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Facebook Hands Out Secret Chat SDK For Virtual Messenger Bots ( 17

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has started giving third-party developers unannounced access to a new development tools kit which allows them to build their own Messenger bots. The Chat Software Development Kit (SDK) enables developers to create interactive experiences and virtual chat bots which can automatically respond to users, delivering information, location services, returning images and even managing payments. Facebook has not yet publicised any details of the documentation for the SDK, instead sharing it secretly with select developers via PDF.
United States

US Dept. of Ed: English, History, and Civics Teachers Good Enough For CS Class 242

theodp writes: In A New Chapter for Computer Science Education, the U.S. Department of Education explained earlier this month that the federal STEM Education Act of 2015 'provides an unprecedented opportunity to fully leverage federal resources' to address large gaps in students' participation in Advanced Placement (AP) computer science classes based on gender and race. "In three states," lamented the DOE, "not a single female student took the AP computer science exam" (that only 8 boys took the AP CS exam in those same 3 states was apparently not a concern). And the DOE has good news for those hoping to tap Title I and II funds for CS, but don't have any computer science teachers. "A background in math or science isn't necessarily a requirement to teach CS," explains the Dept. of Ed, "as disciplines like English, history and civics can also provide a solid foundation for teaching CS concepts."

Can Web Standards Make Mobile Apps Obsolete? ( 225

nerdyalien writes: There's a litany of problems with apps. There is the platform lock-in and the space the apps take up on the device. Updating apps is a pain that users often ignore, leaving broken or vulnerable versions in use long after they've been allegedly patched. Apps are also a lot of work for developers—it's not easy to write native apps to run on both Android and iOS, never mind considering Windows Phone and BlackBerry. What's the alternative? Well, perhaps the best answer is to go back to the future and do what we do on desktop computers: use the Web and the Web browser.

Fixing JavaScript's Broken Random Number Generator ( 136

szczys writes: It is surprising to learn how broken the JavaScript Random Number Generator has been for the past six years. The problem is compounded by the fact that Node.js uses the same broken Math.random() module. Learning about why this is broken is interesting, but perhaps even more interesting is how the bad code got there in the first place. It seems that a forum thread from way back in 1999 shared two versions of the code. If you read to the end of the thread you got the working version, if you didn't make it that far (perhaps the case with JavaScript devs) you got the bad version of the code whose fix is just now being rolled out.

Programmers Share 188 Computer-Generated Novels On GitHub ( 49

An anonymous reader writes: Last month 188 entries turned up on GitHub in an event challenging programmers to write computer code to generate 50,000-word novels. "The 'novel' is defined however you want," wrote the organizer for National Novel-Generating Month. "It could be 50,000 repetitions of the word 'meow.' It could literally grab a random novel from Project Gutenberg. It doesn't matter, as long as it's 50k+ words." Novels were submitted as Issues on the event's GitHub repository, and this year saw intriguing titles like "The Hero with Arbitrarily-Many Faces," "THE CYBERWHALE – a cyberpunk version of Moby Dick," and "Terms and Conditions – a Legal Thriller."

Facebook, Google Top Year-End App List 30

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. 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.
Open Source

Improving UI and UX: Changing the "Open Source Is Ugly" Perception ( 402

jones_supa writes: For four years, Garth Braithwaite has been working at Adobe on open source projects as a design and code contributor. In addition to his work at the company, he also speaks at conferences about the power of design, improving designer-developer collaboration, and the benefits of open source. Still, he argues that the user experience is weak in many open source projects. One of the largest contributing factors is the lack of professional designers contributing to open source projects. Secondary to that, there are open source project owners who are unaware of the value of design or are unsure where to start with the design process. In an interview to, Braithwaite talks about the UX/UI topic, and gives some honorable mentions of projects that get it right.
United States

Why President Obama Was Held Back a Year Before Starting Code School ( 117

theodp writes: Microsoft is boasting that UK Prime Minister David Cameron learned to code during this year's Hour of Code thanks to its Minecraft-themed tutorial, much like US President Barack Obama learned to code during 2014's Hour of Code thanks to Disney's Frozen Princess-themed tutorial. Interestingly, according to a recent Quora post by CEO Hadi Partovi, plans to have President Obama 'learn to code' a year earlier were torpedoed by the debacle. "We launched the first Hour of Code campaign, in 2013," explains Partovi. "We launched the first Hour of Code on the home page of Google, in every Apple Store, and we had convinced the President to issue a speech about computer science. But it was impossible to get the president to actually write any code that year — the administration had just launched its website, and after the infamous technical failures, nobody wanted the visual of website failing while the President is learning to code."
PlayStation (Games)

Developer Claims 'PS4 Officially Jailbroken' ( 133

colinneagle sends word that a developer has claimed to have achieved a jailbreak of the PlayStation 4. Networkworld reports: "If you have a PS4 and want to run homebrew content, then you might be happy to know developer CTurt claimed, "PS4 is now officially jailbroken." Over the weekend, CTurt took to Twitter to make the announcement. He did not use a jail vulnerability, he explained in a tweet. Instead, he used a FreeBSD kernel exploit.

Besides posting "an open source PlayStation 4 SDK" on GitHub, CTurt analyzed PS4's security twice and explained PS4 hacking. CTurt updated the open source PS4 SDK yesterday; he previously explained that Sony's proprietary Orbis OS is based on FREEBSD. In the past he released the PS4-playground, which included PS4 tools and experiments using the Webkit exploit for PS4 firmware version 1.76. To put that in context, Sony released version 3.0 in September. However, CTurt claimed the hack could be made to work on newer firmware versions.

Other PS4 hackers are reportedly also working on a kernel exploit, yet as Wololo pointed out, it is unlikely there might be more than proof-of-concept videos as the developers continue to tweak the exploit. Otherwise, Sony will do as it has in the past and release a new firmware version. In October 2014, developers nas and Proxima studied the PSVita Webkit exploit, applied it to the PS4, and then released the PS4 proof-of-concept. Shortly thereafter. Sony pushed out new firmware as a patch."

Video Write the Docs Helps Create FLOSS Software Documentation (Video) 27

Say hello to David Smatlak, who works with Write the Docs -- a group that started some years back as Read the Docs.They have conferences in the U.S.and Europe, and Meetups in over a dozen cities. It's a low-key group, open to both people who write documentation and developers who want help writing professeional-quality documentation for their Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) projects. Also welcome are those who would like to learn how to write good software documentation, starting with this online tutorial about the art and science of writing technical documentation. (And if you are interested primarily in Linux documentation, you'll want to check the Linux Documentation Project, too.)

Developing In C/C++? Why You Should Consider Clang Over GCC ( 255

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.

Facebook Shuts Down Creative Labs ( 62

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has shut down Creative Labs and has pulled several apps developed there, namely Slingshot, Riff, and Rooms, from the app store. Creative labs was launched two years ago but few of the apps produced caught on with consumers. CNET reports: "Facebook is famous for its mantra 'Move fast and break things.' The company decided some of these initiatives had, in fact, failed to gain traction and is shutting them down. The move marks a turning point for Facebook's app ambitions as it focuses on other areas of innovation. It's still building artificial-intelligence technology, drones to beam Internet signals to far-flung parts of the world and virtual-reality goggles. The company has also been steadily adding features to its primary social-networking service, such as live streaming and 360-degree videos."

Google Santa Tracker Is Back 68

theodp writes: Google Santa Tracker is back, notes the Official Google Blog, and kids can brush up on their computer skills there with new coding games throughout the month. If they want to explore more Google coding projects, Santa Tracker advises kids to visit Made With Code, where they can learn how to "design a ZAC Zac Posen dress that turns heads and lights up a room." Made with Code, Google explains in its FAQS, is part of the company's $90M mission to creatively engage girls with code. Last year, Made With Code teamed with the National Park Service to make the lighting of the White House Christmas trees a girls-only coding project.

Ballmer: Microsoft Mobile Should Focus On Android Apps Not Universal Apps ( 121

UnknowingFool writes: Former CEO Steve Ballmer had some strong opinions about the direction of Microsoft's mobile strategy. As reported last month, Microsoft's Project Astoria has not been received well and is not going well. The strategy is to help build Windows 10 apps by making universal apps via easy porting from Android. Ballmer questions its effectiveness. "That won't work," he said. Instead he suggested that Windows phones should "run Android apps." This is a dramatic departure from the Microsoft-only focus that Ballmer championed during his tenure as CEO.

PHP 7 Ready For Release ( 159

An anonymous reader writes: After a long wait web developers can finally start migrating their code to PHP 7. The new version comes with minimal syntax modifications, and is more focused on improving performance and upgrading PHP's core interpreter. Softpedia reports: "As mentioned above, PHP 7 is focused on speed, and benchmarks carried out over the past few months, have shown it to be almost twice as fast as older PHP 5.x releases, and neck in neck with Facebook's HHVM project, a Just-In-Time compiler for PHP code." A full list of new features is available here.

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