Desktops (Apple)

In Defense of the Popular Framework Electron (dev.to) 107

Electron, a popular framework that allows developers to write code once and seamlessly deploy it across multiple platforms, has been a topic of conversation lately among developers and users alike. Many have criticised Electron-powered apps to be "too memory intensive." A developer, who admittedly uses a high-end computer, shares his perspective: I can speak for myself when I say Electron runs like a dream. On a typical day, I'll have about three Atom windows open, a multi-team Slack up and running, as well as actively using and debugging my own Electron-based app Standard Notes. [...] So, how does it feel to run this bloat train of death every day? Well, it feels like nothing. I don't notice it. My laptop doesn't get hot. I don't hear the fan. I experience no lags in any application. [...] But aside from how it makes end-users feel, there is an arguably more important perspective to be had: how it makes software companies feel. For context, the project I work in is an open-source cross-platform notes app that's available on most platforms, including web, Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. All the desktop applications are based off the main web codebase, and are bundled using Electron, while the iOS and Android app use their own native codebases respectively, one in Swift and the other in Kotlin. And as a new company without a lot of resources, this setup has just barely allowed us to enter the marketplace. Three codebases is two too many codebases to maintain. Every time we make a change, we have to make it in three different places, violating the most sacred tenet of computer science of keeping it DRY. As a one-person team deploying on all these platforms, even the most minor change will take at minimum three development days, one for each codebase. This includes debugging, fixing, testing, bundling, deploying, and distributing every single codebase. This is by no means an easy task.
AI

Amazon Will Pay Developers With the Most Engaging Alexa Skills (venturebeat.com) 41

Amazon today announced a new program to bring revenue to developers of Alexa skills based on how much engagement their voice app is able to generate among users of Alexa-enabled devices. From a report: Amazon appears to be the first of the major tech companies with AI assistants and third-party integrations -- like Google, Samsung, Apple, and Microsoft -- with a program to compensate developers based on engagement created by their voice app. Metrics used to measure engagement of an Alexa skill include minutes of usage, new customers, customer ratings, and return visitors, an Amazon spokesperson told VentureBeat. Developers of Alexa skills in the U.S., U.K., and Germany are eligible to join. Developers with a skill active in all three countries will receive separate payments based on engagement in each country.
Software

App Developers Should Charge More If They Want People To Buy Subscriptions, Suggests Report (theverge.com) 50

A new report from Liftoff, a Silicon Valley-based mobile app marketing and retargeting firm, says that subscription-based apps may do better if developers charge a higher price for services, rather than setting prices too low to lure users in initially. The Verge reports: The Liftoff report, which analyzed data gathered between June 2016 and June 2017, categorized app subscriptions into low-cost monthly subs ($0.99 to $7), medium ($7 to $20), and high-cost subs ($20 to $50), while also factoring the cost of acquisition per customer. The company found that apps in the medium price range had the highest conversion rate -- 7.16 percent -- and the lowest cost to acquire a subscriber, at just over $106 dollars. This was five times higher than the rate of people who subscribed to apps when the apps were in the low-cost category. This may partly be because streaming media apps, like Netflix and Spotify, have already conditioned people to pay around $10 a month for services. But it also might be attributable to the sunk cost fallacy, Liftoff says: the "cognitive bias people have that makes them stay the course because they have already spent time or resources on it." The report also examines apps that fulfill "need states," like dating apps or cloud services. These have the potential to offer services that customers are willing to pay for, again and again. But, according to Liftoff, utility apps have a much higher install-to-subscriber rate compared to dating apps. Blame those who eventually find love?
Google

Google Hires Former Star Apple Engineer Chris Lattner For Its AI Team (bloomberg.com) 49

An anonymous reader shares a report: Chris Lattner, a legend in the world of Apple software, has joined another rival of the iPhone maker: Alphabet's Google, where he will work on artificial intelligence. Lattner announced the news on Twitter on Monday, saying he will start next week. His arrival at Mountain View, California-based Google comes after a brief stint as head of the automated driving program at Tesla, which he left in June. Lattner made a name for himself during a decade-plus career at Apple, where he created the popular programming language Swift. Lattner said he is joining Google Brain, the search giant's research unit. There he will work on a different software language: TensorFlow, Google's system designed to simplify the programming steps for AI, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
Programming

New 'Asciidots' Programming Language Uses Ascii Art (And Python) (github.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes Motherboard: If the esoteric programming language Asciidots looks like a mess, it is at least a very different-looking and even aesthetically pleasing mess. Simply, its mechanics and syntax are based on Ascii art... Asciidots is a unique sort of programming language known as a dataflow language. In this sort of language, we can imagine units of data (like our variable x) following a data go-kart track that's interrupted in different places with pit stops that change the value of the data go-kart that's following the track around. One pit stop might add 1 to the variable, while another might chop it in half. At some points, the track might even split, with the data go-kart picking one fork depending on its current value. If, say, it's greater than 2 it might go left; otherwise, it goes right...

In Asciidots, the aforementioned go-kart track is represented by lines (|,-,/,\)... Most of the other non-line symbols are mathematical operators, but there are also symbols that direct the program to request input from the user, set values, print values, and change the direction of the unit of data... Under the hood, Asciidots is a Python program. An Asciidots program is just fed into that underlying program and digested into normal Python code, which is then executed.

The article includes some examples, and argues that esoteric esolangs like Asciidots force programmers to consider fresh perspectives. And in addition, "it looks really cool."
GNOME

Canonical Needs Your Help Transitioning Ubuntu Linux From Unity To GNOME (ubuntu.com) 109

BrianFagioli quotes BetaNews: On August 24 and 25, the Ubuntu Desktop team will be holding a "Fit and Finish Sprint," where they will aggressively test GNOME. Canonical is also asking the Ubuntu community to help with this process. In other words, you might be able to assist with making Artful Aardvark even better.

What makes this particularly cool, however, is that Canonical will be selecting some community members to visit its London office on August 24 between 4 pm and 9 pm. "Over the two days we'll be scrutinizing the new GNOME Shell desktop experience, looking for anything jarring/glitchy or out of place," says Alan Pope, Community Manager. "We'll be working on the GTK, GDM and desktop theme alike, to fix inconsistencies, performance, behavioral or visual issues. We'll also be looking at the default key bindings, panel color schemes and anything else we discover along the way."

A few caveats: Canonical won't pay anyone's travel expenses to London, and "Ideally we're looking for people who are experienced in identifying (and fixing) theme issues, CSS experts and GNOME Shell / GTK themers."
Oracle

Oracle Fiddles With Major Database Release Cycle Numbers (theregister.co.uk) 69

An anonymous reader shares a report: Big Red has changed its database release cycle, scrapping names that see decimal points and numbers added on for an indeterminate amount of time, instead plumping for annual releases numbered by the year. So what would have been Oracle Database 12.2.0.2 will now be Oracle Database 18; 12.2.0.3 will come out a year later, and be Oracle Database 19. The approach puts Oracle only about 20 years behind Microsoft in adopting a year-based naming convention (Microsoft still uses years to number Windows Server, even though it stopped for desktop versions when it released XP). [...] Well, Big Red will surely be using the revamp as a way to boost sales of database licences -- a crucial part of its business -- which have been in decline for two years running. In fiscal 2016, Oracle reported a 12 per cent drop in annual sales of new software licences, and its most recent results for fiscal 2017 revealed a further 5 per cent drop. And, for all that Oracle has shouted about its cloudy success of late, it isn't yet a major money-maker for the biz. New software license sales make up a quarter of overall revenue, while support for that software makes up a further 45 per cent. In part, the new numbering will be a handy marketing ploy. Rather than playing with the decimal points, a release with a new whole number could be an attempt to give the impression of agility in the face of younger, fresher competitors. Meanwhile, fewer patches and releases on each system also allows Oracle to know more quickly, and more accurately, what security features each customer has. The annual numbering system is also a very simple way of telling you your system is old.
The Courts

Developers File Antitrust Complaint Against Apple in China (reuters.com) 27

A Chinese law firm has filed a complaint against Apple on behalf of 28 local developers alleging the firm breached antitrust regulations. From a report: The complaint, lodged by Beijing-based Dare & Sure Law Firm, accuses Apple of charging excessive fees and removing apps from its local store without proper explanation, Lin Wei, an attorney at the firm told Reuters on Thursday. "During its localization process Apple has run into several antitrust issues ... after an initial investigation we consulted a number of enterprises and got a very strong response," said Lin. The law firm invited developers to join the complaint in April and on Tuesday filed it to China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce and the National Development and Reform Commission, which oversees antitrust matters in the country.
China

China's VPN Developers Face Crackdown (bbc.com) 55

China recently launched a crackdown on the use of software which allows users to get around its heavy internet censorship. Now as the BBC reports, developers are facing growing pressure. From the report: The three plain-clothes policemen tracked him down using a web address. They came to his house and demanded to see his computer. They told him to take down the app he was selling on Apple's App Store, and filmed it as it was happening. His crime was to develop and sell a piece of software that allows people to get round the tough restrictions that limit access to the internet in China. A virtual private network (VPN) uses servers abroad to provide a secure link to the internet. It's essential in China if you want to access parts of the outside world like Facebook, Gmail or YouTube, all of which are blocked on the mainland. "They insisted they needed to see my computer," the software developer, who didn't want us to use his name, told us during a phone interview. "I said this is my private stuff. How can you search as you please?" No warrant was produced and when he asked them what law he had violated they didn't say. Initially he refused to co-operate but, fearing detention, he relented. Then they told him what they wanted: "If you take the app off the shelf from Apple's App Store then this will be all over." 'Sorry, I can't help you with that'. Up until a few months ago his was a legal business. Then the government changed the regulations. VPN sellers need a licence now.
Businesses

Apple Employees Rebelling Against Apple Park's Open Floor Plan, Report Says (neowin.net) 271

During a new episode of The Talk Show podcast on Daring Fireball, John Gruber touched on the topic of the open floor plans that Apple has implemented within its new campus, Apple Park. A WSJ profile of Jony Ive, where he talked about Apple Park, mentioned how programmers, engineers, and other employees had already expressed concerns about working in such an environment. Gruber shared what he has heard: I heard that when floor plans were announced, that there was some meeting with [Apple Vice President] Johny Srouji's team. He's in charge of Apple's silicon, the A10, the A11, all of their custom silicon. Obviously a very successful group at Apple, and a large growing one with a lot on their shoulders. When he [Srouji] was shown the floor plans, he was more or less just "F--- that, f--- you, f--- this, this is bulls---." And they built his team their own building, off to the side on the campus ... My understanding is that that building was built because Srouji was like, 'F--- this, my team isn't working like this.'"
IOS

Developers Explain Why iOS Apps Are Getting Bulkier (ndtv.com) 140

Reader joshtops shares a report: Apps are getting bigger in size, in part because developers add new features, something many users obviously appreciate, developers say. "Apps are getting bigger because iOS devices are more powerful, and developers are building more and more complex things for them without considering the impact the size will have around the world," developer Stephen Troughton-Smith tells Gadgets 360. But in part, it is also happening because developers are being careless, and adding more than one instance of files, Troughton-Smith added. "So Facebook, Twitter, and other large companies have perhaps tens or hundreds of people building their iOS apps. A lot of the components for these apps are developed independently as components, or frameworks. For each additional component you glue together into an app, there is some overhead," he explained. "Some of the teams will duplicate functionality some other team wrote. Images and other resources end up being duplicated." The high-resolution image assets that developers are required to add also contributes to the size of an app, two India-based developers, and Peter Steinberger, founder and CEO of PSPDFKit, a dev kit that is used by several popular PDF apps, told Gadgets 360. Apple can itself take some blame, too. Developers using Apple's Swift language, which the company introduced in 2014, are required to add several components to their apps that make them heavier. "Apple's new Swift language, for example, requires a bunch of components to be embedded each time it's used, because it's not yet 'ABI stable,'" Troughton-Smith explained. This means developers need to embed the versions of libraries they've developed against, and not count on the one available on the system. Another developer who didn't want to be identified said a typical app built with Swift language requires as many as 30 Swift runtime libraries to be stuffed within the app. On top of this, he added, "you will be surprised at just how many apps use common code found at places like GitHub. Developers often don't care about removing the bits that wasn't relevant to their app," he added.
Social Networks

First Evidence That Social Bots Play a Major Role In Spreading Fake News (technologyreview.com) 144

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Indiana University in Bloomington provide an answer for how social bots play a major role in spreading fake news. MIT Technology Review reports: "At issue is the publication of news that is false or misleading. So widespread has this become that a number of independent fact-checking organizations have emerged to establish the veracity of online information. These include snopes.com, politifact.com, and factcheck.org. These sites list 122 websites that routinely publish fake news. These fake news sites include infowars.com, breitbart.com, politicususa.com, and theonion.com. 'We did not exclude satire because many fake-news sources label their content as satirical, making the distinction problematic,' say researcher Chengcheng Shao and co. Shao and co then monitored some 400,000 claims made by these websites and studied the way they spread through Twitter. They did this by collecting some 14 million Twitter posts that mentioned these claims. At the same time, the team monitored some 15,000 stories written by fact-checking organizations and over a million Twitter posts that mention them. Next, Shao and co looked at the Twitter accounts that spread this news, collecting up to 200 of each account's most recent tweets. In this way, the team could study the tweeting behavior and work out whether the accounts were most likely run by humans or by bots. Having made a judgment on the ownership of each account, the team finally looked at the way humans and bots spread fake news and fact-checked news.

'Accounts that actively spread misinformation are significantly more likely to be bots,' say Shao and co. 'Social bots play a key role in the spread of fake news.' Shad and co say bots play a particularly significant role in the spread of fake news soon after it is published. What's more, these bots are programmed to direct their tweets at influential users. 'Automated accounts are particularly active in the early spreading phases of viral claims, and tend to target influential users,' say Shao and co."

Australia

Buggy Software Made Us Miss Money Laundering Scam, Says Australian Bank (theregister.co.uk) 57

An anonymous reader shares a report: Australia's Commonwealth Bank has blamed a software update for a money laundering scam that saw criminals send over AU$70m (US$55m) offshore after depositing cash into automatic teller machines. News of the Bank's involvement in the laundering scam broke last week, when Australia's financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC announced that it had found over 53,500 occasions on which the Bank failed to submit reports on transactions over $10,000. All transactions of that value are reportable in Australia, as part of efforts to crimp the black economy, crime and funding of terrorism. The news was not a good look for the Bank (CBA), because most of the cash was deposited into accounts established with fake drivers licences. Worse still is that each failure of this type can attract a fine of AU$18m, leaving CBA open to a sanction that would kill it off. Today the bank has explained the reason for its failure: "a coding error" that saw the ATMs fail to create reports of $10,000+ transactions. The error was introduced in a May 2012 update designed to address other matters, but not repaired until September 2015.
GNOME

GNOME's Text Editor gedit 'No Longer Maintained', Needs New Developers (gnome.org) 239

AmiMoJo brings news about gedit, the default text editor for GNOME: In a post to the gedit mailing list, Sébastien Wilmet states that gedit is no longer maintained and asks "any developer interested to take over the maintenance of gedit?" Just in case you were considering it, he warns "BTW while the gedit core is written in C (with a bit of Objective-C for Mac OS X support), some plugins are written in Vala or Python. If you take over gedit maintenance, you'll need to deal with four programming languages (without counting the build system). The Python code is not compiled, so when doing refactorings in gedit core, good luck to port all the plugins (the Python code is also less "greppable" than C). At least with Vala there is a compiler, even if I would not recommend Vala."
Sébastien's comments were surrounded by a <rant-on-languages> tag, but they're still crying out for some serious discussion. Any Slashdot readers want to share their own insights on Python, some fond thoughts on gedit, or suggestions for maintaining a great piece of open source software?
Google

Google's Message To Developers: Fix Your App's Performance Issues Else See Them Demoted On Play Store (techcrunch.com) 65

Google today announced it's rolling out a change to its Play Store so that better-performing apps -- meaning those that experience fewer crashes and those that don't drain your smartphone battery -- will be ranked higher than apps with bugs and other performance issues. From a report: The goal with this new ranking algorithm is to ensure that the best apps are being promoted, which in turn leads to increased app usage and engagement, the company says. The impetus for this change came after Google realized that around half of the 1-star reviews on the Google Play Store were about app stability problems. Apps that don't work well frustrate users, who often turn to the reviews to leave a complaint. Over time, a number of bad reviews and low star ratings can impact the app's place in the charts and search results. But if an app is popular enough, a large number of installs can still, to some extent, override its negative reviews and push the app back up into a higher position than it rightly deserves.

Slashdot Top Deals