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: 23 July 2014

Four short links: 23 July 2014

Selfless Machines, Docker Security, Voice Hacks, and Choiceless Programming

  1. Talking to Big Machines (Jon Bruner) — “Selfless machines” coordinate across networks and modify their own operation to improve the output of the entire system.
  2. Docker SecurityContainers do not contain and Stop assuming that Docker and the Linux kernel protect you from malware.
  3. Your Voice Assistant is Mine (PDF) — Through Android Intent mechanism, VoicEmployer triggers Google Voice Search to the foreground, and then plays prepared audio files (like “call number 1234 5678”) in the background. Google Voice Search can recognize this voice command and execute corresponding operations. With ingenious designs, our GVS-Attack can forge SMS/Email, access privacy information, transmit sensitive data and achieve remote control without any permission.
  4. escher (GitHub) — choiceless programming and non-Turing coding. Mind: blown.
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Four short links: 22 July 2014

Four short links: 22 July 2014

English lint, Scalable Replicated Datastore, There's People in my Software, and Sci-Fi for Ethics

  1. write-gooda naive `lint’ for English prose.
  2. cockroachdba scalable, geo-replicated, transactional datastore from a team that includes the person who built Spanner for Google. Spanner requires atomic clocks, cockroach does not (which has corresponding performance consequences). (via Wired)
  3. The Deep Convergence of Networks, Software, and Peopleas we wire up our digital products increasingly with interconnected networks, their nature is increasingly a product of the responses that come back from those networks. The experience cannot be wholly represented in mock prototypes that are coded to respond in predictable ways, or even using a set of preset random responses. The power of the application is seeing the emergent behaviour of the system, and recognizing that you are a participant in that emergent behaviour. (via Tim O’Reilly)
  4. An Ethics Class for Inventors, via Sci-Fi“Reading science fiction is kind of like ethics class for inventors,” says Brueckner. Traditionally, technology schools ask ‘how do we build it?’ This class asks a different question: ‘should we?’
Comments: 2
Four short links: 21 July 2014

Four short links: 21 July 2014

Numenta Code, Soccer Robotics, Security Data Science, Open Wireless Router

  1. nupic (github) -GPL v3-licensed ode from Numenta, at last. See their patent position.
  2. Robocup — soccer robotics contest, condition of entry is that all codes are open sourced after the contest. (via The Economist)
  3. Security Data Science Paper Collection — machine learning, big data, analysis, reports, all around security issues.
  4. Building an Open Wireless Router — EFF call for coders to help build a wireless router that’s more secure and more supportive of open sharing than current devices.

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Four short links: 18 July 2014

Four short links: 18 July 2014

Design Reviews, Gaudy Palette, Web Components, and Creative Coding

  1. Questions to Ask when Reviewing a Design (GDS) — GDS made stickers, but I might just put this in poster form on the wall. They missed, “can you make it pop?” though.
  2. Saturated — wonderfully unsubdued web palette for prototyping. Nobody will ask “can you make it pop?” with this colour scheme.
  3. Component Kitchen — and customelements are both catalogues of web components.
  4. Summer Immersive 2014 (GitHub) — curriculum and materials for a ten week program devoted to learning the art of creative coding. (via Shawn Allen)
Comment: 1
Four short links: 17 July 2014

Four short links: 17 July 2014

Software Ethics, Learning Challenges, Workplace Harassment, and Logging for Postmortems

  1. Misjudgements Will Drive Social Trials Underground (Nature) — 34 ethicists write to explain why they see Facebook’s mood-influence trials as not an egregious breach of either ethics or law. Notable: No one knows whether exposure to a stream of baby announcements, job promotions and humble brags makes Facebook’s one billion users sadder or happier. The exposure is a social experiment in which users become guinea pigs, but the effects will not be known unless they are studied.[...] But the extreme response to this study, some of which seems to have been made without full understanding of what it entailed or what legal and ethical standards require, could result in such research being done in secret or not at all. Compare wisdom of the ethicists to wisdom of the crowd. (via Kate Crawford)
  2. Problem-Free Activity in the Mathematics Classroom (PDF) — interesting not just for the bland crap work we make kids do, but for the summary of five types of need that stimulate learning: for certainty (“which of the two is right?”), for causality (“did X cause Y?”, “what will happen next?”), for computation (“how much will it cost?”, “how long will it take?”), for communication and persuasion (“it’s more fun when we work on this together”, “let me show you why I’m right!”), and for connection and structuring (“that can’t be right, it goes against all I know!”, “ah, that makes sense because …”). (via Kathy Sierra)
  3. Survey of Academic Field Experiences (PLoSone) — Our survey revealed that conducting research in the field exposes scientists to a number of negative experiences as targets and as bystanders. The experiences described by our respondents ranged from inadvertent alienating behavior, to unwanted verbal and physical sexual advances, to, most troublingly, sexual assault including rape. is immediately followed by These proportions of respondents experiencing harassment are generally consistent with other studies of workplace harassment in other professional settings. This will change when men’s behaviour and expectations change. Male readers, do your part: don’t harass and don’t tolerate it. This message brought to you from future generations who will wonder how the hell we turned a blind eye to it.
  4. sentry (github) — a realtime, platform-agnostic error logging and aggregation platform. It specializes in monitoring errors and extracting all the information needed to do a proper post-mortem without any of the hassle of the standard user feedback loop.
Comment
Four short links: 16 July 2014

Four short links: 16 July 2014

Distributed Systems Design 101, Patent Trolls, Intel's Half a Billion from IoT, and Google's Project Zero.

  1. Inside bit.ly’s Distributed Systems — this is a 101 for modern web distributed systems design.
  2. Patent Trolls are Now 67% of New Patent Lawsuits in USA (WaPo) — data from PwC.
  3. Intel Made Half a Billion from Internet of Things Last Year (Quartz) — half a billion here, half a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.
  4. Google’s Project Zero (Wired) — G pays a team to attack common software and report the bugs to the manufacturer. Interesting hypothesis about how the numbers inbalance between Every Russian 14 Year Old and this small team doesn’t matter: modern hacker exploits often chain together a series of hackable flaws to defeat a computer’s defenses. Kill one of those bugs and the entire exploit fails. That means Project Zero may be able to nix entire collections of exploits by finding and patching flaws in a small part of an operating system, like the “sandbox” that’s meant to limit an application’s access to the rest of the computer. ”On certain attack surfaces, we’re optimistic we can fix the bugs faster than they’re being introduced,” Hawkes says. “If you funnel your research into these limited areas, you increase the chances of bug collisions.”
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Four short links: 15 July 2014

Four short links: 15 July 2014

Data Brokers, Car Data, Pattern Classification, and Hogwild Deep Learning

  1. Inside Data Brokers — very readable explanation of the data brokers and how their information is used to track advertising effectiveness.
  2. Elon, I Want My Data! — Telsa don’t give you access to the data that your cars collects. Bodes poorly for the Internet of Sealed Boxes. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Pattern Classification (Github) — collection of tutorials and examples for solving and understanding machine learning and pattern classification tasks.
  4. HOGWILD! (PDF) — the algorithm that Microsoft credit with the success of their Adam deep learning system.
Comment
Four short links: 14 July 2014

Four short links: 14 July 2014

Scanner Malware, Cognitive Biases, Deep Learning, and Community Metrics

  1. Handheld Scanners Attack — shipping and logistics operations compromised by handheld scanners running malware-infested Windows XP.
  2. Adventures in Cognitive Biases (MIT) — web adventure to build your cognitive defences against biases.
  3. Quoc Le’s Lectures on Deep Learning — Machine Learning Summer School videos (4k!) of the deep learning lectures by Google Brain team member Quoc Le.
  4. FLOSS Community Metrics Talks — upcoming event at Puppet Labs in Portland. I hope they publish slides and video!
Comment: 1
Four short links: 11 July 2014

Four short links: 11 July 2014

Curated Code, Hackable Browser, IoT Should Be Open, and Better Treemaps

  1. Awesome Awesomeness — list of curated collections of frameworks and libraries in various languages that do not suck. They solve the problem of “so, I’m new to (language) and don’t want to kiss a lot of frogs before I find the right tool for a particular task”.
  2. Breach — a hackable, modular web browser.
  3. The CompuServe of Things (Phil Windley) — How we build the Internet of Things has far-reaching consequences for the humans who will use—or be used by—it. Will we push forward, connecting things using forests of silos that are reminiscent the online services of the 1980’s, or will we learn the lessons of the Internet and build a true Internet of Things? (via Cory Doctorow)
  4. FoamTree — nifty treemap layouts and animations, in Javascript. (via Flowing Data)
Comment: 1
Four short links: 10 July 2014

Four short links: 10 July 2014

Journalism Security, Inclusive Technology, Network Magic, and Python Anti-Patterns

  1. Ex-Google Hacker Taking On The World’s Spy Agencies (Wired) — profile of the security expert working on protecting reporters.
  2. Meet Google’s Security Princess (Elle) — would have preferred to see her story in Wired. Much is good here, but this is pithy and strong: “If you have ambitions to create technology for the whole world, you need to represent the whole world, and the whole world is not just white men.”
  3. snabb switch — open source Linux userspace executable for making network appliances. Processes millions of ethernet packets per second per core. Suitable for ISPs. Speaks natively to Ethernet hardware, Hypervisors, and the Linux kernel. You can program it with LuaJIT extensions to do anything you want.
  4. Anti-Patterns in Python Programming — gold.
Comment: 1