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: 17 October 2014

Four short links: 17 October 2014

2FA, Copy Image Text, Electric Garbage Trucks, and MSFT's Q

  1. Time to Enable Two-Factor Authentication on Everything (Gizmodo) — instructions for enabling 2fa on Google, Facebook, and other common consumer Internet services. (via BoingBoing)
  2. Project Napthaautomatically applies state-of-the-art computer vision algorithms on every image you see while browsing the web. The result is a seamless and intuitive experience, where you can highlight as well as copy and paste and even edit and translate the text formerly trapped within an image. Chrome extension. (via Anil Dash)
  3. Garbage Trucks and FedEx Vans (IEEE) — Foo alum, Ian Wright, found traction for his electric car biz by selling powertrains for garbage trucks and Fedex vans. Trucks have 20-30y lifetime, but powertrains are replaced several times; the trucks for fleets are custom; and “The average garbage truck in the U.S. spends $55,000 a year on fuel, and up to $30,000 a year on maintenance, mostly brake replacements.”
  4. Microsoft’s Quantum Mechanics (MIT TR) — the race for the “topological qubit”, involving newly-discovered fundamental particles and large technology companies racing to be the first to make something that works.
Comment
Four short links: 16 October 2014

Four short links: 16 October 2014

Eye Catcher, Exoskeleton, Homebrew Cray, and Information Architecture

  1. Eye Catcher (We Make Money Not Art) — the most banal-looking wooden frame takes thus a life of its own as soon as you come near it. It quickly positions itself in front of you, spots your eyes and starts expressing ‘emotions’ based on your own. Eye Catcher uses the arm of an industrial robot, high power magnets, a hidden pinhole camera, ferrofluid and emotion recognition algorithms to explore novel interactive interfaces based on the mimicry and exchange of expressions.
  2. FORTIS Exoskeleton (Lockheed Martin) — transfers loads through the exoskeleton to the ground in standing or kneeling positions and allows operators to use heavy tools as if they were weightless. (via CNN)
  3. Homebrew Cray-1A – fascinating architecture, but also lovely hobby project to build the homebrew. The lack of Cray software archives horrifies the amateur historian in me, though. When I started building this, I thought “Oh, I’ll just swing by the ol’ Internet and find some groovy 70′s-era software to run on it.” It turns out I was wrong. One of the sad things about pre-internet machines (especially ones that were primarily purchased by 3-letter Government agencies) is that practically no software exists for them. After searching the internet exhaustively, I contacted the Computer History Musuem and they didn’t have any either. They also informed me that apparently SGI destroyed Cray’s old software archives before spinning them off again in the late 90′s.
  4. How Do Committees Invent? — 1968 paper that gave us organizations which design systems [...] produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations. That was the 1968 version of the modern “your website’s sitemap is your org chart”.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 15 October 2014

Four short links: 15 October 2014

Recognising Uncertainty, Responsive Screenshots, Rapid Prototyping, and SD Drones

  1. Guidance Note on Uncertainty (PDF) –expert advice to IPCC scientists on identifying, quantifying, and communicating uncertainty. Everyone deals with uncertainty, but none are quite so ruthless in their pursuit of honesty about it as scientists. (via Peter Gluckman)
  2. pageresResponsive website screenshots. (via infovore)
  3. SparkFun Rapid Prototyping Lab — with links to some other expert advice on creative spaces. Some very obvious software parallels, too. E.g., this from Adam Savage’s advice: The right tool for the job – Despite his oft-cited declaration that ‘every tool is a hammer,’ Adam can usually be relied on to geek-out about purpose-built tools. If you’re having trouble learning a new skill, check that you’re using the right tools. The right tool is the one that does the hard work for you. There’s no point in dropping big bucks on tools you’re almost certainly not going to use, but don’t be afraid to buy the cheap version of the snap-setter, or leather punch, or tamper bit before trying to jerry-rig something that will end up making your life harder.
  4. Dudes with Drones (The Atlantic) — ghastly title (“Bros with Bots”, “Bangers with Clangers”, and “Fratboys with Phat Toys” were presumably already taken), interesting article. San Diego is the Palo Alto of drones. Interesting to compare software startups with the hardware crews’ stance on the FAA. “We want them to regulate us,” Maloney says. “We want nothing more than a framework to allow us to continue to operate safely and legally.”
Comment
Four short links: 14 October 2014

Four short links: 14 October 2014

Science Startups, UAV Platform, Distributed vs Scalable, and Multiplayer Spreadsheet

  1. VCs Return to Backing Science Startups (NY Times) — industry and energy investment doubled this year, biotech up 26% in first half, but a lot of the investments are comically small and the risk remains acutely high.
  2. dronecode — Linux Foundation common, shared open source platform for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The platform has been adopted by many of the organizations on the forefront of drone technology, including 3DRobotics, DroneDeploy, HobbyKing, Horizon Ag, PrecisionHawk, Agribotics, and Walkera, among other.
  3. Distributed is Not Necessarily Moe Scalable (Murat Demiras) — well-reasoned and summed up in this tweet by @jamesiry: Some people when faced with a problem think, I know, I’ll use distributed computing. Now they have N^2 problems..
  4. ethersheet — open source collaborative/multiplayer spreadsheet.
Comment
Four short links: 13 October 2014

Four short links: 13 October 2014

Angular Style, Consensus Filters, BASE Banks, and Browser Performance

  1. Angular JS Style Guide — I love style guides, to the point of having posted (I think) three for Angular. Reading other people’s style guides is like listening to them make-up after arguments: you learn what’s important to them, and what they regret.
  2. Consensus Filters — filtering out misreads and other errors to allow all agents, or robots, in the network to arrive at the same value asymptotically by only communicating with their neighbours.
  3. Why Banks are BASE not ACIDConsistency it turns out is not the Holy Grail. What trumps consistency is: Auditing, Risk Management, Availability.
  4. perfmap — front-end performance heatmap.
Comment
Four short links: 10 October 2014

Four short links: 10 October 2014

Evolving Malware, Male Advocates, Every BU is an Internal Startup, and Amazonian Warehouses

  1. Slow Release MalwareProf. Vigna outlined scenarios in which an increasingly sophisticated and opaque breed of malicious executable will evolve to ‘mimic’ the behaviour patterns of benign software, in an attempt to avoid wasting its payload behaviour on a sandbox or virtualised environment. (via Slashdot)
  2. Top 10 Ways to be a Male Advocate — pass to any men in tech that you know.
  3. All Businesses are Now Digital Businesses (Vikram Kumar) — given that your business units are buying their own IT and thus reinventing their own business, How many CEOs and CIOs think of business units acting as tech start-ups?
  4. Amazon Opens First Physical Store (WSJ, paywall) — in NYC, for pickups, returns, exchanges, and same-day delivery of some items from the accompanying warehouse. I’m curious to see what of Amazon’s infrastructure, analytics, and other thin-margin tricks they can bring to substantial physical presence.
Comment
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.
Comment
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.
Comment
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.
Comment
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.
Comment