Quantum OS — Linux desktop based on Google’s Material Design. UI guidelines fascinate me: users love consistency, designers and brands hate that everything works the same.
Inside AWS — Every day, AWS installs enough server infrastructure to host the entire Amazon e-tailing business from back in 2004, when Amazon the retailer was one-tenth its current size at $7 billion in annual revenue. “What has changed in the last year,” Hamilton asked rhetorically, and then quipped: “We have done it 365 more times.” That is another way of saying that in the past year AWS has added enough capacity to support a $2.55 trillion online retailing operation, should one ever be allowed to exist.
A Critique of the Balancing Metaphor in Privacy and Security — The arguments presented by this paper are built on two underlying assertions. The first is that the assessment of surveillance measures often entails a judgement of whether any loss in privacy is legitimised by a justifiable increase in security. However, one fundamental difference between privacy and security is that privacy has two attainable end-states (absolute privacy through to the absolute absence of privacy), whereas security has only one attainable end-state (while the absolute absence of security is attainable, absolute security is a desired yet unobtainable goal). The second assertion, which builds upon the first, holds that because absolute security is desirable, new security interventions will continuously be developed, each potentially trading a small measure of privacy for a small rise in security. When assessed individually each intervention may constitute a justifiable trade-off. However, when combined together, these interventions will ultimately reduce privacy to zero. (via Alistair Croll)
ISP Interconnection and its Impact on Consumer Internet Performance (Measurement Lab) — In researching our report, we found clear evidence that interconnection between major U.S. access ISPs (AT&T, Comcast, CenturyLink, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon) and transit ISPs Cogent, Level 3, and potentially XO was correlated directly with degraded consumer performance throughout 2013 and into 2014 (in some cases, ongoing as of publication). Degraded performance was most pronounced during peak use hours, which points to insufficient capacity and congestion as a causal factor. Further, by noting patterns of performance degradation for access/transit ISP pairs that were synchronized across locations, we were able to conclude that in many cases degradation was not the result of major infrastructure failures at any specific point in a network, but rather connected with the business relationships between ISPs.
Google’s Project Zero (Wired) — G pays a team to attack common software and report the bugs to the manufacturer. Interesting hypothesis about how the numbers inbalance between Every Russian 14 Year Old and this small team doesn’t matter: modern hacker exploits often chain together a series of hackable flaws to defeat a computer’s defenses. Kill one of those bugs and the entire exploit fails. That means Project Zero may be able to nix entire collections of exploits by finding and patching flaws in a small part of an operating system, like the “sandbox” that’s meant to limit an application’s access to the rest of the computer. ”On certain attack surfaces, we’re optimistic we can fix the bugs faster than they’re being introduced,” Hawkes says. “If you funnel your research into these limited areas, you increase the chances of bug collisions.”
Dynamo and BigTable — good preso overview of two approaches to solving availability and consistency in the event of server failure or network partition.
Goals Gone Wild (PDF) — In this article, we argue that the beneficial effects of goal setting have been overstated and that systematic harm caused by goal setting has been largely ignored. We identify specific side effects associated with goal setting, including a narrow focus that neglects non-goal areas, a rise in unethical behavior, distorted risk preferences, corrosion of organizational culture, and reduced intrinsic motivation.
Tech Isn’t All Brogrammers (Alexis Madrigal) — a reminder that there are real scientists and engineers in Silicon Valley working on problems considerably harder than selling ads and delivering pet food to one another. (via Brian Behlendorf)
Machine Learning Done Wrong — [M]ost practitioners pick the modeling algorithm they are most familiar with rather than pick the one which best suits the data. In this post, I would like to share some common mistakes (the don’t-s).
Bandits for Recommendations — A common problem for internet-based companies is: which piece of content should we display? Google has this problem (which ad to show), Facebook has this problem (which friend’s post to show), and RichRelevance has this problem (which product recommendation to show). Many of the promising solutions come from the study of the multi-armed bandit problem.
Droplets — the Droplet is almost spherical, can self-right after being poured out of a bucket, and has the hardware capabilities to organize into complex shapes with its neighbors due to accurate range and bearing. Droplets are available open-source and use cheap vibration motors and a 3D printed shell. (via Robohub)
Apple’s App Store Approval Guidelines — some of the plainest English I’ve seen, especially the Introduction. I can only aspire to that clarity. If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.
Cockroach — a distributed key/value datastore which supports ACID transactional semantics and versioned values as first-class features. The primary design goal is global consistency and survivability, hence the name. Cockroach aims to tolerate disk, machine, rack, and even datacenter failures with minimal latency disruption and no manual intervention. Cockroach nodes are symmetric; a design goal is one binary with minimal configuration and no required auxiliary services.
Linux Foundation Providing for Core Infrastructure Projects — press release, but interested in how they’re tackling sustainability—they’re taking on identifying worthies (glad I’m not the one who says “you’re not worthy” to a project) and being the non-profit conduit for the dosh. Interesting: implies they think the reason companies weren’t supporting necessary open source projects was some combination of being unsure who to support (projects you use, surely?) and how to get them money (ask?). (Sustainability of open source projects is a pet interest of mine)
Beyond the Stack (Mike Loukides) — tools and processes to support software developers who are as massively distributed as the code they build.
Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2014 (PDF) — the changes on slide 34 are interesting: usage moving away from G+/Facebook-style omniblather creepware and towards phonebook-based chat apps.
Introduction to Software Engineering Ethics (PDF) — amazing set of provocative questions and scenarios for software engineers about the decisions they made and consequences of their actions. From a course in ethics from SCU.
Open Government Data Online: Impenetrable (Guardian) — Too much knowledge gets trapped in multi-page pdf files that are slow to download (especially in low-bandwidth areas), costly to print, and unavailable for computer analysis until someone manually or automatically extracts the raw data.
Maciej Ceglowski on Our Internet — If you haven’t already read this because someone pushed it into your hands, read it now. If these vast databases are valuable enough, it doesn’t matter who they belong to. The government will always find a way to query them. Who pays for the servers is just an implementation detail.
Design Changes Possible With Robot Cars (Brad Templeton) — While a nice windshield may be good for visibility for forward-facing passengers, there is no need to have a large unobstructed view for safety. The windshield can be reinforced with bars, for example, allowing it to be much stronger in the case of impacts, notably impacts with animals. Other than for passenger comfort, the windshield barely has to be there at all. On behalf of everyone who has ever driven in Australia at dusk … I for one welcome our new robot chauffeurs. (via The Atlantic)
The Transformation of the Workplace Through Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Automation — fascinating legal questions about the rise of the automated workforce. . Is an employer required to bargain if it wishes to acquire robots to do work previously performed by unionized employees working under a collective bargaining agreement? does the collective bargaining agreement control the use of robots to perform this work? A unionized employer seeking to add robots to its business process must consider these questions. (via Robotenomics)
The Invasive Valley of Personalization (Maria Anderson) — there is a fine line between useful personalization and creepy personalization. It reminded me of the “uncanny valley” in human robotics. So I plotted the same kind of curves on two axes: Access to Data as the horizontal axis, and Perceived Helpfulness on the vertical axis. For technology to get vast access to data AND make it past the invasive valley, it would have to be perceived as very high on the perceived helpfulness scale.
In-Game Graph Analysis (The Economist) — one MLB team has bought a Cray Ulrika graph-processing appliance for in-game analysis of data. Please hold, boggling. (via Courtney Nash)
Disney Bets $1B on Technology (BusinessWeek) — MyMagic+ promises far more radical change. It’s a sweeping reservation and ride planning system that allows for bookings months in advance on a website or smartphone app. Bracelets called MagicBands, which link electronically to an encrypted database of visitor information, serve as admission tickets, hotel keys, and credit or debit cards; a tap against a sensor pays for food or trinkets. The bands have radio frequency identification (RFID) chips—which critics derisively call spychips because of their ability to monitor people and things. (via Jim Stogdill)
Stupid Smart Stuff (Don Norman) — In the airplane, the pilots are not attending, but when trouble does arise, the extremely well-trained pilots have several minutes to respond. In the automobile, when trouble arises, the ill-trained drivers will have one or two seconds to respond. Automobile designers – and law makers – have ignored this information.
What You Think You Know About the Web Is Wrong — Chartbeat looked at deep user behavior across 2 billion visits across the web over the course of a month and found that most people who click don’t read. In fact, a stunning 55% spent fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page. The stats get a little better if you filter purely for article pages, but even then one in every three visitors spend less than 15 seconds reading articles they land on. The entire article makes some powerful points about the difference between what’s engaged with and what’s shared. Articles that were clicked on and engaged with tended to be actual news. In August, the best performers were Obamacare, Edward Snowden, Syria and George Zimmerman, while in January the debates around Woody Allen and Richard Sherman dominated. The most clicked on but least deeply engaged-with articles had topics that were more generic. In August, the worst performers included Top, Best, Biggest, Fictional etc while in January the worst performers included Hairstyles, Positions, Nude and, for some reason, Virginia. That’s data for you.