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Ask Slashdot: Can an Old Programmer Learn New Tricks? 306

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the new-and-exciting-skills dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I have been programming in some fashion, for the last 18 years. I got my first job programming 15 years ago and have advanced my career programming, leading programmers and bringing my technical skill sets into operations and other areas of the business where problems can be solved with logical solutions. I learned to program on the Internet in the 90s.. scouring information where ever I could and reading the code others wrote. I learned to program in a very simple fashion, write a script and work your way to the desired outcome in a straight forward logical way. If I needed to save or reuse code, I created include files with functions. I could program my way through any problem, with limited bugs, but I never learned to use a framework or write modular, DRY code. Flash forward to today, there are hundreds of frameworks and thousands of online tutorials, but I just can't seem to take the tutorials and grasp the concepts and utilize them in a practical manner. Am I just too old and too set in my ways to learn something new? Does anyone have any recommendations for tutorials or books that could help a 'hacker' like me? Also, I originally learned to program in Perl, but moved onto C and eventually PHP and Python."
The Internet

Crowdsourcing Confirms: Websites Inaccessible on Comcast 349

Posted by timothy
from the have-your-friends-drop-the-dime-on-your-non-friends dept.
Bennett Haselton writes with a bit of online detective work done with a little help from some (internet-distributed) friends: "A website that was temporarily inaccessible on my Comcast Internet connection (but accessible to my friends on other providers) led me to investigate further. Using a perl script, I found a sampling of websites that were inaccessible on Comcast (hostnames not resolving on DNS) but were working on other networks. Then I used Amazon Mechanical Turk to pay volunteers 25 cents apiece to check if they could access the website, and confirmed that (most) Comcast users were blocked from accessing it while users on other providers were not. The number of individual websites similarly inaccessible on Comcast could potentially be in the millions." Read on for the details.

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Sort? 195

Posted by Soulskill
from the sort-of-slowly dept.
camperdave writes "I was recently going through a pile of receipts and other papers to put them into order by date. Lacking one of those fancy sorting sticks they have at the office, I wound up with all sorts of piles and I was getting confused as to which pile was for what. Finally, it struck me: Why don't I use one of the many sorting algorithms I learned back in my computer science classes? So I swept all the papers back into the box and did a radix sort on them. It worked like a charm. Since then, I've had occasion to try quicksorts and merge sorts. So, when you have to physically sort things, what algorithm (if any) do you use?"

Tapping Data From Radio-Controlled Bus Stop Displays 75

Posted by timothy
from the how-to-get-hypnotized dept.
jones_supa writes "A couple of weeks ago hacker Oona Räisänen told about finding a 16 kbps data stream on FM broadcast frequencies, and her suspicion was that it's being used by the public transit display system in Helsinki, Finland. Now it's time to find out the truth. She had the opportunity to observe a display stuck in the middle of its bootup sequence, displaying a version string. This revealed that the system is called IBus and it's made by the Swedish company Axentia. Sure enough, their website talks about DARC and how it requires no return channel, making it possible to use battery-powered displays in remote areas. Other than that, there are no public specs for the proprietary protocol. So she implemented the five-layer DARC protocol stack in Perl and was left with a stream of fully error-corrected packets on top of Layer 5, separated into hundreds of subchannels. Some of these contained human-readable strings with names of terminal stations. They seemed like an easy starting point for reverse engineering..."

How Perl and R Reveal the United States' Isolation In the TPP Negotiations 152

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the just-look-at-those-graphs dept.
langelgjm writes "As /. reported, last Thursday Wikileaks released a draft text of the intellectual property chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Since then, many commentators have raised alarm about its contents. But what happens when you mix the leaked text together with Perl regular expressions and R's network analysis packages? You get some neat visualizations showing just how isolated the United States is in pushing for extreme copyright and patent laws."

How To Develop Unmaintainable Software 211

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-do-what-comes-naturally dept.
jones_supa writes "Greg Jorgensen specializes in debugging, fixing, maintaining, and extending legacy software systems. His typical client has a web site or internal application that works, more or less, but the original developer isn't available. Greg lists some things you can do in your own software projects to keep him in business. In summary, the list goes as follows: Customize your development environment a lot, don't make it easy for the next programmer to start working on the code. Create an elaborate build and deployment environment and remember to leave out the documentation. Don't bother with a testing/staging server but instead have secret logins and backdoor URLs to test new features, and mix test data with real data in your database. Don't bother with a well-understood framework, write everything from scratch instead. Add dependencies to specific versions of libraries and resources, but don't protect or document those dependencies. For the icing of the cake, use the coolest mix of cutting-edge programming languages."

Mozilla Plan Seeks To Debug Scientific Code 115

Posted by Soulskill
from the unit-tests-are-for-undergrads dept.
ananyo writes "An offshoot of Mozilla is aiming to discover whether a review process could improve the quality of researcher-built software that is used in myriad fields today, ranging from ecology and biology to social science. In an experiment being run by the Mozilla Science Lab, software engineers have reviewed selected pieces of code from published papers in computational biology. The reviewers looked at snippets of code up to 200 lines long that were included in the papers and written in widely used programming languages, such as R, Python and Perl. The Mozilla engineers have discussed their findings with the papers’ authors, who can now choose what, if anything, to do with the markups — including whether to permit disclosure of the results. But some researchers say that having software reviewers looking over their shoulder might backfire. 'One worry I have is that, with reviews like this, scientists will be even more discouraged from publishing their code,' says biostatistician Roger Peng at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. 'We need to get more code out there, not improve how it looks.'"

Ask Slashdot: Prioritizing Saleable Used Computer Books? 219

Posted by timothy
from the books-are-heavy-man dept.
g01d4 writes "I volunteer at a used bookstore that supports the local library. One of my tasks is to sort book donations. For > 5-year-old computer books the choices typically are to save it for sale (fifty cents soft cover, one dollar hardback), pack it, e.g. for another library's bookstore, put it on the free cart, or toss it in the recycle bin. I occasionally dumpster dive the recycle bin to 'rescue' books that I don't think should be pulped. Recently I found a copy of PostgresSQL Essential Reference (2002) and Programming Perl (1996). Would you have left them to RIP? Obviously we have very limited space, 20 shelf feet (storage + sale) for STEM. What criteria would you use when sorting these types of books?"

Ingy döt Net Tells How Acmeism Bridges Gaps in the Software World (Video) 164 Screenshot-sm

Posted by timothy
from the one-for-all-and-all-for-one dept.
Ingy döt Net (yes, that's his name) likes to bridge gaps in the software world. People get religious about their favorite programming languages, he says, but in the end, no matter the language, the methodology or the underlying OS, all programming is about telling computers what to do -- from "add these numbers" to complex text manipulation. Ingy compares a new app or module in the world of Free and Open Source as a gift that the creator has given to others; if that gift can be simultaneously bestowed on users of Perl, Python, and Ruby at the same time, its worth is amplified. So he proposes (and provides a growing set of tools) to make programming language irrelevant, by the sly means of encouraging people to write software using whatever their favorite tools are, but with a leaning toward using only language features which are broadly available to *other* programming languages as well. He's adopted the term Acmeism to describe this approach; Acmeists who follow his lead strive to create software that is broadly re-useable and adaptable, rather than tied only to a single platform.
Open Source

Github Finally Agrees Public Repos Should Have Explicit Licenses 120

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the largest-open-community-running-on-nonfree-platform dept.
WebMink writes "After strong criticism last year, Github has finally accepted the view that public repositories with no open source license are a bad thing. Self-described as the 'world's largest open source community,' a significant number of GitHub projects come with no rights whatsoever for you to use their code in an open source project. But from now on, creators of new repositories will have to pick from a small selection of OSI-approved licenses or explicitly opt for 'no license'. In Github's words, 'please note that opting out of open source licenses doesn't mean you're opting out of copyright law.'" A quick scan of their new choose a license site reveals at least a few flaws: they present simplicity, caring about patents, and sharing improvements with others as mutually exclusive points when they clearly are not (e.g. the Apache license and the GPLv3 both help with patent concerns, but only Apache is mentioned; and the MIT/X license is listed as the simple license when BSD-style is more prevalent). They also imply it is entirely optional to actually note your copyright in your files, when it is really bad practice not to unless you really want to make it impossible for people to understand the copyright history when e.g. merging your code into another project. Their list of licenses does provide a nice overview of the features of each, but regrettably encourages the use of the GPLv2 (without the "or later version" clause), listing the GPLv3 and all versions of the LGPL in league with seldom used licenses like the Perl Artistic license.
United Kingdom

Fixing Over a Decade of Missing Computer Programming Education In the UK 117

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-don't-need-no-education-well-maybe-we-do dept.
For around a decade programming was not part of the computer curriculum in the U.K.. Through a lot of hard work from advocates and the industry this will soon change, but a large skills gap still exists. Tim Gurney is just one of many working on closing that gap. His Coding in Schools initiative aims to "work with schools and students and inspire the next generation of computer programmers and software engineers by creating and spearheading schools based programming clubs." I recently sat down with Tim to talk about who's working on the problem and what yet needs to be done. Read below to see what he's doing to change the state of things.

Learn About the FRDCSA 'Weak AI' Project (Video) 52

Posted by Roblimo
from the let-us-run-your-life-for-you dept.
Today's interviewee, Andrew Dougherty, has a Web page that says he is " autodidact mathematician and computer scientist specializing in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Algorithmic Information Theory (AIT). He is the founder of the FRDCSA (Formalized Research Database: Cluster Study & Apply) project, a practical attempt at weak AI aimed primarily at collecting and interrelating existing software with theoretical motivation from AIT. He has made over 90 open source applications, 400 (unofficial) Debian GNU/Linux packages and 800 Perl5 modules (see" Tim Lord says Andrew's project "brings together a lot of AI algorithms, collects large sets of data for those algorithms to chew on, and writes software to do things like ... guide your whole life." As you might guess, Andrew occupies a pretty far edge of the eccentric programmer world, as you'll see from this video (and transcript). He calls himself "a serious Stallmanite" (his word), and has chosen the GPL for his software in the hopes that it will therefore help the greatest number of people. (Speaking of help, he's looking for interesting data sets and various "life rules" that can be integrated with his planning software, and one of the reasons he presented at the recent YAPC::NA was to solicit help in putting his hundreds of Perl modules onto CPAN.)
It's funny.  Laugh.

Israeli Singer Publishes a Song In Hebrew — and Perl 69

Posted by timothy
from the tank-driver-coder-songwriter->-singer-song-writer dept.
Noiser writes "The Israeli pop singer Aya Korem published her new song "Computer Engineer" as a website that shows translation to the Perl programming language along with the lyrics. Perl is quite a good match, given that the Perl community has a long tradition of publishing "Perl poetry", and this song proves that this tradition is very much alive. No Flash is required to view the website, so if you are an HTML5 geek, have no worries."
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Service-Heavy FOSS Hosting? 75

Posted by timothy
from the for-work-and-play dept.
An anonymous reader writes "For many of us our hosting providers are a way to hone our skills as well as run a business. Which provider out there gives the best bang for the buck for a FOSS developer? Virtually everybody provides Perl, PHP, Ruby, MySQL / MariaDB etc. but where can one get easy and cheap access to a stuff like NodeJS and Big Data? Companies such as Pair Networks are great but not quite on the mark with any of their service offerings for somebody looking to test out real world scenarios with these technologies from a hosted stance. Obviously hosting from home is always an option but that has the penalty of administration, backup, DR planning, bigger security footprint etc. and for those of us whose time is balanced between making money and friends / family time that's not very appealing."

Book Review: A Practical Guide To Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming 81 Screenshot-sm

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Rambo Tribble writes "This new, third edition of Sobell's book brings enhancements that add to the text's value as both a learning tool and a reference. This has always been a foundation book for those wanting a professional level of familiarity with Linux. The addition of chapters to introduce the Python language and MySQL database serves to offer the reader practical insights into additional Linux-related technologies." Read below for the rest of Rambo's review.
GNU is Not Unix

GNU Texinfo 5.0 Released 173

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the aged-to-perfection dept.
Four years after the last release, version 5.0 of Texinfo, the GNU documentation language, has been released. The primary highlight is a new implementation of makeinfo info in Perl rather than C. Although slower, the new version offers several advantages: cleaner code using a structured representation of the input document, Unicode support, and saner support for multiple output backends. There are over a dozen other improvements including better formatting of URLs, improved cross-manual references, and a program to convert Perl POD documentation to Texinfo.

Ask Slashdot: Spreadsheet With Decent Programming Language? 332

Posted by timothy
from the index-cards-and-a-hole-punch dept.
First time accepted submitter slartibartfastatp writes "Spreadsheets are very flexible tools for data analysis and transformations, the obvious options being MS Excel and LibreOffice. However, I found increasingly infuriating to deal with the VBA--dialect functions or (even worse) its translated versions. Is there any spreadsheet that allows usage of a decent programming language in its formulae? I found PySpread intriguing, but still very beta (judging from its latest release version 0.2.3). Perl or even javascript would be better options than =AVERAGE(). Do you know any viable alternatives?"

Perl's Glory Days Are Behind It, But It Isn't Going Anywhere 379

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the duct-tape-joke dept.
snydeq writes "Deep End's Paul Venezia waxes philosophical about Perl stagnancy in IT. 'A massive number of tools and projects still make the most out of the language. But it's hard to see Perl regaining its former glory without a dramatic turnaround in the near term. As more time goes by, Perl will likely continue to decline in popularity and cement its growing status as a somewhat arcane and archaic language, especially as compared to newer, more lithe options. Perhaps that's OK. Perl has been an instrumental part of the innovation and technological advancements of the last two decades, and it's served as a catalyst for a significant number of other languages that have contributed heavily to the programming world in general.'"

GitHub Registers Its 3 Millionth User 64

Posted by timothy
from the free-hamburger dept.
hypnosec writes "Online version control system GitHub, which is based on Git — the distributed version control system developed by Linus Torvalds — now has over three million registered users, it has been revealed. Announcing the achievement, the code sharing site used by the likes of jQuery, Perl, PHP, Ruby as well as Joomla said in a blog post that the 'three millionth person signed up for a GitHub account' on Monday night."

When all else fails, read the instructions.