Links for 2019-04-24

  • When License-Plate Surveillance Goes Horribly Wrong – The New York Times

    “They built a system to mitigate harm, and yet I ended up with guns pulled on me due to faulty data,” he said. “And it’s more proof that we’ve built this invisible layer behind the scenes that leads to real-world consequences.”
    This is the common thread between automated surveillance systems — false positives happen, but the systems are designed to assume this is harmless.

    (tags: false-positives surveillance anpr license-plates automation)

  • Ireland Blocks The World on Data Privacy

    Last May, Europe imposed new data privacy guidelines that carry the hopes of hundreds of millions of people around the world — including in the United States — to rein in abuses by big tech companies. Almost a year later, it’s apparent that the new rules have a significant loophole: The designated lead regulator — the tiny nation of Ireland — has yet to bring an enforcement action against a big tech firm. That’s not entirely surprising. Despite its vows to beef up its threadbare regulatory apparatus, Ireland has a long history of catering to the very companies it is supposed to oversee, having wooed top Silicon Valley firms to the Emerald Isle with promises of low taxes, open access to top officials, and help securing funds to build glittering new headquarters. Now, data privacy experts and regulators in other countries are questioning Ireland’s commitment to policing imminent privacy concerns like Facebook’s reintroduction of facial recognition software and data-sharing with its recently purchased subsidiary WhatsApp, and Google’s sharing of information across its burgeoning number of platforms.

    (tags: ireland fail gdpr privacy data-protection data facebook eu regulation)

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Links for 2019-04-19

  • Who’s using your face? The ugly truth about facial recognition

    In order to feed this hungry system, a plethora of face repositories — such as IJB-C — have sprung up, containing images manually culled and bound together from sources as varied as university campuses, town squares, markets, cafés, mugshots and social-media sites such as Flickr, Instagram and YouTube. To understand what these faces have been helping to build, the FT worked with Adam Harvey, the researcher who first spotted Jillian York’s face in IJB-C. An American based in Berlin, he has spent years amassing more than 300 face datasets and has identified some 5,000 academic papers that cite them. The images, we found, are used to train and benchmark algorithms that serve a variety of biometric-related purposes — recognising faces at passport control, crowd surveillance, automated driving, robotics, even emotion analysis for advertising. They have been cited in papers by commercial companies including Facebook, Microsoft, Baidu, SenseTime and IBM, as well as by academics around the world, from Japan to the United Arab Emirates and Israel. “We’ve seen facial recognition shifting in purpose,” says Dave Maass, a senior investigative researcher at the EFF, who was shocked to discover that his own colleagues’ faces were in the Iarpa database. “It was originally being used for identification purposes?.?.?.?Now somebody’s face is used as a tracking number to watch them as they move across locations on video, which is a huge shift. [Researchers] don’t have to pay people for consent, they don’t have to find models, no firm has to pay to collect it, everyone gets it for free.”

    (tags: data privacy face-recognition cameras creative-commons licensing flickr open-data google facebook surveillance instagram ijb-c research iarpa)

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Links for 2019-04-18

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Links for 2019-04-16

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Links for 2019-04-15

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Links for 2019-04-12

  • _First M87 Event Horizon Telescope Results. III. Data Processing and Calibration_

    ‘We present the calibration and reduction of Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) 1.3 mm radio wavelength observations of the supermassive black hole candidate at the center of the radio galaxy M87 and the quasar 3C 279, taken during the 2017 April 5–11 observing campaign. These global very long baseline interferometric observations include for the first time the highly sensitive Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA); reaching an angular resolution of 25 ?as, with characteristic sensitivity limits of ?1 mJy on baselines to ALMA and ?10 mJy on other baselines. The observations present challenges for existing data processing tools, arising from the rapid atmospheric phase fluctuations, wide recording bandwidth, and highly heterogeneous array. In response, we developed three independent pipelines for phase calibration and fringe detection, each tailored to the specific needs of the EHT. The final data products include calibrated total intensity amplitude and phase information. They are validated through a series of quality assurance tests that show consistency across pipelines and set limits on baseline systematic errors of 2% in amplitude and 1° in phase. The M87 data reveal the presence of two nulls in correlated flux density at ?3.4 and ?8.3 G? and temporal evolution in closure quantities, indicating intrinsic variability of compact structure on a timescale of days, or several light-crossing times for a few billion solar-mass black hole. These measurements provide the first opportunity to image horizon-scale structure in M87.’

    (tags: papers data big-data telescopes eht black-holes astronomy)

  • Autonomous Precision Landing of Space Rockets – Lars Blackmore

    from ‘Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering’ from the 2016 Symposium, published by the National Academies Press, regarding the algorithms used by SpaceX for their autonomous landings:

    The computation must be done autonomously, in a fraction of a second. Failure to find a feasible solution in time will crash the spacecraft into the ground. Failure to find the optimal solution may use up the available propellant, with the same result. Finally, a hardware failure may require replanning the trajectory multiple times. Page 39 Suggested Citation:”Autonomous Precision Landing of Space Rockets – Lars Blackmore.” National Academy of Engineering. 2017. Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2016 Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23659. × Save Cancel A general solution to such problems has existed in one dimension since the 1960s (Meditch 1964), but not in three dimensions. Over the past decade, research has shown how to use modern mathematical optimization techniques to solve this problem for a Mars landing, with guarantees that the best solution can be found in time (Açikme?e and Ploen 2007; Blackmore et al. 2010). Because Earth’s atmosphere is 100 times as dense as that of Mars, aerodynamic forces become the primary concern rather than a disturbance so small that it can be neglected in the trajectory planning phase. As a result, Earth landing is a very different problem, but SpaceX and Blue Origin have shown that this too can be solved. SpaceX uses CVXGEN (Mattingley and Boyd 2012) to generate customized flight code, which enables very high-speed onboard convex optimization.

    (tags: spacex blue-origin convex-optimization space landing autonomous-vehicles flight algorithms)

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Links for 2019-04-11

  • Amazon workers call for zero carbon emissions and cancellation of an AWS fossil-fuel friendly program

    nice one.

    Then the activists saw an article in Gizmodo, a technology news site, that outlined how Amazon’s cloud computing division was building special offerings for oil and gas companies. On its website, Amazon says its customers include BP and Royal Dutch Shell, and its products can “find oil faster,” “recover more oil” and “reduce the cost per barrel.” In a second meeting with Amazon, the workers raised the oil industry connections with the company’s sustainability team; its members did not seem to be aware of the business, according to several employees at the meeting. “That really showed us Amazon is not taking climate change seriously if the highest levels of the sustainability team are not even aware that we have an oil and gas business,” said Ms. Cunningham, who was at the meeting.

    (tags: amazon aws fossil-fuels zero-carbon emissions climate-change sustainability)

  • Using 6 Page and 2 Page Documents To Make Organizational Decisions

    Ian Nowland has written up the Amazon 6-pager strategy:

    A challenge of organizations is the aggregation of local information to a point where a globally optimal decision can be made in a way all stakeholders have seen their feedback heard and so can “disagree and commit” on the result. This document describes the “6 pager” and “2 pager” document and review meeting process, as a mechanism to address this challenge, as practiced by the document’s author in his time in the EC2 team at Amazon, and then at Two Sigma. […] The major variant I have also seen is 2 pages with 30 minute review; when the decision is smaller in terms of stakeholders, options or impact. That being said, there is nothing magical about 2 pages, i.e., a 3 page document is fine, it just should be expected to take more than 30 minutes to review.

    (tags: amazon business decisions teams documents planning)

  • Europol Tells Internet Archive That Much Of Its Site Is ‘Terrorist Content’ | Techdirt

    ‘The Internet Archive has a few staff members that process takedown notices from law enforcement who operate in the Pacific time zone. Most of the falsely identified URLs mentioned here (including the report from the French government) were sent to us in the middle of the night – between midnight and 3am Pacific – and all of the reports were sent outside of the business hours of the Internet Archive. The one-hour requirement essentially means that we would need to take reported URLs down automatically and do our best to review them after the fact. It would be bad enough if the mistaken URLs in these examples were for a set of relatively obscure items on our site, but the EU IRU’s lists include some of the most visited pages on archive.org and materials that obviously have high scholarly and research value.’

    (tags: eu europol policing france archive.org archival web freedom censorship fail)

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Links for 2019-04-10

  • At wit’s end with my preschooler : Parenting

    This /r/parenting thread has some good advice on dealing with kids’ meltdowns. I wish I had this a few years ago

    (tags: parenting kids tantrums anger reddit advice)

  • Spark memory tuning on EMR

    ‘Best practices for successfully managing memory for Apache Spark applications on Amazon EMR’, on the AWS Big Data blog. ‘In this blog post, I detailed the possible out-of-memory errors, their causes, and a list of best practices to prevent these errors when submitting a Spark application on Amazon EMR. My colleagues and I formed these best practices after thorough research and understanding of various Spark configuration properties and testing multiple Spark applications. These best practices apply to most of out-of-memory scenarios, though there might be some rare scenarios where they don’t apply. However, we believe that this blog post provides all the details needed so you can tweak parameters and successfully run a Spark application.’

    (tags: spark emr aws tuning memory ooms java)

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Links for 2019-04-09

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Links for 2019-04-08

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Links for 2019-04-05

  • _Screens, Teens, and Psychological Well-Being: Evidence From Three Time-Use-Diary Studies_ – Amy Orben, Andrew K. Przybylski, 2019

    Paper from Amy Orben, Andrew K. Przybylski, of the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, and the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford:

    The notion that digital-screen engagement decreases adolescent well-being has become a recurring feature in public, political, and scientific conversation. The current level of psychological evidence, however, is far removed from the certainty voiced by many commentators. There is little clear-cut evidence that screen time decreases adolescent well-being, and most psychological results are based on single-country, exploratory studies that rely on inaccurate but popular self-report measures of digital-screen engagement. In this study, which encompassed three nationally representative large-scale data sets from Ireland, the United States, and the United Kingdom (N = 17,247 after data exclusions) and included time-use-diary measures of digital-screen engagement, we used both exploratory and confirmatory study designs to introduce methodological and analytical improvements to a growing psychological research area. We found little evidence for substantial negative associations between digital-screen engagement — measured throughout the day or particularly before bedtime — and adolescent well-being.

    (tags: screens screen-time teens mental-health psychology papers research)

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Links for 2019-04-03

  • Waterford Distillery on Whisky “Finishing”

    Here’s an inexpensive illusion for a whisky brand to acquire more shelf presence. Purchase three barrels of whisky from a generic pool of ex-bourbon matured stocks. Re-rack a couple of these barrels into new barrels – a sherry cask, or maybe you’d like the name of a French chateau to add more gravitas to a label and pull another rabbit out of the hat? Give it a few weeks, then bottle each of them in turn. Instead of one bottle on the shelf, you have three. You’ll more easily catch the eye of the whisky consumer as they walk by, pondering the nature of what ‘finishing’ actually means. These days, the shelves of retailers and at airports are rammed up with all sorts of fancy ‘finishes’ – which is to say a whisky that has been re-racked into another barrel and left to mature for a period of time; perhaps up to a couple of years, but usually just a few brief months.
    Well said. I’m looking forward to their whisky…

    (tags: whiskey whisky waterford-distillery booze finishing distilling barrels)

  • Formal GDPR complaint against IAB Europe’s “cookie wall” and GDPR consent guidance

    Fantastic :) A formal complaint has been filed with the Irish Data Protection Commission against IAB Europe, the tracking industry’s primary lobbying organization:

    Tracking and cookie walls: Visitors to IAB Europe’s website, www.iabeurope.eu, are confronted with a “cookie wall” that forces them to accept tracking by Google, Facebook, and others, which may then monitor them. Dr. Ryan has complained to the Irish Data Protection Commission that this is a breach of the GDPR, which protects people in Europe from being forced to accept processing for their data for any purpose other than the provision of the requested service. “One should not be forced to accept web-wide profiling by unknown companies as a condition of access to a website”, said Dr Johnny Ryan of Brave. “This would be like Facebook preventing you from accessing the Newsfeed until you have clicked a button permitting it to share your data with Cambridge Analytica.” Simon McGarr of McGarr Solicitors, who has worked on data protection cases for Digital Rights Ireland, represents Dr Ryan in his complaint. Mr McGarr said “Where companies rely on consent to process people’s data it is critical that this is more than a box ticking exercise. For consent to be valid, it must be freely given, informed, specific and unambiguous. There’s nothing intrinsically good or bad in cookie technology – what matters is ensuring it’s applied in a way which respects individuals’ rights.” Challenging IAB Europe’s industry guidance on the GDPR: The complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commission will also test IAB Europe’s GDPR guidance to the online advertising industry. IAB Europe has put itself forward as a primary designer of the online tracking industry’s data protection notices. It has told major media organizations, tracking companies, and advertising technology companies that they can sidestep the GDPR, and rely instead on the ePrivacy Directive, which IAB Europe has interpreted as more lax in protecting personal data. IAB Europe has widely promoted the notion that access to a website or app can be made conditional on consent for data processing that is not necessary for the requested service to be delivered, despite the clear requirements of the GDPR, and statements from several national data protection authorities, that say otherwise. “This complaint will make it plain that the media and advertising industry should not rely on IAB Europe for GDPR guidance”, said Dr Ryan.

    (tags: dpc ireland brave iab-europe iab cookies tracking gdpr law eu)

  • The 9 Categories of Reply Guys

    “#WomeninSTEM get a lot of “Reply Guys” who repeat the same unhelpful comments. @shrewshrew and I (a woman & a man in science) have attempted to catalog those replies, to save us all the trouble of writing new responses every time. presenting THE NINE TYPES OF REPLY GUYS”

    (tags: twitter thread humor mansplaining sexism misogyny reply-guys funny)

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Links for 2019-04-02

  • YouTube Executives Ignored Warnings, Let Toxic Videos Run Rampant – Bloomberg

    As of 2017, YouTube’s policy for how content moderators handle conspiracy theories didn’t exist, according to a former moderator who specialized in foreign-language content.  At the end of the year, fewer than twenty people were on the staff for “trust and safety,” the unit overseeing content policies, according to a former staffer. The team had to “fight tooth and nail” for more resources from the tech giant, this person said. A YouTube spokeswoman said that the division has grown “significantly” since but declined to share exact numbers. In February of 2018, the video calling the Parkland shooting victims “crisis actors” went viral on YouTube’s trending page. Policy staff suggested soon after limiting recommendations on the page to vetted news sources. YouTube management rejected the proposal, according to a person with knowledge of the event. The person didn’t know the reasoning behind the rejection, but noted that YouTube was then intent on accelerating its viewing time for videos related to news. 

    (tags: youtube google alphabet moderation conspiracy-theories news virality engagement)

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Links for 2019-04-01

  • April Fool’s Day is upon us – What’s your best prank given to or received by your kids? : Parenting

    heh heh. revenge next year will be sweet

    (tags: pranks april-fools kids parenting)

  • Tesla lane-recognition autopilot fooled by three small stickers

    ‘Tesla autopilot module’s lane recognition function has a good robustness in an ordinary external environment (no strong light, rain, snow, sand and dust interference), but it still doesn’t handle the situation correctly in our test scenario. This kind of attack is simple to deploy, and the materials are easy to obtain. As we talked in the previous introduction of Tesla’s lane recognition function, Tesla uses a pure computer vision solution for lane recognition, and we found in this attack experiment that the vehicle driving decision is only based on computer vision lane recognition results. Our experiments proved that this architecture has security risks and reverse lane recognition is one of the necessary functions for autonomous driving in non-closed roads. In the scene we build, if the vehicle knows that the fake lane is pointing to the reverse [oncoming traffic] lane, it should ignore this fake lane and then it could avoid a traffic accident.’

    (tags: adversarial-classification cars ml machine-learning tesla driving self-driving-cars)

  • We Built A Broken Internet. Now We Need To Burn It To The Ground.

    The promise of the internet was that it was going to give voice to the voiceless, visibility to the invisible, and power to the powerless. That’s what originally excited me about it. That’s what originally excited a ton of people about it. It was supposed to be an engine of equality. Suddenly, everyone could tell their story. Suddenly, everyone could sing their song. Suddenly, that one weird kid in Helena, Montana, could find another weird kid just like them in Bakersfield, California, and they could talk and know they weren’t alone. Suddenly, we didn’t need anybody’s permission to publish. We put our stories and songs and messages and artwork where the world could find them. For a while it was beautiful, it was messy, and it was punk as fuck. We all rolled up our sleeves and helped to build it. We were the ones who were supposed to guide it there, and we failed. We failed because we were naive enough to believe everyone had the same goals we did. We failed because we underestimated greed. We failed because we didn’t pay attention to history. We failed because our definition of we wasn’t big enough. We designed and built platforms that undermined democracy across the world. We designed and built technology that is used to round up immigrants and refugees and put them in cages. We designed and built platforms that young, stupid, hateful men use to demean and shame women. We designed and built an entire industry that exploits the poor in order to make old rich men even richer.

    (tags: design ethics internet web twitter social-media)

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Links for 2019-03-29

  • Announcing Lucet: Fastly’s native WebAssembly compiler and runtime

    Lucet is designed to take WebAssembly beyond the browser, and build a platform for faster, safer execution on Fastly’s edge cloud. WebAssembly is already supported by many languages including Rust, TypeScript, C, and C++, and many more have WebAssembly support in development. We want to enable our customers to go beyond Fastly VCL and move even more logic to the edge, and use any language they choose. Lucet is the engine behind Terrarium, our experimental platform for edge computation using WebAssembly. Soon, we will make it available on Fastly’s edge cloud as well. A major design requirement for Lucet was to be able to execute on every single request that Fastly handles. That means creating a WebAssembly instance for each of the tens of thousands of requests per second in a single process, which requires a dramatically lower runtime footprint than possible with a browser JavaScript engine. Lucet can instantiate WebAssembly modules in under 50 microseconds, with just a few kilobytes of memory overhead. By comparison, Chromium’s V8 engine takes about 5 milliseconds, and tens of megabytes of memory overhead, to instantiate JavaScript or WebAssembly programs. With Lucet, Fastly’s edge cloud can execute tens of thousands of WebAssembly programs simultaneously, in the same process, without compromising security. The Lucet compiler and runtime work together to ensure each WebAssembly program is allowed access to only its own resources. This means that Fastly’s customers will be able to write and run programs in more common, general-purpose languages, without compromising the security and safety we’ve always offered.

    (tags: lucet cdn edge-computing wasm webassembly fastly rust c c++ typescript)

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Links for 2019-03-27

  • What is cultural Marxism? The alt-right meme in Suella Braverman’s speech in Westminster

    Cultural Marxism is a theory that started in the early 20th century, which was popularised in the aftermath of the socialist revolution (this great piece in the Guardian explains it in depth). The idea was that Marxism should extend beyond class and into cultural equality and that, through major institutions like schools and the media, cultural values could progressively be changed. The theory was later adopted by the philosophers at the Frankfurt School who posited that the only way to destroy capitalism was to destroy it in all walks of life; where, not just classes, but all genders, races, and religions could live in society equally. While this may seem unimportant, the Frankfurt School’s adoption of – and modifications to – cultural Marxism is where the conspiracy theory truly begins. The Frankfurt School’s predominantly Jewish members of the school were forced to flee to America by the Nazis in the 1940s, where many went on to teach, write, and commentate in mainstream institutions. This, conspiracy theorists claim, is when cultural Marxists began to poison the West – and when cultural Marxists began their attempts to undermine its values. Cultural Marxism’s move from political theory to full memeification was fast-tracked when it was used by mass murderer Anders Breivik. Breivik was the sole perpetrator of the 2011 Norway attacks in which 77 people died across several sites. Before committing his attacks, much like the Christchurch shooter, Breivik sent an enormous personal manifesto to a group of friends and family which outlined his anti-multiculturalist, racist, and misogynist ideals. In the manifesto, he spends huge chunks of time crediting the writers who pushed cultural Marxist conspiracy theories into the mainstream. The 1,000-page document references “cultural Marxism” and “cultural Marxists” nearly 650 times.   For the growing audience of anti-Semitic, alt-right white supremacists online, his musings have turned him into an icon – and “cultural Marxism” has become a foundational alt-right belief. It became an easy label for those white supremacists looking for an umbrella term to describe the people at which their anger about diversity, feminism, and religious freedom was directed. Cultural Marxist soon became a signal to mean anyone vaguely left-leaning – in some cases, even if this simply meant those who didn’t agree with white supremacy.

    (tags: antisemitism alt-right suella-braverman marxism nazis fascism history memes dogwhistles)

  • Why Is AI Art Copyright So Complicated?

    Claims that AI is creating art on its own and that machines are somehow entitled to copyright for this art are simply naive or overblown, and they cloud real concerns about authorship disputes between humans. The introduction of machine learning as an art tool is ironically increasing human involvement, not decreasing it. Specifically, the number of people who can potentially be credited as coauthors of an artwork has skyrocketed. This is because machine learning tools are typically built on a stack of software solutions, each layer having been designed by individual persons or groups of people, all of whom are potential candidates for authorial credit.

    (tags: ai art machine-learning ml copyright authors gan)

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Links for 2019-03-26

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Links for 2019-03-25

  • “Baba Is You” is Turing-complete

    ‘This video demonstrates my design for a mechanism in #BabaIsYou which implements Cellular Automaton Rule 110, which suffices to prove the game is Turing-Complete!’ The write-up is here: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sqrh1m

    (tags: baba-is-you games turing-completeness computing)

  • Making Logic Gates With Crabs

    Yukio-Pegio Gunji and Yuta Nishiyama from Kobe University, along with Andrew Adamatzky from the aptly named Unconventional Computing Centre at the University of the West of England decided they needed a new way to build logic gates using crabs [….] The colonies of soldier crabs that inhabit the lagoons of Pacific atolls display a unique swarming behavior in their native habitat. When in a swarm of hundreds of individuals, the front of the swarm is driven by random turbulence in the group, while the back end of the swarm simply follows the leaders. Somehow, this is a successful evolutionary strategy, but it can also be exploited to build logic gates using only crabs. The team constructed a Y-shaped maze for a pair of crabs to act as an OR gate. When two soldier crabs are placed at the top of the ‘Y’, they move forward until they meet and exit the maze through the output. This idea can be expanded to a slightly more complex AND gate, functionally identical to the electron-powered AND gate in a 7408 logic chip.

    (tags: logic-gates logic soldier-crabs crabs computing hardware swarming nature animals via:theophite)

  • What causes Ruby memory bloat? – Joyful Bikeshedding

    Another likely suspect is the memory allocator. After all, Nate Berkopec and Heroku remarked that fiddling with the memory allocator (either replacing it altogether with jemalloc, or setting the magical environment variable MALLOC_ARENA_MAX=2) drastically lowers [Ruby] memory usage.

    (tags: ruby memory rails linux malloc bloat jemalloc ops)

  • Fix glibc’s MALLOC_ARENA_MAX variable

    It seems that recent versions of glibc (up to glibc 2.25 at least) have some dysfunctional behaviour around malloc’s arenas on multi-CPU systems, massively inflating the number of arenas allocated, which inflate reported VM sizes and (for multi-threaded Ruby services in particular) fragmenting memory badly. See also https://devcenter.heroku.com/articles/testing-cedar-14-memory-use Presto issue reported with glibc malloc arena-per-thread behaviour resulting in Presto OOMs: https://github.com/prestodb/presto/issues/8993 Hadoop affected by the inflated VM sizes reported as a side effect: https://issues.apache.org/jira/browse/HADOOP-7154 Good detailed writeup from IBM’s WebSphere blog: https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/community/blogs/kevgrig/entry/linux_glibc_2_10_rhel_6_malloc_may_show_excessive_virtual_memory_usage

    (tags: ops ruby memory malloc allocation arenas tuning fragmentation)

  • The end of open: BBC blocks its podcasts on Google

    Talking to Podnews, a BBC spokesperson said that Google is required to sign a licence to link to their podcasts; and that the Distribution Policy also requires Google to supply user data to the BBC. There has been a “consultation with Google”, and the BBC “has no choice but to stop Google from making podcasts available via Google products.”

    (tags: bbc facepalm fail google licensing podcasts radio)

  • ‘A Swiss cheese-like material’ that can solve equations | Penn Today

    This is incredibly cool.

    “For example,” Engheta says, “if you were trying to plan the acoustics of a concert hall, you could write an integral equation where the inputs represent the sources of the sound, such as the position of speakers or instruments, as well as how loudly they play. Other parts of the equation would represent the geometry of the room and the material its walls are made of. Solving that equation would give you the volume at different points in the concert hall.”  In the integral equation that describes the relationship between sound sources, room shape and the volume at specific locations, the features of the room — the shape and material properties of its walls — can be represented by the equation’s kernel. This is the part the Penn Engineering researchers are able to represent in a physical way, through the precise arrangement of air holes in their metamaterial Swiss cheese.  “Our system allows you to change the inputs that represent the locations of the sound sources by changing the properties of the wave you send into the system,” Engheta says, “but if you want to change the shape of the room, for example, you will have to make a new kernel.” 

    (tags: computing analog computers hardware papers swiss-cheese equations)

  • Cloud Shell – Google Cloud Platform

    I had no idea about this — every google user has instant in-browser shell access to a Linux VM with 1.7GB of RAM

    (tags: shell servers linux google gcp cloudshell)

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Links for 2019-03-22

  • Troubleshooting Problems With Native (Off-Heap) Memory in Java Applications

    quite good advice on dealing with memory problems caused by off-heap DirectByteBuffers in java 8. ‘Furthermore, the JDK caches one or more DirectByteBuffers per thread, and by default, there is no limit on the number or size of these buffers. As a result, if a Java app creates many threads that perform I/O using HeapByteBuffers, and/or these buffers are big, the JVM process may end up using a lot of additional native memory that looks like a leak’. ‘java.lang.OutOfMemoryError: Direct buffer memory’ is the indicative error message.

    (tags: java off-heap buffers memory memory-leaks gc jdk ops)

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Links for 2019-03-20

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Links for 2019-03-19

  • cel-go

    The Go implementation of the Common Expression Language (CEL). CEL is a non-Turing complete language designed to be portable and fast. It is well suited to embedded applications expression evaluation with familiar syntax and features, protocol buffer support, and not needing the sandboxing needed for a runtime like JavaScript or Lua.

    (tags: scripting golang go cel languages coding configuration config embedded)

  • XXH3

    ‘a cross-over inspired by many other great hash algorithms, which proves substantially faster than existing variants of xxHash, across basically all dimensions.’

    (tags: hashing algorithms xxhash xxh3 checksums performance)

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Links for 2019-03-17

  • 2-hour-long meetings can impair cognitive functioning

    ‘Study shoes three people in a conference room over 2 hours can result in a Co2 level that can impair cognitive functioning. Ie. If you’re making decisions at the end of the meeting, you’re mentally less qualified to do so.’ Well, I’d say that fatigue could also result in this, but it’s interesting to see how unhealthy the typical office environment can be. (via Jeff Dean)

    (tags: via:jeffdean meetings work offices brain co2 cognition)

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Links for 2019-03-15

  • The Oxygen of Amplification

    Offering extremely candid comments from mainstream journalists, this report provides a snapshot of an industry [news media] caught between the pressure to deliver page views, the impulse to cover manipulators and “trolls,” and the disgust (expressed in interviewees’ own words) of accidentally propagating extremist ideology. After reviewing common methods of “information laundering” of radical and racist messages through the press, Phillips uses journalists’ own words to propose a set of editorial “better practices” intended to reduce manipulation and harm. As social and digital media are leveraged to reconfigure the information landscape, Phillips argues that this new domain requires journalists to take what they know about abuses of power and media manipulation in traditional information ecosystems; and apply and adapt that knowledge to networked actors, such as white nationalist networks online.

    (tags: media news harassment nazis fascism overton-window journalism racism press)

  • Ash Sarkar on how to counter the new right

    ‘a) Acknowledge that the fascist threat has changed. It’s political operations are far more nebulous and diffuse; it works in political institutions and dark corners of the internet; it will adopt and distort liberal tropes and talking points. b) Deal with the fact that traditional forms of policing will be of little effectiveness in countering it. Those with the most power to inhibit the dissemination of far-right and racist ideology are the digital platforms they rely on: reddit, Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook. c) Transform current affairs media. For too long, producers and editors have taken the alt-right at their word, and framed issues as free speech/limits of offensive humour. That must change. Unless you’re willing to do rigorous research first, don’t commission the debate. d) Overhaul the teaching of PSHE & Citizenship in education to prepare young people for the desensitising and extreme content they will see online. Create space for healthy debate and discussion in respectful environments. Don’t let groomers take advantage of their curiousity. e) Get a very big bin, and put Melanie Phillips, Rod Liddle, and Douglas Murray in it. Then fire the bin into outer space.’

    (tags: alt-right fascism media politics internet social-media twitter reddit ash-sarkar)

  • Why Do so Many Egyptian Statues Have Broken Noses? – Artsy

    wow, TIL. ‘The ancient Egyptians, it’s important to note, ascribed important powers to images of the human form. They believed that the essence of a deity could inhabit an image of that deity, or, in the case of mere mortals, part of that deceased human being’s soul could inhabit a statue inscribed for that particular person. These campaigns of vandalism were therefore intended to “deactivate an image’s strength,” as Bleiberg put it.’

    (tags: egypt culture art history noses)

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Links for 2019-03-13

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Links for 2019-03-12

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Links for 2019-03-11

  • The “Tragedy of the Commons” was invented by a white supremacist based on a false history, and it’s toxic bullshit / Boing Boing

    Hardin’s paper starts with a history of the English Commons — publicly held lands that were collectively owned and managed — and the claim that commons routinely fell prey to the selfish human impulse to overgraze your livestock on public land (and that even non-selfish people would overgraze their animals because they knew that their more-selfish neighbors would do so even if they didn’t). But this isn’t what actually happened to the Commons: they were stable and well-managed until other factors (e.g. rich people trying to acquire even more land) destabilized them. Hardin wasn’t just inventing false histories out of a vacuum. He was, personally, a nasty piece of work: a white supremacist and eugenicist, and the Tragedy of the Commons paper is shot through with this vile ideology, arguing that poor people should not be given charity lest they breed beyond their means (Hardin also campaigned against food aid). Hardin was a director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the white nationalist Social Contract Press, and co-founded anti-immigrant groups like Californians for Population Stabilization and The Environmental Fund.

    (tags: commons capitalism racism garrett-hardin tragedy-of-the-commons politics privatization public-ownership)

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Links for 2019-03-07

  • How Theranos used the USPTO to defraud investors and patients

    When legendary grifter Elizabeth Holmes was 19 years old, she conceived of a medical device that could perform extensive diagnostics in an eyeblink from only a single drop of blood; she had no idea how such a device would work or whether it was even possible, but that didn’t stop her from drawing up a patent application for her “invention” and repeatedly submitting to the patent office until, eventually, she was awarded a patent for what amounted to a piece of uninspiring design fiction. For Holmes, the patent was key to convincing investors, partners, and patients that her massive, years-long fraud (a company called “Theranos” bilked investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars) was legit; the USPTO helped her out by trumpeting the importance of patents to “inventors” like Holmes, comparing her to Benjamin Franklin in their public communications. Patents are only supposed to be issued for devices with “utility” — that is, they have to actually work before you can get a patent for them. But it’s been decades since the USPTO has paid meaningful attention to this criterion when evaluating applications, handing out patents for imaginary “inventions” to con artists, delusional hucksters, and other “inventors” who are willing to pay the filing fees that keep the lights on at the Patent Office. And since most people only have a vague idea of the rigor used in patent examination, these patents for design fiction can be used as impressive “proof” when crooks set out to deceive their marks. [….] ‘More than a decade after Holmes’ first patent application, Theranos had still not managed to build a reliable blood-testing device. By then the USPTO had granted it hundreds of patents. Holmes had been constructing a fantasy world from the minute she started writing her first application, and the agency was perfectly happy to play along.’

    (tags: fraud patents uspto theranos inventions boing-boing)

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Links for 2019-03-06

  • National Climate Assessment: How to deal with despair over climate change – Vox

    The dominant narrative around climate change tells us that it’s our fault. We left the lights on too long, didn’t close the refrigerator door, and didn’t recycle our paper. I’m here to tell you that is bullshit. … Don’t give in to that shame. It’s not yours. The oil and gas industry is gaslighting you. That same IPCC report revealed that a mere 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global climate emissions. These people are locking you and everything you love into a tomb. You have every right to be pissed all the way off. And we have to make them hear about it.

    (tags: climate climate-change anger capitalism ipcc fossil-fuels future)

  • camelcamelcamel, a free Amazon price tracker

    ‘Our free Amazon price tracker monitors millions of products and alerts you when prices drop, helping you decide when to buy.’ Supports amazon.co.uk, handily

    (tags: amazon shopping deals buying money)

  • Why do remote meetings suck so much?

    Unstructured, “caucus”-style meetings suck particularly badly for remote workers.

    When audio/visual delays exacerbate the caucus problem for people who always get the floor in meetings, it looks to them like a new problem. It’s not new; it’s just normally experienced by people in meetings with lower caucus scores. Leadership doesn’t notice because people in leadership positions tend to have higher caucus scores, and being in a position of leadership also tends to boost your caucus score (basically because people interrupt you less). But that’s a weakness of the way we identify decision-makers: good ideas come from everywhere, and especially from people who do a lot of thinking and observing before they say anything. Making meetings more accessible to remote employees doesn’t just make meetings more accessible to remote employees; it makes meetings more accessible to everyone. 

    (tags: team meetings remote communication management caucus-score remote-work)

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Links for 2019-03-05

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Links for 2019-03-02

  • “Understanding Real-World Concurrency Bugs in Go” (paper)

    ‘Go advocates for the usage of message passing as the means of inter-thread communication and provides several new concurrency mechanisms and libraries to ease multi-threading programming. It is important to understand the implication of these new proposals and the comparison of message passing and shared memory synchronization in terms of program errors, or bugs. Unfortunately, as far as we know, there has been no study on Go’s concurrency bugs. In this paper, we perform the first systematic study on concurrency bugs in real Go programs. We studied six popular Go software including Docker, Kubernetes, and gRPC. We analyzed 171 concurrency bugs in total, with more than half of them caused by non-traditional, Go-specific problems. Apart from root causes of these bugs, we also studied their fixes, performed experiments to reproduce them, and evaluated them with two publicly-available Go bug detectors. Overall, our study provides a better understanding on Go’s concurrency models and can guide future researchers and practitioners in writing better, more reliable Go software and in developing debugging and diagnosis tools for Go.’ (via Bill de hOra)

    (tags: via:dehora golang go concurrency bugs lint synchronization threading threads bug-detection)

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Links for 2019-03-01

  • Paper: Hyperscan: A Fast Multi-pattern Regex Matcher for Modern CPUs

    a software based, large-scale regex matcher designed to match multiple patterns at once (up to tens of thousands of patterns at once) and to ‘stream‘ (that is, match patterns across many different ‘stream writes’ without holding on to all the data you’ve ever seen). To my knowledge this makes it unique. RE2 is software based but doesn’t scale to large numbers of patterns; nor does it stream (although it could). It occupies a fundamentally different niche to Hyperscan; we compared the performance of RE2::Set (the RE2 multiple pattern interface) to Hyperscan a while back. Most back-tracking matchers (such as libpcre) are one pattern at a time and are inherently incapable of streaming, due to their requirement to backtrack into arbitrary amounts of old input.

    (tags: regex regular-expressions algorithms hyperscan sensory-networks regexps simd nfa)

  • Thought-provoking thread on Facebook/YouTube content moderation

    Extremely thought-provoking thread on the horrors of Facebook/YouTube content moderation, from Andrew Strait:

    My time doing this work convinced me there is no ultimate mitigation measure for the mental harm it causes. Automation is not a silver bullet – it requires massive labeled data sets by moderators on a continuing basis to ensure accuracy and proper model fit. There are steps to make this process less worse, but IMO it all comes back to a basic question – what technologies are worth the incredible human suffering and cost that moderators will inevitably experience? Is image search worth it? Is YouTube? Is Facebook? I don’t have an answer. But these platforms create the need for this kind of horrific work and that must be considered at the forefront of design and deployment of any platform, not as an afterthought.

    (tags: horror moderation youtube facebook video content mental-health andrew-strait image-search images labelling google)

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Links for 2019-02-28

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Links for 2019-02-25

  • ‘digital health will lead to forms of enslavement we can barely imagine’

    Author and Consultant Gastroenterologist Dr. Seamus O’Mahony:

    Perhaps most alarming of all is his analysis of the future of the world of digital health – “Anyone with a smartphone will be monitoring themselves, or – more likely – will be monitored by some external agency. Health and life insurance companies will offer financial inducements to people to be monitored, and big corporations will undoubtedly make the wearing of health-tracking devices mandatory. The danger of all of this is that in countries where health care is paid for by insurance, a new underclass of uninsured people will emerge. Digital health,” he points out, “is presented as something empowering, but the reality is that it will lead to forms of enslavement that we can barely imagine. Facebook and Google have shown how easily people hand over their privacy and personal data in return for a few shiny trinkets. They have also shown how this personal data can be monetised.”

    (tags: health medicine tracking privacy insurance surveillance data)

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Links for 2019-02-24

  • Cocktail similarity by Levenshtein distance

    Love it. ‘I was recently figuring out a minimum-viable bar setup for making cocktails at home, and a system for memorizing & recording recipes. When I started writing down the first basic ingredients, I started noticing that cocktails are very close to each other – if you ignore fruit rinds and ice and such, an Americano is a Negroni with soda water instead of gin. An Old Fashioned is a Manhattan with sugar instead of vermouth. So I wondered – what’s a cocktail edit distance?’

    (tags: edit-distance levenshtein-distance algorithms visualization cocktails d3 recipes booze)

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Links for 2019-02-21

  • Pinterest blocks vaccine-related searches in bid to fight anti-vaxx propaganda | Technology | The Guardian

    The phenomenon on display in the Facebook search result screenshots is known in technology circles as a “data void”, after a paper by the Data & Society founder and researcher danah boyd. For certain search terms, boyd explains, “the available relevant data is limited, non-existent, or deeply problematic”. In the case of vaccines, the fact that scientists and doctors are not producing a steady stream of new digital content about settled science has left a void for conspiracy theorists and fraudsters to fill with fear-mongering propaganda and misinformation. […] Pinterest has responded by building a “blacklist” of “polluted” search terms. “We are doing our best to remove bad content, but we know that there is bad content that we haven’t gotten to yet,” explained Ifeoma Ozoma, a public policy and social impact manager at Pinterest. “We don’t want to surface that with search terms like ‘cancer cure’ or ‘suicide’. We’re hoping that we can move from breaking the site to surfacing only good content. Until then, this is preferable.”

    (tags: data-voids danah-boyd pinterest antivax vaccination misinformation disinfo vaccines truth blacklisting)

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Links for 2019-02-18

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Links for 2019-02-17

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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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