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Published: 2017-05-29T15:12:24+00:00

 



Are There More Developers Than We Think?

2017-05-29T11:30:00+00:00

JavaScript's npm package manager reports 4 million users, doubling every year, leading to an interesting question from tech industry analyst James Governor: Just how many developers are there out there? GitHub is very well placed to know, given it's where (so much) of that development happens today. It has telemetry-based numbers, with their own skew of course, but based on usage rather than surveys or estimates. According to GitHub CEO Chris Wanstrath, "We see 20 million professional devs in the world as an estimate, from research companies. Well we have 21 million [active] users -- we can't have more users than the entire industry"... If Github has 21 million active users, Wanstrath is right that current estimates of the size of the developer population must be far too low... Are we under-counting China, for example, given its firewalls? India continues to crank out developers at an astonishing rate. Meanwhile Africa is set for crazy growth too... You certainly can't just count computer science graduates or software industry employees anymore. These days you can't even be an astronomer without learning code, and that's going to be true of all scientific disciplines. The analyst attributes the increasing number of developers to "the availability, accessibility and affordability of tools and learning," adding "It's pretty amazing to think that GitHub hit 5 million users in 2012, and is now at 20 million." As for the total number of all developers, he offers his own estimate at the end of the essay. "My wild assed guess would be more like 35 million."

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Is Amazon's AWS Hiring 'Demolishing The Cult Of Youth'?

2017-05-28T17:30:00+00:00

Tech analyst James Governor argues that Amazon's cloud business is "demolishing the cult of youth." It just announced it is hiring James Gosling, one of the original inventors of Java... Meanwhile James Hamilton continues to completely kick ass in compute, network, and data center design for AWS... He's in his 50s. Tim Bray, one of the inventors of XML, joined Amazon in 2014. He's another Sun alumni. He's 61 now. He still codes. When you sit down with one of the AWS engineering teams you're sitting down with grownups... Adrian Cockcroft joined AWS in October 2016. He graduated in 1982, not 2002. He is VP Cloud Architecture Strategy at AWS, a perfect role for someone that helped drive Netflix's transition from on-prem Java hairball to serious cloud leadership. Great engineering is not maths -- it involves tradeoffs, wisdom and experience... The company puts such a premium on independent groups working fast and making their own decisions it requires a particular skillset, which generally involves a great deal of field experience. A related trend is hiring seasoned marketing talent from the likes of IBM. Some other older companies have older distinguished engineers because they grew up with the company. AWS is explicitly bringing that experience in. It's refreshing to the see a different perspective on value. In a later post the analyst acknowledges engineering managers are generally older than their reports, but adds that "If AWS sees value in hiring engineering leadership from folks that are frankly a bit older than the norm in the industry, isn't that worth shining a light on?" In response to the article, XML inventor Tim Bray suggested a new acronym: GaaS. "Geezers as a service," while Amazon CTO Werner Vogels tweeted "There is no compression algorithm for experience."

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Former Mozilla CTO: 'Chrome Won'

2017-05-26T15:20:00+00:00

Responding to Firefox marketing head Eric Petitt's blog post from earlier this week, Andreas Gal, former chief technology officer of Mozilla (who spent seven years at the company) offers his insights. Citing latest market share figures, Gal says "it's safe to say that Chrome is eating the browser market, and everyone else except Safari is getting obliterated." From his blog post (edited and condensed for length): With a CEO transition about 3 years ago there was a major strategic shift at Mozilla to re-focus efforts on Firefox and thus the Desktop. Prior to 2014 Mozilla heavily invested in building a Mobile OS to compete with Android: Firefox OS. I started the Firefox OS project and brought it to scale. While we made quite a splash and sold several million devices, in the end we were a bit too late and we didn't manage to catch up with Android's explosive growth. Mozilla's strategic rationale for building Firefox OS was often misunderstood. Mozilla's founding mission was to build the Web by building a browser. [...] Browsers are a commodity product. They all pretty much look the same and feel the same. All browsers work pretty well, and being slightly faster or using slightly less memory is unlikely to sway users. If even Eric -- who heads Mozilla's marketing team -- uses Chrome every day as he mentioned in the first sentence, it's not surprising that almost 65% of desktop users are doing the same. [...] I don't think there will be a new browser war where Firefox or some other competitor re-captures market share from Chrome. It's like launching a new and improved horse in the year 2017. We all drive cars now. Some people still use horses, and there is value to horses, but technology has moved on when it comes to transportation. Does this mean Google owns the Web if they own Chrome? No. Absolutely not. Browsers are what the Web looked like in the first decades of the Internet. Mobile disrupted the Web, but the Web embraced mobile and at the heart of most apps beats a lot of JavaScript and HTTPS and REST these days. The future Web will look yet again completely different. Much will survive, and some parts of it will get disrupted.

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Vermont DMV Caught Using Illegal Facial Recognition Program

2017-05-25T01:25:00+00:00

schwit1 quotes a report from Vocativ: The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles has been caught using facial recognition software -- despite a state law preventing it. Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont describe such a program, which uses software to compare the DMV's database of names and driver's license photos with information with state and federal law enforcement. Vermont state law, however, specifically states that "The Department of Motor Vehicles shall not implement any procedures or processes that involve the use of biometric identifiers." The program, the ACLU says, invites state and federal agencies to submit photographs of persons of interest to the Vermont DMV, which it compares against its database of some 2.6 million Vermonters and shares potential matches. Since 2012, the agency has run at least 126 such searches on behalf of local police, the State Department, FBI, and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

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Windows Switch To Git Almost Complete: 8,500 Commits and 1,760 Builds Each Day

2017-05-24T23:10:00+00:00

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Back in February, Microsoft made the surprising announcement that the Windows development team was going to move to using the open source Git version control system for Windows development. A little over three months after that first revelation, and about 90 percent of the Windows engineering team has made the switch. The Windows repository now has about 4,400 active branches, with 8,500 code pushes made per day and 6,600 code reviews each day. An astonishing 1,760 different Windows builds are made every single day -- more than even the most excitable Windows Insider can handle.

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Airbnb Is Running Its Own Internal University To Teach Data Science

2017-05-24T22:00:00+00:00

In an effort to fill the demand for trained data scientists, Airbnb will be running its own university-style program, complete with a custom course-numbering system. Since traditional online programs like Coursera and Udacity weren't getting the job done because they weren't tailored to Airbnb's internal data and tools, the company "decided to design a bunch of courses of its own around three levels of instruction for different employee needs," reports TechCrunch. From the report: 100-level classes on data-informed decision making have been designed to be applicable to all teams, including human resources and business development. Middle-tier classes on SQL and Superset have enabled some non-technical employees to take on roles as project managers, and more intensive courses on Python and machine learning have helped engineers brush up on necessary skills for projects. Since launching the program in Q3 2016, Airbnb has seen the weekly active users of its internal data science tools rise from 30 to 45 percent. A total of 500 Airbnb employees have taken at least one class -- and Airbnb has yet to expand the program to all 22 of its offices.

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Apple Wants To Turn Community College Students Into App Developers

2017-05-24T19:20:00+00:00

Ina Fried, writing for Axios: Apple already offers a variety of tools to help school kids learn the basics of coding. Now, it aims to give older students what they need to become full-fledged app developers. On Wednesday the company is releasing, for free, the curriculum for a year-long course on how to write apps for the iPhone. The effort, though available to all, is aimed at community college students and Apple is working with six districts around the country, with the first classes to start this summer and fall. The courseware teaches students how to create apps using Apple's Swift programming language.

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When AI Botches Your Medical Diagnosis, Who's To Blame?

2017-05-24T01:25:00+00:00

Robert Hart has posed an interested question in his report on Quartz: When artificial intelligence botches your medical diagnosis, who's to blame? Do you blame the AI, designer or organization? It's just one of many questions popping up and starting to be seriously pondered by experts as artificial intelligence and automation continue to become more entwined into our daily lives. From the report: The prospect of being diagnosed by an AI might feel foreign and impersonal at first, but what if you were told that a robot physician was more likely to give you a correct diagnosis? Medical error is currently the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and as many as one in six patients in the British NHS receive incorrect diagnoses. With statistics like these, it's unsurprising that researchers at Johns Hopkins University believe diagnostic errors to be "the next frontier for patient safety." Of course, there are downsides. AI raises profound questions regarding medical responsibility. Usually when something goes wrong, it is a fairly straightforward matter to determine blame. A misdiagnosis, for instance, would likely be the responsibility of the presiding physician. A faulty machine or medical device that harms a patient would likely see the manufacturer or operator held to account. What would this mean for an AI?

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'Coding Is Not Fun, It's Technically and Ethically Complex'

2017-05-23T18:00:00+00:00

An anonymous reader shares an article: For starters, the profile of a programmer's mind is pretty uncommon. As well as being highly analytical and creative, software developers need almost superhuman focus to manage the complexity of their tasks. Manic attention to detail is a must; slovenliness is verboten. Coding isn't the only job that demands intense focus. But you'd never hear someone say that brain surgery is "fun," or that structural engineering is "easy." When it comes to programming, why do policymakers and technologists pretend otherwise? For one, it helps lure people to the field at a time when software (in the words of the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen) is "eating the world" -- and so, by expanding the labor pool, keeps industry ticking over and wages under control. Another reason is that the very word "coding" sounds routine and repetitive, as though there's some sort of key that developers apply by rote to crack any given problem. It doesn't help that Hollywood has cast the "coder" as a socially challenged, type-first-think-later hacker, inevitably white and male, with the power to thwart the Nazis or penetrate the CIA. Insisting on the glamor and fun of coding is the wrong way to acquaint kids with computer science. It insults their intelligence and plants the pernicious notion in their heads that you don't need discipline in order to progress. As anyone with even minimal exposure to making software knows, behind a minute of typing lies an hour of study. It's better to admit that coding is complicated, technically and ethically. Computers, at the moment, can only execute orders, to varying degrees of sophistication. So it's up to the developer to be clear: the machine does what you say, not what you mean. More and more "decisions" are being entrusted to software, including life-or-death ones: think self-driving cars; think semi-autonomous weapons; think Facebook and Google making inferences about your marital, psychological, or physical status, before selling it to the highest bidder. Yet it's rarely in the interests of companies and governments to encourage us to probe what's going on beneath these processes.

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Java Creator James Gosling Joins Amazon Web Services

2017-05-23T01:25:00+00:00

The legendary computer scientist and founder of Java, James Gosling, is joining forces with Amazon Web Services. Gosling made the announcement today on Facebook saying that he's "starting a new Adventure" with the cloud computing juggernaut as a Distinguished Engineer. GeekWire reports: Gosling wrote Java, one of the most widely used programming languages in the history of computing, while at Sun Microsystems in the early 1990s. After leaving Sun following its acquisition by Oracle, Gosling did a short stint at Google before settling in for almost six years at Liquid Robotics, which is working on an autonomous boat called the Wave Glider. He likely ruffled a few feathers in Seattle last year after speaking out about fears of cloud vendor lock-in. "You get cloud providers like Amazon saying: 'Take your applications and move them to the cloud.' But as soon as you start using them you're stuck in that particular cloud," he said at IP Expo according to The Inquirer, echoing the sentiment of some skeptical IT organizations burned by enterprise vendors in the past.

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How AI Can Infer Human Emotions

2017-05-21T21:39:00+00:00

An anonymous reader quotes OReilly.com's interview with the CEO of Affectiva, an emotion-measurement technology company that grew out of MIT's Media Lab. We can mine Twitter, for example, on text sentiment, but that only gets us so far. About 35-40% is conveyed in tone of voice -- how you say something -- and the remaining 50-60% is read through facial expressions and gestures you make. Technology that reads your emotional state, for example by combining facial and voice expressions, represents the emotion AI space. They are the subconscious, natural way we communicate emotion, which is nonverbal and which complements our language... Facial expressions and speech actually deal more with the subconscious, and are more unbiased and unfiltered expressions of emotion... Rather than encoding specific rules that depict when a person is making a specific expression, we instead focus our attention on building intelligent algorithms that can be trained to recognize expressions. Through our partnerships across the globe, we have amassed an enormous emotional database from people driving cars, watching media content, etc. A portion of the data is then passed on to our labeling team, who are certified in the Facial Action Coding System...we have gathered 5,313,751 face videos, for a total of 38,944 hours of data, representing nearly two billion facial frames analyzed. They got their start testing advertisements, and now are already working with a third of all Fortune 500 companies. ("We've seen that pet care and baby ads in the U.S. elicit more enjoyment than cereal ads -- which see the most enjoyment in Canada.") One company even combined their technology with Google Glass to help autistic children learn to recognize emotional cues.

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The Working Dead: Which IT Jobs Are Bound For Extinction?

2017-05-21T07:24:00+00:00

Slashdot reader snydeq shares an InfoWorld article identifying "The Working Dead: IT Jobs Bound For Extinction." Here's some of its predictions. The president of one job leadership consultancy argues C and C++ coders will soon be as obsolete as Cobol programmers. "The entire world has gone to Java or .Net. You still find C++ coders in financial companies because their systems are built on that, but they're disappearing."A data scientist at Stack Overflow "says demand for PHP, WordPress, and LAMP skills are seeing a steady decline, while newer frameworks and languages like React, Angular, and Scala are on the rise." The CEO and co-founder of an anonymous virtual private network service says "The rise of Azure and the Linux takeover has put most Windows admins out of work. Many of my old colleagues have had to retrain for Linux or go into something else entirely."In addition, "Thanks to the massive migration to the cloud, listings for jobs that involve maintaining IT infrastructure, like network engineer or system administrator, are trending downward, notes Terence Chiu, vice president of careers site Indeed Prime."The CTO of the job site Ladders adds that Smalltalk, Flex, and Pascal "quickly went from being popular to being only useful for maintaining older systems. Engineers and programmers need to continually learn new languages, or they'll find themselves maintaining systems instead of creating new products."The president of Dice.com says "Right now, Java and Python are really hot. In five years they may not be... jobs are changing all the time, and that's a real pain point for tech professionals." But the regional dean of Northeastern University-Silicon Valley has the glummest prediction of all. "If I were to look at a crystal ball, I don't think the world's going to need as many coders after 2020. Ninety percent of coding is taking some business specs and translating them into computer logic. That's really ripe for machine learning and low-end AI."

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Font Sharing Site DaFont Has Been Hacked, Exposing Thousands of Accounts

2017-05-18T22:00:00+00:00

A popular font sharing site DaFont.com has been hacked, resulting in usernames, email addresses, and hashed passwords of 699,464 user accounts being stolen. ZDNet reports: The passwords were scrambled with the deprecated MD5 algorithm, which nowadays is easy to crack. As such, the hacker unscrambled over 98 percent of the passwords into plain text. The site's main database also contains the site's forum data, including private messages, among other site information. At the time of writing, there were over half-a-million posts on the site's forums. The hacker told ZDNet that he carried out his attack after he saw that others had also purportedly stolen the site's database. "I heard the database was getting traded around so I decided to dump it myself -- like I always do," the hacker told me. Asked about his motivations, he said it was "mainly just for the challenge [and] training my pentest skills." He told me that he exploited a union-based SQL injection vulnerability in the site's software, a flaw he said was "easy to find." The hacker provided the database to ZDNet for verification.

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App Maker's Code Stolen in Malware Attack

2017-05-18T16:00:00+00:00

Mac and iOS software developer Panic has had the source code for several of its apps stolen. An anonymous reader writes: Panic founder Steven Frank said in a blog post that it happened after he downloaded an infected copy of the video encoding tool Handbrake. He said there was no sign that any customer data was accessed and that Panic's web server was not affected. Users have been warned to download Panic's apps only from its website or the Apple App Store. Panic is the creator of web editing and file transfer apps Coda and Transmit, and the video game Firewatch. On May 2, Handbrake was hacked, with the Mac version of the app on one of the site's download servers replaced by a malicious copy. In what Mr Frank called "a case of extraordinarily bad luck", he downloaded the malicious version of Handbrake and launched it "without stopping to wonder why Handbrake would need admin privileges... when it hadn't before. And that was that, my Mac was completely, entirely compromised in three seconds or less."

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Android Now Supports the Kotlin Programming Language

2017-05-17T22:20:00+00:00

In addition to Java and C++, Google announced at its I/O 2017 conference today that Android is gaining official support for the Kotlin programming language. VentureBeat reports: Kotlin is developed by JetBrains, the same people who created IntelliJ. Google describes Kotlin, which is an open sourced project under the Apache 2.0 license, as "a brilliantly designed, mature language that we believe will make Android development faster and more fun." The company notes that some have already adopted the programming language for their production apps, including Expedia, Flipboard, Pinterest, and Square. There are already many enthusiastic Kotlin developers for Android, and the company says it is simply listening to what the community wants. But Google's choice didn't just come down to the team believing Kotlin will make writing Android apps easier. Developers will be happy to know that Kotlin's compiler emits Java byte-code. Kotlin can call Java, and Java can call Kotlin. Indeed, "the effortless interoperation between the two languages" was a large part of Kotlin's appeal to the Android team. This means you can add as little or as much Kotlin into your existing codebase as you want, mixing the two languages freely within the same project. Calling out to Kotlin code from Java code should just work, while calling to Java code requires some automatically applied translation conventions.

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