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Open Source

New Free O'Reilly Ebook: 'Open Source In Brazil' ( 54

An anonymous reader writes: Andy Oram, who's been an editor at O'Reilly since 1992, has written a new free report about how open source software is everywhere in Brazil. The country's IT industry is booming in Brazil -- still Latin America's most vibrant economy -- with open source software popular in both startups and in cloud infrastructure. Oram attributes this partly to the government's support of open source software, which over the last 15 years has built public awareness about its power and potential. And says the Brazil now has a thriving open source community, and several free software movements. Even small towns have hacker spaces for collaboration and training, and the country has several free software movements.

Slashdot Asks: Are Remote Software Teams More Productive? ( 145

A recruiter with 20 years of experience recently reported on the research into whether remote software teams perform better. One study of 10,000 coding sessions concluded it takes 10-15 minutes for a programmer to resume work after an interruption. Another study actually suggests unsupervised workers are more productive, and the founders of the collaboration tool Basecamp argue the bigger danger is burnout when motivated employees overwork themselves. mikeatTB shares his favorite part of the article: One interesting take on the issues is raised by ThoughtWorks' Martin Fowler: Individuals are more productive in a co-located environment, but remote teams are often more productive than co-located teams. This is because a remote team has the advantage of hiring without geographic boundaries, and that enables employers to assemble world-class groups.
The article shares some interesting anecdotes from remote workers, but I'd be interested to hear from Slashdot's readers. Leave your own experiences in the comments, and tell us what you think. Are remote software teams more productive?

New Kit Turns A Raspberry Pi Into A Robot Arm ( 36

An anonymous reader writes: A new kit turns your Raspberry Pi into a robotic arm. It's controlled by an on-board joystick, or even a web browser, and "because it's connected to the Pi you can program it through any of the various programming languages that already run on the Pi," according to its creators. "There's also free software available which lets you program it through a web interface using drag and drop programming environments like Scratch and Blockly or with Python and Javascript for the more experienced."

They explain in a video on Kickstarter that "Our mission is to get children excited about technology through building and programming their own robots," and they've already raised three times their original $12,411 fundraising goal. The Raspberry Pi blog describes it as "a great kit for anyone wanting to step into the world of digital making."

Long-time Slashdot reader bjpirt adds that "It's completely open source and hackable."

Apple Announces WWDC 2017, To Be Held in San Jose On June 5-9 ( 63

Apple said today it will kick off this year's Worldwide Developers Conference on June 5. Much like every year, the developer conference is the place where we can expect to see what's coming to iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS later this year. This year, the event is being held in a different venue: the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, the original home of WWDC. John Gruber, writing for DaringFireball: First, announcing early really helps people who have to travel long distances to attend, particularly those from outside the U.S. The San Jose Convention Center is the original home of WWDC -- that's where it was held from 1988 through 2002. (WWDC 2002 was the year Steve Jobs held a funeral for Mac OS 9 during the keynote.) San Jose is way closer to Apple headquarters. San Francisco is about an hour drive from 1 Infinite Loop. The San Jose Convention Center is only five minutes away from Apple's new campus. Schiller emphasized to me that this is a big deal: more Apple employees from more teams will be present, simply because they won't have to devote an entire day to being there. (This could be a particular boon to WWDC's developer labs, where attendees can get precious face time with Apple's engineers.)

Is IoT a Reason To Learn C? ( 374

itwbennett writes: Whether or not beginning programmers should learn C is a question that has been roundly debated on Slashdot and elsewhere. The general consensus seems to be that learning it will make you a better programmer -- and it looks good on your resume. But now there might be another reason to learn C: the rapid growth of the internet of things (IoT) could cause a spike in demand for C skills, according to Gartner analyst Mark Driver. "For traditional workloads there is no need to be counting the bytes like there used to be. But when it comes to IoT applications there is that need once again..."

AI Software Juggles Probabilities To Learn From Less Data ( 49

moon_unit2 quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: You can, for instance, train a deep-learning algorithm to recognize a cat with a cat-fancier's level of expertise, but you'll need to feed it tens or even hundreds of thousands of images of felines, capturing a huge amount of variation in size, shape, texture, lighting, and orientation. It would be lot more efficient if, a bit like a person, an algorithm could develop an idea about what makes a cat a cat from fewer examples. A Boston-based startup called Gamalon has developed technology that lets computers do this in some situations, and it is releasing two products Tuesday based on the approach. Gamalon uses a technique that it calls Bayesian program synthesis to build algorithms capable of learning from fewer examples. Bayesian probability, named after the 18th century mathematician Thomas Bayes, provides a mathematical framework for refining predictions about the world based on experience. Gamalon's system uses probabilistic programming -- or code that deals in probabilities rather than specific variables -- to build a predictive model that explains a particular data set. From just a few examples, a probabilistic program can determine, for instance, that it's highly probable that cats have ears, whiskers, and tails. As further examples are provided, the code behind the model is rewritten, and the probabilities tweaked. This provides an efficient way to learn the salient knowledge from the data.

GitHub Commits Reveal The Top 'Weekend Programming' Languages ( 149

An anonymous reader writes: Google "developer advocate" Felipe Hoffa has determined the top "weekend programming languages," those which see the biggest spike in commit activity on the weekends. "Clearly 2016 was a year dedicated to play with functional languages, up and coming paradigms, and scripting 3d worlds," he writes, revealing that the top weekend programming languages are:

Rust, Glsl, D, Haskell, Common Lisp, Kicad, Emacs Lisp, Lua, Scheme, Julia, Elm, Eagle, Racket, Dart, Nsis, Clojure, Kotlin, Elixir, F#, Ocaml

Earlier this week another data scientist calculated ended up with an entirely different list by counting the frequency of each language's tag in StackOverflow questions. But Hoffa's analysis was performed using Google's BigQuery web service, and he's also compiled a list of 2016's least popular weekend languages -- the ones people seem to prefer using at the office rather than in their own free time.

Nginx, Matlab, Processing, Vue, Fortran, Visual Basic, Objective-C++, Plsql, Plpgsql, Web Ontology Language, Smarty, Groovy, Batchfile, Objective-C, Powershell, Xslt, Cucumber, Hcl, Puppet, Gcc Machine Description

What's most interesting is the changes over time. In the last year Perl has become more popular than Java, PHP, and ASP as a weekend programming language. And Rust "used to be a weekday language," Hoffa writes, but it soon also grew more popular for Saturdays and Sunday. Meanwhile, "The more popular Go grows, the more it settles as a weekday language," while Puppet "is the champion of weekday coders." Ruby on the other hand, is "slowly leaving the week and embracing the weekend."

Hoffa is also a long-time Slashdot reader who analyzed one billion files on GitHub last summer to determine whether they'd been indented with spaces or tabs. But does this new list resonate with anybody? What languages are you using for your weekend coding projects?

Slashdot Asks: How Do You Know a Developer is Doing a Good Job? 228

An anonymous reader writes: One of the easiest ways to evaluate a developer is keeping a tab on the amount of value they provide to a business. But the problem with this approach is that the nature of software development does not make it easy to measure the value a single developer brings. Some managers are aware of this, and they look at the number of lines of code a developer has written. The fewer, the better, many believe. I recently came across this in a blog post, "If you paid your developers per line of code, you would reward the inefficient developers. An analogy to this is writing essays, novels, blog posts, etc. Would you judge a writer solely on the number of words written? Probably not. There are a minimum number of words needed to get a complex point across, but those points get lost when a writer clutters their work with useless sentences. So the lines of code metric doesn't work. The notion of a quantifiable metric for evaluating developers is still attractive though. Some may argue that creating many code branches is the mark of a great developer. Yet I once worked with a developer who would create code branches to hide the fact that he wasn't very productive." Good point. But then, what other options do we have?

The Most Mentioned Books On StackOverflow ( 92

An anonymous reader writes: People over at DevBooks have analyzed more than four million questions and answers on StackOverflow to list the top of the most mentioned books. You can check out the list for yourself here, but here are the top 10 books: Working Effectively with Legacy Code by Michael C Feathers; Design Patterns by Ralph Johnson, Erich Gamma, John Vlissides, and Richard Helm; Clean Code by Robert C. Martin; Java concurrency in practice by Brian Goetz, and Tim Peierls; Domain-driven Design by Eric Evans; JavaScript by Douglas Crockford; Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture by Martin Fowler; Code Complete by Steve McConnell; Refactoring by Martin Fowler, and Kent Beck; Head First Design Patterns by Eric Freeman, Elisabeth Freeman, Kathy Sierra, and Bert Bates.

Microsoft Debuts Customizable Speech-To-Text Tech, Releases Some Cognitive Services Tools To Developers ( 23

Microsoft is readying three of its 25 Cognitive Services tools for wider release to developers. From a report on GeekWire: Microsoft's AI and Research Group, a major new engineering and research division formed last year inside the Redmond company, is debuting a new technology that lets developers customize Microsoft's speech-to-text engine for use in their own apps and online services. The new Custom Speech Service is set for release today as a public preview. Microsoft says it lets developers upload a unique vocabulary -- such as alien names in Human Interact's VR game Starship Commander -- to produce a sophisticated language model for recognizing voice commands and other speech from users. It's the latest in a series of "cognitive services" from Microsoft's Artificial Intelligence and Research Group, a 5,000-person division led by Microsoft Research chief Harry Shum. The company says it has expanded from four to 25 cognitive services in the last two years, including 19 in preview and six that are generally available.

Ask Slashdot: How To Get Started With Programming? [2017 Edition] 312

Reader joshtops writes: I know this is a question that must have been asked -- and answered -- on Slashdot several times, but I am hoping to listen from the community again (fresh perspective, if you will). I'm in my 20s, and have a day job that doesn't require any programming skills. But I want to learn it nonetheless. I have done some research but people have varied opinions. Essentially my question is: What is perhaps the best way to learn programming for my use case? I am looking for best possible resources -- perhaps tutorials on the internet, the right books and the order in which I should read/watch them. Some people have advised me to start with C language, but I was wondering if I could kickstart things with other languages such as perhaps Apple's Swift as well?

Ask Slashdot: Why Do You Care About Tech Conferences? 197

An anonymous user is "just starting a programming career," and has several questions for Slashdot's readers: What exactly is the role of tech conferences? I always assumed they were mostly for exhibitors to pitch me things, but then what's in it for me? Am I just going there to network, or am I learning new cutting-edge techniques and getting enlightened by awesome training sessions? Or is it just a fun way to get a free trip to Las Vegas?

And then what's in it for my employer, who's paying to send me there? If my boss has to approve the cost of attending a conference, what's going to make him say yes? I mean, do employers really get enough value from that extra conference-only information to justify sending off their employees for several days of non-productivity? (Don't they know all that networking could lead me to job offers from other companies?)

It's always been a little intimidating the way people talk about conferences, like everyone already knows all about them, and drop the conference's name into the conversations like you should already know what it is. I always assumed people just attended only conferences for their current programming language or platform -- but is there more to it than that? What exactly is the big deal?

I'm struggling to even find the right metaphor for this -- is it a live interactive infomercial or a grand gathering of geeky good will? So leave your best answers in the comments. Why do you care about tech conferences?

Disney Thinks High Schools Should Let Kids Take Coding In Place of Foreign Languages 328

theodp writes: Florida lawmakers are again proposing a contentious plan that would put coding and foreign language on equal footing in a public high school student's education. Under a proposed bill students who take two credits of computer coding and earn a related industry certification could then count that coursework toward two foreign language credits.

"I sort of comically applaud that some would want to categorize coding as a foreign language," said Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. "Coding cannot be seen as an equivalent substitute." Disclosure records show that Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has three lobbyists registered to fight in support of the bill. Disney did not return an email seeking comment, but State Senator Jeff Brandes said the company's interest is in a future workforce... Disney has provided signature tutorials for the nation's Hour of Code over the past three years, including Disney's Frozen princess-themed tutorial.

Developer Argues For 'Forgotten Code Constructs' Like GOTO and Eval ( 600

mikeatTB quotes TechBeacon: Some things in the programming world are so easy to misuse that most people prefer to never use them at all. These are the programming equivalent of a flamethrower... [But] creative use of features such as goto, multiple inheritance, eval, and recursion may be just the right solution for experienced developers when used in the right situation. Is it time to resurrect these four forgotten code constructs?
The article notes that the Linux kernel uses goto statements, and links to Linus Torvalds' defense of them. ("Any if-statement is a goto. As are all structured loops...") And it points out that eval statements are supported by JavaScript, Python, PHP, and Ruby. But when the article describes recursion as "more forgotten than forbidden," it begs the inevitable question. Are you using these "forgotten code constructs" -- and should you be?
Social Networks

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Deal With Aggressive Forum Users? 477

Slashdot reader dryriver writes: I've noticed a disturbing trend while trying to resolve a rather tricky tech issue by asking questions on a number of internet forums. The number of people who don't help at all with problems but rather butt into threads with unhelpful comments like "Why would you want to do that in the first place?" or "why don't you look at X poorly written documentation page " was staggering. One forum user with 1,500+ posts even posted "you are such a n00b if you can't figure this out" in my question thread, even though my tech question wasn't one that is obvious or easy to resolve...

I seem to remember a time when people helped each other far more readily on the internet. Now there seems to be a new breed of forum user who a) hangs out at a forum socially all day b) does not bother to help at all and c) gets a kick out of telling you things like "what a stupid question" or "nobody will help you with that here" or similar... Where have the good old days gone when people much more readily gave other people step-by-step tips, tricks, instructions and advice?

The original submission claims the ratio of unhelpful comments to helpful ones was 5 to 1. Has anyone else experienced this? And if so, what's the best response? Leave your best answers in the comments. How do you deal with aggressive forum users?

GitLab Says It Found Lost Data On a Staging Server ( 101, the wannabe GitHub alternative that went down hard earlier this week and reported data loss, has said that some data is gone but that its services are now operational again. From a report The Register: The incident did not result in Git repos disappearing. Which may be why the company's PR reps characterised the lost data as "peripheral metadata that was written during a 6-hour window". But in a prose account of the incident, GitLab says "issues, merge requests, users, comments, snippets, etc" were lost. The Register imagines many developers may not be entirely happy with those data types being considered peripheral to their efforts. GitLab's PR flaks added that the incident impacted "less than 1% of our user base." But the firm's incident log says 707 users have lost data. The startup, which has raised over $25 million, added that it lost six hours of data and asserted that the lost doesn't include users' code.

Roku Owners: Comcast Is About To Sell You Cable TV Without the Cable Box ( 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Comcast is making its Xfinity TV service available to subscribers with Roku set-top players via a new app, paving the way for customers of the nation's largest cable provider to watch live programming without the cost or hassle of a cable box. Roku is the first set-stop box to offer the Xfinity TV service, Comcast said in a statement Tuesday. During a test period, subscribers will have to hang on to their cable devices. When the app formally rolls out later this year, they'll be able sign up without renting a cable box. While Comcast expects the majority of its customers to opt for the typical setup, traditional pay-TV providers are trying to be more flexible about where and how people can watch TV given the popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon and the boxes that offer them. Customers with Roku players will be able to watch live TV, browse on-demand libraries and record shows, just as they can with Comcast's boxes. Those who use the Roku as their primary device instead of Comcast's X1 device will receive a $2.50 monthly credit, the company said.

C++ Creator Wants To Solve 35-Year-Old Generic Programming Issues With Concepts ( 339

C++ creator Bjarne Stroustrup is arguing that we can improve code by grounding generic programming in concepts -- what's required by a template's arguments. An anonymous reader quotes Paul Krill's report on a new paper by Stroustrup: In concepts, Stroustrup sees the solution to the interface specification problem that has long dogged C++, the language he founded more than 35 years ago. "The way we write generic code today is simply too different from the way we write other code," Stroustrup says... Currently an ISO technical specification, concepts provide well-specified interfaces to templates without runtime overhead. Concepts, Stroustrup writes, are intended to complete C++'s support for generic programming as initially envisioned. "The purpose of concepts is to fundamentally simplify and improve design. This leads to fewer bugs and clearer -- often shorter -- code"...

Concepts, Stroustrup believes, will greatly ease engineers' ability to write efficient, reliable C++ code... The most obvious effect will be a massive improvement in the quality of error messages, but the most important long-term effect will be found in the flexibility and clarity of code, Stroustrup says. "In particular, having well-specified interfaces allows for simple, general and zero-overhead overloading of templates. That simplifies much generic code"

Concepts are already available in GNU C Compiler 6.2, and Stroustrup wants them to be included in C++ 20. "In my opinion, concepts should have been part of C++ 17, but the committee couldn't reach consensus on that."

Knuth Previews New Math Section For 'The Art of Computer Programming' ( 176

In 1962, 24-year-old Donald Knuth began writing The Art of Computer Programming -- and 55 years later, he's still working on it. An anonymous reader quotes Knuth's web site at Stanford: Volume 4B will begin with a special section called 'Mathematical Preliminaries Redux', which extends the 'Mathematical Preliminaries' of Section 1.2 in Volume 1 to things that I didn't know about in the 1960s. Most of this new material deals with probabilities and expectations of random events; there's also an introduction to the theory of martingales.

You can have a sneak preview by looking at the current draft of pre-fascicle 5a (52 pages), last updated 18 January 2017. As usual, rewards will be given to whoever is first to find and report errors or to make valuable suggestions. I'm particularly interested in receiving feedback about the exercises (of which there are 125) and their answers (of which there are 125).

Over the years Knuth gave out over $20,000 in rewards, though most people didn't cash his highly-coveted "hexadecimal checks", and in 2008 Knuth switched to honorary "hexadecimal certificates". In 2014 Knuth complained about the "dumbing down" of computer science history, and his standards remain high. In his most-recent update, 79-year-old Knuth reminds readers that "There's stuff in here that isn't in Wikipedia yet!"

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