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: 31 October 2014

Four short links: 31 October 2014

Reactive Documents, Emulated Games, Web CAD, and Reviewable Code

  1. Tanglea JavaScript library for creating reactive documents from Bret Victor. (via Tom Armitage)
  2. The Internet Arcade — classic arcade games, emulated in the browser.
  3. Verba CAD library for the web […] a JavaScript library for creating and manipulating NURBS surfaces and curves in the browser or node.js.
  4. Writing Reviewable Code — good advice.
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Four short links: 30 October 2014

Four short links: 30 October 2014

Security and Privacy, ISP Measurement, Github for Education, and Mobile Numbers

  1. A Critique of the Balancing Metaphor in Privacy and SecurityThe arguments presented by this paper are built on two underlying assertions. The first is that the assessment of surveillance measures often entails a judgement of whether any loss in privacy is legitimised by a justifiable increase in security. However, one fundamental difference between privacy and security is that privacy has two attainable end-states (absolute privacy through to the absolute absence of privacy), whereas security has only one attainable end-state (while the absolute absence of security is attainable, absolute security is a desired yet unobtainable goal). The second assertion, which builds upon the first, holds that because absolute security is desirable, new security interventions will continuously be developed, each potentially trading a small measure of privacy for a small rise in security. When assessed individually each intervention may constitute a justifiable trade-off. However, when combined together, these interventions will ultimately reduce privacy to zero. (via Alistair Croll)
  2. ISP Interconnection and its Impact on Consumer Internet Performance (Measurement Lab) — In researching our report, we found clear evidence that interconnection between major U.S. access ISPs (AT&T, Comcast, CenturyLink, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon) and transit ISPs Cogent, Level 3, and potentially XO was correlated directly with degraded consumer performance throughout 2013 and into 2014 (in some cases, ongoing as of publication). Degraded performance was most pronounced during peak use hours, which points to insufficient capacity and congestion as a causal factor. Further, by noting patterns of performance degradation for access/transit ISP pairs that were synchronized across locations, we were able to conclude that in many cases degradation was not the result of major infrastructure failures at any specific point in a network, but rather connected with the business relationships between ISPs.
  3. The Emergence of Github as Collaborative Platform for Education (PDF) — We argue that GitHub can support much of what traditional learning systems do, as well as go beyond them by supporting collaborative activities.
  4. Mobile is Eating the World (A16Z) — mobile becoming truly ubiquitous, bringing opportunities to use the construct “X is eating Y.”
Comment
Four short links: 29 October 2014

Four short links: 29 October 2014

Tweet Parsing, Focus and Money, Challenging Open Data Beliefs, and Exploring ISP Data

  1. TweetNLP — CMU open source natural language parsing tools for making sense of Tweets.
  2. Interview with Google X Life Science’s Head (Medium) — I will have been here two years this March. In nineteen months we have been able to hire more than a hundred scientists to work on this. We’ve been able to build customized labs and get the equipment to make nanoparticles and decorate them and functionalize them. We’ve been able to strike up collaborations with MIT and Stanford and Duke. We’ve been able to initiate protocols and partnerships with companies like Novartis. We’ve been able to initiate trials like the baseline trial. This would be a good decade somewhere else. The power of focus and money.
  3. Schooloscope Open Data Post-MortemThe case of Schooloscope and the wider question of public access to school data challenges the belief that sunlight is the best disinfectant, that government transparency would always lead to better government, better results. It challenges the sentiments that see data as value-neutral and its representation as devoid of politics. In fact, access to school data exposes a sharp contrast between the private interest of the family (best education for my child) and the public interest of the government (best education for all citizens).
  4. M-Lab Observatory — explorable data on the data experience (RTT, upload speed, etc) across different ISPs in different geographies over time.
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Four short links: 28 October 2014

Four short links: 28 October 2014

Continuous Delivery, UX Resources, Large-Screen Cellphone Design, and Scalable Sockets

  1. Build Quality Inan e-book collection of Continuous Delivery and DevOps experience reports from the wild. Work in progress, and a collection of accumulated experience in the new software engineering practices can’t be a bad thing.
  2. UX Directory — collection of awesome UX resources.
  3. Designing for Large-Screen Cellphones (Luke Wroblewski) — 
In his analysis of 1,333 observations of smartphones in use, Steven Hoober found about 75% of people rely on their thumb and 49% rely on a one-handed grip to get things done on their phones. On large screens (over four inches) those kinds of behaviors can stretch people’s thumbs well past their comfort zone as they try to reach controls positioned at the top of their device. Design advice to create interactions that don’t strain tendons or gray matter.
  4. fastsocket (Github) — a highly scalable socket and its underlying networking implementation of Linux kernel. With the straight linear scalability, Fastsocket can provide extremely good performance in multicore machines.
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Four short links: 27 October 2014

Four short links: 27 October 2014

Maker Education, Content Moderators, New Microscopy, and Hardware Emulation in LaTeX

  1. Progressive Education and the Maker Movement (PDF) — Gary Stager paper on how constructivist education (learning happens best via experience) and the Maker movement need each other. (via Paula Hogg)
  2. Content Moderation (Wired) — “content moderators” are the people paid to weed out beheadings, pornography, etc. from photo and video sites. By at least one estimate, the number of content moderators scrubbing the world’s social media sites, mobile apps, and cloud storage services runs to “well over 100,000”—that is, about twice the total head count of Google and nearly 14 times that of Facebook.
  3. Amazing New Microscope (National Geographic) — Lattice light sheet microscopy takes amazing movies, completely with Matrix-can freeze-and-rotate, from the recipient of this year’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
  4. avremu — an AVR (the chip inside the Arduino) emulator written in LaTeX. Yes, LaTeX.
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Four short links: 24 October 2014

Four short links: 24 October 2014

Parallel Algorithm, Open Source Bio, 3D Printed Peptides, and Open London Data

  1. PaGMOParallel Global Multiobjective Optimizer […] a generalization of the island model paradigm working for global and local optimization algorithms. Its main parallelization approach makes use of multiple threads, but MPI is also implemented and can be mixed in with multithreading. PaGMO can be used to solve in a parallel fashion, global optimization tasks.
  2. Avoiding the Tragedy of the Anticommons — Many people talk about “open source biology.” Mike Loukides pulls apart open source and biology to see what the relationship might be. I’m still chewing on what devops for bio would be. Modern software systems throw off gigabytes of data, and we have built tools to monitor those systems, archive their data, and automate much of the analysis. There are free and commercial packages for logging and monitoring, and it continues to be a very active area of software development, as anyone who’s attended O’Reilly’s Velocity conference knows.
  3. peppytides (Makezine) — 3d-printed super accurate, scaled 3D-model of a polypeptide chain that can be folded into all the basic protein structures, like α-helices, β-sheets, and β-turns. (via Lenore Edman)
  4. London Data Store — dashboard and open data catalogue for City of London’s data release efforts.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 23 October 2014

Four short links: 23 October 2014

Hard Javascript, Responsive Progress, Software Experiments, and Facebook Emotions

  1. You Don’t Know JSa series of [CC-licensed] books [to be published by O’Reilly] diving deep into the core mechanisms of the JavaScript language.
  2. progressbar.js — responsive progress bar.
  3. Microsoft Garage — Microsoft software experiments, in public. This is awesome.
  4. Creating Empathy on Facebook (NY Times) — On Facebook, teenagers are presented with more options than just “it’s embarrassing” when they want to remove a post. They are asked what’s happening in the post, how they feel about it and how sad they are. In addition, they are given a text box with a polite pre-written response that can be sent to the friend who hurt their feelings. (In early versions of this feature, only 20 percent of teenagers filled out the form. When Facebook added more descriptive language like “feelings” and “sadness,” the figure grew to 80 percent.)
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Four short links: 22 October 2014

Four short links: 22 October 2014

Docker Patterns, Better Research, Streaming Framework, and Data Science Textbook

  1. Eight Docker Development Patterns (Vidar Hokstad) — patterns for creating repeatable builds that result in as-static-as-possible server environments.
  2. How to Make More Published Research True (PLOSmedicine) — overview of efforts, and research on those efforts, to raise the proportion of published research which is true.
  3. Gearpump — Intel’s “actor-driven streaming framework”, initial benchmarks shows that we can process 2 million messages/second (100 bytes per message) with latency around 30ms on a cluster of 4 nodes.
  4. Foundations of Data Science (PDF) — These notes are a first draft of a book being written by Hopcroft and Kannan [of Microsoft Research] and in many places are incomplete. However, the notes are in good enough shape to prepare lectures for a modern theoretical course in computer science.
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Four short links: 21 October 2014

Four short links: 21 October 2014

Data Delusions, OS Robotics, Insecure Crypto, and Free Icons

  1. The Delusions of Big Data (IEEE) — When you have large amounts of data, your appetite for hypotheses tends to get even larger. And if it’s growing faster than the statistical strength of the data, then many of your inferences are likely to be false. They are likely to be white noise.
  2. ROSCON 2014 — slides and videos of talks from Chicago open source robotics conference.
  3. Making Sure Crypto Stays Insecure (PDF) — Daniel J. Bernstein talk: This talk is actually a thought experiment: how could an attacker manipulate the ecosystem for insecurity?
  4. Material Design Icons — Google’s CC-licensed (attribution, sharealike) collection of sweet, straightforward icons.
Comment
Four short links: 20 October 2014

Four short links: 20 October 2014

Leaky Search, Conditional Javascript, Software Proofs, and Fake Identity

  1. Fix Mac OS Xeach time you start typing in Spotlight (to open an application or search for a file on your computer), your local search terms and location are sent to Apple and third parties (including Microsoft) under default settings on Yosemite (10.10). See also Net Monitor, an open source toolkit for finding phone-home behaviour.
  2. A/B Testing at Netflix (ACM) — Using a combination of static analysis to build a dependency tree, which is then consumed at request time to resolve conditional dependencies, we’re able to build customized payloads for the millions of unique experiences across Netflix.com.
  3. Leslie Lamport Interview SummaryOne idea about formal specifications that Lamport tries to dispel is that they require mathematical capabilities that are not available to programmers: “The mathematics that you need in order to write specifications is a lot simpler than any programming language […] Anyone who can write C code, should have no trouble understanding simple math, because C code is a hell of a lot more complicated than” first-order logic, sets, and functions. When I was at uni, profs worked on distributed data, distributed computation, and formal correctness. We have the first two, but so much flawed software that I can only dream of the third arriving.
  4. Fake Identity — generate fake identity data when testing systems.
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