Distributed Systems Theory for the Distributed Systems Engineer — I tried to come up with a list of what I consider the basic concepts that are applicable to my every-day job as a distributed systems engineer; what I consider ‘table stakes’ for distributed systems engineers competent enough to design a new system.
Shenzhen Trip Report (Joi Ito) — full of fascinating observations about how the balance of manufacturing strength has shifted in surprising ways. The retail price of the cheapest full featured phone is about $9. Yes. $9. This could not be designed in the US – this could only be designed by engineers with tooling grease under their fingernails who knew the manufacturing equipment inside and out, as well as the state of the art of high-end mobile phones.
Sproutling — The world’s first sensing, learning, predicting baby monitor. A wearable band for your baby, a smart charger and a mobile app work together to not only monitor more effectively but learn and predict your baby’s sleep habits and optimal sleep conditions. (via Wired)
Notes on the Celebrity Data Theft — wonderfully detailed analysis of how photos were lifted, and the underground industry built around them. This was one of the most unsettling aspects of these networks to me – knowing there are people out there who are turning over data on friends in their social networks in exchange for getting a dump of their private data.
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.
Transparency with Salaries (NPR) — Atkison has meetings like this all the time. He says it gives him a chance to explain why some employees make more than others — and to explain to employees how they can make more. For a lot of employees, knowing what everyone makes is less exciting than it seems. By moving from negotiation to clear expectations of salary levels, bumps, etc., I can also see it helping the company understand what it values.
Printing Buildings from Recycled Materials (ComputerWorld) — The printers, supplied by WinSun Decoration Design Engineering, are 20 feet tall, 33 feet wide and 132 feet long. Like their desktop counterparts, the construction-grade WinSun 3D printers use a fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology to deposit materials one layer at a time in a process that’s similar to squeezing frosting from a pastry bag. 10 single-room buildings in a day. (via Slashdot)
3D Printers Have a Lot to Learn from Sewing Machines — Sewing does not create more waste but, potentially, less, and the process of sewing is filled with opportunities for increasing one’s skills and doing it over as well as doing it yourself. What are quilts, after all, but a clever way to use every last scrap of precious fabric? (via Jenn Webb)
The Robots are Here (Tyler Cowan) — a bleak view of the future in which jobs that can be done by robots are done by robots, and concomitant power spiral towards the rich. I let this one sit for a while before posting, and I still think it’s wildly important.
iBeacons — Bluetooth LE enabling tighter coupling of physical world with digital. I’m enamoured with the interaction possibilities: The latest Apple TV software brought a fantastically clever workaround. You just tap your iPhone to the Apple TV itself, and it passes your Wi-Fi and iTunes credentials over and sets everything up instantaneously.
Better and Better Keyboards (Jesse Vincent) — It suffered from the same problem as every other 3D-printed keyboard I’d made to date – When I showed it to someone, they got really excited about the fact that I had a 3D printer. In contrast, whenever I showed someone one of the layered acrylic prototype keyboards I’d built, they got excited about the keyboard.
Bamboo.io — open source modular web service for dataset storage and retrieval.
Large Scale Rapid Prototyping Robots — an informal list of large rapid prototyping systems […] including: big 3-axis systems that print plastic, sand, or cement; large robot arms with extruders and milling bits; and large industrial arms for bending metal and assembling modular structures.
Dynamic Shape Display (MIT) — a Dynamic Shape Display that can render 3D content physically, so users can interact with digital information in a tangible way. inFORM can also interact with the physical world around it, for example moving objects on the table’s surface. (via Fast Company)
KeyMe — keys in the cloud. (Digital designs as backups for physical objects)
Motorola Advanced Technology and Products Group — The philosophy behind Motorola ATAP is to create an organization with the same level of appetite for technology advancement as DARPA, but with a consumer focus. It is a pretty interesting place to be. And they hired the excellent Johnny Chung Lee.
Ant-Sized Computers (MIT TR) — The KL02 chip, made by Freescale, is shorter on each side than most ants are long and crams in memory, RAM, a processor, and more.
Some Thoughts on Digital Manufacturing (Nick Pinkston) — Whenever I see someone make a “new” 3D printer that’s just a derivative of the RepRap or MakerBot – I could care less. Only new processes, great interfaces or super-low price points get my attention anymore. FormLabs being a great example of all three – which is why they were a massive hit. If you’re looking for problems: make a cheap laser cutter, CNC mill, or pick-n-place machine. See the Othermill.
The Internet of Things That Do What You Tell Them: Cory Doctorow passionately explains how computers are already entwined in our lives, which means laws that support lock-in are much more than inconveniences.