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Christmas Cheer

Finnish IT Retailer Reveals Most Returned Products 104

jones_supa writes: The largest computer gear retailer in Finland, Verkkokauppa.com, has unveiled top 20 lists of most returned and most serviced equipment in 2015 (Google translation). To offer an alternative to Black Friday, the company is going with a theme called "Sustainable Christmas". They want to guide shoppers to make good choices, as product returns always create extra burden for the distribution chain. Is there anything that catches your eye in the lists, or something else that you would like to warn about?
The Almighty Buck

"Clock Boy" Ahmed Mohamed Seeking $15 Million In Damages 814

phrackthat writes: The family of Ahmed Mohamed, the boy who was arrested in Irving, Texas has threatened to sue the school and the city of Irving if they do not pay him $15 million as compensation for his arrest. To refresh the memories of everyone, Ahmed's clock was a clock he disassembled then put into a pencil case that looked like a miniature briefcase. He was briefly detained by the Irving city police to interview him and determine if he intended for his clock to be perceived as a fake bomb. He was released to his parents later on that day and they publicized the matter and claimed Ahmed was arrested because of "Islamophobia".

Comment Re:Scrum Was Never Alive (Score 1) 371

If you have most of those prerequisites -- everyone agrees on a process, you have a good architecture, and the project staff are highly motivated and get along -- then basically any process will work. If you say that scrum only works when you have those, it does not speak well of scrum. The purpose of real engineering processes are to manage projects where not everyone sees eye to eye, you have a variety of per-worker productivity levels, and you probably have uncertainty about what you need or what is possible.

Comment Re:Scrum is fantastic! Do it today! (Score 1) 371

Every halfway-decent development methodology makes a big deal about breaking things down so they can be accurately estimated. If you look at the SEI's Personal/Team Software Processes (PSP/TSP), which are basically the waterfall method on steroids, one of the biggest objectives near the start of the project is to try to break tasks down into chunks no bigger than a day.

Obviously, when you break things down that much, you will be wrong a lot, but once you get a few projects under your belt, you should be pretty close for work that is similar to things you have done before -- and your estimates should be pessimistic about as often as they are optimistic, so the large number of smallish individual estimates averages out to a not-so-bad overall schedule error. (Another benefit is that when your work units are that small, you should have a pretty good estimate of project progress.)

Comment Re:So AMD called their Hyperthreading a CPU core? (Score 5, Informative) 311

AMD's CPU architecture has a similar purpose as hyperthreading -- to share hardware resources between what looks to the OS like independent cores -- but the tradeoff is different. Intel's hyperthreading approach only works to cover memory latency, because the hyperthreads share so many physical resources (I think basically everything except register files and hyperthreading-related state). AMD's is somewhat different in that each "module" has two independent integer ALUs, register files, and L1 data caches. The module has one L1 instruction cache, one L2 data cache, one FPU, and one instruction fetch/decode unit.

But AMD has always been pretty up-front about this architecture. There is maybe a cause of action against resellers who package the AMD chips into systems and do gloss over which aspects each "core" shares with another core, but AMD publicly presented the core-vs-module distinction well before the chips were released.


AMD Sued Over Allegedly Misleading Bulldozer Core Count 311

An anonymous reader writes: A class action suit accuses AMD of misleading buyers about the number of cores in its Bulldozer-based CPUs. The complaint claims that the chips effectively had only four cores, while AMD claims there are eight. According to Ars: "AMD's multi-core Bulldozer chips use a unique design that combines the functions of what would normally be two discrete cores into a single package, which the company calls a module. Each module is identified as two separate cores in Windows, but the cores share a single floating point unit and instruction and execution resources. This is different from Intel's cores, which feature independent FPUs. The suit claims that Bulldozer's design means its cores cannot work independently, and as a result, cannot perform eight instructions simultaneously and independently. This, the claim continues, results in performance degradation, and average consumers in the market for a CPU lack the technical expertise to understand the design of AMD's processors and trust the company to give accurate specifications regarding its CPUs."

Autonomous Cars Aren't As Smart as They're Cracked Up To Be (computerworld.com) 258

Gill Pratt, executive technical adviser at Toyota, offers a note of caution, even as more car companies start putting AI elements into their cars. Speaking in Tokyo at the announcement of a Silicon Valley AI research center that Toyota is to open in early 2016, Pratt pointed out the big shortcoming in an AI system as applied to automobile: Autonomous cars might look great in controlled tests or on pristine highways, "but soon fail when faced with tasks that human drivers find simple." From the article: Drivers, for example, can pretty much get behind the wheel of a car and drive it wherever it may be, he said. Autonomous vehicles use GPS and laser imaging sensors to figure out where they are by matching data against a complex map that goes beyond simple roads and includes details down to lane markings. The cars rely on all that data to drive, so they quickly hit problems in areas that haven't been mapped in advance. ... A truly intelligent self-driving car needs artificial intelligence that can figure out where it is even if it has no map or GPS, and manage to navigate highways and follow routes even if there are diversions or changing in lane markings, he said. I regularly drive a stretch of road that's just a few miles long, but between construction, accidents, poor marking, bicycles, and heavy traffic I'd be nervous about letting an AI system navigate. In what real-world driving scenarios would you most want humans to take over?

Comment Re:Something something question in headline equals (Score 4, Insightful) 568

I've done software engineering in the past. It was slow and expensive, parts of it were tedious, and parts -- particularly fallout from the fact that (fairly) rigorous software engineering is rarely done -- involved more hassle than they should have been. Even at that job, most of what I did was more traditional software development than engineering, and all my other software-developing jobs have been far from the level of rigor and care that I would call engineering.

However, when I did software engineering, with clearly defined requirements and interfaces, with an explicit architecture and functional decomposition of the software, with carefully planned and executed verification and validation, the results were definitely higher quality than you would get from less time- and labor-intensive methods. Most of the time, cheaper methods are acceptable and worth the increased chance of defects. Flight systems, healthcare, other safety-critical systems, and financial computing usually, and justifiably, prefer to pay for more rigor and higher quality.

Open Source

Linus's Thoughts on Linux Security (washingtonpost.com) 291

Rick Zeman writes: The Washington Post has a lengthy article on Linus Torvalds and his thoughts on Linux security. Quoting: "...while Linux is fast, flexible and free, a growing chorus of critics warn that it has security weaknesses that could be fixed but haven't been. Worse, as Internet security has surged as a subject of international concern, Torvalds has engaged in an occasionally profane standoff with experts on the subject. ...

His broader message was this: Security of any system can never be perfect. So it always must be weighed against other priorities — such as speed, flexibility and ease of use — in a series of inherently nuanced trade-offs. This is a process, Torvalds suggested, poorly understood by his critics. 'The people who care most about this stuff are completely crazy. They are very black and white,' he said ... 'Security in itself is useless. The upside is always somewhere else. The security is never the thing that you really care about.'"

Of course, contradictory points of view are presented, too: "While I don't think that the Linux kernel has a terrible track record, it's certainly much worse than a lot of people would like it to be," said Matthew Garrett, principal security engineer for CoreOS, a San Francisco company that produces an operating system based on Linux. At a time when research into protecting software has grown increasingly sophisticated, Garrett said, "very little of that research has been incorporated into Linux."


Botnet Takes Over Twitch Install and Partially Installs Gentoo 101

WarJolt writes: The plug was pulled on the attempt to crowd-source an Arch Linux install after a botnet threatened to take over the process. Twitch Installs has been rebooted by the twitchintheshell community and Twitch Installs users managed to reinstall Arch only to be thwarted by the botnet. The botnet managed to partially install Gentoo. Users are currently in the process of reinstalling Arch.
GNU is Not Unix

GNU Hurd 0.7 and GNU Mach 1.6 Released 129

jones_supa writes: Halloween brought us GNU Hurd 0.7, GNU Mach 1.6, and GNU MIG 1.6. The new Hurd comes with filesystem driver improvements, provides a new rpcscan utility, and the Hurd code has been ported to work with newer versions of GCC and GNU C Library. The Mach microkernel has updates for compiler compatibility, improvements to the lock debugging infrastructure, the kernel now lets non-privileged users write to a small amount of memory, timestamps are now kept relative to boot time, and there are various bugfixes. MIG 1.6 is a small update which improves compatibility with newer dialects of C programming language. Specific details on all of the updates can be found in the full release announcement. jrepin adds some more details: The GNU Hurd 0.7 improves the node cache for the EXT2 file-system code (ext2fs), improves the native fakeroot tool, provides a new rpcscan utility, and fixes a long-standing synchronization issue with the file-system translators and other components. The GNU Mach 1.6 microkernel also has updates for compiler compatibility, improvements to the lock debugging infrastructure, the kernel now lets non-privileged users write to a small amount of memory, timestamps are now kept relative to boot time, and there are various bug-fixes.

Lessons From a Decade of IT Failures (ieee.org) 118

New submitter mixed_signal writes: IEEE Spectrum has an online set of articles, or "lessons," on why big IT projects have failed, including analysis of the impacts of failed systems and the life cycles of failed projects. From the summary: "To commemorate the last decade's worth of failures, we organized and analyzed the data we've collected. We cannot claim—nor can anyone, really—to have a definitive, comprehensive database of debacles. Instead, from the incidents we have chronicled, we handpicked the most interesting and illustrative examples of big IT systems and projects gone awry and created the five interactives featured here. Each reveals different emerging patterns and lessons. Dive in to see what we've found. One big takeaway: While it's impossible to say whether IT failures are more frequent now than in the past, it does seem that the aggregate consequences are worse."

Apple Usurps Oracle As the Biggest Threat To PC Security 320

AmiMoJo writes: According to data from Secunia, Apple's software for Windows is now the biggest threat to PC security, surpassing previous long term champion Java. Among U.S. users, some 61 percent of computers detected running QuickTime did not have the latest version. With iTunes, 47 percent of the installations were outdated versions. There were 18 vulnerabilities in Apple QuickTime 7 at the time of the study. Oracle has now fallen/risen to 2nd place, followed by Adobe. All three vendors bundle automatic updater utilities with their software, but users seem to be declining new versions. Update fatigue, perhaps?

Open-Source GPU Drivers Show Less Than Ideal Experience For SteamOS/Linux Gaming (phoronix.com) 109

An anonymous reader writes: Phoronix's recent 22-Way SteamOS Graphics Card Comparison showed that NVIDIA wins across the board when it comes to closed-source OpenGL driver performance. However, when it comes to the open-source driver performance for Steam Linux gaming, no one is really the winner. A new article, "Are The Open-Source Graphics Drivers Good Enough For Steam Linux Gaming?" answers that question with "heck no" by its author. While AMD is generally regarded as having better open-source support, their newer graphics cards still can't run at their rated clock frequencies due to lack of power management support, the lack of enough OpenGL 4.x support means many AAA Linux games simply cannot run yet, not enough QA means regressions are common, and other issues were noted when it comes to testing a number of modern graphics cards on the open-source drivers.

Google 'Rethinking Everything' Around Machine Learning (itworld.com) 65

itwbennett writes: Sundar Pichai took part in his first earnings call Thursday when Google's parent company Alphabet reported its quarterly results, and 'in between discussing the numbers he revealed how important Google thinks machine learning is to its future,' writes James Niccolai. 'Machine learning is a core, transformative way by which we're rethinking everything we're doing,' Pichai said. 'We're thoughtfully applying it across all our products, be it search, ads, YouTube, or Play. We're in the early days, but you'll see us in a systematic way think about how we can apply machine learning to all these areas.'

We're living in a golden age. All you need is gold. -- D.W. Robertson.