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December 10 2013

Four short links: 10 December 2013

  1. ArangoDBopen-source database with a flexible data model for documents, graphs, and key-values. Build high performance applications using a convenient sql-like query language or JavaScript extensions.
  2. Google’s Seven Robotics Companies (IEEE) — The seven companies are capable of creating technologies needed to build a mobile, dexterous robot. Mr. Rubin said he was pursuing additional acquisitions. Rundown of those seven companies.
  3. Hebel (Github) — GPU-Accelerated Deep Learning Library in Python.
  4. What We Learned Open Sourcing — my eye was caught by the way they offered APIs to closed source code, found and solved performance problems, then open sourced the fixed code.

August 29 2013

Four short links: 30 August 2013

  1. intention.jsmanipulates the DOM via HTML attributes. The methods for manipulation are placed with the elements themselves, so flexible layouts don’t seem so abstract and messy.
  2. Introducing Brick: Minimal-markup Web Components for Faster App Development (Mozilla) — a cross-browser library that provides new custom HTML tags to abstract away common user interface patterns into easy-to-use, flexible, and semantic Web Components. Built on Mozilla’s x-tags library, Brick allows you to plug simple HTML tags into your markup to implement widgets like sliders or datepickers, speeding up development by saving you from having to initially think about the under-the-hood HTML/CSS/JavaScript.
  3. F1: A Distributed SQL Database That Scalesa distributed relational database system built at Google to support the AdWords business. F1 is a hybrid database that combines high availability, the scalability of NoSQL systems like Bigtable, and the consistency and usability of traditional SQL databases. F1 is built on Spanner, which provides synchronous cross-datacenter replication and strong consistency. Synchronous replication implies higher commit latency, but we mitigate that latency by using a hierarchical schema model with structured data types and through smart application design. F1 also includes a fully functional distributed SQL query engine and automatic change tracking and publishing.
  4. Looking Inside The (Drop)Box (PDF) — This paper presents new and generic techniques, to reverse engineer frozen Python applications, which are not limited to just the Dropbox world. We describe a method to bypass Dropbox’s two factor authentication and hijack Dropbox accounts. Additionally, generic techniques to intercept SSL data using code injection techniques and monkey patching are presented. (via Tech Republic)

July 02 2013

July 01 2013

Four short links: 1 July 2013

  1. Web Traffic VisualizationDots enter when transactions start and exit when completed. Their speed is proportional to client’s response time while their size reflects the server’s contribution to total time. Color comes from the specific request. (via Nelson Minar)
  2. Complete Guide to Being Interviewed on TV (Quartz) — good preparation for everyone who runs the risk of being quoted for 15 seconds.
  3. Harlan (GitHub) — new language for GPU programming. Simple examples in the announcement. (via Michael Bernstein)
  4. Open Fitopen source software that investigates several approaches to generating custom tailored pants patterns. Open Fit Lab is an attempt to use this software for on-the-spot generation and creation of custom clothes. (via Kaitlin Thaney)

June 05 2013

June 04 2013

Four short links: 4 June 2013

  1. WeevilScout — browser app that turns your browser into a worker for distributed computation tasks. See the poster (PDF). (via Ben Lorica)
  2. sregex (Github) — A non-backtracking regex engine library for large data streams. See also slide notes from a YAPC::NA talk. (via Ivan Ristic)
  3. Bobby Tables — a guide to preventing SQL injections. (via Andy Lester)
  4. Deep Learning Using Support Vector Machines (Arxiv) — we are proposing to train all layers of the deep networks by backpropagating gradients through the top level SVM, learning features of all layers. Our experiments show that simply replacing softmax with linear SVMs gives significant gains on datasets MNIST, CIFAR-10, and the ICML 2013 Representation Learning Workshop’s face expression recognition challenge. (via Oliver Grisel)

April 09 2013

Four short links: 9 April 2013

  1. Automated Essay Grading To Come to EdX (NY Times) — shortly after we get software that writes stories for us, we get software to read them for us.
  2. AMD Calls End of Moore’s Law in Ten Years (ComputerWorld) — story based on this video, where Michio Kaku lays out the timeline for Moore’s Law’s wind-down and the spin-up of new technology.
  3. Addressing Human Trafficking Through Technology (danah boyd) — technologists love to make tech and then assert it’ll help people. Danah’s work on teens and now trafficking steers us to do what works, rather than what is showy or easiest.
  4. Product Management (Rowan Simpson) — hand this to anyone who asks what product management actually is. Excellent explanation.

February 25 2013

Four short links: 25 February 2013

  1. Xenotext — Sci Foo Camper Christian Bök is closer to his goal of “living poetry”: A short stanza enciphered into a string of DNA and injected into an “unkillable” bacterium, Bök’s poem is designed to trigger the micro-organism to create a corresponding protein that, when decoded, is a verse created by the organism. In other words, the harmless bacterium, Deinococcus radiodurans (known as an extremophile because of its ability to survive freezing, scorching, or the vacuum of outer space), will be a poetic bug.
  2. Notes on Distributed Systems for Young Bloods — why distributed systems are different. Coordination is very hard. Avoid coordinating machines wherever possible. This is often described as “horizontal scalability”. The real trick of horizontal scalability is independence – being able to get data to machines such that communication and consensus between those machines is kept to a minimum. Every time two machines have to agree on something, the service is harder to implement. Information has an upper limit to the speed it can travel, and networked communication is flakier than you think, and your idea of what constitutes consensus is probably wrong.
  3. Lemnos Labs — hardware incubator in SF. (via Jim Stogdill)
  4. OLPC Built the Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer — Neil Stephenson imagined it, OLPC built it. Science fiction is a hugely powerful focusing device for creativity and imagination. (via Matt Jones)

February 08 2013

Distributed resilience with functional programming

Functional programming has a long and distinguished heritage of great work — that was only used by a small group of programmers. In a world dominated by individual computers running single processors, the extra cost of thinking functionally limited its appeal. Lately, as more projects require distributed systems that must always be available, functional programming approaches suddenly look a lot more appealing.

Steve Vinoski, an architect at Basho Technologies, has been working with distributed systems and complex projects for a long time, first as a tentative explorer and then leaping across to Erlang when it seemed right. Seventeen years as a columnist on C, C++, and functional languages have given him a unique viewpoint on how developers and companies are deciding whether and how to take the plunge.

Highlights from our recent interview include:

  • From CORBA/C++ to Erlang — “Every time I looked at it, it seemed to have an answer.” [Discussed at the 3:14 mark]
  • Everything old is new again — “Seeing people accidentally or by having to work through the problems, stumbling upon these old research papers and old ideas.” [7:20]
  • Erlang is not hugely fast — “It’s more for control, not for data streaming.” [16:58]
  • Webmachine — “[It's what you would get] If you took HTTP and made a flowchart of it … and then implement that flowchart.” [23:50]

  • Is Erlang syntax a barrier? [28:39]

Even if functional programming isn’t something you want to do now, keep an eye on it: there’s a lot more coming. There are many options besides Erlang, too!

You can view the entire conversation in the following video:


November 07 2012

Four short links: 7 November 2012

  1. A Slower Speed of Light — game where you control the speed of light and discover the wonders of relativity. (via Andy Baio)
  2. Facebook Demetricator — removes all statistics and numbers from Facebook’s chrome (“37 people like this” becomes “people like this”). (via Beta Knowledge)
  3. Rx — Microsoft open sources their library for composing asynchronous and event-based programs using observable sequences and LINQ-style query operators.
  4. Typing Karaoke — this is awesome. Practice typing to song lyrics. With 8-bit aesthetic for maximum quirk.

October 08 2012

Four short links: 8 October 2012

  1. Beware the Drones (Washington Times) — the temptation to send difficult to detect, unmanned aircraft into foreign airspace with perceived impunity means policymakers will naturally incline towards aggressive use of drones and hyperactive interventionism, leading us to a future that is ultimately plagued by more, not less warfare and conflict. This. Also, what I haven’t seen commented on with the Israeli air force shooting down a (presumably Hezbollah) drone: low cost of drones vs high cost of maintaining an air force to intercept, means this is asymmetric unmanned warfare.
  2. Scanbooth (github) — a collection of software for running a 3D scanning booth. Greg Borenstein said to me, “we need tools to scan and modify before 3D printing can take off.” (via Jeremy Herrman)
  3. Bitcoin’s Value is Decentralization (Paul Bohm) — Bitcoin isn’t just a currency but an elegant universal solution to the Byzantine Generals’ Problem, one of the core problems of reaching consensus in Distributed Systems. Until recently it was thought to not be practically solvable at all, much less on a global scale. Irrespective of its currency aspects, many experts believe Bitcoin is brilliant in that it technically made possible what was previously thought impossible. (via Mike Loukides)
  4. Blue Collar Coder (Anil Dash) — I am proud of, and impressed by, Craigslist’s ability to serve hundreds of millions of users with a few dozen employees. But I want the next Craigslist to optimize for providing dozens of jobs in each of the towns it serves, and I want educators in those cities to prepare young people to step into those jobs. Time for a Massively Multiplayer Online Economy, as opposed to today’s fun economic games of Shave The Have-Nots and Race To The Oligarchy.

September 24 2012

Four short links: 25 September 2012

  1. Stewart Brand Interview (Wired) — full of interesting tidbits. This line from the interviewer, Kevin Kelly, resonated: One other trajectory I have noticed about the past 20 years: Excitement about the future has waned. The future is deflating. It is simply not as desirable as it once was. (via Matt Jones)
  2. Commercial Use of Small Drones Still Without RegulationsFAA officials have also been working for the past five years on regulations to allow commercial use of small drones, which are generally defined as weighing less than 55-pounds and flying at altitudes under 4,000 feet. The agency has drafted regulations that were initially expected to be published late last year, but have been repeatedly delayed. Five years. That’s as long as the iPhone has existed. Just sayin’. (via Jim Stogdill)
  3. Multicore World 2013 — conference just for multicore. Check out the last conference’s program for what to expect. No word on whether it’ll have parallel sessions, ho ho ho.
  4. Turning a Shipping Container into a 3D Printer — a walk-in printer. AWESOME.

March 13 2012

Four short links: 13 March 2012

  1. Microsoft Universal Voice Translator -- the promise is that it converts your voice into another language, but the effect is more that it converts your voice into that of Darth You in another language. Still, that's like complaining that the first Wright Brothers flight didn't serve peanuts. (via Hacker News)
  2. Geography of the Basketball Court -- fascinating analytics of where NBA shooters make their shots from. Pretty pictures and sweet summaries even if you don't follow basketball. (via Flowing Data)
  3. Spark Research -- a programming model ("resilient distributed datasets") for applications that reuse an intermediate result in multiple parallel operations. (via Ben Lorica)
  4. Opening Up -- earlier I covered the problems that University of Washington's 3D printing lab had with the university's new IP policy, which prevented them from being as open as they had been. They've been granted the ability to distribute their work under Creative Commons license and are taking their place again as a hub of the emerging 3D printing world. (via BoingBoing)

January 18 2012

Four short links: 18 January 2012

  1. Many Core Processors -- not the first time I've heard nondeterministic computing discussed as a solution to some of our parallel-programming travails. Can't imagine what a pleasure it is to debug.
  2. Pinterest Cloned -- it's not the pilfering of the idea that offends my sensibilities, it's the blatant clone of every aspect of the UI. I never thought much of the old Apple look'n'feel lawsuit but this really rubs me the wrong way.
  3. What You May Not Know About jQuery -- far more than DOM and AJAX calls. (via Javascript Weekly)
  4. Spark -- Scala-implemented alternative framework to the model of parallelism in MapReduce. (via Pete Warden)

December 30 2011

Four short links: 30 December 2011

  1. Hadoop Hits 1.0 -- open source distributed computation engine, heavily used in big data analysis, hits 1.0.
  2. Sparse and Low-Rank Approximation Wiki -- interesting technique: instead of sampling at 2x the rate you need to discriminate then compressing to trade noise for space, use these sampling algorithms to (intelligently) noisily sample at the lower bit rate to begin with. Promises interesting applications particularly in for sensors (e.g., the Rice single pixel camera). (via siah)
  3. Rise of Printer Malware -- firmware attacks embedded in printed documents. Another reminder that not only is it hard to write safe software, your mistakes can be epically bad. (via Cory Doctorow)
  4. Electric Circuits and Transistors Made From Cotton -- To make it conductive, the researchers coated cotton threads in a variety of other materials. To make conductive “wires,” the team coated the threads with gold nanoparticles, and then a conductive polymer. To turn a cotton wire into a semiconductor, it was dipped in another polymer, and then a further glycol coating to make it waterproof. Neat materials hack that might lend a new twist to wearables.

November 24 2011

Four short links: 24 November 2011

  1. Libraries: Where It All Went Wrong -- I was asked to provocatively help focus librarians on the opportunities offered to libraries in the Internet age. If I ask you to talk about your collections, I know that you will glow as you describe the amazing treasures you have. When you go for money for digitization projects, you talk up the incredible cultural value. ANZAC! Constitution! Treaties! Development of a nation! But then if I look at the results of those digitization projects, I find the shittiest websites on the planet. It’s like a gallery spent all its money buying art and then just stuck the paintings in supermarket bags and leaned them against the wall. CC-BY-SA licensed, available in nicely-formatted A4 and Letter versions.
  2. Green Array Chips -- 144 cores on a single chip, $20 per chip in batches of 10. From the creator of Forth, Chuck Moore. (via Hacker News)
  3. The Atlantic's Online Revenue Exceeds Print -- doesn't say how, other than "growth" (instead of the decline of print). (via Andy Baio)
  4. On the Perpetuation of Ignorance (PDF) -- ignorance about an issue leads to dependence leads to government trust leads to avoidance of information about that issue. Again I say to Gov 2.0 advocates that simply making data available doesn't generate a motivated, engaged, change-making citizenry. (via Roger Dennis)

October 05 2011

Four short links: 5 October 2011

  1. Ghostery -- a browser plugin to block trackers, web bugs, dodgy scripts, ads, and anything else you care to remove from your browsing experience. It looks like a very well done adblocker, but it's done (a) closed-source and (b) for-profit. Blocking trackers is something every browser *should* do, but because browser makers make (or hope to make) money from ads, they don't. In theory, Mozilla should do it. Even if they were to take up the mantle, though, they're unlikely to make anything for IE or Chrome. So it's in the hands of companies with inarticulate business models. (via Andy Baio)
  2. Perspectives -- Firefox plugin that lets you know when you've encountered an SSL certificate that's different from the ones that other Perspectives users see (e.g., you're being man-in-the-middled by Iran). (via Francois Maurier)
  3. Always Connected -- "I've got a full day of staring at glowing rectangles ahead of me! Better get started ...". I have made mornings and evenings backlight-free zones in an effort to carve out some of the day free of glowing rectangles. (I do still read myself to sleep on the Kindle, though, but it's not backlit)
  4. Is Teaching MapReduce Healthy for Students? -- Google’s narrow MapReduce API conflates logical semantics (define a function over all items in a collection) with an expensive physical implementation (utilize a parallel barrier). As it happens, many common cluster-wide operations over a collection of items do not require a barrier even though they may require all-to-all communication. But there’s no way to tell the API whether a particular Reduce method has that property, so the runtime always does the most expensive thing imaginable in distributed coordination: global synchronization. Detailed and interesting criticism of whether Hadoop is the BASIC of parallel tools. (via Pete Warden)

September 16 2011

Four short links: 16 September 2011

  1. A Quick Buck by Copy and Paste -- scorching review of O'Reilly's Gamification by Design title. tl;dr: reviewer, he does not love. Tim responded on Google Plus. Also on the gamification wtfront, Mozilla Open Badges. It talks about establishing a part of online identity, but to me it feels a little like a Mozilla Open Gradients project would: cargocult-confusing the surface for the substance.
  2. Google + API Launched -- first piece of a Google + API is released. It provides read-only programmatic access to people, posts, checkins, and shares. Activities are retrieved as triples of (subject, verb, object), which is semweb cute and ticks the social object box, but is unlikely in present form to reverse Declining numbers of users.
  3. Cube -- open source time-series visualization software from Square, built on MongoDB, Node, and Redis. As Artur Bergman noted, the bigger news might be that Square is using MongoDB (known meh).
  4. Tenzing -- an SQL implementation on top of Map/Reduce. Tenzing supports a mostly complete SQL implementation (with several extensions) combined with several key characteristics such as heterogeneity, high performance, scalability, reliability, metadata awareness, low latency, support for columnar storage and structured data, and easy extensibility. Tenzing is currently used internally at Google by 1000+ employees and serves 10000+ queries per day over 1.5 petabytes of compressed data. In this paper, we describe the architecture and implementation of Tenzing, and present benchmarks of typical analytical queries. (via Raphaël Valyi)

August 24 2011

Four short links: 24 August 2011

  1. STM in PyPy -- a proposal to add software transactional memory to the all-Python Python interpreter as a way of simplifying concurrent programming. I first learned about STM from Haskell's Simon Peyton-Jones at OSCON. (via Nelson Minar)
  2. Werner Vogels' Static Web Site on S3 -- nice writeup of the toolchain to publish a web site to static files served from S3.
  3. China Inadvertently Reveals State-Sponsored Hacking -- if UK, US, France, Israel, or Chinese citizens believe their government doesn't have malware and penetration teams working on extracting information from foreign governments, they're dreaming.
  4. MyChinese360 -- virtual foreign language instruction in Mandarin, including "virtual visits" to Chinese landmarks. The ability to get native speakers virtually into the classroom makes the Internet a huge asset for rural schools. (via Lucy Gray)

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)

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