StackParts — catalogue of different parts of the open source web stack, from Joshua Schachter. He’s looking for helpers.
DIY Microsocopes — Keeling’s lowfi contraption, featured in MAKE magazine and virally spreading across science classrooms the country over, is bringing microscopes not just to eye level, but street level. Blowtorch and pipette glass makes for a Leeuwenhoek microscope.
The Covenant — Lexis Nexis are open sourcing their Hadoop-alike. They want to dual-license, requiring contributor copyright assignment, but copyright assignment and dual-licensing have a bad rep in the open source world because companies can subsequently abandon the open source component. Bruce Perens crafted a covenant: each copyright assignment of a patch can only happen if the company agrees not to abandon the open source project for three years. This document is a good read, though, for a lot more of the thinking behind the agreement. Unfortunate name, though: The Covenant were the villains in the Halo game.
Ben Hammersley on The Future — Moore’s Law means anything that is dismissed on the grounds of the technology-not-being-good-enough-yet is going to happen. In a fantastic talk (I linked to Ben’s notes), this sentence jumped out. I hadn’t really appreciated this before, but it is absolutely true.
Three Ages of Google — from batch, to scaling through datacenters, and finally now to techniques for real-time scaling. Of interest to everyone interested in low-latency high-throughput transactions. Datacenters have the diameter of a microsecond, yet we are still using entire stacks designed for WANs. Real-time requires low and bounded latencies and our stacks can’t provide low latency at scale. We need to fix this problem and towards this end Luiz sets out a research agenda, targeting problems that need to be solved. (via Tim O’Reilly)
eReaders and eBooks (Luke Wroblewski) — many eye-opening facts. In 2010 Amazon sold 115 Kindle books for every 100 paperback books. 65% of eReader owners use them in bed, in fact 37% of device usage is in bed.
VT220 on a Mac — dead sexy look. Impressive how many adapters you need to be able to hook a dingy old serial cable up to your shiny new computer.
Data Monday: From PC to Tablet (Luke Wroblewski) — some great stats here. Sales of Apple’s iPad pulled in 30% more than all of Dell’s consumer PC business in just the first half of the year.
Munki — munki is a set of tools that, used together with a webserver-based repository of packages and package metadata, can be used by OS X administrators to manage software installs (and in many cases removals) on OS X client machines.
Tablib — MIT-licensed open source library for manipulating tabular data. Reputed to have a great API. (via Tim McNamara)
Stanford Education Everywhere — courses in CS, machine learning, math, and engineering that are open for all to take. Over 58,000 have already signed up for the introduction to machine learning taught by Peter Norvig, Google’s Director of Research.
Solar Powered Wireless Sensor Network — Chris 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)
The Email Game — game mechanics to get you answering email more efficiently. Can’t wait to hear that conversation with corporate IT. “You want us to install what on the Exchange server?” (via Demo Day Wrapup)
Stratified B-trees and versioning dictionaries — A classic versioned data structure in storage and computer science is the copy-on-write (CoW) B-tree — it underlies many of today’s file systems and databases, including WAFL, ZFS, Btrfs and more. Unfortunately, it doesn’t inherit the B-tree’s optimality properties; it has poor space utilization, cannot offer fast updates, and relies on random IO to scale. Yet, nothing better has been developed since. We describe the `stratified B-tree’, which beats all known semi-external memory versioned B-trees, including the CoW B-tree. In particular, it is the first versioned dictionary to achieve optimal tradeoffs between space, query and update performance. (via Bob Ippolito)
DisplayCabinet (Ben Bashford) — We embedded a group of inanimate ornamental objects with RFID tags. Totems or avatars that represent either people, products or services. We also added RFID tags to a set of house keys and a wallet. Functional things that you carry with you. This group of objects combine with a set of shelves containing a hidden projector and RFID reader to become DisplayCabinet. (via Chris Heathcote)
shairport — Aussie pulled the encryption keys from an Airport Express device, so now you can have software pretend to be an Airport Express.
SideStep — Mac OS X program that automatically routes connections through a secure proxy when you’re on an unsecured wifi network. (via Gina Trapani)
Junkyard Jumbotron (MIT) — lets you take a bunch of random displays and instantly stitch them together into a large, virtual display, simply by taking a photograph of them. It works with laptops, smartphones, tablets — anything that runs a web browser. It also highlights a new way of connecting a large number of heterogenous devices to each other in the field, on an ad-hoc basis.
Nokia Culture Will Out (Adam Greenfield) — Except that, as realized by Nokia, this is precisely what failed to happen. I experienced, in fact, neither a frisson of elegant futurism nor a blasé presentiment of everyday life at midcentury. I was given an NFC phone, and told to tap it against the item I wanted from the vending machine. This is what happened next: the vending machine teeped, and the phone teeped, and six or seven seconds later a notification popped up on its screen. It was an incoming text message, which had been sent by the vending machine at the moment I tapped my phone against it. I had to respond “Y” to this text to complete the transaction. The experience was clumsy and joyless and not in any conceivable way an improvement over pumping coins into the soda machine just the way I did quarters into Defender at the age of twelve.
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.