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Software Development

This Week in Programming: Like Winning the Lottery

Dec 15th, 2018 6:00am by
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Dear developer, we are pleased to inform you that you have won the lottery. You entered the drawing some time back in the late 20th century, just by being born, being interested in computers and being capable of programming them.

At least that’s how now-defunct Posterous co-founder and current VC Garry Tan sees the world for developers — you are lottery winners. What, nobody told you?

Of course, you may find yourself wondering, “If I won the lottery, then why am I sitting in this cubicle all day long, writing code for terribly boring software and dealing with that pushy project manager who has no idea what’s going on?” But that’s besides the point. Or maybe that’s precisely the point.

Tan, now a managing partner at Initialized Capital and previously at startup accelerator Y Combinator, obviously has a slightly skewed version of what it means to be a developer, it would seem. While some enthusiastic Twitter responses seem to echo Tan’s bubbling excitement over computer programming, others call into question the privilege that may be necessary for winning this particular lottery.

So, maybe it’s more like, being born at the right time, with the right social skills and mobility, free time for creative thought, socially well-endowed… Oh, and likely finding your way to an innovation hub.

Or maybe you’ve found that, despite doing all the right things, you’re still just a developer. No winning lottery numbers, just writing code, working overtime and answering interview questions about whether or not you code in your free time.

It seems interesting to push such a narrative, that simply being able to code in this era, is “basically like winning the lottery,” wouldn’t you say? With all of these coding camps, we sure do have a lot of lottery winners out there these days. Earlier this year, we explored a similar phenomenon, wherein simply being a developer was portrayed as being better, and I can’t help but point out this portrayal whenever I see it and ask if we’re so sure.

What do you think? Is being a developer a boon? The eternal question is “What would you do if you won the lottery?” Does “programming computers for a living” come to mind? Somehow, I have my doubts.

All that said, we live in a time of innovation, and the week past is no exception, so let’s quit questioning our status as lottery winners and take a look at all we have to look forward to in the world of programming.

This Week in Programming

  • GitHub’s Open Source 2018 Round-Up: First up, GitHub has offered a look at the state of new open source projects in 2018, which provides some insight on where things are headed, as well as highlights some interesting tools. The company “pulled the top projects open sourced in 2018 by the number of stars the project received in its first 28 days being public and by the number of unique contributors to the project in the first 28 days being public” to create the post, finding that “the top projects open sourced in 2018 run the gamut from learning to code to tools for professionals, from side projects for fun to projects for getting work done.” So, if you’re new to coding, the blog post highlights a number of projects that include coding examples, offer “hello world” examples in numerous languages, and even offer examples of complex algorithms. Beyond the noob-friendly projects, the post highlights “tools like denoland/deno for developing in TypeScript, ValveSoftware/Proton for porting games to Linux, and facebookresearch/Detectron to support research in image recognition algorithms.” Beyond that, it also took a gander at what non-language-specific topics were most popular with open source projects in 2018, finding, for example, that “dotnet shows that more open source projects are developing apps for Windows” and that “machine learning is also gaining momentum on GitHub with new open source projects tagged machine-learning.”
  • npm Looks at 2018 and Predicts 2019: Oh yeah, did we forget to mention it’s THAT time of year? That’s right, the round-up blog posts and predictions for the year ahead have begun. This one, from JavaScript package manager npm takes a look at 2018 in review and npm’s predictions for 2019, which includes a bunch of stats for the popular language and package manager. According to npm, which now boasts “over 10 million users who download well over 30 billion packages every month,” JavaScript is the most popular programming language according to several surveys, which several estimates of more than 10M JavaScript developers. According to the post, npm also boasts more than 836,000 libraries, making it “the largest single collection of open-source libraries in the world, by a significant margin—although JavaScript’s tendency towards smaller libraries means this comparison isn’t entirely apples-to-apples.” Beyond all that navel-gazing, however, npm has four primary predictions for the year ahead: you’ll abandon one of your current JavaScript frameworks, React will dominate, GraphQL will be a necessity, and TypeScript will join the ranks in 2019.
  • Looking Back at a Year of Q#: The quantum programming language Q# (pronounced Q Sharp) has been around for just over a year now, and Microsoft is taking a look a the last year of Q#, which it says beat many of its expectations right out of the gate. “We hoped that we might receive a few hundred downloads,” the company writes, “but we were blown away when we crossed 1,000 users by about 9 hours after launch.” In the year since, the language has seen two major releases. The first release, 0.2, included a move to the open-source, cross-platform .NET Core, allowing cross-platform support, and support for the popular code editor Visual Studio Code, as well as opening up the majority of Q# libraries and samples under an MIT license. Then, 0.3 arrived with a newly re-architected compiler, which allowed for “the same interactive error checking and IntelliSense features [users are] used to for languages like C# and F#,” as well as a new, open source quantum chemistry library. Beyond that, the language also saw a number of learning tools, including the Quantum Katas. According to the team, be on the lookout for a Christmas Eve gift, as “the last blog post of the calendar, scheduled for Dec. 24, will look at some of the things we’re considering for Q# in the coming year.”

  • PyTorch 1.0 Stable Arrives: Facebook announced this week that the PyTorch 1.0 stable release is now available, offering open source deep learning tools, “including a hybrid front end for transitioning seamlessly between eager and graph execution modes, revamped distributed training, a pure C++ front-end for high-performance research, and deep integration with cloud platforms.” PyTorch made its debut in 2017 and now claims the spot of “second-fastest-growing open source project on GitHub, with a 2.8x increase in contributors over the past 12 months.” For those of you interested in learning how to use PyTorch, Facebook and Udacity offer a free course, Introduction to Deep Learning with PyTorch, and “organizations like also offer software libraries to support developers as they learn how to build neural networks with PyTorch.” Facebook notes that it has also worked with AWS, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure to provide easy access with tools like Amazon SageMaker Neo, by creating a new Deep Learning VM instance on Google Cloud, or using Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning service.
  • Visual Studio Code Adds Multiline Search and More: Almost last and certainly not least, Visual Studio Code has come out with its Visual Studio Code November 2018 update, which includes a bunch of new features. Features include multiline search improvements, which allow you to easily create multiline search patterns without using regex, and several others. Make sure to check out the post for details.
  • GitHub Updates Its Status: Finally, GitHub offers another update, this time to its new GitHub Status Site, which it says “now lists the individual component statuses that make up our wider product.” So, instead of simply saying GitHub is up or down, the company can “communicate the statuses of components that matter most to our users, and users can subscribe to them.” Basically, during an incident, users can know specifically which operations are affected and what is being done to address them. Read on for the full write-up, but know that you can now subscribe to receive GitHub status updates by email, SMS, or webhook delivery, and the subscriptions now follow the entire lifecycle of an incident from investigation to remediation. The old status site and its API will remain active for three months.

Feature image via Pixabay.

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