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Why You Should Choose Boring Technology 23

Posted by Soulskill
from the predictable-headaches dept.
An anonymous reader writes Dan McKinley, a long-time Etsy engineer who now works at online payment processor Stripe, argues that the boring technology option is usually your best choice for a new project. He says, "Let's say every company gets about three innovation tokens. You can spend these however you want, but the supply is fixed for a long while. You might get a few more after you achieve a certain level of stability and maturity, but the general tendency is to overestimate the contents of your wallet. Clearly this model is approximate, but I think it helps. If you choose to write your website in NodeJS, you just spent one of your innovation tokens. If you choose to use MongoDB, you just spent one of your innovation tokens. If you choose to use service discovery tech that's existed for a year or less, you just spent one of your innovation tokens. If you choose to write your own database, oh god, you're in trouble. ... The nice thing about boringness (so constrained) is that the capabilities of these things are well understood. But more importantly, their failure modes are well understood."

IT Jobs With the Best (and Worst) ROI 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the becoming-borg-is-at-both-the-top-and-the-bottom dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: Over at Dice, there's a breakdown of which tech jobs have the greatest return on investment, with regard to high starting salaries and growth potential relative to how much you need to spend on degrees and certifications. Which jobs top this particular calculation? No shockers here: DBAs, software engineers, programmers, and Web developers all head up the list, with salaries that tick into six-figure territory. How about those with the worst ROI? Graphic designers, sysadmins, tech support, and software QA testers often present a less-than-great combination of relatively little money and room for advancement, even if you possess a four-year degree or higher, unless you're one of the lucky few.

MIT Debuts Integer Overflow Debugger 40

Posted by timothy
from the measure-twice-cut-once dept.
msm1267 writes Students from M.I.T. have devised a new and more efficient way to scour raw code for integer overflows, the troublesome programming bugs that serve as a popular exploit vector for attackers and often lead to the crashing of systems. Researchers from the school's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) last week debuted the platform dubbed DIODE, short for Directed Integer Overflow Detection. As part of an experiment, the researchers tested DIODE on code from five different open source applications. While the system was able to generate inputs that triggered three integer overflows that were previously known, the system also found 11 new errors. Four of the 11 overflows the team found are apparently still lingering in the wild, but the developers of those apps have been informed and CSAIL is awaiting confirmation of fixes.

No, It's Not Always Quicker To Do Things In Memory 485

Posted by Soulskill
from the performance-that-fails-to-perform dept.
itwbennett writes: It's a commonly held belief among software developers that avoiding disk access in favor of doing as much work as possible in-memory will results in shorter runtimes. To test this assumption, researchers from the University of Calgary and the University of British Columbia compared the efficiency of alternative ways to create a 1MB string and write it to disk. The results consistently found that doing most of the work in-memory to minimize disk access was significantly slower than just writing out to disk repeatedly (PDF).

Michael Stonebraker Wins Turing Award 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the much-deserved-recognition dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Michael Stonebraker, an MIT researcher who has revolutionized the field of database management systems and founded multiple successful database companies, has won the Association for Computing Machinery's $1 million A.M. Turing Award, often referred to as "the Nobel Prize of computing." In his previous work at the University of California at Berkeley, Stonebraker developed two of his most influential systems, Ingres and Postgres (PDF), which provide the foundational ideas — and, in many cases, specific source code — that spawned several contemporary database products, including IBM's Informix and EMC's Greenplum. Ingres was one of the first relational databases, which provide a more organized way to store multiple kinds of entities – and which now serve as the industry standard for business storage. Postgres, meanwhile, integrated Ingres' ideas with object-oriented programming, enabling users to natively map objects and their attributes into databases. This new notion of "object-relational" databases could be used to represent and manipulate complex data, like computer-aided design, geospatial data, and time series.

Developers and the Fear of Apple 269

Posted by Soulskill
from the think-different-except-about-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes: UI designer Eli Schiff has posted an article about the "climate of fear" surrounding Apple in the software development community. He points out how developers who express criticism in an informal setting often recant when their words are being recorded, and how even moderate public criticism is often prefaced by flattery and endorsements.

Beyond that, the industry has learned that they can't rely on Apple's walled garden to make a profit. The opaque app review process, the race to the bottom on pricing, and Apple's resistance to curation of the App Store are driving "independent app developers into larger organizations and venture-backed startups." Apple is also known to cut contact with developers if they release for Android first. The "climate of fear" even affects journalists, who face not only stonewalling from Apple after negative reporting, but also a brigade of Apple fans and even other journalists trying to paint them as anti-Apple.

A Bechdel Test For Programmers? 515

Posted by timothy
from the this-code-feels-different dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes In order for a movie or television show to pass the Bechdel Test (named after cartoonist and MacArthur genius Alison Bechdel), it must feature two female characters, have those two characters talk to one another, and have those characters talk to one another about something other than a man. A lot of movies and shows don't pass. How would programming culture fare if subjected to a similar test? One tech firm, 18F, decided to find out after seeing a tweet from Laurie Voss, CTO of npm, which explained the parameters of a modified Bechdel Test. According to Voss, a project that passes the test must feature at least one function written by a woman developer, that calls a function written by another woman developer. 'The conversation started with us quickly listing the projects that passed the Bechdel coding test, but then shifted after one of our devs then raised a good point,' read 18F's blog posting on the experiment. 'She said some of our projects had lots of female devs, but did not pass the test as defined.' For example, some custom languages don't have functions, which means a project built using those languages would fail even if written by women. Nonetheless, both startups and larger companies could find the modified Bechdel Test a useful tool for opening up a discussion about gender balance within engineering and development teams.

Facebook Engineering Tool Mimics Dodgy Network Connectivity 60

Posted by Soulskill
from the open-source-tools-for-pranks dept.
itwbennett writes: Facebook has released an open source application called Augmented Traffic Control that can simulate the connectivity of a cell phone accessing an app over a 2G, Edge, 3G, or LTE network. It can also simulate weak and erratic WiFi connections. The simulations can give engineers an estimate of how long it would take a user to download a file, for instance, given varying network connections. It can help engineers re-create problems that crop up only on very slow networks.

Microsoft Releases Windows 10 SDK 133

Posted by Soulskill
from the tools-to-build dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft today launched developer tools for the Windows 10 Technical Preview, including a software development kit (SDK). Developers can use the new tools, currently in preview, to start building universal Windows apps for Microsoft's upcoming operating system. A universal Windows app is Microsoft's verbiage for an app that can run across different form factors, including PCs, tablets, and phones. Developers can publish these apps in the Windows Store, which will be available across all types of Windows 10 devices.

Modern PHP: New Features and Good Practices 178

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Michael Ross writes In recent years, JavaScript has enjoyed a dramatic renaissance as it has been transformed from a browser scripting tool primarily used for special effects and form validation on web pages, to a substantial client-side programming language. Similarly, on the server side, after years as the target of criticism, the PHP computer programming language is seeing a revival, partly due to the addition of new capabilities, such as namespaces, traits, generators, closures, and components, among other improvements. PHP enthusiasts and detractors alike can learn more about these changes from the book Modern PHP: New Features and Good Practices, authored by Josh Lockhart. Keep reading for the rest of Michael's review.
GNU is Not Unix

RMS Talks Net Neutrality, Patents, and More 165

Posted by samzenpus
from the straight-from-the-man dept.
alphadogg writes "According to Richard Stallman, godfather of the free software movement, Facebook is a "monstrous surveillance engine," tech companies working for patent reform aren't going nearly far enough, and parents must lobby their children's schools to keep data private and provide free software alternatives. The free software guru touched on a host of topics in his keynote Saturday at the LibrePlanet conference, a Free Software Foundation gathering at the Scala Center at MIT.

A Software Project Full of "Male Anatomy" Jokes Causes Controversy 764

Posted by samzenpus
from the can't-we-all-just-get-along? dept.
An anonymous reader writes with the story of a Github user's joke repository that is causing some controversy. "There's no question that the tech world is an overwhelmingly male place. There's legit concern that tech is run-amok with 'brogrammers' that make women programmers feel unwelcome. On the other hand, people just want to laugh. It's at that intersection that programmer Randy Hunt, aka 'letsgetrandy' posted a 'project' earlier this week to software hosting site GitHub called 'DICSS.' The project, which is actual free and open source software, is surrounded by geeky jokes about the male anatomy. And it's gone nuts, so to speak, becoming the most trending project on Github, and the subject of a lot of chatter on Twitter. And, Hunt tells us, the folks at Github are scratching their heads wondering what they should do about it. Some people love DICSS ... and some people are, understandably, offended. The offended people point out that this is exactly the sort of thing that makes tech unwelcoming to women, and not just because of the original project, but because of some of the comments (posted as "commits") that might take the joke too far."

Arkansas Is Now the First State To Require That High Schools Teach Coding 211

Posted by timothy
from the unexpected-locale dept.
SternisheFan writes Arkansas will be implementing a new law that requires public high schools to offer classes in computer science starting in the 2015-16 school year. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who signed the bill, believes it will provide "a workforce that's sure to attract businesses and jobs" to the state. $5 million of the governor's proposed budget will go towards this new program. For the districts incapable of of administering these classes due to lack of space or qualified teachers, the law has provisions for online courses to be offered through Virtual Arkansas. Although students will not be required to take computer science classes, the governor's goal is to give students the opportunity if they "want to take it." Presently, only one in 10 schools nationwide offer computer science classes. Not only will Arkansas teach these classes in every public high school and charter school serving upper grades, the courses will count towards the state's math graduation requirement as a further incentive for students. Training programs for teacher preparation will be available, but with the majority of the infrastructure already primed, the execution of this new law should hopefully be painless and seamless.
Open Source

How Device Drivers Are Reverse Engineered 27

Posted by Soulskill
from the freeing-your-peripherals dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Linux Voice magazine has published a long article about how people go about reverse engineering drivers for hardware peripherals. They use Python and a USB radio-controlled car to demonstrate, walking us through the entire process. It's a cool, easy-to-follow insight into what often seems to be a rather opaque process.

Why I Choose PostgreSQL Over MySQL/MariaDB 320

Posted by timothy
from the semi-religious-wars dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes For the past ten years, developers and tech pros have made a game of comparing MySQL and PostgreSQL, with the latter seen by many as technically superior. Those who support PostgreSQL argue that its standards support and ACID compliance outweighs MySQL's speed. But MySQL remains popular thanks to its inclusion in every Linux Web hosting package, meaning that a mind-boggling number of Web developers have used it. In a new article, developer David Bolton compares MySQL/MariaDB 5.7.6 (released March 9, 2015) with PostgreSQL 9.4.1 and thinks the latter remains superior on several fronts, including subqueries, JSON support, and better licensing and data integrity: "I think MySQL has done a great job of improving itself to keep relevant, but I have to confess to favoring PostgreSQL."

Stanford Study Credits Lack of Non-Competes For Silicon Valley's Success 114

Posted by timothy
from the santa-clara-clause dept. writes Natalie Kitroeff writes at Bloomberg that a new study says the secret to Silicon Valley's triumph as the global capital of innovation may lie in a quirk of California's employment law that prohibits the legal enforcement of non-compete clauses. Unlike most states, California prohibits enforcement of non-compete clauses that force people who leave jobs to wait for a predetermined period before taking positions at rival companies. That puts California in the ideal position to rob other regions of their most prized inventors, "Policymakers who sanction the use of non-competes could be inadvertently creating regional disadvantage as far as retention of knowledge workers is concerned," wrote the authors of the study "Regional disadvantage? Employee non-compete agreements and brain drain" (PDF). "Regions that choose to enforce employee non-compete agreements may therefore be subjecting themselves to a domestic brain drain not unlike that described in the literature on international emigration out of less developed countries."

The study, which looked at the behavior of people who had registered at least two patents from 1975 to 2005, focused on Michigan, which in 1985 reversed its longstanding prohibition of non-compete agreements. The authors found that after Michigan changed the rules, the rate of emigration among inventors was twice as a high as it was in states where non-competes remained illegal. Even worse for Michigan, its most talented inventors were also the most likely to flee. "Firms are going to be willing to relocate someone who is really good, as opposed to someone who is average," says Lee Fleming. For the inventors, it makes sense to take a risk on a place such as California, where they have more freedom. "If the job they relocate for doesn't work out, then they can walk across the street because there are no non-competes."

Ask Slashdot: Choosing a Laptop To Support Physics Research? 385

Posted by timothy
from the budget-for-replacement-too dept.
An anonymous reader writes My daughter is in her third year of college as a physics major. She has an internship in Europe this summer, will graduate next year, and continue with graduate physics studies. Her area of research interest is in gravitational waves and particle physics. She currently has a laptop running Win7 and wants to buy a new laptop. She would like to use Linux on it, and plans to use it for C++ programming, data analysis and simulations (along with the usual email, surfing, music, pictures, etc). For all of the physics-savvy Slashdotters out there: what should she get? PC? Mac? What do you recommend for running Linux? For a C++ development environment? What laptop do you use and how is it configured to support your physics-related activities?

Ask Slashdot: What Can Distributed Software Development Teams Learn From FLOSS? 133

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-swear-at-people-unless-you-can-get-away-with-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes: As a long time free software proponent and leader of a small development team (10+ people) within a mid-sized company, I always try to incorporate my experiences from both worlds. Lately I was confronted with the need to accept new team members from abroad working on the same codebase and I expect to have even more telecommuting people on my team in the future (even though research suggests the failure rate of virtual teams could be as high as 70%). On the other hand, FLOSS does not seem to suffer from that problem, despite being developed in a distributed manner more often than not. What can corporations and managers learn from FLOSS to make their distributed teams more successful? Consequently, what FLOSS tools, methods, rules, and policies can and should be incorporated into the software development process within a company more often? I'm interested in hearing what you think, especially regarding technical issues like source code ownership and revision control systems, but also ways of communication, dealing with cultural differences, etc.

Prison Program Aims To Turn Criminals Into Coders 305

Posted by Soulskill
from the hello-walls dept.
Press2ToContinue writes with news that San Quentin, a notorious California prison, has started a program to teach a class of inmates to write code. The first class will last for six months, and the inmates are learning about programming for eight hours a day. The hope is to give them the skills to find a good job after they leave prison, which in turn would reduce their chances of recidivism. Since the state's Dept. of Corrections prohibits internet access, the class only "pretends" to be online — they can't use internet-based resources, and nobody on the outside can see or use the software they create. One of the class's backers said, 'Almost every week there's epiphanies. And most of the guys in here, they've never touched a computer before. They are progressing beyond our expectations."