Four short links: 30 July 2014

Offline First, Winograd Schemata, Jailbreaking Nest for Privacy, and Decentralised Web Cache

  1. Offline First is the New Mobile First — Luke Wroblewski’s notes from John Allsopp’s talk about “Breaking Development” in Nashville. Offline technologies don’t just give us sites that work offline, they improve performance, and security by minimizing the need for cookies, http, and file uploads. It also opens up new possibilities for better user experiences.
  2. Winograd Schemas as Alternative to Turing Test (IEEE) — specially constructed sentences that are surface ambiguous and require deeper knowledge of the world to disambiguate, e.g. “Jim comforted Kevin because he was so upset. Who was upset?”. Our WS [Winograd schemas] challenge does not allow a subject to hide behind a smokescreen of verbal tricks, playfulness, or canned responses. Assuming a subject is willing to take a WS test at all, much will be learned quite unambiguously about the subject in a few minutes. (that last from the paper on the subject)
  3. Reclaiming Your Nest (Forbes) — Like so many connected devices, Nest devices regularly report back to the Nest mothership with usage data. Over a month-long period, the researchers’ device sent 32 MB worth of information to Nest, including temperature data, at-rest settings, and self-entered information about the home, such as how big it is and the year it was built. “The Nest doesn’t give us an option to turn that off or on. They say they’re not going to use that data or share it with Google, but why don’t they give the option to turn it off?” says Jin. Jailbreak your Nest (technique to be discussed at Black Hat), and install less chatty software. Loose Lips Sink Thermostats.
  4. SyncNet — decentralised browser: don’t just pull pages from the source, but also fetch from distributed cache (implemented with BitTorrent Sync).
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  • Paulo

    SyncNet is pretty interesting. I’ve recently been ruminating on the consequences of memristor-based memory (100TB of non-volatile RAM on the desktop by 2018, claim HP) and 100G internet connections, and it seems that SyncNet is a direction that will become increasingly favourable.

    Since in that paradigm local storage for most content on smartphones will be effectively limitless (perhaps even enough to pre-fetch your top thousand most likely videos), and we’ve still not figured out any use-cases that would saturate a 100Gb link, web access will become more of a caching and pre-fetching problem.

    Why not preemptively sync every update to every website that I’ve ever visited, plus the one-hop links going out from them? This would bring latency down dramatically, plus the content would be available offline. If you batch the syncs up, it would also dramatically improve battery usage on a mobile device, too, since you don’t need to keep the antenna powered for the entire browsing session.

    And of course, if we want to do something like that before we have 100Gb connections, syncing just the deltas as BTSync does might allow us to achieve something similar on present-day connections.