FEATURED STORY

Four short links: 16 September 2014

Four short links: 16 September 2014

IoT Struggle, Embedded Tools, Download Accelerator, and Comms Smog

  1. The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things — a Bruce Sterling Kindle single, a powerfully-written challenge to the presumed-benevolent technology-pervaded universe that we label “the Internet of Things”. The Internet of Things is not about a talking refrigerator, because that is the old-fashioned consumer retail world of electrical white goods. It’s an archaic concept, like software bought in a plastic-wrapped box from a shelf. The genuine Internet of Things wants to invade that refrigerator, measure it, instrument it, monitor any interactions with it; it would cheerfully give away a fridge at cost.
  2. mbeddra set of integrated and extensible languages for embedded software engineering, plus an IDE. It supports implementation, testing, verification and process aspects. It integrates with command-line build tools and integration servers, as well as file-based version control systems. Nice to see something beyond webdev getting tools love.
  3. Replace wget With axel — download accelerator, aka a parallel wget for situations where the fetched file has multiple servers.
  4. Photos From When Cables Crowded The Skies (io9) — the communication age’s equivalent of the industrial revolution’s smog.
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Those who can, do – and teach

Natalie Kuldell on the hard work of bringing biocoding to the classroom.

Freshman_BiologySynthetic biology is poised to change everything from energy development to food production to medicine — but there’s a bottleneck looming. How fast things develop depends on the number of people developing things. Let’s face it: there aren’t that many biocoders. Not in the universities, not in industry, not in the DIY sector. Not enough to change the world, at any rate. We have to ramp up.

And that means we first must train teachers and define biocoding curricula. Not at the university level — try secondary, maybe even primary schools. That, of course, is a challenge. To get kids interested in synthetic biology, we have to do just that: get them interested. More to the point, get them jacked. Biocoding is incredibly exciting stuff, but that message isn’t getting across.

“Students think science and engineering is removed from daily life,” says Natalie Kuldell, an instructor of biological engineering at MIT. “We have to get them engaged, and connected to science and engineering — more specifically, bioengineering — in meaningful ways.”

Read more…

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Understanding network neutrality

Network neutrality is about treating all kinds of traffic equally — throttling competition equates to extortion.

Gtown_at_Night

I’d like to make a few very brief points about net neutrality. For most readers of Radar, there’s probably nothing new here, but they address confusions that I’ve seen.

  • Network neutrality isn’t about the bandwidth that Internet service providers deliver to your home. ISPs can charge more for more bandwidth, same as always.
  • Nor is network neutrality about the bandwidth that Internet service providers deliver to information providers. Again, ISPs can charge more for more bandwidth, same as always. You’d better believe that Google pays a lot more for Internet service than your local online store.
  • Nor is network neutrality about ISPs dealing with congestion. Network providers have always dealt with congestion — in the worst case, by dropping traffic. Remember the “fast busy” signal on the phone? That’s the network dealing with congestion.
  • Network neutrality is entirely about treating all kinds of traffic equally. Video is the same as voice, the same as Facebook, the same as Amazon. Your ISP cannot penalize video traffic (or some other kind of traffic) because they’d like to get into that business or because they’re already in that business. In other words: when you buy Internet connectivity, you can use it for whatever you want. Your provider can’t tell you what kind of business to be in.

Read more…

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Working like a startup at IBM

How a small and passionate team used modern techniques to shift a business on a short timeline.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PSM_V04_D595_Blue_yellow_color_mix_experiment.jpg

Over the past year, I assisted in creating an application that helped shift a major part of IBM to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. I did this with the help of a small but excellent development team that was inspired by the culture and practices of web startups. To be clear, it wasn’t easy – changing how we worked led to frequent friction and conflict – but in the end it worked, and we made a difference.

In mid-2013, the IBM Service Management business and engineering leaders decided to make a big bet on moving our software to the cloud. Traditionally we have sold “on premises” software products. These are software products that a customer buys, downloads, and installs on their own equipment, in their own data centers and facilities. Although we love the on-premises business, we realized that cloud delivery of software is also a great option, and as our customers evolved to a hybrid on-premises / cloud future, we needed to be there to help them.

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Small brains, big data

How neuroscience is benefiting from distributed computing — and how computing might learn from neuroscience.

Neurons

When we think about big data, we usually think about the web: the billions of users of social media, the sensors on millions of mobile phones, the thousands of contributions to Wikipedia, and so forth. Due to recent innovations, web-scale data can now also come from a camera pointed at a small, but extremely complex object: the brain. New progress in distributed computing is changing how neuroscientists work with the resulting data — and may, in the process, change how we think about computation. Read more…

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Synthetic biology on the cusp

Oliver Medvedik on the grassroots future of biohacking and the problems with government overreach.

BioCoder image plants in dish with tweezersWhither thou goest, synthetic biology? First, let’s put aside the dystopian scenarios of nasty modified viruses escaping from the fermentor Junior has jury-rigged in his bedroom lab. Designing virulent microbes is well beyond the expertise and budgets of homegrown biocoders.

“Moreover, it’s extremely difficult to ‘improve’ on the lethality of nature,” says Oliver Medvedik, a visiting assistant professor at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and the assistant director of the Maurice Kanbar Center for Biomedical Engineering. “The pathogens that already exist are more legitimate cause for worry.” Read more…

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