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Software Development / Tech Life

This Week in Programming: GitHub the Latest to Face Scrutiny Over ICE Support

Oct 11th, 2019 12:00pm by
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The backlash continues this week, as yet another technology company was found to have a contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) department — this time with GitHub being the focus of the ire. GitHub employees and users are unhappy that GitHub has renewed a $200,000 contract with the agency, which has been heavily criticized for separating families as they seek to enter the country.

The news came with a leaked internal email from GitHub CEO Nat Friedman and now the company has released a public statement addressing the situation, essentially saying that they disagree with some of what ICE does, but not other parts, and that unless the agency observably breaks their terms of use, the contract will remain. GitHub is the latest companies criticized for working with the agency, following Microsoft, HashiCorp, Chef, and others.

Many on Twitter are not mincing their words in their responses to GitHub’s statement, calling for employees to take a stand, as well as saying that users should move on in boycott of the service.

The gist of GitHub’s response comes down to continuing “to participate in policy and advocacy efforts to change the current administration’s terrible immigration policies,” working through official channels, and donating $500,000 — an amount they note as being “in excess of the value of the purchase by ICE” — to offset the contract. Of course, this is a defense that isn’t winning over the critics, who want no less than for GitHub to ditch the contract altogether.

Now, not to employ a slippery slope logical fallacy, but rather to ask an honest question, we find ourselves wondering — where does it end and how can we work for nearly anyone in the technology sector? How far do you have to trace the money before you find a company selling their software to some government agency or otherwise that’s doing evil? As one person points out, if we’re ditching GitHub, we better be leaving our beloved Visual Studio Code behind as well.

It is an interesting time for a re-evaluation of ethics, both for code and as developers, isn’t it?

This Week in Programming

  • Rust’s Async Foundation Focuses on Polish: We brought you the news last week that the long-awaited async-await feature had finally landed on the Rust beta branch, but, as they remark on the newly-launched Inside Rust blog, “there’s still a lot of work to do,” primarily involving “polish, polish and (ahem) more polish.” Citing a backlog of “strange diagnostics, suboptimal performance, and the occasional inexplicable type-check failure,” the Rust team has announced focus issues, which they will…you guessed it, focus on and try to knock out one at a time. Then there’s the “on deck issues” which are the likely next issues to receive focus, which you can add the “on deck” label to yourself, with some reasoning as to why. In other words, if there’s something you think is deserving of attention, get in there and let the team know. Of course, as an open source project, your also welcome to join in on the bug-fixing fun by attending a triage meeting or showing up in #wg-async-foundations on Zulip. Finally, you can also nominate bugs.

  • GitHub Adds Multi-Line Comments: Envoy proxy creator Matt Klein first alerted us to this last week with his ecstatic tweet, and now it’s official and offered programmatically via API. GitHub has added a seeminly simple yet very desired new feature, with the ability to write multi-line comments “across multiple lines of code in a pull request diff using REST API or GraphQL.” The feature is currently in preview.
  • Amazon Translate Adds 7 New Languages: We’ve been big fans of this whole effort at creating the Babelfish (you’ve read the book, right?) and we get closer every day, with various services providing translation. Amazon this week said that it would now be adding seven new languages to Amazon Translate: Greek, Hungarian, Romanian, Thai, Ukrainian, Urdu and Vietnamese. According to the blog post, the service now supports 32 languages, which includes: Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu and Vietnamese. They also tout 987 translation combinations, all of which are available immediately in all regions where Amazon Translate is available, with free tier users getting 2 million characters per month for the first 12 months.

  • Google Grasshopper Goes to Desktop: While learning to program on a mobile device in your spare time is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, the benefits of a screen, keyboard and (possibly) a mouse (for those of you who don’t live entirely in a terminal) are obvious. So, while Google says that millions of people have already used Grasshopper to learn coding, the company is bringing Grasshopper to the desktop. With desktop availability, lessons on using code editors and an introduction to webpages are also being added, so get learning!
  • Google’s AMP Goes to the OpenJS Foundation: We can’t say that Google’s AMP Project has always been the most popular project among developers – some see it as Google foisting yet more requirements upon them, simply to serve Google’s own purposes. Well, Google has now said that AMP is joining the OpenJS Foundation incubation program as an incubating project. Why? Google says OpenJS aligns well with AMP’s mission, offers independence, and meshes with AMP’s recently improved governance model.
  • Apply for Google Code-In 2019: One final tidbit of Google news for today – Google Code-in 2019 Org applications are open for open source organizations interested in participating in the tenth Google Code-in 2019, which has pre-university students ages 13-17 learning how to contribute to open source software. Applications are due by Monday, October 28, 2019 at 17:00 UTC. For more information, check out the timeline and FAQ.

  • Visual Studio Code Gets Native Jupyter Notebook Editing: Python data developers rejoice, Microsoft has announced support for native editing of Jupyter Notebooks in VS Code. The 97 issues addressed in this release aside, the native editing of Jupyter Notebooks “brings a new way for both data scientists and notebook developers alike to directly edit .ipynb files and get the interactivity of Jupyter notebooks with all of the power of VS Code.” The new feature brings the ability to manage source control, open multiple files, and brings IntelliSense, Git integration, and multi-file management with it. Beyond that, this October release of VS Code also introduces a button to run a Python file in the terminal, and linting and import improvements with the Python Language Server.

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