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May 04 2012

Four short links: 4 May 2012

  1. Common Statistical Fallacies (Flowing Data) -- once you know to look for them, you see them everywhere. Or is that confirmation bias?
  2. Project Hijack -- Hijacking power and bandwidth from the mobile phone's audio interface. Creating a cubic-inch peripheral sensor ecosystem for the mobile phone.
  3. Peak Plastic -- Deb Chachra points out that if we’re running out of oil, that also means that we’re running out of plastic. Compared to fuel and agriculture, plastic is small potatoes. Even though plastics are made on a massive industrial scale, they still account for less than 10% of the world’s oil consumption. So recycling plastic saves plastic and reduces its impact on the environment, but it certainly isn’t going to save us from the end of oil. Peak oil means peak plastic. And that means that much of the physical world around us will have to change. I hadn't pondered plastics in medicine before. (via BoingBoing)
  4. web.go (GitHub) -- web framework for the Go programming language.

March 29 2012

Four short links: 29 March 2012

  1. Tricorder Project -- open sourced designs for a tricorder, released as part of the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize. (via Slashdot)
  2. Microsoft's New Open Sourced Stacks (Miguel de Icaza) -- not just open sourced (some of the code had been under MS Permissive License before, now it's Apache) but developed in public with git: ASP.NET MVC, ASP.NET Web API, ASP.NET Web Pages v2. The Azure SDK is also on github.
  3. In An Internet Age, Crime is Essential to Freedom (Donald Clark) -- when a criminal asks: "How do I secure payment and store my ill-gotten gains", somewhere else, a refugee asks: "How can I send funds back to a relative such that they can’t be traced to me".
  4. NSA: China Behind RSA Attacks (Information Week) -- I can argue both sides about whether government cloud services are a boon or a curse for remote information thieves. Looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

February 15 2012

Four short links: 15 February 2012

  1. Namebench (Google Code) -- hunts down the fastest DNS servers for your computer to use. (via Nelson Minar)
  2. Primer on Macroeconomics (Jig) -- reading suggestions for introductions to macroeconomics suitable to understand the financial crisis and proposed solutions. (via Tim O'Reilly)
  3. Smarter Cameras Plumb Composition -- A new type of smarter camera can take a picture but also assess the chemical composition of the objects being imaged. This enables automated inspection systems to discern details that would be missed by conventional cameras. Interesting how cameras are getting smarter: Kinect as other significant case in point. (via Slashdot)
  4. Not So Open -- 3D printing lab at the University of Washington had to stop helping outsiders because of a crazy new IP policy from the university administration. These folks were doing amazing work, developing and sharing recipes for new materials to print with (iced tea, rice flour, and more) (via BoingBoing)

January 10 2012

Four short links: 10 January 2012

  1. Samsung Develops Emotion-Sensing Smartphone (ExtremeTech) -- By analyzing how fast you type, how much the phone shakes, how often you backspace mistakes, and how many special symbols are used, the special Galaxy S II can work out whether you’re angry, surprised, happy, sad, fearful, or disgusted, with an accuracy of 67.5% From a research paper from a research group on an unannounced product. Nice idea and clever use of incidental data, though 2/3 accuracy isn't something to write home about. Reminds me of Sandy Pentland's Reality Mining. (via James Governor)
  2. The $40 Standup Desk -- we've solved the usability of software, but hardware remains stubbornly dangerous to use. There's a reason nobody refers to "laptops" any more (if you use them on your lap, you might as well call them "wristkillers").
  3. funf -- an extensible sensing and data processing framework for mobile devices being developed at the MIT Media Lab [...] an open source, reusable set of functionalities, enabling the collection, uploading, and configuration of a wide range of data types. LGPL, Android.
  4. eBook Publishing Isn't That Easy -- list of the things you have to worry about when you self-publish. This line is gold: Locating a distributor. Amazon pays me 17 bucks for a 50-dollar book. Can you say "assholes?" LuLu pays me 43 bucks, but only if you buy on their site. Do the math. Platform vendors own authors and small publishers. (via Josh Clark)

January 02 2012

Four short links: 2 January 2012

  1. What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success (The Atlantic) -- Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted. This is a magnificent article, you should read it. (via Juha Saarinen)
  2. impress.js (github) -- MIT-licensed Prezi-like presentation tool, built using CSS3 3d transforms. I've never been happy with the Prezi because I fear data lock-in. This might be a way forward. (via Hacker News)
  3. Facebook Offers Debit Cards to White Hat Hackers (CNet) -- paying vulnerability bounties without handing out cash. I figure it's the start of a loyalty program. Will Facebook learn what the hackers spent the money on? Interesting possibilities opened up here.
  4. Green Goose -- interesting startup selling consumer sensor hardware. My intuition is that we're platforming too soon: that we need a few individual great applications of the sensors to take off, then we can worry about rationalising hardware in our house. The biggest problem seems to me that we're talking about "sticking sensors on milk cartons" rather than solving an actual problem someone has. ("There are no sensors on my milk cartons" is not an oft-heard lament)

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 10 2011

Four short links: 10 November 2011

  1. Steve Case and His Companies (The Atlantic) -- Maybe you see three random ideas. Case and his team saw three bets that paid off thanks to a new Web economy that promotes power in numbers and access over ownership. "Access over ownership" is a phrase that resonated. (via Walt Mossberg)
  2. Back to the Future -- teaching kids to program by giving them microcomputers from the 80s. I sat my kids down with a C64 emulator and an Usborne book to work through some BASIC examples. It's not a panacea, but it solves a lot of bootstrapping problems with teaching kids to program.
  3. Replaying Writing an Essay -- Paul Graham wrote an essay using one of his funded startups, Stypi, and then had them hack it so you could replay the development with the feature that everything that was later deleted is highlighted yellow as it's written. The result is fascinating to watch. I would like my text editor to show me what I need to delete ;)
  4. Jawbone Live Up -- wristband that sync with iPhone. Interesting wearable product, tied into ability to gather data on ourselves. The product looks physically nice, but the quantified self user experience needs the same experience and smoothness. Intrusive ("and now I'm quantifying myself!") limits the audience to nerds or the VERY motivated.

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 21 2011

Four short links: 21 October 2011

  1. What Mozilla is Up To (Luke Wroblewski) -- notes from a talk that Brendan Eich gave at Web 2.0 Summit. The new browser war is between the Web and new walled gardens of native networked apps. Interesting to see the effort Mozilla's putting into native-alike Web apps.
  2. YouTube Insult Generator (Adrian Holovaty) -- mines YouTube for insults of a particular form.
  3. Ultrasound for iPhone (Geekwire) -- this personal sensor is $8000 today, but bound to drop. I want personal ultrasound at least once a month. How long until it's in the $200-500 range? (via BERG London)
  4. Web Applications Class at Stanford OpenClassroom -- a Ruby on Rails class taught by John Ousterhout, creator of TCL/Tk and log-structured filesystems.

October 13 2011

Four short links: 13 October 2011

  1. Memorable Indexes (Futility Closet) -- Carroll's index also includes entries for "Boots for horizontal weather," "Horizontal rain, boots for," "Rain, horizontal, boots for," and "Weather, horizontal, boots for". They're silly and whimsical, but the underlying problem of making multiple accessible entrypoints into a single corpus of content is with us today and only compounded by the vast growth of the size of the corpora with which we deal.
  2. Geiger Counter for iPhone -- reports radiation levels via Twitter, too. Expect to see more mobile sensor add-ons as the various smartphone hardware interfaces mature. (via Sara Winge)
  3. Suwappu App Prototype (BERG London) -- augmented reality, without fugly QR codes, but with toys. what does a script look like, when you’re authoring a story for five or six woodland creatures, and one or two human kids who are part of the action? How do we deliver the story to the phone? What stories work best? This app scratches the surface of that, and I know these are the avenues the folks at Dentsu are looking forward to exploring in the future. It feels like inventing a new media channel.
  4. ShareJS -- Javascript implementation of the Wave collaborative editing algorithm. (via Avi Bryant)

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)

August 11 2011

Four short links: 11 August 2011

  1. Why Restaurant Web Sites Are So Bad -- The rest of the Web long ago did away with auto-playing music, Flash buttons and menus, and elaborate intro pages, but restaurant sites seem stuck in 1999.
  2. North Korean Government Partly Funded by Gold Farming (Gamasutra) -- alleges a special group of hackers built automation software for MMOs and sent part of their profits back home.
  3. Pleasanton Protects Bicyclists with Microwave (Mercury News) -- no, not by pre-emptive cooking. The device monitors the intersection and can differentiate between vehicles and bicyclists crossing the road and either extends or triggers the light if a cyclist is detected.
  4. jStat -- a Javascript statistical library.

August 04 2011

Four short links: 4 August 2011

  1. Skate Through NYC With A GoPro -- this is the first I've seen of the GoPro cameras, which are two dimensions of clever. First, it's video instrumentation for activities where we haven't had this before. Second, it's clever specialization of the Flip-style solid-state recording videocameras. (via Infovore)
  2. Pulse Sensor -- open source heart rate sensor project on Kickstarter. DIY hardware has made the quantified self phenomenon possible; look for many more gadgets that build your personal data cloud. (via Brady Forrest)
  3. Science's Bad Ideas (Peter Griffin) -- a recap of a lecture by Lord Robert Winston where he the dark side of science and catalogues numerous instances where scientific progress has been accompanied by unforeseen consequences, ethical atrocities and detrimental impacts on society. [...] The overall message is that science can’t remain aloof from society, that scientists must engage and better understand the needs and concerns of society as they introduce new technologies that could bring about profound changes.
  4. A Game With a Windfall For a Knowing Few -- gambling is a tax on bad math, but poorly designed games sometimes rewards those who are good at math. Because of a quirk in the rules, when the jackpot reaches roughly $2 million and no one wins, payoffs for smaller prizes swell dramatically, which statisticians say practically assures a profit to anyone who buys at least $100,000 worth of tickets. During these brief periods - “rolldown weeks’’ in gambling parlance - a tiny group of savvy bettors, among them highly trained computer scientists from MIT and Northeastern University, virtually take over the game. Just three groups, including the Selbees, claimed 1,105 of the 1,605 winning Cash WinFall tickets statewide after the rolldown week in May, according to lottery records. (via Hacker News)

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 18 2011

Four short links: 18 April 2011

  1. Your Community is Your Best Feature -- Gina Trapani's CodeConf talk: useful, true, and moving. There's not much in this world that has all three of those attributes.
  2. Metrics Everywhere -- another CodeConf talk, this time explaining Yammer's use of metrics to quantify the actual state of their operations. Nice philosophical guide to the different ways you want to measure things (gauges, counters, meters, histograms, and timers). I agree with the first half, but must say that it will always be an uphill battle to craft a panegyric that will make hearts and minds soar at the mention of "business value". Such an ugly phrase for such an important idea. (via Bryce Roberts)
  3. On Earthquakes in Tokyo (Bunnie Huang) -- Personal earthquake alarms are quite popular in Tokyo. Just as lightning precedes thunder, these alarms give you a few seconds warning to an incoming tremor. The alarm has a distinct sound, and this leads to a kind of pavlovian conditioning. All conversation stops, and everyone just waits in a state of heightened awareness, since the alarm can’t tell you how big it is—it just tells you one is coming. You can see the fight or flight gears turning in everyone’s heads. Some people cry; some people laugh; some people start texting furiously; others just sit and wait. Information won't provoke the same reaction in everyone: for some it's impending doom, for others another day at the office. Data is not neutral; it requires interpretation and context.
  4. AccentuateUs -- Firefox plugin to Unicodify text (so if you type "cafe", the software turns it into "café"). The math behind it is explained on the dataists blog. There's an API and other interfaces, even a vim plugin.

March 22 2011

Four short links: 22 March 2011

  1. EveryBlock Redesigned -- EB has been defined for a while now as "that site that makes my city's statistics useful and relevant". Now they're getting more into the user-reporting: As valuable as automated updates of crime, media mentions, and other EveryBlock news are, contributions from your fellow neighbors are significantly more meaningful and useful. While we're not removing our existing aggregation of public records and other neighborhood information (more on this in a bit), we've come to realize that human participation is essential, not only as a layer on top but as the bedrock of the site. They have a new mission: our goal is to help you make your block a better place. That's a bold goal, and quite a big change from where they were at. Will they manage any aspect of journalism, or will this become a GroupOn-ad-filled geo-portal for MSNBC? Looking forward to finding out.
  2. Typography in 8 Bits: System Fonts -- nifty rundown of fonts from the microcomputer days. I still go a bit weak-kneed at the sight of the C64 fonts. Which aspect of the system you're building will be remembered with weak knees in (gulp) thirty years' time? (via Joshua Schachter)
  3. Twitter in the Christchurch Earthquake -- analysis of the tweets around the quake, including words and retweets. (via Richard Wood)
  4. ChumbyCV -- computer vision framework for Chumby. CV on low-power ubiquitous hardware makes devices smarter and be higher-level sensors of activity and objects. (via BERG London)

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