Ask Slashdot: Will Python Become The Dominant Programming Language? 808

An anonymous reader shares their thoughts on language popuarity: In the PYPL index, which is based on Google searches and is supposed to be forward looking, the trend is unmistakable. Python is rising fast and Java and others are declining. Combine this with the fact that Python is now the most widely taught language in the universities. In fields such as data science and machine learning, Python is already dominating. "Python where you can, C++ where you must" enterprises are following suit too, especially in data science but for everything else from web development to general purpose computing...

People who complain that you can't build large scale systems without a compiler likely over-rely on the latter and are slaves to IDEs. If you write good unit tests and enforce Test Driven Development, the compiler becomes un-necessary and gets in the way. You are forced to provide too much information to it (also known as boilerplate) and can't quickly refactor code, which is necessary for quick iterations.

The original submission ends with a question: "Is Python going to dominate in the future?" Slashdot readers should have some interesting opinions on this. So leave your own thoughts in the comments. Will Python become the dominant programming language?

Ask Slashdot: Is There a Way To Write Working Code By Drawing Flow Charts? 264

Slashdot reader dryriver writes: There appear to be two main ways to write code today. One is with text-based languages ranging from BASIC to Python to C++. The other is to use a flow-based or dataflow programming-based visual programming language where you connect boxes or nodes with lines. What I have never (personally) come across is a way to program by drawing classical vertical (top to bottom) flow charts. Is there a programming environment that lets you do this...?

There are software tools that can turn, say, C code into a visual flow chart representation of said C code. Is there any way to do the opposite -- draw a flowchart, and have that flowchart turn into working C code?

Leave your best answers in the comments.
Open Source

Alpine Linux 3.6.0 Released ( 59

An anonymous reader quotes DistroWatch: Natanael Copa has announced the release of Alpine Linux 3.6.0. Alpine Linux is an independent, minimal operating system that is well suited to running servers, routers and firewalls. Version 3.6.0 introduces support for 64-bit POWER machines, 64-bit IBM z Systems computers and features many up to date packages, including PHP 7.1, LLVM 4.0 and version 6.3 of the GNU Compiler.
"Noteworthy new packages" include Rust 1.17.0 and Cargo 0.18.0, as well as Julia 0.5.2, as we ll as "significant updates" like Go 1.8, Python 3.6, and Ruby 2.4. And in addition, "MD5 and SHA-1 hashes have been removed from APKBUILDs, being obsoleted by SHA-512."

Airbnb Is Running Its Own Internal University To Teach Data Science ( 32

In an effort to fill the demand for trained data scientists, Airbnb will be running its own university-style program, complete with a custom course-numbering system. Since traditional online programs like Coursera and Udacity weren't getting the job done because they weren't tailored to Airbnb's internal data and tools, the company "decided to design a bunch of courses of its own around three levels of instruction for different employee needs," reports TechCrunch. From the report: 100-level classes on data-informed decision making have been designed to be applicable to all teams, including human resources and business development. Middle-tier classes on SQL and Superset have enabled some non-technical employees to take on roles as project managers, and more intensive courses on Python and machine learning have helped engineers brush up on necessary skills for projects. Since launching the program in Q3 2016, Airbnb has seen the weekly active users of its internal data science tools rise from 30 to 45 percent. A total of 500 Airbnb employees have taken at least one class -- and Airbnb has yet to expand the program to all 22 of its offices.

The Working Dead: Which IT Jobs Are Bound For Extinction? ( 581

Slashdot reader snydeq shares an InfoWorld article identifying "The Working Dead: IT Jobs Bound For Extinction." Here's some of its predictions.
  • The president of one job leadership consultancy argues C and C++ coders will soon be as obsolete as Cobol programmers. "The entire world has gone to Java or .Net. You still find C++ coders in financial companies because their systems are built on that, but they're disappearing."
  • A data scientist at Stack Overflow "says demand for PHP, WordPress, and LAMP skills are seeing a steady decline, while newer frameworks and languages like React, Angular, and Scala are on the rise."
  • The CEO and co-founder of an anonymous virtual private network service says "The rise of Azure and the Linux takeover has put most Windows admins out of work. Many of my old colleagues have had to retrain for Linux or go into something else entirely."
  • In addition, "Thanks to the massive migration to the cloud, listings for jobs that involve maintaining IT infrastructure, like network engineer or system administrator, are trending downward, notes Terence Chiu, vice president of careers site Indeed Prime."
  • The CTO of the job site Ladders adds that Smalltalk, Flex, and Pascal "quickly went from being popular to being only useful for maintaining older systems. Engineers and programmers need to continually learn new languages, or they'll find themselves maintaining systems instead of creating new products."
  • The president of says "Right now, Java and Python are really hot. In five years they may not be... jobs are changing all the time, and that's a real pain point for tech professionals."

But the regional dean of Northeastern University-Silicon Valley has the glummest prediction of all. "If I were to look at a crystal ball, I don't think the world's going to need as many coders after 2020. Ninety percent of coding is taking some business specs and translating them into computer logic. That's really ripe for machine learning and low-end AI."


Power of Modern Programming Languages is That They Are Expressive, Readable, Concise, Precise, and Executable ( 268

An anonymous reader shares a Scientific American article: Programming has changed. In first generation languages like FORTRAN and C, the burden was on programmers to translate high-level concepts into code. With modern programming languages -- I'll use Python as an example -- we use functions, objects, modules, and libraries to extend the language, and that doesn't just make programs better, it changes what programming is. Programming used to be about translation: expressing ideas in natural language, working with them in math notation, then writing flowcharts and pseudocode, and finally writing a program. Translation was necessary because each language offers different capabilities. Natural language is expressive and readable, pseudocode is more precise, math notation is concise, and code is executable. But the price of translation is that we are limited to the subset of ideas we can express effectively in each language. Some ideas that are easy to express computationally are awkward to write in math notation, and the symbolic manipulations we do in math are impossible in most programming languages. The power of modern programming languages is that they are expressive, readable, concise, precise, and executable. That means we can eliminate middleman languages and use one language to explore, learn, teach, and think.

Ask Slashdot: Do You Like Functional Programming? ( 418

An anonymous reader writes: Functional programming seems to be all the rage these days. Efforts are being made to highlight its use in Java, JavaScript, C# and elsewhere. Lots of claims are being made about it's virtues that seem relatively easy to prove or disprove such as "Its use will reduce your debugging time." Or "It will clarify your code." My co-workers are resorting to arm-wrestling matches over this style choice. Half of my co-workers have drunk the Kool-Aid and are evangelizing its benefits. The other half are unconvinced of its virtues over Object Oriented Design patterns, etc.

What is your take on functional programming and related technologies (i.e. lambdas and streams)? Is it our salvation? Is it merely another useful design pattern? Or is it a technological dead-end?

Python creator Guido van Rossum has said most programmers aren't used to functional languages, and when he answered Slashdot reader questions in 2013 said the only functional language he knew much about was Haskell, and "any language less popular than Haskell surely has very little practical value." He even added "I also don't think that the current crop of functional languages is ready for mainstream."

Leave your own opinions in the comments. Do you like functional programming?

Slashdot Asks: What Was Your First Programming Language? ( 633

This question was inspired by news that Stanford's computer science professor Eric Roberts will try JavaScript instead of Java in a new version of the college's introductory computer programming course. The Stanford Daily reports: When Roberts came to Stanford in 1990, CS106A was still taught in Pascal, a programming language he described as not "clean." The department adopted the C language in 1992. When Java came out in 1995, the computer science faculty was excited to transition to the new language. Roberts wrote the textbooks, worked with other faculty members to restructure the course and assignments and introduced Java at Stanford in 2002... "Java had stabilized," Roberts said. "It was clear that many universities were going in that direction. It's 2017 now, and Java is showing its age." According to Roberts, Java was intended early on as "the language of the Internet". But now, more than a decade after the transition to Java, Javascript has taken its place as a web language.
In 2014 Python and Java were the two most commonly-taught languages at America's top universities, according to an analysis published by the Communications of the ACM. And Java still remains the most-commonly taught language in a university setting, according to a poll by the Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education. In a spreadsheet compiling the results, "Python appears 60 times, C++ 54 times, Java 84 times, and JavaScript 28 times," writes a computing professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, adding "if Java is dying (or "showing its age"...) it's going out as the reigning champ."

I'm guessing Slashdot's readers have their own opinions about this, so share your educational experiences in the comments. What was your first programming language?

Stack Overflow Reveals Which Programming Languages Are Most Used At Night ( 99

Stack Overflow data scientist David Robinson recently calculated when people visit the popular programming question-and-answer site, but then also calculated whether those results differed by programming language. Quoting his results:
  • "C# programmers start and stop their day earlier, and tend to use the language less in the evenings. This might be because C# is often used at finance and enterprise software companies, which often start earlier and have rigid schedules."
  • "C programmers start the day a bit later, keep using the language in the evening, and stay up the longest. This suggests C may be particularly popular among hobbyist programmers who code during their free time (or perhaps among summer school students doing homework)."
  • "Python and Javascript are somewhere in between: Python and Javascript developers start and end the day a little later than C# users, and are a little less likely than C programmers to work in the evening."

The site also released an interactive app which lets users see how the results for other languages compared to C#, JavaScript, Python, and C, though of those four, "C# would count as the 'most nine-to-five,' and C as the least."

And they've also calculated the technologies used most between 9 to 5 (which "include many Microsoft technologies, such as SQL Server, Excel, VBA, and Internet Explorer, as well as technologies like SVN and Oracle that are frequently used at enterprise software companies.") Meanwhile, the technologies most often used outside the 9-5 workday "include web frameworks like Firebase, Meteor, and Express, as well as graphics libraries like OpenGL and Unity. The functional language Haskell is the tag most visited outside of the workday; only half of its visits happen between 9 and 5."


Microsoft Will Support Python In SQL Server 2017 ( 98

There was a surprise in the latest Community Technology Preview release of SQL Server 2017. An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Python can now be used within SQL Server to perform analytics, run machine learning models, or handle most any kind of data-powered work. This integration isn't limited to enterprise editions of SQL Server 2017, either -- it'll also be available in the free-to-use Express edition... Microsoft has also made it possible to embed Python code directly in SQL Server databases by including the code as a T-SQL stored procedure. This allows Python code to be deployed in production along with the data it'll be processing. These behaviors, and the RevoScalePy package, are essentially Python versions of features Microsoft built for SQL Server back when it integrated the R language into the database...

An existing Python installation isn't required. During the setup process, SQL Server 2017 can pull down and install its own edition of CPython 3.5, the stock Python interpreter available from the website. Users can install their own Python packages as well or use Cython to generate C code from Python modules for additional speed.

Except it's not yet available for Linux users, according to the article. "Microsoft has previously announced SQL Server would be available for Linux, but right now, only the Windows version of SQL Server 2017 supports Python."

Pirate Bay Founder: 'I Have Given Up' ( 423

The future of illegal torrent websites doesn't look good. As torrent websites continue to disappear, the founder of The Pirate Bay believes the trend is the just the beginning. From an article: While it might look like torrenters are are still fighting this battle, Sunde claims that the reality is more definitive: "We have already lost." [...] Take the net neutrality law in Europe. It's terrible, but people are happy and go like "it could be worse." That is absolutely not the right attitude. Facebook brings the internet to Africa and poor countries, but they're only giving limited access to their own services and make money off of poor people. [...] Well, I have given up the idea that we can win this fight for the internet. The situation is not going to be any different, because apparently that is something people are not interested in fixing. Or we can't get people to care enough. Maybe it's a mixture, but this is kind of the situation we are in, so its useless to do anything about it. We have become somehow the Black Knight from Monty Python's Holy Grail. We have maybe half of our head left and we are still fighting, we still think we have a chance of winning this battle.

Major Banks and Parts of Federal Gov't Still Rely On COBOL, Now Scrambling To Find IT 'Cowboys' To Keep Things Afloat ( 300

From a report on Reuters: Bill Hinshaw is not a typical 75-year-old. He divides his time between his family -- he has 32 grandchildren and great-grandchildren -- and helping U.S. companies avert crippling computer meltdowns. Hinshaw, who got into programming in the 1960s when computers took up entire rooms and programmers used punch cards, is a member of a dwindling community of IT veterans who specialize in a vintage programming language called COBOL. The Common Business-Oriented Language was developed nearly 60 years ago and has been gradually replaced by newer, more versatile languages such as Java, C and Python. Although few universities still offer COBOL courses, the language remains crucial to businesses and institutions around the world. In the United States, the financial sector, major corporations and parts of the federal government still largely rely on it because it underpins powerful systems that were built in the 70s or 80s and never fully replaced. And here lies the problem: if something goes wrong, few people know how to fix it. The stakes are especially high for the financial industry, where an estimated $3 trillion in daily commerce flows through COBOL systems. The language underpins deposit accounts, check-clearing services, card networks, ATMs, mortgage servicing, loan ledgers and other services. The industry's aggressive push into digital banking makes it even more important to solve the COBOL dilemma. Mobile apps and other new tools are written in modern languages that need to work seamlessly with old underlying systems. That is where Hinshaw and fellow COBOL specialists come in. A few years ago, the north Texas resident planned to shutter his IT firm and retire after decades of working with financial and public institutions, but calls from former clients just kept coming.

DeepMind Open Sources 'Sonnet' Library For Easier Creation Of Neural Networks ( 17

"We are very excited about contributions from the community," announced Alphabet's DeepMind, open sourcing a new library to make it easier to build complex TensorFlow neural networks. An anonymous reader writes: "DeepMind foresees Sonnet to be used by the community as a research propellant," reports FossBytes. "Also, it would allow easy sharing of other models created by DeepMind with the community." Sonnet uses an object-oriented approach, a recent blog post explained, pointing to more details on GitHub. "The main principle of 'Sonnet' is to first construct Python objects which represent some part of a neural network, and then separately connect these objects into the TensorFlow computation graph."

DeepMind sees this as part of their broader commitment to open source AI research. "In recent months we've also open-sourced our flagship platform DeepMind Lab, and are currently working with Blizzard to develop an open source API that supports AI research in StarCraft II."


USB Canary Sends An SMS When Someone Tinkers With Your USB Ports ( 40

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: A new tool released on GitHub last week can help paranoid sysadmins keep track of whenever someone plugs in or disconnects an USB-based device from high-value workstations. Called USB Canary, this tool is coded in Python and currently, works only on Linux (versions for Windows and Mac are in the works). The tool works by watching USB ports for any activity while the computer is locked, which generally means the owner has left his desk. If an USB device is plugged in or unplugged, USB Canary can perform one of two actions, or both. It can alert the owner by sending an SMS message via the Twilio API, or it can post a message in a Slack channel, which can be monitored by other co-workers. USB Canary can prove to be a very useful tool for large organizations that feature strict PC policies. For example, if you really want to enforce a "No USB drives" at work, this could be the tool for the job. Further, with modifications, it could be used for logging USB activity on air-gapped systems.

SAS Mocked For Recommending 60% Proprietary Software, 40% Open Source ( 161

This week SAS wrote that open source technology "has its own, often unexpected costs," recommending organizations maintain a balance of 60% proprietary software to 40% open software. An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: How they arrived at this bizarre conclusion is hard to fathom, except that SAS sells more than $1 billion worth of proprietary software every year and presumably would like to continue, despite a clear trend toward open-source-powered analytics... In a Burtch Works survey of over 1,100 quant pros, 61.3% prefer open source R or Python to SAS, and only 38.6% opting for SAS, with that percentage growing for open source options every year.

Worse for SAS, a variety of open source data infrastructure and analytics tools threaten to encroach on its bastions in data management, business intelligence, and analytics... Nearly all innovation in data infrastructure is happening in open source, not proprietary software. That's a tide SAS can try to fight with white papers, but it would do better to join by embracing open source in its product suite.

"In the paper, SAS correctly argues that open source versus proprietary software is not an either/or decision..." writes InfoWorld, but they note that the report also "put the percentage of open source adopters at a mere 25%, which is pathetically wrong." The article suggests a hope that the report "is the product of a rogue field marketing team, and not the company's official position." Adobe's vice president of mobile commented on Twitter, "I just wonder who in their marketing dept thought this was a good idea."

Stack Overflow Reveals Results From 'Largest Developer Survey Ever Conducted' ( 139

More than 64,000 developers from 213 countries participated in this year's annual survey by Stack Overflow -- the largest number ever -- giving a glimpse into the collective psyche of programmers around the world. An anonymous reader quotes their announcement: A majority of developers -- 56.5% -- said they were underpaid. Developers who work in government and non-profits feel the most underpaid, while those who work in finance feel the most overpaid... While only 13.1% of developers are actively looking for a job, 75.2% of developers are interested in hearing about new job opportunities...

When asked what they valued most when considering a new job, 53.3% of respondents said remote options were a top priority. 65% of developers reported working remotely at least one day a month, and 11.1% say they're full-time remote or almost all the time. Also, the highest job satisfaction ratings came from developers who work remotely full-time.

62.5% of the respondents reported using JavaScript, while 51.2% reported SQL, with 39.7% using Java and 34.1% using C# -- but for the #5 slot, "the use of Python [32.0%] overtook PHP [28.1%] for the first time in five years." Yet as far as which languages developers wanted to continue using, "For the second year in a row, Rust was the most loved programming language... Swift, last year's second most popular language, ranked as fourth. For the second year in a row, Visual Basic (for 2017, Visual Basic 6, specifically) ranked as the most dreaded language; 88.3% of developers currently using Visual Basic said they did not want to continue using it."

RedMonk Identifies 2017's Most Popular Languages: JavaScript, Java, And Python ( 125

Twice a year the tech analysts at RedMonk attempt to gauge adoption trends for programing languages based on data from both GitHub and Stack Overflow. Here's their top 10 list for 2017: JavaScript, Java, Python, and PHP, followed by a two-way tie between C# and C++, a two-way tie between Ruby and CSS, and then C at #9, and Objective-C at #10. But their GitHub data now counts the number of pull requests rather than the number of repositories. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Swift was a major beneficiary of the new GitHub process, jumping eight spots from 24 to 16 on our GitHub rankings. While the language appears to be entering something of a trough of disillusionment from a market perception standpoint, with major hype giving way to skepticism in many quarters, its statistical performance according to the observable metrics we track remains strong. Swift has reached a Top 15 ranking faster than any other language we have tracked since we've been performing these rankings. Its strong performance from a GitHub perspective suggests that the wider, multi-platform approach taken by the language is paying benefits...

Of all of the top tier languages, none jumped more than TypeScript on our GitHub rankings, as the JavaScript superset moved up 17 points.... PowerShell moved from 36 within the GitHub rankings to 19 to match TypeScript's 17 point jump, and that was enough to nudge it into the Top 20 overall from its prior ranking of 25... One of the biggest overall gainers of any of the measured languages, Rust leaped from 47 on our board to 26 â" one spot behind Visual Basic.

Swift and Scala and Shell all just missed out on the top 10, clustering in a three-way tie at the #11 spot.

Ask Slashdot: How To Teach Generic Engineers Coding, Networking, and Computing? 197

davegravy writes: I work at a small but quickly growing acoustic consulting engineering firm, consisting of a mix of mechanical, electrical, civil, and other engineering backgrounds. When I joined almost 10 years ago I was in good company with peers who were very computer literate -- able to develop their own complex excel macros, be their own IT tech support, diagnose issues communicating with or operating instrumentation, and generally dive into any technology-related problem to help themselves. In 2017, these skills and tendencies are more essential than they were 10 years ago; our instruments run on modern OS's and are network/internet-capable, the heavy data processing and analysis we need to do is python-based (SciPy, NumPy) and runs on AWS EC2 instances, and some projects require engineers to interface various data-acquisition hardware and software together in unique ways. The younger generation, while bright in their respective engineering disciplines, seems to rely on senior staff to a concerning degree when it comes to tech challenges, and we're stuck in a situation where we've provided procedures to get results but inevitably the procedures don't cover the vast array of scenarios faced day-to-day. Being a small company we don't have dedicated IT specialists. I believe I gathered my skills and knowledge through insatiable curiosity of all things technology as a child, self-teaching things like Pascal, building and experimenting with my own home LAN, and assembling computers from discrete components. Technology was a fringe thing back then, which I think drew me in. I doubt I'd be nearly as curious about it growing up today given its ubiquity, so I sort of understand why interest might be less common in today's youth.

How do we instill a desire to learn the fundamentals of networking, computing, and coding, so that the younger generation can be self-sufficient and confident working with the modern technology and tools they need to perform -- and be innovative in -- their jobs? I believe that the most effective learning occurs when there's a clearly useful purpose or application, so I'm hesitant to build a training program that consists solely of throwing some online courses at staff. That said, online courses may be a good place to get some background that can be built upon, however most that I've come across are intended for people pursuing careers in computer science, web development, software engineering, etc. Are there any good resources that approach these topics from a more general purpose angle?

Microsoft Releases Visual Studio 2017 ( 195

Reader Anon E. Muss writes: Microsoft on Tuesday released Visual Studio 2017. The latest version of the venerable Integrated Development Environment supports a variety of languages (C/C++, C#,, F#, Javascript/Typescript, Python, etc.) and targets classic "Win32" desktop, Universal Windows Platform (UWP, also known as "Metro"), .NET, ASP, node.js, etc.). A "Community Edition" is available at no cost for individual developers and those working on open source software. "Professional" and "Enterprise" editions are available for corporate developers, at prices sure to shock whoever has to sign the check.

Researcher Breaks ReCAPTCHA Using Google's Speech Recognition API ( 22

An anonymous reader writes: "A researcher has discovered what he calls a "logic vulnerability" that allowed him to create a Python script that is fully capable of bypassing Google's reCAPTCHA fields using another Google service, the Speech Recognition API," reports BleepingComputer. The attack is incredibly simple and works by downloading a version of the reCAPTCHA audio challenge, feeding it into Google's Speech Recognition API, getting the text-version of the audio challenge, and feeding it back into the reCAPTCHA field. Proof-of-concept code is available on GitHub, and the researcher says Google has failed to patch the issue, albeit it's unclear if he ever notified the company. The attack also only works against reCAPTCHA v2, not other versions like v1, or the upcoming Invisible reCAPTCHA (v3). Because the source code for the exploit is available online, security experts expect to see it ported to JavaScript and used to create browser extensions that bypass reCAPTCHA fields, especially when using the Tor Browser.

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