Technology News Worth Reading

Here are a few technology news stories that I’ve read in the past week or so.

News Headlines

Microsoft’s 10 app store principles to promote choice, fairness and innovation

For software developers, app stores have become a critical gateway to some of the world’s most popular digital platforms. We and others have raised questions and, at times, expressed concerns about app stores on other digital platforms. However, we recognize that we should practice what we preach. So, today, we are adopting 10 principles – building on the ideas and work of the Coalition for App Fairness (CAF) – to promote choice, ensure fairness and promote innovation on Windows 10, our most popular platform, and our own Microsoft Store on Windows 10. Read Microsoft’s blog post.

PostMan’s 2020 State of the API Report

Every year, Postman surveys industry members to get a picture of the API industry—to understand who is working with APIs, how they are getting their work done, and where they see the industry going. More than 13,500 developers, testers, executives, and others took our 2020 survey and provided insights on everything from how they spend their time to what they see as the biggest issues and opportunities for APIs. Three key findings: API investments stay strong, The pandemic has changed the world, but it didn’t stop APIs, and APIs are the nucleus of digital transformation. Read and download the report on the Postman website.

Hybrid cloud is where the action is

Multicloud is definitely a thing. However, it’s not exactly clear what that “thing” is. According to new survey data from database vendor MariaDB, 71% of survey respondents report running databases on at least two different cloud providers today. Yet when asked what would keep them from going all in on a cloud database, a vendor’s “lack of a multicloud offering” ranked dead last. In other words, everyone is doing multicloud, but no one knows why. Read Matt Assay’s InfoWorld article.

Nvidia claims Cambridge-1 is the U.K.’s fastest supercomputer

Cambridge-1, which Nvidia expects to come online by year-end 2020, is a joint project between GSK, AstraZeneca, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London, and Oxford Nanopore. Built on Nvidia’s DGX SuperPOD architecture, it’s anticipated to deliver over 400 petaflops of AI performance and 8 petaflops of Linpack performance. That would rank it 29th on the TOP500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers and among the top three most-energy-efficient machines in the Green500. Read Kyle Wiggers’ VentureBeat article.

Survey finds cloud complexity increases challenges

Aptum’s Global Cloud Impact Study reveals this with 62 percent of respondents citing complexity and abundance of choice as a hindrance when planning a cloud transformation. One of the biggest sources of complexity that crops up in more advanced cloud projects are legacy systems. The “abundance of choice” or the need to select the best of breed is a prime culprit. This usually results in a technological smorgasbord, where hundreds of decoupled cloud dev and migration teams make their own calls around what technology to use. Complexity naturally arises when it’s time to join and coordinate those apples and oranges. Read David Linthicum’s InfoWorld article.

The art of code reviews

According to Phil Hughes, front-end engineer at GitLab, it’s about how you provide and convey that feedback — and that’s an art form and a skill that is learned over time. “Reviewing code efficiently is a skill that gets learned the more you do it. Spending time coming up with a workflow that works for yourself is just as important”. Read the SD Times article by Christina Cardoza.

An AI can simulate an economy millions of times to create fairer tax policy

Scientists at the US business technology company Salesforce think AI can help. Led by Richard Socher, the team has developed a system called the AI Economist that uses reinforcement learning—the same sort of technique behind DeepMind’s AlphaGo and AlpahZero—to identify optimal tax policies for a simulated economy. The tool is still relatively simple (there’s no way it could include all the complexities of the real world or human behavior), but it is a promising first step toward evaluating policies in an entirely new way. “It would be amazing to make tax policy less political and more data driven,” says team member Alex Trott. Read the MIT Technology Review article by Will Douglas Heaven.

The most valuable software developer skills in 2020

Which developer skills are the most valuable in today’s market? We’ve pored through the data to find the most bankable developer skills for the coming years—and how best to set yourself up for success in a fraught job market: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, Some skills are hotter than others, Going cloud native, Ordering the full stack, Data is still the new oil, and Formal education isn’t everything. Read the InfoWorld article by By Scott Carey.

Justices wary of upending tech industry in Google v. Oracle Supreme Court fight

The dispute concerns about 11,500 lines of code that Google used to build its popular Android mobile operating system, which were replicated from the Java application programming interface developed by Sun Microsystems. At the end of an hour and a half of arguments, Justice Stephen Breyer, who at one point read aloud some code, seemed to be the only sure vote. Several of the other justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, suggested they were sympathetic to Oracle’s copyright claims. Several of the court’s conservatives, including Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito, noted that Google’s allies had warned that the “sky will fall” if Oracle won. But those comments were also peppered with skepticism. “I’m not aware that the sky has fallen in the last five or six years,” Kavanaugh said, noting that Google had lost its first appeals court battle in the case in 2014. Read the CNBC article by Tucker Higgins.

Section 230 will be on the Chopping Block at the Next Big US Congressional Hearing

Will Section 230 be on the chopping block at the next US congressional tech hearing. Hearing will focus on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the key law that shields online platforms from legal liability for the content their users create. What is clear: Tinkering with such a foundational law could have a huge cascade of effects for the internet as we know it and isn’t something to be undertaken lightly — if at all. Read the TechCrunch article by Taylor Hatmaker.

To the moon and beyond: How HoloLens 2 is helping build NASA’s Orion spacecraft

When workers for Lockheed Martin began assembling the crew seats for a spacecraft designed to return astronauts to the moon and pave the way for human exploration to Mars, they had no need for paper instructions or tablet screens to work from. Everything they needed to see, including animations of how pieces fit together, engineering drawings and torque values for tightening bolts, was visible in HoloLens 2 devices that they wore. Read the TechXplore article by Jennifer Langston, Microsoft.

Affordable AI: Nvidia Launches $59, 2GB Jetson Nano Computer

While Raspberry Pi boards are great for doing all kinds of tasks and they’re capable of doing object recognition, they can be a little slow when it comes to real-time image recognition. In 2019, Nvidia came out with an A.I.-focused Pi competitor in the $99 Jetson Nano. Fast forward to 2020 and Nvidia is back with a 2GB version of the Jetson Nano that sells for a more reasonable $59 and, for consumers in some markets (including America), comes with a compatible USB Wi-Fi dongle in the box. Due out later this month, the new Nvidia Jetson Nano 2GB is designed to make A.I. more accessible to hobbyists, kids and aspiring developers. Read the Toms Harware article by Avram Piltch.

Microsoft’s VS Code comes to Raspberry Pi and Chromebook – new v1.50 update is out

An official Microsoft build of the Visual Studio Code editor is now available for Linux Armv7 and Arm64 architecture devices, extending Microsoft’s popular cross-platform code editor to Chromebooks, the Raspberry Pi and rival Arm-based single-board Linux computers such as Odroid. Read the ZDNet article by Liam Tung.

Why Apple needed the FDA to sign off on its EKG but not its blood oxygen monitor

The features on the Apple Watch that track heart rate and heart rhythm, though, have a key difference from the blood oxygen monitor: the heart-tracking features are cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the oxygen monitor is not. Apple went through a long, extensive process to develop and validate an EKG feature so that the watch could detect a condition called atrial fibrillation. It didn’t need to do the same thing for the pulse oximeter. Blood oxygen monitors, or pulse oximeters, are considered Class II medical devices by the FDA. Read TheVerge article by Nicole Wetsman.

JDK 16: What’s coming in Java 16 (due March 2021)

Java Development Kit (JDK) 16 has begun to take shape, with proposed features including concurrent thread-stack processing for garbage collection, support for C++ 14 language features, and an “elastic metaspace” capability to more quickly return unused class metadata memory to the OS. Read the InfoWorld article by Paul Krill.

Microsoft launches Playwright for Python for automating testing

Microsoft is trying to make it easier for developers to automate their end-to-end tests. The company has announced a preview of Playwright for Python, which allows developers and testers to write such tests in Python. According to Microsoft, automated end-to-end tests have become more important than ever as teams build apps that run on a number of different kinds of devices. The increase in the number of targets coupled with increased delivery speed has put more pressure on the testing process, and automation is crucial to enable testing at the speed it needs to be done. Playwright for Python provides timeout-free automation, which makes it more reliable. Read the SD Times article by Jenna Sargent.

Definitely not Windows 95: What operating systems keep things running in space?

To deal with unforgiving deadlines, spacecraft like Solar Orbiter are almost always run by real-time operating systems that work in an entirely different way than the ones you and I know from the average laptop. Operating systems used in space add at least one more central criterion: a computation needs to be done correctly within a strictly specified deadline. When a deadline is not met, the task is considered failed and terminated. And in spaceflight, a missed deadline quite often means your spacecraft has already turned into a fireball or strayed into an incorrect orbit. There’s no point in processing such tasks any further; things must adhere to a very precise clock. Read the ArsTechnica article by Jacek Krywko.

GitHub Code scanning is now available!

One year ago, GitHub welcomed Semmle. We’ve since worked to bring the revolutionary code analysis capabilities of its CodeQL technology to GitHub users as a native capability. At GitHub Satellite in May, we released the first beta of our native integration: code scanning. Now, thanks to the thousands of developers in the community who tested and gave feedback, we’re proud to announce that code scanning is generally available. Read the GitHub blog post by Justin Hutchings.

4 common C programming mistakes — and 5 tips to avoid them

Common C mistake: Not freeing malloc-ed memory (or freeing it more than once). Common C mistake: Reading an array out of bounds. Common C mistake: Not checking the results of malloc. Common C mistake: Using void* for generic pointers to memory. Read the InfoWorld article by Serdar Yegulalp.

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