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: 5 June 2014

Four short links: 5 June 2014

Open Autopilot, Record Robot Sales, NSA Myths Busted, and Informative Errors

  1. beaglepilot (Github) — open source open hardware autopilot for Beagleboard. (via DIY Drones)
  2. IFR Robot Sales Charts (PDF) — 2013: all-time high of 179,000 industrial robots sold and growth continues in 2014. (via Robohub)
  3. The Top 5 Claims That Defenders of the NSA Have to Stop Making to Remain Credible (EFF) — great Mythbusting.
  4. Netflix’s New Error Message — instead of “buffering”, they point the finger at the carrier between them and the customer who is to blame for slow performance. Genius!
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Four short links: 4 June 2014

Four short links: 4 June 2014

Swift on GitHub, HTTP APIs, PGP in Gmail, and Comments vs Community

  1. Swift on GitHub — watch a thousand projects launch.
  2. HTTP API Design Guideextracted from work on the Heroku Platform API.
  3. End-to-End PGP in Gmail — Google releases an open source Chrome extension to enable end-to-end OpenPGP on top of gmail. This is a good thing. As noted FSF developer Ben Franklin wrote: Those who would give up awkward key signing parties to purchase temporary convenience deserve neither.
  4. Close Your Comments; Build Your Community (Annemarie Dooling) — I am rarely sad when a commenting platform collapses, because it usually means the community dissolved long before.
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Four short links: 3 June 2014

Four short links: 3 June 2014

Machine Learning Mistakes, Recommendation Bandits, Droplet Robots, and Plain English

  1. Machine Learning Done Wrong[M]ost practitioners pick the modeling algorithm they are most familiar with rather than pick the one which best suits the data. In this post, I would like to share some common mistakes (the don’t-s).
  2. Bandits for RecommendationsA common problem for internet-based companies is: which piece of content should we display? Google has this problem (which ad to show), Facebook has this problem (which friend’s post to show), and RichRelevance has this problem (which product recommendation to show). Many of the promising solutions come from the study of the multi-armed bandit problem.
  3. Dropletsthe Droplet is almost spherical, can self-right after being poured out of a bucket, and has the hardware capabilities to organize into complex shapes with its neighbors due to accurate range and bearing. Droplets are available open-source and use cheap vibration motors and a 3D printed shell. (via Robohub)
  4. Apple’s App Store Approval Guidelines — some of the plainest English I’ve seen, especially the Introduction. I can only aspire to that clarity. If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.
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Four short links: 2 June 2014

Four short links: 2 June 2014

Filesharing Box, Realised Dystopias, Spam Ecosystem Research, and Technical Interviews

  1. PirateBox 1.0 — turns a wireless router into a filesharing joy. v1.0 has a responsive ui, among other things for use on tablets and phones.
  2. Dystopia Tracker — keep on top of which scifi dystopic predictions have been realised. I’d like filters for incubators, investors, and BigCos so you can see who is investing in dystopia.
  3. The Harvester, the Botmaster, and the Spammer (PDF) — research paper on the spam supply chain.
  4. Technical Interviewing (Moishe Lettvin) — lessons learned from conducting >250 technical interviews at Google. Why do I care? Chances are, your technical interviews suck so you’re hiring poorly.
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Four short links: 30 May 2014

Four short links: 30 May 2014

Video Transparency, Software Traffic, Distributed Database, and Open Source Sustainability

  1. Video Quality Report — transparency is a great way to indirectly exert leverage.
  2. Control Your Traffic Flows with Software — using BGP to balance traffic. Will be interesting to see how the more extreme traffic managers deploy SDN in the data center.
  3. Cockroacha distributed key/value datastore which supports ACID transactional semantics and versioned values as first-class features. The primary design goal is global consistency and survivability, hence the name. Cockroach aims to tolerate disk, machine, rack, and even datacenter failures with minimal latency disruption and no manual intervention. Cockroach nodes are symmetric; a design goal is one binary with minimal configuration and no required auxiliary services.
  4. Linux Foundation Providing for Core Infrastructure Projects — press release, but interested in how they’re tackling sustainability—they’re taking on identifying worthies (glad I’m not the one who says “you’re not worthy” to a project) and being the non-profit conduit for the dosh. Interesting: implies they think the reason companies weren’t supporting necessary open source projects was some combination of being unsure who to support (projects you use, surely?) and how to get them money (ask?). (Sustainability of open source projects is a pet interest of mine)
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Four short links: 29 May 2014

Four short links: 29 May 2014

Modern Software Development, Internet Trends, Software Ethics, and Open Government Data

  1. Beyond the Stack (Mike Loukides) — tools and processes to support software developers who are as massively distributed as the code they build.
  2. Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2014 (PDF) — the changes on slide 34 are interesting: usage moving away from G+/Facebook-style omniblather creepware and towards phonebook-based chat apps.
  3. Introduction to Software Engineering Ethics (PDF) — amazing set of provocative questions and scenarios for software engineers about the decisions they made and consequences of their actions. From a course in ethics from SCU.
  4. Open Government Data Online: Impenetrable (Guardian) — Too much knowledge gets trapped in multi-page pdf files that are slow to download (especially in low-bandwidth areas), costly to print, and unavailable for computer analysis until someone manually or automatically extracts the raw data.
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Four short links: 28 May 2014

Four short links: 28 May 2014

Targeted Breakage, Driverless Cars, BitCoin Bigness, and IoT Approaching

  1. Maciej Ceglowski on Our Internet — If you haven’t already read this because someone pushed it into your hands, read it now. If these vast databases are valuable enough, it doesn’t matter who they belong to. The government will always find a way to query them. Who pays for the servers is just an implementation detail.
  2. Design Changes Possible With Robot Cars (Brad Templeton) — While a nice windshield may be good for visibility for forward-facing passengers, there is no need to have a large unobstructed view for safety. The windshield can be reinforced with bars, for example, allowing it to be much stronger in the case of impacts, notably impacts with animals. Other than for passenger comfort, the windshield barely has to be there at all. On behalf of everyone who has ever driven in Australia at dusk … I for one welcome our new robot chauffeurs. (via The Atlantic)
  3. Bitcoin Set to Overtake Paypal Transaction Volumes“In the next one or two years, Bitcoin can surpass the dollar transaction volumes of other established payment companies including Discover, and even American Express, MasterCard, and Visa,” said SmartMetric CEO Chaya Hendrick. (via Hamish McEwan)
  4. 1 in 5 Americans Has Their Physical Environment on the Internet (Quartz) — One in five adult American internet users already has a device at home that connects the physical environment to the internet, according to a Forrester Research report (paywall) out last week.
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Four short links: 26 May 2014

Four short links: 26 May 2014

Statistical Sensitivity, Scientific Mining, Data Mining Books, and Two-Sided Smartphones

  1. Car Alarms and Smoke Alarms (Slideshare) — how to think about and draw the line between sensitivity and specificity.
  2. 101 Uses for Content Mining — between the list in the post and the comments from readers, it’s a good introduction to some of the value to be obtained from full-text structured and unstructured access to scientific research publications.
  3. 12 Free-as-in-beer Data Mining Books — for your next flight.
  4. Dual-Touch Smartphone Concept — brilliant design sketches for interactivity using the back of the phone as a touch-sensitive input device.
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Four short links: 23 May 2014

Four short links: 23 May 2014

Educate Users, Hardware by the Numbers, Humans Beating Computers, Hadoop's Uncomfortable Fit

  1. How to Educate Users (Luke Wroblewski) — help new users in your app, not in a video.
  2. Hardware By The Numbers (Renee DiResta) — slides from her keynote at the Solid conference. The mean success rate across all sectors is 19.8%. On average, only 10% of hardware startups raise a second round.
  3. Humans Beating Computers (Wired) — Newman assembled a small team that became known as the “Air Divers”–the people who would dive deep into the individual complaints and surface with answers. Each was given a couple hundred support tickets connected to a specific issue that the data had identified as a hot-button topic. They would go off and read through each one, then come back and propose a fix. And in the end, this is what turned the situation around. Sometimes it’s easier to put people on the job than try to code the data analysis.
  4. Hadoop’s Uncomfortable Fit in HPCHadoop is being taken seriously only at a subset of supercomputing facilities in the US, and at a finer granularity, only by a subset of professionals within the HPC community.
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Four short links: 22 May 2014

Four short links: 22 May 2014

Local Clusters, Pancoopticon, Indie Oversupply, and Open Source PDF

  1. Ferryhelps you create big data clusters on your local machine. Define your big data stack using YAML and share your application with Dockerfiles. Ferry supports Hadoop, Cassandra, Spark, GlusterFS, and Open MPI.
  2. What Google Told SECFor example, a few years from now, we and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities. The only thing they make that people want to buy is the ad space around what you’re actually trying to do.
  3. The Indie Bubble is Popping (Jeff Vogel) — gamers’ budgets and the number of hours in the day to play games are not increasing at the rate at which the number of games on the market is increasing.
  4. pdfium — Chrome’s PDF engine, open source.
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