Nerval's Lobster writes: Ford and Chinese technology company DJI (which manufactures drones that specialize in aerial photography) used the spotlight of this year’s CES to announce a developer challenge: figure out how someone in a Ford vehicle can use the dashboard touch-screen to launch (and land) a drone from the back of a pickup. While the challenge is framed as a “search-and-rescue system for the future,” drone control from a moving vehicle has a lot more applications than search-and-rescue. In 2014, Renault designed a concept car that came with a small flying drone controllable via tablet or preset GPS waypoints. In theory, this “flying companion,” launched from a retractable hatch in the roof, could prove especially useful at scanning the road ahead for possible traffic jams. (Renault hasn’t yet announced a production model of the car.) So are drones-from-cars an odd sideshow? Maybe. But if they catch on, imagine the driver-distraction issues from trying to pilot a UAV while you're on the road.
Nerval's Lobster writes: David Foote, an analyst who accurately predicted the tech industry's job growth in 2015, is back with some new predictions about which segments will do well in 2016 (Dice link). At the top of his list: DevOps, cloud and software architects, and cybersecurity experts. Those that won't perform well? SAP specialists, storage 'gurus,' and network managers could all face some headwinds. 'Companies are continuing to outsource infrastructure and that will reduce the need for network specialists except for network security which will remain in-house,' he says. Whether or not he's right about which parts of the tech industry will do better than others, there are also increasing signs that things could get very tight from a funding perspective for startups, as even the so-called 'unicorns' risk seeing investor money (and customers) dry up.
Nerval's Lobster writes: New data from research firm Nielsen shows that — surprise, surprise — Facebook, Google, and Apple dominated the list of most-used mobile apps (Dice link). Facebook’s core app took the top spot on Nielsen’s list with 126 million unique users per month, followed by YouTube with 97 million, Facebook Messenger with 96 million, and Google Search with 95 million. This is partially a consequence of the mobile world essentially becoming a duopoly between Google Android and Apple’s iOS, meaning that the core apps produced by those companies are always front-and-center (and thus always in use) for the majority of mobile users. But not every app launched by these companies succeeds: While Facebook dominates, for example, the company is notable for some app misfires, including Paper and Facebook Home. That might be cold consolation to indie app developers trying to build up a significant audience.
Nerval's Lobster writes: In its recent survey of 435 senior-level cybersecurity professionals, security-training firm Cybrary found that the demand for people who can protect IT infrastructure against attacks is only increasing. According to the data, the most in-demand certifications included (sequentially) Security+, Ethical Hacking, Network+, CISSP, and A+. The high ranking of the Ethical Hacking certification is interesting, given the longtime debate over its worth to security professionals.(Dice link) Whatever certifications they earn, however, tech pros will face a number of significant challenges in 2016 if they want to keep their workplaces secure, including vulnerabilities in the Internet of Things, the rise of “super bad guys” with increasingly sophisticated tools, and a generalized lack of funding to invest in relevant people and technologies. (For those interested, there’s also an interesting piece in Business Insider on how Ran Corey, who co-founded Cybrary, had to deal with Google abruptly banning his company’s app from the Google Play Store. For developers, it’s a good tutorial on what to do if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, and need to get your app unblocked.)
Nerval's Lobster writes: As part of its intensive promotion for the new 'Star Wars' movie, Google just launched a PC browser game called 'Lightsaber Escape' that allows you to swipe at stormtroopers using your smartphone (with the onscreen lightsaber following your real-life movements). Whether or not you actually have any interest in the game (or 'Star Wars,' for that matter), Google has accompanied the release with an interesting walkthrough (complete with coding samples) of how they built the game using WebGL to render graphics within the browser, and WebRTC and WebSockets so mobile devices and PCs could communicate with a minimum of latency. Google believes Polymer is powerful enough (Dice link) to build everything from a UX button to a full application, and the step-by-step breakdown of building 'Lightsaber Escape' certainly backs that point. Whether you’re interested in gaming or hardware interactions, the walkthrough is well-worth the read; if you want to build your own lightsaber game, though, prepare for a good deal of sophisticated rendering and graphics work.
Nerval's Lobster writes: Former CEO Steve Ballmer once publicly referred to Linux as a 'cancer.' Not content to just let Ballmer blow up about it, company also spent a good deal of money and legal effort on claiming that open-source software violated its patents. A decade ago, the idea of Microsoft creating a Linux certification would have seemed like lunacy. But now that very thing has come to pass, (Dice link) with the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) Linux on Azure certification, designed in conjunction with the Linux Foundation. Earning the Linux on Azure certification requires tech pros to pass Microsoft Exam 70-533 (Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions) as well as the Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) exam, which collectively require knowledge of Linux and Azure implementation. Microsoft evidently recognizes that open-source technology increasingly powers the cloud and mobile, and that it needs to play nice with the open-source community if it wants to survive and evolve.
Nerval's Lobster writes: The idea with Clang, a compiler front-end for C, C++, Objective-C++, and Objective-C, and LLVM (a compiler infrastructure) is that you can mix the compiler front-end with a targeted back-end and end up with highly portable and efficient compiler. Clang can perform static analysis of your code, and lets you write tools that give you information about a program. Although many developers prefer developing in C/C++ using GCC, developer David Bolton (in a new Dice article) makes an argument for why you should switch to Clang. While GCC is probably still best when it comes to speed, he argues, Clang is improving release by release, and features tools that developers could find useful.
Nerval's Lobster writes: PostgreSQL, MySQL, and MariaDB are the three “main” open-source relational databases available today (there are four if you count FireBird, but for brevity we're excluding it). For years, MySQL had a reputation of being faster than PostgreSQL, but much of that was due to the MyISAM database engine, which didn’t support transactions. On the flip side of things, PostgreSQL had a reputation for being slower but more reliable. But with the recent versions of both platforms, things have started to change; for example, speed has been less of a problem for PostgreSQL, while MySQL now defaults to the InnoDB engine, which does handle transactions. According to developer David Bolton, here's why PostgreSQL is worth a second look for your database-management needs (Dice link).
Nerval's Lobster writes: Are tech professionals really willing to live on energy drinks, and sleep on office couches, in order to get the job done? For many, the answer is “no.” In response to a new Dice survey (Dice link, obviously), only 5 percent of employees at technology companies said that work-life balance wasn’t a top priority for them. Contrast that with nearly 45 percent of respondents who said they wanted more of a work-life balance, even if their current position made that difficult. More than 27 percent of those surveyed also characterized work-life balance in the tech industry as a “myth.” It seems that, despite all those companies talking publicly about wanting to give employees a better work-life balance (complete with onsite gyms and unlimited vacation time and... stuff...), it's not really working out for a lot of people. (And that's something that people have been calling out for some time.)
Nerval's Lobster writes: While this month’s lists of the top programming languages uniformly list Java in the top spot, that’s not the only detail of interest to developers. Which language has gained the most users over the past five years? And which are tottering on the edge of obsolescence? According to PYPL, which pulls its raw data for analysis from Google Trends, Python has grown the most over the past five years—up 5 percent since roughly 2010. Over the same period, PHP also declined by 5 percent. Since PYPL looks at how often language tutorials are searched on Google, its data is a good indicator of how many developers are (or aren’t) learning a language, presumably because they see it as valuable to their careers. Just because PYPL shows PHP losing market-share over the long term doesn’t mean that language is in danger of imminent collapse; over the past year or so, the PHP community has concentrated on making the language more pleasant to use, whether by improving features such as package management, or boosting overall performance. Plus, PHP is still used on hundreds of millions of Websites, according to data from Netcraft. Indeed, if there’s any language on these analysts’ lists that risks doom, it’s Objective-C, Apple’s longtime language for programming iOS and Mac OS X apps, and its growing obsolescence is by design.
Nerval's Lobster writes: A new study from Course Report suggests that boot camps are introducing more women to the tech-employment pipeline. Data for the study came from 769 graduates from 43 qualifying coding schools (a.k.a. boot camps). Some 66 percent of those graduates reported landing a full-time job that hinged on skills learned at the boot camp. Although the typical “bootcamper” is 31 years old, with 7.6 years of work experience, relatively few had a job as a programmer before participating in a boot camp. Perhaps the most interesting data-point from Course Report, though, is that 36 percent of “bootcampers” are women, compared to 14.1 percent coming into the tech industry via undergraduate programs. Bringing more women and underrepresented groups into the tech industry is a stated goal of many companies. Over the past few years, these companies’ diversity reports have bemoaned how engineering and leadership teams skew overwhelmingly white and male. Proposed strategies for the issue include adjusting how companies recruit new workers; boot camps could also quickly deepen the pool of potential employees with the right skills.
Nerval's Lobster writes: Work-life balance among technology professionals is very much in the news following a much-discussed New York Times article about workday conditions at Amazon. That piece painted a picture of a harsh workplace where employees literally cried at their desks. While more tech companies are publicly talking about the need for work-life balance, do the pressures of delivering revenues, profits, and products make much of that chatter mere lip-service? Or are companies actually doing their best to ensure their workers are treated like human beings with lives outside of work?