), again?).

The only consolation you get, if it is one, is that the C++ fans are screwed worse than you are. At least Rust has a real prospect of dramatically lowering downstream defect rates relative to C anywhere it's not crowded out by Go; C++ doesn't have that.

Businesses

Amazon: Heat From Data Centers Will Be Used as a Furnace (vox.com) 52

Vox reports on Amazon's recent push for "corporate sustainability": It plans to have 15 rooftop solar systems, with a total capacity of around 41 MW, deployed atop fulfillment centers by the end of this year, with plans to have 50 such systems installed by 2020. Amazon was the lead corporate purchaser of green energy in 2016. That year, it also announced its largest wind energy project to date, the 253 MW Amazon Wind Farm Texas. Overall, the company says, it has "announced or commenced construction on wind and solar projects that will generate a total of 3.6 million megawatt hours (MWh) of renewable energy annually."
But here's the most interesting part. GeekWire reports: Amazon is moving ahead with a unique plan to use heat generated from data centers in the nearby Westin Building to warm some of its new buildings downtown. The system transfers the heat from the data centers via water piped underground to the Amazon buildings. The water is then returned to the Westin Building once it's cooled down to help cool the data centers. The setup will be unusual. "Certainly there are other people using waste heat from server farms but you don't hear a lot about tying it in with buildings across the street from each other," said Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien.
Star Wars Prequels

Legislators Take Aim At Star Wars Battlefront II, EA Over 'Gambling In Games' (polygon.com) 72

dryriver writes: A number of pay-to-win microtransaction FPS games, including Dirty Bomb and the $60 Star Wars Battlefront II, have drawn the ire of legislators in countries like Belgium and the United States. Not only are advanced characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and various weapons and abilities in these games "locked" -- you pay for them in hard cash, or play for them for dozens and dozens of tedious hours -- the games also feature so called "Loot Boxes," which are boxes that contain a random item, weapon, character or ability. So like playing slot machines in Vegas, each time you can get something good, something mediocre or something totally crap. You cannot determine with any certainty what you will get for your real-world dollars or in-game achievements. Angry Reddit users recently downvoted a blundering statement by EA on the topic with a whopping 249,000 downvotes -- an all time downvote record on Reddit, shocking EA into retreating from its pay-to-win model and announcing unspecified "changes" now being made to Star Wars Battlefront II. Legislators in a number of countries have also sharply criticized "Loot Boxes" and "microtransactions" in games, with one legislator in Belgium vowing to have the sale of such games banned completely in the EU, because children are essentially being forced to "gamble with real money" in these games. Forbes has written a great piece about how EA is now essentially stuck with a $60 Star Wars game that cost a lot to make but probably cannot be monetized any further, because there is considerable risk of all games with loot boxes, microtransactions and "pay to win" monetization models being completely banned from sale in a number of different countries now. The morale of the story? Maybe people should not pay a game developer any more than the $40-60 they paid when they thought they "bought" the game in the first place.
Programming

More Than Half of GitHub Is Duplicate Code, Researchers Find (theregister.co.uk) 115

Richard Chirgwin, writing for The Register: Given that code sharing is a big part of the GitHub mission, it should come at no surprise that the platform stores a lot of duplicated code: 70 per cent, a study has found. An international team of eight researchers didn't set out to measure GitHub duplication. Their original aim was to try and define the "granularity" of copying -- that is, how much files changed between different clones -- but along the way, they turned up a "staggering rate of file-level duplication" that made them change direction. Presented at this year's OOPSLA (part of the late-October Association of Computing Machinery) SPLASH conference in Vancouver, the University of California at Irvine-led research found that out of 428 million files on GitHub, only 85 million are unique. Before readers say "so what?", the reason for this study was to improve other researchers' work. Anybody studying software using GitHub probably seeks random samples, and the authors of this study argued duplication needs to be taken into account.
The Internet

'We Are Disappointed': Tech Companies Speak Up Against the FCC's Plan To Kill Net Neutrality (businessinsider.com) 183

An anonymous reader shares a report from Business Insider: The FCC is planning to kill net neutrality -- and some tech companies are starting to speak out. Pro-net neutrality activists, who argue the principle creates a level playing-field online, are up in arms about the plan. And some tech companies are now speaking out in support of net neutrality as well, from Facebook to Netflix. Business Insider reached out to some of the biggest tech firms in America today to ask for their reaction to the FCC's plan. Their initial responses are below, and we will continue to update this post as more come in.
Graphics

Google Cloud Platform Cuts the Price of GPUs By Up To 36 Percent (techcrunch.com) 28

In a blog post, Google's Product Manager, Chris Kleban, announced that the company is cutting the price of using Nvidia's Tesla GPUs through its Compute Engine by up to 36 percent. The older K80 GPUs will now cost $0.45 per hour while the more powerful P100 machines will cost $1.46 per minute (all with per-second billing). TechCrunch reports: The company is also dropping the prices for preemptible local SSDs by almost 40 percent. "Preemptible local SSDs" refers to local SSDs attached to Google's preemptible VMs. You can't attach GPUs to preemptible instances, though, so this is a nice little bonus announcement -- but it isn't going to directly benefit GPU users. As for the new GPU pricing, it's clear that Google is aiming this feature at developers who want to run their own machine learning workloads on its cloud, though there also are a number of other applications -- including physical simulations and molecular modeling -- that greatly benefit from the hundreds of cores that are now available on these GPUs. The P100, which is officially still in beta on the Google Cloud Platform, features 3594 cores, for example. Developers can attach up to four P100 and eight K80 dies to each instance. Like regular VMs, GPU users will also receive sustained-use discounts, though most users probably don't keep their GPUs running for a full month.
Software

Google Is Working On Fuchsia OS Support For Apple's Swift Programming Language (androidpolice.com) 54

An anonymous reader shares a report from Android Police: Google's in-development operating system, named "Fuchsia," first appeared over a year ago. It's quite different from Android and Chrome OS, as it runs on top of the real-time "Magenta" kernel instead of Linux. According to recent code commits, Google is working on Fuchsia OS support for the Swift programming language. If you're not familiar with it, Swift is a programming language developed by Apple, which can be used to create iOS/macOS/tvOS/watchOS applications (it can also compile to Linux). Apple calls it "Objective-C without the C," and on the company's own platforms, it can be mixed with existing C/Objective-C/C++ code (similar to how apps on Android can use both Kotlin and Java in the same codebase). We already know that Fuchsia will support apps written in Dart, a C-like language developed by Google, but it looks like Swift could also be supported. On Swift's GitHub repository, a pull request was created by a Google employee that adds Fuchsia OS support to the compiler. At the time of writing, there are discussions about splitting it into several smaller pull requests to make reviewing the code changes easier.
Security

Why Hackers Reuse Malware (helpnetsecurity.com) 27

Orome1 shares a report from Help Net Security: Software developers love to reuse code wherever possible, and hackers are no exception. While we often think of different malware strains as separate entities, the reality is that most new malware recycles large chunks of source code from existing malware with some changes and additions (possibly taken from other publicly released vulnerabilities and tools). This approach makes sense. Why reinvent the wheel when another author already created a working solution? While code reuse in malware can make signature-based detection methods more effective in certain cases, more often than not it frees up time for attackers to do additional work on detection avoidance and attack efficacy -- which can create a more dangerous final product.

There are multiple reasons why hackers reuse code when developing their own malware. First, it saves time. By copying code wherever possible, malware authors have more time to focus on other areas, like detection avoidance and attribution masking. In some cases, there may be only one way to successfully accomplish a task, such as exploiting a vulnerability. In these instances, code reuse is a no-brainer. Hacker also tend to reuse effective tactics such as social engineering, malicious macros and spear phishing whenever possible simply because they have a high rate of success.

AI

Deep Learning Is Eating Software (petewarden.com) 147

Pete Warden, engineer and CTO of Jetpac, shares his view on how deep learning is already starting to change some of the programming is done. From a blog post, shared by a reader last week: The pattern is that there's an existing software project doing data processing using explicit programming logic, and the team charged with maintaining it find they can replace it with a deep-learning-based solution. I can only point to examples within Alphabet that we've made public, like upgrading search ranking, data center energy usage, language translation, and solving Go, but these aren't rare exceptions internally. What I see is that almost any data processing system with non-trivial logic can be improved significantly by applying modern machine learning. This might sound less than dramatic when put in those terms, but it's a radical change in how we build software. Instead of writing and maintaining intricate, layered tangles of logic, the developer has to become a teacher, a curator of training data and an analyst of results. This is very, very different than the programming I was taught in school, but what gets me most excited is that it should be far more accessible than traditional coding, once the tooling catches up. The essence of the process is providing a lot of examples of inputs, and what you expect for the outputs. This doesn't require the same technical skills as traditional programming, but it does need a deep knowledge of the problem domain. That means motivated users of the software will be able to play much more of a direct role in building it than has ever been possible. In essence, the users are writing their own user stories and feeding them into the machinery to build what they want.
The Military

Russia Posts Video Game Screenshot As 'Irrefutable Proof' of US Helping IS (bbc.com) 132

Plus1Entropy shares a report from BBC, adding: "But when I asked Putin, he said they didn't do it": Russia's Ministry of Defense has posted what it called "irrefutable proof" of the U.S. aiding so-called Islamic State -- but one of the images was actually taken from a video game. The ministry claimed the image showed an IS convoy leaving a Syrian town last week aided by U.S. forces. Instead, it came from the smartphone game AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron. The ministry said an employee had mistakenly attached the photo. The Conflict Intelligence Team fact-checking group said the other four provided were also errors, taken from a June 2016 video which showed the Iraqi Air Force attacking IS in Iraq. The video game image seems to be taken from a promotional video on the game's website and YouTube channel, closely cropped to omit the game controls and on-screen information. In the corner of the image, however, a few letters of the developer's disclaimer can still be seen: "Development footage. This is a work in progress. All content subject to change."
Programming

ESR Sees Three Viable Alternatives To C (ibiblio.org) 595

An anonymous reader writes: After 35 years of programming in C, Eric S. Raymond believes that we're finally seeing viable alternatives to the language. "We went thirty years -- most of my time in the field -- without any plausible C successor, nor any real vision of what a post-C technology platform for systems programming might look like. Now we have two such visions...and there is another."

"I have a friend working on a language he calls 'Cx' which is C with minimal changes for type safety; the goal of his project is explicitly to produce a code lifter that, with minimal human assistance, can pull up legacy C codebases. I won't name him so he doesn't get stuck in a situation where he might be overpromising, but the approach looks sound to me and I'm trying to get him more funding. So, now I can see three plausible paths out of C. Two years ago I couldn't see any. I repeat: this is huge... Go, or Rust, or Cx -- any way you slice it, C's hold is slipping."

Raymond's essay also includes a fascinating look back at the history of programming languages after 1982, when the major complied languages (FORTRAN, Pascal, and COBOL) "were either confined to legacy code, retreated to single-platform fortresses, or simply ran on inertia under increasing pressure from C around the edges of their domains.

"Then it stayed that way for nearly thirty years."
Facebook

This Time, Facebook Is Sharing Its Employees' Data (fastcompany.com) 45

tedlistens writes from a report via Fast Company: "Facebook routinely shares the sensitive income and employment data of its U.S.-based employees with the Work Number database, owned by Equifax Workforce Solutions," reports Fast Company. "Every week, Facebook provides an electronic data feed of its employees' hourly work and wage information to Equifax Workforce Solutions, formerly known as TALX, a St. Louis-based unit of Equifax, Inc. The Work Number database is managed separately from the Equifax credit bureau database that suffered a breach exposing the data of more than 143 million Americans, but it contains another cache of extensive personal information about Facebook's employees, including their date of birth, social security number, job title, salary, pay raises or decreases, tenure, number of hours worked per week, wages by pay period, healthcare insurance coverage, dental care insurance coverage, and unemployment claim records."

Surprisingly, Facebook is among friends. Every payroll period, Amazon, Microsoft, and Oracle provide an electronic feed of their employees' hourly work and wage information to Equifax. So do Wal-Mart, Twitter, AT&T, Harvard Law School, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Even Edward Snowden's former employer, the sometimes secretive N.S.A. contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, sends salary and other personal data about its employees to the Equifax Work Number database. It now contains over 296 million employment records for employees at all wage levels, from CEOs to interns. The database helps streamline various processes for employers and even federal government agencies, says Equifax. But databases like the Work Number also come with considerable risks. As consumer journalist Bob Sullivan puts it, Equifax, "with the aid of thousands of human resource departments around the country, has assembled what may be the most powerful and thorough private database of Americans' personal information ever created." On October 8, a month after Equifax announced its giant data breach, security expert Brian Krebs uncovered a gaping hole in the separate Work Number online consumer application portal, which allowed anyone to view a person's salary and employment history "using little more than someone's Social Security number and date of birth -- both data elements that were stolen in the recent breach at Equifax."

Programming

Programming Language Go Turns 8 (golang.org) 67

On this day, eight years ago, a group of programmers at Google released Go, a brand-new open-source programming language that they hoped would solve some of the problems they faced with Java, C++ and other programming languages. In the past eight years, Go has gotten a tremendous traction, with Go helping drive several services running inside Google. The company, on its part, has added a handful of features to Go, including a revamped garbage collector in 2015, and support for various ARM processors. From a blog post: Go has been embraced by developers all over the world with approximately one million users worldwide. In the freshly published 2017 Octoverse by GitHub, Go has become the #9 most popular language, surpassing C. Go is the fastest growing language on GitHub in 2017 in the top 10 with 52% growth over the previous year. In growth, Go swapped places with Javascript, which fell to the second spot with 44%. In Stack Overflow's 2017 developer survey, Go was the only language that was both on the top 5 most loved and top 5 most wanted languages. People who use Go, love it, and the people who aren't using Go, want to be. [...] Since Go was first open sourced we have had 10 releases of the language, libraries and tooling with more than 1680 contributors making over 50,000 commits to the project's 34 repositories; More than double the number of contributors and nearly double the number of commits from only two years ago. This year we announced that we have begun planning Go 2, our first major revision of the language and tooling.
Security

WikiLeaks Starts Releasing Source Code For Alleged CIA Spying Tools (vice.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: WikiLeaks published new alleged material from the CIA on Thursday, releasing source code from a tool called Hive, which allows its operators to control malware it installed on different devices. WikiLeaks previously released documentation pertaining to the tool, but this is the first time WikiLeaks has released extensive source code for any CIA spying tool. This release is the first in what WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says is a new series, Vault 8, that will release the code from the CIA hacking tools revealed as part of Vault 7. "This publication will enable investigative journalists, forensic experts and the general public to better identify and understand covert CIA infrastructure components," WikiLeaks said in its press release for Vault 8. "Hive solves a critical problem for the malware operators at the CIA. Even the most sophisticated malware implant on a target computer is useless if there is no way for it to communicate with its operators in a secure manner that does not draw attention." In its release, WikiLeaks said that materials published as part of Vault 8 will "not contain zero-days or similar security vulnerabilities which could be repurposed by others."
Google

Google Wants Google Doodles Taught In Public School, Warns Kids They Best Behave 146

theodp writes: Well, this year's Hour of Code is almost upon us, and if Google has its way, K-12 schoolchildren across the nation will be learning computer science by creating Google Doodles with Scratch (lesson plan). Curiously, the introductory video for the Create Your Own Google Logo Hour of Code activity from the Google Computer Science Education Department sternly warns kids, "While it is okay to use the Google logo for your personal Doodle, it is not okay [emphasis Google's] to use it anyplace else or outside this activity." In addition to respecting its intellectual property, Google instructs kids that they are to follow the Scratch Community Guidelines when they create Google logos: "Please stay positive, friendly, and supportive towards others in the Scratch Community. Help us keep Scratch a place where people of different backgrounds and interests feel welcome to hang out and create together."
Programming

Should Developers Do All Their Own QA? (itnews.com.au) 299

An anonymous reader quotes IT News: Fashion retailer The Iconic is no longer running quality assurance as a separate function within its software development process, having shifted QA responsibilities directly onto developers... "We decided: we've got all these [developers] who are [coding] every day, and they're testing their own work -- we don't need a second layer of advice on it," head of development Oliver Brennan told the New Relic FutureStack conference in Sydney last week. "It just makes people lazy..."

Such a move has the obvious potential to create problems should a developer drop the ball; to make sure the impact of any unforeseen issues is minimised for customers, The Iconic introduced feature toggles -- allowing developers to turn off troublesome functionality without having to deploy new code. Every new feature that goes into production must now sit behind one of these toggles, which dictates whether a user is served the new or old version of the feature in question. The error rates between the new and old versions are then monitored for any discrepancies... While Brennan is no fan of "people breaking things", he argues moving fast is more beneficial for customers.

"If our site is down now, people will generally come back later," Brennan adds, and the company has now moved all of its QA workers into engineering roles.
Programming

Perl is the Most Hated Programming Language, Developers Say (theregister.co.uk) 472

Thomas Claburn, writing for The Register: Developers really dislike Perl, and projects associated with Microsoft, at least among those who volunteer their views through Stack Overflow. The community coding site offers programmers a way to document their technical affinities on their developer story profile pages. Included therein is an input box for tech they'd prefer to avoid. For developers who have chosen to provide testaments of loathing, Perl tops the list of disliked programming languages, followed by Delphi and VBA. The yardstick here consists of the ratio of "likes" and "dislikes" listed in developer story profiles; to merit chart position, the topic or tag in question had to show up in at least 2,000 stories. Further down the down the list of unloved programming language comes PHP, Objective-C, CoffeeScript, and Ruby. In a blog post seen by The Register ahead of its publication today, Stack Overflow data scientist David Robinson said usually there's a relationship between how fast a particular tag is growing and how often it's disliked. "Almost everything disliked by more than 3 per cent of Stories mentioning it is shrinking in Stack Overflow traffic (except for the quite polarizing VBA, which is steady or slightly growing)," said Robinson. "And the least-disliked tags -- R, Rust, TypeScript and Kotlin -- are all among the fast-growing tags (TypeScript and Kotlin growing so quickly they had to be truncated in the plot)."
Security

While Equifax Victims Sue, Congress Limits Financial Class Actions (marketwatch.com) 190

An anonymous reader quotes a local NBC news report: Stories are starting to pour in about those impacted by last month's massive Equifax data breach, which compromised the private information of more than 140 million people. Katie Van Fleet of Seattle says she's spent months trying to regain her stolen identity, and says it has been stolen more than a dozen times. "I kept receiving letters from Kohl's, from Macy's, from Home Depot, from Old Navy saying 'thank you for your application,'" she said to CNN affiliate KCPQ. But she says she's never applied for credit from any of those places. Instead, Van Fleet and her attorney Catherine Fleming say they believe her personal data was stolen during the massive Equifax security breach... Fleming has filed a class-action lawsuit against Equifax, saying they were negligent in losing private information on more than 140 million Americans... "Countless people, I mean, I've really, truly lost count, and the stories that like Katie's, the stories I hear are heart-wrenching," Fleming said.
But are things about to get worse? Marketwatch reports: It will become harder for consumers to sue their banks or companies like Equifax... The Senate voted Tuesday night to overturn a rule the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau worked on for more than five years. The final version of the rule banned companies from putting "mandatory arbitration clauses" in their contracts, language that prohibits consumers from bringing class-action lawsuits against them. It applies to institutions that sell financial products, including bank accounts and credit cards. Consumer advocates say it's good news for companies like Wells Fargo or Equifax, which have both had class-action lawsuits filed against them, and bad news for their customers... Lisa Gilbert, the vice president of legislative affairs at Public Citizen, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., said the Senate vote shouldn't impact cases that are already ongoing. However, there will "certainly" be more forced arbitration clauses in contracts in the future, and fewer cases brought against companies, she said.
Programming

Why Do Web Developers Keep Making The Same Mistakes? (hpe.com) 335

An anonymous reader quotes HPE Insights: Software developers and testers must be sick of hearing security nuts rant, "Beware SQL injection! Monitor for cross-site scripting! Watch for hijacked session credentials!" I suspect the developers tune us out... The industry has generated newer tools, better testing suites, Agile methodologies, and other advances in writing and testing software. Despite all that, coders keep making the same dumb mistakes, peer reviews keep missing those mistakes, test tools fail to catch those mistakes, and hackers keep finding ways to exploit those mistakes. One way to see the repeat offenders is to look at the Open Web Application Security Project Top 10, a sometimes controversial ranking of the 10 primary vulnerabilities, published every three or four years by the Open Web Application Security Project... It boggles the mind that a majority of top 10 issues appear across the 2007, 2010, 2013, and draft 2017 OWASP lists...

It's sad that eight out of 10 of the issues from 2013 are still top security issues in 2017. In fact, if you consider that the draft 2017 list combined two of the 2013 items, it's actually nine out of 10. Ouch... What can you do? Train everyone better, for starters. Look at coding and test tools that can help detect or prevent security vulnerabilities, but don't consider them silver bullets. Do dynamic application security testing, including penetration testing and fuzz testing. Ensure admins do their part to protect applications. And finally, make sure you establish a culture of security-aware programming and deployment.

Firefox

After 12 Years, Mozilla Kills 'Firebug' Dev Tool (infoworld.com) 148

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: The Firebug web development tool, an open source add-on to the Firefox browser, is being discontinued after 12 years, replaced by Firefox Developer Tools. Firebug will be dropped with next month's release of Firefox Quantum (version 57). The Firebug tool lets developers inspect, edit, and debug code in the Firefox browser as well as monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript in webpages. It still has more than a million people using it, said Jan Honza Odvarko, who has been the leader of the Firebug project. Many extensions were built for Firebug, which is itself is an extension to Firefox... The goal is to make debugging native to Firefox. "Sometimes, it's better to start from scratch, which is especially true for software development," Odvarko said.
Data Storage

US Voting Server At Heart of Russian Hack Probe Mysteriously Wiped (theregister.co.uk) 431

A computer at the center of a lawsuit digging into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election has been wiped. "The server in question is based in Georgia -- a state that narrowly backed Donald Trump, giving him 16 electoral votes -- and stored the results of the state's vote-management system," reports The Register. "The deletion of its filesystem data makes analysis of whether the system was compromised impossible to ascertain." From the report: There is good reason to believe that the computer may have been tampered with: it is 15 years old, and could be harboring all sorts of exploitable software and hardware vulnerabilities. No hard copies of the votes are kept, making the electronic copy the only official record. While investigating the Kennesaw State University's Center for Election Systems, which oversees Georgia's voting system, last year, security researcher Logan Lamb found its system was misconfigured, exposing the state's entire voter registration records, multiple PDFs with instructions and passwords for election workers, and the software systems used to tally votes cast. Despite Lamb letting the election center knows of his findings, the security holes were left unpatched for seven months. He later went public after the U.S. security services announced there had been a determined effort by the Russian government to sway the presidential elections, including looking at compromising electronic voting machines.

In an effort to force the state to scrap the system, a number of Georgia voters bandied together and sued. They asked for an independent security review of the server, expecting to find flaws that would lend weight to their argument for investment in a more modern and secure system. But emails released this week following a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that technicians at the election center deleted the server's data on July 7 -- just days after the lawsuit was filed. The memos reveal multiple references to the data wipe, including a message sent just last week from an assistant state attorney general to the plaintiffs in the case. That same email also notes that backups of the server data were also deleted more than a month after the initial wipe -- just as the lawsuit moved to a federal court. It is unclear who ordered the destruction of the data, and why, but they have raised yet more suspicions of collusion between the Trump campaign team, the Republican Party, and the Russian government.

Programming

Ask Slashdot: Where Do Old Programmers Go? 481

New submitter oort99 writes: Barreling towards my late 40s, I've enjoyed 25+ years of coding for a living, working in telecoms, government, and education. In recent years, it's been typical enterprise Java stuff. Looking around, I'm pretty much always the oldest in the room. So where are the other old guys? I can't imagine they've all moved up the chain into management. There just aren't enough of those positions to absorb the masses of aging coders. Clearly there *are* older workers in software, but they are a minority. What sectors have the others gone into? Retired early? Low-wage service sector? Genuinely interested to hear your story about having left the field, willfully or otherwise.
Open Source

Oracle Engineer Talks of ZFS File System Possibly Still Being Upstreamed On Linux (phoronix.com) 131

New submitter fstack writes: Senior software architect Mark Maybee who has been working at Oracle/Sun since '98 says maybe we "could" still see ZFS be a first-class upstream Linux file-system. He spoke at the annual OpenZFS Developer Summit about how Oracle's focus has shifted to the cloud and how they have reduced investment in Solaris. He admits that Linux rules the cloud. Among the Oracle engineer's hopes is that ZFS needs to become a "first class citizen in Linux," and to do so Oracle should port their ZFS code to Oracle Linux and then upstream the file-system to the Linux kernel, which would involve relicensing the ZFS code.
Businesses

Oracle, Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook Blow Even More Cash on Lobbying (theregister.co.uk) 73

An anonymous reader shares a report: American tech giants have ramped up the amount of cash they spend on lobbying US lawmakers to get their own way, yet again. As congressmen consider regulating organizations from Facebook to Google, and mull antitrust crackdowns against Amazon, said corporations have responded by flinging more dosh at the problem. The money is spent on, ahem, holding meetings between company execs and politicians so that businesses can push their agenda and swing decisions in their favor, which may not be in the interests of the people who elected said politicians. Facebook's $2.85m for the third quarter of the year -- disclosed this week as required by law -- is beaten only by the amount it spent in the first quarter: $3.21m. In its second quarter, it blew $2.38m. Overall, Facebook's lobbying bills for 2017 looks set to smash the $9.85m it spent in 2015 and the $8.7m in 2016. The social network is being investigated by both halves of Congress for its role in the Russian propaganda campaign during the US presidential election, and this month has been on a huge PR campaign in the capital. Likewise Amazon spent its highest ever amount on professional lobbyists -- both individuals and companies that book face time with lawmakers and their staff where they press the company's viewpoints. Amazon spent $3.41m in the third quarter, up from $3.21m for the second quarter -- which was also a record spend for the company. Apple has already blown past the $4.67m in spent in 2016 -- which was then its highest-ever spending. So far in 2017, the iPhone maker has spent $5.46m bending lawmakers' ears. Google spent less in the third quarter of the year to the wallet-busting Q2 spend of $5.93m, but it still spent $4.17m -- higher than its average spend of $4.0m per quarter over the past five years. But perhaps the most notable increase in spending has come from Oracle, which spent a whopping $3.82m on lobbying in the third quarter: double what it normally spends.
Programming

Profile of William H. Alsup, a Judge Who Codes and Decides Tech's Biggest Cases (theverge.com) 49

Sarah Jeong at The Verge has an interesting profile of William H. Alsup, the judge in Oracle v. Google case, who to many's surprise was able to comment on the technical issues that Oracle and Google were fighting about. Alsup admits that he learned the Java programming language only so that he could better understand the substance of the case. Here's an excerpt from the interview: On May 18th, 2012, attorneys for Oracle and Google were battling over nine lines of code in a hearing before Judge William H. Alsup of the northern district of California. The first jury trial in Oracle v. Google, the fight over whether Google had hijacked code from Oracle for its Android system, was wrapping up. The argument centered on a function called rangeCheck. Of all the lines of code that Oracle had tested -- 15 million in total -- these were the only ones that were "literally" copied. Every keystroke, a perfect duplicate. It was in Oracle's interest to play up the significance of rangeCheck as much as possible, and David Boies, Oracle's lawyer, began to argue that Google had copied rangeCheck so that it could take Android to market more quickly. Judge Alsup was not buying it. "I couldn't have told you the first thing about Java before this trial," said the judge. "But, I have done and still do a lot of programming myself in other languages. I have written blocks of code like rangeCheck a hundred times or more. I could do it. You could do it. It is so simple." It was an offhand comment that would snowball out of control, much to Alsup's chagrin. It was first repeated among lawyers and legal wonks, then by tech publications. With every repetition, Alsup's skill grew, until eventually he became "the judge who learned Java" -- Alsup the programmer, the black-robed nerd hero, the 10x judge, the "master of the court and of Java."
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: How Can You Apply For A Job When Your Code Samples Suck? 408

An anonymous Slashdot reader ran into a problem when looking for a new employer: Most ask for links to "recent work" but the reason I'm leaving my current job is because this company doesn't produce good code. After years of trying to force them to change, they have refused to change any of their poor practices, because the CTO is a narcissist and doesn't recognize that so much is wrong. I have written good code for this company. The problem is it is mostly back-end code where I was afforded some freedom, but the front-end is still a complete mess that doesn't reflect any coherent coding practice whatsoever...

I am giving up on fixing this company but finding it hard to exemplify my work when it is hidden behind some of the worst front-end code I have ever seen. Most job applications ask for links to live code, not for code samples (which I would more easily be able to supply). Some of the websites look okay on the surface, but are one right click -> inspect element away from giving away the mess; most of the projects require a username and password to login as well but account registration is not open. So how do I reference my recent work when all of my recent work is embarrassing on the front-end?

The original submission's title asked what to use for work samples "when the CTO has butchered all my work." Any suggestions? Leave your best thoughts in the comments. How can you apply for a job when your code samples suck?
AI

Does the Rise of AI Precede the End of Code? (itproportal.com) 205

An anonymous reader shares an article: It's difficult to know what's in store for the future of AI but let's tackle the most looming question first: are engineering jobs threatened? As anticlimactic as it may be, the answer is entirely dependent on what timeframe you are talking about. In the next decade? No, entirely unlikely. Eventually? Most definitely. The kicker is that engineers never truly know how the computer is able to accomplish these tasks. In many ways, the neural operations of the AI system are a black box. Programmers, therefore, become the AI coaches. They coach cars to self-drive, coach computers to recognise faces in photos, coach your smartphone to detect handwriting on a check in order to deposit electronically, and so on. In fact, the possibilities of AI and machine learning are limitless. The capabilities of AI through machine learning are wondrous, magnificent... and not going away. Attempts to apply artificial intelligence to programming tasks have resulted in further developments in knowledge and automated reasoning. Therefore, programmers must redefine their roles. Essentially, software development jobs will not become obsolete anytime soon but instead require more collaboration between humans and computers. For one, there will be an increased need for engineers to create, test and research AI systems. AI and machine learning will not be advanced enough to automate and dominate everything for a long time, so engineers will remain the technological handmaidens.
Education

Learn To Code, It's More Important Than English as a Second Language, Says Apple CEO (cnbc.com) 296

Apple CEO Tim Cook says it is more important to learn how to code than it is to learn English as a second language. From a report: The tech executive made the remarks to French outlet Konbini while in the country for a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has called for tech companies to pay higher taxes in Europe. "If I were a French student and I were 10 years old, I think it would be more important for me to learn coding than English. I'm not telling people not to learn English in some form -- but I think you understand what I am saying is that this is a language that you can [use to] express yourself to 7 billion people in the world," Cook tells Konbini. "I think that coding should be required in every public school in the world. [...] It's the language that everyone needs, and not just for the computer scientists. It's for all of us."
Businesses

The Case Against Biometric IDs (nakedcapitalism.com) 146

"The White House and Equifax Agree: Social Security Numbers Should Go," reads a headline at Bloomberg. Securities lawyer Jerri-Lynn Scofield tears down one proposed alternative: a universal biometric identity system (possibly using fingerprints and an iris scan) with further numeric verification. Presto Vivace shared the article: Using a biometric system when the basic problem of securing and safeguarding data have yet to be solved will only worsen, not address, the hacking problem. What we're being asked to do is to turn over our biometric information, and then trust those to whom we do so to safeguard that data. Given the current status of database security, corporate and governmental accountability, etc.: How do you think that is going to play out...?

[M]aybe we should rethink the whole impulse to centralize such data collection, for starters. And, after such a thought experiment, then further focus on obvious measures to safeguard such information -- such as installing regular software patches that could have prevented the Equifax hack -- should be the priority. And, how about bringing back a concept in rather short supply in C-suites -- that of accountability? Perhaps measures to increase that might be a better idea than gee whiz misdirected techno-wizardry... The Equifax hack has revealed the sad and sorry state of cybersecurity. But inviting the biometric ID fairy to drop by and replace the existing Social Security number is not the solution.

The article calls biometric identification systems "another source of data to be mined by corporations, and surveilled by those who want to do so. And it would ultimately not foil identity theft." It suggests currently biometric ids are a distraction from the push to change the credit bureau business model -- for example, requiring consumers to opt-in to the collection of their personal data.
Perl

New Video Peeks 'Inside the Head' of Perl Creator Larry Wall (infoq.com) 106

"I was trained more as a linguist than a computer scientist," says Perl creator Larry Wall, "and some people would say it shows." An anonymous reader describes Wall's new video interview up on InfoQ: "With a natural language, you learn it as you go," Wall says. "You're not expected to know the whole language at once. It's okay to have dialects... Natural languages evolve over time, and they don't have arbitrary limits. They naturally cover multiple paradigms. There are external influences on style... It has fractal dimensionality to it. Easy things should be easy, hard things should be possible. And, you know, if you get really good at it, you can even speak CompSci."

Wall also touched on the long delay for the release of Perl 6. "In the year 2000, we said 'Maybe it's time to break backward compatibility, just once. Maybe we can afford to do that, get off the worse-is-worse cycle, crank the thing once for a worse-is-better cycle." The development team received a whopping 361 suggestions -- and was also influenced by Paul Graham's essay on the 100-year language. "We put a lot of these ideas together and thought really hard, and came up with a whole bunch of principles in the last 15 years." Among the pithy principles: "Give the user enough rope to shoot themselves in the foot, but hide the rope in the corner," and "Encapsulate cleverness, then reuse the heck out of it.."

But Wall emphasized the flexibility and multi-paradigm nature that they finally implemented in Perl 6. "The thing we really came up with was... There really is no one true language. Not even Perl 6, because Perl 6 itself is a braid of sublanguages -- slangs for short -- and they interact with each other, and you can modify each part of the braid..."

Wall even demoed a sigil-less style, and argued that Perl 6 was everything from "expressive" and "optimizable" to "gradually-typed" and "concurrency aware," while supporting multiple virtual machines. He also notes that Perl 6 borrows powerful features from other languages, including Haskell (lazy evaluation) Smalltalk (traits), Go (promises and channels), and C# (functional reactive programming).

And towards the end of the interview Wall remembers how the original release of Perl was considered by some as a violation of the Unix philosophy of doing one thing and doing it well. "I was already on my rebellious slide into changing the world at that point."

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