"hacks" entries

Four short links: 29 July 2011

Four short links: 29 July 2011

SQL Injection, Optical Stick, SQL for Crowdsourcing, and DIY Medical Records

  1. SQL Injection Pocket Reference (Google Docs) — just what it sounds like. (via ModSecurity SQL Injection Challenge: Lessons Learned)
  2. isostick: The Optical Drive in a Stick (KickStarter) — clever! A USB memory stick with drivers that emulate optical drives so you can boot off .iso files you’ve put on the memory stick. (via Extreme Tech)
  3. CrowdDB: Answering Queries with Crowdsourcing (Berkeley) — CrowdDB uses human input via crowdsourcing to process queries that neither database systems nor search engines can adequately answer. It uses SQL both as a language for posing complex queries and as a way to model data. (via Big Data)
  4. The DIY Electronic Medical Record (Bryce Roberts) — I had a record of my daily weight, my exercising (catalogued by type), my walking, my calories burned and now, with the addition of Zeo, my nightly sleep patterns. All of this data had been passively collected with little to no manual input required from me. Total investment in this personal sensor network was in the range of a couple hundred dollars. And, as I rummaged through my data it began to hit me that what I’ve really been doing is creating my own DIY Electronic Medical Record. The Quantified Self is about more than obsessively cataloguing your bowel movements in low-contrast infographics. I’m less enthused by the opportunities to publicly perform private data, a-la the wifi body scale, than I am by opportunities to gain personal insight.
Four short links: 20 June 2011

Four short links: 20 June 2011

Recording Glasses, Food Hacks, Visualizing Documents, Human Computation

  1. HD Video Recording Glasses (Kickstarter) — as Bryce says, “wearable computing is on the rise. As the price for enabling components drops, always on connectivity in our pockets and purses increases, and access to low cost manufacturing resources and know-how rises we’ll see innovation continue to push into these most personal forms of computing.” (via Bryce Roberts)
  2. Sketching in Food (Chris Heathcote) — a set of taste tests to demonstrate that we’ve been food hacking for a very long time. We started with two chemical coated strips – sodium benzoate, a preservative used in lots of food that a significant percentage of people can taste (interestingly in different ways, sweet, sour and bitter). Secondly was a chemical known as PTC that about 70% of people perceive as bitter, and a smaller number perceiving as really really horribly bitter. This was to show that taste is genetic, and different people perceive the same food differently. He includes pointers to sources for the materials in the taste test.
  3. Investigating Millions of Documents by Visualizing Clusters — recording of talk about our recent work at the AP with the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs.
  4. Managing Crowdsourced Human Computation (Slideshare) — half a six-hour tutorial at WWW2011 on crowdsourcing and human computation. See also the author’s comments. (via Matt Biddulph)
Four short links: 16 June 2011

Four short links: 16 June 2011

Solar Wireless Sensors, CSS Lint, Options Explained, and Web Hacks

  1. Solar Powered Wireless Sensor NetworkChris is building wireless sensor networks using open source software and hardware that could be used in a variety of applications like air quality or home energy monitoring. It looks like he was inspired by Tweetawatt and is using xBee and ASUS wifi for communication in conjunction with Pachube for data display. (via MindKits)
  2. CSS Lint — validate and quality check your CSS. (via Jacine Luisi)
  3. An Introduction to Stock Options for the Tech Entrepreneur or Startup Employee (Scribd) — nice introduction to board, stock, options, finance, dilution, and more.
  4. Interesting Web Hacks (Quora) — You can quickly run HTML in the browser without creating a HTML file: Enter this in the address bar: data:text/html,<h1>Hello, world!<h1> (via Alex Gibson)
Four short links: 14 June 2011

Four short links: 14 June 2011

ASCII Diagrams, Bayesian Textbook, Telehacks Interview, and Table Resizing in CSS

  1. ASCII Flow — create ASCII diagrams. Awesome. (via Hacker News)
  2. Principles of Uncertainty — probability and statistics textbook, for maths students to build up to understanding Bayesian reasoning.
  3. Playable Archaeology: An Interview with the Telehacks Anonymous Creator (Andy Baio) — The inspiration was my son. I had shown him the old movies Hackers, Wargames, and Colossus: The Forbin Project and he really liked them. After seeing Hackers and Wargames, he really wanted to start hacking stuff on his own. I’d taught him some programming, but I didn’t want him doing any actual hacking, so I decided to make a simulation so he could telnet to hosts, hack them, and get the feel of it, but safely. (Andy was the interviewer, not the creator)
  4. Responsive Data Tables — CSS ways to reformat data tables if the screen width is inadequate for the default table layout. (via Keith Bolland)
Four short links: 13 June 2011

Four short links: 13 June 2011

Remote Fingerprint Scans, Playdough Circuits, Update-Sync, and Tweet Failage

  1. AIRPrint — prototype box scans a fingerprint from six feet away. (via Greg Linden)
  2. Squishy Circuits — teaching electronic circuits with conductive and insulating playdough. (via Hacker News)
  3. GraphLab — alternative take on Map-Reduce, called Update-Sync, where tasks run on connected sets of nodes rather than on one node at a time.
  4. Tower Bridge Closed — the @towerbridge account was a cute hack from Tom Armitage, whereby the public site for the London Tower Bridge was scraped and connected to Twitter, so you would see tweets like “I am closing after the MV Dixie has passed Upstream” and get a feel for the ambient activity in your city. Twitter turned over @towerbridge to the most tediously vomit-in-your-own-mouth-they’re-so-anodyne beige corporate tweets ever (account description: “Leading tourist attraction situated inside Tower Bridge”, sample tweet: “Looking for something to do it the City this weekend, check out http://www.visitthecity.co.uk/ and you’re always welcome at @TowerBridge”) and deleted the past history of tweets. Way to embrace the community of engaged passionate fans, guys! Welcome to Twitter, try not to step in your social media strategy as you cross the threshold–oh no, too late.
Four short links: 19 April 2011

Four short links: 19 April 2011

Elegant Boxes, Dashboard in PHP, Management Theory Disparaged, and Obsolete Technology

  1. Lines (Mark Jason Dominus) — If you wanted to hear more about phylogeny, Java programming, or tree algorithms, you are about to be disappointed. The subject of my article today is those fat black lines. Anatomy of a clever piece of everyday programming. There is no part of this program of which I am proud. Rather, I am proud of the thing as a whole. It did the job I needed, and it did it by 5 PM. Larry Wall once said that “a Perl script is correct if it’s halfway readable and gets the job done before your boss fires you.” Thank you, Larry.
  2. PHP Clone of Panic Status Board (GitHub) — The Panic status board shows state of downloads, servers, countdown, etc. It’s a dashboard for the company. This PHP implementation lets you build your own. (via Hacker News)
  3. The Management Myth (The Atlantic) — a philosophy PhD gets an MBA, works as management consultant, then calls bullshit on the whole thing. Taylorism, like much of management theory to come, is at its core a collection of quasi-religious dicta on the virtue of being good at what you do, ensconced in a protective bubble of parables (otherwise known as case studies). (via BoingBoing)
  4. Obsolete Technology — or, as I like to think of it, post-Zombie-apocalypse technology. Bone up on your kilns if you want your earthen cookware once our undead overlords are running (or, at least, lurching) the country. (via Bruce Sterling)
Four short links: 2 March 2011

Four short links: 2 March 2011

Python Unicode, Cognitive Enhancement, Journal Balk, Engineering SaaS

  1. Unicode in Python, Completely Demystified — a good introduction to Unicode in Python, which helped me with some code. (via Hacker News)
  2. A Ban on Brain-Boosting Drugs (Chronicle of Higher Education) — Simply calling the use of study drugs “unfair” tells us nothing about why colleges should ban them. If such drugs really do improve academic performance among healthy students (and the evidence is scant), shouldn’t colleges put them in the drinking water instead? After all, it would be unfair to permit wealthy students to use them if less privileged students can’t afford them. As we start to hack our bodies and minds, we’ll face more questions about legitimacy and ethics of those actions. Not, of course, about using coffee and Coca-Cola, ubiquitous performance-enhancing stimulants that are mysteriously absent from bans and prohibitions.
  3. Copywrongs — Matt Blaze spits the dummy on IEEE and ACM copyright policies. In particular, the IEEE is explicitly preventing authors from distributing copies of the final paper. We write scientific papers first and last because we want them read. When papers were disseminated solely in print form it might have been reasonable to expect authors to donate the copyright in exchange for production and distribution. Today, of course, this model seems, at best, quaintly out of touch with the needs of researchers and academics who no longer desire or tolerate the delay and expense of seeking out printed copies of far-flung documents. We expect to find on it on the open web, and not hidden behind a paywall, either.
  4. On the Engineering of SaaSAn upgrade process, for example, is an entirely different beast. Making it robust and repeatable is far less important than making it quick and reversible. This is because the upgrade only every happens once: on your install. Also, it only ever has to work right in one, exact variant of the environment: yours. And while typical customers of software can schedule an outage to perform an upgrade, scheduling downtime in SaaS is nearly impossible. So, you must be able to deploy new releases quickly, if not entirely seamlessly — and in the event of failure, rollback just as rapidly.
Four short links: 14 February 2011

Four short links: 14 February 2011

Vesting Incentives, Camera Hacks, iPad Longform Saviour?, and Bogus Science

  1. Stephen Elop is a Flight Risk (Silicon Beat) — a foresight-filled 2008 article that doesn’t make Nokia’s new CEO look good. A reminder to boards and CEOs that option vesting schedules matter. (via Hacker News)
  2. CHDK — Canon Hack Development Kit gives point-and-shoot Canon digital camera new features like RAW images, motion detection, a USB remote, full control over exposure and so on. (via Sennheiser HD 555 to HD 595 Mod)
  3. The Atavist – iPad app for original long-form nonfiction (what used to be called “journalism”). (via Tim O’Reilly)
  4. Why Most Published Findings are False (PLoS Medicine) — as explained by John D. Cook, Suppose you have 1,000 totally ineffective drugs to test. About 1 out of every 20 trials will produce a p-value of 0.05 or smaller by chance, so about 50 trials out of the 1,000 will have a “significant” result, and only those studies will publish their results. The error rate in the lab was indeed 5%, but the error rate in the literature coming out of the lab is 100 percent!.
Four short links: 3 January 2011

Four short links: 3 January 2011

RSS, Copyright Terms, RFID Security, and Server-Side Javascript

  1. RSS is Dying and You Should Be WorriedIf RSS dies, we lose the ability to read in private.
  2. What Could Have Been Entering The Public Domain on January 1, 2011? — a list of the works that won’t be entering the public domain in the US because the copyright term was extended in 1976. Think of the movies from 1954 that would have become available this year. You could have showed clips from them. You could have showed all of them. You could have spliced and remixed and made documentaries about them. (You could have been a contender!) Instead, here are a few of the movies that we won’t see in the public domain for another 39 years …. This list will be viewed two different ways by different groups, reinforcing instead of changing their views: copyright minimalists will say “what a tragedy” but copyright maximalists will say “look at these great works we protected, they’re still earning money for their creators therefore they’re still valuable and thus worth protecting”. (via Bill Bennett on Twitter)
  3. ProxClone — cloner for proximity cards, cost of parts around $30. (via Hacker News)
  4. 2011 Is The Year of Server-Side Javascript — explanation of why the author will be doing back-end coding in Javascript this year. Good to see an honest assessment that it’s still early days for server-side Javascript: Most of the libraries out there are young, buggy and incomplete. I got Node.js to segfault a few times. There’s no killer framework on the same caliber as Rails, nor anything that comes close to ActiveSupport and a decent standard runtime library (hmm … that gives me an idea). But then, it’s not much different than what Ruby was five years ago, or Java back in the late 90′s. We’ve all got to start somewhere.
Four short links: 8 December 2010

Four short links: 8 December 2010

User-Contributed News, Web Services, Kinect Piano, and Designing Maps

  1. Send Us Your Thoughts (YouTube) — from the excellent British comedians Mitchell and Webb comes this take on viewer comments in the news. (via Steve Buttry’s News Foo writeup)
  2. Amazon proves that REST doesn’t matter for Cloud APIs — with the death of WS-* and their prolix overbearing complexity, the difference between REST and basic XML RPC is almost imperceptible. As this essay points out, the biggest cloud API is Amazon’s and it’s built on RPC instead of REST.
  3. Kinect Piano (YouTube) — turn any surface into a piano. (via David Ascher on Twitter)
  4. Google Maps Label Readability — detailed analysis of the design decisions that make Google’s labels so much more readable than the competition’s. Fascinating to see the decisions that go into programmatically building a map: leaving white space around cities, carefully avoiding clustering, even how adding an extra level of information can make things simpler.