Programming

Is Python Really the Fastest-Growing Programming Language? (stackoverflow.blog) 254

An anonymous reader quotes Stack Overflow Blog: In this post, we'll explore the extraordinary growth of the Python programming language in the last five years, as seen by Stack Overflow traffic within high-income countries. The term "fastest-growing" can be hard to define precisely, but we make the case that Python has a solid claim to being the fastest-growing major programming language... June 2017 was the first month that Python was the most visited [programming language] tag on Stack Overflow within high-income nations. This included being the most visited tag within the US and the UK, and in the top 2 in almost all other high income nations (next to either Java or JavaScript). This is especially impressive because in 2012, it was less visited than any of the other 5 languages, and has grown by 2.5-fold in that time. Part of this is because of the seasonal nature of traffic to Java. Since it's heavily taught in undergraduate courses, Java traffic tends to rise during the fall and spring and drop during the summer.

Does Python show a similar growth in the rest of the world, in countries like India, Brazil, Russia and China? Indeed it does. Outside of high-income countries Python is still the fastest growing major programming language; it simply started at a lower level and the growth began two years later (in 2014 rather than 2012). In fact, the year-over-year growth rate of Python in non-high-income countries is slightly higher than it is in high-income countries... We're not looking to contribute to any "language war." The number of users of a language doesn't imply anything about its quality, and certainly can't tell you which language is more appropriate for a particular situation. With that perspective in mind, however, we believe it's worth understanding what languages make up the developer ecosystem, and how that ecosystem might be changing. This post demonstrated that Python has shown a surprising growth in the last five years, especially within high-income countries.

The post was written by Stack Overflow data scientist David Robinson, who notes that "I used to program primarily in Python, though I have since switched entirely to R."
The Courts

The Teen Malware Career Of Marcus Hutchins (itwire.com) 48

Slashdot reader troublemaker_23 writes, "A number of security researchers have dismissed an article by reporter Brian Krebs about Marcus Hutchins, the Briton who is awaiting trial in the US on charges of writing and distributing the Kronos banking malware, by pointing out that it has nothing to do with the case." An anonymous reader writes: Krebs investigated dozens of hacker forum pseudonyms, concluding "The clues suggest that Hutchins began developing and selling malware in his mid-teens -- only to later develop a change of heart and earnestly endeavor to leave that part of his life squarely in the rearview mirror." Krebs believes 15-year-old Hutchins registered a domain he'd later advertise as "mainly for blackhats wanting to phish," and in 2010 may have filmed YouTube videos about password-stealing malware. Krebs says the early activities are "fairly small-time -- and hardly rise to the level of coding from scratch a complex banking trojan and selling it to cybercriminals," though he believes Hutchins moved on to advertising exploit kits, password-stealers, and bot rentals.

Krebs also talked to 27-year-old Brendan Johnston, a friend of Hutchins who did time in prison in 2014 for selling Trojans, who "said his old friend sincerely tried to turn things around in late 2012... 'I feel like I know Marcus better than most people do online, and when I heard about the accusations I was completely shocked,. He tried for such a long time to steer me down a straight and narrow path that seeing this tied to him didn't make sense to me at all." Krebs stresses that Hutchins didn't try to hide the fact that he'd written malware, "which in the United States at least is a form of protected speech." And his essay concludes, "Let me be clear: I have no information to support the claim that Hutchins authored or sold the Kronos banking trojan."

Symantec's former cybersecurity czar Tarah Wheeler has now set up a new legal fund after it was discovered that most of the online donations to Hutchins' previous defense fund came from stolen or fake credit card numbers. Hutchins returns to court in October, and the new fund has already received more than $16,000 in donations from more than 200 contributors.
Hardware

Can We Surpass Moore's Law With Reversible Computing? (ieee.org) 118

"It's not about an undo button," writes Slashdot reader marcle, sharing an article by a senior member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories who's studying advanced technologies for computation. "Just reading this story bends my mind." From IEEE Spectrum: [F]or several decades now, we have known that it's possible in principle to carry out any desired computation without losing information -- that is, in such a way that the computation could always be reversed to recover its earlier state. This idea of reversible computing goes to the very heart of thermodynamics and information theory, and indeed it is the only possible way within the laws of physics that we might be able to keep improving the cost and energy efficiency of general-purpose computing far into the future... Today's computers rely on erasing information all the time -- so much so that every single active logic gate in conventional designs destructively overwrites its previous output on every clock cycle, wasting the associated energy. A conventional computer is, essentially, an expensive electric heater that happens to perform a small amount of computation as a side effect...

[I]t's really hard to engineer a system that does something computationally interesting without inadvertently incurring a significant amount of entropy increase with each operation. But technology has improved, and the need to minimize energy use is now acute... In 2004 Krishna Natarajan (a student I was advising at the University of Florida) and I showed in detailed simulations that a new and simplified family of circuits for reversible computing called two-level adiabatic logic, or 2LAL, could dissipate as little as 1 eV of energy per transistor per cycle -- about 0.001 percent of the energy normally used by logic signals in that generation of CMOS. Still, a practical reversible computer has yet to be built using this or other approaches.

The article predicts "if we decide to blaze this new trail of reversible computing, we may continue to find ways to keep improving computation far into the future. Physics knows no upper limit on the amount of reversible computation that can be performed using a fixed amount of energy."

But it also predicts that "conventional semiconductor technology could grind to a halt soon. And if it does, the industry could stagnate... Even a quantum-computing breakthrough would only help to significantly speed up a few highly specialized classes of computations, not computing in general."
Canada

Kodi Is Fighting Trademark Trolls (betanews.com) 92

Friday the makers of an open source media player Kodi called out trademark trolls who they say have "attempted to register the Kodi name in various countries outside the United States with the goal of earning money off the Kodi name without doing any work beyond sending threatening letters." BrianFagioli shares an article in which BetaNews quotes Kodi community and project manager Nathan Betzen: "At least one trademark troll has so far not agreed to voluntarily release their grasp on their registration of our trademark and is actively blackmailing hardware vendors in an entire country, trying to become as rich as possible off of our backs and the backs of Kodi volunteers everywhere. His name is Geoff Gavora. He had written several letters to the Foundation over the years, expressing how important XBMC and Kodi were to him and his sales. And then, one day, for whatever reason, he decided to register the Kodi trademark in his home country of Canada. We had hoped, given the positive nature of his past emails, that perhaps he was doing this for the benefit of the Foundation. We learned, unfortunately, that this was not the case," says Nathan Betzen, Kodi Project Manager.

"Instead, companies like Mygica and our sponsor Minix have been delisted by Gavora on Amazon, so that only Gavora's hardware can be sold, unless those companies pay him a fee to stay on the store. Now, if you do a search for Kodi on Amazon.ca, there's a very real chance that every box you see is giving Gavora money to advertise that they can run what should be the entirely free and open Kodi. Gavora and his company are behaving in true trademark troll fashion."

Transportation

An Intelligent Speed Bump Uses Non-Newtonian Liquid (businessinsider.com) 143

turkeydance quotes Business Insider: A Spanish company has designed a speed bump that won't hinder slow drivers but will still stop motorists driving too fast. The speed bump is filled with a non-Newtonian liquid which changes viscosity when pressure is applied at high velocity. They've been installed in Villanueva de Tapia, Spain and there has also been interest from Israel and Germany.
There's a video on the site showing the speed bump in action.
China

China Builds World's Largest EV Charging Network With 167,000 Stations (247wallst.com) 103

"It soon will become easier to charge a Chevy Bolt or Tesla in China," reports 24/7 Wall Street, citing reports from China's official newspaper that they've built the highest number of electric-car charging facilities in the world, offering "the broadest coverage, and the most advanced technology." AmiMoJo quotes their announcement: A total of 167,000 charging piles have now been connected to the telematics platform of the State Grid Corporation of China, making it the world's largest electric vehicle (EV) charging network. By cooperating with 17 charging station operators, the SGCC now offers more than 1 million kilowatt-hours of power each day.
24/7 Wall Street says the ambitious (and government-subsidized) plan "is bound to help electronic car adoption since most vehicles in the category have ranges well under 300 miles."
SuSE

Linux Pioneer SUSE Marks 25 Years In the Field (itwire.com) 54

troublemaker_23 shares an article from ITWire: The Germany-based SUSE Linux marked a milestone last week: on Friday, September 2, the company turned 25, a remarkable achievement in an industry where the remains of software companies litter the landscape around the world... SUSE was formed in 1992 by three university students -- Hubert Mantel, Roland Dyroff, and Burchard Steinbild. The fourth man in the equation was software engineer Thomas Fehr. They had a simple objective: to build software and deliver UNIX support. Linux had been around for a little more than a year at that point and they decided to use it... The name S.u.S.E is a German acronym and means "Software und System-Entwicklung", or "Software and systems development". The name was later changed to SuSE and some years on became SUSE...

Like other open source outfits, SUSE has widened its services and now not only provides an enterprise Linux distribution but has a well developed software-defined storage product and one for a container-as-a-service option. It also caters to those seeking cloud options and does more than its fair share in contributing to upstream FOSS projects. Along the way, it has spawned a top-notch community distribution, openSUSE, which is run by an autonomous board led by the ebullient British developer Richard Brown.

S.u.S.E Linux was one of the first distros, arriving in 1994 after Soft Landing Systems Linux (in mid-1992) and Slackware.
Government

Should Congress Force Social Media To Investigate Foreign Propaganda Trolls? (politico.com) 266

"I fought foreign propaganda for the FBI," writes a former special agent from its Counterintelligence Division. Now an associate dean at Yale Law School, he's warning that "the tools we had won't work anymore." An anonymous reader quotes Politico: The bureau is now faced with huge private companies, like Facebook and Twitter, which are ostensibly neutral and have no professional or ethical obligation to vet the material they distribute. Further, foreign intelligence service propaganda agents are no longer human operatives on American soil -- they are invisible "trolls," often operating from a foreign country and behind social media accounts that make them impossible for the FBI to approach directly. Or, in the case of so-called bots -- software programs designed to simulate humans -- they might not even be people at all... [S]ocial media platforms can reach an almost limitless audience, often within days or hours, more or less for free: Russia's Facebook ads alone reached between 23 million and 70 million viewers.

Without any direct way to investigate and identify the source of the private accounts that generate this "fake news," there's literally nothing the FBI can do to stop a propaganda operation that can occur on such a massive scale... But Congress could pass legislation that requires social media companies to cooperate with counterintelligence in the same ways they do with law enforcement. For example, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act requires telecommunications companies to design their digital networks in such a way that would permit wiretaps for criminal cases. Similarly, requiring social media platforms to develop ways to vet and authenticate foreign users and proactively report potential bots to the FBI would enable the FBI to identify perception management operations as they are occurring. In addition to monitoring these specific FIS-based accounts, the FBI could publicly expose the source of particular accounts, ads or news...

"At this point, we have no choice: It's clear that our current counterintelligence strategy hasn't caught up to the age of asymmetrical information warfare," the former counterintelligence agent concludes. "Until it does, we'll be silently allowing our freedoms to be manipulated...."
GUI

Linux.com Raves About New Snap-Centric 'Nitrux' Distro (linux.com) 137

An anonymous reader quotes Linux.com: What happens when you take Ubuntu 17.10, a new desktop interface (one that overlays on top of KDE), snap packages, and roll them all up into a pseudo rolling release? You get Nitrux. At first blush, this particular Linux distribution seems more of an experiment than anything else -- to show how much the KDE desktop can be tweaked to resemble the likes of the Elementary OS or MacOS desktops. At its heart, however, it's much more than that... This particular take on the Linux desktop is focused on the portable, universal nature of snap packages and makes use of a unique desktop, called Nomad, which sits atop KDE Plasma 5... The desktop includes a dock, a system/notification tray, a quick search tool (Plasma Search), and an app menu. Of all the elements on the desktop, it's the Plasma Search tool that will appeal to anyone looking for an efficient means to interact with their desktops. With this tool, you can just start typing on a blank desktop to see a list of results. Say, for example, you want to open LibreOffice writer; on the blank desktop, just start typing "libre" and related entries will appear...

Skilled Linux users should have no problem using Nitrux and might find themselves intrigued with the snap-centric Nomad desktop. The one advantage of having a distribution centered around snap packages would be the ease with which you could quickly install and uninstall a package, without causing issues with other applications... In the end, Nitrux is a beautiful desktop that is incredibly efficient to use -- only slightly hampered by an awkward installer and a lack of available snap packages. Give this distribution a bit of time to work out the kinks and it could become a serious contender.

The GUI-focused distro even includes Android apps in the menu -- although Linux.com's reviewer notes that "on two different installations, I have yet to get this feature to work. Even the pre-installed Android apps never start."
Books

SciFi Author (and Byte Columnist) Jerry Pournelle Has Died (jerrypournelle.com) 221

Long-time Slashdot reader BinBoy writes: Science fiction author and Byte magazine columnist Jerry Pournelle has died according to a statement by his son Alex posted to Jerry's web site. A well-wishing page has been set up for visitor's to post their thoughts and memories of Mr. Pournelle.
Pournelle's literary career included the 1985 science fiction novel Footfall with Larry Niven, which became a #1 New York Times best-seller -- one of several successful collaborations between the two authors. In a Slashdot interview in 2003, Larry Niven credited Jerry for the prominent role of religion in their 1974 book The Mote in God's Eye.

Wikipedia also remembers how Byte magazine announced Pournelle's legendary debut as a columnist in their June 1980 issue.
"The other day we were sitting around the BYTE offices listening to software and hardware explosions going off around us in the microcomputer world. We wondered, "Who could cover some of the latest developments for us in a funny, frank (and sometimes irascible) style?" The phone rang. It was Jerry Pournelle with an idea for a funny, frank (and sometimes irascible) series of articles to be presented in BYTE on a semi-regular (i.e.: every 2 to 3 months) basis, which would cover the wild microcomputer goings-on at the Pournelle House ("Chaos Manor") in Southern California. We said yes."
Slashdot reader tengu1sd fondly remembers Pournelle as "frequently loud, but well reasoned." He also shares a link to a new appreciation posted on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America site. And Slashdot reader Nova Express also remembers Pournelle's Chaos Manor website "later became one of the first blogs on the Internet."
Firefox

Firefox 57 Will Hide Search Bar and Use a Uni-Bar Approach, Like Chrome (bleepingcomputer.com) 315

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Mozilla will drop an iconic section of its UI -- the search bar -- and will use one singular input bar atop the browser, similar to the approach of most Chromium browsers. This change will go live in Firefox 57, scheduled for release on November 14, and will be part of Photon -- the codename used to describe Firefox's new user interface (UI) -- also scheduled for a public release in v57. Mozilla engineers aren't removing the search bar altogether, but Firefox will hide this UI element by default. Users can still re-enable it by going to "Preferences -> Search -> Search Bar" and choosing the second option. The current Firefox search bar is redundant since most of its features can be performed by the URL address bar.
Iphone

Hobbyist Gives iPhone 7 the Headphone Jack We've Always Wanted (engadget.com) 194

intellitech shares a report from Engadget: For those of you who miss the iPhone headphone jack, you're definitely not alone. But Strange Parts creator Scotty Allen missed it so much that he decided to add one to his iPhone 7. He just posted a video of the project's entire saga, with all of its many ups and downs, and in the end he holds what he set out to create -- a current generation iPhone with a fully functional headphone jack. It turns out, real courage is adding the headphone jack back to the iPhone. The project took around 17 weeks to complete and throughout it Allen spent thousands of dollars on parts including multiple iPhones and screens and handfuls of lightning to headphone adaptors. Along the way, Allen bought a printer, a nice microscope and fancy tweezers. He had to design his own circuit boards, have a company manufacture multiple iterations of flexible circuit boards and at one point early on had to consult with a chip dealer that a friend hooked him up with.

The final product works by using a lightning to headphone adaptor that's incorporated into the internal structure of the phone. However, because the headphone jack is powered via the phone's lightning jack with a circuit board switching between the two depending on whether headphones or a charger are plugged into the phone, you can't actually listen to music and charge the phone at the same time.

Earth

El Nino's Absence Is Causing An Active Hurricane Season (mercurynews.com) 148

Dan Drollette writes: Contrary to some items making the rounds of the Twitterverse, El Nino's are "Kryptonite for hurricanes." The Mercury News reports: "Irma has ripped a path of misery through the Caribbean and is aiming at Florida, but the first seed for its monster size and force was planted on the other side of the world more than six months ago. It happened innocently enough, when a widely anticipated El Nino failed to materialize over the Pacific Ocean. In time, that cleared a path for a hurricane to form in the Atlantic that grew to the size of the state of New York with winds topping 185 miles per hour. El Nino occurs when the Pacific heats up and flusters the atmosphere, setting off a chain reaction that causes wind shear across the Atlantic. Shear is wind blowing in different directions or speeds at various altitudes, and it can be Kryptonite for hurricanes. As powerful as they are, tropical cyclones have delicate structures. Shear can tear them apart. A budding storm can't get started and an established storm can't get strong."

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