Doing Science on the Web (Alex Russell) — Minimizing harm to the ecosystem from experiments-gone-wrong […] This illustrates what happens when experiments inadvertently become critical infrastructure. It has happened before. Over, and over, and over again. Imma need therapy for the flashbacks. THE HORROR.
Virtual Time (Adrian Colyer) — applying special relativity to distributed systems. Contains lines like: All messages sent explicitly by user programs have a positive (+) sign; their antimessages have a negative (-) sign. Whenever a process sends a message, what actually happens is that a faithful copy of the message is transmitted to the receiver’s input queue, and a negative copy, the antimessage, is retained in the sender’s output queue for use in case the sender rolls back. Curl up with your intoxicant of choice and prepare to see the colour of infinity.
Lessons Learned from Reading Postmortems — (of the software kind) Except in extreme emergencies, risky code changes are basically never simultaneously pushed out to all machines because of the risk of taking down a service company-wide. But it seems that every company has to learn the hard way that seemingly benign config changes can also cause a company-wide service outage.
194 Chinese Robot Companies (Robohub) — Overall, 107 Chinese companies are involved in industrial robotics. Many of these new industrial robot makers are producing products that, because of quality, safety, and design regulations, will only be acceptable to the Chinese market. Many interesting numbers about the Chinese robotics biz.
Surgery Lag Time (ComputerWorld) — doctors trialling very remote surgery (1200 miles) with a simulator, to see what naglag is acceptable. At 200 milliseconds, surgeons could not detect a lag time. From 300 to 500 milliseconds, some surgeons could detect lag time, but they were able to compensate for it by pausing their movement. But at 600 milliseconds, most surgeons became insecure about their ability to perform a procedure, Smith said.
Clippy Lessons (The Atlantic) — focus groups showed women hated it, engineers threw out the data, and after it shipped … It turned out to be one of the most unpopular features ever introduced—especially among female users.
Telegram’s Bot Platform — Bots are simply Telegram accounts operated by software – not people – and they’ll often have AI features. They can do anything – teach, play, search, broadcast, remind, connect, integrate with other services, or even pass commands to the Internet of Things. (via Matt Webb)
New Wave of US Companies in China (Quartz) — Evernote and LinkedIn let the Chinese government access data and censor results. Smith believes that LinkedIn and Evernote are setting a dangerous precedent for other internet firms eying the Middle Kingdom. “More US companies are going to decide that treating the Chinese like second class information citizens is fine,” he says.
MapD: Massive Throughput Database Queries with LLVM and GPUs (nvidia) — The most powerful GPU currently available is the NVIDIA Tesla K80 Accelerator, with up to 8.74 teraflops of compute performance and nearly 500 GB/sec of memory bandwidth. By supporting up to eight of these cards per server, we see orders-of-magnitude better performance on standard data analytics tasks, enabling a user to visually filter and aggregate billions of rows in tens of milliseconds, all without indexing.
Why It’s Often Easier to Innovate in China than the US (Bunnie Huang) — We did some research into the legal frameworks and challenges around absorbing gongkai IP into the Western ecosystem, and we believe we’ve found a path to repatriate some of the IP from gongkai into proper open source.
From Gongkai to Open Source (Bunnie Huang) — The West has a “broadcast” view of IP and ownership: good ideas and innovation are credited to a clearly specified set of authors or inventors, and society pays them a royalty for their initiative and good works. China has a “network” view of IP and ownership: the far-sight necessary to create good ideas and innovations is attained by standing on the shoulders of others, and as such there is a network of people who trade these ideas as favors among each other. In a system with such a loose attitude toward IP, sharing with the network is necessary as tomorrow it could be your friend standing on your shoulders, and you’ll be looking to them for favors. This is unlike the West, where rule of law enables IP to be amassed over a long period of time, creating impenetrable monopoly positions. It’s good for the guys on top, but tough for the upstarts.
Popular Chinese Android Smartphone Backdoored By Manufacturer — Coolpad is the third largest smartphone builder in China, and ranks sixth worldwide with 3.7 percent global market share. It trails only Lenovo and Xiaomi in China and is the leader of China’s 4G market with 16 percent market share. Coolpad outsells Samsung and Apple in China, and has said it plans to expand globally with a goal of 60 million phones worldwide. For now, its high-end Halo Dazen phones are the only ones containing the backdoor, Palo Alto said. Backdoor enabled installation of other apps, dial numbers, send messages, and report back to the mothership. The manufacturer even ran the command-and-control nodes for the malware.
USB Driveby — dongle that plugs into USB, and tries to root the box. Specifically, when you normally plug in a mouse or keyboard into a machine, no authorization is required to begin using them. The devices can simply begin typing and clicking. We exploit this fact by sending arbitrary keystrokes meant to launch specific applications (via Spotlight/Alfred/Quicksilver), permanently evade a local firewall (Little Snitch), install a reverse shell in crontab, and even modify DNS settings without any additional permissions.
Dissent — an anonymous communication substrate intended primarily for applications built on a broadcast communication model: for example, bulletin boards, wikis, auctions, or voting. Users of an online group obtain cryptographic guarantees of sender and receiver anonymity, message integrity, disruption resistance, proportionality, and location hiding. And a pony.
Reith Lectures — this year’s lectures are by Atul Gawande, talking about preventable failure and systemic improvement — topics of particular relevance to devops cultural devotees. (via BoingBoing)
Chinese Mobile App UI Trends — interesting differences between US and China. Phone number authentication interested me: You key in your number and receive a confirmation code via SMS. Here, all apps offer this type of phone number registration/login (if not prefer it). This also applies to websites, even those without apps. (via Matt Webb)
Better All The Time (New Yorker) — What we’re seeing is, in part, the mainstreaming of excellent habits. […] Everyone works hard. Everyone is really good.
Stop Trying to Save the World (New Republic) — What I want to talk shit on is the paradigm of the Big Idea—that once we identify the correct one, we can simply unfurl it on the entire developing world like a picnic blanket. (note: some pottymouth language in this article, and some analysis I wholeheartedly agree with.)
Christmas in Yiwu — We travelled by container ship across the East China Sea before following the electronics supply chain around China, visiting factories, distributors, wholesalers and refineries. Fascinating! 22km of corridors in the mall that dollar store buyers visit to fill their shelves. I had never seen so many variations of the same product. Dozens of Christmas stockings bearing slightly different Santas and snowmen. Small tweaks on each theme. An in-house designer creates these designs. It feels like a brute force approach to design, creating every single possibility and then letting the market decide which it wants to buy. If none of the existing designs appeal to a buyer they can get their own designs manufactured instead. When a custom design is successful, with the customer placing a large order, it is copied by the factory and offered in their range to future buyers. The factory sales agent indicated that designs weren’t protected and could be copied freely, as long as trademarks were removed. Parallels with web design left as exercise to the reader. (via the ever-discerning Mr Webb)
Making Fast-Paced Multiplayer Networked Games is Hard (Gamasutra) — This may all sound like smoke and mirrors because that is exactly what it is – we are just maintaining the illusion the game is playing out in wall clock time even though updates are arriving from the past.
Reactive Manifesto — We believe that a coherent approach to systems architecture is needed, and we believe that all necessary aspects are already recognised individually: we want systems that are Responsive, Resilient, Elastic and Message Driven. We call these Reactive Systems.
Distributed Systems Theory for the Distributed Systems Engineer — I tried to come up with a list of what I consider the basic concepts that are applicable to my every-day job as a distributed systems engineer; what I consider ‘table stakes’ for distributed systems engineers competent enough to design a new system.
Shenzhen Trip Report (Joi Ito) — full of fascinating observations about how the balance of manufacturing strength has shifted in surprising ways. The retail price of the cheapest full featured phone is about $9. Yes. $9. This could not be designed in the US – this could only be designed by engineers with tooling grease under their fingernails who knew the manufacturing equipment inside and out, as well as the state of the art of high-end mobile phones.
Sproutling — The world’s first sensing, learning, predicting baby monitor. A wearable band for your baby, a smart charger and a mobile app work together to not only monitor more effectively but learn and predict your baby’s sleep habits and optimal sleep conditions. (via Wired)
Notes on the Celebrity Data Theft — wonderfully detailed analysis of how photos were lifted, and the underground industry built around them. This was one of the most unsettling aspects of these networks to me – knowing there are people out there who are turning over data on friends in their social networks in exchange for getting a dump of their private data.