Lost Lessons from an 8-bit BASIC — The little language that fueled the home computer revolution has been long buried beneath an avalanche of derision, or at least disregarded as a relic from primitive times. That’s too bad, because while the language itself has serious shortcomings, the overall 8-bit BASIC experience has high points that are worth remembering.
The Care and Feeding of Weird Machines Found in Executable Metadata (YouTube) — talk from 29th Chaos Communication Congress, on using tricking the ELF linker/loader into arbitrary computation from the metadata supplied. Yes, there’s a brainfuck compiler that turns code into metadata which is then, through a supernatural mix of pixies, steam engines, and binary, executed. This will make your brain leak. Weird machines are everywhere.
European Libraries May Digitise Books Without Permission — “The right of libraries to communicate, by dedicated terminals, the works they hold in their collections would risk being rendered largely meaningless, or indeed ineffective, if they did not have an ancillary right to digitize the works in question,” the court said. Even if the rights holder offers a library the possibility of licensing his works on appropriate terms, the library can use the exception to publish works on electronic terminals, the court ruled. “Otherwise, the library could not realize its core mission or promote the public interest in promoting research and private study,” it said.
Laws of Crappy Dashboards — (caution, NSFW language … “crappy” is my paraphrase) so true. Not talking to users will result in a [crappy] dashboard. You don’t know if the dashboard is going to be useful. But you don’t talk to the users to figure it out. Or you just show it to them for a minute (with someone else’s data), never giving them a chance to figure out what the hell they could do with it if you gave it to them.
Cyborg UnPlug — sits on your wifi network and will alert you if it finds Google Glass, Dropcam, spycams, and other unwanted wifi Klingons. Or it can automatically send deauth packets to those devices to try and boot them off the network.
How Complex Systems Fail (PDF) — That practitioner actions are gambles appears clear after accidents; in general, post hoc analysis regards these gambles as poor ones. But the converse: that successful outcomes are also the result of gambles; is not widely appreciated.
Mapping Digital Media (Open Society) — analysis of media, online and off, in various regions and discussion of how it’s changing. Among the global findings: digitization has brought no pressure to reform state broadcasters, less than one-third of countries found that digital media have helped to expand the social impact of investigative journalism, and digitization has not significantly affected total news diversity.
Makerspaces Coming to Libraries (Wired) — [W]hile I’m just as sentimental about the primacy of hard copy, the librarians aren’t. As they all tell me, their job is helping with access to knowledge—not all of which comes in codex form and much of which is deeply social. Libraries aren’t just warehouses for documents; they’re places to exchange information.
Rolling Stone Feature on Randall Munroe — When you’re talking about pure research, every year it’s a longer trip to the cutting edge. Students have to spend a larger percentage of their careers catching up to the people who have gone before them. My solution to that is to tackle problems that are so weird that no one serious has ever spent any time on them. (via BoingBoing)
Not Safe for Working On (Dan Kaminsky) — some things that needed to be said, and which couldn’t have been said better, about security, victim shaming, and separating the 2% from the 98%.
Generative eBook Covers — very cool (with code) system for programmatically generating aesthetic and interesting ebook covers. I particularly like the face-recognition-in-engravings look.
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.
PlotDevice — A Python-based graphics language for designers, developers, and tinkerers. More in the easy-to-get-started + visual realm, like Processing. (via Andy Baio)
Scumblr and Sketchy Search — Netflix open sourcing some scraping, screenshot, and workflow tools their security team uses to monitor discussion of themselves.
Should Twitter, Facebook and Google Executives be the Arbiters of What We See and Read? (Glenn Greenwald) — In the digital age, we are nearing the point where an idea banished by Twitter, Facebook and Google all but vanishes from public discourse entirely, and that is only going to become more true as those companies grow even further. Whatever else is true, the implications of having those companies make lists of permitted and prohibited ideas are far more significant than when ordinary private companies do the same thing.
The Poisoned NUL Byte, 2014 Edition (Project Zero) — from Google’s public security efforts, this detailed public description of how an exploit was constructed from a found vulnerability. They’re helping. Kudos!
Myths About the Coming Robot Economy (Eric Sofge) — the entire discussion of the so-called robot economy, with its predictions of vast, permanent employment rates and glacial productivity gains, is nothing more than a wild guess. A strong pushback on the Pew Report (PDF): Frey and Osborne’s analysis is full of logical leaps, and far-reaching conclusions drawn from cursory observations about robots that have yet to replace humans.
Content for Sensitive Situations (Luke Wroblewski) — People have all kinds of feelings when interacting with your content. When someone’s needs are being met they may feel very different then when their needs are not being met. How can you meet people’s needs?
Urban Villages (Senseable City at MIT) — People who live in a larger town make more calls and call a larger number of different people. The scaling of this relation is ‘superlinear,’ meaning that on average, if the size of a town doubles, the sum of phone contacts in the city will more than double – in a mathematically predictable way. Surprisingly, however, group clustering (the odds that your friends mutually know one another) does not change with city size. It seems that even in large cities we tend to build tightly knit communities, or ‘villages,’ around ourselves. There is an important difference, though: if in a real village our connections might simply be defined by proximity, in a large city we can elect a community based on any number of factors, from affinity to interest to sexual preference. (via Flowing Data)
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.