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August 01 2013

Four short links: 1 August 2013

  1. Tindie Launches Open Designs and Kickbacks (Tindie) — businesses can manufacture the open design as is, or create products derived from it. Those sellers can then kickback a portion of their sales back to the designer. Tindie will handle the disbursement of funds so it’s absolutely painless. For designers, there are no fees, no hosting costs, just a simple way to reap the benefits of their hard work.
  2. HackRF (Kickstarter) — an open source software-defined-radio platform to let you transmit or receive any radio signal from 30 MHz to 6000 MHz on USB power.
  3. Twelve Best Go Practices — to help you get the mindset of Go.
  4. US Code for Download — in XML and other formats. Waaaay after public resource showed them what needed to be done. First slow step of many fast ones, I hope.

July 09 2013

Four short links: 10 July 2013

  1. 6 Technical Things I Learned About Bitcoin (Rusty Russell) — Anonymity is hard, but I was surprised to see blockchain.info’s page about my donation to Unfilter correctly geolocated to my home town! Perhaps it’s a fluke, but I was taken aback by how clear it was. Interesting collection of technical observations about the workings of Bitcoin.
  2. NIFTY: News Information Flow Tracking, Yay! — watch how news stories mutate and change over time. (via Stijn Debrouwere
  3. EO Wilson’s Advice for Future Scientists (NPR) — the ideal scientist thinks like a poet and works like a bookkeeper. (via Courtney Johnston)
  4. Healthcare.gov New Web Model for Government (The Atlantic) — The new site has been built in public for months, iteratively created on Github using cutting edge open-source technologies. Healthcare.gov is the rarest of birds: a next-generation website that also happens to be a .gov.

May 30 2013

Four short links: 30 May 2013

  1. Facebook IPO Tech Post-Mortem (PDF) — SEC’s analysis of the failures that led to the NASDAQ kicking Facebook’s IPO in the NADSAQ. (via Quartz)
  2. Run That Town — SimCity for real cities, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and using real census data. No mention of whether you can make your citizens shout “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!” after three cans of lager at an Aussie Rules game. (via John Birmingham)
  3. Maintaining Focus (The Atlantic) — excellent Linda Stone interview. We may think that kids have a natural fascination with phones. Really, children have a fascination with what-ever Mom and Dad find fascinating. If they are fascinated by the flowers coming up in the yard, that’s what the children are going to find fascinating. And if Mom and Dad can’t put down the device with the screen, the child is going to think, That’s where it’s all at, that’s where I need to be! I interviewed kids between the ages of 7 and 12 about this. They said things like “My mom should make eye contact with me when she talks to me” and “I used to watch TV with my dad, but now he has his iPad, and I watch by myself.”
  4. Networked Motion Sensors in Hospital Bathrooms (NY Times) — At North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, motion sensors, like those used for burglar alarms, go off every time someone enters an intensive care room. The sensor triggers a video camera, which transmits its images halfway around the world to India, where workers are checking to see if doctors and nurses are performing a critical procedure: washing their hands. [...] the video monitoring program, run by a company called Arrowsight, has been adapted from the meat industry, where cameras track whether workers who skin animals — the hide can contaminate the meat — wash their hands, knives and electric cutters.

November 05 2012

Four short links: 5 November 2012

  1. The Psychology of Everything (YouTube) — illustrating some of the most fundamental elements of human nature through case studies about compassion, racism, and sex. (via Mind Hacks)
  2. Reports of Exempt Organizations (Public Resource) — This service provides bulk access to 6,461,326 filings of exempt organizations to the Internal Revenue Service. Each month, we process DVDs from the IRS for Private Foundations (Type PF), Exempt Organizations (Type EO), and filings by both of those kinds of organizations detailing unrelated business income (Type T). The IRS should be making this publicly available on the Internet, but instead it has fallen to Carl Malamud to make it happen. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Chris Anderson Leaves for Drone Co (Venturebeat) — Editor-in-chief of Wired leaves to run his UAV/robotics company 3D Robotics.
  4. pysqli (GitHub) — Python SQL injection framework; it provides dedicated bricks that can be used to build advanced exploits or easily extended/improved to fit the case.

May 25 2011

Four short links: 25 May 2011

  1. OTD Lessons Learned v1 (PDF) -- Dept of Defense report on use of open technologies. Advocates against forking open source projects, and provides specific guidance for groups looking to use OSS so they can navigate the military's producement policies and procedures in a way that'll deliver the best chance of success for the project. Imagine if only the manufacturer of a rifle were allowed to clean, fix, modify or upgrade that rifle. The military often finds itself in this position with taxpayer funded, contractor developed software: one contractor with a monopoly on the knowledge of a military software system and control of the software source code. (via John Scott)
  2. depth.js -- Javascript for Chrome and Safari that lets the Kinect interact with web pages. (via Javascript Weekly)
  3. A Liberating Betrayal (Simon Phipps) -- Microsoft have told Digium (makers of Asterisk) that they can't sell their Asterisk-Skype interaction module after July 26. Simon notes that this reveals the fundamental problem with "open core" approaches to open source business. The proprietary interests hold all the cards here. The community can't just "rehost and carry on" because the crucial add-on is proprietary. Even if wasn't, the protocol it's implementing is proprietary and subject to arbitrary change - very likely to happen if anyone attempts to reverse-engineer the interface and protocol. Asterisk may be open source, but if you're dependent on this interface to connect with your customers on Skype you've no freedoms - that's the way "open core" works.
  4. Zero Install -- Zero Install is a decentralised cross-distribution software installation system. Just hit 1.0. (via James Williams)

March 17 2011

January 13 2011

Four short links: 13 January 2011

  1. Strict Mode is Coming to Town (YUI Blog) -- Javascript gets strictures. In addition to the obvious benefits to program reliability and readability, strict mode is helping to solve the Mashup Problem. We want to be able to invite third party code onto our pages to do useful things for us and our users, without giving that code the license to take over the browser or to misrepresent itself to the user or our servers. We need to constrain the third party code.
  2. Public Data Corporation -- UK to form a corporation to centralize both opening and commercializing government data. "A Public Data Corporation will bring benefits in three areas. Firstly and most importantly it will allow us to make data freely available, and where charging for data is appropriate to do so on a consistent basis. It will be a centre where developers, businesses and members of the public can access data and use it to develop internet applications, inform their business decisions or identify ways to run public services more efficiently. Some of this work is already taking place but there is huge potential to do more. Secondly, it will be a centre of excellence where expertise in collecting, managing, storing and distributing data can be brought together. This will enable substantial operational synergies. Thirdly, it can be a vehicle which will attract private investment." Did I wake up in crazyland? Private Investment?!!
  3. What If Flickr Fails -- thoughtful piece about business models. Among all the revenue diets a company might have, advertising equates best with candy. Its nutritive value is easily-burned carbohydrates. A nice energy boost, but not the protein-rich stuff comprised of products and services that provide direct benefits or persistent assets.
  4. Arbor.js -- graph visualization library in Javascript.

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)

September 24 2010

Law.Gov Update

I must admit things were a bit tight earlier this week at Public.Resource.Org when I called the payroll company and put the full-time staff (i.e., me) on a temporary involuntary furlough. We had just enough to pay contractors and rent, but that was pretty much it.

Some of you may have noted today's Google 10^100 announcement which has resulted in a rather remarkable transformation in our balance sheet (not to mention some serious rocket fuel for Law.Gov!):

Public.Resource.Org, Inc.
Balance Sheet Standard
As of September 24, 2010 Sep 24, '10Sep 23, '10 Current Assets  Checking/Savings   Paypal55.5755.57   Citibank Money Market551.41551.41   Citibank1,001,293.421,293.42  Total Checking/Savings1,001,900.401,900.40  Other Current Assets   Grants Receivable1,000,000.000.00  Total Other Current Assets1,000,000.000.00 Total Current Assets2,001,900.401,900.40

"What a Diff'rence a Day Makes!"

This grant is going to help Public.Resource.Org continue our work on Law.Gov and Video.Gov. For Law.Gov, this is going to mean a shift into real production, building on the very solid consensus that was reached earlier this year on the Core Law.Gov Principles. There are going to be a series of announcements over the remainder of this year, but there are three things we can share with you today:

  1. The first step in creating the Law.Gov Report is cleaning up and cataloging all the work from our 15 Law.Gov workshops that took place from January to June of this year. Point.B Studio and Foolish Tree Films have been hard at working creating a 15-DVD set of workshop proceedings with approximately 70 pieces of video. The video will all get released as a final mix on the net as well as on DVDs printed at Lulu, and this core will form the basis for the next steps of the report. Stay tuned for more details.
  2. The next step on the National Inventory of Legal Materials is going to be a bug tracker where people can enter their survey results, in particular creating trouble tickets for jurisdictions that violate the Law.Gov Core Principles. I'm pleased to report that Karl Fogel of O'Reilly Media has been hard at work on some software for this, based on the excellent MediaBugs base created by Scott Rosenberg and crew, which in turn builds on the PeoplePods code base created by Internet rock star Ben Brown. This software, natch, will be open source so you can use it to create other kinds of bug trackers besides media and legal bugs.
  3. If Law.Gov is going to work, we need lots more data. I'm pleased to report that we are close to a final agreement with UC Hastings and the Internet Archive to scan 3 million pages of 9th Circuit briefs, and we've sent California's Title 24 out to be double-keyed, turning it from PDF scans into valid markedup hypertext. We're also launching a strong "think local" effort with a goal of making all the local codes here in Sonoma and neighboring North Bay counties available for citizens and local governments to work with (more on that effort at the upcoming Ignite Sebastopol).

The grant is also going to help fund our Video.Gov efforts, and this morning I placed an order with C-SPAN for 500 DVDs of Congressional Hearings as part of our effort to get Congress to get it together and publish more video from hearings. We're close to a digitization agreement with the National Agricultural Library, we intend to keep working with our band of IASL volunteers and will of course do everything we can to help our colleague Andrew McLaughlin in his personal quest to see Video.Gov enter the .Gov domain.

September 10 2010

Four short links: 10 September 2010

  1. Instrumentation and Observability (Theo Schlossnagle) -- thoughtful talk (text and video available at that link) from a devops master. Many systems have critical metrics, which are diverse and specific to the business in question. For the purposes of this discussion, consider a system where advertisements are shown. We, of course, track every advertisement displayed in the system and that information is available for query. Herein the problem lies. Most systems put that information in a data store that is designed to answer marketing-oriented information: who clicked on what, what was shown where, etc. Answering the question, "How many were shown?" is possible but is not particularly efficient.
  2. Peak MHz (Mike Kuniavsky) -- we hit the era of what I'm calling Peak MHz in about 2004. That's the point when processor speed effectively peaked as chip manufacturers began competing along other dimensions. Which is why all the effort is going into horizontally-scalable systems like the NoSQL gadgets. (via Matt Jones)
  3. Transparency -- the great British satires Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister continue as one of the writers blogs in the persona of the elder civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby. His take on transparency is funny because it's true: I understand your anxiety about the new government’s fixation on what they are pleased to call ‘transparency’, but you are distressing yourself unnecessarily. It afflicts all incoming administrations. It used to be called ‘open government’, and reflects the frustrations they felt when they were in opposition and could not find out what was going on, combined with an eagerness to discover and publicise the deception, distortions and disasters of their predecessors.
  4. The Government Doesn't Look Good Naked -- a fine counter to the squawks of "the government's open efforts suck!" that are building. this is exactly how to prevent innovation in government. If you want change, you have to tolerate imperfection and risk. If every program manager thinks they’ll end up on the front page of the Washington Post or get dressed down onstage at Gov 2.0, nothing will change. (via Tim McNamara)

September 08 2010

Four short links: 8 September 2010

  1. Alpha Draft of Mozilla Public License v2 Out -- The highlight of this release is new patent language, modeled on Apache’s. We believe that this language should give better protection to MPL-using communities, make it possible for MPL-licensed projects to use Apache code, and be simpler to understand. (via webmink on Twitter)
  2. Challenge.gov -- contest-like environment for solving problems. Not all are glowing examples of government innovation: $12,000 for healthy recipes for kids--this is not a previously-unsolved problem. More relevant: NASA Centennial Challenge to build an aircraft that can fly 200 miles in less than two hours using the energy equivalent of less than 1 gallon of gas per occupant. (via scilib on Twitter)
  3. A Virtual Counter-Revolution (The Economist) -- It is still too early to say that the internet has fragmented into "internets", but there is a danger that it may splinter along geographical and commercial boundaries. (via mgeist on Twitter)
  4. Selectricity -- open source system to run online votes, from Benjamin Mako Hill.

August 26 2010

Earthquakes are HUGE on Data.gov


After launching just over a year ago with only 47 data sets, the Data.gov catalog now has 2,326 entries that have been collectively downloaded almost three-quarters of a million times. Of course, even these sizable download counts understate the actual impact of this data, which is being embedded in a variety of sites and apps, like those being developed for the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge.


The big Data.gov winner so far? The Department of the Interior's "Worldwide M1+ Earthquakes, Past 7 Days" data set. My guess is that there is some great app or visualization out there making daily use of this file -- if you know what it it is, report it in the comments.


The top 10 downloads are:



  1. Worldwide M1+ Earthquakes, Past 7 Days. 122,888 downloads. Real-time, worldwide earthquake list for the past 7 days. Department of the Interior.


  2. Latest Volumes of Foreign Relations of the United States. 10,090 downloads. The feed for the latest ten volumes of the official historical documentary record of U.S. foreign policy in the Foreign Relations of the United States series. Department of State.


  3. U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants (Greenbook). 6,670 downloads. These data are U.S Economic and Military Assistance by country from 1946 to the present. US Agency for International Development.


  4. Child-Related Product Recalls. 2,784 downloads. Lists recalls from CPSC, the agency charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products. US Consumer Product Safety Commission.


  5. Airline On-Time Performance and Causes of Flight Delays. 2,716 downloads. On-time arrival data for non-stop domestic flights by major air carriers, as well as additional items, such as departure and arrival delays, origin and destination airports, flight numbers, scheduled and actual departure and arrival times, cancelled or diverted flights, taxi-out and taxi-in times, air time, and non-stop distance. Department of Transportation.


  6. 2005 Toxics Release Inventory data for American Samoa. 2,628 downloads. The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) is a publicly available EPA database that contains information on toxic chemical releases and waste management activities reported annually by certain industries as well as federal facilities. Environmental Protection Agency.


  7. OSHA Data Initiative - Establishment Specific Injury and Illness Rates. 2,588 downloads. The data used by OSHA to calculate establishment-specific injury and illness incidence rates. Department of Labor.


  8. 2001 Federal Register in XML. 2,506 downloads. The official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents. National Archives and Records Administration.


  9. 2007 National RCRA Hazardous Waste Biennial Report Data Files. 2,266 downloads. Data on the generation of hazardous waste from large-quantity generators and on waste management practices from treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. Environmental Protection Agency.


  10. Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) Files, All Data, 2005 2,000 Downloads. Data on the use of energy in residential housing units including physical housing unit types, appliances utilized, demographics, fuels, and other energy-use information from the Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS), which is conducted every four years. Department of Energy.



Here's a breakdown of the contributions by agency:














AgencyData sets contributedDownloads Environmental Protection Agency474160,716 Department of Defense21444,837 Department of the Interior197157,273 Department of Commerce17637,430 Department of Health and Human Services14443,697 Executive Office of the President1327,569 Department of the Treasury9349,859 Department of Justice9016,392 Department of Energy8612,965 All remaining agencies740209,872


Finally, here's a link to the data.gov catalog that includes the number of times the set has been downloaded. (If you're interested in how this was done, check out Use BeautifulSoup to parse data.gov over on O'Reilly Answers).


Congrats to everyone at data.gov for creating this incredible resource for developers-at-large.

Tags: data datagov gov2
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