Search This Blog

Sunday, 29 January 2012

10 skills for developers to focus on in 2012

Takeaway: Quick: Throw out last year’s list of must-learn dev skills — it’s already obsolete. This new list will help you rethink your skill set to avoid falling behind.
Software development had a few years of relative calm. But now the rollercoaster is back on track and it’s picking up speed, as HTML5 gains a foothold and Windows 8 threatens to significantly change the Windows development landscape. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you should consider learning at least a few of these 10 software development skills.

1: Mobile development

If you don’t think it is worth your time to learn mobile development, think again. Global shipments of Android phones in 2011 are almost equal to PC sales. Add in the other big-name mobile devices (iPhones, iPads, and even the “dying” RIM devices), and what you see is that mobile devices now dwarf PCs in sales. What does this mean? If you make your living from software that can run only on a PC (which includes Web sites that don’t work or are hard to use on mobile devices), now is the time to learn mobile development.

2: NoSQL

I appreciate a well-designed relational database schema as much as the next person, but they just are not appropriate for every project. We’ve been using them even when they aren’t the best tool because the alternatives haven’t been great. The last few years have seen the introduction of a wide variety of NoSQL database systems. And now that major service vendors (like Amazon and Microsoft) support NoSQL as well, there is no technical limitation on their use. Are they right for every project? No. Are they going to replace traditional databases? In some projects, and for some developers, definitely. This is the year to learn how to use them, as they will only become more prevalent in the year to follow.

3: Unit testing

We’ve seen unit testing go from being, “Oh, that’s neat” to being a best practice in the industry. And with the increasing use of dynamic languages, unit testing is becoming more and more important. A wide variety of tools and frameworks are available for unit testing. If you do not know how to do it, now is the time to learn. This is the year where it goes from “resume enhancement” to “resume requirement.”

4: Python or Ruby

Not every project is a good fit for a dynamic language, but a lot of projects are better done in them. PHP has been a winner in the industry for some time, but Python and Ruby are now being taken seriously as well. Strong arguments can be made for Ruby + Rails (or Ruby + Sinatra) or Python + Django as excellent platforms for Web development, and Python has long been a favorite for “utility” work. Learning Python or Ruby in addition to your existing skillset gives you a useful alternative and a better way to get certain projects done.

5: HTML5

HTML5 is quickly pulling away from the station. The impending release of IE 10 is the last piece of the puzzle to make the full power of HTML5 available to most users (those not stuck with IE 6 or IE 8). Learning HTML5 now positions you to be on the forefront of the next generation of applications. Oh, and most mobile devices already have excellent support for it, so it is a great way to get into mobile development too. And don’t forget: HTML5 is also one route for UI definitions in Windows 8!

6: Windows 8

Windows 8 should be released sometime in 2012, unless the schedule slips badly. While Windows 8 may very well get off to a slow start, being the top dog in an app store is often based on being the first dog in the race. The first mover advantage is huge. It is better to be in the Windows 8 app store at launch time than to take a wait-and-see approach. Even if Windows 8 sales disappoint, it’s better to be the only fish in a small pond than a fish of any size in a big pond, as recent app sales numbers have shown.

7: RESTful Web services

While I personally prefer the convenience and ease of working with SOAP in the confines of Visual Studio, REST is booming. Even Microsoft is starting to embrace it with OData. JSON really was the final straw on this matter, relegating SOAP to be for server-to-server work only. Unless your applications can run in isolation, not knowing REST is going to hold you back, as of 2012.

8: JavaScript

Before the Windows 8 Developer Preview, it was easy for non-Web developers to look at JavaScript as a Web-only language. No more! JavaScript is now a first-class citizen for native desktop and tablet development, thanks to the Metro UI and WinRT API in Windows 8. XAML + C# or VB.NET may be a good way for you to get things done, but if you want to maximize what you can get out of your knowledge, HTML5 and JavaScript are the best bet. They give you Web andMetro/WinRT, and you can also use them for some of the cross-platform mobile systems out there, like Appcelerator’s Titanium product.

9: jQuery

If you are going to do any kind of Web development where you are working directly with HTML, jQuery is becoming a must-know skill. While there are plenty of credible alternatives, jQuery is quickly turning into the de facto tool for rich UIs with HTML.

10: User experience

Other than getting that first mover advantage in new app stores, there is little to differentiate many applications on a feature basis; it’s a crowded field. User experience, on the other hand, is a different story. Creating a great user experience is not easy; it starts before anyone even downloads your application and continues through to the uninstall process. In the age of instant $0.99 and free app downloads, and ad-supported Web apps, the barriers to switching to another application are mighty low. If your user experience is poor, do not expect much business.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Hitting Windows 8 reset button: Security bonus saves time and money

Takeaway: The Windows 8 reset button from a security perspective.
The much ballyhooed Windows 8, Microsoft’s latest release of its flagship product, will allow users to restore their Windows 8 PC to its pristine factory state through the push of a single button. There are two distinct restore types: reset and refresh. A reset will restore a Windows 8 PC to its original factory state, consequently removing any personal data, apps, and settings. A refresh will reinstall Windows 8, but preserves any documents, wireless network connections, BitLocker settings, drive letter assignments, personalization settings, and installed Metro apps. Any file-type associations, display settings, and Windows firewall settings will not be retained after a refresh.
The reset/refresh options are different than the current system restore process found in Windows 7/Vista/XP in that Windows is completely re-installed (the current system restore reverts back to a “last known good state” therefore, not all current system settings or files are retained). Additionally, the system restore files are not immune from becoming infected with malware. I assume cybercriminals are already looking for any weaknesses in the new reset/refresh process. The time required to perform a refresh is approximately eight minutes, and six minutes for a quick reset. A thorough reset takes 23 minutes. The thorough option overwrites any existing data visible to the operating system.

Good news for support pros

From a security perspective, the reset/refresh options provide a great method for quickly restoring malware infested computers to a “safe” state. Before security companies rush to play the antitrust card, they should realize that this capability complements itself nicely to any endpoint security software. The purpose of endpoint security software is to prevent any malicious software from being run or installed in the first place. However, as any IT professional can attest, having such software does not equate to complete immunity. Scareware, rootkits, keyloggers, trojans and other nefarious items can still make their way onto a computer. The reset/refresh option allows for a quick recovery when the security software “fails”. The security industry has yet to prove that their products are able to fully cover the entire prevent/detect/recover/remediate cycle.
Depending on the industry, anywhere between 40%-70% of IT support (or help desk) employee time is spent removing viruses and malware from company computers. Generally speaking, the time required for someone to run an antimalware removal tool and conduct further troubleshooting (if needed for particularly troublesome malware) can easily exceed an hour. This leads to productivity loss and subsequent frustration. Countless hours are spent attempting to either remove all traces of the malware from the computer or completely wiping out the machine, re-imaging it from scratch, and installing the latest patches. On top of that, time is needed to re-install any applications, copy over any files, and restore usability settings. Pretty soon an entire afternoon (or morning) is lost. This is crucial time taken away from IT support (and the employee whose laptop was infected) when they could have been working on more strategic projects that actually provide value to the company. When scaled by organization size, the productivity loss grows exponentially. The time that is spent cleaning up viruses and malware costs the company money and negatively affects the bottom line.
In a time where companies are cash strapped and desperate to find cost savings, reducing the time devoted to recovering from malware infections to mere minutes, will lead not only to reduced costs, but will translate into a competitive advantage. Making use of the reset/refresh one-click option in Windows 8 is a no-brainer. The security industry would be foolish to view it any other way.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Mandriva in danger of closing its doors

Takeaway: Take on the rumors of Mandriva closing its doors. January 16, 2012 is but a Monday away. Would the closing of Mandriva’s doors have a lasting effect on the Linux landscape?
Nothing is sacred these days. In times of economic crisis, anything could go any way, at any time. Such is the case with Mandriva. By January 16, 2012 we could all see the end of a distribution that was just starting to make itself relevant again. After so many ups and downs, causing it to flounder in obscurity, Mandriva releases its latest Powerpack, which helped to make GNOME 3 a viable desktop for both businesses and home users. And then…a share holder issue reared its ugly head.
Mandriva began as Mandrakesoft and suffered through more ups and downs than most Linux distributions had to endure. In 2006, the company emerged from bankruptcy to become Mandriva and, for the most part, lived in the shadows of Ubuntu, Fedora, Red Hat, Linux Mint (and many other flavors of Linux). But when Powerpack 2011 hit the shelves it looked as if everything was going to finally turn back around for the French distribution. Mandriva finally had what looked like a major hit on their hands and, before Powerpack could gain any traction, the news of a possible shutdown seeped from under the doors of Mandriva.

What’s going on?

It’s fairly simple. In 2011 rumors began spreading that Mandriva was to be acquired by Linagora. But those rumors turned out to have no validity. That wasn’t the end of the rumor mill. Only the next words to be whispered about, weren’t so vapid. This time it was a regular contributor to the Mandriva community, Rapahël Jadot. On December 30, he spoke:
“Well, let’s make it short: everything was fine, but there is a big problem: a minor shareholder (Linlux) refuses the capital injection required for Mandriva to continue, even though the Russian investor had offered to bear it alone. “Except turnaround Mandriva should cease activity Jan. 16…”
What this means exactly is this. Linlux SARL, a minority investor holding 42 percent of the shares, is blocking a move to raise new capital for Mandriva — even though the majority shareholder (Townarea Trading & Investment Ltd.) has approved the plans.

Why is this happening?

It seems accusations are pointing the finger of blame at Marc Goldberg, the lead at Linlux, who doesn’t want to see his personal investments in Mandriva reduced. This is not Goldberg’s first attempt at blocking investments. It could be his last. With the community driven fork, Mageia, alive and well, it would be a no-brainer for the current community of Mandriva developers to migrate, en masse, to greener (less drama-filled) pastures. But even with Mageia in development, the loss of Mandriva would (and should) be felt across the Linux-verse. Mandriva has done a lot for the development of Linux (and the most recent Powerpack should prove that). Beyond that, losing any Linux distribution at the hands of shareholders who seem hell-bent on destroying something with a storied past is beyond shame.
But what drags this down a darker path is how this reminds me of the changes the Linux community has gone through. I remember well meeting the small crew of Mandrakesoft at a Linux convention. They were exciting, fun, and ready to bust loose on the world a fantastic Linux distribution that would certainly change the way people look at Linux.
Now? That joy-filled group is no more and the distribution they were so proud of is on the brink of disappearing. I hope this doesn’t come to fruition. But should Mandriva go the way of Caldera Open Linux (and many other distributions), I hope Mageia continues on where Mandriva Powerpack 2011 left off. As well, I hope all of those that have put so much time, effort, care, and concern into Mandriva find new paths that will bring them success.
As for the shareholder that has done nothing but attempt to bring down Mandriva at every turn? Well, I hope he never bothers to invest in another Linux company again.
The really sad thing about this is that I’m not sure the loss of Mandriva will really effect Linux as a whole. There was a time when this news would have been a serious blow to the Linux platform. Now? Not so much. Mandriva’s turbulent past has caused this distribution to all but disappear from the Linux distribution map. I would like to say this would have lasting repercussions on the Linux landscape; but sadly enough, I don’t think it will. As much as I enjoyed the latest release of Mandriva, I believe the loss of this distribution will hardly be felt…especially with the Mageia fork in full-blown development.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

CES 2012: Ultrabooks and quad-core mobile devices likely to take center stage

CES 2012: Ultrabooks and quad-core mobile devices likely to take center stage
Takeaway: Hardware trends that you should be watching for at CES 2012.

In less than a week, thousands of reporters, vendors, and technology enthusiasts will descend on Las Vegas for CEA’s International Consumer Electronics Show 2012.  As hardware manufactures show off their latest creations, a few trends always emerge. Last year, it was tablets. The year before, 3D TVs were all the rage. So what will be this year bring?
Television and computer display makers will be showing off new OLED TV and 4K displays, but these technologies are still a few years from being ready for mass consumption. Two technologies that will be will affect the tech markets in 2012, and be front and center at CES, are ultrabooks and quad-core mobile devices.


These thin, energy-efficient laptops are designed to be ultraportable and almost as powerful as full-size notebooks. Driven by Intel, they’re basically the Windows version of Apple’s MacBook Air. I expect PC makers to unveil several new ultrabooks at CES 2012 and release many of them this year. Prices are likely to start around $1,000 (US) but drop as more models enter the market.

Quad-core tablets and smartphones

The first quad-core Android tablet, Asus’ Transformer Prime, hit the market in December. Tablet and smartphone manufactures are expected to unveil several quad-core devices at CES 2012, and like ultrabooks, many will hit the market in early 2012.

Windows 8 Tablet - Wildcard

Microsoft released the Windows 8 Developer Preview last year and is expected to release the full version in 2012. A big part of Windows 8 is the operating system’s support for ARM mobile processors and the new touch-centric Metro UI. Microsoft is clearly looking to break Apple and Google’s stranglehold on the tablet OS market. Rumors are swirling that Acer, Lenevo, HP and perhaps even Microsoft itself will unveil a WIndows 8 tablet at CES and release it late 2012. Having seen Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hype a Windows-powered HP tablet at CES in 2010, only to have HP kill it shortly thereafter, I won’t believe the rumors until a device actually hits the market.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...