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: 13 January 2015

Four short links: 13 January 2015

Slack Culture, Visualizations of Text Analysis, Wearables and Big Data, and Snooping on Keyboards

  1. Building the Workplace We Want (Slack) — culture is the manifestation of what your company values. What you reward, who you hire, how work is done, how decisions are made — all of these things are representations of the things you value and the culture you’ve wittingly or unwittingly created. Nice (in the sense of small, elegant) explanation of what they value at Slack.
  2. Interpretation and Trust: Designing Model-Driven Visualizations for Text Analysis (PDF) — Based on our experiences and a literature review, we distill a set of design recommendations and describe how they promote interpretable and trustworthy visual analysis tools.
  3. The Internet of Things Has Four Big Data Problems (Alistair Croll) — What the IoT needs is data. Big data and the IoT are two sides of the same coin. The IoT collects data from myriad sensors; that data is classified, organized, and used to make automated decisions; and the IoT, in turn, acts on it. It’s precisely this ever-accelerating feedback loop that makes the coin as a whole so compelling. Nowhere are the IoT’s data problems more obvious than with that darling of the connected tomorrow known as the wearable. Yet, few people seem to want to discuss these problems.
  4. Keysweepera stealthy Arduino-based device, camouflaged as a functioning USB wall charger, that wirelessly and passively sniffs, decrypts, logs, and reports back (over GSM) all keystrokes from any Microsoft wireless keyboard in the vicinity. Designs and demo videos included.
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Four short links: 12 January 2015

Four short links: 12 January 2015

Designed-In Outrage, Continuous Data Processing, Lisp Processors, and Anomaly Detection

  1. The Toxoplasma of RageIt’s in activists’ interests to destroy their own causes by focusing on the most controversial cases and principles, the ones that muddy the waters and make people oppose them out of spite. And it’s in the media’s interest to help them and egg them on.
  2. Samza: LinkedIn’s Stream-Processing EngineSamza’s goal is to provide a lightweight framework for continuous data processing. Unlike batch processing systems such as Hadoop, which typically has high-latency responses (sometimes hours), Samza continuously computes results as data arrives, which makes sub-second response times possible.
  3. Design of LISP-Based Processors (PDF) — 1979 MIT AI Lab memo on design of hardware specifically for Lisp. Legendary subtitle! LAMBDA: The Ultimate Opcode.
  4. rAnomalyDetection — Twitter’s R package for detecting anomalies in time-series data. (via Twitter Engineering blog)
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Four short links: 9 January 2015

Four short links: 9 January 2015

Complex Addresses, AI Applications, Scaling Diversity, Audiovisual Coding

  1. Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Addresses0 Egmont Road, Middlesbrough. lolwut?
  2. Future of the AI-Powered Application (Matt Turck) — we’re about to witness the emergence of a number of deeply focused AI-powered applications that will achieve commercial success by solving in a definitive manner very specific issues. (via Matt Webb)
  3. Three Things a City In Charge of its Destiny Ought to Know About Software (Matt Edgar) — Instead of asking “will it scale”, ask a better question: “Does it gracefully handle massive diversity?” […] The diversity question accommodates scaling; the scaling question tramples all over diversity. (via Tom Armitage)
  4. gibbera creative coding environment for audiovisual performance and composition. It contains features for audio synthesis and musical sequencing, 2d drawing, 3d scene construction and manipulation, and live-coding shaders. If you’re looking for more ways to interest teens in code …
Comment: 1
Four short links: 8 January 2015

Four short links: 8 January 2015

Social Strangers, Code Analysis, Bogus Copyright, and Developer Podcasts

  1. Jane Jacobs on Strangers (Nina Simon) — Many of us live in towns where we rarely have the opportunity for this kind of anonymous, safe, positive social contact. This is a problem. It means we smile less at strangers. We take care of each other less. We fear it opens up a social contract for too much more. There’s an analogous gap in online social media, where it feels like there are all too few social contract-building public Internet spaces.
  2. PANDAan open-source Platform for Architecture-Neutral Dynamic Analysis. It is built upon the QEMU whole system emulator, so analyses have access to all code executing in the guest and all data. PANDA adds the ability to record and replay executions, enabling iterative, deep, whole system analyses. Further, the replay log files are compact and shareable, allowing for repeatable experiments.
  3. Ford Using Copyright Against Third-Party Repair Tool Company (EFF) — Ford claims that it owns a copyright on this list of parts, the “FFData file,” and thus can keep competitors from including it in their diagnostic tools.
  4. The Ultimate List of Developer Podcasts — what it says on the label.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 7 January 2015

Four short links: 7 January 2015

Program Synthesis, Data Culture, Metrics, and Information Biology

  1. Program Synthesis ExplainedThe promise of program synthesis is that programmers can stop telling computers how to do things, and focus instead on telling them what they want to do. Inductive program synthesis tackles this problem with fairly vague specifications and, although many of the algorithms seem intractable, in practice they work remarkably well.
  2. Creating a Data-Driven Culture — new (free!) ebook from Hilary Mason and DJ Patil. The editor of that team is the luckiest human being alive.
  3. Ev Williams on Metrics — a master-class in how to think about and measure what matters. If what you care about — or are trying to report on — is impact on the world, it all gets very slippery. You’re not measuring a rectangle, you’re measuring a multi-dimensional space. You have to accept that things are very imperfectly measured and just try to learn as much as you can from multiple metrics and anecdotes.
  4. Nature, the IT Wizard (Nautilus) — a fun walk through the connections between information theory, computation, and biology.
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Four short links: 6 January 2015

Four short links: 6 January 2015

IoT Protocols, Predictive Limits, Machine Learning and Security, and 3D-Printing Electronics

  1. Exploring the Protocols of the Internet of Things (Sparkfun) — Arduino and Arduino-like IoT “things” especially, with their limited flash and SRAM, can benefit from specially crafted IoT protocols.
  2. Complexity Salon: Ebola (willowbl00) — These notes were taken at the 2014.Dec.18 New England Complex Systems Institute Salon focused on Ebola. […] Why don’t we engage in risks in a more serious way? Everyone thinks their prior experience indicates what will happen in the future. Look at past Ebola! It died down before going far, surely it won’t be bad in the future.
  3. Machine Learning Methods for Computer Security (PDF) — papers on topics such as adversarial machine learning, attacking pattern recognition systems, data privacy and machine learning, machine learning in forensics, and deceiving authorship detection.
  4. voxel8Using Voxel8’s 3D printer, you can co-print matrix materials such as thermoplastics and highly conductive silver inks enabling customized electronic devices like quadcopters, electromagnets and fully functional 3D electromechanical assemblies.
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Four short links: 5 January 2015

Four short links: 5 January 2015

3D Art Reuse, Faceted Data Browser, Robotics Roundup, and Social Signal Interpretation

  1. Lincoln Gallery Reuse — UK gallery placed 3D models of their works online and are sharing what people did with them. Some beautiful art in here! (via BoingBoing)
  2. Kesihif — open source browser for faceted data.
  3. 2014 Robotics IPOs, Acquisitions, and Failures (RoboHub) — good roundup of what happened in 2014.
  4. SSIan open source platform for social signal interpretation.
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Four short links: 2 January 2015

Four short links: 2 January 2015

Privacy Philosophy, Bitcoin Risks, Modelling Emotion, and Opinion Formation

  1. Google’s Philosopher — interesting take on privacy. Now that the mining and manipulation of personal information has spread to almost all aspects of life, for instance, one of the most common such questions is, “Who owns your data?” According to Floridi, it’s a misguided query. Your personal information, he argues, should be considered as much a part of you as, say, your left arm. “Anything done to your information,” he has written, “is done to you, not to your belongings.” Identity theft and invasions of privacy thus become more akin to kidnapping than stealing or trespassing. Informational privacy is “a fundamental and inalienable right,” he argues, one that can’t be overridden by concerns about national security, say, or public safety. “Any society (even a utopian one) in which no informational privacy is possible,” he has written, “is one in which no personal identity can be maintained.”
  2. S-1 for a Bitcoin Trust (SEC) — always interesting to read through the risks list to see what’s there and what’s not.
  3. Computationally Modelling Human Emotion (ACM) — our work seeks to create true synergies between computational and psychological approaches to understanding emotion. We are not satisfied simply to show our models “fit” human data but rather seek to show they are generative in the sense of producing new insights or novel predictions that can inform understanding. From this perspective, computational models are simply theories, albeit more concrete ones that afford a level of hypothesis generation and experimentation difficult to achieve through traditional theories.
  4. Opinion Formation Models on a Gradient (PLoSONE) — Many opinion formation models embedded in two-dimensional space have only one stable solution, namely complete consensus, in particular when they implement deterministic rules. In reality, however, deterministic social behavior and perfect agreement are rare – at least one small village of indomitable Gauls always holds out against the Romans. […] In this article we tackle the open question: can opinion dynamics, with or without a stochastic element, fundamentally alter percolation properties such as the clusters’ fractal dimensions or the cluster size distribution? We show that in many cases we retrieve the scaling laws of independent percolation. Moreover, we also give one example where a slight change of the dynamic rules leads to a radically different scaling behavior.
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Four short links: 1 January 2015

Four short links: 1 January 2015

Wearables Killer App, Open Government Data, Gender From Name, and DVCS for Geodata

  1. Killer App for Wearables (Fortune) — While many corporations are still waiting to see what the “killer app” for wearables is, Disney invented one. The company launched the RFID-enabled MagicBands just over a year ago. Since then, they’ve given out more than 9 million of them. Disney says 75% of MagicBand users engage with the “experience”—a website called MyMagic+—before their visit to the park. Online, they can connect their wristband to a credit card, book fast passes (which let you reserve up to three rides without having to wait in line), and even order food ahead of time. […] Already, Disney says, MagicBands have led to increased spending at the park.
  2. USA Govt Depts Progress on Open Data Policy (labs.data.gov) — nice dashboard, but who will be watching it and what squeeze will they apply?
  3. globalnamedataWe have collected birth record data from the United States and the United Kingdom across a number of years for all births in the two countries and are releasing the collected and cleaned up data here. We have also generated a simple gender classifier based on incidence of gender by name.
  4. geogigan open source tool that draws inspiration from Git, but adapts its core concepts to handle distributed versioning of geospatial data.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 31 December 2014

Four short links: 31 December 2014

Feudal Employment, Untrusted Computing, Nerd Entitlement, and Paxos Explained

  1. Governance for the New Class of Worker (Matt Webb) — there is a new class of worker. They’re not inside the company – not benefiting from job security or healthcare – but their livelihoods in large part dependent on it, the transaction cost of moving to a competitor deliberately kept high. Or the worker is, without seeing any of the upside of success, taking on the risk or bearing the cost of the company’s expansion and operation.
  2. Hidden Code in Your Chipset (Slideshare) — there’s a processor that supervises your processor, and it’s astonishingly fully-featured (to the point of having privileged access to the network and being able to run Java code).
  3. On Nerd EntitlementPrivilege doesn’t mean you don’t suffer. The best part of 2014 was the tech/net feminist consciousness-raising/uprising. That’s probably the wrong label for it, but bullshit is being called that was ignored years ago. I think we’ve collectively found the next thing we fix that future generations will look back on us and wonder why it went unremarked-upon for so long.
  4. Understanding Paxos — a simple introduction, with animations, to one of the key algorithms in distributed systems.
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