FBI and DOJ Drop Case Against Chinese-American Physicist 113

Required Snark writes: The FBI and Department of Justice have withdrawn their prosecution (or more accurately persecution) Dr. Xi Xiaoxing, former head of the Physics Department at Temple University, according to the New York Times. He was accused of attempting to transfer technology about a "pocket heater" to China. It is used in superconducting research.

The case fell apart because the evidence that the FBI had was not about a pocket heater. "In a sworn affidavit, one engineer, Ward S. Ruby, said he was uniquely qualified to identify a pocket heater. 'I am very familiar with this device, as I was one of the co-inventors,' he said." Apparently nobody in the FBI or DOJ bothered to verify that the information referred to the device in question: "Dr. Xi's lawyer, Peter Zeidenberg, said that despite the complexity, it appeared that the government never consulted with experts before taking the case to a grand jury. As a result, prosecutors misconstrued the evidence, he said."

Dr Xi was forced to step down from his position as the head of the department during the investigation. He was unable to work on his ongoing experiments and was branded a spy. What are the odds that anyone at the FBI or DOJ will face any personal or professional repercussions? If recent history is any guide they will not even issue a statement. When the case was withdrawn the option to refile was retained, a blatant attempt to save face and deny responsibility.

The Top 10 Programming Languages On GitHub, Over Time 132

An anonymous reader writes with a link to VentureBeat's article on the information that GitHub released this week about the top-ten languages used by GitHub's users, and how they've changed over the site's history. GitHub's chart shows the change in rank for programming languages since GitHub launched in 2008 all the way to what the site's 10 million users are using for coding today. To be clear, this graph doesn't show the definitive top 10 programming languages. Because GitHub has become so popular (even causing Google Code to shut down), however, it still paints a fairly accurate picture of programming trends over recent years. Trend lines aside, here are the top 10 programming languages on GitHub today: 1. JavaScript 2. Java 3. Ruby 4. PHP 5. Python 6. CSS 7. C++ 8. C# 9. C 10. HTML

Firefox 38 Arrives With DRM Required To Watch Netflix 371

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from VentureBeat: Mozilla today launched Firefox 38 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. Notable additions to the browser include Digital Rights Management (DRM) tech for playing protected content in the HTML5 video tag on Windows, Ruby annotation support, and improved user interfaces on Android. Firefox 38 for the desktop is available for download now on, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. As always, the Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play. Note that there is a separate download for Firefox 38 without the DRM support. Our anonymous reader adds links to the release notes for desktop and Android.

Is It Worth Learning a Little-Known Programming Language? 267

Nerval's Lobster writes: Ask a group of developers to rattle off the world's most popular programming languages, and they'll likely name the usual suspects: JavaScript, Java, Python, Ruby, C++, PHP, and so on. Ask which programming languages pay the best, and they'll probably list the same ones, which makes sense. But what about the little-known languages and skill sets (Dice link) that don't leap immediately to mind but nonetheless support some vital IT infrastructure (and sometimes, as a result, pay absurdly well)? is it worth learning a relatively obscure language or skill set, on the hope that you can score one of a handful of well-paying jobs that require it? The answer is a qualified yes—so long as the language or skill set in question is clearly on the rise. Go, Swift, Rust, Julia and CoffeeScript have all enjoyed rising popularity, for example, which increases the odds that they'll remain relevant for at least the next few years. But a language without momentum behind it probably isn't worth your time, unless you want to learn it simply for the pleasure of learning something new.

Go R, Young Man 144

theodp (442580) writes " Learning to code has become a mainstream fascination," writes Brian Liou in Why are YOU learning to code?, "but all the evangelization has been misleading. The problem in our Chris-Bosh-codes-so-should-you society is that people learn to code without first asking "for what purpose do you want to use code?" What in your day-to-day work could you actually automate using code? Let's face it, your odds of creating the next hot iPhone app aren't great, but the spreadsheets you look at everyday or the strategic business decisions you or your company makes? Coding can help you with those. Coding to better understand data would help everyone." Leada co-founder Liou's advice? "So to all non-technical professionals looking to get technical: If you want to become a software engineer, by all means learn Ruby or go through the JavaScript tutorials on Codecademy. But if you're simply a business professional looking to gain an edge on your peers, trust me, you are much better off learning R." So, did Mark Zuckerberg steer 100 million K-12 coder wannabes down the wrong path with the JavaScript and Ruby preaching?"

Ask Slashdot: Is an Open Source .NET Up To the Job? 421

Rob Y. writes: The discussion on Slashdot about Microsoft's move to open source .NET core has centered on:

1. whether this means Microsoft is no longer the enemy of the open source movement
2. if not, then does it mean Microsoft has so lost in the web server arena that it's resorting to desperate moves.
3. or nah — it's standard Microsoft operating procedure. Embrace, extend, extinguish.

What I'd like to ask is whether anybody that's not currently a .NET fan actually wants to use it? Open source or not. What is the competition? Java? PHP? Ruby? Node.js? All of the above? Anything but Microsoft? Because as an OSS advocate, I see only one serious reason to even consider using it — standardization. Any of those competing platforms could be as good or better, but the problem is: how to get a job in this industry when there are so many massively complex platforms out there. I'm still coding in C, and at 62, will probably live out my working days doing that. But I can still remember when learning a new programming language was no big deal. Even C required learning a fairly large library to make it useful, but it's nothing compared to what's out there today. And worse, jobs (and technologies) don't last like they used to. Odds are, in a few years, you'll be starting over in yet another job where they use something else.

Employers love standardization. Choosing a standard means you can't be blamed for your choice. Choosing a standard means you can recruit young, cheap developers and actually get some output from them before they move on. Or you can outsource with some hope of success (because that's what outsourcing firms do — recruit young, cheap devs and rotate them around). To me, those are red flags — not pluses at all. But they're undeniable pluses to greedy employers. Of course, there's much more to being an effective developer than knowing the platform so you can be easily slotted in to a project. But try telling that to the private equity guys running too much of the show these days.

So, assuming Microsoft is sincere about this open source move,
1. Is .NET up to the job?
2. Is there an open source choice today that's popular enough to be considered the standard that employers would like?
3. If the answer to 1 is yes and 2 is no, make the argument for avoiding .NET.

Which Programming Language Pays the Best? Probably Python 277

Nerval's Lobster writes: What programming language will earn you the biggest salary over the long run? According to Quartz, which relied partially on data compiled by employment-analytics firm Burning Glass and a Brookings Institution economist, Ruby on Rails, Objective-C, and Python are all programming skills that will earn you more than $100,000 per year. But salary doesn't necessarily correlate with popularity. Earlier this year, for example, tech-industry analyst firm RedMonk produced its latest ranking of the most-used languages, and Java/JavaScript topped the list, followed by PHP, Python, C#, and C++/Ruby. Meanwhile, Python was the one programming language to appear on Dice's recent list of the fastest-growing tech skills, which is assembled from mentions in Dice job postings. Python is a staple language in college-level computer-science courses, and has repeatedly topped the lists of popular programming languages as compiled by TIOBE Software and others. Should someone learn a language just because it could come with a six-figure salary, or are there better reasons to learn a particular language and not others?

Is Ruby On Rails Losing Steam? 291

itwbennett writes: In a post last week, Quartz ranked the most valuable programming skills, based on job listing data from Burning Glass and the Brookings Institution. Ruby on Rails came out on top, with an average salary of $109,460. And that may have been true in the first quarter of 2013 when the data was collected, but "before you run out and buy Ruby on Rails for Dummies, you might want to consider some other data which indicate that Rails (and Ruby) usage is not trending upwards," writes Phil Johnson. He looked at recent trends in the usage of Ruby (as a proxy for Rails usage) across MS Gooroo, the TIOBE index, the PYPL index, Redmonk's language rankings, and GitHut and found that "demand by U.S. employers for engineers with Rails skills has been on the decline, at least for the last year."

Debunking a Viral Internet Post About Breastfeeding Racism 350

Bennett Haselton writes: A editorial with 24,000 Facebook shares highlights the differences in public reaction to two nearly identical breastfeeding photos, one showing a black woman and one showing a white woman, each breastfeeding an infant. The editorial decries the outrage provoked by the black woman's photo compared to the mild reaction elicited by the white woman's photo, and attributes the difference to racism. I tried an experiment using Amazon's Mechanical Turk to test that theory. Read on to see the kind of results Bennett found.

Goodbye, World? 5 Languages That Might Not Be Long For This World 547

Nerval's Lobster writes As developers embrace new programming languages, older languages can go one of two ways: stay in use, despite fading popularity, or die out completely. So which programming languages are slated for history's dustbin of dead tech? Perl is an excellent candidate, especially considering how work on Perl6, framed as a complete revamp of the language, began work in 2000 and is still inching along in development. Ruby, Visual Basic.NET, and Object Pascal also top this list, despite their onetime popularity. Whether the result of development snafus or the industry simply veering in a direction that makes a particular language increasingly obsolete, time comes for all platforms at one point or another. Which programming languages do you think will do the way of the dinosaurs in coming years? With COBOL still around, it's hard to take too seriously the claim that Perl or Ruby is about to die. A prediction market for this kind of thing might yield a far different list.

Rosetta Code Study Weighs In On the Programming Language Debate 165

An anonymous reader writes: Rosetta Code is a popular resource for programming language enthusiasts to learn from each other, thanks to its vast collection of idiomatic solutions to clearly defined tasks in many different programming languages. The Rosetta Code wiki is now linking to a new study that compares programming language features based on the programs available in Rosetta Code. The study targets the languages C, C#, F#, Go, Haskell, Java, Python, and Ruby on features such as succinctness and performance. It reveals, among other things, that: "functional and scripting languages are more concise than procedural and object-oriented languages; C is hard to beat when it comes to raw speed on large inputs, but performance differences over inputs of moderate size are less pronounced; compiled strongly-typed languages, where more defects can be caught at compile time, are less prone to runtime failures than interpreted or weakly-typed languages."

Ask Slashdot: Correlation Between Text Editor and Programming Language? 359

tyggna writes: "The flame wars of different shells and text editors have long been established, but my question is this: are text editors and various languages linked? Do the majority of Ruby programmers use Emacs? Are most Perl programmers using vim?

Please post your editor and language of choice in the comments."

Ask Slashdot: Best Way to Learn C# For Game Programming? 254

An anonymous reader writes So I, like many people, want to make my own game. Outside of MATLAB, Visual Basic, and LabVIEW I have no real programming experience. I initially started with Ruby, but after doing my homework decided that if I ever wanted to progress to a game that required some power, I would basically need to learn some form of C anyway. Further digging has led me to C#. The other parts of game design and theory I have covered: I have ~8 years of CAD modeling experience including Maya and Blender; I have a semiprofessional sound studio, an idie album on iTunes, and am adept at creating sound effects/music in a wide variety of programs; I'm familiar with the setbacks and frustration involved with game development — I beta tested DotA for 9ish years; I already have my game idea down on paper (RTS), including growth tables, unit types, unit states, story-lines, etc. I've been planning this out for a year or two; I will be doing this on my own time, by myself, and am prepared for it to take a couple years to finish. The reason for listing that stuff out, is that I want people to understand that I know what I'm getting myself in to, and I'm not trying to put out a not-so-subtle "help me make a game for free lol" type of post. With all of that said, where is a good place to start (i.e., recommended books) for learning C# for game programming? I am familiar with object oriented programming, so that's a little bit of help. I'm not necessarily looking for the syntax (that part is just memorization), but more for the methodology involved. If anyone also has any suggestions for other books or information that deal with game development, I would love to hear that too. I know enough to understand that I really don't know anything, but have a good foundation to build on.

Ask Slashdot: Best Rapid Development Language To Learn Today? 466

An anonymous reader writes "Many years ago, I was a coder—but I went through my computer science major when they were being taught in Lisp and C. These days I work in other areas, but often need to code up quick data processing solutions or interstitial applications. Doing this in C now feels archaic and overly difficult and text-based. Most of the time I now end up doing things in either Unix shell scripting (bash and grep/sed/awk/bc/etc.) or PHP. But these are showing significant age as well. I'm no longer the young hotshot that I once was—I don't think that I could pick up an entire language in a couple of hours with just a cursory reference work—yet I see lots of languages out there now that are much more popular and claim to offer various and sundry benefits I'm not looking to start a new career as a programmer—I already have a career—but I'd like to update my applied coding skills to take advantage of the best that software development now has to offer. (More, below.)

Book Review: Extending Bootstrap 27

First time accepted submitter ericnishio (3641743) writes "Extending Bootstrap is a concise, step by step manual that introduces some of the best practices on how to customize Twitter Bootstrap for your projects. As the title suggests, you will be learning how to extract the good parts of Bootstrap to create a fully customized package. But be advised: the book is not for beginners." Read below for ericnishio's review.

Coding Bootcamps Already 1/8th the Size of CS Undergraduates 92

First time accepted submitter Valejo (689967) writes "According to a study released today by Course Report, programming bootcamps are expected to grow by 2.8x in 2014, meaning that bootcamps will graduate a student for every 8 CS undergraduates. The survey (PDF) also found that 57% of the schools teach in Ruby and that the average tuition is $9,900. The authors collected responses from 95% of US schools, including General Assembly, Dev Bootcamp, and Flatiron School."

Ask Slashdot: Which NoSQL Database For New Project? 272

DorianGre writes: "I'm working on a new independent project. It involves iPhones and Android phones talking to PHP (Symfony) or Ruby/Rails. Each incoming call will be a data element POST, and I would like to simply write that into the database for later use. I'll need to be able to pull by date or by a number of key fields, as well as do trend reporting over time on the totals of a few fields. I would like to start with a NoSQL solution for scaling, and ideally it would be dead simple if possible. I've been looking at MongoDB, Couchbase, Cassandra/Hadoop and others. What do you recommend? What problems have you run into with the ones you've tried?"

Jim Weirich, Creator of Rake, Has Passed Away 109

SirLurksAlot writes "News is beginning to circulate on Twitter and various sites that Jim Weirich, the creator of Rake, has passed away at the age of 58. He was an active developer (his last commit in the last 24 hours) and has made many contributions to the Ruby community over the years, as well as being a prolific speaker and teacher. He had a great sense of humor and was beloved by many. He will be greatly missed."

A Dedicated Shell For Git Commands 96

Nw submitter CMULL writes "Stop typing Git over and over again. Ruby on Rails development and consulting firm thoughtbot created an interactive shell dedicated to Git commands, gitsh. One of the primary developers says there is a need for this shell because many early Unix utilities don't take sub-commands like Git."

Ruby 2.1.0 Released 65

Today marks the release of Ruby version 2.1.0. A brief list of changes since 2.0.0 has been posted, and file downloads are available. Here are some of the changes:
  • Now the default values of keyword arguments can be omitted. Those 'required keyword arguments" need giving explicitly at the call time.
  • Added suffixes for integer and float literals: 'r', 'i', and 'ri'.
  • def-expr now returns the symbol of its name instead of nil.
  • rb_profile_frames() added. Provides low-cost access to the current ruby stack for callstack profiling.
  • introduced the generational GC a.k.a RGenGC (PDF).