"web services" entries

Do one thing…

I don't want barely distinguishable tools that are mediocre at everything; I want tools that do one thing and do it well.

350px-Pudu_jail_west_wallI’ve been lamenting the demise of the Unix philosophy: tools should do one thing, and do it well. The ability to connect many small tools is better than having a single tool that does everything poorly.

That philosophy was great, but hasn’t survived into the Web age. Unfortunately, nothing better has come along to replace it. Instead, we have “convergence”: a lot of tools converging on doing all the same things poorly.

The poster child for this blight is Evernote. I started using Evernote because it did an excellent job of solving one problem. I’d take notes at a conference or a meeting, or add someone to my phone list, and have to distribute those files by hand from my laptop to my desktop, to my tablets, to my phone, and to any and all other machines that I might use.

But as time has progressed, Evernote has added many other features. Some I might have a use for, but they’re implemented poorly; others I’d rather not have, thank you. I’ve tried sharing Evernote notes with other users: they did a good job of convincing me not to use them. Photos in documents? I really don’t care. When I’m taking notes at a conference, the last thing I’m thinking about is selfies with the speakers. Discussions? No, please no. There are TOO MANY poorly implemented chat services out there. We can discuss my shared note in email. Though, given that it’s a note, not a document, I probably don’t want to share anyway. If I wanted a document, even a simple one, I’d use a tool that was really good at preparing documents. Taking notes and writing aren’t the same, even though they may seem similar. Nor do I want to save my email in Evernote; I’ve never seen, and never expect to see, an email client that didn’t do a perfectly fine job of saving email. Clippings? Maybe. I’ve never particularly wanted to do that; Pinboard, which has stuck to the “do one thing well” philosophy, does a better job of saving links. Read more…

Comments: 36
Four short links: 24 April 2015

Four short links: 24 April 2015

Jeff Jonas, Siri and Mesos, YouTube's Bandwidth Bill, and AWS Numbers

  1. Decoding Jeff Jonas (National Geographic) — “He thinks in three—no, four dimensions,” Nathan says. “He has a data warehouse in his head.” And that’s where the work takes place—in his head. Not on paper. Not on a computer. He resorts to paper only to work the details out. When asked about his thought process, Jonas reaches for words, then says: “It’s like a Rubik’s Cube. It all clicks into place. “The solution,” he says, is “simply there to find.” Jeff’s a genius and has his own language for explaining what he does. This quote goes a long way to explaining it.
  2. How Apple Uses Mesos for Siri — great to see not only some details of the tooling that Apple built, but also their acknowledgement of the open source foundations and ongoing engagement with those open source communities. There have been times in the past when Apple felt like a parasite on the commons rather than a participant.
  3. Cheaper Bandwidth or Bust: How Google Saved YouTube (ArsTechnica) — Remember YouTube’s $2 million-a-month bandwidth bill before the Google acquisition? While it wasn’t an overnight transition, apply Google’s data center expertise, and this cost drops to about $666,000 a month.
  4. AWS Business NumbersAmazon Web Services generated $5.2 billion over the past four quarters, and almost $700 million in operating income. During the first quarter of 2015, AWS sales reached $1.6 billion, up 49% year-over-year, and roughly 7% of Amazon’s overall sales.
Comments: 2
Four short links: 4 March 2015

Four short links: 4 March 2015

Go Microservices, Watch Experience, Multithreading Bugs, and Spooks Ahoy

  1. Microservices in Go — tale of rewriting a Ruby monolith as Go microservices. Interesting, though being delivered at Gophercon India suggests the ending is probably not unhappy.
  2. Watch & Wear (John Cross Neumann) — Android watch as predictor of the value and experience of an Apple Watch. I believe this is the true sweet spot for meaningful wearable experiences. Information that matters to you in the moment, but requires no intervention. Wear actually does this extremely well through Google Now. Traffic, Time to Home, Reminders, Friend’s Birthdays, and Travel Information all work beautifully. […] After some real experience with Wear, I think what is more important is to consider what Apple Watch is missing: Google Services. Google Services are a big component of what can make wearing a tiny screen on your wrist meaningful and personal. I wouldn’t be surprised after the initial wave of apps through the app store if Google Now ends up being the killer app for Apple Watch.
  3. Solving 11 Likely Problems In Your Multithreaded Code (Joe Duffy) — a good breakdown of concurrency problems, including lower-level ones than high-level languages expose. But beware. If you try this [accessing variables with synchronisation] on a misaligned memory location, or a location that isn’t naturally sized, you can encounter a read or write tearing. Tearing occurs because reading or writing such locations actually involves multiple physical memory operations. Concurrent updates can happen in between these, potentially causing the resultant value to be some blend of the before and after values.
  4. Obama Sharply Criticizes China’s Plans for New Technology Rules (Reuters) — In an interview with Reuters, Obama said he was concerned about Beijing’s plans for a far-reaching counterterrorism law that would require technology firms to hand over encryption keys, the passcodes that help protect data, and install security “backdoors” in their systems to give Chinese authorities surveillance access. Goose sauce is NOT gander sauce! NOT! Mmm, delicious spook sauce.
Four short links: 12 December 2013

Four short links: 12 December 2013

Bluetooth LE, Keyboard Design, Dataset API, and State Machines

  1. iBeacons — Bluetooth LE enabling tighter coupling of physical world with digital. I’m enamoured with the interaction possibilities: The latest Apple TV software brought a fantastically clever workaround. You just tap your iPhone to the Apple TV itself, and it passes your Wi-Fi and iTunes credentials over and sets everything up instantaneously.
  2. Better and Better Keyboards (Jesse Vincent) — It suffered from the same problem as every other 3D-printed keyboard I’d made to date – When I showed it to someone, they got really excited about the fact that I had a 3D printer. In contrast, whenever I showed someone one of the layered acrylic prototype keyboards I’d built, they got excited about the keyboard.
  3. Bamboo.io — open source modular web service for dataset storage and retrieval.
  4. state.jsOpen source JavaScript state machine supporting most UML 2 features.
Four short links: 5 September 2013

Four short links: 5 September 2013

Bezos on Business, CS Ratios, Easier Hadoopery, and AWS CLI

  1. Bezos at the Post (Washington Post) — “All businesses need to be young forever. If your customer base ages with you, you’re Woolworth’s,” added Bezos.[…] “The number one rule has to be: Don’t be boring.” (via Julie Starr)
  2. How Carnegie-Mellon Increased Women in Computer Science to 42% — outreach, admissions based on potential not existing advantage, making CS classes practical from the start, and peer support.
  3. Summingbird (Github) — Twitter open-sourced library that lets you write streaming MapReduce programs that look like native Scala or Java collection transformations and execute them on a number of well-known distributed MapReduce platforms like Storm and Scalding.
  4. aws-cli (Github) — commandline for Amazon Web Services. (via AWS Blog)
Four short links: 8 December 2010

Four short links: 8 December 2010

User-Contributed News, Web Services, Kinect Piano, and Designing Maps

  1. Send Us Your Thoughts (YouTube) — from the excellent British comedians Mitchell and Webb comes this take on viewer comments in the news. (via Steve Buttry’s News Foo writeup)
  2. Amazon proves that REST doesn’t matter for Cloud APIs — with the death of WS-* and their prolix overbearing complexity, the difference between REST and basic XML RPC is almost imperceptible. As this essay points out, the biggest cloud API is Amazon’s and it’s built on RPC instead of REST.
  3. Kinect Piano (YouTube) — turn any surface into a piano. (via David Ascher on Twitter)
  4. Google Maps Label Readability — detailed analysis of the design decisions that make Google’s labels so much more readable than the competition’s. Fascinating to see the decisions that go into programmatically building a map: leaving white space around cities, carefully avoiding clustering, even how adding an extra level of information can make things simpler.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 15 October 2010

Four short links: 15 October 2010

Long Tail, Copyright vs Preservation, Diminished Reality, and Augmented Data

  1. Mechanical Turk Requester Activity: The Insignificance of the Long TailFor Wikipedia we have the 1% rule, where 1% of the contributors (this is 0.003% of the users) contribute two thirds of the content. In the Causes application on Facebook, there are 25 million users, but only 1% of them contribute a donation. […] The lognormal distribution of activity, also shows that requesters increase their participation exponentially over time: They post a few tasks, they get the results. If the results are good, they increase by a percentage the size of the tasks that they post next time. This multiplicative behavior is the basic process that generates the lognormal distribution of activity.
  2. Copyright Destroying Historic Audio — so says the Library of Congress. Were copyright law followed to the letter, little audio preservation would be undertaken. Were the law strictly enforced, it would brand virtually all audio preservation as illegal. Copyright laws related to preservation are neither strictly followed nor strictly enforced. Consequently, some audio preservation is conducted.
  3. Diminished Reality (Ray Kurzweil) — removes objects from video in real time. Great name, “diminished reality”. (via Andy Baio)
  4. Data Enrichment Service — using linked government data to augment text with annotations and links. (via Jo Walsh on Twitter)
Comments: 2

Web Meets World: Privacy and the Future of the Cloud

Yesterday I gave a talk to the Privacy Forum in Auckland, New Zealand, titled Web Meets World: Privacy and the Future of the Cloud. The talk was intended as a scene setter for a discussion with the audience, about 70 lawyers, technologists, consultants, and public policy wonks. They responded well to the challenge, and we talked about the nature of…

Comments: 4

The Kindle, the Cloud and Mixed Signals

Adam Hodgkin notes a discrepancy between Amazon's cloud-computing efforts and the Kindle. From Exact Editions: If Amazon decides to switch tack on the Kindle and treat it simply as a blank slate on which users can rent rather than outright buy titles, they will have the infrastructure in place to make this change. Amazon is a true believer in…

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Processing the Deep Backlist at the New York Times

At OSCON, Derek Gottfrid explained how the New York Times is using Amazon cloud computing services to make the paper's historical archive viewable on the Web.

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