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This Week in Programming: Has Facebook Forgotten about the Developers?

May 3rd, 2019 3:00pm by
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Do you smell that? That’s right, it’s the sweet smell of free t-shirts, stickers, buttons, and that oddly-flavored coffee that you only drink at a conference, because, well, it’s free and plentiful. We are full swing into conference season here in the developer world and we’re kicking it off this week with Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference, which is where we’ll focus a bit of our attention this week to start.

For those of you on the infrastructure end of things, this past week played host to both the newly-named Open Infrastructure Summit, as well as DockerCon, so make sure to check the recent posts of The New Stack to catch up on all the news there as well, but not to worry, if none of these conferences are your cup of tea — next week will likely scratch an itch. In some freak coincidence of “did nobody talk this over?” Red Hat, Microsoft and Google will all hold their conferences at pretty much exactly the same time. Red Hat goes to Boston for its annual Red Hat Summit, Microsoft holds down the fort in Seattle with Microsoft Build, and Google takes Google I/O down to Mountain View. (Oh, and don’t forget about PyCon that somehow overlaps all of them, where Netflix told us all about the myriad ways it uses Python to keep us all binging that content.)

Phew. I’m exhausted just thinking about trying to keep tabs.

On day one of F8, the company talked about many things — privacy, a faster Messenger experience, Occulus Rift for the workplace — but just two things stand out. First, the company noted it would be making some changes in its Marketing API 3.3 in regards to rate limits for Pages API, Instagram, Messenger, and Ads Insights, all of which will go into effect starting July 29, 2019. I know, sexy stuff right there. Next, it announced the launch of the Facebook Developer Community Forum, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. I’ll let TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois handle the overall sentiment around day one:

So, moving on to day two then! The name of the game for the second day of Facebook’s developer conference was “open source” and AI/ML, as the bulk of actual announcements came around updates to PyTorch, the company’s “open source deep learning platform that provides a seamless path from research prototyping to production deployment” as well as a list of newly “open-sourced tools and frameworks that simplify machine learning experimentation and optimization, speed up test execution times, and help solve memory-related performance issues.”

Following its stable release of 1.0 last December, PyTorch 1.1 adds some new developer tools, such as TensorBoard, “a web application suite for inspecting and understanding training runs and graphs” that provides “first-class and native support for visualization and model debugging.” In addition, the new version improves its just-in-time (JIT) compiler with “expanded capabilities in TorchScript, such as support for dictionaries, user classes, and attributes,” and adds new APIs for Boolean tensors and better support for custom recurrent neural networks. The AI/ML platform also saw the addition of some collaboration tools with Google AI Platform Notebooks and Google Colab

As for new open source tools, the list includes BoTorch, a library for for Bayesian optimization (BO) research built on PyTorch, idb, an iOS development bridge to “build complex workflows so that automation on iOS can be distributed amongst a fleet of machines,” Memscout, an analysis tool that can be used to quickly diagnose memory-related performance issues, and Mvfst, which offers the abilities to “stream multiplexing as a transport feature, 0-RTT connection establishment, better loss recovery, security built in from the ground up, and flexible congestion control.”

Beyond that, Facebook offered some navel-gazing analysis of how it’s using natural language processing to combat the hate speech and bullying that have plagued the site, working towards building inclusive AI and trying to be conscientious and ethical in its design changes. Unfortunately, as Lardinois once more points out, it did little to say how developers could do this themselves:

Even if F8 wasn’t the feature-packed marathon of sweet developer announcements, that’s okay, because, as we mentioned earlier, next week may make your head spin. Stay tuned.

This Week in Programming

  • Atlassian Introduces Bitbucket Cloud & Jira for VS Code: We know how much you folks love your Visual Studio Code, so we thought you might want to hear about Atlassian for VS Code, which combines three places you spend the most of your time — chat, IDE and repository. The VS Code extension pulls Jira issues into the IDE, automatically updating the status in Jira, and combines with Bitbucket for continuous feedback and delivery. With the extension, you can create and review pull requests, and initiate builds, tests and deployments with Bitbucket Pipelines. The extension is available in the VS Code Marketplace and you can find more information in the documentation.
  • VS Code Remote Development: A bit more Visual Studio Code news also comes this week directly from Microsoft, with the announcement of three new extensions for all of you running the Insiders build that will “enable seamless development in Containers, remotely on physical or virtual machines, and with the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL).” In other words, Microsoft is announcing “three new extensions for working with remote workspaces running in WSL, Docker containers, or in physical and virtual machines over SSH.”

  • Apache Goes All-In on GitHub: The Apache Software Foundation, which counts itself as “the world’s largest open source foundation, with over 200 million lines of code managed by an all-volunteer community of 730 members and 7,000 code contributors” has joined the GitHub open source community by migrating all of that code to GitHub. The move started back in 2016 and completed in February 2019. If you’re interested in more of the details, make sure to give JAXEnter’s interview with Bryan Clark, Director Of Product for Open Source at GitHub, a read for more details and insight.
  • The Nominees Are In: Google’s Season of Docs has announced the participating organizations, a list of 50 organizations including the likes of Drupal, Arduino, SciPy and NumPy, FreeBSD, Wikimedia and more. And now, it will be time to choose the technical writers, who can apply starting May 29 and are eligible to a stipend for their participation. Here’s to tackling that bane of every developer’s existence — documentation.

  • A Look Back at Joe Armstrong and Erlang: We’ll end off this week with another article by a favorite New Stack author of mine, David Cassel, who writes about Joe Armstrong’s Legacy of Fault-Tolerant Computing, in memory of the Erlang creator who passed last month. Cassel notes that the language “grew out of work more than 33 years ago at the Swedish multinational telecom company Ericsson” to eventually become some ubiquitous that, “last June a presentation at the Code BEAM conference noted that every year Cisco ships about two million devices with Erlang, and that 90% of all internet traffic goes through Erlang controlled nodes.” Cassel goes on to explore what gives this language its special place in the hearts of developers, taking a walk through the language’s history, which he says is hiding in plain sight in all 295 pages of Armstrong’s 2003 Ph.D. thesis which is titled “Making reliable distributed systems in the presence of software errors.”

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