Paul Krill

About the Author Paul Krill


Progressive web apps challenge native mobile apps

Native mobile apps have generally had the edge when it comes to user experience over web-based apps. But the tide is turning, with progressive web apps — a technology spearheaded by Google and Mozilla—catching on at major web properties and developer tools becoming available.

“We’re starting to see a lot of large companies come back to the web because of its low friction,” said Addy Osmani, an engineering manager on Google’s Chrome team. He cited Lyft and Twitter as examples.

Twitter’s progressive web app, Twitter Lite, takes up less than 1MB of memory, compared to more than 100MB for its native iOS app and 23MB for its native Android app, Osmani said. The client-side JavaScript app uses less data and supports push notifications and offline use.

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The road to Java 9: Only critical bugs getting fixed now

With the initial release candidate build for Java 9 now published, Oracle has proposed that from here on out, only “showstopper” bugs be fixed for the production Java 9 release, which is due September 21.

The proposal floated this week represents a further tightening up of bug-fixing goals for RDP (Rampdown Phase) 2 of the Java upgrade. The plan calls for fixing all P1 (Priority 1) bugs critical to the success of Java Development Kit (JDK) 9. Also, builders would decommit from fixing any bugs not new in JDK 9 and not critical to the release, even if they had been targeted for fixing.

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Ruby’s decline in popularity may be permanent

Ruby has had a reputation as a user-friendly language for building web applications. But its slippage in this month’s RedMonk Programming Language Rankings has raised questions about where exactly the language stands among developers these days.

The twice-yearly RedMonk index ranked Ruby at eighth, the lowest position ever for the language. “Swift and now Kotlin are the obvious choices for native mobile development. Go, Rust, and others are clearer modern choices for infrastructure,” said RedMonk analyst Stephen O’Grady. “The web, meanwhile, where Ruby really made its mark with Rails, is now an aggressively competitive and crowded field.”

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CheerpJ converts Java apps into JavaScript for the web

Melding Java and web development, CheerpJ is being readied as compiler technology that takes Java bytecode and turns it into JavaScript, for execution in browsers. Based on the LLVM/Clang compiler platform as well as Learning Technologies’ own Cheerp C++-to-JavaScript compiler, CheerpJ takes Java bytecode and turns it into JavaScript without needing the Java source.

In CheerpJ, applications and Java libraries are converted to web applications, so there is no need for plug-ins or Java installations. Server-side Java components can become client-side browser-based libraries while native Java code serves as platform-independent components for the Node.js server-side JavaScript platform.

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JVM may get upgrade to support today’s multicore processors

Oracle is proposing an update to the Java Virtual Machine to allow for direct-value class types, a modernization required by the advent of multicore processors. There is no schedule for when the changes might appear in the JVM.

The changes to the JVM specification would support a prototype of value classes—classes for which primitive-like non-reference value instances can be created and acted upon. “The proposals for value types in Java are about giving developers the alternative to give up identity and polymorphism so that the runtime can represent the underlying data in a way which is both far more compact and much better suited for processing in bulk operations,” said Georges Saab, Oracle’s vice president of software development in the Java platform group.

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What’s new in Google’s Go 1.9 language

The next version of Google’s popular Go language will improve performance, compilation, and scaling to large code bases. Go 1.9 should be released in August.

Go 1.9’s creators expect almost all Go programs to run as they did before, given the focus on maintaining compatibility in this latest release. 

Here’s what’s new and improved:

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Q&A: Hortonworks and IBM double down on Hadoop

Hortonworks and IBM recently announced an expanded partnership. The deal pairs IBM’s Data Science Experience (DSX) analytics toolkit and the Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP), with the goal of extending machine learning and data science tools to developers across the Hadoop ecosystem. IBM’s Big SQL, a SQL engine for Hadoop, will be leveraged as well.

InfoWorld Editor at Large Paul Krill recently met with Hortonworks CEO Rob Bearden and IBM Analytics general manager Rob Thomas at the DataWorks Summit conference in Silicon Valley, to talk about the state of big data analytics, machine learning, and Hadoop’s standing among the expanding array of technologies available for large-scale data processing.

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Scala goes skinny: Ammonite tunes the heavyweight for simple tasks

Ammonite, an open source tool to use the Scala language for scripting, should debut in its Version 1.0 production version in next two months.

The two-year-old project lets Scala be used for small scripts. It offers an interactive REPL (read-eval-print loop) and system shell capabilities. The project also can be used as a library in existing Scala projects, via the Ammonite-Ops file system library.

“Scala has traditionally been a heavy, powerful language with heavy, powerful tools. Ammonite aims to let you use it for small, simple tasks as well,” said Ammonite developer Li Haoyi, a former engineer at Fluent Systems. The project enables Scala to vie for tasks that previously have been the domain of Python or the Bash shell for small housekeeping or automation scripts. It also can be used for file system and system administration.

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What’s new in Microsoft’s TypeScript 2.4

Version 2.4 of TypeScript, a popular, typed superset of JavaScript, will offer improved load times with the addition of a dynamic import expressions capability. A release candidate version is now available via NuGet or via NPM, using the command npm install -g typescript@rc.

New TypeScript 2.4 features include dynamic import expressions, an ECMAScript feature that allows for asynchronously loading a module at any arbitrary point in a program. The capability results in faster load times for critical content, with less JavaScript being transmitted in many common scenarios. “Projects that use bundlers like Webpack can operate on these import() calls and split code into smaller bundles that can be lazily loaded,” said Daniel Rosenwasser, Microsoft’s program manager for TypeScript.

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TypeScript 2.4 improves load times, weak type-checking

Version 2.4 of TypeScript, a popular, typed superset of JavaScript, will offer improved load times with the addition of a dynamic import expressions capability. A release candidate version is now available via NuGet or via NPM, using the command npm install -g typescript@rc.

New TypeScript 2.4 features include dynamic import expressions, an ECMAScript feature that allows for asynchronously loading a module at any arbitrary point in a program. The capability results in faster load times for critical content, with less JavaScript being transmitted in many common scenarios. “Projects that use bundlers like Webpack can operate on these import() calls and split code into smaller bundles that can be lazily loaded,” said Daniel Rosenwasser, Microsoft’s program manager for TypeScript.

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Visual Studio Code comes to Chromebooks, Raspberry Pi

A community build project led by developer Jay Rodgers is making Visual Studio Code, Microsoft’s lightweight source code editor, available for Chromebooks, Raspberry Pi boards, and other devices based on 32-bit or 64-bit ARM processors.

Supporting Linux and Chrome OS as well as the DEB (Debian) and RPM package formats, the automated builds of Visual Studio Code are intended for less-common platforms that might not otherwise receive them. Obvious beneficiaries will be IoT developers focused on ARM devices—and the Raspberry Pi in particular—who will find it helpful to have the editor directly on the device they’re programming against. 

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Google adds Recaptcha API to Android to block the bots

Developers on the Android mobile platform, which has had ongoing problems with security, now have at their disposal an API intended to protect apps from malicious traffic and bots.

Google is adding a Recaptcha API to Google Play Services for Android apps. The API is included with Google SafetyNet, a set of services and APIs to protect against threats that include device tampering and potentially harmful apps.

Critical to the API is Google’s latest Recaptcha technology, which provides behind-the-scenes risk analysis and has let actual people pass through with no clicks. With Android apps updated to support the new API, mobile users can use their apps without being interrupted yet still avoid spam and abuse.

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Apple’s Xcode 9 beta previews blockbuster improvements

With Xcode 9, a forthcoming upgrade to Apple’s integrated development environment for building apps for MacOS, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS, Apple is introducing a new source editor, a new build system, and compatibility with the Swift 4 language. A beta version of Xcode 9 was made available earlier this week. 

The latest version of Xcode brings a host of other improvements as well, in areas ranging from debugging, refactoring, and GPU support to a snappier find and replace capability. The new editor also offers faster scrolling for any-sized file and easier access to common tasks, Apple said. A new source control navigator is featured for viewing branches, tags, and remote repositories for a workspace.

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Apple’s WebKit joins the WebAssembly bandwagon

Momentum continues to build for the WebAssembly binary format. WebKit, Apple’s open source browser engine used in Safari, now has a full implementation of WebAssembly.

The implementation supports WebAssembly on Intel x86-64 and ARM64 processors. Calling WebAsembly a “no-nonsense sidekick to JavaScript,” Apple’s Saam Barati and two colleagues, JF Bastien and Keith Miller, described WebAssembly as a low-level binary format designed to be a suitable compilation target for languages such as C++. “The WebAssembly code that the browser sees will already have undergone high-level, language-specific optimizations. This is great because it means implementations don’t have to know about how C++ or other languages are optimized,” Barati said.

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GitHub Enterprise users get project management, data access improvements

GitHub has added data access tools and advanced project management to GitHub Enterprise, the on-premises version of the company’s code-sharing platform.

Here are the notable features in GitHub Enterprise 2.10, which can be installed on a user’s own hardware or on a cloud service such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure:

  • The GraphQL API to help developers to build their own tools with greater access to data via the same API used to build GitHub itself. 
  • Project boards give users are provided a history of project activities, including notifications as to which team member was behind each action.
  • For project reviews, a filter prioritizes pull requests, such as a request for items still awaiting review, an approved pull request, or requests that are ready to be merged. Users also can specify who is permitted to dismiss reviews on a protected branch.
  • Version 2.0.0 of Git LFS (Large File Storage), which offers an early version of file locking, to prevent multiple updates at the same time.
  • Administrators can configure API rate limiting, which can prevent overuse of resources, from the management console.
  • To organize repositories, administrators can manually add tags to repositories for search and discovery. Topics can be designated for adding relevant data and group repositories by languages used, project functions, or teams responsible for maintaining a repository.

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Kotlin’s a rising star in language popularity index

Boosted by its ties to Android mobile application development, Kotlin is a rising star in the Tiobe language popularity index.

The statically typed language developed by JetBrains initially for the Java Virtual Machine, reached the top 50 in the index this month for the first time, ranking 43rd, although it has a rating of just 0.346 percent. Still, this places Kotlin ahead of other more-established languages such as Groovy and Erlang. Kotlin was ranked 80th just last month.

Software quality services vendor Tiobe’s index assesses language popularity based on a formula that examines searches in popular search engines such as Google, Wikipedia, Bing, and Yahoo, looking at the number of skilled engineers, courses, and third-party vendors related to a language.

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