- The Internet Arcade — classic arcade games, emulated in the browser.
- Writing Reviewable Code — good advice.
Fanout Architectures, In-Browser Emulation, Paean to Programmability, and Social Hardware
- Achieving Rapid Response Times in Large Online Services (PDF) — slides from a talk by Jeff Dean on fanout architectures. (via Alex Dong)
- Go Ahead, Mess with Texas Instruments (The Atlantic) — School typically assumes that answers fall neatly into categories of “right” and “wrong.” As a conventional tool for computing “right” answers, calculators often legitimize this idea; the calculator solves problems, gives answers. But once an endorsed, conventional calculator becomes a subversive, programmable computer it destabilizes this polarity. Programming undermines the distinction between “right” and “wrong” by emphasizing the fluidity between the two. In programming, there is no “right” answer. Sure, a program might not compile or run, but making it offers multiple pathways to success, many of which are only discovered through a series of generative failures. Programming does not reify “rightness;” instead, it orients the programmer toward intentional reading, debugging, and refining of language to ensure clarity.
- When A Spouse Puts On Google Glass (NY Times) — Google Glass made me realize how comparably social mobile phones are. […] People gather around phones to watch YouTube videos or look at a funny tweet together or jointly analyze a text from a friend. With Glass, there was no such sharing.
- Blending Machines and Humans to Get Very High Accuracy (Greg Linden) — use experts to train the models, provide tools for experts to correct mistakes in the classifiers, and constantly evaluate all aspects of the system. This augmentation of human ability with computers lets us tackle problems that can’t be solved by computers alone.
- Electrical Efficiency of Computation (The Atlantic) — If a MacBook Air were as efficient as a 1991 computer, the battery would last 2.5 seconds. Cites research concluding that computations per kWh have doubled every 1.6 years since the 1940s. (via Hacker News)
- recoll — open source tool to make searchable the text buried in your computer (whether in zip files, mail attachments, whatever). (via One Thing Well)
Steve Souders on how he reduces the development risks of mobile emulators.
Steve Souders, performance evangelist at Google, looks forward to the remote capabilities of debugging and testing, but he warns against putting too much faith in emulators.
Disease-B-Gone, Quake Game, Text Adventures, and Unicoddling
- Rinderpest Eradicated — only the second disease that mankind has managed to eradicate. This one was a measles-like virus that killed cattle and caused famines. A reminder of how astonishingly difficult it is to eradicate disease, but what a massive victory it is when it happens. (via Courtney Johnston)
- Magnetic South — the 6.3 earthquake that trashed Christchurch, New Zealand, has presented the city with a tabula rasa (or, rather, tabula rubble) for the rebuild: what should they build, how, and where? The good citizens are working on this question in many ways, one of which is this online game based on Institute for the Future’s Foresight Engine.
- TOPS-20 in a Box — write FORTRAN code on an emulated PHP-10 running TOPS-20 and, most delightfully, play the original Adventure as written by Crowther and finished by Woods. It’s like emulating the Big Bang for text adventures. When you’re done, admire the scholarship in this analysis of the original to see how much Woods added. (Text adventures are the game version of command-line interfaces, and we still have much to learn from them)
- Why Does Modern Perl Avoid UTF-8 By Default? (StackOverflow) — check out the very long and detailed answer by my coauthor, Tom Christiansen, on exactly how many thorns and traps lie in wait for the unwary “it should just WORK”er. Skip down to the “Assume Brokenness” section for the full horror. Tom’s been working with linguists and revising the Unicode chapters of the Camel, so asking “why can’t it just work” is like asking a war veteran “why don’t you just shoot all the bad guys?”.
PC in JS, Musical Visualization, S3 Parallel, and Tech-led Ed
- US Home Prices as Opera (Flowing Data) — reminded me of Douglas Adams’s “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” which has software that turns your company’s performance numbers into music. The yearly accounts of most British companies emerged sounding like the Dead March from “Saul”, but in Japan they went for it like a pack of rats. It produced lots of cheery company anthems that started well, but if you were going to criticise you’d probably say that they tended to get a bit loud and squeaky at the end.
- s3cmd Parallel — command-line tool with parallel uploads to s3. (via Nelson Minar)
- Eight of China’s Top Nine Government Officials are Scientists (Singularity Hub) — the article’s idiotic reduction to performance on standardised tests misses America’s primary strength against China, namely creative and flexible workforce. China will get there, but it’s not there yet.
PDP-11 Emulated, Crowdsourcing Culture, Deep Knowing, and Scientific Method
- 2010: The Year of Crowdsourcing Transcription — hasn’t finished yet, as NY Public Library shows. Cultural institutions are huge data sets that need human sensors to process, so we’ll be seeing a lot more of this in years to come as we light up thousands of years of written culture. (via Liza Daley)
- Programming the Commodore 64 — the loss of the total control that we had over our computers back when they were small enough that everything you needed to know would fit inside your head. It’s left me with a taste for grokking systems deeply and intimately, and that tendency is probably not a good fit for most modern programming, where you really don’t have time to go in an learn, say, Hibernate or Rails in detail: you just have to have the knack of skimming through a tutorial or two and picking up enough to get the current job done, more or less. I don’t mean to denigrate that: it’s an important and valuable skill. But it’s not one that moves my soul as Deep Knowing does. This is the kind of deep knowledge of TCP/IP and OS that devops is all about.
- Kids do Science — scientists lets kids invent an experiment, write it up, and it’s published in Biology Letters. Teaching the method of science, not the facts currently in vogue, will give us a generation capable of making data-based decisions.
- Sun A Year After: The Open Source Projects — roundup of what happened to Sun’s open source projects after the Oracle acquisition. It’s like the plague struck: some are dead, some are dying, some are fearful, others plough on resolutely.
- libcpu — open source library for emulating CPUs, built on llvm. (via a Stackoverflow answer on emulators)
- MIT Open Courseware Supports Independent Learners — they’ve taken some popular classes and made sure the material stands alone, by writing new material to replace references to closed/offline/etc. textbooks. OCW Scholar is not a distance-learning program, but rather educational materials provided for free without the support of an instructor or teaching assistant. The trade-off for this content-based approach without interaction is that OCW Scholar can be used by a very large audience for only the cost of digital distribution. How long until cheap teaching universities spring up, offering the MIT courseware with on-site TAs?