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NASA

New NASA Launch Control Software Late, Millions Over Budget (go.com) 205

schwit1 writes: The launch control software NASA is writing from scratch for its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is way behind schedule and way over budget. According to ABC News, "Development of this new launch control software is now projected to exceed $207 million, 77 percent above 2012 projections. The software won't be ready until fall 2017, instead of this summer as planned, and important capabilities like automatic failure detection, are being deferred, the audit noted. The system is vital, needed to control pumps, motors, valves and other ground equipment during countdowns and launches, and to monitor data before and during liftoff. NASA decided to write its own computer code to "glue together" existing software products a decade ago -- while space shuttles still were flying and commercial shippers had yet to service the space station. Both delivery companies, SpaceX and Orbital ATK, rely on commercial software, the audit noted."

In other words, even though NASA could have simply purchased already available software that other launch companies were using successfully, the agency decided to write its own. And that decision really didn't come before the arrival of these commercial companies, because when it was made a decade ago that was exactly the time that SpaceX was beginning to build its rocket. This is simply more proof that SLS is nothing more than a pork-laden waste of money designed not to explore space but to generate non-productive jobs in congressional districts.

Software

Software Bug in F-35 Radar Causes Mid-Flight System Reboot 153

Reader Lisandro writes: The F-35 Fighter jet can't seem to catch a break. An advanced AN/APG-81 AESA F35 radar system has been found riddled with a software bug that causes it to degrade and stop working. The solution? Rebooting the system while in the air.

Major General Jeffrey Harrigian, director of the Air Force's F-35 integration office at the Pentagon, was quoted as saying "radar stability - the radar's ability to stay up and running. [...] What would happen is they'd get a signal that says either a radar degrade or a radar fail - "something that would force us to restart the radar." The issue was spotted in late 2015, and thankfully, it was caught during the testing period. The software version "3i" is affected. An update aimed to resolve the bug is expected to be delivered to the US Air Force by the end of March.
Programming

Linus Rants About C Programming Semantics (iu.edu) 576

jones_supa writes: "Christ people. This is just sh*t," begins Linus Torvalds in his message on the Linux Kernel Mailing List. Torvalds is grumpy because some new code added to the IPv6 subsystem has created conflicts. "The conflict I get is due to stupid new gcc header file crap," he writes. "But what makes me upset is that the crap is for completely bogus reasons." The new improved code uses fancy stuff that wants magical built-in compiler support and has silly wrapper functions for when it doesn't exist. Linus provides an alternative that contains a single and understandable conditional, which looks cleaner and generates better code.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Is it Practical To Replace C With Rust? 437

interval1066 writes: I've heard of rust from various sources around the net for a few years and never paid it much mind, there are so many new languages out now since my early days doing C programming, which what I've stuck to and made me my career. Now I'm heading a project that uses a RoR application to control a large series of sensors and controls in a manufacturing process. Naturally I want to talk to the hardware using a GEM extension written in C, as I've done before.

But another engineer who is not a fan of C (seems few younger engineers are) said he could write the extensions needed easily in Rust. Seems like this is a thing. I took a closer look at rust and it looks to me like another attempt at "C" without pointers, except rust does have a kind of pointer, it appears. I like its ranking on a list of fastest languages, and it seems pretty simple with an initial tool footprint that is quite small.

But what are the trade offs? Another language, and one that few engineers know (much like Vala, which I like very much but has the same small user base). What if I need another engineer to work on the code? I pretty much know what I can expect from C/C++, rust is a huge unknown, what if I run onto a roadblock? The engineer pushing for rust is emphatic, should I bulldoze him or take the plunge?
Programming

Bjarne Stroustrup Announces the C++ Core Guidelines 262

alphabetsoup writes: At CppCon this year, Bjarne Stroustrup announced the C++ Core Guidelines. The guidelines are designed to help programmers write safe-by-default C++ with no run-time overhead. Compilers will statically check the code to ensure no violations. A library is available now, with a static checking tool to follow in October.

Here is the video of the talk, and here are the slides.The guidelines themselves are here.
Programming

Rust 1.0 Enters Beta 211

An anonymous reader writes: Rust is a systems programming language focused on safety and speed and aims, among other things, to offer memory safety without garbage collection and threads without data races. Over on the Rust blog, the Rust Core Team has announced the release of Rust 1.0 beta. They write, 'The beta release marks a very significant "state transition" in the move towards 1.0. In particular, with the beta release, all libraries and language features that are planned to be stable for 1.0 have been marked as stable. As such, the beta release represents an accurate preview of what Rust 1.0 will include.' The final Rust 1.0 release is scheduled for May 15th, 2015. A warning from the developers: "Rust is a work-in-progress and may do anything it likes up to and including eating your laundry." The FAQ is worth reading.
Programming

SpaceX: Lessons Learned Developing Software For Space Vehicles 160

jrepin writes "On day two of the 2013 Embedded Linux Conference, Robert Rose of SpaceX spoke about the 'Lessons Learned Developing Software for Space Vehicles.' In his talk, he discussed how SpaceX develops its Linux-based software for a wide variety of tasks needed to put spacecraft into orbit—and eventually beyond. Linux runs everywhere at SpaceX, he said, on everything from desktops to spacecraft."
Software

US Air Force Scraps ERP Project After $1 Billion Spent 362

angry tapir writes "The U.S. Air Force has decided to scrap a major ERP (enterprise resource planning) software project after spending $1 billion, concluding that finishing it would cost far too much more money for too little gain. Dubbed the Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS), the project has racked up $1.03 billion in costs since 2005, 'and has not yielded any significant military capability,' an Air Force spokesman said in a statement. 'We estimate it would require an additional $1.1B for about a quarter of the original scope to continue and fielding would not be until 2020. The Air Force has concluded the ECSS program is no longer a viable option for meeting the FY17 Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness (FIAR) statutory requirement. Therefore, we are canceling the program and moving forward with other options in order to meet both requirements.'"
Python

Van Rossum: Python Not Too Slow 510

snydeq writes "Python creator Guido van Rossum discusses the prospects and criticisms of Python, noting that critics of Python performance should supplement with C/C++ rather than re-engineering Python apps into a faster language. 'At some point, you end up with one little piece of your system, as a whole, where you end up spending all your time. If you write that just as a sort of simple-minded Python loop, at some point you will see that that is the bottleneck in your system. It is usually much more effective to take that one piece and replace that one function or module with a little bit of code you wrote in C or C++ rather than rewriting your entire system in a faster language, because for most of what you're doing, the speed of the language is irrelevant.'"
Bug

Toyota Acceleration and Embedded System Bugs 499

An anonymous reader writes "David Cummings, a programmer who worked on the Mars Pathfinder project, has written an interesting editorial in the L.A. Times encouraging Toyota to drop claims of software infallibility in their recent acceleration problems. He argues that embedded systems developers must program more defensively, and that companies should stop relying on software for safety. Quoting: 'If Toyota has indeed tested its software as thoroughly as it says without finding any bugs, my response is simple: Keep trying. Find new ways to instrument the software, and come up with more creative tests. The odds are that there are still bugs in the code, which may or may not be related to unintended acceleration. Until these bugs are identified, how can you be certain they are not related to sudden acceleration?'"
Transportation

Toyota Pedal Issue Highlights Move To Electronics 913

cyclocommuter writes with an excerpt from a brief WSJ story on increasing electronic control of car components: "The gas pedal system used Toyota Motor Co.'s recall crisis was born from a movement in the auto industry to rely more on electronics to carry out a vehicle's most critical functions. The intricacy of such systems, which replace hoses and hydraulic fluid with computer chips and electrical sensors, has been a focus as Toyota struggled to find the cause for sudden acceleration of vehicles that led the company to halt sales of eight models this week."
Internet Explorer

Microsoft Says Upgrade To IE8, Even Though It's Vulnerable 279

Barence writes "Microsoft has issued a statement urging people to upgrade their browser to IE8, after the zero-day exploit that was used to attack companies such as Google went public. According to Microsoft's security advisory: 'the vulnerability exists as an invalid pointer reference within Internet Explorer. It is possible under certain conditions for the invalid pointer to be accessed after an object is deleted. In a specially-crafted attack, in attempting to access a freed object, Internet Explorer can be caused to allow remote code execution.' But, although IE6 has been the source of the attacks until now, Microsoft's advisory admits that both IE7 and IE8 are vulnerable to the same flaw, even on Windows 7."
Robotics

Robot Soldiers Are Already Being Deployed 258

destinyland writes "As a Rutgers philosopher discusses robot war scenarios, one science magazine counts the ways robots are already being used in warfare, including YouTube videos of six military robots in action. There are up to 12,000 'robotic units' on the ground in Iraq, some dismantling landmines and roadside bombs, but 'a new generation of bots are designed to be fighting machines.' One bot can operate an M-16 rifle, a machine gun, and a rocket launcher — and 250 people have already been killed by unmanned drones in Pakistan. He also tells the story of a berserk robot explosives gun that killed nine people in South Africa due to a 'software glitch.'"
Programming

Null References, the Billion Dollar Mistake 612

jonr writes "'I call it my billion-dollar mistake. It was the invention of the null reference in 1965. At that time, I was designing the first comprehensive type system for references in an object oriented language (ALGOL W). My goal was to ensure that all use of references should be absolutely safe, with checking performed automatically by the compiler. But I couldn't resist the temptation to put in a null reference, simply because it was so easy to implement. This has led to innumerable errors, vulnerabilities, and system crashes, which have probably caused a billion dollars of pain and damage in the last forty years. In recent years, a number of program analysers like PREfix and PREfast in Microsoft have been used to check references, and give warnings if there is a risk they may be non-null. More recent programming languages like Spec# have introduced declarations for non-null references. This is the solution, which I rejected in 1965.' This is an abstract from Tony Hoare Presentation on QCon. I'm raised on C-style programming languages, and have always used null pointers/references, but I am having trouble of grokking null-reference free language. Is there a good reading out there that explains this?"

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