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 October 2015

### Cloud Passports, Better Python Notebooks, Slippery Telcos, and Python Data Journalism

1. Australia Floating the Idea of Cloud PassportsUnder a cloud passport, a traveller’s identity and biometrics data would be stored in a cloud, so passengers would no longer need to carry their passports and risk having them lost or stolen. That sound you hear is Taylor Swift on Security, quoting “Wildest Dreams” into her vodka and Tang: “I can see the end as it begins.” This article is also notable for The idea of cloud passports is the result of a hipster-style-hackathon.
2. Jupyter — Python Notebooks that allows you to create and share documents that contain live code, equations, visualizations, and explanatory text. Uses include: data cleaning and transformation, numerical simulation, statistical modeling, machine learning, and much more.
3. Telcos $24B Business In Your DataUnder the radar, Verizon, Sprint, Telefonica, and other carriers have partnered with firms including SAP, IBM, HP, and AirSage to manage, package, and sell various levels of data to marketers and other clients. It’s all part of a push by the world’s largest phone operators to counteract diminishing subscriber growth through new business ventures that tap into the data that showers from consumers’ mobile Web surfing, text messaging, and phone calls. Even if you do pay for it, you’re still the product. 4. Introducing Agate — a Python data analysis library designed to be useable by non-data-scientists, so leads to readable and predictable code. Target market: data journalists. ## Four short links: 28 October 2015 ### DRM-Breaking Broken, IT Failures, Social Graph Search, and Dataviz Interview 1. Librarian of Congress Grants Limited DRM-Breaking Rights (Cory Doctorow) — The Copyright Office said you will be able to defeat locks on your car’s electronics, provided: You wait a year first (the power to impose waiting times on exemptions at these hearings is not anywhere in the statute, is without precedent, and has no basis in law); You only look at systems that do not interact with your car’s entertainment system (meaning that car makers can simply merge the CAN bus and the entertainment system and get around the rule altogether); Your mechanic does not break into your car — only you are allowed to do so. The whole analysis is worth reading—this is not a happy middle-ground; it’s a mess. And remember: there are plenty of countries without even these exemptions. 2. Lessons from a Decade of IT Failures (IEEE Spectrum) — full of cautionary tales like, Note: No one has an authoritative set of financials on ECSS. That was made clear in the U.S. Senate investigation report, which expressed frustration and outrage that the Air Force couldn’t tell it what was spent on what, when it was spent, nor even what ECSS had planned to spend over time. Scary stories to tell children at night. 3. Unicorn: A System for Searching the Social Graph (Facebook) — we describe the data model and query language supported by Unicorn, which is an online, in-memory social graph-aware indexing system designed to search trillions of edges between tens of billions of users and entities on thousands of commodity servers. Unicorn is based on standard concepts in information retrieval, but it includes features to promote results with good social proximity. It also supports queries that require multiple round-trips to leaves in order to retrieve objects that are more than one edge away from source nodes. 4. Alberto Cairo InterviewSo, what really matters to me is not the intention of the visualization – whether you created it to deceive or with the best of intentions; what matters is the result: if the public is informed or the public is misled. In terms of ethics, I am a consequentialist – meaning that what matters to me ethically is the consequences of our actions, not so much the intentions of our actions. ## Four short links: 27 October 2015 ### Learning Neural Nets, Medium's Stack, Bacterial Materials, and Drone Data 1. What a Deep Neural Net Thinks of Your Selfie — really easy to understand explanation of covolutional neural nets (the tech behind image recognition). No CS required. 2. Medium’s Stack — interesting use of Protocol Buffers: We help our people work with data by treating the schemas as the spec, rigorously documenting messages and fields and publishing generated documentation from the .proto files. 3. Bacterial Materials (Wired UK) — Showing a prototype worn by dancers, Yao demonstrated how bacteria-powered clothing can respond to the body’s needs. She has, in effect, created living clothes, ones that react in real time to heat and sweat mapping with tiny vents that would curl open or flatten closed as exertion levels demanded. 4. Robots to the Rescue (NSF) — one 20-minute drone flight generated upwards of 800 photographs, each of which took at least one minute to inspect. This article is five lessons learned in the field of disaster robotics, and they’re all doozies. ## Four short links: 26 October 2015 ### Dataflow Computers, Data Set Explorer, Design Brief, and Coping with Uncertainty 1. Dataflow Computers: Their History and Future (PDF) — entry from 2008 Wiley Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Engineering. 2. Mirador — open source tool for visual exploration of complex data sets. It enables users to discover correlation patterns and derive new hypotheses from the data. 3. How 23AndMe Got Regulatory Approval Back (Fast Company) — In order to meet FDA requirements, the design team had to prove that the reports provided on the website would be comprehensible to any American consumer, regardless of their background or education level. And you thought YOUR design brief was hard. 4. Getting Comfortable with Uncertainty (The Atlantic) — We have this natural distaste for things that are unfamiliar to us, things that are ambiguous. It goes up from situational stressors, on an individual level and a group level. And we’re stuck with it simply because we have to be ambiguity-reducers. ## Four short links: 23 October 2015 ### Data Science, Temporal Graph, Biomedical Superstars, and VR Primer 1. 50 Years of Data Science (PDF) — Because all of science itself will soon become data that can be mined, the imminent revolution in Data Science is not about mere “scaling up,” but instead the emergence of scientific studies of data analysis science-wide. 2. badwolfa temporal graph store from Google. 3. Why Biomedical Superstars are Signing on with Google (Nature) — “To go all the way from foundational first principles to execution of vision was the initial draw, and that’s what has continued to keep me here.” Research to retail, at Google scale. 4. VR Basics — intro to terminology and hardware in the next gen of hardware, in case you’re late to the goldrush^w exciting field. ## Four short links: 22 October 2015 ### Predicting activity, systems replacement fail, Khan React style, and an interoperability system for the Web 1. Predicting Daily Activities from Egocentric Images Using Deep LearningOur technique achieves an overall accuracy of 83.07% in predicting a person’s activity [from images taken by a camera worn all day by a person] across the 19 activity classes. 2. Trying to Replace Multiple Systems with One Can Lead to None (IEEE) — check out that final graph, it’s a doozy. It’s a graph of x against time, from various “this project is great, it will replace x systems with 1″ claims about a single project. Software projects should come with giant warning labels: “most fail, you are about to set your money on fire. Are you sure? [Y/N/Abort/Restart]” 3. Khan React Style Guide — in case you’re dipping your toes into the cool kids’ pool. 4. ballistaAn interoperability system for the modern Web. Like intents. ## Four short links: 21 October 2015 ### Technology Ideals, Saying No, Future Things, and a Sweet Article Format 1. How Will We Live?we tend to imbue technology with the ideals of the people who have created it, and the messages of those who market it. However, creators and marketeers only ever set the affordances and suggest a use case. A technology’s true impact will always be defined by those who use it. Whether that’s knitting groups or fascist regimes, technology becomes an amplifier and accelerator of the social, cultural, and political values of the groups who use it, not those who made it. And it will continue to be used in ways you can never imagine. 2. Fortunate People Say No (Ian Bogost) — you have to say ‘yes’ for a long while before you can earn the right to say ‘no.’ Even then, you usually can’t say ‘no’ at whim. By the time you can say ‘no’ indiscriminately, then you’re already so super-privileged that being able to say ‘no’ is not a prerequisite of success, but a result of it. (via Austin Kleon) (via Cory Doctorow) 3. The Thing From The Future (Stuart Candy) — a game for creating thought-provoking artifacts from the future. Design fiction idea generator, in other words. 4. Sweet Article Format — big lede with shortcuts to relevant sections. As Courtney says, “while I don’t know what I’d use this for, I like it.” (via Courtney Johnston) ## Four short links: 20 October 2015 ### HyperCam, half-arsed software development, perceptions of productivity, John McCarthy's conditional expressions 1. HyperCam (PDF) — paper from Ubicomp 2015 on a low-cost implementation of a multispectral camera and a software approach that automatically analyzes the scene and provides a user with an optimal set of images that try to capture the salient information of the scene. Can see ripeness of fruit, and veins in hands. 2. Manifesto for Half-Arsed Software DevelopmentResponding to change over following a plan … provided a detailed plan is in place to respond to the change, and it is followed precisely. 3. Software Developers’ Perceptions of ProductivityIn both studies, we found that developers perceive their days as productive when they complete many or big tasks without significant interruptions or context switches. Yet, the observational data we collected shows our participants performed significant task and activity switching while still feeling productive. (via Never Work in Theory) 4. The Language of ChoiceIn the ’50s John McCarthy invented conditional expressions. Utility computing, AI, Lisp, and now what I know as C’s ?: syntax. His legend lives on. ## Four short links: 19 October 2015 ### Academic Robot Kit, Countertop Biolab, Generous Interfaces, and Universal Design 1. Open Academic Robot KitA common set of parts, specifications, and software to catalyse the design, construction, dissemination, and re-use of robots in an academic and research environment. (via Robohub) 2. Amino: Desktop Bioengineering for Everyone (Indiegogo) — a counter-top sized biolab that enables anyone to grow living cells to create new and interesting things – like fragrances, flavours, materials, medicine, and more. 3. Generous Interfaces for Digital Cultural Collections (Mitchell Whitelaw) — Decades of digitisation have made a wealth of digital cultural material available online. Yet search — the dominant interface to these collections — is incapable of representing this abundance. Search is ungenerous: it withholds information, and demands a query. This paper argues for a more generous alternative: rich, browsable interfaces that reveal the scale and complexity of digital heritage collections. (via Courtney Johnston) 4. The Universal Design (Christine Dodrill) — there need to be five basic primitives in your application: State – What is true now? What was true? What happened in the past? What is the persistent view of the world? Events – What is being changed? How will it be routed? Policy – Can a given event be promoted into a series of actions? Actions – What is the outcome of the policy? Mechanism – How should an event be taken in and an action put out? […] All you need is a command queue feeding into a thread pool which feeds out into a transaction queue which modifies state. And with that you can explain everything from VMWare to Google. ## Four short links: 16 October 2015 ### Tesla Update, Final Feltron, Mined Medicine, and Dodgy Drone Program 1. Tesla’s Cars Drive Themselves, Kinda (Wired) — over-the-air software update just made existing cars massively more awesome. Sometimes knowing how they did it doesn’t make it feel any less like magic. 2. Felton’s Last Report — ten years of quantified self. See Fast Company for more. 3. Spinal Cord Injury Breakthrough by SoftwareThis wasn’t the result of a new, long-term study, but a meta-analysis of$60 million worth of basic research written off as useless 20 years ago by a team of neuroscientists and statisticians led by the University of California San Francisco and partnering with the software firm Ayasdi, using mathematical and machine learning techniques that hadn’t been invented yet when the trials took place.
4. The Assassination Complex (The Intercept) — America’s drone program’s weaknesses highlighted in new document dump: Taken together, the secret documents lead to the conclusion that Washington’s 14-year high-value targeting campaign suffers from an overreliance on signals intelligence, an apparently incalculable civilian toll, and — due to a preference for assassination rather than capture — an inability to extract potentially valuable intelligence from terror suspects.