Programming

Ask Slashdot: Everyone Building Software -- Is This the Future We Need? 352

An anonymous reader writes: I recently stumbled upon Apple's headline for version 2 of its Swift programming language: "Now everyone can build amazing apps." My question: is this what we really need? Tech giants (not just Apple, but Microsoft, Facebook, and more) are encouraging kids and adults to become developers, adding to an already-troubled IT landscape. While many software engineering positions are focused only on a business's internal concerns, many others can dramatically affect other people's lives. People write software for the cars we drive; our finances are in the hands of software, and even the medical industry is replete with new software these days. Poor code here can legitimately mess up somebody's life. Compare this to other high-influence professions: can you become surgeon just because you bought a state-of-art turbo laser knife? Of course not. Back to Swift: the app ecosystem is already chaotic, without solid quality control and responsibility from most developers. If you want simple to-do app, you'll get never-ending list of software artifacts that will drain your battery, eat memory, freeze the OS and disappoint you in every possible way. So, should we really be focusing on quantity, rather than quality?
Transportation

Amazon Proposes Dedicated Airspace For Drones 142

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has published two new position papers which lay out its vision for future drone regulation. Under Amazon's plan, altitudes under 200ft would be reserved for basic hobbyist drones and those used for things like videography and inspection. Altitudes between 200ft and 400ft would be designated for "well-equipped vehicles" capable of operating autonomously out of line of sight. They would need sophisticated GPS tracking, a stable data uplink, communications capabilities with other drones, and sensors to avoid collisions. This, of course, is where Amazon would want to operate its drone delivery fleet. From 400ft to 500ft would be a no-fly zone buffer between the drone airspace and integrated airspace. Amazon's plan also makes room for "predefined low-risk areas," where hobbyists and other low-tech drones can fly higher than the 200ft ceiling. "Additionally, it is Amazon's view that air traffic management operations should follow a 'managed by exception' approach. This means operators are always aware of what the fleet is doing, yet they only intervene in significant off-nominal cases."
Education

Computer Science Enrollments Match NASDAQ's Rises and Fall 67

dcblogs writes: In March 2000, the NASDAQ composite index reached a historic high of 5,048, at just about the same time undergrad computer science enrollments hit a peak of nearly 24,000 students at PhD-granting institutions in the U.S. and Canada, according to data collected by the Computing Research Association in its most recent annual Taulbee Survey. By 2005, computer science enrollments had halved, declining to just over 12,000. On July 17, the NASDAQ hit its highest point since 2000, reaching a composite index of 5,210. In 2014, computer science undergrad enrollments reached nearly, 24,000, almost equal to the 2000 high. Remarkably, it has taken nearly 15 years to reach the earlier enrollment peak.
AI

Musk, Woz, Hawking, and Robotics/AI Experts Urge Ban On Autonomous Weapons 311

An anonymous reader writes: An open letter published by the Future of Life Institute urges governments to ban offensive autonomous weaponry. The letter is signed by high profile leaders in the science community and tech industry, such as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Noam Chomsky, and Frank Wilczek. It's also signed — more importantly — by literally hundreds of expert researchers in robotics and AI. They say, "The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting. If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce."
Transportation

Fiat Chrysler Hit With Record $105 Million Fine Over Botched Recalls 83

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has levied a record fine against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to punish them for failing to adequately recall and fix defective cars. (If Fiat sounds familiar, it's the same company that issued a 1.4 million-vehicle recall on Friday over a remote hack.) The NHTSA's $105 million fine is half-again as much as the next biggest fine (given to Honda last year over faulty airbags). Fiat Chrysler "admitted to violating federal rules requiring timely recalls and notifications to vehicle owners, dealers and regulators." The company will be forced to buy back hundreds of thousands of vehicles (at the owners' discretion, of course) that have problems with the suspension that could lead to a loss of control. A million more Jeep owners will be given a chance to trade in their vehicle at a higher rate than market value because of rear-mounted gas tanks that are prone to catching fire.
Education

Senate Passes 'No Microsoft National Talent Strategy Goal Left Behind Act' 132

theodp writes: Microsoft is applauding the Senate's passage of the Every Child Achieves Act, a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act, saying the move will improve access to K-12 STEM learning nationwide. The legislation elevates Computer Science to a "core academic subject", opening the door to a number of funding opportunities. The major overhaul of the U.S. K-12 education system, adds Microsoft on the Issues, also "advances some of the goals outlined in Microsoft's National Talent Strategy," its "two-pronged" plan to increase K-12 CS education and tech immigration. Perhaps Microsoft is tackling the latter goal in under-the-radar White House visits with the leaders of Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC, like this one, attended by Microsoft's William "It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway" Kamela and FWD.us President Joe "Save Us From Just-Sort-of-OK US Workers" Green.
Patents

HEVC Advance Announces H.265 Royalty Rates, Raises Some Hackles 184

An anonymous reader writes: The HEVC Advance patent pool has announced the royalty rates for their patent license for HEVC (aka H.265) video. HEVC users must pay these fees in addition to the license fees payable to the competing MPEG LA HEVC patent pool. With HEVC Advance's fees targeting 0.5% of content owner revenue which could translate to licensing costs of over $100M a year for companies like Facebook and Netflix, Dan Rayburn from Streaming Media advocates that "content owners band together and agree not to license from HEVC Advance" in the hope that "HEVC Advance will fail in the market and be forced to change strategy, or change their terms to be fair and reasonable." John Carmack, Oculus VR CTO, has cited the new patent license as a reason to end his efforts to encode VR video with H.265.
Transportation

Fiat Chrysler Recalls 1.4 Million Autos To Fix Remote Hack 157

swinferno writes: Fiat Chrysler announced today that it's recalling 1.4 million automobiles just days after researchers demonstrated a terrifying hack of a Jeep that was driving down the highway at 70 miles per hour. They are offering a software patch for some of their internet-connected vehicles. Cybersecurity experts Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller have publicly exposed a serious vulnerability that would allow hackers to take remote control of Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) cars that run its Uconnect internet-accessing software for connected car features. Despite this, the researchers say automakers are being slow to address security concerns, and are often approaching security in the wrong way.
Security

Remote Control of a Car, With No Phone Or Network Connection Required 160

Albanach writes: Following on from this week's Wired report showing the remote control of a Jeep using a cell phone, security researchers claim to have achieved a similar result using just the car radio. Using off the shelf components to create a fake radio station, the researchers sent signals using the DAB digital radio standard used in Europe and the Asia Pacific region. After taking control of the car's entertainment system it was possible to gain control of vital car systems such as the brakes. In the wild, such an exploit could allow widespread simultaneous deployment of a hack affecting huge numbers of vehicles.
Power

MIT Stealth Startup Charges Up Wireless Power Competition 63

gthuang88 writes: Wireless charging of electronics is an old concept, but there's a new player in the competition between companies like WiTricity, Energous, and tech giants Apple, Samsung, and Qualcomm. A new spinout from Dina Katabi's lab at MIT, called Pi, may have a new take on how to charge mobile devices at a distance. The company isn't talking yet, but Katabi's research suggests the system uses an array of coils to produce a magnetic field and detect when a device is within range, like a Wi-Fi router. The array can then focus the magnetic field on a coil attached to a phone or mobile device and induce a current to charge the battery. But it's still very early, and the field of wireless charging needs to settle on technical standards and work out its commercial kinks.
Mars

Interviews: Shaun Moss Answers Your Questions About Mars and Space Exploration 48

Recently the founder of the Mars Settlement Research Organization and author of The International Mars Research Station Shaun Moss agreed to sit down and answer any questions you had about space exploration and colonizing Mars. Below you will find his answers to your questions.
China

Skype Translate Reportedly Has a Swearing Problem In Chinese 82

An anonymous reader writes: Skype Translate was supposed to be Microsoft's attempt at the "Star Trek" universal translator, offering real-time voice and text translation. It launched with one of the most challenging of languages, Chinese. And apparently, thanks to the Great Firewall, it has its problems. An American expat using it in China reports: "A glitch in the beta software misinterpreted the words I spoke. 'It's nice to talk to you' was translated as 'It's f*cking nice to f*ck you,' and other synthesized profanity, like the icebox robot in 1970's sci-fi flick Logan's Run, but with Tourette Syndrome. It was quite funny to me - I couldn't help but laugh during repeated takes, to Yan's exasperation - but the tech team were none too happy about it as they worked late into the night."
Technology

Police Not Issuing Charges For Handgun-Firing Drone -- Feds Undecided 312

Mr.Intel sends a followup to last week's news of an 18-year-old man getting a lot of attention for posting a video of a handgun being fired from a drone. Despite calls to arrest the man, police say they can't find any reason to charge him. "It appears to be a case of technology surpassing current legislation," they said. Todd Lawrie, the chief of police where it happened, said, "We are attempting to determine if any laws have been violated at this point. It would seem to the average person, there should be something prohibiting a person from attaching a weapon to a drone. At this point, we can't find anything that's been violated. The legislature in Connecticut (recently) addressed a number of questions with drones, mostly around how law enforcement was going to use drones. It is a gray area, and it's caught the legislature flatfooted." The FAA and other federal agencies are still investigating and trying to figure out if any criminal statutes were violated.
IT

What's the Oldest Technology You've Used In a Production Environment? 620

itwbennett writes: Sometimes it's a matter of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it,' sometimes corporate inertia is to blame, but perhaps even more often what keeps old technology plugging away in businesses large and small is the sense that it does a single, specific job the way that someone wants it done. George R.R. Martin's preference for using a DOS computer running WordStar 4 to write his Song of Ice and Fire series is one such example, but so is the hospital computer whose sole job was to search and print medical images, however badly or slowly it may have done the job. We all have such stories of obsolete tech we've had to use at one point or another. What's yours?
Cellphones

A Month With a Ubuntu Phone 118

When the first Ubuntu phone came out, reviews were quick to criticize it for its lackluster hardware and unusual take on common mobile software interactions. It's been out for a while, now, and Alastair Stevenson has written about his experiences using it for an entire month. While he doesn't recommend it for phone users who aren't tech savvy, he does say that he began to like it better than Android after adjusting to how Ubuntu does things. From the article: [T]he Ubuntu OS has a completely reworked user interface that replaces the traditional home screen with a new system of "scopes." The scope system does away with the traditional mobile interface where applications are stored and accessed from a central series of homescreens. ... Adding to Ubuntu’s otherworldly, unique feel, the OS is also significantly more touch- and gesture-focused than iOS and Android. We found nearly all the key features and menus on the Meizu MX4 are accessed using gesture controls, not with screen shortcuts. ... Finally, there's my biggest criticism – Ubuntu phone is not smart enough yet. While the app selection is impressive for a prototype, in its infancy Ubuntu phone doesn't have enough data feeding into it, as key services are missing."
Google

Google+ Photos To Shut Down August 1 153

An anonymous reader writes: Now that Google Photos exists separately from Google+, the company is shutting down the Google+ version of Photos starting on August 1. The Android version will be the first to go, followed shortly thereafter by the iOS and web versions. Fortune calls the old Photos app "a relic of the times when the search giant thought its social network Google Plus could become a huge hit."
EU

Europe's Top Court To Decide If Uber Is Tech Firm Or Taxi Company 193

An anonymous reader writes: A Spanish judge has requested that the European Court of Justice determine whether or not Uber is a generic "digital service," as it claims, or a "mere transport activity." If the court rules that Uber is a transportation firm the company may have to follow the same licensing and safety rules as taxis and other hired vehicles. "Today's news means that the European Court of Justice will now determine if the national rules currently being applied to digital services like Uber are legal and appropriate under European law," said Mark MacGann, Uber's Head of Public Policy for EMEA, on a conference call with journalists.
Microsoft

Game About Killing Poachers Vies For Top Prize In Microsoft Student Tech Contest 176

theodp writes: GeekWire reports on a group of students from Nepal who will be competing for the $50K top prize in Microsoft's Imagine Cup student tech contest with a first-person shooter in which players track down and kill poachers. "Until and unless the player kills all the poachers," reads the description for Defend Your Territory, "he/she cannot progress to next level. To make the game more interesting, there will be lots of weapons and vehicles unlock." So, is this the inspiration Google needs to take their anti-poaching drone program to the next level?
Businesses

Why Certifications Are Necessary (Even If Aggravating To Earn) 213

Nerval's Lobster writes: Whether or not certifications have value is a back-and-forth argument that's been going on since before Novell launched its CNE program in the 1990s. Developer David Bolton recently incited some discussion of his own when he wrote an article for Dice in which he claimed that certifications aren't worth the time and money. But there's a lot of evidence that certifications can add as much as 16 percent to a tech professional's base pay; in addition a lot of tech companies use resume-screening software that weeds out any resumes that don't feature certain acronyms. There's also the argument that the cost, difficulty, and annoyance of earning a certification is actually the best reason to go through it, especially if you're looking for a job; it broadcasts that you're serious enough about the technology to invest a serious chunk of your life in it. But others might not agree with that assessment, arguing that all a certification proves is that you're good at taking tests, not necessarily knowing a technology inside and out.