Welcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, our weekly roundup of the most important things happening in the world of software analytics, cloud computing, application monitoring, development methodologies, programming languages, and related topics.
This week, our top story couldn’t be anything else but the release of Windows 10.
TWiMS Top Story:
Microsoft (Mostly) Nails Windows 10—USA TODAY
What it’s about: The world’s most popular desktop operating system turned 10 this week, at least in a manner of speaking. Microsoft released Windows 10, a high-profile attempt to fix earlier issues and modernize its longstanding OS for the cloud and mobile age. Windows 10 prominently features its Cortana digital assistant, its modern Web browser Edge (which will ultimately replace Explorer), and, yes, the return of the start menu. And if the early reviews are any indication, Windows 10 will be much, much better received by users than was its predecessor, Windows 8.
Why you should care: Windows 10 has long been expected to bring Microsoft’s OS further into the age of regular, continuous updates—rather than the long development-and-release cycles typical of previous versions. In some sense, Windows 8.1 was a symbolic step in that direction, but Windows 10 appears set to make the more modern approach of continuous updates into business as usual, a movement presaged by last year’s technical preview. That’s a good thing for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that even the most positive reviews noted that Windows 10 didn’t launch bug-free. Windows 10 may also be the last stand for Microsoft’s efforts to convince mobile developers that the Windows platform is worth their time, given the overwhelming dominance of Android and iOS. But a CNBC report suggests those efforts still have a long ways to go.
- Windows 10: The Gizmodo Review—Gizmodo
- Will You Be Installing Windows 10?—Slashdot [Poll]
- Windows 10 Review: The Future Is Bright—The Verge
- Windows 10 Is the Best Version Yet—Once the Bugs Get Fixed—Ars Technica
- Windows 10: Why App Makers Aren’t Impressed—CNBC
What it’s about: Speaking of popular operating systems: researchers and the mobile security firm Zimperium announced they’d discovered a potentially serious security flaw that affects 950 million Android devices worldwide. Which is, like, almost all of them (95% to be more precise). That might not even be the scariest part: Unlike many exploits, Stagefright doesn’t require the user to make a mistake—such as clicking on a bad link. All an attacker needs to compromise your device is your phone number to send you an MMS text!
Why you should care: If you use an Android device, that should be obvious. But the Stagefright debacle is also a reminder of the requirement for constant vigilance. Perhaps most important, it’s an object lesson in the perils of software fragmentation, especially on a platform as large as Android. Although Zimperium reported the problem and Google quickly patched its own codebase, over-the-air updates take a notoriously long time to reach all the various devices, software versions, and carriers in the Android ecosystem. Worse, “devices older than 18 months are unlikely to receive an update at all,” according to Zimperium, which urged vendors in the Android ecosystem to act rapidly: “In addition to fixing these individual issues, we hope they will also fix any business processes that prevent or slow the uptake of such fixes.”
- Stagefright: It Only Takes One Text to Hack 950 Million Android Phones—Forbes
- There’s (Almost) Nothing You Can Do About Stagefright—PCMag
- Gaping Hole in Android Lets Hackers Break in With Just Your Phone Number—Lumension
Cloud Native: What It Means, Why It Matters—InformationWeek
What it’s about: InformationWeek’s Charles Babcock, recapping Cloud Foundry CEO Sam Ramji’s talk at OSCON (including links to slides and video from the presentation), digs into an increasingly popular addition to the time-honored vocabulary of tech buzzwords: “cloud native.” He notes, however, that there’s some substance behind this particular term: It speaks to the need to rethink traditional approaches to enterprise application architecture and design in cloud environments, usually with a focus on open source platforms (typically Linux), containers, and microservices.
Why you should care: Expect to see this term popping up with increasing frequency. Moreover, Babcock notes that, done right, “cloud native” is much more of a competitive strategy than mere industry jargon, enabling “a constantly shifting software infrastructure that keeps companies oriented toward their customers and able to compete.” He also calls out some key takeaways from Ramji’s talk, including the critical importance of container standards and open source’s evolution from commercial software alternative to necessary tool for continuous innovation.
What it’s about: Do you want to be just a developer, or do you want to be a hero? If you answered “hero,” you need to become a “catalyst developer,” says software engineer Zachary Forrest y Salazar. Based on Mark Zuckerberg’s “Hacker Way,” catalyst development means “taking the code into your own hands, building or applying tools to help you ship faster, and prototyping ideas.” Forrest y Salazar spells out three steps to doing this, with additional specifics at each turn: “Root-cause the issue, prototype the idea [for solving that issue], get support, and iterate.”
Why you should care: The piece taps into a problem many developers grapple with in their organizations: “Chasing features” for the sake of features, or simply because another high-profile company has Killer Feature X in their app. Often, this goes hand-in-hand with little to no concern for what users actually need and want. As Forrest y Salazar writes: “Creating an experience is more than just adding some feature you don’t already have…. It means solving the problems unique to your users and your platform. Everything else is a shortcut.”
Facebook Shares Its Internal Diversity Training—The Wall Street Journal
What it’s about: Though Facebook’s own diversity numbers showed only modest gains in the past year, the company continues to take actionable steps toward improving in areas such as gender and ethnic balance. (Men make up 68% of Facebook’s workforce today, for example, and occupy 84% of the firm’s technical positions.) Following the release of its most recent data, Facebook revealed the details of its diversity training program, which aims to “ensure that we have an inclusive culture that can truly support diversity,” according to Maxine Williams, the company’s global director of diversity.
The program includes tactics like role-playing and aims to especially uncover and root out unconscious biases, or the kinds of beliefs and behaviors that many people don’t realize they have. Facebook is also testing a “diverse slate approach” to hiring, which tries to ensure hiring managers in pilot departments consider at least one qualified candidate from an under-represented group.
Why you should care: There’s growing evidence that diversity is much more—or should be much more—than a nice corporate sound bite. That may be especially true for software-driven organizations. Puppet Labs’ 2015 State of DevOps Report, covered here last week, underscores the lack of diversity—and especially a lack of women—in many technical teams. One-third of respondents reported working on teams with zero women, and 56% said that fewer than 10% of their team was female. That’s both a business and IT performance problem: The report cites external research noting the link between gender balance and group intelligence, as well as connections between females in leadership positions with financial performance and other bottom-line indicators.
- Our Plan for a More Diverse Pinterest—Pinterest Blog
- Why the ‘Women in Tech Problem’ May Actually Be a Silicon Valley Problem—Inc.
As Tech Booms, Workers Turn to Coding for Career Change—The New York Times
What it’s about: As Marc Andreessen wrote in the Wall Street Journal several years ago, software is eating the world in giant gulps, and today employer demand for people with programming and related skills has skyrocketed—but the supply of qualified labor hasn’t kept pace. A slew of new, private schools and training organizations have popped up offering intensive, short-term educational programs for learning coding and other technical skills, appealing in large part to aspiring developers and career-changers with the promise of a robust job market rife with six-figure starting salaries.
Why you should care: Can you teach someone to code? Of course. But teaching someone to code and teaching them to code well, as recently noted by SmartBear, aren’t the same thing. The quality of the education is crucial, but it may take some time for employers and graduates alike to assess that given the relatively recent proliferation of coding school and boot camps. There will soon be more basis than ever for such assessment: Code schools will mint 16,000 new graduates this year. That’s equivalent to around one-third of the number of computer science degrees that U.S. universities will grant this year, and a huge leap from 6,740 graduates in 2014. If it turns out these newbies can do the job, they could make a real dent in the programming talent shortage.
The Times points out one particularly promising stat: 35% of code school enrollees are women, a figure markedly higher than comparable data for traditional universities, where women comprised just 18% of CS grads in 2013.
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