Businesses

How Developers Can Fight Creeping Mediocrity 125 125

Nerval's Lobster writes: As the Slashdot community well knows, chasing features has never worked out for any software company. "Once management decides that's where the company is going to live, it's pretty simple to start counting down to the moment that company will eventually die," software engineer Zachary Forrest y Salazar writes in a new posting. But how does any developer overcome the management and deadlines that drive a lot of development straight into mediocrity, if not outright ruination? He suggests a damn-the-torpedoes approach: "It's taking the code into your own hands, building or applying tools to help you ship faster, and prototyping ideas," whether or not you really have the internal support. But given the management issues and bureaucracy confronting many companies, is this approach feasible?
Software

Ask Slashdot: Everyone Building Software -- Is This the Future We Need? 350 350

An anonymous reader writes: I recently stumbled upon Apple's headline for version 2 of its Swift programming language: "Now everyone can build amazing apps." My question: is this what we really need? Tech giants (not just Apple, but Microsoft, Facebook, and more) are encouraging kids and adults to become developers, adding to an already-troubled IT landscape. While many software engineering positions are focused only on a business's internal concerns, many others can dramatically affect other people's lives. People write software for the cars we drive; our finances are in the hands of software, and even the medical industry is replete with new software these days. Poor code here can legitimately mess up somebody's life. Compare this to other high-influence professions: can you become surgeon just because you bought a state-of-art turbo laser knife? Of course not. Back to Swift: the app ecosystem is already chaotic, without solid quality control and responsibility from most developers. If you want simple to-do app, you'll get never-ending list of software artifacts that will drain your battery, eat memory, freeze the OS and disappoint you in every possible way. So, should we really be focusing on quantity, rather than quality?
Programming

.NET 4.6 Optimizer Bug Causes Methods To Get Wrong Parameters 147 147

tobiasly writes: A serious bug in the just-released .NET 4.6 runtime causes the JIT compiler to generate incorrectly-optimized code which results in methods getting called with different parameters than what were passed in. Nick Craver of Stack Exchange has an excellent write-up of the technical details and temporary workarounds; Microsoft has acknowledged the problem and submitted an as-yet unreleased patch.

This problem is compounded by Microsoft's policy of replacing the existing .NET runtime, as opposed to the side-by-side runtimes which were possible until .NET 2.0. This means that even if your project targets .NET 4.5, it will get the 4.6 runtime if it was installed on that machine. Since it's not possible to install the just-released Visual Studio 2015 without .NET 4.6, this means developers must make the difficult choice between using the latest tools or risking crippling bugs such as this one.
Nintendo

Nintendo TVii Service Will Go Dark August 11th 34 34

Kotaku reports that Nintendo has announced it will shutter its Wii U TVii in just a few weeks; after August 11th, the service will be no more. The description that Kotaku offers gives some idea of why: Nintendo TVii promised to turn television watching into a robust social experience, tracking users' favorite shows, making suggestions based on familial preferences, integrating with all of the major streaming video services, programming DVR recordings and acting as a second screen experience on the Wii U game pad. It sounded pretty amazing. It wasn’t really. It was awkward and fumbling and a year later the Xbox One came along with its HDMI pass-through and voice-controlled TV watching and made Nintendo TVii look silly."
Open Source

Battle For Wesnoth Seeks New Developers 58 58

jones_supa writes: Twelve years ago, David White sat down over a weekend and created the small pet project that we know today as the open source strategy game The Battle For Wesnoth. At the time, Dave was the sole programmer, working alongside Francisco Muñoz, who produced the first graphics. As more and more people contributed, the game grew from a tiny personal project into an extensive one, encompassing hundreds of contributors. Today however, the ship is sinking. The project is asking for help to keep things rolling. Especially requested are C++, Python, and gameplay (WML) programmers. Any willing volunteers should have good communication skills and preferably be experienced with working alongside fellow members of a large project. More details can be found at the project website.
Google

Google Will Block Access To Its Autocomplete API On August 10 59 59

An anonymous reader writes with news reported by VentureBeat that Google will be discontinuing developer access to its unofficial Autocomplete API, as of August 10 of this year. A snippet from the article: Google currently supports more than 80 APIs that developers can use to integrate Google services and data into their applications. The company also has unsupported and unpublished APIs which people outside the company have discovered and leveraged. One of those is the Autocomplete API. The company says it is making this move "in the interest of maintaining the integrity of autocomplete as part of Search," that it wants to "ensure that users experience autocomplete as it was designed to be used," and finally that "this provides the best user experience for both services." I'm sure many will disagree.
AI

A Programming Language For Self-Organizing Swarms of Drones 56 56

New submitter jumpjoe writes: Drones are becoming a staple of everyday news. Drone swarms are the natural extension of the drone concept for applications such as search and rescue, mapping, and agricultural and industrial monitoring. A new programming language, compiler, and virtual machine were recently introduced to specify the behaviour of an entire swarm with a single program. This programming language, called Buzz, allows for self-organizing behaviour to accomplish complex tasks with simple program. Details on the language and examples are available here. Full disclosure: I am one of the authors of the paper.
The Almighty Buck

19-Year-Old's Supercomputer Chip Startup Gets DARPA Contract, Funding 150 150

An anonymous reader writes: 19-year-old Thomas Sohmers, who launched his own supercomputer chip startup back in March, has won a DARPA contract and funding for his company. Rex Computing, is currently finishing up the architecture of its final verified RTL, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The new Neo chips will be sampled next year, before moving into full production in mid-2017.The Platform reports: "In addition to the young company’s first round of financing, Rex Computing has also secured close to $100,000 in DARPA funds. The full description can be found midway down this DARPA document under 'Programming New Computers,' and has, according to Sohmers, been instrumental as they start down the verification and early tape out process for the Neo chips. The funding is designed to target the automatic scratch pad memory tools, which, according to Sohmers is the 'difficult part and where this approach might succeed where others have failed is the static compilation analysis technology at runtime.'"
Crime

Ex-Lottery Worker Convicted of Programming System To Win $14M 217 217

An anonymous reader sends news that Eddie Tipton, a man who worked for the Multi-State Lottery Association, has been convicted of rigging a computerized lottery game so he could win the $14 million jackpot. Tipton wrote a computer program that would ensure certain numbers were picked in the lottery game, and ran it on lottery system machines. He then deleted it and bought a ticket from a convenience store. Lottery employees are forbidden to play, so he tried to get acquaintances to cash the winning ticket for him. Unfortunately for him, Iowa law requires the original ticket buyer's name to be divulged before any money can be paid out.
Businesses

Why Certifications Are Necessary (Even If Aggravating To Earn) 213 213

Nerval's Lobster writes: Whether or not certifications have value is a back-and-forth argument that's been going on since before Novell launched its CNE program in the 1990s. Developer David Bolton recently incited some discussion of his own when he wrote an article for Dice in which he claimed that certifications aren't worth the time and money. But there's a lot of evidence that certifications can add as much as 16 percent to a tech professional's base pay; in addition a lot of tech companies use resume-screening software that weeds out any resumes that don't feature certain acronyms. There's also the argument that the cost, difficulty, and annoyance of earning a certification is actually the best reason to go through it, especially if you're looking for a job; it broadcasts that you're serious enough about the technology to invest a serious chunk of your life in it. But others might not agree with that assessment, arguing that all a certification proves is that you're good at taking tests, not necessarily knowing a technology inside and out.
The Courts

Class Action Filed Against Sling Media 112 112

New submitter DewDude writes: In case you missed it; Sling Media has been forcing advertisements into video streams from Slingbox devices unless you pay for a client application, which is only an option for Apple, Android, and Windows 8 devices. The issue will now head to the courts, as two plaintiffs have filed a class action suit against Sling Media, claiming the company participated in 'bait-and-switch' tactics by charging users for the hardware, then monetizing the streaming of content. The suit notes that Sling does not own the rights to the programming into which they are inserting advertisements.
Microsoft

Microsoft Uses US Women's Soccer Team To Explain Why It Doesn't Hire More Women 212 212

theodp writes: "It is not surprising that the U.S. women have been dominant in the sport [of soccer] in recent years. The explanation for that success lies in the talent pipeline," writes General Manager of Citizenship & Public Affairs Lori Forte Harnick on The Official Microsoft Blog. "Said another way, many girls in the U.S. have the opportunity to learn how to play soccer and, as a result, they benefit from the teamwork, skill development and fun involved. That's the kind of opportunity I would like to see develop for the technology sector, which presents a different, yet perhaps even more significant, set of opportunities for girls and young women. Unfortunately, the strength in the talent pipeline that we see in female soccer today is not the reality for technology. The U.S. is facing a shortage of Computer Science (CS) graduates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every year there are close to 140,000 jobs requiring a CS degree, but only 40,000 U.S. college graduates major in CS, which means that 100,000 positions go unfilled by domestic talent." Going with the soccer analogy, one thing FIFA realized that Microsoft didn't is that if you want girls to play your sport, you don't take away their ball!
Perl

Larry Wall On Perl 6, Language Design, and Getting Kids To Code 133 133

M-Saunders writes: Perl 6 has been a long time in the making, but Larry Wall, the language's chief developer, now says it should arrive in time for Christmas. In this interview with Linux Voice, Wall explains why Perl 6 took so long, and describes how his background in linguistics influenced the design of the language. He also discusses ways to get kids interested in coding, and notes that Python has done a better job so far in this respect.
Programming

MUMPS, the Programming Language For Healthcare 166 166

citadrianne writes: An ICU patient is monitored and assessed according to 12 different variables. These include such measurements as body temperature, heart rate, blood oxygenation, blood pH, and others. Together, they're used to formulate a quantitative answer to the question, "How bad is it, doc?" Many of these physiological signs are measured in real-time via electrodes and like a billion different varieties of catheter. Add to it barrages of lab tests done multiple times per day per patient and the need for 20 or so clinicians (per patient) to have access to all of this data, and the result is very a deep data problem. Multiply that data problem by hundreds of thousands of patients.

This is the fundamental problem that the programming language MUMPS (sometimes called just "M"), or the Massachusetts General Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System, aims to solve. To its proponents, MUMPS allows for a one of a kind synthesis of programming and database management, while to to its detractors, it's a bizarre anachronism with little connection to the evolution and innovation taking place elsewhere in programming. Probably to most people that do things with computers, MUMPS/M is poorly understood, at best, and more likely to be completely unknown.
Stats

As Big Data Plateaus, Data Science Education Grows 41 41

gthuang88 writes: Even as the hype around big data has died down, opportunities for data scientists are expanding. Johns Hopkins, NYU, and MIT are among the schools offering courses in data science, and IBM and other big companies are investing heavily in training programs. Now a startup called DataCamp has raised $1 million to expand online courses in R programming, Apache Spark, and other topics. The deal speaks to the opportunity that venture capitalists see in training the next generation of data scientists and business analysts. It also shows online education is specializing beyond platforms like Codecademy, Coursera, and Udacity.
Microsoft

For Microsoft, Windows 10 Charity Begins At Home 74 74

theodp writes: "We're investing $10 million in organizations that are upgrading the world," Microsoft announced on in its new Upgrade Your World website, which was created in conjunction with the Windows 10 launch. "We've identified nine global nonprofits, and we'd like your help choosing the 10th." The missions of the selected nonprofits include fighting global poverty, preventing children living with HIV from needlessly dying, increasing access to quality education for children in the developing world, conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends, and ensuring that all kindergartners learn 'computer science.' To paraphrase Sesame Street, can you guess which cause is not like the others? If you guessed Code.org, which wants CS made a "core" K-12 subject in U.S. schools, you're right! Coincidentally, Code.org's biggest donors include Microsoft ($3M+), Ballmer Family Giving ($3M+), and Bill Gates ($1M+). And Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, who once reported to Satya Nadella, is coincidentally a sometimes jogging partner of Steve Ballmer, as well as the next-door neighbor of Microsoft General Counsel and Code.org Board member Brad Smith, whose FWD.us bio notes is responsible for Microsoft's philanthropic work. Code.org emerged on the scene shortly after Smith suggested that action on Microsoft's 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas could be galvanized by 'producing a crisis'.
Programming

ELIoT, Distributed Programming For the Internet of Things 91 91

descubes writes: ELIoT (Extensible Language for the Internet of Things) is a new programming language designed to facilitate distributed programming. A code sample with less than 20 lines of code looks like a single program, but really runs on three different computers to collect temperature measurements and report when they differ. ELIoT transforms a simple sensor API into a rich, remotely-programmable API, giving your application the opportunity to optimize energy usage and minimize network traffic.

Using fewer resources than Bash, and capable of serving hundreds of clients easily on a Raspberry Pi, ELIoT transparently sends program fragments around, but also the data they need to function, e.g. variable values or function definitions. This is possible because, like in Lisp, programs are data. ELIoT has no keywords, and program constructs such as loops or if-then-else are defined in the library rather than in the language. This makes the language very flexible and extensible, so that you can adapt it to the needs of your application.

The project is still very young (published last week), and is looking for talented developers interested in distributed programming, programming languages or language design.
Programming

13% of CompSci Grads Have Starting Salaries Over $100K 264 264

itwbennett writes: That was one of the findings of a survey of 50,000 U.S. college students and recent graduates by Looksharp, a marketplace for internships and entry-level jobs. For general findings across all majors, check out the State of College Hiring Report 2015. But the company shared some more computer science-specific findings with Phil Johnson. Among them: "Of all majors, students studying in CS had the highest average starting salary, $66,161." And, what's more, they know the value of their degree: "On average, they expected a starting salary of $68,120, slightly above the actual average starting salary of $66,161."