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When students first begin to learn computer science, which programming language should they start with? View in browser »
The New Stack Update

ISSUE 274: Should CompSci Require Math Training?

Talk Talk Talk

“We are building more and more custom software, but producing it more quickly by integrating higher-level building blocks such as OSS or vendor APIs.”

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Moderne’s Olga Kundzich and Jonathan Schneider, on the growing technical debt in cloud native software.
Add It Up
Software engineers are easy to recruit and not terribly in demand

Software engineers are easy to recruit and not terribly in demand, at least according to 611 IT leaders from across the globe that were surveyed by Tech Monitor in March and April 2021. Only 20% believe it is hard to recruit software engineers, while over 80% find it difficult to hire those with cloud, cybersecurity, enterprise architecture and data science skills.

However, just because it is hard to find an employee doesn’t mean you should run out and train yourself for a career in that field. Perhaps that’s why the just-released State of Open: The UK in 2021 Phase Two: UK Adoption is predicting a slowdown. That study found that 38% of businesses had hired a backend developer in the previous twelve months while 23% expect to do so in the next 6-12 months.

In upcoming weeks we will be digging deeper into the languages, frameworks and experiences that can help advance your personal and career goals. Stay tuned.

What's Happening

The internet’s fabled history includes such milestones in decentralization as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) initial development of packet switching (ARPANET), and, in the early 1990s, Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, which democratized data sharing for everyone with a computer. Today, as microservices, Kubernetes and distributed environments become more prevalent, the use of the internet is taking decentralized communications to the next level.

In this episode of The New Stack Makers podcast hosted by Alex Williams, founder and publisher of TNS, Storj Labs’ Ben Golub, chairman and interim CEO, and Katherine Johnson, Storj head of compliance, discuss how the internet centers around decentralization — and more importantly — how peer-to-peer communications will continue to evolve.

The Internet’s Next Chapter in Decentralization

Should CompSci Require Math Training?

When students first begin to learn computer science, which programming language should they start with? It’s a question that’s fascinated educators for decades. This is the topic that TNS Contributor David Cassel tackles in his latest post for The New Stack, “What Should Be a Student’s First Programming Language?

For many universities, C has long been the introductory programming language, because it allows the students to get close to the underlying hardware. It’s also a relatively simple language, and can be easily learned in a single semester. Indeed the canonical textbook on the subject, “The C Programming Language,” by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie weighs in at a svelte 228 pages.

But C comes with its own limitations. While a very flexible language, C can be a bit obtuse for the young programmer, compared to the highly intuitive Python, for example. Also, a young developer is forced to deal with memory management, which is instructive, but its difficulty could be a potential deterrent for many. And manually managing memory can be a danger for even experts, given that overlooked lapses in judgment can give malicious attackers room to maneuver. 

In recent years, C’s popularity as a learning tool has been eclipsed by Python (for its ease of use), Java (still the language of choice in the enterprise) and even JavaScript (The language for the web). It seems like each university has come up with its own reasoning for choosing its language for an introductory computer science course. 

One important point to consider, however, is if the student has formal mathematical training. It has long been assumed that a grounding in mathematics is necessary because it gives the student the flexibility to switch across programming languages once the basic semantics are learned of each language, Cassel notes. Most colleges expect at least a grounding up to Calculus as a prerequisite for taking on computer science. But according to Mark Guzdial, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan who has also conducted his own research in the fields of computer science education, this requirement may no longer be beneficial. 

“We might be able to teach a lot more people about programming if we don’t expect students to know mathematics first, which we may have been able to expect 40+ years ago,” the professor wrote.

Percona’s Predictions for Next Week’s MongoDB 5.0 Release

Based on what they gleaned from the current MongoDB code and the MongoDB Jira issue tracker, the folks at database optimization company Percona discussed with The New Stack the potential upcoming features for MongoDB v. 5.0, the formerly open source NoSQL database system. On the docket: resharding, time series and robust indexing.

DID You Hear? Decentralized Identifiers Are Coming

The Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) W3C spec describes a new type of identifier that enables verifiable, decentralized digital identity. So why do we need to decentralize? Simply put, because of the power of "walled garden" companies like Facebook, Google and Apple. Decentralization brings the potential for users to take back control of their personal identity and data; that’s why it’s so important.

Observable Makes Collaboration Easier for Data Visualization

The mind-boggling growth of data has companies scrambling to not only manage it, but also make sense of it and harness it to achieve business goals. And they’re looking to a wider range of expertise within the organization to do that. San Francisco-based Observable is among a rash of startups trying to tackle parts of the problem, in this case by bringing the data, visualizations and code together in one collaborative place.

LogDNA Co-Founder Lee Liu and LogDNA Systems Architect Ryan Staatz talk with The New Stack about our upcoming joint eBook on DevOps and Observability.
On The Road
RabbitMQ Summit // JULY 13-14 // @VIRTUAL
JULY 13-14 // @VIRTUAL
RabbitMQ Summit

The New Stack is delighted to partner with #RabbitMQ Summit 2021. Join us there to learn and share the latest use cases from some of the biggest companies in the world using RabbitMQ. Register with the promo code Thenewsstack15 for 15% off. Register Now!

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