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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

Education

Ask Slashdot: Professionally Packaged Tools For Teaching Kids To Program? 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-child-left-in-a-for-loop dept.
Binestar writes: I've been doing IT consulting for years, but I'm not a programmer beyond bash scripting, perl scripts to make administration easier, and batch files to make Windows easier. I recently found an online course for modding Minecraft that my 9-year-old daughter is really enjoying (she built a custom sword that shoots lightning). Does anyone have any recommendations on online courses that would be age appropriate and worth the investment? It's been easy to get her interested in the Minecraft modding course because, as any parent with young children knows, Minecraft is kinda popular...

The course she's taking now is teaching her Eclipse and Gimp, and I'm sure there are other tools installed that they haven't had her open yet. What other vendors have stuff worth introducing her to? I've also started looking at things like the Kano and Learn to Mod, but as a non-programmer, I'm not really sure which are most useful for introduction and which are accomplishing what they claim vs. being a waste of money/time.

Anyone have experience or suggestions to help sort this out?
Math

Big Talk About Small Samples 243

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: My last article garnered some objections from readers saying that the sample sizes were too small to draw meaningful conclusions. (36 out of 47 survey-takers, or 77%, said that a picture of a black woman breast-feeding was inappropriate; while in a different group, 38 out of 54 survey-takers, or 70%, said that a picture of a white woman breast-feeding was inappropriate in the same context.) My conclusion was that, even on the basis of a relatively small sample, the evidence was strongly against a "huge" gap in the rates at which the surveyed population would consider the two pictures to be inappropriate. I stand by that, but it's worth presenting the math to support that conclusion, because I think the surveys are valuable tools when you understand what you can and cannot demonstrate with a small sample. (Basically, a small sample can present only weak evidence as to what the population average is, but you can confidently demonstrate what it is not.) Keep reading to see what Bennett has to say.
Transportation

Americans Rejoice At Lower Gas Prices 334

Posted by timothy
from the another-shoe-will-aways-drop dept.
HughPickens.com writes Drivers across America are rejoicing at falling gasoline prices as pumps across the country dip below $3 a gallon. According to Sharon E. Burke while it's nice to get the break at the gas pump and the economic benefits of an energy boom at home, the national security price of oil remains high and the United States should be doing everything it can to diversify global energy suppliers. Ultimately, the only way to solve our long term energy problem is to make a sustained, long-term investment in the alternatives to petroleum. But October saw a 52 percent jump in Jeep SUV sales and a 36 percent rise in Ram trucks while some hybrid and electric vehicle sales fell at the same time. "This is like putting a Big Mac in front of people who need to diet or watch their cholesterol," says Anthony Perl. "Some people might have the willpower to stick with their program, and some people will wait until their first heart attack before committing to a diet—but if we do that at a planetary scale it will be pretty traumatic."

Nicholas St. Fleur writes at The Atlantic that low oil prices may also undermine the message from the UN's climate panel. The price drop comes after the UN declared earlier this week that fossil fuel emissions must drop to zero by the end of the century in order to keep global temperatures in check. "I don't think people will see the urgency of dealing with fossil fuels today," says Perl. Falling oil prices may also deter businesses from switching to energy-saving technology, as a 2006 study in the Energy Journal suggested. Saving several pennies at the pump, Perl says, may tempt Americans away from actions that can lead to a sustainable, post-carbon future.
Perl

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

Posted by timothy
from the glib-claims-are-easy-to-make dept.
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.
Technology

Ask Slashdot: What Old Technology Can't You Give Up? 635

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-touch-that-dial dept.
An anonymous reader writes: It's the year 2014, and I still have a floppy drive installed on my computer. I don't know why; I don't own any floppy disks, and I haven't used one in probably a decade. But every time I put together a PC, it feels incomplete if I don't have one. I also have a Laserdisc player collecting dust at the bottom of my entertainment center, and I still use IRC to talk to a few friends. Software, hardware, or otherwise, what technology have you had a hard time letting go? (I don't want to put a hard limit on age, so you folks using flip-phones or playing on Dreamcasts or still inexplicably coding in Perl 4, feel free to contribute.)
Programming

Programming Languages You'll Need Next Year (and Beyond) 315

Posted by Soulskill
from the sorry-folks-still-no-haskell dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: Over at Dice, there's a breakdown of the programming languages that could prove most popular over the next year or two, including Apple's Swift, JavaScript, CSS3, and PHP. But perhaps the most interesting entry on the list is Erlang, an older language invented in 1986 by engineers at Ericsson. It was originally intended to be used specifically for telecommunications needs, but has since evolved into a general-purpose language, and found a home in cloud-based, high-performance computing when concurrency is needed. "There aren't a lot of Erlang jobs out there," writes developer Jeff Cogswell. "However, if you do master it (and I mean master it, not just learn a bit about it), then you'll probably land a really good job. That's the trade-off: You'll have to devote a lot of energy into it. But if you do, the payoffs could be high." And while the rest of the featured languages are no-brainers with regard to popularity, it's an open question how long it might take Swift to become popular, given how hard Apple will push it as the language for developing on iOS.
Idle

Poetry For Sysadmins: Shall I Compare Thee To a Lumbering Bear? 31

Posted by samzenpus
from the admin-admin-burning-bright-in-the-office-fluorescent-light dept.
itwbennett writes Don't forget that July 25th is Sysadmin Day — a good day to show love to the folks who save your butt again and again when you mess up your computer. Forget the chocolate and flowers, long-time sysadmin Sandra Henry-Stocker has tailored some poems to celebrate these under appreciated, hard-working souls.
Open Source

A Warm-Feeling Wooden Keyboard (Video) 82

Posted by Roblimo
from the keyboard-as-cool-as-a-woodie-station-wagon dept.
Plastic, plastic everywhere! Except on most surfaces of the Keyboardio ergonomic keyboard, which started as a 'scratch his itch' project by Jesse Vincent. According to his blurb on the Keyboardio site, Jesse 'has spent the last 20 years writing software like Request Tracker, K-9 Mail, and Perl. He types... a lot. He tried all the keyboards before finally making his own.'

His objective was to make a keyboard he really liked. And he apparently has. This video was shot in June, and Jesse already has a new model prototype under way that Tim Lord says is a notable improvement on the June version he already liked. || Note that the Keyboardio is hackable and open source, so if you think you can improve it, go right ahead. (Alternate Video Link)
Perl

Damian Conway On Perl 6 and the Philosophy of Programming 132

Posted by Soulskill
from the secretly-being-developed-by-blizzard dept.
M-Saunders writes: Perl 6 has been in development since 2000. So why, 14 years later, hasn't it been released yet? Linux Voice caught up with Damian Conway, one of the architects of Perl 6, to find out what's happening. "Perl 6 has all of the same features [as Perl 5] but with the rough edges knocked off of them", he says. Conway also talks about the UK's Year of Code project, and how to get more people interested in programming.
Perl

Ask Slashdot: Choosing a Web Language That's Long-Lived, and Not Too Buzzy? 536

Posted by timothy
from the perl-6-will-blow-them-all-away dept.
adelayde (185757) writes "In my day job, I work on a web based service with a lot of legacy code written in that older (and some may say venerable) web-scripting language, Perl. Although we use Modern Perl extensions such as Moose, the language just seems to be ossifying and we're wanting to move to a more up-to-date and used language for web applications, or even an entire framework, to do new development. We're still planning to support the legacy code for a number of years to come; that's unavoidable. This is a fairly big project and it's mission critical to the business. The thing we're afraid of is jumping onto something that is too new and too buzzy as we'd like to make a technology decision that would be good at least for the next five years, if not more, and today's rising star could quite easily be in tomorrow's dustbin. What language and/or framework would you recommend we adopt?"
Programming

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

Posted by Soulskill
from the fortran-and-a-stack-of-recycled-construction-paper dept.
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."
Perl

An Army Medal For Coding In Perl 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the bringing-efficiency-to-the-military-beast dept.
shocking writes: Arizona National Guard member Vivin Paliath was surprised to be commended for writing Perl scripts and Excel macros while his unit was deployed in Iraq. His work automated a number of previously manual processes that were part of the logistics processes of his unit. He wrote, '[A]s a programmer, I'm constantly looking for ways to make my job easy. I didn't want to sit and add qualifications, and print licenses one by one. I was too lazy for that, and worse, the whole thing was horribly inefficient. So I decided to figure out how to automate the process. ... I started writing Perl scripts to query the data. By the time we had reached Iraq, I had a working script that generated licenses as text files for all the soldiers. The script only took a second or two to run, and the longest part of the process was simply printing out the licenses. But I wasn't done yet. I was still annoyed that I would have to add driver qualifications manually. So I wrote another script that would go and add qualifications to drivers en masse. The script even had a configuration file where you could specify what qualifications you wanted to add and to whom."
Programming

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

Posted by timothy
from the pronto-now-yesterday-or-else dept.
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.)
Perl

Perl 5.20 Released, and Mojolicious 5.0: the Very Modern Perl Web Framework 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-ready-for-prime-time dept.
Kvorg writes: "Back in 2012 Slashdot noticed how at the time of Perl 5.16, the modern Perl projects, including Mojolicious, formed a new and expanding movement of a Perl Renaissance. With the release of Perl 5.20 and Mojolicious 5.0, the Modern Perl Renaissance is ever more striking. Faster, neater, sharper with its asynchronous APIs, Mojolicious is extremely flexible with its advanced request routing, plugin system, perl templating and hook API. Its adherence to the modern interfaces and standards and its implementation of advanced features in support tools, DOM and CSS selectors makes it easy to program with.

Mojolicious, with its philosophy of optimized code-generation (think metaprogramming), enabled-by-default support for encodings and UTF-8, zero dependency deployment with wide support for existing CPAN packages, zero downtime restarts and fully tested implementations, reminds us of how fun and flexible programming in scripting languages used to be. Of course, integrated documentation and a very supportive bundled development server don't hurt, either. The new Perl release with new postfix dereference syntax, subroutine signatures, new slice syntax and numerous optimizations makes it all even more fun."
Programming

Ask Slashdot: What Should Every Programmer Read? 352

Posted by Soulskill
from the green-eggs-and-dereferenced-pointers dept.
An anonymous reader writes "There's a blog post floating around right now listing articles every programmer should read. I'm curious what articles, books, etc., Slashdot readers would add to this list. Should The Art of Computer Programming, Design Patterns, or Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs be on the list? What about The Mythical Man-Month, or similar works that are about concepts relating to programming? Is there any code that every programmer should take a look at? Obviously, the nature of this question precludes articles about the nitty-gritty of particular languages, but I'm sure a lot of people would be interested in those, too. So if you can think of a few articles that every C++ programmer (or Perl, or Haskell, or whatever) should know, post those too."
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Can an Old Programmer Learn New Tricks? 306

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the new-and-exciting-skills dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I have been programming in some fashion, for the last 18 years. I got my first job programming 15 years ago and have advanced my career programming, leading programmers and bringing my technical skill sets into operations and other areas of the business where problems can be solved with logical solutions. I learned to program on the Internet in the 90s.. scouring information where ever I could and reading the code others wrote. I learned to program in a very simple fashion, write a script and work your way to the desired outcome in a straight forward logical way. If I needed to save or reuse code, I created include files with functions. I could program my way through any problem, with limited bugs, but I never learned to use a framework or write modular, DRY code. Flash forward to today, there are hundreds of frameworks and thousands of online tutorials, but I just can't seem to take the tutorials and grasp the concepts and utilize them in a practical manner. Am I just too old and too set in my ways to learn something new? Does anyone have any recommendations for tutorials or books that could help a 'hacker' like me? Also, I originally learned to program in Perl, but moved onto C and eventually PHP and Python."
The Internet

Crowdsourcing Confirms: Websites Inaccessible on Comcast 349

Posted by timothy
from the have-your-friends-drop-the-dime-on-your-non-friends dept.
Bennett Haselton writes with a bit of online detective work done with a little help from some (internet-distributed) friends: "A website that was temporarily inaccessible on my Comcast Internet connection (but accessible to my friends on other providers) led me to investigate further. Using a perl script, I found a sampling of websites that were inaccessible on Comcast (hostnames not resolving on DNS) but were working on other networks. Then I used Amazon Mechanical Turk to pay volunteers 25 cents apiece to check if they could access the website, and confirmed that (most) Comcast users were blocked from accessing it while users on other providers were not. The number of individual websites similarly inaccessible on Comcast could potentially be in the millions." Read on for the details.
Math

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Sort? 195

Posted by Soulskill
from the sort-of-slowly dept.
camperdave writes "I was recently going through a pile of receipts and other papers to put them into order by date. Lacking one of those fancy sorting sticks they have at the office, I wound up with all sorts of piles and I was getting confused as to which pile was for what. Finally, it struck me: Why don't I use one of the many sorting algorithms I learned back in my computer science classes? So I swept all the papers back into the box and did a radix sort on them. It worked like a charm. Since then, I've had occasion to try quicksorts and merge sorts. So, when you have to physically sort things, what algorithm (if any) do you use?"

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