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  • Tetris Is Hard To Test

    New submitter JackDW writes: Tetris is one of the best-known computer games ever made. It's easy to play but hard to master, and it's based on a NP-hard problem. But that's not all that's difficult about it. Though it's simple enough to be implemented in one line of BBC BASIC, it's complex enough to be really hard to thoroughly test.

    It may seem like you can test everything in Tetris just by playing it for a few minutes, but this is very unlikely! As I explain in this article, the game is filled with special cases that rarely occur in normal play, and these can only be easily found with the help of a coverage tool.

    20 comments | 43 minutes ago

  • New Microsoft Garage Site Invites Public To Test a Wide Range of App Ideas

    An anonymous reader writes Microsoft today launched a new section on its website: The Microsoft Garage is designed to give the public early access to various projects the company is testing right now. The team is kicking off with a total of 16 free consumer-facing apps, spanning Android, Android Wear, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows, and even the Xbox One. Microsoft Garage is still going to be everything it has been so far, but Microsoft has simply decided it's time for the public to get involved too: You can now test the wild projects the company's employees dream up.

    72 comments | 2 days ago

  • NPR: '80s Ads Are Responsible For the Lack of Women Coders

    gollum123 writes: Back in the day, computer science was as legitimate a career path for women as medicine, law, or science. But in 1984, the number of women majoring in computing-related subjects began to fall, and the percentage of women is now significantly lower in CS than in those other fields. NPR's Planet Money sought to answer a simple question: Why? According to the show's experts, computers were advertised as a "boy's toy." This, combined with early '80s geek culture staples like the book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, as well as movies like War Games and Weird Science, conspired to instill the perception that computers were primarily for men.

    766 comments | 4 days ago

  • Ask Slashdot: Event Sign-Up Software Options For a Non-Profit?

    New submitter don_e_b writes I have been asked by a non-profit to help them gather a team of volunteer developers, who they wish to have write an online volunteer sign-up site. This organization has a one large event per year with roughly 1400 volunteers total.I have advised them to investigate existing online volunteer offerings, and they can afford to pay for most that I've found so far. In the past two years, they have used a site written by a volunteer that has worked fine for them, but that volunteer is unavailable to maintain or enhance his site this year. They believe the existing online volunteer sign-up sites are not quite right — they feel they have very specific sign-up needs, and can not picture using anything other than their own custom software solution. I am convinced it's a mistake for this non-profit to create a software development team from a rotating pool of volunteers to write software upon which it is critically dependent. How would you convince them to abandon their plan to dive into project management and use an existing solution?

    104 comments | 4 days ago

  • Doctor Who To Teach Kids To Code

    DCFC writes: The BBC is releasing a game to help 8- to 11-year-old kids get into coding. Based on Doctor Who, it alternates between a standard platform game and programming puzzles that introduce the ideas of sequence, loops, if..then, variables and a touch of event-driven programming. Kids will get to program a Dalek to make him more powerful. (Apparently the BBC thinks upgrading psychopathic, racist death machines is a good idea!)

    164 comments | 4 days ago

  • Developers, IT Still Racking Up (Mostly) High Salaries

    Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes Software development and IT remain common jobs among those in the higher brackets, although not the topmost one, according to a new study (with graph) commissioned by NPR. Among those earning between $58,000 and $72,000, IT was the sixth-most-popular job, while software developers came in tenth place. In the next bracket up (earning between $72,000 and $103,000), IT rose to third, with software development just behind in fourth place. As incomes increased another level ($103,000 to $207,000), software developers did even better, coming in second behind managers, although IT dropped off the list entirely. In the top percentile ($207,000 and above), neither software developers nor IT staff managed to place; this is a segment chiefly occupied by physicians (in first place), managers, chief executives, lawyers, and salespeople who are really good at their jobs. In other words, it seems like a good time to be in IT, provided you have a particular skillset. If those high salaries are in Silicon Valley or New York, though, they might not seem as high as half the same rate would in Omaha, or Houston, or Raleigh.

    196 comments | 5 days ago

  • Be True To Your CS School: LinkedIn Ranks US Schools For Job-Seeking Programmers

    theodp writes "The Motley Fool reports that the Data Scientists at LinkedIn have been playing with their Big Data, ranking schools based on how successful recent grads have been at landing desirable software development jobs. Here's their Top 25: CMU, Caltech, Cornell, MIT, Princeton, Berkeley, Univ. of Washington, Duke, Michigan, Stanford, UCLA, Illinois, UT Austin, Brown, UCSD, Harvard, Rice, Penn, Univ. of Arizona, Harvey Mudd, UT Dallas, San Jose State, USC, Washington University, RIT. There's also a shorter list for the best schools for software developers at startups, which draws a dozen schools from the previously mentioned schools, and adds Columbia, Univ. of Virginia, and Univ. of Maryland College Park. If you're in a position to actually hire new graduates, how much do you care about applicants' alma maters?

    128 comments | about a week ago

  • JavaScript and the Netflix User Interface

    CowboyRobot writes Alex Liu is a senior UI engineer at Netflix and part of the core team leading the migration of Netflix.com to Node.js. He has an article at ACM's Queue in which he describes how JavaScript is used at Netflix. "With increasingly more application logic being shifted to the browser, developers have begun to push the boundaries of what JavaScript was originally intended for. Entire desktop applications are now being rebuilt entirely in JavaScript—the Google Docs office suite is one example. Such large applications require creative solutions to manage the complexity of loading the required JavaScript files and their dependencies. The problem can be compounded when introducing multivariate A/B testing, a concept that is at the core of the Netflix DNA. Multivariate testing introduces a number of problems that JavaScript cannot handle using native constructs, one of which is the focus of this article: managing conditional dependencies."

    194 comments | about a week ago

  • The One App You Need On Your Resume If You Want a Job At Google

    HughPickens.com writes Jim Edwards writes at Business Insider that Google is so large and has such a massive need for talent that if you have the right skills, Google is really enthusiastic to hear from you — especially if you know how to use MatLab, a fourth-generation programming language that allows matrix manipulations, plotting of functions and data, implementation of algorithms, creation of user interfaces, and interfacing with programs written in other languages, including C, C++, Java, Fortran and Python. The key is that data is produced visually or graphically, rather than in a spreadsheet. According to Jonathan Rosenberg , Google's former senior vice president for product management, being a master of statistics is probably your best way into Google right now and if you want to work at Google, make sure you can use MatLab. Big data — how to create it, manipulate it, and put it to good use — is one of those areas in which Google is really enthusiastic about. The sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. When every business has free and ubiquitous data, the ability to understand it and extract value from it becomes the complimentary scarce factor. It leads to intelligence, and the intelligent business is the successful business, regardless of its size. Rosenberg says that "my quote about statistics that I didn't use but often do is, 'Data is the sword of the 21st century, those who wield it the samurai.'"

    205 comments | about a week ago

  • OS X 10.10 Yosemite Review

    An anonymous reader writes: With the release of OS X 10.10 Yosemite, Ars Technica has posted one of their extremely thorough reviews of the OS's new features and design changes. John Siracusa writes that Yosemite is particularly notable because it's the biggest step yet in Apple's efforts to bring OS X and iOS together — new technologies are now being added to Apple's two operating systems simultaneously. "The political and technical battles inherent in the former two-track development strategy for OS X and iOS left both products with uncomfortable feature disparities. Apple now correctly views this as damage and has set forth to repair it." Yosemite's look and feel has undergone significant changes as well, generally moving toward the flat and compact design present in iOS 7 & 8. Spotlight and the Notifications Center have gotten some needed improvements, as did many tab and toolbar interfaces.

    Siracusa also takes a look a Swift, Apple's new programming language: "Swift is an attempt to create a low-level language with high-level syntax and semantics. It tackles the myth of the Sufficiently Smart Compiler by signing up to create that compiler as part of the language design process." He concludes: "Viewed in isolation, Yosemite provides a graphical refresh accompanied by a few interesting features and several new technologies whose benefits are mostly speculative, depending heavily on how eagerly they're adopted by third-party developers. But Apple no longer views the Mac in isolation, and neither should you. OS X is finally a full-fledged peer to iOS; all aspects of sibling rivalry have been banished."

    303 comments | about a week ago

  • Mixing Agile With Waterfall For Code Quality

    jones_supa writes: The 2014 CAST Research on Application Software Health (CRASH) report states that enterprise software built using a mixture of agile and waterfall methods will result in more robust and secure applications than those built using either agile or waterfall methods alone. Data from CAST's Appmarq benchmarking repository was analyzed to discover global trends in the structural quality of business application software. The report explores the impact of factors such as development method, CMMI maturity level, outsourcing, and other practices on software quality characteristics that are based upon good architectural and coding practices. InfoQ interviewed Bill Curtis, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist at CAST, about the research done by CAST, structural quality factors, and mixing agile and waterfall methods.

    133 comments | about a week ago

  • For Game Developers, It's About the Labor of Love

    Nerval's Lobster writes With "GamerGate" and all the debates over who counts as a "gamer," it's easy to forget that games are created by people with a genuine love of the craft. Journalist Jon Brodkin sat down with Armin Ibrisagic, game designer & PR manager for Coffee Stain Studios, the Swedish studio that made Goat Simulator, to talk about why they built that game and how it turned into such a success. Brodkin also talked to Leszek Lisowski, founder of Wastelands Interactive, about the same topic. While these developers might debate with themselves (and others) over whether to develop games for hardcore gamers, or jump on the mobile "casual gaming" bandwagon, they'll ultimately in it because they love games — a small but crucial detail that seems too easy to forget these days.

    164 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Microsoft, Facebook Declare European Kids Clueless About Coding, Too

    theodp writes: Having declared U.S. kids clueless about coding, Facebook and Microsoft are now turning their attention to Europe's young 'uns. "As stewards of Europe's future generations," begins the Open Letter to the European Union Ministers for Education signed by Facebook and Microsoft, "you will be all too aware that as early as the age of 7, children reach a critical juncture, when they are learning the core life skills of reading, writing and basic maths. However, to flourish in tomorrow's digital economy and society, they should also be learning to code. And many, sadly, are not." Released at the launch of the European Coding Initiative — aka All You Need is Code! (video) — in conjunction with the EU's Code Week, the letter closes, "As experts in our field, we owe it to Europe's youth to help equip them with the skills they will need to succeed — regardless of where life takes them."

    213 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Fighting the Culture of 'Worse Is Better'

    An anonymous reader writes: Developer Paul Chiusano thinks much of programming culture has been infected by a "worse is better" mindset, where trade-offs to preserve compatibility and interoperability cripple the functionality of vital languages and architectures. He says, "[W]e do not merely calculate in earnest to what extent tradeoffs are necessary or desirable, keeping in mind our goals and values -- there is a culture around making such compromises that actively discourages people from even considering more radical, principled approaches." Chiusano takes C++ as an example, explaining how Stroustrup's insistence that it retain full compatibility with C has led to decades of problems and hacks.

    He says this isn't necessarily the wrong approach, but the culture of software development prevents us from having a reasoned discussion about it. "Developing software is a form of investment management. When a company or an individual develops a new feature, inserts a hack, hires too quickly without sufficient onboarding or training, or works on better infrastructure for software development (including new languages, tools, and the like), these are investments or the taking on of debt. ... The outcome of everyone solving their own narrow short-term problems and never really revisiting the solutions is the sea of accidental complexity we now operate in, and which we all recognize is a problem."

    240 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Book Review: Scaling Apache Solr

    First time accepted submitter sobczakt writes We live in a world flooded by data and information and all realize that if we can't find what we're looking for (e.g. a specific document), there's no benefit from all these data stores. When your data sets become enormous or your systems need to process thousands of messages a second, you need to an environment that is efficient, tunable and ready for scaling. We all need well-designed search technology. A few days ago, a book called Scaling Apache Solr landed on my desk. The author, Hrishikesh Vijay Karambelkar, has written an extremely useful guide to one of the most popular open-source search platforms, Apache Solr. Solr is a full-text, standalone, Java search engine based on Lucene, another successful Apache project. For people working with Solr, like myself, this book should be on their Christmas shopping list. It's one of the best on this subject. Read below for the rest of sobczakt's review.

    42 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Despite Push From Tech Giants, AP CS Exam Counts Don't Budge Much In Most States

    theodp (442580) writes "Well, the College Board has posted the 2014 AP Computer Science Test scores. So, before the press rushes out another set of Not-One-Girl-In-Wyoming-Took-an-AP-CS-Exam stories, let's point out that no Wyoming students of either gender took an AP CS exam again in 2014 (.xlsx). At the overall level, the final numbers have changed somewhat (back-of-the-Excel-envelope calculations, no warranty expressed or implied!), but tell pretty much the same story as the preliminary figures — the number of overall AP CS test takers increased, while pass rates decreased despite efforts to cherry pick students with a high likelihood of success. What is kind of surprising is how little the test numbers budged for most states — only 8 states managed to add more than 100 girls to the AP CS test taker rolls — despite the PR push by the tech giants, including Microsoft, Google, and, Facebook. Also worth noting are some big percentage decreases at the top end of the score segments (5 and 4), and still-way-too-wide gaps that exist between the score distributions of the College Board's various ethnic segments (more back of the envelope calcs). If there's a Data Scientist in the house, AP CS exam figures grabbed from the College Board's Excel 2013 and 2014 worksheets can be found here (Google Sheets) together with the (unwalkedthrough) VBA code that was used to collect it. Post your insight (and code/data fixes) in the comments!"

    144 comments | about two weeks ago

  • How Poor Punctuation Can Break Windows

    An anonymous reader writes with a report at Ars Technica about how a small bug can lead to a security problem. In this case, the problem is that quotation marks — or the lack of them — can be significant. From the Ars article: "The scenario... requires a 'standard' user with access rights to create a directory to a fileserver and an administrator executing a vulnerable script," Frank Lycops and Raf Cox, security researchers with The Security Factory, said in an e-mail interview. "This allows the attacker to gain the privileges of the user running the script, thus becoming an administrator." While the attack falls short of the severity of the Shellshock family of Linux shell vulnerabilities, the two researchers stressed that it's a good example of how untrusted input can be used to execute commands on a system. The researchers identified at least one popular script with the vulnerability. When the script attempts to set the starting directory for system administration work, it inadvertently runs the command appended to the malicious directory's name as well. ... The solution is to use proper coding practices—in this case, the judicious use of quotation marks. Quotation marks are used in the shell environment to make sure that the data inside the quotes is not interpreted by the program as a command.

    94 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Why the Trolls Will Always Win

    maynard writes: Kathy Sierra spent a tech career developing videogames and teaching Java programming in Sun Microsystems masterclasses. Up until 2007, she'd been a well regarded tech specialist who happened to be female. Until the day she opined on her private blog that given the crap-flood of bad comments, maybe forum moderation wasn't a bad idea. This opinion made her a target. A sustained trolling and harassment campaign followed, comprised of death and rape threats, threats against her family, fabricated claims of prostitution, and a false claim that she had issued a DMCA takedown to stifle criticism. All of this culminated in the public release of her private address and Social Security Number, a technique known as Doxxing. And so she fled from the public, her career, and even her home.

    It turned out that a man named Andrew Auernheimer was responsible for having harassed Sierra. Known as 'Weev', he admitted it in a 2008 New York Times story on Internet Trolls. There, he spoke to the lengths which he and his cohorts went to discredit and destroy the woman. "Over a candlelit dinner of tuna sashimi, Weev asked if I would attribute his comments to Memphis Two, the handle he used to troll Kathy Sierra, a blogger. Inspired by her touchy response to online commenters, Weev said he "dropped docs" on Sierra, posting a fabricated narrative of her career alongside her real Social Security number and address. This was part of a larger trolling campaign against Sierra, one that culminated in death threats."

    Now, seven years later, Kathy Sierra has returned to explain why she left and what recent spates of online harassment against women portend for the future if decent people don't organize. The situation has grown much more serious since she went into hiding all those years ago. It's more than just the threat of Doxxing to incite physical violence by random crazies with a screw loose.
    Read on for the rest of maynard's thoughts.

    728 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Goodbye, World? 5 Languages That Might Not Be Long For This World

    Nerval's Lobster writes As developers embrace new programming languages, older languages can go one of two ways: stay in use, despite fading popularity, or die out completely. So which programming languages are slated for history's dustbin of dead tech? Perl is an excellent candidate, especially considering how work on Perl6, framed as a complete revamp of the language, began work in 2000 and is still inching along in development. Ruby, Visual Basic.NET, and Object Pascal also top this list, despite their onetime popularity. Whether the result of development snafus or the industry simply veering in a direction that makes a particular language increasingly obsolete, time comes for all platforms at one point or another. Which programming languages do you think will do the way of the dinosaurs in coming years? With COBOL still around, it's hard to take too seriously the claim that Perl or Ruby is about to die. A prediction market for this kind of thing might yield a far different list.

    547 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Google Takes the Fight With Oracle To the Supreme Court

    whoever57 writes Google has asked the Supreme Court to review the issue of whether APIs can be copyrighted. Google beat Oracle in the trial court, where a judge with a software background ruled that APIs could not be copyrighted. but the Appeals court sided with Oracle, ruling that APIs can be copyrighted. Now Google is asking the Supreme Court to overturn that decision. (Also of interest.)

    146 comments | about two weeks ago

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