John Horton Conway (The Guardian) — These were two separate areas of study that Conway had arrived at by two different paths. So, there’s no reason for them to be linked. But somehow, through the force of his personality, and the intensity of his passion, he bent the mathematical universe to his will. Fascinating profile, taken from a new book.
MIT Self-Assembly Lab — multi-material 3D/4D printing, advances in materials science, and new capabilities in simulation/optimization software […] made it possible to fully program a wide range of materials to change shape, appearance, or other property, on demand.
Large-scale Cluster Management at Google with Borg — Google’s Borg system is a cluster manager that runs hundreds of thousands of jobs, from many thousands of different applications, across a number of clusters, each with up to tens of thousands of machines. […] We present a summary of the Borg system architecture and features, important design decisions, a quantitative analysis of some of its policy decisions, and a qualitative examination of lessons learned from a decade of operational experience with it.
Georgia Sues Carl Malamud (TechDirt) — for copyright infringement… for publishing an official annotated copy of the state's laws. […] the state points directly to the annotated version as the official laws of the state.
A New Artificial Compound Eye (Robohub) — three hexagonal photodetectors arranged in a triangular shape, underneath a single lens. These photodetectors work together and combine perceived changes in structured light (optic flow) to present a 3D image that shows what is moving in the scene, and in which direction the movement is happening.
Google’s Defensive Patent Initiative (TechCrunch) — good article, despite TechCrunch origin. Two-tiered program: give away groups of patents to startups with $500k-$20M in revenue, and sell patents to startups.
Bosun — an open-source, MIT licensed, monitoring and alerting system by Stack Exchange.
The Rise of Computer-Aided Explanation (Michael Nielsen) — Hod Lipson of Columbia University. Lipson and his collaborators have developed algorithms that, when given a raw data set describing observations of a mechanical system, will actually work backward to infer the “laws of nature” underlying those data. (Paper)
Speed as a Habit — You don’t have to be militant about it, just consistently respond that today is better than tomorrow, that right now is better than six hours from now. This is chock full of good advice, and the occasional good story.
Punctuated Equilibrium in the Large-Scale Evolution of Programming Languages (PDF) — Here we study the large-scale historical development of programming languages, which have deeply marked social and technological advances in the last half century. We analyse their historical connections using network theory and reconstructed phylogenetic networks. Using both data analysis and network modeling, it is shown that their evolution is highly uneven, marked by innovation events where new languages are created out of improved combinations of different structural components belonging to previous languages. These radiation events occur in a bursty pattern and are tied to novel technological and social niches. The method can be extrapolated to other systems and consistently captures the major classes of languages and the widespread horizontal design exchanges, revealing a punctuated evolutionary path. (via Jarkko Hietaniemi)
LLVM Bitcode Gives Apple Hardware Independence (Medium) — Bob [Mansfield] has been quietly building a silicon team with the skills to rival all other players in the industry. Bob works for one of 15 companies with an ARM architecture license, giving his team carte blanche to modify and extend ARM in any way they see fit. And Bob’s CPUs only have to satisfy a single customer.
31 Negotiation Tactics (Nick Kolenda) — he mysteriously omitted my power tactics of (a) crying, (b) greeting my opposite number with the wrong name, and (c) passing a napkin covered with random scrawls as I say, “what do you make of this?”
Rise of the Robots and Shadow Work (NY Times) — In “Rise of the Robots,” Ford argues that a society based on luxury consumption by a tiny elite is not economically viable. More to the point, it is not biologically viable. Humans, unlike robots, need food, health care and the sense of usefulness often supplied by jobs or other forms of work. Two thought-provoking and related books about the potential futures as a result of technology-driven change.
Time Lapse Mining from Internet Photos (PDF) — First, we cluster 86 million photos into landmarks and popular viewpoints. Then, we sort the photos by date and warp each photo onto a common viewpoint. Finally, we stabilize the appearance of the sequence to compensate for lighting effects and minimize flicker. Our resulting time-lapses show diverse changes in the world’s most popular sites, like glaciers shrinking, skyscrapers being constructed, and waterfalls changing course.
Git Repository of CS Papers — The intention here is to both provide myself with backups and easy access to papers, while also collecting a repository of links so that people can always find the paper they are looking for. Pull the repo and you’ll never be short of airplane/bedtime reading.
Software For Reproducible Science — This quality is indeed central to doing science with code. What good is a data analysis pipeline if it crashes when I fiddle with the data? How can I draw conclusions from simulations if I cannot change their parameters? As soon as I need trust in code supporting a scientific finding, I find myself tinkering with its input, and often breaking it. Good scientific code is code that can be reused, that can lead to large-scale experiments validating its underlying assumptions.
Eric Brewer on Kubernetes — interesting not only for insights into Google’s efforts around Kubernetes but for: There’s so much excitement we can hardly handle all the pull requests. I think we’re committing, based on the GitHub log, something like 40 per day right now, and the demand is higher than that. Each of those takes reviews and, of course, there’s a wide variety of quality on those. Some are easy to review and some are quite hard to review. It’s a success problem, and we’re happy to have it. We did scale up the team to try and improve its velocity, but also just improve our ability to interact with all of the open source world that legitimately wants to contribute and has a lot to contribute. I’m very excited that the velocity is here, but it’s moving so fast it’s hard to even know all the things that change day to day. Makes a welcome change from the code dumps that are some of Google’s other high-profile projects.
We Don’t Sell Saddles Here — Stewart Butterfield, to his team, on product development and quality. Every word of this is true for every other product, too.
What is Privacy Worth? (PDF) — When endowed with the $10 untrackable card, 60.0% of subjects claimed they would keep it; however, when endowed with the $12 trackable card only 33.3% of subjects claimed they would switch to the untrackable card. […] This research raises doubts about individuals’ abilities to rationally navigate issues of privacy. From choosing whether or not to join a grocery loyalty program, to posting embarrassing personal information on a public website, individuals constantly make privacy-relevant decisions which impact their well-being. The finding that non-normative factors powerfully influence individual privacy valuations may signal the appropriateness of policy interventions.
Ghosts in the Machines (Courtney Nash) — People are neither masters of machines, nor subservient to their machine-learning outcomes — we cannot, and should not, separate the two. We are actors, together, in a very complex system. David Woods calls this “joint cognitive systems.”
TLA+ (Leslie Lamport) — two tutorials: “Principles of Concurrent Computing” and “Specification of Concurrent Systems.” Ironically, I see people grizzling that the book on distributed systems hasn’t been linearised. I wonder if you can partition it into the two tutorials and still have full availability…
Touché (Disney Research) — measur[es] capacitive response of object and human at multiple frequencies, a technique that we called Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing. The signal travels through different paths depending on its frequency, capturing the posture of human hand and body as well as other properties of the context. The resulted data is classified using machine learning algorithms to identify gestures that are then used to trigger desired responses of the user interface.
The Crazy-Tiny Next Generation of Computers — 1 cubic millimeter-sized sensors are coming. The only sound you might hear is a prolonged groan. That’s because these computers are just one cubic millimeter in size, and once they hit the floor, they’re gone. “We just lose them,” Dutta says. “It’s worse than jewelry.”
The New Science of Building Great Teams (Sandy Pentland) — fascinating discussion of MIT’s Human Dynamics lab’s research into how great teams function. The data also reveal, at a higher level, that successful teams share several defining characteristics: 1. Everyone on the team talks and listens in roughly equal measure, keeping contributions short and sweet. 2. Members face one another, and their conversations and gestures are energetic. 3. Members connect directly with one another—not just with the team leader. 4. Members carry on back-channel or side conversations within the team. 5. Members periodically break, go exploring outside the team, and bring information back.
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.