TensorFlow — Google released, as open source, their distributed machine learning system. The DataFlow programming framework is sweet, and the documentation is gorgeous. AMAZINGLY high-quality, sets the bar for any project. This may be 2015’s most important software release.
TensorFlow White Paper (PDF) — Compared to DistBelief [G’s first scalable distributed inference and training system], TensorFlow’s programming model is more flexible, its performance is significantly better, and it supports training and using a broader range of models on a wider variety of heterogeneous hardware platforms.
Neural Networks With Few Multiplications — paper with a method to eliminate most of the time-consuming floating point multiplications needed to update the intermediate virtual neurons as they learn. Speed has been one of the bugbears of deep neural networks.
Cybersecurity as RealPolitik — Dan Geer’s excellent talk from 2014 BlackHat. When younger people ask my advice on what they should do or study to make a career in cyber security, I can only advise specialization. Those of us who were in the game early enough and who have managed to retain an over-arching generalist knowledge can’t be replaced very easily because while absorbing most new information most of the time may have been possible when we began practice, no person starting from scratch can do that now. Serial specialization is now all that can be done in any practical way. Just looking at the Black Hat program will confirm that being really good at any one of the many topics presented here all but requires shutting out the demands of being good at any others.
Power of Small Groups (Matt Webb) — Matt’s joined a small Slack community of like-minded friends. There’s a space where articles written or edited by members automatically show up. I like that. I caught myself thinking: it’d be nice to have Last.FM here, too, and Dopplr. Nothing that requires much effort. Let’s also pull in Instagram. Automatic stuff so I can see what people are doing, and people can see what I’m doing. Just for this group. Back to those original intentions. Ambient awareness, togetherness. cf Clay Shirky’s situated software. Everything useful from 2004 will be rebuilt once the fetish for scale passes.
Asymmetric Misperceptions (PDF) — research into the systematic mismatch between how politicians think their constituents feel on issues, and how the constituents actually feel. Our findings underscore doubts that policymakers perceive opinion accurately: politicians maintain systematic misperceptions about constituents’ views, typically erring by over 10 percentage points, and entire groups of politicians maintain even more severe collective misperceptions. A second, post-election survey finds the electoral process fails to ameliorate these misperceptions.
Semantic Sensors (Pete Warden) — tiny, cheap, all-in-one modules that capture raw noisy data from the real world, have built-in AI for analysis, and only output a few high-level signals.
What if People Were Sensors, Not Things To Be Sensed? (Cory Doctorow) — Even in the Internet of Allegedly Free Things, humans and computers are adversaries. Medical telemetry and implant companies envision selling shockingly intimate facts about your body’s internal workings to data-mining services and insurers. Car companies see their vehicles as platforms for gathering data on your driving, on traffic patterns, and on the sense-able facts of the streets you pass by, to sell it to, you guessed it, data-mining companies and insurers. John Deere has argued that its tractors are copyrighted works, and that it, not the farmers, own the soil-density data collected by the torque sensors on the wheels (it sells this data to Monsanto, which charges farmers for the right to know about it).
Welfare Makes America More Entrepreneurial (The Atlantic) — In a 2014 paper, Olds examined the link between entrepreneurship and food stamps, and found that the expansion of the program in some states in the early 2000s increased the chance that newly eligible households would own an incorporated business by 16%. (Incorporated firms are a better proxy for job-creating startups than unincorporated ones.)
Festo’s Fantastical Insectoid Robots Include Bionic Ants and Butterflies (IEEE) — Each butterfly has a 50-centimeter wingspan and weighs just 32 grams, but carries along two servo motors to independently actuate the wings, an IMU, accelerometer, gyro, and compass, along with two tiny 90-mAh lithium-polymer batteries. With a wing beat frequency of between one and two flaps per second, top speed is 2.5 m/s, with a flight time of three to four minutes before needing a 15-minute charge. The wings themselves use impossibly thin carbon rods for structure, and are covered with an even thinner elastic capacitor film.
Arduino Celebration and Hexbugs hacking with Bob Martin (SparkFun) — The Hunter demo is a combination of object detection and object avoidance. It uses an IR sensor array to determine objects around it. Objects that appear and then disappear quickly, say in a second or two are targets which it will walk towards; however, a target that stays constant will be avoided. I’m still trying to find the perfect balance between making a decision between fleeing prey and a wall using only simple proximity samples from an IR detector array.
Microservices in Go — tale of rewriting a Ruby monolith as Go microservices. Interesting, though being delivered at Gophercon India suggests the ending is probably not unhappy.
Watch & Wear (John Cross Neumann) — Android watch as predictor of the value and experience of an Apple Watch. I believe this is the true sweet spot for meaningful wearable experiences. Information that matters to you in the moment, but requires no intervention. Wear actually does this extremely well through Google Now. Traffic, Time to Home, Reminders, Friend’s Birthdays, and Travel Information all work beautifully. […] After some real experience with Wear, I think what is more important is to consider what Apple Watch is missing: Google Services. Google Services are a big component of what can make wearing a tiny screen on your wrist meaningful and personal. I wouldn’t be surprised after the initial wave of apps through the app store if Google Now ends up being the killer app for Apple Watch.
Solving 11 Likely Problems In Your Multithreaded Code (Joe Duffy) — a good breakdown of concurrency problems, including lower-level ones than high-level languages expose. But beware. If you try this [accessing variables with synchronisation] on a misaligned memory location, or a location that isn’t naturally sized, you can encounter a read or write tearing. Tearing occurs because reading or writing such locations actually involves multiple physical memory operations. Concurrent updates can happen in between these, potentially causing the resultant value to be some blend of the before and after values.
Obama Sharply Criticizes China’s Plans for New Technology Rules (Reuters) — In an interview with Reuters, Obama said he was concerned about Beijing’s plans for a far-reaching counterterrorism law that would require technology firms to hand over encryption keys, the passcodes that help protect data, and install security “backdoors” in their systems to give Chinese authorities surveillance access. Goose sauce is NOT gander sauce! NOT! Mmm, delicious spook sauce.
Interactive 360-degree Films. From Google (Medium) — you move the camera through a movie shot in 360 degrees, and can choose what you’re looking at through the scene. I can’t wait to try this, it sounds brilliant.
Bitcoin Crackdown — everyone who started exchanges and mutual funds thinking Bitcoin wouldn’t be regulated like a currency is getting an SEC headache.
Connected Choices: How the Internet is Challenging Sovereign Decisions (PDF) — Ultimately, the Internet remains both a global commons and part of each nation’s sovereign infrastructure, and thus activities in cyberspace must continue to navigate two sets of demands: national interests and global interests. […] Political leaders are responsible for articulating a vision and establishing general principles and policies to achieve their goals and, accordingly, are constantly trying to advance their agendas using policy, law, market mechanisms, regulation, standards, and other initiatives. The evidence is clear; you just have to look for it.
Oolite — open-source clone of Elite, the classic space trading game from the 80s.
Who Owns the Robots Rules The World (PDF) — interesting finding: As companies substitute machines and computers for human activity, workers need to own part of the capital stock that substitutes for them to benefit from these new “robot” technologies. Workers could own shares of the firm, hold stock options, or be paid in part from the profits. Without ownership stakes, workers will become serfs working on behalf of the robots’ overlords. Governments could tax the wealthy capital owners and redistribute income to workers, but that is not the direction societies are moving in. Workers need to own capital rather than rely on government income redistribution policies. (via Robotenomics)
Schrodinger’s Cat Video and the Death of Clear-Text (Morgan Marquis-Boire) — report, based on leaked information, about use of network injection appliances targeted unencrypted pages from major providers. Compromising a target becomes as simple as waiting for the user to view unencrypted content on the Internet.
Thinking About the Network as Filter (JP Rangaswami) — Constant re-openings of the same debate as people try and get a synchronous outcome out of an asynchronous tool without the agreements and conventions in place to do it. He says friends are your social filters. You no longer have to read every email. When you come back from vacation, whatever has passed in the stream unread can stay unread but most social tools are built as collectors, not as filters. Looking forward to the rest in his series.
Open Auto Alliance — The OAA is a global alliance of technology and auto industry leaders committed to bringing the Android platform to cars starting in 2014. “KidGamesPack 7 requires access to your history, SMS, location, network connectivity, speed, weight, in-car audio, and ABS control systems. Install or Cancel?”
Jacob Appelbaum’s CCC Talk — transcript of an excellent talk. One of the scariest parts about this is that for this system or these sets of systems to exist, we have been kept vulnerable. So it is the case that if the Chinese, if the Russians, if people here wish to build this system, there’s nothing that stops them. And in fact the NSA has in a literal sense retarded the process by which we would secure the internet because it establishes a hegemony of power, their power in secret to do these things.
Toyota Manufacturing Principles (Joseph Cohen) — Jidoka: Automation with a Human Touch. The idea of jidoka is that humans should work with machines to produce the best possible outcome, leveraging the execution ability of a machine and the judgement of a human. We at O’R Radar have been saying for years that there’s gold in the collaboration between people and machines, about augmenting people and not simply replacing them.
Twister — the fully decentralized P2P microblogging platform leveraging from the free software implementations of Bitcoin and BitTorrent protocols. Interesting to see BT and BC reused as platforms for app development, though if eventual consistency and threading Heisenbugs gave you headaches then just wait for the world of Bitcoin-meets-BitTorrent….
Transcript of Glenn Greenwald’s Speech to CCC — the relationship of privacy to security, and the transparency of governmental positions on that relationship, remain unaddressed. NSA’s actions are being used to establish local governmental control of the Internet, which will destroy the multistakeholder model that has kept net architecture and policy largely separate from the whims of elected officials. The fallout of Snowden’s revelations will shape 2014. Happy New Year.