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.
Buzz: An Extensible Programming Language for Self-Organizing Heterogeneous Robot Swarms (arXiv) — Swarm-based primitives allow for the dynamic management of robot teams, and for sharing information globally across the swarm. Self-organization stems from the completely decentralized mechanisms upon which the Buzz run-time platform is based. The language can be extended to add new primitives (thus supporting heterogeneous robot swarms), and its run-time platform is designed to be laid on top of other frameworks, such as Robot Operating System.
Visualising GoogleNet Classes — fascinating to see squirrel monkeys and basset hounds emerge from nothing. It’s so tempting to say, “this is what the machine sees in its mind when it thinks of basset hounds,” even though Boring Brain says, “that’s bollocks and you know it!”
A Sort of Joy — MOMA’s catalogue was released under CC license, and has even been used to create new art. The performance is probably NSFW at your work without headphones on, but is hilarious. Which I never thought I’d say about a derivative work of a museum catalogue. (via Courtney Johnston)
Japanese Telcos vie for Consumer Robot-as-a-Service Business (Robohub) — NTT says Sota will be deployed in seniors’ homes as early as next March, and can be connected to medical devices to help monitor health conditions. This plays well with Japanese policy to develop and promote technological solutions to its aging population crisis.
Amazon Launchpad — a showcase for new hardware startups, who might well be worried about Amazon’s “watch what sells and sell a generic version of it” business model.
Challenges to Adopting Stronger Consistency at Scale (PDF) — It is not obvious that a system that trades stronger consistency for increased latency or reduced availability would be a net benefit to people using Facebook, especially when compared against a weakly consistent system that resolves many inconsistencies with ad hoc mechanisms.
The White House’s Alpha Geeks — Megan Smith for President. I realize now there’s two things we techies should do — one is go where there are lots of us, like MIT or Silicon Valley or whatever, because you can move really fast and do extraordinary things. The other is, go where you’re rare. … It’s almost like you’re a frog in boiling water; you don’t really realize how un-diverse it is until you’re in a normal diverse American innovative community like the President’s team. And then you go back and you’re like, wow. You feel, “Man, this industry is so awesome and yet we’re missing all of this talent.”
John Horton Conway (The Guardian) — These were two separate areas of study that Conway had arrived at by two different paths. So, there’s no reason for them to be linked. But somehow, through the force of his personality, and the intensity of his passion, he bent the mathematical universe to his will. Fascinating profile, taken from a new book.
MIT Self-Assembly Lab — multi-material 3D/4D printing, advances in materials science, and new capabilities in simulation/optimization software […] made it possible to fully program a wide range of materials to change shape, appearance, or other property, on demand.
Large-scale Cluster Management at Google with Borg — Google’s Borg system is a cluster manager that runs hundreds of thousands of jobs, from many thousands of different applications, across a number of clusters, each with up to tens of thousands of machines. […] We present a summary of the Borg system architecture and features, important design decisions, a quantitative analysis of some of its policy decisions, and a qualitative examination of lessons learned from a decade of operational experience with it.
Georgia Sues Carl Malamud (TechDirt) — for copyright infringement… for publishing an official annotated copy of the state's laws. […] the state points directly to the annotated version as the official laws of the state.
A New Artificial Compound Eye (Robohub) — three hexagonal photodetectors arranged in a triangular shape, underneath a single lens. These photodetectors work together and combine perceived changes in structured light (optic flow) to present a 3D image that shows what is moving in the scene, and in which direction the movement is happening.
Google’s Defensive Patent Initiative (TechCrunch) — good article, despite TechCrunch origin. Two-tiered program: give away groups of patents to startups with $500k-$20M in revenue, and sell patents to startups.
Bosun — an open-source, MIT licensed, monitoring and alerting system by Stack Exchange.
The Rise of Computer-Aided Explanation (Michael Nielsen) — Hod Lipson of Columbia University. Lipson and his collaborators have developed algorithms that, when given a raw data set describing observations of a mechanical system, will actually work backward to infer the “laws of nature” underlying those data. (Paper)
The Future of Open Source (Allison Randal) — Inexperienced companies can cause a great deal of harm as they blunder around blindly in a collaborative project, throwing resources in ways that ultimately benefit no one, not even themselves. It is in our best interest as a community to actively engage with companies and teach them how to participate effectively, how to succeed at free software and open source. Their success feeds the success of free software and open source, which feeds the self-reinforcing cycle of accelerating software innovation.
Puppet Labs’ State of DevOps Report (PDF) — Westrum’s model gives us the language to define and measure culture. Perhaps most interesting, Westrum’s model also predicts IT performance. This shows that information flow isn’t just essential to safety, it’s also a critical success factor for rapidly building and evolving resilient systems at scale.
Speed as a Habit — You don’t have to be militant about it, just consistently respond that today is better than tomorrow, that right now is better than six hours from now. This is chock full of good advice, and the occasional good story.
Punctuated Equilibrium in the Large-Scale Evolution of Programming Languages (PDF) — Here we study the large-scale historical development of programming languages, which have deeply marked social and technological advances in the last half century. We analyse their historical connections using network theory and reconstructed phylogenetic networks. Using both data analysis and network modeling, it is shown that their evolution is highly uneven, marked by innovation events where new languages are created out of improved combinations of different structural components belonging to previous languages. These radiation events occur in a bursty pattern and are tied to novel technological and social niches. The method can be extrapolated to other systems and consistently captures the major classes of languages and the widespread horizontal design exchanges, revealing a punctuated evolutionary path. (via Jarkko Hietaniemi)
Web Design: The First 100 Years (Maciej Ceglowski) — There’s a William Gibson quote that Tim O’Reilly likes to repeat: “the future is here; it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” O’Reilly takes this to mean that if we surround ourselves with the right people, it can give us a sneak peek at coming attractions. I like to interpret this quote differently, as a call to action. Rather than waiting passively for technology to change the world, let’s see how much we can do with what we already have. Let’s reclaim the Web from technologists who tell us that the future they’ve imagined is inevitable, and that our role in it is as consumers.
The Scammy Underground World of Kindle eBooks — The biggest issue here isn’t that scammers are raking in cash from low-quality content; it’s that Amazon is allowing this to happen. Publisher brand value is the reliable expectation that buyers have of the book quality. Amazon’s publishing arm is spending the good brand value built by its distribution arm.
Empire — a 12-factor-compatible, Docker-based container cluster built on top of Amazon’s robust EC2 Container Service (ECS), complete with a full-featured command line interface. Open source.
Spam Under Half of Email (PDF) — Symantec report: There is good news this month on the email-based front of the threat landscape. According to our metrics, the overall spam rate has dropped to 49.7%. This is the first time this rate has fallen below 50% of email for over a decade. The last time Symantec recorded a similar spam rate was clear back in September of 2003.
Dropdowns Should be the UI of Last Resort (Luke Wroblewski) — Well-designed forms make use of the most appropriate input control for each question they ask. Sometimes that’s a stepper, a radio group, or even a dropdown menu. But because they are hard to navigate, hide options by default, don’t support hierarchies, and only enable selection not editing, dropdowns shouldn’t be the first UI control you reach for. In today’s software designs, they often are. So instead, consider other input controls first and save the dropdown as a last resort.
Another Look at Provable Security — In our time, one of the dominant paradigms in cryptographic research goes by the name “provable security.” This is the notion that the best (or, some would say, the only) way to have confidence in the security of a cryptographic protocol is to have a mathematically rigorous theorem that establishes some sort of guarantee of security (defined in a suitable way) under certain conditions and given certain assumptions. The purpose of this website is to encourage the emergence of a more skeptical and less credulous attitude toward this notion and to contribute to a process of critical analysis of the positive and negative features of the “provable security” paradigm.
Pig (github) — a Linux packet crafting tool. You can use Pig to test your IDS/IPS among other stuffs.