Links for 2019-02-15

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Links for 2019-02-13

  • The curious case of disappearing buses

    Nice investigation into some dodgy pseudo-real-time bus location data in the Bristol real time passenger information system (via Tony Finch)

    So what have we learned? One thing we are sure is that data of different qualities – genuinely real-time, pseudo real-time (Type 2 and Type 1), and non-real-time (scheduled) data – all present in the data stream. Among these the most interesting are Type 2 pseudo real-time data. They appear to be the root cause of the phenomenon of disappearing buses. Type 2 pseudo-real-time data are not totally bogus. One possible explanation of their existence can be this. The bus company has limited but not full tracking information on some of their buses. For example, it may know the location of a bus only when the bus leaves the bus terminal. Instead of not showing any data at all about the bus, the bus company uses interpolation to predict the locations of the bus, and reports these as if those are real-time data.

    (tags: via:fanf bristol buses public-transport rtpi estimation open-data)

  • Blockchain: What’s Not To Like?

    ‘We’re in a period when blockchain or “Distributed Ledger Technology” is the Solution to Everything™, so it is inevitable that it will be proposed as the solution to the problems of academic communication and digital preservation. These proposals typically assume, despite the evidence, that real-world blockchain implementations actually deliver the theoretical attributes of decentralization, immutability, anonymity, security, scalability, sustainability, lack of trust, etc. The proposers appear to believe that Satoshi Nakamoto revealed the infallible Bitcoin protocol to the world on golden tablets; they typically don’t appreciate or cite the nearly three decades of research and implementation that led up to it. This talk will discuss the mis-match between theory and practice in blockchain technology, and how it applies to various proposed applications of interest to the CNI audience.’
    Quite a collection of dunks on blockchain, Bitcoin, ICOs, the DAO, Ethereum, etc.

    (tags: talks bitcoin blockchain icos ethereum dao security)

  • Attack of the week: searchable encryption and the ever-expanding leakage function

    In all seriousness: database encryption has been a controversial subject in our field. I wish I could say that there’s been an actual debate, but it’s more that different researchers have fallen into different camps, and nobody has really had the data to make their position in a compelling way. There have actually been some very personal arguments made about it. The schools of thought are as follows: The first holds that any kind of database encryption is better than storing records in plaintext and we should stop demanding things be perfect, when the alternative is a world of constant data breaches and sadness. To me this is a supportable position, given that the current attack model for plaintext databases is something like “copy the database files, or just run a local SELECT * query”, and the threat model for an encrypted database is “gain persistence on the server and run sophisticated statistical attacks.” Most attackers are pretty lazy, so even a weak system is probably better than nothing. The countervailing school of thought has two points: sometimes the good is much worse than the perfect, particularly if it gives application developers an outsized degree of confidence of the security that their encryption system is going to provide them. If even the best encryption protocol is only throwing a tiny roadblock in the attacker’s way, why risk this at all? Just let the database community come up with some kind of ROT13 encryption that everyone knows to be crap and stop throwing good research time into a problem that has no good solution. I don’t really know who is right in this debate. I’m just glad to see we’re getting closer to having it.
    (via Jerry Connolly)

    (tags: cryptography attacks encryption database crypto security storage ppi gdpr search databases via:ecksor)

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Links for 2019-02-09

  • Live Transcribe

    Google’s new live transcription app — ‘see instant captions anywhere. Whether you’re ordering a coffee or meeting someone new, Live Transcribe helps you communicate in the moment.’ If this works, it’d be fantastic for the deaf and hard of hearing… nifty!

    (tags: android google deaf hearing transcription accessibility)

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Links for 2019-02-08

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Links for 2019-02-07

  • using BGP to compute best paths across the London Underground

    this is deeply silly, but also very impressive (via Tony Finch)

    (tags: via:fanf bgp networking internet routing london-underground trains)

  • hrvach/fpg1

    a PDP-1 implementation in FPGA:

    DEC PDP-1 is a computer designed and produced in 1959. Considering the pace of change in computing, that might seem like the prehistoric age. However, it is also surprisingly modern and proves a point that the basic concepts still withstand the test of time. This project is trying to re-create this computer in FPGA and enable running the first real computer game, SpaceWar!, on a modern display and gamepad. It is designed to run on the MiSTer platform, a retro gaming system based on the Terasic DE10-Nano FPGA board. The implementation is done in Verilog, a hardware description language specifying the structure and behavior of digital logic circuits. This is not a software emulation because there is no CPU executing it. Since this is my first Verilog project ever and its purpose was to teach myself about FPGA, don’t expect too much. Beginners often make mistakes or break best practice. Please keep this in mind. Advice and suggestions are welcome!

    (tags: pdp1 history computers spacewar fpga hardware verilog)

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Links for 2019-02-06

  • Revealed: The dark-money Brexit ads flooding social media | openDemocracy

    Oh god, here we go again. Facebook ads need to be regulated.

    Over the last four months, the People’s Vote and Best for Britain campaigns spent £266,369 and £183,943, respectively. Neither of these anti-Brexit groups is fully transparent either: both publish some details about themselves, such as addresses, but do not publish full details of all funders and donors. During the same time period, Britain’s Future [which does not declare its funders and has no published address] has spent more than £200,000 on Facebook ads. While anti-Brexit spending has slowed down in recent weeks, however, adverts pushing a ‘no deal’ Brexit have spiked. Britain’s Future has spent more than £110,000 on Facebook ads since mid-January. It is not clear where the money for this huge ad push has come from.

    (tags: facebook advertising transparency brexit ads political-ads uk)

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Links for 2019-02-04

  • An In-Depth Guide to Nginx Metrics

    decent list of what nginx offers in terms of instrumentation

    (tags: nginx metrics ops graphing scalyr)

  • Google Hired Gig Economy Workers for Project Maven

    Other tech giants are reportedly interested in engaging the military as it continues to deploy artificial intelligence technology. Much larger machine-learning projects may require vastly new engagement from gig economy workers, who may unknowingly engage in the work. “Workers absolutely should have the right to know what they are working on, and especially when moral or politically controversial activities are involved,” said Juliet Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College, in an email to The Intercept. “It’s a basic dimension of democracy, which should not stop at either the factory or the platform ‘door.’ For too long, the country has tolerated erosion of basic civil rights in the workplace, as corporations assume ever-more control over their workforces. It’s time to win them back.”

    (tags: google project-maven ai training labelling work ethics military)

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Links for 2019-02-02

  • Understanding the bin, sbin, usr/bin , usr/sbin split

    omg. /usr/bin came about because Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie ran out of disk space on the root volume. Mind = blown

    You know how Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie created Unix on a PDP-7 in 1969? Well around 1971 they upgraded to a PDP-11 with a pair of RK05 disk packs (1.5 megabytes each) for storage. When the operating system grew too big to fit on the first RK05 disk pack (their root filesystem) they let it leak into the second one, which is where all the user home directories lived (which is why the mount was called /usr). They replicated all the OS directories under there (/bin, /sbin, /lib, /tmp…) and wrote files to those new directories because their original disk was out of space. When they got a third disk, they mounted it on /home and relocated all the user directories to there so the OS could consume all the space on both disks and grow to THREE WHOLE MEGABYTES (ooooh!).

    (tags: filesystem unix history ken-thompson dennis-ritchie disk-space usr)

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Links for 2019-02-01

  • NYC cops now using Chinese “Sky Net” video surveillance systems

    This is absolutely scary. Systematic surveillance:

    The surveillance tools are identical to those used in Sky Net in China, the largest video surveillance system on Earth, Chinese government research institutes and a company involved in the project said. At a time when China and the United States are locked in a rivalry on several fronts including trade and technology, Hikvision – the world’s largest surveillance technology company, which is state-owned and based in Hangzhou in eastern China – has supplied the equipment and software used by an American force that polices a population of about 8.6 million people. It has been claimed that Hikvision’s system can accurately identify faces regardless of race, whereas some Western-developed technology had previously been more accurate for white people than for black citizens – although the NYPD has not discussed its reasons for using the Chinese technology. The Sky Net programme, now renamed Pingan Chengshi, or Safe Cities, claimed to have connected 170 million cameras across China last year. By 2020, another 400 million units will be installed, it said, casting a watchful eye on every two citizens. Beijing plans to be able to identify anyone, anytime, anywhere in China within three seconds.

    (tags: surveillance new-york nyc skynet china cctv hikvision)

  • Write tests. Not too many. Mostly integration. – kentcdodds

    Nice short summary of Kent Dodds’ approach to testing, which I mostly agree with :)

    (tags: integration coding testing unit-tests integration-tests system-tests)

  • One Of The Biggest At-Home DNA Testing Companies Is Working With The FBI

    Family Tree reveal that they are providing access to customer-submitted DNA records:

    “We are nearing a de-facto national DNA database,” Natalie Ram, an assistant law professor at the University of Baltimore who specializes in bioethics and criminal justice, told BuzzFeed News. “We don’t choose our genetic relatives, and I cannot sever my genetic relation to them. There’s nothing voluntary about that.” Others aired similar concerns. “I would be very against Family Tree DNA allowing law enforcement to have open access to their DNA database,” Debbie Kennett, a British genealogy enthusiast and honorary research associate at University College London said. “I don’t think it’s right for law enforcement to use a database without the informed consent of the consumer.”
    (via Antonio Regalado)

    (tags: biometrics privacy dna family-tree via:antonio-regalado genealogy data-protection fbi us)

  • remote AC control for a Nissan Leaf using a Google Home

    ‘OK Google, heat up the car’ – nifty

    (tags: ok-google google google-home nissan-leaf cars heating gadgets home)

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Links for 2019-01-31

  • The right-wing history of the urban models which inspired SimCity

    Largely forgotten now, Jay Forrester’s Urban Dynamics put forth the controversial claim that the overwhelming majority of American urban policy was not only misguided but that these policies aggravated the very problems that they were intended to solve. In place of Great Society-style welfare programs, Forrester argued that cities should take a less interventionist approach to the problems of urban poverty and blight, and instead encourage revitalization indirectly through incentives for businesses and for the professional class. Forrester’s message proved popular among conservative and libertarian writers, Nixon Administration officials, and other critics of the Great Society for its hands-off approach to urban policy. This outlook, supposedly backed up by computer models, remains highly influential among establishment pundits and policymakers today.

    (tags: simulation cities society politics history simcity games jay-forrester will-wright sociology)

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Links for 2019-01-30

  • The 26,000-Year Astronomical Monument Hidden in Plain Sight at the Hoover Dam

    This is amazing! I wish I’d noticed it when I visited Hoover Dam.

    The center of the circle traced by the axial precession is actually the massive flag pole in the center of the plaza. This axial circle is prominently marked around the pole, and the angle of Polaris was depicted as precisely as possible to show where it would have been on the date of the dam’s opening. Hansen used the rest of the plaza floor to show the location of the planets visible that evening, and many of the bright stars that appear in the night sky at that location. By combining planet locations with the angle of precession, we are able to pinpoint the time of the dam’s completion down to within a day. We are now designing a similar system?—?though with moving parts?—?in the dials of the 10,000 Year Clock. It is likely that at least major portions of the Hoover Dam will still be in place hundreds of thousands of years from now. Hopefully the Clock will still be ticking and Hansen’s terrazzo floor will still be there, even if it continues to baffle visitors.
    (Via Tony Finch)

    (tags: hoover-dam history precession astronomy long-now polaris vega thuban stars clocks)

  • Facial Recognition Is the Perfect Tool for Oppression

    ‘We believe facial recognition technology is the most uniquely dangerous surveillance mechanism ever invented. It’s the missing piece in an already dangerous surveillance infrastructure, built because that infrastructure benefits both the government and private sectors. And when technologies become so dangerous, and the harm-to-benefit ratio becomes so imbalanced, categorical bans are worth considering. The law already prohibits certain kinds of dangerous digital technologies, like spyware. Facial recognition technology is far more dangerous. It’s worth singling out, with a specific prohibition on top of a robust, holistic, value-based, and largely technology-neutral regulatory framework. Such a layered system will help avoid regulatory whack-a-mole where lawmakers are always chasing tech trends. Surveillance conducted with facial recognition systems is intrinsically oppressive. The mere existence of facial recognition systems, which are often invisible, harms civil liberties, because people will act differently if they suspect they’re being surveilled. Even legislation that holds out the promise of stringent protective procedures won’t prevent chill from impeding crucial opportunities for human flourishing by dampening expressive and religious conduct.’

    (tags: tech surveillance facial-recognition faces oppression future chilling-effects)

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Links for 2019-01-29

  • Amendment-apocalypse: Spineless MPs just voted against reality

    … in a way, it was typical May tactics. She prioritised vague promises over content. She sabotaged something – anything – in order to fight another day. She made promises she could not keep on issues she knew to be false. Once again, she said anything, anything at all, to survive just a little longer. […] it has significant medium-term implications too. Firstly, it shows why the backstop was needed in the first place. This country has become an unreliable negotiating partner. It will demand something one day then seek to detonate it the next. The events in the Commons today actually had the ironic effect of reaffirming to the EU the need for the backstop insurance policy. On a broader level, we are about to go around the world asking for trade deals. But we’re seen, by everyone, on the largest stage imaginable, to be fundamentally politically insane. We’ve gone mad and everyone is looking. This is as bleak a day as we have had in the entire Brexit process. All roads now seem blocked. MPs won’t back an extension to Article 50. They won’t back May’s deal. And they won’t back no-deal. They’ve opted for fairy tales over action. Things are looking very bad indeed.

    (tags: brexit politics uk eu backstop)

  • Security Things to Consider When Your Apartment Goes ‘Smart’

    Good advice, and I’d be pretty unhappy about this if it happened to me too.

    If you’re a tenant in the US, it’s very likely that a management-provided smart home system is headed your way in the near future. Carefully evaluate your family’s personal threat model, and consider the plausible digital ways which these systems could be exploited. Spend some time reading into the vendor. Respectfully and courteously encourage your property management company and their smart system vendor to adopt industry best practices in securing smart hubs physically and digitally, the networks they are connected to, and and resident data at rest and in transit in their infrastructure. Request your property managers clearly and decisively address privacy concerns such as data ownership and resale in writing. If solid answers in writing don’t assuage legitimate concerns, consider politely seeking an option to opt-out – and make your threat model clear to them, if you’re in a sensitive situation.

    (tags: locks iot security internetofshit tenancy renting smart-hubs smart-homes smart-locks)

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Links for 2019-01-25

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Links for 2019-01-24

  • We may finally know what causes Alzheimer’s – and how to stop it

    This is amazing:

    If you bled when you brushed your teeth this morning, you might want to get that seen to. We may finally have found the long-elusive cause of Alzheimer’s disease: Porphyromonas gingivalis, the key bacteria in chronic gum disease. That’s bad, as gum disease affects around a third of all people. But the good news is that a drug that blocks the main toxins of P. gingivalis is entering major clinical trials this year, and research published today shows it might stop and even reverse Alzheimer’s. There could even be a vaccine.
    (via John Looney)

    (tags: via:johnlooney gingivitis alzheimers brain health medicine teeth)

  • Brexit: debunking “trading on WTO terms”

    a favourite brexiteer talking point demolished

    (tags: wto trade brexit uk)

  • research!rsc: Our Software Dependency Problem

    The kind of critical examination of specific dependencies that I outlined in this article is a significant amount of work and remains the exception rather than the rule. But I doubt there are any developers who actually make the effort to do this for every possible new dependency. I have only done a subset of them for a subset of my own dependencies. Most of the time the entirety of the decision is “let’s see what happens.” Too often, anything more than that seems like too much effort. But the Copay and Equifax attacks are clear warnings of real problems in the way we consume software dependencies today. We should not ignore the warnings. I offer three broad recommendations. * Recognize the problem. If nothing else, I hope this article has convinced you that there is a problem here worth addressing. We need many people to focus significant effort on solving it. * Establish best practices for today. We need to establish best practices for managing dependencies using what’s available today. This means working out processes that evaluate, reduce, and track risk, from the original adoption decision through to production use. In fact, just as some engineers specialize in testing, it may be that we need engineers who specialize in managing dependencies. * Develop better dependency technology for tomorrow. Dependency managers have essentially eliminated the cost of downloading and installing a dependency. Future development effort should focus on reducing the cost of the kind of evaluation and maintenance necessary to use a dependency. For example, package discovery sites might work to find more ways to allow developers to share their findings. Build tools should, at the least, make it easy to run a package’s own tests. More aggressively, build tools and package management systems could also work together to allow package authors to test new changes against all public clients of their APIs. Languages should also provide easy ways to isolate a suspect package.

    (tags: dependencies software coding work)

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Links for 2019-01-21

  • PhoneNumbers.ie

    ‘Do you want to find out information about an unknown caller?’ — reputation service for random callers in Ireland. Very useful to find out if others have received scammy calls from a given number

    (tags: reputation phone telephone callers scams phishing ireland)

  • The Plot Against George Soros

    The anti-Soros campaign was entirely artificial, as a means to elect Orban in Hungary:

    Orbán was busy creating a new, more dramatic story of the nation. Hungary, which had collaborated with the Nazis, was painted as a victim, surrounded by external enemies, under perpetual siege, first from the Ottomans, then the Nazis, and later the Communists. Hungary’s mission was clear: to defend against its enemies, and to preserve Christianity against encroaching Islam and secular forces. Against this backdrop, Finkelstein had an epiphany. What if the veil of the conspiracy were to be lifted and a shadowy figure appear, controlling everything? The puppet master. Someone who not only controlled the “big capital” but embodied it. A real person. A Hungarian. Strange, yet familiar. That person was Soros, Finkelstein told Birnbaum. Birnbaum was mesmerized: Soros was the perfect enemy. [….] Despite everything that followed, Birnbaum is proud of the campaign against Soros: “Soros was a perfect enemy. It was so obvious. It was the simplest of all products, you just had to pack it and market it.” The product was so good, it sold itself and went global. In 2017, Italians started talking about Soros-financed immigrant boats arriving on the shores. In the US, some people suspected Soros was behind the migrant caravan entering from Central America. A Polish member of parliament called Soros the “most dangerous man in the world.” Putin referred dismissively to Soros during a press conference with Trump in Helsinki. Trump even claimed that the demonstrations against Supreme Court candidate Brett Kavanaugh were sponsored by Soros. Today Finkelstein and Birnbaum’s work in Hungary has echoes everywhere. Birnbaum denied the suggestion that he had run anti-Soros campaigns outside of Hungary. But perhaps he didn’t have to. Anyone could pick up the ideas and run with them. Finkelstein and Birnbaum had turned Soros into a meme. Right-wing sites like Breitbart, or the Kremlin-controlled Russia Today, could simply adopt the Hungarian campaign, translate it into other languages, and feed it with local arguments. If right-wing movements want to campaign today, they can source Soros material from the internet. Anti-Soros material is a globalized, freely available, and adaptable open-source weapon. Birnbaum said it was the common denominator of the nationalist movement.

    (tags: george-soros conspiracies george-birnbaum antisemitism hungary arthur-finkelstein politics campaigning)

  • Stack Overflow: How We Do Monitoring – 2018 Edition

    interesting to see how the other half lives, as Stack Overflow is a .NET shop

    (tags: logging monitoring stack-overflow dotnet ops metrics)

  • ‘The goal is to automate us’: welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism

    “Surveillance capitalism,” she writes, “unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data. Although some of these data are applied to service improvement, the rest are declared as a proprietary behavioural surplus, fed into advanced manufacturing processes known as ‘machine intelligence’, and fabricated into prediction products that anticipate what you will do now, soon, and later. Finally, these prediction products are traded in a new kind of marketplace that I call behavioural futures markets. Surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, for many companies are willing to lay bets on our future behaviour.” While the general modus operandi of Google, Facebook et al has been known and understood (at least by some people) for a while, what has been missing – and what Zuboff provides – is the insight and scholarship to situate them in a wider context. She points out that while most of us think that we are dealing merely with algorithmic inscrutability, in fact what confronts us is the latest phase in capitalism’s long evolution – from the making of products, to mass production, to managerial capitalism, to services, to financial capitalism, and now to the exploitation of behavioural predictions covertly derived from the surveillance of users.

    (tags: advertising technology surveillance facebook google adtech capitalism business)

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Links for 2019-01-18

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Links for 2019-01-17

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Links for 2019-01-16

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Links for 2019-01-15

  • Serverless Computing: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back – Speaker Deck

    So much agreement with this slide deck, particularly the list of limitations of current FaaS: 15 min lifetimes; I/O bottlenecks; no inbound network comms; no specialized hardware; and the general horribleness of using DynamoDB or S3 state as a platform for distributed computing protocols.

    (tags: faas lambda serverless fail slides architecture aws dynamodb s3 cloud)

  • Some facts on immigration to Ireland

    Handy to have to hand next time right-wing talking points emerge:

    Let’s summarise: Ireland has a relatively high level of non-citizens in its population. But this is down to the high level of UK citizens and citizens from other English-speaking countries (US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Ireland has significantly fewer non-citizens from outside the English-speaking world than high-income EU countries. The proportion of non-citizens has remained stable over the last 10 years (i.e. there is no ‘surge’). Non-citizens in Ireland are more integrated into the labour market than any other high-income EU country – that is, there is lower unemployment among non-citizens. So much for the ‘sponging-off-the-state’ argument. We have had far fewer asylum-seekers and we grant asylum to far fewer than most other high-income EU countries. The claims of the Far Right and their allies collapse when we look to reality. 

    (tags: immigration facts statistics ireland asylum-seekers)

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Links for 2019-01-14

  • The Embroidered Computer

    an exploration into using historic gold embroidery materials and knowledge to craft a programmable 8 bit computer. Solely built from a variety of metal threads, magnetic, glass and metal beads, and being inspired by traditional crafting routines and patterns, the piece questions the appearance of current digital and electronic technologies surrounding us, as well as our interaction with them. Technically, the piece consists of (textile) relays, similar to early computers before the invention of semiconductors. Visually, the gold materials, here used for their conductive properties, arranged into specific patterns to fulfil electronic functions, dominate the work. Traditionally purely decorative, their pattern here defines they function. They lay bare core digital routines usually hidden in black boxes. Users are invited to interact with the piece in programming the textile to compute for them.

    (tags: electronics computers computing art embroidery craft gold 8-bit)

  • Crunching The Numbers: How Much Will Your Electric Car Really Cost? | CleanTechnica

    some good real-world measurements from Germany. Ireland’s residential electricity costs are roughly comparable to the Netherlands I think in price/kWh

    (tags: evs cars driving costs home household electricity)

  • Apache Iceberg (incubating)

    Coming to presto soon apparently….

    Iceberg tracks individual data files in a table instead of directories. This allows writers to create data files in-place and only adds files to the table in an explicit commit. Table state is maintained in metadata files. All changes to table state create a new metadata file and replace the old metadata with an atomic operation. The table metadata file tracks the table schema, partitioning config, other properties, and snapshots of the table contents. The atomic transitions from one table metadata file to the next provide snapshot isolation. Readers use the latest table state (snapshot) that was current when they load the table metadata and are not affected by changes until they refresh and pick up a new metadata location.
    excellent — this will let me obsolete so much of our own code :)

    (tags: presto storage s3 hive iceberg apache asf data architecture)

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Links for 2019-01-13

  • certain Irish surnames inherited ‘the cure’

    This is quite an odd superstition — the belief that people with a certain surname could cure a specific ailment.

    Wicklow-born reader Mattie Lennon reminds me that certain Irish families used to hold monopolies over the treatment of individual disorders, based solely on their surnames. Mattie knows this from experience. As a child in the 1950s, he contracted shingles. And it was an article of faith then that anyone by the name of Keogh could cure that painful condition. There were no mysterious herbal concoctions involved: the power resided in their veins, literally. Thus a man named Darby Keogh was called, “bled his fingers, mixed the blood with holy water, and applied it”. Scoff all you like readers, but “it cured my shingles”, says Mattie,

    (tags: health history superstitions ireland wicklow quackery the-cure)

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Links for 2019-01-11

  • PRNG-predicting bot ascends in Nethack in 7 minutes 15 seconds

    This is a really amazing hack!

    So, we could now go from starting inventory to RNG-seed in no time, but we still had to ascend. While we could write a simple “wish”-bot, get +127 Magicbane and then ascend by hand from there, achieving both fastest realtime and lowest turn count in the same game would not be easy. First idea was to start a NAO game, fetch the seed, then saving and perfecting the seed offline. It was quickly ruled out though as the game is reseeded each time it is started (i.e. when you load your game). Loooong story short, we wrote a bot. You had to play the first turns (offline) and move her to a non-magic fountain located next to a wall. If you died, no big deal, just retry on the same seed. This is why SWAGGINZZZ stood still for 6 minutes, we had absolutely horrible RNG when trying to get the specific fountain needed on dlvl2. The fountain is required for wishes. The wall is required to be able to offset the random state without advancing the game state – every time the character attempts to walk into a wall, it calls random() without wasting any in-game time. From the fountain, the bot ascends completely on her own.

    (tags: nethack random prng games hacks cheats nao amazing)

  • glibc changed their UTF-8 character collation ordering across versions, breaking postgres

    This is terrifying:

    Streaming replicas—and by extension, base backups—can become dangerously broken when the source and target machines run slightly different versions of glibc. Particularly, differences in strcoll and strcoll_l leave “corrupt” indexes on the slave. These indexes are sorted out of order with respect to the strcoll running on the slave. Because postgres is unaware of the discrepancy is uses these “corrupt” indexes to perform merge joins; merges rely heavily on the assumption that the indexes are sorted and this causes all the results of the join past the first poison pill entry to not be returned. Additionally, if the slave becomes master, the “corrupt” indexes will in cases be unable to enforce uniqueness, but quietly allow duplicate values.
    Moral of the story — keep your libc versions in sync across storage replication sets!

    (tags: postgresql scary ops glibc collation utf-8 characters indexing sorting replicas postgres)

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Links for 2019-01-10

  • A UK police force is dropping tricky cases on advice of an algorithm

    Wow, this is a terrible idea. It will definitely launder existing human bias into its decisions.

    However, because the technology bases its predictions on past investigations, any biases contained in those decisions may be reinforced by the algorithm. For example, if there are areas that don’t have CCTV and police frequently decided not to pursue cases there, people in those places could be disadvantaged. “When we train algorithms on the data on historical arrests or reports of crime, any biases in that data will go into the algorithm and it will learn those biases and then reinforce them,” says Joshua Loftus at Stanford University in California. […] Police forces only ever know about crimes they detect or have reported to them, but plenty of crime goes unreported, especially in communities that have less trust in the police. This means the algorithms are making predictions based on a partial picture. While this sort of bias is hard to avoid, baking it into an algorithm may make its decisions harder to hold to account compared with an officer’s. John Phillips, superintendent at Kent Police, says that for the types of crimes that EBIT is being used for, under-reporting isn’t an issue and so shouldn’t affect the tool’s effectiveness.
    ….well, I guess that’s OK then? I would have assumed under-reporting would be a massive source of bias alright….

    (tags: bias machine-learning ml ai cctv police uk kent policing)

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Links for 2019-01-09

  • How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation

    That realization recast my recent struggles: Why can’t I get this mundane stuff done? Because I’m burned out. Why am I burned out? Because I’ve internalized the idea that I should be working all the time. Why have I internalized that idea? Because everything and everyone in my life has reinforced it — explicitly and implicitly — since I was young. Life has always been hard, but many millennials are unequipped to deal with the particular ways in which it’s become hard for us.

    (tags: burnout life work workaholism millenials anxiety)

  • White Matter Integrity in Obstructive Sleep Apnea before and after Treatment

    Sleep Apnea causes physical damage to the brain, particularly in white matter fibre integrity. Thankfully, it is reversible.

    Results in pre-treatment OSA patients showed impairments in most cognitive areas, mood and sleepiness that were associated with diffuse reduction of WM fiber integrity reflected by diminished fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) in multiple brain areas. After 3 months of CPAP, only limited changes of WM were found. However, over the course of 12 months CPAP treatment, an almost complete reversal of WM abnormalities in all the affected regions was observed in patients who were compliant with treatment. Significant improvements involving memory, attention, and executive-functioning paralleled WM changes after treatment.

    (tags: brain brain-damage sleep sleep-apnea snoring medicine papers)

  • “Cracking the Coding Interview” handouts

    amazing handouts for interviewees looking to do well in technical interviews; there are 3, coding, PM, and soft-skills-oriented. I’m on the other side of the table these days but these are fantastic

    (tags: interviews coding career interviewing hiring)

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Links for 2019-01-08

  • AWS Service SLAs

    The goal of this page is to high-light the lack of coverage AWS provides for its services across different security factors. These limitations are not well-understood by many. Further, the “Y” fields are meant to indicate that this service has any capability for the relevant factor. In many cases, this is not full coverage for the service, or there are exceptions or special cases.

    (tags: amazon aws services slas ops reliability)

  • Trek10 | From relational DB to single DynamoDB table: a step-by-step exploration

    tl;dr:

    Is modeling my relational database in a single DynamoDB table really a good idea? About a year ago, I wrote a fairly popular article called “Why DynamoDB isn’t for everyone”. Many of the technical criticisms of DynamoDB I put forth at that time (lack of operational controls such as backup/restore; a persistent problem with hot keys) have since been partially or fully resolved due to a truly awe-inspiring run of feature releases from the DynamoDB team. However, the central argument of that article remains valid: DynamoDB is a powerful tool when used properly, but if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s a deceptively user-friendly guide into madness. And the further you stray into esoteric applications like relational modeling, the more sure you’d better be that you know what you’re getting into. Especially with SQL-friendly “serverless” databases like Amazon Aurora hitting their stride, you have a lot of fully-managed options with a smaller learning curve.

    (tags: dynamodb databases storage nosql sql relational aws relations)

  • Give Up the Ghost: A Backdoor by Another Name | Just Security

    Now that GCHQ have asked for this, I suspect plenty of other government bodies around the world will be looking for similar.

    They’re talking about adding a “feature” that would require the user’s device to selectively lie about whether it’s even employing end-to-end encryption, or whether it’s leaking the conversation content to a third (secret) party. Is the security code displayed by your device a mathematical representation of the two keys involved, or is it a straight-up lie? Furthermore, what’s to guarantee that the method used by governments to insert the “ghost” key into a conversation without alerting the users won’t be exploited by bad actors? Despite the GCHQ authors’ claim, the ghost will require vendors to disable the very features that give our communications systems their security guarantees in a way that fundamentally changes the trust relationship between a service provider and its users. Software and hardware companies will never be able to convincingly claim that they are being honest about what their applications and tools are doing, and users will have no good reason to believe them if they try. And, as we’ve seen already seen, GCHQ will not be the only agency in the world demanding such extraordinary access to billions of users’ software. Australia was quick to follow the UK’s lead, and we can expect to see similar demands, from Brazil and the European Union to Russia and China. (Note that this proposal would be unconstitutional were it proposed in the United States, which has strong protections against governments forcing actors to speak or lie on its behalf.) We must reject GCHQ’s newest “ghost” proposal for what it is: a mandated encryption backdoor that weakens the security properties of encrypted messaging systems and fundamentally compromises user trust.

    (tags: crypto ghost gchq security backdoors uk)

  • FFmpeg, SOX, Pandoc and RSVG for AWS Lambda

    OK-ish way to add dependencies to your Lambda containers:

    The basic AWS Lambda container is quite constrained, and until recently it was relatively difficult to include additional binaries into Lambda functions. Lambda Layers make that easy. A Layer is a common piece of code that is attached to your Lambda runtime in the /opt directory. You can reuse it in many functions, and deploy it only once. Individual functions do not need to include the layer code in their deployment packages, which means that the resulting functions are smaller and deploy faster. For example, at MindMup, we use Pandoc to convert markdown files into Word documents. The actual lambda function code is only a few dozen lines of JavaScript, but before layers, each deployment of the function had to include the whole Pandoc binary, larger than 100 MB. With a layer, we can publish Pandoc only once, so we use significantly less overall space for Lambda function versions. Each code change now requires just a quick redeployment.

    (tags: serverless lambda dependencies deployment packaging ops)

  • Allthefood

    Decent new Dublin food blog — reviews and news. Like a Harbo-free version of Lovin’ Dublin

    (tags: dublin food eating restaurants reviews)

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Links for 2019-01-04

  • We’ll Never Know Whether Monorepos Are Better

    This makes sense to me where the monorepo-vs-polyrepo argument is concerned — it’s another religious war:

    About six months after the project was declared “done” (but there was always more to do, more improvements to make to our homegrown dependency management solution), we had a retrospective meeting. The same engineers who had taken sides, for and against the project, were again assembled to discuss how it went. One of the main opponents went first. “Thank goodness we’re finally having this retrospective,” he said. “I think we can all see that this experiment has been a colossal failure and that it’s time for us to change course and roll back to monorepo.” “What do you mean?” one of the main multirepo advocates replied. “This was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made!” This really shocked me. We had access to all of the data you could possibly want to evaluate the decision. The same engineers working with the same codebase had seen what it was like in the monorepo model and the multirepo model. We knew exactly how much it had actually cost to switch. We had lived with the advantages and disadvantages of both models. But still we couldn’t come to an agreement. That retrospective taught me to be humble in my ambitions to “improve” engineering productivity. There’s no way to measure productivity in software, so there’s no way to know whether controversial, expensive “productivity enhancing” projects actually deliver on their promise, even in hindsight.

    (tags: monorepo productivity dev engineering coding polyrepo)

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Links for 2019-01-03

  • I Accidentally Made Myself Lactose Intolerant With Whole30

    A few years back, I had a nasty bout of food poisoning while travelling, which made me lactose-intolerant for several years. Sounds like this may be more common than you’d think, based on this article:

    If you haven’t heard of Whole30, some information: It’s a month-long eating plan that aims to help followers hit “the reset button with your health, habits, and relationship with food.” For 30 days, you cut out soy, legumes, grains, sugars, alcohol, and, of course, dairy. [….] When you reach the end of the Whole30, you’re supposed to add the forbidden food groups back into your diet one at a time. The goal is to figure out which foods are making you feel sluggish, bloated, or just generally not great, so you can ostensibly keep on avoiding them forever. I didn’t do that part. I just jumped right back into eating what I wanted — but suddenly nothing was the same. That first bowl of ice cream I’d been looking forward to for weeks was quickly followed by sharp stomach pains and what can best be described (grossly, but accurately) as bubble gut. [….] The good news, according to gastrointestinal specialist Kim Barrett, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, is that I’m not crazy. The bad news is that dairy no longer agrees with my body’s biology. Turns out, it is possible to suddenly make yourself lactose intolerant. “To some extent, our ability to handle lactose is a use-it-or-lose-it phenomenon,” Barrett says. The body digests lactose — a disaccharide — by using lactase, an enzyme in the small intestine, to break it down into the monosaccharides glucose and galactose, which can then be absorbed. “If you don’t have the [lactose] substrate in the diet, you start to reduce the synthesis of the lactase enzyme to digest it,” Barrett explains. “After a period of completely excluding lactose from the diet, you may not have any of those digestive enzymes present.”

    (tags: diet food lactose lactase intolerance whole30 milk cheese)

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Links for 2019-01-02

  • The Hydrogen Fuel Cell Scam

    The need to have a massive and costly buildout of [hydrogen refuelling] infrastructure remains one of the most glaring problems of a supposed transition to a hydrogen economy. The cost of a single hydrogen fueling station is likely to be over $2 million. This is in contrast to the relatively modest $50,000 cost of deploying a high-speed battery-electric car charging station. Another factor here is the reality of putting into place an all-new infrastructure from scratch versus building off of an already existing electrical infrastructure that exists in every developed nation.  The fact that every building, garage, and lamp post in the US is already electrified means we simply have to add one final component to the existing and established network.

    (tags: hydrogen green driving cars fuel fossil-fuels decarbonisation)

  • Don’t buy a 5G smartphone—at least, not for a while | Ars Technica

    wow, 5G sounds like it’s going to be terrible

    (tags: 5g 4g mobile-phones mobile tech hardware radio)

  • Risky business: linking _Toxoplasma gondii_ infection and entrepreneurship behaviours across individuals and countries | Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

    Using a saliva-based assay, we found that students (n = 1495) who tested IgG positive for Toxoplasma gondii exposure were 1.4× more likely to major in business and 1.7× more likely to have an emphasis in ‘management and entrepreneurship’ over other business-related emphases. Among professionals attending entrepreneurship events, T. gondii-positive individuals were 1.8× more likely to have started their own business compared with other attendees (n = 197). Finally, after synthesizing and combining country-level databases on T. gondii infection from the past 25 years with the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor of entrepreneurial activity, we found that infection prevalence was a consistent, positive predictor of entrepreneurial activity and intentions at the national scale, regardless of whether previously identified economic covariates were included. Nations with higher infection also had a lower fraction of respondents citing ‘fear of failure’ in inhibiting new business ventures. While correlational, these results highlight the linkage between parasitic infection and complex human behaviours, including those relevant to business, entrepreneurship and economic productivity.

    (tags: science biology infection toxoplasmosis parasites humans behaviour entrepreneurs business brains economics)

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Links for 2018-12-21

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Links for 2018-12-20

  • slides from “Distributed Log-Processing Design Workshop”, SRECon Americas 2018

    Fantastic presentation discussing the kinds of design criteria used when architecting a large-scale data processing and storage service. Interesting to see some Google terminology, e.g. “dimensioning” — ballparking the expected scalability numbers, bandwidth, qps, and limits.

    (tags: distributed-systems coding design architecture google photon logs log-storage slides srecon)

  • Zstandard: How Facebook increased compression speed – Facebook Code

    very cool; particularly the high level of support for external-dictionary compression

    (tags: facebook compression zstd zstandard dictionary-compression)

  • The Holiday Drink of 2018: Cognac Punch

    Looks tasty, albeit pricey and strong:

    London Punch House Punch By David Wondrich Ingredients: 4 Lemons 6 oz (3/4 cup) White sugar 20 oz Hennessy Privilege VSOP Cognac 6 oz Jamaican rum 1 quart (4 cups) Cold water Glass: Punch cup Garnish: Freshly grated nutmeg Directions: The day before you serve the punch, fill a quart container with water and put it in the freezer. Peel 4 lemons in long spirals and put the peels into a mason jar with 6 oz (3/4 cup) of white sugar. Seal the jar, shake it and let sit overnight. Two hours before you serve the punch, unseal the mason jar, add 6 oz (3/4) cup fresh-squeezed, strained lemon juice, reseal and shake until all the sugar has dissolved. Refrigerate. To assemble the punch, unmold the ice block and place it in a 1-gallon punch bowl. Shake the contents of the mason jar and pour it into the punch bowl unstrained, peels and all. Add 20 oz (2-and-a-half cups) Hennessy Privilege VSOP Cognac and 6 oz (3/4 cup) Jamaican rum. Stir. Add 1 quart (4 cups) cold water. Stir again and grate nutmeg on top. Using a punch ladle, drape a few ends of the spiral lemon peels over the rim of the bowl. Grate nutmeg over the top.

    (tags: punch cognac hennessy recipes rum)

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Links for 2018-12-19

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Links for 2018-12-18

  • Remove Background from Image

    A fully automated background-removal tool. Nicely done

    (tags: images editing tools background graphics)

  • Google used a Baidu front-end to scrape user searches without consent

    The engineers used the data they pulled from [acquired Baidu front-end site] 265.com to learn about the kinds of things that people located in mainland China routinely search for in Mandarin. This helped them to build a prototype of Dragonfly. The engineers used the sample queries from 265.com, for instance, to review lists of websites Chinese people would see if they typed the same word or phrase into Google. They then used a tool they called “BeaconTower” to check whether any websites in the Google search results would be blocked by China’s internet censorship system, known as the Great Firewall. Through this process, the engineers compiled a list of thousands of banned websites, which they integrated into the Dragonfly search platform so that it would purge links to websites prohibited in China, such as those of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and British news broadcaster BBC. Under normal company protocol, analysis of people’s search queries is subject to tight constraints and should be reviewed by the company’s privacy staff, whose job is to safeguard user rights. But the privacy team only found out about the 265.com data access after The Intercept revealed it, and were “really pissed,” according to one Google source.

    (tags: china search tech google privacy baidu interception censorship great-firewall dragonfly)

  • awslabs/amazon-kinesis-scaling-utils

    The Kinesis Scaling Utility is designed to give you the ability to scale Amazon Kinesis Streams in the same way that you scale EC2 Auto Scaling groups – up or down by a count or as a percentage of the total fleet. You can also simply scale to an exact number of Shards. There is no requirement for you to manage the allocation of the keyspace to Shards when using this API, as it is done automatically. You can also deploy the Web Archive to a Java Application Server, and allow Scaling Utils to automatically manage the number of Shards in the Stream based on the observed PUT or GET rate of the stream.

    (tags: kinesis scaling scalability shards sharding ops)

  • The “Bart” — sudden hundreds-of-Bitcoin pumps or dumps, to burn the margin traders

    Finance journalists need to stop treating crypto as an efficient market that responds to concerns. It’s a thinly-traded unregulated playground for whales, out to wreck the margin traders. A $400 dip in fifteen minutes is not a “market signal” — it’s a deliberate dump to manipulate the price. Though there’s still downward pressure on the price — all the suckers from the bubble have gone home, so they’re not buying … but the miners still have to sell coins for actual money to pay for their electricity. And even more so now that the price of mining one bitcoin is at — or above — what you could get for selling that bitcoin. So one minute you’ll see a sudden $100 increase in the price that cost 130 BTC of dollars — and those are actual dollars going in — followed the next minute by a matching $100 drop that came from selling only 30 BTC. It’s much easier to drop the price than raise it.

    (tags: investing bitcoin via:harikunzru cryptocurrency pump-and-dump barts finance margin-traders currencies fraud)

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Links for 2018-12-13

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Links for 2018-12-11

  • Notebookcheck’s Top 10 Tablets under 250 Euros

    a decent list of low-end tablets, given the season

    (tags: tablets devices hardware android gadgets xmas)

  • A primer on privacy as “contextual integrity”

    A primer on privacy as “contextual integrity” and why privacy notices on mobile platforms (both Android and iOS) are insufficient for attaining informed consent. If your doctor asked for permission to collect your medical history, you would probably say yes. However, if that doctor asked to collect your medical history to give to marketers for advertising purposes, you would probably decline. The difference is, in the first case, you’re making assumptions about how the data will be used based on who is making the request. Knowing just the type of data requested and the requester are insufficient to make an informed decision: people also consider the purpose and other constraints (e.g., will data be resold, stored securely, etc.), which are equally important factors.
    (via Karlin)

    (tags: privacy context understanding mobile data-protection permission opt-in)

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Links for 2018-12-10

  • Makisu

    Uber’s Fast, Reliable Docker Image Builder for Apache Mesos and Kubernetes.

    we built our own image building tool, Makisu, a solution that allows for more flexible, faster container image building at scale. Specifically, Makisu: requires no elevated privileges, making the build process portable. uses a distributed layer cache to improve performance across a build cluster. provides flexible layer generation, preventing unnecessary files in images. is Docker-compatible, supporting multi-stage builds and common build commands.

    (tags: makisu docker containers ops build mesos kubernetes building)

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Links for 2018-12-09

  • Billionaires Are the Leading Cause of Climate Change

    That’s largely because there is no “free market” incentive to prevent disaster. An economic environment where a company is only considered viable if it’s constantly expanding and increasing its production can’t be expected to pump its own brakes over something as trivial as pending global catastrophe. Instead, market logic dictates that rather than take the financial hit that comes with cutting profits, it’s more reasonable to find a way to make money off the boiling ocean. Nothing illustrates this phenomenon better than the burgeoning climate-change investment industry. According to Bloomberg, investors are looking to make money off of everything from revamped food production to hotels for people fleeing increasingly hurricane-ravaged areas. A top JP Morgan Asset investment strategist advised clients that sea-level rise was so inevitable that there was likely a lot of opportunity for investing in sea-wall construction.

    (tags: capitalism environment politics future climate-change doom)

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Links for 2018-12-06

  • Irish agricultural CO2 emissions actually INCREASED by 2.9% last year

    Irish EPA: agriculture greenhouse gas emissions increased by 2.9% in 2017 “The most significant drivers are higher dairy cow numbers (+3.1%) which reflects national plans to expand milk production”
    Feck’s sake.

    (tags: epa ireland co2 greenhouse-gases emissions green farming agriculture)

  • “Bring home the bacon” debate is a case study in how stupid we’ve all become

    Well said, that Carl Kinsella.

    How are we supposed to focus on the things that matter when media organisations refuse to? Ivan Yates and Matt Cooper ran a segment on whether or not we’ve reached political correctness. Niall Boylan had a discussion about whether or not it’s okay to ban phrases that nobody really wants to ban [as PETA has suggested]. As a matter of pure coincidence, other reports from outlets like the Daily Mail and Today FM reported that the HSE was going to ban its employees from using phrases like “love,” “pet” or “dear.” That wasn’t true either. Again, it was one line in a huge report that asked the question as to whether or not it was the best course of action to use such terms. It wasn’t mentioned again. Unlike phrases about meat, this actually matters. This is the kind of thing that could actually change how people are treated in hospital. But again, it wasn’t true. The public – which has lost its capacity to verify what is true and what is not — was being lied to by the media. That’s how it works now.

    (tags: media clickbait fake-news news today-fm daily-mail hse niall-boylan peta controversy political-correctness ivan-yates matt-cooper)

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Links for 2018-12-05

  • Rudy Giuliani doesn’t understand how links work

    As waxy noted: ‘this might be funny if he wasn’t Trump’s cybersecurity advisor’.

    Twitter allowed someone to invade my text with a disgusting anti-President message. The same thing-period no space-occurred later and it didn’t happen. Don’t tell me they are not committed cardcarrying anti-Trumpers. Time Magazine also may fit that description. FAIRNESS PLEASE
    Giuliani composed a tweet with no spaces after full stops, and a broken regexp at Twitter auto-linkified “G-20.In”. An internet prankster registered this domain and Giuliani lost his shit in a spectacular display of incompetence. The best bit? Here’s a thread with the original devs: https://twitter.com/hoverbird/status/1070142045140877312 — ‘Hey @tw and @bcherry, remember all the debates we had about the linkifying regex around edge cases like this?’ (via Waxy and pretty much everyone on twitter)

    (tags: edge-cases bugs twitter regexps regular-expressions links urls us-politics trump rudy-giuliani security funny)

  • 3D models by DH_Age Sheela-na-Gig3D Project (@DH_Age) – Sketchfab

    These are fantastic — 3D scans of Sheela-na-Gig carvings around Ireland from 3D Sheela, an Irish based research initiative ‘focusing on the digital documentation and analysis of Ireland’s Sheela-na-Gig catalogue’ (NSFW)

    (tags: 3d sheela-na-gigs history carving nsfw models photogrammetry)

  • Chester Beatty Digital Collections

    ‘Explore online access to our remarkable treasures, through this searchable database of digitised artworks and manuscripts’, from the Chester Beatty museum’s collection. Licensing isn’t fully open though — ‘Images and PDF’s are provided for personal research and scholarship.’

    (tags: chester-beatty museums history archaeology artifacts art manuscripts)

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Links for 2018-12-03

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Links for 2018-12-01

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