Links for 2020-03-28

  • Percy Ludgate

    ‘a Dublin corn merchant clerk who designed the second analytical engine (general-purpose Turing-complete computer) in history. Charles Babbage in 1843 and Ludgate in 1909 designed the only two mechanical analytical engines before the electromechanical analytical engine of Leonardo Torres y Quevedo of 1920 and its few successors, and the six first-generation electronic analytical engines of 1949. Working alone, Ludgate designed an analytical engine while unaware of Babbage’s designs.’

    (tags: history ireland analytical-engines dublin computers hardware)

  • What happened with the UK’s “herd immunity” COVID-19 strategy

    “I’ll tell you what happened in the UK. Over the past decade, eminent figures in public health developed complex models that would help inform the UK response to a pandemic. The response plan would allow slow spread through a population and a number of deaths that would be deemed acceptable in relation to low economic impact. Timing of population measures such as social distancing would be taken, not early, but at a times deemed to have maximal psychological impact. Measures would be taken that could protect the most vulnerable, and most of the people who got the virus would hopefully survive. Herd immunity would beneficially emerge at the end of this, and restrictions could relax. This was a ground-breaking approach compared to suppressing epidemics. It was an approach that could revolutionise the way we handled epidemics. Complex modelling is a new science, and this was cutting edge. But a model is only ever as good as the assumptions you build it upon. The UK plan was based on models with an assumption that any new pandemic would be like an old one, like flu. And it also carried a huge flaw – there was no accounting for the highly significant variables of ventilators and critical care beds that are key to maintaining higher survival numbers.” Amazing. The sheer arrogance and hubris of assuming the model was right! Somebody will have to pay for this, it’s shocking.

    (tags: herd-immunity hubris arrogance covid-19 uk uk-politics pandemics models data-science epidemiology)

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Links for 2020-03-27

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Links for 2020-03-26

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Peer-to-peer COVID-19 contact tracing without the surveillance

Maciej Ceglowski asks for a massive surveillance program to defeat COVID-19.

However, as I mentioned on twitter — there IS an alternative, privacy-preserving approach, which is what is being done in Singapore with their TraceTogether app.

In summary, everyone carries a phone running an app which has an anonymized a random ID, scans local Bluetooth periodically for other people’s apps with their random IDs, and records them locally (not uploading to a server). If you find out you have COVID-19 you then trigger an upload of your contact history to a central server. That server then broadcasts out the list of IDs, and everyone you’ve been in contact with will then get a ping on their app to get tested, self-isolate, etc.

No central surveillance, no creepy big brother watching your location.

My pinboard has a few more write-ups on basically the same idea from various other places, including MIT. This is similar to what China’s app does, but (as far as I can tell) with more privacy.

It looks like the Singaporean government digital services team behind TraceTogether is putting together an open source version, at Bluetrace.io.

IMO we have to do this or we will never get out of COVID-19 lockdown before 2021. I am massively in favour of adopting this approach in Ireland and across the world.

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Links for 2020-03-24

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Links for 2020-03-23

  • Treeware

    ‘a style of software distribution similar to Postcardware, distributed by the author on the condition that users buy the author a tree.’

    (tags: treeware oss open-source software licensing licenses)

  • Jen Heemstra on Remdesivir

    ‘At this point, you’ve probably heard a ton about chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and how they may be effective in treating COVID-19. I wanted to tell you about a different molecule that’s getting less attention but may have good potential – Remdesivir.’ How Remdesivir works to inhibit viral replication. Fascinating stuff

    (tags: remdesivir viruses science chemistry medicine drugs covid-19 treatment)

  • Professor Sara Sawyer’s Decon Station Instructions

    If you are sheltering-in-place and feel that you need to take extra precautions for a high-risk member of your household, you can decontaminate things before they come into your house.  Read on if you want to know how. This post addresses common questions that I am getting about mail, fruits, groceries, etc. The following advice is my own, tailored for this specific situation, and is the best advice I can come up with based on the extensive biosafety training that I have received as a research scientist who works with human viruses.
    (via Pam)

    (tags: biosafety viruses covid-19 decontamination sterilising sterilizing health via:pam)

  • We Need A Massive Surveillance Program (Idle Words)

    The most troubling change this project entails is giving access to sensitive location data across the entire population to a government agency. Of course that is scary, especially given the track record of the Trump administration. The data collection would also need to be coercive (that is, no one should be able to opt out of it, short of refusing to carry a cell phone). […] But the public health potential of commandeering surveillance advertising is so great that we can’t dismiss it out of hand. I am a privacy activist, typing this through gritted teeth, but I am also a human being like you, watching a global calamity unfold around us. What is the point of building this surveillance architecture if we can’t use it to save lives in a scary emergency like this one?
    +1000.

    (tags: surveillance advertising contact-tracing contact-tracking tracking location smartphones covid-19 pandemics\)

  • What’s the Evidence on Face Masks? What You Heard Was Probably Wrong

    According to research on the SARS epidemic, face masks were the most consistently effective intervention for reducing the contraction and spread of SARS. In a Cochrane Review on the subject, 6 out of 7 studies showed that face masks (surgical and N95) offered significant protection against SARS. Hand washing was also very effective, supported by 4 out of 7 studies in a multivariate analysis. Although most of the studies in the Cochrane Review were on medical workers in a hospital setting, one study followed community transmission of SARS in Beijing. It found that consistently wearing a mask in public was associated with a 70% reduction in risk of catching SARS. Additionally, the authors of the paper noted that most people in the community wore simple surgical masks, not N95 respirators.

    (tags: cochrane-reviews health medicine face-masks covid-19 germs masks transmission sars)

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Links for 2020-03-22

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Links for 2020-03-21

  • TraceTogether

    The Singapore government’s version of the anonymised-ids-with-BLE local contact tracing app for COVID-19. This has a fancy video! (via Dorothy)

    (tags: contact-tracing singapore contacts ble bluetooth covid-19 pandemics)

  • Rapidly manufactured ventilator system specification – GOV.UK

    This is a specification of the minimally (and some preferred options) clinically acceptable ventilator to be used in UK hospitals during the current SARS-CoV2 outbreak. It sets out the clinical requirements based on the consensus of what is ‘minimally acceptable’ performance in the opinion of the anaesthesia and intensive care medicine professionals and medical device regulators. It is for devices, which are most likely to confer therapeutic benefit on a patient suffering with ARDS caused by COVID-19, used in the initial care of patients requiring urgent ventilation. A ventilator with lower specifications than this is likely to provide no clinical benefit and might lead to increased harm, which would be unacceptable for clinicians and would, therefore, not gain regulatory approval.

    (tags: disease covid-19 crowdsourcing hospitals medicine 3d-printing ventilators)

  • Open Source COVID19: Our Intent, Needs, and Your Role – Google Docs

    ‘PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) is critical to the protection of healthcare workers, acting as a barrier and therefore controlling exposure to COVID-19. Some of the most fundamental items comprising PPE include gloves, goggles, surgical masks, respirators, protective gowns, and disinfectant. Many of these crucial PPE items are now in short supply due to interruptions in the supply chain, and also from the massive demand as the number of patients infected continues to grow exponentially. Numerous medical devices are required to treat the COVID-19 patient and will also fall into short supply (e.g. ventilators). Shortages of necessary PPE and medical devices will continue to pose a significant problem for healthcare workers and patients around the globe.’

    (tags: open-source covid-19 ppe medicine 3d-printing makers volunteers)

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Links for 2020-03-20

  • Coronavirus: Deaconess asks public to sew medical face masks

    Shortages of specialized masks moved federal health officials this month to liberalize their recommendations about which face protection front line health-care workers should use to ward off the highly contagious disease stemming from coronavirus. “Prior to modern disposable masks, washable fabric masks were standard use for hospitals,” said Dawn Rogers, MSN, RN, FNP-C, Patient Safety & Infection Prevention Office in a release to media.  “We will be able to sterilize these masks and use them repeatedly as needed. While it’s less than ideal, we want to do our best to protect our staff and patients during this pandemic.” 

    (tags: facemasks covid-19 shortages pandemics medicine emergency)

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Links for 2020-03-19

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Links for 2020-03-18

  • ‘Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand’

    This is the report from the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team which, it seems, *finally* got the UK and US to realise that this is going to require a massive social-distancing and lockdown to avoid killing millions. The graph on the last page in particular is a kicker.

    (tags: covid-19 health pandemics epidemics medicine social-distancing imperial-college uk)

  • Specifications for simple open source mechanical ventilator

    from Julian Botta, Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Resident PGY-3 , Twitter: @julianbotta ‘This is a living document intended to give non-clinicians/non-respiratory therapists an idea of key ventilator features and one proposed simplified design. I encourage other healthcare professionals who are very familiar with ventilators and their use to give me feedback using the comments feature to improve these specifications.’

    (tags: specifications ventilators open-source covid-19 medicine hardware)

  • Medical company threatens to sue volunteers that 3D-printed valves for life-saving coronavirus treatments – The Verge

    This is absolutely appalling behaviour. People are dying — free the blueprints!

    A medical device manufacturer has threatened to sue a group of volunteers in Italy that 3D printed a valve used for life-saving coronavirus treatments. The valve typically costs about $11,000 from the medical device manufacturer, but the volunteers were able to print replicas for about $1 (via Techdirt). A hospital in Italy was in need of the valves after running out while treating patients for COVID-19. The hospital’s usual supplier said they could not make the valves in time to treat the patients, according to Metro. That launched a search for a way to 3D print a replica part, and Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Ramaioli, who work at Italian startup Isinnova, offered their company’s printer for the job, reports Business Insider. However, when the pair asked the manufacturer of the valves for blueprints they could use to print replicas, the company declined and threatened to sue for patent infringement, according to Business Insider Italia. Fracassi and Ramaioli moved ahead anyway by measuring the valves and 3D printing three different versions of them.

    (tags: covid-19 ip patents italy 3d-printing hardware ip-rights law)

  • Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies | Facebook

    A very active group of makers sharing designs and plans for open source face masks, ventilators, etc.

    (tags: covid-19 open-source facebook medicine face-masks ppe hardware 3d-printing)

  • Global MediXchange for Combating COVID-19 – Alibaba Cloud

    The Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation, together with the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University, jointly established the Global MediXchange for Combating COVID-19 (GMCC) programme, with the support of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence and Alibaba Health, to help combat the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. This platform was established to facilitate continued communication and collaboration across borders, as well as to provide the necessary computing capabilities and data intelligence to empower pivotal research efforts. The platform can provide frontline medical teams with the necessary communication channels to share practical experience and information about fighting the pandemic.
    They’ve put together a handbook of COVID-19 preventation and treatment, based on the Chinese experience.

    (tags: treatment medical covid-19 china jack-ma alibaba medicine health)

  • Neil Jackman’s favourite places in Ireland, county by county

    Fantastic list of ancient sites, from the archaeologist, podcaster and author:

    It’s my first #StPatricksDay as an Irish citizen. There may be fewer parades & pints, but seeing the solidarity kindness & meitheal has made me love this country even more. I’ve been lucky to see a lot of this island over the last 21 years. Here’s some favourite places by county

    (tags: ireland archaeology history paleolithic neolithic neil-jackman)

  • Safe Paths

    Another privacy-preserving COVID-19 contact-tracing app, this one from MIT:

    The news: An app that tracks where you have been and who you have crossed paths with—and then shares this personal data with other users in a privacy-preserving way—could help curb the spread of Covid-19, says Ramesh Raskar at the MIT Media Lab, who leads the team behind it. Called Private Kit: Safe Paths, the free and open-source app was developed by people at MIT and Harvard, as well as software engineers at companies such as Facebook and Uber, who worked on it in their free time.  

    (tags: mit contact-tracing privacy apps smartphones android ios covid-19 epidemics pandemics)

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Links for 2020-03-17

  • ‘Sustainable containment of COVID-19 using smartphones in China: Scientific and ethical underpinnings for implementation of similar approaches in other settings’

    China have enforced a variety of measures aimed at social distancing including lockdowns, restrictions on movement and cordon-sanitaires, as well as the Alipay Health Code smartphone application (an add on to the WeChat app system) now adopted in over 200 cities and by 90% of individuals in one Chinese province. A separate system has been implemented in South Korea, and both have come under public scrutiny over issues of data protection and privacy. We sought to design a broadly acceptable version of this platform, leveraging commonly used smartphone functionality. This system is currently in development, and based on a very simple algorithm, that we show through mathematical modelling will enable public health agencies to prevent a COVID-19 epidemic while minimizing social and economic disruption.
    This also introduced me to a new concept, “herd protection”, which is described as “Ronald Ross’s great discovery: you don’t need to stop all infections to stop an epidemic, you need to get and keep R<1."

    (tags: papers toread covid-19 social-distancing movement cordons quarantine epidemics pandemics china smartphones location herd-protection)

  • COVID-19 Risk App

    COVID-19 has a relatively long infectious incubation period, averaging five days but potentially up to two weeks, during which there may be asymptomatic transmission. In other words, there may be a period of time in which people who carry COVID-19 don’t necessarily show symptoms and may not even realise they are infected, but are still capable of infecting others. This makes it harder for health professionals and epidemiologists to trace who has come into contact with infected persons (‘contact tracing’), which in turn makes the virus more difficult to effectively contain. Many people, however, now carry GPS-enabled smartphones which already track their location over time – most mapping apps, like Google Maps or MapQuest, already collect this data by default. We believe that this information could be used to rapidly and automatically perform a type of contact tracing, helping limit the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. These phones are usually also Bluetooth-enabled, allowing them to track and record which other phones they’re in proximity to. We believe that together, these two pieces of information can be used to inform and empower our users in a range of ways. Firstly, we can generate heatmaps of high-risk areas from demographic data, known cases, and epidemiological modelling, allowing users to adjust their behaviour accordingly. Secondly, we can use Bluetooth connections between users to enact cryptographically secure contact tracing and alerting them if we learn that they have been exposed to COVID-19, without revealing the identities or infection status of any other users.

    (tags: covid-19 contact-tracing apps android ios smartphones privacy location)

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Links for 2020-03-15

  • The Paradox of Preparation

    Chris Hayes on Twitter: “A doctor I spoke to today called this the “paradox of preparation” and it’s the key dynamic in all this. The only way to get ahead of the curve is to take actions that *at the time* seem like overreactions, eg: Japan closing all schools for a month with very few confirmed cases”. See also the Millennium Bug, and what’s currently (failing) to happen with climate change. This is a great concept, and good to have a name for it.

    (tags: millennium-bug paradox-of-preparation covid-19 pandemics preparation)

  • Project Open Air

    We are working on medical devices, such as open source ventilators, to have a fast and easy solution that can be reproduced and assembled locally worldwide. If you have any skills that you consider might help, join the Helpful Engineering group.

    (tags: health medicine ventilators devices hardware design engineering covid-19)

  • If You Go Out Now, You Might Feel Guilty Later. I Do.

    Others have written eloquently of the importance of social distancing. But the scale and scope of this is something every single one of us is having to grapple with. Things that felt like a dumb overreaction a week ago — “Canceling vacation? Really?” — now feel hilariously quaint. Or if they don’t, they will soon. If you still can’t quite believe that you need to take these measures, or that people’s lives may hang in the balance, or if you still think that it will be okay because the numbers where you live aren’t so bad yet, I am not here to scold you. But if you do go out, and you do risk infecting somebody else, you may feel the guilt — and the fear — that I’m struggling with right now. Trust me, it’s not worth it.

    (tags: social-distancing covid-19 isolation quarantine infection pandemics)

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Links for 2020-03-13

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Links for 2020-03-12

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Links for 2020-03-11

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Links for 2020-03-10

  • Trees on commercial UK plantations ‘not helping climate crisis’

    “There is no point growing a lot of fast-growing conifers with the logic that they sequester carbon quickly if they then go into a paper mill because all that carbon will be lost to the atmosphere within a few years,” said Thomas Lancaster, head of UK land policy at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), which commissioned the report. “We should not be justifying non-native forestry on carbon grounds if it’s not being used as a long-term carbon store.”
    Absolutely. Commercial forestry is not going to help address the climate change problem.

    (tags: business economics environment climate-change forestry trees coillte)

  • low-cost mechanical ventilator prototype

    a team of students from MIT has devised a better way to keep patients breathing in places that lack standard mechanical ventilators, or during times of emergency such as pandemics or natural disasters, when normal hospital resources may be overextended. They have designed a system that uses the same widely available manual pump — the same type used for the farmer in India. The new system encases the pump in a plastic box with a battery, motor and controls to take the place of the manual compression process.
    This article from 2010 notes ‘a U.S. government study in 2005 found that in a worst-case pandemic scenario, this country alone might need more than 700,000 mechanical ventilators, while only 100,000 are now in use.’

    (tags: ventilators covid-19 breathing healthcare hardware mit ambu-bag)

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Links for 2020-03-09

  • Testimony of a surgeon working in Bergamo, in the heart of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak : medicine

    Terrifying:

    After thinking for a long time if and what to write about what’s happening here, I felt that silence was not responsible. I will therefore try to convey to lay-people, those who are more distant from our reality, what we are experiencing in Bergamo during these Covid-19 pandemic days. I understand the need not to panic, but when the message of the danger of what is happening is not out, and I still see people ignoring the recommendations and people who gather together complaining that they cannot go to the gym or play soccer tournaments, I shiver. I also understand the economic damage and I am also worried about that. After this epidemic, it will be hard to start over.

    (tags: viral reddit bergamo healthcare covid-19 epidemics medicine)

  • Nextstrain / narratives / ncov / sit-rep / 2020-03-05

    This is an amazing piece of data — phylogenetic analysis of the COVID-19 epidemic as it spreads across the globe. ‘The following pages contain analysis performed using Nextstrain. Scrolling through the left-hand sidebar will reveal paragraphs of text with a corresponding visualization of the genomic data on the right-hand side. To have full genomes of a novel and large RNA virus this quickly is a remarkable achievement. These analyses have been made possible by the rapid and open sharing of genomic data and interpretations by scientists all around the world (see the final slide for a visualization of sequencing authorship).’

    (tags: genetics phylogenetics nextstrain covid-19 diseases epidemics viruses)

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Links for 2020-03-06

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Links for 2020-03-05

  • The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on nuclear power plant risks

    The Japan Center for Economic Research, a source sympathetic to nuclear power, recently put the long-term costs of the 2011 Fukushima accident as about $750 billion. […] The main public risk of nuclear power plants comes from rare but devastating nuclear accidents. Because data on such accidents is sparse, the probability of their occurrence has to be calculated on the basis of a model, rather than obtained from experience. Moreover, the extent of an accident and its monetary consequences are postulated on the basis of models that are limited by analysts’ imagination. Who would have imagined, for example, that the Fukushima accident would involve several reactors? Or that Japan would subsequently shut down all its other nuclear power plants?

    (tags: fukushima nuclear nukes power risks danger probability insurance nuclear-power reactors)

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Links for 2020-03-04

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Links for 2020-03-03

  • The history of leaded gasoline is nuts

    It is frankly shocking that this was ignored for so long! “The history of leaded gasoline is nuts. Scientists warned it was poison, the factory where it was made was making workers loopy, but GM/Standard Oil enlisted the surgeon general to convince everyone it was safe and rejected alternatives. Massive public harm resulted.” “A Yale physiologist named Yandell Henderson had tested tetraethyl lead as a potential nerve agent during WWI, and when asked his thoughts on putting it into gasoline, he reacted with alarm. ‘Widespread lead poisoning was almost certain to result.’ Later he deemed it the ‘single greatest question in the field of public health that has ever faced the American public.'”

    (tags: gasoline petrol lead health poisoning healthcare yandell-henderson)

  • Numbers Every Programmer Should Know, By Year

    interactively explore how Jeff Dean’s “Numbers Every Programmer Should Know” have changed over time (via Kishore Gopalakrishna)

    (tags: memory latency hardware history jeff-dean latencies speed performance)

  • When Bloom filters don’t bloom

    A good exploration into modern CPU/memory performance behaviour, and profiling same on Linux using “perf stat -d” and “google-perftools”:

    Modern CPUs are really good at sequential memory access when it’s possible to predict memory fetch patterns (see Cache prefetching). Random memory access on the other hand is very costly. Advanced data structures are very interesting, but beware. Modern computers require cache-optimized algorithms. When working with large datasets, not fitting L3, prefer optimizing for reduced number loads, over optimizing the amount of memory used. I guess it’s fair to say that Bloom filters are great, as long as they fit into the L3 cache. The moment this assumption is broken, they are terrible. This is not news, Bloom filters optimize for memory usage, not for memory access. For example, see the Cuckoo Filters paper.

    (tags: cloudflare bloom-filters performance data-structures cpu cache l3 hashing perf perftools)

  • Connectivity at the origins of domain specificity in the cortical face and place networks | PNAS

    Wow, this is cool — babies are born with some “pre-wired” visual connectivity networks, specifically for faces and scenes:

    Where does knowledge come from? We addressed this classic question using the test cases of the cortical face and scene networks: two well-studied examples of specialized “knowledge” systems in the adult brain. We found that neonates already show domain-specific patterns of functional connectivity between regions that will later develop full-blown face and scene selectivity. Furthermore, the proto face network showed stronger functional connectivity with foveal than with peripheral primary visual cortex, while the proto scene network showed the opposite pattern, revealing that these networks already receive differential visual inputs. Our findings support the hypothesis that innate connectivity precedes the emergence of domain-specific function in cortex, shedding new light on the age-old question of the origins of human knowledge.

    (tags: brains vision babies knowledge learning science biology)

  • Ciarán Murray on Twitter – another Coronavirus thread – estimating the COVID-19 case fatality rate

    ‘on the basis of what we can learn from the very unfortunate experiment that was the Diamond Princess, the coronavirus is probably at most 13x more lethal than the flu and likely a lot less lethal – probably closer to 5x more lethal (.3% CFR).’

    (tags: cfr diseases covid-19 coronavirus medicine)

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Links for 2020-03-02

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Links for 2020-02-27

  • Amazon’s Principal Tenets

    Principal Engineers in Amazon are expected to model these tenets:

    Exemplary Practitioner; Technically Fearless; Balanced and Pragmatic; Illuminate and Clarify; Flexible in Approach; Respect What Came Before; Learn, Educate, and Advocate; Have Resounding Impact
    One thing I admire about Amazon’s internal culture is that they really do try to pin down a set of values, and encourage their adoption and practice internally.

    (tags: amazon values tenets work principal-engineers engineering coding)

  • Sketchfab Launches Public Domain Dedication for 3D Cultural Heritage

    This is awesome!

    We are pleased to announce that cultural organisations using Sketchfab can now dedicate their 3D scans and models to the Public Domain using the Creative Commons (CC) 0 Public Domain Dedication. This newly supported dedication allows museums and similar organisations to share their 3D data more openly, adding amazing 3D models to the Public Domain, many for the first time. This update also makes it even easier for 3D creators to download and reuse, re-imagine, and remix incredible ancient and modern artifacts, objects, and scenes. We are equally proud to make this announcement in collaboration with 27 cultural organisations from 13 different countries. We are especially happy to welcome the Smithsonian Institution to Sketchfab as part of this initiative. The Smithsonian has uploaded their first official 3D models to Sketchfab as part of their newly launched open access program.

    (tags: opensource education licensing creative-commons sketchfab 3d-printing 3d models public-domain museums art history objects smithsonian)

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Links for 2020-02-26

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Links for 2020-02-25

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Links for 2020-02-24

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Links for 2020-02-22

  • A biotech firm made a smallpox-like virus on purpose. Nobody seems to care – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

    The loosely regulated market for synthetic DNA, the normalization of synthetic orthopoxvirus research, and a large number of capable facilities and researchers creates an environment in which a rogue state, unscrupulous company, reckless scientist, or terrorist group could potentially reintroduce one of the worst microbial scourges in human history. Unless world bodies, national governments, and scientific organizations put in place stronger safeguards on synthetic virus research, the next press release touting a new breakthrough in synthetic biology might announce that an unknown scientist in an obscure lab has successfully resurrected the smallpox virus.

    (tags: smallpox weapons scary diseases biological-weapons dna viruses)

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Links for 2020-02-20

  • Stop Using Encrypted Email

    This is very persuasive and I’d have to agree.

    Email is unsafe and cannot be made safe. The tools we have today to encrypt email are badly flawed. Even if those flaws were fixed, email would remain unsafe. Its problems cannot plausibly be mitigated.
    Key point: this isn’t (just) about PGP or SMTP, it’s email as a whole system:
    The least interesting problems with encrypted email have to do with PGP. […] But that’s a whole other argument. Even after we replace PGP, encrypted email will remain unsafe. Here’s why: If messages can be sent in plaintext, they will be sent in plaintext. Metadata is as important as content, and email leaks it. Every archived message will eventually leak. Every long term secret will eventually leak.

    (tags: cryptography security email pgp smtp flaws metadata crypto)

  • How Hindu supremacists are tearing India apart | World news | The Guardian

    This sounds pretty terrifying.

    For seven decades, India has been held together by its constitution, which promises equality to all. But Narendra Modi’s BJP is remaking the nation into one where some people count as more Indian than others.

    (tags: bjp abvp rss india fascism hindutva politics asia)

  • How to 3D Print Your Own Lithophane

    Lithophanes are essentially embossed photos generated by a 3D printer. The print results don’t show much at first, but shine some light through one and you’ll be amazed by the details.

    (tags: lithophanes 3d-printing 3d objects photos cool)

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Links for 2020-02-19

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Links for 2020-02-18

  • The Heartland Lobby

    A joint investigation from CORRECTIV and Frontal21 reveals how the American Heartland Institute is supporting climate change deniers in Germany with the goal of undermining climate protection measures:

    Throughout the next half hour, Taylor shares the inner workings of his disinformation toolbox. He believes that Mathias, the PR agent sitting opposite him, wants to help his clients funnel cash into the intricate network of climate change deniers. Taylor explains how he is able to raise awareness of topics in exchange for money, how people can make tax-deductible donations anonymously through a U.S. foundation, and how the Institute’s publications mimic the tone of the New York Times so obscure ideas are taken more seriously. He detailed how he intends to make a young YouTuber from Germany the star of climate denier, and how he works closely with German partners whose ideas are consistently cited by the AfD in the Bundestag. Then a few weeks later, Taylor will send an offer in writing. It is something like a strategy document for a PR campaign in Germany: A campaign that the public will not recognize for what it really is, making it even more effective. The goal: No more prohibitive climate laws. Diesel instead of electric cars, energy from coal instead of wind turbines, industry growth instead of environmental protection. 

    (tags: heartland-institute germany lobbying astroturfing misinformation disinformation climate-change climate-denial)

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Links for 2020-02-17

  • Amazon EBS Multi-Attach now available on Provisioned IOPS io1 volumes

    Attach multiple EC2 instances to the same EBS volume. Now that is pretty cool

    (tags: ebs ec2 filesystems networking ops)

  • excellent letter to the editor of the Farmer’s Journal regarding the IFA’s climate-denialist stance

    in full:

    Dr Donal Murphy-Bokern M.Agr.Sc. (NUI), Kroge-Ehrendorf, Germany Dear Sir: I’ve been involved in reseach on diet, sustainable agriculture and climate change for 25 years. Having followed the public debate across Europe in that time, I can only describe the current debate about diet and greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland as hysterical. This hysteria started a year ago with the then Irish Farmers Association’s president appearing to refer to the EAT Lancet Commission, which includes highly respected nutritionists from the Harvard School of Medicine, as “quacks masquerading as nutrition experts”. This was followed by his condemnation of the Taoiseach for answering a question about his carbon footprint by stating an intention to moderate his consumption of red meat. No vegan-led campaign could have better drawn public attention to the links between diet and environment than the IFA’s boorish and ignorant reflex reactions. The hysteria goes on. Now, just a year later, the IFA’s chosen greenhouse gas “guru” reports that methane from farming should be treated differently to CO,, raising hopes of a get-out-of-jail card for cattle and sheep. Self-description as a guru does not invite the confidence of scientific peers and Dr Mitloehner’s presentation, published by the IFA, reveals why he is as controversial as is widely reported. Methane’s short-lived nature does not lead to the public policy outcomes that he implies it should with climate acquittal for ruminant production. He reduced discussion about the impact of livestock to one currency, which is carbon, and then misrepresented the valuation of that currency. Despite being a native of Germany, where most land not suitable for arable crops is under forest, he argued that marginal land in Ireland cannot be used for anything other than for keeping cattle and sheep. But what was most striking about the IFA’s guru is how he worked the audience using rhetorical tricks more associated with demagogic politicians than science. This science denial included using the strawman fallacy, raising and then countering several bogus opposing arguments. Listening to him, one could be forgiven for believing that vegans have been protesting on the streets of Dublin threatening to interfere with the nation’s food supplies. He used the classical conspiracy theory complete with a collective name for the conspirators: “destructors”. He then drew on popular images of Ireland (“green and lush” and “happy cows”) to ingratiate himself with the audience while making wild and poorly informed assumptions about the scope for carbon sequestration on Irish grassland, displaying a poor understanding of basic soil science. The IFA’s stated purpose was the rebalancing of the public debate. Hosting a controversial US scientist who refers to those with views different to those of the IFA on these matters as “destructors” is hardly a promising way forward. The IFA seems to continue to take pride in caring little for the concerns and expectations of the wider society upon which the real long-term interests of its members ultimately depend. Their faux-militancy might go down well with some members, but it now risks presenting Irish farmers as environmental and social pariahs.

    (tags: letters farmers-journal farming ifa ireland climate-change climate-denialism)

  • Shazam’s audio search algorithm

    ‘a combinatorially-hashed time-frequency constellation analysis of the audio’ [pdf] (via papers we love)

    (tags: music shazam search audio algorithms papers pdf via:papers-we-love)

  • Cheap PC hardware watchdog

    Nelson bought a super-cheap, super-simple AliExpress thingy:

    It looks like a USB device, but the USB is only for power. The main I/O are two pairs of wires: one that connects to your hard drive activity LED, one that connects to your hardware reset switch. Yes, it’s that dumb. Basically it just watches the LED and if it hasn’t flashed in awhile (no idea how long, maybe a minute?) it sends a reset to the motherboard.

    (tags: via:nelson watchdogs hardware gadgets reliability usb)

  • See how climate change has impacted the world since your childhood

    Fantastic (albeit terrifying) dataviz work from Oz’s ABC News

    (tags: australia environment visualization climate climate-change future dataviz abc terrifying)

  • News media article tended to focus on e-cigarette risks, rather than potential benefits

    This has implications for cigarette smokers trying to quit the habit:

    News media may influence public perceptions and attitudes about electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), which may influence product use and attitudes about their regulation. The purpose of this study is to describe trends in US news coverage of e-cigarettes during a period of evolving regulation, science, and trends in the use of e-cigarettes. [….] Across years, articles more frequently mentioned e-cigarette risks (70%) than potential benefits (37.3%).

    (tags: media news smoking cigarettes vapes e-cigarettes news-media)

  • Radbot

    This seems very clever — replace traditional central heating radiator thermostatic regulation valves (TRVs) with “Radbot” TRVs, for energy efficiency: ‘Extensive testing of Radbot in both controlled laboratory conditions and field trials have demonstrated it is possible to save up to 30% of your heating energy per radiator. 4-5 Radbots installed in the average sized house can save up to 30% of your energy bill.’ The Radbot detects your presence, and turns down rads in unoccupied rooms, turning them up again when you return.

    (tags: radbot trvs radiators heating house home gadgets energy)

  • 12 Signs You’re Working in a Feature Factory

    I’ve used the term *Feature Factory *at a couple conference talks over the past two years. I started using the term when a software developer friend complained that he was “just sitting in the factory, cranking out features, and sending them down the line.”
    heh, this rings a bell….

    (tags: features product-management agile teams work management product companies prioritization planning)

  • The false promise of “renewable natural gas”

    RNG [renewable natural gas] can, depending on feedstock and circumstances, be low or even zero-carbon. Utilities argue that ramping up the production of RNG and blending it with normal natural gas in pipelines can reduce [greenhouse gases] faster and cheaper than electrifying buildings. By pursuing electrification, they say, regulators are pushing unnecessary cost hikes onto consumers. It would be nice for the utilities if this were true. But it’s not. RNG is not as low-carbon as the industry claims and its local air and water impacts are concentrated in vulnerable communities. Even if it were low-carbon and equitable, there simply isn’t enough of it to substitute for more than a small fraction of natural gas. And even if it were low-carbon, equitable, and abundant, it still wouldn’t be an excuse to expand natural gas infrastructure or slow electrification. It isn’t a close call. The research is clear: Especially in a temperate climate like California, RNG is not a viable alternative for decarbonizing buildings. It is a desperate bid by natural gas utilities to delay their inevitable decline. Policymakers would be foolish to fall for it.

    (tags: decarbonization carbon climate-change rng renewables natural-gas pollution environment)

  • Opinion: Why has the State invested €70m in a private company to look at our genetic data?

    In the UK, the publicly-funded 100,000 Genomes Project is attempting to sequence 100,000 genomes from 85,000 NHS patients. It is a private company, owned by the Department of Health and Social Care, that partners with industry and has transparent policies in place on ethics, access to the genetic data and engagement with patients and the public. Ireland too has decided to invest in genomic medicine. Rather than ensure that this investment is in a manner that best serves the Irish public, €73.5 million was given to Genomic Medicine Ireland (GMI), a company owned by the Chinese pharmaceutical company WuXi with zero public ownership, to sequence the genomes of 400,000 Irish people. This investment has serious legal and ethical concerns that are likely to negatively impact genomic research in Ireland.

    (tags: ireland genomics genomes medicine health future china wuxi gmi)

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Links for 2020-02-16

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Links for 2020-02-11

  • Wikipedia turned to WebAssembly to provide patent-free video

    ‘Wikipedia turned to WebAssembly as a <video> polyfill because video codec patents are a pain for folks committed to fully open source stacks: ‘ogv.js implements Ogg Vorbis/Opus/Theora audio & WebM VP8/VP9/AV1 video. https://github.com/brion/ogv.js/’

    (tags: ogv.js ogv webassembly wasm wikipedia polyfills standards video patents)

  • Why People Say ‘Up the RA’ – VICE

    tl;dr: young people.

    The difference between young people and their parents’ relationship with Irish Republicanism appears even more pronounced when studying the Irish establishment media, which has failed to acknowledge the widespread understanding that Republican slogans have been denuded of militaristic connotations by most people who use them. In March of last year, as Irish meme-lords continued to post a zesty mixture of IRA, Republican and Gerry Adams memes ad nauseum (some even appearing on Sinn Fein’s official social media pages), Mary Lou McDonald was being slated in the Irish press for saying “tiocfaidh ár lá” during a speech at a party conference.

    (tags: republicanism ireland ira history sinn-fein memes vice slogans)

  • The Truth Behind The Theory That Control Was Inspired By The SCP Foundation

    Yep! it was indeed:

    “I just had this warm fuzzy feeling throughout the game, seeing the cultural influence of something I’ve spent eight years of my life kind of doing as a hobby,” Pierce said. “I think in fairness, they clearly had the inspiration [from us], but they took it in their own direction. They did something with it that we could not do in a thousand years.”
    This is fantastic — the SCP Wiki is behind so many great SF/horror tropes over the past decade. what a legacy. And “Control” is in itself a fantastic game.

    (tags: scp scp-wiki wikis collaboration art writing horror science-fiction control games)

  • How the CIA used Crypto AG encryption devices to spy on countries for decades – Washington Post

    The Crypto AG story returns to the headlines once more:

    The operation, known first by the code name “Thesaurus” and later “Rubicon,” ranks among the most audacious in CIA history. “It was the intelligence coup of the century,” the CIA report concludes. “Foreign governments were paying good money to the U.S. and West Germany for the privilege of having their most secret communications read by at least two (and possibly as many as five or six) foreign countries.”
    It is worth noting that Ireland was a victim to this snooping as well:
    During the sensitive Anglo-Irish negotiations of 1985, the NSA’s British counterpart, GCHQ, was able to decipher the coded diplomatic traffic being sent between the Irish embassy in London and the Irish Foreign Ministry in Dublin. It was reported in the Irish press that Dublin had purchased a cryptographic system from Crypto AG worth more than a million Irish pounds. It was also reported that the NSA routinely monitored and deciphered the Irish diplomatic messages.

    (tags: cryptography us nsa gchq crypto-ag surveillance cia spying spies)

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Links for 2020-02-10

  • The sustainable fashion conversation is based on bad statistics and misinformation – Vox

    I pulled all of these statistics and other common “facts” from reputable sources. McKinsey. The United Nations. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The World Bank. International labor unions. Advocacy organizations. And these facts have been cited by publications like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Not all of these highly respected experts could be wrong. Could they? It turns out they could. Because only one out of the dozen or so most commonly cited facts about the fashion industry’s huge footprint is based on any sort of science, data collection, or peer-reviewed research. The rest are based on gut feelings, broken links, marketing, and something someone said in 2003.

    (tags: bad-data data facts factoids misinformation fashion fast-fashion climate-change)

  • the CO2 footprint of email is greatly exaggerated

    If you care about the environmental impact of tech, worrying about email is not the place to spend your time and energy. Worry instead about the big tech companies accelerating the extraction of fossil fuels, when we need to keep them in the ground. [….] Worry instead about consulting companies you admire doing the same, and helping the same oil and gas companies, but keeping quiet about doing so. Worry about how blase we are about flying when it makes up a significant chunk of company emissions in many tech consultancies and enterprise sales teams.

    (tags: climate-change email factoids misinformation carbon)

  • Circllhist

    ‘A Log-Linear Histogram Data Structure for IT Infrastructure Monitoring, Heinrich Hartmann, Theo Schlossnagle, (Submitted on 17 Jan 2020). The circllhist histogram is a fast and memory efficient data structure for summarizing large numbers of latency measurements. It is particularly suited for applications in IT infrastructure monitoring, and provides nano-second data insertion, full mergeability, accurate approximation of quantiles with a-priori bounds on the relative error. Open-source implementations are available for C/lua/python/Go/Java/JavaScript.’ The paper compares it against ‘alternative data-structures which are employed in practice for aggregated quantile calculations: Prometheus Histograms, t-digest, [Gil Tene’s] HDR Histograms, and DDSketches’

    (tags: histograms aggregation quantiles percentiles measurement graphs data-structures summaries latency monitoring approximation papers)

  • Cubism.js

    A minimalist dashboard style using horizon charts:

    Horizon charts reduce vertical space without losing resolution. Larger values are overplotted in successively darker colors, while negative values are offset to descend from the top. As you increase the number of colors, you reduce the required vertical space […] . By combining position and color, horizon charts improve perception: position is highly effective at discriminating small changes, while color differentiates large changes. To further increase data density, Cubism favors per-pixel metrics where each pixel encodes a distinct point in time. Cubism also includes thoughtful default colors by Cynthia Brewer.

    (tags: charts javascript visualization d3 charting graphs horizon-charts ui monitoring)

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Links for 2020-02-09

  • How can data centers use 100% renewable electricity?

    The first step has been to offset. This is followed by matching usage with like-for-like energy purchases somewhere. The final stage is direct consumption of locally generated renewables, either in real time or stored from recent generation. So the next time you see a tech company announcing a huge renewables project, you should look to see exactly what that mean and where that energy will really go. New renewables are good, but whether that energy is actually powering the company operations directly is another question.

    (tags: datacenters renewables energy power climate-change green offsetting)

  • Critical Bluetooth Vulnerability in Android (CVE-2020-0022) – BlueFrag

    On Android 8.0 to 9.0, a remote attacker within proximity can silently execute arbitrary code with the privileges of the Bluetooth daemon as long as Bluetooth is enabled. No user interaction is required and only the Bluetooth MAC address of the target devices has to be known. For some devices, the Bluetooth MAC address can be deduced from the WiFi MAC address. This vulnerability can lead to theft of personal data and could potentially be used to spread malware (Short-Distance Worm). On Android 10, this vulnerability is not exploitable for technical reasons and only results in a crash of the Bluetooth daemon.

    (tags: bluetooth android security exploits worms)

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Links for 2020-02-07

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Links for 2020-02-05

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Links for 2020-02-03

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Links for 2020-01-30

  • Health-Records Company Pushed Opioids to Doctors in Secret Deal – Bloomberg

    This is APPALLING. holy crap.

    To doctors opening patients’ electronic records across the U.S., the alert would have looked innocuous enough. A pop-up would appear, asking about a patient’s level of pain. Then, a drop-down menu would list treatments ranging from a referral to a pain specialist to a prescription for an opioid painkiller. Click a button, and the program would create a treatment plan. From 2016 to spring 2019, the alert went off about 230 million times. The tool existed thanks to a secret deal. Its maker, a software company called Practice Fusion, was paid by a major opioid manufacturer to design it in an effort to boost prescriptions for addictive pain pills — even though overdose deaths had almost tripled during the prior 15 years, creating a public-health disaster. The software was used by tens of thousands of doctors’ offices.

    (tags: healthcare capitalism opioids health-records pain painkillers addiction practice-fusion)

  • How to Actually Personally Fight Climate Change – Erika Reinhardt

    These are concrete, practical suggestions that it’s possible for a normal person to achieve — do them!

    Mitigating the climate crisis is top of mind for many people. But it’s such a complex issue that it can be hard to distinguish between data-backed improvements and feel-good distractions. This is your action list with lots of context along the way on why not just how so you can soon be an emissions-fighting climate superhero. If you want to get started by just running through and checking off the easy items, start here.

    (tags: climate-change green-living future climate carbon tips advice todo)

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