"fun" entries

Four short links: 18 April 2016

Four short links: 18 April 2016

Classic Programmer Paintings, Equality at Work, Bitcoin as Politics, and Raising Robotic Natives

  1. Classic Programmer Paintings — hilarity has ensued. The captions are brilliant.
  2. Equality Takes WorkWomen do not prefer saying less: They anticipate the treatment they will receive when they say more.
  3. Bitcoin as Politics: Distributed Right-Wing ExtremismThe lack of any thorough, non-conspiratorial analysis of existing financial systems means that bitcoin fails to embody any true alternative to them. The reasons for this have little to do with technology and everything to do with the existing systems in which bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies are embedded, systems that instantiate the forms of social power that cannot be eliminated through either wishful thinking or technical or even political evasion: the rich and powerful will not become poor and powerless simply because other people decide to operate alternate economies of exchange. […] Because it operates without such an account, bitcoin’s real utility and purpose (and that of the cryptocurrency movement in general) can be better understood as a “program” for recruiting uninformed citizens into a neoliberal anti-government politics, understanding the nature and effects of which requires just the attention to political theory and history that bitcoin enthusiasts rail against. So … not a fan, then?
  4. Raising Robotic Natives — design/art artefacts for generations growing up with robots.

(more…)

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Four short links: 18 March 2016

Four short links: 18 March 2016

Engineering Traits, Box of Souls, Transport Data, and Tortilla Endofunctors

  1. Engineers of Jihad (Marginal Revolution) — brief book review, tantalizing. The distribution of traits across disciplines mirrors almost exactly the distribution of disciplines across militant groups…engineers are present in groups in which social scientists, humanities graduates, and women are absent, and engineers possess traits — proneness to disgust, need for closure, in-group bias, and (at least tentatively) simplism…
  2. Box of a Trillion Souls — review and critique of some of Stephen Wolfram’s writing and speaking about AI and simulation and the nature of reality and complexity and … a lot.
  3. Alphabet Starting Sidewalk Labs (NY Times) — “We’re taking everything from anonymized smartphone data from billions of miles of trips, sensor data, and bringing that into a platform that will give both the public and private parties and government the capacity to actually understand the data in ways they haven’t before,” said Daniel L. Doctoroff, Sidewalk’s chief executive, who is a former deputy mayor of New York City and former chief executive of Bloomberg. Data, data, data.
  4. SIGBOVIK — the proceedings from 2015 include a paper that talks about “The Tortilla Endofunctor.” You’re welcome.
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Four short links: 17 February 2016

Four short links: 17 February 2016

0G Gecko Grippers, Self-Parking Chairs, Willow Garage, and Death by Optimistic Algorithm Assessment

  1. Grasping with Gecko Grippers in Zero Gravity (YouTube) — biomimetic materials science breakthrough from Stanford’s Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Lab proves useful in space. (via IEEE Spectrum)
  2. Nissan’s Self-Parking Office Chairs — clever hack, but thought-provoking: will we have an auto-navigating office chair before the self-driving auto revolution arrives? Because, you know, my day isn’t sedentary enough as it is …
  3. The Man Behind the Robot Revolution — profile of the man behind Willow Garage. Why he and it are interesting: Although the now defunct research-lab-startup hybrid might not ring any bells to you now, it was one of the most influential forces in modern robotics. The freewheeling robot collective jump-started the current race to apply robotics components like computer vision, manipulation, and autonomy into applications for everything from drones and autonomous cars to warehouse operations at places like Google, Amazon, and car companies like BMW. Google alone acquired three of the robot companies spawned by Willow.
  4. NSA’s Lousy Evaluation of Drone Strike Algorithm Effectiveness (Ars Technica) — vastly overstating the quality of the predictions. The 0.008% false positive rate would be remarkably low for traditional business applications. This kind of rate is acceptable where the consequences are displaying an ad to the wrong person, or charging someone a premium price by accident. However, even 0.008% of the Pakistani population still corresponds to 15,000 people potentially being misclassified as “terrorists” and targeted by the military—not to mention innocent bystanders or first responders who happen to get in the way. Security guru Bruce Schneier agreed. “Government uses of big data are inherently different from corporate uses,” he told Ars. “The accuracy requirements mean that the same technology doesn’t work. If Google makes a mistake, people see an ad for a car they don’t want to buy. If the government makes a mistake, they kill innocents.” (via Cory Doctorow)
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Four short links: 11 February 2016

Four short links: 11 February 2016

Surviving Crashes, Thumbs-Up Thumbs-Down Learning, Faster Homomorphic Encryption, and Nerdy V-Day Cards

  1. All File Systems are Not Created Equal: On the Complexity of Crafting Crash Consistent Applications (Paper a Day) — an important subject for me. BOB, the Block Order Breaker, is used to find out what behaviours are exhibited by a number of modern file systems that are relevant to building crash consistent applications. ALICE, the Application Level Intelligent Crash Explorer, is then used to explore the crash recovery behaviour of a number of applications on top of these file systems.
  2. BinaryNet: Training Deep Neural Networks with Weights and Activations Constrained to +1 or -1 (Arxiv) — instead of complex positive/negative floating-point weights, this uses +1 and -1 (which I can’t help but think of as “thumbs up”, “thumbs down”) to get nearly state-of-the-art results because a run-time, BinaryNet drastically reduces memory usage and replaces most multiplications by 1-bit exclusive-not-or (XNOR) operations, which might have a big impact on both general-purpose and dedicated Deep Learning hardware. GPLv2 code available.
  3. Microsoft Speeds Up Homomorphic Encryption (The Register) — homomorphic encryption lets databases crunch data without needing keys to decode it.
  4. Nerdy Valentine Cards (Evil Mad Scientist) — for a nerd in your life. (via Cory Doctorow)
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Four short links: 1 February 2016

Four short links: 1 February 2016

Curation & Search, Developer Tenure, AI/IA History, and Catapulting Drones

  1. Curation & Search — (Twitter) All curation grows until it requires search. All search grows until it requires curation.—Benedict Evans. (via Lists are the New Search)
  2. Average Developer Tenure (Seattle Times) — The average tenure of a developer in Silicon Valley is nine months at a single company. In Seattle, that length is closer to two years. (via Rands)
  3. An Interview with John Markoff (Robohub) — the interview will give you a flavour of his book, Machines of Loving Grace, a sweet history of AI told through the stories of the people who pioneered and now shape the field.
  4. Catapult Drone Launch (YouTube) — utterly nuts. That’s an SUV off its rear wheels! (via IEEE)
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Four short links: 2 September 2015

Four short links: 2 September 2015

Hard Problems in Distributed Systems, Engineering Bootcamp, Scripted TV, and C Guidelines

  1. There Are Only Two Hard Problems in Distributed Systems — the best tweet ever. (via Tim Bray)
  2. Building LinkedIn’s New Engineering Bootcamp — transmitting cultural and practical knowledge in a structured format.
  3. Soul-Searching in TV Land Over the Challenges of a New Golden Age (NY Times) — The number of scripted shows produced by networks, cable networks and online services ballooned to 371 last year, according to statistics compiled by FX. Mr. Landgraf believes that figure will pass 400 this year, which would nearly double the 211 shows made in 2009. […] predicted that the number of shows would slowly return to about 325 over the next few years, in large part because scripted television is expensive.
  4. C Programming Substance GuidelinesThis document is mainly about avoiding problems specific to the C programming language.
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Four short links: 10 June 2015

Four short links: 10 June 2015

Product Sins, Container Satire, Dong Detection, and Evolving Code Designs

  1. The 11 Deadly Sins of Product Development (O’Reilly Radar) — they’re traps that are easy to fall into.
  2. It’s the Future — satire, but like all good satire it’s built on a rich vein of truth. Genuine guffaw funny, but Caution: Contains Rude Words.
  3. Difficulty of Dong Detection — accessible piece about how automated “inappropriate” detection remains elusive. (via Mind Hacks)
  4. Evolution of Code Design at Facebook — you may not have Facebook-scale scale problems, but if you’re having scale problems then Facebook’s evolution (not just their solutions) will interest you.
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Four short links: 22 January 2015

Four short links: 22 January 2015

MSVR, The Facebook, Social Robots, and Testing Microservices

  1. Microsoft HoloLens Goggles (Wired) — a media release about the next thing from the person behind Kinect. I’m still trying to figure out (as are investors, I’m sure) where in the hype curve this Googles/AR/etc. amalgam lives. Is it only a tech proof-of-concept? Is it a games device like Kinect? Is it good and cheap enough for industrial apps? Or is this the long-awaited climb out of irrelevance for Virtual Reality?
  2. The Facebook (YouTube) — brilliant fake 1995 ad for The Facebook. Excuse me, I’m off to cleanse.
  3. Natural Language in Social Robotics (Robohub) — Natural language interfaces are turning into a de-facto interface convention. Just like the GUI overlapped and largely replaced the command line, NLP is now being used by robots, the Internet of things, wearables, and especially conversational systems like Apple’s Siri, Google’s Now, Microsoft’s Cortana, Nuance’s Nina, Amazon’s Echo and others. These interfaces are designed to simplify, speed up, and improve task completion. Natural language interaction with robots, if anything, is an interface. It’s a form of UX that requires design.
  4. Microservices and Testing (Martin Fowler) — testing across component boundaries, in the face of failing data stores and HTTP timeouts. The first discussion of testing in a web-scale world that I’ve seen from The Mainstream.
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Four short links: 11 September 2014

Four short links: 11 September 2014

Win98 Retro, Glass as Sensor, Theoretical CS, and Code Search

  1. windows_98.css — the compelling new look that’s sweeping the world all over again.
  2. BioGlass (MIT) — use Glass’s accelerometer, gyroscope, and camera to extract pulse and respiratory rates. (via MIT Tech Review)
  3. Building Blocks for Theoretical Computer Science — free online textbook covering what I lovingly think of as “the mathy bits of computing that are so damn hard”.
  4. The Platinum Searchercode search tool similar to ack and ag. It supports multi platforms and multi encodings. Written in go, and is fast.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 8 September 2014

Four short links: 8 September 2014

Glasshole Wiper, Complex Failures, Mail Startup, and Digital Media Disappointments

  1. Cyborg UnPlug — sits on your wifi network and will alert you if it finds Google Glass, Dropcam, spycams, and other unwanted wifi Klingons. Or it can automatically send deauth packets to those devices to try and boot them off the network.
  2. How Complex Systems Fail (PDF) — That practitioner actions are gambles appears clear after accidents; in general, post hoc analysis regards these gambles as poor ones. But the converse: that successful outcomes are also the result of gambles; is not widely appreciated.
  3. Schnail Mail — exciting new startup idea.
  4. Mapping Digital Media (Open Society) — analysis of media, online and off, in various regions and discussion of how it’s changing. Among the global findings: digitization has brought no pressure to reform state broadcasters, less than one-third of countries found that digital media have helped to expand the social impact of investigative journalism, and digitization has not significantly affected total news diversity.
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