Category Archives: Programming

ACM: Python Now The Most Popular Intro Language At Top US Universities

pythonlogo.jpgAs a long-time fan of the python language, I was intrigued by this post on the ACM’s blog: “Python is Now the Most Popular Introductory Teaching Language at Top U.S. Universities“. The post begins with a summary:

At the time of writing (July 2014), Python is currently the most popular language for teaching introductory computer science courses at top-ranked U.S. departments.

Specifically, eight of the top 10 CS departments (80%), and 27 of the top 39 (69%), teach Python in introductory CS0 or CS1 courses.

… and then goes into greater detail.  Of course, the moment you publish one of these “XXXXXX language is the most popular programming language” type of posts, you immediately get reflexive reactions from programmers who favor all the other languages out there…  and this Hacker News thread with 357 comments (so far) shows exactly that, with people either supporting the idea or ripping apart the article’s methodology and explaining why the author is wrong, wrong, wrong… 🙂

The programming language wars will always continue.  In the meantime, though, as someone who likes the python language, I’m pleased to see the uptake at universities around the U.S.  (and, as noted in the HN thread, by other universities around the world, too).

SourceForge Redesigns Itself To Compete With Github

sourceforgeWhen I received an email today telling me that one of my ancient projects was being “upgraded” to the “new” SourceForge developer platform, I had to admit that I had no clue that SourceForge was even launching a new platform.

But sure enough, “The Next SourceForge” is out with a host of redesigned features that do look nice… and do remind me of everything that I currently use over on Github!

Of course, the project being “upgraded” is a small python app called “viewportfolio” that I wrote back in 2000 during the height of the .COM insanity when Red Hat’s stock had exploded and the tech bubble was all around us.

I last touched the code over 12 years ago!

I have no clue if it actually still works – and to be quite honest if I were to do anything with that app today, even to test it and make any fixes, I’d probably move it first to my Github account where I do all my work today.

But back twelve years, SourceForge was THE place where you hosted your project.  Everyone was using “SF” and it was where we all interacted for code.

Then, over time, it became a site so hideously overwhelmed with advertising that it was close to useless to interact with the site. And, well, more and more people started using the git version control system and for quite some time SourceForge seemed to still be wedded to SVN.

So I moved any new projects over to Github, as did many others that I knew, and I left SourceForge behind, only occasionally going in there when I needed to find older projects.  Even today, I’m working with someone who has a project on SF, but he’s moving that to Github in the next few weeks where I can work on it with him and where we’ll publicize it.

I applaud the folks behind SourceForge for launching “The Next SourceForge,” if for no other reason than that I do believe it is healthy to have competition around – and having another competitor for Github (there are several already) is a good thing in that it will continue to encourage innovation among the platforms providing project hosting services.

It’s also great to see the visual redesign of SF – a much cleaner interface and thankfully all the ads that were slathered all over the site seem to be gone.  And these new features do seem to be great improvements for projects hosted on SF.

Will “The Next SourceForge” prompt me to launch new projects on SF?  Or to stop migrating projects away?

Probably NOT.

The reality is that I’m now comfortably ensconced over on Github and I rather like it there. I guess I also trust the people/company behind Github more than I do Dice Holdings, the latest corporate overlord of SourceForge, in terms of being responsive to users and to continuing to improve the user experience.  Now this may be unfair… the folks behind SourceForge may be as equally committed as the folks behind Github… but one is a passionate startup and the other is part of a large publicly-traded company that is ultimately focused on helping connect employers and professionals with each other.

What about you?  Will “The Next SourceForge” get you to open new projects there? (Or to not migrate away?)

EFF’s Coders’ Rights Video: Do It For The Kittens!

Sooooo… the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), of which I am a member, sends out a promotional video for their Coders’ Rights Project that involves… kittens???

While I support the Coders’ Rights Project and applaud their creativity, this video feels a bit forced… kind of like “everyone loves kitten videos, so we just need a kitten video!

What do you think?

White House Summer Jobs Code Sprint Deadline is Monday, April 16, 2012

Summerjobs codesprintInteresting to see that the White House is sponsoring its first ever code sprint… from the announcement back on April 2nd:

Today we’re announcing the first ever White House Code Sprint. This is a call to developers around the country to use the Summer Jobs+ API to build job search apps for your favorite browsers, social networking platforms, smart phones and feature phones. Submit your apps using this form by Monday April 16th at 8 a.m. EST, and we’ll pick the most innovative ones to feature on WhiteHouse.gov.

The Code Sprint web page says a little bit more:

The White House and the Department of Labor have just released an API opening access to thousands of summer internships, training and mentorships opportunities through their Summer Jobs+ Bank. We’re challenging the developer community to build apps that reach kids throughout the nation on their browsers, Facebook, Android, iOS, SMS or any other platform.

This is the first ever White House Code Sprint and we’re excited to see what innovative apps you build over the next seven days. There is no ideal app, but keep in mind that our goal is to share opportunities in our job bank with as many youth as possible.

It’s good to see the White House seeking to tap into the energy and passion of the developer community… I don’t personally have the time to participate in this event, but I hope they do get some interesting application submissions. My one comment is that they didn’t allow much time… they issued the notice on April 2nd with a deadline, then, of April 9th. Not much time to publicize it and get interest… but we’ll see.

If you are interested, the deadline has been extended to this coming Monday, April 16th.

Google’s Python Class Provides A Great Introduction

Want to learn python? It turns out that Google has put together a great series of lessons, videos and exercises that will help you get started quickly with using Python.  You can get to the courses at:

http://code.google.com/edu/languages/google-python-class/

Very cool to see. A hat tip to the Hacker News mention of a blog post from Hartley Brody where he pointed out Google’s site.

P.S. Google also has a C++ class and a range of other tutorials and presentations available from:

http://code.google.com/edu/languages/

The Google vs Amazon Platform Rant – A Must-Read From Steve Yegge

Google logo

What does Amazon.com do so much better than Google? And why does Amazon do everything “wrong” while Google does everything “right”… yet offer a better platform? How should you construct a “platform” so that everyone can use it?

If you are a developer, IT manager, product manager, system architect, product marketer, CTO or even a CEO, you really need to take a bit to read this “Mother of all Reply-All failures” that was written by Googler Steve Yegge and accidentally posted publicly back on October 12th. Steve pulled down his own posting of the rant, but it was re-posted to Google+ by Rip Rowan and also posted over to Hacker News. The long rant – and the comments on both sites – are worth a read:

It’s a LONG piece that gives some fascinating insight into both Amazon and Google as companies, but also into what it takes to be a “platform”.

A bit later, on October 21st, Steve Yegge posted an update indicating that he did not get fired and in fact people actually listened within Google. He also dove a bit more into Amazon.com and Jeff Bezos. And just this week he wrote a lengthy piece describing how amazing it is to work at Google, explaining a bit more about what he meant in his rant about how Google “does everything right”.

The original platform rant, though, should definitely be on a “must-read” list for people thinking about how their services could really be a “platform”…

P.S. Are we connected on Google+? If not, you can find my Google+ profile and add me to a circle…

All Mobile Apps Developers (iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry, etc.) Need To Read Troy Hunt’s Post

As I mentioned on my Disruptive Telephony blog today, this post by Troy Hunt really should be mandatory reading for anyone developing applications for mobile platforms:

Secret iOS business; what you don’t know about your apps

Yes, his post is about Apple’s iOS, but I’m unfortunately rather confident that the results would be similar if someone were to do a similar analysis with a proxy server on apps on Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7, WebOS and any other mobile platform.

These are application design problems.

As programmers, we all take “short cuts” from time to time… I’m as guilty of that as anyone… but sometimes those shortcuts have grave consequences.

Mobile developers need to read Troy’s piece… and then look at their own apps and see how they can change. Actions like:

  1. Securing the transport of login credentials! (DUH!!!)
  2. Not stuffing giant images down onto mobile devices when those images are going to be restyled in HTML to be tiny.
  3. Being wary about what info is gathered by apps – and also disclosing that to customers (and perhaps offering a way to opt out).

The list can go on… Troy’s article has other ideas in it, too… but the point is that in the rush to get a mobile app out there, some of these security and privacy issues (and bandwidth costs!) really do need some attention!

R.I.P. Dennis Ritchie, half of the K&R Bible for C Programming

KandR CProgrammingLang

For those of us of a certain age, “The C Programming Language“, written by Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie, was our “bible” as we learned to program in those very early days. Our copies of “K&R“, as many of us referred to it, got quite dog-eared and marked up as we used it to figure out this whole new world of “C”. It was an exciting time and a critical book to have.

Many of us, in fact, probably still have that book… the image accompanying this post is my copy that I pulled off of a bookshelf a few moments ago.

Today many of us learned that Dennis M. Ritchie, the co-author of that book and indeed the inventor of the C Language, passed away recently after a long illness.

While many of us stopped programming in C years ago (although many still do), it was the language that got many of us started in “serious” work… and also that formed the background of UNIX as well.

On that note, I had quite honestly forgotten over the years Dennis Ritchie’s role in the creation of UNIX, but as has been noted in many articles today it was he and Ken Thompson that started it all. Here’s a great video from the Bell Labs days showing both Thompson and Ritchie:

R.I.P. dmr!


UPDATE: A couple of other nice tributes:


Remember Perl? RWW Highlights the Future of Perl 5

Perl org

Remember perl? The “scripting language” that was the one of the first that many of us used on UNIX to automate system administration tasks? And then was later used in the 1990s for a ton of web CGI programming and so much more? And that we could have so much fun with created “obfuscated” programs that looked like gobbledegook but actually did something useful?

I don’t hear much at all about perl these days… and my perception is that many folks are like me in that they moved on from perl to other scripting languages like python, JavaScript, Ruby, PHP and more.

So when ReadWrite Web published article “A Look at the Future of Perl 5.16 and Beyond“, I had to look out of perhaps morbid curiosity… “you mean, people still use perl?”

The slide set from Jesse Vincent embedded in the RWW article is interesting in that it does show the good amount of work being done by the perl faithful to bring more stability and progress to the perl language.

I commend them all for the work… it looks like really good things are happening. Is it enough to make me personally return to working with perl? Probably not, to be honest… but for the sake of all those people who still work with perl… and for people looking for a great multi-purpose programming language with deep roots and a huge base of documentation and usage… it’s good to see the language evolving again!

Node.js Knockout Contest Coming Up August 27 – Will You Compete?

NodejsknockoutDo you know Node.js? If so, have you thought about joining the Node.js Knockout contest starting on August 27th?

It’s basically a 48-hour contest to see which team can create the most awesome Node.js application, as decided by a panel of judges. The contest rules explain all the details and as I write this post there are 321 teams entered in this year’s event. Teams can be virtual – and some are gathering in various locations around the world to hack in the same physical place. There is apparently still room to sign up, although it’s closing soon (8/20).

While I’m not personally joining this year, I’m looking forward to seeing what these teams come up with. It should be fun to see!

P.S. In full disclosure, I should note that Tropo.com, one of the services of my employer, Voxeo, is one of the sponsors of the Node.js Knockout.