"UI" entries

Four short links: 11 June 2015

Four short links: 11 June 2015

Jeff Han, Google Closure, Software Verification, and Sapir-Whorf Software

  1. The Untold Story of Microsoft’s Surface Hub (FastCo) — great press placement from Microsoft, but good to hear what Jeff Han has been working on. And interesting comment on the value of manufacturing in the US: “I don’t have to send my folks over to China, so they’re happier,” Han says. “It’s faster. There’s no language, time, or culture barrier to deal with. To have my engineers go down the hallway to talk to the guys in the manufacturing line and tune the recipe? That’s just incredible.”
  2. Five Years of Google Closure (Derek Slager) — Despite the lack of popularity, a number of companies have successfully used Google Closure for their production applications. Medium, Yelp, CloudKick (acquired by Rackspace), Cue (acquired by Apple), and IMS Health (my company) all use (or have used) Google Closure to power their production applications. And, importantly, the majority of Google’s flagship applications continue to be powered by Google Closure.
  3. Moving Fast with Software Verification (Facebook) — This paper describes our experience in integrating a verification tool based on static analysis into the software development cycle at Facebook. Contains a brief description of dev and release processes at Facebook: no QA …
  4. The Death of the von Neumann ArchitectureA computer program is the direct execution of any idea. If you restrict the execution, you restrict the idea. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis for software.

Four short links: 9 June 2015

Four short links: 9 June 2015

Parallelising Without Coordination, AR/VR IxD, Medical Insecurity, and Online Privacy Lies

  1. The Declarative Imperative (Morning Paper) — on Dataflow. …a large class of recursive programs – all of basic Datalog – can be parallelized without any need for coordination. As a side note, this insight appears to have eluded the MapReduce community, where join is necessarily a blocking operator.
  2. Consensual Reality (Alistair Croll) — Among other things we discussed what Inbar calls his three rules for augmented reality design: 1. The content you see has to emerge from the real world and relate to it. 2. Should not distract you from the real world; must add to it. 3. Don’t use it when you don’t need it. If a film is better on the TV watch the TV.
  3. X-Rays Behaving BadlyAccording to the report, medical devices – in particular so-called picture archive and communications systems (PACS) radiologic imaging systems – are all but invisible to security monitoring systems and provide a ready platform for malware infections to lurk on hospital networks, and for malicious actors to launch attacks on other, high value IT assets. Among the revelations contained in the report: A malware infection at a TrapX customer site spread from a unmonitored PACS system to a key nurse’s workstation. The result: confidential hospital data was secreted off the network to a server hosted in Guiyang, China. Communications went out encrypted using port 443 (SSL) and were not detected by existing cyber defense software, so TrapX said it is unsure how many records may have been stolen.
  4. The Online Privacy Lie is Unraveling (TechCrunch) — The report authors’ argue it’s this sense of resignation that is resulting in data tradeoffs taking place — rather than consumers performing careful cost-benefit analysis to weigh up the pros and cons of giving up their data (as marketers try to claim). They also found that where consumers were most informed about marketing practices they were also more likely to be resigned to not being able to do anything to prevent their data being harvested. Something that didn’t make me regret clicking on a TechCrunch link.

Add depth to your project with practical web audio

Enhance the user experience with the thoughtful use of sound.


There is little debate that Web Audio is cool. Take for example Stepkit by Brent Jackson (embedded below).

It’s definitely a fun toy to play with, but most of us probably couldn’t think of how this might be relevant to our jobs. When I presented 8-bit game music with the Web Audio API at last year’s Fluent Conference, I readily admitted that it was intended to be purely fun rather than practical.

Recently I explored the idea of adding audio to web apps, but I think the big problem isn’t that web developers were unsure how to add audio to their app, but that they don’t think they should add audio to web apps. In this article, I’d like to make the case that you should be considering audio when designing your web application user interface.

Read more…

Four short links: 19 May 2015

Four short links: 19 May 2015

Wrist Interactions, Kubernetes Open Source Success, Product Quality, and Value of Privacy

  1. Android Wear vs Apple Watch (Luke Wroblewski) — comparison of interactions and experiences.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Four short links: 14 May 2015

Four short links: 14 May 2015

Human-Machine Cooperation, Concurrent Systems Books, AI Future, and Gesture UI

  1. 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.”
  2. 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…
  3. Deep Learning vs Probabilistic vs LogicAs of 2015, I pity the fool who prefers Modus Ponens over Gradient Descent.
  4. 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.
Four short links: 27 April 2015

Four short links: 27 April 2015

Living Figures, Design vs Architecture, Faceted Browsing, and Byzantine Comedy

  1. ‘Living Figures’ Make Their Debut (Nature) — In July last year, neurobiologist Björn Brembs published a paper about how fruit flies walk. Nine months on, his paper looks different: another group has fed its data into the article, altering one of the figures. The update — to figure 4 — marks the debut of what the paper’s London-based publisher, Faculty of 1000 (F1000), is calling a living figure, a concept that it hopes will catch on in other articles. Brembs, at the University of Regensburg in Germany, says that three other groups have so far agreed to add their data, using software he wrote that automatically redraws the figure as new data come in.
  2. Strategies Against Architecture (Seb Chan and Aaron Straup Cope) — the story of the design of the Cooper Hewitt’s clever “pen,” which visitors to the design museum use to collect the info from their favourite exhibits. (Visit the Cooper Hewitt when you’re next in NYC; it’s magnificent.)
  3. Two Way Streetan independent explorer for The British Museum collection, letting you browse by year acquired, year created, type of object, etc. I note there are more things from a place called “Brak” than there are from USA. Facets are awesome. (via Courtney Johnston)
  4. The Saddest Moment (PDF) — “How can you make a reliable computer service?” the presenter will ask in an innocent voice before continuing, “It may be difficult if you can’t trust anything and the entire concept of happiness is a lie designed by unseen overlords of endless deceptive power.” The presenter never explicitly says that last part, but everybody understands what’s happening. Making distributed systems reliable is inherently impossible; we cling to Byzantine fault tolerance like Charlton Heston clings to his guns, hoping that a series of complex software protocols will somehow protect us from the oncoming storm of furious apes who have somehow learned how to wear pants and maliciously tamper with our network packets. Hilarious. (via Tracy Chou)
Four short links: 16 April 2015

Four short links: 16 April 2015

Relationships and Inference, Mother of All Demos, Kafka at Scale, and Real World Hardware

  1. DeepDiveDeepDive is targeted to help users extract relations between entities from data and make inferences about facts involving the entities. DeepDive can process structured, unstructured, clean, or noisy data and outputs the results into a database.
  2. From the Vault: Watching (and re-watching) “The Mother of All Demos”“I wish there was more about the social vision for computing—I worked with him for a long time, and Doug was always thinking ‘how can we collectively collaborate,’ like a sort of rock band.”
  3. Running Kafka at Scale (LinkedIn Engineering) — This tiered infrastructure solves many problems, but it greatly complicates monitoring Kafka and assuring its health. While a single Kafka cluster, when running normally, will not lose messages, the introduction of additional tiers, along with additional components such as mirror makers, creates myriad points of failure where messages can disappear. In addition to monitoring the Kafka clusters and their health, we needed to create a means to assure that all messages produced are present in each of the tiers, and make it to the critical consumers of that data.
  4. 3D Printing Titanium, and the Bin of Broken Dreams — you will learn HUGE amounts on the challenges of real-world manufacturing by reading this.
Four short links: 8 April 2015

Four short links: 8 April 2015

Learning Poses, Kafkaesque Things, Hiring Research, and Robotic Movement

  1. Apple Patent on Learning-based Estimation of Hand and Finger Pose — machine learning to identify gestures (hand poses) that works even when partially occluded. See writeup in Apple Insider.
  2. The Internet of Kafkaesque Things (ACLU) — As computers are deployed in more regulatory roles, and therefore make more judgments about us, we may be afflicted with many more of the rigid, unjust rulings for which bureaucracies are so notorious.
  3. Schmidt and Hunter (1998): Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel (PDF) — On the basis of meta-analytic findings, this article examines and summarizes what 85 years of research in personnel psychology has revealed about the validity of measures of 19 different selection methods that can be used in making decisions about hiring, training, and developmental assignments. (via Wired)
  4. Complete Force Control in Constrained Under-actuated Mechanical Systems (Robohub) — Nori focuses on finding ways to advance the dynamic system of a robot – the forces that interact and make the system move. Key to developing dynamic movements in a robot is control, accompanied by the way the robot interacts with the environment. Nori talks us through the latest developments, designs, and formulas for floating-base/constrained mechanical systems, whole-body motion control of humanoid systems, whole-body dynamics computation on the iCub humanoid, and finishes with a video on recent implementations of whole-body motion control on the iCub. Video and download of presentation.
Four short links: 19 March 2015

Four short links: 19 March 2015

Changing Behaviour, Building Filters, Public Access, and Working Capital

  1. Using Monitoring Dashboards to Change Behaviour[After years of neglect] One day we wrote some brittle Ruby scripts that polled various services. They collated the metrics into a simple database and we automated some email reports and built a dashboard showing key service metrics. We pinpointed issues that we wanted to show people. Things like the login times, how long it would take to search for certain keywords in the app, and how many users were actually using the service, along with costs and other interesting facts. We sent out the link to the dashboard at 9am on Monday morning, before the weekly management call. Within 2 weeks most problems were addressed. It is very difficult to combat data, especially when it is laid out in an easy to understand way.
  2. Quiet Mitsubishi Cars — noise-cancelling on phone calls by using machine learning to build the filters.
  3. NSF Requiring Public AccessNSF will require that articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and papers in juried conference proceedings or transactions be deposited in a public access compliant repository and be available for download, reading, and analysis within one year of publication.
  4. Filtered for Capital (Matt Webb) — It’s important to get a credit line [for hardware startups] because growing organically isn’t possible — even if half your sell-in price is margin, you can only afford to grow your batch size at 50% per cycle… and whether it’s credit or re-investing the margin, all that growth incurs risk, because the items aren’t pre-sold. There are double binds all over the place here.
Four short links: 19 February 2015

Four short links: 19 February 2015

Magical Interfaces, Automation Tax, Cyber Manhattan Project, and US Chief Data Scientist

  1. MAS S66: Indistinguishable From… Magic as Interface, Technology, and Tradition — MIT course taught by Greg Borenstein and Dan Novy. Further, magic is one of the central metaphors people use to understand the technology we build. From install wizards to voice commands and background daemons, the cultural tropes of magic permeate user interface design. Understanding the traditions and vocabularies behind these tropes can help us produce interfaces that use magic to empower users rather than merely obscuring their function. With a focus on the creation of functional prototypes and practicing real magical crafts, this class combines theatrical illusion, game design, sleight of hand, machine learning, camouflage, and neuroscience to explore how ideas from ancient magic and modern stage illusion can inform cutting edge technology.
  2. Maybe We Need an Automation Tax (RoboHub) — rather than saying “automation is bad,” move on to “how do we help those displaced by automation to retrain?”.
  3. America’s Cyber-Manhattan Project (Wired) — America already has a computer security Manhattan Project. We’ve had it since at least 2001. Like the original, it has been highly classified, spawned huge technological advances in secret, and drawn some of the best minds in the country. We didn’t recognize it before because the project is not aimed at defense, as advocates hoped. Instead, like the original, America’s cyber Manhattan Project is purely offensive. The difference between policemen and soldiers is that one serves justice and the other merely victory.
  4. White House Names DJ Patil First US Chief Data Scientist (Wired) — There is arguably no one better suited to help the country better embrace the relatively new discipline of data science than Patil.