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Books

Ask Slashdot: Have You Read 'The Art of Computer Programming'? (wikipedia.org) 242

In 1962, 24-year-old Donald Knuth began writing The Art of Computer Programming, publishing three volumes by 1973, with volume 4 arriving in 2005. (Volume 4A appeared in 2011, with new paperback fascicles planned for every two years, and fascicle 6, "Satisfiability," arriving last December). "You should definitely send me a resume if you can read the whole thing," Bill Gates once said, in a column where he described working through the book. "If somebody is so brash that they think they know everything, Knuth will help them understand that the world is deep and complicated."

But now long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino has a question: I've had The Art of Computer Programming on my book-buying list for just about two decades now and I'm still torn...about actually getting it. I sometimes believe I would mutate into some programming demi-god if I actually worked through this beast, but maybe I'm just fooling myself...

Have any of you worked through or with TAOCP or are you perhaps working through it? And is it worthwhile? I mean not just for bragging rights. And how long can it reasonably take? A few years?

Share your answers and experiences in the comments. Have you read The Art of Computer Programming?
Google

Google's New Public NTP Servers Provide Smeared Time (googleblog.com) 179

Google says it has built support for the leap second into the time servers that regulate all Google services. An anonymous reader shares a blogpost by Google:No commonly used operating system is able to handle a minute with 61 seconds, and trying to special-case the leap second has caused many problems in the past. Instead of adding a single extra second to the end of the day, we'll run the clocks 0.0014% slower across the ten hours before and ten hours after the leap second, and "smear" the extra second across these twenty hours. For timekeeping purposes, December 31 will seem like any other day. All Google services, including all APIs, will be synchronized on smeared time, as described above. You'll also get smeared time for virtual machines on Compute Engine if you follow our recommended settings. You can use non-Google NTP servers if you don't want your instances to use the leap smear, but don't mix smearing and non-smearing time servers.
Movies

British Film Institute To Digitize 100,000 Old TV Shows Before They Disappear (bbc.com) 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Thousands of British TV programs are to be digitized before they are lost forever, the British Film Institute says. Anarchic children's show Tiswas and The Basil Brush Show are among the programs in line for preservation. The initiative was announced as part of the BFI's five-year strategy for 2017-2022. "Material from the 70s and early 80s is at risk," said Heather Stewart, the BFI's creative director. "It has a five or six-year shelf life and if we don't do something about it will just go, no matter how great the environment is we keep it in. "Our job is make sure that things are there in 200 years' time." The BFI has budgeted $14.3 million of Lottery funding towards its goal of making the UK's entire screen heritage digitally accessible. This includes an estimated 100,000 of the "most at-risk" British TV episodes and clips held on obsolete video formats. The list includes "early children's programming, little-seen dramas, regional programs and the beginnings of breakfast television." The issue for the BFI, Ms Stewart added, was also to do with freeing up storage space. "We have a whole vault which is wall-to-wall video. If we digitized it, it would be in a robot about the size of a wardrobe," she said.
Businesses

GoPro Slashes 15% of Workforce, Shuts Down Entertainment Division (variety.com) 94

GoPro has announced that it will lay off more than 200 employees and freeze hiring, amounting to a reduction of about 15% of its workforce. As part of the restructuring, the company is also shutting down its entertainment division. In addition, the company said president Tony Bates will be leaving the company. From a report on Variety: Also Wednesday, GoPro also said Black Friday camera unit sales were up more than 35% year-over-year at leading U.S. retailers. GoPro said its Hero5 Black camera has been the best-selling digital-imaging device in the U.S. since it launched Oct. 2, citing NPD Group data. GoPro shares climbed more than 4% in premarket trading Wednesday on the news. The move appears to spell the end of the struggling company's ambitions to branch out beyond device sales into the entertainment biz, which had included plans to produce original shows. The GoPro entertainment unit has been led by Ocean MacAdams, who previously held programming posts at MTV, Warner Music Group, and the Madison Square Garden Co., after Zander Lurie left in January to become CEO of SurveyMonkey. The division at one point had about 200 staffers, including Bill McCullough, who produced award-winning sports documentaries for HBO, and Joe Lynch, who previously led Time Inc.'s live-streaming initiatives.
AT&T

AT&T Unveils DirecTV Now Streaming TV Service With Over 100 Channels (theverge.com) 80

ATT has officially unveiled its DirecTV Now internet TV streaming service, which launches Wednesday, November 30th, in the U.S. on iPhone, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and PC/Mac, starting at $35 per month. The Verge reports: Like its over-the-top rivals, DirecTV Now will let customers stream live programming on smartphones, tablets, and PCs -- no cable box necessary -- and requires no long-term contracts or commitments. For a limited time, ATT will offer the "Go Big" channel tier with 100 channels for $35 per month. If you sign up in time, the offer will remain valid each month until you cancel. But that $35 rate is not the long-term pricing for 100+ channels. DirecTV Now offers step-up subscriptions that include other channels and content for a higher monthly cost. ATT has signed programming agreements with nearly all major networks with the exception of CBS and Showtime; negotiations with those companies remain ongoing. DirecTV Now allows customers to watch up to two streams simultaneously. HBO and Cinemax can be added to any of these packages for just $5 extra (each) per month. DirecTV Now is "zero rated" for the company's wireless customers, so regardless of how much time they spend streaming, that activity will have no impact on data usage for their monthly bill. Importantly, while these are the subscription rates as of today, the company is being straightforward about the possibility of increases in the future. ATT also plans to air original shows including a Taylor Swift series.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Has Your Team Ever Succumbed To Hype Driven Development? (daftcode.pl) 332

marekkirejczyk, the VP of Engineering at development shop Daftcode, shares a warning about hype-driven development: Someone reads a blog post, it's trending on Twitter, and we just came back from a conference where there was a great talk about it. Soon after, the team starts using this new shiny technology (or software architecture design paradigm), but instead of going faster (as promised) and building a better product, they get into trouble. They slow down, get demotivated, have problems delivering the next working version to production.
Describing behind-schedule teams that "just need a few more days to sort it all out," he blames all the hype surrounding React.js, microservices, NoSQL, and that "Test-Driven Development Is Dead" blog post by Ruby on Rails creator David Heinemeier Hansson. ("The list goes on and on... The root of all evil seems to be social media.") Does all this sound familiar to any Slashdot readers? Has your team ever succumbed to hype-driven development?
Books

O'Reilly Discounts Every eBook By 50% (oreilly.com) 46

On Friday, O'Reilly Media announced "Our Cyber Monday sale starts now." An anonymous reader writes: They're offering a 50% discount on every ebook they publish -- over 14,000 titles from O'Reilly, No Starch Press, Pearson, A Book Apart, Make, Packt, and 25 other book publishers. (And they're offering a 60 percent discount on orders over $100.) Just use the code CYBER16 when checking out to claim the discount. The sale continues through Tuesday morning at 5 a.m. PST.

These are all DRM-free ebooks (in multiple formats), and there's even some "early release" editions -- advance copies distributed before their official publication. The discount also applies to new titles like "Head First Python" as well as old-school classics like "Learning Perl". Right now their best-sellers are "Wicked Cool Shell Scripts", "Modern Linux Administration", and "You Don't Know JS: Up and Going" -- but again, the discount applies to any ebook that they sell, and they also still have their selection of free programming texts.

Tim O'Reilly was one of the first people interviewed by Slashdot -- more than 17 years ago.
Education

Has The 'Hour of Code' Turned Into a Giant Corporate Infomercial? (theregister.co.uk) 88

It happens every December. During "Computer Science Education Week," schools around the world dedicate a special hour towards getting kids excited about programming. But theodp writes: With Microsoft, Apple, and Google vying for the opportunity to put their products in front of tens of millions of K-12 students, The Register's Andrew Orlowski opines that the Hour of Code is turning into a giant corporate infomercial for kids. "Parents, such as the late Steve Jobs, tend to ration their children's use of technology," notes Orlowski. "But would Jobs, who consistently praised the value of broad liberal arts, approve of an hour of [Microsoft] Minecraft? It's doubtful." Google, he adds, is keen on dishing out its VR headsets to students and, not to be undone, Apple is also muscling in with an hour of code [and offering free workshops at Apple Stores].
This year Microsoft is even introducing a special online 'Hour of Code' edition" of Minecraft, according to the article, which points out that last year 31 million schoolchildren just spent their "Hour of Code" playing Minecraft.
Entertainment

BBC Planning 'Netflix of the Spoken Word' to Take Radio Content Global (hollywoodreporter.com) 33

Georg Szalai, reporting for Hollywood Reporter: "The BBC makes the best radio in the world," says director general Tony Hall. British public broadcaster BBC plans to launch a "Netflix of the spoken word" to take its radio content beyond the U.K. Director general Tony Hall in a London speech on Wednesday said that the BBC plans to offer all of its audio content, in addition to its BBC World Service programming to people in foreign markets. He didn't immediately provide further details, including about whether the BBC would charge international users. The BBC is funded via a license fee covered by British taxpayers. "With our world-class content, we could use our current output and the richness of our archive to create a Netflix of the spoken word," the BBC quoted Hall as saying. "The BBC makes the best radio in the world. It is one of our crown jewels, and we have an extraordinary wealth of audio riches at our disposal." He added: "It's one of the things that will help the BBC carry the full weight of Britain's culture and values, knowledge and know-how to the world in the years ahead, and say something really important about modern Britain."
Programming

American Computer Scientists Grace Hopper, Margaret Hamilton Receive Presidential Medals of Freedom (fedscoop.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes a report from FedScoop: President Barack Obama awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom to two storied women in tech -- one posthumously to Grace Hopper, known as the "first lady of software," and one to programmer Margaret Hamilton. Hopper worked on the Harvard Mark I computer, and invented the first compiler. "At age 37 and a full 15 pounds below military guidelines, the gutsy and colorful Grace joined the Navy and was sent to work on one of the first computers, Harvard's Mark 1," Obama said at the ceremony Tuesday. "She saw beyond the boundaries of the possible and invented the first compiler, which allowed programs to be written in regular language and then translated for computers to understand." Hopper followed her mother into mathematics, and earned a doctoral degree from Yale, Obama said. She retired from the Navy as a rear admiral. "From cell phones to Cyber Command, we can thank Grace Hopper for opening programming up to millions more people, helping to usher in the Information Age and profoundly shaping our digital world," Obama said. Hamilton led the team that created the onboard flight software for NASA's Apollo command modules and lunar modules, according to a White House release. "At this time software engineering wasn't even a field yet," Obama noted at the ceremony. "There were no textbooks to follow, so as Margaret says, 'there was no choice but to be pioneers.'" He added: "Luckily for us, Margaret never stopped pioneering. And she symbolizes that generation of unsung women who helped send humankind into space."
Programming

Slashdot Asks: Are You Ashamed of Your Code? (businessinsider.com) 280

Programmer and teacher Bill Sourour wrote a post last week called "Code I'm Still Ashamed Of," where he recounts a story in which he was hired to write code for a pharmaceutical company. Little did he know at the time, he was being "duped into helping the company skirt drug advertising laws in order to persuade young women to take a particular drug," recaps Business Insider. "He later found out the drug was known to worsen depression and at least one young woman committed suicide while taking it." Sourour was inspired to write the post after viewing a talk by Robert Martin, called "The Future of Programming," who argues that software developers need to figure out how to self-regulate themselves quickly as software becomes increasingly prevalent in many people's lives. Business Insider reports: "Let's decide what it means to be a programmer," Martin says in the video. "Civilization depends on us. Civilization doesn't understand this yet." His point is that in today's world, everything we do like buying things, making a phone call, driving cars, flying in planes, involves software. And dozens of people have already been killed by faulty software in cars, while hundreds of people have been killed from faulty software during air travel. "We are killing people," Martin says. "We did not get into this business to kill people. And this is only getting worse." Martin finished with a fire-and-brimstone call to action in which he warned that one day, some software developer will do something that will cause a disaster that kills tens of thousands of people. But Sourour points out that it's not just about accidentally killing people or deliberately polluting the air. Software has already been used by Wall Street firms to manipulate stock quotes. "This could not happen without some shady code that creates fake orders," Sourour says. We'd like to ask what your thoughts are on Sourour's post and whether or not you've ever had a similar experience. Have you ever felt ashamed of your code?
Government

FCC Abides By GOP Request To Stop What It's Doing, Deletes Everything From Meeting Agenda (arstechnica.com) 119

One day after republicans from the house and senate sent letters to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, urging him to avoid passing regulations before Donald Trump's inauguration as president, Wheeler appears to have complied with the request. The FCC today "announced the deletion of all items that were originally scheduled to be presented and voted on at tomorrow's meeting." Ars Technica reports: Before the change, the agenda included votes on price caps for "special access" business data services; Universal Service funding to expand mobile broadband networks; wireless roaming obligations; and requirements for audio description of TV programming for blind and visually impaired people. The only item not deleted from tomorrow's meeting is part of the "consent agenda," which means it is routine and wasn't going to be presented individually. Of the major items, the business data services proposal had received the most attention. These are dedicated wireline circuits provided by traditional phone companies like AT&T and Verizon; the services supply bandwidth for cellular data networks, indirectly affecting the price consumers pay for wireless service. The business data services are also used by banks and retailers to connect ATM machines and credit card readers, by government and corporate users to connect branch offices and data centers, and to support public safety operations and health care facilities. The now-deleted agenda item would have phased in price cap decreases of 11 percent over three years to account for "over a decade of efficiency gains" since the last price cap adjustment.
Microsoft

Google Joins Microsoft's .NET Foundation (venturebeat.com) 93

Emil Protalinski, writing for VentureBeat:As part of its slew of announcements at its Connect(); 2016 developer event in New York City today, Microsoft unveiled that Google is joining the .NET Foundation. Specifically, Google is becoming a member of the Technical Steering Group, which Microsoft says "reinforces the vibrancy of the .NET developer community" and also underlines "Google's commitment to fostering an open platform that supports businesses and developers who have standardized on .NET." [...] So what does Google joining actually mean? In short, Google will help steer the future of .NET in a way that is "similar to an open standard," Xamarin cofounder and Microsoft's current vice president of mobile developer tools, Nat Friedman, told VentureBeat. Google's decision is being driven by its enterprise business (Google Cloud) and the desire to keep up with businesses adopting public and hybrid clouds. The company sees the move as part of its commitment to open-source technology, which benefits all enterprises, and cross-platform development that gives developers and IT professionals access to the best tools.
Businesses

Charter Customer Sues Over Hidden Fees, Claims 'Massive Billing Fraud' (arstechnica.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A Charter customer has sued the cable company, alleging that it falsely advertises a lower price than it actually charges and falsely tells customers that extra fees tacked onto their bills are mandated by the government. The complaint, filed in California State Superior court in San Diego, takes aim at the "Broadcast TV" and "Sports Programming" surcharges that are added to customers' bills despite not being included in the advertised rate. "Charter is committing massive billing fraud by disguising price increases above the advertised and promised service package price in the form of the bogus 'Broadcast TV and Sports Programming Surcharges' line item on customer bills," said the lawsuit filed last week by Michael Song. The plaintiff is a subscriber in California, where Charter, the second largest cable company in the US after Comcast, operates via its newly acquired Time Warner Cable (TWC) subsidiary. Song is paying an extra $8.75 a month from those two fees combined. In addition to subtracting the fees from the advertised price, Charter falsely tells customers that it collects the fees to comply with government mandates, the lawsuit says. A Charter/TWC bill from last month is included in the complaint, and it says, "TWC imposes surcharges to recover costs of complying with its governmental obligations." Song's complaint also has a transcript of a chat with a Charter customer service agent, who claimed that Charter pays the broadcast fee back to the government. The customer service agent apparently has only a limited grasp of English, but the chat transcript helps illustrate one of the ways in which customers are being misinformed about their bills. Song's lawsuit repeatedly refers to the Broadcast TV and Sports Programming surcharges as "bogus" and "hidden," since they subtract a portion of the standard monthly charges from the "services" section of the bill.
Desktops (Apple)

Microsoft is Bringing Visual Studio To Mac (techcrunch.com) 133

Microsoft will finally bring Visual Studio, a "true mobile-first, cloud-first development tool for .NET and C#," to Mac later this month, the company has said. From a report on TechCrunch:The IDE is very similar to the one found on Windows. In fact, that is presumably the point. By making it easy for OS X users to switch back and forth between platforms, Microsoft is able to ensure coders can quickly become desktop agnostic or, barring that, give Windows a try again. From the release: "At its heart, Visual Studio for Mac is a macOS counterpart of the Windows version of Visual Studio. If you enjoy the Visual Studio development experience, but need or want to use macOS, you should feel right at home. Its UX is inspired by Visual Studio, yet designed to look and feel like a native citizen of macOS. And like Visual Studio for Windows, it's complemented by Visual Studio Code for times when you don't need a full IDE, but want a lightweight yet rich standalone source editor.
Movies

More Code In Movies: Nmap Meets Snowden (nmap.org) 73

After Saturday's story about the code samples in the new movie Arrival, an anonymous reader reminded us of this classic essay at Nmap.org: For reasons unknown, Hollywood has decided that Nmap is the tool to show whenever hacking scenes are needed... While Nmap had been used in some previous obscure movies, it was The Matrix Reloaded which really turned Nmap into a movie star!
Nmap.org has a tradition -- the first person to notify them when new Nmap appears in a new movie wins a signed copy of Nmap Network Scanning "or a T-shirt of your choice from the Zero Day Clothing Nmap Store." (The site adds that "movie script writers, artists, and digital asset managers are also welcome to email Fyodor for advice.") And Nmap.org just added another film, Oliver Stone's new movie about Edward Snowden. In one early scene, Snowden is given a network security challenge at a CIA training class which is expected to take 5 to 8 hours. But with the help Nmap and a custom Nmap NSE script named ptest.nse, Snowden stuns the professor by completing everything in 38 minutes!
According to the site, even the movie's trailer features Nmap. Anybody else have their own favorite stories about code in the movies?
Programming

'Here Be Dragons': The Seven Most Vexing Problems In Programming (infoworld.com) 497

InfoWorld has identified "seven of the gnarliest corners of the programming world," which Slashdot reader snydeq describes as "worthy of large markers reading, 'Here be dragons.'" Some examples:
  • Multithreading. "It sounded like a good idea," according to the article, but it just leads to a myriad of thread-managing tools, and "When they don't work, it's pure chaos. The data doesn't make sense. The columns don't add up. Money disappears from accounts with a poof. It's all bits in memory. And good luck trying to pin down any of it..."
  • NP-complete problems. "Everyone runs with fear from these problems because they're the perfect example of one of the biggest bogeymen in Silicon Valley: algorithms that won't scale."

The other dangerous corners include closures, security, encryption, and identity management, as well as that moment "when the machine runs out of RAM." What else needs to be on a definitive list of the most dangerous "gotchas" in professional programming?


AT&T

DirecTV Now Leak Reveals Channels, Promotions of AT&T's Upcoming TV Service (variety.com) 45

It seems AT&T won't leave any stone unturned for its upcoming DirecTV Now streaming service. According to a new report, the company is planning to offer a free Apple TV set-top box or an Amazon Fire USB stick to people who subscribe to the service. From a report on Variety, which also details some channels that could be featured on DirecTV Now: The leaked documents detail that consumers who are willing to commit to at least three months of paid service will be able to get a free Apple TV as part of a device promotion. Consumers who pay for one month will get a free Fire TV streaming stick. Both devices are more expensive on their own than the service charges consumers would have to pay to qualify for each promotion. AT&T officially announced DirecTV Now as an internet-based live TV service earlier this year. The telco has since given us some idea about the programming, announcing deals with Disney, NBCUniversal and Viacom as well as Scripps, A&E Networks, Discovery, HBO, and Starz. Last month, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson announced that DirecTV Now will cost $35 per month and carry more than 100 channels when it launches in the coming weeks. The leaked customer-support documents didn't include complete channel lineups -- those also depend on the local markets of subscribers -- but they do give us a better idea of which other channels DirecTV Now aims to launch with. A partial list of channels included not only networks from the aforementioned partners, but also Univision networks like Galavision, Univision and UniMas, Fox and MundoFox, CBS, HDNet Movies, the Hallmark Channel and the Sony Movie Channel.
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Why Are American Tech Workers Paid So Well? 587

Slashdot reader davidwr is "an American-born, American-educated mid-career IT professional." But he's still curious about why American geeks earn more than their IT counterparts overseas: If I'm a mid-career programmer looking for a job, why should I expect to be paid a whole lot more than my peer in India when applying for a job that could easily be outsourced to India? If I do get the job, why should I expect to keep it more than a year or two instead of being told "your job is being outsourced" before 2020? Is my American education and 5-25 years of experience in the American workplace really worth it to an employer?

Should we, as an industry, lower our salary expectations -- and that of students entering the field -- to make us more competitive with our peers in India and similar "much cheaper labor than first world" economies? If not, what should we be doing to make ourselves competitive in ways that our peers overseas cannot duplicate?

What's the secret ingredient that justifies those higher salaries? Leave your answers in the comments. Why are American tech workers paid so well?
Programming

Adobe Is Working On 'Photoshop For Audio' That Will Let You Add Words Someone Never Said (theverge.com) 161

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Adobe is working on a new piece of software that would act like a Photoshop for audio, according to Adobe developer Zeyu Jin, who spoke at the Adobe MAX conference in San Diego, California today. The software is codenamed Project VoCo, and it's not clear at this time when it will materialize as a commercial product. The standout feature, however, is the ability to add words not originally found in the audio file. Like Photoshop, Project VoCo is designed to be a state-of-the-art audio editing application. Beyond your standard speech editing and noise cancellation features, Project VoCo can also apparently generate new words using a speaker's recorded voice. Essentially, the software can understand the makeup of a person's voice and replicate it, so long as there's about 20 minutes of recorded speech. In Jin's demo, the developer showcased how Project VoCo let him add a word to a sentence in a near-perfect replication of the speaker, according to Creative Bloq. So similar to how Photoshop ushered in a new era of editing and image creation, this tool could transform how audio engineers work with sound, polish clips, and clean up recordings and podcasts. "When recording voiceovers, dialog, and narration, people would often like to change or insert a word or a few words due to either a mistake they made or simply because they would like to change part of the narrative," reads an official Adobe statement. "We have developed a technology called Project VoCo in which you can simply type in the word or words that you would like to change or insert into the voiceover. The algorithm does the rest and makes it sound like the original speaker said those words."

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