"Velocity" entries

Four short links: 15 December 2014

Four short links: 15 December 2014

Transferable Learning, At-Scale Telemetry, Ugly DRM, and Fast Packet Processing

  1. How Transferable Are Features in Deep Neural Networks? — (answer: “very”). A final surprising result is that initializing a network with transferred features from almost any number of layers can produce a boost to generalization that lingers even after fine-tuning to the target dataset. (via Pete Warden)
  2. Introducing Atlas: Netflix’s Primary Telemetry Platform — nice solution to the problems that many have, at a scale that few have.
  3. The Many Facades of DRM (PDF) — Modular software systems are designed to be broken into independent pieces. Each piece has a clear boundary and well-defined interface for ‘hooking’ into other pieces. Progress in most technologies accelerates once systems have achieved this state. But clear boundaries and well-defined interfaces also make a technology easier to attack, break, and reverse-engineer. Well-designed DRMs have very fuzzy boundaries and are designed to have very non-standard interfaces. The examples of the uglified DRM code are inspiring.
  4. DPDKa set of libraries and drivers for fast packet processing […] to: receive and send packets within the minimum number of CPU cycles (usually less than 80 cycles); develop fast packet capture algorithms (tcpdump-like); run third-party fast path stacks.
Comment
Four short links: 4 December 2014

Four short links: 4 December 2014

Click to Captcha, Managing Hackers, Easy Ordering, and Inside Ad Auctions

  1. One Click Captcha (Wired) — Google’s new Captcha tech is just a checkbox: “I am not a robot”. Instead of depending upon the traditional distorted word test, Google’s “reCaptcha” examines cues every user unwittingly provides: IP addresses and cookies provide evidence that the user is the same friendly human Google remembers from elsewhere on the Web. And Shet says even the tiny movements a user’s mouse makes as it hovers and approaches a checkbox can help reveal an automated bot.
  2. The Responsive Enterprise: Embracing the Hacker Way (ACM) — Letting developers wander around without clear goals in the vastness of the software universe of all computable functions is one of the major reasons why projects fail, not because of lack of process or planning. I like all of this, although at times it can be a little like what I imagine it would be like if Cory Doctorow wrote a management textbook. (via Greg Linden)
  3. Pizza Hut Tests Ordering via Eye-TrackingThe digital menu shows diners a canvas of 20 toppings and builds their pizza, from one of 4,896 combinations, based on which toppings they looked at longest.
  4. How Browsers Get to Know You in Milliseconds (Andy Oram) — breaks down info exchange, data exchange, timing, even business relationships for ad auctions. Augment understanding of the user from third-party data (10 milliseconds). These third parties are the companies that accumulate information about our purchasing habits. The time allowed for them to return data is so short that they often can’t spare time for network transmission, and instead co-locate at the AppNexus server site. In fact, according to Magnusson, the founders of AppNexus created a cloud server before opening their exchange.
Comment
Four short links: 21 November 2014

Four short links: 21 November 2014

Power Assist, Changing Minds, Inside Index, and Poop History

  1. Wearable Power Assist Device Goes on Sale in Japan (WSJ, Paywall) — The Muscle Suit, which weighs 5.5 kilograms (12 pounds), can be worn knapsack-style and uses a mouthpiece as its control. Unlike other similar suits that rely on motors, it uses specially designed rubber tubes and compressed air as the source of its power. The Muscle Suit can help users pick up everyday loads with about a third of the usual effort. […] will sell for about ¥600,000 ($5,190), and is also available for rent at about ¥30,000 to ¥50,000 per month. Prof. Kobayashi said he expected the venture would ship 5,000 of them in 2015. (via Robot Economics)
  2. Debunking Handbook — techniques for helping people to change their beliefs (hint: showing them data rarely does it). (via Tom Stafford)
  3. Building a Complete Tweet Index (Twitter) — engineering behind the massive searchable Tweet collection: indexes roughly half a trillion documents and serves queries with an average latency of under 100ms.
  4. History of the Poop Emoji (Fast Company) — In Japanese, emoji are more like characters than random animated emoticons.
Comment: 1

Introducing “A Field Guide to the Distributed Development Stack”

Tools to develop massively distributed applications.

Editor’s Note: At the Velocity Conference in Barcelona we launched “A Field Guide to the Distributed Development Stack.” Early response has been encouraging, with reactions ranging from “If I only had this two years ago” to “I want to give a copy of this to everyone on my team.” Below, Andrew Odewahn explains how the Guide came to be and where it goes from here.


As we developed Atlas, O’Reilly’s next-generation publishing tool, it seemed like every day we were finding interesting new tools in the DevOps space, so I started a “Sticky” for the most interesting-looking tools to explore.

field-guide-sticky

At first, this worked fine. I was content to simply keep a list, where my only ordering criteria was “Huh, that looks cool. Someday when I have time, I’ll take a look at that,” in the same way you might buy an exercise DVD and then only occasionally pull it out and think “Huh, someday I’ll get to that.” But, as anyone who has watched DevOps for any length of time can tell you, it’s a space bursting with interesting and exciting new tools, so my list and guilt quickly got out of hand.

Read more…

Comment

The infinite hows

An argument against the Five Whys and an alternative approach you can apply.

Before I begin this post, let me say that this is intended to be a critique of the Five Whys method, not a criticism of the people who are in favor of using it. This critique I present is hardly original; most of this post is inspired by Todd Conklin, Sidney Dekker, and Nancy Leveson.

The concept of post-hoc explanation (or “postmortems” as they’re commonly known) is, at this point, taken hold in the web engineering and operations domain. I’d love to think that the concepts that we’ve taken from the new view on “human error” are becoming more widely known and that people are looking to explore their own narratives through those lenses.

I think that this is good, because my intent has always been (might always be) to help translate concepts from one domain to another. In order to do this effectively, we need to know also what to discard (or at least inspect critically) from those other domains.

The Five Whys is such an approach that I think we should discard.

Read more…

Comment: 1
Four short links: 11 November 2014

Four short links: 11 November 2014

High-Volume Logs, Regulated Broadband, Oculus Web, and Personal Data Vacuums

  1. Infrastructure for Data Streams — describing the high-volume log data use case for Apache Kafka, and how it plays out in storage and infrastructure.
  2. Obama: Treat Broadband and Mobile as Utility (Ars Technica) — In short, Obama is siding with consumer advocates who have lobbied for months in favor of reclassification while the telecommunications industry lobbied against it.
  3. MozVR — a website, and the tools that made it, designed to be seen through the Oculus Rift.
  4. All Cameras are Police Cameras (James Bridle) — how the slippery slope is ridden: When the Wall was initially constructed, the public were informed that this [automatic license plate recognition] data would only be held, and regularly purged, by Transport for London, who oversee traffic matters in the city. However, within less than five years, the Home Secretary gave the Metropolitan Police full access to this system, which allowed them to take a complete copy of the data produced by the system. This permission to access the data was granted to the Police on the sole condition that they only used it when National Security was under threat. But since the data was now in their possession, the Police reclassified it as “Crime” data and now use it for general policing matters, despite the wording of the original permission. As this data is not considered to be “personal data” within the definition of the law, the Police are under no obligation to destroy it, and may retain their ongoing record of all vehicle movements within the city for as long as they desire.
Comment

If it weren’t for the people…

A humanist approach to automation.

load_of_bricksEditor’s note: At some point, we’ve all read the accounts in newspapers or on blogs that “human error” was responsible for a Twitter outage, or worse, a horrible accident. Automation is often hailed as the heroic answer, poised to eliminate the specter of human error. This guest post from Steven Shorrock, who will be delivering a keynote speech at Velocity in Barcelona, exposes human error as dangerous shorthand. The more nuanced way through involves systems thinking, marrying the complex fabric of humans and the machines we work with every day.

In Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian novel ‘Player Piano’, automation has replaced most human labour. Anything that can be automated, is automated. Ordinary people have been robbed of their work, and with it purpose, meaning and satisfaction, leaving the managers, scientists and engineers to run the show. Dr Paul Proteus is a top manager-engineer at the head of the Ilium Works. But Proteus, aware of the unfairness of the situation for the people on the other side of the river, becomes disillusioned with society and has a moral awakening. In the penultimate chapter, Paul and his best friend Finnerty, a brilliant young engineer turned rogue-rebel, reminisce sardonically: “If only it weren’t for the people, the goddamned people,” said Finnerty, “always getting tangled up in the machinery. If it weren’t for them, earth would be an engineer’s paradise.

Read more…

Comment
Four short links: 28 October 2014

Four short links: 28 October 2014

Continuous Delivery, UX Resources, Large-Screen Cellphone Design, and Scalable Sockets

  1. Build Quality Inan e-book collection of Continuous Delivery and DevOps experience reports from the wild. Work in progress, and a collection of accumulated experience in the new software engineering practices can’t be a bad thing.
  2. UX Directory — collection of awesome UX resources.
  3. Designing for Large-Screen Cellphones (Luke Wroblewski) — 
In his analysis of 1,333 observations of smartphones in use, Steven Hoober found about 75% of people rely on their thumb and 49% rely on a one-handed grip to get things done on their phones. On large screens (over four inches) those kinds of behaviors can stretch people’s thumbs well past their comfort zone as they try to reach controls positioned at the top of their device. Design advice to create interactions that don’t strain tendons or gray matter.
  4. fastsocket (Github) — a highly scalable socket and its underlying networking implementation of Linux kernel. With the straight linear scalability, Fastsocket can provide extremely good performance in multicore machines.
Comment
Four short links: 13 October 2014

Four short links: 13 October 2014

Angular Style, Consensus Filters, BASE Banks, and Browser Performance

  1. Angular JS Style Guide — I love style guides, to the point of having posted (I think) three for Angular. Reading other people’s style guides is like listening to them make-up after arguments: you learn what’s important to them, and what they regret.
  2. Consensus Filters — filtering out misreads and other errors to allow all agents, or robots, in the network to arrive at the same value asymptotically by only communicating with their neighbours.
  3. Why Banks are BASE not ACIDConsistency it turns out is not the Holy Grail. What trumps consistency is: Auditing, Risk Management, Availability.
  4. perfmap — front-end performance heatmap.
Comment

A foundation of empathy: The O’Reilly Radar Podcast

Putting ourselves in the shoes of the user is key to building better systems and services.

Editor’s note: you can subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast through iTunes, SoundCloud, or directly through our podcast’s RSS feed.

In this podcast episode, Tim O’Reilly talks about building systems and services for people, keeping a close eye on the end user’s experience to build better, more efficient systems that actually work for the people using them. Highlighting a quote from Jeff Sussna, O’Reilly makes a deeper connection between development and the ultimate purpose for building systems and services — user experience:

“[Jeff Sussna says in his blog post Empathy: The Essence of DevOps]: ‘It’s not about making developers and sysadmins report to the same VP. It’s not about automating all your configuration procedures. It’s not about tipping up a Jenkins server, or running your applications in the cloud, or releasing your code on Github. It’s not even about letting your developers deploy their code to a PaaS. The true essence of DevOps is empathy.’

“Understanding the other people that you work with and how you’re going to work together more effectively. That word ‘empathy’ struck me and it made me connect the world of DevOps with the world of user experience design.”

Read more…

Comment: 1