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 March 2014

Four short links: 17 March 2014

Wireframe Quiz, Business Values, Mobile Dev, and the Bad Guy Mindset

  1. De-Design the Web — quiz, can you recognise common websites from just their wireframes? For the non-designer (like myself) it’s a potent reminder of the power of design. Design’s front of mind as we chew on the Internet of Affordances. (via USvsTHEM)
  2. Words I Hold Dear (Slideshare) — short but effective presentation on values in business. If you are confident that you can bear responsibility, and will not do anything immoral, illegal, or unethical, then it is not too hard to choose the path that promises the most adventure.
  3. Android Development for iOS Devs — in case you had forgotten that developing for multiple mobile platforms is like a case of fire-breathing butt warts. (not good)
  4. The World Through the Eyes of Hackers (PDF) — I’ve long thought that the real problem is that schools trains subordinates to meet expectations and think like a Nice Person, but defence is only possible when you know how to break expectations and think like a Bad Guy.
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Four short links: 14 March 2014

Four short links: 14 March 2014

Facebook Criticism, New Games, Face Recognition, and Public Uber

  1. The Facebook experiment has failed. Let’s go backFacebook gets worse the more you use it. The innovation within Facebook happens within a framework that’s taken as given. This essay questions that frame, well.
  2. Meet the People Making New Games for Old Hardware“We’re all fighting for the same goal,” Cobb says. “There’s something artistic, and disciplined, about creating games for machines with limited hardware. You can’t pass off bloat as content, and you can’t drop in a licensed album in place of a hand-crafted digital soundtrack. To make something great you have to work hard, and straight from the heart. That’s what a lot of gamers still wish to see. And we’re happy to provide it for them.”
  3. DeepFace: Closing the Gap to Human-Level Performance in Face Verification — Facebook research into using deep neural networks for face recognition. Our method reaches an accuracy of 97.25% on the Labeled Faces in the Wild (LFW) dataset, reducing the error of the current state of the art by more than 25%, closely approaching human-level performance. “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.” —Jeff Hammerbacher.
  4. Helsinki Does Uber for BusesHelsinki’s Kutsuplus lets you select your pick-up and drop-off locations and times, using a phone app, and then sends out a bus to take you exactly where you need to go.
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Four short links: 13 March 2014

Four short links: 13 March 2014

Parallel Programming, Malignant Computation, Politicised GDS, and Data Stream Toolkit

  1. Is Parallel Programming Hard? And, If So, What Can You Do About It? — book by Paul E. McKenney, on single-machine multi-CPU parallel programming.
  2. Malignant ComputationThe bitcoin mining network would work just as well if it had far less computation devoted to it. Bitcoins would be mined at exactly the same rate if 1/2 or 1/4 of the computational resources were devoted. This means that bitcoin has incentivized a tremendous amount of computational busy work.
  3. GDS Becomes Political (Computer Weekly) — She [Opposition MP] said that digital should not be about imposing a way of working on the public sector – Labour is not fond of the “digital by default” mantra – but about supporting public service delivery. [...] “When this government decided upon the digitalisation of this [online job search] service they apparently did not take into account those with poor literacy skills, mental health issues or learning difficulties – who, as most people would have predicted, make up a higher-than-average proportion of the unemployed.”
  4. streamtools (Github) — a graphical toolkit for dealing with streams of data. Streamtools makes it easy to explore, analyse, modify and learn from streams of data. (via OpenNews)
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Four short links: 12 March 2014

Four short links: 12 March 2014

Web Past, Web Future, Automated Jerkholism, and Science Education

  1. High Volume Web Sites — Tim Berners-Lee answers my question on provisioning a popular web server in 1993. The info.cern.ch server which has the Subject Catalogue gets probably a relatively high usage, about 10k requests a day, or (thinks…) one every 9 seconds. the CPU load is negligible. In fact of course the peak rate is higher, but still its not really a factor. That was when the server forked a subprocess for each request, too. See also one of my early contributions to the nascent field of web operations (language alert).
  2. Tim Berners-Lee Calls For Web Magna Carta (Guardian) — Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture. It’s not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it.
  3. BroAppAutomatically message your girlfriend sweet things so you can spend more time with the Bros. Reminds me of the Electric Monk in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. The monk notices that humans have machines to watch TV for them. Now we have machines to be shitty boyfriends for us. (via Beta Knowledge)
  4. World Science U — quick answers, short courses, long MOOCs. I wonder how you’d know whether this was effective at increasing scientific literacy, and therefore whether it’d be worth doing for computational thought or programming.
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The Story I’ll Tell at the Web’s 25th Birthday Party

I’ve known the Web a long time. We go way back. Past Web 2.0 and Ajax, past DHTML, past tables, past cgi.pl, past Plexus, back to HTTP/0.9 and the NCSA daemon and the line mode client. Back then we didn’t have megabytes of Javascript loading for each page, no templated framework generators building our CSS from…
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Four short links: 11 March 2014

Four short links: 11 March 2014

Game Analysis, Brave New (Disney)World, Internet of Deadly Things, and Engagement vs Sharing

  1. In-Game Graph Analysis (The Economist) — one MLB team has bought a Cray Ulrika graph-processing appliance for in-game analysis of data. Please hold, boggling. (via Courtney Nash)
  2. Disney Bets $1B on Technology (BusinessWeek) — MyMagic+ promises far more radical change. It’s a sweeping reservation and ride planning system that allows for bookings months in advance on a website or smartphone app. Bracelets called MagicBands, which link electronically to an encrypted database of visitor information, serve as admission tickets, hotel keys, and credit or debit cards; a tap against a sensor pays for food or trinkets. The bands have radio frequency identification (RFID) chips—which critics derisively call spychips because of their ability to monitor people and things. (via Jim Stogdill)
  3. Stupid Smart Stuff (Don Norman) — In the airplane, the pilots are not attending, but when trouble does arise, the extremely well-trained pilots have several minutes to respond. In the automobile, when trouble arises, the ill-trained drivers will have one or two seconds to respond. Automobile designers – and law makers – have ignored this information.
  4. What You Think You Know About the Web Is WrongChartbeat looked at deep user behavior across 2 billion visits across the web over the course of a month and found that most people who click don’t read. In fact, a stunning 55% spent fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page. The stats get a little better if you filter purely for article pages, but even then one in every three visitors spend less than 15 seconds reading articles they land on. The entire article makes some powerful points about the difference between what’s engaged with and what’s shared. Articles that were clicked on and engaged with tended to be actual news. In August, the best performers were Obamacare, Edward Snowden, Syria and George Zimmerman, while in January the debates around Woody Allen and Richard Sherman dominated. The most clicked on but least deeply engaged-with articles had topics that were more generic. In August, the worst performers included Top, Best, Biggest, Fictional etc while in January the worst performers included Hairstyles, Positions, Nude and, for some reason, Virginia. That’s data for you.
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Four short links: 10 March 2014

Four short links: 10 March 2014

Wolfram Language, Historic Innovation, SF Culture Wars, and Privacy's Death

  1. Wolfram Language — a broad attempt to integrate types, operations, and databases along with deployment, parallelism, and real-time I/O. The demo video is impressive, not just in execution but in ambition. Healthy skepticism still necessary.
  2. Maury, Innovation, and Change (Cory Ondrejka) — amazing historical story of open data, analysis, visualisation, and change. In the mid-1800’s, over the course of 15 years, a disabled Lieutenant changed the US Navy and the world. He did it by finding space to maneuver (as a trouble maker exiled to the Navy Depot), demonstrating value with his early publications, and creating a massive network effect by establishing the Naval Observatory as the clearing house for Navigational data. 150 years before Web 2.0, he built a valuable service around common APIs and aggregated data by distributing it freely to the people who needed it.
  3. Commuter Shuttle and 21-Hayes EB Bus Stop Observations (Vimeo) — timelapse of 6:15AM to 9:15AM at an SF bus stop Worth watching if you’re outside SF and wondering what they’re talking about when the locals rage against SF becoming a bedroom community for Valley workers.
  4. A Day of Speaking Truth to Power (Quinn Norton) — It was a room that had written off privacy as an archaic structure. I tried to push back, not only by pointing out this was the opening days of networked life, and so custom hadn’t caught up yet, but also by recommending danah boyd’s new book It’s Complicated repeatedly. To claim “people trade privacy for free email therefore privacy is dead” is like 1800s sweatshop owners claiming “people trade long hours in unpleasant conditions for miserable pay therefore human rights are dead”. Report of privacy’s death are greatly exaggerated.
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Four short links: 7 March 2014

Four short links: 7 March 2014

Distributed Javascript, Inclusion, Geek's Shenzhen Tourguide, Bitcautionary Tales

  1. Coalescecommunication framework for distributed JavaScript. Looking for important unsolved problems in computer science? Reusable tools for distributed anything.
  2. Where Do All The Women Go?Inclusion of at least one woman among the conveners increased the proportion of female speakers by 72% compared with those convened by men alone.
  3. The Ultimate Electronics Hobbyists Guide to Shenzhen — by OSCON legend and Kiwi Foo alum, Jon Oxer.
  4. Bitcoin’s Uncomfortable Similarity to Some Shady Episodes in Financial History (Casey Research) — Bitcoin itself need serious work if it is to find a place in that movement long term. It lacks community governance, certification, accountability, regulatory tension, and insurance—all of which are necessary for a currency to be successful in the long run. (via Jim Stogdill)
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Four short links: 6 March 2014

Four short links: 6 March 2014

Repoveillance, Mobiveillance, Discovery and Orchestration, and Video Analysis

  1. Repo Surveillance NetworkAn automated reader attached to the spotter car takes a picture of every ­license plate it passes and sends it to a company in Texas that already has more than 1.8 billion plate scans from vehicles across the country.
  2. Mobile Companies Work Big DataMeanwhile companies are taking different approaches to user consent. Orange collects data for its Flux Vision data product from French mobile users without offering a way for them to opt-out, as does Telefonica’s equivalent service. Verizon told customers in 2011 it could use their data and now includes 100 million retail mobile customers by default, though they can opt out online.
  3. Serfdoma decentralised solution for service discovery and orchestration that is lightweight, highly available, and fault tolerant.
  4. Longomatcha free video analysis software for sport analysts with unlimited possibilities: Record, Tag, Review, Draw, Edit Videos and much more! (via Mark Osborne)
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Four short links: 5 March 2014

Four short links: 5 March 2014

Cheap Gesture Sensor, Ignorance as Strength, Android Malware Resistance, and Security Talks

  1. $1 Gesture-Recognizing Device (GigaOm) — the AllSee is the size of a quarter, harvests RF for power, and detects the variations in signal strength caused by gestures.
  2. A Conversation with Sydney BrennerThe thing is to have no discipline at all. Biology got its main success by the importation of physicists that came into the field not knowing any biology and I think today that’s very important. I strongly believe that the only way to encourage innovation is to give it to the young. The young have a great advantage in that they are ignorant. Because I think ignorance in science is very important. If you’re like me and you know too much you can’t try new things. I always work in fields of which I’m totally ignorant.
  3. Android Almost Impenetrable to Malware — multiple layers of defence, including signatures of known-bad systems found in the wild, necessary to retain an “open” marketplace vs Apple’s lock-down.
  4. TrustyCon (YouTube) — video of the speakers at the conference that was set up by speakers who withdrew from the RSA conference. (via BoingBoing)
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