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April 11 2011

April 07 2011

Four short links: 7 April 2011

  1. The Freight Train That is Android -- Google’s aim is defensive not offensive. They are not trying to make a profit on Android or Chrome. They want to take any layer that lives between themselves and the consumer and make it free (or even less than free). [...] In essence, they are not just building a moat; Google is also scorching the earth for 250 miles around the outside of the castle to ensure no one can approach it. (via Fred Wilson)
  2. Group Think (New York Magazine) -- Big Idea tomes typically pull promiscuously from behavioral economics, cognitive science, and evolutionary psychology. They coin phrases the way Zimbabwe prints bills. They relish upending conventional wisdom: Not thinking becomes thinking, everything bad turns out to be good, and the world is—go figure—flat. (With Gladwell’s Blink, this mania for the counterintuitive runs top-speed into a wall, crumples to the ground, and stares dizzily at the little birds circling overhead. This is, let me remind you, a best-selling book about the counterintuitive importance of thinking intuitively.) A piercing take on pop science/fad management books.
  3. Product Design at GitHub -- Every employee at GitHub is a product designer. We only hire smart people we trust to make our product better. We don’t have managers dictating what to work on. We don’t require executive signoff to ship features. Executives, system administrators, developers, and designers concieve, ship, and remove features alike. (via Simon Willison)
  4. Linus on Android Headers Claims -- "seems totally bogus". I blogged the Android headers claim earlier, have been meaning to run this rather definitive "ignore it, it was noise" note. Apologies for showing you crap that was wrong: that's why I try not to show weather-report "news", but to find projects that illustrate trends.

March 18 2011

February 26 2011

Sony startet Feldzug gegen Playstation-Hacks

Sony Computer Entertainment geht zurzeit verstärkt gegen Hacker und Heimbastler vor, die Schutzmechanismen auf der Playstation 3 umgehen.


Reposted bykrekk krekk

February 25 2011

February 23 2011

Developer Week in Review

Live, via satellite from around the world, it's Developer Week in Review, with your correspondent, Buff Overflow.

Apple policies rile developers (again)

Developers certainly seem to be getting fed up with Apple's dictatorial control of the App Store, and the new subscription and in-app purchase restrictions may push them over the edge. If Apple wants to avoid appearing to play favorites, they will need to apply the policy uniformly, which could put some very popular iPhone apps in jeopardy. For example, you can purchase and download audio books with Audible's app, and I can't see them agreeing to give up 30% of their gross income to Apple for the privilege. With companies big and small screaming for blood, and the FTC threatening to take a closer look, this may be one App Store policy that needs to be put back on the shelf.

Meanwhile, Google is rolling out their own subscription model, but it's unclear who the intended audience would be. Android apps?

Oh yah, and there's evidently an announcement about something called an iPad 2 happening next week ...

Ubuntu: Distribution on the edge?

All eyes (well, some eyes ... ok, my eyes) were turned this week toward Canonical, as some reports indicate that the formerly peace-loving Linux distro may be on a path toward more business-minded actions.

Agree or disagree with the premise of the article, but it's a good jumping off point for a conversation about just where the future of Linux distributions lie. With Ubuntu and Red Hat the two most public symbols of Linux, has the "pure" roots of Linux (such as Debian) been lost? Is Linux just another commercial operating system now, with an open source development model?

Is obscenity ruining our developers?

Your twenty-something PHP developer sits alone at a terminal, reviewing git commits. Seems innocent enough, but do you really know what your programmer is looking at? The answers may shock and disturb you.

Here's an interesting analysis of git commit messages (not comments in code, as Slashdot erroneously reported), looking at swear frequency by programming language.

C++, Ruby and JavaScript all had about the same amount, roughly twice that of C and three times that of C# and Java. PHP and Python programmers evidently don't swear much at all. The results were normalized, so the popularity of the languages didn't influence the weightings. Mind you, the total percentage of commit messages with any kind of swear at all was a tiny 0.022% (210 total swears), so it's not like it was a bar full of sailors.

That was the developer week that was. Please send tips or leads here.

January 05 2011

Developer Year in Review: Operating Systems

Our year in review concludes (slightly on the wrong side of the new year) with a look at what was up in operating systems. Rather than print a laundry list of who released what new version, let's take a look at some of the news that broke in 2010.

Linux: We're saved ... maybe?

As someone who has 10 shares of SCO framed and displayed in his bathroom, 2010 looked to be a very good year. The Beast from Utah finally exhausted all of its legal options, and cratered into a messy bankruptcy, leaving Novell with clear ownership of the Unix intellectual property that Linux may or may not incorporate. We all rejoiced, assuming that Linux would enjoy a happy existence in the future, unworried by fears of corporate protection rackets trying to intimidate people into paying for the free OS.

Then this fall, Novell announced that it was selling more than 800 of their patents to a consortium that includes Microsoft as a major player. Suddenly, all of the angst about IP attacks against Linux were back on the table, but now with known Linux-hater Microsoft appearing to hold the reins. Will further legal hijinks ensue? Only time will tell.

For Windows, second time's a charm

After the impressive (in the Hindenburg sense) launch of Windows Vista, Microsoft went back to the drawing board. They must have put a better grade of Kool-Aid in the water coolers the second time around, because Windows 7 has experienced a much warmer reception.

Vista never managed to crack the 20 percent adoption mark, even after four years on the market (it peaked just shy of 19 percent). By contrast, Windows 7 is already past the 20 percent mark, after only a little more than a year. XP, however, is still holding on to more than 50 percent of the Windows market. Not bad for a nine-year-old OS that isn't supported by Microsoft anymore.

MacOS gets a new distribution model

2010 brought point releases for Snow Leopard, but Mac-heads will have to wait until 2011 for the next major release, which we now know is called Lion.

Instead, the big news in 2010 was that Apple wants to do for desktop software what the iPhone App Store did for mobile. It remains to be seen if the new Mac App Store will be embraced by major software publishers. On one side of the equation, Apple is going to get a significant cut of the revenue from App Store sales, but on the other side, there's no need to create physical products to sell in retail stores. Add to that the fact that if a company won't sell their software in the App Store, a competitor might, and the App Store model has proven to be an effective way to sell software. Companies will ignore the App Store at the peril of their market share.

The other guys

Solaris: Reports suggest Oracle wants to bring Solaris back into a proprietary model, negating some or all of the work Sun did open sourcing it.

BSD: BSD adoption on desktops continues to be practically nonexistent, and even in the server market, it only accounts for 2.4 percent of servers. By contrast, Linux owns more than 60 percent of the server market, and even Windows has 15 times the installation base. It may be time for BSD to take a long hard look at itself, if it wants to avoid becoming irrelevant.

This concludes our year in review. Please return your seatbacks and tray tables to their full upright and locked positions. Next week, we'll get back to serving up the best of the week's news. Suggestions are always welcome, so please send tips or news here.


December 30 2010

Four short links: 30 December 2010

  1. Groupon Editorial Manual (Scribd) -- When introducing something nonsensical (fake history, mixed metaphors), don't wink at the reader to let them in on the joke. Don't call it out with quotes, parenthesis, or any other narrative device. Speak your ignorance with total authority. Assert it as fact. This is how you can surprise the reader. If you call out your joke, even in a subtle way, it spoils the surprise. Think of yourself as an objective, confident, albeit totally unqualified and frequently blatantly ignorant voice speaking at a panel you shouldn't have been invited to. It's interesting to see a quirky voice encoded in rules. Corporates obviously need this, to scale and to ensure consistency between staff, whereas in startups it emerges through the unique gifts and circumstance of employees (think Flickr's Friendly Hipster voice). (via Brady Forrest on Twitter)
  2. Deloitte Corporate gTLD (Slideshare) -- Deloitte one of the early bidders to buy their own top-level domain as a branding move. The application fee alone is $185,000.
  3. Haikuleaks -- automated finder of haiku from within the wikileaked cables. (via Andy Baio on Twitter)
  4. PS3 Code-signing Key Broken -- the private keys giving Sony a monopoly on distributing games for the PS3 have been broken. Claimed to be to let Linux run on the boxes, rather than pirated games. Remains to be seen whether the experience of the PS3 user will become richer for the lack of Sony gatekeeping. There's even a key generator now. (via Hacker News)

December 21 2010

Four short links: 21 December 2010

  1. Cash Cow Disease -- quite harsh on Google and Microsoft for "ingesting not investing" in promising startups, then disconnecting them from market signals. Like pixie dust, potential future advertising revenues can be sprinkled on any revenue-negative scheme to make it look brilliant. (via Dan Martell)
  2. Your Apps Are Watching You (Wall Street Journal) -- the iPhone apps transmitted more data than the apps on phones using Google Inc.'s Android operating system [...] Both the Android and iPhone versions of Pandora, a popular music app, sent age, gender, location and phone identifiers to various ad networks. iPhone and Android versions of a game called Paper Toss—players try to throw paper wads into a trash can—each sent the phone's ID number to at least five ad companies. Grindr, an iPhone app for meeting gay men, sent gender, location and phone ID to three ad companies. [...] Among all apps tested, the most widely shared detail was the unique ID number assigned to every phone. It is effectively a "supercookie," [...] on iPhones, this number is the "UDID," or Unique Device Identifier. Android IDs go by other names. These IDs are set by phone makers, carriers or makers of the operating system, and typically can't be blocked or deleted. "The great thing about mobile is you can't clear a UDID like you can a cookie," says Meghan O'Holleran of Traffic Marketplace, an Internet ad network that is expanding into mobile apps. "That's how we track everything."
  3. On Undo's Undue Importance (Paul Kedrosky) -- The mainstream has money and risks, and so it cares immensely. It wants products and services where big failures aren't catastrophic, and where small failures, the sorts of thing that "undo" fixes, can be rolled back. Undo matters, in other words, because its appearance almost always signals that a market has gone from fringe to mainstream, with profits set to follow. (via Tim O'Reilly on Twitter)
  4. libimobiledevice -- open source library that talks the protocols to support iPhone®, iPod Touch®, iPad® and Apple TV® devices without jailbreaking or proprietary libraries.

December 17 2010

Four short links: 17 December 2010

  1. Down the ls(1) Rabbit Hole -- exactly how ls(1) does what it does, from logic to system calls to kernel. This is the kind of deep understanding of systems that lets great programmers cut great code. (via Hacker News)
  2. Towards a scientific concept of free will as a biological trait: spontaneous actions and decision-making in invertebrates (Royal Society) -- peer-reviewed published paper that was initially reviewed and improved in Google Docs and got comments there, in FriendFeed, and on his blog. The bitter irony: Royal Society charged him €2000 to make it available for free download. (via Fabiana Kubke)
  3. Bixo -- an open source web mining toolkit. (via Matt Biddulph on Delicious)
  4. How Facebook Does Design -- podcast (with transcript) with stories about how tweaking design improved the user activity on Facebook. One of the designers thought closing your account should be more like leaving summer camp (you know a place which has all your friends, and you don’t want to leave.) So he created this page above for deactivation which has all your friends waving good-bye to you as you deactivate. Give you that final tug of the heart before you leave. This reduced the deactivation rate by 7%.

December 08 2010

Developer Week in Review

As the eight days of Hanukkah come to an end, let's see what presents the developer community got in the last week.

Google's day(s) in the sun

Big news this week for both of Google's mobile platforms. On the Android front, the awaited Gingerbread release (2.3) of the OS was spotted in the wild, and handset owners everywhere got to play the "Will My Phone Support The New OS?" game. Google also is giving sneak peaks of the 3.0 release, said to be optimized for tablets. No doubt that Google, like the rest of the world, has taken note of the obscene iPad sales figures and wants to play in the tablet space, too. The 3.0 release is codenamed Honeycomb. No word yet if it has a big big byte.

Meanwhile, Google's other operating system, Chrome OS, is starting to become a little less vaporware-ish. Manufacturers are preparing to turn out notebooks with early versions of Chrome OS, with a target of mid-2011. Now that Google has two operating systems in-house, they can take things to the logical conclusion and sue themselves for patent infringement.

Just what we need, another mobile OS

One of the big stories this year has been how smartphones (especially iPhones) have been stealing market share of handheld gaming from dedicated platforms like the PSP. Sony certainly seems to be taking notice, as they have a announced that starting in March you'll be able to get your hands on the unholy hybrid of a PSP and a phone.

Here's an early cheat code, exclusive to Developer Week in Review: To make free calls to Poland, hit UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, START, UP, SQUARE.

Linux: The operating system the industry built?

One of the great stories of our time is how a rag-tag group of developers working out of their parents' basements created one of the great operating systems of the 20th century (that would be Linux). What many of us have known for some time is that while there's a diverse and distributed group of developers who keep the kernel fed and happy, most of them have ID badges and medical benefits.

In some ways, the reality that Linux is fueled largely with corporate bucks is even more remarkable than the myth of the Dorito-eating horde. Linux is pretty much unique in that it represents a large, successful project run cooperatively between companies that otherwise seem to spend most of their time suing each other. It's like the World Health Organization of software, only with less global politics.

That's it for this week. Suggestions are always welcome, so please send tips or news here.

October 27 2010

Developer Week in Review

Here's what recently caught my attention on the developer front:

Fresh Linux, get yer fresh hot Linux!

Disciples of the Penguin rejoiced last week as Uncle Linus released a new turn of the Linux kernel -- 2.6.36 to be precise. This release includes support for the Tilera processor architecture, the fanotify filesystem notification interface, Concurrency-managed workqueues, CIFS local caching and ... okay, I can't take it. Wading through Linux kernel release notes is like reading scientific papers written about exceedingly obscure disciplines. I've been in the industry for 30-plus years and I've used Linux for at least half that span, and I can't figure out what most of the new features are without 10 minutes of research per item.

Memo to the Linux Foundation: Hire someone to write sexier announcements. Maybe Tom Clancy: "Ryan looked at the display in desperation, watching the new kernel download. He needed the new Out of Memory Killer to take out the process jamming the US ICBM defenses before the terrorists seized control of the missiles."

Deprecated, but not forgotten ...

Lost in the hubbub around Apple's big "Back to the Mac" event was the quiet deprecation of both Java and Flash from the OS X base install. Deprecation basically means that neither package will be delivered as part of the installation DVDs, and updates will not come via the Apple update mechanisms. It doesn't mean they won't be available anymore, it just means you'll have to download them directly from Oracle and Adobe.

The espoused reason for the deprecation is that it's too hard to keep the versions of Java and Flash up to date, and in point of fact, Apple has been notorious for shipping relatively ancient versions of Java. Of course, the assumed actual reason it was done is that if they aren't official parts of the platform, you can't sell Flash and Java apps in the newly announced Mac App Store. That creaking sound you hear is the Mac Store's door closing to anything but an Objective-C-based app. Although I suppose you can still sell Perl or Python-based apps, since they ship with the OS.

It's a good guess that Adobe will continue to support Flash for the Mac, since so many folks use the Creative Suite products on OS X. The big question is, will Oracle provide aggressive support of Java on the Mac?

Fresh AIR

Arguing over whether you should program for iOS, Android or Linux tablets is a great way to spend an evening at a bar. But Adobe, with the release of AIR 2.5, offers a reminder that there is another way.

AIR, which provides a browser-less way to run Flash and Flex applications directly on the desktop, lets developers avoid the whole "locked into a platform" problem. AIR will run on all the major tablet and handheld technologies. Well ... all of them except Apple's.

Going ... going ... gone!

Remember how Microsoft was going to kill Windows XP once Vista was out? And then they were going to kill it after Windows 7 came out? But like a serial killer in a horror film, XP kept rising from the grave, fueled in its undead existence by the scores of enterprise customers who clung to it for dear life.

This week, Microsoft really, truly killed XP. As of October 22, OEMs and vendors can no longer sell a PC with XP preinstalled. After nine years, the reign of XP has finally come to an end, buried and forever to rest in peace.

What's that you say? You'll still be able to get XP if you buy a copy of Vista with it? Nonsense, I told you, it's dead! Dead and gone.

Hmm ... what's that at the door?

That's it for this week. Suggestions are always welcome, so please send tips or news here.

October 21 2010

Strata Week: Statistically speaking

Here's a look at the latest data news and developments that caught my eye.

Never race a penguin

The London Stock Exchange (LSE) has reportedly "doubled" their networking speed with a new Linux-based system, clocking trading times at 126 microseconds as compared to previous times of several hundred microseconds.

ComputerworldUK reports that "BATS Europe and Chi-X, two dedicated electronic rivals to the LSE, are reported to have an average latency of 250 and 175 microseconds respectively."

The Millenium Exchange trading platform is scheduled to roll out on the LSE's main exchange on November 1, replacing a Microsoft .Net system.

Lies, damn lies, and vertical axes

William M. Briggs took issue in his blog with a recent post of Paul Krugman's for playing unfair tricks with the slopes of graphs by messing with the scale on the vertical axis.

Briggs asserts that starting the scale at zero is a wily way to flatten out a slope, and he's right that it has that affect. But worse, I think, is the perception distortion that results from displaying two graphs with different scales side-by-side. Whatever scale is used, consistency is key.

Ironically, Krugman's post was meant to call out graphical misrepresentation regarding levels of government spending. It all goes to show how much we need increased data and statistical literacy across the board.

Speaking of statistics

If you don't believe me, ask European Central Bank (ECB) president Jean-Claude Trichet. The fifth ECB conference on statistics, originally scheduled for April but delayed by a certain Icelandic ash cloud, was rescheduled for this week. To take advantage of yesterday's date (written in the European style, the date was twenty-ten-twenty-ten), it was declared the first World Statistics Day by the UN General Assembly. Trichet opened the conference by calling for better, more reliable statistics from all member countries.

Evidence-based decision-making in modern economies is unthinkable without statistics ... The financial crisis has revealed information gaps that we have to close while also preparing ourselves for future challenges. This is best achieved through creating a wide range of economic and financial statistics that are mutually consistent, thereby eliminating contradictory signals due to measurement issues. The main aggregates must be both reliable and timely, and, in a globalised world, they should be comparable across countries and economies.

Not only did Trichet highlight the need for widespread use of accepted statistical methodologies, but he also urged the G20 to think of themselves as examples for the globalized world. Read the transcript of his speech here.

Rest in peace, Prof. Mandelbrot

I don't wish to end on a sad note, but let's say goodbye with much fondness and gratitude for Benoît Mandelbrot, who passed away last Thursday at the age of 85.

Mandelbrot spent most of his career at IBM, eventually becoming an IBM Fellow before moving on to teach at Yale. Mary Miller, Yale College dean, remembered Mandelbrot by saying:

He revolutionized geometry and made it possible to think about measurements and visualization of forms through an entirely new kind of geometry.

Mandelbrot is perhaps best remembered for the work he did with fractals (a term he coined). While not the first to discover them, his emphasis and research brought them into the limelight as a useful tool for understanding the world around us, including things like the movement of planets and the English shoreline.

The image below is a representation of the famous Mandelbrot Set, a mathematical set of points in the complex plane that does not simplify at any level of magnification.

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October 19 2010

Four short links: 19 October 2010

  1. YIMBY -- Swedish site for "Yes, In My Back Yard". Provides an opportunity for the net to aggregate positive desires ("please put a bus stop on my street", "we want wind power") rather than simply aggregating complaints. (via cityofsound on Twitter)
  2. Getting People in the Door -- a summary of some findings about people's approaches to the physical layout of shopping space. People like to walk in a loop. They avoid "cul de sacs" that they can see are dead-ends, because they don't want to get bored walking through the same merchandise twice. Apply these to your next office space.
  3. OpenBricks -- embedded Linux framework that provides easy creation of custom distributions for industrial embedded devices. It features a complete embedded development kit for rapid deployment on x86, ARM, PowerPC and MIPS systems.
  4. Dilbert on Data -- pay attention, data miners. (via Kevin Marks)

July 28 2010

Four short links: 28 July 2010

  1. The end of the road for the Nexus One (LWN) -- The pessimistic among us can be forgiven for concluding that the battle for open handsets is being lost. The carriers determine which devices will be successful in the market, and they have absolutely no interest in openness. Customers are irresistibly drawn to heavily advertised, shiny devices with low up-front costs; they just do not see any reason to insist on more open devices or, even, freedom from carrier lock-in. Attempts to create a market in open handsets - Nexus One, OpenMoko - seem to go down in flames. By this reasoning, we may well all be using Linux-based handsets in the future, but the freedom that attracted many of us to Linux will have been lost. (via Hacker News)
  2. Women in Technology -- says almost everything I learned from helping women into O'Reilly conferences. Amen!
  3. Teenagers and Social Participation (Nina Simone) -- [M]any older visitors enjoy the vibrancy of social events and are more than willing to share stories with other visitors in the context of a museum experience as long as it isn't overly technology mediated. There is another, surprising group that is much less likely to participate in dialogue with strangers: teenagers.
  4. Three New Features for Reddit Gold -- I've been watching this with interest. They asked supports to sign up to subscription program before they said what they'd offer in return. Now they're developing premium features to see what sticks. They're offering the ability to turn off ads, no surprise there, but also some features (such as resortable lists) that are computationally expensive. I like the idea of offering subscribers the expensive-to-compute services above and beyond freemium.

March 15 2010

Four short links: 15 March 2010

  1. A German Library for the 21st Century (Der Spiegel) -- But browsing in Europeana is just not very pleasurable. The results are displayed in thumbnail images the size of postage stamps. And if you click through for a closer look, you're taken to the corresponding institute. Soon you're wandering helplessly around a dozen different museum and library Web sites -- and you end up lost somewhere between the "Vlaamse Kunstcollectie" and the "Wielkopolska Biblioteka Cyfrowa." Would it not be preferable to incorporate all the exhibits within the familiar scope of Europeana? "We would have preferred that," says Gradmann. "But then the museums would not have participated." They insist on presenting their own treasures. This is a problem encountered everywhere around the world: users hate silos but institutions hate the thought of letting go of their content. We're going to have to let go to win. (via Penny Carnaby)
  2. StoryGarden -- a web-based tool for gathering and analyzing a large number of stories contributed by the public. The content of the stories, along with some associated survey questions, are processed in an automated semantic computing process for an immediate, interactive display for the lay public, and in a more thorough manual process for expert analysis.
  3. Google Apps Script -- VBA for the 2010s. Currently mainly for spreadsheets, but some hooks into Gmail and Google Calendar.
  4. There's a Rootkit in the Closet -- lovely explanation of finding and isolating a rootkit, reconstructing how it got there and deconstructing the rootkit to figure out what it did. It's a detective story, no less exciting than when Cliff Stohl wrote The Cuckoo's Egg.

February 04 2010

January 14 2010

Four short links: 15 January 2010

  1. The Open Laboratory -- collection of the best science writing on blogs from the last year. For more, see an interview with the author. Part of a growing trend where online comes first and feeds offline. (via sciblogs)
  2. Nat Friedman Leaving Novell -- one of the original Ximian founders, with interests in many directions and the coding chops to make them real. He'll found another startup, topic as yet unknown, which will be one to watch.
  3. Bruce Sterling's State of the World 2010 -- sometimes funny, often thought-provoking, always interesting. Americans really want and need and desire a Futuristic Vision Thing, they get all lonesome and moody without one, but it's absolutely gotta be one of those good-old-fashioned American Futuristic Vision Things, just like the Americans had in the 1950s when everybody else was still on fire from total war and cleaning up the death camps.
  4. MTA Releases Data -- NYC finally releases transit data, free for developers to reuse. (via timoreilly on Twitter)

November 06 2009

Four short links: 6 November 2009

  1. Red Laser -- "impossibly accurate barcode scanning". Uses Google Product Search to identify products that you scan using the camera on the phone. I remember Rael and I talking to Jeff Bezos about this years ago, before camphones had the resolution to decode barcodes. The future is here and it's $1.99 on the App Store ... (via Ed Corkery on Twitter)
  2. The Art of Community For Free Download -- Jono Bacon's O'Reilly book on community management now available for free download (still available for purchase!).
  3. Gov Hack -- Australian government ran a hack day with their open data, this is their writeup.
  4. Android Mythbusters -- slides for talk by Matt Porter at Embedded Linux Conference Europe. A (long) catalogue of the kludges in Android.

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