"hacks" entries

Four short links: 27 March 2015

Four short links: 27 March 2015

Welfare and Entrepreneurialism, Infrastructure Secrets, Insectoid Robots, Hacking Hexbugs

  1. Welfare Makes America More Entrepreneurial (The Atlantic) — In a 2014 paper, Olds examined the link between entrepreneurship and food stamps, and found that the expansion of the program in some states in the early 2000s increased the chance that newly eligible households would own an incorporated business by 16%. (Incorporated firms are a better proxy for job-creating startups than unincorporated ones.)
  2. Security of Infrastructure Secrets — everything has a key that’s just one compromise or accidental drop away.
  3. Festo’s Fantastical Insectoid Robots Include Bionic Ants and Butterflies (IEEE) — Each butterfly has a 50-centimeter wingspan and weighs just 32 grams, but carries along two servo motors to independently actuate the wings, an IMU, accelerometer, gyro, and compass, along with two tiny 90-mAh lithium-polymer batteries. With a wing beat frequency of between one and two flaps per second, top speed is 2.5 m/s, with a flight time of three to four minutes before needing a 15-minute charge. The wings themselves use impossibly thin carbon rods for structure, and are covered with an even thinner elastic capacitor film.
  4. Arduino Celebration and Hexbugs hacking with Bob Martin (SparkFun) — The Hunter demo is a combination of object detection and object avoidance. It uses an IR sensor array to determine objects around it. Objects that appear and then disappear quickly, say in a second or two are targets which it will walk towards; however, a target that stays constant will be avoided. I’m still trying to find the perfect balance between making a decision between fleeing prey and a wall using only simple proximity samples from an IR detector array.
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Four short links: 28 January 2015

Four short links: 28 January 2015

Note and Vote, Gaming Behaviour, Code Search, and Immutabilate All The Things

  1. Note and Vote (Google Ventures) — nifty meeting hack to surface ideas and identify popular candidates to a decision maker.
  2. Applying Psychology to Improve Online Behaviour — online game runs massive experiments (w/researchers to validate findings) to improve the behaviour of their players. Some of Riot’s experiments are causing the game to evolve. For example, one product is a restricted chat mode that limits the number of messages abusive players can type per match. It’s a temporary punishment that has led to a noticeable improvement in player behavior afterward —on average, individuals who went through a period of restricted chat saw 20 percent fewer abuse reports filed by other players. The restricted chat approach also proved 4 percent more effective at improving player behavior than the usual punishment method of temporarily banning toxic players. Even the smallest improvements in player behavior can make a huge difference in an online game that attracts 67 million players every month.
  3. Hound — open source code search tool from Etsy.
  4. Immutability Changes Everything (PDF) — This paper is simply an amuse-bouche on the repeated patterns of computing that leverage immutability.
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Four short links: 2 December 2014

Four short links: 2 December 2014

e-Paper Watch, Probabilistic Go, Z-Machine in Hardware, and Glorious Underlines

  1. FES Watch — e-paper watch, including strap. Beautiful, crowdfunded, made by a Sony subsidiary that’s looking at e-ink for wearables and more. (via The Verge)
  2. Probabilistic Data Structures for Go — introduction to the go-probably library for when you can’t store every single value, so will trade off memory usage against accuracy.
  3. Z3 — implementation of the Infocom Z-Machine in hardware. Check out the easter eggs. I look upon my works and despair.
  4. Towards a More Perfect Link Underline — glorious typography on the web. A phrase you don’t often hear together without “would be a nice thing” at the end of the sentence.
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Four short links: 1 December 2014

Four short links: 1 December 2014

Marketing Color, Brain Time, Who Could Have Foreseen 19100, and ASCII Cam

  1. Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding — sidesteps the myths and chromobollocks, and gives the simplest pictorial views of some basic colour choice systems that I found very useful.
  2. Brain Time (David Eagleman) — the visual system is a distributed system with some flexible built-in consistency. So if the visual brain wants to get events correct timewise, it may have only one choice: wait for the slowest information to arrive. To accomplish this, it must wait about a tenth of a second. In the early days of television broadcasting, engineers worried about the problem of keeping audio and video signals synchronized. Then they accidentally discovered that they had around a hundred milliseconds of slop: As long as the signals arrived within this window, viewers’ brains would automatically resynchronize the signals; outside that tenth-of-a-second window, it suddenly looked like a badly dubbed movie.
  3. CS Bumper Stickers (PDF) — Allocate four digits for the year part of a date: a new millenium is coming. —David Martin. From 1985.
  4. ASCIIcam — real-time ASCII output from your videocamera. This is doing terrible things to my internal chronometer. Is it 2014 or 1984? Yes!
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Four short links: 25 November 2014

Four short links: 25 November 2014

NSA Playset, Open Access, XSS Framework, and Security Test Cases

  1. Michael Ossman and the NSA Playset — the guy who read the leaked descriptions of the NSA’s toolchest, built them, and open sourced the designs. One device, dubbed TWILIGHTVEGETABLE, is a knock off of an NSA-built GSM cell phone that’s designed to sniff and monitor Internet traffic. The ANT catalog lists it for $15,000; the NSA Playset researchers built one using a USB flash drive, a cheap SDR, and an antenna, for about $50. The most expensive device, a drone that spies on WiFi traffic called PORCUPINEMASQUERADE, costs about $600 to assemble. At Defcon, a complete NSA Playset toolkit was auctioned by the EFF for $2,250.
  2. Gates Foundation Announces World’s Strongest Policy on Open Access Research (Nature) — Once made open, papers must be published under a license that legally allows unrestricted re-use — including for commercial purposes. This might include ‘mining’ the text with computer software to draw conclusions and mix it with other work, distributing translations of the text, or selling republished versions. CC-BY! We believe that published research resulting from our funding should be promptly and broadly disseminated.
  3. Xenotixan advanced Cross Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability detection and exploitation framework. It provides Zero False Positive scan results with its unique Triple Browser Engine (Trident, WebKit, and Gecko) embedded scanner. It is claimed to have the world’s 2nd largest XSS Payloads of about 4700+ distinctive XSS Payloads for effective XSS vulnerability detection and WAF Bypass. Xenotix Scripting Engine allows you to create custom test cases and addons over the Xenotix API. It is incorporated with a feature-rich Information Gathering module for target Reconnaissance. The Exploit Framework includes offensive XSS exploitation modules for Penetration Testing and Proof of Concept creation.
  4. Firing Range — Google’s open source set of web security test cases for scanners.
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Four short links: 16 October 2014

Four short links: 16 October 2014

Eye Catcher, Exoskeleton, Homebrew Cray, and Information Architecture

  1. Eye Catcher (We Make Money Not Art) — the most banal-looking wooden frame takes thus a life of its own as soon as you come near it. It quickly positions itself in front of you, spots your eyes and starts expressing ‘emotions’ based on your own. Eye Catcher uses the arm of an industrial robot, high power magnets, a hidden pinhole camera, ferrofluid and emotion recognition algorithms to explore novel interactive interfaces based on the mimicry and exchange of expressions.
  2. FORTIS Exoskeleton (Lockheed Martin) — transfers loads through the exoskeleton to the ground in standing or kneeling positions and allows operators to use heavy tools as if they were weightless. (via CNN)
  3. Homebrew Cray-1A – fascinating architecture, but also lovely hobby project to build the homebrew. The lack of Cray software archives horrifies the amateur historian in me, though. When I started building this, I thought “Oh, I’ll just swing by the ol’ Internet and find some groovy 70′s-era software to run on it.” It turns out I was wrong. One of the sad things about pre-internet machines (especially ones that were primarily purchased by 3-letter Government agencies) is that practically no software exists for them. After searching the internet exhaustively, I contacted the Computer History Musuem and they didn’t have any either. They also informed me that apparently SGI destroyed Cray’s old software archives before spinning them off again in the late 90′s.
  4. How Do Committees Invent? — 1968 paper that gave us organizations which design systems […] produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations. That was the 1968 version of the modern “your website’s sitemap is your org chart”.
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Four short links: 2 January 2014

Four short links: 2 January 2014

3D Model-to-Printer, GCode Visualizer, AC Power Control, and Public Domain Sadness

  1. slic3rconverts a digital 3D model into printing instructions for your 3D printer. It cuts the model into horizontal slices (layers), generates toolpaths to fill them and calculates the amount of material to be extruded.
  2. gCodeViewer — GCode is the “numerical control language” for telling extruders, mills, polishers, etc. where to move to and when. This open source package is a visual GCode visualizer, viewer and analyzer in your own browser! It works on any OS in almost any modern browser (chrome, ff, safari 6, opera, ie10 should work too). All you need to do – is drag your *.gcode file to the designated zone.
  3. AC Power Control with Arduinoin the video video and the code, we take an in depth look at the hardware for using Arduino interrupts to control AC power through a triac. Using a zero-crossing detector Arduino will detect the pulse then calculate a delay to control the power output to a load.
  4. What Didn’t Enter the Public Domain Today — a reminder of what the public domain lost because of the Sonny Bono/Disney copyright term extension, timely given there are bad times ahead.
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Four short links: 2 December 2013

Four short links: 2 December 2013

Learning Machine Learning, Pokemon Coding, Drone Coverage, and Optimization Guide

  1. CalTech Machine Learning Video Library — a pile of video introductions to different machine learning concepts.
  2. Awesome Pokemon Hack — each inventory item has a number associated with it, they are kept at a particular memory location, and there’s a glitch in the game that executes code at that location so … you can program by assembling items and then triggering the glitch. SO COOL.
  3. Drone Footage of Bangkok Protests — including water cannons.
  4. The Mature Optimization Handbook — free, well thought out, and well written. My favourite line: In exchange for that saved space, you have created a hidden dependency on clairvoyance.
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Four short links: 22 November 2013

Four short links: 22 November 2013

GAFE MOOCs, Recommendations Considered Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, Glitch Art Given, and Cool Visual Hack

  1. Google Educator MOOCs — online courses for teachers who use Google in their classrooms.
  2. Algorithms and AccountabilityThus, the appearance of an autocompletion suggestion during the search process might make people decide to search for this suggestion although they didn’t have the intention to. A recent paper by Baker and Potts (2013) consequently questions “the extent to which such algorithms inadvertently help to perpetuate negative stereotypes”. (via New Aesthetic Tumblr)
  3. Glitch Content Enters Public Domain — amazing contribution of content, not just “open sourcing” but using CC0 to give the public the maximum possible rights for reuse.
  4. Sprite Lampa tool to help game developers combine 2D art, such as digital painting or pixel art, with dynamic lighting. This is pretty darn cool. (via Greg Borenstein)
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Four short links: 11 November 2013

Four short links: 11 November 2013

Squid in the Dark, Beautiful Automation, Fan Criticism, and Petabyte Queries

  1. Living Light — 3D printed cephalopods filled with bioluminescent bacteria. PAGING CORY DOCTOROW, YOUR ORGASMATRON HAS ARRIVED. (via Sci Blogs)
  2. Repacking Lego Batteries with a CNC Mill — check out the video. Patrick programmed a CNC machine to drill out the rivets holding the Mindstorms battery pack together. Coding away a repetitive task like this is gorgeous to see at every scale. We don’t have to teach our kids a particular programming language, but they should know how to automate cruft.
  3. My Thoughts on Google+ (YouTube) — when your fans make hatey videos like this one protesting Google putting the pig of Google Plus onto the lipstick that was YouTube, you are Doin’ It Wrong.
  4. Presto: Interacting with Petabytes of Data at Facebooka distributed SQL query engine optimized for ad-hoc analysis at interactive speed. It supports standard ANSI SQL, including complex queries, aggregations, joins, and window functions. For details, see the Facebook post about its launch.
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