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November 08 2013

January 13 2012

Developer Week in Review: A big moment for Kinect?

Hope everyone is having a good year, so far. We're just getting our first snow of the season up here in New England (Snowtober not included...). Alas, I shan't be able to watch the Patriots and Broncos gird themselves for epic battle this Saturday (except after the fact on TiVo), as I'll be speaking that evening at the Arisia SF Convention in downtown Boston. I'll be participating on a panel discussing the legacy of Steve Jobs, and since one of the other panelists is Richard Stallman, it should make for a lively discussion.

Kinect for Windows makes it a good time to be a chiropractor

Say what you will about Microsoft, but its Kinect user input system has been a hot item since it was first released for the Xbox 360. The Kinect has also been a hacker's favorite, as researchers and makers alike have repurposed it for all sorts of body-tracking applications.

Come February, Microsoft will be releasing the first version of the Kinect specifically designed for Windows PCs, complete with a free SDK and runtime. This means that Windows developers can now start designing games and applications that use gestures and body positioning. A future full of "Minority Report"-style user interfaces can't be far away. And with people having to writhe and contort to use their computers, a 15-minute warm up and stretch will become mandatory company policy across the world.

Of more immediate interest: Will the hardware be open enough for folks to create non-Windows SDKs? I suspect a lot of Linux and Mac developers would love to play with a Kinect, and if Microsoft is smart, they'll take the money and smile.

A patent for those half-days

Like mobile phone litigation, software patent abuses are such a frequent occurrence that if I chose to chronicle them all, there would be no room left every week to discuss anything else. But every once in a while, a patent of such mind-altering "well, duh!" magnitude is granted that it must be acknowledged.

Enter the current subject: IBM's recently granted patent for a system that notifies people who try to email you if you're on vacation. But wait, you respond, just about every email system in existence lets you set yourself on vacation and send an auto-response to anyone who emails you. Ah, you fool, but can it handle the case where you only take a half day off? That's what this patent covers.

If NYC crashes with a null pointer exception, we'll know why

It may be more PR than promise, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged to learn coding, as part of Codecademy's Code Year project.

Between Codecademy, the Kahn Academy and free courseware now being offered by prestigious institutions such as MIT and Stanford, there's never been more resources available to the average person who wants to learn software engineering. The question is, how will the corporate world react to a cadre of self-taught developers? We often hear there's a shortage of engineering talent in the U.S., but will companies hire newbie coders who learned it all online?

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October 06 2011

Microsoft gewinnt Rechtsstreit über Handel mit Recovery-CDs

Der Weiterverkauf von Windows-Recovery-CDs, bei denen zusätzlich das am PC-Gehäuse angebrachte Echtheitszertifikat abgelöst und der weiterveräußerten CD beigelegt wird, verstößt gegen die Markenrechte von Microsoft.

Das hat der BGH heute entschieden (Urteil vom 6. Oktober 2011 – I ZR 6/10 – Echtheitszertifikat).

Quelle: PM Nr. 157/11 des BGH vom 06.10.2011

September 15 2011

Developer Week in Review: Windows 8 Developer Preview goes public

As automobile engines get more complex, the software that runs them has a correspondingly greater chance of doing something bad. Case in point, in summer 2009 I got a check-engine light on my Civic (also known as the $400 light ...). When I brought it in, I was told my catalytic converter was shot, and I'd need a new one to the tune of $1,250. Fast forward two years, and I receive a letter in the mail informing me that there was a tiny lil' software glitch in the oxygen sensor routines, and I didn't really need a new catalytic converter after all. I can send in the bill, and and they'll refund me for the service.

Embedded software engineering is a particularly demanding discipline since it usually involves making complex things happen in tight spaces with little power under extreme environmental conditions. As my catalytic converter incident demonstrates, it also can be a very expensive one for a manufacturer if done incorrectly. Props to Honda for stepping up and making good on the snafu, however.

Of course, not all software runs in confined quarters. Take for example:

Get yer Windows here

Since the dawn of time, the only way to get early releases of Microsoft software (and especially operating systems) was to be a member of their somewhat pricey Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN). If you joined, of course, you got pretty much everything in the world shipped to you on DVDs, but the rest of us had to wait for the official release to get our paws on the products.

Not surprisingly, this has led to a lot of bootlegging of early releases, many of which had malware slipped in as an added bonus. Perhaps to head this off with Windows 8, Microsoft has taken the surprising step of making a publicly downloadable version of the first early release available. That's right, anyone is free to grab a copy and install it or stick it on a VM, and take it for a drive.

Making a public alpha available also serves to drum up excitement for the new release, something that Vista and Windows 7 lacked. So did I install it? Silly question, children, of course I did. I'd give it an initial grade of "meh." Microsoft gets points for radically changing things, including better full-screen app support (that looks surprisingly like Lion ...), and changing the Start menu to something more like Launchpad. But on the other hand, I found it pretty garish, and some things seem to have been changed just for the sake of change, like putting the address bar on the bottom of the browser.

You don't need to take my word for it. Grab a copy and see for yourself.

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Yet another emerging language ...

Somewhere, deep in the bowels of Google, a cabal of developers is trying to overthrow the world by promulgating so many new languages that we descend into madness. Remember Go?

Well, the latest in their mad scheme is Dart, which will be offered up next month as an intended replacement for JavaScript on browsers. Never mind that we've just started to get enough standardization of JavaScript that you can write meaningful AJAX code without having it be 90% conditional logic for the various browser dialects, now Google evidently wants to throw the whole thing out and start from scratch.

At some point, isn't it time to step back and ask someone to stop the madness? It seems like a new language springs up every week these days, and I have to ask what is so bad with the ones we have? You know, the ones that Portal 2, Photoshop, Eclipse and many other outstanding software products were written in? The continual fragmentation has got to stop. Unless, of course, Dart is really cool ...

Patent news that's not about a lawsuit

In a perfect world, a developer news summary should never have to deal with the patent system. In the one we're stuck with, though, patents have become the sledgehammer that software concerns use to beat each other around the head and neck with. The proliferation of bad patents has made software development a minefield, where any new product almost certainly infringes on some junk patent.

It is with great joy that I report that a new patent reform bill is about to be signed into law, and it will solve all of our — oh, never mind.

The legislation heading to President Obama's desk does pretty much diddly over squat to fix the broken United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The major change is a shift from "first to invent" (where companies get to dig through their engineering notebooks to prove that they came up with the idea first) to a "first to file" system, where the first person to get the patent through the door wins.

What's missing is a provision allowing the USPTO to keep the money it raises so it can pay for enough personnel to actually do the job properly. Instead, patent fees will continue to flow into the general fund, while overworked patent office examiners rubber stamp questionable claims and make life interesting for those of us who create code.

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June 15 2011

Developer Week in Review: Are .NET programmers going extinct?

After an adventure-filled return trip from WWDC (Southwest eventually did find my luggage ...), it's back to the regular grind, spanning the globe to bring you all the news you need.

Are .NET developers the next buggy whip makers?

So, you say you're a ninja .NET guru, able to churn out WFC C# code in the blink of the eye, and you've got every obscure Microsoft API call memorized? Well, if recent rumblings from Redmond are to be believed, there's a large asteroid heading your way called Windows 8.

To say that Microsoft developers are unhappy over the news that tablets running Windows 8 will use HTML5 and JavaScript as an app programming platform would be to say that Steve Jobs likes black turtlenecks. While Microsoft was clear to point out that old-style Windows programs will run on Windows 8, the message seems to be that spending years and years becoming a master of the arcane programming secrets that make Windows tick will no longer be necessary.

This is certainly good news for anyone who has ever taken one look at the phonebook-size manuals that .NET programming requires and ran away screaming. It also would seem to be good news for the HTML5 standard, although Microsoft's history with standards is a checkered one. But if your claim to fame is knowing the Microsoft platform inside and out, the writing may be on the wall that your talents are no longer going to be in such high demand.

Sorry I missed gym class, I was managing my IPO...

You may feel pretty proud of your child, who just won the spelling bee or got an A on her last math test. Then again, you could consider young Daniil Kulchenko, who just sold his company to ActiveState at the tender age of 15. Kulchenko's product, a tool for Perl development in the cloud, evidently caught the eye of the scripting IDE maker, and ActiveState both bought out the company and brought Kulchenko on-board as a part-time employee.

Forget feeling inadequate about your child. Kulchenko makes me feel inadequate.

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Get Ready for J2SE 7

It's taken five years, but the Java Community Process (JCP) executive committee has finally put their seal of approval on Java v7. The vote was 13-1, with Google the lone holdout. However, if you look at the comments that accompany the "yes" votes from companies such as Red Hat and IBM, you'll see that no one was particularly happy about Oracle's insistence on retaining the licensing veto on Java implementations, a stand that drove Apache out of the JCP after Oracle refused to bless the Apache Harmony implementation.

Java 7 will include support for multicore processing, as well as a bunch of improvements to the language, such as being able to switch on a string value, and a better way to check for null values. The new standard faces a final vote before it becomes the law of the land.

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