- The Mystery Machine (A Paper a Day) — rundown of Facebook’s Mystery Machine, which can measure end-to-end performance from the initiation of a page load in a Web browser, all the way through the server-side infrastructure, and back out to the point where the page has finished rendering. Doing this requires a causal model of the relationships between components (happens-before). How do you get that? And especially, how do you get that if you can’t assume a uniform environment for instrumentation?
- Network Effect — hypnotic and emotional. (via Flowing Data)
- Cultivating Great Distributed Teams (Liza Daly) — updates and refinements on her awesome meeting hack/system.
- Smartphone Energy Consumption (Pete Warden) — I love new ways of looking at familiar things. Looking at code and features through the lens of power consumption is another such lens. (I remember Craig from Craigslist talking at OSCON about using power as the denominator in your data center, changing how I saw the Web). The article is full of surprising numbers and fascinating factoids. Active cell radio might use 800 mW. Bluetooth might use 100 mW. Accelerometer is 21 mW. Gyroscope is 130 mW. Microphone is 101 mW. GPS is 176 mW. Using the camera in ‘viewfinder’ mode, focusing and looking at a picture preview, might use 1,000 mW. Actually recording video might take another 200 to 1,000 mW on top of that.
Buildings are ready to be smart — we just need to collect and monitor the data.
Buildings, like people, can benefit from lessons built up over time. Just as Amazon.com recommends books based on purchasing patterns or doctors recommend behavior change based on what they’ve learned by tracking thousands of people, a service such as Clockworks from KGS Buildings can figure out that a boiler is about to fail based on patterns built up through decades of data.
I had the chance to be enlightened about intelligent buildings through a conversation with Nicholas Gayeski, cofounder of KGS Buildings, and Mark Pacelle, an engineer with experience in building controls who has written for O’Reilly about the Internet of Things. Read more…
Solar Numbers, Process Managers, BitTorrent Sync, and Motherfrickin' Snakes in Your Motherfrickin' Browser
- Solar Energy: This is What a Disruptive Technology Looks Like (Brian McConnell) — In 1977, solar cells cost upwards of $70 per Watt of capacity. In 2013, that cost has dropped to $0.74 per Watt, a 100:1 improvement (source: The Economist). On average, solar power improves 14% per year in terms of energy production per dollar invested.
- Process Managers — overview of the tools that keep your software running.
- Bittorrent Sync — Dropbox-like features, BitTorrent under the hood.
Small-scale smart city projects; the industrial Internet as part of big data; a platform for smart buildings
Mining the urban data (The Economist) — The “smart city” hype cycle has moved beyond ambitious top-down projects and has started to produce useful results: real-time transit data in London, smart meters in Amsterdam. The next step, if Singapore has its way, may be real-time optimization of things like transit systems.
This is your ground pilot speaking (The Economist) — Testing is underway to bring drone-style remotely-piloted aircraft into broader civilian use. One challenge: building in enough on-board intelligence to operate the plane safely if radio links go down.
How GE’s over $100 billion investment in ‘industrial internet’ will add $15 trillion to world GDP (Economic Times) — A broad look at what the industrial Internet means in the context of big data, including interviews with Tim O’Reilly, DJ Patil and Kenn Cukier. (Full disclosure: GE and O’Reilly are collaborating on an industrial Internet series.)
Defining a Digital Network for Building-to-Cloud Efficiency (GreentechEnterprise) — “Eventually, the building will become an IT platform for managing energy a bit like we manage data today. But to get there, you don’t just have to make fans, chillers, lights, backup generators, smart load control circuits and the rest of a building’s hardware smart enough to act as IT assets. A platform — software that ties these disparate devices into the multiple, overlapping technical and economic models that help humans decide how to manage their building — is also required.” Read more…
Talkative Virus Writer, QR Codes, Digital Reconstruction, and Renewable Energy
- Researcher Chats To Hacker Who Created The Virus He’s Researching — Chicken: I didn’t know you can see my screen. Hacker: I would like to see your face, but what a pity you don’t have a camera.
- Economist on QR Codes — Three-quarters of American online retailers surveyed by Forrester, a research firm, use them. In April nearly 20% of smartphone users in America scanned one, up from 14% in May last year.
- Reconstructing the Ruins of Warsaw — what an amazing accomplishment!
- The Great German Energy Experiment (Technology Review) — political will: the risk and the successes. Certainly a huge gulf between Germany and America in where they are, and political will to be more renewable.
- 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)
Library Licensing, Mac Graphics, Coal Computing, and Human Augmentation
- Just Say No To Freegal — an interesting view from the inside, speaking out against a music licensing system called Freegal which is selling to libraries. Libraries typically buy one copy of something, and then lend it out to multiple users sequentially, in order to get a good return on investment. Participating in a product like Freegal means that we’re not lending anymore, we’re buying content for users to own permanently so they don’t have to pay the vendor directly themselves. This puts us in direct competition with the vendor’s sales directly to consumers, and the vendors will never make more money off of libraries than they will off of direct consumer sales. What that does is put libraries in a position of being economic victims of our own success. I would think that libraries would remember this lesson from our difficulties with the FirstSearch pay-per-use model that most of us found to be unsustainable.
- Cost of Computing in Coal (Benjamin Mako Hill) — back-of-the-envelope estimation of the carbon costs of running an overnight multicore Amazon number-crunching job. Thinking about the environmental costs of your crappy coding might change the way you code, much as punched cards encouraged you to model and test the program by hand before you ran it. How many tons of coal are burnt to support laziness or a lack of optimization in my software?
- Friction in Computer Human Symbiosis (Palantir blog) — Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process. (via Tim O’Reilly)
Carbon capture tech would require huge scale, but could give the world needed time.
Capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has major challenges, but it can be done at a price that would not destroy our economy. Doing so would give us more time to find ways to switch to inherently zero-carbon methods of powering our civilization.
Solar cost per watt is dropping on an exponential curve, and will drop below coal by 2020.
If humanity could capture one tenth of one percent of the solar energy striking the Earth, we would have access to 6X as much energy as we consume in all forms today, with almost no greenhouse gas emissions.