Nat Torkington

Nat has chaired the O'Reilly Open Source Convention and other O'Reilly conferences for over a decade. He ran the first web server in New Zealand, co-wrote the best-selling Perl Cookbook, and was one of the founding Radar bloggers. He lives in New Zealand and consults in the Asia-Pacific region.

Four short links: 29 July 2015

Four short links: 29 July 2015

Mobile Medical Scanner, Amazon Hardware Showcase, Consistency Challenges, and Govt Alpha Geeks

  1. Cellphone-Based Hand-Held Microplate Reader for Point-of-Care Testing of Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assayswe created a hand-held and cost-effective cellphone-based colorimetric microplate reader that implements a routine hospital test used to identify HIV and other conditions. (via RtoZ)
  2. Amazon Launchpad — a showcase for new hardware startups, who might well be worried about Amazon’s “watch what sells and sell a generic version of it” business model.
  3. Challenges to Adopting Stronger Consistency at Scale (PDF) — It is not obvious that a system that trades stronger consistency for increased latency or reduced availability would be a net benefit to people using Facebook, especially when compared against a weakly consistent system that resolves many inconsistencies with ad hoc mechanisms.
  4. The White House’s Alpha Geeks — Megan Smith for President. I realize now there’s two things we techies should do — one is go where there are lots of us, like MIT or Silicon Valley or whatever, because you can move really fast and do extraordinary things. The other is, go where you’re rare.It’s almost like you’re a frog in boiling water; you don’t really realize how un-diverse it is until you’re in a normal diverse American innovative community like the President’s team. And then you go back and you’re like, wow. You feel, “Man, this industry is so awesome and yet we’re missing all of this talent.”
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Four short links: 28 July 2015

Four short links: 28 July 2015

Auto-Remediation, Fast and Good, Life's Game of Conway, and Self-Assembly Lab

  1. Nurse at LinkedIn — automating the responses to alerts.
  2. Moving Fast With High Code Quality (Quora) — Lots of practical detail about how they combine speed with quality.
  3. John Horton Conway (The Guardian) — These were two separate areas of study that Conway had arrived at by two different paths. So, there’s no reason for them to be linked. But somehow, through the force of his personality, and the intensity of his passion, he bent the mathematical universe to his will. Fascinating profile, taken from a new book.
  4. MIT Self-Assembly Labmulti-material 3D/4D printing, advances in materials science, and new capabilities in simulation/optimization software […] made it possible to fully program a wide range of materials to change shape, appearance, or other property, on demand.
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Four short links: 27 July 2015

Four short links: 27 July 2015

Google’s Borg, Georgia v. Malamud, SLAM-aware system, and SmartGPA

  1. Large-scale Cluster Management at Google with BorgGoogle’s Borg system is a cluster manager that runs hundreds of thousands of jobs, from many thousands of different applications, across a number of clusters, each with up to tens of thousands of machines. […] We present a summary of the Borg system architecture and features, important design decisions, a quantitative analysis of some of its policy decisions, and a qualitative examination of lessons learned from a decade of operational experience with it.
  2. Georgia Sues Carl Malamud (TechDirt) — for copyright infringement… for publishing an official annotated copy of the state's laws. […] the state points directly to the annotated version as the official laws of the state.
  3. Monocular SLAM Supported Object Recognition (PDF) — a monocular SLAM-aware object recognition system that is able to achieve considerably stronger recognition performance, as compared to classical object recognition systems that function on a frame-by-frame basis. (via Improving Object Recognition for Robots)
  4. SmartGPA: How Smartphones Can Assess and Predict Academic Performance of College Students (PDF) — We show that there are a number of important behavioral factors automatically inferred from smartphones that significantly correlate with term and cumulative GPA, including time series analysis of activity, conversational interaction, mobility, class attendance, studying, and partying.
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Four short links: 24 July 2015

Four short links: 24 July 2015

Artificial Compound Eye, Google Patent Licensing, Monitoring and Alerting, Computer-Aided Inference

  1. A New Artificial Compound Eye (Robohub) — three hexagonal photodetectors arranged in a triangular shape, underneath a single lens. These photodetectors work together and combine perceived changes in structured light (optic flow) to present a 3D image that shows what is moving in the scene, and in which direction the movement is happening.
  2. Google’s Defensive Patent Initiative (TechCrunch) — good article, despite TechCrunch origin. Two-tiered program: give away groups of patents to startups with $500k-$20M in revenue, and sell patents to startups.
  3. Bosunan open-source, MIT licensed, monitoring and alerting system by Stack Exchange.
  4. The Rise of Computer-Aided Explanation (Michael Nielsen) — Hod Lipson of Columbia University. Lipson and his collaborators have developed algorithms that, when given a raw data set describing observations of a mechanical system, will actually work backward to infer the “laws of nature” underlying those data. (Paper)
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Four short links: 23 July 2015

Four short links: 23 July 2015

Open Source, State of DevOps, History of Links, and Vote Rings

  1. The Future of Open Source (Allison Randal) — Inexperienced companies can cause a great deal of harm as they blunder around blindly in a collaborative project, throwing resources in ways that ultimately benefit no one, not even themselves. It is in our best interest as a community to actively engage with companies and teach them how to participate effectively, how to succeed at free software and open source. Their success feeds the success of free software and open source, which feeds the self-reinforcing cycle of accelerating software innovation.
  2. Puppet Labs’ State of DevOps Report (PDF) — Westrum’s model gives us the language to define and measure culture. Perhaps most interesting, Westrum’s model also predicts IT performance. This shows that information flow isn’t just essential to safety, it’s also a critical success factor for rapidly building and evolving resilient systems at scale.
  3. Beyond Conversation — tracing the history of the link from Memex to Web.
  4. Detecting Vote Rings in Product Hunt — worth implementing in every system that processes votes. Who are the jerks in a circle?
Comments: 2
Four short links: 22 July 2015

Four short links: 22 July 2015

Smart Headlights, Habitual Speed, AI Authors, and Programming Language Evolution

  1. Ford’s Smart Headlights — spotlights targeted by infra-red, and accumulating knowledge of fixed features to illuminate. Wonder what an attacker can do to it?
  2. Speed as a HabitYou don’t have to be militant about it, just consistently respond that today is better than tomorrow, that right now is better than six hours from now. This is chock full of good advice, and the occasional good story.
  3. Coding Creativity: Copyright and the Artificially Intelligent Author (PDF) — if AI creates cultural works (e.g., DeepDream images), who owns those works? Suggests that “work for hire” doctrine may be the way to answer that in the future. (via Andreas Schou)
  4. Punctuated Equilibrium in the Large-Scale Evolution of Programming Languages (PDF) — Here we study the large-scale historical development of programming languages, which have deeply marked social and technological advances in the last half century. We analyse their historical connections using network theory and reconstructed phylogenetic networks. Using both data analysis and network modeling, it is shown that their evolution is highly uneven, marked by innovation events where new languages are created out of improved combinations of different structural components belonging to previous languages. These radiation events occur in a bursty pattern and are tied to novel technological and social niches. The method can be extrapolated to other systems and consistently captures the major classes of languages and the widespread horizontal design exchanges, revealing a punctuated evolutionary path. (via Jarkko Hietaniemi)
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Four short links: 21 July 2015

Four short links: 21 July 2015

Web Future, GCE vs Amazon, Scammy eBooks, and Container Clusters

  1. Web Design: The First 100 Years (Maciej Ceglowski) — There’s a William Gibson quote that Tim O’Reilly likes to repeat: “the future is here; it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” O’Reilly takes this to mean that if we surround ourselves with the right people, it can give us a sneak peek at coming attractions. I like to interpret this quote differently, as a call to action. Rather than waiting passively for technology to change the world, let’s see how much we can do with what we already have. Let’s reclaim the Web from technologists who tell us that the future they’ve imagined is inevitable, and that our role in it is as consumers.
  2. Comparing Cassandra Write Performance on Google Compute Engine and AWStl;dr – We achieved better Cassandra performance on GCE vs. Amazon, at close to half the cost. Also interesting for how they built the benchmark.
  3. The Scammy Underground World of Kindle eBooksThe biggest issue here isn’t that scammers are raking in cash from low-quality content; it’s that Amazon is allowing this to happen. Publisher brand value is the reliable expectation that buyers have of the book quality. Amazon’s publishing arm is spending the good brand value built by its distribution arm.
  4. Empire a 12-factor-compatible, Docker-based container cluster built on top of Amazon’s robust EC2 Container Service (ECS), complete with a full-featured command line interface. Open source.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 20 July 2015

Four short links: 20 July 2015

Less Spam, Down on Dropdowns, Questioning Provable Security, and Crafting Packets

  1. Spam Under Half of Email (PDF) — Symantec report: There is good news this month on the email-based front of the threat landscape. According to our metrics, the overall spam rate has dropped to 49.7%. This is the first time this rate has fallen below 50% of email for over a decade. The last time Symantec recorded a similar spam rate was clear back in September of 2003.
  2. Dropdowns Should be the UI of Last Resort (Luke Wroblewski) — Well-designed forms make use of the most appropriate input control for each question they ask. Sometimes that’s a stepper, a radio group, or even a dropdown menu. But because they are hard to navigate, hide options by default, don’t support hierarchies, and only enable selection not editing, dropdowns shouldn’t be the first UI control you reach for. In today’s software designs, they often are. So instead, consider other input controls first and save the dropdown as a last resort.
  3. Another Look at Provable SecurityIn our time, one of the dominant paradigms in cryptographic research goes by the name “provable security.” This is the notion that the best (or, some would say, the only) way to have confidence in the security of a cryptographic protocol is to have a mathematically rigorous theorem that establishes some sort of guarantee of security (defined in a suitable way) under certain conditions and given certain assumptions. The purpose of this website is to encourage the emergence of a more skeptical and less credulous attitude toward this notion and to contribute to a process of critical analysis of the positive and negative features of the “provable security” paradigm.
  4. Pig (github) — a Linux packet crafting tool. You can use Pig to test your IDS/IPS among other stuffs.
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Four short links: 17 July 2015

Four short links: 17 July 2015

Smalltalky Web, Arduino Speech, Testing Distributed Systems, and Dataflow for FP

  1. Project Journal: Objects (Ian Bicking) — a view askew at the Web, inspired by Alan Kay’s History of Smalltalk.
  2. Speech Recognition for Arduino (Kickstarter) — for all your creepy toy hacking needs!
  3. Conductor (github) — a framework for testing distributed systems.
  4. Dataflow Syntax for Functional Programming? — two great tastes that will make your head hurt together!
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Four short links: 16 July 2015

Four short links: 16 July 2015

Consumer Exoskeleton, Bitcoin Trends, p2p Sockets, and Plain Government Comms

  1. ReWalk Robotics Exoskeleton — first exoskeleton for the paralyzed to receive regulatory approval; 66 bought so far, 11 with reimbursement from insurance. The software upgrades for the ReWalk 6.0 provide a smoother walking gait (with less of a soldier-like marching step), an easier stopping mechanism, and a much-improved mode for ascending and descending stairs. The user wears a wristwatch-like controller to switch the suit between sit, stand, walk, and stair modes. How long until a cheaper version hits the market, but you don’t always get to control where it takes you if there’s a sale on featuring brands you love? (via IEEE)
  2. Bitcoin Trends in First Half of 201594% increase in monthly transactions over the past year. 47% of Coinbase wallet holders are now from countries outside the U.S.
  3. Socket.io p2pan easy and reliable way to set up a WebRTC connection between peers and communicate using the socket.io-protocol.
  4. 18F Content Guide — communications guide for government content writers that bears in mind the frustrations citizens have with gov-speak websites.
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