Clearing the Air Around Tor (Quinn Norton) — Occasionally the stars align between spooks and activists and governments and anarchists. Tor, like a road system or a telephone network or many pieces of public infrastructure, is useful to all of these people and more (hence the debate on child pornographers and drug markets) because it’s just such a general architecture of encryption. The FBI may want Tor to be broken, but I promise any spies who are counting on it for mission and life don’t.
Offline Cookbook — how Chrome intends to solve the offline problem in general. I hope it works and takes off because offline is the bane of this webapp-user’s life.
The Pirate Bay, Down Forever? — As a big fan of the KLF I once learned that it’s great to burn great things up. At least then you can quit while you’re on top.
Luigi (Github) — a Python module that helps you build complex pipelines of batch jobs. It handles dependency resolution, workflow management, visualization, etc. It also comes with Hadoop support built in. (via Asana engineering blog)
[Silicon Valley] Bedevilled by Moral Issues (NYT, registerwall) — given that Silicon Valley tends to copy and paste the mantra, “we’re making the world a better place,” it seem reasonable to expect that tech companies would hold themselves to a higher ethical standard.
Quantum OS — Linux desktop based on Google’s Material Design. UI guidelines fascinate me: users love consistency, designers and brands hate that everything works the same.
Inside AWS — Every day, AWS installs enough server infrastructure to host the entire Amazon e-tailing business from back in 2004, when Amazon the retailer was one-tenth its current size at $7 billion in annual revenue. “What has changed in the last year,” Hamilton asked rhetorically, and then quipped: “We have done it 365 more times.” That is another way of saying that in the past year AWS has added enough capacity to support a $2.55 trillion online retailing operation, should one ever be allowed to exist.
Michael Ossman and the NSA Playset — the guy who read the leaked descriptions of the NSA’s toolchest, built them, and open sourced the designs. One device, dubbed TWILIGHTVEGETABLE, is a knock off of an NSA-built GSM cell phone that’s designed to sniff and monitor Internet traffic. The ANT catalog lists it for $15,000; the NSA Playset researchers built one using a USB flash drive, a cheap SDR, and an antenna, for about $50. The most expensive device, a drone that spies on WiFi traffic called PORCUPINEMASQUERADE, costs about $600 to assemble. At Defcon, a complete NSA Playset toolkit was auctioned by the EFF for $2,250.
Gates Foundation Announces World’s Strongest Policy on Open Access Research (Nature) — Once made open, papers must be published under a license that legally allows unrestricted re-use — including for commercial purposes. This might include ‘mining’ the text with computer software to draw conclusions and mix it with other work, distributing translations of the text, or selling republished versions. CC-BY! We believe that published research resulting from our funding should be promptly and broadly disseminated.
Xenotix — an advanced Cross Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability detection and exploitation framework. It provides Zero False Positive scan results with its unique Triple Browser Engine (Trident, WebKit, and Gecko) embedded scanner. It is claimed to have the world’s 2nd largest XSS Payloads of about 4700+ distinctive XSS Payloads for effective XSS vulnerability detection and WAF Bypass. Xenotix Scripting Engine allows you to create custom test cases and addons over the Xenotix API. It is incorporated with a feature-rich Information Gathering module for target Reconnaissance. The Exploit Framework includes offensive XSS exploitation modules for Penetration Testing and Proof of Concept creation.
Firing Range — Google’s open source set of web security test cases for scanners.
The Dark Market for Personal Data (NYTimes) — can buy lists of victims of sexual assault, of impulse buyers, of people with sexually transmitted disease, etc. The cost of a false-positive when those lists are used for marketing is less than the cost of false-positive when banks use the lists to decide whether you’re a credit risk. The lists fall between the cracks in privacy legislation; essentially, the compilation and use of lists of people are unregulated territory.
Collaborative Filtering at LinkedIn (PDF) — This paper presents LinkedIn’s horizontal collaborative filtering infrastructure, known as browsemaps. Great lessons learned, including context and presentation of browsemaps or any recommendation is paramount for a truly relevant user experience. That is, design and presentation represents the largest ROI, with data engineering being a second, and algorithms last. (via Greg Linden)
Creating Empathy on Facebook (NY Times) — On Facebook, teenagers are presented with more options than just “it’s embarrassing” when they want to remove a post. They are asked what’s happening in the post, how they feel about it and how sad they are. In addition, they are given a text box with a polite pre-written response that can be sent to the friend who hurt their feelings. (In early versions of this feature, only 20 percent of teenagers filled out the form. When Facebook added more descriptive language like “feelings” and “sadness,” the figure grew to 80 percent.)
Project Naptha — automatically applies state-of-the-art computer vision algorithms on every image you see while browsing the web. The result is a seamless and intuitive experience, where you can highlight as well as copy and paste and even edit and translate the text formerly trapped within an image. Chrome extension. (via Anil Dash)
Garbage Trucks and FedEx Vans (IEEE) — Foo alum, Ian Wright, found traction for his electric car biz by selling powertrains for garbage trucks and Fedex vans. Trucks have 20-30y lifetime, but powertrains are replaced several times; the trucks for fleets are custom; and “The average garbage truck in the U.S. spends $55,000 a year on fuel, and up to $30,000 a year on maintenance, mostly brake replacements.”
Microsoft’s Quantum Mechanics (MIT TR) — the race for the “topological qubit”, involving newly-discovered fundamental particles and large technology companies racing to be the first to make something that works.
Guidance Note on Uncertainty (PDF) –expert advice to IPCC scientists on identifying, quantifying, and communicating uncertainty. Everyone deals with uncertainty, but none are quite so ruthless in their pursuit of honesty about it as scientists. (via Peter Gluckman)
SparkFun Rapid Prototyping Lab — with links to some other expert advice on creative spaces. Some very obvious software parallels, too. E.g., this from Adam Savage’s advice: The right tool for the job – Despite his oft-cited declaration that ‘every tool is a hammer,’ Adam can usually be relied on to geek-out about purpose-built tools. If you’re having trouble learning a new skill, check that you’re using the right tools. The right tool is the one that does the hard work for you. There’s no point in dropping big bucks on tools you’re almost certainly not going to use, but don’t be afraid to buy the cheap version of the snap-setter, or leather punch, or tamper bit before trying to jerry-rig something that will end up making your life harder.
Dudes with Drones (The Atlantic) — ghastly title (“Bros with Bots”, “Bangers with Clangers”, and “Fratboys with Phat Toys” were presumably already taken), interesting article. San Diego is the Palo Alto of drones. Interesting to compare software startups with the hardware crews’ stance on the FAA. “We want them to regulate us,” Maloney says. “We want nothing more than a framework to allow us to continue to operate safely and legally.”