Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

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.

August 08 2013

Four short links: 9 August 2013

  1. DEFCON Documentary — free download, I’m looking forward to watching it on the flight back to NZ.
  2. Global-Scale Systems — botnets as example of the scale of networks and systems we’ll have to build but don’t have experience in.
  3. MediaGoblin — GNU project to build a decentralized alternative to Flickr, YouTube, SoundCloud, etc.
  4. Teaching TCP/IP Headers with Legos — genius. (via BoingBoing)
  5. Sponsored post

    July 29 2013

    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.

    February 15 2013

    Science Podcast - Do Scientists Need Social Media? - AAAS Meeting [Feb 15, 2013]

    From the AAAS meeting in Boston: Christie Wilcox offers some suggestions for how a strong social media presence may help further scientists' careers.

    January 28 2013

    Four short links: 28 January 2013

    1. Aaron’s Army — powerful words from Carl Malamud. Aaron was part of an army of citizens that believes democracy only works when the citizenry are informed, when we know about our rights—and our obligations. An army that believes we must make justice and knowledge available to all—not just the well born or those that have grabbed the reigns of power—so that we may govern ourselves more wisely.
    2. Vaurien the Chaos TCP Monkeya project at Netflix to enhance the infrastructure tolerance. The Chaos Monkey will randomly shut down some servers or block some network connections, and the system is supposed to survive to these events. It’s a way to verify the high availability and tolerance of the system. (via Pete Warden)
    3. Foto Forensics — tool which uses image processing algorithms to help you identify doctoring in images. The creator’s deconstruction of Victoria’s Secret catalogue model photos is impressive. (via Nelson Minar)
    4. All Trials Registered — Ben Goldacre steps up his campaign to ensure trial data is reported and used accurately. I’m astonished that there are people who would withhold data, obfuscate results, or opt out of the system entirely, let alone that those people would vigorously assert that they are, in fact, professional scientists.

    January 06 2013

    Mark Twain on influence

    In 1905 Mark Twain wrestled with the sort of request that many readers here have undoubtedly encountered: a new writer with the most tenuous of connections (her uncle was briefly a neighbor in a Nevada mining town) asks Twain to use his influence to get  her manuscript published.

    It never hurts to carry an introduction from a well-regarded intermediary, as long as your introducer can actually speak to the quality of your work. I think of Twain’s anguished reply every time I’m asked to recommend someone or something I don’t know — or am tempted to ask the same favor of someone else.

    Twain’s message is ultimately optimistic: don’t simply try to accumulate influence. Instead, come up with a good idea and sell it on its merits. The world will listen.

    The full text of Twain’s essay is below, via Project Gutenberg.


    Once or twice a year I get a letter of a certain pattern, a pattern that never materially changes, in form and substance, yet I cannot get used to that letter—it always astonishes me. It affects me as the locomotive always affects me: I saw to myself, “I have seen you a thousand times, you always look the same way, yet you are always a wonder, and you are always impossible; to contrive you is clearly beyond human genius—you can’t exist, you don’t exist, yet here you are!”

    I have a letter of that kind by me, a very old one. I yearn to print it, and where is the harm? The writer of it is dead years ago, no doubt, and if I conceal her name and address—her this-world address—I am sure her shade will not mind. And with it I wish to print the answer which I wrote at the time but probably did not send. If it went—which is not likely—it went in the form of a copy, for I find the original still here, pigeonholed with the said letter. To that kind of letters we all write answers which we do not send, fearing to hurt where we have no desire to hurt; I have done it many a time, and this is doubtless a case of the sort.


    X———, California, JUNE 3, 1879.

    Mr. S. L. Clemens, Hartford, Conn.:

    Dear Sir,—You will doubtless be surprised to know who has presumed to write and ask a favor of you. Let your memory go back to your days in the Humboldt mines—’62-’63. You will remember, you and Clagett and Oliver and the old blacksmith Tillou lived in a lean-to which was half-way up the gulch, and there were six log cabins in the camp—strung pretty well separated up the gulch from its mouth at the desert to where the last claim was, at the divide. The lean-to you lived in was the one with a canvas roof that the cow fell down through one night, as told about by you in Roughing It—my uncle Simmons remembers it very well. He lived in the principal cabin, half-way up the divide, along with Dixon and Parker and Smith. It had two rooms, one for kitchen and the other for bunks, and was the only one that had. You and your party were there on the great night, the time they had dried-apple-pie, Uncle Simmons often speaks of it. It seems curious that dried-apple-pie should have seemed such a great thing, but it was, and it shows how far Humboldt was out of the world and difficult to get to, and how slim the regular bill of fare was. Sixteen years ago—it is a long time. I was a little girl then, only fourteen. I never saw you, I lived in Washoe. But Uncle Simmons ran across you every now and then, all during those weeks that you and party were there working your claim which was like the rest. The camp played out long and long ago, there wasn’t silver enough in it to make a button. You never saw my husband, but he was there after you left, and lived in that very lean-to, a bachelor then but married to me now. He often wishes there had been a photographer there in those days, he would have taken the lean-to. He got hurt in the old Hal Clayton claim that was abandoned like the others, putting in a blast and not climbing out quick enough, though he scrambled the best he could. It landed him clear down on the train and hit a Piute. For weeks they thought he would not get over it but he did, and is all right, now. Has been ever since. This is a long introduction but it is the only way I can make myself known. The favor I ask I feel assured your generous heart will grant: Give me some advice about a book I have written. I do not claim anything for it only it is mostly true and as interesting as most of the books of the times. I am unknown in the literary world and you know what that means unless one has some one of influence (like yourself) to help you by speaking a good word for you. I would like to place the book on royalty basis plan with any one you would suggest.

    This is a secret from my husband and family. I intend it as a surprise in case I get it published.

    Feeling you will take an interest in this and if possible write me a letter to some publisher, or, better still, if you could see them for me and then let me hear.

    I appeal to you to grant me this favor. With deepest gratitude I think you for your attention.

    One knows, without inquiring, that the twin of that embarrassing letter is forever and ever flying in this and that and the other direction across the continent in the mails, daily, nightly, hourly, unceasingly, unrestingly. It goes to every well-known merchant, and railway official, and manufacturer, and capitalist, and Mayor, and Congressman, and Governor, and editor, and publisher, and author, and broker, and banker—in a word, to every person who is supposed to have “influence.” It always follows the one pattern: “You do not know me, but you once knew a relative of mine,” etc., etc. We should all like to help the applicants, we should all be glad to do it, we should all like to return the sort of answer that is desired, but—Well, there is not a thing we can do that would be a help, for not in any instance does that letter ever come from anyone who can be helped. The struggler whom you could help does his own helping; it would not occur to him to apply to you, stranger. He has talent and knows it, and he goes into his fight eagerly and with energy and determination—all alone, preferring to be alone. That pathetic letter which comes to you from the incapable, the unhelpable—how do you who are familiar with it answer it? What do you find to say? You do not want to inflict a wound; you hunt ways to avoid that. What do you find? How do you get out of your hard place with a contend conscience? Do you try to explain? The old reply of mine to such a letter shows that I tried that once. Was I satisfied with the result? Possibly; and possibly not; probably not; almost certainly not. I have long ago forgotten all about it. But, anyway, I append my effort:


    I know Mr. H., and I will go to him, dear madam, if upon reflection you find you still desire it. There will be a conversation. I know the form it will take. It will be like this:

    MR. H. How do her books strike you?

    MR. CLEMENS. I am not acquainted with them.

    H. Who has been her publisher?

    C. I don’t know.

    H. She has one, I suppose?

    C. I—I think not.

    H. Ah. You think this is her first book?

    C. Yes—I suppose so. I think so.

    H. What is it about? What is the character of it?

    C. I believe I do not know.

    H. Have you seen it?

    C. Well—no, I haven’t.

    H. Ah-h. How long have you known her?

    C. I don’t know her.

    H. Don’t know her?

    C. No.

    H. Ah-h. How did you come to be interested in her book, then?

    C. Well, she—she wrote and asked me to find a publisher for her, and mentioned you.

    H. Why should she apply to you instead of me?

    C. She wished me to use my influence.

    H. Dear me, what has influence to do with such a matter?

    C. Well, I think she thought you would be more likely to examine her book if you were

    H. Why, what we are here for is to examine books—anybody’s book that comes along. It’s our business. Why should we turn away a book unexamined because it’s a stranger’s? It would be foolish. No publisher does it. On what ground did she request your influence, since you do not know her? She must have thought you knew her literature and could speak for it. Is that it?

    C. No; she knew I didn’t.

    H. Well, what then? She had a reason of some sort for believing you competent to recommend her literature, and also under obligations to do it?

    C. Yes, I—I knew her uncle.

    H. Knew her uncle?

    C. Yes.

    H. Upon my word! So, you knew her uncle; her uncle knows her literature; he endorses it to you;
    the chain is complete, nothing further needed; you are satisfied, and therefore—

    C. No, that isn’t all, there are other ties. I know the cabin her uncle lived in, in the mines; I knew his partners, too; also I came near knowing her husband before she married him, and I did know the abandoned shaft where a premature blast went off and he went flying through the air and clear down to the trail and hit an Indian in the back with almost fatal consequences.

    H. To him, or to the Indian?

    C. She didn’t say which it was.

    H. (With a sigh). It certainly beats the band! You don’t know her, you don’t know her literature, you don’t know who got hurt when the blast went off, you don’t know a single thing for us to build an estimate of her book upon, so far as I—

    C. I knew her uncle. You are forgetting her uncle.

    H. Oh, what use is he? Did you know him long? How long was it?

    C. Well, I don’t know that I really knew him, but I must have met him, anyway. I think it was that way; you can’t tell about these things, you know, except when they are recent.

    H. Recent? When was all this?

    C. Sixteen years ago.

    H. What a basis to judge a book upon! As first you said you knew him, and now you don’t know whether you did or not.

    C. Oh yes, I know him; anyway, I think I thought I did; I’m perfectly certain of it.

    H. What makes you think you thought you knew him?

    C. Why, she says I did, herself.

    H. She says so!

    C. Yes, she does, and I did know him, too, though I don’t remember it now.

    H. Come—how can you know it when you don’t remember it.

    C. I don’t know. That is, I don’t know the process, but I do know lots of things that I don’t remember, and remember lots of things that I don’t know. It’s so with every educated person.

    H. (After a pause). Is your time valuable?

    C. No—well, not very.

    H. Mine is.

    So I came away then, because he was looking tired. Overwork, I reckon; I never do that; I have seen the evil effects of it. My mother was always afraid I would overwork myself, but I never did.

    Dear madam, you see how it would happen if I went there. He would ask me those questions, and I would try to answer them to suit him, and he would hunt me here and there and yonder and get me embarrassed more and more all the time, and at last he would look tired on account of overwork, and there it would end and nothing done. I wish I could be useful to you, but, you see, they do not care for uncles or any of those things; it doesn’t move them, it doesn’t have the least effect, they don’t care for anything but the literature itself, and they as good as despise influence. But they do care for books, and are eager to get them and examine them, no matter whence they come, nor from whose pen. If you will send yours to a publisher—any publisher—he will certainly examine it, I can assure you of that.

    August 28 2012

    Four short links: 28 August 2012

    1. Javascript Tips for Non-Specialists (OmniTI) — “hey kid, you’re going to have to write browser Javascript. Read this and you’ll avoid the obvious cowpats.”
    2. Museum Datasets (Seb Chan) — collections metadata aren’t generally in good quality (often materials are indexed at the “box level”, ie this item number is a BOX and it contains photos of these things), and aren’t all that useful. The story about the Parisian balcony grille is an excellent reminder that the institution’s collections aren’t a be-all and end-all for researchers.
    3. Hurricane Electric BGP Toolkit — open source tools for diagnosing network problems. (via Nelson Minar)
    4. Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine — computer vision to straighten up photographed pages of the notebook, and the app recognizes special stickers placed on the book as highlights and selections. Nifty micro-use of augmented reality.

    April 20 2012

    Four short links: 20 April 2012

    1. Tupac Coachella Behind the Technology (CBS) -- interesting to me is Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg were considering taking Shakur with them on tour. Just as Hobbit, Tintin, etc. are CG-ing characters to look normal, is the future of "live" spectacle to be this kind of CG show? Will new acts be competing against the Rolling Stones forever?
    2. Javascript All The Way Down (Alex Russell) -- points out that we're fixing so much like compatibility, performance, accessibility, all this stuff with Javascript. We're moving further and further from declarative programming and more and more back to the days of writing heaps of Xlib or Motif toolkit code to implement our UIs and apps.
    3. wkhtmltopdf (Google Code) -- Simple shell utility to convert html to pdf using the webkit rendering engine, and qt. My first piece of "I wrote this, now you can use it too" open source was an HTML to PS converter (this was 1994 or so) via LaTeX. It's a useful thing, no really.
    4. Nicira (Wired) -- moving network management into software so the network hardware is as dumb as possible. Interesting continuation of the End-to-End principle, whereby smarts live at the edges of the network and the conduits are dumb.

    March 11 2011

    Four short links: 11 March 2011

    1. The Coming Mobile Data Apocalypse (Redmonk) -- it is clear that the appetite for mobile bandwidth will grow exponentially over the next twelve to eighteen months. With high volumes of smartphones shipping, more and larger form factors entering the market, and the accelerating build out of streaming services, bandwith consumption is set to spike. Equally apparent is that the carriers are ill provisioned to address this demand, both from a network capacity perspective as well as with their pricing structures.
    2. Hamster Burial Kit and 998 Other Ideas -- For Seth Godin's Alternative MBA program, this week the nine of us came up with 111 business ideas each. But ideas are only valuable when someone (like you) makes something happen. What follows are our 999 business ideas, free for the taking.
    3. Sci Foo Short Videos -- questions posed to Sci Foo attendees with interesting answers. I liked "What Worries You?"
    4. Instapaper 3 Released -- all the features are ones I've wanted, which tells me Marco is listening very closely to his customers. Again I say: Instapaper changes the way I use the web as much as RSS did.

    May 06 2010

    Four short links: 6 May 2010

    1. Ethics and Economics -- This paper looks at the evidence that suggests that ethical behaviour is good for the economy.
    2. FCC to Regulate Broadband -- Two FCC officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will announce Thursday that the commission considers broadband service a hybrid between an information service and a utility and that it has sufficient power to regulate Internet traffic under existing law.
    3. TCP/IP and IMS Sequence Diagrams -- watch SYN, ACK, payload, etc. packets to and fro to understand what really happens each time you fetch mail or surf the web. This is what Velocity-type devops performance folks care about.
    4. How to Build a Time Machine (Daily Mail) -- extremely readable article by Stephen Hawking about the possibilities of time travel.

    March 05 2010

    Yammer: Will Viral Work in the Enterprise?

    I work for a very large company and at some point or another someone started a Yammer account based on our email domain. Starting on whatever day that was, Yammer commenced its viral expansion and its spread has really been quite impressive and rapid. Last time I looked we were approaching 3000 users.

    The usage demonstrates all the free-scaling behaviors you'd expect though, so not everyone is yammering away. Still both the growth and the impact have been impressive. We are developing a nice network of the kind of weak connections that tend to "small world" a big enterprise like ours. It's always difficult to quantify the benefits of "soft" collaboration but I'm really happy with what I see and I've personally enjoyed the interactions and my expanded network.

    I think Yammer has done so well because it's a really good product with well thought out features that make Twitter seem kinda retro. It has a nice slick interface, threaded conversations, and no pesky 140 char limit (which is countered by a "return key = submit" that inhibits multi-paragraph posts). They are also working to create the kinds of features that enterprises need to feel comfy: an api that includes directory integration, an Outlook module and etc.

    However, despite all that, I'm bummed to say I don't think they are going to make it.

    The question of data privacy and ownership comes up over and over in our Yammer discussions. The last time it came up the thread ran for nearly 100 responses. Even though the typical post is something like "Who is using Grails?" or "Is the X application slow for everyone today or just for me?" data privacy is simply one of the biggest concerns going for a lot of companies these days. The mere suggestion that our data isn't under our control is a big deal.

    This point was demonstrated to me in a personal and compelling way during my first week on Yammer. I mentioned a client meeting so that I could share a few tidbits with colleagues. Hours later I was surprised and dismayed when a Google search revealed that my comments had been re-posted to the friendfeed of someone I didn't even know. Someone on our network had written a quick and dirty app to follow his Yammer RSS feed and re-post everything to friendfeed. Then for good measure he followed everyone in our network. When I "politely suggested" he take it down he equally politely explained to me that I just didn't get Web 2.0.

    Despite that kind of hiccup, I don't think data privacy is the death knell. After all, no one has told us to stop using it yet. The real problem is that Yammer thinks viral works the same way in the enterprise that it works on the web. It doesn't.

    Yammer, by being free and viral, is demonstrating in that soft benefit kind of way to lots of enterprises like ours that networks of weak connections and "ambient collaboration" are useful. Usage is creating a pool of users and even executives that "get it." But they are playing their cards too early and are probably going end up as little more than a contribution to someone else's cost of sales.

    Recently a thread started with "does anyone know how to remove people from Yammer that left the company?" Well, it turns out that's an admin function and only available to paying customers.

    While we have grown rapidly and virally, the "admin issue" is coming to a head with only about 1% of the company holding an account and probably more like .1% actively posting. There is no way this is going to be a level of usage that an enterprise like ours sees as lock-in. And it won't for anyone else's either.

    If the average company has an attrition rate of 10% it means that EVERY company that adopts Yammer virally is going to start to have this conversation well before adoption has locked them in. Every company will face the problem of removing ex-employees by the time they reach relatively low penetration rates. If it's a 25 person shop it may be easier to just pay the $3/employee per month than worry about it, but for any reasonably sized enterprise this is going to force an off-budget-cycle decision that involves real dollars before adoption has locked them in.

    The other problem with viral adoption as a strategy is this: I may love using Yammer, but I'm not Yammer's customer, our IT department is. And they already have SharePoint. What Yammer doesn't understand, and what Microsoft has known for years, is that IT makes these decisions, not the users.

    While Yammer is going viral with users out at the edge, Microsoft perfected its S1P1 virus to attack the very core of the IT enterprise. So, when it comes to enterprise microblogging, The Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) and its various add ons may be mediocrity in code form, but it's already there. And being there counts.

    January 21 2010

    Four short links: 21 January 2010

    1. DD-WRT -- replacement firmware for cheap wireless router boxes that add new functionality like wireless bridging and quality-of-service controls (so Skype doesn't break up while you're web-browsing). Not a new thing, but worth remembering that it exists.
    2. Brain Dump of Real Time Web and WebSocket -- long primer on the different technology for real-time web apps. Conclusion is that there's no silver bullet yet, so more development work is needed. (via TomC on Delicious)
    3. Data Decs -- 3d-printing Christmas decorations based on social network data. My favourite is the blackletter 404. (via foe on Delicious)
    4. ZSync -- open source syncing application that makes it easy for app writers to connect desktop apps and iPhone apps. (via Dave Wiskus)

    Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
    Could not load more posts
    Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
    Just a second, loading more posts...
    You've reached the end.
    No Soup for you

    Don't be the product, buy the product!

    YES, I want to SOUP ●UP for ...