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Education

Code.org Disses Wolfram Language, Touts Apple's Swift Playgrounds (edsurge.com) 241

America is changing the way it teaches computer science. "There are now 31 states that allow CS to count towards high school graduation," according to an announcement this week by the White House, while a new Advance Placement course "will be offered in more than 2,000 U.S. classrooms this fall...the largest course launch in the history of the AP exam." But what's the best way to teach coding? theodp reports: Tech-backed Code.org, one of the leaders of the new CSforAll Consortium that was announced at the White House on Wednesday, took to its blog Thursday to say "Thanks, Tim [Cook], for supporting the effort to give every student the opportunity to learn computer science," giving a shout out to Apple for providing "resources for teachers who want to put Swift Playgrounds in their classrooms. (A day earlier, the White House said Apple developed Swift Playgrounds "in support of the President's call to action" for CS for All).

Curiously, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi argued Friday that "the Wolfram Language has serious shortcomings for broad educational use" in an EdSurge op-ed that was called a "response to a recent blog post by Stephen Wolfram" on Wolfram's ambitious plan to teach computational thinking in schools. Partovi's complaints? "It requires login for all but the simplest use cases, but doesn't provide any privacy safeguards for young children (required in the U.S. through legislation such as COPPA). Also, a serious user would need to pay for usage, making implementation inaccessible in most schools. Lastly, it's a bit difficult to use by students who struggle with English reading or writing, such as English language learners or early elementary school students."

The submission ultimately asks how should computer science be taught to teenagers. "Would you be inclined to embrace Wolfram's approach, Apple's Swift Playgrounds, Microsoft TEALS' Java-centric AP CS curriculum, or something else (e.g., R, Tableau, Excel+VBA)?"
Software

Half Of US Smartphone Users Download Zero Apps Per Month (recode.net) 153

Apple's iOS users may have downloaded more than 140 billion apps since the App Store was launched in 2008, but the reality is that a huge number of people just don't try out so many apps anymore. We noted a few weeks ago how people were showing less interest towards apps, and now we have more confirmation on that front. According to comScore, some 49 percent of U.S. smartphone users download zero apps in a typical month. Recode reports: Of the 51 percent of smartphone owners who do download apps during the course of a month, "the average number downloaded per person is 3.5," comScore's report says. "However, the total number of app downloads is highly concentrated at the top, with 13 percent of smartphone owners accounting for more than half of all download activity in a given month."
Microsoft

Microsoft Has More Open Source Contributors On GitHub Than Facebook and Google (thenextweb.com) 118

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Next Web: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has really embraced open source over the past couple of years. GitHub, a site that is home to a number of the web's biggest collaborative code projects, has counted more than 5.8 million active users on its platform over the past 12 months, and says that Microsoft has the most open source contributors. Microsoft has 16,419 contributors, beating out Facebook's 15,682 contributors, Docker's 14,059 contributors, and Google's 12,140 contributors. The Next Web reports: "Of course, this didn't happen overnight. In October 2014, it open sourced its .NET framework, which is the company's programming infrastructure for building and running apps and services -- a major move towards introducing more developers to its server-side stack. Since then, it's open sourced its Chakra JavaScript engine, Visual Studio's MSBuild compiling engine, the Computational Networks Toolkit for deep learning applications, its Xamarin tool for building cross-platform apps and most recently, PowerShell. It's also worth noting that the company's Visual Studio Code text editor made GitHub's list of repositories with the most contributors. You can check out these lists, as well as other data from GitHub's platform on this page." GitHub CEO Chris Wanstrath said in an interview with Fortune, "The big .Net project has more people outside of Microsoft contributing to it than people who work at Microsoft."
Windows

Desktop Apps Make Their Way Into the Windows Store (arstechnica.com) 74

With Windows 8, Microsoft introduced Windows Store, which consisted of "Metro / Modern UI" apps which worked best on touch capable devices. Since the release of Windows 8, many users complained that they wanted traditional apps -- the applications they had grown accustomed to -- to be included in Windows Store. This would have come in handy to especially Windows RT users, who couldn't easily get traditional applications installed on their devices. Well, guess, what, that's changing now. Though only for Windows 10 users who have gotten the Anniversary Update -- and guess what, many haven't and might not for another month and a half. At any rate, ArsTechnica elaborates: Until now, applications built for and sold through the Windows Store in Windows 10 have been built for the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), the common set of APIs that spans Windows 10 across all the many devices it supports. This has left one major category of application, the traditional desktop application built using the Win32 API, behind. Announced at Build 2015, codename Project Centennial -- now officially titled the Desktop App Converter -- is Microsoft's solution to this problem. It allows developers to repackage existing Win32 applications with few or no changes and sell them through the store. Applications packaged this way aren't subject to all the sandbox restrictions that UWP applications are, ensuring that most will work unmodified. But they are also given the same kind of clean installation, upgrading, and uninstallation that we've all come to expect from Store-delivered software. Centennial is designed to provide not just a way of bringing Win32 apps into the store; it also provides a transition path so that developers can add UWP-based functionality to their old applications on a piecemeal basis. Evernote, one of the launch applications, uses UWP APIs to include support for Live Tiles and Windows' notification system. In this way, developers can create applications that work better on Windows 10 but without having to rewrite them entirely for Windows 10.
Democrats

Guccifer 2.0 Releases More DNC Documents (politico.com) 333

For the past several months, the hacker who calls himself "Guccifer 2.0" has been releasing documents about the Democratic National Committee. Today, he has released a new hoard of documents. Politico reports: The hacker persona Guccifer 2.0 has released a new trove of documents that allegedly reveal more information about the Democratic National Committee's finances and personal information on Democratic donors, as well as details about the DNC's network infrastructure. The cache also includes purported memos on tech initiatives from Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine's time as governor of Virginia, and some years-old missives on redistricting efforts and DNC donor outreach strategy. Most notable among Tuesday's documents may be the detailed spreadsheets allegedly about DNC fundraising efforts, including lists of DNC donors with names, addresses, emails, phone numbers and other sensitive details. Tuesday's documents regarding the DNC's information technology setup include several reports from 2010 purporting to show that the committee's network passed multiple security scans. In total, the latest dump contains more than 600 megabytes of documents. It is the first Guccifer 2.0 release to not come from the hacker's WordPress account. Instead, it was given out via a link to the small group of security experts attending [a London cybersecurity conference].
Government

World Anti-Doping Agency Says It Was Hacked By Russia (theverge.com) 97

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is accusing Russian state-sponsored hackers of hacking its database of athletes involved in this year's Olympic Games in Rio. Whether it's in response to the WADA banning 119 Russian athletes from participating in the games due to a doping scandal, it has yet to be determined. The Verge reports: The agency claims the state-sponsored group Fancy Bear is behind the attack, although it doesn't clarify how that attribution was made. The accessed data included medical information, like Therapeutic Use Exemptions issued by International Sports Federations and National Anti-Doping Organizations. The group has reportedly released some of this data and threatened to release more. The attackers reportedly relied on spear phishing emails to gain access to the database and eventually used credentials specifically made for the Rio Olympic games. Fancy Bear was the same group responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee earlier this year.
Programming

Vandalism Detection Contest Sponsored For Wikidata (wsdm-cup-2017.org) 38

Remember when Bing Maps lost a city because they used bad Wikipedia data? An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: Since knowledge bases like Wikidata are poised to be integrated into all kinds of information systems, wrong facts are not just displayed on Wikidata's pages but may propagate directly to all systems using the knowledge base. Hence, detecting and reverting vandalism and other kinds of damaging edits is an even more important task than on Wikipedia. Recently, German scientists published the first machine learning-based approach on vandalism detection in Wikidata, and now Adobe sponsors a competition on vandalism detection, the WSDM Cup Challenge, awarding $2500 for the best-performing solutions that will also be published open source.
"Given a Wikidata revision, compute a vandalism score denoting the likelihood of this revision being vandalism (or similarly damaging)," read the official rules, pushing for a near real-time solution to be submitted before December 22. And the winners will also be invited to the headquarters of Wikimedia Germany to discuss implenting their solutions.
Education

Stephen Wolfram Reveals Ambitious Plan to Teach Computational Thinking (stephenwolfram.com) 76

Can we teach future generations how to solve their problems with computers? Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes: Doctors, lawyers, teachers, farmers -- whatever the profession, it'll soon be full of computational thinking. Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha creator Stephen Wolfram argues on Backchannel that it's essential we start teaching kids to talk to computers today to ensure their success in the future -- and he's got a comprehensive lesson plan.
Arguing that Wikipedia popularized "a more direct style of presenting information," Wolfram writes that computer-assisted education continues the trend, "taking things which could only be talked around, and turning them into things that can be shown through computation directly and explicitly." Wolfram's 11,000-word essay adds that "with all the knowledge and automation that we've built into the Wolfram Language we're finally now to the point where we have the technology to be able to directly teach broad computational thinking, even to kids.." (And without having to start off with loops and conditionals...)
Microsoft

Microsoft Hopes To Hire More Coders With Autism (fastcompany.com) 226

Autistic people are methodical and detail-oriented, and a new Microsoft program is trying to hire more of them, according to Fast Company. Slashdot reader tedlistens writes: Vauhini Vara takes a look at the at the (difficult) efforts of Microsoft to recruit more autistic engineers and make a more neurodiverse workplace, through the lens of one of those coders. "The program, which began in May 2015, does away with the typical interview approach, instead inviting candidates to hang out on campus for two weeks and work on projects while being observed and casually meeting managers who might be interested in hiring them. Only at the end of this stage do more formal interviews take place.

"The goal is to create a situation that is better suited to autistic people's styles of communicating and thinking. Microsoft isn't the first to attempt something like this: The German software firm SAP, among a handful of others, have similar programs -- but Microsoft is the highest-profile company to have gone public with its efforts, and autistic adults are hoping it will spark a broader movement."

One autistic coder says they make better employees because "You don't have to tell someone not to go home early. They'll just stay." But there's also a push to bring different analytical and creative approaches into Microsoft's company culture. The article ultimately asks the question, "Could the third-largest corporation in the world make the case that hiring and employing autistic people, with all their social and intellectual quirks, was good, not bad, for business?"
AI

Google's DeepMind Develops New Speech Synthesis AI Algorithm Called WaveNet (qz.com) 46

Artem Tashkinov writes: Researchers behind Google's DeepMind company have been creating AI algorithms which could hardly be applied in real life aside from pure entertainment purposes -- the Go game being the most recent example. However, their most recent development, a speech synthesis AI algorithm called WaveNet, beats the two existing methods of generating human speech by a long shot -- at least 50% by Google's own estimates. The only problem with this new approach is that it's very computationally expensive. The results are even more impressive considering the fact that WaveNet can easily learn different voices and generate artificial breaths, mouth movements, intonation and other features of human speech. It can also be easily trained to generate any voice using a very small sample database. Quartz has a voice demo of Google's current method in its report, which uses recurrent neural networks, and WaveNet's method, which "uses convolutional neural networks, where previously generated data is considered when producing the next bit of information." The report adds, "Researchers also found that if they fed the algorithm classical music instead of speech, the algorithm would compose its own songs."
Databases

Israeli DDoS Provider 'vDOS' Earned $600,000 In Two Years (krebsonsecurity.com) 74

pdclarry writes: Brian Krebs writes that he has obtained the hacked database of an Israeli company that is responsible for most of the large-scale DDoS attacks over the past (at least) 4 years. The vDOS database, obtained by KrebsOnSecurity.com at the end of July 2016, points to two young men in Israel as the principle owners and masterminds of the attack service, with support services coming from several young hackers in the United States. Records before 2012 were not in the dump, but Krebs believes that the service has actually been operating for decades. The report starts by saying, "vDos -- a so-called 'booter' service has earned in excess of $600,000 over the past two years helping customers coordinate more than 150,000 so-called distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks designed to knock websites offline -- has been massively hacked, spilling secrets about tens of thousands of paying customers and their targets." In regard to how long the service has been operating, Krebs believes the service has been operating for decades "because the data leaked in the hack of vDOS suggests that the proprietors erased all digital records of attacks that customers launched between Sept. 2012 (when the service first came online) and the end of March 2016."
Google

Google To Buy Apigee For $625 Million To Expand Enterprise (bloomberg.com) 30

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report:Google is buying software development toolmaker Apigee for $625 million, the latest move by the search giant to bulk up its cloud-based offerings for businesses. Alphabet Inc.'s Google has agreed to pay $17.40 a share in cash, San Jose, California-based Apigee said in a statement Thursday. That's a 6.5 percent premium to Apigee's closing price Wednesday. The companies expect the deal to be completed by the end of the year. Apigee sells a platform that aids companies in managing their APIs, which are programming tools that help developers build software that talks to each other and shares information without revealing the underlying code. APIs have become an integral part of cloud software development, allowing one application to pull data and use services from multiple other programs. "The addition of Apigee's API solutions to Google cloud will accelerate our customers' move to supporting their businesses with high quality digital interactions" Diane Greene, senior vice president of Google's cloud business, said in a blog post, referring to application program interface products.
Japan

Japan To Develop 3D Maps For Self-Driving Cars (nikkei.com) 25

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Nikkei: A joint venture in Japan will begin creating high-definition 3D maps for self-driving cars in September as part of a government effort to have such vehicles on the road by 2020, when the Tokyo Summer Olympics will be held. Tokyo-based Dynamic Map Planning, set up by Mitsubishi Electric, mapmaker Zenrin and nine automakers, will digitally chart the country's key expressways by driving a vehicle loaded with special surveying equipment. The data will be processed using computers designed for the creation of maps, which will be provided to automakers that invest in the startup. As a first step, Dynamic Map Planning will make maps covering 300km of the country's main expressways. The combination of high-resolution 3D maps and sensors will enable the accurate detection of which lane a car is in and the distance to junctions. High-precision surveying technology is required to make the maps, so Mitsubishi Electric developed equipment that will be installed on a canvassing vehicle. GPS will track the location of the car on the map, and sensors designed to detect the inclination of the car will measure the road grades. At the same time, data including the locations of road signs and traffic lights, as well as right- and left-turns and pedestrian crossings, will be collected using lasers. The survey data will be displayed as a collection of dots. Lines on the road, such as lanes, noise barriers and road signage, will be plotted on that image to faithfully re-create road conditions for 3D maps.
KDE

QtCon Opens In Berlin (qtcon.org) 38

Long-time Slashdot reader JRiddell writes: A unique coming together of open source communities is happening in Berlin over the next week. QtCon brings together KDE, Qt, VLC and FSF-E to discuss free software, open development, community management and proprietary coding. Live streams of many of the talks are available now. The opening keynote spoke of open data and collaborative coding freeing accessibility information. 13 tracks of talks cover Community, Web, Best practices, Automotive, Mobile and Embedded, Let's talk business, Tooling, QtQuick, Multithreading, OpenGL and 3D.
China

US Would Be 28th In 'Hacking Olympics', China Would Take The Gold (infoworld.com) 112

After analyzing 1.4 million scores on HackerRank's tests for coding accuracy and speed, Chinese programmers "outscored all other countries in mathematics, functional programming, and data structures challenges". Long-time Slashdot reader DirkDaring quotes a report from InfoWorld: While the United States and India may have lots of programmers, China and Russia have the most talented developers according to a study by HackerRank... "If we held a hacking Olympics today, our data suggests that China would win the gold, Russia would take home a silver, and Poland would nab the bronze. Though they certainly deserve credit for making a showing, the United States and India have some work ahead of them before they make it into the top 25."
While the majority of scores came from America and India, the two countries ranked 28th and 31st, respectively. "Poland was tops in Java testing, France led in C++, Hong Kong in Python, Japan in artificial intelligence, and Switzerland in databases," reports InfoWorld. Ukrainian programmers had the top scores in security, while Finland showed the highest scores for Ruby.

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