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May 09 2012

Four short links: 9 May 2012

  1. We Need Version Control for Real Stuff (Chris Anderson) -- This is pointing us toward the next step, a GitHub for stuff. If open source hardware is going to take off like open source software, we need this. (via Evil Mad Scientist)
  2. Graduates and Post-Graduates on Food Stamps (Chronicle of Higher Education) -- two points for me here: the inherent evil of not paying a living wage; and the pain of market signals that particular occupations and specialisations are not as useful as once they were. I imagine it's hard to repurpose the specific knowledge in a Masters of Medieval History to some other field, though hopefully the skills of diligent hard work, rapid acquisition of knowledge, and critical thought will apply to new jobs. Expect more of this as we replace human labour with automation. I look forward to the software startup which creates work for people outside the organisation; the ultimate "create more value than you capture".
  3. Explore Exoplanets with Gestural Interfaces -- uses John Underkoffler's Oblong gestural interface. Underkoffler came up with the Minority Report interface which has fed the dreams of designers for years.
  4. Book Marketing Lessons Learned (Sarah Milstein) -- I really liked this honest appraisal of how Baratunde Thurston marketed his "How to be Black" book, and am doubly chuffed that it appeared on the O'Reilly Radar blog. I was fascinated by his Street Team, but knew I wanted to bring it to your attention when I read this. Start with your inner circle. I had an epiphany with Gary Vaynerchuk. I asked: "Did I ever ask you to buy my book?" He said, "Yeah, I bought it yesterday." I talked about his book, but cash on the table — it didn't happen. He wished he had identified everyone he knows, sending a personal note explaining: "A) buy the book; B) this means a lot to me. You owe me or I will owe you. Here's some things you can do to help: If you have speaking opportunities, let me know. For instance, I would love to speak at schools." Make it easy for people who want to help you. Everything else is bonus. If you haven't already converted the inner circle, you've skipped a critical step. "Let the people who already love you show it" is the skill I feel like I've spent years working on, and still have years to go.

May 01 2012

Four short links: 1 May 2012

  1. Sugata Mitra: Beyond The Hole in the Wall (YouTube) -- great talk by the education researcher Sugata Mitra whose big kick is self-directed learning. Great stories about the deployments and effects he's had with technology and supervision rather than teaching, but the end is a real kicker: the core skills we have are literacy, search, and belief. Of the three, the most problematic is belief: when and how do/should we turn something we've read into something ingrained, accepted, and built-upon? (via Tara Taylor-Jorgenson)
  2. Interview with Bunnie Huang (Makezine) -- fascinating interview with the hardware guy behind the Chumby. It's all gold, from rapid iteration at early stages of hardware through to the need to simplify. I think one of the most gut-wrenching realizations that small companies have to make is that they aren’t Apple. Apple spends over a billion dollars a year on tooling. An injection molding tool may cost around $40k and 2-3 months to make; Apple is known to build five or six simultaneously and then scrap all but one so they can evaluate multiple design approaches. But for them, tossing $200k in tooling to save 2 months time to market is peanuts. But for a startup that raised a million bucks, it’s unthinkable. Apple also has hundreds of staff; a startup has just a few members to do everything. The precision and refinement of Apple’s products come at an enormous cost that is just out of the reach of startups.
  3. ssh as Chrome Extension -- can't help but feel that building a secure login system on top of web browsers on top of operating systems isn't going to be more secure than building a secure login system on top of the operating system.
  4. (Tablet) Size Matters (Luke Wroblewski) -- as the screen gets bigger, we use the Web more.

April 27 2012

Four short links: 27 April 2012

  1. The Third Industrial Revolution (The Economist) -- A number of remarkable technologies are converging: clever software, novel materials, more dexterous robots, new processes (notably three-dimensional printing) and a whole range of web-based services. The factory of the past was based on cranking out zillions of identical products: Ford famously said that car-buyers could have any colour they liked, as long as it was black. But the cost of producing much smaller batches of a wider variety, with each product tailored precisely to each customer's whims, is falling. The factory of the future will focus on mass customisation--and may look more like those weavers' cottages than Ford's assembly line.
  2. Hiring Executives (Ben Horowitz) -- I am going to meditate for a while on Consensus decisions about executives almost always sway the process away from strength and towards lack of weakness.
  3. Valve's Handbook for New Employees (PDF) -- Since Valve is flat, people don't join projects because they're told to. Instead, you'll decide what to work on after asking yourself the right questions (more on that later). Employees vote on projects with their feet (or desk wheels). Strong projects are ones in which people can see demonstrated value; they staff up easily. This means there are any number of internal recruiting efforts constantly under way. Reminds me of Google, and I wonder how Valve manages politics in an organic hierarchy organization. (via Andy Baio)
  4. Facebook Numbers -- On average, Facebook earned $1.21 on each of its users this last quarter. I'd love to be able to pay them $10/yr and have them work for me instead of for [insert best-fit advertiser here].

April 16 2012

Four short links: 16 April 2012

  1. Peter Thiel's Class 4 Notes -- in perfect competition, marginal revenues equal marginal costs. So high margins for big companies suggest that two or more businesses might be combined: a core monopoly business (search, for Google), and then a bunch of other various efforts (robotic cars, TV, etc.). Cash builds up because it turns out that it doesn’t cost all that much to run the monopoly piece, and it doesn’t make sense to pump it into all the side projects. In a competitive world, you would have to be funding a lot more side projects to stay even. In a monopoly world, you should pour less into side projects, unless politics demand that the cash be spread around. Amazon currently needs to reinvest just 3% of its profits. It has to keep running to stay ahead, but it’s more easy jog than intense sprint. I liked the whole lecture, but this bit really stood out for me.
  2. Kickstarter Disrupting Consumer Electronics (Amanda Peyton) -- good point that most people wouldn't have thought that consumer electronics would lend itself to the same funding system as CDs of a one-act play about artisanal beadwork comic characters. Consumer electronics as a market has been ripe for disruption all along. That said, it’s ridiculously not obvious that disruption would come from the same place that allows an artist with a sharpie, a hotel room and a webcam a way to make the art she wants.
  3. OmniOS -- OmniTI's JEOS. Their team are engineers par excellence, so this promises to be good.
  4. Understanding Amazon's Ebook Strategy (Charlie Stross) -- By foolishly insisting on DRM, and then selling to Amazon on a wholesale basis, the publishers handed Amazon a monopoly on their customers—and thereby empowered a predatory monopsony. So very accurate.

March 28 2012

Four short links: 28 March 2012

  1. MS Office Exploit In The Wild, Targeting Mac OS X -- This is one of the few times that we have seen a malicious Office file used to deliver Malware on Mac OS X. (via Hacker News)
  2. Please Do Not Take Down The Sality BotNet -- best responsible disclosure ever.
  3. 3Difficult -- I’m an industrial designer at heart, and I’m saddened by what’s happened to my craft. We were once the kings of things, but for a variety of reasons I think we’re in danger of being left behind. [...] Making became the talk of the town, and to some extent it still is. We’re in the first stumbling days of the Internet of Things, and are increasingly seeing the paper thin definition between digital and tangible falling away.
  4. Air Quotes Product (Matt Webb) -- Recently I noted down some places in which traditional products have changed and he goes on to list some critical ways in which networked objects challenge our thinking. I love the little brain/big brain distinction--great to have words for these things at last!

February 15 2012

Four short links: 15 February 2012

  1. Namebench (Google Code) -- hunts down the fastest DNS servers for your computer to use. (via Nelson Minar)
  2. Primer on Macroeconomics (Jig) -- reading suggestions for introductions to macroeconomics suitable to understand the financial crisis and proposed solutions. (via Tim O'Reilly)
  3. Smarter Cameras Plumb Composition -- A new type of smarter camera can take a picture but also assess the chemical composition of the objects being imaged. This enables automated inspection systems to discern details that would be missed by conventional cameras. Interesting how cameras are getting smarter: Kinect as other significant case in point. (via Slashdot)
  4. Not So Open -- 3D printing lab at the University of Washington had to stop helping outsiders because of a crazy new IP policy from the university administration. These folks were doing amazing work, developing and sharing recipes for new materials to print with (iced tea, rice flour, and more) (via BoingBoing)

February 06 2012

Four short links: 6 February 2012

  1. Jirafe -- open source e-commerce analytics for Magento platform.
  2. iModela -- a $1000 3D milling machine. (via BoingBoing)
  3. It's Too Late to Save The Common Web (Robert Scoble) -- paraphrased: "Four years ago, I told you all that Google and Facebook were evil. You did nothing, which is why I must now use Google and Facebook." His list of reasons that Facebook beats the Open Web gives new shallows to the phrase "vanity metrics". Yes, the open web does not go out of its way to give you an inflated sense of popularity and importance. On the other hand, the things you do put there are in your control and will stay as long as you want them to. But that's obviously not a killer feature compared to a bottle of Astroglide and an autorefreshing page showing your Klout score and the number of Google+ circles you're in.
  4. iBooks Author EULA Clarified (MacObserver) -- important to note that it doesn't say you can't use the content you've written, only that you can't sell .ibook files through anyone but Apple. Less obnoxious than the "we own all your stuff, dude" interpretation, but still a bit crap. I wonder how anticompetitive this will be seen as. Apple's vertical integration is ripe for Justice Department investigation.

January 24 2012

November 21 2011

Four short links: 21 November 2011

  1. Steve Jobs in Early NeXT Days (YouTube) -- documentary footage of the early retreats at NeXT, where Jobs talks about plans and priorities. Very interesting to watch this knowing how the story ends. I'm astonished by how well Jobs spoke, even then, and delighted by the glimpses of impatience and dismissiveness. I wonder where the raw footage went. (via The Next Web)
  2. Cotton Candy Prototype -- an Android-running computer on a USB stick. Plug it in, use the software on the stick to talk to the onboard OS, and you're off. The ease of carrying your systems and data with you like this is the only long-term challenge I can see to the convenience of cloud storage of your digital life. For more details see Laptop Mag.
  3. Clayton Christensen on Short-Sighted Pursuit of Profits (Forbes) -- love this quote from an overseas semiconductor manufacturer: You Americans measure profitability by a ratio. There's a problem with that. No banks accept deposits denominated in ratios.
  4. Ford Just Became a Software Company (Information Week) -- Ford are shipping memory sticks with software upgrades to the touchscreen computer in their cars. This is the future of manufacturing: your physical products will need software, which will for your business to have software competencies you haven't begun to dream of. Business opportunity?

October 26 2011

Four short links: 26 October 2011

  1. CPAN Turns 0x10 -- sixteenth anniversary of the creation of the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network. Now holds 480k objects.
  2. Subtext -- social bookreading by adding chat, links, etc. to a book. I haven't tried the implementation yet but I've wanted this for years. (Just haven't wanted to jump into the cesspool of rights negotiations enough to actually build it :-) (via David Eagleman)
  3. Questions to Ask about Election Polls -- information to help you critically consume data analysis. (via Rachel Cunliffe)
  4. Technologies, Potential, and Implications of Additive Manufacturing (PDF) -- AM is a group of emerging technologies that create objects from the bottom-up by adding material one cross-sectional layer at a time. [...] Ultimately, AM has the potential to be as disruptive as the personal computer and the internet. The digitization of physical artifacts allows for global sharing and distribution of designed solutions. It enables crowd-sourced design (and individual fabrication) of physical hardware. It lowers the barriers to manufacturing, and allows everyone to become an entrepreneur. (via Bruce Sterling)

September 21 2011

August 29 2011

Four short links: 29 August 2011

  1. Laptops and Looms -- very thoughtful and thought-provoking summary of a UK conference on the kinds of Future of Manufacturing tools and businesses that Make and O'Reilly are into. It's easy to romanticise the industry of old but much of it was horrible and remains so in the countries where we now outsource many of our manufacturing needs. If we're to bring manufacturing back to Britain (which I think will gradually happen over the coming decade) we need to think differently about the economics of consumer goods including the jobs created and how to eliminate the environmental impacts. (via BERG London)
  2. Can Government Policies Increase National Long-Run Growth Rates? -- We obtain time series estimates of the long run growth rates of 17 OECD countries, and test the hypothesis that these are the same across countries. We find that we cannot reject this hypothesis for the first and last three decades of the 20th century. We conclude that: (i) there are few, if any, feasible policies available that have a significant effect on long run growth rates, and; (ii) any policies that can raise national growth rates must be international in scope. The results therefore have bleak implications for the ability of countries to affect their long run growth rates. Data-informed policy analysis for the despair. (via Jez Weston)
  3. Walt Disney's Open Source -- texture mapping, library for particle formats, and Python unit test generator, among other things. (via Brenda Wallace)
  4. The Magic of Computer Science -- magic tricks and illusions that are informed by computer science. It's a hook into teaching computer science principles, along the lines of the excellent CS Unplugged.

July 25 2011

Four short links: 25 July 2011

  1. Anonymity in Bitcoin -- TL;DR: Bitcoin is not inherently anonymous. It may be possible to conduct transactions is such a way so as to obscure your identity, but, in many cases, users and their transactions can be identified. We have performed an analysis of anonymity in the Bitcoin system and published our results in a preprint on arXiv. (via Hacker News)
  2. 3D Printing + Algorithmic Generation -- clever designers use algorithms based on leaf vein generation to create patterns for lamps, which are then 3d-printed. (via Imran Ali)
  3. Manimal: Relational Optimization for Data-Intensive Programs (PDF) -- static code analysis to detect MapReduce program semantics and thereby enable wholly-automatic optimization of MapReduce programs. (via BigData)
  4. Screenfly -- preview your site in different devices' screen sizes and resolutions. (via Smashing Magazine)

July 22 2011

Four short links: 22 July 2011

  1. Competitive Advantage Through Data -- the applications and business models for erecting barriers around proprietary data assets. Sees data businesses in these four categories: contributory data sourcing, offering cleaner data, data generated from service you offer, and viz/ux. The author does not yet appear to be considering when open or communal data is better than proprietary data, and how to make those projects work. (via Michael Driscoll)
  2. Interactive Touch Charts -- GPL v3 (and commercial) licensed Javascript charting library that features interactivity on touch devices: zoom, pan, and click. (via James Pearce)
  3. Solar Cutter, Solar 3D Printer -- prototypes of solar powered maker devices. The cutter is a non-laser cutter that focuses the sun's rays to a super-hot point. The printer makes glass from sand (!!!!). Not only is this cool, but sand is widespread and cheap.
  4. Synthetic Biology Open Language -- a language for the description and the exchange of synthetic biological parts, devices, and systems. Another piece of the synthetic biology puzzle comes together. The parallel development of DIY manufacturing in the worlds of bits and basepairs is mindboggling. We live in exciting times. (via krs)

May 09 2011

Four short links: 9 May 2011

  1. UDID DeAnonymization -- a developer exposed an API that connected UDID to other information such as Facebook ID. The API has been closed, but it remains true that your iPhone has a primary key and darn near every app developer has a database linking your UDID to other details about you. Apple requires this to not be public, but every private database is a bad architecture choice or security slipup away from being a public database.
  2. Be Your Own Souvenir -- Kinect + 3D printer = print a tiny figurine of yourself. Kinect has solved a very real part of the input problem that 3D fabbing had. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Campher -- Perl embedded in Go, by Brad Fitzpatrick.
  4. Slides from JS Conf 2011 -- more than thirty talks, from greats like David Flanagan, Thomas Fuchs, and Tom Hughes-Croucher. (via Isaac Z Schlueter)

May 06 2011

Four short links: 6 May 2011

  1. Raspberry Pi -- the creator of the game Elite has made an inline computer the size of a thumb drive--it plugs into an HDMI cable on one end and USB on the other. 700MHz CPU, OpenGL, 1080p-capable, running Ubuntu. Pricetag: $25. The mission is to supply them to schools.
  2. A Budget for Babel (Tim Carmody) -- What would you pony up for instant access to every book? Interesting insight into the value and utility of such a service.
  3. Android's Achilles Heel: The Sim Toolkit -- Now if you live in the States, you might not even know what the STK is, so a bit of explaining is in order. Put simply, the STK allows carriers to load a simple set of menus and 'applications' on your SIM card. Again, on your fancy iPhone, you may question the need or purpose for such a thing, but that's because you are still years behind and using a credit card. Here, where credit cards are virtually unknown, the present and future of payments is Mobile Money, which is almost always delivered via.. you guessed it, the STK.
  4. Democratizing Design -- AutoDesk partner with Ponoko and Techshop to allow anyone to design 3-D models, and then turn them into real-life products. Great to see this kind of small-run custom manufacturing heading toward the mainstream.

March 21 2011

Four short links: 21 March 2011

  1. Javascript Trie Performance Analysis (John Resig) -- if you program in Javascript and you're not up to John's skill level (*cough*) then you should read this and follow along. It's a ride-along in the brain of a master.
  2. Think Stats -- an introduction to statistics for Python programmers. (via Edd Dumbill)
  3. Bolefloor -- they build curvy wooden floors. Instead of straightening naturally curvy wood (which is wasteful), they use CV and CAD/CAM to figure the smallest cuts to slot strips of wood together. It's gorgeous, green, and geeky. (via BoingBoing)
  4. Extracting Article Text from HTML Documents -- everyone's doing it, now you know how. It's the theory behind the lovingly hand-crafted magic of readability. (via Hacker News)

February 07 2011

Four short links: 7 February 2011

  1. UK Internet Entrepreneurs (Guardian) -- two things stood out for me. (1) A startup focused on 3d printing better dolls for boys and girls. (2) it seems easier to the government to start something new and impose its own vision than it is to understand and integrate with what already exists.
  2. TreeSaver.js -- MIT/GPLv2-licensed JavaScript framework for creating magazine-style layouts using standards-compliant HTML and CSS.
  3. Using git to Manage a Web Site -- This page describes how I set things up so that I can make changes live by running just "git push web".
  4. Strata Data Conference Recap -- Clean data > More Data > Fancy Math — this is the order which makes data easier and better to work with. Clean data will be easier to work with and provide best results. If your data isn't clean, it is better to have more data than having to resort to fancy math. Using higher order statistical processing, while workable as a last resort, will require longer to develop, difficult algorithms and harder to maintain. So best place to focus is to start with clean data.

November 03 2010

Four short links: 3 November 2010

  1. Five Google Engineering Management Mistakes -- interesting to see informed criticism, because Google's style is often presented as a winning model. TLs [Tech Leads] were still evaluated as individual contributors. Leads to poor management practices: Grabbing all the sexy work for themselves; Providing negative evaluations for team members so they look good in comparison; Not paying attention to team member needs or requests; Confrontational relationships between team members and TLs (in some dysfunctional cases).
  2. Community Escrow (Simon Phipps in Computerworld) -- interesting take on open source as a way of protecting against the interests of a vendor changing to no longer be aligned with those of the customer. The kicker: If the product was "open core" - with the key commercial features kept proprietary - it will be very hard for anyone to provide continuity. This is especially true if you are using the software as a service, because the critical know-how to make the software reliably run in the cloud is unlikely to be included in the open source project. Hear, hear. Cloud and open core are new enough that we still blow kisses every time we meet, but that honeymoon will pass and before long it'll be hostile cold stares and long contemplative silences spent gazing out the window, musing on their shortcomings.
  3. Data Story Telling (Pete Warden) -- Pete nails something I've been chewing on: in this model, a new form of media is like an infection hitting a previously unexposed population. Some people figure out how it can be used to breach the weak spots in the audience's mental 'immune system', how to persuade people to believe lies that serve the propagator's purpose. Eventually the deviation from reality becomes too obvious, people wise up to the manipulation and a certain level of immunity is propagated throughout the culture. The same is true for advertising: we're in an arms race, novelty against neuroplasticity.
  4. Whimsy (and Clothes) For Sale (NY Times) -- “We could never afford to make product in volume, so we adopted kind of like a Beanie Baby approach: we’d create small collections that supremely rabid buyers would end up buying,” Mr. Lindland said, noting that some customers own more than 20 pairs of his signature pants. “They’re a collectors’ item, oddly enough.” Small-run manufacturing embraced as a differentiating advantage, rather than as a competitive disadvantage.

April 23 2010

Four short links: 23 April 2010

  1. Google's Insane Number of Servers Visualized (Gizmodo) -- sometimes you do just have to see it to comprehend it.
  2. Spreading Critical Behaviours "Virally" (HBR) -- form small groups of peers and get them to exchange best practices. Repeat and watch quality rise. (via Kevin Marks)
  3. Android: Monitoring Sensors in the Background -- tips on how to have programs continuously monitoring the sensors.
  4. HP Designjet 3D Printers -- everyone's hoping HP can do to 3D printer prices what they did to 2D printer prices. (WIthout doing to 3D printer materials what they did to 2D printer ink) (via fabbaloo)

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