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Would Microsoft really cut its QA department?

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about a month and a half ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Bloomberg reports that Nadella is making changes to the engineering organization and that QA testers may feel the ax. The publication attributes to him the notion that "it often makes sense to have the developers test and fix bugs instead of a separate team of testers."

This would be an incredible move if it's true, because it would fly in the face of more than 30 years of development processes. The whole premise of Agile development is based on building one small piece, test, test, test, add another feature, test, test, test, rinse, repeat. You don't let programmers debug their code for the same reason you don't let writers be their own editor; you need fresh eyes to see what the other person might not.

Microsoft does use a different technique for development. Rather than straight QA people, it uses what it called Software Developer Engineer Test, or SDET, who create software that identifies bugs and fixes them when possible. There is still a layer of human intervention for harder-to-find bugs, but the process does automate testing.

Might Microsoft be bold enough to cut QA for its software products and increase its automated testing processes? Or is this just a nightmare scenario that has cropped up amid Microsoft layoff rumors?"

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Police dog sniffs out hidden memory cards, flash drives to search for child porn

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 1 month ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "A Rhode Island state police task force’s hunt to track down “the worst of the worst” sex offenders and child pornographers now includes a golden Labrador named Thoreau that can sniff out hidden memory cards and storage drives, which will be used during the investigation of suspected child pornographers. The dog is trained to identify the scent of the components within the storage devices, and has already found as part of an investigation "a thumb drive containing child pornography hidden four layers deep in a tin box inside a metal cabinet," the Providence Journal reported.

Of course, the dog cannot discern between storage devices that contain illegal material and those that do not, but it will be used when investigating suspected child pornographers and could gather evidence that police officers may not be able to find."

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FAA's ruling on smartphones during takeoff has had little impact

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 2 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Airlines have seen almost no increase in the use of smartphones, tablets, and laptops among passengers since the Federal Aviation Administration ruled in October that they are now allowed to do so during takeoff and landing, a recent study found.

Over a four month period observed by DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development this year, 35.9% of passengers used mobile devices at any point during the flight. In last year’s study, while flight attendants still patrolled the aisles for devices that hadn't been shut off, 35.3% of passengers used devices during flight. Chaddick Institute director Joseph Schwieterman said many people may not be interested in using their mobile devices in-flight, and are simply excited for an opportunity to "use the time to sleep and chill out."

Another contributing factor is the stipulation to the FAA’s rule that still bans the use of smartphones for making phone calls or send text messages, the report noted. That may change soon, however. The FAA recently received public comment on a proposal to lift its ban on in-flight cellphone communications service, which has been in place since 1991.""

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How MIT and Caltech's coding breakthrough could accelerate mobile network speeds

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 2 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "What if you could transmit data without link layer flow control bogging down throughput with retransmission requests, and also optimize the size of the transmission for network efficiency and application latency constraints? In a Network World post, blogger Steve Patterson breaks down a recent breakthrough in stateless transmission using Random Linear Network Coding, or RLNC, which led to a joint venture between researchers at MIT, Caltech, and the University of Aalborg in Denmark called Code On Technologies.

The RLNC-encoded transmission improved video quality because packet loss in the RLNC case did not require the retransmission of lost packets. The RLNC-encoded video was downloaded five times faster than the native video stream time, and the RLNC-encoded video streamed fast enough to be rendered without interruption.

In over-simplified terms, each RLNC encoded packet sent is encoded using the immediately earlier sequenced packet and randomly generated coefficients, using a linear algebra function. The combined packet length is no longer than either of the two packets from which it is composed. When a packet is lost, the missing packet can be mathematically derived from a later-sequenced packet that includes earlier-sequenced packets and the coefficients used to encode the packet."
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Driverless cars could cripple law enforcement budgets

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 3 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Google’s driverless cars have now combined to drive more than 700,000 miles on public roads without receiving one citation, The Atlantic reported this week. While this raises a lot of questions about who is responsible to pay for a ticket issued to a speeding autonomous car – current California law would have the person in the driver’s seat responsible, while Google has said the company that designed the car should pay the fine – it also hints at a future where local and state governments will have to operate without a substantial source of revenue.

Approximately 41 million people receive speeding tickets in the U.S. every year, paying out more than $6.2 billion per year, according to statistics from the U.S. Highway Patrol published at StatisticBrain.com. That translates to an estimate $300,000 in speeding ticket revenue per U.S. police officer every year.

State and local governments often lean on this source of income when they hit financial trouble. A study released in 2009 examined data over a 13-year period in North Carolina, finding a “statistically significant correlation between a drop in local government revenue one year, and more traffic tickets the next year,” Popular Science reported.

So, just as drug cops in Colorado and Washington are cutting budgets after losing revenue from asset and property seizures from marijuana arrests, state and local governments will need to account for a drastic reduction in fines from traffic violations as autonomous cars stick to the speed limit."

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Why should Red Hat support competitors' software?

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 3 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "The Wall Street Journal recently reported that, based on documents it reviewed, Red Hat "has chosen not to provide support to its commercial Linux customers if they use rival versions of OpenStack." But the big question is: Why would customers have expected that in the first place? Gartner analyst Lydia Leong told Network World that Red Hat isn't really doing anything wrong here. Customers shouldn't have an expectation that Red Hat would support competitors' software. "The norm would be to expect that non-Red Hat software is treated like any other third-party software," Leong says.

If Red Hat has done anything wrong, it's that it has not clearly articulated its positioning and support for non-Red Hat OpenStack distros. Red Hat did not immediately respond to a question asking for a clarification on its support policy.

The complication in all this comes from the fact that OpenStack is an open source project and there are misconceived notions that all OpenStack clouds are interoperable with one another. But Leong says just because OpenStack is open source doesn't change the expectations around vendors supporting competitors' products.

Each vendor — HP, Red Hat, Rackspace, IBM — has its own commercial interests at play here. Of course Red Hat will integrate their OpenStack distro with RHEL — that's how it makes money. And HP will do the same with its hardware. There are no purely altruistic open source companies that offer free distributions that are interoperable across all vendors."

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Microsoft Research's gesture keyboard could kill the mouse

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 4 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "The Type–Hover–Swipe keyboard is a slim keyboard with gesture control sensors embedded between its keys. When you want to do some basic mouse movements, like scrolling up and down, simply raise your hand from the keyboard and make a gentle motion. In a demo video showing it in action, switching between apps seemed as simple as hovering over the keyboard, More interesting is the racing game simulation, where you basically hold your hands over the keyboard in a driving position. That did look a little clumsy, but as Microsoft says, the sensors are only 64 pixels, so it's fairly low res. There are other methods to compensate for this and recognize proper input.

As always, this is a work in progress. The keyboard has no release date, and there's no promise it will be released, or even be released in the form demonstrated. But if it can spare users the waste of time of shifting to the keyboard, then that will be a benefit for all."

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Microsoft cheaper to use than open source software, UK CIO says

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 4 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Jos Creese, CIO of the Hampshire County Council, told Britain's "Computing" publication that part of the reason is that most staff are already familiar with Microsoft products and that Microsoft has been flexible and more helpful.

"Microsoft has been flexible and helpful in the way we apply their products to improve the operation of our frontline services, and this helps to de-risk ongoing cost," he told the publication. "The point is that the true cost is in the total cost of ownership and exploitation, not just the license cost."

Creese went on to say he didn't have a particular bias about open source over Microsoft, but proprietary solutions from Microsoft or any other commercial software vendor "need to justify themselves and to work doubly hard to have flexible business models to help us further our aims.""

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MIT students to receive $100 in Bitcoin

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 3 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "The MIT Bitcoin Club is handing out $100 in the cryptocurrenty to MIT undergrads next September. The club’s co-founder Jeremy Rubin gave a pretty convincing reason for the giveaway:

"Giving students access to cryptocurrencies is analogous to providing them with internet access at the dawn of the internet era."

That gets at the main point, which is to encourage the students to test the technology and come up with applications for it. Even with the Mt. Gox debacle and the other issues surrounding Bitcoin's stability and value, its potential as a technological platform remains massive."

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ARIN runs out of IPv4 addresses

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 4 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "After IANA allocated the final IPv4 addresses to the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) on February 3, 2011, the RIRs have been running out of IPv4 addresses over the past three years. APNIC ran out on April 15, 2011; RIPE NCC ran out on September 14, 2012; and now ARIN has run out on April 23, 2014.

After today’s announcement by ARIN, they have now entered Phase 4 of their IPv4 exhaustion plan. Their Number Resource Policy Manual (NRPM) defines the process that organizations can request IPv4 addresses. At this moment, IPv4 addresses will only be allocated on an emergency basis. This means that an ISP can make one final request for a /22, but after that they will not get any more address space.

This may be concerning for many organizations that intend to continue using IPv4 for decades to come. There are probably no organizations in the ARIN territories that are actively planning to stop using IPv4 at some point in the future. Organizations that are desperate for addresses can purchase them through the address transfer marketplace. ARIN permits address transfers to take place, but you must follow their rules as part of the address transfer process. Over time, the price of an IPv4 address will increase from $15 to $30 today to well over $100 in the not-so-distant future."

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Americans are scared about the future of drones, robots, and wearables

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 4 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Findings from a recent Pew study on Americans' opinions on future technology and science: 65% think it would be a change for the worse if lifelike robots become the primary caregivers for the elderly and people in poor health. 63% think it would be a change for the worse if personal and commercial drones are given permission to fly through most U.S. airspace. 53% of Americans think it would be a change for the worse if most people wear implants or other devices that constantly show them information about the world around them.

The drone concern is to be expected, from both a privacy and a safety perspective. Last year, a small Colorado town tried to issue permits for residents to shoot down airborne drones, and came pretty close to making it legal. And just last week, a drone fell out of the air at a triathlon in Australia; an ambulance crew had to pick pieces of the drone's propeller out of her head. Compare this problem with Amazon’s vision of constant drone deliveries and you have a recipe for a country full of concerned parents.

The wearable concern is just another sign of privacy concerns going mainstream. Google Glass has seen some serious backlash lately, with even physical violence and theft against those who wear them in public. The study just illustrates how widespread this contempt goes.

One issue I was surprised not to see was concern over the impact of robots and drones on jobs for humans. A 2013 Oxford study estimated that as many as 47% of human jobs in the U.S. can be automated, taken over by robots or drones that don’t require a wage (let alone a minimum wage) and can work round-the-clock."

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Windows XP holdouts explain why they haven't upgraded

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 4 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Since Microsoft announced the deadline for Windows XP support, Andy Patrizio has kept track of users he's encountered who didn't seem to have a plan to upgrade. Then, after the deadline passed, he returned and asked why they hadn't upgraded and if/when they planned to.

Few of the holdouts polled in this admittedly unscientific study declined to upgrade out of ignorance or laziness. Rather, it was mostly for business reasons. Multiple doctor's offices reported expensive upgrade costs, sometimes up to $10,000, with little return on the investment. Others had experienced serious downtime for their office during the upgrade process in the past, and are now hesitant to put themselves at risk of the loss of business again.

Perhaps most concerning was the third-party ATM at a gas station. Although most bank ATMs have been proven to run Windows 7, third-party ATMs remain a little bit of a mystery. When asked about whether his ATMs have been or will be upgraded, the owner of the gas station dismissed it all with a wave of his hand."

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Tesla fights back against "lemon law" lawsuit

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 5 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "The self-proclaimed "Lemon Law King" in Wisconsin has filed a lawsuit against Tesla that could net his client $200,000 in damages. The entire situation is a bit shady, though.

The suit claims that the vehicle experienced an array of serious and frustrating issues, including but not limited to malfunctioning door handles, poor battery performance, paint defects, trouble starting the car, and more. The suit also claims Tesla ignored the defendant's request for a buy-back for the Model S at hand.

Tesla, however, has fired back, pointing out that this same lawyer filed a lemon law suit on behalf of the exact same client against Volvo just a few months ago. Tesla's engineers also seem convinced that the car's owner had tampered with the fuses of the car, which they only discovered after trying, and failing, to recreate the problems the defendant had claimed he experienced."

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Emails reveal battle over employee poaching between Google and Facebook

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 5 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Apple, Google, and a slew of other high-tech firms are currently embroiled in a class-action lawsuit on allegations that they all adhered to tacit anti-poaching agreements. With that case currently ongoing, we've seen a number of interesting executive emails come to light, including emails showing that Steve Jobs threatened Palm CEO with a full-fledged legal assault if the company kept going after Apple engineers.

The emails include correspondences between Sergey Brin and Marissa Mayer and Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and Google's Jonathan Rosenberg discussing the threat that Google saw in Facebook hiring its engineers.

The discussion elevates, with Sandberg pointing out the hypocrisy that Google grew to prominence by hiring engineers from major Silicon Valley firms. Rosenberg then hints at the potential for a "deeper relationship" that Google would be willing to reach as long as Facebook stops hiring its engineers, going so far as to tell Sandberg to "fix this problem.""

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Driverless vehicle already in use in Europe

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 5 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "A driverless golf cart-like vehicle has hit the market and is already in use on some college campuses in Europe, including Oxford University. The all-electric Navia looks like a golf cart and, with a maximum speed of 28 miles per hour but a recommended speed of about 12 mph, is typically used as a driverless shuttle service. For those at a location where the shuttles are available, a mobile app allows them to both order a shuttle to pick them up and provide a destination. The Navia reportedly costs $250,000 per unit, which is pretty expensive, especially considering that most organizations that might need it would need to order multiple units."
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MIT researchers bring Javascript to Google Glass

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 5 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Earlier this week, Brandyn White, a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland, and Scott Greenberg, a PhD candidate at MIT, led a workshop at the MIT Media Lab to showcase an open source project called WearScript, a Javascript environment that runs on Google Glass. White demonstrated how Glass's UI extends beyond its touchpad, winks, and head movements by adding a homemade eye tracker to Glass as an input device. The camera and controller were dissected from a $25 PC video camera and attached to the Glass frame with a 3D-printed mount. A few modifications were made, such as replacing the obtrusively bright LEDs with infrared LEDs, and a cable was added with a little soldering. The whole process takes about 15 minutes for someone with component soldering skills. With this eye tracker and a few lines of Wearscript, the researchers demonstrated a new interface by playing Super Mario on Google Glass with just eye movements."
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Is boycotting Mozilla for CEO's anti-gay stance the best approach?

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 5 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Probably not. Bryan Lunduke points out that, if the Open Source world were to boycott products with ties to controversial people in the open source world, it would be short on products it could use. Richard Stallman, for example, has infamously claimed that pedophilia might not be harmful to children. Because of this stance, should we completely boycott the GPL and emacs? No. That'd be silly.

Of course, a boycott of Firefox is a potentially effective way to send a message. However, opening a dialogue with Mozilla and its executives should be the first action. Dialogue at least has the potential to enlighten the company to the civil rights issue at hand, whereas a boycott is likely to elicit a phony apology meant to address the company's business concerns.

In this issue, a complete boycott seems premature to me, at least until we know whether Mozilla or Eich will stand by his previous actions."
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Ubuntu phone isn't important enough to demand an open source baseband

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 5 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Canonical is producing a version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution specifically for smartphones, but Richard Tynan, writing for PrivacyInternational.org, recently pointed out that the baseband in Ubuntu-powered phones will remain closed source (and highly proprietary). So, while Ubuntu itself is Open Source, the super-critical firmware on the phones will not be. This creates the immediate practical problem of leaving the information transmitted by your phone open to snooping by organizations that take advantage of issues in the Closed Source firmware.

Some have criticized Canonical for missing an opportunity to push for a fully Open Source smartphone, but in order to fix this problem (and open up the code for this super-critical bit of software), we need companies that have a large amount of clout, in the smartphone market, to make it a priority. Canonical (with Ubuntu) just doesn't have that clout yet. They're just now dipping their toes into the smartphone waters. But you know who does have that clout? Google.

Google has made a point of touting Open Source (at least sometimes), and they are the undisputed king of the smartphone operating system world. And yet I hear no big moves by Google to encourage phone manufacturers to utilize Open Source basebands, such as OsmocomBB. So has Canonical missed an opportunity? No. Not yet. If (some may say "when") Ubuntu gains a critical amount of market share in the phone world, that will be their chance to pressure manufacturers to produce a truly Open Source phone. Until then, Canonical needs to continue to work within the world we have today."

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In defense of Microsoft's leak investigation

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 5 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "By now, you've probably heard about the former Microsoft employee arrested for spilling trade secrets to a French website, and the impact it has had throughout the underground community that thrived on leaks. How Microsoft was able to get him might be trust-damaging to some, but not to me. Here's what I find stunning — Microsoft caught the guy because he was using MSN Messenger, SkyDrive, and Hotmail.com to coordinate the leaks. From that point, Microsoft’s Office of Legal Compliance (OLC) approved content pulls of the blogger’s Hotmail account. Yes, they have permission to do that. You accepted it when you signed up for Hotmail. From there, they found evidence in his SkyDrive and Hotmail accounts. The fact that it took another 18 months to pull the trigger and arrest Kibkalo shows the careful deliberation Microsoft took.

There's a mindset out there that unfashionable companies, those that are OK to dislike, have no right to defend themselves. I've read some amazing things over the weekend regarding Microsoft's actions. They didn't do this on a hunch or a fishing expedition. They had clear evidence that someone internally was leaking intellectual property and every right to find out who it was."

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A call for rollbacks to previous versions of software

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 5 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "In a blog post, Andy Patrizio laments the trend — made more common in the mobile world — of companies pushing software updates ahead without the ability to roll-back to previous versions in the event that the user simply doesn't like it. iOS 7.1, for example, has reportedly been killing some users' battery power, and users of the iTunes library app TuneUp will remember how the much-maligned version 3.0 effectively killed the company behind it (new owners have since taken over TuneUp and plans to bring back the older version).

The ability to undo a problematic install should be mandatory, but in too many instances it is not. That's because software developers are always operating under the assumption that the latest version is the greatest version, when it may not be. This is especially true in the smartphone and tablet world. There is no rollback to be had for anything in the iOS and Android worlds.

Until the day comes when software developers start releasing perfectly functioning, error-free code, we need the ability to go backwards with all software."

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