Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Can SaaS Be Both Open Source and Economically Viable? 47

Posted by timothy
from the no-that-is-impossible dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The CTO behind Lucidchart, an online diagramming app, recently cited the open source rbush project as an invaluable tool for helping implement an "in-memory spatial index" that "increased spatial search performance by a factor of over 1,000 for large documents." My question is this: what risks does a SaaS company like Lucidchart face in making most of their own code public, like Google's recent move with Chrome for Android, and what benefits might be gained by doing so? Wouldn't sharing the code just generate more users and interest? Even if competitors did copy it, they'd always be a step behind the latest developments.
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Dumb Phone? 301

Posted by timothy
from the how-about-a-dumberer-phone? dept.
An anonymous reader writes: For those of us who don't need or want a smartphone, what would be the best dumb phone around? Do you have a preference over flip or candy bar ones? What about ones that have FM radio? Do any of you still use dumb phones in this smart phone era? Related question: What smart phones out now are (or can be reasonably outfitted to be) closest to a dumb phone, considering reliability, simplicity, and battery life? I don't especially want to give up a swiping keyboard, a decent camera, or podcast playback, but I do miss being able to go 5 or more days on a single charge.
Perl

Ask Slashdot: Career Advice For an Aging Perl Developer? 263

Posted by timothy
from the by-the-time-you-read-this-you're-even-older dept.
New submitter ukrifleman writes: I've been doing UK based perl, JS, light PHP and JQUERY dev plus Centos/Debian sys admin on a freelance basis for over a decade now. Mostly maintaining older stuff but I also undertook a big, 3 year bespoke project (all written in legacy non OO perl). The trouble is, that contract has now finished and all the legacy work has dried out and I've only got about 2 months of income left! I need to get a full time job.

To most dev firms I'm going to look like a bit of a dinosaur, 40 odd years old, knows little of OO coding OR modern languages and aproaches to projects. I can write other languages and, with a bit of practice I'll pick them up pretty quickly. I really don't know where to start. What's hot, what's worth learning, I'm self-taught so have no CS degree, just 15 years of dev and sys admin experience. I've got a bit of team and project management experience too it's quite a worry going up against young whipper snappers that know all the buzz words and modern tech!

Am I better off trying to get a junior job to start so I can catch up with some tech? Would I be better off trawling the thousands of job sites or finding a bonafide IT specialist recruitment firm? Should I take the brutally honest approach to my CV/interviews or just wing it and hope I don't bite off more than I can chew? What kind of learning curve could I expect if I took on a new language I have no experience with? Are there any qualififcations that I NEED to have before firms would be willing to take me on? I've been sitting here at this desk for 10 years typing away and only now do I realise that I've stagnated to the point where I may well be obsolete!
Networking

Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Solve a Unique Networking Issue? 379

Posted by timothy
from the that-seems-like-a-decent-way dept.
New submitter petro-tech writes: I work as a service technician, maintaining and repairing gas pumps and POS equipment. In my day to day activities, one that consumes a ton of time and is relatively regular is the process of upgrading the software on pumps. This is done by connecting to the pump via direct ethernet from my laptop, then running a manufacturer-provided program that connects to the device and pushes the new software. Some sites have 8+ pumps with 2 devices in each, and at 20-30 minutes apiece this can be quite time consuming. Unfortunately the devices are not actually on a network, and as such cannot be updated remotely, also since they are not on a network, they are all configured with the same IP address. Additionally the software doesn't allow you to specify the adapter to use. I would like to be able to get to a site, connect a cable to each pump, and load them all at the same time. The only way I can figure to accomplish this with the software we've been provided is to do this: Get a 16-port powered USB hub, with a usb-ethernet adaptor in each port; Set up 16 VM's with extremely stripped down XP running on each, with only one USB-ethernet adaptor assigned to each VM; Set XP to boot the application for loading software as its shell; and load each device that way at the same time. Is there a better way to accomplish this?
Education

Ask Slashdot: What Tech Skills Do HS Students Need To Know Now? 298

Posted by timothy
from the or-at-least-very-soon dept.
heybiff writes: During summer months I deliver brief tech workshops to high school students as part of an enrichment program. Almost all of the students are average students pulled from non-magnet comprehensive high schools throughout our city. Make no mistake — these are not the students who have a love of technology and coding; many were coerced by excited parents or guidance counselors. After doing this for almost 10 years, I have found students have become considerably more comfortable with technology, and confident in their use, especially with smartphones and tablets being ubiquitous. Unfortunately, I also see a lot of basic knowledge and tech skills all but nonexistent. Moreover, students seem unaware that the tech they use daily even has any usefulness for academic activities. So what I put to you fellow Slashdotters is: What do students today realistically have to know to be successful in school? Which tech skills are still important and necessary, and which are gone the way of the typewriter? What misconceptions or outright lies have become so ingrained in young people's use of technology that they need to be addressed? Finally, the program puts laptops in students' hands, to give them a kickstart in being successful; what skills do they need to get the most out of the new hardware they were just given?
Technology

Ask Slashdot: What's On Your Keychain? 278

Posted by Soulskill
from the seventeen-carabiners-and-a-blockbuster-video-minicard dept.
kuhnto writes: I was playing with my key chain and started to wonder: what does everyone on Slashdot have on their key chains? What cool things do you have that you want to share? I'll start: car key, car alarm dongle, house key, Kingston USB Drive, AAA micro flashlight, and a Swiss-tech Utili-key. To extend this a bit: what other things do you usually carry around with you, aside from the common items like phones, keyrings, and card/cash holders?
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Open Document Format? 200

Posted by timothy
from the when-plaintext-just-won't-do dept.
kramer2718 writes: I am working on a project that requires uploading and storing of documents. Although the application will need to allow uploading of .docx, doc, .pdf, etc, I'd like to store the documents in a standard open format that will allow easy search, compression, rendering, etc. Which open document format is the best? Since "best" can be highly driven by circumstances, please explain your reasoning, too.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Security Certification For an Old Grad? 125

Posted by timothy
from the 35-isn't-old dept.
An anonymous reader writes: I graduated in late 2003 during the tech bubble burst with a below 2.5 GPA. I am 35 with an interest in getting a security job. What are the chances that I would be just wasting my time and money? I am pursuing business interests with a patent used in a service that will be a prime target for hackers. I have been writing client/server software in an OpenBSD virtual machine for the security and the kqueue functionality; not to mention the rest of the virtual clients crash that I have tried. I figure that trying to sell the service idea, even if I can't get a job, when they ask what qualifies me to have such ideas, I can say I have the credentials. I just got issued the patent this year. What would you do in this situation to be a viable candidate for employment?
Technology

Ask Slashdot: After We're Gone, the Last Electrical Device Still Working? 402

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-the-robots-that-killed-us dept.
Leomania writes: After watching a post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi short on YouTube (there are quite a few) and then having our robot vacuum take off and start working the room, I just wondered what would be the last electric/electronic device still functioning if humans were suddenly gone. I don't mean sitting there with no power but would work if the power came back on; rather, something continuously powered, doing the task it was designed for. Are we talking a few years, decades, or far longer?
Software

Ask Slashdot: What's the Future of Desktop Applications? 276

Posted by Soulskill
from the software-becomes-softwhere dept.
MrNaz writes: Over the last fifteen years or so, we have seen the dynamic web mature rapidly. The functionality of dynamic web sites has expanded from the mere display of dynamic information to fully fledged applications rivaling the functionality and aesthetics of desktop applications. Google Docs, MS Office 365, and Pixlr Express provide in-browser functionality that, in bygone years, was the preserve of desktop software.

The rapid deployment of high speed internet access, fiber to the home, cable and other last-mile technologies, even in developing nations, means that the problem of needing offline access to functionality is becoming more and more a moot point. It is also rapidly doing away with the problem of lengthy load times for bulky web code.

My question: Is this trend a progression to the ultimate conclusion where the browser becomes the operating system and our physical hardware becomes little more than a web appliance? Or is there an upper limit: will there always be a place where desktop applications are more appropriate than applications delivered in a browser? If so, where does this limit lie? What factors should software vendors take into consideration when deciding whether to build new functionality on the web or into desktop applications?
Programming

Ask Slashdot: How To Own the Rights To Software Developed At Work? 353

Posted by timothy
from the you-can-ask-now-or-cry-later dept.
New submitter ToneyTime writes: I'm a young developer building custom add-ins for my company's chosen SAAS platform as a full time staff member. The platform supports a developer community to share code and plug-ins with an option to sell the code. While I don't plan on having a breakthrough app, I am interested in sharing the solutions I create, hopefully with the potential of selling. All solutions are created and made by me for business needs, and I aim to keep any company's specific data out. I have a good relationship with management and can develop on my own personal instance of the platform, but would be doing so on company time. Going contractor is a bit premature for me at this stage. Any advice, references or stories to learn from?
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Moving To an Offshore-Proof Career? 420

Posted by timothy
from the alle-menschen-sind-auslaender-fast-ueberall dept.
New submitter sundarvenkata writes: I am sure most slashdotters (including the ones who had the I-am-an-indispensable-snowflake stance in the past) have already foreseen the writing on the wall for the future of tech professions (with IT being the worst hit) given some of the ominous news in the past few years: here, here and here. Of course, there are always the counter-arguments put forth by slashdotters that "knowing the business" or "being the best in what you do" would save one's derriere as if the offshore workers will remain permanently impaired of such skills. But I was wondering if some slashdotters could share some constructive real-life experiences of planning a transition to a relatively offshore-proof career. If you have already managed to accomplish such a career change, what was your journey and what would your advice be to other aspirants?
Portables

Ask Slashdot: Most Chromebook-Like Unofficial ChromeOS Experience? 99

Posted by Soulskill
from the get-your-company-to-pay-for-it-wink-wink dept.
An anonymous reader writes: I am interested in Chromebooks, for the reasons that Google successfully pushes them: my carry-around laptops serve mostly as terminals, rather than CPU-heavy workhorses, and for the most part the whole reason I'm on my computer is to do something that requires a network connection anyhow. My email is Gmail, and without particularly endorsing any one element, I've moved a lot of things to online services like DropBox. (Some offline capabilities are nice, but since actual Chromebooks have been slowly gaining offline stuff, and theoretically will gain a lot more of that, soon, I no longer worry much about a machine being "useless" if the upstream connection happens to be broken or absent. It would just be useless in the same way my conventional desktop machine would be.) I have some decent but not high-end laptops (Core i3, 2GB-4GB of RAM) that I'd enjoy repurposing as Chromebooks without pedigree: they'd fall somewhat short of the high-end Pixel, but at no out-of-pocket expense for me unless I spring for some cheap SSDs, which I might.

So: how would you go about making a Chromebook-like laptop? Yes, I could just install any Linux distro, and then restrain myself from installing most apps other than a browser and a few utilities, but that's not quite the same; ChromeOS is nicely polished, and very pared down; it also seems to do well with low-memory systems (lots of the current models have just 2GB, which brings many Linux distros to a disk-swapping crawl), and starts up nicely quick.

It looks like the most "authentic" thing would be to dive into building Chromium OS (which looks like a fun hobby), but I'd like to find something more like Cr OS — only Cr OS hasn't been updated in quite a while. Perhaps some other browser-centric pared-down Linux would work as well. How would you build a system? And should I go ahead and order some low-end 16GB SSDs, which I now see from online vendors for less than $25?
Education

Ask Slashdot: How Should I Build a Maker Space For a Liberal Arts College? 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the build-it-out-of-LEGO dept.
XxtraLarGe writes: I work for a small liberal arts college, and have been asked to research makerspaces. I have done a bunch of initial research which tells me a lot about equipment being used, as well as location, etc., but what I'm not finding are what to know before you start, or what it takes to make the effort worthwhile.

I'd be interested in hearing from other educators, staff, students and other maker community members on Slashdot that had makerspaces at their schools or community — can be any level — and what was the experience like? 3D printer, 3D scanner & Laser cutting machines seem to be a given, so I'd like to hear what kinds of think-outside-the-box equipment/materials did you have? We are considering putting it in our library, which seems to be a popular choice with most schools. There's also the possibility of having it somewhere in town that it could be more accessible to members of the community, maybe even as a co-op.
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: What Are the Most Stable Smartphones These Days? 484

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-dad's-flip-phone-is-pretty-stable dept.
janimal writes: The iPhone used to be the smartphone that "just works." Ever since the 4S days, this has been true less and less with each generation. My wife's iPhone 6 needs to be restarted several times per week for things like internet search or making calls to work. An older 5S I'm using also doesn't consistently stream to Apple TV, doesn't display song names correctly on Apple TV and third party peripherals. In short, as features increase, the iPhone's stability is decreasing. In your opinion, which smartphone brand these days is taking up the slack and delivering a fully featured smartphone that "just works"?
The Internet

Ask Slashdot: What Features Would You Like In a Search Engine? 276

Posted by timothy
from the esp-heads-the-list dept.
New submitter nicolas.slusarenko writes Nowadays, there is one dominant search engine in the world among few alternatives. I have the impression that the majority of users think that it is the best possible service that could be made. I am sure that we could have a better search engine. During my spare time I been developing Trokam, an online search engine. I am building this service with the features that I would like to find in a service: respectful of user rights, ad-free, built upon open source software, and with auditable results. Well, those are mine. What features would you like in a search engine?
Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: Best Medium For Storing Data To Survive a Fire (or Other Disaster) 446

Posted by samzenpus
from the burning-down-the-house dept.
First time accepted submitter aka_bigred writes Every year as I file my taxes, I replicate my most important financial data (a couple GB of data) to store an offline copy in my fire-rated home safe. This gets me thinking about what the most reliable data media would be to keep in my fire-rated home safe.

CDs/DVDs/tapes could easily melt or warp rendering them useless, so I'm very hesitant to use them. I've seen more exotic solutions that let you print your digital data to paper an optically re-import it later should you ever need it, but it seems overly cumbersome and error prone should it be damaged or fire scorched. That leaves my best options being either a classic magnetic platter drive, or some sort of solid state storage, like SD cards, USB flash drives, or a small SSD. The problem is, I can't decide which would survive better if ever exposed to extreme temperatures, or water damage should my house burn down.

Most people would just suggest to store it in "the cloud", but I'm naturally averse to doing so because that means someone else is responsible for my data and I could lose it to hackers, the entity going out of business, etc. Once it leaves my home, I no longer fully control it, which is unacceptable. My thought being "they can't hack/steal what they can't physically access." What medium do other Slashdot users use to store their most important data (under say 5GB worth) in an at-home safe to protect it from fire?
Communications

Ask Slashdot: What Would a Constructed Language Have To Be To Replace English? 626

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-source-control-and-versioning dept.
Loren Chorley writes: The idea of constructing a language capable of replacing English has fascinated me for a long time. I'd like to start a project with some of my own ideas and anyone who's interested, but I'd really like to hear what the Slashdot community thinks on the topic first. Taking for granted that actually replacing English is highly unlikely, what characteristics would the new language need? More specifically: How could the language be made as easy as possible to learn coming from any linguistic background? How could interest in the language be fostered in as many people as possible? What sort of grammar would you choose and why? How would you build words and how would you select meanings for them, and why? What sounds and letters (and script(s)) would you choose? How important is simplicity and brevity? How important are aesthetics (and what makes a language aesthetic)? What other factors could be important to consider, and what other things would you like to see in such a language?
Piracy

Ask Slashdot: How Serious Is Hacking In Mobile Games? 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-for-the-high-score dept.
Origen writes: As a developer contemplating trying out the mobile game scene, a GDC session about hacking/tampering looked interesting — but I wasn't able to attend. The presentation isn't available online, but it was paired with a whitepaper [contact details required], which can be downloaded. I'm surprised by some of the information presented and the potential for damage/mischief. Not so much that these issues are unheard of — they've existed for years on other platforms. What I find surprising is the lack of support at the OS level on mobile devices to defend from many of these types of hacks. Have we learned nothing from the pains of the past? How significant are the points about hacking/piracy in the mobile space that are discussed by this whitepaper?
Education

Slashdot Asks: What Will You (Or Your Kids) Learn This Summer? 81

Posted by timothy
from the shameless-plugs-are-welcome dept.
For those in the northern hemisphere, summer is rapidly approaching, especially for those with kids. Camps, educational programs, and other activities are enrolling now, in advance of the long summer vacation. (Particularly long for Americans!) Aside from conventional sleepaway options for kids, there are science and technology courses, space camps, survival adventures, and more. Whatever your age, and whether on your own or as part of a formal group, do you have any specific learning activities planned for the summer, whether as participant or parent? Are there summer education opportunities you'd like to recommend to others, or ones you'd rate as not worth the price? (Naming details helps, in this context -- which space camp? How much does it cost?)