New school C

Why C is a more practical and enticing programming language than you might think.

Choosing a programming language for that project you’re working on is a fairly straightforward decision: it needs to be fast, easy to use, and it must come with enough bells and whistles to keep you from re-inventing the wheel every time you want to do something.

Looking at this criteria, aside from the fast bit, the C language may not be the first one that pops into your head. After sitting down with Ben Klemens, the author of 21st Century C, I am now looking at C as a more practical and enticing alternative than I would have thought possible.

21st Century C sets a precedent in presenting C as a language that is a lot easier to use, and has more library support than many people think. If you are not up to date on the latest that C has to offer you may not be aware of the simplicity and elegance of the language. These strengths are backed by the C99 and C11 standards, but mainly they are built up on the development of libraries and modern tools for building and multi-threading in C. Read more…

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Shark: Real-time queries and analytics for big data

Shark is 100X faster than Hive for SQL, and 100X faster than Hadoop for machine-learning

Hadoop’s strength is in batch processing, MapReduce isn’t particularly suited for interactive/adhoc queries. Real-time1 SQL queries (on Hadoop data) are usually performed using custom connectors to MPP databases. In practice this means having connectors between separate Hadoop and database clusters. Over the last few months a number of systems that provide fast SQL access within Hadoop clusters have garnered attention. Connectors between Hadoop and fast MPP database clusters are not going away, but there is growing interest in moving many interactive SQL tasks into systems that coexist on the same cluster with Hadoop.

Having a Hadoop cluster support fast/interactive SQL queries dates back a few years to HadoopDB, an open source project out of Yale. The creators of HadoopDB have since started a commercial software company (Hadapt) to build a system that unites Hadoop/MapReduce and SQL. In Hadapt, a (Postgres) database is placed in nodes of a Hadoop cluster, resulting in a system2 that can use MapReduce, SQL, and search (Solr). Now on version 2.0, Hadapt is a fault-tolerant system that comes with analytic functions (HDK) that one can use via SQL. Read more…


MATLAB, R, and Julia: Languages for data analysis

Inside core features of specialized data analysis languages.

Big data frameworks like Hadoop have received a lot of attention recently, and with good reason: when you have terabytes of data to work with — and these days, who doesn’t? — it’s amazing to have affordable, reliable and ubiquitous tools that allow you to spread a computation over tens or hundreds of CPUs on commodity hardware. The dirty truth is, though, that many analysts and scientists spend as much time or more working with mere megabytes or gigabytes of data: a small sample pulled from a larger set, or the aggregated results of a Hadoop job, or just a dataset that isn’t all that big (like, say, all of Wikipedia, which can be squeezed into a few gigs without too much trouble).

At this scale, you don’t need a fancy distributed framework. You can just load the data into memory and explore it interactively in your favorite scripting language. Or, maybe, a different scripting language: data analysis is one of the few domains where special-purpose languages are very commonly used. Although in many respects these are similar to other dynamic languages like Ruby or Javascript, these languages have syntax and built-in data structures that make common data analysis tasks both faster and more concise. This article will briefly cover some of these core features for two languages that have been popular for decades — MATLAB and R — and another, Julia, that was just announced this year.


MATLAB is one of the oldest programming languages designed specifically for data analysis, and it is still extremely popular today. MATLAB was conceived in the late ’70s as a simple scripting language wrapped around the FORTRAN libraries LINPACK and EISPACK, which at the time were the best way to efficiently work with large matrices of data — as they arguably still are, through their successor LAPACK. These libraries, and thus MATLAB, were solely concerned with one data type: the matrix, a two-dimensional array of numbers.

This may seem very limiting, but in fact, a very wide range of scientific and data-analysis problems can be represented as matrix problems, and often very efficiently. Image processing, for example, is an obvious fit for the 2D data structure; less obvious, perhaps, is that a directed graph (like Twitter’s follow graph, or the graph of all links on the web) can be expressed as an adjacency matrix, and that graph algorithms like Google’s PageRank can be easily implemented as a series of additions and multiplications of these matrices. Similarly, the winning entry to the Netflix Prize recommendation challenge relied, in part, on a matrix representation of everyone’s movie ratings (you can imagine every row representing a Netflix user, every column a movie, and every entry in the matrix a rating), and in particular on an operation called Singular Value Decomposition, one of those original LINPACK matrix routines that MATLAB was designed to make easy to use.

Read more…

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Why learn C?

David Griffiths on C's consistent popularity and what the language can do for you.

In this Code podcast, "Head First C" co-author David Griffith discusses C's continued popularity and why C and Arduino work well together.

Comments: 28

What is DevOps?

What we mean by "operations," and how it's changed over the years.

NoOps, DevOps — no matter what you call it, operations won’t go away. Ops experts and development teams will jointly evolve to meet the challenges of delivering reliable software to customers.

Comments: 8

Developing cross-platform mobile apps with C#

Greg Shackles on using C# and .NET to build apps that work across mobile platforms.

Web developer and author Greg Shackles reveals the advantages of using C# over C++ for writing mobile apps. He also explains why Android and iOS developers should give C# a serious look.

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