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Education

Four Code Bootcamps Are Now Eligible For Government Financial Aid (hackeducation.com) 85

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp notes a pilot program for improving computer science education which includes financial aid for students at four code bootcamps: In this week's Hack Education Weekly News, Audrey Watters writes, "The US Department of Education has selected eight higher ed institutions and eight 'non-traditional providers' that will work as partners to pilot the DoE's new EQUIP experiment, meaning that students will be able to receive federal financial aid for coding bootcamps, MOOCs, and the like...

"Good thing there haven't been any problems with for-profit higher ed and exploitation of financial aid, otherwise this would all seem like a terrible idea."

The original submission has more details on the participants (including the four code bootcamps). Ultimately the program involves pairing "non-traditional" providers with higher education institutions -- and then monitoring their results with a third-party "quality assurance entity" -- to improve the ways we measure a school's performance, but also testing new ways to fund training for computer careers. (I'm curious how Slashdot's readers feel about government loans for attendees at code bootcamps...)
Robotics

Intel Demos A New Robotics Controller Running Ubuntu (hackerboards.com) 18

Intel demoed their new robotics compute module this week. Scheduled for release in 2017, it's equipped with various sensors, including a depth-sensing camera, and it runs Ubuntu on a quad-core Atom. Slashdot reader DeviceGuru writes: Designed for researchers, makers, and robotics developers, the device is a self contained, candy-bar sized compute module ready to pop into a robot. It's augmented with a WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth, GPS, and IR, as well as proximity, motion, barometric pressure sensors. There's also a snap-on battery.

The device is preinstalled with Ubuntu 14.04 with Robot Operating System (ROS) Indigo, and can act as a supervisory processor to, say, an Arduino subsystem that controls a robot's low-level functions. Intel demoed a Euclid driven robot running an obstacle avoidance and follow-me tasks, including during CEO Brian Krzanich's keynote (YouTube video).

Intel says they'll also release instructions on how to create an accompanying robot with a 3D printer. This plug-and-play robotics module is a proof-of-concept device -- the article includes some nice pictures -- but it already supports programming in Node.js (and other high-level languages), and has a web UI that lets you monitor performance in real-time and watch the raw camera feeds.
Programming

The $5 Onion Omega2 Gives Raspberry Pi a Run For Its Money (dailydot.com) 124

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Daily Dot: Onion's Omega2 computer may give the Raspberry Pi a run for its money if the success of the Kickstarter campaign is any indication. The Daily Dot reports: "With an initial goal of just $15,000, over 11,560 backers have pledged the company $446,792 in hopes of getting their hands on this little wonder board. So why are thousands of people losing their minds? Simple; the Omega2 packs a ton of power into a $5 package. Billed as the world's smallest Linux server, complete with built-in Wi-Fi, the Omega2 is perfect for building simple computers or the web connected project of your dreams. The tiny machine is roughly the size of a cherry, before expansions, and runs a full Linux operating system. For $5 you get a 580MHz CPU, 64MB memory, 16MB storage, built-in Wi-Fi and a USB 2.0 port. A $9 model is also available with 128MB of memory, 32MB of storage, and a MircoSD slot. The similarly priced Raspberry Pi Zero comes with a 1GHz Arm processor, 512MB of memory, a MicroSD slot, no onboard storage, and no built-in Wi-Fi. Omega2 supports the Ruby, C++, Python, PHP, Perl, JavaScript (Node.js), and Bash programming languages, so no matter your background in coding you should be able to figure something out." You can also add Bluetooth, GPS, and 2G/3G support via add-ons or expansions. It looks promising, though it is a Kickstarter campaign and the product may not come into fruition.
Open Source

Microsoft PowerShell Goes Open Source and Lands On Linux and Mac (pcworld.com) 396

Microsoft announced on Thursday that it is open sourcing PowerShell, its system administration, scripting, and configuration management tool that has been a default part of Windows for several years. The company says it will soon release PowerShell on Mac and Linux platforms. PCWorld reports: The company is also releasing alpha versions of PowerShell for Linux (specifically Ubuntu, Centos and Redhat) and Mac OS X. A new PowerShell GitHub page gives people the ability to download binaries of the software, as well as access to the app's source code. PowerShell on Linux and Mac will let people who have already built proficiency with Microsoft's scripting language take those skills and bring them to new platforms. Meanwhile, people who are used to working on those platforms will have access to a new and very powerful tool for getting work done. It's part of Microsoft's ongoing moves to open up products that the company has previously kept locked to platforms that it owned. The company's open sourcing of its .NET programming frameworks in 2014 paved the way for this launch, by making the building blocks of PowerShell available on Linux and OS X. By making PowerShell available on Linux, Microsoft has taken the skills of Windows administrators who are already used to the software, and made them more marketable. It has also made it possible for hardcore Linux users to get access to an additional set of tools that they can use to manage a variety of systems.
Firefox

Mozilla To Add Screenshot Sharing Feature To Firefox Test Pilot Program (softpedia.com) 75

An anonymous reader writes: [Softpedia reports:] "Mozilla plans to include a webpage screenshot sharing feature to Firefox as part of the Test Pilot program, a spokesperson confirmed to Softpedia. The new feature is called Page Shot, and will initially roll out on Firefox Test Pilot in late-Q3 of this year. The Firefox Test Pilot program allows users to test experimental Firefox features using a special add-on. Based on user feedback, those features will end up as built-in Firefox features, or self-standing add-ons." The pageshot.net website is now offline as Mozilla prepares to launch the add-on via Test Pilot, but Softpedia has the screenshots. You can view the screenshots here.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Bad Programming Ideas That Work? (infoworld.com) 670

snydeq writes: Cheaper, faster, better side effects -- sometimes a bad idea in programming is better than just good enough, writes InfoWorld's Peter Wayner: "Some ideas, schemes, or architectures may truly stink, but they may also be the best choice for your project. They may be cheaper or faster, or maybe it's too hard to do things the right way. In other words, sometimes bad is simply good enough. There are also occasions when a bad idea comes with a silver lining. It may not be the best approach, but it has such good side-effects that it's the way to go. If we're stuck going down a suboptimal path to programming hell, we might as well make the most of whatever gems may be buried there." What bad programming ideas have you found useful enough to make work in your projects? Don't be shy or ashamed, we all want to hear your responses!
Education

Billionaire Launches Free Code College in California (arstechnica.com) 187

Xavier Niel is the billionaire founder of France's second-largest ISP. In February he bought a former campus from DeVry University, and tried building something better. Slashdot reader bheerssen writes: 42 US is a free coding school near Facebook's headquarters in Fremont, California. The courses are boot camp like experiences that do not offer traditional degrees, but hope to provide programming skills and experience to students for free.
Ars Technica calls it "a radical education experiment" -- even the dorms are free -- and the school's COO describes their ambition to become a place "where individuals from all different kinds of backgrounds, all different kinds of financial backgrounds, can come and have access to this kind of education so that then we can have new kinds of ideas." Students between the ages of 18 and 30 are screened through an online logic test, according to the article, then tossed into a month-long "sink or swim" program that begins with C. "Students spend 12 or more hours per day, six to seven days per week. If they do well, students are invited back to a three- to five-year program with increasing levels of specialty."
AI

Has The NSF Automated Coding with ExCAPE? (adtmag.com) 140

The National Science Foundation is developing a way to create working code using "automated program synthesis," a new technology called ExCAPE "that provides human operators with automated assistance.... By removing the need for would-be programmers to learn esoteric programming languages, the method has the potential to significantly expand the number of people engaged in programming in a variety of disciplines, from personalized education to robotics." Rajeev Alur, who leads a team of researchers from America's nine top computer science programs, says that currently software development "remains a tedious and error-prone activity." Slashdot reader the_insult_dog writes: While its lofty goals of broadly remaking the art of programming might not be realized, the research has already made some advances and resulted in several tools already in use in areas such as commercial software production and education...
For example, the NSF created a new tool (which they've recently patented) called NetEgg, which generates code for controlling software-defined networks, as well as Automata Tutor and AutoProf, which provide automated feedback to computer science students.
Transportation

One In Five Vehicle Software Vulnerabilities Are 'Hair On Fire' Critical (securityledger.com) 85

Long-time Slashdot reader chicksdaddy quotes a report from Security Ledger: One of every five software vulnerabilities discovered in vehicles in the last three years are rated "critical" and are unlikely to be resolved through after the fact security fixes, according to an analysis by the firm IOActive. "These are the high priority 'hair on fire' vulnerabilities that are easily discovered and exploited and can cause major impacts to the system or component," the firm said in its report...

The bulk of vulnerabilities that were identified stemmed from a failure by automakers and suppliers to follow security best practices including designing in security or applying secure development lifecycle (SDL) practices to software creation... The result is that vehicle cybersecurity vulnerabilities are not solvable using "bolt-on" solutions, IOActive concluded...

The article argues we're years away from standards or regulations, while describing auto-makers as "wedded to the notion that keeping the details of their systems secret will ensure security."
Software

'Faceless Recognition System' Can Identify You Even When You Hide Your Face (vice.com) 55

schwit1 quotes a report from Motherboard: By itself, the ability to instantly identify anyone just by seeing their face already creates massive power imbalances, with serious implications for free speech and political protest. But more recently, researchers have demonstrated that even when faces are blurred or otherwise obscured, algorithms can be trained to identify people by matching previously-observed patterns around their head and body. In a new paper uploaded to the ArXiv pre-print server, researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Saarbrucken, Germany demonstrate a method of identifying individuals even when most of their photos are un-tagged or obscured. The researchers' system, which they call the "Faceless Recognition System," trains a neural network on a set of photos containing both obscured and visible faces, then uses that knowledge to predict the identity of obscured faces by looking for similarities in the area around a person's head and body. As for the accuracy of the system, "even when there are only 1.25 instances of the individual's fully-visible face, the system can identify an obscured face with 69.6 percent accuracy; if there are 10 instances of an individual's face, it increases to as high as 91.5 percent."
Japan

Kids Can Now Learn To Code With Pocky, the Delicious Japanese Snack (theverge.com) 51

Dami Lee, writing for The Verge: Even if you didn't grow up in Asia, chances are you've had this ubiquitous Japanese snack before. Walk into most grocery stores in America and you'll find a box of Pocky, and in multiple flavors like strawberry and green tea if your supermarket is fancy. With over dozens of flavors and variations, there's a Pocky for all occasions! There's a Pocky for Men. Now, there's Pocky for kids, with an educational aspect. Pocky's maker, Glico, has made a game called Glicode (Like if Wilco made a coding game called Wilcode) that gets kids coding by having them arrange actual cookies and snacks, then snapping a photo to translate them into digital commands. Glico's other products like Almond Peak chocolates and Biscuit Cream Sands are also featured in the game, representing "if" and "sequence" commands, respectively. It's a lot like Apple's Swift Playgrounds, with simple programming tasks commanding a funny-looking blob to walk around on platform blocks. The app is only available on Android for now.
Television

US Copyright Office Sides With Cable Companies Against FCC's Set Top Rules (arstechnica.com) 137

An anonymous reader writes: The United States Copyright Office has sided with cable companies in their fight against a Federal Communications Commission plan to boost competition in the TV set-top box market. The FCC proposal would force pay-TV providers to make channels and on-demand content available to third parties, who could then build their own devices and apps that could replace rented set-top boxes. Comcast and other cable companies complain that this will open the door to copyright violations, and US Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante agrees with them. The Copyright Office provided advice to the FCC at the FCC's request, and Pallante yesterday detailed the concerns her office raised in a letter to members of Congress who asked her to weigh in. "In its most basic form, the rule contemplated by the FCC would seem to take a valuable good -- bundled video programming created through private effort and agreement under the protections of the Copyright Act -- and deliver it to third parties who are not in privity with the copyright owners, but who may nevertheless exploit the content for profit," Pallante wrote. "Under the Proposed Rule, this would be accomplished without compensation to the creators or licensees of the copyrighted programming, and without requiring the third party to adhere to agreed-upon license terms." There are already "third-party set-top box devices, mainly produced overseas, that are used to view pirated content delivered over the Internet," and the FCC's plan could expand the market to include devices "designed to exploit the more readily available [cable TV] programming streams without adhering to the prescribed security measures," Pallante wrote. Cable companies are willing to pledge industry-wide commitment, but have expressed no desires of leaving control over the UI.
Education

Seymour Papert, Creator of the Logo Language, Dies At 88 (mit.edu) 68

New submitter gwolf writes: The great educator, creator of the Logo programming language, and the enabler for computer education in the 1980s has passed away. Listing his contributions is impossible in an article summary, but the ACM has published a short in-memoriam note for him. Papert is, without exaggeration, one of the people I owe my career and life choices to.
Firefox

Firefox 48 Released With Multi-Process Support, Mandatory Add-On Signing (softpedia.com) 236

Mozilla on Tuesday released Firefox v48, touted as one of the most important updates the browser has ever received. With the new version, Firefox starts migrating users to using mullti-process threads (e10s, Electrolysis), and it is also the first version to ship with Rust component. In addition, Firefox is now also making add-on signing mandatory. From a Softpedia article: Announced last year, Electrolysis, e10s, or multi-process support is Firefox's ability to process core browser operations separately from the content viewed on a Web page. Multi-process support allows a page to crash without bringing the entire browser down with it and improves the browser's overall performance. e10s rollout will take place in two phases, first in Firefox 48, and it will finish in Firefox 49, set for release on September 13, 2016. Mandatory add-on signing refers to Firefox preventing users from installing any add-ons that have not been approved by Mozilla's testers. This is something similar to what Chrome employs, but Firefox users have been spoiled all these years, always having the capability of installing any add-on they've desired. Rust is a programming language that's a revamped and improved version of C++ but that protects developers from accidentally including dangerous memory bugs in their code. It achieves this by how the language was constructed and by how developers write the code.
Programming

C Isn't The Most Popular Programming Language, JavaScript Is (networkworld.com) 241

An anonymous reader quotes Network World: U.K.-based technology analyst firm RedMonk just released the latest version of its biannual rankings of programming languages, and once again JavaScript tops the list, followed by Java and PHP. Those are same three languages that topped RedMonk's list in January. In fact, the entire top 10 remains the same as it was it was six months ago...
Python ranked #4 on RedMonk's list, while the survey found a three-way tie for fifth place between Ruby, C#, and C++, with C coming in at #9 (ranking just below CSS). Network World argues that while change comes slowly, "if you go back deeper into RedMonk's rankings, you can see slow, ongoing ascents from languages such as Go, Swift and even TypeScript."

Interestingly, an earlier ranking by the IEEE declared C to be the top programming language of 2016, followed by Java, Python, C++, and R. But RedMonk's methodology involves studying the prevalence of each language on both Stack Overflow and GitHub, a correlation which "we believe to be predictive of future use, hence their value."
The Gimp

After New GIMP Release, Core Developer Discusses Future of GIMP and GEGL (girinstud.io) 117

GIMP 2.9.4 was released earlier this month, featuring "symmetry painting" and the ability to remove holes when selecting a region, as well as improvements to many of its other graphics-editing tools. But today core developer Jehan Pages discussed the vision for GIMP's future, writing that the Generic Graphics (GEGL) programming library "is a hell of a cool project and I think it could be the future of Free and Open Source image processing": I want to imagine a future where most big graphics programs integrate GEGL, where Blender for instance would have GEGL as the new implementation of nodes, with image processing graphs which can be exchanged between programs, where darktable would share buffers with GIMP so that images can be edited in one program and updated in real time in the other, and so on. Well of course the short/mid-term improvements will be non-destructive editing with live preview on high bit depth images, and that's already awesomely cool right...?

[C]ontributing to Free Software is not just adding any random feature, that's also about discussing, discovering others' workflow, comparing, sometimes even compromising or realizing that our ideas are not always perfect. This is part of the process and actually a pretty good mental builder. In any case we will work hard for a better GIMP

Television

Apple's Rigid Negotiating Tactics Cost Us 'Skinny Bundles' For Apple TV, Says Report (thenextweb.com) 111

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, the reason we don't have actual TV channels on the Apple TV is because the company tried to strong-arm networks -- and failed. Apple's Senior Vice President Eddy Cue is said to have taken the wrong approach. In one meeting, he reportedly told TV executives that "time is on my side." Cue is also accused of bluffing executives by claiming other networks -- specifically Disney and Fox -- were already signed up. The company also refused to show off the Apple TV interface, or "sketch it on the back of a napkin," as one media executive requested. Cue also tried to strike hard bargains, says WSJ. He reportedly asked that Disney put off the royalties Apple would have to pay for several years. Those 'skinny bundles' we heard so much about were what Apple was planning to build its TV experience around, too. In 2015, a bundle consisting of Fox, ESPN and Disney content was conceptualized (and priced at $30), but no agreements were ever signed. In an effort to create more original programming, Apple is scheduled to release its 'Planet of the Apps' TV show about app developers next year.
Java

C Top Programming Language For 2016, Finds IEEE's Study (ieee.org) 315

IEEE Spectrum, a highly regarded magazine edited by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, has released its annual programming languages list, sharing with the world how several languages fared against each other. To assess the languages the publication says it worked with a data journalist and looked into 10 online sources -- including social chatter, open-source code production, and job postings. The publication has rated C as the top programming language this year, followed by Java, Python, C++, and R. From their article:After two years in second place, C has finally edged out Java for the top spot. Staying in the top five, Python has swapped places with C++ to take the No. 3 position, and C# has fallen out of the top five to be replaced with R. R is following its momentum from previous years, as part of a positive trend in general for modern big-data languages that Diakopoulos analyses in more detail here. Google and Apple are also making their presence felt, with Google's Go just beating out Apple's Swift for inclusion in the Top Ten. Still, Swift's rise is impressive, as it's jumped five positions to 11th place since last year, when it first entered the rankings. Several other languages also debuted last year, a marked difference from this year, with no new languages entering the rankings.The publication has explained in detail the different metrics it uses to evaluate a language.
Programming

Programming Language Gurus Converge on 'Curry On' Conference (curry-on.org) 88

Videos are now online from this week's Curry On conference, which incuded talks by programming pioneers Larry Wall and Matthias Felleisen, as well as speakers from Google, Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, and Oracle. Dave Herman from Mozilla Research also talked about building an open source research lab, while Larry Wall's keynote was titled "It's the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel Fine."

Billing itself as a non-profit conference about programming languages and emerging computer-industry challenges, this year's installment included talks about Java, Rust, Scala, Perl, Racket, Clojure, Rascal, Go and Oden. Held in a different European city each year, the annual conference hopes to provoke an open conversation between academia and the larger technology industry.
The Almighty Buck

Maximizing Economic Output With Linear Programming...and Communism (medium.com) 519

Slashdot reader mkwan writes: Economies are just a collection of processes that convert raw materials and labour into useful goods and services. By representing these processes as a series of equations and solving a humongous linear programming problem, it should be possible to maximize an economy's GDP. The catch? The economy needs to go communist.
"[P]oorest members would receive a basic income that gradually increases as the economy becomes more efficient, plateauing at a level where they can afford everything they want to consume," argues the article, while "The middle classes wouldn't see much change. They would continue to work in a regular job for a regular -- but steadily increasing -- wage... Without the ability to own real-estate, companies, or intellectual property, it would be almost impossible to become rich, especially since the only legal source of income would be from a government job."

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