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Topics - SSH Shamma

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Artificial intelligence (AI) researchers at Facebook have spent the last year working on a project that saw an AI system learn how to navigate parts of the sprawling conurbation that is New York City. The study is designed to help computers understand natural human language, paving the way for AI assistants to communicate with people more competently.

Teaching machines to understand us is far from easy, and feeding them raw text data isn't necessarily the best way forward in the eyes of the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research (FAIR) group.

Instead, the Facebook researchers used an approach called "embodied AI", also known as "grounded language learning", which favors learning in the context of a system's surroundings, rather than training through large data sets of text, such as Wikipedia.

FAIR's "Talk the Walk" project sees a "tourist" bot navigate their way through 360-degree images of five actual New York City neighborhoods. This is done with the help of a "guide" bot, which sees nothing but a 2D map of the neighborhood. The tourist bot essentially describes what it "sees" and the guide bot responds with directions. Facebook found that its bot guide was better than human guides at giving directions.

Facebook isn't the only tech giant working on natural language understanding. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are all pursuing similar projects in a bid to give their own AI assistants an edge.

2
Blockchain / How should cryptocurrency be regulated?
« on: July 12, 2018, 08:30:13 PM »
Does Facebook know something about blockchain that we don't?

Probably. If there's one thing we can all agree on about blockchain tech and cryptocurrency, it's that most people don't understand them. Facebook, which recently re-organized itself to make blockchain one of its major focuses, clearly has something up its sleeve with regard to crypto. But even if Facebook revealed what it is, users would likely react with a head scratch.

The financial world is already a mystery to many. Add to that a layer of novel technology involving a digital "immutable ledger" that runs on a peer-to-peer network, decoupling the currency from any central authority, and even an interested person will start to resemble the Confused Lady meme.


To those folks, this week must have been especially troubling. It was Blockchain Week in New York City, headlined by CoinDesk's Consensus Conference. Besides the Lamborghinis on display and the bizarre crypto-inspired stunts, there was clear progress in bridging the world of cryptocurrency with that of real-world finance, including a new suite of investor tools and a new "stablecoin" for jittery crypto investors. HTC even debuted a blockchain-based phone.

But does any of that matter in light of crypto's Wild West reputation, with shady startups and scams dominating most of the headlines? How should the field be regulated? And what is Facebook's crypto team up to anyway?

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WhatsApp wants to fight the spread of fake news — and that means a meaningful change is coming to its app.

On Tuesday, the company announced it's adding labels to forwarded messages so users can better identify rumors, fake news, and other false information that often spreads via the messaging app.


With the update, forwarded messages will have a small "forwarded" label, similar to forwarded email messages, indicating the note was originally written by someone other than the sender.

It may seem like a minor update, but it's one the company says could help people identify fake news and other types of misinformation. "WhatsApp cares deeply about your safety. We encourage you to think before sharing messages that were forwarded," the company wrote in a blog post.

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You work a 9-to-5, and yet some jerk in the office keeps scheduling you for 8 a.m. meetings.

This madness has to stop, and, thanks to Google's new Working Hours feature that prevents people from adding you to meetings on Google Calendar outside of your pre-set available times, it just might. JK, your bosses are going to do whatever the hell they want with your time, but the new feature is at least a wonderfully passive-aggressive way to tell them to get bent.

Working Hours, announced by Google on June 27, is pretty straightforward.

"People who will try to schedule meetings with you outside of these hours will be informed that you are not available at that time," explains the company's blog post. "You can already set your working hours to one interval for all days of the week. With this launch, you can now customize your work hours for each day separately."

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Software Quality Assurance and Testing / Test Automation Framework
« on: July 12, 2018, 08:12:42 PM »
Testing frameworks are an essential part of any successful automated testing process. They can reduce maintenance costs and testing efforts and will provide a higher return on investment (ROI) for QA teams looking to optimize their agile processes.

What is a Test Framework?
Before diving into the most common types of frameworks and their benefits, let’s clarify what a test automation framework actually is. A testing framework is a set of guidelines or rules used for creating and designing test cases. A framework is comprised of a combination of practices and tools that are designed to help QA professionals test more efficiently.

These guidelines could include coding standards, test-data handling methods, object repositories, processes for storing test results, or information on how to access external resources.

While these are not mandatory rules and testers can still script or record tests without following them, using an organized framework typically provides additional benefits that would otherwise be missed out on.

BENEFITS OF A TEST AUTOMATION FRAMEWORK
Utilizing a framework for automated testing will increase a team’s test speed and efficiency, improve test accuracy, and will reduce test maintenance costs as well as lower risks. They are essential to an efficient automated testing process for a few key reasons: 

  • Improved test efficiency
    Lower maintenance costs
    Minimal manual intervention
    Maximum test coverage
    Reusability of code
[/b]

Types of Automated Testing Frameworks
There are six common types of test automation frameworks, each with their own architecture and different benefits and disadvantages. When building out a test plan, it’s important to choose the framework that is right for you.

  • Linear Automation Framework
    Modular Based Testing Framework
    Library Architecture Testing Framework
    Data-Driven Framework
    Keyword-Driven Framework
    Hybrid Testing Framework
[/b]

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Software Engineering / These 15 unsung women in tech changed the world
« on: March 29, 2018, 08:54:13 PM »
The first programmers weren't men, and the first computers weren't machines. What they were, in both cases, were women.

Women's many contributions to technology are frequently left out of the history books. But lately, that's been changing — at least a little.

Ada Lovelace considered the first computer programmer and a visionary for what programming and computers could eventually become, has a technology award named after her, and a holiday devoted to celebrating her legacy. Katherine Johnson meanwhile, the NASA "computer" responsible for successfully plotting the flight paths of some of America's earliest space exploration expeditions, was the subject of the Hollywood blockbuster Hidden Figures (and the book it's based on).

1. The women who cracked the secrets of the universe with computation: Williamina Fleming and the Harvard "Computers"
2. The first computer programmers: The Women of ENIAC
3. The 'mother of computing': Grace Hopper
4. The woman you have to thank for hybrid car batteries: Annie Easley
5. The person who pioneered the gift that is 'WFH': Mary Allen Wilkes
6. Her work inspired Steve Jobs' creation of the first Apple computer: Adele Goldberg
7. The woman who basically invented online dating: Joan Ball
8. 'Google-ing' something would never have occurred to men without her: Karen Spärck Jones
9. Before there was GoDaddy, there was this woman: Elizabeth "Jake" Feinler
10. The person who made retro gaming awesome (before it was retro): Carol Shaw
11. Using Apple computers then and now was so intuitive because of her: Susan Kare
12. She paved the way for the smartphone market: Donna Dubinsky
13. She helped Obama save the internet: Megan Smith
14. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is awesome because of her: Victoria Alonso
15. Tech is more inclusive than ever thanks to her: Angelica Ross

7
Diabetics will be relieved.

It is just a sensor.

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Faculty Forum / Record cold in the U.S. and Canada has no end in sight
« on: January 05, 2018, 10:05:51 PM »
The winter of 2017-18 has recently become a throwback to the winters of yore — the ones your parents told you about. You know, back when they had to walk uphill both ways to school in the blinding snow and 0-degree temperatures?


9
Have you heard of cryptojacking? It's the practice of secretly using your computer's resources to mine cryptocurrency without the user's permission.

Typically, you'll see the practice on shady websites — popular Bittorrent site The Pirate Bay appears to have experimented with it at one point — but a cryptojacking program has recently been found in a popular Chrome extension.

10
The Iranian government has blocked access to messaging app Telegram and photo app Instagram amid several days of protests in what authorities say is a move "to maintain tranquillity and security of society," according to state-run media.

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Software Engineering / Happy 9th birthday, Bitcoin!
« on: January 05, 2018, 09:57:41 PM »
Exactly nine years ago, on Jan. 3, 2009, the first block in Bitcoin's blockchain was mined.

12
Google announced that the new Google Calendar look will now become the permanent interface — whether you like it or not.

13
Apple just confirmed that nearly all of its devices are impacted by the serious vulnerabilities affecting processors made by Intel and other chip makers.

In the company's first public statement on the vulnerabilities, Apple confirmed that all of its Mac and iOS devices are affected by the bugs known as Meltdown and Spectre.

"These issues apply to all modern processors and affect nearly all computing devices and operating systems. All Mac systems and iOS devices are affected, but there are no known exploits impacting customers at this time," the company said.

Apple also explained that most exploits rely on apps with malicious code, reiterating that users should only download software from "trusted sources," such as its own App Stores. The company says it has addressed the bugs with its own software updates for MacOS (10.13.2), iOS (11.2), and tvOS (11.2).

For Safari, Apple says users can expect a software update meant "to help defend against Spectre," in the next few days. Google and Microsoft also previously issued patches meant to address the vulnerabilities, which first came to light earlier this week.

14
Software Engineering / CPU vulnerabilities, Meltdown and Spectre
« on: January 05, 2018, 09:51:28 PM »
By now you've probably heard. A large portion of the world's computer processors are vulnerable to at least one of two exploits that render them susceptible to hackers. But what, exactly, is going on — and what can you do to protect yourself?

While the answer to the first question is complicated, thankfully the answer to the second isn't. It turns out that companies like Google and Microsoft have been working behind the scenes to create patches for what the security community has named Meltdown and Spectre.

But we're not out of the woods yet, and, depending on your operating system, you still need to take some proactive measures to make sure your data is safe.

What's in a name: Meltdown and Spectre
One of the reasons this latest threat is so complicated is because it's actually multiple vulnerabilities that were unveiled at the same time. They're similar in some ways, but differ in important others — a fact hinted at by their names.

According to researchers, Meltdown "basically melts security boundaries which are normally enforced by the hardware." Spectre, meanwhile, "breaks the isolation between different applications" allowing "an attacker to trick error-free programs, which follow best practices, into leaking their secrets."

And what does that actually mean? Essentially, either of these vulnerabilities could be theoretically exploited to steal sensitive data, like passwords, off your computer. Spectre is also a threat to your smartphone, so no escape there. 
Furthermore, while Meltdown can be mostly mitigated with software patches, it is thought only certain exploitations of Spectre can be stopped in this manner. In other words, the latter is going to haunt us for some time and either could potentially require new processors for a complete fix (maybe).

So, who has patched?
Companies, if they haven't already, are rushing to release the aforementioned "mitigations" against possible attacks that could exploit Meltdown or Spectre (a helpful patch list can be found on the Computer Emergency Response Team site). Why mitigations? Well, because the patches and updates mitigate the risk — but might not remove it completely.   

Microsoft, on Jan. 3, released an update for devices running Windows 10 that was downloaded and installed automatically.

Google, for its part, issued a lengthy blog post on the same day detailing all the steps it had taken to protect users against both Spectre (Variant 1 and 2) and Meltdown (Variant 3). While a lot of that work happened behind the scenes, there are still some actions you need to take yourself. For example, you should definitely enable site isolation on Chrome.

Android devices with the most recent security updates are also protected from the above mentioned variants.

Apple was a little late to the customer-facing party, but on Jan. 4 made it clear that it is indeed paying attention. Specifically, the company said that — just like with its competitors — its products are at risk. That includes "all Mac systems and iOS devices," to be exact.

But wait, there's good news! Patches to help defend against Meltdown were released in iOS 11.2, macOS 10.13.2, and tvOS 11.2, and Spectre-focused patches for Safari should be hitting "in the coming days."

What do I need to do?
Meltdown and Spectre are the real deal, and rightly have security professionals concerned. However, at this time there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself that don't involve buying a new computer.

Security researcher Matt Tait writes that, at least when it comes to Meltdown, typical computer users can mostly breathe easy. First and foremost, make sure your system is up to date. Download any all all patches for your operating system and browser of choice.

But, because more updates are coming down the pike, you're not done. Be on the lookout for any and all future security releases and make sure to install them immediately. Don't pull the classic "remind me later" bit.

And what about Spectre? This one is a little trickier.

"Spectre is harder to exploit than Meltdown, but it is also harder to mitigate," explain the researchers behind the discovery. "However, it is possible to prevent specific known exploits based on Spectre through software patches."

In other words, while nothing is perfect, much of the same advice applies as with Meltdown: update, update, update.

Which, well, has always been good advice.

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ISTQB / The 5 best beta-testing tools for your app
« on: December 26, 2017, 12:31:52 AM »
Beta testing your app is a very important step in the pre-launch stage of your app development since it could highlight any problems with the following:

Quality: You may be sure that you have built a quality app, but only with proper beta testing will you be able to see that all the features function the way they are meant to. Quality is closely linked to the next point,
Usability: From UI through to UX. A usable app is one with an intuitive user-interface, with users easily able to navigate through your app, find what they want, and do what they expect to with your app. You are looking at how they perform certain functions, and seeing if there are any ways of improving the flow.
Bugs: Naturally you would have been thorough in ensuring there are no bugs in your app, but until it is used in a real-world scenario, you can't be sure. From serious bugs that cause the app to crash, to minor bugs that only reveal themselves under certain conditions.
Performance: The device, operating system, and even other apps could all affect the speed and overall performance of your app. Beta testing gives you an opportunity to analyse this more authentically than your own lab tests.
Marketing: From word-of-mouth marketing between your testers and their friends, through to insights into ideal audience as revealed by your testers, beta testing can help shape your marketing strategy pre-launch.
After considering these points, you'd find it difficult to deny that beta testing could help your app, and its launch, tremendously. And setting up beta testing isn't a complicated process, with a multitude of tools available. Some of these tools focus on just one aspect of beta testing, while others try to offer a more comprehensive set of features. Here's a rundown of some of the best ones.

UXCam
Discussions around UI and UX entered the mainstream in the late '90s as the internet became more accessible and more popular. And while the first mobile apps might not have made good use of UI and UX -- after all, it was a brand new field -- most large app developers now have separate departments focused only on UI and UX.

UserTesting
At first glance, UserTesting is very similar to UXCam. It gives you access to videos (and audio) of real-world users interacting with your app. However, unlike UXCam, UserTesting seems more like a beta testing tool in that it can be used at any stage in your development cycle, and you specify which tasks you want to test. So instead of seeing how users interact with your app as a whole, you can more narrowly focus on specific sections of your app, and specific tasks.

99tests
99tests is promoted as a crowdsourced testing platform. What this means is that, like UserTesting, you specify the audience type -- key demographics, device type, location, etc. -- and 99tests find the perfect testers for you.

TestFairy
TestFairy is another beta testing tool that provides a video recording of what users are doing with your app. However, TestFairy does not give you easy access to a pool of testers, and you are expected to source your own testers. This shouldn't be a deal breaker when considering beta testing tools, but it does mean you should have a tester 'recruitment' plan in place before signing up for TestFairy, if you don't already have your own pool of testers. Using family and friends is a good start, but only if they match the demographics of your intended audience. You want a diverse pool of testers who are able to test your app on different devices, and in different real-world situations -- for example, using WiFi versus mobile data.

HockeyApp
The final tool in this roundup of top beta testing tools for your app is one that offers more than just a testing tool. HockeyApp offers the standard features you would expect in a beta testing tool, but they also include user metrics. User metrics in HockeyApp encompass everything from number of active users and engagement, through to information on devices on which your app crashed in the last 30-days. This last metric can be quite valuable in helping you differentiate between bugs that affect all users, and those that affect users on specific devices.


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