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February 28 2012

Four short links: 28 February 2012

  1. Designing RESTful Interfaces (Slideshare) -- extremely good presentation on how to build HTTP APIs.
  2. Manipulating History for Fun and Profit -- if you want to make websites that are AJAX-responsive but without breaking the back button or preventing links, read this.
  3. Why Textbooks Are So Broken (Salon) -- Let's say a publisher hires a developer for a certain low-bid fee to produce seven supplemental math books for grades 3-8. The product specs call for each student book and teacher guide to have page counts of roughly 100 pages and 80 pages, respectively. The publisher wants these seven books ready for press in five weeks—over 1,400 pages. To put this in perspective, in the not too recent past at least six months would be allotted for a project of this size. But publishers customarily shrink their deadlines to get a jump on the competition, especially in today's math market. Unreasonable turnaround times are part of the new normal, something that almost guarantees a lack of quality right out of the gate.
  4. exmobaby -- wireless biosensor baby pyjamas send ECG, skin temperature, and movement data via Zigbee. (via Jo Komisarczuk)

November 25 2011

Four short links: 25 November 2011

  1. Continuous Three-Dimensional Control of a Virtual Helicopter Using a Motor Imagery Based Brain-Computer Interface (PLOSone) -- direct brain control is becoming a reality, tiny step by tiny step. Also: HELICOPTERS!
  2. Forward Secrecy for HTTPS -- Google contributed a better HTTPS cipher suite to OpenSSL, one that doesn't share keys between conversations. Yay the Goog for giving back.
  3. Ratings Systems (Quora) -- very good answer from the VP of Engineering at Netflix about the purposes and effects of different ratings and feedback systems. Full of pithy and true guidelines like: Your users have a certain mental budget they will invest in your rating system. The more work you make each decision, the fewer decisions you will get. This is true in many contexts other than rating systems as well. You can't randomly throw feedback mechanisms into your app, you must design them as deliberately and thoughtfully as the rest of your site.
  4. InstaCSS -- very simple very useful reference site. Grod like simplicity.

November 04 2011

Four short links: 4 November 2011

  1. Beethoven's Open Repository of Research (RocketHub) -- open repository funded in a Kickstarter-type way. First crowdfunding project I've given $$$ to.
  2. KeepOff (GitHub) -- open source project built around hacking KeepOn Interactive Dancing Robots. (via Chris Spurgeon)
  3. Steve Jobs One-on-One (ComputerWorld) -- interesting glimpse of the man himself in an oral history project recording made during the NeXT years. I don't need a computer to get a kid interested in that, to spend a week playing with gravity and trying to understand that and come up with reasons why. But you do need a person. You need a person. Especially with computers the way they are now. Computers are very reactive but they're not proactive; they are not agents, if you will. They are very reactive. What children need is something more proactive. They need a guide. They don't need an assistant.
  4. Bluetooth Violin Bow -- this is awesome in so many directions. Sensors EVERYWHERE! I wonder what hackable uses it has ...

October 14 2011

Four short links: 14 October 2011

  1. Theory of Relativity in Words of Four Letters or Less -- this does just what it says, and well too. I like it, as you may too. At the end, you may even know more than you do now.
  2. Effective Set Reconciliation Without Prior Context (PDF) -- paper on using Bloom filters to do set union (deduplication) efficiently. Useful in distributed key-value stores and other big data tools.
  3. Mental Notes -- each card has an insight from psychology research that's useful with web design. Shuffle the deck, peel off a card, get ideas for improving your site. (via Tom Stafford)
  4. The Internet of Things To Come (Mike Kuniavsky) -- Mike lays out the trends and technologies that will lead to an explosion in Internet of Things products. E.g., This abstraction of knowledge into silicon means that rather than starting from basic principles of electronics, designers can focus on what they're trying to create, rather than which capacitor to use or how to tell the signal from the noise. He makes it clear that, right now, we have the rich petrie dish in which great networked objects can be cultured.

September 14 2011

Four short links: 14 September 2011

  1. StackParts -- catalogue of different parts of the open source web stack, from Joshua Schachter. He's looking for helpers.
  2. DIY Microsocopes -- Keeling’s lowfi contraption, featured in MAKE magazine and virally spreading across science classrooms the country over, is bringing microscopes not just to eye level, but street level. Blowtorch and pipette glass makes for a Leeuwenhoek microscope.
  3. The Covenant -- Lexis Nexis are open sourcing their Hadoop-alike. They want to dual-license, requiring contributor copyright assignment, but copyright assignment and dual-licensing have a bad rep in the open source world because companies can subsequently abandon the open source component. Bruce Perens crafted a covenant: each copyright assignment of a patch can only happen if the company agrees not to abandon the open source project for three years. This document is a good read, though, for a lot more of the thinking behind the agreement. Unfortunate name, though: The Covenant were the villains in the Halo game.
  4. Ben Hammersley on The Future -- Moore's Law means anything that is dismissed on the grounds of the technology-not-being-good-enough-yet is going to happen. In a fantastic talk (I linked to Ben's notes), this sentence jumped out. I hadn't really appreciated this before, but it is absolutely true.

September 07 2011

Four short links: 7 September 2011

  1. Comparing Link Attention (Bitly) -- Twitter, Facebook, and direct (email/IM/etc) have remarkably similar patterns of decay of interest. (via Hilary Mason)
  2. Three Ages of Google -- from batch, to scaling through datacenters, and finally now to techniques for real-time scaling. Of interest to everyone interested in low-latency high-throughput transactions. Datacenters have the diameter of a microsecond, yet we are still using entire stacks designed for WANs. Real-time requires low and bounded latencies and our stacks can't provide low latency at scale. We need to fix this problem and towards this end Luiz sets out a research agenda, targeting problems that need to be solved. (via Tim O'Reilly)
  3. eReaders and eBooks (Luke Wroblewski) -- many eye-opening facts. In 2010 Amazon sold 115 Kindle books for every 100 paperback books. 65% of eReader owners use them in bed, in fact 37% of device usage is in bed.
  4. VT220 on a Mac -- dead sexy look. Impressive how many adapters you need to be able to hook a dingy old serial cable up to your shiny new computer.

August 30 2011

Four short links: 30 August 2011

  1. Data Monday: From PC to Tablet (Luke Wroblewski) -- some great stats here. Sales of Apple's iPad pulled in 30% more than all of Dell's consumer PC business in just the first half of the year.
  2. Munki -- munki is a set of tools that, used together with a webserver-based repository of packages and package metadata, can be used by OS X administrators to manage software installs (and in many cases removals) on OS X client machines.
  3. Crustache (GitHub) -- a fast C implementation of the Mustache templating engine. (via Hacker News)
  4. Minecraft Cube in Real Life -- clever hardware hack with projection and Arduino sensing.

August 17 2011

Four short links: 17 August 2011

  1. Tablib -- MIT-licensed open source library for manipulating tabular data. Reputed to have a great API. (via Tim McNamara)
  2. Stanford Education Everywhere -- courses in CS, machine learning, math, and engineering that are open for all to take. Over 58,000 have already signed up for the introduction to machine learning taught by Peter Norvig, Google's Director of Research.
  3. Wearable LED Television -- 160x120 RGBs powered by a 12v battery, built for Burning Man (natch). (via Bridget McKendry)
  4. Temporary Tattoo Biosensors (Science News) -- early work putting flexible sensors into temporary tattoos. (via BoingBoing)

June 16 2011

Four short links: 16 June 2011

  1. Solar Powered Wireless Sensor Network -- Chris is building wireless sensor networks using open source software and hardware that could be used in a variety of applications like air quality or home energy monitoring. It looks like he was inspired by Tweetawatt and is using xBee and ASUS wifi for communication in conjunction with Pachube for data display. (via MindKits)
  2. CSS Lint -- validate and quality check your CSS. (via Jacine Luisi)
  3. An Introduction to Stock Options for the Tech Entrepreneur or Startup Employee (Scribd) -- nice introduction to board, stock, options, finance, dilution, and more.
  4. Interesting Web Hacks (Quora) -- You can quickly run HTML in the browser without creating a HTML file: Enter this in the address bar: data:text/html,<h1>Hello, world!<h1> (via Alex Gibson)

April 12 2011

Four short links: 12 April 2011

  1. The Email Game -- game mechanics to get you answering email more efficiently. Can't wait to hear that conversation with corporate IT. "You want us to install what on the Exchange server?" (via Demo Day Wrapup)
  2. Stratified B-trees and versioning dictionaries -- A classic versioned data structure in storage and computer science is the copy-on-write (CoW) B-tree -- it underlies many of today's file systems and databases, including WAFL, ZFS, Btrfs and more. Unfortunately, it doesn't inherit the B-tree's optimality properties; it has poor space utilization, cannot offer fast updates, and relies on random IO to scale. Yet, nothing better has been developed since. We describe the `stratified B-tree', which beats all known semi-external memory versioned B-trees, including the CoW B-tree. In particular, it is the first versioned dictionary to achieve optimal tradeoffs between space, query and update performance. (via Bob Ippolito)
  3. DisplayCabinet (Ben Bashford) -- We embedded a group of inanimate ornamental objects with RFID tags. Totems or avatars that represent either people, products or services. We also added RFID tags to a set of house keys and a wallet. Functional things that you carry with you. This group of objects combine with a set of shelves containing a hidden projector and RFID reader to become DisplayCabinet. (via Chris Heathcote)
  4. shairport -- Aussie pulled the encryption keys from an Airport Express device, so now you can have software pretend to be an Airport Express.

March 16 2011

Four Short Links: 16 March 2011

  1. JS Fiddle -- an online editor for snippets build from HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The code can then be shared with others, embedded on a blog, etc. (via Darren Wood)
  2. SideStep -- Mac OS X program that automatically routes connections through a secure proxy when you're on an unsecured wifi network. (via Gina Trapani)
  3. Junkyard Jumbotron (MIT) -- lets you take a bunch of random displays and instantly stitch them together into a large, virtual display, simply by taking a photograph of them. It works with laptops, smartphones, tablets --- anything that runs a web browser. It also highlights a new way of connecting a large number of heterogenous devices to each other in the field, on an ad-hoc basis.
  4. Kinect-Controlled Tesla Coil (YouTube) -- "now say: Fools, I'll Destroy You All!". (via AdaFruit)

February 22 2011

Four short links: 22 February 2011

  1. Cluster (github) -- Node.JS multi-core server manager with plugins support. Hot restarts, and other goodness. (via The Change Log via Javascript Weekly)
  2. Nokia Culture Will Out (Adam Greenfield) -- Except that, as realized by Nokia, this is precisely what failed to happen. I experienced, in fact, neither a frisson of elegant futurism nor a blasé presentiment of everyday life at midcentury. I was given an NFC phone, and told to tap it against the item I wanted from the vending machine. This is what happened next: the vending machine teeped, and the phone teeped, and six or seven seconds later a notification popped up on its screen. It was an incoming text message, which had been sent by the vending machine at the moment I tapped my phone against it. I had to respond “Y” to this text to complete the transaction. The experience was clumsy and joyless and not in any conceivable way an improvement over pumping coins into the soda machine just the way I did quarters into Defender at the age of twelve.
  3. NextGen Education and Research Robotics -- virtual conference on robotics in education.
  4. Homemade Arduino Printer (Instructables) -- made with an Arduino, two dead CD/DVD drives and a marker pen. Clever hack! (via MindKits on Twitter)

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