choir.io explained (Alex Dong) — Sound is the perfect medium for wearable computers to talk back to us. Sound has a dozen of properties that we can tune to convey different level of emotions and intrusivenesses. Different sound packs would fit into various contexts.
Identity Single Point of Failure (Tim Bray) — continuing his excellent series on federated identity. There’s this guy here at Google, Eric Sachs, who’s been doing Identity stuff in the white-hot center of the Internet universe for a lot of years. One of his mantras is “If you’re typing a password into something, unless they have 100+ full-time engineers working on security and abuse and fraud, you should be nervous.” I think he’s right.
What Does It Really Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us Online? (The Atlantic) — Rather, the failures will come in the form of consumers being systematically charged more than they would have been had less information about that particular consumer. Sometimes, that will mean exploiting people who are not of a particular class, say upcharging men for flowers if a computer recognizes that that he’s looking for flowers the day after his anniversary. A summary of Ryan Calo’s paper. (via Slashdot)
Life Inside Brewster’s Magnificent Contraption (Jason Scott) — I’ve been really busy. Checking my upload statistics, here’s what I’ve added to the Internet Archive: Over 169,000 individual objects, totaling 245 terabytes. You should subscribe and keep them in business. I did.
The Datacenter as Computer — we must treat the datacenter itself as one massive warehouse-scale computer (WSC). We describe the architecture of WSCs, the main factors influencing their design, operation, and cost structure, and the characteristics of their software base. We hope it will be useful to architects and programmers of today’s WSCs, as well as those of future many-core platforms which may one day implement the equivalent of today’s WSCs on a single board. (via Mike Loukides)
Illegal Downloads Not Erased By Simultaneous Release — Data gathered by TorrentFreak throughout the day reveals that most early downloaders, a massive 16.1%, come from Australia. Down Under the show aired on the pay TV network Foxtel, but it appears that many Aussies prefer to download a copy instead. The same is true for the United States and Canada, with 16% and 9.6% of the total downloads respectively, despite the legal offerings. Unclear whether this represents greater or less downloading than would have happened without simultaneous release.
geogit — opengeo project exploring the use of distributed management of spatial data. [...] adapts [git's] core concepts to handle versioning of geospatial data. Shapefiles, PostGIS or SpatiaLite data stored in a change-tracking repository, with all the fun gut features for branching history, merging, remote/local repos, etc. BSD-licensed. First sound attempt at open source data management.
Introducing Loupe — Etsy’s monitoring stack. It consists of two parts: Skyline and Oculus. We first use Skyline to detect anomalous metrics. Then, we search for that metric in Oculus, to see if any other metrics look similar. At that point, we can make an informed diagnosis and hopefully fix the problem.
Soundbite — dialogue search for Apple’s Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro. Boris Soundbite quickly and accurately finds any word or phrase spoken in recorded media. Shoot squirrels with computer vision, search audio with computer hearing. We live in the future, people. (via Andy Baio)
Why Finish Books? (NY Review of Books) — the more bad books you finish, the fewer good ones you”ll have time to start. Applying this to the rest of life is left as an exercise for the reader.
Dark Sky (Kickstarter) — hyperlocal hyper-realtime weather prediction. Uses radar imagery to figure out what’s going on around you, then tells you what the weather will be like for the next 30-60 minutes. Clever use of data plus software.
Solitude and Leadership — an amazing essay on the value of managing one’s information diet. Far more than yet another Carr/Morozov “the Internet is making us dumb!!” hate on short-form content, this is an eloquent exposition of the need for long-form thoughts. I find for myself that my first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the conventional wisdom. It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come into play, that I arrive at an original idea. By giving my brain a chance to make associations, draw connections, take me by surprise. And often even that idea doesn’t turn out to be very good. I need time to think about it, too, to make mistakes and recognize them, to make false starts and correct them, to outlast my impulses, to defeat my desire to declare the job done and move on to the next thing. (via Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011)
Building The Perfect Data Repository (Cameron Neylon) — in which Cameron talks about solving problems for the people with the data. One of the problems with many efforts in this space is how they are conceived and sold as the user. “Making it easy to put your data on the web” and “helping others to find your data” solve problems that most researchers don’t think they have. [...] A successful data repository system will start by solving a different problem, a problem that all researchers recognize they have”
Macaulay on Copyright — periodically someone rediscovers how the the 1841 debate on copyright mirrors our own, but that it was discovered before does not mean it is not worth reading again. At present the holder of copyright has the public feeling on his side. Those who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men.[...] Pass this law: and that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot.
ALAC — Apple Lossless Audio Codec is now open source by Apple.
The Email Game — game mechanics to get you answering email more efficiently. Can’t wait to hear that conversation with corporate IT. “You want us to install what on the Exchange server?” (via Demo Day Wrapup)
Stratified B-trees and versioning dictionaries — A classic versioned data structure in storage and computer science is the copy-on-write (CoW) B-tree — it underlies many of today’s file systems and databases, including WAFL, ZFS, Btrfs and more. Unfortunately, it doesn’t inherit the B-tree’s optimality properties; it has poor space utilization, cannot offer fast updates, and relies on random IO to scale. Yet, nothing better has been developed since. We describe the `stratified B-tree’, which beats all known semi-external memory versioned B-trees, including the CoW B-tree. In particular, it is the first versioned dictionary to achieve optimal tradeoffs between space, query and update performance. (via Bob Ippolito)
DisplayCabinet (Ben Bashford) — We embedded a group of inanimate ornamental objects with RFID tags. Totems or avatars that represent either people, products or services. We also added RFID tags to a set of house keys and a wallet. Functional things that you carry with you. This group of objects combine with a set of shelves containing a hidden projector and RFID reader to become DisplayCabinet. (via Chris Heathcote)
shairport — Aussie pulled the encryption keys from an Airport Express device, so now you can have software pretend to be an Airport Express.
Arranging Things: The Rhetoric of Object Placement (Amazon) — [...] the underlying principles that govern how Western designers arrange things in three-dimensional compositions. Inspired by Greek and Roman notions of rhetoric [...] Koren elucidates the elements of arranging rhetoric that all designers instinctively use in everything from floral compositions to interior decorating. (via Elaine Wherry)
2010 Mario AI Championship — three tracks: Gameplay, Learning, and Level Generation. Found via Ben Weber’s account of his Level Generation entry. My submission utilizes a multi-pass approach to level generation in which the system iterates through the level several times, placing different types of objects during each pass. During each pass through the level, a subset of each object type has a specific probability of being added to the level. The result is a computationally efficient approach to generating a large space of randomized levels.
Wave in a Box — Google to flesh out existing open source Wave client and server into full “Wave in a Box” app status.
Free as in Smokescreen (Mike Shaver) — H.264, one of the ways video can be delivered in HTML5, is covered by patents. This prevents Mozilla from shipping an H.264 player, which fragments web video. The MPEG LA group who manage the patents for H.264 did a great piece of PR bullshit, saying “this will be permanently royalty-free to consumers”. This, in turn, triggered a wave of gleeful “yay, now we can use H.264!” around the web. Mike Shaver from Mozilla points out that the problem was never that users might be charged, but rather that the software producer would be charged. The situation today is just as it was last week: open source can’t touch H.264 without inviting a patent lawsuit.