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January 20 2014

Four short links: 20 January 2014

  1. idb (Github) — a tool to simplify some common tasks for iOS pentesting and research: screenshots, logs, plists/databases/caches, app binary decryption/download, etc. (via ShmooCon)
  2. Twitter Infrastructure — an interview with Raffi Krikorian, VP of Platform Engineering. Details on SOA, deployment schedule, rollouts, and culture. (via Nelson Minar)
  3. Orbit (Github) — a standalone Javascript lib for data access and synchronization.
  4. Chromium is the New C Runtime — using Chrome’s open source core as the standard stack of networking, crash report, testing, logging, strings, encryption, concurrency, etc. libraries for C programming.

December 21 2012

New school C

Choosing a programming language for that project you’re working on is a fairly straightforward decision: it needs to be fast, easy to use, and it must come with enough bells and whistles to keep you from re-inventing the wheel every time you want to do something.

Looking at this criteria, aside from the fast bit, the C language may not be the first one that pops into your head. After sitting down with Ben Klemens, the author of 21st Century C, I am now looking at C as a more practical and enticing alternative than I would have thought possible.

21st Century C sets a precedent in presenting C as a language that is a lot easier to use, and has more library support than many people think. If you are not up to date on the latest that C has to offer you may not be aware of the simplicity and elegance of the language. These strengths are backed by the C99 and C11 standards, but mainly they are built up on the development of libraries and modern tools for building and multi-threading in C.

In my interview with Ben he talks about the inclusion of libraries and what that means to modern C programming at the 9:53 mark. There is quite simply a vast array of libraries out there that every developer has access to. As Ben points out at the 10:50 mark, looking at GitHub we can find something on the order of 150,000 C projects. It is important to note that packing up many of these projects as libraries can involve a bit more work than just building the project, but just having all those projects as resources can save a lot of time and minimize redundant efforts.

Of course what is new in modern C programming is only half the picture. The other half involves all the parts of C programming that can be largely ignored or at least downplayed. As Ben points out at the 8:03 mark in our discussion, today’s programmer can even go so far as to question the usage of malloc and other time tested memory management techniques.

The full interview with Ben is available in the following video.


July 06 2012

TERRA 712: Vitamin ConspiraC

Do you take vitamin C when you get sick? Well, now you don't have to! Filmmaker Christina Choate urges you to skip the pill and eat plants instead. In her quest to find the truth about vitamin C, she introduces the man responsible for popularizing vitamin C supplements, retraces the history of scurvy, explains the vitamin's evolution, biochemistry and richest sources. With wit and humor, she de-bunks popular myths and takes a stand against the quick-fix health industry.

June 29 2012

Top Stories: June 25-29, 2012

Here's a look at the top stories published across O'Reilly sites this week.

William Gibson got some of it right
"Neuromancer," written 28 years ago, predicted a technological wonderland we're still waiting for. But its corporate dystopia is already here.

Why learn C?
"Head First C" co-author David Griffith discusses C's continued popularity and why C and Arduino work well together.

"Lightweight" DRM isn't the answer
In this open letter to the IDPF's Executive Director, Bill McCoy, O'Reilly GM & Publisher Joe Wikert explains why a DRM-free approach is far better than any "lightweight" DRM option.

Ten years of Foo Camp
We curate topic areas and interesting people, but Foo Camp is designed to be an idea collider. It's an intentional serendipity engine that works the seams in between.

Predictive data analytics is saving lives and taxpayer dollars in New York City
A predictive data analytics team in the Mayor's Office of New York City is finding patterns in regulatory data that can then be applied to law, health and better allocation of taxpayer resources.

OSCON 2012 — Join the world's open source pioneers, builders, and innovators July 16-20 in Portland, Oregon. Learn about open development, challenge your assumptions, and fire up your brain. Save 20% on registration with the code RADAR.

June 28 2012

Why learn C?

Though C has been around for decades, it's still consistently ranked at the top of any list of programming languages used and studied today. I recently spoke with David Griffiths (@dogriffiths), coauthor of "Head First C," about the reasons for C's continued (even increased) popularity and what his book offers in such an established market.

Highlights from our conversation include:

  • Why is C still popular? It's ubiquitous, closer to the hardware, and used to create other languages and operating systems. [Discussed at the 0:32 mark]
  • What kinds of software is C used for these days? System programming (in pure C) or specialized areas when working with languages that are extensions of C or closely related (e.g., knowing C makes Objective-C programming for iOS apps more efficient and C++ games programming more intuitive). [Discussed at the 3:18 mark]
  • If you learn C, what will it do for you? Knowing C gets you closer to the hardware, to better understand how things work on the system level. [Discussed at the 4:55 mark]
  • Why write Head First C? Kernighan and Richie's The C Programming Language is one of most popular, if not the most popular, programming books, and it defined the ANSI standard. That book is still the standard, but through the language hasn't changed, the audience has, and many learners are coming to the language from a different perspective and set of knowledge. [Discussed at the 6:03 mark]
  • How does Head First C make the language more accessible to this new audience? For example, it teaches how memory works in a more profound way (a concept systems programmers will likely already know, though new programmers in specialized fields might not). [Discussed at the 8:12 mark]
  • Describe the labs in Head First C. The book includes three hands-on missions for the learner, presenting the project without completed source code. In the first project, the learner uses Arduino lab to program a flower with sensors to tell you when it needs to be watered. In the second lab, a computer vision system (OpenCV) is used to capture images in a web cam to check for faces, motion, etc. And finally, the learner creates Asteroids game clone, pulling together many different concepts from the book. [Discussed at the 11:13 mark]
  • Arduino is making C popular among the Maker community. As a constrained platform, Arduino is a natural environment for C. C makes the most of the machine's performance, particularly with real-time processing of input/output. And because it's such a small language, you can become competent in basic keywords rather quickly, making small Arduino projects a gratifying introduction to programming. [Discussed at the 13:54 mark]
  • Why should colleges continue to teach C? It's an important, foundational language that requires you to understand the full stack of the technology. If you learn C, you'll understand computers at a much more profound level than if you don't. [Discussed at the 15:31 mark]

The full interview is available in the following video:

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June 05 2012

Developing cross-platform mobile apps with C#

Building a mobile app that runs on more than one platform, with minimal code changes, is a technical Holy Grail. The HTML5 stack (using CSS and JavaScript, among other standards) and Java are two solutions. Another is Microsoft's .NET plus C#, a combo that's been overlooked outside the Windows Phone 7 developer community despite its potential to create apps that can run natively on Android and iOS.

In the following interview, software engineer Greg Shackles (@gshackles) aims to expand the potential of this platform. Shackles is the author of "Mobile Development with C#" and maintains a blog focusing mainly on .NET and its related technologies.

We hear a lot about using C++ to build mobile apps, so why use C# — and the associated .NET?

Greg Shackles: There are various ways to share code across different platforms. Unfortunately, many approaches will abstract away the user interface from the developer in order to achieve a "write once, run anywhere" solution, making it easier to release an application quickly on many platforms. This sounds great, but often it will lead to a degraded user experience since the app won't look and feel native to that platform. The user experience is the most important thing to consider when designing an application.

Using C# and the Mono Tools allows the developer to share a large subset of an application's code across multiple platforms while still building a completely native user interface on top of it for each platform. Applications created with this approach will look and feel native because they're using the exact same APIs and toolkits exposed by the platform. In some cases, the Mono tools even help to clean up the platform APIs to make them easier to work with than those exposed by the native languages.

This approach allows developers to concentrate on solving business problems rather than having to manage multiple languages and reinvent the wheel every time they want to expand to a new platform. Going even further, the code that is shared across platforms isn't limited to mobile applications. It can go pretty much anywhere that C# and .NET are supported, such as ASP.NET, Silverlight, or WPF. Developers already familiar with these technologies can easily hit the ground running and start targeting these new platforms while reusing the skills they already have.

What else makes the .NET Framework well suited for mobile development?

Greg Shackles: C# and .NET are both very mature and powerful technologies. They have evolved over the years to provide support for things like asynchronous programming and memory management, and features like LINQ help make them great to work with as a developer.

For example, there is no garbage collector when writing iOS apps with Objective-C. That's a feature .NET developers are used to having. MonoTouch actually brings a garbage collector along with it, making it much easier to work with, without having to worry about manual memory management.

What are a few of the technical weaknesses of C# or .NET?

Greg Shackles: There aren't too many technical limitations, but whenever you place another layer between you and the native platform, some problems are unavoidable.

One example is that on iOS, you are not allowed to dynamically execute code at runtime, meaning that the standard .NET style of just-in-time compilation is not permitted and that aspects of .NET that rely on runtime code compilation are not possible, such as Reflection.Emit and the Dynamic Language Runtime. To get around this, MonoTouch compiles the application down to static code ahead of time. This particular limitation does not apply on Android, which does allow for just-in-time compilation.

For those who are already developing native apps for Android or iOS, what benefits would they gain from using C#?

Greg Shackles: For developers who have already built their apps in Java in Objective-C, the case for switching to a new set of tools definitely becomes more difficult to make. The benefits they would get from making such a move would largely be in the ability to share code across all of the platforms rather than have to rewrite it in a different language every time. Both MonoTouch and Mono for Android offer the ability to interact with code written in Objective-C and Java, so code already written in those languages could still be leveraged.

What kind of cross-platform mobile apps are easy or best to make under C#?

Greg Shackles: I don't think there's any particular category of app that's obviously more difficult to write in C#. For extremely simple applications that don't have much logic, it becomes more of a decision of preference for the developer rather than a strategic advantage. In reality, not many applications fall into this category. A majority of applications will need to perform tasks like accessing the Internet or saving to a database, and that is where it becomes beneficial to be able to write that code once and share it across all platforms. Personally, I find C# to be a much nicer language to work with than Objective-C and Java, so that alone becomes an advantage of using it.

.NET is native on Windows Phone 7, but it's not on Android or iOS without the use of MonoTouch or Mono. What are the performance issues or differences across these mobile platforms when you're developing for all three at once using C# through .NET and its unofficial variants?

Greg Shackles: The addition of another layer between you and the platform will have its consequences, but by and large, it's not something you'll notice or need to worry about as a developer. Since MonoTouch applications are run through its ahead-of-time compiler, their performance is already highly optimized. Mono for Android applications include their own instance of the Mono runtime that .NET code is run against and includes an intelligent garbage collector that is optimized for managing objects across the different runtimes. In general, you won't be able to see any difference in performance between an app written in C# and one that is not.

One other common concern is the size of the application, since the .NET Framework is not known for being minimal. Both Mono for Android and MonoTouch ship with a tool called a linker that is included as part of the build process. The linker is a static analysis tool that scans the compiled assemblies in the application and actually strips out any pieces of the framework that are not referenced. As a result, your application will only ship with precisely the pieces of the .NET Framework that you actually use, which drastically cuts down the size of the application. With each release, the Mono team seems to find new ways to optimize the linking process, so this size overhead continues to dwindle down further, even though it is already rather minimal.

This interview was edited and condensed.

Mobile Development with C# — This hands-on guide shows you how to reuse one codebase across iOS, Android, and Windows Phone by combining the business logic layer of your C# app with separate, fully native UIs.


April 06 2012

Cross-platform mobile development is a breeze with C#

Greg Shackles (@gshackles) is the author of "Mobile Development with C#," which is available for pre-order now and scheduled for release this spring.

During a recent interview, Shackles and I talked about C#'s role in the mobile space and coding best practices. Highlights from the discussion included:

  • Cross-platform mobile development is tough. The mature C# language is the only language that can be used across all of these platforms to produce a native experience. [Discussed at 00:03]

  • Reusing code is a must. Shackles thinks developers should try to separate business logic from user interface logic. [Discussed at 00:39]

  • Be on the watch for big enhancements when Windows Phone 8 is released, like near-field and app-to-app communications. [Discussed at 01:27]

  • Make an app that stands out by creating a really solid user experience. [Discussed at 02:45]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.

November 03 2011

Developer Week in Review: The hijacking of an insulin pump

A future batch of kindlingIt was a great week at the Turner household! Although we love our house, we've frequently said to each other, "You know what we could really use? A 25-foot-long tree limb wrapped in power lines blocking our driveway." Well, this weekend mother nature decided to help us fill this void in our landscaping, and threw in some ornamental cherry firewood as well (chainsawing not included). Thankfully, I spent the extra bucks on Saturday to get our LPG tank topped off, so I've got generator power for 10-14 days. Given we're on day four with no power in sight, that was a good decision.

It could have been worse, of course. For example ...

A scene from an upcoming technothriller

Plucky researcher Ann McManna walked across the room toward the podium, ready to reveal the details of the fiendish plot she had uncovered to the waiting reporters. Now the world would know about the conspiracy to corner the world supply of macadamia nuts. Her heart pounded with excitement, her mouth was dry and she perspired, in spite of the air conditioning that was making the room practically an ice box. As she approached the stage, she bumped against a table, stumbling and suddenly having trouble seeing her path through blurry eyes. Something was wrong, but she couldn't focus, couldn't identify what was happening to her, even as she collapsed to the ground. Minutes later, the paramedics would close the eyelids of her corpse.

Some fanciful invention of Tom Clancy or Robin Cook? Not anymore, thanks to research by McAfee's Barnaby Jack, presented at this year's Hacker Halted conference. Using some custom software and a special antenna, Jack was able to control Medtronic insulin pumps as far as 300 feet from the controller. He was able to disable the tones that warn a user that insulin is being pumped, and trigger a 25-unit bolus of insulin. In some circumstances, this could kill a victim.

As networked computers appear in more life-critical items, this is a good reminder that security should be job No. 1, not something to think about if you have time. Too many proprietary device manufacturers seem to depend on security through obscurity, rather than security in depth.

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The first taste is free, but you'll be back

One of the perils of depending on public APIs from for-profit companies is that they may get turned into a profit center down the road. Users of the Google Maps API learned that lesson recently, as Google announced that high-volume users will no longer have free access to the APIs starting next year. Before you start panicking, the definition of high-volume will be more than 25,000 calls a day (2,500 if you use the custom styling features), and the rate over 25,000 is $4/1,000 calls. Google claims that less than 1% of all users will run up against this limit.

The problem with using beta or "free" services in your products is that, unless the terms of use specifically say that it will be free forever, you have no contractual agreement to lean on, and the provider is able at any point to change how (or even if) the service is provided.

Linus Torvalds vs. C++

Linux progenitor Linus Torvalds has a reputation for diplomacy and fence building — that's practically the only way to herd the stampede of cats that is the Linux developer community. But when he gets upset, the results can peel the paint off the walls.

We got a good example this week, as Torvalds responded to a complaint about the fact that the git source control system was written in pure C, rather than C++. In a nutshell, Torvalds called C++ a lousy language that attracts substandard programmers and leads to sloppy, unmaintainable code. In general, I tend to take any blanket condemnation of a programming language as hyperbole, but Torvalds seems to genuinely loathe C++. We'll have to see if his anger against the language alienates any of the kernel developer base, or if people will just shrug it off as Linus being Linus.

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October 26 2011

Dennis Ritchie Day

Dennis RitchieSunday, October 16 was declared Steve Jobs Day by California's Governor Brown. I admire Brown for taking a step to recognize Jobs' extraordinary contributions, but I couldn't help be struck by Rob Pike's comments on the death of Dennis Ritchie a few weeks after Steve Jobs. Pike wrote:

I was warmly surprised to see how many people responded to my Google+ post about Dennis Ritchie's untimely passing. His influence on the technical community was vast, and it's gratifying to see it recognized. When Steve Jobs died there was a wide lament — and well-deserved it was — but it's worth noting that the resurgence of Apple depended a great deal on Dennis' work with C and Unix.

The C programming language is quite old now, but still active and still very much in use. The Unix and Linux (and Mac OS X and I think even Windows) kernels are all C programs. The web browsers and major web servers are all in C or C++, and almost all of the rest of the Internet ecosystem is in C or a C-derived language (C++, Java), or a language whose implementation is in C or a C-derived language (Python, Ruby, etc.). C is also a common implementation language for network firmware. And on and on.

And that's just C.

Dennis was also half of the team that created Unix (the other half being Ken Thompson), which in some form or other (I include Linux) runs all the machines at Google's data centers and probably at most other server farms. Most web servers run above Unix kernels; most non-Microsoft web browsers run above Unix kernels in some form, even in many phones.

And speaking of phones, the software that runs the phone network is largely written in C.

But wait, there's more.

In the late 1970s, Dennis joined with Steve Johnson to port Unix to the Interdata. From this remove it's hard to see how radical the idea of a portable operating system was; back then OSes were mostly written in assembly language and were tightly coupled, both technically and by marketing, to specific computer brands. Unix, in the unusual (although not unique) position of being written in a "high-level language," could be made to run on a machine other than the PDP-11. Dennis and Steve seized the opportunity, and by the early 1980s, Unix had been ported by the not-yet-so-called open source community to essentially every mini-computer out there. That meant that if I wrote my program in C, it could run on almost every mini-computer out there. All of a sudden, the coupling between hardware and operating system was broken. Unix was the great equalizer, the driving force of the Nerd Spring that liberated programming from the grip of hardware manufacturers.

The hardware didn't matter any more, since it all ran Unix. And since it didn't matter, hardware fought with other hardware for dominance; the software was a given. Windows obviously played a role in the rise of the x86, but the Unix folks just capitalized on that. Cheap hardware meant cheap Unix installations; we all won. All that network development that started in the mid-80s happened on Unix, because that was the environment where the stuff that really mattered was done. If Unix hadn't been ported to the Interdata, the Internet, if it even existed, would be a very different place today.

I read in an obituary of Steve Jobs that Tim Berners-Lee did the first WWW development on a NeXT box, created by Jobs' company at the time. Well, you know what operating system ran on NeXT's, and what language.

For myself, I can attest that there would be no O'Reilly Media without Ritchie's work. It was Unix that created the fertile ground for our early publishing activities; it was Unix's culture of collaborative development and architecture of participation that was the deepest tap root of what became the open source software movement, and not coincidentally, much of the architecture of the Internet as well. These are the technologies I built my business around. Anyone who has built their software or business with knowledge from O'Reilly books or conferences can trace their heritage back to Ritchie and his compatriots.

I don't have the convening power of a Governor Brown, but for those of us around the world who care, I hereby declare this Sunday, October 30 to be Dennis Ritchie Day! Let's remember the contributions of this computing pioneer.

P.S. Help spread the word. Use the hashtag #DennisRitchieDay on Twitter and Google+

Photo: Via Wikimedia Commons.

Reposted byurfin urfin

October 13 2011

Developer Week in Review: Two giants fall

My apologies for the lack of a Week in Review last week — I was taken by the seasonal plague that's going around the Northeast, and spent most of the last week in a NyQuil haze. Fun bonus fact: Did you know certain prescription drugs inhibit the function of the CYP2D6 enzyme, which means that you can't metabolize Dextromethorphan (aka Robitussin)?

Thankfully, I was able to pull myself up from my sickbed and get my order in for one of those newfangled iPhone 4S contraptions. It's currently sitting at the UPS sorting facility in Kentucky. The faster processor and Siri are nice, but for me the big attraction is the 64GB of storage. I was always bumping up against my current 32GB iPhone 4's disk limit.

On to the Review ...

So long Steve, and thanks for all the apps

iOS App StoreAt this point, pretty much anything I could say about the passing of Steve Jobs has been said so many times already that it would be irrelevant. I was fortunate to see him in person once, at the last WWDC, but like many people, I've followed his career for years. I have somewhat of a unique perspective because I worked at Xerox AI Systems in the mid '80s, selling the Xerox Star (and later Dandelion) with Interlisp, and got to use the Xerox Alto at the MIT AI lab before that. In other words, I was able to use what pretty much became the Mac before the Mac existed.

It was a tremendous source of frustration to those of us who worked at Xerox that the company seemed to have no clue what an incredible breakthrough the Alto and its successors were. Obviously, Jobs had significant amounts of "clueness" because he raided the mouse and GUI wholesale from PARC, and a good thing he did, or we'd still be using CP/M.

One important legacy of Jobs is the App Store model. If you owned a Windows Mobile or Palm device at the turn of this century, you know what a mess it was to get applications to run on them. Until the App Store came along, you either had to hunt around the web for interesting things to run on your smartphone, or you were at the mercy of what your carrier chose to allow. The App Store created both a distribution model and an even playing field for independent and large software makers alike.

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Goodbye to Dennis Ritchie

The other significant passing we have to mark this week is Dennis Ritchie, father of C and one of the brains behind Unix. It's no exaggeration to say that if you had walked into any programmer's office in the early '80s, you would have probably found a copy of "The C Programming Language" on the bookshelf. Between C (which begat the majority of the modern languages we use today) and Unix (ancestor of Linux, BSD, Solaris, OS X, iOS, and countless other POSIX spin-offs), Ritchie has likely influenced the computer field more than any other single individual in the last 50 years, Donald Knuth included.

Ritchie was a veteran of Bell Labs, the organization we have to thank for fostering the innovative environment that let him be so creative. I'd be hard pressed to find an organization today that is offering that kind of fertile soil, out of which so many beautiful flowers bloomed. Jobs may have been the flashier showman, but he never would have gotten off the ground without the contributions Ritchie made.

Worst reply-all ever?

We got a rare view into the inner workings of Google this week, thanks to an inadvertent broadcasting of a long rant by long-time Google employee Steve Yegge. Yegge accidentally made his short-story-length critique of Google's API policies public on Google+, letting the world know how he felt.

While it will be interesting to see if Yegge's posting turns out to be a career-limiting move, what's more interesting is the insight it gives us into the problems Google is facing internally. Yegge's main complaint is that Google doesn't eat its own dog food when it comes to APIs. He particularly singles out Google+ as an example of a product with almost no useful APIs, and charges Google with developing products rather than platforms.

Those of us who have been frustrated with Google's inability to implement "simple" things like a consistent single sign-on infrastructure would tend to agree.

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August 18 2011

Developer Week in Review: Google Goes Yardsaling

This is the city: Los Angeles, Calif. Every year, millions of tourists flock to this Mecca of stardom and glamour, hoping that some of it will rub off on them. Sometimes they're geeks. My name is Turner. I carry a MacBook.

This is your somewhat delayed Developer Week in Review, coming this week from the Mondrian Hotel in Hollywood, a place where the laws of reality have become so distorted that paying $6 for a can of soda has actually begun to seem reasonable. There was no WIR last week, as I was trapped in an alternate universe full of hotels with Wi-Fi connections slower than dial-up. 20kb/sec, swear to God!

We're wrapping up our West Coast trip this week, a vacation that has been warped somewhat by the presence of my 16-year-old son. Certainly, if my wife and I had been traveling alone, we would not have taken a ride on a Nike Missile elevator in the Marin Headlands, or toured a WW2 submarine. Not that I'm complaining, our side-trip to the LA Gun Club this week to shoot semi-auto AK-47s and AR-15s was definitely a blast (pun intended).

All your patents are belong to us!

Google and Motorola MobilityContinuing the massive arms buildup of patent portfolios being waged among all the smartphone makers (with the exception of RIM, which seems content to take the role of Switzerland in this war), Google has assimilated Motorola. In addition to super-sizing Google's intellectual property assets in the mobile space, it also places Google in the role of a direct competitor to the other Android licensees. Until now, Google produced what were essentially engineering development platforms, but no real consumer products. Now that Google owns the DROID (the Motorola version), they're suddenly in the position of having a strong pre-existing consumer channel.

On one hand, the acquisition makes a lot of sense. Motorola is a pioneer in the mobile space, and the purchase gives Google a lot of ammo to fend off the increasing spate of patent lawsuits being lobbed its way. On the other hand, Google is now trying to sell the Android operating system to companies that it will be selling against. While it's great to talk about how Android will remain open, the reality is that once Google is fighting for market share with companies like HTC, you have to believe the relationship will become strained at best.

Will a Kzinti invasion be next?

In another case of fiction predicting reality, the last few weeks have been host to a series of social-media-organized protests, which at least in England quickly transformed into riots. Philadelphia and Cleveland fell victim to less widespread but still serious incidents of violence, and San Francisco shut down cell phone service in one BART station after word of a planned protest emerged.

None of this should be surprising to aficionados of classic science fiction, who will recognize the flash mobs now appearing as an eerie echo of the flash crowds described by author Larry Niven in his "Known Space" series. Niven used cheap teleportation as the mechanism that brought large groups of people together at the site of interesting events, but social media is proving to have an equally powerful, if more localized, affect.

Niven also predicted that the presence of a crowd would attract people whose only reason to be there is to take advantage of the chaos to loot and cause mayhem. The big question now is, how much restriction will we accept in this new medium to prevent future occurrences? We are already seeing draconian censorship and invasion of privacy as a result of the battles against child pornography and music piracy, will this be the next battlefront?

Strata Conference New York 2011, being held Sept. 22-23, covers the latest and best tools and technologies for data science -- from gathering, cleaning, analyzing, and storing data to communicating data intelligence effectively.

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Pimp my language

While it seems there's a new emerging language every week, lots of developers are still being productive members of society with the old programming warhorses. But that doesn't mean a language can't get an "Extreme Makeover: ISO Editor"! Case in point, C++ moved into the new decade with the acceptance of the C++ 11 specification.

The new standard brings O-O concepts such as lambda functions and improved type coercion into the language, and it should make the lives of developers still maintaining existing C++ code much more bearable in the future. One must wonder which old-school language will be the next to get a fresh coat of paint. As the old joke goes, if they ever add O-O to COBOL, they'll have to call it add one to COBOL.

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January 04 2011

October 20 2010

Developer Week in Review

Here's what recently caught my attention on the developer front:

The new Microsoft, wow with 100% less architecture

This week, The Creature From Redmond announced the upcoming departure of Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's Chief Software Architect. Ozzie took up the mantel of CSA from Bill Gates himself, and Steve Ballmer has indicated that the position will not be continued after Ozzie leaves.

I can't help but raise an eyebrow at this. In a company with as pure a software play as Microsoft, and with as much emphasis on a unified development methodology for independent software vendors, not having someone at the top to herd the cats strikes me as a recipe for divergence and a splintered framework.

Another good press week for Apple

On Monday, Apple announced they made a bazillion dollars last quarter, and that every living human on the planet and many of the dogs now own iPads or iPhones, or something like that.

Expect the lovefest to continue on Wednesday (today) with another press conference, this time announcing the new tech for the Mac product line, including -- it's rumored -- OS X 10.7. Is OS X 10.7 redundant? Shouldn't it be OS X.7, or OS 10.7? And the rumors continue to swirl that a CDMA version of the iPhone will come to Verizon in 2011.

The BSA, neither trustworthy, loyal, nor honest, evidently

No, not the Boy Scouts of America, the Business Software Alliance. Word has come out this week that they have been lobbying hard to keep open-standard-friendly language out of the EU's European Interoperability Framework. This has, not unexpectedly, brought the Free Software Foundation into the fray.

Having just watched "Firefly" and "Serenity" with my son for the first time (his, not mine), I can't help but think that "the Alliance" is a great name to tag the BSA with. I'm having trouble plugging Richard Stallman into the Malcolm Reynolds role, though ...

if (C++ == 0x19) printf("Happy Birthday!!");

It may seem like it's been around forever, and maybe 25 years is forever in computer language years, but last Friday marked the 25th birthday for C++. A little long in the tooth, perhaps, but it still manages to power a good chunk of the world's software. I never really got into C++ -- I moved directly from C to Java, and I've now made a perverse sidestep to Objective-C -- but I know lots of developers who swear by it (and a few who swear at it ...). Wonder if we'll still be leaning on it as heavily when it hits 50?

That's it for this week. Suggestions are always welcome, so please send tips or news here.

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