Stack Overflow's annual developer survey was published this week, giving an insight into the skills, experience, and opinions of a wide slice of the developer community. Since its launch in 2008, Stack Overflow has become an essential developer tool, offering copy/paste solutions to an ever-growing number of programming problems.
The Stack Overflow survey is particularly interesting, as Stack Overflow does not focus on any one kind of developer or development; is used by professionals, students, and hobbyists alike; and has substantial use across Europe, North America, and Asia, with respectable representation from South America, Africa, and Oceania. As such, it gives a view of the software development industry as a whole, across all fields and disciplines.
Almost every aspect of our daily lives is now shaped in some way by computer code. Yet the average person on the street has no idea how this all works or just how much influence developers now quietly wield in society. Tech journalist Clive Thompson is on a mission to change that withÂ his new book, Coders:Â The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World.
Before he was a tech journalist, Thompson was a high school hacker who taught himself to code on early personal computers like the Commodore 64. His prior book, Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better, pushed back against the doomsayers convinced that new technological tools are rotting our brains, arguing that such things actually boost our cognitive abilities. With Coders, "I wanted to give the average person a glimpse into who coders are, why they have the priorities they have, what their passions are, what their blind spots are," he said. "So that the average person can understand a little bit more the warp and woof of this digital world that coders have created for us."
Ars: You ended up becoming a writer rather than a professional coder. In many respects, coding is just another kind of language, yet many writers find it intimidating. Do you find the two to be similar?
Microsoft is making yet more fixes to Windows 10 build 17763, the build that has been blessed as the Windows 10 October 2018 Update.
The update was initially published on the first Tuesday of the month, but within a few days, Microsoft had to pull the update due to a bug that could cause data loss. It turned out that the bug had been reported numerous times during the preview period, but for whatever reason, Microsoft had overlooked or ignored the feedback items describing the problem.
Microsoft fixed that bug and sent the fixed build to Windows Insiders to test. The fixes published today include a fix for another widely reported (but apparently ignored) bug affecting users when dragging files from .ZIP archives in Explorer. If a file within the archive has the same name as a file in the destination directory, Explorer is supposed to show a prompt to ask whether to overwrite the existing file or rename the new one. For some reason, Windows build 17763 was not asking the question. Instead, it was skipping the extraction of the file with the conflicting name.
Photoshop CC on the iPad showing some toolbars.
Adobe is bringing Photoshop CC to the iPad. Set for release next year, Photoshop CC for iPad will bring the full Photoshop engine to Apple's line of tablets.
Photoshop for iPad has a user interface structured similarly to the desktop application. It is immediately familiar to users of the application but tuned for touch screens, with larger targets and adaptations for the tablet as well as gestures to streamline workflows. Both touch and pencil input are supported. The interface is somewhat simpler than the desktop version, and although the same Photoshop code is running under the hood to ensure there's no loss of fidelity, not every feature will be available in the mobile version. The first release will contain the main tools while Adobe plans to add more in the future.
Cloud syncing is a key element of Photoshop on iPad. Edits made on the iPad will be synchronized transparently with the desktopâ€”no conversions or import/export process to go through. Using a feature not available in the iPad version should then be as simple as hitting save and then opening the file on the desktop, picking up where you left off.
Google will partially revert a controversial change made in Chrome 69 that unified signing in to Google's online properties and Chrome itself and which further preserved Google's cookies even when users chose to clear all cookies. Chrome 70, due in mid-October, will retain the unified signing in by default, but it will allow those who want to opt out to do so.
Chrome has long had the ability to sign in with a Google account. Doing this offers a number of useful features; most significantly, signed-in users can enable syncing of their browser data between devices, so tabs open on one machine can be listed and opened on another, passwords saved in the browser can be retrieved online, and so on. This signing in uses a regular Google account, the same as would be used to sign in to Gmail or the Google search engine.
Prior to Chrome 69, signing in to the browser was independent of signing in to a Google online property. You could be signed in to Gmail, for example, but signed out of the browser to ensure that your browsing data never gets synced and stored in the cloud. Chrome 69 unified the two: signing in to Google on the Web would automatically sign you in to the browser, using the same account. Similarly, signing out of a Google property on the Web would sign you out of the browser.
Setsâ€”a new Windows interface feature that was first previewed in November 2017 and will make every window into a tabbed windowâ€”has been removed from the latest Insider Preview build of Windows 10. Moreover, the Verge is reporting that the feature won't be coming back in this year's next major update, due in October.
This marks the second time that Sets have been included in a preview release only to be removed at a later stage prior to the release of an update. When first announcing Sets, Microsoft was careful to note that it wasn't promising Sets for any particular releaseâ€”or possibly even ever, given the complexities of application compatibility and uncertainty about how people will actually use the feature.
The promise of Sets is certainly high. Putting tabs in every window is a way of solving certain long-standing requests, such as the demand for tabs in Explorer. But Sets went far beyond this, allowing collections of different applications to be grouped together with tabs to switch them. As such, Sets became a way of managing one's workspace, allowing you to combine, say, a Word window of a school paper with the online resources that you're using to write the paper.
Google has confirmed that its revamped YouTube Music streaming service will eventually support key features of its Google Play Music app, including the ability for users to upload music files that may not exist in the serviceâ€™s streaming catalog.
Google announced an overhaul for YouTube Music last week alongside a price bump for its YouTube Red service. It then began a â€śsoftâ€ť rollout of the app for select users on Tuesday.
But the announcement of a revamped YouTube Music app has caused some confusion among those who subscribe to Google Play Music, a streaming music service Google launched in 2011 but has struggled to attract subscribers on the level of category leaders Spotify and Apple Music.
Developer Q&A site Stack Overflow performs an annual survey to find out more about the programmer community, and the latest set of results has just been published.
Update January 17, 2018, 8:12 ET: Yesterday the Office of the Governor of Hawaii sent Honolulu Civil Beat a screenshot of what it said was a list of options that employees saw when they sent out alerts to citizens. The bad layout and confusing wording made it clear that the employee was less to blame than bad design.
But late Tuesday the Governorâ€™s office told Honolulu Civil Beat that it circulated a false image. "We asked (Hawaii Emergency Management Agency) for a screenshot and thatâ€™s what they gave us," Governorâ€™s office spokeswoman Jodi Leong told Civil Beat. "At no time did anybody tell me it wasnâ€™t a screenshot."
Itâ€™s unclear what the original image reflects, but Hawaii Emergency Management (HI-EMA) Administrator Vern Miyagi allegedly texted Leong the image below, which was widely circulated as an example of the kind of bad design that would trip up anyone, even if they were sending a test missile alert to millions.
Another quick update out of CES: Gaming PC maker Alienware is refreshing the Command Center software that comes paired with its line of notebooks and desktops. The overhauled settings app will first arrive in February on a slightly updated version of the company'sÂ Area 51 desktop, whichÂ loses a front USB port, adds a couple more fans and U.2 SSD support, and supports a wider breadth of LED colors on its chassis. The software will then come pre-installed on new Alienware devices going forward. Unfortunately, it wonâ€™t be available for the Dell subsidiaryâ€™s existing machines.
This is a mostly visual revamp, with a cleaner, more spaced out, more graphics-heavy look. You can still use the app to monitor and adjust your hardwareâ€™s fan speeds and heat output, create overclock profiles, change the lighting effects on your system itself, and create preset profiles for separate games. But that colorization can now be adjusted with more granularity, the overclocking tool lets you manage and test the effect with a few newbie-friendly sliders, and it all appears a bit easier to grok at first blush.
Beyond that, Alienware has now baked a game library and launcher tool into the appâ€™s home screen. The company says the tool will pull in titles downloaded from any source (Steam, GOG, Origin, etc.), the idea being to create a sort of centralized hub for all of your games. Dell says the Command Center will be removable, but the company cautions that it will be the only app that can control lighting and overclocking on Dell devices.
The Meltdown and Spectre flawsâ€”two related vulnerabilities that enable a wide range of information disclosure from every mainstream processor, with particularly severe flaws for Intel and some ARM chipsâ€”were originally revealed privately to chip companies, operating system developers, and cloud computing providers. That private disclosure was scheduled to become public some time next week, enabling these companies to develop (and, in the case of the cloud companies, deploy) suitable patches, workarounds, and mitigations.
With researchers figuring out one of the flaws ahead of that planned reveal, that schedule was abruptly brought forward, and the pair of vulnerabilities was publicly disclosed on Wednesday, prompting a rather disorderly set of responses from the companies involved.
There are three main groups of companies responding to the Meltdown and Spectre pair: processor companies, operating system companies, and cloud providers. Their reactions have been quite varied.
Microsoft today launched a preview version of a new programming language for quantum computing called Q#. The industry giant also launched a quantum simulator that developers can use to test and debug their quantum algorithms.
The language and simulator were announced in September. The then-unnamed language was intended to bring traditional programming conceptsâ€”functions, variables, and branches, along with a syntax-highlighted development environment complete with quantum debuggerâ€”to quantum computing, a field that has hitherto built algorithms from wiring up logic gates. Microsoft's hope is that this selection of tools, along with the training material and documentation, will open up quantum computing to more than just physicists.
Given that quantum computers are still rare, Microsoft has built an as-yet-unnamed quantum simulator to run those quantum programs. The local version, released as part of the preview, can support programs using up to 32 quantum bits (qubits), using some 32GB of RAM. Microsoft is also offering an Azure version of the simulator, scaling up to 40 qubits.
To boost the stability of Chrome, Google has announced that it's going to start blocking third-party software from being injected into the browser.
Third-party software such as anti-virus scanners and video driver utilities often injects libraries into running processes to do things like inspect network traffic, or add custom menu options to menus. Malicious software can also do the same to spy on users, steal passwords, and similar. Google has found that people who have such injected code are 15 percent more likely to see their browser crash. As such, it's going to start blocking such injections.
The change will start in Chrome 66, due in April 2018. If that version crashes, it will warn users that there is something injected that could be causing problems. Chrome 68, due in July 2018, will start blocking the injection; if the browser doesn't run properly, it'll allow the injected software but show a warning. Chrome 72, due in January 2019, will block code injection entirely.
While Samsungâ€™s latest crop of high-end smartphones hasÂ impressed from a design standpoint, many Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, and Galaxy Note 8 buyers have complained about the tech giantâ€™s decision to plant a dedicated button for its much-maligned Bixby voice assistant on both devices.
Now, though, the company appears to be backing downâ€”at least a little bit.
As spotted by Samsung blog SamMobile, the tech giant is rolling out a software update to at least some Galaxy devices that lets users disable the so-called Bixby Key from opening the assistantâ€™s â€śBixby Homeâ€ť screenâ€”which acts as a sort of Samsung-made information hub similar to Googleâ€™s Google Now pageâ€”upon being pressed.
We reported back in May that the Justice Department had commenced a criminal investigation into Uber's use of a software tool that helped drivers evade picking up local officials in places where the service had not been approved.
Portland, Oregon, was one of the cities we mentioned where Uber employed the so-called "Greyball" tool. The city has now released a scathing report detailing that Uber evaded picking up 16 local officials for a ride before April 2015, when the service finallyÂ won approval by Portland regulators.
The Greyball software employs a dozen data points on a new user in a given market, including whether a rider's Uber app is opened repeatedly in or around municipal offices, which credit card is linked to the account, and any publicly available information about the new user on social media. If the data suggests the new user is a regulator in a market where Uber is not permitted, the company would present that user with false information about where Uber rides are. This includes showing ghost cars or no cars in the area.
Arguably the most interesting forthcoming Windows 10 features that Microsoft showed off at its Build developer conference this year were "Timeline" and "Pick Up Where I Left Off." Timeline lets you both go "back in time"â€”to recreate prior working environments and restore opened documents and filesâ€”while PUWILO would enable a working session to be moved between devicesâ€”for example, migrating that half-written e-mail from your phone to your PC when you get into work.
The assumption was that these features would be part of the Fall Creators Update (FCU), the next major Windows 10 update that's scheduled for around September this year. But Microsoft has now confirmed that that's not to be the case after all. Joe Belfiore, in charge of the Windows Experience and Edge browser, tweeted that Timeline won't be in the FCU after all. Instead, it'll be included in preview builds some time after the FCU release.