Monthly Archives: April 2016

Chrome

Chrome, an open-source Internet browser released by Google, Inc., a major American search engine company, in 2008. The first beta version of the software was released on Sept. 2, 2008, for personal computers (PCs) running various versions of Microsoft Corporation’s Windows OS (operating system). The development of Chrome was kept a well-guarded secret until a Web-based “comic book” describing the browser was released just hours before links appeared on Google’s Web site to download the program. In its public statements the company declared that it did not expect to supplant the major browsers, such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Firefox (the latter an open-source browser that Google supports with technical and monetary help). Instead, Google stated that its goal was to advance the usefulness of the Internet by including features that would work better with newer Web-based technologies, such as the company’s Google Apps (e.g., calendar, word processor, spreadsheet), that operate within a browser. This concept is often called “cloud computing,” as the user relies on programs operating “out there,” somewhere “in the cloud” (on the Internet).

Part of Chrome’s speed improvement over existing browsers is its use of a new JavaScript engine (V8). Chrome uses code from Apple Inc.’s WebKit, the open-source rendering engine used in Apple’s Safari Web browser. Chrome is the first browser to feature isolated, or protected, windows (or tabs) for each Web page or application running in it. While this means that each new tab that is opened requires as much dedicated computer memory as the first tab, it also means that if any computer code causes one of these tabs to crash, it will not bring down the entire browser. Closing a tab fully releases its allocated memory, thus solving a persistent problem of older browsers, which frequently have to be restarted in order to release the increasing amounts of memory that are requisitioned over time.

On July 7, 2009, Google announced plans to develop an open-source operating system, known as Chrome OS. The first devices to use Chrome OS were released in 2011 and were netbooks called Chromebooks. Chrome OS, which runs on top of a Linux kernel, requires fewer system resources than most operating systems because it uses cloud computing, in which the only software run on a Chrome OS device is Chrome and all other software applications are accessed through the Internet inside the Chrome browser.

Microsoft Corporation

Microsoft Corporation, leading developer of personal-computer software systems and applications. The company also publishes books and multimedia titles, offers e-mail services, and sells electronic game systems, computer peripherals (input/output devices), and portable media players. It has sales offices throughout the world. In addition to its main research and development centre at its corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, U.S., Microsoft has opened research labs in Cambridge, England (1997); Beijing, China (1998); Aachen, Germany (2003); Sadashivnagar, Bangalore, India (2005); Cairo, Egypt (2006); Cambridge, Massachusetts (2008); Herzliyya, Israel (2011); and New York, New York (2012).

Founding and early growth

In 1975 Bill Gates and Paul G. Allen, two boyhood friends from Seattle, converted BASIC, a popular mainframe computer programming language, for use on an early personal computer (PC), the Altair. Shortly afterward, Gates and Allen founded Microsoft, deriving the name from the words microcomputer and software. During the next few years, they refined BASIC and developed other programming languages. In 1980 International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) asked Microsoft to produce the essential software, or operating system, for its first personal computer, the IBM PC. Microsoft purchased an operating system from another company, modified it, and renamed it MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System). MS-DOS was released with the IBM PC in 1981. Thereafter, most manufacturers of personal computers licensed MS-DOS as their operating system, generating vast revenues for Microsoft; by the early 1990s it had sold more than 100 million copies of the program and defeated rival operating systems such as CP/M, which it displaced in the early 1980s, and later IBM OS/2. Microsoft deepened its position in operating systems with Windows, a graphical user interface whose third version, released in 1990, gained a wide following. By 1993, Windows 3.0 and its subsequent versions were selling at a rate of one million copies per month, and nearly 90 percent of the world’s PCs ran on a Microsoft operating system. In 1995 the company released Windows 95, which for the first time fully integrated MS-DOS with Windows and effectively matched in ease of use Apple Computer’s Mac OS. It also became the leader in productivity software such as word-processing and spreadsheet programs, outdistancing longtime rivals Lotus and WordPerfect in the process.

Microsoft dramatically expanded its electronic publishing division, created in 1985 and already notable for the success of its multimedia encyclopaedia, Encarta. It also entered the information services and entertainment industries with a wide range of products and services, most notably the Microsoft Network and MSNBC (a joint venture with the National Broadcasting Company, a major American television network).

As a result, by the mid-1990s Microsoft, which became a publicly owned corporation in 1986, had become one of the most powerful and profitable companies in American history. It consistently earned profits of 25 cents on every sales dollar, an astonishing record. In the company’s 1996 fiscal year, it topped $2 billion in net income for the first time, and its unbroken string of profits continued, even during the Great Recession of 2008–09 (its net income had grown to more than $14 billion by fiscal year 2009). However, its rapid growth in a fiercely competitive and fast-changing industry spawned resentment and jealousy among rivals, some of whom complained that the company’s practices violated U.S. laws against unfair competition. Microsoft and its defenders countered that, far from stifling competition and technical innovation, its rise had encouraged both and that its software had consistently become less expensive and more useful. A U.S. Justice Department investigation concluded in 1994 with a settlement in which Microsoft changed some sales practices that the government contended enabled the company to unfairly discourage OS customers from trying alternative programs. The following year the Justice Department successfully challenged Microsoft’s proposed purchase of Intuit Inc., the leading maker of financial software for the PC.

Why You Should Learn Computer Programming

aNews that numerous cathedrals are offering short courses in Latin is a reminder of the long decline of the language over the years. It was a core subject in the British education system until fairly recently – and not because anyone planned to speak it, of course. It was believed to offer valuable training for intellectual composition, as well as skills and thinking that were transferable to other fields.

It may have been the right decision, but when it was ultimately decided that these advantages were outweighed by Latin being a dead language we arguably lost that intellectual training in the process. This is why we want to make the case for moving another discipline to the centre of the curriculum that offers analogous benefits – computer programming. And unlike Latin, it is anything but dead.

Noam lore. Brian Talbot, CC BY-SA

There are many computer languages for different purposes. C and C++ remain the fastest to execute and are used by the gaming industry, for instance. In the internet era, much of the page design is done with the likes of JavaScript or PHP. Meanwhile Python has been rapidly gaining a reputation as a general purpose code that is easy to learn.

There are many parallels between natural languages and programming languages like these. You must learn to express yourself within the rules of the language. There is a grammar to comprehend. And what you write must be interpretable by another human being. (Yes, it must be interpretable by a computer. But just as Noam Chomsky’s example of “colourless green ideas sleep furiously” is grammatically correct nonsense, you can write obfuscated computer code that no one else can decipher.)

People who program can communicate with computers, which is becoming more and more important now that computers have a hand in almost everything. In today’s IT-literate world, we are all expected to be fluent in word processing and spreadsheets. The next logical step is to be able to program.

The younger generation are already exposed to computers almost from the day they are born, which explains for example Barclays bank’s recent launch of Code Playground, an initiative to engage young children in the basics of programming via a colourful website.

There is a myth that only maths geniuses are suited to programming. It is more accurate to say you need a logical approach and an ability to problem solve. Just as Latin constructs reinforce communication, programming constructs reinforce problem solving. It teaches you to break a problem into achievable chunks and to think very precisely. And once you have mastered the basics, it opens up great potential for creative thinking.

Then there are specific workplace benefits, such as for businesses that are building a bespoke piece of software. Errors sometimes occur when documents outlining in English how a program should work are translated into computer code. Those who have an appreciation of a programming language can write these more clearly. Indeed, businesses usually have to employ specialist analysts as intermediaries to help with this translation process.