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Online Coding School Treehouse Lays Off Most of Its Staff
Treehouse, which launched in Portland a decade ago in an ambitious effort to teach software development online, plans to lay off most of its staff by the end of the month. Oregon Live reports: CEO Ryan Carson didn't answer emailed questions about the cutbacks, but said in a brief reply Tuesday that "we are going to continue to serve our students and customers." Carson, who moved to Connecticut last month, said Treehouse is no longer based in Portland and that its remaining staff now works remotely. In an announcement sent last week over the company's internal Slack messaging channel, later viewed by The Oregonian/OregonLive, Treehouse notified employees that their jobs and benefits would end on Sept. 30, without severance. "A small team will be remaining, along with Ryan, to continue to support students," the company wrote to staff. Workers later posted an online spreadsheet with the names of 41 employees looking for new jobs. Treehouse has a geographically distributed workforce and the company's employees live in cities across the country. Treehouse attracted national attention in 2013 and 2015 with two unorthodox management strategies: The company eliminated all layers of management and it moved to a 32-hour-work week. Neither experiment worked. [...] It's not clear what triggered this week's cutbacks. Online education has been booming during the pandemic.

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Torvalds Merges Support for Microsoft's NTFS File System, Complains GitHub 'Creates Absolutely Useless Garbage Merges'
"Linux creator Linus Torvalds has agreed to include Paragon Software's NTFS3 kernel driver, giving the Linux kernel 5.15 release improved support for Microsoft's NTFS file system..." reports ZDNet, adding that the driver "will make working with Windows' NTFS drives in Linux an easier task — ending decades of difficulties with Microsoft's proprietary file system that succeeded FAT...." "But he also had some process and security lessons to offer developers about how to code submissions to the kernel should be made." "I notice that you have a GitHub merge commit in there," wrote Torvalds. He continued: "That's another of those things that I *really* don't want to see — GitHub creates absolutely useless garbage merges, and you should never ever use the GitHub interfaces to merge anything...GitHub is a perfectly fine hosting site, and it does a number of other things well too, but merges are not one of those things." Torvalds' chief problem with it was that merges need "proper commit messages with information about [what] is being merged and *why* you merge something." He continued: "But it also means proper authorship and committer information etc. All of which GitHub entirely screws up." TechRadar supplies some more context: One of the shortcomings Torvalds highlighted are GitHub's concise, factually correct, but functionally useless, commit messages. For instance, GitHub's commit message for Paragon's merge read "Merge branch 'torvalds:master' into master", which didn't impress Torvalds one bit... Torvalds also had some pertinent security advice, perhaps useful in light of recent software supply chain cyberattacks that the Linux Foundation wants to address by improving supply chain integrity through tools that make it easier to sign software cryptographically. As Torvalds points out, this is particularly important for new contributors to the Linux kernel. "For GitHub accounts (or really, anything but where I can just trust the account management), I really want the pull request to be a signed tag, not just a plain branch," Torvalds explains... Torvalds suggests Paragon do future merges from the command-line.

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Can a Code-Writing AI Be Good News For Humans?
"A.I. Can Now Write Its Own Computer Code," blares a headline in the New York Times, adding "That's Good News for Humans. (Alternate URL here.) The article begins with this remarkable story about Codex (the OpenAI software underlying GitHub Copilot): As soon as Tom Smith got his hands on Codex — a new artificial intelligence technology that writes its own computer programs — he gave it a job interview. He asked if it could tackle the "coding challenges" that programmers often face when interviewing for big-money jobs at Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook. Could it write a program that replaces all the spaces in a sentence with dashes? Even better, could it write one that identifies invalid ZIP codes? It did both instantly, before completing several other tasks. "These are problems that would be tough for a lot of humans to solve, myself included, and it would type out the response in two seconds," said Mr. Smith, a seasoned programmer who oversees an A.I. start-up called Gado Images. "It was spooky to watch." Codex seemed like a technology that would soon replace human workers. As Mr. Smith continued testing the system, he realized that its skills extended well beyond a knack for answering canned interview questions. It could even translate from one programming language to another. Yet after several weeks working with this new technology, Mr. Smith believes it poses no threat to professional coders. In fact, like many other experts, he sees it as a tool that will end up boosting human productivity. It may even help a whole new generation of people learn the art of computers, by showing them how to write simple pieces of code, almost like a personal tutor. "This is a tool that can make a coder's life a lot easier," Mr. Smith said. The article ultimately concludes that Codex "extends what a machine can do, but it is another indication that the technology works best with humans at the controls." And Greg Brockman, chief technology officer of OpenAI, even tells the Times "AI is not playing out like anyone expected. It felt like it was going to do this job and that job, and everyone was trying to figure out which one would go first. Instead, it is replacing no jobs. But it is taking away the drudge work from all of them at once."

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