- Goodbye App Engine — clear explanation of the reasons why Google AppEngine isn’t the right thing to build your startup on. Don’t read the comments unless you want to lose faith in humanity. (via Michael Koziarski on Twitter)
- Neato Robotics XV-11 Tear-down — the start of hackable LIDAR, which would enable cheap and easy 3D mapping, via a Roomba-like robovacuum with a LIDAR module in it. (via Chris Anderson on Twitter)
- Boilerpipe — code to remove boilerplate wrappers from a webpage, returning just the text you care about. (via Andy Baio)
- Visual Eyes — web-based authoring tool developed at the University of Virginia to weave images, maps, charts, video and data into highly interactive and compelling dynamic visualizations. (via Courtney Johnston’s Instapaper feed)
AppEngine Gripes, LIDAR Hacking, Web Stripping, and Map Storytelling
It's been 25 years since "Hackers" was published. Author Steven Levy reflects on the book and the movement.
In mid-1980s, Steven Levy wrote a book that introduced the term "hacker" to a wide audience. In the ensuing 25 years, that word and its accompanying community have gone through tremendous change. In this Q&A, Levy discusses the book's genesis, its influence and the role hackers continue to play.
Google Docs APIs, Wikileaks Founder Profile, DNA Hacking, and Abusing the Numbers
- Appscale — open source implementation of Google App engine’s APIs built on top of Amazon’s APIs, from UCSB. You can deploy on Amazon or on any Amazon API-compliant cloud such as Eucalyptus.
- Information Pioneers — the Chartered Institute for IT has a pile of video clips about famous IT pioneers (Lovelace, Turing, Lamarr, Berners-Lee, etc.).
- This Week in Law — podcast from Denise Howell, covering IT law and policy. E.g., this week’s episode covers “Google Books, Elena Kagen, owning virtual land, double-dipping game developers, Facebook tips, forced follow bug and fragile egos, embedding tweets, Star Trek Universe liability, and more.”
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Science Data Hacking, Obstructive Interfaces, 3G to Wifi, and Australian Gov 2.0
- Science Hack Day — Saturday, June 19th and Sunday, June 20th, 2010, in the Guardian offices in London. A meeting place for the designer/coder class and scientists, with datasets as the common language. (via timoreilly on Twitter)
- Facebook’s Evil Interface (EFF) — Facebook’s new M.O. is to say “to better help you, we took away your privacy. If you are stupid and wish to attempt to retain your privacy, don’t not avoid to fail to click here. Now click here. Now click here … ha, moved it! Moved it again! Gotcha!”. Attempting to use Facebook to talk to friends without having your friendships and interests pimped to the data mining Johns is as hard as canceling an AOL subscription.
- Make Your Own 3G Router — an easter-egg inside the new Chumby model (which O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures invested in).
- Australian Government’s Response to the Web 2.0 Taskforce — it’s all positive: all but one recommendation accepted. Another very positive step from the Aussies.
Deep Web Projects, Industrial Design, EEG Hacking, On Writing
- Buckets and Vessels (Aaron Straup Cope) — amazing collection of projects and the cultural shifts they illustrate. Michal Migurski’s Walking Papers, software designed to round-trip paper and digital edits to Open Street Map, has recently been used by professors at the University of California’s Berkeley’s School of Information to enable “a sort of psychogeographical dispute resolution between high school students in the town of Richmond marking up maps of their school and neighbourhood with tags like “stoners”, “asian gangsters” or “make-out spot” (http://groups.ischool.berkeley.edu/papermaps/kennedy.html). By allowing participants to manipulate the perception of their environment they are given a sort of bias knob to adjust the psychics and gravity of one space over another and to create a truly personal map of the world. (via auchmill on Twitter)
- Jonathan Ive on Industrial Design — fascinating to hear him talk about how he approaches his products; the interplay between materials, manufacturing methods, and function.
- Hacking Toy EEGs (MindHacks) — who doesn’t want to do this, just based on the title alone?
- Mamet’s Memo to the Writers — forceful, clear, and commanding. A tremendous insight, in a short period of time, into what good writing is. No idea why it’s in all caps. SOMEONE HAS TO MAKE THE SCENE DRAMATIC. IT IS NOT THE ACTORS JOB (THE ACTORS JOB IS TO BE TRUTHFUL). IT IS NOT THE DIRECTORS JOB. HIS OR HER JOB IS TO FILM IT STRAIGHTFORWARDLY AND REMIND THE ACTORS TO TALK FAST. IT IS YOUR JOB. (via Dan Meyer)
Apple may have closed the iPad, but you don't need permission to open it.
A lot of people are upset about how closed the iPhone, and now the iPad, are. Cory Doctorow wrote a lengthy piece about the evils of the iPad and its awful closed system. I agree that Apple has taken far too much away. I agree that it is infantalizing to require us to send in the iPad to get its battery replaced. But, my gosh, when did developers ever need permission to break things? When did Steve Jobs become not just rule maker, but some sort of deity that actually prevented me from ignoring said rule maker, and doing whatever I could with my device?
Homebrew Highspeed Video, Werewolf History, Digital Book Rights, Moddable Space Invaders
- Off-the-shelf camera hacked to grab high-speed video (New Scientist) — scientists used a chip from a home cinema projector to record 400fps on consumer video hardware. They put the chip, which has tiny moving mirrors, in front of the digital camera and it directs the incoming light sequentially over a grid of pixels in the digital camera, meaning that each of the digital camera’s frames contains 16 samples (frames) of the picture. You lose resolution but gain frames/second. (via viksnewsclippings)
- History of Werewolf — excellent history, which digs deeper than “it’s a Foo Camp phenomenon” and into the actual origins of the game.
- Digital Books and Your Rights: A Checklist for Readers — The over-arching question: are digital books as good or better than physical books at protecting you and your rights as a reader? (via BoingBoing)
- Space Invaders Enterprise Edition — The magic of Space Invaders Enterprise Edition is actually under the hood. I’ve separated out the game logic from the Java source into a file parsed by a rules engine. This means we can easily view the game design, without it getting muddled with too much implementation code.
It's been a long time since most of us have used our computers to do anything approaching "computing," but the iPad explicitly leaves the baggage, leaps the conceptual gulf, and becomes something else entirely. Something consumery, media'ish, and not in the least bit intimidating. The automobile went through a similar evolution. From eminently hackable to hood essentially sealed shut.
Electoral Cryptography, Dataless Airport Security, Visualising Transport Data, Mathematically Insecure Social Asymmetry
- First Test for Election Cryptography (MIT Technology Review) — The first government election to use a new cryptographic scheme that lets both voters and auditors check that votes were cast and recorded accurately will be held tomorrow in Takoma Park, MD. Founder of the company behind the technology is David Chaum, who ran the first electronic currency company in the 90s. That was ahead of its time (Internet faced a credibility problem, not a convenience problem), but his timing for this seems spot-on. (via timoreilly on Twitter)
- Do I Have The Right To Refuse This Search? — a former police officer questions the efficacy of TSA screenings and is doubly worried by by the lack of data collected. For years in policing, we relied on random patrols to curb crime. We relied upon this “strategy” until someone went out and captured some data, and did a study that demonstrated conclusively that random patrols do not work (Kansas City Study). As police have employed other types of “random” interventions, as in DWI checkpoints, they have had to develop policies, procedures and training to ensure that the “random” nature of these intrusions is truly random. Whether every car gets checked, or every tenth car, police must demonstrate that they have attempted to eliminate the effects of active and passive discrimination when using “random” strategies. No such accountability currently exists at TSA. Trend I see lately is a return to quantitative decision making, reality-based data-directed system interventions. (via BoingBoing)
- Visualising Transport Data — It can be hard to make meaningful information from huge amounts of data, a graph and a table doesn’t always communicate all it should do. We have been working hard on technology to visualise big datasets into compelling stories that humans can understand. We were really pleased with what we came up with in just one and a half days. Like many places, the UK data.gov ran a dev camp to jumpstart people using their data. These appear to be successful, but I’m not aware of studies into the longterm effects nor the “value” of different types of developers.
- Why Your Friends Have More Friends Than You Do — there’s a numerical optical illusion at work here: count your friends, then ask them to count their friends. If you average the friend counts of your peers, it’ll probably be higher than your friend count. The reason for this is also why (on average!) your sexual partners seem to have had more sexual partners than you, and why previous generations seem more fecund than current generations. It’s because connectors (with large numbers of friends) distort the average, so unless you’re the connector (and if you’re reading this, you might well be!) the average will be bigger than a normal person’s friend count. Left unmentioned is what kind of person would count the number of friends they have, then ask their friends for their counts …. (via Hacker News)