Distributed Systems Theory for the Distributed Systems Engineer — I tried to come up with a list of what I consider the basic concepts that are applicable to my every-day job as a distributed systems engineer; what I consider ‘table stakes’ for distributed systems engineers competent enough to design a new system.
Shenzhen Trip Report (Joi Ito) — full of fascinating observations about how the balance of manufacturing strength has shifted in surprising ways. The retail price of the cheapest full featured phone is about $9. Yes. $9. This could not be designed in the US – this could only be designed by engineers with tooling grease under their fingernails who knew the manufacturing equipment inside and out, as well as the state of the art of high-end mobile phones.
Sproutling — The world’s first sensing, learning, predicting baby monitor. A wearable band for your baby, a smart charger and a mobile app work together to not only monitor more effectively but learn and predict your baby’s sleep habits and optimal sleep conditions. (via Wired)
Notes on the Celebrity Data Theft — wonderfully detailed analysis of how photos were lifted, and the underground industry built around them. This was one of the most unsettling aspects of these networks to me – knowing there are people out there who are turning over data on friends in their social networks in exchange for getting a dump of their private data.
Machine Learning for Plant Properties — startup building database of plant genomics, properties, research, etc. for mining. The more familiar you are with your data and its meaning, the better your machine learning will be at suggesting fruitful lines of query … and the more valuable your startup will be.
Dissecting Message Queues — throughput, latency, and qualitative comparison of different message queues. MQs are to modern distributed architectures what function calls were to historic unibox architectures.
1915 Data Visualization Rules — a reminder that data visualization is not new, but research into effectiveness of alternative presentation styles is.
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.
Viv — another step in the cognition race. Wolfram Alpha was first out the gate, but Watson, Viv, and others are hot on heels of being able to parse complex requests, then seek and use information to fulfil them.
Universal Mobile Electrochemical Detector Designed for Use in Resource-limited Applications (PNAS) — $35 handheld sensor with mobile phone connection. The electrochemical methods that we demonstrate enable quantitative, broadly applicable, and inexpensive sensing with flexibility based on a wide variety of important electroanalytical techniques (chronoamperometry, cyclic voltammetry, differential pulse voltammetry, square wave voltammetry, and potentiometry), each with different uses. Four applications demonstrate the analytical performance of the device: these involve the detection of (i) glucose in the blood for personal health, (ii) trace heavy metals (lead, cadmium, and zinc) in water for in-field environmental monitoring, (iii) sodium in urine for clinical analysis, and (iv) a malarial antigen (Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein 2) for clinical research. (via BoingBoing)
panamax.io — containerized app creator with an open-source app marketplace hosted in GitHub. Panamax provides a friendly interface for users of Docker, Fleet & CoreOS. With Panamax, you can easily create, share and deploy any containerized app no matter how complex it might be.
Anthropology of Mid-Sized Startups — old but good post about the structures, norms, and dimensions of startup culture. Like a religion, a startup will care for its collective interest by defining certain things as sacred. A classic example is the company’s logo. This symbol is, quite literally, “set apart and forbidden” by brand guidelines, which often specify exactly how the logo must be presented and how far it should sit from the other elements on a page (thus separating the sacred from the profane).
What Leads To — I love the elegant mechanic of decomposing an end back to a means you can do right now. Lots more sophistication obviously possible, but the fact that it’s not just about “thumbs up this end!” or about actions divorced from intention, makes it a step ahead for social software.
Researching Link Rot (Pinboard) — graceful notification of a test, and with the simple ability to opt-out.
The Space Between Theory and Practice in Distributed Systems (Marc Brooker) — I went through everything I’ve read on distributed systems and arranged them on a spectrum from theory to practice the two ends would be really well populated, but the middle would be disturbingly empty. Worse, changing to a graph of citation links would show a low density from theory to practice.
Mesa: Geo-Replicated, Near Real-Time, Scalable Data Warehousing (PDF) — paper by Googlers on the database holding G’s ad data. Trillions of rows, petabytes of data, point queries with 99th percentile latency in the hundreds of milliseconds and overall query throughput of trillions of rows fetched per day, continuous updates on the order of millions of rows updated per second, strong consistency and repeatable query results even if a query involves multiple datacenters, and no SPOF. (via Greg Linden)
Thumbstopping (Salon) — The prime goal of a Facebook ad campaign is to create an ad “so compelling that it would get people to stop scrolling through their news feeds,” reports the Times. This is known, in Facebook land, as a “thumbstopper.” And thus, the great promise of the digitial revolution is realized: The best minds of our generation are obsessed with manipulating the movement of your thumb on a smartphone touch-screen.
Microsoft’s Development Practices (Ars Technica) — they get the devops religion but call it “combined engineering”. They get the idea of shared code bases, but call it “open source”. At least when they got the agile religion, they called it that. Check out the horror story of where they started: a two-year development process in which only about four months would be spent writing new code. Twice as long would be spent fixing that code. MSFT’s waterfall was the equivalent of American football, where there’s 11 minutes of actual play in the average 3h 12m game.
Discussion Graph Tool (Microsoft Research) — simplifies social media analysis by making it easy to extract high-level features and co-occurrence relationships from raw data.
Superlinear Productivity in Collective Group Actions (PLoS ONE) — study of open source projects shows small groups exhibit non-linear productivity increases by size, which drop off at larger sizes. we document a size effect in the strength and variability of the superlinear effect, with smaller groups exhibiting widely distributed superlinear exponents, some of them characterizing highly productive teams. In contrast, large groups tend to have a smaller superlinearity and less variability.
coop — cheat sheet of the most common concurrency program flows in Go.
Tessera — set of open source tools around Hadoop, R, and visualization.
Dynamics of Correlated Novelties (Nature) — paper on “the adjacent possible”. Here we propose a simple mathematical model that mimics the process of exploring a physical, biological, or conceptual space that enlarges whenever a novelty occurs. The model, a generalization of Polya’s urn, predicts statistical laws for the rate at which novelties happen (Heaps’ law) and for the probability distribution on the space explored (Zipf’s law), as well as signatures of the process by which one novelty sets the stage for another. (via Steven Strogatz)