Sorry, Daily Mail article —
Blunders in the use of controversial snooping powers meant 13 people were wrongly arrested last year on suspicion of being paedophiles. Another four individuals had their homes searched by detectives following errors in attempts to access communications data, a watchdog revealed yesterday. Other mistakes also included people unconnected to an investigation being visited by police and delayed welfare checks on vulnerable people including children whose lives were at risk, said the Interception of Communications Commissioner. [….] A large proportion of the errors involved an internet address which was wrongly linked to an individual. Of the 23 serious mistakes, 14 were human errors and the other nine ‘technical system errors’.
“The Secret Barrister” explains a classic case of empty-gesture lawmaking in the UK:
in 2012, the coalition government, in a fit of virtue signalling, announced a bold plan to offer extra protection to victims of stalking, following a rash of reported cases where obsessive nutjobs had slipped through the net. Hence, via the 2012 Act, section 2A was shoved into the Protection from Harassment Act, creating a shiny new offence of stalking. What is stalking, you ask? Well here’s the clever bit. Stalking is…”a course of conduct which amounts to harassment…and [where] the acts or omissions involved are ones associated with stalking“. To inject some colour into the dull circularity of the definition, section 2A(3) provides “examples of acts or omissions associated with stalking”. In other words, you need to prove that the defendant is guilty of both harassment and stalking, in order to convict them of stalking. Therefore, proving stalking is by definition harder for the prosecution than simply proving harassment. And what do you get if you opt for the harder road? What prize awaits the victorious prosecutor who has slogged her way through the additional evidential burden thrust upon her by section 2A? The answer is….nothing. Or at least, nothing more than if you successfully prosecuted for harassment. The maximum sentence in each case is 6 months’ imprisonment. It is the very definition of empty gesture legislating. Section 2A is so very pointlessly pointless that I want urgently to go back in time to the day when then-crime prevention minister Jeremy Browne was hubristically prattling on about what a difference this law is going to make and shove a whoopee pie right up his schnoz. Section 2A does nothing other than create a new offence that is harder to prove than an existing offence that prohibits the same conduct, solely, it seems, to allow for the drawing of an entirely semantic distinction between “harassment” and “stalking”.
European transport group, Transport and Environment, said that the Loughborough study shows that better design “could save hundreds of pedestrian and cyclists’ lives”. It added that the study “finds huge differences in the direct vision – what drivers can see with their own eyes – of best and worst-in-class trucks in all categories, and that ‘low-entry cabs’ like the Mercedes Econic out perform all of today’s best performing vehicles.” A P-Series truck, from truck maker Scania, was rated at the best of its class with zero blind spots — this could go a long way to explaining why the makers of a Road Safety Authority video using another P-Series truck reportedly had to fake blind spots last year. Mandatory extra mirrors has been EU policy to try to reduce collisions with people cycling and walking but researchers point out that blind spots remain on many trucks and improving direct vision may be a better policy than improving indirect vision using mirrors. […] The EU currently has a deadline of 2028 for improved vision in trucks but Transport and Environment said: “Given that better vision cabs are already available on the market and in all market segments (best in class, smarter configurations, low entry vehicles) a 2028 deadline is not justifiable.”
good page on the Universal Scalability Law and how to apply it
‘You probably don’t know much about the Staten Island Ferry Disaster Memorial Museum, which honors the 400 victims who died when a giant octopus attacked the Cornelius G. Kolff, a Staten Island Ferry boat, on Nov. 22, 1963. That isn’t because the event was overshadowed by the assassination of JFK that same day—it’s because, as you may have guessed based on the word “tricks” in the headline, there was no such octopus-induced tragedy.’
great idea — donate old, obsolete iPhone 4/4s phones to a charity which repurposes them for autistic/non-verbal kids
Events of the past week have convinced me that one of the fastest-growing censorship threats on the Internet today comes not from nation-states, but from super-empowered individuals who have been quietly building extremely potent cyber weapons with transnational reach. More than 20 years after Gilmore first coined [his] turn of phrase, his most notable quotable has effectively been inverted — “Censorship can in fact route around the Internet.” The Internet can’t route around censorship when the censorship is all-pervasive and armed with, for all practical purposes, near-infinite reach and capacity.
I love this story — a wealthy couple buy a vineyard in the Languedoc for its theoretically-optimal microclimate for wine-making. Defying what one’s preconceptions would expect (mine included!), the results were fantastic.
In the Languedoc there is a vineyard that teaches us an important lesson about textbook learning and its application to the world. In the early Seventies it was bought by a wealthy couple, who consulted professors Emile Peynaud and Henri Enjalbert, the world’s leading academic oenologist and oenological geologist respectively. Between them these men convinced the couple that their new vineyard had a theoretically ideal microclimate for wine-making. When planted with theoretically ideal vines whose fruits would be processed in the optimal way according to the up-to-date science of oenology, this vineyard had the potential to produce wine to match the great first growths of Bordeaux. The received wisdom that great wine was the product of an inscrutable (and untransferable) tradition was quite mistaken, the professors said: it could be done with hard work and a fanatical attention to detail. The couple, who had no experience of wine-making but much faith in professorial expertise, took a deep breath and went ahead. If life were reliably like novels, their experiment would have been a disaster. In fact Aimé and Véronique Guibert have met with a success so unsullied that it would make a stupefying novel (it has already been the subject of a comatogenic work of non-fiction). The first vintage they declared (in 1978) was described by Gault Millau as ‘Château Lafite du Languedoc’; others have been praised to the heights by the likes of Hugh Johnson and Robert Parker. The wine is now on the list at the Tour d’Argent and the 1986 vintage retails at the vineyard for £65 a bottle. The sole shadow on the lives of these millionaires is cast by the odd hailstorm. No one to whom I have begun recounting the story believes it will end well. Most people are extremely unwilling to grant that faith in textbook knowledge should ever be crowned with success. We have a very strong narrative bias against such stories. It is a bias we forget once our children fall sick or we have to travel in an aeroplane, but so long as we are in storytelling mode we simply deny that systematic textbook reasoning can make headway against whimsy and serendipity. Apart from anything else, it is deeply unfair that it should.
“A lot of people feel that they want to live in a cul-de-sac, they feel like it’s a safer place to be,” Marshall says. “The reality is yes, you’re safer – if you never leave your cul-de-sac. But if you actually move around town like a normal person, your town as a whole is much more dangerous.” This is the opposite of what traffic engineers (and home buyers) have thought for decades. And it’s just the beginning of what we’re now starting to understand about the relative advantages of going back to the way we designed communities a century ago. Marshall and Garrick took the same group of California cities and also examined all their minutely classified street networks for the amount of driving associated with them. On average, they found, people who live in more sparse, tree-like communities drive about 18 percent more than people who live in dense grids. And that’s a conservative calculation.(via Tony Finch)
“A modern standard for event-oriented data”. Avro schema, events have time and type, schema is external and not part of the Avro stream. ‘a modern standard for representing event-oriented data in high-throughput operational systems. It uses existing open standards for schema definition and serialization, but adds semantic meaning and definition to make integration between systems easy, while still being size- and processing-efficient. An Osso event is largely use case agnostic, and can represent a log message, stack trace, metric sample, user action taken, ad display or click, generic HTTP event, or otherwise. Every event has a set of common fields as well as optional key/value attributes that are typically event type-specific.’
Some good slides with tips on running java apps in production in Docker
‘its legacy can be seen in factories, call centres and warehouses today, although new technology has taken the place of Taylor’s instruction cards and stopwatches. Many warehouse workers for companies such as Amazon use handheld devices that give them step-by-step instructions on where to walk and what to pick from the shelves when they get there, all the while measuring their “pick rate” in real time. For Jeremias Prassl, a law professor at Oxford university, the algorithmic management techniques of Uber and Deliveroo are Taylorism 2.0. “Algorithms are providing a degree of control and oversight that even the most hardened Taylorists could never have dreamt of,” he says.’
‘How to cheat at Bridge by breaking the tournament card-dealing random number generator’, via Tony Finch
The purpose of the drill was to see how the data center’s fire suppression system worked. Data centers typically rely on inert gas to protect the equipment in the event of a fire, as the substance does not chemically damage electronics, and the gas only slightly decreases the temperature within the data center. The gas is stored in cylinders, and is released at high velocity out of nozzles uniformly spread across the data center. According to people familiar with the system, the pressure at ING Bank’s data center was higher than expected, and produced a loud sound when rapidly expelled through tiny holes (think about the noise a steam engine releases). The bank monitored the sound and it was very loud, a source familiar with the system told us. “It was as high as their equipment could monitor, over 130dB”. Sound means vibration, and this is what damaged the hard drives. The HDD cases started to vibrate, and the vibration was transmitted to the read/write heads, causing them to go off the data tracks. “The inert gas deployment procedure has severely and surprisingly affected several servers and our storage equipment,” ING said in a press release.
‘All the information you need while traveling including visa requirements, currency, electricity, communication info and more.’
This is pretty awful — an accidental, careless and brutal side effect of marketers passing on sensitive info to one another, without respect for their users’ privacy: ‘I hadn’t realized, however, that when I had entered my information into the pregnancy app, the company would then share it with marketing groups targeting new mothers. Although I logged my miscarriage into the app and stopped using it, that change in status apparently wasn’t passed along. Seven months after my miscarriage, mere weeks before my due date, I came home from work to find a package on my welcome mat. It was a box of baby formula bearing the note: “We may all do it differently, but the joy of parenthood is something we all share.”’
on the list
Beautiful background art from a 2006 anime by Shinji Kimura, as a 10″ x 7″ full-colour hardback art book.
The leading theory that I’ve seen going around is that Google is actually blocking all links in any FeedBurner feed, because it’s a violation of its own terms of service. Seriously. The link-shortener “goo.gl”, run by Google, is blocking all URLs generated by Feedburner, run by Google. pic.twitter.com/IR7wrlv6xj — Great Again Also (@agentdero) September 6, 2016 That’s because Google’s URL shortener’s terms of service bans “URL re-directors” and it appears that the genius engineers at Google have decided that Google-run FeedBurner is nothing more than a URL re-director and killed off everyone’s links without notice or explanation. This despite the fact that they’re the same damn company and that FeedBurner unilaterally moved everyone’s RSS feed to use Goo.gl links in the first place.
Coda Hale’s new gig on how they’re using Docker, AWS, etc. I like this: “Use containers. Not too much. Mostly for packaging.”
great post from Loggly on production usage of regular expressions on shared, multitenant architecture, where a /.*/ can really screw things up. “NFA isn’t a golden ticket” paragraph included
‘we are enhancing the Spot Fleet model with the addition of Auto Scaling. You can now arrange to scale your fleet up and down based on a Amazon CloudWatch metric. The metric can originate from an AWS service such as EC2, Amazon EC2 Container Service, or Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS). Alternatively, your application can publish a custom metric and you can use it to drive the automated scaling.’
Unfortunately the usual ML problem arises at the end:
One of the current challenges with deep learning is that you need to have a large number of training datasets. To train the model, Makoto spent about three months taking 7,000 pictures of cucumbers sorted by his mother, but it’s probably not enough. “When I did a validation with the test images, the recognition accuracy exceeded 95%. But if you apply the system with real use cases, the accuracy drops down to about 70%. I suspect the neural network model has the issue of “overfitting” (the phenomenon in neural network where the model is trained to fit only to the small training dataset) because of the insufficient number of training images.”In other words, as with ML since we were using it in SpamAssassin, maintaining the training corpus becomes a really big problem. :(
This is a mad story. The insurance company is accusing a guy in NZ of using remote-login software from 400km away to trigger a “print” command to a complicated Heath Robinson setup in order to light a fire to burn down his house
In a revelation that shows how the National Security Agency was able to systematically spy on many Cisco Systems customers for the better part of a decade, researchers have uncovered an attack that remotely extracts decryption keys from the company’s now-decommissioned line of PIX firewalls. The discovery is significant because the attack code, dubbed BenignCertain, worked on PIX versions Cisco released in 2002 and supported through 2009. Even after Cisco stopped providing PIX bug fixes in July 2009, the company continued offering limited service and support for the product for an additional four years. Unless PIX customers took special precautions, virtually all of them were vulnerable to attacks that surreptitiously eavesdropped on their VPN traffic.
Sadly, this makes sense and I’d have to agree.
Mike Durio, of Phoenix, seemed to sum it up in an email to my office back in April. “Have you considered doing away with the comments sections, or tighter moderation?” he wrote. “The comments have devolved into the Punch-and-Judy-Fest of moronic, un-illuminating observations and petty insults I’ve seen on other pretty much every other Internet site that allows comments.” He added, “This is not in keeping with NPR’s take-a-step-back, take-a-deep-breath reporting,” and noted, “Now, thread hijacking and personal insults are becoming the stock in trade. Frequent posters use the forums to duke it out with one another.” A user named Mary, from Raleigh, N.C., wrote to implore: “Remove the comments section from your articles. The rude, hateful, racist, judgmental comments far outweigh those who may want to engage in some intelligent sideline conversation about the actual subject of the article. I am appalled at the amount of ‘free hate’ that is found on a website that represents honest and unbiased reporting such as NPR. What are you really gaining from all of these rabid comments other than proof that a sad slice of humanity that preys on the weak while spreading their hate?”
The ‘Young British Heritage Society’, aka gam*rgate as a college society
yes, yes it is
Insightful thread from the mechanical sympathy group, regarding the checked-vs-unchecked style question:
Peter Lawrey: Our view is that Checked Exception makes more sense for library writers as they can explicitly pass off errors to the caller. As a caller, especially if you are new to a product, you don’t understand the exceptions or what you can do about them. They add confusion. For this reason we use checked exceptions internally in the lower layers and try to avoid passing them in our higher level interfaces. Note: A high percentage of our fall backs are handling iOExceptons and recovering from them. [….] My experience is that the more complex and layered your libraries the more essential checked exceptions become. I see them as essential for scalability of your software.
This is shaking my world view — although I find it more plausible that (as responses to https://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-22440,00.html claim) they _did_ work until about 10-20 years ago, by detecting RF emissions from the local oscillator inside the TV. Ross Anderson, at https://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/Papers/SE-15.pdf , notes:
During [..] World War II, radio engineering saw advances in radar, passive direction finding, and low-probability-of-intercept techniques, which I’ll discuss in the next chapter. By the 1960s, the stray RF leaking from the local oscillator signals in domestic television sets was being targeted by direction-finding equipment in “TV detector vans,” in Britain, where TV owners must pay an annual license fee that is supposed to support public broadcast services. Its use has since expanded to satellite and cable TV operators, who use detector vans to find pirate decoders. Some people in the computer security community were also aware that information could leak from cross-coupling and stray RF (see, for example, [259, 791]).
Sandler wants to be able to explore the code running her device for programming flaws and vulnerability to hacking, but she can’t. “Because I don’t have access to the source code, I have no power to do anything about it,” she says. In her eyes, it’s a particularly obvious example of a problem that now cuts across much of modern life: proprietary software has become crucial to daily survival, and yet is often locked away from public exploration and discussion by copyright.
‘Researchers learn about wire-fraud scam after Nigerian scammers infect themselves with their own malware.’
The researchers observed Wire-Wire scores of $5,000 to $250,000 with the average between $30,000-$50,000 from small- and medium-sized businesses. The scammers themselves were “well-respected and admired” in their communities.I’ve heard about this scam — it’s nasty, and worst of all, banks won’t reimburse the losses.
A eulogy for Oliver Hughes, founder of the Porterhouse and Dingle Distillery, and arguably the progenitor of Ireland’s craft beer scene. I had the pleasure of sharing a table with him at a beer tasting in Sweeney’s off license a while back, and it was both educational and a good fun night. RIP
‘FakeTime is simulated time.”
When testing RealTime software a simulator is often employed, which injects events into the program which do not occur in RealTime. If you are writing software that controls or monitors some process that exists in the real world, it takes a long time to test it. But if you simulate it, there is no reason in the simulated software (if it is disconnected from the real world completely) not to make the apparent system time inside your software appear to move at a much faster rate. For example, I have written simulators that can verify the operational steps taken by industrial controllers over a 12 hour FakeTime period, which executes in 60 seconds. This allows me to run ’12 hours’ of fake time through my test cases and test scenarios, without waiting 12 hours for the testing to complete. Of course, after a successful fakeTime test, an industrial RealTime system still needs to be tested in non-simulated fashion.
‘Event driven Diagnostic and Remediation Platform’ — aka ‘runbooks as code’
hahaha. gtfo, IOC
excellent explanation and benchmarks of a timer wheel implementation
ECS, Docker, ELB, SQS, SNS, RDS, VPC, and spot instances. Pretty canonical setup these days…
The mytaxi app is also now able to predict daily and weekly spikes. In addition, it has gained the elasticity required to meet demand during special events. Herzberg describes a typical situation on New Year’s Eve: “Shortly before midnight everyone needs a taxi to get to parties, and after midnight people want to go home. In past years we couldn’t keep up with the demand this generated, which was around three and a half times as high as normal. In November 2015 we moved our Docker container architecture to Amazon ECS, and for the first time ever in December we were able to celebrate a new year in which our system could handle the huge number of requests without any crashes or interruptions—an accomplishment that we were extremely proud of. We had faced the biggest night on the calendar without any downtime.”
Honesty is most important. Be sure to carefully explain that (excluding the mountain of evidence to the contrary) there was no way to foresee the [Bitcoin] exchange hacking. Practice phrases like, “this operation was the most trustworthy exchange running out of a vacant building in Singapore” and “no we can’t just call the exchange, they don’t have a phone number”. If your significant other criticizes your decision to buy cryptocurrencies, be sure to fall back on technical merits of cryptocurrencies. Mention, “it’s backed by math” and “[insert cryptocurrency here] didn’t fail, people failed”.
This WIKI collects information about prepaid (or PAYG) mobile phone plans from all over the world. Not just any plans though, they must include good data rates, perfect for smartphone travellers, as well as tablet or mobile modem users.
‘aw yiss comic generator’. AW YISS
Massive, massive copyright fail by Alamy and Getty Images.
Since each violation of copyright in this case allows the plaintiff to seek damages up to $25,000, the statutory damages for Getty’s 18,755 violations amount to $468,875,000. But because the company was found to have violated the same copyright law within the past three years — in 2013, Daniel Morel was awarded $1.2 million in a suit against Getty, after the agency pulled his photos from Twitter and distributed them without permission to several major publications — Highsmith can elect to seek three times that amount: hence the $1 billion suit. “The economic damage that Ms. Highsmith has suffered includes, without limitation, any and all revenue received by the Defendants based on purported licenses sold for the Highsmith Photos. These funds represent money that Ms. Highsmith could have received had she attempted to monetize her photos through the Defendants,” the complaint states. “The injury to Ms. Highsmith’s reputation has been … severe,” it continues. “There is at least one example of a recipient of a threatening letter for use of a Highsmith Photo researching the issue and determining that Ms. Highsmith had made her photos freely available and free to use through the Library website. … Therefore, anyone who sees the Highsmith Photos and knows or learns of her gift to the Library could easily believe her to be a hypocrite.”
Uber bringing the smackdown for the HN postgres fanclub, with some juicy technical details of issues that caused them pain. FWIW, I was bitten by crappy postgres behaviour in the past (specifically around vacuuming and pgbouncer), so I’ve long been a MySQL fan ;)
As recommended by J & F: ‘Most of the campsites we’ve stayed in have had great facilities for kids – pools, activities, entertainment etc – but the problem with that is you spend your day being dragged from one to the other. There’s none of that at Camping Indigo in Noirmoutier apart from a playground, some kayaks and some music in the bar at night but it is on the beach so the kids either run wild around the campsite or play on the beach – it was the best and most relaxing holiday we ever had and we definitely met the coolest people there. There’s a really nice town in the centre of the island and great beaches all around it so hire bikes and roam free.’ Bookmarking for next year’s holiday planning!
his Monitorama 2016 talk, talking about the “deep health checks” concept (which I implemented at Swrve earlier this year ;)
I never knew we had a native take on the sauna, the “teach alluis”:
Sweathouses were used for the treatment for a wide range of ailments up to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, primarily rheumatism but also including sciatica, lameness, sore eyes, gout, skin disorders, psychiatric disorders, impotence and infertility. Surviving records indicate that treatment was often a group activity for 4-8 persons. The sweathouse was heated by filling the interior with fuel (turf, heather, wood etc. as available), and firing the structure for a period of up to two days to heat the stone structure, the hot ashes were then raked out and the interior floor lined with bracken, grass or straw. The bathers entered and blocked the entrance with turves, clothes or some other means. The sweating period could last a number of hours while the structure retained heat. Some authors note that water was thrown on hot stones to create steam. Afterwards, the “patients” would either take a cold plunge in the nearby water source, or go home and rest for a few hours, or simply return to their normal daily activities.(via Aileen)
Course notes from Gerald Jay Sussman’s “Adventures in Advanced Symbolic Programming” class at MIT. Hard to argue with this:
The syntax of the regular-expression language is awful. There are various incompatable forms of the language and the quotation conventions are baroquen [sic]. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of useful software, for example grep, that uses regular expressions to specify the desired behavior. Although regular-expression systems are derived from a perfectly good mathematical formalism, the particular choices made by implementers to expand the formalism into useful software systems are often disastrous: the quotation conventions adopted are highly irregular; the egregious misuse of parentheses, both for grouping and for backward reference, is a miracle to behold. In addition, attempts to increase the expressive power and address shortcomings of earlier designs have led to a proliferation of incompatible derivative languages.(via Rob Pike’s twitter: https://twitter.com/rob_pike/status/755856685923639296)
Mr. Johnson’s fans are not naïve. Handing over their passwords to some strange, cute boy actually constitutes a minor act of youthful rebellion. The whole encounter delivers a heady mix of intimacy and transgression — the closest digital simulation yet to a teenage crush.(via Adam Shostack)
Techdirt has been warning for years that the West’s repeated demands for China to “respect” patents could backfire badly. […] And guess what? That is exactly what has just happened, as The Wall Street Journal reports: ‘Huawei Technologies Co. said it has filed a lawsuit against T-Mobile US Inc., alleging the U.S. telecommunications carrier violated the Chinese company’s patents related to wireless networks. In its complaint filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Huawei said T-Mobile is using its patented technology without signing a licensing agreement.’At least this is the most likely scenario to result in patent reform, finally.
So using money from the sale of iStock to Getty, she and Mr. Livingstone set out to create Stocksy, paying photographers 50 to 75 percent of sales. That is well above the going rate of 15 to 45 percent that is typical in the stock photography field. The company also distributes 90 percent of its profit at the end of each year among its photographers. Stocksy is part of a new wave of start-ups that are borrowing the tools of Silicon Valley to create a more genuine “sharing” economy that rewards the individuals generating the value.
eye-poppingly bizarre half-assed safety features of the 1950s — a megaton nuclear weapon rendered safe from accidental criticality accidents only by a plastic bag full of ball bearings
A wonderfully-sweary post on the etymology of swear words, and how they’re not derived from acronyms, really.
shit? Also from an old Germanic root, descended equally to modern German Scheiss (which sounds closer to Scots shite). It shows up in Old English, fully inflected: “Wiþ þon þe men mete untela melte & gecirre on yfele wætan & scittan” (that scittan is an infinitive form of ‘shit’ and was said like “shit-tan”). I can assure you that an acronym Ship High In Transit – supposedly meaning that manure was to be loaded in the upper parts of ships – was not possible in the language in the Old English period, not just because transit was not borrowed from Latin until half a millennium later, or because they didn’t use acronyms like that then, but because what the fuck are you even thinking. They didn’t need to ship manure. Animals produce it on the spot everywhere. Holy shit, fucking seriously.
Invariably, when I see a lot of developer effort in production support I also find an unreliable QA environment. It is both unreliable in that it is frequently not available for testing, and unreliable in the sense that the system’s behavior in QA is not a good predictor of its behavior in production.
Doorman is a solution for Global Distributed Client Side Rate Limiting. Clients that talk to a shared resource (such as a database, a gRPC service, a RESTful API, or whatever) can use Doorman to voluntarily limit their use (usually in requests per second) of the resource. Doorman is written in Go and uses gRPC as its communication protocol. For some high-availability features it needs a distributed lock manager. We currently support etcd, but it should be relatively simple to make it use Zookeeper instead.From google — very interesting to see they’re releasing this as open source, and it doesn’t rely on G-internal services
‘based my observations while I was a Site Reliability Engineer at Google’, courtesy of Rob Ewaschuk
. Seem pretty reasonable
‘Best Plex Media Server’ — this looks pretty superb for EUR240 or thereabouts