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Programming

Stack Overflow Reveals Which Programming Languages Are Most Used At Night (stackoverflow.blog) 97

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."


Canada

Subway Sues Canada Network Over Claim Its Chicken Is 50 Percent Soy (yahoo.com) 293

jenningsthecat writes: As reported here back in February, the CBC, (Canada's national broadcaster), revealed DNA test results which indicated the chicken used in Subway Restaurants' sandwiches only contained about 50% chicken. Now, Subway is suing the public broadcaster for $210 million, because "its reputation and brand have taken a hit as a result of the CBC reports." The suit claims that "false statements [...] were published and republished, maliciously and without just cause or excuse, to a global audience, which has resulted in pecuniary loss to the plaintiffs."

Personally, my working assumption here is that the CBC report is substantially correct. It will be interesting to see how the case plays out -- but should this have happened at all? Regulatory agencies here in Canada seem to be pretty good when it comes to inspecting meat processing facilities. Should they also be testing the prepared foods served by major restaurant chains to ensure that claims regarding food content are true and accurate?

Power

Scientists Invent Ultrasonic Dryer That Uses Sound To Dry Your Clothes (yahoo.com) 438

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Yahoo: Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have developed a dryer that could make doing laundry much quicker. Called the ultrasonic dryer, it's expected to be up to five times more energy efficient than most conventional dryers and able dry a large load of clothes in about half the time. Instead of using heat the way most dryers do, the ultrasonic dryer relies on high-frequency vibrations. Devices called green transducers convert electricity into vibrations, shaking the water from clothes. The scientists say that this method will allow a medium load of laundry to dry in 20 minutes, which is significantly less time than the average 50 minutes it takes in many heat-based machines. The drying technology also leaves less lint behind than normal dryers do, since the majority of lint is created when the hot air stream blows tiny fibers off of clothing. Drying clothes without heat also reduces the chance that their colors will fade. While the ultrasonic dryer has been in development for the past couple of years, the U.S. Department of Energy explains in a published video that it has recently been "developed into a full-scale press dryer and clothes dryer drum -- setting the stage for it to one day go to market through partners like General Electric Appliances."
AI

Disruptive AI Bots Are Aleady Delivering Radical Leaps In Productivity (venturebeat.com) 56

The CTO of Textio is describing the "already happening" AI disruption that no one's noticed, arguing that voice-activated assistants are "just one small part of what AI is about -- and not the part that will matter the most for the enterprise companies that actually buy almost $4 trillion in software and services each year." An anonymous reader writes: Jensen Harris describes "the less-flashy flavor of AI that is changing the nature of work itself: headless AI...the application of artificial intelligence to vastly improve internal business processes. It is fully transforming the crucial machinery of business -- processes like hiring, lead generation, financial modeling, and information security. Legacy software has become a commodity in all of these areas, and purpose-built AI solutions will get a larger and larger wallet share of these huge enterprise cost centers."

Combining machine intelligence with learning loops, these constantly-evolving algorithms are "where the money is," since headless AI "doesn't try to replace people; it gives them superpowers" -- for example, predicting the future. Harris ultimately argues that headless AI are delivering "radical productivity leaps that they haven't seen from software in decades... In the near future, every core business function will have been transformed by AI -- hiring, sales, security, marketing, finance, manufacturing...everything... Legacy software will get squeezed down into a smaller portion of the IT wallet as the most valuable services become the native AI platforms -- just as form-based desktop software got squeezed out by the cloud in the last generation... the real enterprise revolution is happening in the companies that are using headless AI to transform their core businesses."

By comparison, he argues that many of today's bots "are kind of a hipster facade around the same basic command line interfaces consumers abandoned in the 1980," and suggests this focus on personality misses the larger significance of behind-the-scenes AI.
Network

Former Sysadmin Accused of Planting 'Time Bomb' In Company's Database (bleepingcomputer.com) 143

An anonymous reader writes: Allegro MicroSystems LLC is suing a former IT employee for sabotaging its database using a "time bomb" that deleted crucial financial data in the first week of the new fiscal year. According to court documents, after resigning from his job, a former sysadmin kept one of two laptops. On January 31, Patel entered the grounds of the Allegro headquarters in Worcester, Massachusetts, just enough to be in range of the factory's Wi-Fi network. Allegro says that Patel used the second business-use laptop to connect to the company's network using the credentials of another employee. While connected to the factory's network on January 31, Allegro claims Patel, who was one of the two people in charge of Oracle programming, uploaded a "time bomb" to the company's Oracle finance module. The code was designed to execute a few months later, on April 1, 2016, the first week of the new fiscal year, and was meant to "copy certain headers or pointers to data into a separate database table and then to purge those headers from the finance module, thereby rendering the data in the module worthless." The company says that "defendant Patel knew that his sabotage of the finance module on the first week of the new fiscal year had the maximum potential to cause Allegro to suffer damages because it would prevent Allegro from completing the prior year's fiscal year-end accounting reconciliation and financial reports."
AI

Sir Tim Berners-Lee Lays Out Nightmare Scenario Where AI Runs the Financial World (techworld.com) 131

The architect of the world wide web Sir Tim Berners-Lee has talked about some of his concerns for the internet over the coming years, including a nightmarish scenario where artificial intelligence (AI) could become the new 'masters of the universe' by creating and running their own companies. From an article: Masters of the universe is a reference to Tom Wolfe's 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, regarding the men (and they were men) who started racking up multi-million dollar salaries and a great deal of influence from their finance roles on Wall Street and in London during the computerised trading boom pre-Black Monday. Berners-Lee said, "So when AI starts to make decisions such as who gets a mortgage, that's a big one. Or which companies to acquire and when AI starts creating its own companies, creating holding companies, generating new versions of itself to run these companies. So you have survival of the fittest going on between these AI companies until you reach the point where you wonder if it becomes possible to understand how to ensure they are being fair, and how do you describe to a computer what that means anyway?"
Hardware

Fitbit's New Smartwatch Has Been Plagued By Production Mishaps (yahoo.com) 22

JP Mangalindan, reporting for Yahoo Finance: Fitbit's first "proper" smartwatch and first-ever pair of bluetooth headphones are due out this fall after a series of production mishaps delayed the project, Yahoo Finance has learned. The fitness tracker company's smartwatch project has been a troubled one. Production problems have forced Fitbit to push an original spring launch to this fall, according to two sources familiar with the matter. "In one of the more final prototypes, the GPS wasn't working because the antennae wasn't in the right place," one of those sources told Yahoo Finance. "They had to go back to the drawing board to redesign the product so the GPS got a strong signal." Fitbit's design team also ran into problems making its smartwatch fully waterproof, even though that's a key design element for the Apple Watch Series 2. Indeed, it's still unclear as of the publication of this article whether the device will launch with the waterproof feature.
Bug

IRS Warns Tax Info Leaked By US Financial Aid Site (cnn.com) 21

"Hackers accessed the data of up to 100,000 people through a tool that helps students get financial aid," writes CNN. An anonymous reader quotes their report: IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified before the Senate Finance Committee Thursday that a breach had been discovered in the fall. In September, he said, his agency discovered that fraudsters could use someone's personal data to fill out a financial aid application, and the "Data Retrieval Tool" would populate the application with tax information. That information could be used to file false tax returns. The commissioner said fewer than 8,000 of these returns were processed, and refunds were issued totaling $30 million...

In October, the IRS told the Department of Education that the system could be abused by criminals, but because up to 15 million people use the system for convenience, they kept it available. However, in February, the agency witnessed a pattern of fraudulent activity, and it shut down the automated tool in March.

Now financial aid seekers will have to manually enter their parents' reported income from previous tax years -- at least until a new version of the tool comes online next October. In the meantime, the IRS is alerting 100,000 users who started an application but didn't finish it, warning them that their tax information may have been compromised.
Facebook

Facebook Messenger Now Analyzes Your Chats To Give You Recommendations (yahoo.com) 70

Facebook's messaging platform, which reports 1 billion monthly active users, announced on Thursday that it is rolling out its experimental virtual assistant "M" to all Messenger users in the United States this week through a new feature called M Suggestions. A report adds: M Suggestions does exactly what its name suggests, using artificial intelligence to understand what is being said in any given Messenger chat to make recommendations that pop up during the course of a conversation. Some folks who already feel like Facebook is watching them when they see ads in their News Feed for bridal gowns after getting engaged may be creeped out by the fact their messages are being analyzed. But Stan Chudnovsky, Facebook Messenger's Head of Product, contends their goal with M Suggestions is to offer a better user experience. To wit, M Suggestions does not currently generate any revenues for Messenger. "The history of the internet is all about removing friction," Chudnovsky told Yahoo Finance. "In this case, instead of you having to think about doing something, like sending a sticker, paying a friend for something or sharing your location, and having to press three taps, M does it for you."
Privacy

'Extreme Vetting' Would Require Visitors To US To Share Contacts, Passwords (theguardian.com) 505

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration is considering whether or not to deploy "extreme vetting" practices at airports around the world, which could force tourists from Britain and other countries visiting the U.S. to reveal their mobile phone contacts, social media passwords and financial data. "Travelers who want to enter the U.S. could also face questioning over their ideology, as Washington moves away from a default position of allowing people in to a more skeptical approach to visitors," reports The Guardian. From the report: Trump made the "extreme vetting" of foreign nationals to combat terrorism a major theme of his presidential election campaign. But his executive order imposing a travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries has twice been blocked in court. Media reports suggest it has already hurt the tourism industry. The changes might include visitors from the 38 countries -- the UK, France, Australia and Japan among them -- that participate in the visa waiver program, which requires adherence to strict U.S. standards in data sharing, passport control and other factors, one senior official told the Journal. This could require people to hand over their phones so officials can study their stored contacts and possibly other information. The aim is to "figure out who you are communicating with," a senior Department of Homeland Security official was quoted as saying. "What you can get on the average person's phone can be invaluable." A second change would ask applicants for their social media handles and passwords, so that officials could see information posted privately in addition to public posts, the Journal said. The Journal report said the DHS official working on the review said questions under consideration included whether visa applicants believe in so-called honor killings, how they view the treatment of women in society, whether they value the "sanctity of human life" and who they view as a legitimate target in a military operation.
Australia

This is Why Australia Hasn't Had a Recession in Over 25 Years (bloomberg.com) 115

Australia is close to seizing the global crown for the longest streak of economic growth thanks to a mixture of policy guile and outrageous fortune. From a report: While growth is being underpinned by population gains and resource exports to China, failure to spur productivity has meant stagnant living standards and electoral discontent; a property bubble fueled by record-low interest rates has driven household debt to levels that threaten financial stability; and a timid government facing political gridlock could lose the nation's prized AAA rating as early as May because of spiraling budget deficits. Australia's last recession -- defined locally as two straight quarters of contraction -- occurred in 1991 and was a devastating conclusion to eight years of reform designed to create an open, flexible and competitive economy. But it also proved cathartic, paving the way for a low-inflation, productivity-driven expansion. As momentum started waning, China's re-emergence as a pre-eminent global economic power sent demand for Australian resources skyrocketing, helping shield the nation from the worst of the global financial crisis. But the post-crisis return of the boom proved ephemeral, failing to boost government coffers and pushing the local currency higher, eroding competitiveness and driving another nail into the coffin of a fading manufacturing sector.
Robotics

US Workers Face A Higher Risk Of Being Replaced By Robots (cnn.com) 285

There's a surprising prediction for the next 15 years from the world's second largest professional services firm. An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Millions of workers around the world are at risk of losing their jobs to robots -- but Americans should be particularly worried. Thirty-eight percent of jobs in the U.S. are at high risk of being replaced by robots and artificial intelligence over the next 15 years, according to a new report by PwC. Meanwhile, only 30% of jobs in the U.K. are similarly endangered. The same level of risk applies to only 21% of positions in Japan.
61% of America's financial service jobs "are at a high risk of being replaced by robots," according to the article, vs. just 32% of the finance jobs in the U.K. (Those U.S. finance jobs tend to be "domestic retail operations" like small-town bank tellers, whereas U.K. finance jobs concentrate more in international finance and investment banking.) The firm's chief economist sees a world where new jobs are more likely to go to higher-skilled workers, and he ultimately predicts "a restructuring of the jobs market... The gap between rich and poor could get even wider."
Stats

Stack Overflow Reveals Results From 'Largest Developer Survey Ever Conducted' (stackoverflow.com) 139

More than 64,000 developers from 213 countries participated in this year's annual survey by Stack Overflow -- the largest number ever -- giving a glimpse into the collective psyche of programmers around the world. An anonymous reader quotes their announcement: A majority of developers -- 56.5% -- said they were underpaid. Developers who work in government and non-profits feel the most underpaid, while those who work in finance feel the most overpaid... While only 13.1% of developers are actively looking for a job, 75.2% of developers are interested in hearing about new job opportunities...

When asked what they valued most when considering a new job, 53.3% of respondents said remote options were a top priority. 65% of developers reported working remotely at least one day a month, and 11.1% say they're full-time remote or almost all the time. Also, the highest job satisfaction ratings came from developers who work remotely full-time.

62.5% of the respondents reported using JavaScript, while 51.2% reported SQL, with 39.7% using Java and 34.1% using C# -- but for the #5 slot, "the use of Python [32.0%] overtook PHP [28.1%] for the first time in five years." Yet as far as which languages developers wanted to continue using, "For the second year in a row, Rust was the most loved programming language... Swift, last year's second most popular language, ranked as fourth. For the second year in a row, Visual Basic (for 2017, Visual Basic 6, specifically) ranked as the most dreaded language; 88.3% of developers currently using Visual Basic said they did not want to continue using it."
Stats

America's Most Affordable Cities For Tech Workers: Seattle, Austin, and Pittsburgh (prnewswire.com) 127

"Seattle tech workers who own their homes can expect to have about $2,000 more in disposable income each month than tech workers in the Bay Area," according to a new study from LinkedIn and Zillow. An anonymous reader writes: "For technology workers who rent, Seattle, Austin and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania came out on top among the housing markets analyzed, with the Bay Area at #4..." the two companies reported. "Salaries for other industries don't hold up as well in the San Francisco area, though. Even highly-paid finance workers keep only about 32 percent of their incomes after paying for housing and taxes. In Charlotte or Chicago, they can pocket a median of 61 percent."

The Bay Area's high housing prices are apparently offset by the high salaries paid there to tech workers, according to the study. Even so, both home owners and renters pay roughly half the median income for housing on the west coast, "while a rental in the middle of the country costs more like 25 percent of the median income."

The report also identified the best cities for health workers -- Phoenix, Indianapolis, and Boston -- as well as for finance workers, who do best in Charlotte, Chicago and Dallas. The top 15 cities for tech workers also included those same cities except Chicago and Phoenix, while also including known tech hotspots like Denver, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. But surprisingly the top 15 best cities for tech workers also included Detroit, Nashville, St. Paul (Minnesota) and Tampa, Florida.
Businesses

Slashdot Asks: Is the Internet Killing Old and New Art Forms or Helping Them Grow? (nytimes.com) 110

The thing about the internet is that as it gained traction and started to become part of our lives, it caused a lot of pain -- bloodbath, many say -- to several major industries. The music industry was nearly decimated, for instance, and pennies on the dollar doesn't begin to describe what has happened to the newspapers. But things are starting to change, many observers note. As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings noted at the New Yorker Tech Festival last year, the internet is increasingly changing the way people consume content and that has forced the industries to innovate and find new ways to cater to their audiences. But some of these industries are still struggling to figure out new models for their survival. Farhad Manjoo, a technology columnist at The New York Times, argues that for people of the future, our time may be remembered as a period not of death, but of rejuvenation and rebirth. He writes: Part of the story is in the art itself. In just about every cultural medium, whether movies or music or books or the visual arts, digital technology is letting in new voices, creating new formats for exploration, and allowing fans and other creators to participate in a glorious remixing of the work. [...] In the last few years, and with greater intensity in the last 12 months, people started paying for online content. They are doing so at an accelerating pace, and on a dependable, recurring schedule, often through subscriptions. And they're paying for everything. [...] It's difficult to overstate how big a deal this is. More than 20 years after it first caught mainstream attention and began to destroy everything about how we finance culture, the digital economy is finally beginning to coalesce around a sustainable way of supporting content. If subscriptions keep taking off, it won't just mean that some of your favorite creators will survive the internet. It could also make for a profound shift in the way we find and support new cultural talent. It could lead to a wider variety of artists and art, and forge closer connections between the people who make art and those who enjoy it.
Businesses

Proof Daylight Saving Time Is Dumb, Dangerous, and Costly (bloomberg.com) 352

From a report on Bloomberg: The case for daylight saving time has been shaky for a while. The biannual time change was originally implemented to save energy. Yet dozens of studies around the world have found that changing the clocks has either minuscule or non-existent effects on energy use. [...] The latest research suggests the time change can be harmful to our health and cost us money. The suffering of the spring time change begins with the loss of an hour of sleep. That might not seem like a big deal, but researchers have found it can be dangerous to mess with sleep schedules. Car accidents, strokes, and heart attacks spike in the days after the March time change. It turns out that judges, sleep deprived by daylight saving, impose harsher sentences. [...] Some of the last defenders of daylight saving time have been a cluster of business groups who assume the change helps stimulate consumer spending. That's not true either, according to recent analysis of 380 million bank and credit-card transactions by the JPMorgan Chase Institute.
Android

Sorry, Apple, the Headphone Jack Isn't Going Anywhere (yahoo.com) 332

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Rob Pegoraro via Yahoo Finance: Two things unite almost every phone on display here at Mobile World Congress 2017: Android and a headphone jack. Apple doesn't exhibit its wares at this trade show, so the domination of Google's operating system is predictable. But the headphone jack's persistence did not look so inevitable when Apple cut it from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus last September. Lenovo's Motorola subsidiary had already shipped a phone without a headphone hack, the Moto Z, and Apple's influence over the rest of the smartphone industry remains formidable -- indeed, within months, the Chinese firm LeEco had debuted a lineup of Android phones devoid of headphone jacks. As my colleague David Pogue predicted in a post approving Apple's move: "Other brands worldwide will be following suit." The hardware on display here at the world's largest mobile tech conference, though, suggests otherwise. Two days of walking around the show floor showed companies expressing a consistent unwillingness to abandon the humble headphone jack, even on models as thin as, or thinner than, the iPhone 7. The MWC floor revealed only one company willing to do away with the headphone jack: HTC. The Taiwan-based firm, which has struggled financially for years despite shipping such well-reviewed models as the HTC 10, used its exhibit to showcase the U Ultra and the U Play, which rely on their USB-C ports for audio output. Unlike, Apple, though, the company didn't make the move to save space, but rather to incorporate its "USonic" feature, which lets the phones' headphones calibrate themselves to your ears and provide noise cancellation.
United States

Americans at Risk of Identity Theft as They File their Tax Returns (betanews.com) 77

Ian Barker, writing for BetaNews: As we move into the tax return season a new study reveals that attitudes to identity theft and a pattern of poor practices are leaving much of the public vulnerable. Data security and ID theft protection company CyberScout has carried out its second annual Tax Season Risk Report and finds 58 percent of Americans are not worried about tax fraud in spite of federal reports of 787,000 confirmed identity theft returns in 2016, totaling more than $4 billion in potential fraud. Among other findings are that only 35 percent of taxpayers demand that their preparers use two-factor authentication to protect their clients' personal information. Less than a fifth (18 percent) use an encrypted USB drive to save important documents like tax worksheets, W-2s, 1099s or 1040s. And another 38 percent either store tax documents on their computer's hard drive or in the cloud, approaches that are susceptible to a variety of hacks.
Microsoft

Bill Gates: The Robot That Takes Your Job Should Pay Taxes (qz.com) 388

In a recent interview with Quartz, Bill Gates said he believes that governments should tax companies that use robots who are taking human jobs, as a way to at least temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment. The money gained from taxing robots could then be used to finance jobs taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools -- jobs which humans are particularly well suited for. Quartz reports: [Gates] argues that governments must oversee such programs rather than relying on businesses, in order to redirect the jobs to help people with lower incomes. The idea is not totally theoretical: EU lawmakers considered a proposal to tax robot owners to pay for training for workers who lose their jobs, though on Feb. 16 the legislators ultimately rejected it. "You ought to be willing to raise the tax level and even slow down the speed" of automation, Gates argues. That's because the technology and business cases for replacing humans in a wide range of jobs are arriving simultaneously, and it's important to be able to manage that displacement. "You cross the threshold of job replacement of certain activities all sort of at once," Gates says, citing warehouse work and driving as some of the job categories that in the next 20 years will have robots doing them. You can watch Gates' remarks in a video here, or read the transcript embedded in Quartz' report.

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