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Will We Someday Write Code Just By Describing It?

Using millions of programs in online repositories, Intel, Georgia Tech, and MIT researchers created a tool called MISIM (Machine Inferred code Similarity) with a database of code scored by the similarity of its outcomes to suggest alternatives (and corrections) to programmers. The hope is "to aid developers with nitty-gritty choices like 'what is the most efficient way to use this API' or 'how can I correctly validate this input',"Ryan Marcus, scientist at Intel Labs, told ZDNet. "This should give engineers a lot more time to focus on the elements of their job that actually create a real-world impact..." Justin Gottschlich, the lead for Intel's "machine programming" research team, told ZDNet that as software development becomes ever-more complex, MISIM could have a great impact on productivity. "The rate at which we're introducing senior developers is not on track to match the pace at which we're introducing new chip architectures and software complexity," he said. "With today's heterogeneous hardware — CPUs, GPUs, FPGAs, ASICs, neuromorphic and, soon, quantum chips — it will become difficult, perhaps impossible, to find developers who can correctly, efficiently, and securely program across all of that hardware." But the long-term goal of machine programming goes even further than assisting software development as it stands today. After all, if a technology can assess intent and come up with relevant snippets of code in response, it doesn't seem far-fetched to imagine that the algorithm could one day be used by any member of the general public with a good software idea. Combined with natural language processing, for example, MISIM could in theory react to verbal clues to one day let people write programs simply by describing them. In other words, an Alexa of sorts, but for software development. Gottschlich explained that software creation is currently limited to the 27 million people around the world who can code. It is machine programming's ultimate goal to expand that number and one day, let people express their ideas in some other fashion than code — be it natural language, visual diagrams or even gestures. Intel currently plans to use the new tool internally.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Workforce Is About to Change Dramatically

"For the first time ever, the world's largest companies are telling hundreds of thousands of workers to stay away from the office for a full year, or longer," notes the Atlantic. "If, in five years, these edicts have no lingering effects on office culture, that would be awfully strange..." Ambitious engineers, media makers, marketers, PR people, and others may be more inclined to strike out on their own, in part because they will, at some point, look around at their living room and realize: I am alone, and I might as well monetize the fact of my independence. A new era of entrepreneurship may be born in America, supercharged by a dash of social-existential angst. Or, you know, maybe not. If companies find that remote work is a mess, they might decide to prematurely scrap the experiment, like IBM and Yahoo famously did. It is certainly curious that the most prestigious tech companies now proclaiming the future of working from home were, just seven months ago, outfitting their offices with the finest sushi bars, yoga rooms, and massage rooms... Nothing is certain, and every new trend incurs a backlash. Telepresence could crush some downtown businesses; but cheaper downtown real estate could also lead to a resurgence in interesting new restaurants. Working from home could lead to more free-agent entrepreneurship; but if companies notice that they're bleeding talent, they'll haul their workforces back to headquarters. Still, even a moderate increase in remote work could lead to fundamental changes in our labor force, economy, and politics. Remote workers will spend more money and time inside their houses; they will spend more time with online communities than with colleagues; and many will distribute themselves across the country, rather than feel it necessary to cluster near semi-optional headquarters.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ask Slashdot: How Should College Students Approach This Academic Year?

Long-time Slashdot reader goombah99 wonders how college students should approach this next academic year. First, should defer their next academic year? Even universities opening their dorms are still limiting their dining facilities to take-out box lunches and offering most of their classes online. (Though some give students a choice of online or in-person classes). Yet despite the new rules, "Some universities are sticky about deferrals, requiring medical excuses, or else re-application for majors and scholarships. Others are more generous." And that's just first decision students are facing: If you chose to attend online, would you opt to be in the dorms — or in your parent's house or your home town? What would you be losing (or gaining) by that choice, compared to socially distanced in-person? For a real-world example, the original submission asks what's the best strategy for a CS major taking just one or two classes online. "Take a freshman core course? Take a super hard foundational upper level course like Algorithm's and Data Structures? Or take a simpler class like Intro to Object- Oriented Programming in Java. Which of these benefit the most from having in-person study buddies and labs with in-person TAs?" Utimately the original submission asks what it is that makes college transformative — the classes, or being there (and living on-campus) in-person? "For me, I recall not even knowing all the possible majors when I attended, and it was networks, chance, new friends and upperclassmen who were how I learned what I wanted to pursue... What does one lose by remote learning and why, either academically or socially?" Share your own thoughts in the comments. How should college students approach this academic year?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

China Is Now Blocking All Encrypted HTTPS Traffic That Uses TLS 1.3 and ESNI

China's Great Firewall "is now blocking HTTPS connections set up via the new TLS 1.3 encryption protocol and which use ESNI (Encrypted Server Name Indication)," reports ZDNet: The block has been in place for more than a week, according to a joint report authored by three organizations tracking Chinese censorship — iYouPort, the University of Maryland, and the Great Firewall Report. ZDNet also confirmed the report's findings with two additional sources — namely members of a U.S. telecommunications provider and an internet exchange point (IXP) — using instructions provided in a mailing list... The reason for the ban is obvious for experts. HTTPS connections negotiated via TLS 1.3 and ESNI prevent third-party observers from detecting what website a user is attempting to access. This effectively blinds the Chinese government's Great Firewall surveillance tool from seeing what users are doing online. There is a myth surrounding HTTPS connections that network observers (such as internet service providers) cannot see what users are doing. This is technically incorrect. While HTTPS connections are encrypted and prevent network observers from viewing/reading the contents of an HTTPS connection, there is a short period before HTTPS connections are established when third-parties can detect to what server the user is connecting. This is done by looking at the HTTPS connection's SNI (Server Name Indication) field. In HTTPS connections negotiated via older versions of the TLS protocol (such as TLS 1.1 and TLS 1.2), the SNI field is visible in plaintext.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

'5G Just Got Weird'

SuperKendall (Slashdot reader #25,149) shared this review of the recent 5G standards codified by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) in Release 16 (finalized on July 3). "5G just got weird," writes IEEE Spectrum: 4G and other earlier generations of cellular focused on just that: cellular. But when 3GPP members started gathering to hammer out what 5G could be, there was interest in developing a wireless system that could do more than connect phones... One of the flashiest things in Release 16 is V2X, short for "Vehicle to Everything." In other words, using 5G for cars to communicate with each other and everything else around them... The 3GPP standards bring those benchmarks into the realm of gigabytes per second, 99.999 percent reliability, and just a few milliseconds. Matthew Webb, a 3GPP delegate for Huawei and the other rapporteur for the 3GPP item on V2X, adds that Release 16 also introduces a new technique called sidelinking. Sidelinks will allow 5G-connected vehicles to communicate directly with one another, rather than going through a cell-tower intermediary... Tseng says that sidelinking started as a component of the V2X work, but it can theoretically apply to any two devices that might need to communicate directly rather than go through a base station first. Factory robots are one example, or large-scale Internet of Things installations. Some other "weird" highlights of the new 5G standards: "5G incorporates millimeter waves, which are higher frequency radio waves (30 to 300 GHz) that don't travel nearly as far as traditional cell signals. Millimeter waves means it will be possible to build a network just for an office building, factory, or stadium. At those scales, 5G could function essentially like Wi-Fi networks." "In past generations of cellular, three cell towers were required to triangulate where a phone was by measuring the round-trip distance of a signal from each tower. But 5G networks will be able to use the round-trip time from a single tower to locate a device." "Release 17 includes a work item on extended reality — the catch-all term for alternate reality and virtual reality technologies."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.



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