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United States

Submission + - Obama Administration Silences IT Layoff Notices 4

CubicleZombie writes: As part of last year's U.S. federal debt increase deal, the Department of Defense will take a $55 billion budget cut on January 2nd. That's a lot of IT jobs. By law, companies are required to give 60 days notice before mass layoffs. Only this time, they're not, because the Obama administration has directed companies to ignore the law and has pledged tax dollars to cover their legal defense. These notices would have come out days before the November election.
Book Reviews

Submission + - Pro Silverlight 4: the way tech books should be

jddp writes: A review of Matthew MacDonald's "Pro Silverlight 4 in VB"
ISBN-13: 978-1-4302-3548-4 | Published by Apress. Dec 2010

http://apress.com/book/view/1430235489

MacDonald is a programmer's programmer, and this is a model of what a programmer's guide should be. He explains a mass of technical information in considerable detail without losing the big-picture. His clear and concise exposition of concepts and functionality is never confusing or needlessly repetitive. The book's organization is logical, yet the chapters can be read in isolation, as the need or interest arises.

One thing this book doesn't provide is an overview of the subject for a novice trying to get the big-picture. After the briefest of introductions (10 pages), the author leaps right into building applications. Nor does it provide every technical detail you will need to complete your application. (That's why we have the web). However, if you want a book that can take you from having a rough map of the territory to being a self-sufficient Silverlight developer, I highly recommend this one.

Starting from the fundamentals of Silverlight such as XAML, Layout and Elements, McDonald rarely puts a step wrong as he winds through the technical details, progressing to specific functional areas such as such as Animation, Data Binding and Web services. Each chapter provides a brief overview of the functionality addressed before stepping through the programming details. His code examples are concise, but also convey the significance and use of the features very clearly. The examples do not sprawl across pages and pages, as in weaker tutorials, but they do build upon one another when necessary. Working code implementing the examples from the text is available at MacDonald’s personal site for anyone to download — but apparently only in C# (as far as I could see. The VB version may be coming later, just as the VB book lagged the C# version). Due to the intelligent choice, structuring and clear implementation of his examples, I have found them a useful jumping-off point for "real-life" applications on several occasions. The author has gone beyond the scope of the book in at least one case, implemented an “advanced” capability (support for large file up/downloads via a Web Service) that I was specifically interested in.

As mentioned, the book does not contain an extensive technology overview and this is reflected by the absence of many of the buzzwords associated with Silverlight from the index. You will find no mention of RIA services. MVVM is only touched upon in the context of the new SL 4 support for the Command pattern. (Even so, his brief explanation is a great example of MacDonald's lucid and economical expository style. You could trawl the web for a long time without finding such a straightforward explanation.) However, while MacDonald does not attempt to convey any over-arching architectural vision, he is perfectly capable of clarifying some abstract design concepts. In Chapter 4 of the book he is already tackling the intimidating-sounding topics of Dependency Properties, Attached Properties and Routed Events. By the time you’ve read a few pages you’re wondering what all the fuss was about. After less than six pages, MacDonald is working through a meaningful application of attached properties (a custom layout panel). Most of the chapter is devoted a detailed explanation and illustration of Mouse and Keyboard event handling, and to the new Commanding support in SL 4.

A final caveat: This is not a book for someone wanting to catch up on what's new in Silverlight 4. The information is there, but it is dispersed among the relevant sections of the old book, and there is no helpful index. Contrary to the impression given by the back-cover, the very occasional "What's New" boxes don't help much in homing in on new features. In fact, the organization of the material and most of the content is unchanged from the SL 3 edition, so I wouldn't buy this if you already have that book.

While reading this book, I sometimes wished for a wider view: discussions of the merits of different architectures; comparisons to design patterns used in other technologies, and so forth. This book will not be much help in defining the architecture for your next mega-app. This is a book to seize on when you need to get a handle on programming specific Silverlight features fast. You won't learn about every possible shortcut or dead-end on the trail, but you will never have to wonder where the heck you are.

In summary, while this book it isn’t all things to all developers, it is hard to overstate its consistent intelligence and clarity, or its sheer usefulness (to programmers). Programmers just aren’t supposed to be so articulate – are they?
Government

Submission + - Rep. Giffords wanted 'Solarcon Valley' (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: U.S. Gabrielle Giffords has been a big supporter of tech issues in Congress, but especially solar energy. Giffords installed nine solar panels on the roof of her Tucson home and detailed the cost ($12,500 for equipment and installation) and payback period (7.4 years), after federal and state tax rebates, which she also fought for. She hired several Ph.D.-holding staff members to help her on solar and tech policy and had won House approval for $2 billion in solar research. Giffords said her vision is to turn Arizona into solar industry's Silicon Valley, or as she put it, "Solarcon Valley." She was also a leading advocate for the Competes Act, signed by President Obama in December, that boosted science research and education funding. Science, technology, engineering and math education were particularly important to her. "These fields will shape our future and the investments we make in advancing them today will pay tremendous dividends tomorrow," Giffords said late last month.

Submission + - Sedentary Lifestyle is Bad for Your Health (health.com)

HGH1 writes: It’s in the news today, although I’m sure it is not really news to any of us. Health.com reported that sitting at a computer all day is not good for you. This is yet another study showing that those of us who spend more than two hours a day sitting (whether at the computer, in front of a tv, at a desk or even just driving) are at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and related maladies. This particular study followed 4,500 people who were all over the age of 35, which just happens to be the age where a number of changes begin to occur in the body. Our body’s endocrine system (that’s the glands like pituitary and thyroid) works as hard as it can to keep our hormone levels stable, but eventually it becomes exhausted.

The essential hormones which we need to survive or at least preserve our quality of life are no longer produced like they were when we were 22. In order to restore our vitality and live youthfully, we need to replace the HGH human growth hormone which our bodies previously produced naturally. We may not be able to completely change the way we work from day to day, but we can do something about having the energy and zest for living that we had in our youth.

NASA

Submission + - NASA Pitches Heavy Lift Vehicle to Congress (spacenews.com)

BJ_Covert_Action writes: Well, Congress demanded, last year, that NASA develop a budget plan and proposal for a new heavy lift vehicle in light of the Ares V cancellation. Recently, NASA gave Congress just what they wanted. On January 11th, Douglas Cooke pitched an interim report to Congressional members detailing the basic design concepts that would go into a new heavy lift vehicle. Congress required that the new heavy lift vehicle maximize the reuse of space shuttle components as part of its budget battle with President Obama last year. As a result, NASA basically copy-pasted the Ares V design into a new report and pitched it to Congress on the 11th. The proposed vehicle will require the five segment SRB's that were proposed for the Ares V rocket. It will utilize the SSME's for it's main liquid stage. It will reuse the shuttle external tank as the primary core for the liquid booster (the same tank design that is currently giving the Discovery shuttle launch so many problems). And it will utilize the new J-2X engine that NASA has been developing for the Ares V project as an upper stage. In other words, NASA proposed to Congress exactly what Congress asked for.

The catch is, NASA also admitted that they will not be able to complete the proposed rocket on the budget that Congress has given them. Neither will they be able to finish the rocket on time. Finally, NASA has commented that a current study being conducted by 13 independent contractors is still being conducted to determine if there is a better design out there that NASA has, 'overlooked.' NASA has stated that, should that study finds any alternate, interesting designs then, they will need to consider those seriously.

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