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)
A Worm’s Mind in a Lego Body — the c. elegans worm’s 302 neurons has been sequenced, modelled in open source code, and now hooked up to a Lego robot. It is claimed that the robot behaved in ways that are similar to observed C. elegans. Stimulation of the nose stopped forward motion. Touching the anterior and posterior touch sensors made the robot move forward and back accordingly. Stimulating the food sensor made the robot move forward. There is video.
Apollo: Amazon’s Deployment Engine — Apollo will stripe the rolling update to simultaneously deploy to an equivalent number of hosts in each location. This keeps the fleet balanced and maximizes redundancy in the case of any unexpected events. When the fleet scales up to handle higher load, Apollo automatically installs the latest version of the software on the newly added hosts. Lust.
Grasping with Robots: Which Object is in Reach? (Robohub) — This post is part of our ongoing efforts to make the latest papers in robotics accessible to a general audience. … a new approach to build a comprehensive representation of the capabilities of a robot related to reaching and grasping. Very short, very readable, as promised.
Failing at Microservices — deconstructed a failed stab at microservices. Category three engineers also presented a significant problem to our implementation. In many cases, these engineers implemented services incorrectly; in one example, an engineer had literally wrapped and hosted one microservice within another because he didn’t understand how the services were supposed to communicate if they were in separate processes (or on separate machines). These engineers also had a tough time understanding how services should be tested, deployed, and monitored because they were so used to the traditional “throw the service over the fence”to an admin approach to deployment. This basically lead to huge amounts of churn and loss of productivity.
Mesa: Geo-Replicated, Near Real-Time, Scalable Data Warehousing (PDF) — paper by Googlers on the database holding G’s ad data. Trillions of rows, petabytes of data, point queries with 99th percentile latency in the hundreds of milliseconds and overall query throughput of trillions of rows fetched per day, continuous updates on the order of millions of rows updated per second, strong consistency and repeatable query results even if a query involves multiple datacenters, and no SPOF. (via Greg Linden)
Thumbstopping (Salon) — The prime goal of a Facebook ad campaign is to create an ad “so compelling that it would get people to stop scrolling through their news feeds,” reports the Times. This is known, in Facebook land, as a “thumbstopper.” And thus, the great promise of the digitial revolution is realized: The best minds of our generation are obsessed with manipulating the movement of your thumb on a smartphone touch-screen.
Microsoft’s Development Practices (Ars Technica) — they get the devops religion but call it “combined engineering”. They get the idea of shared code bases, but call it “open source”. At least when they got the agile religion, they called it that. Check out the horror story of where they started: a two-year development process in which only about four months would be spent writing new code. Twice as long would be spent fixing that code. MSFT’s waterfall was the equivalent of American football, where there’s 11 minutes of actual play in the average 3h 12m game.
HP’s IoT Security Research (PDF) — 70% of devices use unencrypted network services, 90% of devices collected at least one piece of personal information, 60% of those that have UIs are vulnerable to things like XSS, 60% didn’t use encryption when downloading software updates, …
USB Security Flawed From Foundation (Wired) — The element of Nohl and Lell’s research that elevates it above the average theoretical threat is the notion that the infection can travel both from computer to USB and vice versa. Any time a USB stick is plugged into a computer, its firmware could be reprogrammed by malware on that PC, with no easy way for the USB device’s owner to detect it. And likewise, any USB device could silently infect a user’s computer. “It goes both ways,” Nohl says. “Nobody can trust anybody.” […] “In this new way of thinking, you can’t trust a USB just because its storage doesn’t contain a virus. Trust must come from the fact that no one malicious has ever touched it,” says Nohl. “You have to consider a USB infected and throw it away as soon as it touches a non-trusted computer. And that’s incompatible with how we use USB devices right now.”
AdBlock vs AdBlock Plus — short answer: the genuinely open source AdBlock Plus, because AdBlock resiled from being open source, phones home, has misleading changelog entries, …. No longer trustworthy.
Why is StackOverflow So Negative of Late? — my current theory is that social activities (sites, events, etc.) are journeys for cohorts. Newcomers don’t get as much from it, and the original cohort don’t enjoy newcomers. Social sites tend to rock at first until They arrive and ruin it for all. cf Burning Man. Newcomers will have to start their own site/event, but if they never get critical mass of the A-grade people who joined the first wave, their own event may fail.
Behavioural Economics and Public Policy (Financial Times) — interesting how A/B trials revealed that implementations of Cialdini’s social proof didn’t test as well as non-social-proof persuasive techniques. More useful than something that claims to be the right answer is knowing when you’re closer to the right answer. (via Mind Hacks)
Halide Language — open source programming language designed to make it easier to write high-performance image processing code on modern machines. Its current front end is embedded in C++. Compiler targets include x86/SSE, ARM v7/NEON, CUDA, Native Client, and OpenCL.
Meet the People Making New Games for Old Hardware — “We’re all fighting for the same goal,” Cobb says. “There’s something artistic, and disciplined, about creating games for machines with limited hardware. You can’t pass off bloat as content, and you can’t drop in a licensed album in place of a hand-crafted digital soundtrack. To make something great you have to work hard, and straight from the heart. That’s what a lot of gamers still wish to see. And we’re happy to provide it for them.”
DeepFace: Closing the Gap to Human-Level Performance in Face Verification — Facebook research into using deep neural networks for face recognition. Our method reaches an accuracy of 97.25% on the Labeled Faces in the Wild (LFW) dataset, reducing the error of the current state of the art by more than 25%, closely approaching human-level performance. “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.” —Jeff Hammerbacher.
Helsinki Does Uber for Buses — Helsinki’s Kutsuplus lets you select your pick-up and drop-off locations and times, using a phone app, and then sends out a bus to take you exactly where you need to go.