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 September 2014

Four short links: 3 September 2014

Distributed Systems Theory, Chinese Manufacturing, Quantified Infant, and Celebrity Data Theft

  1. Distributed Systems Theory for the Distributed Systems EngineerI tried to come up with a list of what I consider the basic concepts that are applicable to my every-day job as a distributed systems engineer; what I consider ‘table stakes’ for distributed systems engineers competent enough to design a new system.
  2. Shenzhen Trip Report (Joi Ito) — full of fascinating observations about how the balance of manufacturing strength has shifted in surprising ways. The retail price of the cheapest full featured phone is about $9. Yes. $9. This could not be designed in the US – this could only be designed by engineers with tooling grease under their fingernails who knew the manufacturing equipment inside and out, as well as the state of the art of high-end mobile phones.
  3. SproutlingThe world’s first sensing, learning, predicting baby monitor. A wearable band for your baby, a smart charger and a mobile app work together to not only monitor more effectively but learn and predict your baby’s sleep habits and optimal sleep conditions. (via Wired)
  4. Notes on the Celebrity Data Theft — wonderfully detailed analysis of how photos were lifted, and the underground industry built around them. This was one of the most unsettling aspects of these networks to me – knowing there are people out there who are turning over data on friends in their social networks in exchange for getting a dump of their private data.
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Four short links: 2 September 2014

Four short links: 2 September 2014

Antilogs, Waitbots, Interactive Interactive Visualisation Book, IoTbot

  1. AntilogsThere are companies before you who have done something like you want to do that you can copy from, and others who have also done something similar, but that you choose not to copy from. These are your analogs and antilogs respectively.
  2. Korean Meal-Transport Robot (RoboHub) — the hyphen is important. It transports all meals, not just Korean ones. Interesting not only grammatically, but for the gradual arrival of the service robot.
  3. Interactive Data Visualisation for the Web — online (interactive, even) version of the O’Reilly book by Scott Murray.
  4. wit.aiNatural language processing for the Internet of Things. Startup, racing to build strategic value beyond “have brought voice recognition to irc bots and aimed it at Internet of Things investors.”
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Four short links: 1 September 2014

Four short links: 1 September 2014

Sibyl, Bitrot, Estimation, and ssh

  1. Sibyl: Google’s System for Large Scale Machine Learning (YouTube) — keynote at DSN2014 acting as an intro to Sibyl. (via KD Nuggets)
  2. Bitrot from 1997That’s 205 failures, an actual link rot figure of 91%, not 57%. That leaves only 21 URLs as 200 OK and containing effectively the same content.
  3. What We Do And Don’t Know About Software Effort Estimation — nice rundown of research in the field.
  4. fabric — simple yet powerful ssh library for Python.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 29 August 2014

Four short links: 29 August 2014

Delivery Drones, Database Readings, Digital Govt, and GitHub Reviews

  1. Inside Google’s Secret Drone Delivery Program (The Atlantic) — passed proof-of-concept in Western Australia, two years into development.
  2. Readings in DatabasesA list of papers essential to understanding databases and building new data systems. (via Hacker News)
  3. Todd Park Recruiting for Govt Digital Corps (Wired) — “America needs you!” he said to the crowd. “Not a year from now! But Right. The. Fuck. Now!”
  4. Review Ninjaa lightweight code review tool that works with GitHub, providing a more structured way to use pull requests for code review. ReviewNinja dispenses with elaborate voting systems, and supports hassle-free committing and merging for acceptable changes.
Comments: 2
Four short links: 28 August 2014

Four short links: 28 August 2014

Visual Python, Scraping and Screenshotting, Un-free Speech, IP Law Textbook

  1. PlotDeviceA Python-based graphics language for designers, developers, and tinkerers. More in the easy-to-get-started + visual realm, like Processing. (via Andy Baio)
  2. Scumblr and Sketchy Search — Netflix open sourcing some scraping, screenshot, and workflow tools their security team uses to monitor discussion of themselves.
  3. Should Twitter, Facebook and Google Executives be the Arbiters of What We See and Read? (Glenn Greenwald) — In the digital age, we are nearing the point where an idea banished by Twitter, Facebook and Google all but vanishes from public discourse entirely, and that is only going to become more true as those companies grow even further. Whatever else is true, the implications of having those companies make lists of permitted and prohibited ideas are far more significant than when ordinary private companies do the same thing.
  4. Intellectual Property: Law and the Information Society; Cases and Materials (PDF) — James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins’ open law textbook on IP (which even explores the question of whether that’s a valid and meaningful term). (via James Boyle)
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Four short links: 27 August 2014

Four short links: 27 August 2014

Discourse 1.0, Programmable Matter, Versioned Databases, and What Humans Learned About Machine Learning

  1. Discourse turns 1.0 — community/forum software that doesn’t suck.
  2. Programmable Matter (IEEE Spectrum) — recap of where research is going in this area.
  3. Liquibasesource control for your database. Apache 2.0 licensed.
  4. A Few Useful Things to Know About Machine Learning (PDF) — This article summarizes twelve key lessons that machine learning researchers and practitioners have learned. These include pitfalls to avoid, important issues to focus on, and answers to common questions. My fave: First-timers are often surprised by how little time in a machine learning project is spent actually doing machine learning. But it makes sense if you consider how time-consuming it is to gather data, integrate it, clean it and pre-process it, and how much trial and error can go into feature design.
Comments: 2
Four short links: 26 August 2014

Four short links: 26 August 2014

Public Exploit Construction, Robot Myths, Empathy, and Social Scaling

  1. The Poisoned NUL Byte, 2014 Edition (Project Zero) — from Google’s public security efforts, this detailed public description of how an exploit was constructed from a found vulnerability. They’re helping. Kudos!
  2. Myths About the Coming Robot Economy (Eric Sofge) — the entire discussion of the so-called robot economy, with its predictions of vast, permanent employment rates and glacial productivity gains, is nothing more than a wild guess. A strong pushback on the Pew Report (PDF): Frey and Osborne’s analysis is full of logical leaps, and far-reaching conclusions drawn from cursory observations about robots that have yet to replace humans.
  3. Content for Sensitive Situations (Luke Wroblewski) — People have all kinds of feelings when interacting with your content. When someone’s needs are being met they may feel very different then when their needs are not being met. How can you meet people’s needs?
  4. Urban Villages (Senseable City at MIT) — People who live in a larger town make more calls and call a larger number of different people. The scaling of this relation is ‘superlinear,’ meaning that on average, if the size of a town doubles, the sum of phone contacts in the city will more than double – in a mathematically predictable way. Surprisingly, however, group clustering (the odds that your friends mutually know one another) does not change with city size. It seems that even in large cities we tend to build tightly knit communities, or ‘villages,’ around ourselves. There is an important difference, though: if in a real village our connections might simply be defined by proximity, in a large city we can elect a community based on any number of factors, from affinity to interest to sexual preference. (via Flowing Data)
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Four short links: 25 August 2014

Four short links: 25 August 2014

Digital Signs, Reverse Engineering Censorship, USB Protection, and Queue Software

  1. Greenscreen — Chromecast-based open source software for digital signs.
  2. Reverse Engineering Censorship in Chinese Cyberspace (PDF) — researchers create accounts and probe to see which things are blocked. Empirical transparency.
  3. USB CondomA protective barrier between your device and “juice-jacking” hackers.
  4. queues.io — long list of job queues, message queues, and other such implementations.
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Four short links: 22 August 2014

Four short links: 22 August 2014

Crowd Problems, Robot Butler, Opportunistic Encryption, and A/B Framework

  1. Blame the Crowd, Not the Camera (Nina Simon) — Cameras weaponize an already unwieldy mob of people.
  2. The Botlr — the Cupertino Starwood hotel has a robot butler (botlr) doing room service.
  3. tcpcrypt — opportunistic encryption of all network traffic.
  4. Sixpack — language-agnostic A/B testing framework.
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Four short links: 21 August 2014

Four short links: 21 August 2014

Open Data Glue, Smithsonian Crowdsourcing, MIT Family Creativity, and Hardware Owie

  1. Datan open source project that provides a streaming interface between every file format and data storage backend. See the Wired piece on it.
  2. Smithsonian Crowdsourcing Transcription (Smithsonian) — 49 volunteers transcribed 200 pages of correspondence between the Monuments Men in a week. Soon it’ll be mathematics test questions: “if 49 people transcribe 200 pages in 7 days, how many weeks will it take …”
  3. MIT Guide to Family CompSci SessionsThis guide is for educators, community center staff, and volunteers interested in engaging their young people and their families to become designers and inventors in their community.
  4. What to Do When You Screw up 2,000 Orders (SparkFun) — even hardware companies need to do retrospectives.
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