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This Week in Programming: Do You Need a Blockchain?

28 Oct 2017 6:00am, by

Google’s Chrome Dev Summit took place in San Francisco this week and, as you might expect, made a bit of news. Don’t fret if you missed out — there’s a YouTube playlist of more than 20 talks from the show and we’re going to start this week with some of the most talked-about Google news from the week past.

Beyond Google, however, we’ll also look at a couple of announcements from the likes of Mozilla and Microsoft, the intriguing concept of open-sourced data from the Linux Foundation, and more. Without further ado…

This Week in Google Developer News

  • While Android 8.1 isn’t coming out for consumers until December, developers can get access to the beta right now, and Techcrunch’s Lucas Matney writes that “the big highlight here is the new Neural Networks API.” According to Google, the API is “designed for running computationally intensive operations for machine learning on mobile devices” and “is meant to be called by machine learning libraries, frameworks, and tools that let developers train their models off-device and deploy them on Android devices.”
  • You know that little setting, where you can feel like a good Internet Samaritan and “help make Google Chrome better by automatically sending usage statistics and crash reports”? Well, this is what that’s for – Google’s just announced Chrome User Experience Report, which Venturebeat says is “meant to help developers improve their site’s user experience.” The report “offers comparisons with other sites and macro user experience trends across the web” and “by querying the dataset on Google BigQuery, developers can see how real Chrome users experience the web from the diverse set of hardware, software, and networks used in the wild.”
  • Also announced this week are Gmail add-ons for developers, which “enable developers to add app functionality directly into Gmail and have it run natively on the web and in Android with iOS support coming soon,” according to an article in SDTimes. While the add-ons were previewed earlier this year, Google has expanded the preview to all developers.
  • One last official announcement from Google this week brings us Android Studio 3.0. The update brings numerous changes, but Google notes three of the biggest changes as “a new suite of app profiling tools to quickly diagnose performance issues, support for the Kotlin programming language, and a new set of tools and wizards to accelerate your development on the latest Android Oreo APIs.” From the looks of it, though, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the video tour and the blog post for the full list of feature updates.
  • And finally, to wrap up the Google news, a post on Hacker News notes a “soft launch” of Google’s “Jupyter-like notebook,” Colaboratory. According to one Google-employed but non-affiliated commenter, while these features have been available and announced previously, “what probably prompted us to introduce this is that it was an internal project that many of us really really like and use quite often, and we thought it would be nice if you guys could use it too. That’s it.” They go on to call it a “Google docs for Jupyter notebooks”.

This Week in Non-Google Programming News

  • First off, Mozilla has announced that it is saying Goodbye to Firebug, which will end with Firefox Quantum next month. Fret not, however, as all the capabilities of Firebug are now present in current Firefox Developer Tools and Infoworld’s Paul Krill takes a look at the announcement, offering some instructions for how to get the latest.
  • For you web developers out there, TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois highlights a new tool from Microsoft called Sonar that lets you check your website for performance and security issues. Made by the team behind Microsoft’s Edge browser, the open-source tool “is a linting tool and site scanner” that is “available both as a web service that’s hosted by Microsoft and as a command-line tool for those who want to dig deeper and integrate it into their own workflows and rules.” As Lardinois notes, “if all of this sounds familiar, that’s possibly because Microsoft donated the Sonar project to the JavaScript Foundation earlier this year. Now, however, you don’t need to be a command-line wizard to make it work for you. Just plug in your website’s URL and you’re good to go.
  • And now, for you Python/R geeks and big data types, Anaconda announced the release of Anaconda distribution 5.0, which the company says has more than 4.5 million active users. The distribution includes “1,000+ Python and R data science packages” and the latest release adds 100+ more, along with other new features.
  • In semi-related news, the SciPy library announced version 1.0.0 after a brief period of “16 years after version 0.1 saw the light of day.” Travis Oliphant, one of the SciPy (and NumPy) creators who also happens to be one of the founders of Anaconda, writes in the release notes of how a discussion on an email list in 1998 led him to “procrastinate my Ph.D. and spend a lot of time writing extension modules to Python that mostly wrapped battle-tested Fortran and C-code making it available to the Python user.”
  • And finally, you’ve heard of open source software, but have you heard of open source data? Well, the Linux Foundation is aiming to change that with its announcement of the Community Data License Agreement, a “family of open data agreements” that it calls “an effort to define a licensing framework to support collaborative communities built around curating and sharing ‘open’ data.” LinuxInsider writes that the announcement “comes at a time when technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence are capable of analyzing data sets in ways that previously were not possible.”

This Week in (im)Practical Programming

  • Steve Perkins, a Java developer, writes on his blog about using Java 9 modularization to ship zero-dependency native apps. The “most publicized new feature in Java 9,” Project Jigsaw isolates chunks of code and their dependencies and allows your application to “declare which parts of the standard library it really needs, and potentially exclude all the other parts,” finally ridding of the need for a Java Runtime Environment and bringing Java on even ground with other compiled languages…sort of. “To be fair, an application bundle with a launch script is not quite as clean as ‘just building an .EXE’, and having a single monolithic file,” Perkins writes, but “even so, Java is now at a place where you can ship self-contained, zero-dependency applications that are comparable in size to other compiled languages.”
  • Speaking of containerization-of-sorts, Jaxenter writes about how StackFoundation’s Sandbox automates your daily Docker chores and allows you to “design a workflow that automates any developmental task that you do regularly.” Sandbox is free and “you can commit it to Git and have your workflows run directly from it, without any other software needed. Not even Docker!” Check out the full announcement on the company’s blog.
  • Google’s Kelsey Hightower Tweeted word that the Go community is settling in on a default dependency management system, namely dep, which, according to its Github page, is being designed to fit into the Go toolchain.
  • Finally, an article on HackerNoon asks if you have the Learners Syndrome, which the author describes as “a behaviour wherein the affected persons will continuously be on a quest to learn and never truly apply the knowledge.” In the modern world of web development, they explain, the number of frameworks has grown exponentially in recent years. They go on to describe a conundrum of the modern programmer we’re sure many of you have experienced — that of the expectation to be a so-called full stack developer: “The largest problem with having so many of these technologies is that to be a ‘good’ web developer, you’re expected to know most of them including the backend ones. I think that’s unfair. Several years ago, the boundaries between a front-end developer and a back-end developer were clear. Today, there isn’t really a boundary anymore. We call it ‘full-stack.’ It sounds like a way to get one person to do twice the work and not really specialise in one of the two areas.”

Google,  Linux Foundation and Microsoft are sponsors of The New Stack. The author of this post previously did public relations work for Continuum Analytics, now Anaconda.

Feature image: 16th-century pruning tools. New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, public domain.


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