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Submission + - Empirical Software Engineering: book+code+data

derek_farn writes: A draft of the book Empirical Software Engineering using R is now available for free download. The target audience is professional developers; techniques are discussed from the perspective of using them (not implementing them). There are essentially two parts:
  • statistical techniques that are useful for analyzing software engineering data. Only techniques where real data is available to use in an example are covered,
  • six chapters covering the primary areas of software engineering. This draft release includes the Human Cognitive Characteristics chapter and it is hoped to release one each of the remaining chapters every few months (Economics is next).

There is a Github page for making suggestions and problem reports.
All the code+data is available on Github (330M compressed).


Submission + - In game behavior a small subset of possibilities ( 1

derek_farn writes: "A group of physics grad students at Cornell have found that some players of a game with over 10^100 combinations can successfully predict the behavior of other players well enough to beat the majority of them. With such a huge number of possibilities it is surprising that people use such a small number of playing strategies.

Colonel Blotto is a game in which players assign soldiers to fields. In this implementation there are 10 fields and 100 soldiers. You must specify how many soldiers to send to each of the 10 fields. You don't know what the opposing general will do. Then, in each field, the soldiers face off: whoever has more soldiers wins the battle. Whoever wins more battles wins the war.

For example, a one strategy is "10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10" and another is "1 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11". The second strategy will lose in the first field, but win the other 9, and therefore win the war."

Submission + - Interesting numbers in code tell a story (

derek_farn writes: "The numeric literals contained in code provide a lot of useful information about the algorithms used and the application domain being targeted. A new Wiki aims to collect interesting and distinctive numbers likely to be seen in source code and allows anybody to add new numbers; the 'numbers' program is the first tool to match this collection of numbers against numeric literals extracted files, it supports fuzzy matching and can print unmatched values.

One surprising is the extent to which large code bases contain many different values for Pi and sometimes leave off a digit (e.g., #define pi 3.1459265 in core/Helix.cpp of MIFIT)."


Submission + - Intel's compilers must not favor Intel products (

derek_farn writes: "The FTC have filed an antitrust complaint against Intel that requires them to release an updated version of their compilers that do not check whether the compiled code is executing on a "GenuineIntel" processor before deciding whether to go down a go-faster path that makes maximal use of the available processor resources, or a path containing a generic sequence of instructions (which are potentially much slower). The Intel settlement with AMD seems to cover the issue, but perhaps the Intel lawyers have another view. Intel could probably remove the GenuineIntel check without overly effecting their sales"

Submission + - Economic and cultural commentary on C (

derek_farn writes: "A major update to a book covering the economic and cultural aspects of the C language announced on /. four years ago has just been released. The pdf (10.5M) is still available as a free download (here and here). C continues to be popular, with new compilers being written, e.g., llvm, fancy new pattern match search and replace tools and a continuous stream of research papers (the book cites over 100 new ones since its first release). Peaks in the pdf downloads, averaging around 1,200 per month, are driven by sudden popularity in various parts of the world. In January of this year a Chinese blog entry resulted in 3,000 downloads in one week. A Google translation suggested that the author had the "heart of Budda"."

Summer Research Programs? 87

aantn writes "I'm currently looking for a science-related summer program. I'm an 11th grade Israeli high school student interested in computer science and robotics. I have a high GPA and take afternoon classes in computer science and mathematics at Israel's Open University. I have several years of experience with C, Python, C#, and Java. I'm actively involved in several open source and freelance projects. Through a program at my school, I will be entering Trinity College's Fire Fighting Robot contest later this year. I enjoy writing and liberal arts, but I'm not interested in a "Learn to Program" or any other "Learn to ______" summer program. I'm looking for something that will be academically challenging and research-oriented. My top choice would be a university research program in either computer science or robotics, but I'm also looking at other science-oriented programs. Does anyone have suggestions for such programs? I'm mostly looking in Israel and the United States, but I'd love to hear about programs in other countries which accept international students. If it's relevant, I have a US citizenship."
Data Storage

USB Flash Drive Comparison Part 2 — FAT32 Vs. NTFS 198

Dampeal writes "Ok, a little while back I ran a somewhat large USB Flash Drive Comparison with 21 drives compared, today I got part two of that comparison. I've taken the 8gig and 4 gig drives, nine in total, and formatted them FAT32, NTFS and ExFAT and ran all of the tests over again for a comparison of how the file systems work on the drives." Good news — after some exhaustively graphed testing scenarios, the author comes to a nice conclusion for lazy people, writing "[I]n my opinion the all around best choice is FAT32, or the default for most all USB drives out there today, it seems to give us the best average performance overall."

Belkin's President Apologizes For Faked Reviews 137

remove office writes "After I wrote about how Belkin's sales rep Mike Bayard had been paying for fake reviews of his company's products using Mechanical Turk, hundreds of readers across the Web expressed their outrage. As a result of the online outcry, Belkin's president Mark Reynoso has issued a statement apologizing and saying that 'this is an isolated incident' and that 'Belkin does not participate in, nor does it endorse, unethical practices like this.' Amazon moved swiftly to remove several reviews on Belkin products it believed were fraudulent. But now fresh evidence of astroturfing has surfaced, by the same Belkin executive."

First Earth-Sized Exoplanet May Have Been Found 222

Adam Korbitz writes "New Scientist is reporting the extrasolar planet MOA-2007-BLG-192Lb — whose discovery was announced just last summer — may actually be the first truly Earth-sized exoplanet to be identified. A new analysis suggests the planet weighs less than half the original estimate of 3.3 Earth masses; the new estimate pegs the planet's size at 1.4 Earth masses. The planet orbits a small red dwarf star, some 3,000 light-years from here, at an orbital distance of 0.62 astronomical units, about the same distance as Venus from our sun. One significance of the planet's discovery is that it points to the probable ubiquity of smaller terrestrial planets in somewhat Earth-like orbits around red dwarf stars, the oldest and most numerous stars in the galaxy. Here is a video report from the discoverers."

EC Considering Removing Internet Explorer From Windows 827

Itsabouttime writes "In a preliminary ruling, the European Commission told Microsoft that linking Internet Explorer to its dominant Windows operating system violates EC rules. The EC's ruling was triggered by a complaint from IE rival Opera. Microsoft could seek to offer a Windows version without IE, as it did in the EC's 2004 ruling on Windows Media Player."
Data Storage

Single Drive Wipe Protects Data 625

ALF-nl writes "A forensics expert claims that wiping your hard drives with just one pass already makes it next to impossible to recover the data with an electron microscope." But that's not accounting for the super secret machines that the government has, man.

EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up 182

CurtMonash writes "The New York Times reports on President-Elect Obama's continued commitment to electronic health records (EHRs), which on the whole are a great idea. The article cites a number of legislative initiatives to deal with the privacy risks of EHRs. That's where things start to go astray. The proposals seem to focus on simply controlling the flow of information, but from a defense-in-depth standpoint, that's not enough. Medical care is full of information waivers, much like EULAs, only with your health at stake. What's more, any information control regime has to have exceptions for medical emergencies — but where legitimate emergencies are routine, socially-engineered fake emergencies can blast security to smithereens. So medical information privacy will never be adequate unless there are strong usage-control rules as well, in areas such as discrimination, marketing, or tabloid-press publication. I've provided some ideas as to how and why that could work well."

Wiretapping Program Ruled Legal 575

BuhDuh writes "The New York Times is carrying a story concerning that well known bastion of legal authority, the 'Foreign Intelligence Surveillance' court, which has ruled that the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping program was perfectly legal. It says, 'A federal intelligence court, in a rare public opinion, is expected to issue a major ruling validating the power of the president and Congress to wiretap international phone calls and intercept e-mail messages without a court order, even when Americans' private communications may be involved, according to a person with knowledge of the opinion.'"

GPUs Used To Crack WiFi Passwords Faster 189

MojoKid writes "Russian-based ElcomSoft has just released ElcomSoft Wireless Security Auditor 1.0, which can take advantage of both Nvidia and ATI GPUs. ElcomSoft claims that the software uses a 'proprietary GPU acceleration technology,' which implies that neither CUDA, Stream, nor OpenCL are being utilized in this instance. At its heart, what ElcomSoft Wireless Security Auditor does is perform brute-force dictionary attacks of WPA and WPA2 passwords. If an access point is set up using a fairly insecure password that is based on dictionary words, there is a higher likelihood that a password can be guessed. ElcomSoft positions the software as a way to 'audit' wireless network security."

Interview With an Adware Author 453

rye writes in to recommend a Sherri Davidoff interview with Matt Knox, a talented Ruby instructor and coder, who talks about his early days designing and writing adware for Direct Revenue. (Direct Revenue was sued by Eliot Spitzer in 2006 for surreptitiously installing adware on millions of computers.) "So we've progressed now from having just a Registry key entry, to having an executable, to having a randomly-named executable, to having an executable which is shuffled around a little bit on each machine, to one that's encrypted — really more just obfuscated — to an executable that doesn't even run as an executable. It runs merely as a series of threads. ... There was one further step that we were going to take but didn't end up doing, and that is we were going to get rid of threads entirely, and just use interrupt handlers. It turns out that in Windows, you can get access to the interrupt handler pretty easily. ... It amounted to a distributed code war on a 4-10 million-node network."

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