Improvisation and Forgiveness (JP Rangaswami) — what makes us human is not repetitive action. Human occupations should require human intellect, and there’s no more human activity than making a judgement call when processes have failed a customer.
Ethics of Brain Boosting, Discussion (Hacker News) — this comment in particular: in my initial reckless period of self-experimentation, I managed to induce phosphenes by accident — blue white flashes in the entire visual field, blanking out everything else. Both contacts were in the supraorbital region. I ceased my experiments for a while and returned to the literature. And you thought that typo where you accidentally took the database offline was bad ….
Things Turbo Pascal is Smaller Than — next time you’re bragging about your efficient code, spare a thought for the Pascal IDE and compiler that lived in 39,731 bytes. This list of more bloated things is hilarious.
The China Startup Report (Slideshare) — interesting to see the low salary comes with expectation of bonuses but little interest in equity (as there are few exits other than IPO, for reasons the presentation goes into).
Shape Method — fun HTML5 challenge that will also expand your appreciation of fonts.
Open Source All The Things! — SparkFun looking aggressively for things to “open source” from their business. I have a lot of time for companies that contribute to the commons above and beyond their legally-mandated minimum, particularly those who aren’t just dumping their unwanted junk there. Google does this well, Facebook is learning. Good on ya, SparkFun.
Guangzhou City Map — Chinese city maps: they use orthographic projection (think SimCity) and not satellite images. A nice compromise for usability, information content, and invisible censorship. (via Hacker News)
Broken Windows, Broken Code, Broken Systems — So, given that most of us live in the real world where some things are just left undone, where do we draw the line? What do we consider a bit of acceptable street litter, and what do we consider a broken window? When is it ok to just reboot the system, and when do you really need to figure out exactly what went wrong?
Android Malware — black hat copied apps, added trojans, uploaded to Android Marketplace. Google were slow to respond to original developer’s claims of copying, quick to react to security guy’s report of malware. AppStores are not magic moneypumps in software form, no more than tagging, communities, or portals were. User contributions need editorial oversight.
The True Cost of Publishing on the Kindle — an article, apparently by a horrified negotiator with Amazon, revealing that magazine and newspaper publishers pay the WhisperNet delivery costs of their editions. That’s not Amazon overhead, it comes out of the publisher’s royalty slice. (via Hacker News)
Fonts in Use — examples of sweet typography and the fonts that were used.
Ffffound — social network for graphic designers (invite only) with a “people who liked also liked” type of recommendation system. Very clever. So as you research “I want to build a cheesy 70s logo”, you thumbs up the images you like and soon the system is suggesting designs with elements of cheesy 70s logos to you. I love that it is invitation-only: you’re trusting the judgement of the other people, so you had better only let in people whose judgement you trust.
China’s Second Wives and Gift Culture — second wives, status, and brand. But any city that has a middle class is going to have Second Wives. […] Even Jiang Zemin, the former President, had a very high profile mistress – a singer called Song Zuying who appears on the Chinese New Year programme every year. And it’s not a scandal. A reminder that if you think you can export your crappy business built on American status symbols, you’re leaping into the Sea of Fail. (via Sciblogs)
Comments Off on Four short links: 17 February 2011
Dremel (PDF) — paper on the Dremel distributed nested column-store database developed at Google. Interesting beyond the technology is the list of uses, which includes tracking install data for applications on Android Market; crash reporting from Google products; OCR results from Google Books; spam analysis; debugging map tiles. (via Greg Linden)
Conversational UI: A Short Reading List — it can be difficult to build a text user interface to a bot because there’s not a great body of useful literature around textual UIs the way there is around GUIs. This great list of pointers goes a long way to solving that problem.
Sustainable Education (YouTube) — Watch this clip from the New Zealand Open Source Awards. Mark Osborne, Deputy Principal from Albany Senior High School, talks about the software choices at their school not because it’s right for technology but because it’s right for the students. Very powerful.
High-Speed Book Scanner — you flip the pages, and it uses high-speed photography to capture images of each page. “But they’re all curved!” Indeed, so they project a grid onto the page so as to be able to correct for the curvature. The creator wanted to scan Manga, but the first publisher he tried turned him down. I’ve written to him offering a pile of O’Reilly books to test on. We love this technology!
Magic Tables, not Magic Windows (Matt Jones) — thoughtful piece about how touch-screens are rarely used as a controller of abstract things rather than of real things, with some examples of the potential he’s talking about. When we’re not concentrating on our marbles, we’re looking each other in the eye – chuckling, tutting and cursing our aim – and each other. There’s no screen between us, there’s a magic table making us laugh. It’s probably my favourite app to show off the iPad – including the ones we’ve designed! It shows that the iPad can be a media surface to share, rather than a proscenium to consume through alone.
Mensch Font — an interesting font, but this particularly caught my eye: Naturally I searched for a font editor, and the best one I found was Font Forge, an old Linux app ported to the Mac but still requiring X11. So that’s two ways OS X is borrowing from Linux for font support. What’s up with that? Was there an elite cadre of fontistas working on Linux machines in a secret bunker? Linux is, um, not usually known for its great designers. (via joshua on Delicious)
Why Git Is So Fast — interesting mailing list post about the problems that the JGit folks had when they tried to make their Java version of Git go faster. Higher level languages hide enough of the machine that we can’t make all of these optimizations. A reminder that you must know and control the systems you’re running on if you want to get great performance. (via Hacker News)
Wooden Combination Lock — you’ll easily understand how combination locks work with this find piece of crafty construction work.
From Moleskine to Market — how a leading font designer designs fonts. Fascinating, and beautiful, and it makes me covet his skills.
Terrastore — open source distributed document store, HTTP accessible, data and queries are distributed, built on Terracottawhich is built on ehcache (updated: Terracotta has an ehcache plugin, but isn’t built on ehcache). A NoSQL database built on Java tools that serious Java developers respect, the first such one that I’ve noticed (update: I brain-farted: neo4j was definitely on my radar). Notice that all the interesting work going on in the NoSQL arena is happening in open source projects.
Top E-Tailers Profiting From Scams — Vertrue, Webloyalty, and Affinion generated more than $1.4 billion by “misleading” Web shoppers, said members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. […] The government says the investigation shows that [the companies] “trick” consumers into entering their e-mail address just before they complete purchases at sites such as Orbitz, Priceline.com, Buy.com, 1-800 Flowers, Continental Airlines, Fandango, and Classmates.com. A Web ad, which many consumers say appears to be from the retailer, offers them cash back or coupon if they key in their e-mail address.
Image Swirl (Google Labs) — interesting image search result navigator. It’s fun to play with, trying to figure out why particular sets of images are grouped together.
Create Crisis (Dan Meyer) — great call to arms for educators. It’s still astonishing to me how few “learning xyz” books follow this advice. Would-be authors, take note! If there were ever an easy way to make your computer book stand out for being better than the rest, this is it!