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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Links for 2019-02-08

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Links for 2019-02-07

  • using BGP to compute best paths across the London Underground

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

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

  • hrvach/fpg1

    a PDP-1 implementation in FPGA:

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

    (tags: pdp1 history computers spacewar fpga hardware verilog)

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Links for 2019-02-06

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

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

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anti-Brexit groups is fully transparent either: both publish some details about themselves, such as addresses, but do not publish full details of all funders and donors.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

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

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Links for 2019-02-04

  • An In-Depth Guide to Nginx Metrics

    decent list of what nginx offers in terms of instrumentation

    (tags: nginx metrics ops graphing scalyr)

  • Google Hired Gig Economy Workers for Project Maven

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

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

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Links for 2019-02-02

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

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

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

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

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Links for 2019-02-01

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

    This is absolutely scary. Systematic surveillance:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ‘OK Google, heat up the car’ – nifty

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

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Links for 2019-01-31

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

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

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

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Links for 2019-01-30

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

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

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

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

  • Facial Recognition Is the Perfect Tool for Oppression

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

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

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Links for 2019-01-29

  • Amendment-apocalypse: Spineless MPs just voted against reality

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

    (tags: brexit politics uk eu backstop)

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

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

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

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

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Links for 2019-01-25

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Links for 2019-01-24

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

    This is amazing:

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

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

  • Brexit: debunking “trading on WTO terms”

    a favourite brexiteer talking point demolished

    (tags: wto trade brexit uk)

  • research!rsc: Our Software Dependency Problem

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

    (tags: dependencies software coding work)

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Links for 2019-01-21

  • PhoneNumbers.ie

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

    (tags: reputation phone telephone callers scams phishing ireland)

  • The Plot Against George Soros

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

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

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

  • Stack Overflow: How We Do Monitoring – 2018 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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Links for 2019-01-18

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Links for 2019-01-17

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Links for 2019-01-16

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Links for 2019-01-15

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

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

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

  • Some facts on immigration to Ireland

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

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

    (tags: immigration facts statistics ireland asylum-seekers)

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