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: 9 October 2014

Four short links: 9 October 2014

API Docs, Top Trends, Byzantine Fault Tolerance, and Devops in Practice

  1. dashoffline access to API documentation. Useful for those long-haul flights without wifi …
  2. Gartner’s Top Trends for 2015 — ubicomp, IoT, 3d printing, pervasive analytics, context, smart machines, cloud computing, software-defined everything, web-scale IT, and security. Still not the year of the Linux desktop.
  3. Byzantine Fault Tolerance — Wikipedia’s readable introduction to the basic challenge in distributed systems.
  4. Move Fast, Break Nothing (Zach Holman) — Gartner talks about “web-scale IT”, but I think the processes and tools for putting code into product (devops) are far more transformative than the technology that scales the product delivery.
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Four short links: 8 October 2014

Four short links: 8 October 2014

Tracking Awareness, Simple GUIs, Service Design, and Pull-Based Development

  1. Floodwatcha Chrome extension that tracks the ads you see as you browse the internet. It offers tools to help you understand both the volume and the types of ads you’re being served during the course of normal browsing, with the goal of increasing awareness of how advertisers track your browsing behavior, build their version of your online identity, and target their ads to you as an individual.
  2. slfsrvcreate simple, cross-platform GUI applications, or wrap GUIs around command-line applications, using HTML/JS/CSS and your own browser.
  3. Service Design Toolkit downloads — posters and templates for workshops, posters, and exercises.
  4. Work Practices and Challenges in Pull-Based Development: The Integrator’s Perspective (PDF) — Our key findings are that integrators struggle to maintain the quality of their projects and have difficulties with prioritizing contributions that are to be merged. To which every open-source project maintainer says, “no shit Sherlock” and “thank god it’s not just me” simultaneously.
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Four short links: 7 October 2014

Four short links: 7 October 2014

Chinese Makers, Code Projects, Distributed Data Structures, and Networked Games

  1. On the Maker Movement in China (Clay Shirky) — Hardware hacking hasn’t become a hot new thing in China because it never stopped being a regular old thing.
  2. A History of Apache Storm and Lessons Learned (Nathan Marz) — his lessons on building, promoting, releasing, maintaining, governance … all worth reading.
  3. Tango: Distributed Data Structures Over a Shared Logprovides developers with the abstraction of a replicated, in-memory data structure (such as a map or a tree) backed by a shared log. (via paper summary)
  4. Making Fast-Paced Multiplayer Networked Games is Hard (Gamasutra) — This may all sound like smoke and mirrors because that is exactly what it is – we are just maintaining the illusion the game is playing out in wall clock time even though updates are arriving from the past.
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Four short links: 6 October 2014

Four short links: 6 October 2014

Nerd Culture, Cited Papers, Better Javascript, Robo-Provisioning

  1. Why Nerd Culture Must Die (Pete Warden) — Our ingrained sense of victimization has become a perverse justification for bullying. Hear, hear.
  2. Best Papers vs Top Cited Papers in CS (since 1996) — it is astonishing (to your humble not-in-academia author) how often “best paper” is not the most cited paper.
  3. Javascript: The Better Parts (YouTube) — Douglas Crockford laying it down.
  4. Boxenautomate the pain out of your development environment.
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Four short links: 3 October 2014

Four short links: 3 October 2014

Physical Web, USB Horrors, Microsoft Sway, and Startup Code

  1. The Physical Web — a discovery service for physical things. Interesting to see a Google angle: the list of available things might be huge, so it’ll be sorted, and ranking long lists of results is a Core Competency.
  2. Unfixable USB Attack Closer — researchers have released code implementing the omgdoom USB firmware attack. (Not its formal name) (Yet)
  3. Sway — looks to me like Microsoft have productised the Medium design sense.
  4. How 50+ Startups Manage Their Code — I’m a full stack voyeur. I like to look.
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Four short links: 2 October 2014

Four short links: 2 October 2014

I Heart Logs, CS50 Eating The World, Meeting Transcripts, Binary Analysis

  1. I Heart Logs — I linked to Jay Kreps’s awesome blog post twice, and now he’s expanded it into a slim O’Reilly volume which I shall press into the hands of every engineer I meet. Have you heard the Good News?
  2. CS50 Record Numbers — nearly 12% of Harvard now takes Intro to CS. (via Greg Linden)
  3. SayIt — open source from MySociety, a whole new way to organise, publish,
    and share your transcripts
    . They really want to make a better experience for sharing and organising transcripts of meetings.
  4. BAP — Binary Analysis Platform from CMU. Translates binary into assembly and then into an intermediate language which explicitly represents the side effects of assembly instructions, such as flag computations.
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Four short links: 1 October 2014

Four short links: 1 October 2014

Robot Learning, Internet Confidentiality, Bootstrap Material Design, and Bitcoin Adoption

  1. Robotics Has Too Many Dreamers, Needs More Practical People (IEEE) — Grishin said that while looking for business opportunities, he saw too may entrepreneurs proposing cool new robots and concepts but with no business cases to support them. The robotics industry, he added, needs more startups to fail to allow entrepreneurs to learn from past mistakes and come up with more enduring plans. A reminder that first to found rarely correlates to biggest exit.
  2. Fixing the Internet for Confidentiality and Security (Mark Shuttleworth) — Every society, even today’s modern Western society, is prone to abusive governance. We should fear our own darknesses more than we fear others. I like the frame of “confidentiality” vs “privacy”.
  3. Bootstrap Material Design — a material design theme for Bootstrap. Material design (Google’s new design metaphor/language for interactive UIs) is important, to mobile and web what HIG was to MacOS, and it specifically tackles the noisy surprises that are app and web interfaces today.
  4. Simon Wardley on BitcoinWhy I think US will adopt bitcoin … it is currently backed by $284m in venture capital, you’re going to get it whether you like it or not.
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Four short links: 30 September 2014

Four short links: 30 September 2014

Continuous Testing, Programmable Bees, Deep Learning on GPUs, and Silk Road Numbers

  1. Continuously Testing Infrastructure — “infrastructure as code”. I can’t figure out whether what I feel are thrills or chills.
  2. Engineer Sees Big Possibilities in Micro-robots, Including Programmable Bees (National Geographic) — He and fellow researchers devised novel techniques to fabricate, assemble, and manufacture the miniature machines, each with a housefly-size thorax, three-centimeter (1.2-inch) wingspan, and weight of just 80 milligrams (.0028 ounces). The latest prototype rises on a thread-thin tether, flaps its wings 120 times a second, hovers, and flies along preprogrammed paths. (via BoingBoing)
  3. cuDNN — NVIDIA’s library of primitives for deep neural networks (on GPUS, natch). Not open source (registerware).
  4. Analysing Trends in Silk Road 2.0If, indeed every sale can map to a transaction, some vendors are doing huge amounts of business through mail order drugs. While the number is small, if we sum up all the product reviews x product prices, we get a huge number of USD $20,668,330.05. REMEMBER! This is on Silk Road 2.0 with a very small subset of their entire inventory. A peek into a largely invisible economy.
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Four short links: 29 September 2014

Four short links: 29 September 2014

Feedback Surprises, Ownership Changes, Teaching Lessons, and 3D Retail

  1. How Community Feedback Shapes Behaviour (PDF) — Not only do authors of negatively-evaluated content contribute more, but also their future posts are of lower quality, and are perceived by the community as such. Moreover, these authors are more likely to subsequently evaluate their fellow users negatively, percolating these effects through the community. In contrast, positive feedback does not carry similar effects, and neither encourages rewarded authors to write more, nor improves the quality of their posts. Interestingly, the authors that receive no feedback are most likely to leave a community. Furthermore, a structural analysis of the voter network reveals that evaluations polarize the community the most when positive and negative votes are equally split.
  2. When Everything Works Like Your Cell Phone (The Atlantic) — our relationship to ownership is about to undergo a wild transformation.
  3. Teaching Me Softly — article of anecdotes drawing parallels between case studies in machine learning and things we know about human learning.
  4. SuperAwesome Me (3D Print) — Walmart to install 3d scanning booths and 3d printers so you can put your own head on a Hasbro action figure. Hasbro have the religion: they also paired with Shapeways for superfanart.com. (via John Battelle)
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Four short links: 26 September 2014

Four short links: 26 September 2014

Good Communities, AI Games, Design Process, and Web Server Library

  1. 15 Lessons from 15 Years of Blogging (Anil Dash) — If your comments are full of assholes, it’s your fault. Good communities don’t just happen by accident.
  2. Replicating DeepMind — open source attempt to build deep learning network that can play Atari games. (via RoboHub)
  3. ToyTalk — fantastic iterative design process for the product (see the heading “A Bit of Trickery”)
  4. h2oan optimized HTTP server implementation that can be used either as a standalone server or a library.
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