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Education

Slashdot Asks: What Was Your First Programming Language? (stanforddaily.com) 180

This question was inspired by news that Stanford's computer science professor Eric Roberts will try JavaScript instead of Java in a new version of the college's introductory computer programming course. The Stanford Daily reports: When Roberts came to Stanford in 1990, CS106A was still taught in Pascal, a programming language he described as not "clean." The department adopted the C language in 1992. When Java came out in 1995, the computer science faculty was excited to transition to the new language. Roberts wrote the textbooks, worked with other faculty members to restructure the course and assignments and introduced Java at Stanford in 2002... "Java had stabilized," Roberts said. "It was clear that many universities were going in that direction. It's 2017 now, and Java is showing its age." According to Roberts, Java was intended early on as "the language of the Internet". But now, more than a decade after the transition to Java, Javascript has taken its place as a web language.
In 2014 Python and Java were the two most commonly-taught languages at America's top universities, according to an analysis published by the Communications of the ACM. And Java still remains the most-commonly taught language in a university setting, according to a poll by the Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education. In a spreadsheet compiling the results, "Python appears 60 times, C++ 54 times, Java 84 times, and JavaScript 28 times," writes a computing professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, adding "if Java is dying (or "showing its age"...) it's going out as the reigning champ."

I'm guessing Slashdot's readers have their own opinions about this, so share your educational experiences in the comments. What was your first programming language?
The Internet

Should Archive.org Ignore Robots.txt Directives And Cache Everything? (archive.org) 84

Archive.org argues robots.txt files are geared toward search engines, and now plans instead to represent the web "as it really was, and is, from a user's perspective." We have also seen an upsurge of the use of robots.txt files to remove entire domains from search engines when they transition from a live web site into a parked domain, which has historically also removed the entire domain from view in the Wayback Machine... We receive inquiries and complaints on these "disappeared" sites almost daily."
In response, Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: We can stipulate at the outset that the venerable Internet Archive and its associated systems like Wayback Machine have done a lot of good for many years -- for example by providing chronological archives of websites who have chosen to participate in their efforts. But now, it appears that the Internet Archive has joined the dark side of the Internet, by announcing that they will no longer honor the access control requests of any websites.
He's wondering what will happen when "a flood of other players decide that they must emulate the Internet Archive's dismal reasoning to remain competitive," adding that if sys-admins start blocking spiders with web server configuration directives, other unrelated sites could become "collateral damage."

But BoingBoing is calling it "an excellent decision... a splendid reminder that nothing published on the web is ever meaningfully private, and will always go on your permanent record." So what do Slashdot's readers think? Should Archive.org ignore robots.txt directives and cache everything?
Businesses

Linux PC Maker System76 Plans To Design And Manufacture Its Own Hardware (liliputing.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes Liliputing: System76 is one of only a handful of PC vendors that exclusively sells computers with Linux-based software. Up until now, that's meant the company has chosen hardware that it could guarantee would work well with custom firmware and the Ubuntu Linux operating system... Starting in 2018 though, you may be able to buy a System76 computer that was designed and built in-house... CAD files for System76 computers will be open source, allowing anyone with the appropriate skills and equipment to build or modify their own cases based on the company's designs.
"We're prototyping with acrylic and moving to metal soon," the company says in a blog post, adding "Our first in-house designed and manufactured desktops will ship next year. Laptops are more complex and will follow much later."
Microsoft

Microsoft Will Block Desktop 'Office' Apps From 'Office 365' Services In 2020 (techradar.com) 138

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is still encouraging businesses to rent their Office software, according to TechRadar. "In a bid to further persuade users of the standalone versions of Office to shift over to a cloud subscription (Office 365), Microsoft has announced that those who made a one-off purchase of an Office product will no longer get access to the business flavours of OneDrive and Skype come the end of the decade." PC World explains that in reality this affects very few users. "If you've been saving all of your Excel spreadsheets into your OneDrive for Business cloud, you'll need to download and move them over to a personal subscription -- or pony up for Office 365, as Microsoft really wants you to do."

Microsoft is claiming that when customers connect to Office 365 services using a legacy version of Office, "they're not enjoying all that the service has to offer. The IT security and reliability benefits and end user experiences in the apps is limited to the features shipped at a point in time. To ensure that customers are getting the most out of their Office 365 subscription, we are updating our system requirements." And in another blog post, they're almost daring people to switch to Linux. "Providing over three years advance notice for this change to Office 365 system requirements for client connectivity gives you time to review your long-term desktop strategy, budget and plan for any change to your environment."

In a follow-up comment, Microsoft's Alistair Speirs explained that "There is still an option to get monthly desktop updates, but we are changing the 3x a year update channel to be 2x a year to align closer to Windows 10 update model. We are trying to strike the right balance between agile, ship-when-ready updates and enterprise needs of predictability, reliability and advanced notice to validate and prepare."
Earth

Can Geoengineering Drones Fight Global Warming? (technologyreview.com) 178

MIT Technology Review reports: David Mitchell, a lanky, soft-spoken atmospheric physicist, believes frigid clouds in the upper troposphere may offer one of our best fallback plans for combating climate change... Fleets of large drones would crisscross the upper latitudes of the globe during winter months, sprinkling the skies with tons of extremely fine dust-like materials every year. If Mitchell is right, this would produce larger ice crystals than normal, creating thinner cirrus clouds that dissipate faster. "That would allow more radiation into space, cooling the earth," Mitchell says...

Increasingly grim climate projections have convinced a growing number of scientists it's time to start conducting experiments to find out what might work. In addition, an impressive list of institutions including Harvard University, the Carnegie Council, and the University of California, Los Angeles, have recently established research initiatives... By this time next year, Harvard professors David Keith and Frank Keutsch hope to launch a high-altitude balloon from a site in Tucson, Arizona. This will mark the beginning of a research project to explore the feasibility and risks of an approach known as solar radiation management. The basic idea is that spraying materials into the stratosphere could help reflect more heat back into space, mimicking a natural cooling phenomenon that occurs after volcanoes blast tens of millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the sky.

"I don't really know what the answer is," says a former associate director at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "But I do believe we need to keep saying what the truth is, and the truth is, we might need it."
Businesses

Steve Case On How To Get Funded Outside Tech Corridors (hpe.com) 31

Long-time reader Esther Schindler writes: Innovation occurs outside the Bay Area, New York, Boston, and Austin. So why is it so hard for a startup to get attention and acquire venture capital? Steve Case and Kara Swisher discussed this never-ending-topic recently, such as the fact 78% of U.S. venture capital last year went to just three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts. Case sees a "third wave" of venture capital funding and through his VC firm is investing in startups based outside major tech centers.

But, points out Stealthmode's Francine Hardaway, if you're in Boise or Baltimore you don't have to wait for Case to come to town. She shares advice about what's worked in other startup communities, focusing on the #YesPhx efforts.

Conventional wisdom says you should be in a major tech center to get funding, but the article offers an encouraging counterargument. "Never rely on conventional wisdom if you're an innovator. Money follows real innovation."
America Online

Verizon.net 'Gets Out Of The Email Business' (networkworld.com) 59

"We have decided to close down our email business," Verizon has announced -- in a move which affects 4.5 million accounts. Slashdot reader tomservo84 writes: Strangely enough, I didn't find out about this from Verizon, itself, but SiriusXM, who sent me an email saying that since I have a Verizon.net email address on file, I'd have to update it because they were getting rid of their email service. I thought it was a bad phishing attempt at first...
Network World reports that customers are being notified "on a rolling basis... Once customers are notified, they are presented with a personal take-action date that is 30 days from the original notification." But even after that date, verizon.net email addresses can be revived using AOL Mail. "Over the years we've realized that there are more capable email platforms out there," Verizon concedes.

"Migration is going well," a Verizon spokesperson told Network World. "I don't have any stats to share, but customers seem to appreciate that they have several choices, including an option that keeps their Verizon.net email address intact."
Android

Anbox Can Run Android Apps Natively On Linux (In A Container) (anbox.io) 51

Slashdot user #1083, downwa, writes: Canonical engineer Simon Fels has publicly released an Alpha version of Anbox. Similar to the method employed for Android apps on ChromeOS, Anbox runs an entire Android system (7.1.1 at present) in an LXC container. Developed over the last year and a half, the software promises to seamlessly bring performant Android apps to the Linux desktop.

After installing Anbox (based on Android 7.1.1) and starting Anbox Application Manager, ten apps are available: Calculator, Calendar, Clock, Contacts, Email, Files, Gallery, Music, Settings, and WebView. Apps run in separate resizeable windows. Additional apps (ARM-native binaries are excluded) can be installed via adb. Installation currently is only supported on a few Linux distributions able to install snaps. Contributions are welcome on Github.

In a blog post Simon describes it as "a side project" that he's worked on for over a year and a half. "There were quite a few problems to solve on the way to a really working implementation but it is now in a state that it makes sense to share it with a wider audience."
Transportation

Waymo Is Using Grand Theft Auto V To Help Teach Its Self-Driving Cars (bloomberg.com) 49

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: In the race to the autonomous revolution, developers have realized there aren't enough hours in a day to clock the real-world miles needed to teach cars how to drive themselves. Which is why Grand Theft Auto V is in the mix... Last year, scientists from Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany and Intel Labs developed a way to pull visual information from Grand Theft Auto V. Now some researchers are deriving algorithms from GTAV software that's been tweaked for use in the burgeoning self-driving sector. The latest in the franchise from publisher Rockstar Games Inc. is just about as good as reality, with 262 types of vehicles, more than 1,000 different unpredictable pedestrians and animals, 14 weather conditions and countless bridges, traffic signals, tunnels and intersections...

The idea isn't that the highways and byways of the fictional city of Los Santos would ever be a substitute for bona fide asphalt. But the game "is the richest virtual environment that we could extract data from," said Alain Kornhauser, a Princeton University professor of operations research and financial engineering who advises the Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering team. Waymo uses its simulators to create a confounding motoring situation for every variation engineers can think of: having three cars changing lanes at the same time at an assortment of speeds and directions, for instance. What's learned virtually is applied physically, and problems encountered on the road are studied in simulation.

Open Source

Systemd-Free Devuan Announces Its First Stable Release Candidate 'Jessie' 1.0.0 (devuan.org) 239

Long-time reader jaromil writes: Devuan 1.0.0-RC is announced, following its beta 2 release last year. The Debian fork that spawned over systemd controversy is reaching stability and plans long-term support. Devuan deploys an innovative continuous integration setup: with fallback on Debian packages, it overlays its own modifications and then uses the merged source repository to ship images for 11 ARM targets, a desktop and minimal live, vagrant and qemu virtual machines and the classic installer isos. The release announcement contains several links to projects that have already adopted this distribution as a base OS.
"Dear Init Freedom Lovers," begins the announcement, "Once again the Veteran Unix Admins salute you!" It points out that Devuan "can be adopted as a flawless upgrade path from both Debian Wheezy and Jessie. This is a main goal for the Devuan Jessie stable release and has proven to be a very stable operation every time it has been performed. "
Programming

Stack Overflow Reveals Which Programming Languages Are Most Used At Night (stackoverflow.blog) 87

Stack Overflow data scientist David Robinson recently calculated when people visit the popular programming question-and-answer site, but then also calculated whether those results differed by programming language. Quoting his results:
  • "C# programmers start and stop their day earlier, and tend to use the language less in the evenings. This might be because C# is often used at finance and enterprise software companies, which often start earlier and have rigid schedules."
  • "C programmers start the day a bit later, keep using the language in the evening, and stay up the longest. This suggests C may be particularly popular among hobbyist programmers who code during their free time (or perhaps among summer school students doing homework)."
  • "Python and Javascript are somewhere in between: Python and Javascript developers start and end the day a little later than C# users, and are a little less likely than C programmers to work in the evening."

The site also released an interactive app which lets users see how the results for other languages compared to C#, JavaScript, Python, and C, though of those four, "C# would count as the 'most nine-to-five,' and C as the least."

And they've also calculated the technologies used most between 9 to 5 (which "include many Microsoft technologies, such as SQL Server, Excel, VBA, and Internet Explorer, as well as technologies like SVN and Oracle that are frequently used at enterprise software companies.") Meanwhile, the technologies most often used outside the 9-5 workday "include web frameworks like Firebase, Meteor, and Express, as well as graphics libraries like OpenGL and Unity. The functional language Haskell is the tag most visited outside of the workday; only half of its visits happen between 9 and 5."


Biotech

Can Parents Sue If Their Kid Is Born With the 'Wrong' DNA? (gizmodo.com) 199

Long-time reader randomErr quotes Gizmodo: It's a nightmare scenario straight out of a primetime drama: a child-seeking couple visits a fertility clinic to try their luck with in-vitro fertilization, only to wind up accidentally impregnated by the wrong sperm. In a fascinating legal case out of Singapore, the country's Supreme Court ruled that this situation doesn't just constitute medical malpractice. The fertility clinic, the court recently ruled, must pay the parents 30% of upkeep costs for the child for a loss of 'genetic affinity.' In other words, the clinic must pay the parents' child support not only because they made a terrible medical mistake, but because the child didn't wind up with the right genes...

"It's suggesting that the child itself has something wrong with it, genetically, and that it has monetary value attached to it," Todd Kuiken, a senior research scholar with the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University, told Gizmodo. "They attached damages to the genetic makeup of the child, rather than the mistake. That's the part that makes it uncomfortable. This can take you in all sort of fucked up directions."

Databases

Microsoft Will Support Python In SQL Server 2017 (infoworld.com) 81

There was a surprise in the latest Community Technology Preview release of SQL Server 2017. An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Python can now be used within SQL Server to perform analytics, run machine learning models, or handle most any kind of data-powered work. This integration isn't limited to enterprise editions of SQL Server 2017, either -- it'll also be available in the free-to-use Express edition... Microsoft has also made it possible to embed Python code directly in SQL Server databases by including the code as a T-SQL stored procedure. This allows Python code to be deployed in production along with the data it'll be processing. These behaviors, and the RevoScalePy package, are essentially Python versions of features Microsoft built for SQL Server back when it integrated the R language into the database...

An existing Python installation isn't required. During the setup process, SQL Server 2017 can pull down and install its own edition of CPython 3.5, the stock Python interpreter available from the Python.org website. Users can install their own Python packages as well or use Cython to generate C code from Python modules for additional speed.

Except it's not yet available for Linux users, according to the article. "Microsoft has previously announced SQL Server would be available for Linux, but right now, only the Windows version of SQL Server 2017 supports Python."
Government

WikiLeaks Releases New CIA Secret: Tapping Microphones On Some Samsung TVs (fossbytes.com) 91

FossBytes reports: The whistleblower website Wikileaks has published another set of hacking tools belonging to the American intelligence agency CIA. The latest revelation includes a user guide for CIA's "Weeping Angel" tool... derived from another tool called "Extending" which belongs to UK's intelligence agency MI5/BTSS, according to Wikileaks. Extending takes control of Samsung F Series Smart TV. The highly detailed user guide describes it as an implant "designed to record audio from the built-in microphone and egress or store the data."

According to the user guide, the malware can be deployed on a TV via a USB stick after configuring it on a Linux system. It is possible to transfer the recorded audio files through the USB stick or by setting up a WiFi hotspot near the TV. Also, a Live Liston Tool, running on a Windows OS, can be used to listen to audio exfiltration in real-time. Wikileaks mentioned that the two agencies, CIA and MI5/BTSS made collaborative efforts to create Weeping Angel during their Joint Development Workshops.

Businesses

107 Cancer Papers Retracted Due To Peer Review Fraud (arstechnica.com) 113

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The journal Tumor Biology is retracting 107 research papers after discovering that the authors faked the peer review process. This isn't the journal's first rodeo. Late last year, 58 papers were retracted from seven different journals -- 25 came from Tumor Biology for the same reason. It's possible to fake peer review because authors are often asked to suggest potential reviewers for their own papers. This is done because research subjects are often blindingly niche; a researcher working in a sub-sub-field may be more aware than the journal editor of who is best-placed to assess the work. But some journals go further and request, or allow, authors to submit the contact details of these potential reviewers. If the editor isn't aware of the potential for a scam, they then merrily send the requests for review out to fake e-mail addresses, often using the names of actual researchers. And at the other end of the fake e-mail address is someone who's in on the game and happy to send in a friendly review. This most recent avalanche of fake-reviewed papers was discovered because of extra screening at the journal. According to an official statement from Springer, the company that published Tumor Biology until this year, "the decision was made to screen new papers before they are released to production." The extra screening turned up the names of fake reviewers that hadn't previously been detected, and "in order to clean up our scientific records, we will now start retracting these affected articles...Springer will continue to proactively investigate these issues."

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