Education

Ask Slashdot: What Should I Study? 214

A fellow Slashdot reader is seeking advice on a new field of study: After many years at the same company, I'm now thinking of a change. At my current place of work, I have worked on many different projects, from server side development, to UI development, and most recently, a lot of data science work. If I were to rate myself, I consider myself to be a good developer, thorough, conscientious and always willing to learn new things. Even my recent foray into data science (though not entirely new, since my graduate studies specialized in machine learning) has had reasonable success, and ideally, I'd really like to continue working in this space.

But, I'm starting to feel in a rut and I'm looking for a change. And looking outside my company, I'm not sure how to begin. Should I hit the books again? Should I focus on any specific technologies? I haven't particularly kept up with new technology -- after working for so long, I tend to think of that as something I can learn, when I need to. Any advice on how I should go about preparing for interviews? I'm quite willing to put in a few months of work into prep, so all suggestions are welcome!
Wireless Networking

Researchers Want To Turn Your Entire House Into a Co-Processor Using the Local Wi-Fi Signal (arstechnica.com) 102

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Ars Technica: Researchers are proposing an idea to make your computer bigger. They are suggesting an extreme and awesome form of co-processing. They want to turn your entire house into a co-processor using the local Wi-Fi signal. Why, you may be asking, do we even want to do this in the first place? The real answer is to see if we can. But the answer given to funding agencies is thermal management. In a modern processor, if all the transistors were working all the time, it would be impossible to keep the chip cool. Instead, portions of the chip are put to sleep, even if that might mean slowing up a computation. But if, like we do with video cards, we farm out a large portion of certain calculations to a separate device, we might be able to make better use of the available silicon.

So, how do you compute with Wi-Fi in your bedroom? The basic premise is that waves already perform computations as they mix with each other, it's just that those computations are random unless we make some effort to control them. When two waves overlap, we measure the combination of the two: the amplitude of one wave is added to the amplitude of the other. Depending on the history of the two waves, one may have a negative amplitude, while the other may have a positive amplitude, allowing for simple computation. The idea here is to control the path that each wave takes so that, when they're added together, they perform the exact computation that we want them to. The classic example is the Fourier transform. A Fourier transform takes an object and breaks it down into a set of waves. If these waves are added together, the object is rebuilt. You can see an example of this in the animation here.

Facebook

As Controversy Swirls, Facebook Dials Down the Swagger On Its Developer Conference (theverge.com) 26

In the recent years, Facebook has used its developer conference -- F8 -- as an opportunity to showcase the most bleeding technologies: Type with your brain. 'Hear' with your skin. And in the event of an emergency, a helicopter to the rescue with some free internet access. But that was a different time. In the recent months, the company has faced backlash for Cambridge Analytica scandal, and reportedly delayed plans to launch a Amazon Echo-like speaker. But perhaps the biggest surprise for developers came this month when Facebook deprecated APIs to limit the amount of data developers had access to -- forcing many to seriously rethink their business model as their existence revolved around access to users' data. So how does the company plan to cherish its developer ecosystem at the two-day long F8 conference starting tomorrow? The Verge reports: The bruising series of events leading up to F8 is expected to produce a more muted affair than in previous years. (Much of the event had to be reworked in recent weeks after the company began shutting down APIs, people familiar with the matter told The Verge.) On one hand, the event, which takes places Tuesday and Wednesday in San Jose, is still very much on. Facebook says it's the biggest F8 ever, with more than 50 sessions available to a record crowd of 5,000 attendees. But the company acknowledges that the event comes at a time when Facebook is radically rethinking its relationship with those developers.

[...] It remains to be see whether the company will get a warm reception from partners who have been blindsided by the changes. Justin Krause runs a startup named Pod that builds a smart calendar app for iOS. Until this month, the app integrated with Facebook to put events from the social app onto your calendar. Then, in the wake of this month's Congressional hearings, Facebook revoked Pod's access to the calendar API without warning. "They didn't announce that they were revoking this data or send errors -- they just started sending empty lists, silently," Krause said. [...] In any case, it promises to be Facebook's strangest developer conference ever -- it's the only one to be held in the midst of a massive API shutdown.

Programming

Stack Overflow Admits It Hasn't Been Welcoming To 'Newer Coders, Women, People of Color, and Others'; Outlines How It Plans To Change That (stackoverflow.blog) 618

Paul Fernhout writes: Jay Hanlon, executive vice president of culture and experience at Stack Overflow, penned a column on the company's blog last week in which he admitted the "painful truth" that "too many people experience Stack Overflow as a hostile or elitist place, especially newer coders, women, people of color, and others in marginalized groups." Hanlon, added, "our employees and community have cared about this for a long time, but we've struggled to talk about it publicly or to sufficiently prioritize it in recent years. And results matter more than intentions." The post adds: "Now, that's not because most Stack Overflow contributors are hostile jerks. The majority of them are generous and kind. Sure, a few are... just generous, I guess? But our active users regularly express their frustration that we haven't done more to make outsiders feel more welcome. The real problem isn't the community -- it's us:

We trained users to tell other users what they're doing wrong, but we didn't provide new folks with the necessary guidance to do it right. We failed to give our regular users decent tools to review content and easily find what they're looking for. We sent mixed messages over the years about whether we're a site for "experts" or for anyone who codes."

Books

New Book Describes 'Bluffing' Programmers in Silicon Valley (theguardian.com) 292

Long-time Slashdot reader Martin S. pointed us to this an excerpt from the new book Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley by Portland-based investigator reporter Corey Pein.

The author shares what he realized at a job recruitment fair seeking Java Legends, Python Badasses, Hadoop Heroes, "and other gratingly childish classifications describing various programming specialities." I wasn't the only one bluffing my way through the tech scene. Everyone was doing it, even the much-sought-after engineering talent. I was struck by how many developers were, like myself, not really programmers, but rather this, that and the other. A great number of tech ninjas were not exactly black belts when it came to the actual onerous work of computer programming. So many of the complex, discrete tasks involved in the creation of a website or an app had been automated that it was no longer necessary to possess knowledge of software mechanics. The coder's work was rarely a craft. The apps ran on an assembly line, built with "open-source", off-the-shelf components. The most important computer commands for the ninja to master were copy and paste...

[M]any programmers who had "made it" in Silicon Valley were scrambling to promote themselves from coder to "founder". There wasn't necessarily more money to be had running a startup, and the increase in status was marginal unless one's startup attracted major investment and the right kind of press coverage. It's because the programmers knew that their own ladder to prosperity was on fire and disintegrating fast. They knew that well-paid programming jobs would also soon turn to smoke and ash, as the proliferation of learn-to-code courses around the world lowered the market value of their skills, and as advances in artificial intelligence allowed for computers to take over more of the mundane work of producing software. The programmers also knew that the fastest way to win that promotion to founder was to find some new domain that hadn't yet been automated. Every tech industry campaign designed to spur investment in the Next Big Thing -- at that time, it was the "sharing economy" -- concealed a larger programme for the transformation of society, always in a direction that favoured the investor and executive classes.

"I wasn't just changing careers and jumping on the 'learn to code' bandwagon," he writes at one point. "I was being steadily indoctrinated in a specious ideology."
Java

Oracle Sets End Date for Business Java 8 Updates (infoworld.com) 85

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Further clarifying its ongoing support plans for Java SE 8, Oracle will require businesses to have a commercial license to get updates after January 2019. In an undated bulletin about the revision, Oracle said public updates for Java SE 8 released after January 2019 will not be available for business, commercial, or production use without a commercial license. However, public updates for Java SE 8 will be available for individual, personal use through at least the end of 2020.

Oracle advises enterprises to review the Oracle Java SE Support Roadmap to assess support requirements to migrate to a later release or obtain a commercial license... Oracle advises developers to review roadmaps for Java SE 8 and beyond and take appropriate action based on their application and its distribution model.

Programming

Go Programming Language Gets A New Logo and Branding (golang.org) 120

After an "extensive design process," the Go programming language has a "new look and logo," according to Google's lead for Go developer relations, product, and strategy. (Promising that this won't affect Go's gopher mascot.) Our logo follows the brand's core philosophy of simplicity over complexity... The circular shape of the letters hints at the eyes of the Go gopher, creating a familiar shape and allowing the mark and the mascot to pair well together... In addition to our brand guide we have also developed a presentation theme. This presentation theme will enable us to have a consistent representation of Go in person at meetups and conferences as well as online.

Go community members are welcome to use this theme for their own presentations. The presentations are available as Google Slides presentations. We chose Google Slides as it is easy to share and maintain updates. People are welcome to port them to keynote, PowerPoint, etc. Like this blog and all our gopher images, the slide themes are Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licensed... The brand guide, logo and themes are copyrighted by the Go authors. The brand guide contains the guidelines for acceptable logo use.

It's been more than eight years since the language's launch, and "we wanted the Go brand to reflect where we have been and convey where we are going."
Programming

Drupal Warns of New Remote-Code Bug, the Second in Four Weeks (arstechnica.com) 50

For the second time in a month, websites that use the Drupal content management system are confronted with a stark choice: install a critical update or risk having your servers infected with ransomware or other nasties. From a report: Maintainers of the open-source CMS built on the PHP programming language released an update patching critical remote-code vulnerability on Wednesday. The bug, formally indexed as CVE-2018-7602, exists within multiple subsystems of Drupal 7.x and 8.x. Drupal maintainers didn't provide details on how the vulnerability can be exploited other than to say attacks work remotely. The maintainers rated the vulnerability "critical" and urged websites to patch it as soon as possible.
Open Source

Apple Open Sources FoundationDB (macrumors.com) 50

Apple's FoundationDB company announced on Thursday that the FoundationDB core has been open sourced with the goal of building an open community with all major development done in the open. The database company was purchased by Apple back in 2015. As described in the announcement, FoundationDB is a distributed datastore that's been designed from the ground up to be deployed on clusters of commodity hardware. Mac Rumors reports: By open sourcing the project to drive development, FoundationDB is aiming to become "the foundation of the next generation of distributed databases: "The vision of FoundationDB is to start with a simple, powerful core and extend it through the addition of "layers". The key-value store, which is open sourced today, is the core, focused on incorporating only features that aren't possible to write in layers. Layers extend that core by adding features to model specific types of data and handle their access patterns. The fundamental architecture of FoundationDB, including its use of layers, promotes the best practices of scalable and manageable systems. By running multiple layers on a single cluster (for example a document store layer and a graph layer), you can match your specific applications to the best data model. Running less infrastructure reduces your organization's operational and technical overhead." The source for FoundationDB is available on Github, and those who wish to join the project are encouraged to visit the FoundationDB community forums, submit bugs, and make contributions to the core software and documentation.
Programming

GitHub Launches Bot-Powered Learning Lab for New Developers (venturebeat.com) 9

An anonymous reader quotes VentureBeat: GitHub is launching a new bot-powered learning lab to help budding developers get up to speed on all things GitHub... The GitHub Learning Lab, which officially launched Thursday, builds on GitHub's prior history of training people, except this time GitHub is using bots to expedite the learning process. There is no videoconferencing or webcasts here. "After training thousands of people to use Git and GitHub, the GitHub Training Team has established a tried-and-true method for helping new developers retain more information and ramp up quickly as they begin their software journeys," the company said in a blog post. "And now, we're making those experiences accessible to developers everywhere with GitHub Learning Lab."

The bot helps users work through issues in a repository environment, passing comment on any work that you do while checking over pull requests -- notifications of changes you've made -- in a similar fashion to how a human project lead might do. If the bot isn't able to help with a specific question you have, there are humans on hand too via the GitHub Learning Lab forum, which includes outside experts and members of GitHub's in-house training team.

Programming

New Alexa Blueprints Let Users Make Custom Skills Without Knowing Any Code (arstechnica.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Amazon just released a new way for Alexa users to customize their experience with the virtual assistant. New Alexa Skill Blueprints allow you to create your own personalized Alexa skills, even if you don't know how to code. These "blueprints" act as templates for making questions, responses, trivia games, narrative stories, and other skills with customizable answers unique to each user. Amazon already has a number of resources for developers to make the new skills they want, but until now, users have had to work within the confines of pre-made Alexa skills. Currently, more than 20 templates are available on the new Alexa Skill Blueprints website, all ready for Alexa users to personalize with their own content. Any blueprint-made skills you make will show up on the "Skills You've Made" section of the blueprints website. While these skills will exist for your Amazon account until you delete them, they aren't posted to the general Alexa Skills score, so strangers will not have access to your couple's trivia game that's personalized for you, your spouse, and your best coupled friends.
Facebook

'Login With Facebook' Data Hijacked By JavaScript Trackers (techcrunch.com) 91

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Facebook confirms to TechCrunch that it's investigating a security research report that shows Facebook user data can be grabbed by third-party JavaScript trackers embedded on websites using Login With Facebook. The exploit lets these trackers gather a user's data including name, email address, age range, gender, locale, and profile photo depending on what users originally provided to the website. It's unclear what these trackers do with the data, but many of their parent companies including Tealium, AudienceStream, Lytics, and ProPS sell publisher monetization services based on collected user data. The abusive scripts were found on 434 of the top 1 million websites including freelancer site Fiverr.com, camera seller B&H Photo And Video, and cloud database provider MongoDB. That's according to Steven Englehardt and his colleagues at Freedom To Tinker, which is hosted by Princeton's Center For Information Technology Policy.
Businesses

Survey Finds 'Agile' Competency Is Rare In Organizations (sdtimes.com) 270

An anonymous reader writes: The 12th annual "State of Agile" report has just been released by CollabNet VersionOne, which calls it "the largest and longest-running Agile survey in the world." After surveying more than 1,400 software professionals in various roles and industries over the last four months of 2017, "Only 12% percent responded that their organizations have a high level of competency with agile practices across the organization, and only 4% report that agile practices are enabling greater adaptability to market conditions... The three most significant challenges to agile adoption and scaling are reported as organizational culture at odds with agile values (53%), general organizational resistance to change (46%), and Inadequate management support and sponsorship (42%)...

"The encouraging news is that 59% recognize that they are still maturing, indicating that they do not intend to plateau where they are." And agile adoption does appear to be growing. "25% of the respondents say that all or almost all of their teams are agile, whereas only 8% reported that in 2016."

The researchers also note "the recognized necessity of accelerating the speed of delivery of high-quality software, and the emphasis on customer satisfaction," with 71% of the survey respondents reporting that a DevOps initiative is underway or planned for the next 12 months.
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: How Can I Make My Own Vaporware Real? 128

Long-time Slashdot reader renuk007 is a retired Unix/Linux systems programmer with the ultimate question: After retiring I started a second career as a teacher -- and I'm loving it. My problem: I designed a (I feel) wonderful new language compiler, but implementing it will take me another ten years if I have to do it part-time.

Linus Torvalds was able to leverage the enthusiasm of the Internet to make Linux exist, but 1990 was a more innocent time. How does it work today? Any thoughts?

Or, to put it another way, how can you build a community to bring your ideas to light? Leave your best thoughts and suggestions in the comments. How can you make your own vaporware real?
Android

Google Appears To Be Testing iPhone X-Style Gesture Navigation In Android P (androidpolice.com) 18

A new screenshot that Google recently shared (and since deleted) is stirring up theories about a possible iPhone X-like gesture navigation interface for Android P. Android Police reports: What we see is a decidedly odd navigation layout, with this short little bar in place of the expected home button, a back arrow that's now hollowed-out, and an app-switcher that seems utterly absent. So how would Google's presumably screen-only implementation work? Well, not only does that home bar look like a narrower version of the bar you'll find on the iPhone X, but we hear that the Android version may function in a quite similar way, with users swiping up to access their home screens. While we still haven't heard any details about how app switching might work with this new regime, the back button will reportedly only appear when needed, disappearing on the home screen, for example. As to other controls we can only speculate, like how you would gesture to conjure up the Google Assistant.
Security

Uber's 2016 Breach Affected More Than 20 Million US Users (bloomberg.com) 6

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: A data breach in 2016 exposed the names, phone numbers and email addresses of more than 20 million people who use Uber's service in the U.S., authorities said on Thursday, as they chastised the ride-hailing company for not revealing the lapse earlier. The Federal Trade Commission said Uber failed to disclose the leak last year as the agency investigated and sanctioned the company for a similar data breach that happened in 2014. "After misleading consumers about its privacy and security practices, Uber compounded its misconduct," said Maureen Ohlhausen, the acting FTC chairman. She announced an expansion of last year's settlement with the company and said the new agreement was "designed to ensure that Uber does not engage in similar misconduct in the future."

In the 2016 breach, intruders in a data-storage service run by Amazon.com Inc. obtained unencrypted consumer personal information relating to U.S. riders and drivers, including 25.6 million names and email addresses, 22.1 million names and mobile phone numbers, and 607,000 names and driver's license numbers, the FTC said in a complaint. Under the revised settlement, Uber could be subject to civil penalties if it fails to notify the FTC of future incidents, and it must submit audits of its data security, the agency said.

Software

Apple Starts Alerting Users That It Will End 32-Bit App Support On the Mac (techcrunch.com) 267

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Tomorrow at midnight PT, Apple will begin issuing an alert box when you open a 32-bit app in MacOS 10.13.4. It's a one-time (per app) alert, designed to help MacOS make the full transition to 64-bit. At some unspecified time in the future, the operating system will end its support for 32-bit technology meaning those apps that haven't been updated just won't work. That time, mind you, is not tomorrow, but the company's hoping that this messaging will help light a fire under users and developers to upgrade before that day comes. Says the company on its help page, "To ensure that the apps you purchase are as advanced as the Mac you run them on, all future Mac software will eventually be required to be 64-bit." As the company notes, the transition's been a long time coming. The company started making it 10 or so years ago with the Power Mac G5 desktop, so it hasn't exactly been an overnight ask for developers. Of course, if you've got older, non-supported software in your arsenal, the eventual end-of-lifing could put a severe damper on your workflow. For those users, there will no doubt be some shades of the transition from OS 9 to OS X in all of this.
Ruby

Can Ruby Survive Another 25 Years? (techradar.com) 195

TechRadar marked the 25th anniversary of the Ruby programming language by writing "there are still questions over whether it can survive another 25 years." The popularity of the Ruby language has been bolstered for many years by the success of the Ruby on Rails (RoR) web application framework which dominated the web scene, particularly among startups who wanted something that deal with much of the heavy lifting... But RoR, although popular, isn't the superstar that it was and It has faced fierce competition as issues such as scaling have become a greater concern for web companies. The JavaScript framework Node.js, for instance, has become popular as it requires less memory to deal with numerous connections because of its callback functions...

To improve performance further Ruby is introducing JIT (Just-In-Time) technology, which is already used by JVM and other languages. "We've created a prototype of this JIT compiler so that this year, probably on Christmas Day, Ruby 2.6 will be released," Matz confirmed. You can try the initial implementation of the MJIT compiler in the 2.6 preview1... Probably the clearest overview explanation of how MJIT works is supplied by Shannon Skipper: "With MJIT, certain Ruby YARV instructions are converted to C code and put into a .c file, which is compiled by GCC or Clang into a .so dynamic library file. The RubyVM can then use that cached, precompiled native code from the dynamic library the next time the RubyVM sees that same YARV instruction.

Ruby creator Yukihiro Matsumoto says Ruby 3.0 "has a goal of being three times faster than Ruby 2.0," and TechRadar reports that it's obvious that Matsumoto "will do anything he can to enable Ruby to survive and thrive..."

And in addition, "he's thoroughly enjoying himself doing what he does... and his outlook is quite simple: Programming is fun, he's had fun for the last 25 years making Ruby, and at the age of 52 now, he hopes that he'll get to spend the next 25 years having as much fun working on the language he dreamt up and wrote down in -- a now lost -- notebook, at the age of 17."

"We want Ruby to be the language that is around for a long time and people still use," Matsumoto tells another interviewer, "not the one people used to use."
Graphics

Programmer Unveils OpenGL Bindings for Bash (opensource.com) 47

Slashdot reader silverdirk writes: Compiled languages have long provided access to the OpenGL API, and even most scripting languages have had OpenGL bindings for a decade or more. But, one significant language missing from the list is our old friend/nemesis Bash. But worry no longer! Now you can create your dazzling 3D visuals right from the comfort of your command line!
"You'll need a system with both Bash and OpenGL support to experience it firsthand," explains software engineer Michael Conrad, who created the first version 13 years ago as "the sixth in a series of 'Abuse of Technology' projects," after "having my technical sensibilities offended that someone had written a real-time video game in Perl.

"Back then, my primary language was C++, and I was studying OpenGL for video game purposes. I declared to my friends that the only thing worse would be if it had been 3D and written in Bash. Having said the idea out loud, it kept prodding me, and I eventually decided to give it a try to one-up the 'awfulness'..."
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Should Coding Exams Be Given on Paper? 274

Slashdot reader Qbertino is pursuing a comp sci degree -- and got a surprise during the last exam: being asked to write code on paper. Not that I'd expect an IDE -- it's an exam after all -- but being able to use a screen and a keyboard with a very simple editor should be standard at universities these days... I find this patently absurd in 2018...

What do you think and what are your recent experiences with exams at universities? Is this still standard? What's the point besides annoying students? Did I miss something?

A similar question was asked on Slashdot 16 years ago -- but apparently nothing has changed since 2002.

Leave your best answers in the comments. Should coding exams be given on paper?

Slashdot Top Deals