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: 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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Four short links: 25 September 2014

Four short links: 25 September 2014

Elevation Data, Soft Robots, Clean Data, and Security Souk

  1. NGA Releases Hi-Res Elevation Data — 30-meter topographic data for the world.
  2. Soft Roboticsa collection of shared resources to support the design, fabrication, modeling, characterization, and control of soft robotic devices. From Harvard.
  3. OpenGovIn many domains, it’s not so much about “big data” yet as it is about “clean data.”
  4. Mitnick’s Zero-Day Exploit Shop — marketplace connecting “corporate and government” buyers and sellers of zero-day exploits. Claims to vet buyers. Another hidden economy becoming public.
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Four short links: 24 September 2014

Four short links: 24 September 2014

Platform Instrumentation, Subtle Lessons, Evidence-Based Scheduling, and Alternative World Views

  1. Introducing Heroku DX — instrumentation is now a must-have for platforms.
  2. Practical Lessons in Code Review — for every “gosh you should do this!” practice, I’m fascinated by the myriad “it just works better if you approach it like this” hard-earned lessons that lie between “let’s do code reviews” and actual success doing code reviews.
  3. Evidence-Based Scheduling — most delightful is the way in which interruptions don’t need to be time tracked, because they just fall out.
  4. Tech’s Tunnel Vision (Phil Gyford) — The default worldview of the tech industry feels constraining rather than liberating, and restricts the kinds of technology, ideas, and problems that we think about. There are alternative viewpoints, even if they’re hard to imagine. The challenge would be to make it a productive conference rather than simply hand-wringing.
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Four short links: 23 September 2014

Four short links: 23 September 2014

Alibubble, Reactive Manifesto, Lovely Logs, and Learning Design

  1. Thoughts on the Alibaba BubbleAlibaba is an offering that encourages the kind of negative Wall Street behavior none of us really want to see happen again. (via Tim O’Reilly)
  2. Reactive ManifestoWe believe that a coherent approach to systems architecture is needed, and we believe that all necessary aspects are already recognised individually: we want systems that are Responsive, Resilient, Elastic and Message Driven. We call these Reactive Systems.
  3. The Log: What Every Software Engineer Should Know About Real-time Data’s Unifying Abstraction (LinkedIn) — You can reduce the problem of making multiple machines all do the same thing to the problem of implementing a distributed consistent log to feed these processes input. The purpose of the log here is to squeeze all the non-determinism out of the input stream to ensure that each replica processing this input stays in sync.
  4. Method of Actiona collection of tools, games and articles to help you learn design.
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Four short links: 22 September 2014

Four short links: 22 September 2014

OS X Javascript, Social Key Party, E-Fail, and Microservices Testing

  1. Significance of Javascript For OS X Scripting — not just for shell scripting-type automation, now you can build Cocoa applications with Javascript. This is huge.
  2. keybase.io — social media as trust vector.
  3. I Banned E-Mail At My CompanyEmail should not be used to share information. Especially if that information is a resource that might be useful again in the future.
  4. Building Microservices at KarmaThe biggest challenge with microservices is testing. With a regular web application, an end-to-end test is easy: just click somewhere on the website, and see what changes in the database. But in our case, actions and eventual results are so far from another that it’s difficult to see exact cause and effect. A problem might bubble up from a chain, but where in the chain did it go wrong? It’s something we still haven’t solved.
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