Links for 2014-08-01

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Links for 2014-07-31

  • UK private copying exception plans face possible legal action

    Under the proposed private copying exception, individuals in the UK would be given a new right to make a copy of copyrighted material they have lawfully and permanently acquired for their private use, provided it was not for commercial ends. Making a private copy of the material in these circumstances would not be an act of copyright infringement, although making a private copy of a computer program would still be prohibited under the plans. There is no mechanism envisaged in the draft legislation for rights holders to be specifically compensated for the act of private copying. This prompted the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (JCSI), tasked with scrutinising the proposals, to warn parliamentarians that the rules may be deemed to be in breach of EU copyright laws as a result of the lack of ‘fair compensation’ mechanism. [...] “We are disappointed that the private copying exception will be introduced without providing fair compensation for British songwriters, performers and other rights holders within the creative sector. A mechanism for fair compensation is a requirement of European law. In response we are considering our legal options,” [UK Music] said.

    (tags: uk law copyright music copying private-copying personal infringement piracy transcoding backup)

  • Moominvalley Map Print | Magic Pony

    Lovely print! Shipping would be a bit crazy, though. There has to be an english-language print of one of Tove Jansson’s maps on sale somewhere in Europe…

    (tags: prints moomins moominvalley maps hattifatteners magic-pony tove-jannson art)

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Links for 2014-07-30

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Links for 2014-07-29

  • How to take over the computer of any JVM developer

    To prove how easy [MITM attacking Mavencentral JARs] is to do, I wrote dilettante, a man-in-the-middle proxy that intercepts JARs from maven central and injects malicious code into them. Proxying HTTP traffic through dilettante will backdoor any JARs downloaded from maven central. The backdoored version will retain their functionality, but display a nice message to the user when they use the library.

    (tags: jars dependencies java build clojure security mitm http proxies backdoors scala maven gradle)

  • Spain pushes for ‘Google tax’ to restrict linking

    The government wants to put a tax on linking on the internet. They say that if you want to link to some newspaper’s content, you have to pay a tax. The primary targets of this law are Google News and other aggregators. It would be absurd enough just like that, but the law goes further: they declared it an “inalienable right” so even if I have a blog or a new small digital media publication and I want to let people freely link to my content, I can’t opt-out–they are charging the levy, and giving it to the big press media. It was just the last and only way that the old traditional media companies can get some money from the government, and they strongly lobbied for it. The bill has passed in the Congress where the party in the government has majority (PP, Partido Popular) and it’s headed to the Senate, where they have a majority also.

    (tags: spain stupidity law via:boingboing linking links web news google google-news newspapers old-media taxes)

  • Keyes New Starter Kit for Arduino Fans

    $53 for a reasonable-looking Arduino starter kit, from DealExtreme. cheap cheap! In the inimitable DX style:

    Keyes new beginner starter kit, pay more attention to beginners learning. Users can get rid of the difficult technological learning, from module used to quick start production.

    (tags: learning arduino hardware hacking robotics toys dealextreme tobuy)

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Links for 2014-07-28

  • Check If A Hotel’s WiFi Sucks Before It’s Too Late and .

    (tags: wifi hotels travel reviews techcrunch internet)

  • Collection Pipeline

    a nice summarisation of the state of pipe/stream-oriented collection operations in various languages, from Martin Fowler

    (tags: martin-fowler patterns coding ruby clojure streams pipelines pipes unix lambda fp java languages)

  • REST Commander: Scalable Web Server Management and Monitoring

    We dynamically monitor and manage a large and rapidly growing number of web servers deployed on our infrastructure and systems. However, existing tools present major challenges when making REST/SOAP calls with server-specific requests to a large number of web servers, and then performing aggregated analysis on the responses. We therefore developed REST Commander, a parallel asynchronous HTTP client as a service to monitor and manage web servers. REST Commander on a single server can send requests to thousands of servers with response aggregation in a matter of seconds. And yes, it is open-sourced at Feature highlights: Click-to-run with zero installation; Generic HTTP request template supporting variable-based replacement for sending server-specific requests; Ability to send the same request to different servers, different requests to different servers, and different requests to the same server; Maximum concurrency control (throttling) to accommodate server capacity; Commander itself is also “as a service”: with its powerful REST API, you can define ad-hoc target servers, an HTTP request template, variable replacement, and a regular expression all in a single call. In addition, intuitive step-by-step wizards help you achieve the same functionality through a GUI.

    (tags: rest http clients load-testing ebay soap async testing monitoring)

  • South Downs litter picker has truck named after him – West Sussex County Times

    This is amazing. In , David Sedaris had written: ‘in recognition of all the rubbish I’ve collected since getting my Fitbit, my local council is naming a garbage truck after me’; naturally, I assumed he was joking, but it looks like he wasn’t:

    Horsham District Council has paid thanks to a volunteer who devotes a great deal of time and energy to walking many miles clearing litter from near where he lives as well as surrounding areas. David Sedaris litter picks in areas including Parham, Coldwaltham, Storrington and beyond. In recognition for all his fantastic work and dedication and as a token of Horsham District Council’s appreciation, the council has named one of their waste vehicles after him. The vehicle, bedecked with its bespoke ‘Pig Pen Sedaris’ sign was officially unveiled by the Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex Mrs Susan Pyper at an outdoor ceremony on July 23.
    Best of all, the article utterly fails to mention who he is. Amazing. (via John Braine)

    (tags: via:john-braine funny david-sedaris litter uk horsham rubbish garbage cleaning volunteering walking)

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Links for 2014-07-24

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Links for 2014-07-23

  • This tree produces 40 different types of fruit

    An art professor from Syracuse University in the US, Van Aken grew up on a family farm before pursuing a career as an artist, and has combined his knowledge of the two to develop his incredible Tree of 40 Fruit.  In 2008, Van Aken learned that an orchard at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station was about to be shut down due to a lack of funding. This single orchard grew a great number of heirloom, antique, and native varieties of stone fruit, and some of these were 150 to 200 years old. To lose this orchard would render many of these rare and old varieties of fruit extinct, so to preserve them, Van Aken bought the orchard, and spent the following years figuring out how to graft parts of the trees onto a single fruit tree. [...] Aken’s Tree of 40 Fruit looks like a normal tree for most of the year, but in spring it reveals a stunning patchwork of pink, white, red and purple blossoms, which turn into an array of plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines, cherries and almonds during the summer months, all of which are rare and unique varieties. 

    (tags: fruit art amazing food agriculture grafting orchards sam-van-aken farming)

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Links for 2014-07-22

  • Metrics-Driven Development

    we believe MDD is equal parts engineering technique and cultural process. It separates the notion of monitoring from its traditional position of exclusivity as an operations thing and places it more appropriately next to its peers as an engineering process. Provided access to real-time production metrics relevant to them individually, both software engineers and operations engineers can validate hypotheses, assess problems, implement solutions, and improve future designs.
    Broken down into the following principles: ‘Instrumentation-as-Code’, ‘Single Source of Truth’, ‘Developers Curate Visualizations and Alerts’, ‘Alert on What You See’, ‘Show me the Graph’, ‘Don’t Measure Everything (YAGNI)’. We do all of these at Swrve, naturally (a technique I happily stole from Amazon).

    (tags: metrics coding graphite mdd instrumentation yagni alerting monitoring graphs)

  • Auto Scale DynamoDB With Dynamic DynamoDB

    Nicely-packaged auto-scaler for DynamoDB

    (tags: dynamodb autoscaling scalability provisioning aws ec2 cloudformation)

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Links for 2014-07-21

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Links for 2014-07-18

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Links for 2014-07-17

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Links for 2014-07-16

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Links for 2014-07-15

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Links for 2014-07-14

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Links for 2014-07-11

  • Netflix/ribbon

    a client side IPC library that is battle-tested in cloud. It provides the following features: Load balancing; Fault tolerance; Multiple protocol (HTTP, TCP, UDP) support in an asynchronous and reactive model; Caching and batching.
    I like the integration of Eureka and Hystrix in particular, although I would really like to read more about Eureka’s approach to availability during network partitions and CAP. has some interesting discussion on the topic. It actually sounds like the Eureka approach is more correct than using ZK: ‘Eureka is available. ZooKeeper, while tolerant against single node failures, doesn’t react well to long partitioning events. For us, it’s vastly more important that we maintain an available registry than a necessary consistent registry. If us-east-1d sees 23 nodes, and us-east-1c sees 22 nodes for a little bit, that’s OK with us.’ See also which corroborates this:
    I went into one of the instances and quickly did an iptables DROP on all packets coming from the other two instances. This would simulate an availability zone continuing to function, but that zone losing network connectivity to the other availability zones. What I saw was that the two other instances noticed that the first server “going away”, but they continued to function as they still saw a majority (66%). More interestingly the first instance noticed the other two servers “going away” dropping the ensemble availability to 33%. This caused the first server to stop serving requests to clients (not only writes, but also reads). [...] To me this seems like a concern, as network partitions should be considered an event that should be survived. In this case (with this specific configuration of zookeeper) no new clients in that availability zone would be able to register themselves with consumers within the same availability zone. Adding more zookeeper instances to the ensemble wouldn’t help considering a balanced deployment as in this case the availability would always be majority (66%) and non-majority (33%).

    (tags: netflix ribbon availability libraries java hystrix eureka aws ec2 load-balancing networking http tcp architecture clients ipc)

  • The Myth of Schema-less [NoSQL]

    We don’t seem to gain much in terms of database flexibility. Is our application more flexible? I don’t think so. Even without our schema explicitly defined in our database, it’s there… somewhere. You simply have to search through hundreds of thousands of lines to find all the little bits of it. It has the potential to be in several places, making it harder to properly identify. The reality of these codebases is that they are error prone and rarely lack the necessary documentation. This problem is magnified when there are multiple codebases talking to the same database. This is not an uncommon practice for reporting or analytical purposes. Finally, all this “flexibility” rears its head in the same way that PHP and Javascript’s “neat” weak typing stabs you right in the face. There are some somethings you can be cavalier about, and some things you should be strict about. Your data model is one you absolutely need to be strict on. If a field should store an int, it should store nothing else. Not a string, not a picture of a horse, but an integer. It’s nice to know that I have my database doing type checking for me and I can expect a field to be the same type across all records. All this leads us to an undeniable fact: There is always a schema. Wearing “I don’t do schema” as a badge of honor is a complete joke and encourages a terrible development practice.

    (tags: nosql databases storage schema strong-typing)

  • Latest EBS tuning tips

    from yesterday’s AWS Summit in NYC:

    Cheat sheet of EBS-optimized instances. Optimize your queue depth to achieve lower latency & highest IOPS. When configuring your RAID, use a stripe size of 128KB or 256KB. Use larger block size to speed up the pre-warming process.

    (tags: ebs aws amazon iops raid ops tuning)

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Links for 2014-07-10

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Links for 2014-07-09

  • Google’s Influential Papers for 2013

    Googlers across the company actively engage with the scientific community by publishing technical papers, contributing open-source packages, working on standards, introducing new APIs and tools, giving talks and presentations, participating in ongoing technical debates, and much more. Our publications offer technical and algorithmic advances, feature aspects we learn as we develop novel products and services, and shed light on some of the technical challenges we face at Google. Below are some of the especially influential papers co-authored by Googlers in 2013.

    (tags: google papers toread reading 2013 scalability machine-learning algorithms)

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Links for 2014-07-08

  • #BPjMleak

    ‘Leak of the secret German Internet Censorship URL blacklist BPjM-Modul’. Turns out there’s a blocklist of adult-only or prohibited domains issued by a German government department, The Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (German: “Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien” or BPjM), issued in the form of a list of hashes of those domains. These were extracted from an AVM router, then the hashes were brute forced using several other plaintext URL blocklists and domain lists. Needless to say, there’s an assortment of silly false positives, such as the listing of the website for the 1997 3D Realms game “Shadow Warrior”:

    (tags: hashes reversing reverse-engineering germany german bpjm filtering blocklists blacklists avm domains censorship fps)

  • Brave Men Take Paternity Leave – Gretchen Gavett – Harvard Business Review

    The use of paternity leave has a “snowball effect”:

    In the end, Dahl says, “coworkers and brothers who were linked to a father who had his child immediately after the [Norwegian paid paternity leave] reform — versus immediately before the reform — were 3.5% and 4.7% more likely, respectively, to take parental leave.” But when a coworker actually takes parental leave, “the next coworker to have a child at his workplace is 11% more likely to take paternity leave.” Slightly more pronounced, the next brother to have a child is 15% more likely to take time off. And while any male coworker taking leave can reduce stigma, the effect of a manager doing so is more profound. Specifically, “the estimated peer effect is over two and a half times larger if the peer father is predicted to be a manager in the firm as opposed to a regular coworker.”

    (tags: paternity-leave parenting leave work norway research)

  • “The Tail at Scale”

    by Jeffrey Dean and Luiz Andre Barroso, Google. A selection of Google’s architectural mechanisms used to defeat 99th-percentile latency spikes: hedged requests, tied requests, micro-partitioning, selective replication, latency-induced probation, canary requests.

    (tags: google architecture distcomp soa http partitioning replication latency 99th-percentile canary-requests hedged-requests)

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Links for 2014-07-07

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Links for 2014-07-06

  • Layered Glass Table Concept Creates a Cross-Section of the Ocean

    beautiful stuff — and a snip at only UKP 5,800 ex VAT. it’d make a good DIY project though ;)

    (tags: art tables glass layering 3d cross-sections water ocean sea mapping cartography layers this-is-colossal design furniture)

  • Two traps in iostat: %util and svctm

    Marc Brooker:

    As a measure of general IO busyness %util is fairly handy, but as an indication of how much the system is doing compared to what it can do, it’s terrible. Iostat’s svctm has even fewer redeeming strengths. It’s just extremely misleading for most modern storage systems and workloads. Both of these fields are likely to mislead more than inform on modern SSD-based storage systems, and their use should be treated with extreme care.

    (tags: ioutil iostat svctm ops ssd disks hardware metrics stats linux)

  • New AWS Web Services region: eu-central-1 (soon)

    Iiiinteresting. Sounds like new anti-NSA-snooping privacy laws will be driving a lot of new mini-regions in AWS. Hope Amazon have their new-region-standup process a little more streamlined by now than when I was there ;)

    (tags: aws germany privacy ec2 eu-central-1 nsa snooping)

  • How A Spam Newsletter Caused a Bank Run in Bulgaria

    According to the Bulgarian National Security Agency (see here, for a reporting in English), an investment company that “built a network of associated companies for marketing services” that was used to diffuse panic by means of an alert, uncomfortably titled “Information Bulletin of on the Risk of Deposits in Bulgarian Banks”. The “bulletin” claimed – Bloomberg reports – KTB was undergoing a liquidity shortage. The message apparently also said that the government deposit guarantee fund was under-capitalised to meet possible repayments, that banks could go bankrupt and that the peg of the currency with the euro could be broken. Allegedly, the alert was diffused by text, email and even Facebook messages, thus ensuring a very widespread outreach. In a country that in 1997 underwent a very serious banking crisis featuring all these characteristics – whose memory is still fresh – this was enough to spur panic.

    (tags: spam banking bulgaria banks euro panic facebook social-media)

  • New Russian Law To Forbid Storing Russians’ Data Outside the Country – Slashdot

    On Friday Russia’s parliament passed a law “which bans online businesses from storing personal data of Russian citizens on servers located abroad[.] … According to ITAR-TASS, the changes to existing legislation will come into effect in September 2016, and apply to email services, social networks and search engines, including the likes of Facebook and Google. Domain names or net addresses not complying with regulations will be put on a blacklist maintained by Roskomnadzor (the Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications), the organisation which already has the powers to take down websites suspected of copyright infringement without a court order. In the case of non-compliance, Roskomnadzor will be able to impose ‘sanctions,’ and even instruct local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to cut off access to the offending resource.”

    (tags: russia privacy nsa censorship protectionism internet web)

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Links for 2014-07-04

  • Irish parliament pressing ahead with increased access to retained telecoms data

    While much of the new bill is concerned with the dissolution of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency and the formation of a new merged Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) the new bill also proposed to extend the powers of the new CCPC to help it investigate serious anticompetitive behaviour. Strikingly the new bill proposes to give members of the CCPC the power to access data retained under the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011. As readers will recall this act implements Directive 2006/24/EC which obliges telecommunications companies to archive traffic and location data for a period of up to two years to facilitate the investigation of serious crime. Ireland chose to implement the maximum two year retention period and provided access to An Garda Siochana, The Defence Forces and the Revenue Commissioners. The current reform of Irish competition law now proposes to extend data access powers to the members of the CCPC for the purposes of investigating cartel offences.

    (tags: data-retention privacy surveillance competition ccpc ireland law dri)

  • NSA: Linux Journal is an “extremist forum” and its readers get flagged for extra surveillance has published the relevant XKEYSCORE source code, and if you look closely at the rule definitions, you will see* listed alongside Tails and Tor. According to an article on, the NSA considers Linux Journal an “extremist forum”. This means that merely looking for any Linux content on Linux Journal, not just content about anonymizing software or encryption, is considered suspicious and means your Internet traffic may be stored indefinitely.
    This is, sadly, entirely predictable — that’s what happens when you optimize the system for over-sampling, with poor oversight.

    (tags: false-positives linuxjournal linux terrorism tor tails nsa surveillance snooping xkeyscore selectors oversight)

  • stout

    a C++ library adding some modern language features like Option, Try, Stopwatch, and other Guava-ish things (via @cscotta)

    (tags: c++ library stout option try guava coding)

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Links for 2014-07-03

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Links for 2014-07-02

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Links for 2014-07-01

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Links for 2014-06-30

  • Facebook Doesn’t Understand The Fuss About Its Emotion Manipulation Study

    This is quite unethical, and I’m amazed it was published at all. Kashmir Hill at Forbes nails it:

    While many users may already expect and be willing to have their behavior studied — and while that may be warranted with “research” being one of the 9,045 words in the data use policy — they don’t expect that Facebook will actively manipulate their environment in order to see how they react. That’s a new level of experimentation, turning Facebook from a fishbowl into a petri dish, and it’s why people are flipping out about this.
    Shocking stuff. We need a new social publishing platform, built on ethical, open systems.

    (tags: ethics facebook privacy academia depression feelings emotion social-publishing social experimentation papers)

  • Building a Smarter Application Stack – DevOps Ireland

    This sounds like a very interesting Dublin meetup — Engine Yard on thursday night:

    This month, we’ll have Tomas Doran from Yelp talking about Docker, service discovery, and deployments. ‘There are many advantages to a container based, microservices architecture – however, as always, there is no silver bullet. Any serious deployment will involve multiple host machines, and will have a pressing need to migrate containers between hosts at some point. In such a dynamic world hard coding IP addresses, or even host names is not a viable solution. This talk will take a journey through how Yelp has solved the discovery problems using Airbnb’s SmartStack to dynamically discover service dependencies, and how this is helping unify our architecture, from traditional metal to EC2 ‘immutable’ SOA images, to Docker containers.’

    (tags: meetups talks dublin deployment smartstack ec2 docker yelp service-discovery)

  • Smart Integration Testing with Dropwizard, Flyway and Retrofit

    Retrofit in particular looks neat. Mind you having worked with in-memory SQL databases before for integration testing, I’d never do that again — too many interop glitches compared to “real world” MySQL/Postgres

    (tags: testing integration-testing retrofit flyway dropwizard logentries)

  • Twitter’s TSAR

    TSAR = “Time Series AggregatoR”. Twitter’s new event processor-style architecture for internal metrics. It’s notable that now Twitter and Google are both apparently moving towards this idea of a model of code which is designed to run equally in realtime streaming and batch modes (Summingbird, Millwheel, Flume).

    (tags: analytics architecture twitter tsar aggregation event-processing metrics streaming hadoop batch)

  • ‘Robust De-anonymization of Large Sparse Datasets’ [pdf]

    paper by Arvind Narayanan and Vitaly Shmatikov, 2008. ‘We present a new class of statistical de- anonymization attacks against high-dimensional micro-data, such as individual preferences, recommendations, transaction records and so on. Our techniques are robust to perturbation in the data and tolerate some mistakes in the adversary’s background knowledge. We apply our de-anonymization methodology to the Netflix Prize dataset, which contains anonymous movie ratings of 500,000 subscribers of Netflix, the world’s largest online movie rental service. We demonstrate that an adversary who knows only a little bit about an individual subscriber can easily identify this subscriber’s record in the dataset. Using the Internet Movie Database as the source of background knowledge, we successfully identified the Netflix records of known users, uncovering their apparent political preferences and other potentially sensitive information.’

    (tags: anonymisation anonymization sanitisation databases data-dumps privacy security papers)

  • HSE data releases may be de-anonymisable

    Although the data has been kept anonymous, the increasing sophistication of computer-driven data-mining techniques has led to fears patients could be identified. A HSE spokesman confirmed yesterday that the office responded to requests for data from a variety of sources, including researchers, the universities, GPs, the media, health insurers and pharmaceutical companies. An average of about two requests a week was received. [...] The information provided by the HPO has significant patient identifiers removed, such as name and date of birth. According to the HSE spokesman, individual patient information is not provided and, where information is sought for a small group of patients, this is not provided where the number involved is under five. “In such circumstances, it is highly unlikely that anyone could be identified. Nevertheless, we will have another look at data releases from the office,” he said.
    I’d say this could be readily reversible, from the sounds of it.

    (tags: anonymisation sanitisation data-dumps hse health privacy via:tjmcintyre)

  • Beautiful algorithm visualisations from Mike Bostock

    This is a few days old, but unmissable. I swear, the ‘Wilson’s algorithm transformed into a tidy tree layout’ viz brought tears to my eyes ;)

    (tags: dataviz algorithms visualization visualisation mazes trees sorting animation mike-bostock)

  • ByteArrayOutputStream is really, really slow sometimes in JDK6

    This leads us to the bug. The size of the array is determined by Math.max(buf.length < < 1, newcount). Ordinarily, buf.length << 1 returns double buf.length, which would always be much larger than newcount for a 2 byte write. Why was it not? The problem is that for all integers larger than Integer.MAX_INTEGER / 2, shifting left by one place causes overflow, setting the sign bit. The result is a negative integer, which is always less than newcount. So for all byte arrays larger than 1073741824 bytes (i.e. one GB), any write will cause the array to resize, and only to exactly the size required.

    (tags: bugs java jdk6 bytearrayoutputstream impala performance overflow)

  • Cory Doctorow on Thomas Piketty’s ‘Capital in the 21st Century’

    quite a leftie analysis

    (tags: history capitalism economics piketty capital finance taxation growth money cory-doctorow thomas-piketty)

  • ThreadSanitizer

    Google’s purify/valgrind-like concurrency checking tool: ‘As a bonus, ThreadSanitizer finds some other types of bugs: thread leaks, deadlocks, incorrect uses of mutexes, malloc calls in signal handlers, and more. It also natively understands atomic operations and thus can find bugs in lock-free algorithms. [...] The tool is supported by both Clang and GCC compilers (only on Linux/Intel64). Using it is very simple: you just need to add a -fsanitize=thread flag during compilation and linking. For Go programs, you simply need to add a -race flag to the go tool (supported on Linux, Mac and Windows).’

    (tags: concurrency bugs valgrind threadsanitizer threading deadlocks mutexes locking synchronization coding testing)

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Links for 2014-06-27

  • Sandymount Repair Cafe

    ‘A repair café brings together people with things that need fixin’ with people who have the skills to fix them in a social cafe style environment. It is an effort to move away from the throwaway culture that prevailed at the end of the twentieth century and move towards a more sustainable and enlightened approach to our relationship with consumer goods. Repair cafes are self organising events at a community level run by local volunteers with the support of local community groups, local agencies and other interested organisations. They are not-for-profit but not anti-profit and an important part of their goal is to promote local repair businesses and initiatives. is the online hub of a network of repair cafés across Ireland.’ Sounds interesting: says they’ll be doing it tomorrow from 2-5pm in Sandymount in Dublin.

    (tags: dublin sandymount repair fixing diy frugality repaircafe hardware)

  • Chef Vault

    A way to securely store secrets (auth details, API keys, etc.) in Chef

    (tags: chef storage knife authorisation api-keys security encryption)

  • Amazon EC2 Service Limits Report Now Available

    ‘designed to make it easier for you to view and manage your limits for Amazon EC2 by providing the latest information on service limits and links to quickly request limit increases. EC2 Service Limits Report displays all your service limit information in one place to help you avoid encountering limits on future EC2, EBS, Auto Scaling, and VPC usage.’

    (tags: aws ec2 vpc ebs autoscaling limits ops)

  • Delivery Notifications for Simple Email Service

    Today we are enhancing SES with the addition of delivery notifications. You can now elect to receive an Amazon SNS notification each time SES successfully delivers a message to a recipient’s email server. These notifications give you increased visibility into the mail delivery process. With today’s release, you can now track deliveries, bounces, and complaints, all via notification to the SNS topic or topics of your choice.

    (tags: delivery email smtp ses aws sns notifications ops)

  • How Emoji Get Lost In Translation

    I recently texted a friend to say how I was excited to meet her new boyfriend, and, because “excited” doesn’t look so exciting on an iPhone screen, I editorialized with what seemed then like an innocent “[dancer]“. (Translation: Can’t wait for the fun night out!) On an Android phone, I realized later, that panache would have been a put-down: The dancers become “[playboy bunny].” (Translation: You’re a Playboy bunny who gets around!)

    (tags: emoji icons graphics text speech phones)

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Links for 2014-06-26

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Links for 2014-06-25

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Links for 2014-06-24

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Links for 2014-06-23

  • Startup equity gotcha

    ‘Two months ago, an early Uber employee thought that he had found a buyer for his vested stock, at $200 per share. But when his agent tried to seal the deal, Uber refused to sign off on the transfer. Instead, it offered to buy back the shares for around $135 a piece, which is within the same price range that Google Ventures and TPG Capital had paid to invest in Uber the previous July. Take it or hold it.’ As rbranson on Twitter put it: ‘reminder that startup equity is basically worthless unless you’re a founder or investor, OR the company goes public.’

    (tags: startups uber stock stock-options shares share-option equity via:rbranson work)

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Links for 2014-06-20

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Links for 2014-06-19

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Links for 2014-06-18

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Links for 2014-06-17

  • FlatBuffers: Main Page

    A new serialization format from Google’s Android gaming team, supporting C++ and Java, open source under the ASL v2. Reasons to use it:

    Access to serialized data without parsing/unpacking – What sets FlatBuffers apart is that it represents hierarchical data in a flat binary buffer in such a way that it can still be accessed directly without parsing/unpacking, while also still supporting data structure evolution (forwards/backwards compatibility). Memory efficiency and speed – The only memory needed to access your data is that of the buffer. It requires 0 additional allocations. FlatBuffers is also very suitable for use with mmap (or streaming), requiring only part of the buffer to be in memory. Access is close to the speed of raw struct access with only one extra indirection (a kind of vtable) to allow for format evolution and optional fields. It is aimed at projects where spending time and space (many memory allocations) to be able to access or construct serialized data is undesirable, such as in games or any other performance sensitive applications. See the benchmarks for details. Flexible – Optional fields means not only do you get great forwards and backwards compatibility (increasingly important for long-lived games: don’t have to update all data with each new version!). It also means you have a lot of choice in what data you write and what data you don’t, and how you design data structures. Tiny code footprint – Small amounts of generated code, and just a single small header as the minimum dependency, which is very easy to integrate. Again, see the benchmark section for details. Strongly typed – Errors happen at compile time rather than manually having to write repetitive and error prone run-time checks. Useful code can be generated for you. Convenient to use – Generated C++ code allows for terse access & construction code. Then there’s optional functionality for parsing schemas and JSON-like text representations at runtime efficiently if needed (faster and more memory efficient than other JSON parsers).
    Looks nice, but it misses the language coverage of protobuf. Definitely more practical than capnproto.

    (tags: c++ google java serialization json formats protobuf capnproto storage flatbuffers)

  • AWS SDK for Java Client Configuration

    turns out the AWS SDK has lots of tuning knobs: region selection, socket buffer sizes, and debug logging (including wire logging).

    (tags: aws sdk java logging ec2 s3 dynamodb sockets tuning)

  • Behind the loom band

    The simple woven multicoloured bracelet has made Cheong Choon Ng, a Malaysian immigrant to the US, a dollar millionaire. He invented the “Rainbow Loom” after watching his daughters making bracelets with rubber bands.
    So, really, it’s his daughters that invented it. ;) My kids are massive fans. This is a 100% legit, Rubik’s-Cube-style craze. (via Conor O’Neill)

    (tags: via:conoro loom-bands rubber-bands toys crazes)

  • lookout/ngx_borderpatrol

    BorderPatrol is an nginx module to perform authentication and session management at the border of your network. BorderPatrol makes the assumption that you have some set of services that require authentication and a service that hands out tokens to clients to access that service. You may not want those tokens to be sent across the internet, even over SSL, for a variety of reasons. To this end, BorderPatrol maintains a lookup table of session-id to auth token in memcached.

    (tags: borderpatrol nginx modules authentication session-management web-services http web authorization)

  • Use of Formal Methods at Amazon Web Services

    Chris Newcombe, Marc Brooker, et al. writing about their experience using formal specification and model-checking languages (TLA+) in production in AWS:

    The success with DynamoDB gave us enough evidence to present TLA+ to the broader engineering community at Amazon. This raised a challenge; how to convey the purpose and benefits of formal methods to an audience of software engineers? Engineers think in terms of debugging rather than ‘verification’, so we called the presentation “Debugging Designs”. Continuing that metaphor, we have found that software engineers more readily grasp the concept and practical value of TLA+ if we dub it ‘Exhaustively-testable pseudo-code’. We initially avoid the words ‘formal’, ‘verification’, and ‘proof’, due to the widespread view that formal methods are impractical. We also initially avoid mentioning what the acronym ‘TLA’ stands for, as doing so would give an incorrect impression of complexity.
    More slides at ; proggit discussion at

    (tags: formal-methods model-checking tla tla+ programming distsys distcomp ebs s3 dynamodb aws ec2 marc-brooker chris-newcombe)

  • Call me maybe: RabbitMQ

    We used Knossos and Jepsen to prove the obvious: RabbitMQ is not a lock service. That investigation led to a discovery hinted at by the documentation: in the presence of partitions, RabbitMQ clustering will not only deliver duplicate messages, but will also drop huge volumes of acknowledged messages on the floor. This is not a new result, but it may be surprising if you haven’t read the docs closely–especially if you interpreted the phrase “chooses Consistency and Partition Tolerance” to mean, well, either of those things.

    (tags: rabbitmq network partitions failure cap-theorem consistency ops reliability distcomp jepsen)

  • Jump Consistent Hash: A Fast, Minimal Memory, Consistent Hash Algorithm

    ‘a fast, minimal memory, consistent hash algorithm that can be expressed in about 5 lines of code. In comparison to the algorithm of Karger et al., jump consistent hash requires no storage, is faster, and does a better job of evenly dividing the key space among the buckets and of evenly dividing the workload when the number of buckets changes. Its main limitation is that the buckets must be numbered sequentially, which makes it more suitable for data storage applications than for distributed web caching.’ Implemented in Guava. This is also noteworthy: ‘Google has not applied for patent protection for this algorithm, and, as of this writing, has no plans to. Rather, it wishes to contribute this algorithm to the community.’

    (tags: hashing consistent-hashing google guava memory algorithms sharding)

  • Bike Wheel Spoke ABS Safety Reflective Tube Reflector

    Available in blue, orange, and grey for $2.84 from the insanely-cheap China-based Also available: rim-based reflective stickers

    (tags: bikes cycling reflective safety dealextreme tat)

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Links for 2014-06-16

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Links for 2014-05-29

  • Tracedump

    a single application IP packet sniffer that captures all TCP and UDP packets of a single Linux process. It consists of the following elements: * ptrace monitor – tracks bind(), connect() and sendto() syscalls and extracts local port numbers that the traced application uses; * pcap sniffer – using information from the previous module, it captures IP packets on an AF_PACKET socket (with an appropriate BPF filter attached); * garbage collector – periodically reads /proc/net/{tcp,udp} files in order to detect the sockets that the application no longer uses. As the output, tracedump generates a PCAP file with SLL-encapsulated IP packets – readable by eg. Wireshark. This file can be later used for detailed analysis of the networking operations made by the application. For instance, it might be useful for IP traffic classification systems.

    (tags: debugging networking linux strace ptrace tracedump tracing tcp udp sniffer ip tcpdump)

  • You Are Not a Digital Native: Privacy in the Age of the Internet

    an open letter from Cory Doctorow to teen readers re privacy. ‘The problem with being a “digital native” is that it transforms all of your screw-ups into revealed deep truths about how humans are supposed to use the Internet. So if you make mistakes with your Internet privacy, not only do the companies who set the stage for those mistakes (and profited from them) get off Scot-free, but everyone else who raises privacy concerns is dismissed out of hand. After all, if the “digital natives” supposedly don’t care about their privacy, then anyone who does is a laughable, dinosauric idiot, who isn’t Down With the Kids.’

    (tags: children privacy kids teens digital-natives surveillance cory-doctorow danah-boyd)

  • Shutterbits replacing hardware load balancers with local BGP daemons and anycast

    Interesting approach. Potentially risky, though — heavy use of anycast on a large-scale datacenter network could increase the scale of the OSPF graph, which scales exponentially. This can have major side effects on OSPF reconvergence time, which creates an interesting class of network outage in the event of OSPF flapping. Having said that, an active/passive failover LB pair will already announce a single anycast virtual IP anyway, so, assuming there are a similar number of anycast IPs in the end, it may not have any negative side effects. There’s also the inherent limitation noted in the second-to-last paragraph; ‘It comes down to what your hardware router can handle for ECMP. I know a Juniper MX240 can handle 16 next-hops, and have heard rumors that a software update will bump this to 64, but again this is something to keep in mind’. Taking a leaf from the LB design, and using BGP to load-balance across a smaller set of haproxy instances, would seem like a good approach to scale up.

    (tags: scalability networking performance load-balancing bgp exabgp ospf anycast routing datacenters scaling vips juniper haproxy shutterstock)

  • Tron: Legacy Encom Boardroom Visualization

    this is great. lovely, silly, HTML5 dataviz, with lots of spinning globes and wobbling sines on a black background

    (tags: demo github wikipedia dataviz visualisation mapping globes rob-scanlan graphics html5 animation tron-legacy tron movies)

  • CockroachDB

    a distributed key/value datastore which supports ACID transactional semantics and versioned values as first-class features. The primary design goal is global consistency and survivability, hence the name. Cockroach aims to tolerate disk, machine, rack, and even datacenter failures with minimal latency disruption and no manual intervention. Cockroach nodes are symmetric; a design goal is one binary with minimal configuration and no required auxiliary services. Cockroach implements a single, monolithic sorted map from key to value where both keys and values are byte strings (not unicode). Cockroach scales linearly (theoretically up to 4 exabytes (4E) of logical data). The map is composed of one or more ranges and each range is backed by data stored in RocksDB (a variant of LevelDB), and is replicated to a total of three or more cockroach servers. Ranges are defined by start and end keys. Ranges are merged and split to maintain total byte size within a globally configurable min/max size interval. Range sizes default to target 64M in order to facilitate quick splits and merges and to distribute load at hotspots within a key range. Range replicas are intended to be located in disparate datacenters for survivability (e.g. { US-East, US-West, Japan }, { Ireland, US-East, US-West}, { Ireland, US-East, US-West, Japan, Australia }). Single mutations to ranges are mediated via an instance of a distributed consensus algorithm to ensure consistency. We’ve chosen to use the Raft consensus algorithm. All consensus state is stored in RocksDB. A single logical mutation may affect multiple key/value pairs. Logical mutations have ACID transactional semantics. If all keys affected by a logical mutation fall within the same range, atomicity and consistency are guaranteed by Raft; this is the fast commit path. Otherwise, a non-locking distributed commit protocol is employed between affected ranges. Cockroach provides snapshot isolation (SI) and serializable snapshot isolation (SSI) semantics, allowing externally consistent, lock-free reads and writes–both from an historical snapshot timestamp and from the current wall clock time. SI provides lock-free reads and writes but still allows write skew. SSI eliminates write skew, but introduces a performance hit in the case of a contentious system. SSI is the default isolation; clients must consciously decide to trade correctness for performance. Cockroach implements a limited form of linearalizability, providing ordering for any observer or chain of observers.
    This looks nifty. One to watch.

    (tags: cockroachdb databases storage georeplication raft consensus acid go key-value-stores rocksdb)

  • Tuning LevelDB

    good docs from Riak

    (tags: leveldb tuning performance ops riak)

  • Proof of burn – Bitcoin

    method for bootstrapping one cryptocurrency off of another. The idea is that miners should show proof that they burned some coins – that is, sent them to a verifiably unspendable address. This is expensive from their individual point of view, just like proof of work; but it consumes no resources other than the burned underlying asset. To date, all proof of burn cryptocurrencies work by burning proof-of-work-mined cryptocurrencies, so the ultimate source of scarcity remains the proof-of-work-mined “fuel”.

    (tags: bitcoin proof money mining cryptocurrency)

  • The programming error that cost Mt Gox 2609 bitcoins

    Digging into broken Bitcoin scripts in the blockchain. Fascinating:

    While analyzing coinbase transactions, I came across another interesting bug that lost bitcoins. Some transactions have the meaningless and unredeemable script: OP_IFDUP OP_IF OP_2SWAP OP_VERIFY OP_2OVER OP_DEPTH That script turns out to be the ASCII text script. Instead of putting the redemption script into the transaction, the P2Pool miners accidentally put in the literal word “script”. The associated bitcoins are lost forever due to this error.
    (via Nelson)

    (tags: programming script coding bitcoin mtgox via:nelson scripting dsls)

  • Moquette MQTT

    a Java implementation of an MQTT 3.1 broker. Its code base is small. At its core, Moquette is an events processor; this lets the code base be simple, avoiding thread sharing issues. The Moquette broker is lightweight and easy to understand so it could be embedded in other projects.

    (tags: mqtt moquette netty messaging queueing push-notifications iot internet push eclipse)

  • “Taking the hotdog”

    aka. lock acquisition. ex-Amazon-Dublin lingo, observed in the wild ;)

    (tags: language hotdog archie-mcphee amazon dublin intercom coding locks synchronization)

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Links for 2014-05-23

  • BPF – the forgotten bytecode

    ‘In essence Tcpdump asks the kernel to execute a BPF program within the kernel context. This might sound risky, but actually isn’t. Before executing the BPF bytecode kernel ensures that it’s safe: * All the jumps are only forward, which guarantees that there aren’t any loops in the BPF program. Therefore it must terminate. * All instructions, especially memory reads are valid and within range. * The single BPF program has less than 4096 instructions. All this guarantees that the BPF programs executed within kernel context will run fast and will never infinitely loop. That means the BPF programs are not Turing complete, but in practice they are expressive enough for the job and deal with packet filtering very well.’ Good example of a carefully-designed DSL allowing safe “programs” to be written and executed in a privileged context without security risk, or risk of running out of control.

    (tags: coding dsl security via:oisin linux tcpdump bpf bsd kernel turing-complete configuration languages)

  • Handmade Kitchen Goods from Makers & Brothers – Cool Hunting

    lovely kitchen-gear design from local-boys-made-good Makers & Brothers

    (tags: makers-and-brothers design crafts kitchen nyc terrazo chopping-boards)

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