MyChinese360 — virtual foreign language instruction in Mandarin, including “virtual visits” to Chinese landmarks. The ability to get native speakers virtually into the classroom makes the Internet a huge asset for rural schools. (via Lucy Gray)
Anonymity in Bitcoin — TL;DR: Bitcoin is not inherently anonymous. It may be possible to conduct transactions is such a way so as to obscure your identity, but, in many cases, users and their transactions can be identified. We have performed an analysis of anonymity in the Bitcoin system and published our results in a preprint on arXiv. (via Hacker News)
Build a Cheap Bitcoin Mine — some day it will be revealed that the act of generating a bitcoin token is helping the Russian mafia to crack nuclear missile launch codes and Afghan druglords built the Bitcoin system to destabilize the US dollar.
Polycode — a free, open-source, cross-platform framework for creative code. You can use it as a C++ API or as a standalone scripting language to get easy and simple access to accelerated 2D and 3D graphics, hardware shaders, sound and network programming, physics engines and more. The core Polycode API is written in C++ and can be used to create portable native applications. Lua interfaces. (via Joshua Schachter)
Flickr Date Design — interesting thoughts on Flickr’s date design. The date your photos was taken is stored in a MySQL datetime technically giving you the ability to label your photo as being taken solidly 800+ years before anything most of us would describe as the invention of photography. Which is a little silly.[…]Fundamentally this split between system activity time, and human editable creation date models a world where the people who use your software do something other then use your software. You have to decide how you feel about admitting that possibility. (via Nelson Minar)
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.
Joystick-It — adhesive joystick for the iPad. Compare the Fling analogue joystick. Tactile accessories for the iPad—hot new product category or futile attempt to make a stripped-down demi-computer into an aftermarked pimped-out hackomatic? (via Aza Raskin on Twitter)
Programmed for Love (Chronicle of Higher Education) — Sherry Turkle sees the danger in social hardware emulating emotion. Companies will soon sell robots designed to baby-sit children, replace workers in nursing homes, and serve as companions for people with disabilities. All of which to Turkle is demeaning, “transgressive,” and damaging to our collective sense of humanity. It’s not that she’s against robots as helpers—building cars, vacuuming floors, and helping to bathe the sick are one thing. She’s concerned about robots that want to be buddies, implicitly promising an emotional connection they can never deliver. (via BoingBoing)
Asking the Right Questions (Expert Labs) — Andy Baio compiled a list of how Q&A sites like StackOverflow, Quora, Yahoo! Answers, etc. steer people towards asking questions whose answers will improve the site (and away from flamage, chitchat, etc.). The secret sauce to social software is the invisible walls that steer people towards productive behaviour.
Two Brothers Await Broad Use of Medical E-Records (New York Times) — The Doerrs’ software company is only one of many hoping to cash in on the national mandate for digital medical records. The companies range from giants like General Electric to specialists like Athenahealth that cater to small physician practices. They, like the Doerrs, are betting that the law will help create a turning point for the economics of digital health records, opening the door to rapid adoption by doctors and a thriving business at last. NZ-based Orion Health is expanding at a great rate in the US, doing electronic health records. The tide is beginning to turn away from paper, thank goodness. (via DrChrisPaton on Twitter)
On Feminism and Microcontrollers (Benjamin Mako Hill) — We found evidence to support the suggestion that LilyPad is disproportionally appealing to women, as compared to Arduino (we estimated that about 9% of Arduino purchasers were female while 35% of LilyPad purchasers were). We found evidence that suggests that a very large proportion of people making high-visibility projects using LilyPad are female as compared to Arduino (65% for LilyPad, versus 2% for Arduino).
The Rise of Amazon Web Services — Stephen O’Grady points out that Amazon has become an enterprise sales company but we don’t treat it as such because we think of it as a retail company that’s dabbling in technology. I think of Amazon as an automation company: they automate and optimize everything, and a data center is just a warehouse for MIPS. (via Matt Asay)
Memory Upgrade (The Economist) — a photofit system that uses evolutionary algorithms to generate the suspects’ faces, and does clever things like animated distortions to call out features the witness might recall. Technology going beyond automated sketch artists.
The Particle Adventure: The Fundamental of Matter and Force — basic physics in easy-to-understand language with illustrations, all in bite-size pieces (and 1998-era web design). I’m pondering what one of these would be like for computers, and whether “how do these actually work?” has the same romance as “how does the world really work?”.
Instrumentation and Observability (Theo Schlossnagle) — thoughtful talk (text and video available at that link) from a devops master. Many systems have critical metrics, which are diverse and specific to the business in question. For the purposes of this discussion, consider a system where advertisements are shown. We, of course, track every advertisement displayed in the system and that information is available for query. Herein the problem lies. Most systems put that information in a data store that is designed to answer marketing-oriented information: who clicked on what, what was shown where, etc. Answering the question, “How many were shown?” is possible but is not particularly efficient.
Peak MHz (Mike Kuniavsky) — we hit the era of what I’m calling Peak MHz in about 2004. That’s the point when processor speed effectively peaked as chip manufacturers began competing along other dimensions. Which is why all the effort is going into horizontally-scalable systems like the NoSQL gadgets. (via Matt Jones)
Transparency — the great British satires Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister continue as one of the writers blogs in the persona of the elder civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby. His take on transparency is funny because it’s true: I understand your anxiety about the new government’s fixation on what they are pleased to call ‘transparency’, but you are distressing yourself unnecessarily. It afflicts all incoming administrations. It used to be called ‘open government’, and reflects the frustrations they felt when they were in opposition and could not find out what was going on, combined with an eagerness to discover and publicise the deception, distortions and disasters of their predecessors.
The Government Doesn’t Look Good Naked — a fine counter to the squawks of “the government’s open efforts suck!” that are building. this is exactly how to prevent innovation in government. If you want change, you have to tolerate imperfection and risk. If every program manager thinks they’ll end up on the front page of the Washington Post or get dressed down onstage at Gov 2.0, nothing will change. (via Tim McNamara)
Comments Off on Four short links: 10 September 2010
GPL WordPress Theme Angst — a podcaster brought together Matt Mullenweg (creator of WordPress), and Chris Pearson (creator of the Thesis theme). Chris doesn’t believe WordPress’s GPL should be inherited by themes. Matt does, and the SFLC and others agree. The conversation is interesting because (a) they and the podcaster do a great job of keeping it civil and on-track and purposeful, and (b) Chris is unswayed. Chris built on GPLed software without realizing it, and is having trouble with the implications. Chris’s experience, and feelings, and thought processes, are replicated all around the world. This is like a usability bug for free software. (via waxpancake on Twitter)
480G SSD Drive — for a mere $1,599.99. If you wonder why everyone’s madly in love with parallel, it’s because of this order-of-magnitude+ difference in price between regular hard drives and the Fast Solution. Right now, the only way to rapidly and affordably crunch a ton of data is to go parallel. (via marcoarment on Twitter)
Pandas and Lobsters: Why Google Cannot Build Social Software — this resonates with me. The primary purpose of a social application is connecting with others, seeing what they’re up to, and maybe even having some small, fun interactions that though not utilitarian are entertaining and help us connect with our own humanity. Google apps are for working and getting things done; social apps are for interacting and having fun. Read it for the lobster analogy, which is gold.
Wayfinder — The majority of all the location and navigation related software developed at Wayfinder Systems, a fully owned Vodafone subsidiary, is made available publicly under a BSD licence. This includes the distributed back-end server, tools to manage the server cluster and map conversion as well as client software for e.g. Android, iPhone and Symbian S60. Technical documentation is available in the wiki and discussions around the software are hosted in the forum. Interesting, and out of the blue. At the very least, there’s some learning to be done by reading the server infrastructure. (via monkchips on Twitter)
Android Tablet — the PanDigital Novel is a wifi-enabled book-reader that’s easily modded to run Android and thus a pile of other software. Not available for sale yet, but “coming soon”. A hint of the delights to come as low-cost Android tablets hit the market.
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.