News from the World of Software Development – December 2017

base-1Welcome to the final 2017 edition of our news digest, where we train our eye on a few stories of interest to software developers and QA engineers. If you are interested in checking out last month’s digest, simply click on the following link. Hopefully, this month’s edition offers some inspiration for your own projects in the coming year and beyond.

WebAssembly gets your Browser Close to the Iron

The venerable and versatile JavaScript language continues to drive browser-based user experiences to even higher levels. Software engineers leverage a vast number of JavaScript libraries to add more functionality and otherwise become more productive when building web apps. We previously covered React Native, one of the most popular of these libraries.

Now, a brand new and potentially revolutionary tool is gaining steam in the web application world. Called WebAssembly, it promises to provide a significant performance boost to web apps by adding a compiled byte code binary library written in JavaScript or other languages. News about WebAssembly is percolating within the industry, including this week’s article in DZone.

WebAssembly, or wasm if you prefer, essentially serves a similar role as the JVM or .NET, but within a web browser. It replaces JavaScript’s own browser-based virtual machine with its own, and improved performance is the primary result. Most importantly, every major web browser on the market now supports WebAssembly.

The following statement from the WebAssembly FAQ hints at speed boost provided by this new format:

The kind of binary format being considered for WebAssembly can be natively decoded much faster than JavaScript can be parsed (experiments show more than 20× faster). On mobile, large compiled codes can easily take 20-40 seconds just to parse, so native decoding (especially when combined with other techniques like streaming for better-than-gzip compression) is critical to providing a good cold-load user experience.   

DZone writer, Federico Tomassetti, feels WebAssembly, and its improvement in parsing performance promises to bring formerly native desktop applications – like virtual reality or high-end video games – into the web browser. In some cases, a browser can execute these applications today, but wasm speeds up the parsing process, greatly reducing load times.

If your team is working on large high-end JavaScript applications, or even any other language that compiles to wasm byte code, WebAssembly needs to be on your radar. It just might be the biggest news in web development in the last decade. Perhaps you’ll read more about it in a future article here at the Betica Blog.

Artificial Intelligence becomes a Business Standard in 2017

AI and its related offshoot, machine learning, are now commonplace throughout the business world. This software-based innovation helps companies with a myriad of tasks: everything from data science to automated driving. SD Times published an article this week covering the inroads AI made in 2017.

The software development process also benefits from machine learning routines performing in a QA role. It is able to detect, fix, and even predict the existence of bugs. The biggest players in the tech world – Google, Microsoft, and IBM – are all investing a copious amount of resources in AI research as well as practical applications for the technology.

The fact the two major tech industry analyst groups – Forrester and Gartner – both predict the continued growth of AI in the business world in 2018 means you likely encounter it sooner than later in your own software engineering work. Hopefully, AI makes you a more productive programmer.

Keep returning to the Betica Blog for additional dispatches from the changing world of software development. Thanks for reading!

News from the World of Software Development – December 2016

With the Holiday Season in full force, many technology organizations take a few days to rest up before 2017 begins. Despite the break a few interesting stories from the software development still arose in the past few weeks. Let’s take a look and see if any recent news offers some inspiration for you and your team. If you are interested in last month’s digest, simply click this link.

How Design is transforming the Practice of Software Development

Principles from the world of design are influencing how software gets written, especially at companies leveraging Agile as their methodology of choice. This is the opinion of a December article in ZDNet. The piece explains the similarities of thought between design and Agile as noted by Matt Cooper-Wright, a senior designer at IDEO.

“Both processes seek input from beyond the team doing the work. For designers this is user research, business needs, and technology possibilities. For software development this looks more like a backlogs, user stories, and success metrics. Both processes also embrace iteration and ongoing refinement. Design is more about jumping backwards and forwards where software is the continuous loop of development — but both talk to the same notion of ongoing refinement,” said Cooper-Wright.

Faster release cycles combined with a move towards continuous deployment is a major goal of many shops embracing Agile. Design concepts come into play with elegant user interfaces that serve the needs of end-users. Involving creative professionals during the storyboarding portion of the development cycle (and elsewhere as needed) ensures the final product offers a compelling user experience.

Tom Dabson, software engineering manager at Cognizant, sums up this evolution of application development. “We use design thinking as the approach to solving problems,” Design thinking is centered around truly understanding client needs and opening yourself up to try as many things as possible before coming up with the preferred solution,” commented Dabson.

Apple slowing down Mac Application Development?

The rumors are hot and heavy that Apple is deemphasizing software development for its Mac desktop computers. Engadget reported on this potential news story in late December. Considering the lack of new Mac computers for nearly four years until the recent introduction of an updated MacBook line, it is obvious mobile devices, wearables, and streaming media are Redmond’s major focus.

The article noted the poor battery power of the new MacBook as proof Apple’s engineering focus lies elsewhere. More tellingly, an analyst for Bloomberg reported Apple no longer maintains a dedicated team working on macOS software. Tim Cook denies these rumors when speaking to the press, but the real proof is in the lack of innovation on the Mac side of the shop compared to other areas within Apple.

A quote the late Steve Jobs made to Fortune Magazine 20 years ago rings true concerning the current priorities in Redmond. “If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it’s worth — and get busy on the next great thing. The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago,” said Jobs.

We hope everyone enjoys their Holiday season, and looks forward to a fruitful 2017. Keep returning to the Betica Blog for additional insights from the ever changing world of software development. Thanks for reading!