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Programming

Which Programming Language Is Most Popular - The Final Answer? (zdnet.com) 398

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: Following a common technique among political pollsters, a technology columnist combined the results from various measures of programming language popularity for a more definitive answer about the most important languages to study. He used IEEE Spectrum's interactive list of the top programming languages, which lets you adjust the weight given to the number of job listings and number or open source projects, then combined it with the TIOBE Index (which is based on search engine results), and the PYPL Index, which checks the number of tutorials for each programming language on Google.

The results? "The top cluster contains Java, C, Python, and C++. Without a doubt, you should attain familiarity with these four languages." He points out they're not tied to a specific programming platform, unlike languages in the second cluster -- JavaScript, C#, PHP, and Swift -- while the last two languages in the top 10 were Objective-C and R. "The C-family of languages still dominates. Java, C++, C, C#, and even Objective-C are all C-based languages. If you're only going to learn one language, you should pick one of those." But his ultimate advice is to "learn multiple languages and multiple frameworks... Programming is not just an intellectual exercise. You have to actually make stuff."

Medicine

Hackers Offer a DIY Alternative To The $600 EpiPen (ieee.org) 327

After the pharmaceutical company Mylan raised the price of a 2-pen set of EpiPens by nearly $500 over the course of 9 years, Michael Laufer and his "pharma-hacking confederates at the Four Thieves Vinegar Collective," decided to make their own budget-friendly EpiPens. IEEE Spectrum reports: Today they released a video and instructions showing DIYers how to make a generic EpiPen using materials that can be bought online for about $30. They call it the EpiPencil. "It functions just as well as an EpiPen," Laufer says in the video, after demonstrating the assembly and showing that it works. "With no special training, anybody can use it." An EpiPen is just a spring-loaded syringe filled with the pharmaceutical epinephrine. Laufer's video shows how to assemble the "open source medical device" and provides links for where to buy the components online. He stops short of telling viewers how to get their hands on the drug, noting that you need a prescription for it. But Laufer tells IEEE Spectrum in an interview that it's easy to buy epinephrine online from a chemical supplier, and he hopes viewers will do just that. "There's a small but hopefully growing subculture of people who are buying the active ingredients of drugs," he says. "It's encouraging to see people take control of their own health."
Space

Pluto Is Emitting X-Rays (digitaltrends.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Scientists have noticed the tiny trans-Neptunium object emitting X-rays, which, if it is confirmed, is both a baffling and exciting discovery. Carey Lisse and Ralph McNutt from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and a team of colleagues detected the X-rays by pointing the Chandra X-Ray Obervatory telescope in Pluto's direction four different times between February 2014 and August 2015. Seven photons of X-ray light were detected during these observations, confirming the team's hypothesis that the dwarf planet is detectable on the X-ray spectrum, potentially due to the presence of an atmosphere. Their findings have been published in the scientific journal Icarus. Why is this such a big deal? First of all, it would challenge what scientists have previously believed to be true of Pluto's nature. Until now, the popular description of the dwarf planet is as a tiny ball of frozen rock slowly meandering around the sun some 3.6-billion miles away. One of the possible explanations for why Pluto is emanating X-rays would be that the high energy particles emitted by the sun are stripping away and reacting with Pluto's atmosphere, producing the X-rays that are visible to Chandra. There are other potential explanations, such as haze particles in Pluto's atmosphere scattering the sun's X-rays are possible, though unlikely given the temperature of the X-rays observed. It is also possible that these X-rays are actually bright auroras produced by the atmosphere, but that would require Pluto to have a magnetic field -- something that would have been detected during New Horizon's flyby, yet no evidence of one was found.
Biotech

Brain-Zapping Gadgets Need Regulation, Say Scientists (ieee.org) 51

the_newsbeagle writes: You can now buy gadgets online that send electric current through your scalp to stimulate your brain. Why would you want to do that? Because the easy technique, called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), is being investigated as a treatment for depression, a rehab aid for stroke patients, a learning enhancer for healthy people, and for many other neuropsychiatric applications.

However, the technique is so new that companies selling brain-zapping gadgets aren't bound by any regulations, and experts are worried that consumers will end up buying devices that aren't safe or simply aren't effective. So scientists and some manufacturers recently got together to discuss the scope of the problem, and what can be done about it.

Earlier IEEE reported that "Professional basketball, baseball, and American football teams are also experimenting with it," adding that some Olympic athletes, including sprinters and swimmers, even used a premarket version of one brain-zapping device to prepare for the Olympics in Rio.
Facebook

Facebook Engineers Crash Data Centers In Real-World Stress Test (ieee.org) 52

An anonymous reader writes: In a report via IEEE Spectrum, Facebook's VP of Engineering Jay Parikh described the company's "Project Storm" -- regular takedowns of Facebook's data center intended to stress test the company's disaster recovery efforts. The first few didn't go so well, he reports. (Perhaps doing a test during a World Cup final was not such a good idea). Months and months of planning went into the initial effort, though up until the actual moment, other Facebook leaders didn't think he'd actually take out an active data center. "In 2014, Parikh decided Project Storm was ready for a real-world test: The team would take down an actual data center during a normal working day and see if they could orchestrate the traffic shift smoothly," reports IEEE Spectrum. Parikh recalls: "I was having coffee with a colleague just before the first drill. He said, 'You're not going to go through with it; you've done all the prep work, so you're done, right?' I told him, 'There's only one way to find out'" if it works. (Parikh made the remarks at this week's @Scale conference in San Jose.) Parikh says there never seemed to be a good time to perform the live takedowns. "Something always ended up happening in the world or the company. One was during the World Cup final, another during a major product launch." The report adds, "The live takedowns continue today, with the Project Storm team members coming up with crazier and crazier ambitions for just what to take offline, Parikh says.
Windows

Microsoft To Add Flux Like Night Mode In Windows 10, Rendering 3rd-Party App's Existence Useless (arstechnica.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes: With suggestions that bluish lights disrupt our sleep, software that shifts screen white balance towards the red end of the spectrum in the evening -- cutting back that potentially sleep-disrupting light -- has gained quite a following. f.lux is the big name here with many people enjoying its gradual color temperature shifts. Apple recently built a color shifting feature into iOS, under the name Night Shift, and there are now signs that Microsoft is doing the same in Windows 10. Twitter user tfwboredom has been poking around the latest Windows insider build and found hints that the operating system will soon have a "blue light reduction" mode. Similarly to f.lux, this will automatically reduce the color temperature in the evenings as the sun sets and increase it in the mornings when the sun rises. Signs are that the feature will have a quick access button in the Action Center when it is eventually enabled.The feature is expected to arrive with Redstone, which is Windows 10's next major update expected to arrive next year.
The Internet

Researchers Map Locations of 4,669 Servers In Netflix's Content Delivery Network (ieee.org) 57

Wave723 writes from a report via IEEE Spectrum: For the first time, a team of researchers has mapped the entire content delivery network that brings Netflix to the world, including the number and location of every server that the company uses to distribute its films. They also independently analyzed traffic volumes handled by each of those servers. Their work allows experts to compare Netflix's distribution approach to those of other content-rich companies such as Google, Akamai and Limelight. To do this, IEEE Spectrum reports that the group reverse-engineered Netflix's domain name system for the company's servers, and then created a crawler that used publicly available information to find every possible server name within its network through the common address nflxvideo.net. In doing so, they were able to determine the total number of servers the company uses, where those servers are located, and whether the servers were housed within internet exchange points or with internet service providers, revealing stark differences in Netflix's strategy between countries. One of their most interesting findings was that two Netflix servers appear to be deployed within Verizon's U.S. network, which one researcher speculates could indicate that the companies are pursuing an early pilot or trial.
Earth

Floating Solar Device Boils Water Without Mirrors (arstechnica.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Researchers from MIT and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, led by George Ni, describe a prototype design that boils water under ambient sunlight. Central to their floating solar device is a "selective absorber" -- a material that both absorbs the solar portion of the electromagnetic spectrum well and emits little back as infrared heat energy. For this, the researchers turn to a blue-black commercial coating commonly used in solar photovoltaic panels. The rest of the puzzle involves further minimizing heat loss from that absorber, either through convection of the air above it or conduction of heat into the water below the floating prototype. The construction of the device is surprisingly simple. At the bottom, there is a thick, 10-centimeter-diameter puck of polystyrene foam. That insulates the heating action from the water and makes the whole thing float. A cotton wick occupies a hole drilled through the foam, which is splayed and pinned down by a square of thin fabric on the top side. This ensures that the collected solar heat is being focused into a minute volume of water. The selective absorber coats a disc of copper that sits on top of the fabric. Slots cut in the copper allow water vapor from the wick to pass through. And the crowning piece of this technological achievement? Bubble wrap. It insulates the top side of the absorber, with slots cut through the plastic to let the water vapor out. Tests in the lab and on the MIT roof showed that, under ambient sunlight, the absorber warmed up to 100 degrees Celsius in about five minutes and started making steam. That's a first. The study has been published in two separate Nature articles: "Steam by thermal concentration" and "Steam generation under one sun enabled by a floating structure with thermal concentration."
United Kingdom

British Companies Are Selling Advanced Spy Tech To Authoritarian Regimes (vice.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Since early 2015, over a dozen UK companies have been granted licenses to export powerful telecommunications interception technology to countries around the world, Motherboard has learned. Many of these exports include IMSI-catchers, devices which can monitor large numbers of mobile phones over broad areas. Some of the UK companies were given permission to export their products to authoritarian states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Egypt; countries with poor human rights records that have been well-documented to abuse surveillance technology. In 2015, the UK's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) started publishing basic data about the exportation of telecommunications interception devices. Through the Freedom of Information Act, Motherboard obtained the names of companies that have applied for exportation licenses, as well as details on the technologies being shipped, including, in some cases, individual product names. The companies include a subsidiary of defense giant BAE Systems, as well as Pro-Solve International, ComsTrac, CellXion, Cobham, and Domo Tactical Communications (DTC). Many of these companies sell IMSI-catchers. IMSI-catchers, sometimes known as "Stingrays" after a particularly popular brand, are fake cell phone towers which force devices in their proximity to connect. In the data obtained by Motherboard, 33 licenses are explicitly marked as being for IMSI-catchers, including for export to Turkey and Indonesia. Other listings heavily suggest the export of IMSI-catchers too: one granted application to export to Iraq is for a "Wideband Passive GSM Monitoring System," which is a more technical description of what many IMSI-catchers do. In all, Motherboard received entries for 148 export license applications, from February 2015 to April 2016. A small number of the named companies do not provide interception capabilities, but defensive measures, for example to monitor the radio spectrum.
Data Storage

Intel Launches Flurry of 3D NAND-Based SSDs For Consumer and Enterprise Markets (hothardware.com) 145

MojoKid writes: Intel launched a handful of new SSD products today that cover a broad spectrum of applications and employ 3D NAND technology. The SSD 600p Series is offered in four capacities ranging from 128GB, to 256GB, 512GB and 1TB. The drivers are targeted at consumer desktops and notebooks and are available in the M.2 form-factor. The entry-level 128GB model offers sequential reads and writes of up to 770 MB/sec and 450 MB/sec respectively. At higher densities, the multi-channel 1TB model offers sequential reads and writes that jump to 1,800 MB/sec and 560 MB/sec respectively. The 128GB SSD 600p weighs in at $69, while the 1TB model is priced at $359, or about .36 cents per GiB. For the data center, Intel has also introduced the DC P3520 and DC S3520 Series SSDs in 2.5-inch and PCIe half-height card form-factors. Available in 450GB to 2TB capacities, the range-topping 2TB model offers random reads/writes of 1,700 MB/sec and 1,350 MB/sec respectively. Finally, Intel launched the SSD E 6000p (PCIe M.2) and SSD E 5420s Series (SATA). The former supports Core vPro processors and is targeted at point-of-sale systems and digital signage. The latter is aimed at helping customers ease the transition from HDDs to SSDs in IoT applications.
Communications

FCC Proposes 5G Cybersecurity Requirements, Asks For Industry Advice (fedscoop.com) 29

Presto Vivace quotes a report from FedScoop: "Cybersecurity issues must be addressed during the design phase for the entire 5G ecosystem, including devices. This will place a premium on collaboration among all stakeholders," said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler during a National Press Club event on June 20. "We continue to prefer an approach that emphasizes that industry develop cybersecurity standards just as we have done in wired networks." The FCC published a request Wednesday for comment on a new set of proposed 5G rules to the Federal Register focused on adding specific "performance requirements" for developers of example internet-connected devices. If a company hopes to secure a license to access higher-frequency 5G spectrum in the future then they will need to adhere to these specific requirements -- in other words, compliance is non-negotiable. Notably, these FCC "performance requirements" now include the submission of a network security plan. The report adds: "A quick review of the FCC's proposed 5G cybersecurity plan shows a six category split, organized by a companies' security approach, coordination efforts, standards and best practices, participation with standards bodies, other security approaches and plans with information sharing organizations. Security plans must be submitted to the commission at least six months before a 5G-ready product enters the market, according to the notice."
The Internet

MIT Scientists Develop New Wi-Fi That's 330% Faster (msn.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MSN: Scientists at MIT claim to have created a new wireless technology that can triple Wi-Fi data speeds while also doubling the range of the signal. Dubbed MegaMIMO 2.0, the system will shortly enter commercialization and could ease the strain on our increasingly crowded wireless networks. Multiple-input-multiple-output technology, or MIMO, helps networked devices perform better by combining multiple transmitters and receivers that work simultaneously, allowing then to send and receive more than one data signal at the same time. MIT's MegaMIMO 2.0 works by allowing several routers to work in harmony, transmitting data over the same piece of spectrum. MIT claimed that during tests, MegaMIMO 2.0 was able to increase data transfer speed of four laptops connected to the same Wi-Fi network by 330 percent. Paper co-author Rahul said the technology could also be applied to mobile phone networks to solve similar congestion issues. "In today's wireless world, you can't solve spectrum crunch by throwing more transmitters at the problem, because they will all still be interfering with one another," Ezzeldin Hamed, lead author on a paper on the topic, told MIT News. "The answer is to have all those access points work with each other simultaneously to efficiently use the available spectrum."
Mars

NanoRacks Plans To Turn Used Rocket Fuel Tanks Into Space Habitats (ieee.org) 130

An anonymous reader writes from a report via IEEE Spectrum: A couple of weeks ago NASA announced it has committed $65 million to six companies over the course of two years for the purpose of developing and testing deep-space habitats that could be used for future missions to Mars. One of the six companies, called NanoRacks, is attempting to take empty fuel tanks from the upper stages of rockets and turn them into space habitats on-orbit. IEEE Spectrum reports: "A rocket like the the Atlas V, which can deliver payloads of nearly 19,000 kg to low Earth orbit, consists of three primary pieces: on the bottom, you've got the first stage booster, which consists of a huge engine and some big tanks holding kerosene fuel and oxidizer. Above that, there's the second stage, which consists of one or two smaller engines, a big tank for storing liquid hydrogen fuel, and a smaller tank for oxidizer. The payload, which is what all of the fuss is about, sits on top. The first stage launches the rocket off of the pad and continues firing for about four minutes. Meanwhile, the second stage fires up its own engine (or engines) to boost the payload the rest of the way into orbit. On the Atlas V, the second stage is called Centaur. Once Centaur gets its payload where it needs to go, it separates, and then suicides down into Earth's atmosphere. Getting a payload into space is so expensive because you have to build up this huge and complicated rocket, with engines and guidance systems and fuel tanks and stuff, and then you basically use it for like 15 minutes and throw it all away. But what about the second stage? You've got a whole bunch of hardware that made it to orbit, and when getting stuff to orbit costs something like $2,500 per kilogram, you then tell it to go it burn itself up in the atmosphere, because otherwise it's just useless space junk." NanoRacks thinks this is wasteful, so they want to turn these tanks into deep space habitats. IEEE notes that the hydrogen fuel tank on a Centaur upper stage has a diameter of over 4 meters, and an interior volume of 54 cubic meters, while the inflatable BEAM module that arrived at the ISS earlier this year has an interior volume of 16 cubic meters. For more details, IEEE Spectrum spoke with Jeff Manber, CEO of NanoRacks, and Mike Johnson, NanoRacks' Chief Designer. You can read their responses here.
Medicine

Startup Aims To Commercialize a Brain Implant To Improve Memory (ieee.org) 85

the_newsbeagle writes: Neuroscientist Ted Berger has achieved some remarkable feats in his work on an implanted brain prosthetic to boost memory. Working with rats, he recorded the electrical signals associated with a specific memory from one animal's brain, then inserted that signal -- and thus the memory -- into another animal's brain. Working with monkeys, the implanted device enhanced the animals' recall in difficult memory tasks.

Still, it's startling to learn that a startup is ready to commercialize Berger's work, and is trying to build a memory prosthetic for humans suffering from Alzheimer's, brain injuries, and stroke. The new company, named Kernel, will fund human trials and develop electrodes that can record from and stimulate more brain cells.
"An implanted memory prosthetic would have electrodes to record signals during learning, a microprocessor to do the computations, and electrodes that stimulate neurons to encode the information as a memory," writes Eliza Strickland via IEEE Spectrum.
Communications

Next Generation of Wireless -- 5G -- Is All Hype (backchannel.com) 90

Many people have promised us that 5G will be here very soon. And it will be the best thing ever. To quote Lowell McAdam, the CEO of Verizon, 5G is "wireless fiber," and to quote SK Telecom, thanks to 5G we will soon be able to "transfer holograms" because the upcoming standard is "100 times faster" than our current communications system 4G LTE. But if we were to quote Science, the distant future isn't nearly as lofty as the one promised by executives. Backchannel explains: "5G" is a marketing term. There is no 5G standard -- yet. The International Telecommunications Union plans to have standards ready by 2020. So for the moment "5G" refers to a handful of different kinds of technologies that are predicted, but not guaranteed, to emerge at some point in the next 3 to 7 years. (3GPP, a carrier consortium that will be contributing to the ITU process, said last year that until an actual standard exists, '"5G' will remain a marketing & industry term that companies will use as they see fit." At least they're candid.) At the moment, advertising something as "5G" carries no greater significance than saying it's "blazing fast" or "next generation" -- nut because "5G" sounds technical, it's good for sales. We are a long way away from actual deployment. [...] Second, this "wireless fiber" will never happen unless we have... more fiber. Real fiber, in the form of fiber optic cables reaching businesses and homes. (This is the "last mile" problem; fiber already runs between cities.) It's just plain physics. In order to work, 99% of any "5G" wireless deployment will have to be fiber running very close to every home and business. The high-frequency spectrum the carriers are planning to use wobbles billions of times a second but travels incredibly short distances and gets interfered with easily. So it's great at carrying loads of information -- every wobble can be imprinted with data -- but can't go very far at all.
Government

FBI Forced To Release 18 Hours of Spy Plane Footage (vice.com) 242

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a report from Motherboard: It's been just over a year since amateur aviation sleuths first revealed the FBI's secret aerial surveillance of the civil unrest in Baltimore, Maryland. Now, in response to a FOIA request from the ACLU, the Bureau has released more than 18 hours of aerial footage from the Baltimore protests captured by their once-secret spy planes, which regularly fly in circles above major cities and are commonly registered to fake companies.

The cache is likely the most comprehensive collection of aerial surveillance footage ever released by a US law enforcement agency... The footage shows the crowds of protesters captured in a combination of visible light and infrared spectrum video taken by the planes' wing-mounted FLIR Talon cameras. While individual faces are not clearly visible in the videos, it's frighteningly easy to imagine how cameras with a slightly improved zoom resolution and face recognition technology could be used to identify protesters in the future.

The FBI says they're only using the planes to track specific suspectds in serious crime investigations, according to the article, which adds that "The FBI flew their spy planes more than 3,500 times in the last six months of 2015, according to a Buzzfeed News analysis of data collected by the aircraft-tracking site FlightRadar24."
Businesses

Nigerian Scammers Infect Themselves With Own Malware, Reveal New Fraud Scheme (ieee.org) 38

"A pair of security researchers recently uncovered a Nigerian scammer ring that they say operates a new kind of attack...after a few of its members accidentally infected themselves with their own malware," reports IEEE Spectrum. "Over the past several months, they've watched from a virtual front row seat as members used this technique to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from small and medium-sized businesses worldwide." Wave723 writes: Nigerian scammers are becoming more sophisticated, moving on from former 'spoofing' attacks in which they impersonated a CEO's email from an external account. Now, they've begun to infiltrate employee email accounts to monitor financial transactions and slip in their own routing and account info...The researchers estimate this particular ring of criminals earns about US $3 million from the scheme.
After they infected their own system, the scammers' malware uploaded screenshots and all of their keystrokes to an open web database, including their training sessions for future scammers and the re-routing of a $400,000 payment. Yet the scammers actually "appear to be 'family men' in their late 20s to 40s who are well-respected, church-going figures in their communities," according to the article. SecureWorks malware researcher Joe Stewart says the scammers are "increasing the economic potential of the region they're living in by doing this, and I think they feel somewhat of a duty to do this."
The Internet

Average Broadband Speed in US Rises Above 50 Mbps For First Time (techcrunch.com) 108

Internet speeds are getting faster in the United States, especially in cities such as Kansas City, Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, and Phoenix, according to a new Speedtest Market Report. The report, by Ookla's popular service, found that fixed broadband customers saw the biggest jump in performance this year with download speeds achieving an average of over 50Mbps for the first time ever. The result marks a 40 percent increase since July 2015. From a TechCrunch report: That average, 54.97 megabits per second is 42 percent higher than the same period last year, and upload jumped even more -- 18.88 is 51 percent higher year over year. This is all based on the 8 million or so daily tests conducted on Speedtest's website and apps, by the way, so the data is pretty sound. Comcast Xfinity took the honors for fastest speed on average, but its 125 megabits wasn't that much higher than the competition: Cox with 118 and Spectrum with 114. [...] On mobile, Verizon and T-Mobile are tied for first place with 21 megabits and change download speed on average, though the latter beats the competition by a long shot with upload speeds averaging 11.59 megabits. Poor Sprint, though.
Books

CP/M Creator Gary Kildall's Memoirs Released As Free Download (ieee.org) 157

An anonymous reader writes from IEEE Spectrum: The year before his death in 1994, Gary Kildall -- inventor of the early microcomputer operating system CP/M -- wrote a draft of a memoir, "Computer Connections: People, Places, and Events in the Evolution of the Personal Computer Industry." He distributed copies to family and friends, but died before realizing his plans to release it as a book. This week, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, with the permission of Kildall's children, released the first section and it is available for a free download. The rest of it, which they say did not reflect his true self, will not be made public.
Java

C Top Programming Language For 2016, Finds IEEE's Study (ieee.org) 315

IEEE Spectrum, a highly regarded magazine edited by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, has released its annual programming languages list, sharing with the world how several languages fared against each other. To assess the languages the publication says it worked with a data journalist and looked into 10 online sources -- including social chatter, open-source code production, and job postings. The publication has rated C as the top programming language this year, followed by Java, Python, C++, and R. From their article:After two years in second place, C has finally edged out Java for the top spot. Staying in the top five, Python has swapped places with C++ to take the No. 3 position, and C# has fallen out of the top five to be replaced with R. R is following its momentum from previous years, as part of a positive trend in general for modern big-data languages that Diakopoulos analyses in more detail here. Google and Apple are also making their presence felt, with Google's Go just beating out Apple's Swift for inclusion in the Top Ten. Still, Swift's rise is impressive, as it's jumped five positions to 11th place since last year, when it first entered the rankings. Several other languages also debuted last year, a marked difference from this year, with no new languages entering the rankings.The publication has explained in detail the different metrics it uses to evaluate a language.

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