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December 05 2013

Four short links: 5 December 2013

  1. DeducerAn R Graphical User Interface (GUI) for Everyone.
  2. Integration of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System (NAS) Roadmap (PDF, FAA) — first pass at regulatory framework for drones. (via Anil Dash)
  3. Bitcoin Stats — $21MM traded, $15MM of electricity spent mining. Goodness. (via Steve Klabnik)
  4. iOS vs Android Numbers (Luke Wroblewski) — roundup comparing Android to iOS in recent commerce writeups. More Android handsets, but less revenue per download/impression/etc.

November 29 2013

Four short links: 29 November 2013

  1. Huaqiang Bei Map for Makers — excellent resource for visitors to an iconic huge electronics market in Shenzhen. (via Bunnie Huang)
  2. A 16th Century Dutchman Can Tell us Everything We Need to Know about GMO PatentsThere’s nothing wrong with this division of labor, except that it means that fewer people are tinkering. We’ve centralized the responsibility for agricultural innovation among a few engineers, even fewer investors, and just a handful of corporations. (and check out the historical story—it’s GREAT)
  3. Polymath Projects — massively multiplayer mathematical proving ground. Let the “how many mathematicians does it take” jokes commence. (via Slashdot)
  4. Stats on Dying TV — like a Mary Meeker preso, accumulation of evidence that TV screens and cable subscriptions are dying and mobile-consumed media are taking its place.

October 07 2013

Four short links: 9 October 2013

  1. Android Malware Numbers — (Quartz) less than an estimated 0.001% of app installations on Android are able to evade the system’s multi-layered defenses and cause harm to users, based on Google’s analysis of 1.5B downloads and installs.
  2. Facebook Operations Chief Reveals Open Networking Plan — long interview about OCP’s network project. The specification that we are working on is essentially a switch that behaves like compute. It starts up, it has a BIOS environment to do its diagnostics and testing, and then it will look for an executable and go find an operating system. You point it to an operating system and that tells it how it will behave and what it is going to run. In that model, you can run traditional network operating systems, or you can run Linux-style implementations, you can run OpenFlow if you want. And on top of that, you can build your protocol sets and applications.
  3. How Red Bull Dominates F1 (Quartz) — answer: data, and lots of it.
  4. Ground-Level Air Pollution Sensor (Make) — neat sensor project from Make.

September 24 2013

Four short links: 26 September 2013

  1. Google Has Spent 21 Billion on Data Centers The company invested a record $1.6 billion in its data centers in the second quarter of 2013. Puts my impulse-purchased second external hard-drive into context, doesn’t it honey?
  2. 10x Engineer (Shanley) — in which the idea that it’s scientifically shown that some engineers are innately 10x others is given a rough and vigorous debunking.
  3. How to Hire — great advice, including “Poaching is the titty twister of Silicon Valley relationships”.
  4. Think Like a Git — a guide to git, for the perplexed.

August 29 2013

Four short links: 29 August 2013

  1. textfsmPython module which implements a template based state machine for parsing semi-formatted text. Originally developed to allow programmatic access to information returned from the command line interface (CLI) of networking devices. TextFSM was developed internally at Google and released under the Apache 2.0 licence for the benefit of the wider community.
  2. The Money is in the Bitcoin Protocol (Vikram Kumar) — some of the basics in this post as well as how people are thinking about using the Bitcoin protocol to do some very innovative things. MUST. READ.
  3. Parsing C++ is Literally Undecidable — any system with enough moving parts will generate eddies of chaotic behaviour, where the interactions between the components are unpredictable. (via Pete Warden)
  4. Kickstarter Raises 6x Indiegogo Money (Medium) — a reminder of the importance of network effects. Crowdfunding is the online auction side of the 2010s.

August 23 2013

Four short links: 23 August 2013

  1. Bradley Manning and the Two Americas (Quinn Norton) — The first America built the Internet, but the second America moved onto it. And they both think they own the place now. The best explanation you’ll find for wtf is going on.
  2. Staggering Cost of Inventing New Drugs (Forbes) — $5BB to develop a new drug; and subject to an inverse-Moore’s law: A 2012 article in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery says the number of drugs invented per billion dollars of R&D invested has been cut in half every nine years for half a century.
  3. Who’s Watching You — (Tim Bray) threat modelling. Everyone should know this.
  4. Data Mining with Weka — learn data mining with the popular open source Weka platform.

August 15 2013

Four short links: 16 August 2013

  1. fraktransforms collections of strings into regular expressions for matching those strings. The primary goal of this library is to generate regular expressions from a known set of inputs which avoid backtracking as much as possible.
  2. The Boolean Trap — crappy APIs where true/false don’t mean what they seem. None of this is new, but every generation has to learn it anew. (via Pete Warden)
  3. Gumbo — open source pure C HTML5 parser.
  4. All Those People With Cheap Android Phones Have Started Buying Apps (Quartz) — revenue generated by the Google Play Store, from which many Android users get their apps, has grown 67% over the past half-year. By contrast, Apple’s App Store revenue grew 15%, according to Distimo estimates, which cover the top 18 countries. That sounds less impressive if you consider that the App Store brought in twice as much revenue in absolute terms. But the numbers are shifting fast. In February, the App Store was generating three times as much revenue, and last November it out-earned Google Play by a factor of four. Google is gaining.

August 14 2013

July 11 2013

Four short links: 11 July 2013

  1. Sifted — 7 minute animation set in a point cloud world, using photogrammetry in film-making. My brilliant cousin Ben wrote the software behind it. See this newspaper article and tv report for more.
  2. Vehicle Tech Out of Sync with Drivers’ DevicesFord Motor Co. has its own system. Apple Inc. is working with one set of automakers to design an interface that works better with its iPhone line. Some of the same car companies and others have joined the Car Connectivity Consortium, which is working with the major Android phone brands to develop a different interface. FFS. “… you are changing your phone every other year, and the top-of-mind apps are continuously changing.” That’s why Chevrolet, Mini and some other automakers are starting to offer screens that mirror apps from a smartphone.
  3. Incentives in Notice and Takedown (PDF) — findings summarised in Blocking and Removing Illegal Child Sexual Content: Analysis from a Technical and Legal Perspective: financial institutions seemed to be relatively successful at removing phishing websites while it took on average 150 times longer to remove child pornography.
  4. OpenCV for Processing (Github) — OpenCV for Processing is based on the official OpenCV Java bindings. Therefore, in addition to a suite of friendly functions for all the basics, you can also do anything that OpenCV can do. And a book from O’Reilly, and it’ll be CC-licensed. All is win. (via Greg Borenstein)

July 02 2013

Four short links: 3 July 2013

  1. Mobile Email Numbers (Luke Wroblewski) — 79% use their smartphone for reading email, a higher percentage than those who used it for making calls and in Feb ’12, mobile email overtook webmail client use.
  2. ProperSSLa series of best practices for establishing SSL connections between clients and servers.
  3. How We Are Losing the War for the Free and Open Internet (Sue Gardner) — The internet is evolving into a private-sector space that is primarily accountable to corporate shareholders rather than citizens. It’s constantly trying to sell you stuff. It does whatever it wants with your personal information. And as it begins to be regulated or to regulate itself, it often happens in a clumsy and harmful way, hurting the internet’s ability to function for the benefit of the public.
  4. The Amazingly Low Cost of PRISM — breaks down costs to store and analyse the data gathered from major Internet companies. Total hardware cost per year for 3.75 EB of data storage: €168M

June 11 2013

Four short links: 10 June 2013

  1. Anatomy of Two Memes — comparing the spread of Gangnam Style to Harlem Shake. Memes are like currencies: you need to balance accessibility (or ‘money supply’) and inflation. Gangnam Style became globally accessible through top-down mainstream sources (High Popularity), but this gave it high social inflation so it wasn’t valuable to share (Low Shareability). However, scale sustained its long term growth. Harlem Shake was not as easily accessible because it was driven more by small communities (Low Popularity), but for the same reason, being less easily accessible, it remained highly valuable (High Shareability). Lack of scale was what made Harlem Shake growth short-term and eventually killed it prematurely. Caution: contains fauxconomics.
  2. Handedness (Github) — determine left or right handedness from pinch gesture.
  3. Innovation Cartography — video of a talk by Richard Jefferson of Cambia’s lens, on the imperative to innovate held at the Skoll World Forum on Social Enterprise. His story of maritime cartography (starts around 5m50s) is awesome.
  4. Statically Recompiling NES Games into Native Executables with LLVM and Go — or “crack for Nat” as I like to translate that title.

May 31 2013

Four short links: 31 May 2013

  1. Modeling Users’ Activity on Twitter Networks: Validation of Dunbar’s Number (PLoSone) — In this paper we analyze a dataset of Twitter conversations collected across six months involving 1.7 million individuals and test the theoretical cognitive limit on the number of stable social relationships known as Dunbar’s number. We find that the data are in agreement with Dunbar’s result; users can entertain a maximum of 100–200 stable relationships. Thus, the ‘economy of attention’ is limited in the online world by cognitive and biological constraints as predicted by Dunbar’s theory. We propose a simple model for users’ behavior that includes finite priority queuing and time resources that reproduces the observed social behavior.
  2. Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends (Slideshare) — check out slide 24, ~2x month-on-month growth for MyFitnessPal’s number of API calls, which Meeker users as a proxy for “fitness data on mobile + wearable devices”.
  3. What I Learned as an Oompa Loompa (Elaine Wherry) — working in a chocolate factory, learning the differences and overlaps between a web startup and an more traditional physical goods business. It’s so much easier to build a sustainable organization around a simple revenue model. There are no tensions between ad partners, distribution sites, engineering, and sales teams. There are fewer points of failure. Instead, everyone is aligned towards a simple goal: make something people want.
  4. Augmented Reality Futures (Quartz) — wrap-up of tech in the works and coming. Instruction is the bit that interests me, scaffolding our lives: While it isn’t on the market yet, Inglobe Technologies just previewed an augmented reality app that tracks and virtually labels the components of a car engine in real time. That would make popping the hood of your car on the side of the road much less scary. The app claims to simplify tasks like checking oil and topping up coolant fluid, even for novice mechanics.

April 24 2013

Four short links: 30 April 2013

  1. China = 41% of World’s Internet Attack Traffic (Bloomberg) — numbers are from Akamai’s research. Verizon Communications said in a separate report that China accounted for 96 percent of all global espionage cases it investigated. One interpretation is that China is a rogue Internet state, but another is that we need to harden up our systems. (via ZD Net)
  2. Open Source Cannot Live on Donations Alone — excellent summary of some of the sustainability questions facing open source projects.
  3. China Startups: The Gold Rush (Steve Blank) — dense fact- and insight-filled piece. Not only is the Chinese ecosystem completely different but also the consumer demographics and user expectations are equally unique. 70% of Chinese Internet users are under 30. Instead of email, they’ve grown up with QQ instant messages. They’re used to using the web and increasingly the mobile web for everything, commerce, communication, games, etc. (They also probably haven’t seen a phone that isn’t mobile.) By the end of 2012, there were 85 million iOS and 160 million Android devices in China. And they were increasing at an aggregate 33 million IOS and Android activations per month.
  4. Calculating Rolling Cohort Retention with SQL — just what it says. (via Max Lynch)

Four short links: 24 April 2013

  1. Solar Energy: This is What a Disruptive Technology Looks Like (Brian McConnell) — In 1977, solar cells cost upwards of $70 per Watt of capacity. In 2013, that cost has dropped to $0.74 per Watt, a 100:1 improvement (source: The Economist). On average, solar power improves 14% per year in terms of energy production per dollar invested.
  2. Process Managers — overview of the tools that keep your software running.
  3. Bittorrent Sync — Dropbox-like features, BitTorrent under the hood.
  4. Brython — Python interpreter written in Javascript, suitable for embedding in webpages. (via Nelson Minar)

March 28 2013

Four short links: 28 March 2013

  1. What American Startups Can Learn From the Cutthroat Chinese Software IndustryIt follows that the idea of “viral” or “organic” growth doesn’t exist in China. “User acquisition is all about media buys. Platform-to-platform in China is war, and it is fought viciously and bitterly. If you have a Gmail account and send an email to, for example, NetEase163.com, which is the local web dominant player, it will most likely go to spam or junk folders regardless of your settings. Just to get an email to go through to your inbox, the company sending the email needs to have a special partnership.” This entire article is a horror show.
  2. White House Hangout Maker Movement (Whitehouse) — During the Hangout, Tom Kalil will discuss the elements of an “all hands on deck” effort to promote Making, with participants including: Dale Dougherty, Founder and Publisher of MAKE; Tara Tiger Brown, Los Angeles Makerspace; Super Awesome Sylvia, Super Awesome Maker Show; Saul Griffith, Co-Founder, Otherlab; Venkatesh Prasad, Ford.
  3. Municipal Codes of DC Freed (BoingBoing) — more good work by Carl Malamud. He’s specifically providing data for apps.
  4. The Modern Malware Review (PDF) — 90% of fully undetected malware was delivered via web-browsing; It took antivirus vendors 4 times as long to detect malware from web-based applications as opposed to email (20 days for web, 5 days for email); FTP was observed to be exceptionally high-risk.

January 31 2013

Four short links: 31 January 2013

  1. Courier Prime — tweaked Courier “for screenplays” (!). (via BoingBoing)
  2. The Dead Grandmother/Exam Syndrome and the Potential Downfall Of American Society (PDF) — education is dangerous to female extended family members. As can be seen in Table 1, when no exam is imminent the family death rate per 100 students (FDR) is low and is not related to the student’s grade in the class. The effect of an upcoming exam is unambiguous. The mean FDR jumps from 0.054 with no exam, to 0.574 with a mid-term, and to 1.042 with a final, representing increases of 10 fold and 19 fold respectively. (via Hacker News)
  3. Internet: 2012 in Numbers — lots of surprising numbers, with sources. Three that caught my eye: 42.1% – Internet penetration in China; 2.7 billion – Number of likes on Facebook every day; 59% – Share of global mobile data traffic that was video.
  4. 2013: The Year Ahead in Mobile (Business Insider) — Mobile is already 1/7 of global Internet traffic and growing its share quickly [...] on pace to top 25% by year end. Interesting prediction that rich people already have devices, so everyone’s working on low-cost units so they can sell to new customers in “growth markets” aka developing world.
  5. January 10 2013

    Four short links: 10 January 2013

    1. How To Make That One Thing Go Viral (Slideshare) — excellent points about headline writing (takes 25 to find the one that works), shareability (your audience has to click and share, then it’s whether THEIR audience clicks on it), and A/B testing (they talk about what they learned doing it ruthlessly).
    2. A More Complete Picture of the iTunes Economy — $12B/yr gross revenue through it, costs about $3.5B/yr to operate, revenue has grown at a ~35% compounded rate over last four years, non-app media 2/3 sales but growing slower than app sales. Lots of graphs!
    3. Visualizing the iOS App Store — interactive exploration of app store sales data.
    4. BORPHan Operating System designed for FPGA-based reconfigurable computers. It is an extended version of the Linux kernel that handles FPGAs as if they were CPUs. BORPH introduces the concept of a ‘hardware process’, which is a hardware design that runs on an FPGA but behaves just like a normal user program. The BORPH kernel provides standard system services, such as file system access to hardware processes, allowing them to communicate with the rest of the system easily and systematically. The name is an acronym for “Berkeley Operating system for ReProgrammable Hardware”.

    Four short links: 10 January 2013

    1. How To Make That One Thing Go Viral (Slideshare) — excellent points about headline writing (takes 25 to find the one that works), shareability (your audience has to click and share, then it’s whether THEIR audience clicks on it), and A/B testing (they talk about what they learned doing it ruthlessly).
    2. A More Complete Picture of the iTunes Economy — $12B/yr gross revenue through it, costs about $3.5B/yr to operate, revenue has grown at a ~35% compounded rate over last four years, non-app media 2/3 sales but growing slower than app sales. Lots of graphs!
    3. Visualizing the iOS App Store — interactive exploration of app store sales data.
    4. BORPHan Operating System designed for FPGA-based reconfigurable computers. It is an extended version of the Linux kernel that handles FPGAs as if they were CPUs. BORPH introduces the concept of a ‘hardware process’, which is a hardware design that runs on an FPGA but behaves just like a normal user program. The BORPH kernel provides standard system services, such as file system access to hardware processes, allowing them to communicate with the rest of the system easily and systematically. The name is an acronym for “Berkeley Operating system for ReProgrammable Hardware”.

    January 03 2013

    Four short links: 3 January 2013

    1. Community Memory (Wired) — In the early 1970s, Efrem Lipkin, Mark Szpakowski and Lee Felsenstein set up a series of these terminals around San Francisco and Berkeley, providing access to an electronic bulletin board housed by a XDS-940 mainframe computer. This started out as a social experiment to see if people would be willing to share via computer — a kind of “information flea market,” a “communication system which allows people to make contact with each other on the basis of mutually expressed interest,” according to a brochure from the time. What evolved was a proto-Facebook-Twitter-Yelp-Craigslist-esque database filled with searchable roommate-wanted and for-sale items ads, restaurant recommendations, and, well, status updates, complete with graphics and social commentary. But did it have retargeted ads, promoted tweets, and opt-in messages from partners? I THOUGHT NOT. (via BoingBoing)
    2. Latency Numbers Every Programmer Should Know (EECS Berkeley) — exactly that. I was always impressed by Artur Bergman’s familiarity with the speed of packets across switches, RAM cache misses, and HDD mean seek times. Now you can be that impressive person.
    3. Feds Requiring Black Boxes in All Vehicles (Wired) — [Q]uestions remain about the black boxes and data. Among them, how long should a black box retain event data, who owns the data, can a motorist turn off the black box and can the authorities get the data without a warrant. This is starting as regulatory compliance, but should be seized as an opportunity to have a quantified self.
    4. Average Age of StackExchange Users by Tag (Brian Bondy) — no tag is associated with people who have a mean age over 30. Did I miss the plague that wiped out all the programmers over the age of 30? Or does age bring with it supreme knowledge so that old people like me never have to use StackExchange? Yes, that must be it. *cough*
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