After many years of gradual improvement Vim now takes a big step with a major release. Besides many small additions the spotlight is on a new incarnation of the Vim script language: Vim9 script.
Why Vim9 script:
A new script language, what is that needed for? Vim script has been growing over time, while preserving backwards compatibility. That means bad choices from the past often can't be changed and compatibility with Vi restricts possible solutions. Execution is quite slow, each line is parsed every time it is executed.
The performance improvements can only be achieved by not being 100% backwards compatible. For example, making function arguments available by creating an "a:" dictionary involves quite a lot of overhead. In a Vim9 function this dictionary is not available. Other differences are more subtle, such as how errors are handled. For those with a large collection of legacy scripts: Not to worry! They will keep working as before. There are no plans to drop support for legacy script. No drama like with the deprecation of Python 2.
Former Top Apple Lawyer Pleads Guilty To Insider Trading
The former top corporate lawyer at Apple
pleaded guilty to insider trading charges, for what prosecutors called a five-year scheme to trade ahead of the iPhone maker's quarterly earnings announcements. Gene Levoff, 48, of San Carlos, California, pleaded guilty to six securities fraud charges at a hearing before U.S. District Judge William Martini in Newark, New Jersey. From a report:
Levoff allegedly exploited his roles as corporate secretary, head of corporate law and co-chair of a committee that reviewed drafts of Apple's results to generate $604,000 of illegal gains on more than $14 million of trades from 2011 to 2016. Prosecutors said Levoff ignored the quarterly "blackout periods" that barred trading before Apple's results were released, as well as the company's broader insider trading policy -- which he was responsible for enforcing. "Gene Levoff betrayed the trust of one of the world's largest tech companies for his own financial gain," First Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna in New Jersey said in a statement.
SQLite or PostgreSQL? It's Complicated!
Miguel Grinberg, a Principal Software Engineer for Technical Content at Twilio,
writes in a blog post:
We take blogging very seriously at Twilio. To help us understand what content works well and what doesn't on our blog, we have a dashboard that combines the metadata that we maintain for each article such as author, team, product, publication date, etc., with traffic information from Google Analytics. Users can interactively request charts and tables while filtering and grouping the data in many different ways. I chose SQLite for the database that supports this dashboard, which in early 2021 when I built this system, seemed like a perfect choice for what I thought would be a small, niche application that my teammates and I can use to improve our blogging. But almost a year and a half later, this application tracks daily traffic for close to 8000 articles across the Twilio and SendGrid blogs, with about 6.5 million individual daily traffic records, and with a user base that grew to over 200 employees.
At some point I realized that some queries were taking a few seconds to produce results, so I started to wonder if a more robust database such as PostgreSQL would provide better performance. Having publicly professed my dislike of performance benchmarks, I resisted the urge to look up any comparisons online, and instead embarked on a series of experiments to accurately measure the performance of these two databases for the specific use cases of this application. What follows is a detailed account of my effort, the results of my testing (including a surprising twist!), and my analysis and final decision, which ended up being more involved than I expected. [...] If you are going to take one thing away from this article, I hope it is that the only benchmarks that are valuable are those that run on your own platform, with your own stack, with your own data, and with your own software. And even then, you may need to add custom optimizations to get the best performance.
Government Policies Will Not Get UK To Net Zero, Warns Damning Report
The government is failing to enact the policies needed to reach the UK's net zero targets,
its statutory advisers have said, in a damning progress report to parliament. From a report:
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) voiced fears that ministers may renege on the legally binding commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, noting "major policy failures" and "scant evidence of delivery." Lord Deben, the chair of the committee and a former Conservative environment secretary, said the government had set strong targets on cutting emissions but policy to achieve them was lacking. "The government has willed the ends, but not the means," he said. "This report showed that present plans will not fulfil the commitments [to net zero]."
He said net zero policies were also the best way to reduce the soaring cost of living. Average household bills would be about $151.3 lower today if previous plans on green energy and energy efficiency had been followed through. "If you want to deal with the cost of living crisis, this is exactly what you need to do," he said. The greatest failure was the insulation policy. Britain's homes are the draughtiest in western Europe, heating costs are crippling household budgets, and heating is one of the biggest single sources of carbon emissions, but the government has no plans to help most people insulate their homes.
Gartner Predicts 9.5% Drop in PC Shipments
The party is over for PC makers as figures from Gartner suggest the market is on course for
a breathtaking decline this year. From a report:
According to the analysts, worldwide PC shipments will decline by 9.5 percent, with consumer demand leading the way -- a 13.5 percent drop is forecast, far greater than business PC demand, which is expected to drop by 7.2 percent year on year. The PC market in the EMEA region is forecast to fare even worse, with a 14 percent decline on the cards for 2022. Gartner pointed the finger of blame at uncertainty caused by conflicts, price increases and simple unavailability of products. Lockdowns in China were also blamed for an impact in consumer demand. It all makes for grim reading from a channel perspective. While worldwide PC shipments fared the worst, tablet devices are forecast to fall by 9 percent and mobile phones by 7.1 percent. Overall, the total decline over all types of devices in the report is expected to be 7.6 percent. This is in stark contrast to a 11 percent increase year on year in the shipment of PCs in 2021 and 5 per cent for mobile phones.
The Really Important Job Interview Questions Engineers Should Ask (But Don't)
Since we started PostHog, our team has interviewed 725 people. What's one thing I've taken from this? It's normal for candidates not to ask harder questions about our company, so they usually miss out on a chance to (i) de-risk our company's performance and (ii) to increase the chances they'll like working here.
Does the company have product-market fit? This is the single most important thing a company can do to survive and grow.
"Do you ever question if you have product-market fit?"
"When did you reach product-market fit? How did you know?"
"What do you need to do to get to product-market fit?"
"What's your revenue? What was it a year ago?"
"How many daily active users do you have?"
It's ok if these answers show you the founder doesn't have product market fit. In this case, figure out if they will get to a yes. Unless you want to join a sinking ship, of course! Early stage founders are (or should be) super-mega-extra-desperately keen to have product-market fit -- it's all that really matters. The ones that will succeed are those that are honest about this (or those that have it already) and are prioritizing it. Many will think or say (intentionally or through self-delusion) that they have it when they don't. Low user or revenue numbers and vague answers to the example questions above are a sign that it isn't there. Product-market fit is very obvious.
Webb Telescope Will Look for Signs of Life Way Out There
This month will mark a new chapter in the search for extraterrestrial life, when the most powerful space telescope yet built will
start spying on planets that orbit other stars. Astronomers hope that the James Webb Space Telescope will reveal whether some of those planets harbor atmospheres that might support life. New York Times:
Identifying an atmosphere in another solar system would be remarkable enough. But there is even a chance -- albeit tiny -- that one of these atmospheres will offer what is known as a biosignature: a signal of life itself. "I think we will be able to find planets that we think are interesting -- you know, good possibilities for life," said Megan Mansfield, an astronomer at the University of Arizona. "But we won't necessarily be able to just identify life immediately."
So far, Earth remains the only planet in the universe where life is known to exist. Scientists have been sending probes to Mars for almost 60 years and have not yet found Martians. But it is conceivable that life is hiding under the surface of the Red Planet or waiting to be discovered on a moon of Jupiter or Saturn. Some scientists have held out hope that even Venus, despite its scorching atmosphere of sulfur dioxide clouds, might be home to Venusians. Even if Earth turns out to be the only planet harboring life in our own solar system, many other solar systems in the universe hold so-called exoplanets. In 1995, Swiss astronomers spotted the first exoplanet orbiting a sunlike star. Known as 51 Pegasi b, the exoplanet turned out to be an unpromising home for life -- a puffy gas giant bigger than Jupiter, and a toasty 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. In the years since, scientists have found more than 5,000 other exoplanets. Some of them are far more similar to Earth -- roughly the same size, made of rock rather than gas and orbiting in a "Goldilocks zone" around their star, not so close as to get cooked but not so far as to be frozen.
Mickey Mouse Could Soon Leave Disney As 95-Year Copyright Expiry Nears
Mickey will be for the public domain in 2024, following U.S. copyright laws that state intellectual property on artistic work expires at the 95-year mark. When Mickey Mouse first appeared, Disney's copyright was protected for 56 years. The company supported the Copyright Act of 1976 which extended protections for 75 years. In 1998, Disney lobbied for a further extension. It is unclear whether the entertainment giant plans to make another move before 2023 to prevent Mickey from being moved into the public domain. Once copyright expires, anyone wishing to use characters from everyone's favorite rodent will not have to request permission or pay copyright charge.
BioNTech, Pfizer To Start Testing Universal Vaccine For Coronaviruses
Germany's BioNTech, Pfizer's partner in COVID-19 vaccines, said the two companies would start tests on humans of next-generation shots that
protect against a wide variety of coronaviruses in the second half of the year. From a report:
Their experimental work on shots that go beyond the current approach include T-cell-enhancing shots, designed to primarily protect against severe disease if the virus becomes more dangerous, and pan-coronavirus shots that protect against the broader family of viruses and its mutations. In presentation slides posted on BioNTech's website for its investor day, the German biotech firm said its aim was to "provide durable variant protection." The two partners, makers of the Western world's most widely used COVID-19 shot, are currently discussing with regulators enhanced versions of their established shot to better protect against the Omicron variant and its sublineages.
Crypto Platform Vauld Suspends Withdrawals, Trading Amid 'Financial Challenges'
Vauld, a Singapore-headquartered crypto lending and exchange startup, has
suspended withdrawals, trading and deposits on its eponymous platform with immediate effect as it navigates "financial challenges," it said Monday. From a report:
The three-year-old startup -- which counts Peter Thiel-backed Valar Ventures, Coinbase Ventures and Pantera Capital among its backers and has raised about $27 million -- said it is facing financial challenges amid the market downturn, which it said has prompted customer withdrawals of about $198 million since June 12. Vauld enables customers to earn what it claims to be the "industry's highest interest rates on major cryptocurrencies." On its website, Vauld says it offers 12.68% annual yields on staking several so-called stablecoins including USDC and BUSD and 6.7% on Bitcoin and Ethereum tokens.
Hacker Claims To Have Stolen Data of 1 Billion Chinese From Police
A hacker has claimed to have procured a trove of personal information from the Shanghai police
on one billion Chinese citizens, which tech experts say, if true, would be one of the biggest data breaches in history. From a report:
The anonymous internet user, identified as "ChinaDan," posted on hacker forum Breach Forums last week offering to sell the more than 23 terabytes (TB) of data for 10 bitcoin BTC=, equivalent to about $200,000. "In 2022, the Shanghai National Police (SHGA) database was leaked. This database contains many TB of data and information on Billions of Chinese citizen," the post said. "Databases contain information on 1 Billion Chinese national residents and several billion case records, including: name, address, birthplace, national ID number, mobile number, all crime/case details." Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the post. The Shanghai government and police department did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.
Microsoft Finds 'Raspberry Robin' Worm in Hundreds of Windows Networks
"Microsoft says that a recently spotted Windows worm
has been found on the networks of hundreds of organizations from various industry sectors," reports BleepingComputer.
The "Raspberry Robin" malware (first
spotted in September) spreads through USB devices with a malicious .LNK file
Although Microsoft observed the malware connecting to addresses on the Tor network, the threat actors are yet to exploit the access they gained to their victims' networks. This is in spite of the fact that they could easily escalate their attacks given that the malware can bypass User Account Control (UAC) on infected systems using legitimate Windows tools. Microsoft shared this info in a private threat intelligence advisory sent to Microsoft Defender for Endpoint subscribers and seen by BleepingComputer....
Once the USB device is attached and the user clicks the link, the worm spawns a msiexec process using cmd .exe to launch a malicious file stored on the infected drive. It infects new Windows devices, communicates with its command and control servers (C2), and executes malicious payloads...
Microsoft has tagged this campaign as high-risk, given that the attackers could download and deploy additional malware within the victims' networks and escalate their privileges at any time.
A Library of Books No One Can Read For 100 Years
The BBC looks at a 100-year art project in which famous authors write books that will not be published until the year 2113. An annual ceremony takes place near a forest of sapling trees which will be turned into paper in the year 2113 and then used for printing those books.
From the article:
It began with the author Margaret Atwood, who wrote a story called Scribbler Moon, and since then the library has solicited submissions from all over the world... All the manuscripts will be stored for almost a century inside locked glass drawers in a hidden corner of Oslo's main public library, within a small, wooden repository called the Silent Room. In 2114, the drawers will be unlocked, and the trees chopped down — and 100 stories hidden for a century will finally be published in one go.
It's part of Scottish artist Katie Paterson's fascination with the passage of time:
One of her first works, Vatnajokull (the sound of) [included] a phone number that anyone could call to listen to an Icelandic glacier melting. Dial the number, and you'd be routed to a microphone beneath the water in the Jökulsárlón lagoon on Iceland's south coast, where blue-tinged icebergs calve away and float towards the sea....
One of her most recent exhibitions in Edinburgh, Requiem at Ingleby Gallery, featured 364 vials of crushed dust, each one representing a different moment in deep time. Vial #1 was a sample of presolar grains older than the Sun, followed by powdered four-billion-year-old rocks, corals from prehistoric seas, and other traces of the distant past. A few visitors were invited to pour one of the vials into a central urn: when I was there in June, I poured #227, a four-million-year-old Asteroidea fossil, a kind of sea star....
Of all her work exploring the long-term though, Future Library is the project most likely to be remembered across time itself. Indeed, it was deliberately created to be. And this year its longevity was ensured: Oslo's city leaders signed a contract formally committing them and their successors to protect the forest and library over the next 100 years.
Texts and Web Searches Have Been Used to Prosecute Women for Abortions
Privacy advocates warn internet activity could someday be used to prosecute women who sought abortions. But it's already happened, reports the Washington Post.
In a handful of cases over the years, "American prosecutors have used text messages and online research
as evidence against women facing criminal charges related to the end of their pregnancies."
Despite mounting concerns that the intricate web of data collected by fertility apps, tech companies and data brokers might be used to prove a violation of abortion restrictions, in practice, police and prosecutors have turned to more easily accessible data — gleaned from text messages and search history on phones and computers. These digital records of ordinary lives are sometimes turned over voluntarily or obtained with a warrant, and have provided a gold mine for law enforcement. "The reality is, we do absolutely everything on our phones these days," said Emma Roth, a staff attorney at the National Advocates for Pregnant Women. "There are many, many ways in which law enforcement can find out about somebody's journey to seek an abortion through digital surveillance...."
Women have been punished for terminating pregnancy for years. Between 2000 and 2021, more than 60 cases in the United States involved someone being investigated, arrested or charged for allegedly ending their own pregnancy or assisting someone else, according to an analysis by If/When/How, a reproductive justice nonprofit. If/When/How estimates the number of cases may be much higher, because it is difficult to access court records in many counties throughout the country.
A number of those cases have hinged on text messages, search history and other forms of digital evidence.
In 2015 an Indiana woman received
a sentence of 20 years in prison based partly on text messages she'd sent, according to the article (though that conviction
It's provoked concern in countries around the world, and an activist group helping women travel to countries with less restrictive laws tells the
Post that they now use encrypted messaging apps like Signal and VPNs to minimize records of their web searches.