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September 24 2013

Four short links: 30 September 2013

  1. Steve Yegge on GROK (YouTube) — The Grok Project is an internal Google initiative to simplify the navigation and querying of very large program source repositories. We have designed and implemented a language-neutral, canonical representation for source code and compiler metadata. Our data production pipeline runs compiler clusters over all Google’s code and third-party code, extracting syntactic and semantic information. The data is then indexed and served to a wide variety of clients with specialized needs. The entire ecosystem is evolving into an extensible platform that permits languages, tools, clients and build systems to interoperate in well-defined, standardized protocols.
  2. Deep Learning for Semantic AnalysisWhen trained on the new treebank, this model outperforms all previous methods on several metrics. It pushes the state of the art in single sentence positive/negative classification from 80% up to 85.4%. The accuracy of predicting fine-grained sentiment labels for all phrases reaches 80.7%, an improvement of 9.7% over bag of features baselines. Lastly, it is the only model that can accurately capture the effect of contrastive conjunctions as well as negation and its scope at various tree levels for both positive and negative phrases.
  3. Fireshell — workflow tools and framework for front-end developers.
  4. SICP.js — lots of Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (the canonical text for higher-order programming) ported to Javascript.

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.

September 17 2013

Four short links: 17 September 2013

  1. Quarka web browser with a formally-proven kernel.
  2. High-Assurance Base64 — formally verified C implementation of Base64.
  3. z3 — fast theorem prover from Microsoft Research.
  4. libphenom (GitHub) — Facebook’s open sourced eventing framework. (High-scalability, natch)

September 13 2013

Four short links: 13 September 2013

  1. Fog Creek’s Remote Work PolicyIn the absence of new information, the assumption is that you’re producing. When you step outside the HQ work environment, you should flip that burden of proof. The burden is on you to show that you’re being productive. Is that because we don’t trust you? No. It’s because a few normal ways of staying involved (face time, informal chats, lunch) have been removed.
  2. Coder (GitHub) — a free, open source project that turns a Raspberry Pi into a simple platform that educators and parents can use to teach the basics of building for the web. New coders can craft small projects in HTML, CSS, and Javascript, right from the web browser.
  3. MillWheel (PDF) — a framework for building low-latency data-processing applications that is widely used at Google. Users specify a directed computation graph and application code for individual nodes, and the system manages persistent state and the continuous ���ow of records, all within the envelope of the framework’s fault-tolerance guarantees. From Google Research.
  4. Probabilistic Scraping of Plain Text Tablesthe method leverages topological understanding of tables, encodes it declaratively into a mixed integer/linear program, and integrates weak probabilistic signals to classify the whole table in one go (at sub second speeds). This method can be used for any kind of classification where you have strong logical constraints but noisy data.

September 08 2013

Four short links: 9 September 2013

  1. How Google’s Defragging Android (Ars Technica) — Android’s becoming a pudgy microkernel for the Google Play Services layer that’s in userland, closed source, and a way to bypass carriers’ lag for upgrades.
  2. Booting a Self-Signed Linux Kernel (Greg Kroah-Hartman) — procedures for how to boot a self-signed Linux kernel on a platform so that you do not have to rely on any external signing authority.
  3. PaperscapeA map of scientific papers from the arXiv.
  4. Trinket — Adafruit’s latest microcontroller board. Small but perfectly formed.

September 02 2013

Four short links: 3 September 2013

  1. Achieving Rapid Response Times in Large Online Services (PDF) — slides from a talk by Jeff Dean on fanout architectures. (via Alex Dong)
  2. JS MESS — porting the stunning MESS ultimate emulator to Javascript. Interesting challenges like Chrome currently has a hardcoded limit of 32,767 variables, and Firefox has a point at which it hits the CTRL-FUCKIT button and drops the mic.
  3. Go Ahead, Mess with Texas Instruments (The Atlantic) — School typically assumes that answers fall neatly into categories of “right” and “wrong.” As a conventional tool for computing “right” answers, calculators often legitimize this idea; the calculator solves problems, gives answers. But once an endorsed, conventional calculator becomes a subversive, programmable computer it destabilizes this polarity. Programming undermines the distinction between “right” and “wrong” by emphasizing the fluidity between the two. In programming, there is no “right” answer. Sure, a program might not compile or run, but making it offers multiple pathways to success, many of which are only discovered through a series of generative failures. Programming does not reify “rightness;” instead, it orients the programmer toward intentional reading, debugging, and refining of language to ensure clarity.
  4. When A Spouse Puts On Google Glass (NY Times) — Google Glass made me realize how comparably social mobile phones are. [...] People gather around phones to watch YouTube videos or look at a funny tweet together or jointly analyze a text from a friend. With Glass, there was no such sharing.

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)

August 08 2013

Four short links: 8 August 2013

  1. Reducing the Roots of Some Evil (Etsy) — Based on our first two months of data we have removed a number of unused CA certificates from some pilot systems to test the effects, and will run CAWatch for a full six months to build up a more comprehensive view of what CAs are in active use. Sign of how broken the CA system for SSL is. (via Alex Dong)
  2. Mind the Brain — PLOS podcast interviews Sci Foo alum and delicious neuroscience brain of awesome, Vaughan Bell. (via Fabiana Kubke)
  3. How Often are Ineffective Interventions Still Used in Practice? (PLOSone) — tl;dr: 8% of the time. Imagine the number if you asked how often ineffective software development practices are still used.
  4. Announcing Evan’s Awesome A/B ToolsI am calling these tools awesome because they are intuitive, visual, and easy-to-use. Unlike other online statistical calculators you’ve probably seen, they’ll help you understand what’s going on “under the hood” of common statistical tests, and by providing ample visual context, they make it easy for you to explain p-values and confidence intervals to your boss. (And they’re free!)

July 09 2013

Four short links: 9 July 2013

  1. Autonomous Intersection Management Projecta scalable, safe, and efficient multiagent framework for managing autonomous vehicles at intersections. (via How Driverless Cars Could Reshape Cities)
  2. Quantum Information (New Scientist) — a gentle romp through the possible and the actual for those who are new to the subject.
  3. Ambient Backscatter (PDF) — a new communication primitive where devices communicate by backscattering ambient RF signals. Our design avoids the expensive process of generating radio waves; backscatter communication is orders of magnitude more power-efficient than traditional radio communication. (via Hacker News)
  4. Top Free-to-Play Monetization Tricks (Gamasutra) — amazingly evil ways that free games lure you into paying. At this point the user must choose to either spend about $1 or lose their rewards, lose their stamina (which they could get back for another $1), and lose their progress. To the brain this is not just a loss of time. If I spend an hour writing a paper and then something happens and my writing gets erased, this is much more painful to me than the loss of an hour. The same type of achievement loss is in effect here. Note that in this model the player could be defeated multiple times in the boss battle and in getting to the boss battle, thus spending several dollars per dungeon.

July 04 2013

Engelbart did not set out to invent the tools for whose seminal design he is credited for : he…

#Engelbart did not set out to invent the tools for whose seminal design he is credited for: he started with wide angled #research to establish a conceptual framework with a clear intent. That deep-rooted requirement analysis is what ensured decisive #innovation.
http://worrydream.com/Engelbart
#invention #Xerox #Parc

June 28 2013

Four short links: 28 June 2013

  1. Huxley vs Orwellbuy Amusing Ourselves to Death if this rings true. The future is here, it’s just not evenly surveilled. (via rone)
  2. KeyMe — keys in the cloud. (Digital designs as backups for physical objects)
  3. Motorola Advanced Technology and Products GroupThe philosophy behind Motorola ATAP is to create an organization with the same level of appetite for technology advancement as DARPA, but with a consumer focus. It is a pretty interesting place to be. And they hired the excellent Johnny Chung Lee.
  4. Internet Credit Union — Internet Archive starts a Credit Union. Can’t wait to see memes on debit cards.

June 24 2013

Four short links: 24 June 2013

  1. Reading Runes in Animal Movement (YouTube) — accessible TEDxRiverTawe 2013 talk by Professor Rory Wilson, on his work tracking movements of animals in time and space. The value comes from high-resolution time series data: many samples/second, very granular.
  2. Best Science Writing Online 2012 (Amazon) — edited collection of the best blog posts on science from 2012. Some very good science writing happening online.
  3. Designing Effective Multimedia for Physics Education (PDF) — Derek Muller’s PhD thesis, summarised as “mythbusting beats lectures, hands down”. See also his TED@Sydney talk.
  4. Melomics — royalty-free computer-generated music, all genres, for sale (genius business model). Academic spinoff from Dr. Francisco J. Vico’s work at UMA in Spain.

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.

May 16 2013

Four short links: 16 May 2013

  1. Australian Filter Scope CreepThe Federal Government has confirmed its financial regulator has started requiring Australian Internet service providers to block websites suspected of providing fraudulent financial opportunities, in a move which appears to also open the door for other government agencies to unilaterally block sites they deem questionable in their own portfolios.
  2. Embedding Actions in Gmail — after years of benign neglect, it’s good to see Gmail worked on again. We’ve said for years that email’s a fertile ground for doing stuff better, and Google seem to have the religion. (see Send Money with Gmail for more).
  3. What Keeps Me Up at Night (Matt Webb) — Matt’s building a business around connected devices. Here he explains why the category could be owned by any of the big players. In times like this I remember Howard Aiken’s advice: Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If it is original you will have to ram it down their throats.
  4. Image Texture Predicts Avian Density and Species Richness (PLOSone) — Surprisingly and interestingly, remotely sensed vegetation structure measures (i.e., image texture) were often better predictors of avian density and species richness than field-measured vegetation structure, and thus show promise as a valuable tool for mapping habitat quality and characterizing biodiversity across broad areas.

May 13 2013

Four short links: 13 May 2013

  1. Exploiting a Bug in Google Glass — unbelievably detailed and yet easy-to-follow explanation of how the bug works, how the author found it, and how you can exploit it too. The second guide was slightly more technical, so when he returned a little later I asked him about the Debug Mode option. The reaction was interesting: he kind of looked at me, somewhat confused, and asked “wait, what version of the software does it report in Settings”? When I told him “XE4″ he clarified “XE4, not XE3″, which I verified. He had thought this feature had been removed from the production units.
  2. Probability Through Problems — motivating problems to hook students on probability questions, structured to cover high-school probability material.
  3. Connbox — love the section “The importance of legible products” where the physical UI interacts seamless with the digital device … it’s glorious. Three amazing videos.
  4. The Index-Based Subgraph Matching Algorithm (ISMA): Fast Subgraph Enumeration in Large Networks Using Optimized Search Trees (PLoSONE) — The central question in all these fields is to understand behavior at the level of the whole system from the topology of interactions between its individual constituents. In this respect, the existence of network motifs, small subgraph patterns which occur more often in a network than expected by chance, has turned out to be one of the defining properties of real-world complex networks, in particular biological networks. [...] An implementation of ISMA in Java is freely available.

May 03 2013

Four short links: 3 May 2013

  1. Causal Entropic Forces (PDF) — new paper from Sci Foo alum Alex Wissner-Gross connecting intelligence and entropy. (via Inside Science)
  2. Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat Are Trademarked Memes (Ars Technica) — the business of this (presumably there will be royalties in the end) is less interesting to me than the murky tension between authorship, ownership, sharing, popularity, and profit. We still lack a common expectation for how memes can be owned and exploited.
  3. Wink UI — Mike DiGiovanni wrote a Glass app to take photos when you wink. (via Ars Technica)
  4. Stealing US Military Secrets (Bloomberg) — One former intelligence official described internal Pentagon discussions over whether another Lockheed Martin fighter jet, the F-22 Raptor, could safely be deployed in combat, because several subcontractors had been hacked. The article is full of horror stories about Chinese penetration of US military contractors.

April 24 2013

Four short links: 2 May 2013

  1. Metrico — puzzle game for Playstation centered around infographics (charts and graphs). (via Flowing Data)
  2. The Lease They Can Do (Business Week) — excellent Paul Ford piece on money, law, and music streaming services. So this is not about technology. Nor is it really about music. This is about determining the optimal strategy for mass licensing of digital artifacts.
  3. How Effective Is a Humanoid Robot as a Tool for Interviewing Young Children? (PLosONE) — The results reveal that the children interacted with KASPAR very similar to how they interacted with a human interviewer. The quantitative behaviour analysis reveal that the most notable difference between the interviews with KASPAR and the human were the duration of the interviews, the eye gaze directed towards the different interviewers, and the response time of the interviewers. These results are discussed in light of future work towards developing KASPAR as an ‘interviewer’ for young children in application areas where a robot may have advantages over a human interviewer, e.g. in police, social services, or healthcare applications.
  4. Funding: Australia’s Grant System Wastes Time (Nature, paywalled) — We found that scientists in Australia spent more than five centuries’ worth of time preparing research-grant proposals for consideration by the largest funding scheme of 2012. Because just 20.5% of these applications were successful, the equivalent of some four centuries of effort returned no immediate benefit to researchers.

April 05 2013

Four short links: 5 April 2013

  1. Millimetre-Accuracy 3D Imaging From 1km Away (The Register) — With further development, Heriot-Watt University Research Fellow Aongus McCarthy says, the system could end up both portable and with a range of up to 10 Km. See the paper for the full story.
  2. Robot Ants With Pheromones of Light (PLoS Comp Biol) — see also the video. (via IEEE Spectrum’s AI blog)
  3. tabula — open source tool for liberating data tables trapped inside PDF files. (via Source)
  4. There’s No Economic Imperative to Reconsider an Open Internet (SSRN) — The debate on the neutrality of Internet access isn’t new, and if its intensity varies over time, it has for a long while tainted the relationship between Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Online Service Providers (OSPs). This paper explores the economic relationship between these two types of players, examines in laymen’s terms how the traffic can be routed efficiently and the associated cost of that routing. The paper then assesses various arguments in support of net discrimination to conclude that there is no threat to the internet economy such that reconsidering something as precious as an open internet would be necessary. (via Hamish MacEwan)

April 01 2013

Four short links: 29 March 2013

  1. Titan 0.3 Out — graph database now has full-text, geo, and numeric-range index backends.
  2. Mozilla Security Community Do a Reddit AMA — if you wanted a list of sharp web security people to follow on Twitter, you could do a lot worse than this.
  3. Probabilistic Programming and Bayesian Methods for Hackers (Github) — An introduction to Bayesian methods + probabilistic programming in data analysis with a computation/understanding-first, mathematics-second point of view. All in pure Python. See also Why Probabilistic Programming Matters and Trends to Watch: Logic and Probabilistic Programming. (via Mike Loukides and Renee DiRestra)
  4. Open Source 3D-Printable Optics Equipment (PLOSone) — This study demonstrates an open-source optical library, which significantly reduces the costs associated with much optical equipment, while also enabling relatively easily adapted customizable designs. The cost reductions in general are over 97%, with some components representing only 1% of the current commercial investment for optical products of similar function. The results of this study make its clear that this method of scientific hardware development enables a much broader audience to participate in optical experimentation both as research and teaching platforms than previous proprietary methods.
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