When an AI Tries Writing Slashdot Headlines ( 26

For Slashdot's 20th anniversary, "What could be geekier than celebrating with the help of an open-source neural network?" Neural network hobbyist Janelle Shane has already used machine learning to generate names for paint colors, guinea pigs, heavy metal bands, and even craft beers, she explains on her blog. "Slashdot sent me a list of all the headlines they've ever run, over 162,000 in all, and asked me to train a neural network to try to generate more." Could she distill 20 years of news -- all of humanity's greatest technological advancements -- down to a few quintessential words?

She trained it separately on the first decade of Slashdot headlines -- 1997 through 2007 -- as well as the second decade from 2008 to the present, and then re-ran the entire experiment using the whole collection of every headline from the last 20 years. Among the remarkable machine-generated headlines?
  • Microsoft To Develop Programming Law
  • More Pong Users for Kernel Project
  • New Company Revises Super-Things For Problems
  • Steve Jobs To Be Good

But that was just the beginning...


Verizon Loses 18,000 Pay TV Subscribers, Signals Delay For Live TV Streaming Service ( 42

Verizon announced on Thursday that its FiOS video service lost 18,000 net pay TV subscribers in the third quarter, compared with the addition of 36,000 subscribers in the year-ago period and 15,000 subscriber drop in the second quarter. Hollywood Reporter reports: The company said the drop in the latest quarter was "reflecting the ongoing shift from traditional linear video to over-the-top offerings." Verizon, led by chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam, ended the third quarter with a total of 4.6 million subscribers to its FiOS video service, which competes with cable and satellite TV companies. Asked about a planned over-the-top (OTT) TV service from Verizon, Ellis said that the company continues to feel that "there's an opportunity for us to play," but signaling a delay, he emphasized that the company "doesn't want to launch a me-too product." He didn't provide any guidance on when the OTT service would launch, saying that was still "TBD" (to be determined), or what content it could offer beyond saying it was likely to be built "around live programming." Verizon also reported Thursday that it added 66,000 net new FiOS broadband connections in the third quarter to end it with 5.8 million.

Profile of William H. Alsup, a Judge Who Codes and Decides Tech's Biggest Cases ( 48

Sarah Jeong at The Verge has an interesting profile of William H. Alsup, the judge in Oracle v. Google case, who to many's surprise was able to comment on the technical issues that Oracle and Google were fighting about. Alsup admits that he learned the Java programming language only so that he could better understand the substance of the case. Here's an excerpt from the interview: On May 18th, 2012, attorneys for Oracle and Google were battling over nine lines of code in a hearing before Judge William H. Alsup of the northern district of California. The first jury trial in Oracle v. Google, the fight over whether Google had hijacked code from Oracle for its Android system, was wrapping up. The argument centered on a function called rangeCheck. Of all the lines of code that Oracle had tested -- 15 million in total -- these were the only ones that were "literally" copied. Every keystroke, a perfect duplicate. It was in Oracle's interest to play up the significance of rangeCheck as much as possible, and David Boies, Oracle's lawyer, began to argue that Google had copied rangeCheck so that it could take Android to market more quickly. Judge Alsup was not buying it. "I couldn't have told you the first thing about Java before this trial," said the judge. "But, I have done and still do a lot of programming myself in other languages. I have written blocks of code like rangeCheck a hundred times or more. I could do it. You could do it. It is so simple." It was an offhand comment that would snowball out of control, much to Alsup's chagrin. It was first repeated among lawyers and legal wonks, then by tech publications. With every repetition, Alsup's skill grew, until eventually he became "the judge who learned Java" -- Alsup the programmer, the black-robed nerd hero, the 10x judge, the "master of the court and of Java."

Netflix Adds 5.3 Million Subs In Q3, Beating Forecasts ( 70

Netflix shows no signs of slowing down. The company announced its third quarter results, adding more subscribers in both the U.S. and abroad than expected. Variety reports: The company gained 850,000 streaming subs in the U.S. and 4.45 million overseas in the period. Analysts had estimated Netflix to add 784,000 net subscribers in the U.S. and 3.62 million internationally for Q3. "We added a Q3-record 5.3 million memberships globally (up 49% year-over-year) as we continued to benefit from strong appetite for our original series and films, as well as the adoption of internet entertainment across the world," the company said in announcing the results, noting that it had under-forecast both U.S. and international subscriber growth. Netflix also indicated that its content spending may be even higher next year than previously projected. The company had said it was targeting programming expenditures of $7 billion in 2018; on Monday, Netflix said it will spend between $7 billion and $8 billion on content (on a profit-and-loss basis) next year. For 2017, original content will represent more than 25% of total programming spending, and that "will continue to grow," Netflix said.

Ask Slashdot: How Can You Apply For A Job When Your Code Samples Suck? 408

An anonymous Slashdot reader ran into a problem when looking for a new employer: Most ask for links to "recent work" but the reason I'm leaving my current job is because this company doesn't produce good code. After years of trying to force them to change, they have refused to change any of their poor practices, because the CTO is a narcissist and doesn't recognize that so much is wrong. I have written good code for this company. The problem is it is mostly back-end code where I was afforded some freedom, but the front-end is still a complete mess that doesn't reflect any coherent coding practice whatsoever...

I am giving up on fixing this company but finding it hard to exemplify my work when it is hidden behind some of the worst front-end code I have ever seen. Most job applications ask for links to live code, not for code samples (which I would more easily be able to supply). Some of the websites look okay on the surface, but are one right click -> inspect element away from giving away the mess; most of the projects require a username and password to login as well but account registration is not open. So how do I reference my recent work when all of my recent work is embarrassing on the front-end?

The original submission's title asked what to use for work samples "when the CTO has butchered all my work." Any suggestions? Leave your best thoughts in the comments. How can you apply for a job when your code samples suck?

Does the Rise of AI Precede the End of Code? ( 204

An anonymous reader shares an article: It's difficult to know what's in store for the future of AI but let's tackle the most looming question first: are engineering jobs threatened? As anticlimactic as it may be, the answer is entirely dependent on what timeframe you are talking about. In the next decade? No, entirely unlikely. Eventually? Most definitely. The kicker is that engineers never truly know how the computer is able to accomplish these tasks. In many ways, the neural operations of the AI system are a black box. Programmers, therefore, become the AI coaches. They coach cars to self-drive, coach computers to recognise faces in photos, coach your smartphone to detect handwriting on a check in order to deposit electronically, and so on. In fact, the possibilities of AI and machine learning are limitless. The capabilities of AI through machine learning are wondrous, magnificent... and not going away. Attempts to apply artificial intelligence to programming tasks have resulted in further developments in knowledge and automated reasoning. Therefore, programmers must redefine their roles. Essentially, software development jobs will not become obsolete anytime soon but instead require more collaboration between humans and computers. For one, there will be an increased need for engineers to create, test and research AI systems. AI and machine learning will not be advanced enough to automate and dominate everything for a long time, so engineers will remain the technological handmaidens.

Learn To Code, It's More Important Than English as a Second Language, Says Apple CEO ( 296

Apple CEO Tim Cook says it is more important to learn how to code than it is to learn English as a second language. From a report: The tech executive made the remarks to French outlet Konbini while in the country for a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has called for tech companies to pay higher taxes in Europe. "If I were a French student and I were 10 years old, I think it would be more important for me to learn coding than English. I'm not telling people not to learn English in some form -- but I think you understand what I am saying is that this is a language that you can [use to] express yourself to 7 billion people in the world," Cook tells Konbini. "I think that coding should be required in every public school in the world. [...] It's the language that everyone needs, and not just for the computer scientists. It's for all of us."

Microsoft Develops New Programming Language For Quantum Computers ( 120

Microsoft's newest programming language will run on yet-to-be developed quantum computers. An anonymous reader quotes CIO Today: Microsoft said its new quantum computing language, which has yet to be named, is "deeply integrated" into its Visual Basic development environment and does many of the things other standard programming languages do. However, it is specifically designed to allow programmers to create apps that will eventually run on true quantum computers... Like other companies, such as Google and IBM, Microsoft has been working for years to advance quantum computing research to the point where the technology becomes feasible rather than theoretical... Joining Satya Nadella on stage, Fields Medal-winning mathematician Michael Freedman added, "Microsoft's qubit will be based on a new form of matter called topological matter that also has this property that as the information stored in the matter is stored globally, you can't find the information in any particular place..." The programming language is expected to be available as a free preview by the end of the year and "also includes libraries and tutorials so developers can familiarize themselves with quantum computing," Microsoft said.

New Video Peeks 'Inside the Head' of Perl Creator Larry Wall ( 106

"I was trained more as a linguist than a computer scientist," says Perl creator Larry Wall, "and some people would say it shows." An anonymous reader describes Wall's new video interview up on InfoQ: "With a natural language, you learn it as you go," Wall says. "You're not expected to know the whole language at once. It's okay to have dialects... Natural languages evolve over time, and they don't have arbitrary limits. They naturally cover multiple paradigms. There are external influences on style... It has fractal dimensionality to it. Easy things should be easy, hard things should be possible. And, you know, if you get really good at it, you can even speak CompSci."

Wall also touched on the long delay for the release of Perl 6. "In the year 2000, we said 'Maybe it's time to break backward compatibility, just once. Maybe we can afford to do that, get off the worse-is-worse cycle, crank the thing once for a worse-is-better cycle." The development team received a whopping 361 suggestions -- and was also influenced by Paul Graham's essay on the 100-year language. "We put a lot of these ideas together and thought really hard, and came up with a whole bunch of principles in the last 15 years." Among the pithy principles: "Give the user enough rope to shoot themselves in the foot, but hide the rope in the corner," and "Encapsulate cleverness, then reuse the heck out of it.."

But Wall emphasized the flexibility and multi-paradigm nature that they finally implemented in Perl 6. "The thing we really came up with was... There really is no one true language. Not even Perl 6, because Perl 6 itself is a braid of sublanguages -- slangs for short -- and they interact with each other, and you can modify each part of the braid..."

Wall even demoed a sigil-less style, and argued that Perl 6 was everything from "expressive" and "optimizable" to "gradually-typed" and "concurrency aware," while supporting multiple virtual machines. He also notes that Perl 6 borrows powerful features from other languages, including Haskell (lazy evaluation) Smalltalk (traits), Go (promises and channels), and C# (functional reactive programming).

And towards the end of the interview Wall remembers how the original release of Perl was considered by some as a violation of the Unix philosophy of doing one thing and doing it well. "I was already on my rebellious slide into changing the world at that point."

Java Coders Are Getting Bad Security Advice From Stack Overflow ( 236

Slashdot reader Orome1 quotes Help Net Security: A group of Virginia Tech researchers has analyzed hundreds of posts on Stack Overflow, a popular developer forum/Q&A site, and found that many of the developers who offer answers do not appear to understand the security implications of coding options, showing a lack of cybersecurity training. Another thing they discovered is that, sometimes, the most upvoted posts/answers contain insecure suggestions that introduce security vulnerabilities in software, while correct fixes are less popular and visible simply because they have been offered by users with a lower reputation score...

The researchers concentrated on posts relevant to Java security, from both software engineering and security perspectives, and on posts addressing questions tied to Spring Security, a third-party Java framework that provides authentication, authorization and other security features for enterprise applications... Developers are frustrated when they have to spend too much time figuring out the correct usage of APIs, and often end up choosing completely insecure-but-easy fixes such as using obsolete cryptographic hash functions, disabling cross-site request forgery protection, trusting all certificates in HTTPS verification, or using obsolete communication protocols. "These poor coding practices, if used in production code, will seriously compromise the security of software products," the researchers pointed out.

The researchers blame "the rapidly increasing need for enterprise security applications, the lack of security training in the software development workforce, and poorly designed security libraries." Among their suggested solutions: new developer tools which can recognize security errors and suggest patches.

20 Years of Stuff That Matters 726

Today we're marking Slashdot's 20th birthday. 20 years is a long time on the internet. Many websites have come and gone over that time, and many that stuck around haven't had any interest in preserving their older content. Fortunately, as Slashdot approaches its 163,000th story, we've managed to keep track of almost all our old postings - all but the first 2^10, or so. In addition to that, we've held onto user comments, the lifeblood of the site, from 1999 onward. As we celebrate Slashdot's 20th anniversary this month, we thought we'd take a moment to highlight a few of the notable or interesting stories and discussions that have happened here in the past decade and a half. This is part of our 20-year anniversary celebration, and we've set up a page to coordinate user meet-ups. We'll be continuing to run some special pieces throughout the month, so keep an eye out for those.

Read on for a trip down memory lane.

Update: Slashdot founder CmdrTaco has taken to Medium with some of his own Slashdot nostalgia.

Code is Too Hard To Think About ( 397

From a longform piece on The Atlantic: What made programming so difficult was that it required you to think like a computer. The strangeness of it was in some sense more vivid in the early days of computing, when code took the form of literal ones and zeros. Anyone looking over a programmer's shoulder as they pored over line after line like "100001010011" and "000010011110" would have seen just how alienated the programmer was from the actual problems they were trying to solve; it would have been impossible to tell whether they were trying to calculate artillery trajectories or simulate a game of tic-tac-toe. The introduction of programming languages like Fortran and C, which resemble English, and tools, known as "integrated development environments," or IDEs, that help correct simple mistakes (like Microsoft Word's grammar checker but for code), obscured, though did little to actually change, this basic alienation -- the fact that the programmer didn't work on a problem directly, but rather spent their days writing out instructions for a machine. "The problem is that software engineers don't understand the problem they're trying to solve, and don't care to," says Leveson, the MIT software-safety expert. The reason is that they're too wrapped up in getting their code to work. "Software engineers like to provide all kinds of tools and stuff for coding errors," she says, referring to IDEs. "The serious problems that have happened with software have to do with requirements, not coding errors." When you're writing code that controls a car's throttle, for instance, what's important is the rules about when and how and by how much to open it. But these systems have become so complicated that hardly anyone can keep them straight in their head. "There's 100 million lines of code in cars now," Leveson says. "You just cannot anticipate all these things."
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: What's The Best Open Source Hardware to Tinker With? 134

This question comes from an anonymous Slashdot reader who just got an Arduino and started tinkering with electronics: I'm quite amazed at the quality of the hardware, software, and the available tutorials and (mostly free) literature. A very exciting and inexpensive way to get a basic understanding of electronics and the art of microcontroller programming.

Now that I'm infected with the idea of Open Source hardware, I'm wondering if the Slashdot community could suggest a few more things to get for a beginner in electronics with experience in programming and a basic understanding of machine learning methods. I was looking at the OpenBCI project [Open Brain Computer Interface], which seems like an interesting piece of hardware, but because of the steep price tag and the lack of reviews or blog posts on the internet, I decided to look for something else.

Leave your best answers in the comments. What's the best open source hardware to tinker with?

Chip Reprograms Cells To Regenerate Damaged Tissue ( 16

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American about a device that delivers infusions of DNA and other molecules to restore injured limbs in mice, and maybe someday, humans: Cells are typically reprogrammed using mixtures of DNA, RNA and proteins. The most popular method uses viruses as a delivery vehicle -- although they can infect unintended cells, provoke immune responses and even turn cells cancerous. One alternative, called bulk electroporation, exposes cells to an electric field that pokes holes in their membranes to let in genetic material and proteins. Yet this method can stress or kill them. Tissue nanotransfection, described in a study published in August in Nature Nanotechnology, involves a chip containing an array of tiny channels that apply electric fields to individual cells. "You affect only a small area of the cell surface, compared with the conventional method, which upsets the entire cell," says study co-author James Lee, a chemical and biomolecular engineer at The Ohio State University. "Essentially we create a tiny hole and inject DNA right into the cell, so we can control the dosage."

Chandan Sen, a physiologist at Ohio State, and his colleagues developed a genetic cocktail that rapidly converts skin cells into endothelial cells -- the main component of blood vessels. They then used their technique on mice whose legs had been damaged by a severed artery that cut off blood supply. New blood vessels formed, blood flow increased, and after three weeks the legs had completely healed.


'Tetris' Recreated In Conway's 'Game of Life' ( 87

In 1970 mathematician John Conway created rules for the "Game of Life," a now famous "zero-player game" where a grid of cells evolves (following Conway's rules) from an initial state proposed by the player. In 2013 someone challenged readers of StackExchange's "Programming Puzzles & Code Golf" section to devise an initial state "that will allow for the playing of a game of Tetris."

An anonymous Slashdot reader reports that "This challenge sat around, gathering upvotes but no answer, for four years. Then, it was answered." Citing the work of seven contributors, a massive six-part response says their solution took one and a half years to create, and "began as a quest but ended as an odyssey." The team created their own assembly language, known as QFTASM (Quest for Tetris Assembly) for use within Conway's mathematical universe, and then also designed their own processor architecture, and eventually even a higher-level language that they named COGOL. Their StackExchange response includes a link to all of their code on GitHub, as well as to a page where you can run the code online.

One StackExchange reader hailed the achievement as "the single greatest thing I've ever scrolled through while understanding very little."

Oracle Announces Java SE 9 and Java EE 8 ( 64

rastos1 writes: Oracle has announced the general availability of Java SE 9 (JDK 9), Java Platform Enterprise Edition 8 (Java EE 8) and the Java EE 8 Software Development Kit (SDK). JDK 9 is a production-ready implementation of the Java SE 9 Platform Specification, which was recently approved together with Java EE 8 in the Java Community Process (JCP). Java SE 9 provides more than 150 new features, including a new module system and improvements that bring more scalability, improved security, better performance management and easier development to the world's most popular programming platform.
The Almighty Buck

Why You Shouldn't Imitate Bill Gates If You Want To Be Rich ( 311

dryriver writes: BBC Capital has an article that debunks the idea of "simply doing what highly successful people have done to get rich," because many of those "outliers" got rich under special circumstances that are not possible to replicate. An excerpt: "Even if you could imitate everything Gates did, you would not be able to replicate his initial good fortune. For example, Gates's upper-class background and private education enabled him to gain extra programming experience when less than 0.01% of his generation then had access to computers. His mother's social connection with IBM's chairman enabled him to gain a contract from the then-leading PC company that was crucial for establishing his software empire. This is important because most customers who used IBM computers were forced to learn how to use Microsoft's software that came along with it. This created an inertia in Microsoft's favor. The next software these customers chose was more likely to be Microsoft's, not because their software was necessarily the best, but because most people were too busy to learn how to use anything else. Microsoft's success and marketshare may differ from the rest by several orders of magnitude but the difference was really enabled by Gate's early fortune, reinforced by a strong success-breeds-success dynamic."

Python's Official Repository Included 10 'Malicious' Typo-Squatting Modules ( 69

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: The Slovak National Security Office (NBU) has identified ten malicious Python libraries uploaded on PyPI -- Python Package Index -- the official third-party software repository for the Python programming language. NBU experts say attackers used a technique known as typosquatting to upload Python libraries with names similar to legitimate packages -- e.g.: "urlib" instead of "urllib." The PyPI repository does not perform any types of security checks or audits when developers upload new libraries to its index, so attackers had no difficulty in uploading the modules online.

Developers who mistyped the package name loaded the malicious libraries in their software's setup scripts. "These packages contain the exact same code as their upstream package thus their functionality is the same, but the installation script,, is modified to include a malicious (but relatively benign) code," NBU explained. Experts say the malicious code only collected information on infected hosts, such as name and version of the fake package, the username of the user who installed the package, and the user's computer hostname. Collected data, which looked like "Y:urllib-1.21.1 admin testmachine", was uploaded to a Chinese IP address. NBU officials contacted PyPI administrators last week who removed the packages before officials published a security advisory on Saturday."

The advisory lays some of the blame on Python's 'pip' tool, which executes arbitrary code during installations without requiring a cryptographic signature.

Ars Technica also reports that another team of researchers "was able to seed PyPI with more than 20 libraries that are part of the Python standard library," and that group now reports they've already received more than 7,400 pingbacks.
Open Source

Equifax Blames Open-Source Software For Its Record-Breaking Security Breach ( 283

The blame for the record-breaking cybersecurity breach that affects at least 143 million people falls on the open-source server framework, Apache Struts, according to an unsubstantiated report by equity research firm Baird. The firm's source, per one report, is believed to be Equifax. ZDNet reports: Apache Struts is a popular open-source software programming Model-View-Controller (MVC) framework for Java. It is not, as some headlines have had it, a vendor software program. It's also not proven that Struts was the source of the hole the hackers drove through. In fact, several headlines -- some of which have since been retracted -- all source a single quote by a non-technical analyst from an Equifax source. Not only is that troubling journalistically, it's problematic from a technical point of view. In case you haven't noticed, Equifax appears to be utterly and completely clueless about their own technology. Equifax's own data breach detector isn't just useless: it's untrustworthy. Adding insult to injury, the credit agency's advice and support site looks, at first glance, to be a bogus, phishing-type site: "" That domain name screams fake. And what does it ask for if you go there? The last six figures of your social security number and last name. In other words, exactly the kind of information a hacker might ask for. Equifax's technical expertise, it has been shown, is less than acceptable. Could the root cause of the hack be a Struts security hole? Two days before the Equifax breach was reported, ZDNet reported a new and significant Struts security problem. While many jumped on this as the security hole, Equifax admitted hackers had broken in between mid-May through July, long before the most recent Struts flaw was revealed. "It's possible that the hackers found the hole on their own, but zero-day exploits aren't that common," reports ZDNet. "It's far more likely that -- if the problem was indeed with Struts -- it was with a separate but equally serious security problem in Struts, first patched in March." The question then becomes: is it the fault of Struts developers or Equifax's developers, system admins, and their management? "The people who ran the code with a known 'total compromise of system integrity' should get the blame," reports ZDNet.

Leaks Reveal New Features In Apple's Next iPhone 224

Though Apple officially unveils their newest iPhone on Tuesday, information is already leaking on the internet.
  • Mashable: "Physically, it's expected to be about the same size as an iPhone 7, but with an edge-to-edge OLED display that's bigger than what is currently on the iPhone 7 Plus. It won't have a home button or Touch ID, and will likely use some kind of facial recognition tech to unlock."
  • MacRumors cites a report from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggesting facial recognition may just be one feature of a complex front camera with 3D sensing hardware, including a proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, and a structured light transmitter (using a surface-emitting laser) and receiver.
  • Fortune: "Apple's iPhone line is expected to catch up with Android phones in the area of wireless charging this year... just lay the phone down on a compatible charger mat or base or dock, and watch the battery fill up."
  • 9to5Mac: "We've found a brand new feature called 'Animoji', which uses the 3D face sensors to create custom 3D animated emoji based on the expressions you make into the camera. Users will be able to make Animoji of unicorns, robots, pigs, pile of poo and many more."

Slashdot Top Deals