Is Go Google's Programming Language, Not Ours?
Chris Siebenmann is a Unix sys-admin for the CS department at the University of Toronto. He recently saw a tweet asking about the possibility of community-implemented generics for the Go programming language, and
posted a widely-read response on his blog.
"There are many answers for why this won't happen, but one that does not usually get said out loud is that Go is Google's language, not the community's."
Yes, there's a community that contributes things to Go, some of them important and valued things; you only have to look at the diversity of people in CONTRIBUTORS or see the variety of people appearing in the commits. But Google is the gatekeeper for these community contributions; it alone decides what is and isn't accepted into Go. To the extent that there even is a community process for deciding what is accepted, there is an 800-pound gorilla in the room. Nothing is going to go into Go that Google objects to, and if Google decides that something needs to be in Go, it will happen.
(The most clear and obvious illustration of this is what happened with Go modules, where one member of Google's Go core team discarded the entire system the outside Go community had been working on in favour of a relatively radically different model. See eg for one version of this history.)
Or in short, Go has community contributions but it is not a community project. It is Google's project. This is an unarguable thing, whether you consider it to be good or bad, and it has effects that we need to accept. For example, if you want some significant thing to be accepted into Go, working to build consensus in the community is far less important than persuading the Go core team. (As a corollary, sinking a lot of time and effort into a community effort that doesn't have enthusiastic buy-in from the Go core team is probably a waste of time....) On the good and bad scale, there is a common feeling that Go has done well by having a small core team with good taste and a consistent vision for the language, a team that is not swayed by outside voices and is slow moving and biased to not making changes.
The essay also concedes that "I like Go and have for a fair while now, and I'm basically okay with how the language has been evolving and how the Go core team has managed it. I certainly think it's a good idea to take things like generics slowly.
"But at the same time, how things developed around Go modules has left a bad taste in my mouth and I now can't imagine becoming a Go contributor myself, even for small trivial changes."
Strict 'Do Not Track' Law Proposed By US Senator
This week a Republican senator "unveiled a 'Do Not Track' bill
with tough penalties for companies who break its protections," reports The Hill.
Trailrunner7 shares more information from the security news site
Senator Hawley's bill makes the Federal Trade Commission the enforcement authority for the system and any person who violates the measure would be liable for penalties of $50 per user affected by a violation for every day that the violation is ongoing. "Big tech companies collect incredible amounts of deeply personal, private data from people without giving them the option to meaningfully consent. They have gotten incredibly rich by employing creepy surveillance tactics on their users, but too often the extent of this data extraction is only known after a tech company irresponsibly handles the data and leaks it all over the internet," Hawley said.
"The American people didn't sign up for this, so I'm introducing this legislation to finally give them control over their personal information online.... [The bill] just says that a consumer can make a one time choice to not be tracked. I think we should make it compulsory and give it the force of law and give consumers real choice and force the companies to comply."
DuckDuckGo's founder had
proposed similar legislation, and the Hill reports that he's since been approached by "a few other" U.S. lawmakers. They also remind readers that a 2010 push for Do Not Track legislation "never panned out amid enormous pressure from industry representatives, who could not come to an agreement over what 'tracking' means in the first place...
"Consumer advocates and tech industry critics say Hawley's bill could find better traction amid a larger backlash against tech behemoths including Google, Facebook and Amazon."
Consumer Reports: Tesla's New Automatic Lane-Changing Is Much Worse Than a Human Driver
"Tesla's updated Navigate on Autopilot software now lets some drivers choose whether the car can automatically change lanes without his or her input," writes
Consumer Reports -- before complaining that the feature "doesn't work very well and could create safety risks for drivers."
An anonymous reader quotes their report:
In practice, we found that the new Navigate on Autopilot lane-changing feature lagged far behind a human driver's skills. The feature cut off cars without leaving enough space, and even passed other cars in ways that violate state laws, according to several law enforcement representatives CR interviewed for this report. As a result, the driver often had to prevent the system from making poor decisions. "The system's role should be to help the driver, but the way this technology is deployed, it's the other way around," says Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' senior director of auto testing. "It's incredibly nearsighted. It doesn't appear to react to brake lights or turn signals, it can't anticipate what other drivers will do, and as a result, you constantly have to be one step ahead of it...."
Multiple testers reported that the Tesla often changed lanes in ways that a safe human driver wouldn't -- cutting too closely in front of other cars, and passing on the right. An area of particular concern is Tesla's claim that the vehicle's three rearward-facing cameras can detect fast-approaching objects from the rear better than the average driver can. Our testers found the opposite to be true in practice. "The system has trouble responding to vehicles that approach quickly from behind," Fisher says. "Because of this, the system will often cut off a vehicle that is going at a much faster speed, since it doesn't seem to sense the oncoming car until it's relatively close."
Fisher says merging into traffic is another problem. "It is reluctant to merge in heavy traffic, but when it does, it often immediately applies the brakes to create space behind the follow car," he says, "and this can be a rude surprise to the vehicle you cut off... This isn't a convenience at all. Monitoring the system is much harder than just changing lanes yourself."
In the article David Friedman, vice president of advocacy at
Consumer Reports, complains that Tesla "is showing what not to do on the path toward self-driving cars: release increasingly automated driving systems that aren't vetted properly."
Why the US Air Force Is Investigating a Cyber Attack From the US Navy
"The Air Force is investigating the Navy for a cyber intrusion into its network, according to a memo obtained by Military Times."
Zorro (Slashdot reader #15,797) shares their report:
The bizarre turn of events stems from a decision by a Navy prosecutor to embed hidden tracking software into emails sent to defense attorneys, including one Air Force lawyer, involved in a high-profile war-crimes case of a Navy SEAL in San Diego. The tracking device was an attempt to find out who was leaking information to the editor of Navy Times, a sister publication. A similar tracking device was also sent to Carl Prine, the Navy Times editor, who has written numerous stories about the case.
Navy Capt. David Wilson, chief of staff for the Navy's Defense Service Offices, wrote in the May 19 memo that an Air Force attorney was among the defense lawyers who had received emails with the hidden tracking software, which he described as "malware"...
"In fact, I've learned that the Air Force is treating this malware as a cyber-intrusion on their network and have seized the Air Force Individual Military Counsel's computer and phone for review," he wrote.
Neal Stephenson Says Social Media Is Close To A 'Doomsday Machine'
PC Magazine interviewed Neal Stephenson about his new upcoming book
Fall; Or, Dodge in Hell, as well as "the digital afterlife, and why social media is a doomsday machine."
[Possible spoilers ahead]:
The hybrid sci-fi/fantasy novel begins in the present day with Richard "Dodge" Forthrast, an eccentric multibillionaire who made his fortune in the video game industry. When a freak accident during a routine medical procedure leaves him brain-dead, his family is left to contend with his request to have his brain preserved until the technology exists to bring him back to life. The near-future world of Fall is full of familiar buzzwords and concepts. Augmented reality headsets, next-gen wireless networks, self-driving vehicles, facial recognition, quantum computing, blockchain and distributed cryptography all feature prominently. Stephenson also spends a lot of time examining how the internet and social media, which Dodge and other characters often refer to in Fall as the Miasma, is irrevocably changing society and altering the fabric of reality...
Q: How would you describe the current state of the internet? Just in a general sense of its role in our daily lives, and where that concept of the Miasma came from for you.
Neal Stephenson: I ended up having a pretty dark view of it, as you can kind of tell from the book. I saw someone recently describe social media in its current state as a doomsday machine, and I think that's not far off. We've turned over our perception of what's real to algorithmically driven systems that are designed not to have humans in the loop, because if humans are in the loop they're not scalable and if they're not scalable they can't make tons and tons of money.
The result is the situation we see today where no one agrees on what factual reality is and everyone is driven in the direction of content that is "more engaging," which almost always means that it's more emotional, it's less factually based, it's less rational, and kind of destructive from a basic civics standpoint... I sort of was patting myself on the back for really being on top of things and predicting the future. And then I discovered that the future was way ahead of me. I've heard remarks in a similar vein from other science-fiction novelists: do we even have a role anymore?
answered questions from Slashdot's reader in 2004, and since then has "spent years as an advisor for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' private space company Blue Origin," the article points out. He's also currently the "chief futurist" for Magic Leap -- though he tells his interviewer that some ideas go back much further.
Part of his new book builds on "a really old idea" from security researcher Matt Blaze, who in the mid-1990s talked about
"Encyclopedia Disinformatica", which Stephenson describes as "a sort of fake Wikipedia containing plausible-sounding but deliberately false information as a way of sending the message to people that they shouldn't just believe everything that they see on the internet."
Systemd Now Has More Than 1.2 Million Lines of Code
This week Phoronix marked a very special anniversary:
Five years ago today was the story on Phoronix how the systemd source tree was approaching 550k lines so curiosity got the best of me to see how large is the systemd Git repository today. Well, now it's over 1.2 million lines.
After surpassing one million lines in 2017, when running GitStats on the systemd Git repository today it's coming in at 1,207,302 lines. Those 1.2 million lines are spread across 3,260 files and made over 40,057 commits from nearly 1,400 different authors... So far this year there have been 2,145 commits while last year saw 6,245 commits while 2016 and 2017 each saw less than four thousand commits total. Lennart Poettering continues being the most prolific contributor to systemd with more than 32% of the commits so far this year.
Why Are Some Wealthy Kids Getting Extra Time To Finish Their SAT Tests?
Students from wealthy high schools are more than twice as likely to qualify for extra time to finish their SAT or ACT college entrance tests than students from poor schools -- and in some cases, they're getting 50% more time.
An anonymous reader quotes CBS News:
About 4.2 percent of students at wealthy high schools qualified for a 504 designation, a plan that enables the students to qualify for accommodations such as extra test-taking time, according to an analysis of federal data for 9,000 by public schools by The Wall Street Journal. By comparison, only 1.6 percent of students in poor high schools qualified for the same designation.... These plans, named after a federal statute prohibiting discrimination against students with disabilities, can cover a wide range of issues, ranging from anxiety to deafness and other impairments. But critics of 504 plans say some families may be abusing the system in order to secure much-needed extra time for their children on the high-stakes exams...
About one-sixth of ACT test-takers don't complete the exam within its normal time limit, the Journal noted. And a redesign of the SAT in 2014 signaled how many students struggle with finishing on time, as fewer than half of students completed the math section in a prototype of the new test. Naturally, gaining an extra 50 percent of the allotted time can alleviate some of the stress of time management. And the SATs and ACTs don't alert colleges about whether a student received extra time to complete the tests, eliminating a disincentive for students to request the accommodation.
It's apparently been going on for years, according to CBS. In 2000 a California state report found that students getting extra time for their tests "
were predominately white, wealthy, and from private schools."
And now in Boston's "well-heeled" Newton suburb, about one-third of students qualified for extra time.
'How I Cheated On My Microsoft Job Interview'
Robert Sweeney spent 10 years working as a software engineer at Microsoft and Netflix, before becoming founder and CEO of the software development agency Facet. This week he blogged about how he cheated on his 2004 interview for a job at Microsoft.
It was his first job interview ever, when he was still a college senior majoring in computer science, and a Microsoft recruiter had invited him to an interview at an on-campus career fair:
I immediately called my good friend Eli who had just started a new job at Microsoft. I asked him what the on campus interviews were like and how I should prepare for them. He explained that they would ask a random programming question that I would need to solve on a sheet of paper. If you did well, then they would fly you out for a full day of interviews at the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington. He had been asked to write a function that, when given an array of length n + 1 containing integers 1 through n, find the duplicate integer in an array. I wasn't sure how to prepare for answering a "random programming question", so I decided to just use the question Eli had been asked as practice and hope for the best...
Most of the interview is a blur, but I remember the interviewer being nice and I remember the programming question he asked me... I couldn't believe it. He asked me the exact same question as Eli. Should I tell him? I hesitated for a moment, pretending to be thinking about how to solve the problem. In reality I was having an intense internal debate on the ethics of interviewing. He didn't ask me if I had heard the question before, he just asked me to solve it. So I decided to just answer the question... I slowly wrote out the solution I had come up with over days of thinking about the problem, being sure to pause periodically as if I was figuring it out for the first time... A few days later I received an invite to fly out to the Microsoft main offices. I interviewed with two teams over a period of 6+ hours. I didn't get asked any questions I had heard before this time, but I did my best... Sure enough, that next week I had a job offer from Microsoft from both teams... Within a couple of years of graduating from college, I had shipped software that was being used by nearly a billion people...
I've struggled with this a lot over the years, but I finally decided to share my story. I don't think I would have made it past the first round of interviews at Microsoft if I hadn't gotten so lucky. So pretty much, my entire career is built on one amazing stroke of luck. I also think my experience is a great example of one of the many reasons why the coding problems we use in developer interviews are so problematic: on the spot coding is just not a good way to judge technical ability.
Stack Overflow's CEO founder Joel Spolsky actually wrote some of Microsoft's internal programmer-testing guidelines when he worked there in the mid-1990s, and he later
publicized them in a 2006 blog post which he says was later adopted by other tech companies, including Google.
He has since said that recruiting for IT is broken, adding "
I think that I'm responsible."
Microsoft has since
changed its interviewing practices.
"Online marketplace eBay has revealed how it boosted performance of a demanding web app by 50x using WebAssembly," reports TechRepublic:
"The winning response (i.e. the first one to send a valid barcode) is sent to the main thread, and all workers are terminated... With three threads racing against each other, the success rate was indeed close to 100%."
NASA Announces First Commercial Partner For A Space Station Orbiting The Moon
"NASA has chosen its first commercial partner for a proposed space station, known as the Lunar Gateway, to be built near the Moon," reports Ars Technica:
On Thursday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Maxar Technologies would build the first component of the Gateway -- the power and propulsion element. Like the name suggests, it will provide electricity to the Gateway and help move it around. "This time when we go to the Moon, we're actually going to stay," Bridenstine said in making the announcement... Under NASA's current plans to land humans on the Moon by 2024, this is where astronauts will launch to from Earth before climbing aboard pre-positioned landers to take them down to the lunar surface....
The contract announced Thursday is worth a maximum of $375 million. Intriguingly, Maxar said Blue Origin and Draper will join the team in designing, building, and operating the spacecraft. Such a partnership raises the possibility that the power and propulsion element, which will weigh about 5 tons fully fueled, could be launched on Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket. During a teleconference with media, Maxar's Mike Gold said the company would choose a commercial rocket for the power and propulsion element launch in the next 12 to 18 months...
The station will use solar electric propulsion to maintain its orbit and have the ability to maneuver into other orbits around the Moon. Before humans visit the Gateway in 2024, the space agency plans to add a small "habitat" module.
An RV Camp Sprang Up Outside Google's HQ. Now Mountain View Wants To Ban It
schwit1 shares an excerpt from a report via Bloomberg:
In a quiet neighborhood near Google's headquarters last month, rusty, oleaginous sewage was seeping from a parked RV onto the otherwise pristine street. Sergeant Wahed Magee, of the Mountain View Police Department, was furious. Mountain View is a wealthy town that's home to Alphabet, the world's fourth-most valuable public corporation and Google's owner. Magee spends a lot of his time knocking on the doors of RVs parked on the city's streets, logging license plates and marking rigs that haven't moved for several days. This is the epicenter of a Silicon Valley tech boom that is minting millionaires but also fueling a homelessness crisis that the United Nations recently deemed a human rights violation. Thousands of people live in RVs across San Francisco and the broader Bay Area because they can't afford to rent or buy homes. In December, Mountain View police logged almost 300 RVs that appeared to be used as primary residences. Palo Alto, Berkeley and other Bay Area towns have similar numbers.
Some Silicon Valley towns have cracked down in recent months, creating an even more uncertain future for RV residents. At a March city council meeting, Mountain View voted to ban RVs from parking overnight on public streets. The ban hasn't taken effect yet, but soon, the town's van dwellers will need to go elsewhere. The city council also declared a shelter crisis and passed a new ordinance to ticket vehicles that "discharge domestic sewage on the public right of way." At the meeting, some people opposing the ban blamed Google for the housing crisis. When asked whether the RV situation will ultimately be resolved, Magee looked tired as he thought about the answer. After a 12-hour day, he had a long drive ahead to get home -- he can't afford to live in Mountain View. "The way things are going, I don't see how it's all gonna disappear," he said. "Where are we gonna put everyone?"
The Bay Area wants to enjoy wealth concentration like Manhattan, but also the population spread of the suburbs. Something's gotta give.
Huawei Has Now Been Cut Off By the SD Association, Wi-Fi Alliance
Both the SD Association and Wi-Fi Alliance
have cut ties with Huawei following President Trump's executive order
barring companies from doing business with the Chinese company. PhoneDog reports:
First up, Huawei has been removed the from the SD Association, a non-profit group that sets the standards for SD and microSD cards. Huawei's name has been removed from the organization's website, and the SD Association confirmed to Android Authority that it's complying with the recent executive order that placed Huawei on the Entity List. This news won't affect existing Huawei phones' ability to accept microSD cards, but the company declined to comment on the effect that it'll have on future models. It likely means that future Huawei devices won't be able to use microSD cards. Huawei does have its own Nano Memory Card format that it can use in its smartphones, though.
Meanwhile, the Wi-Fi Alliance has confirmed to Nikkei that it's "temporarily restricted" Huawei's participation in its activities. "Huawei values its relationships with all partners and associations around the world and understands the difficult situation they are in," Huawei said in response to this news. "We are hopeful this situation will be resolved and are working to find the best solution." Google and ARM also recently stopped working with Huawei. Earlier this week, ARM told staff it
must suspend business with the company. Google also
suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware and software products, except those covered by open source licenses.
'Phenomenal' 2,300-Year-Old Bark Shield Found In Leicestershire
pgmrdlm shares a report from The Guardian:
An "astonishing and unparalleled" 2,300-year-old shield made of tree bark has been discovered in Leicestershire, the only example of its kind ever found in Europe. The shield was discovered in 2015 by archaeologists from the University of Leicester Archaeological Service in a site close to the River Soar. Organic objects from the period very rarely survive, but the shield was preserved in waterlogged soil and may have been deposited in a water-filled pit, according to Matt Beamish, the lead archaeologist for the service.
Bark shields of the period were entirely unknown in the northern hemisphere, he told the Guardian, and the assumption was that the material may have been too flimsy for use in war. However experiments to remake the weapon in alder and willow showed the 3mm-thick shield would have been tough enough for battle but incredibly light. It was likely that, contrary to assumptions, similar weapons were widespread, Beamish said. The shield is made from green bark that has been stiffened with internal wooden laths, described by Beamish as "like a whalebone corset of split hardwood," and surrounded by a rim of hazel, with a twisted willow boss. The malleable green wood would then tighten as it dried, giving the shield its strength and forming the rounded rectangles into a slightly "waisted" shape, like a subtle figure of eight. The University of York and University of Leicester have
released statements on the discovery.
Parents Are Spending Thousands On YouTube Camps That Teach Kids How To Be Famous
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Daily Dot:
Various YouTube summer camps have begun launching across the nation, designed to turn regular elementary and middle-school-aged children into bonfire internet sensations. Per a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, parents are spending nearly $1,000 dollars a week for their children to learn how to create branded social media-related content. Though YouTube is not affiliated with or in any communication with any summer program, such camps are on the rise, and parents with means have made them a thing.
One summer camp gaining traction is YouTube STAR Creator Studio. Located in Culver City, California, its website states that it "branches out from traditional storytelling to how to create the fun and hilarious content that kids love to watch." The camp is designed for those in first through sixth grade, according to the website, and charges $375 dollars a week. Another prominent company is Level Up, which, according to the organization, became the first company in North America to offer YouTube classes and camps when it opened five years ago. Level Up takes an educational approach toward the platform to attract kids who "want to learn how to create an awesome YouTube channel," and promises that the class will give students the "skills to create engaging videos." The topics covered in Level Up's the summer camp range from learning how to interview people, draft storyboard ideas, and source and sync audio files. "[At our program] younger students are only able to use their parents' accounts," Level Up Founder and CEO Jeff Hughes said. "We work hard to protect the child's and parent's privacy. All of the channels and videos are set as private. All comments are disabled for safety. In addition, we have some parents who want their children to learn the skills but don't want their videos posted yet. In that case, we go through the entire creation process with the exception of uploading. We store them on a thumb drive or Google drive for the parents to bring home."
China Unveils 373 MPH Maglev Train Prototype
China has unveiled a new floating bullet train
capable of hitting speeds of about 372 mph (600 km/h). CNN reports:
On Thursday, the body prototype for the country's latest high-speed magnetic-levitation (maglev) train project rolled off the assembly line in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao. Developed by the state-owned China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) -- the world's largest supplier of rail transit equipment -- the sleek-looking train is scheduled to go into commercial production in 2021 following extensive tests. Maglev trains use magnetic repulsion both to levitate the train up from the ground, which reduces friction, and to propel it forward. The project was co-created by Shanghai Maglev Transportation Development Co. Ltd., a German Consortium consisting of Siemens AG, Thyssen Transrapid GMBH and Transrapid International GMBH. "Take Beijing to Shanghai as an example -- counting preparation time for the journey, it takes about 4.5 hours by plane, about 5.5 hours by high-speed rail, and [would only take] about 3.5 hours with [the new] high-speed maglev," said CRRC deputy chief engineer Ding Sansan, head of the train's research and development team, in a statement. For comparison, current trains on the Beijing-Shanghai line have a maximum operating speed of about 217 mph (350 km/h).