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Submission + - Microsoft Hikes 'Seating Fee' for Coders to $6,120/yr

theodp writes: Earlier this year, Microsoft paid to have Regal Cinemas show a 'documentary' starring Bill Gates that aimed to make a programming career more attractive. The viral video from the Microsoft-tied video, CNN reported, 'emphasizes the perks and casual vibe of working at a deep-pocketed tech company, where employees get free food, work barefoot and skateboard around the office.' Lost on the cutting room floor, apparently, were less-attractive workplace practices, like when Microsoft demands $6,120-a-year from vendors for each programmer that works onsite at its facilities. Commercial real estate services firm CBRE, which was seeking a Project Coordinator and Project Manager to support Microsoft's North America Vendor Chargeback (VCB) program, boasts on its website that the 'vendor seating chargeback program' was raking in $25M even before the new fee hike, which takes effect in July.

Submission + - Microsoft Tackles US Techie Shortage by Cutting Pay 1

theodp writes: In September, Microsoft claimed it couldn't fill some 6,000 domestic jobs due to a shortage of qualified Americans and a lack of available visas. In February, it paid to promote a Code. org 'documentary' that highlighted the nation's programmer shortage. And in March, Microsoft joined other tech firms to press the President and Congress to address the lack of 'qualified, highly-skilled tech professionals, domestic and foreign.' So, techies must really have Microsoft over a barrel when it comes to pay, right? Wrong. This is Microsoft economics, kids, where a shortage of in-demand programmers can lead to a lower equilibrium price, not higher. GeekWire reports that a Microsoft manager informed hundreds of vendors Tuesday that the company is increasing its 'chargeback' fees — the amount it requires these firms to pay Microsoft for vendor workers based inside Microsoft's Seattle area facilities. The rate is going up from $450/month ($5,400/yr) for every workstation to $510/month ($6,120/yr) starting on July 1. GeekWire adds that these cost increases can ultimately impact work compensation for workers as some vendor companies effectively pass along the costs rather than take a further hit to their own profit margins.

Submission + - Will Donglegate Affect Your Decision to Attend PyCon? 4

theodp writes: Its Code of Conduct describes PyCon as 'a welcoming, friendly event for all.' But will the post-conference fallout from this year's 'Donglegate' debacle and proposed remedies affect your decision — one way or the other — to attend next year's PyCon in ironically naughty Montreal? And even if not, could 'Donglegate' influence the-powers-that-be whose approval you'll need to attend? How about conference sponsors? Also, how important is PyCon to the Python ecosystem — any chance that this year's incident could have a short or long-term effect on Python itself?

Submission + - Documentary Serving Multiple Agendas?

theodp writes: 'Someday, and that day may never come,' Don Corleone says famously in The Godfather, 'I'll call upon you to do a service for me.' Back in 2010, filmmaker Lesley Chilcott produced Waiting for "Superman", a controversial 2010 documentary film that analyzed the failures of the American public education system, and presented charter schools as a glimmer of hope, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-backed KIPP Los Angeles Prep. Gates himself was a "Superman" cast member, show here in a clip that laments how U.S. public schools are producing 'American Idiots' of no use to high tech firms like Microsoft, forcing them to 'go half-way around the world to recruit the engineers and programmers they needed.' So some found it strange that when Chilcott teamed up with Gates again three years later to make's documentary short What Most Schools Don't Teach, kids from KIPP Empower Academy were called upon to demonstrate that U.S. schoolchildren are still clueless about what computer programmers do. In a nice coincidence, the film went viral just as leaders of Google, Microsoft, and Facebook pressed President Obama and Congress on immigration reform, citing a dearth of U.S. programming talent. And speaking of coincidences, the lone teacher in the film (James, Teacher@Mount View Elementary), whose classroom was tapped by as a model for the nation's schools, is Seattle teacher Jamie Ewing, who took top honors in Microsoft’s Partners in Learning (PiL) U.S. Forum last summer, earning him a spot on PiL's 'Team USA' and the chance to showcase his project at the Microsoft PiL Global Forum in Prague in November (82-page Conference Guide). Ironically, had Ewing stuck to teaching the kids Scratch programming, as he's shown doing in the documentary, Microsoft wouldn't have seen fit to send him to its blowout at 'absolutely amazingly beautiful' Prague Castle. Innovative teaching, at least according to Microsoft's rules, 'must include the use of one or more Microsoft technologies.' Fortunately, Ewing's project — described in his MSDN guest blog post — called for using PowerPoint and Skype. For the curious, here's Microsoft PiL's vision of what a classroom should be.

Submission + - Meet the Other Cast Member of

theodp writes: Oddly, the only named cast member of's viral documentary film What Most Schools Don't Teach who didn't earn a spot on the site's Meet the Film Cast page was its lone teacher. It turns out that James, Teacher@Mount View Elementary, whose classroom was touted as a model for the nation's schools, is Mt. View's Jamie Ewing, a Seattle teacher who took top honors in Microsoft’s Partners in Learning (PiL) U.S. Forum last summer, earning him a spot on PiL's 'Team USA' and the chance to show his project to peers at the Microsoft PiL Global Forum in Prague in November (82-page Conference Guide). Ironically, had Ewing stuck to teaching the kids Scratch programming, as he's shown doing in the documentary, Microsoft wouldn't have sent him to its blowout at 'absolutely amazingly beautiful' Prague Castle. Innovative teaching, at least according to Microsoft's rules, 'must include the use of one or more Microsoft technologies.' Ewing's project, described in his MSDN guest blog post, called for using PowerPoint and Skype to fulfill this requirement. For the curious, here's Microsoft PiL's vision of what a classroom should be. Now that's what RMS calls a scary movie, kids!

Submission + - Is Too Soulless to Make an Impact?

theodp writes: By trotting out politicians (Bill Clinton, Mike Bloomberg, Marco Rubio, Al Gore) and celebrities (Chris Bosh,, Ashton Kutcher), Tuesday's launch certainly was a home run with the media. But will it actually strike a chord with kids and inspire them to code? Dave Winer has his doubts, and explains why — as someone who truly loves programming — rubbed him the wrong way. 'I don't like who is doing the pitching,' says Winer, 'and who isn't. Out of the 83 people they quote, I doubt if many of them have written code recently, and most of them have never done it, and have no idea what they're talking about.''s because-you-can-make-a-lot of-money-doing-it pitch also leaves Dave cold. So, why should one code, Dave? 'Primarily you should do it because you love it, because it's fun — because it's wonderful to create machines with your mind. Hugely empowering. Emotionally gratifying. Software is math-in-motion. It's a miracle of the mind. And if you can do it, really well, there's absolutely nothing like it.' Nice. So, could use less soulless prattle from 'leaders and trendsetters' and more genuine passion from programmers?

Submission + - Bill Gates Surprised Programming Not Simplified 2

theodp writes: Answering questions about everything from his favorite book (The Better Angels of our Nature) to his favorite band (Weezer) to the Microsoft product he wished made it to the market (WinFS), Bill Gates hosted a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) Monday morning. Asked if he still codes, Gates responded, 'Not as much as I would like to. I write some C, C# and some Basic. I am surprised new languages have not made more progress in simplifying programming." So, is Bill right (Exhibit A: old-school Microsoft BASIC vs. newfangled Google GO), or are there other new languages he should check out?

Submission + - Should Techies Trump Latinos in Immigration Reform?

theodp writes: In an open letter on TechCrunch, Vivek Wadhwa calls on Congressman Luis Gutierrez to lift his 'hold on Silicon Valley' and stop tying immigration reform for highly-skilled STEM immigrants to the plight of undocumented immigrants. So, why should the STEM set get first dibs? 'The issues of high-skilled and undocumented immigrants are both equally important,' says Wadhwa, but 'the difference is that the skilled workers have mobility and are in great demand all over the world. They are getting frustrated and are leaving in droves.' Commenting on Gutierrez's voting record, Wadhwa adds, 'I would have voted for visas for 50,000 smart foreign students graduating with STEM degrees from U.S. universities over bringing in 55,000 randomly selected high-school graduates from abroad. The STEM graduates would have created jobs and boosted our economy. The lottery winners will come to the U.S. with high hopes, but will face certain unemployment and misery because of our weak economy.' So, should Gutierrez cede to Wadhwa's techies-before-Latinos proposal, or would this be an example of the paradox of virtuous meritocracy undermining equality of opportunity?

Submission + - What Early Software was Influential? 1

theodp writes: That his 28-year-old whip-smart, well-educated CS grad friend could be unaware of MacWrite and MacPaint took Dave Winer by surprise. 'They don't, for some reason,' notes Winer, 'study these [types of seminal] products in computer science. They fall between the cracks of "serious" study of algorithms and data structures, and user interface and user experience (which still is not much-studied, but at least is starting). This is more the history of software. Much like the history of film, or the history of rock and roll.' So, Dave asks, what early software was influential and worthy of a Software Hall of Fame?

Submission + - JavaScript is the New Perl

theodp writes: 'People are thoroughly excited [about JavaScript],' writes Lincoln Baxter. 'However, I’d akin this to people discovering Perl during the advent of C and C++ (mirror). Does it work? Yes. Is it pretty? Not by a long shot.' Baxter adds, 'While I do like both languages, JavaScript [is] just waiting for the next technology to come around and make it look like Perl does today: pervasive, but lacking enterprise adoption on large applications.' So, is JavaScript is doomed to become the next Perl?

Submission + - Does Computer Science Education Week Matter?

theodp writes: Nothing gets the kids jazzed about Computer Science like a black-and-white photo of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper sitting at the console of a UNIVAC I, like the one that "graced" the home page of the website for the just-concluded Computer Science Education Week, right? And kids will no doubt be inspired by a visit to CSEdWeek's YouTube site, where the two videos posted this year have thus far generated a combined 161 views (take that, Psy!), right? With CSEdWeek partners like Google, Oracle, and Microsoft lamenting the 'tragic' state of CS education, would their efforts and dollars be better spent on other ways of bringing coding skills to the masses than on year-after-year of CSEdWeek handwaving? How about funding an online Udacity CS course for the younger set that implements some of Bret Victor's game-changing concepts?

Submission + - Computer Science vs. Software Engineering 1

theodp writes: Microsoft's promotion of Julie Larson-Green to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering in the wake of Steven Sinofsky's resignation is reopening the question of what is the difference between Computer Science and Software Engineering. According to their bios on Microsoft's website, Sinofsky has a master's degree in computer science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an undergraduate degree with honors from Cornell University, while Larson-Green has a master's degree in software engineering from Seattle University and a bachelor's degree in business administration from Western Washington University. A comparison of the curricula at Sinofsky's and Larson-Green's alma maters shows there's a huge difference between UMass's MSCS program and Seattle U's MSE program. So, is one program inherently more compatible with Microsoft's new teamwork mantra?

Submission + - Why Coding at Fifty May be Nifty 4

theodp writes: Enough with the dadgum naysayers. Google's Vivek Haldar lists some good reasons for why you would want to program at fifty (or any other age). Haldar's list would probably get a thumbs-up from billionaire SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, who had this to say about coding when interviewed at age 56: 'I would be happy if I just stayed in my office and programmed all day, to tell you the truth. That is my one real love in life is programming. Programming is sort of like getting to work a puzzle all day long. I actually enjoy it. It's a lot of fun. It's not even work to me. It's just enjoyable. You get to shut out all your other thoughts and just concentrate on this little thing you're trying to do, to make work it. It's nice, very enjoyable.'

Submission + - The IDE as Bad Programming Language Enabler

theodp writes: When it comes to monolithic IDEs, Wille Faler has lost that loving feeling. In IDEs Are a Language Smell, Faler blogs about a Eureka! moment he had after years of using Eclipse for Java development. 'If the language is good enough,' Faler argues, 'an IDE is strictly not needed as long as you have good support for syntax highlighting and parens matching in the case of Clojure, or indentation in the case of Haskell.' So why do Java coders turn to Eclipse? 'Because [of] a combination of shortcomings in the Java compiler and Java's OO nature,' explains Faler, 'we end up with lots and lots of small files for every interface and class in our system. On any less than trivial Java system, development quickly turns into a game of code- and file-system navigation rather than programming and code editing. This nature of Java development requires IDEs to become navigation tools above all.' Yes, only an IDE could love AbstractSingletonProxyFactoryBean!

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