The Slow Winter — best writing about the failure of Moore’s Law and the misery of being in hardware. Ever.
Akaros — an open source, GPL-licensed operating system for manycore architectures. Our goal is to provide support for parallel and high-performance applications and to scale to a large number of cores.
Multithreading is Hard — The compiler and the processor both conspire to defeat your threads by moving your code around! Be warned and wary! You will have to do battle with both. Sample code and explanation of WTF the eieio barrier is (hint: nothing to do with Old McDonald’s server farm). (via Erik Michaels-Ober)
Is Google Dumping Open Standards for Open Wallets? (Matt Asay) — it’s easier to ship than standardise, to innovate than integrate, but the ux of a citizen in the real world is pants. Like blog posts? Log into Facebook to read your friends! (or Google+) Chat is great, but you’d better have one client per corporation your friends hang out on. Nobody woke up this morning asking for features to make web pages only work on one browser. The user experience of isolationism is ugly.
GitHub Renders GeoJSON — Under the hood we use Leaflet.js to render the geoJSON data, and overlay it on a custom version of MapBox’s street view baselayer — simplified so that your data can really shine. Best of all, the base map uses OpenStreetMap data, so if you find an area to improve, edit away.
Addressing Human Trafficking Through Technology (danah boyd) — technologists love to make tech and then assert it’ll help people. Danah’s work on teens and now trafficking steers us to do what works, rather than what is showy or easiest.
Product Management (Rowan Simpson) — hand this to anyone who asks what product management actually is. Excellent explanation.
Many Core Processors — not the first time I’ve heard nondeterministic computing discussed as a solution to some of our parallel-programming travails. Can’t imagine what a pleasure it is to debug.
Pinterest Cloned — it’s not the pilfering of the idea that offends my sensibilities, it’s the blatant clone of every aspect of the UI. I never thought much of the old Apple look’n’feel lawsuit but this really rubs me the wrong way.
Libraries: Where It All Went Wrong — I was asked to provocatively help focus librarians on the opportunities offered to libraries in the Internet age. If I ask you to talk about your collections, I know that you will glow as you describe the amazing treasures you have. When you go for money for digitization projects, you talk up the incredible cultural value. ANZAC! Constitution! Treaties! Development of a nation! But then if I look at the results of those digitization projects, I find the shittiest websites on the planet. It’s like a gallery spent all its money buying art and then just stuck the paintings in supermarket bags and leaned them against the wall. CC-BY-SA licensed, available in nicely-formatted A4 and Letter versions.
On the Perpetuation of Ignorance (PDF) — ignorance about an issue leads to dependence leads to government trust leads to avoidance of information about that issue. Again I say to Gov 2.0 advocates that simply making data available doesn’t generate a motivated, engaged, change-making citizenry. (via Roger Dennis)
Facebook and Radical Transparency: A Rant (danah boyd) — well-argued and well-written piece about what is becoming the tech issue of the year. The key to addressing this problem is not to say “public or private?” but to ask how we can make certain people are 1) informed; 2) have the right to chose; and 3) are consenting without being deceived. I’d be a whole lot less pissed off if people had to opt-in in December. Or if they could’ve retained the right to keep their friends lists, affiliations, interests, likes, and other content as private as they had when they first opted into Facebook. Slowly disintegrating the social context without choice isn’t consent; it’s trickery.
Schooloscope — interesting new Berg project to help parents make sense of the long and complex reports on British schools produced by the relevant government department. Notable for what it doesn’t do (leaderboards), and what it does (the face visualisations). See Matt Webb’s description.
Expert Labs Grand Challenges First Results — they gathered the results of the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s call for “Grand Challenges in science and technology that could yield significant breakthroughs in the future”. Interesting for all who planning crowdsourcing efforts because there’s a detailed and thoughtful summation of lessons learned. And even those in the science and technology communities who might have ready responses would have to acclimate to the huge new idea of being asked for their feedback, as well as the big new idea that they could give feedback using common social networking tools. If there is an area for improvement in our efforts, this is clearly an important one to focus on. Even relatively minor variables like the time of day when a social networking prompt is sent can have significant impact on results, both in terms of the quality of responses, as well as the speed with which they responses are submitted. More significantly, the terse wording and distracted attention environment of social networks can amplify ambiguities in a prompt.
mytop — a MySQL top implementation to show you why your server is so damn slow right now.
What Could Kill Elegant High-Value Participatory Project? — The problem was not that the system was buggy or hard to use, but that it disrupted staff expectations and behavior. It introduced new challenges for staff […]. Rather than adapt to these challenges, they removed the system. […] No librarian would get rid of all the Harry Potter books because they are “too popular.” No museum would stop offering an educational program that was “too successful.” These are familiar challenges that come with the job and are seen to have benefit. But if tagging creates a line or people spend too much time giving you feedback? Staff at Haarlem Oost likely felt comfortable removing the tagging shelves because they didn’t see the tagging as a patron requirement, nor the maintenance of the shelves as part of their job.
Gremlin — a Turing-complete, graph-based programming language developed in Java 1.6+ for key/value-pair multi-relational graphs known as property graphs. Graph structures underly a lot of interesting data (citations, social networks, maps) and this is a sign that we’re inching towards better systems for working with those graphs. (via Hacker News)
Anic — programming language based on stream and latches. I still can’t figure out whether it’s an elaborate April Fool’s Day joke that was released too soon, because the claim of “easier than *sh” is a bold one given the double-backslash and double-square-bracket-heavy syntax of the language. Important because it’s built to be parallelised, and we’re in transition pain right now between well-understood predictable languages for single CPUs (with hacks like pthreads for scaling) and experimental languages for multiple CPUs.
MathJax — MathJax is an open source, Ajax-based math display solution designed with a goal of consolidating advances in many web technologies in a single definitive math-on-the-web platform supporting all major browsers. (via Hacker News)
EtherPad Source — released as part of their Google acquisition. The announcement says: Our goal with this release is to let the world run their own etherpad servers so that the functionality can live on even after we shut down etherpad.com. This is the resolution to the bad reception of the news that EtherPad would close in March with no plan B for users. The cult of entrepreneurship worshipped the customers only as a vehicle to an exit, but I don’t believe that it’s moral to do well personally but leave your customers high and dry. This is a message that the EtherPad founders seem to have got loud and clear.
ParticipateDB — database of online tools for public participation. Closed alpha now, with 32 tools and 15 projects in the database. (via Sara Winge)
DataTO — like data.gov, but it’s where users request data sets. (In this case, from the Toronto municipal government)
Go — new language from Bell Labs and Unix central figures Rob Pike and Ken Thompson, who now work at Google. Bits of C, bits of Google, it compiles to native binaries and runs nearly as fast as C. Built with concurrency and memory management as central figures. Not used in production at Google yet, but grew from a 20% project to something worthy of public release.
On Commit Bits (Jacob Kaplan-Moss) — that day-one-commit-bit is one of the starkest differences between the corporate and the open source development model. […] Granted, Django’s very conservative when it comes to granting that commit bit, but I’m not aware of a single open source project under the sun that’d give out a commit bit on a contributor’s first day. I’ve seen developers who’ve been hired to work full time on open source work for months without commit access to the project they’re paid to develop! One of several posts that Jacob’s made about why open source makes for (on average) better software.
Comments Off on Four short links: 11 November 2009
Behind the Scenes at WhatDoTheyKnow — numbers and stories from the MySociety project, which provides a public place for Official Information Act requests and responses. The fact information is subject to copyright and restrictions on re-use does not exempt it from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (though there is a closely related exemption relating to “commercial interest”). Occasionally public bodies will offer to reply to a request, but in order to deter wider dissemination of the material they will refuse to reply via WhatDoTheyKnow.com. Southampton University have released information in protected PDF documents and the House of Commons has refused to release information via WhatDoTheyKnow.com which it has said it would be prepared to send to an individual directly.
The View from HadoopWorld (RedMonk) — fascinating glimpse into the Hadoop user and developer world. Hadoop can be used with a variety of languages, from Perl to Python to Ruby, but as Doug Cutting admitted today, they’re all second class citizens relative to Java. The plan, however, is for that to change. Which can’t happen soon enough, in my view. It’s not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with Java, or its audience. The point, rather, is that there are lots and lots of dynamic language developers out there that would be far more productive working in their native tongue versus translating into Java.
Be Lucky, It’s an Easy Skill to Learn (Telegraph) — this one resonated with me, as it ties into some life hacking I’ve been doing lately. And so it is with luck – unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through newspapers determined to find certain types of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for. (via Hacker News)
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.