Jenn Webb

Jenn Webb is a veteran of the newspaper industry turned freelance scribe, editor and researcher. She is a nerd with a passion for technology and cultural disruption. She currently serves as O'Reilly Radar's online managing editor and is investigating the future of UI design beyond the screen.

Visualization of the Week: NYC Citi Bike use, in real time

Oliver O'Brien has visualized real-time bike share use not only in NYC, but in cities around the world as well.

New York City’s new bike-share program, Citi Bike, has been underway for a couple of weeks now. Its level of success is still up for debate, but the stats are impressive: as of June 10, there had been 173,516 trips traveled over 510,782 miles since the launch. Oliver O’Brien, a researcher and software developer at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), and a contributor to OpenStreetMap, has developed a visualization of bike share use in real time.

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Ins and Outs of Running MySQL on AWS

Laine Campbell on why AWS is a good platform option for running MySQL at scale

In the following interview, PalominoDB owner and CEO Laine Campbell discusses advantages and disadvantages of using Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a platform for running MySQL. The solution provides a functional environment for young startups who can’t afford a database administrator (DBA), Campbell says, but there are drawbacks to be aware of, such as a lack of access to your database’s file system, and troubleshooting “can get quite hairy.” This interview is a sneak preview to Campbell’s upcoming Velocity session, “Using Amazon Web Services for MySQL at Scale.”

Why is AWS a good platform for scaling MySQL?

Laine Campbell

Laine Campbell

Laine Campbell: The elasticity of Amazon’s cloud service is key to scaling on most tiers in an application’s infrastructure, and this is true with MySQL as well. Concurrency is a recurring pattern with MySQL’s scaling capabilities, and as traffic and concurrent queries grow, one has to introduce some fairly traditional scaling patterns. One such pattern is adding replicas to distribute read I/O and reduce contention and concurrency, which is easy to do with rapid deployment of new instances and Elastic Block Storage (EBS) snapshots.

Additionally, sharding can be done with less impact via EBS snapshots being used to recreate the dataset, and then data that is not part of the new shard is removed. Amazon’s relational database service for MySQL—RDS—is also a new, rather compelling scaling pattern for the early stages of a company’s life, when resources are scarce and administrators have not been hired. RDS is a great pattern for people to emulate in terms of rapid deployment of replicas, ease of master failovers, and the ability to easily redeploy hosts when errors occur, rather than spending extensive time trying to repair or clean up data.

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SPTechCon, iPhone Bootcamp, OSCON, and More

Tech events you don't want to miss

Each Monday, we round up upcoming event highlights from the programming and technology spaces. Have an event to share? Send us a note.

HTML5 Application Development Class: This two-day training class offers a small class size and individual attention for developers looking for insights into HTML5 app development. Visit the event page for more information and to register.
Date: June 13–14 Location: San Francisco, CA

The Linux Way: Rebuilding The Unix Way for a New Era webcast: Andy Grover covers ways the Linux platform is shifting away from the Unix philosophy and how hackers and users are defining a new Linux Way, independent from the Unix Way. Register for this free webcast.
Date: 10 a.m. PT, June 14 Location: Online webcast

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Strata Week: Wireless body area networks bring humans into the Internet of Things

Humans as nodes, pills and electronic tattoo password authenticators, NSA surveillance leaks, and hiding data in temporal cloaks.

Collaborative sensor networks of humans, and your body may be the next two-factor authenticator

There has been much coverage recently of the Internet of Things, connecting everything from washers and dryers to thermostats to cars to the Internet. Wearable sensors — things like FitBit and health-care-related sensors that can be printed onto fabric or even onto human skin — are also in the spotlight.

Kevin Fitchard reports at GigaOm that researchers at CEA-Leti and three French universities believe these areas are not mutually exclusive and have launched a project around wireless body area networks called CORMORAN. The group believes that one day soon our bodies will be constantly connected to the Internet via sensors and transmitters that “can be used to form cooperative ad hoc networks that could be used for group indoor navigation, crowd-motion capture, health monitoring on a massive scale and especially collaborative communications,” Fitchard writes. He takes a look at some of the benefits and potential applications of such a collaborative network — location-based services would be able to direct users to proper gates or trains in busy airports and train stations, for instance — and some of the pitfalls, such as potential security and privacy issues. You can read his full report at GigaOm.

In related news, wearable sensors — and even our bodies — may not only be used to connect us to a network, but also to identify us as well. Read more…

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Mobile-centric Optimization Requires a Mobile-centric Approach

Appurify co-founders Manish Lachwani and Jay Srinivasan talk about the motivation behind their platform and the solutions it provides.

As our always-on society turns more and more to mobile platforms and devices—a recent Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast predicted 788 million mobile-only Internet users by 2015—mobile app development is becoming more and more important. Developers, however, are finding mobile measurement and optimization toolsets lacking, which is increasingly becoming an issue as mobile users show low tolerance for buggy apps.

Appurify co-founders Manish Lachwani and Jay Srinivasan experienced these challenges first hand and launched a solution. The duo will demo their Appurify performance-optimization platform during the Lightning Demos at the upcoming Velocity conference. In the following interview, Lachwani and Srinivasan talk about the motivation behind Appurify and offer a sneak peek at what we can expect to see at their demo.

What are some of the key challenges developers face in measuring app performance?

Jay Srinivasan

Jay Srinivasan

Jay Srinivasan: Mobile performance measurement and optimization is broken today. This is a three-fold problem: there are no good tools, the mobile space is complex, and mobile users demand exceptional performance in all conditions.

More specifically, most performance measurement and optimization tools that exist for the web and PC world simply don’t exist for mobile. This is both due to the mobile ecosystem being relatively young as well as the added tech complexity that working with mobile devices offers. Compounding this lack of tools is the complexity of the mobile environment. Mobile is much more fragmented from an operating system, device, and firmware perspective, and optimizations can vary depending on the environment. Mobile users are also more demanding, with the expectation that they can use their smartphones or tablets in an always-on, always-connected environment. Your mobile app needs to load quickly and perform seamlessly in all network and device conditions.

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Visualization of the Week: Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”

Stephen Malinowski's latest music visualization celebrates The Rite of Spring's 100th anniversary.

Stephen Malinowski’s hypnotic music visualizations have been quite a hit on YouTube — he has visualized a number of scores, from Debussy’s, Clair de lune to Chopin’s Nocturne in B Major, opus 32 no.1 to his own Fugue in A minor. Anastasia Tsioulcas reports at NPR that Malinowski’s visualizations have garnered more than 100 million page views. And just in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring at the end of May, Malinowski created a visualization of the score:

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Hadoop Training, OpenStreetMap Sprint, MakersFactory Kids’ Programming Camp, and More

Tech events you don't want to miss

Each Monday, we round up upcoming event highlights from the programming and technology spaces. Have an event to share? Send us a note.

Twisted Python: the engine of your Internet webcast: Jessica McKellar presents an architectural overview of the Python networking library, Twisted, and instructs on how to build robust clients and servers for popular and custom network protocols. Register for this free webcast.
Date: 10 a.m. PT, June 6 Location: Online webcast

2 Day Hadoop Training June 2013: This course offers a fast-paced technical overview of the Hadoop landscape, targeted toward both technical and non-technical people who want to understand the emerging world of big data. For more information and to register, visit the event page.
Date: June 8–9 Location: Sunnyvale, CA

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Strata Week: Can your passwords stand up to a cracker?

Password (in)security, sensors and ant-sized computers, and big data skeptics are called out.

Companies, developers need to do more to increase password security

Google urged users this week to take more care in creating passwords. In a post on the Google Blog, Google Software Engineer Diana Smetters offered some guidelines, including using a different password for each online account, keeping them in a safe place, creating a recovery option and making them hard to guess. Smetters suggests using a mix of letters and numbers and avoiding basing passwords on common phrases.

Though industry experts generally applauded Google’s efforts to increase consumer awareness, most agreed the company could do more. Seth Rosenblatt reports at CNET that industry experts Alex Salazar and Mary Landesman feel Google should be pressuring developers and companies to improve their security practices.

Landesman noted, for instance, that using spaces in passwords makes them stronger, but most sites don’t let you do that. Salazar outlined three steps Google could take to make the web safer for consumers: pressure companies to require consumers to choose passwords that are easy to remember but hard to break; be a stronger two-factor authentication advocate; and to publish guidelines for developers — and to do a better job of stressing the importance of protecting your customers. Landesman pointed out that often, blame for password breaches is misplaced on users. “[Password security] is tilted against the user,” she said.

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Visualization of the Week: Hospital procedure charges across the U.S., compared

The New York Times and The Washington Post created visualizations using data released by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released procedure billing data on more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals. The New York Times and The Washington Post have put together interactive visualizations to help consumers compare costs. The New York Times’ visualization compares costs on a per-hospital basis:

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Driving the Momentum of Modern Web App Development

Ido Green on modern web app design considerations and characteristics of great web apps

The rapid pace of improvements in browser technologies and the growith of HTML5 have presented many opportunities and challenges for web app developers. In the following interview, Ido Green, developer advocate for Google Chrome OS, reviews some characteristics of the “modern” web app and covers a few design points and helpful tools developers should keep in mind. Green will expand on these ideas in an upcoming free webcast, “Modern Web Applications Utilizing HTML5 APIs,” on Thursday, May 30 at 10 a.m. PT.

What is a “modern” web app?

ido_green

Ido Green

Ido Green: A “modern” web app is an application that utilizes HTML5 APIs and browser technologies to let the users accomplish a certain goal.

In most of the “great” web applications we see several characteristics:

  • They are self contained (maybe from here we got the term “one page application”) with one main goal.
  • They feel “native”: they are leveraging HTML5 APIs that let the app have “native” capabilities, like Offline, Geo, drag and drop, transitions, etc.
  • They are “offline first,” since we wish our users to be productive when there is no connection or when there is a flaky connection. These apps are built from the ground up with the idea of “offline.” It’s similar to a native app that you will “install” first and later fetch the data.
  • They are device aware: the apps are working great on mobile devices as well as on laptops and desktops.
  • They offer great performance: the great modern apps are utilizing CSS3, HTML5 and the mobile browsers to give the users a smooth experience where everything is working fast. The “offline first” methodology is helping here as well.

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