- Doing Something For Me vs Allowing Me To Do Even More (Matt Webb) — nails the split in startups. Come on, valley kids … do you want diapers or do you want superpowers?
- Paul Ford on Racter — But don’t get too ahead of things. Using Racter is not as different from using Siri as you might expect. It’s just that Siri has petabytes of stuff in her brain, whereas Racter has a floppy’s worth. Computers have changed a ton in the last 30 years, humans barely at all. Don’t mistake their progress for ours. We’ve learned how to talk to computers, and they’ve learned how to pretend to understand us. Useful when driving. People love chatting with their Amazon Echo. But the conversation still doesn’t really mean anything.
- Accelerating Science: A Computing Research Agenda (PDF) — Siri thinks I want to tell telemarketers to “duck off,” while researchers look to automated hypothesis generation, experiment design, results analysis, and knowledge integration.
- Not Quite So Broken TLS (Adrian Colyer) — instead of ad-hoc codery, A precise and testable specification (in this case for TLS) that unambiguously determines the set of behaviours it allows (and hence also what it does not). The specification should also be executable as a test oracle, to determine whether or not a given implementation is compliant. The paper outlines this for TLS, but I see formal methods growing in importance in coming years. We can’t build an airport with cardboard on a swamp. In this metaphor, cardboard represents our ad hoc dev practices and the swamp is our platform of crap code. The airport is … look, never mind, I’ll work on the metaphor. Read the paper.
"human augmentation" entries
Nate Oostendorp on manufacturing and the industrial Internet, and Tim O'Reilly and Rod Smith discuss emerging tech.
The Industrial Revolution had a profound effect on manufacturing — will the industrial Internet’s effect be as significant? In this podcast episode, Nate Oostendorp, co-founder and CTO of Sight Machine, says yes — where mechanization ruled the Industrial Revolution, data-driven automation will rule this next revolution:
“I think that when you think about manufacturing 20 years from now, the computer and the network is going to be much more fundamental. Your factories are going to look a lot more like data centers do, where there’s a much greater degree of automation that’s driven by the fact that you have good data feeds off of it. You have a lot of your administration of the factory that will be done remotely or in a back office. You don’t necessarily need to have engineers on a floor watching a machine in order to know what’s going on. I think fundamentally, the number of players in a factory will be much smaller. You’ll have much more technical expertise but a fewer number of people overall in a factory setting.”
According to Oostendorp, we’re already seeing the early effects today in an increased focus on quality and efficiency. Read more…
Ploughbot, Amazon Warehouses, Kickstarting Safety, and The Island of Dr Thoreau
- Farmbot Wiki — open-source, scalable, automated precision farming machines.
- Amazon’s Chaotic Storage — photos from inside an Amazon warehouse. At the heart of the operation is a sophisticated database that tracks and monitors every single product that enters/leaves the warehouse and keeps a tally on every single shelf space and whether it’s empty or contains a product. Software-optimised spaces, for habitation by augmented humans.
- Public Safety Codes of the World — Kickstarter project to fund the release of public safety codes.
- #xoxo Thoreau Talk (Maciej Ceglowski) — exquisitely good talk by the Pinboard creator, on success, simplicity, and focus.
Bitcoin Numbers, Augmenting People with Computers, EBook Creation, and Answering Your Questions
- BitCoin in 2012, By The Numbers — Over the past year Bitcoin’s value when compared to the US Dollar, and most other currencies, increased steadily, though there was a large spike and subsequent dip in August. Interestingly, the current market cap is actually at a peak for 2012, exceeding the spike in August. This can be attributed to the fact that tens of thousands of Bitcoins have been introduced into the economy since August, though now at the slower rate of 25 per block.
- Man-Computer Symbiosis (JCR Licklider) — In short, it seems worthwhile to avoid argument with (other) enthusiasts for artificial intelligence by conceding dominance in the distant future of cerebration to machines alone. There will nevertheless be a fairly long interim during which the main intellectual advances will be made by men and computers working together in intimate association. Fascinating to read this 1960 paper on AI and the software/hardware augmentation of human knowledge work (just as the term “knowledge worker” was coined). (via Jim Stogdill)
- Papyrus — simple online editor and publisher for ebooks.
- howdoi (github) — commandline tool to search stackoverflow and show the code that best matches your request. This is genius.
Software-Defined Radio, Google Mapping, Windows Exploits, and Firesheep Moments
- Getting Started with Software-Defined Radio (ThePowerBase) — Now, anyone with about $20 USD to spare can tune into everything from police and fire transmissions to the International Space Station. We were talking about this on the Radar mailing list, and Mike Loukides offered these pithy words of wisdom: antennas only get complicated if you’re transmitting. If you’re transmitting, you run a real possibility of letting the magic smoke out if something’s wrong with the antenna. But with receivers, there’s very little that more wire won’t fix. And at TV frequencies, you don’t even need that much wire. (via Jim Stogdill)
- How Google Builds Its Maps (The Atlantic) — fascinating look into Google’s project Ground Truth. [T]he maps team, largely driven by Street View, is publishing more imagery data every two weeks than Google possessed total in 2006. The analysis of human-powered software is great: Google’s map offerings build in the human intelligence on the front end, and that’s what allows its computers to tell you the best route from San Francisco to Boston.
- USB Stick of Death — very detailed internals walkthrough of how to simply insert a USB stick, have it automatically mounted by the operating system and immediately compromise it by triggering a vulnerability in ntfs.sys.
- Basecamp — A Firesheep Moment for PLCs. I love the idea of Firesheep moments: when the obscurity is removed by making the flaw so easy to exploit that nobody can deny the problem exists. (via Jim Stogdill)
Library Licensing, Mac Graphics, Coal Computing, and Human Augmentation
- Just Say No To Freegal — an interesting view from the inside, speaking out against a music licensing system called Freegal which is selling to libraries. Libraries typically buy one copy of something, and then lend it out to multiple users sequentially, in order to get a good return on investment. Participating in a product like Freegal means that we’re not lending anymore, we’re buying content for users to own permanently so they don’t have to pay the vendor directly themselves. This puts us in direct competition with the vendor’s sales directly to consumers, and the vendors will never make more money off of libraries than they will off of direct consumer sales. What that does is put libraries in a position of being economic victims of our own success. I would think that libraries would remember this lesson from our difficulties with the FirstSearch pay-per-use model that most of us found to be unsustainable.
- Cost of Computing in Coal (Benjamin Mako Hill) — back-of-the-envelope estimation of the carbon costs of running an overnight multicore Amazon number-crunching job. Thinking about the environmental costs of your crappy coding might change the way you code, much as punched cards encouraged you to model and test the program by hand before you ran it. How many tons of coal are burnt to support laziness or a lack of optimization in my software?
- Friction in Computer Human Symbiosis (Palantir blog) — Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process. (via Tim O’Reilly)