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+ - MIT Trains Robots to Jump->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: MIT just announced that its researchers have programmed a robotic cheetah that can leap over obstacles without a prompt from a human controller. The machine’s onboard sensors rely on reflected laser-light to judge obstacles’ distance and height, and use that data to fuel the algorithm for a safe jump. The robot’s controlling algorithm takes into account such factors as the speed needed to launch its mass over the obstacle, the best position for a jump, and the amount of energy required from the onboard electric motor. As of this writing, the robot can clear 90 percent of obstacles on an open track. “A running jump is a truly dynamic behavior,” Sangbae Kim, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, is quoted as saying in a university press release. “You have to manage balance and energy, and be able to handle impact after landing. Our robot is specifically designed for those highly dynamic behaviors.” For years, some tech pundits have worried that robots and software will gradually replace human workers in key industries such as manufacturing and IT administration. Now they have something else to fret over: Robots replacing the world’s hurdlers.
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+ - How Much C++ Should You Know for an Entry-Level C++ Job?->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: How much C++ do you need to know to land an entry-level job that's heavy in C++? That's a question Dice posed to several developers. While the exact topic was C++, the broader question of "How much X do you actually need to know to make money off it?" could also apply to any number of programming languages. In the case of C++, basics to know include virtual methods, virtual destructors, operator overloading, how templates work, correct syntax, the standard library, and more. Anything less, and a senior developer will likely get furious; they have a job to do, and that job isn't teaching the ins and outs of programming. With all that in mind, what's a minimum level of knowledge for a programming language for entry-level developers?
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+ - Video Games: Gateway to a Programming Career?->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: Want more people to program? Encourage them to play more video games, at least according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In an online Q&A, Zuckerberg suggested that a lifetime spent playing video games could prep kids and young adults for careers as programmers. “I actually think giving people the opportunity to play around with different stuff is one of the best things you can do,” he told the audience. “I definitely would not have gotten into programming if I hadn’t played games as a kid.” A handful of games, most notably Minecraft (above), already have a reputation for encouraging kids to not only think analytically, but also modify the gaming environment—the first steps toward actually wrestling with code.
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+ - The Brainteaser Elon Musk Asks New SpaceX Engineers-> 9

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: The latest biography of Elon Musk, by technology journalist Ashlee Vance, provides an in-depth look into how the entrepreneur and tech titan built Tesla Motors and SpaceX from the ground up. For developers and engineers, getting a job at SpaceX is difficult, with a long interviewing/testing process... and for some candidates, there's a rather unique final step: an interview with Musk himself. During that interview, Musk reportedly likes to ask candidates a particular brainteaser: 'You’re standing on the surface of the Earth. You walk one mile south, one mile west, and one mile north. You end up exactly where you started. Where are you?' If you can answer that riddle successfully, and pass all of SpaceX’s other stringent tests, you may have a shot at launching rockets into orbit.
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+ - Choosing an IDE That's Right for You->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: Today’s software development often requires working with multiple tools in a variety of languages. The complexity can give even the most skilled developer a nasty headache, which is why many try to rely on Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) to accomplish most of the work; in addition to source-code editors and automation, some even feature intelligent code completion. With so much choice out there, it’s hard to settle on an IDE, so Dice interviewed several developers, who collectively offered up a list of useful questions to ask when evaluating a particular IDE for use. But do developers even need an IDE at all? When you go to smaller, newer developer shops, you’re seeing a lot more standalone editors and command-line tools; depending on what you do, you might just need a good editor, and to master the command-line tools for the languages you use.
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+ - Using a Really Angry A.I. to Improve Customer Service->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: What’s the best way to train customer-service employees? Build the world’s angriest A.I.. Touchpoint Group, a New Zealand-based technology company, is working on an artificial-intelligence platform fueled in part by a database of recorded customer interactions with four Australian banks. “The end goal is to build an engine that can recommend solutions to companies,” Touchpoint CEO Frank van der Velden told The Australian. “This will be possible by enabling our AI engine to learn right across a whole range of interactions of what has and has not worked in past examples.” By “whole range,” he also means the angriest customer interactions. The A.I. will use that database of pure fury to inform companies (and customer-service employees) which courses of action will lead to total customer meltdown. In theory, with that much data on-hand, the engine will be able to break down in a granular fashion with phrases or policies tend to trigger angst. And if we ever place that engine inside an actual robot body, we’ll probably get Ultron, so there’s that.
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+ - Is Agile Development a Failing Concept?-> 1

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: Many development teams have embraced Agile as the ideal method for software development, relying on cross-functional teams and adaptive planning to see their product through to the finish line. Agile has its roots in the Agile Manifesto, the product of 17 software developers coming together in 2001 to talk over development methods. And now one of those developers, Andy Hunt, has taken to his blog to argue that Agile has some serious issues. Specifically, Hunt thinks a lot of developers out there simply aren’t adaptable and curious enough to enact Agile in its ideal form. 'Agile methods ask practitioners to think, and frankly, that’s a hard sell,' Hunt wrote. 'It is far more comfortable to simply follow what rules are given and claim you’re ‘doing it by the book.’' The blog posting offers a way to power out of the rut, however, and it centers on a method that Hunt refers to as GROWS, or Growing Real-World Oriented Working Systems. In broad strokes, GROWS sounds a lot like Agile in its most fundamental form; presumably Hunt’s future postings, which promise to go into more detail, will show how it differs. If Hunt wants the new model to catch on, he may face something of an uphill battle, given Agile’s popularity.
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+ - Does Using an AOL Email Address Suggest You're a Tech Dinosaur?->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: Despite years of layoffs and tumbling net worth, AOL seemed to get a new lease on life this week when Verizon bought it for $4.4 billion. But even if AOL's still alive, using an AOL email address has long been seen as a way of signaling that you're stuck in the 1990s. A recent analysis of Dice data found that a mere 1.8 percent of those registering for the site used an AOL address, versus 55 percent for Gmail. For the past several years, Websites from Gizmodo to Lifehacker have all declared that still using an AOL email address is counterproductive, to put it mildly. But is that actually true? Do the people in your life and work actually care whether you use AOL, Hotmail, Gmail, or a custom address, or is the idea of 'email bias' an overblown myth?
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+ - The Best-Paying IT Security Jobs of 2015->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: It’s no secret that tech pros with extensive IT security backgrounds are in high demand, especially in the wake of last year’s high-profile hacks of major companies such as Sony and Home Depot. Which security-related job pays the most? According to a new analysis of Dice salary data, a lead software security engineer can expect to earn an average of $233,333 in 2015, followed by a director of security, who can expect to earn $200,000. Nor are those outliers: Chief information security officers, directors of information security, and IT security consultants can all expect to earn close to $200,000, if not more. While many subfields of IT security prove quite lucrative, there are also other jobs that earn below the average for tech pros. Security analysts will make an average of $59,880 this year, for instance, while security installation technicians—because somebody needs to install the cameras and sensors—can expect to earn $31,680. Compare that to the average tech-pro salary of $89,450 in 2014, which is only expected to rise this year. According to a 2014 report from Global Knowledge and Penton, those armed with certifications such as CRISC, CISM, and CISA can expect to earn a healthy six figures a year.
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+ - Why Companies Should Hire Older Developers->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: Despite legislation making it overtly illegal, ageism persists in the IT industry. If you’re 40 or older, you’ve probably seen cases where younger developers were picked over older ones. At times we’re told there’s a staffing crisis, that companies need to import more developers via H-1B, but the truth is that outsourcing and downsizing eliminated a subset of viable developers from the market. Those developers, in turn, had to figure out if they wanted to land another job, freelance, or leave the technology industry entirely. But older developers still have a lot to offer, developer David Bolton writes in a new column: They have decades of experience (and specialist knowledge), they have a healthy disregard for office politics (but can still manage, when necessary), they're available, and they're (generally) stable. So why does it seem like a lot of them aren't being hired?
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+ - Is It Worth Learning a Little-Known Programming Language?->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: Ask a group of developers to rattle off the world’s most popular programming languages, and they’ll likely name the usual suspects: JavaScript, Java, Python, Ruby, C++, PHP, and so on. Ask which programming languages pay the best, and they’ll probably list the same ones, which makes sense. But what about the little-known languages and skill sets (Dice link) that don’t leap immediately to mind but nonetheless support some vital IT infrastructure (and sometimes, as a result, pay absurdly well)? is it worth learning a relatively obscure language or skill set, on the hope that you can score one of a handful of well-paying jobs that require it? The answer is a qualified yes—so long as the language or skill set in question is clearly on the rise. Go, Swift, Rust, Julia and CoffeeScript have all enjoyed rising popularity, for example, which increases the odds that they’ll remain relevant for at least the next few years. But a language without momentum behind it probably isn’t worth your time, unless you want to learn it simply for the pleasure of learning something new.
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+ - Five Reasons to Use C++ Threading->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: Within the next 10 to 15 years, we may reach the end of Moore’s Law, which dictates that the number of transistors on a CPU will double every two years, with an accompanying bump in processor speed. In theory, transistors will shrink too small to maintain the trend; even now, manufacturers and developers seem to think the way forward involves adding more cores to processors, and using various forms of parallelization (such as vectorization) that permit multiple data operations with one instruction. Writing code that utilizes more cores is harder for older languages, such as C++, that were created back when most processors had just one core. However, various methods have been devised; this new Dice article from developer David Bolton looks at two techniques with sample code. His conclusion? If you want to speed up the performance of your C++ software with threading, but are concerned about the apparent complexity and risks, consider trying either of Intel TBB or OpenMP. Both are free, though you should check the licenses.
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+ - Should Developers Still Pay for Game Engines? ->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: Game developers no longer have to pay for the software they need to make great video games, because the tools used by some of the biggest and most successful studios in the world are available to everyone, for free. Among the existing major engines, there is one holdout that does not offer a free version: Crytek continues to charge everyone for CryEngine, and is intent on continuing to do so. That’s not to say Crytek is being unreasonable. The company introduced a $10-per-month subscription last year, making it accessible to indie developers who can’t afford the higher-priced package that includes full source code. “With CryEngine, Crytek is going to the high-end,” Crytek co-founder Faruk Yerli recently told Develop, a news site for developers. Unity3D is going for the low-end while Unreal is aiming for everything from low- to high-end, he added. But according to some developers queried by Dice, there is little reality to the idea that the big three engines are divided between low, mid-end, and high-end capabilities. If you're a developer, is it still worth paying for a game engine?
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+ - Yes, You Can Blame Your Pointy-Haired Boss on the Peter Principle->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: You've heard of the Peter Principle, which suggests that all employees manage to rise to the level of their incompetence. (That is to say, everybody is promoted until their skills and strengths no longer align with their current position.) While the Peter Principle is often treated as a truism, a recent Gallup study (registration required)—the result of four decades’ worth of research, involving 2.5 million manager-led teams—suggests that it holds a significant degree of real-world truth (registration required). “Gallup has found that only 10 percent of working people possess the talent to be a great manager,” the study mentions in its introduction. “Companies use outdated notions of succession to put people in these roles.” In Gallup’s estimation, there are so many bad managers out there that one out of every two employees have “left their job to get away,” according to the study. “Managers who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the U.S. economy $319 billion to $398 billion annually.” In other words, there are a lot of pointy-haired managers out there.
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+ - IBM Thinks Agile Development Might Save It->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes: A new Wall Street Journal article details how IBM CIO Jeff Smith is trying to make Big Blue, which is going through some turbulent times as it attempts to transition from a hardware-dependent business to one that more fully embraces the cloud and services, operate more like a startup instead of a century-old colossus. His solution centers on having developers work in smaller teams, each of which embraces Agile methodology, as opposed to working in huge divisions on multi-year projects. In order to unite employees who might be geographically dispersed, IBM also has its groups leave open a Skype channel throughout the workday. Smith hopes, of course, that his plan will accelerate IBM’s internal development, and make it more competitive against not only its tech-giant competition, but also the host of startups working in common fields such as artificial intelligence.
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Programmers used to batch environments may find it hard to live without giant listings; we would find it hard to use them. -- D.M. Ritchie

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