Links for 2017-02-01

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Links for 2017-01-31

  • Supporting our Muslim sisters and brothers in tech – Inside Intercom

    This is simply amazing:

    Intercom is a dual-citizen company of a sort. We’ve had two offices from day zero. I moved to San Francisco from Ireland in 2011 and now hold a green card and live here. I set up our headquarters here, which contains all of our business functions. My cofounders set up our Dublin office, where our research and development teams are based. And we have over 150 people in each office now. We’d like to use this special position we’re in to try help anyone in our industry feeling unsafe and hurt right now. If you’re in tech, and you’re from one of the newly unfavored countries, or even if you’re not, but you’re feeling persecuted for being Muslim, we’d like to help you consider Dublin as a place to live and work. [….] – If you decide you want to look into moving seriously, we’ll retain our Dublin immigration attorneys for you, and pay your legal bills with them, up to €5k. We’ll do this for as many as we can afford. We should be able to do this for at least 50 people.

    (tags: intercom muslim us-politics immigration dublin ireland)

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Links for 2017-01-30

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Links for 2017-01-27

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Links for 2017-01-26

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Links for 2017-01-25

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Links for 2017-01-24

  • Sankey diagram – Wikipedia

    ‘a specific type of flow diagram, in which the width of the arrows is shown proportionally to the flow quantity. Sankey diagrams put a visual emphasis on the major transfers or flows within a system. They are helpful in locating dominant contributions to an overall flow. Often, Sankey diagrams show conserved quantities within defined system boundaries. [….] One of the most famous Sankey diagrams is Charles Minard’s Map of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign of 1812. It is a flow map, overlaying a Sankey diagram onto a geographical map.’

    (tags: sankey diagrams dataviz data viz)

  • Toyota’s Gill Pratt: “No one is close to achieving true level 5 [self-driving cars]”

    The most important thing to understand is that not all miles are the same. Most miles that we drive are very easy, and we can drive them while daydreaming or thinking about something else or having a conversation. But some miles are really, really hard, and so it’s those difficult miles that we should be looking at: How often do those show up, and can you ensure on a given route that the car will actually be able to handle the whole route without any problem at all? Level 5 autonomy says all miles will be handled by the car in an autonomous mode without any need for human intervention at all, ever. So if we’re talking to a company that says, “We can do full autonomy in this pre-mapped area and we’ve mapped almost every area,” that’s not Level 5. That’s Level 4. And I wouldn’t even stop there: I would ask, “Is that at all times of the day, is it in all weather, is it in all traffic?” And then what you’ll usually find is a little bit of hedging on that too. The trouble with this Level 4 thing, or the “full autonomy” phrase, is that it covers a very wide spectrum of possible competencies. It covers “my car can run fully autonomously in a dedicated lane that has no other traffic,” which isn’t very different from a train on a set of rails, to “I can drive in Rome in the middle of the worst traffic they ever have there, while it’s raining,” which is quite hard. Because the “full autonomy” phrase can mean such a wide range of things, you really have to ask the question, “What do you really mean, what are the actual circumstances?” And usually you’ll find that it’s geofenced for area, it may be restricted by how much traffic it can handle, for the weather, the time of day, things like that. So that’s the elaboration of why we’re not even close.

    (tags: autonomy driving self-driving cars ai robots toyota weather)

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Links for 2017-01-18

  • NetGuard

    Excellent network monitor app for Android, comes recommended by @redacted in the ITC Slack. Inserts itself as a VPN to capture traffic, and looks like it should work well. Supports ad blocking using a hosts file.

    (tags: android ad-blocking ads netguard apps)

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Links for 2017-01-17

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Links for 2017-01-16

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Links for 2017-01-13

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Links for 2017-01-12

  • Facebook is censoring posts in Thailand that the government has deemed unsuitable | TechCrunch

    Dictator-friendly censorship tools? no probs!

    (tags: facebook censorship royalty thailand politics)

  • Who killed the curry house? | Bee Wilson | Life and style | The Guardian

    This is fascinating, re “authenticity” of food:

    The objection that curry house food was inauthentic was true, but also unfair. It’s worth asking what “authenticity” really means in this context, given that people in India – like humans everywhere – do not themselves eat a perfectly “authentic” diet. When I asked dozens of people, while on a recent visit to India, about their favourite comfort food, most of them – whether from Delhi, Bangalore or Mumbai – told me that what they really loved to eat, especially when drinking beer, was something called Indian-Chinese food. It is nothing a Chinese person would recognise, consisting of gloopy dishes of meat and noodles, thick with cornflour and soy sauce, but spiced with green chillis and vinegar to please the national palate. Indian-Chinese food – just like British curry house food – offers a salty night away from the usual home cooking. The difference is that Indian people accept Indian-Chinese food for the ersatz joy that it is, whereas many British curry house customers seem to have believed that recipe for their Bombay potatoes really did come from Bombay, and felt affronted to discover that it did not.

    (tags: curry indian-food food chinese-food indian-chinese-food authenticity)

  • Banks biased against black fraud victims

    We raised the issue of discrimination in 2011 with one of the banks and with the Commission for Racial Equality, but as no-one was keeping records, nothing could be proved, until today. How can this discrimination happen? Well, UK rules give banks a lot of discretion to decide whether to refund a victim, and the first responders often don’t know the full story. If your HSBC card was compromised by a skimmer on a Tesco ATM, there’s no guarantee that Tesco will have told anyone (unlike in America, where the law forces Tesco to tell you). And the fraud pattern might be something entirely new. So bank staff end up making judgement calls like “Is this customer telling the truth?” and “How much is their business worth to us?” This in turn sets the stage for biases and prejudices to kick in, however subconsciously. Add management pressure to cut costs, sometimes even bonuses for cutting them, and here we are.

    (tags: discrimination racism fraud uk banking skimming security fca)

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Links for 2017-01-11

  • How a Machine Learns Prejudice – Scientific American

    Agreed, this is a big issue.

    If artificial intelligence takes over our lives, it probably won’t involve humans battling an army of robots that relentlessly apply Spock-like logic as they physically enslave us. Instead, the machine-learning algorithms that already let AI programs recommend a movie you’d like or recognize your friend’s face in a photo will likely be the same ones that one day deny you a loan, lead the police to your neighborhood or tell your doctor you need to go on a diet. And since humans create these algorithms, they’re just as prone to biases that could lead to bad decisions—and worse outcomes. These biases create some immediate concerns about our increasing reliance on artificially intelligent technology, as any AI system designed by humans to be absolutely “neutral” could still reinforce humans’ prejudicial thinking instead of seeing through it.

    (tags: prejudice bias machine-learning ml data training race racism google facebook)

  • Falsehoods Programmers Believe About CSVs

    Much of my professional work for the last 10+ years has revolved around handing, importing and exporting CSV files. CSV files are frustratingly misunderstood, abused, and most of all underspecified. While RFC4180 exists, it is far from definitive and goes largely ignored. Partially as a companion piece to my recent post about how CSV is an encoding nightmare, and partially an expression of frustration, I’ve decided to make a list of falsehoods programmers believe about CSVs. I recommend my previous post for a more in-depth coverage on the pains of CSVs encodings and how the default tooling (Excel) will ruin your day.
    (via Tony Finch)

    (tags: via:fanf csv excel programming coding apis data encoding transfer falsehoods fail rfc4180)

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Links for 2017-01-10

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Links for 2017-01-09

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Links for 2017-01-08

  • PagerDuty Incident Response Documentation

    This documentation covers parts of the PagerDuty Incident Response process. It is a cut-down version of our internal documentation, used at PagerDuty for any major incidents, and to prepare new employees for on-call responsibilities. It provides information not only on preparing for an incident, but also what to do during and after. It is intended to be used by on-call practitioners and those involved in an operational incident response process (or those wishing to enact a formal incident response process).
    This is a really good set of processes — quite similar to what we used in Amazon for high-severity outage response.

    (tags: ops process outages pagerduty incident-response incidents on-call)

  • The Irish Ether Drinking Craze

    Dr. Kelly, desperate to become intoxicated while maintaining The Pledge, realized that not only could ether vapors be inhaled, but liquid ether could be swallowed. Around 1845 he began consuming tiny glasses of ether, and then started dispensing these to his patients and friends as a nonalcoholic libation. It wasn’t long before it became a popular beverage, with one priest going so far as to declare that ether was “a liquor on which a man could get drunk with a clean conscience.” In some respects ingesting ether is less damaging to the system than severe alcohol intoxication. Its volatility – ether is a liquid at room temperature but a gas at body temperature -dramatically speeds its effects. Dr. Ernest Hart wrote that “the immediate effects of drinking ether are similar to those produced by alcohol, but everything takes place more rapidly; the stages of excitement, mental confusion, loss of muscular control, and loss of consciousness follow each other so quickly that they cannot be clearly separated.” Recovery is similarly rapid. Not only were ether drunks who were picked up by the police on the street often completely sober by the time they reached the station, but they suffered no hangovers. Ether drinking spread rapidly throughout Ireland, particularly in the North, and the substance soon could be purchased from grocers, druggists, publicans, and even traveling salesmen. Because ether was produced in bulk for certain industrial uses, it could also be obtained quite inexpensively. Its low price and rapid action meant than even the poorest could afford to get drunk several times a day on it. By the 1880s ether, distilled in England or Scotland, was being imported and widely distributed to even the smallest villages. Many Irish market towns would “reek of the mawkish fumes of the drug” on fair days when “its odor seems to cling to the very hedges and houses for some time.”

    (tags: ether history ireland northern-ireland ulster drugs bizarre)

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Links for 2017-01-07

  • Hacking the Attention Economy

    Can’t help feeling danah boyd is hitting the nail on the head here:

    The Internet has long been used for gaslighting, and trolls have long targeted adversaries. What has shifted recently is the scale of the operation, the coordination of the attacks, and the strategic agenda of some of the players. For many who are learning these techniques, it’s no longer simply about fun, nor is it even about the lulz. It has now become about acquiring power. A new form of information manipulation is unfolding in front of our eyes. It is political. It is global. And it is populist in nature. The news media is being played like a fiddle, while decentralized networks of people are leveraging the ever-evolving networked tools around them to hack the attention economy.

    (tags: danah-boyd news facebook social-media gaslighting trolls 4chan lulz gamergate fake-news)

  • World’s top 100 cocktails of 2016

    per Difford’s Guide — Amaretto Sour, Margarita, Bramble, Espresso Martini, Old-Fashioned, Negroni, White Lady and Manhattan up there.

    (tags: cocktails diffords 2016 review booze drinks)

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Links for 2017-01-04

  • Raising the Roof: Comments on the recent Newgrange ‘roof-box’ controversy

    Instead of discussing recent site visits or photographs we’ll be looking at a recent controversy sparked by comments about the reconstruction of Newgrange and, in particular, three claims made in the media by an Irish archaeologist; 1. That the “roof-box” at Newgrange may not be an original feature, instead it was “fabricated” and has “not a shred of authenticity” 2. That two vitally important structural stones, both decorated with megalithic art, from Newgrange were lost after the excavation and 3. That the photographic evidence that backs up the existing restoration is either inaccessible or never existed at all. I hope to show why we can be sure none of these claims are sustainable and that in fact the winter solstice phenomenon at Newgrange is an original and central feature of the tomb.

    (tags: history newgrange archaeology solstice ireland megalithic)

  • Leap Smear  |  Public NTP  |  Google Developers

    Google offers public NTP service with leap smearing — I didn’t realise! (thanks Keith)

    (tags: google clocks time ntp leap-smearing leap-second ops)

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Links for 2017-01-03

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Links for 2016-12-23

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Links for 2016-12-20

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Links for 2016-12-16

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Links for 2016-12-15

  • The hidden cost of QUIC and TOU

    The recent movement to get all traffic encrypted has of course been great for the Internet. But the use of encryption in these protocols is different than in TLS. In TLS, the goal was to ensure the privacy and integrity of the payload. It’s almost axiomatic that third parties should not be able to read or modify the web page you’re loading over HTTPS. QUIC and TOU go further. They encrypt the control information, not just the payload. This provides no meaningful privacy or security benefits. Instead the apparent goal is to break the back of middleboxes [0]. The idea is that TCP can’t evolve due to middleboxes and is pretty much fully ossified. They interfere with connections in all kinds of ways, like stripping away unknown TCP options or dropping packets with unknown TCP options or with specific rare TCP flags set. The possibilities for breakage are endless, and any protocol extensions have to jump through a lot of hoops to try to minimize the damage.

    (tags: quic tou protocols http tls security internet crypto privacy firewalls debugging operability)

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Links for 2016-12-14

  • Slicer: Auto-sharding for datacenter applications

    Paper from Google describing one of their internal building block services:

    A general purpose sharding service. I normally think of sharding as something that happens within a (typically data) service, not as a general purpose infrastructure service. What exactly is Slicer then? It has two key components: a data plane that acts as an affinity-aware load balancer, with affinity managed based on application-specified keys; and a control plane that monitors load and instructs applications processes as to which keys they should be serving at any one point in time.  In this way, the decisions regarding how to balance keys across application instances can be outsourced to the Slicer service rather than building this logic over and over again for each individual back-end service. Slicer is focused exclusively on the problem of balancing load across a given set of  backend tasks, other systems are responsible for adding and removing tasks.

    (tags: google sharding slicer architecture papers)

  • Cherami: Uber Engineering’s Durable and Scalable Task Queue in Go – Uber Engineering Blog

    a competing-consumer messaging queue that is durable, fault-tolerant, highly available and scalable. We achieve durability and fault-tolerance by replicating messages across storage hosts, and high availability by leveraging the append-only property of messaging queues and choosing eventual consistency as our basic model. Cherami is also scalable, as the design does not have single bottleneck. […] Cherami is completely written in Go, a language that makes building highly performant and concurrent system software a lot of fun. Additionally, Cherami uses several libraries that Uber has already open sourced: TChannel for RPC and Ringpop for health checking and group membership. Cherami depends on several third-party open source technologies: Cassandra for metadata storage, RocksDB for message storage, and many other third-party Go packages that are available on GitHub. We plan to open source Cherami in the near future.

    (tags: cherami uber queueing tasks queues architecture scalability go cassandra rocksdb)

  • The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S. – The New York Times

    This is scary shit. It’s amazing how Russia has weaponised transparency, but I guess it’s not new to observers of “kompromat”:

    (tags: kompromat russia cyberpower cyberwar security trump us-politics dnc)

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Links for 2016-12-13

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Links for 2016-12-12

  •, MySQL and UTF-8

    good preso from Percona Live 2015 on the messiness of MySQL vs UTF-8 and utf8mb4

    (tags: utf-8 utf8mb4 mysql storage databases slides character-sets)

  • tdunning/t-digest

    A new data structure for accurate on-line accumulation of rank-based statistics such as quantiles and trimmed means. The t-digest algorithm is also very parallel friendly making it useful in map-reduce and parallel streaming applications. The t-digest construction algorithm uses a variant of 1-dimensional k-means clustering to product a data structure that is related to the Q-digest. This t-digest data structure can be used to estimate quantiles or compute other rank statistics. The advantage of the t-digest over the Q-digest is that the t-digest can handle floating point values while the Q-digest is limited to integers. With small changes, the t-digest can handle any values from any ordered set that has something akin to a mean. The accuracy of quantile estimates produced by t-digests can be orders of magnitude more accurate than those produced by Q-digests in spite of the fact that t-digests are more compact when stored on disk.
    Super-nice feature is that it’s mergeable, so amenable to parallel usage across multiple hosts if required. Java implementation, ASL licensing.

    (tags: data-structures algorithms java t-digest statistics quantiles percentiles aggregation digests estimation ranking)

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Links for 2016-12-07

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Links for 2016-12-06

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Links for 2016-12-05

  • A Yale history professor’s 20-point guide to defending democracy under a Trump presidency — Quartz

    Good advice — let’s hope it doesn’t come to this. Example: ’17. Watch out for the paramilitaries: When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.’

    (tags: trump activism government politics us-politics right-wing history hitler nazis fascism)

  • Commentary: The ‘Irish’ Startup Attribution Problem

    Why don’t Irish tech startup activity show up on a EU-wide comparisons? Turns out we tend to transition to a US-based model, with US-based management and EU-based operations and engineering, like $work does:

    Successful Irish tech companies have a skewed geographic profile. This presents a data gathering problem for the data companies but its also a strong indicator of the market reality for Irish startups. The size of the local market and a focus on software business in particular means many Irish startups are transitioning to the US (some earlier and with more commitment than others), and getting backed by a spectrum of local and international VCs.
    Correcting for this put Ireland’s tech venture investment in the second half of 2014 at $125m, midway between Sweden and Finland, 8th in Europe overall.

    (tags: ireland tech startups investment vc europe eu)

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Links for 2016-12-03

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Links for 2016-12-02

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Links for 2016-11-30

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Links for 2016-11-29

  • Trump’s lies have a purpose. They are an assault on democracy

    Donald Trump’s media strategy as a form of Surkovian control via post-truth ‘destabilised perception’, through deliberate flooding with fake news:

    By attacking the very notion of shared reality, the president-elect is making normal democratic politics impossible. When the truth is little more than an arbitrary personal decision, there is no common ground to be reached and no incentive to look for it. To men like Surkov, that is exactly as it should be. Government policy should not be set through democratic oversight; instead, the government should “manage” democracy, ensuring that people can express themselves without having any influence over the machinations of the state. According to a 2011 openDemocracy article by Richard Sakwa, a professor of Russian and European politics at the University of Kent, Surkov is “considered the main architect of what is colloquially known as ‘managed democracy,’ the administrative management of party and electoral politics.” “Surkov’s philosophy is that there is no real freedom in the world, and that all democracies are managed democracies, so the key to success is to influence people, to give them the illusion that they are free, whereas in fact they are managed,” writes Sakwa. “In his view, the only freedom is ‘artistic freedom.’”

    (tags: post-truth lies donald-trump surkov breitbart pr media news propaganda fake-news)

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Links for 2016-11-28

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