- Can We Design Systems to Automate Ethics — code in self-driving cars will implement a solution to the trolley problem. But which solution?
- My First Post on Medium (Andy Baio) — one or two glitches but otherwise fine demonstration of what’s possible with Medium.
- SCADA Vulnerability: 7600 Plants at Risk (BBC) — the vulnerabilities are in unpatched Centum CS 3000 software. The real business for IoT is secure remote updates and monitoring. (via Slashdot)
- New Unlicensed Spectrum — The unanimous vote frees up 100 MHz of airwaves in the lower part of 5 GHz spectrum band. Previously, the FCC reserved those airwaves for exclusive use by a satellite phone company. The FCC vote opens those unlicensed airwaves so they can be used by consumer electronics equipment, including Wi-Fi routers. With the new airwaves, Wi-Fi equipment can handle more traffic at higher speeds.
The Internet of Americas, Pharma Pricey, Who's Watching, and Data Mining Course
- Bradley Manning and the Two Americas (Quinn Norton) — The first America built the Internet, but the second America moved onto it. And they both think they own the place now. The best explanation you’ll find for wtf is going on.
- Staggering Cost of Inventing New Drugs (Forbes) — $5BB to develop a new drug; and subject to an inverse-Moore’s law: A 2012 article in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery says the number of drugs invented per billion dollars of R&D invested has been cut in half every nine years for half a century.
- Who’s Watching You — (Tim Bray) threat modelling. Everyone should know this.
- Data Mining with Weka — learn data mining with the popular open source Weka platform.
Mobile Image Cache, Google on Net Neutrality, Future of Programming, and PSD Files in Ruby
- How to Easily Resize and Cache Images for the Mobile Web (Pete Warden) — I set up a server running the excellent ImageProxy open-source project, and then I placed a Cloudfront CDN in front of it to cache the results. (a how-to covering the tricksy bits)
- Google’s Position on Net Neutrality Changes? (Wired) — At issue is Google Fiber’s Terms of Service, which contains a broad prohibition against customers attaching “servers” to its ultrafast 1 Gbps network in Kansas City. Google wants to ban the use of servers because it plans to offer a business class offering in the future. […] In its response [to a complaint], Google defended its sweeping ban by citing the very ISPs it opposed through the years-long fight for rules that require broadband providers to treat all packets equally.
- The Future of Programming (Bret Victor) — gorgeous slides, fascinating talk, and this advice from Alan Kay: I think the trick with knowledge is to “acquire it, and forget all except the perfume” — because it is noisy and sometimes drowns out one’s own “brain voices”. The perfume part is important because it will help find the knowledge again to help get to the destinations the inner urges pick.
- psd.rb — Ruby code for reading PSD files (MIT licensed).
Positive Copyright Coalition, Programmable World, Clever Inventors Interviewed, and Weighty Words
- Our Fair Deal — international coalition (EFF, InternetNZ, Demand Progress, Creative Freedom Foundation, many others) raising awareness and petitioning lawmakers to reject copyright proposals that restrict the open Internet, access to knowledge, economic opportunity and our fundamental rights. (via Susan Chalmers)
- Welcome to the Programmable World (Wired) — For the Programmable World to reach its full potential, we need to pass through three stages. The first is simply the act of getting more devices onto the network—more sensors, more processors in everyday objects, more wireless hookups to extract data from the processors that already exist. The second is to make those devices rely on one another, coordinating their actions to carry out simple tasks without any human intervention. The third and final stage, once connected things become ubiquitous, is to understand them as a system to be programmed, a bona fide platform that can run software in much the same manner that a computer or smartphone can. (via Sacha Judd)
- Inventables On The Road (YouTube) — new series where the Inventables folks interview their customers to show awesome projects. We’re trying to demystify the process of digital fabrication, give some visibility to people working on interesting things, and have some fun.
- Psychological Pitfalls and Lessons of a Designer Founder (Aza Raskin) — You are a founder, which means each word you say lands like an anvil. Even in a very small company, and especially in a larger one, it takes fortitude and courage for a team member to honestly critique your work. The courage required isn’t a one-time cost. It’s incurred every single time. By nature of being a founder, you are used to saying things with charisma and force and you will undoubtedly be excited by your solution and argue for it. This just makes it worse. A final note: it doesn’t matter how nice you are, or how close you are to your team. As a founder, your words are always more powerful than you think.
Street View Tiles Hacks, Policy Simulation, Map Tile Toolbox, and Connected Sensor Device HowTo
- HyperLapse — this won the Internet for April. Everyone else can go home. Check out this unbelievable video and source is available.
- Housing Simulator — NZ’s largest city is consulting on its growth plan, and includes a simulator so you can decide where the growth to house the hundreds of thousands of predicted residents will come from. Reminds me of NPR’s Budget Hero. Notice that none of the levers control immigration or city taxes to make different cities attractive or unattractive. Growth is a given and you’re left trying to figure out which green fields to pave.
- Converting To and From Google Map Tile Coordinates in PostGIS (Pete Warden) — Google Maps’ system of power-of-two tiles has become a defacto standard, widely used by all sorts of web mapping software. I’ve found it handy to use as a caching scheme for our data, but the PostGIS calls to use it were getting pretty messy, so I wrapped them up in a few functions. Code on github.
- So You Want to Build A Connected Sensor Device? (Google Doc) — The purpose of this document is to provide an overview of infrastructure, options, and tradeoffs for the parts of the data ecosystem that deal with generating, storing, transmitting, and sharing data. In addition to providing an overview, the goal is to learn what the pain points are, so we can address them. This is a collaborative document drafted for the purpose of discussion and contribution at Sensored Meetup #10. (via Rachel Kalmar)
Hi-Res Long-Distance, Robot Ants, Data Liberation, and Network Neutrality
- Millimetre-Accuracy 3D Imaging From 1km Away (The Register) — With further development, Heriot-Watt University Research Fellow Aongus McCarthy says, the system could end up both portable and with a range of up to 10 Km. See the paper for the full story.
- Robot Ants With Pheromones of Light (PLoS Comp Biol) — see also the video. (via IEEE Spectrum’s AI blog)
- tabula — open source tool for liberating data tables trapped inside PDF files. (via Source)
- There’s No Economic Imperative to Reconsider an Open Internet (SSRN) — The debate on the neutrality of Internet access isn’t new, and if its intensity varies over time, it has for a long while tainted the relationship between Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Online Service Providers (OSPs). This paper explores the economic relationship between these two types of players, examines in laymen’s terms how the traffic can be routed efficiently and the associated cost of that routing. The paper then assesses various arguments in support of net discrimination to conclude that there is no threat to the internet economy such that reconsidering something as precious as an open internet would be necessary. (via Hamish MacEwan)
Gadgets Over Time, Telco Evil, Open Source Savings, and Plus-Sized Husky Tablet
- Electronic Gadgets in the NZ Consumer Price Index — your CPI is just as bizarre, trust me. (via Julie Starr)
- Captive Audience: Telecom Industry and Monopoly in the New Gilded Age (Amazon) — Foo camper and former Washington insider, now truth-teller about broken telco industry in the US. From Time’s review of the book and interview with her: Meanwhile, Comcast has sharply reduced its capital expenditures, which have now fallen to 14% of revenues from over 35% a decade ago, even as it enjoys a whopping 95% profit margin on its broadband service. “They’re not expanding and they’re not enhancing their service,” Crawford says. “They’ve done their investment, now they’re just harvesting.” Not surprisingly, Comcast’s stock price increased over 50% in the last year, and nearly 200% over the last four years. “Shareholders are doing well,” Crawford says. “The rest of the country, not so great.”
- Barclays Cut Software Expenditure 90% With Open Source (The Inquirer) — “We’ve been making significant savings in our technology platform by doing a lot of the work in-house to develop and launch our own applications rapidly,” he said. “It means we can write new applications once and then develop them using an open source model, rather than rewriting them again for legacy systems.” (via The Linux Foundation)
- Lenovo Has a 27″ Tablet Due This Summer — USD1700 and I want one. The label “tablet” is a tough pill to swallow (ho ho) but it’d make an awesome table. That you could never put anything on. Hmm.
Policy recommendations to get the engines of democracy firing on all cylinders.
If the country is going to have a serious conversation about innovation, unemployment and job creation, we must talk about our race against the machines. For centuries, we’ve been automating people out of jobs. Today’s combination of big data, automation and artificial intelligence, however, looks like something new, from self-driving cars to e-discovery software to “robojournalism” to financial advisors to medical diagnostics. Last year, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote that “software is eating the world.”
Computers and distributed systems are now demonstrating skills in the real world that we once thought would always be the domain of human beings. “That’s just not the case any more,” said MIT research professor Andrew McAfee, in an interview earlier this year at the Strata Conference in Santa Clara, Calif.:
McAfee and his research partner, MIT economics professor Erik Brynjolfsson, remain fundamentally optimistic about the effect of the digital revolution on the world economy. But the drivers of joblessness that they explore in their book, Race Against The Machine, deserved to have had more discussion in this year’s political campaign. Given the tepid labor market recovery in the United States and a rebound that has stayed flat, the Obama administration, given an opportunity for a second term, should pull some new policy levers.
What could — or should — the new administration do? On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of speaking at a panel at the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institute to talk about what a “First 100 Days Innovation Agenda” might look like for the new administration. (Full disclosure: earlier this year, I was paid to moderate a workshop that discussed this issue and contributed to the paper on building an innovation economy that was published this week.) The event was live streamed and is available on-demand.
Below are recommendations from the paper and from professors McAfee and Brynjolfsson, followed by the suggestions I made during the forum, drawing from my conversations with people around the United States on this topic over the past two years.
Randomized Trials for Policy, Crowdfunding Equity, Safe DIYBio, and Easy Unique Experiences
- Test, Learn, Adapt (PDF) — UK Cabinet Office paper on randomised trials for public policy. Ben Goldacre cowrote.
- UK EscapeTheCity Raises GBP600k in Crowd Equity — took just eight days, using the Crowdcube platform for equity-based crowd investment.
- DIY Bio SOPs — CC-licensed set of standard operating procedures for a bio lab. These are the SOPs that I provided to the Irish EPA as part of my “Consent Conditions” for “Contained Use of Class 1 Genetically Modified Microorganisms”. (via Alison Marigold)
- Shuffling Cards — shuffle a deck of cards until it’s randomised. That order of cards probably hasn’t ever been seen before in the history of mankind.
CAPTCHA Commerce, Tech Policy, Mobile Data, London Event
- Virtual Sweatshops Defeat CAPTCHAs — I knew there was an industry around solving CAPTCHAs (to spam comments on blogs, sign up for millions of gmail accounts, etc.) but this is the first time I’ve seen how much you can be paid for it: employees can expect to earn between $0.35 to $1 for every thousand CAPTCHAs they solve […] Most of our staff is from China, India, Pakistan and Vietnam. (via BoingBoing)
- Lockdown — transcription of Cory Doctorow’s excellent talk, “The Coming War on General-Purpose Computation”. The entertainment industry is just the first belligerents to take up arms, and we tend to think of them as particularly successful. […] But the reality is that copyright legislation gets as far as it does precisely because it’s not taken seriously by politicians. […] Regardless of whether you think these are real problems or hysterical fears, they are, nevertheless, the political currency of lobbies and interest groups far more influential than Hollywood and big content. Every one of them will arrive at the same place: “Can’t you just make us a general-purpose computer that runs all the programs, except the ones that scare and anger us? Can’t you just make us an Internet that transmits any message over any protocol between any two points, unless it upsets us?”
- Mobile Data Consumption Numbers (Luke Wroblewski) — the most eye-catching statistic is 1% of bandwidth consumers account for half of all wireless traffic worldwide in the World. The top 10% of users are consuming 90% of wireless bandwidth. In my land of pay-through-the-nose-for-a-modicum-of-mobile-bandwidth, this was also of note: Voice recognition software Siri has prompted owners of the iPhone 4S to use almost twice as much data as iPhone 4 users.
- Monkigras — event in London that looks interesting. The Redmonk chaps are fellow travellers on the O’Reilly storytelling path: they see many of the same interesting trends as we do, and their speakers cover everything from platform services to open source, startups, and alpha geeks (Biddulph, I’m looking at you). And, also, beer.