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: 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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Four short links: 21 May 2014

Four short links: 21 May 2014

Funnel Tool, Security Tools, Inside Mac Malware, and Everything is Broken

  1. EventHub — open source funnel/cohort/a-b analysis tool.
  2. Mantra — a collection of free/open source security tools, integrated into a browser (Firefox or Chromium).
  3. Reverse Engineering Mac Malware (PDF) — fascinating to see how it’s shipped, bundled, packaged, and distributed.
  4. Everything is Broken (Quinn Norton) — Computers have gotten incredibly complex, while people have remained the same gray mud with pretensions of Godhood. Today’s required read, because everything is broken and it’s the defining characteristic of this age of software. We have built computers in our image: our cancerous STD-addled diabetic alcoholic lead-sniffing telomere-decaying bacteria- and virus-addled image.
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Four short links: 20 May 2014

Four short links: 20 May 2014

Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Sewing Machines & 3D Printers, and Smart Spoons

  1. Basics of Machine Learning Course Notes — slides and audio from university course. Watch along on YouTube.
  2. A Primer on Deep Learning — a very quick catch-up on WTF this is all about.
  3. 3D Printers Have a Lot to Learn from Sewing MachinesSewing does not create more waste but, potentially, less, and the process of sewing is filled with opportunities for increasing one’s skills and doing it over as well as doing it yourself. What are quilts, after all, but a clever way to use every last scrap of precious fabric? (via Jenn Webb)
  4. Liftware — Parkinson’s-correcting spoons.
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Four short links: 19 May 2014

Four short links: 19 May 2014

Surveillance Devices, Economic Apologies, Logo Trends, and Block Chain API

  1. Your Coffee Machine is Watching You (Mary Beard) — the future of surveillance isn’t more CCTV cameras, it’s every device ratting you out, all the time.
  2. Economics of Apologiesapologies work to restore relationships but are costly for the apologiser.
  3. Logo TrendsDimension and detail are necessarily removed so that these logos read properly on mobile screens. Designs have become more and more flat. Surfaces are plain and defined by mono-weight lines. Great examples.
  4. Chainthe Block Chain API for developers.
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Four short links: 16 May 2014

Four short links: 16 May 2014

Winter of Security, Javascript Unit Tests, Better/Beta Banks, and Quantified Parent

  1. Mozilla’s Winter of SecurityStudents who have to perform a semester project as part of their university curriculum can apply to one of the MWOS project. Projects are guided by a Mozilla Adviser, and a University Professor. Students are graded by their University, based on success criteria identified at the beginning of the project. Mozilla Advisers allocate up to 2 hours each week to their students, typically on video-conference, to discuss progress and roadblocks.
  2. Jestpainless Javascript unit testing.
  3. New Ways to Pay Your Bills (The Economist) — roundup of new payment systems that are challenging the definition and value of “bank”.
  4. The Difference a Data Point Makes — the change in the new parent’s life, as seen in personal data. Awesome.
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