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February 11 2014

Four short links: 11 February 2014

  1. China’s $122BB Boom in Shadow Banking is Happening on Phones (Quartz) — Tencent’s recently launched online money market fund (MMF), Licai Tong, drew in 10 billion yuan ($1.7 billion) in just six days in the last week of January.
  2. The Weight of Rain — lovely talk about the thought processes behind coming up with a truly insightful visualisation.
  3. Data on Video Streaming Starting to Emerge (Giga Om) — M-Lab, which gathers broadband performance data and distributes that data to the FCC, has uncovered significant slowdowns in throughput on Comcast, Time Warner Cable and AT&T. Such slowdowns could be indicative of deliberate actions taken at interconnection points by ISPs.
  4. Javascript Puzzlers — how well do you know Javascript?

January 17 2014

Four short links: 17 January 2014

  1. Making Remote WorkThe real­ity of a remote work­place is that the con­nec­tions are largely arti­fi­cial con­structs. Peo­ple can be very, very iso­lated. A person’s default behav­ior when they go into a funk is to avoid seek­ing out inter­ac­tions, which is effec­tively the same as actively with­draw­ing in a remote work envi­ron­ment. It takes a tremen­dous effort to get on video chats, use our text based com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools, or even call some­one dur­ing a dark time. Very good to see this addressed in a post about remote work.
  2. Google Big Picture Group — public output from the visualization research group at Google.
  3. Using CMOS Sensors in a Cellphone for Gamma Detection and Classification (Arxiv) — another sense in your pocket. The CMOS camera found in many cellphones is sensitive to ionized electrons. Gamma rays penetrate into the phone and produce ionized electrons that are then detected by the camera. Thermal noise and other noise needs to be removed on the phone, which requires an algorithm that has relatively low memory and computational requirements. The continuous high-delta algorithm described fits those requirements. (via Medium)
  4. Affordable Arduino-Compatible Centimeter-Level GPS Accuracy (IndieGogo) — for less than $20. (via DIY Drones)

December 03 2013

Four short links: 3 December 2013

  1. SAMOA — Yahoo!’s distributed streaming machine learning (ML) framework that contains a programming abstraction for distributed streaming ML algorithms. (via Introducing SAMOA)
  2. madliban open-source library for scalable in-database analytics. It provides data-parallel implementations of mathematical, statistical and machine-learning methods for structured and unstructured data.
  3. Data Portraits: Connecting People of Opposing Views — Yahoo! Labs research to break the filter bubble. Connect people who disagree on issue X (e.g., abortion) but who agree on issue Y (e.g., Latin American interventionism), and present the differences and similarities visually (they used wordclouds). Our results suggest that organic visualisation may revert the negative effects of providing potentially sensitive content. (via MIT Technology Review)
  4. Disguise Detection — using Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and Python.

November 27 2013

Four short links: 27 November 2013

  1. CT Scanning and 3D Printing for Paleo (Scientific American) — using CT scanners to identify bones still in rock, then using 3D printers to recreate them. (via BoingBoing)
  2. Growing the Use of Drones in Agriculture (Forbes) — According to Sue Rosenstock, 3D Robotics spokesperson, a third of their customers consist of hobbyists, another third of enterprise users, and a third use their drones as consumer tools. “Over time, we expect that to change as we make more enterprise-focused products, such as mapping applications,” she explains. (via Chris Anderson)
  3. Serving 1M Load-Balanced Requests/Second (Google Cloud Platform blog) — 7m from empty project to serving 1M requests/second. I remember when 1 request/second was considered insanely busy. (via Forbes)
  4. Boil Up — behind the scenes for the design and coding of a real-time simulation for a museum’s science exhibit. (via Courtney Johnston)

October 25 2013

Four short links: 25 October 2013

  1. Seagate Kinetic Storage — In the words of Geoff Arnold: The physical interconnect to the disk drive is now Ethernet. The interface is a simple key-value object oriented access scheme, implemented using Google Protocol Buffers. It supports key-based CRUD (create, read, update and delete); it also implements third-party transfers (“transfer the objects with keys X, Y and Z to the drive with IP address”). Configuration is based on DHCP, and everything can be authenticated and encrypted. The system supports a variety of key schemas to make it easy for various storage services to shard the data across multiple drives.
  2. Masters of Their Universe (Guardian) — well-written and fascinating story of the creation of the Elite game (one founder of which went on to make the Raspberry Pi). The classic action game of the early 1980s – Defender, Pac Man – was set in a perpetual present tense, a sort of arcade Eden in which there were always enemies to zap or gobble, but nothing ever changed apart from the score. By letting the player tool up with better guns, Bell and Braben were introducing a whole new dimension, the dimension of time.
  3. Micropolar (github) — A tiny polar charts library made with D3.js.
  4. Introduction to R (YouTube) — 21 short videos from Google.

October 24 2013

Four short links: 24 October 2013

  1. Visually Programming Arduino — good for little minds.
  2. Rapid Hardware Iteration at Scale (Forbes) — It’s part of the unique way that Xiaomi operates, closely analyzing the user feedback it gets on its smartphones and following the suggestions it likes for the next batch of 100,000 phones. It releases them every Tuesday at noon Beijing time.
  3. Machine Learning of Hierarchical Clustering to Segment 2D and 3D Images (PLoS One) — We propose an active learning approach for performing hierarchical agglomerative segmentation from superpixels. Our method combines multiple features at all scales of the agglomerative process, works for data with an arbitrary number of dimensions, and scales to very large datasets.
  4. Kratuan Open Source client-side analysis framework to create simple yet powerful renditions of data. It allows you to dynamically adjust your view of the data to highlight issues, opportunities and correlations in the data.

October 22 2013

Four short links: 22 October 2013

  1. Sir Trevor — nice rich-text editing. Interesting how Markdown has become the way to store formatted text without storing HTML (and thus exposing the CSRF-inducing HTML-escaping stuckfastrophe).
  2. Slate for Excel — visualising spreadsheet structure. I’d be surprised if it took MSFT or Goog 30 days to acquire them.
  3. Project Shield — Google project to protect against DDoSes.
  4. Digital Attack Map — DDoS attacks going on around the world. (via Jim Stogdill)

September 18 2013

Four short links: 18 September 2013

  1. No ManagersIf we could find a way to replace the function of the managers and focus everyone on actually producing for our Students (customers) then it would actually be possible to be a #NoManager company. In my future posts I’ll explain how we’re doing this at Treehouse.
  2. The 20 Smartest Things Jeff Bezos Has Ever Said (Motley Fool) — I feel like the 219th smartest thing Jeff Bezos has ever said is still smarter than the smartest thing most business commentators will ever say. (He says, self-referentially) “Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood.”
  3. Putting Time in Perspective — nifty representations of relative timescales and history. (via BoingBoing)
  4. Sophia — BSD-licensed small C library implementing an embeddable key-value database “for a high-load environment”.

August 20 2013

Four short links: 20 August 2013

  1. — attempt to crowdsource rankings for tutorials for important products, so you’re not picking your way through Google search results littered with tutorials written by incompetent illiterates for past versions of the software.
  2. BBC ForumAmerican social psychologist Aleks Krotoski has been looking at how the internet affects the way we talk to ourselves. Podcast (available for next 30 days) from BBC. (via Vaughan Bell)
  3. Why Can’t My Computer Understand Me (New Yorker) — using anaphora as the basis of an intelligence test, as example of what AI should be striving for. It’s not just that contemporary A.I. hasn’t solved these kinds of problems yet; it’s that contemporary A.I. has largely forgotten about them. In Levesque’s view, the field of artificial intelligence has fallen into a trap of “serial silver bulletism,” always looking to the next big thing, whether it’s expert systems or Big Data, but never painstakingly analyzing all of the subtle and deep knowledge that ordinary human beings possess. That’s a gargantuan task— “more like scaling a mountain than shoveling a driveway,” as Levesque writes. But it’s what the field needs to do.
  4. 507 Mechanical Movements — an old basic engineering textbook, animated. Me gusta.

August 19 2013

Four short links: 19 August 2013

  1. explained (Alex Dong) — Sound is the perfect medium for wearable computers to talk back to us. Sound has a dozen of properties that we can tune to convey different level of emotions and intrusivenesses. Different sound packs would fit into various contexts.
  2. Identity Single Point of Failure (Tim Bray) — continuing his excellent series on federated identity. There’s this guy here at Google, Eric Sachs, who’s been doing Identity stuff in the white-hot center of the Internet universe for a lot of years. One of his mantras is “If you’re typing a password into something, unless they have 100+ full-time engineers working on security and abuse and fraud, you should be nervous.” I think he’s right.
  3. What Does It Really Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us Online? (The Atlantic) — Rather, the failures will come in the form of consumers being systematically charged more than they would have been had less information about that particular consumer. Sometimes, that will mean exploiting people who are not of a particular class, say upcharging men for flowers if a computer recognizes that that he’s looking for flowers the day after his anniversary. A summary of Ryan Calo’s paper. (via Slashdot)
  4. Life Inside Brewster’s Magnificent Contraption (Jason Scott) — I’ve been really busy. Checking my upload statistics, here’s what I’ve added to the Internet Archive: Over 169,000 individual objects, totaling 245 terabytes. You should subscribe and keep them in business. I did.

August 14 2013

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 27 2013

Four short links: 29 July 2013

  1. Applied Practical Cryptography — technical but readable article with lots of delicious lines. They’re a little magical, in the same sense that ABS brakes were magical in the 1970s and Cloud applications share metal with strangers, and thus attackers, who will gladly spend $40 to co-host themselves with a target and The conservative approach is again counterintuitive to developers, to whom hardcoding anything is like simony.
  2. Nukemap — interactive visualization of the fallout damage from a nuclear weapon. Now we can all be the scary 1970s “this is what it would look like if [big town] were nuked” documentaries that I remember growing up with. I love interactives for learning the contours of a problem, and making it real and personal in a way that a static visualization cannot. WIN. See also the creator’s writeup.
  3. Legalising WeedChuck, a dealer who switched from selling weed in California to New York and quadrupled his income, told WNYC, “There’s plenty of weed in New York. There’s just an illusion of scarcity, which is part of what I’m capitalizing on. Because this is a black market business, there’s insufficient information for customers.” Invisible economies are frequently inefficient, disrupted by moving online and made market-sense efficient.
  4. Can Software That Predicts Crime Pass Constitutional Muster? (NPR) — “I think most people are gonna defer to the black box,” he says. “Which means we need to focus on what’s going into that black box, how accurate it is, and what transparency and accountability measures we have [for] it.”

July 26 2013

Four short links: 26 July 2013

  1. Good UI — easily digested tips for improving UIs. (via BERG London)
  2. Mapping Millions of Dots — tips like The other thing that goes along with this brightness scaling is to draw fewer dots at lower zoom levels. By the time you get most of a continent on the screen, the dots are so much smaller than pixels and there are so many of them to draw, that it looks the same and is much faster if you draw half as many dots at twice the brightness apiece. (via Flowing Data)
  3. 118g 10x Zoom Camera for Drones — little less than 800×600 resolution. (via DIY Drones)
  4. Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform7 (Amazon) — all you need to write your own Zork, or even do better. With foreword by my hero (I squee like fanboy when I remember meeting him at the first Foo Camp) Don Woods. Yeah, Colossal Cave Adventure Don Woods. WIN. (via Marshall Tenner Winter)

July 09 2013

Four short links: 10 July 2013

  1. 6 Technical Things I Learned About Bitcoin (Rusty Russell) — Anonymity is hard, but I was surprised to see’s page about my donation to Unfilter correctly geolocated to my home town! Perhaps it’s a fluke, but I was taken aback by how clear it was. Interesting collection of technical observations about the workings of Bitcoin.
  2. NIFTY: News Information Flow Tracking, Yay! — watch how news stories mutate and change over time. (via Stijn Debrouwere
  3. EO Wilson’s Advice for Future Scientists (NPR) — the ideal scientist thinks like a poet and works like a bookkeeper. (via Courtney Johnston)
  4. New Web Model for Government (The Atlantic) — The new site has been built in public for months, iteratively created on Github using cutting edge open-source technologies. is the rarest of birds: a next-generation website that also happens to be a .gov.

July 08 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 17 2013

Four short links: 20 June 2013

  1. Wormhole — Facebook’s pub/sub system. Wormhole propagates changes issued in one system to all systems that need to reflect those changes – within and across data centers.
  2. NanocubesFast Visualization of Large Spatiotemporal Datasets.
  3. Sean Gourley on Relevance (YouTube) — Is Silicon Valley really doing what it should be doing? he asks, 3m30 in. Good to see him pondering stuff that matters, back in 2011.
  4. Shortcata keyboard tool for Mac OS X that lets you “click” buttons and control your apps with a few keystrokes. Think of it as Spotlight for the user interface.

June 11 2013

Four short links: 11 June 2013

  1. For Example — amazing discussion of 3D visualization techniques, full of examples using the D3.js library and example gist system. Gorgeous and informative.
  2. Anti-Gravity 3D Printer — uses strands to sculpt on any surface. (via Slashdot)
  3. How 3D Printing Will Rebuild Reality (BoingBoing) — But even though home 3D-printing has received substantial publicity of late, it is in the industrial sector where the technology will probably make its most significant near-term impact on the world both by manufacturing improved commercial products and by stimulating industry to develop next-generation fab methods and machines that could one day truly bring 3D-printing home to users in a real way.
  4. The Emotional Side of Big Data — Personal Democracy Forum 2013 talk by Sara Critchfield, on reframing emotion as data for decision-making. (via Quartz)

May 30 2013

Four short links: 30 May 2013

  1. Facebook IPO Tech Post-Mortem (PDF) — SEC’s analysis of the failures that led to the NASDAQ kicking Facebook’s IPO in the NADSAQ. (via Quartz)
  2. Run That Town — SimCity for real cities, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and using real census data. No mention of whether you can make your citizens shout “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!” after three cans of lager at an Aussie Rules game. (via John Birmingham)
  3. Maintaining Focus (The Atlantic) — excellent Linda Stone interview. We may think that kids have a natural fascination with phones. Really, children have a fascination with what-ever Mom and Dad find fascinating. If they are fascinated by the flowers coming up in the yard, that’s what the children are going to find fascinating. And if Mom and Dad can’t put down the device with the screen, the child is going to think, That’s where it’s all at, that’s where I need to be! I interviewed kids between the ages of 7 and 12 about this. They said things like “My mom should make eye contact with me when she talks to me” and “I used to watch TV with my dad, but now he has his iPad, and I watch by myself.”
  4. Networked Motion Sensors in Hospital Bathrooms (NY Times) — At North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, motion sensors, like those used for burglar alarms, go off every time someone enters an intensive care room. The sensor triggers a video camera, which transmits its images halfway around the world to India, where workers are checking to see if doctors and nurses are performing a critical procedure: washing their hands. [...] the video monitoring program, run by a company called Arrowsight, has been adapted from the meat industry, where cameras track whether workers who skin animals — the hide can contaminate the meat — wash their hands, knives and electric cutters.
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