Links for 2019-10-14

  • Unpopular opinions on solar power

    from Jenny “@solar_chase” Chase. Lots of interesting solar-power factoids, like: 12. A lot of current household PV systems are designed suboptimally and may not make economic sense or even perform well. Also, most countries will move to paying a pittance for solar exports, so self-consumption rate is becoming the most important financial parameter. 13. To financially assess a proposed rooftop solar system, you will need at least a year’s data on hourly electricity consumption to estimate selfconsumption. Also, get it built when you have scaffolding up for something else, scaffolding is expensive.

    (tags: solar solar-power power electricity generation renewables future factoids twitter)

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Links for 2019-10-11

  • thoughts on rms and gnu — wingolog

    I can hear you saying it. RMS started GNU so RMS decides what it is and what it can be. But I don’t accept that. GNU is about practical software freedom, not about RMS. GNU has long outgrown any individual contributor. I don’t think RMS has the legitimacy to tell this group of largely volunteers what we should build or how we should organize ourselves. Or rather, he can say what he thinks, but he has no dominion over GNU; he does not have majority sweat equity in the project. If RMS actually wants the project to outlive him — something that by his actions is not clear — the best thing that he could do for GNU is to stop pretending to run things, to instead declare victory and retire to an emeritus role. Note, however, that my personal perspective here is not a consensus position of the GNU project. There are many (most?) GNU developers that still consider RMS to be GNU’s rightful leader. I think they are mistaken, but I do not repudiate them for this reason; we can work together while differing on this and other matters. I simply state that I, personally, do not serve RMS.

    (tags: rms gnu leadership open-source foss free-software organisations emeritus)

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Links for 2019-10-10

  • UK launched passport photo checker it knew would fail with dark skin | New Scientist

    “User research was carried out with a wide range of ethnic groups and did identify that people with very light or very dark skin found it difficult to provide an acceptable passport photograph,” the department wrote in a document released in response to a freedom of information (FOI) request. “However; the overall performance was judged sufficient to deploy.” Samir Jeraj at the Race Equality Foundation says: “It’s outrageous. It clearly shows it wasn’t a priority for them that it would work for people with black skin.” Jeraj called on the government to be clearer and more robust about what improvements it will make, and by when. In the meantime, he adds it would not cost the passport office anything to put a note on its website acknowledging the issue.
    And it took a fecking FOI to discover this! Terrible.

    (tags: passports racism uk photos biometrics data-quality home-office equality)

  • Origins of the Party Parrot

    … just this week, I got an email from a Florida man claiming to be the person I had been looking for. What’s more, he says he made the original emoji in December 2009 and uploaded it to Something Awful, a website popular in the 2000s for its comedic blog posts and forums. He had no idea his work had turned into a meme until he read my story on Tuesday. 

    (tags: something-awful memes history party-parrot emoticons internet)

  • libeatmydata

    ‘a small LD_PRELOAD library designed to (transparently) disable fsync (and friends, like open(O_SYNC)). This has two side-effects: making software that writes data safely to disk a lot quicker and making this software no longer crash safe.’ Good for tests….

    (tags: fsync linux performance mysql testing)

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Links for 2019-10-09

  • THE HISTORY OF GAMING MAGAZINES: A GALLERY – DIGITISER

    this is incredible

    (tags: gaming magazines funny retrogaming arcade-games games parody digitiser)

  • Gen A

    Most of those under the age of around forty will live lives defined by the anthropocene: by the immense challenges contained in mounting climate chaos and ecological collapse. As these twin calamities evolve, there will be no meaningful way to distinguish between those young generations delineated by marketing agencies: Gen Z and Millennials, the two big generations still under forty. Instead, they will likely become a single transition generation overseeing our move from the old world to a new one. Their shared experiences will be grafted together by the wildfires they’ll weather together, their shared values moulded and alloyed by the acts of violence that have always trailed ecological collapse. The existential crisis inherent to this transition is so dire and so unique that our usual way of demarcating generational cohorts needs revamping, and the generation experiencing it needs a new designation. Welcome Generation Anthropocene, or Gen A, to the social scene.

    (tags: gen-a generations future youth anthropocene climate-change)

  • 150 successful machine learning models: 6 lessons learned at Booking.com

    Good tips for real-world production ML/classification adoption.

    One tactic Booking.com have successfully deployed in these situations with respect to binary classifiers is to look at the distribution of responses generated by the model. “Smooth bimodal distributions with one clear stable point are signs of a model that successfully distinguishes two classes.” Other shapes (see figure below) can be indicative of a model that is struggling.
    Also very interesting to note that people found an over-accurate prediction engine to be “creepy” and an example of the “uncanny valley” effect.

    (tags: learning ml ai machine-learning production booking.com)

  • A quarter of UK mammals and nearly half of birds are at risk of extinction

    A quarter of UK mammals and nearly half of the birds assessed are at risk of extinction, according to the report, which was produced by a coalition of more than 70 wildlife organisations and government conservation agencies. When plants, insects and fungi are added, one in seven of the 8,400 UK species assessed are at risk of being completely lost, with 133 already gone since 1500.

    (tags: xr news horrifying extinction uk wildlife future climate-change)

  • Revealed: the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions

    The top 20 companies on the list have contributed to 35% of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane worldwide, totalling 480bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) since 1965. Those identified range from investor-owned firms – household names such as Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell – to state-owned companies including Saudi Aramco and Gazprom. Chevron topped the list of the eight investor-owned corporations, followed closely by Exxon, BP and Shell. Together these four global businesses are behind more than 10% of the world’s carbon emissions since 1965.

    (tags: coal emissions business gas oil fossil-fuels climate-change co2 carbon chevron exxon bp shell)

  • The big polluters’ masterstroke was to blame the climate crisis on you and me | George Monbiot | Opinion | The Guardian

    the biggest and most successful lie it tells is this: that the first great extermination is a matter of consumer choice. In response to the Guardian’s questions, some of the oil companies argued that they are not responsible for our decisions to use their products. But we are embedded in a system of their creation – a political, economic and physical infrastructure that creates an illusion of choice while, in reality, closing it down. We are guided by an ideology so familiar and pervasive that we do not even recognise it as an ideology. It is called consumerism. It has been crafted with the help of skilful advertisers and marketers, by corporate celebrity culture, and by a media that casts us as the recipients of goods and services rather than the creators of political reality. It is locked in by transport, town planning and energy systems that make good choices all but impossible. It spreads like a stain through political systems, which have been systematically captured by lobbying and campaign finance, until political leaders cease to represent us, and work instead for the pollutocrats who fund them. In such a system, individual choices are lost in the noise. […] This individuation of responsibility, intrinsic to consumerism, blinds us to the real drivers of destruction.

    (tags: capitalism consumerism fossil-fuels climate-change plastic-straws keep-cups)

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Links for 2019-10-08

  • Scylla compression benchmarks

    ScyllaDB tested out LZ4, Snappy, DEFLATE, and ZStandard at several different levels on a decently real-world-ish workload. tl;dr:

    Use compression. Unless you are using a really (but REALLY) fast hard drive, using the default compression settings will be even faster than disabling compression, and the space savings are huge. When running a data warehouse where data is mostly being read and only rarely updated, consider using DEFLATE. It provides very good compression ratios while maintaining high decompression speeds; compression can be slower, but that might be unimportant for your workload. If your workload is write-heavy but you really care about saving disk space, consider using ZStandard on level 1. It provides a good middle-ground between LZ4/Snappy and DEFLATE in terms of compression ratios and keeps compression speeds close to LZ4 and Snappy. Be careful however: if you often want to read cold data (from the SSTables on disk, not currently stored in memory, so for example data that was inserted a long time ago), the slower decompression might become a problem.

    (tags: compression scylladb storage deflate zstd zstandard lz4 snappy gzip benchmarks tests performance)

  • Financial supports to growing forests on farmland in Ireland

    Rather than focusing on the production of a commercial conifer (or broadleaf) timber crop, you can also choose to establish a new native woodland. Not only will an ecologically rich, biodiverse woodland be created, but it also presents opportunities for planting in various environmentally sensitive areas such as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Establishing a native woodland will provide you with higher annual payments of €665-€680/ha/yr for 15 years.

    (tags: farming forestry trees growing rewilding ireland funds)

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Links for 2019-10-07

  • electricityMap

    This is fascinating! ‘a live visualization of where your electricity comes from and how much CO2 was emitted to produce it.’ (via ClimateAction.tech)

    (tags: electricity statistics graphs data energy climate renewables carbon co2)

  • Project Drawdown

    ‘The objective of the solutions list is to be inclusive, presenting an extensive array of impactful measures already in existence. The list is comprised primarily of “no regrets” solutions—actions that make sense to take regardless of their climate impact since they have intrinsic benefits to communities and economies. These initiatives improve lives, create jobs, restore the environment, enhance security, generate resilience, and advance human health.’ A little over-optimistic IMO, but a good resource nonetheless

    (tags: climate-change society environment climate drawdown future)

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Links for 2019-10-04

  • “See bike, say bike”

    This is useful advice, on how to avoid the SMIDSY, or “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you”, accident type.

    When we looked at what predicts whether you do remember the motorbike, it’s not whether you looked at it, or how long you looked at it for, it’s what you do afterwards. So the more things you look at after the motorbike, the more likely you are to forget it. Now that looks like forgetting, not a failure to attend to it in the first place. […] it looks as though this error is a limitation in short term memory. Now what we do know about short term memory, and we’ve known since the 1960s, is that you’ve got two types of short term memory that are essentially independent systems. You’ve got visuospatial working memory, for the things you look at and you’ve got phonological short term memory. That’s a verbal form of store for things you say. The two are separate. So I’ve suggested that if you’re at a junction and you see a motorbike or a pedal cycle coming, you just say aloud or under your breath, “bike”, that will automatically encode it in phonological working memory. That gives you extra capacity, essentially doubling the amount of stuff you can remember. See bike, say bike could be a simple intervention that might make a big difference.

    (tags: memory cycling safety roads driving smidsy accidents attention brain)

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Links for 2019-10-02

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Links for 2019-10-01

  • JSON originally had comments. They were removed

    Oh christ. This is some terrible logic from Douglas Crockford:

    Comments in JSON (Apr 30, 2012) I removed comments from JSON because I saw people were using them to hold parsing directives, a practice which would have destroyed interoperability. I know that the lack of comments makes some people sad, but it shouldn’t. Suppose you are using JSON to keep configuration files, which you would like to annotate. Go ahead and insert all the comments you like. Then pipe it through JSMin before handing it to your JSON parser.
    I’ve never even _heard_ of JSMin. Meanwhile various tools which chose to use JSON as a configuration file format work around this crappy decision with messy hacks.

    (tags: hacks json bad-decisions design apis configuration file-formats javascript douglas-crockford fail jsmin parsing comments)

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Links for 2019-09-30

  • How To Use The Bridgefy Offline Messaging App

    Decent offline messaging system for smartphones — uses Bluetooth to connect p2p, without requiring working internet

    (tags: apps mobile offline networking bluetooth chat emergency)

  • The Loudest Sound Ever Heard

    The Krakatoa explosion registered 172 decibels at 100 miles from the source. This is so astonishingly loud, that it’s inching up against the limits of what we mean by “sound.” When you hum a note or speak a word, you’re wiggling air molecules back and forth dozens or hundreds of times per second, causing the air pressure to be low in some places and high in other places. The louder the sound, the more intense these wiggles, and the larger the fluctuations in air pressure. But there’s a limit to how loud a sound can get. At some point, the fluctuations in air pressure are so large that the low pressure regions hit zero pressure—a vacuum—and you can’t get any lower than that. This limit happens to be about 194 decibels for a sound in Earth’s atmosphere. Any louder, and the sound is no longer just passing through the air, it’s actually pushing the air along with it, creating a pressurized burst of moving air known as a shock wave.[…] Amazingly, for as many as 5 days after the explosion, weather stations in 50 cities around the globe observed this unprecedented spike in pressure re-occuring like clockwork, approximately every 34 hours. That is roughly how long it takes sound to travel around the entire planet.

    (tags: sound shockwaves earth krakatoa disasters volcanos eruptions noise decibels)

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Links for 2019-09-27

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Links for 2019-09-26

  • Scott Aaronson on Google’s quantum supremacy leaked paper

    It seems a paper between Google and NASA accidentally leaked a couple of days ago, saying that a group at Google has now achieved quantum computational supremacy with a 53-qubit superconducting device. According to Scott Aaronson, a noted quantum-computation expert, this is a Big Deal and a significant moment in scientific progress:

    It’s like, have a little respect for the immensity of what we’re talking about here, and for the terrifying engineering that’s needed to make it reality. Before quantum supremacy, by definition, the QC skeptics can all laugh to each other that, for all the billions of dollars spent over 20+ years, still no quantum computer has even once been used to solve any problem faster than your laptop could solve it, or at least not in any way that depended on its being a quantum computer. In a post-quantum-supremacy world, that’s no longer the case. A superposition involving 250 or 260 complex numbers has been computationally harnessed, using time and space resources that are minuscule compared to 250 or 260. I keep bringing up the Wright Flyer only because the chasm between what we’re talking about, and the dismissiveness I’m seeing in some corners of the Internet, is kind of breathtaking to me. It’s like, if you believed that useful air travel was fundamentally impossible, then seeing a dinky wooden propeller plane keep itself aloft wouldn’t refute your belief … but it sure as hell shouldn’t reassure you either.

    (tags: google programming quantum-computing qubits future science qc history research)

  • Isolating workloads with Systemd slices

    Systemd supports docker-like cgroups isolation, it seems, and ScyllaDB can take advantage of that

    (tags: systemd cgroups process-isolation linux containerisation scylladb ops)

  • GNOME Foundation facing lawsuit from Rothschild Patent Imaging

    Software patents are a cancer. ‘The GNOME Foundation has been made aware of a lawsuit from Rothschild Patent Imaging, LLC over patent 9,936,086. Rothschild allege that Shotwell, a free and open source personal photo manager infringes this patent. Neil McGovern, Executive Director for the GNOME Foundation says “We have retained legal counsel and intend to vigorously defend against this baseless suit.”’

    (tags: software-patents swpats shotwell gnome linux open-source patents)

  • IPCC Report: Oceans Face ‘Unprecedented Conditions’

    The IPCC report on the ocean is full of utterly disastrous science. One example:

    The dangerous changes to the ocean don’t even begin to address the impacts of rising seas. Under all climate change scenarios, coastal areas will see what the report euphemistically calls “extreme sea level events”—that would be floods to you and me—that were once once-in-a-century will become annual occurrences by century’s end. But devastating effects will impact unnumbered people far sooner. “Many low-lying megacities and small islands (including SIDS) are projected to experience historical centennial events at least annually by 2050,” the report authors wrote.
    Bottom line: ‘The world has shown little appetite to take a collaborative approach to these types of adaptation projects let alone drawing down emissions to-date, but the tide will have to turn if humanity is to have any chance of staying above water.’

    (tags: climate-change climate oceans sea-level disasters future 2050)

  • Green New Deal critics are missing the bigger picture

    This Vox article absolutely nails what we are facing, and why there’s no longer any room to _not_ implement a Green New Deal world wide.

    New EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler recently dismissed the latest IPCC report as being based on a “worst-case scenario,” which is darkly ironic, since the report is all about the dangers that lie between 1.5 and 2 degrees of warming. But 2 degrees is not the worst-case scenario. It is among the best-case scenarios. The UN thinks we’re headed for somewhere around 4 degrees by 2100. Believing that we can limit temperature rise to 2 degrees — a level of warming scientists view as catastrophic — now counts as wild-haired optimism. […] Two degrees would be terrible, but it’s better than three, at which point Southern Europe would be in permanent drought, African droughts would last five years on average, and the areas burned annually by wildfires in the United States could quadruple, or worse, from last year’s million-plus acres. And three degrees is much better than four, at which point six natural disasters could strike a single community simultaneously; the number of climate refugees, already in the millions, could grow tenfold, or 20-fold, or more; and, globally, damages from warming could reach $600?trillion — about double all the wealth that exists in the world today. The worst-case scenario, which, contra Wheeler, is virtually never discussed in polite political circles in the US, is, as Wallace-Wells quotes famed naturalist David Attenborough saying, “the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world.” That is alarming and, if you must, “alarmist,” but as Wallace-Wells says, “being alarmed is not a sign of being hysterical; when it comes to climate change, being alarmed is what the facts demand.” […] Choosing to continue down our present path is madness. Nihilism. It is not “moderation.”

    (tags: activism climate-change climate green-new-deal green future ipcc david-attenborough nihilism politics)

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Links for 2019-09-25

  • Neurosexism: the myth that men and women have different brains

    The history of sex-difference research is rife with innumeracy, misinterpretation, publication bias, weak statistical power, inadequate controls and worse. Rippon, a leading voice against the bad neuroscience of sex differences, uncovers so many examples in this ambitious book that she uses a whack-a-mole metaphor to evoke the eternal cycle. A brain study purports to discover a difference between men and women; it is publicized as, ‘At last, the truth!’, taunting political correctness; other researchers expose some hyped extrapolation or fatal design flaw; and, with luck, the faulty claim fades away — until the next post hoc analysis produces another ‘Aha!’ moment and the cycle repeats. As Rippon shows, this hunt for brain differences “has been vigorously pursued down the ages with all the techniques that science could muster”. And it has exploded in the past three decades, since MRI research joined the fray. Yet, as ‘The Gendered Brain’ reveals, conclusive findings about sex-linked brain differences have failed to materialize.

    (tags: brain men nature women gender sexism neurology neurosexism myths debunking)

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Links for 2019-09-23

  • AIB makes a mess of security upgrade, locking out thousands of customers

    Ireland’s largest bank, and they’ve really made a mess of this. Lots of false positives on the “rooted device” detection code it seems. It seems detecting “rooted” devices is a part of the PSD2 spec, and you have to wonder why…

    (tags: aib security fail rooting devices mobile paranoia)

  • A deconstruction of the BBC’s “windmills actually increase global warming” article about SF6 from last week

    ‘This is a neat example of how eminently resolvable challenges around the clean power transition are framed by deniers and ideologues as incurable curses, while actual scientists and engineers just get on with fixing them.’ As Aoife McLysaght notes: ‘This is a great, informative thread. Yes SF6 is has a warming effect, but it’s released v little, is a feature of all switches (not only wind turbines as implied), and alternatives are in the works. Wind turbines aren’t zero emissions but they are v low.’

    (tags: sf6 emissions wind electricity global-warming climate-change bbc bias science)

  • Crash Course | The New Republic

    Boeing’s MCAS disaster as a parable of late-stage capitalism:

    [Boeing] engineers devised a software fix called MCAS, which pushed the nose down in response to an obscure set of circumstances in conjunction with the “speed trim system,” which Boeing had devised in the 1980s to smooth takeoffs. Once the 737 MAX materialized as a real-life plane about four years later, however, test pilots discovered new realms in which the plane was more stall-prone than its predecessors. So Boeing modified MCAS to turn down the nose of the plane whenever an angle-of-attack (AOA) sensor detected a stall, regardless of the speed. That involved giving the system more power and removing a safeguard, but not, in any formal or genuine way, running its modifications by the FAA, which might have had reservations with two critical traits of the revamped system: Firstly, that there are two AOA sensors on a 737, but only one, fatefully, was programmed to trigger MCAS. The former Boeing engineer Ludtke and an anonymous whistle-blower interviewed by 60 Minutes Australia both have a simple explanation for this: Any program coded to take data from both sensors would have had to account for the possibility the sensors might disagree with each other and devise a contingency for reconciling the mixed signals. Whatever that contingency, it would have involved some kind of cockpit alert, which would in turn have required additional training—probably not level-D training, but no one wanted to risk that. So the system was programmed to turn the nose down at the feedback of a single (and somewhat flimsy) sensor. And, for still unknown and truly mysterious reasons, it was programmed to nosedive again five seconds later, and again five seconds after that, over and over ad literal nauseam.? And then, just for good measure, a Boeing technical pilot emailed the FAA and casually asked that the reference to the software be deleted from the pilot manual.? So no more than a handful of people in the world knew MCAS even existed before it became infamous. Here, a generation after Boeing’s initial lurch into financialization, was the entirely predictable outcome of the byzantine process by which investment capital becomes completely abstracted from basic protocols of production and oversight: a flight-correction system that was essentially jerry-built to crash a plane. “If you’re looking for an example of late stage capitalism or whatever you want to call it,” said longtime aerospace consultant Richard Aboulafia, “it’s a pretty good one.”?

    (tags: boeing business capitalism engineering management fail disasters automation cost-control stock-market fly-by-wire)

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Fixing echoing sound effects with Huawei Histen

Here’s a quick tip for people using Huawei or Honor phones.

Huawei recently released EMUI version 9.1.0.326 as an OTA update, which I applied once it was offered as an upgrade option.

Once I installed that OS upgrade, however, I noticed that whenever I listened to music or podcasts using a Bluetooth headset or stereo speakers, there was a new and very noticeable ‘echoing’ effect on the audio.

It appears this was due to the addition of Huawei Histen, a 3D audio/equaliser feature, which apparently will add 3D audio effects when listening on wired headphones of various varieties — however this is supposed to be disabled on Bluetooth devices.

I spent several days fruitlessly googling how to disable Histen, but with no luck. Eventually, through trial and error, I discovered a workaround — simply plug in a pair of wired headphones, go into Settings -> Sounds -> Huawei Histen sound effects, and choose “Natural sound”. Hey presto, next time you use Bluetooth headphones, it should no longer have the echo.

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Links for 2019-09-18

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Links for 2019-09-16

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Links for 2019-09-13

  • Facing the Great Reckoning Head-On – danah boyd – Medium

    “Move fast and break things” is an abomination if your goal is to create a healthy society. Taking short-cuts may be financially profitable in the short-term, but the cost to society is too great to be justified. In a healthy society, we accommodate differently abled people through accessibility standards, not because it’s financially prudent but because it’s the right thing to do. In a healthy society, we make certain that the vulnerable amongst us are not harassed into silence because that is not the value behind free speech. In a healthy society, we strategically design to increase social cohesion because binaries are machine logic not human logic.

    (tags: medialab mit speech tech society danah-boyd)

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Links for 2019-09-12

  • Fairphone 3 Teardown – iFixit

    ‘We tear down the modular Fairphone 3 with a giant grin on our faces! It’s not perfect, but this is just about all we can ask for from a smartphone in 2019.’ Quite nice — modular, reminiscent of the Samsung S5 a little. specs are not stellar, but the ethical construction is a major win IMO. I think this (or the next model if it’s out by then) might be my next phone.

    (tags: repair mobile hardware phones fairphone ethics fairtrade)

  • Paul Vixie’s answer to “was DNS intentionally designed to be insecure?”

    no. nor ip itself, or ncp which preceded it, or tcp, or udp, or icmp, or smtp, ot http. it was insecure because it evolved in a safe, germ free academic bubble. absolutely none of it was designed with billions of people in mind, or the full cross section of humanity which would include criminals and national intelligence services. the world of the internet in 2019 would have been seen as a total freak show by the community who deployed dns in the 1980’s. nothing that can be abused won’t be. you may or may not believe this; it’s considered controversial, and there are arguments being had about it today. but noone considered that now-controversial near-truism at all when the core internet protocols were first designed and implemented. the idea of abuse was considered novel in the 1990’s when commercialization and privatization brought abuse into the internet world and burst the academic bubble. a lot of old timers blamed AOL and MSN and even Usenet for the problems, but in actuality, it’s what humans _always_ do at scale. putting the full spectrum of human culture atop a technology platform designed for academic and professional culture should have been understood to be a recipe for disaster.

    (tags: ietf computers abuse internet security dns paul-vixie history scale culture)

  • Project Alternator · scylladb/scylla Wiki

    an open-source project for an Amazon DynamoDB-compatible API. Alternator runs within Scylla. Enabling it is as simple as editing the yaml configuration. Existing DynamoDB clients would simply be pointed at the Scylla cluster. No other client coding is required.

    (tags: dynamodb aws emulation scylla ops)

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Links for 2019-09-11

  • Millennium Challenge 2002 – Wikipedia

    omg I never knew about this. Post 9/11, the Bush administration ran a war game scenario which resulted in a massive fail for the US forces, and had to be re-run to ensure they won: ‘At this point, the exercise was suspended, Blue’s ships were “re-floated”, and the rules of engagement were changed; this was later justified by General Peter Pace as follows: “You kill me in the first day and I sit there for the next 13 days doing nothing, or you put me back to life and you get 13 more days’ worth of experiment out of me. Which is a better way to do it?”[1] After the reset, both sides were ordered to follow predetermined plans of action. After the war game was restarted, its participants were forced to follow a script drafted to ensure a Blue Force victory. Among other rules imposed by this script, Red Force was ordered to turn on their anti-aircraft radar in order for them to be destroyed, and was not allowed to shoot down any of the aircraft bringing Blue Force troops ashore.[3] Van Riper also claimed that exercise officials denied him the opportunity to use his own tactics and ideas against Blue Force, and that they also ordered Red Force not to use certain weapons systems against Blue Force and even ordered the location of Red Force units to be revealed.[4]’

    (tags: military funny fail wargames history bush do-overs)

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Links for 2019-09-10

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Links for 2019-09-09

  • TIL: bananas contain the primary compound in the honeybee’s “alarm” pheromone

    Science helps us explain the phenomena. Turns out bananas contain a compound called isoamyl acetate (also known as isopentyl acetate) – the very same as that which is in honeybees’ alarm pheromone. Pure banana oil (used in emollients, perfumes, and to broaden the flavored milk range) is nothing but this colorless liquid ester, occasionally mixed with other chemicals. While bees’ alarm pheromone isn’t just isoamyl acetate – in fact there are over 40 compounds in the cocktail – it is the main active component. Guard bees, who patrol the entrance, and stinger bees, who comprise the militia, are the two castes within the hive most likely to release the pheromone. Both of these are worker bees (i.e. female) around 2-3 weeks old – the time it takes for their endocrine system to reach its prime. The scent – excreted from the Koschevnikov gland and other glands around the sting shaft – is released either when the bee pops out its stinger (like a cat retracting its claws), or goes full kamikaze and harpoons the mouse, robber bee or luckless human, rear-end first (inevitably dying in the assault). Having volatile properties, the ester evaporates and disperses rapidly from the origin point of the bee’s butt, making it suitable as a swift communication carrier. Once registered, it alerts the colony to the presence of an intruder or threat, lifting their aggro, and effectively coordinating an en masse defensive response. Any stray, lingering waft of a banana about you, then, will trigger a similar reaction (if slightly less intense). Don’t put too much faith in your smoker to avail you either.

    (tags: bees honeybees science pheromones fruit bananas factoids)

  • The history of the Ampersand

    via the Tironian notes, a Roman shorthand syntax which originated the ‘Tironian et’ (?), Pompeii, and the Book of Kells (via Code Points)

    (tags: ampersand characters via:codepoints history writing shorthand tironian-notes ciphers)

  • Google release an open-source differential-privacy lib

    Differentially-private data analysis is a principled approach that enables organizations to learn from the majority of their data while simultaneously ensuring that those results do not allow any individual’s data to be distinguished or re-identified. This type of analysis can be implemented in a wide variety of ways and for many different purposes. For example, if you are a health researcher, you may want to compare the average amount of time patients remain admitted across various hospitals in order to determine if there are differences in care. Differential privacy is a high-assurance, analytic means of ensuring that use cases like this are addressed in a privacy-preserving manner. Currently, we provide algorithms to compute the following: Count Sum Mean Variance Standard deviation Order statistics (including min, max, and median)

    (tags: analytics google ml privacy differential-privacy aggregation statistics obfuscation approximation algorithms)

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Links for 2019-09-06

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Links for 2019-09-05

  • Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: A multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer – ScienceDirect

    hee hee:

    Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from [coronary artery bypass graft surgery], but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.

    (tags: prayer religion funny papers science research health medicine surgery)

  • Minecraft now publishing deobfuscation maps

    About time too.

    In an effort to help make modding the game easier, we have decided to publish our game obfuscation maps with all future releases of the game, starting today. This means that anyone who is interested may deobfuscate the game and find their way around the code without needing to spend a few months figuring out what’s what. It is our hope that mod authors and mod framework authors use these files to augment their updating processes that they have today. These mappings will always be available, instantly and immediately as part of every newly released version. This does not, however, change the existing restrictions on what you may or may not do with our game code or assets. The links to the obfuscation mappings are included as part of the version manifest json, and may be automatically pulled for any given version.

    (tags: minecraft obfuscation microsoft mods modding community coding games)

  • Vox Hiberionacum explains the Loch Ness Monster’s apocryphal origins

    The clue is the origin story, fuckos… And it’s just that. A hagiographical motif in a story. In the original Life of Columba, by Adomnán, which is a string of stories drowning in Christian metaphor, it’s refered to as Aquatilis Bestiae, a ‘water beast’. But its not the point of the story. If you read [the] actual episode, point is that blue arsed pagan pictish feckers who witness Columba scaring the bejaysis out of the waterbeast (away from a devout follower, bravely swimming in river, full of faith, despite the danger) are impressed. In other words. It’s some class of a metaphor. Now hold that thought, and go look up Leviathan motif in Hebrew Bible, or Beast from the Sea in Revelation, and/or other water beast appearances in medieval hagiography… Revelation 13:1-10 (ESV) The First Beast – And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. [….] In other words: Modern day Nessie Bolloxology, Tourist Trap Tat and Snake Oil ‘Scientists’ looking for funding, are all entirely based on actual seventh century insular Irish imagination and religious metaphor. The end.

    (tags: loch-ness sea-monsters picts history columba columbanus metaphor myth legends)

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Links for 2019-09-04

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Links for 2019-09-03

  • Trees on the Land

    a cross-border initiative working to establish young native trees across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. We run an annual tree planting event where landowners across the 32 counties turn out to plant their trees on a selected Saturday in February.  Our next planting day is Saturday 15th February 2020. We provide simple schemes for landowners to access quality native tree mixes each season.  We work with farmers, smallholders, community groups, councils, schools, colleges and many other landowners to coordinate sites to accommodate trees. Our vision is to establish tree cover and woodland in rural and urban areas that will grow for many years and provide valuable resources, beneficial ecosystem services and a lasting legacy for future generations.

    (tags: trees nature ireland woods green climate-change regreening rewilding)

  • Shape the future: 3D Printing a Sustainable World

    our planet needs bright ideas and new ways of thinking, consuming and living. Pitch your idea and I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing, will turn the winning idea for sustainability into 3D printed reality.

    (tags: 3d-printing future sustainability design ireland sfi)

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Links for 2019-09-02

  • AWS Post-Event Summaries

    ‘A list of post-event summaries from major service events that impacted AWS service availability’

    (tags: postmortems post-mortems aws ops outages availability)

  • The Plan to Use Fitbit Data to Stop Mass Shootings Is One of the Scariest Proposals Yet

    “The proposed data collection goes beyond absurdity when they mention the desire to collect FitBit data,” Annas told Gizmodo. “I am unaware of any study linking walking too much and committing mass murder. As for the other technologies, what are these people expecting? ‘Alexa, tell me the best way to kill a lot of people really quickly’? Really?” [….] Fridel said that “literally any risk factor identified for mass shooters will result in millions of false positives,” adding that the most reliable risk factor is gender, and that most mass murderers are male. “Should we create a list of all men in the United States and keep tabs on them?” she said. “Although it would be absurd and highly unethical, doing so would be more effective than keeping a list of persons with mental illness.”

    (tags: dystopia technology grim-meathook-future data-protection data-privacy fitbit harpa)

  • The Irish Native Woodland Trust are fundraising

    “We’re raising funds to help to plant trees on our reserves [in Ireland] and to create more woodland nature reserves like the 11 we already manage, from Donegal to Waterford”

    (tags: trees wildlife nature carbon climate-change rewilding ireland)

  • The Secret History of Dune – Los Angeles Review of Books

    The Sabres of Paradise (1960) served as one of those sources, a half-forgotten masterpiece of narrative history recounting a mid-19th century Islamic holy war against Russian imperialism in the Caucasus. […] Anyone who has obsessed over the mythology of Dune will immediately recognize the language Herbert borrowed from Blanch’s work. Chakobsa, a Caucasian hunting language, becomes the language of a galactic diaspora in Herbert’s universe. Kanly, from a word for blood feud among the Islamic tribes of the Caucasus, signifies a vendetta between Dune’s great spacefaring dynasties. Kindjal, the personal weapon of the region’s Islamic warriors, becomes a knife favored by Herbert’s techno-aristocrats. As Blanch writes, “No Caucasian man was properly dressed without his kindjal.”

    (tags: books dune frank-herbert lesley-blanch caucasus scifi)

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Links for 2019-08-29

  • Does Kafka really guarantee the order of messages? – SoftwareMill Tech Blog

    tl;dr: nope —

    It is worth to know that default configuration can lead to producing messages in the wrong order when a failure happens, and if message order is important for your application you can have a lot of trouble because someone told you about the guarantees that as you can see are not always true.

    (tags: messaging kafka streaming ordering exactly-once distcomp events)

  • Solid advice on what to do in case the government shuts down the internet

    ….as is feared will happen right now in Hong Kong.

    Dear Hong Kong friends: as people are worried about an internet shutdown, do not be afraid to make plans now. Find a VPN that you like and test it out. If Telegram is unusable, use Signal or WhatsApp (both are safe). If LIHGK is not usable, use Reddit or Facebook groups. Above all, please remember that one of the biggest enemies you face are rumors. These will get worse if Internet access is curtailed; be careful about unverified news. As a general rule, you are best served by using a very big site (like Facebook or Google) than something small. The very big sites are harder to shut down and to attack. They also have security teams that make it harder for people to interfere with them. Whatever backup plan you have, test it while things are still working, so you don’t have to learn it when under lots of stress. Twitter is another good choice for sharing information quickly. Google is also a safe option for chat/messages. All of these companies have experience fighting Chinese interference and will fight for you in case there is an effort to limit internet access in Hong Kong. My biggest piece of advice: do not forget to look at cat pictures once in a while to reduce anxiety and stress!
    VPN recommendations, via Zeynep Tufekci: ‘the three I heard most about were: @getcloak (now encrypt.me), @theTunnelBear (PAID) and @FreedomeVPN. Don’t use free ones.’

    (tags: security privacy internet shutdown via:pinboard via:zeynep hong-kong)

  • Well Networked Self-Driving Cars Become A Surveillance Nightmare?

    It’s time to establish precedents that the fleets of advanced cars on the road do not become a giant surveillance apparatus. That it should be illegal for police to request that car fleets perform surveillance for them. That companies operating fleets resist such requests when they come, in the courts if they have to.

    (tags: cars driving future surveillance cctv anpr alpr police privacy)

  • How googly eyes solved one of today’s trickiest UX problems

    ‘A little robot at a library in Helsinki went from reviled to beloved, all because it got a new pair of plastic eyes.’ AWWWW

    (tags: googly-eyes robots ux design cute funny)

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Links for 2019-08-22

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Links for 2019-08-21

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Links for 2019-08-19

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Links for 2019-08-16

  • “Trees in early Ireland” – Augustine Henry Memorial Lecture, Royal Dublin Society

    ‘In this article an attempt is made to identify all the twenty-eight trees and shrubs which are listed in Old Irish law-text of about the eight century AD. There is also an account of trees which are mentioned in early Irish poetry and proverbs, as well as brief description of woods and woodland management in pre-Norman Ireland. The article concludes with a discussion of tree-references in early English, Scottish and Welsh sources.’ Particularly noteworthy are the 7 “lords of the wood” (airig fedo): 1. Dair ‘oak’ (Quercus robur, Quercus petraea) 2. Coil ‘hazel’ (Corylus avellana) 3. Cuilenn ‘holly’ (Ilex aquifolium) 4. Ibar ‘yew’ (Taxus baccata) 5. Uinnius ‘ash’ (Fraxinus excelsior) 6. Ochtach ‘Scots pine’ (Pinus sylvestris) 7. Aball ‘wild apple-tree’ (Malus pumila) (via Valen)

    (tags: lords-of-the-wood woods forestry forest history ireland trees shrubs woodland rewilding via:valen)

  • Irish State told to delete ‘unlawful’ data on 3.2m citizens

    This is amazing:

    The State has been told it must delete data held on 3.2 million citizens, which was gathered as part of the roll-out of the Public Services Card, as there is no lawful basis for retaining it. In a highly critical report on its investigation into the card, the Data Protection Commission found there was no legal reason to make individuals obtain the card in order to access State services such as renewing a driving licence or applying for a college grant. […] Helen Dixon, the Data Protection Commissioner, told The Irish Times that forcing people to obtain such a card for services other than those provided by the department was “unlawful from a data-processing point of view”.

    (tags: psc ireland politics data-privacy privacy data-collection dpo dpc)

  • Climeworks Shop

    direct-to-consumer sales for carbon-sequestration tech — effectively crowdfunding CCS with a monthly subscription

    (tags: co2 climate carbon-sequestration ccs crowdfunding)

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Links for 2019-08-15

  • What the Heck Is Crab Rangoon Anyway? – Gastro Obscura

    this is great. Crab Rangoon (which I’ve never heard of on this side of the pond!) is a wholly concocted “preposterous dish”:

    Crab rangoon is a pure distillation of tiki fusion weirdness. There was a strange, circular movement between tiki food and American Chinese food. Trader Vic’s created tiki food by making American Chinese food seem more tropical; American Chinese restaurants took his dishes right back and made them more American Chinese. The American Chinese version tends toward cheaper imitation crab, which is made, usually, of pollock blended with starch and other binders, crab flavoring, and red food coloring. Imitation crab simply wasn’t available to Trader Vic—it started being produced in 1975—and it’s also neither Polynesian nor Chinese, but Japanese. American Chinese crab rangoon is a 1940s crab-and-cream-cheese dip stuffed into a wonton and deep-fried—a pure distillation of tiki fusion weirdness. Crab rangoon is, after all, a preposterous dish. Many of the responses I got in my survey were sheepish, or seemed overly proud, as if to mask the problem of loving a dish that is utterly uncool, wildly outdated, and not even in the same ballpark as authenticity.

    (tags: tiki kitsch food gastro crab crab-rangoon trader-vics usa history)

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Links for 2019-08-14

  • How YouTube Radicalized Brazil

    YouTube’s search and recommendation system appears to have systematically diverted users to far-right and conspiracy channels in Brazil. A New York Times investigation in Brazil found that, time and again, videos promoted by the site have upended central elements of daily life. Teachers describe classrooms made unruly by students who quote from YouTube conspiracy videos or who, encouraged by right-wing YouTube stars, secretly record their instructors. Some parents look to “Dr. YouTube” for health advice but get dangerous misinformation instead, hampering the nation’s efforts to fight diseases like Zika. Viral videos have incited death threats against public health advocates. And in politics, a wave of right-wing YouTube stars ran for office alongside Mr. Bolsonaro, some winning by historic margins. Most still use the platform, governing the world’s fourth-largest democracy through internet-honed trolling and provocation. YouTube’s recommendation system is engineered to maximize watchtime, among other factors, the company says, but not to favor any political ideology. The system suggests what to watch next, often playing the videos automatically, in a never-ending quest to keep us glued to our screens.

    (tags: youtube politics brazil future grim engagement machine-learning google zika)

  • security-bulletins/2019-002.md at master · Netflix/security-bulletins

    A variety of DOS attacks against HTTP/2 server-side implementations

    (tags: http2 dos security attacks netflix)

  • IBM’s photo-scraping scandal shows what a weird bubble AI researchers live in – MIT Technology Review

    scraping data from publicly available sources is so much of an industry standard that it’s taught as a foundational skill (sans ethics) in most data science and machine-learning training. […] this story highlights the need for the tech industry to adapt its cultural norms and standard practices to keep pace with the rapid evolution of the technology itself, as well as the public’s awareness of how their data is used.

    (tags: scraping privacy data ai big-data data-privacy flickr photos machine-learning)

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Links for 2019-08-12

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Links for 2019-08-11

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Links for 2019-08-09

  • Google Employee Alleges Discrimination Against Pregnant Women in Viral Memo – VICE

    “During one conversation with my new manager in which I reiterated an early leave and upcoming bedrest, she told me that she had just listened to an NPR segment that debunked the benefits of bedrest,” she wrote. “She also shared that her doctor had ordered her to take bedrest, but that she ignored the order and worked up until the day before she delivered her son via cesarean section. My manager then emphasized in this same meeting that a management role was no longer guaranteed upon my return from maternity leave, and that she supported my interviewing for other roles at Google.”

    (tags: pregnancy life hr work google peopleops leaks bedrest maternity-leave career)

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Links for 2019-08-08

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Links for 2019-08-06

  • Why I Turned Down an AWS Job Offer – Last Week in AWS

    Amazon have filed a non-compete case against one of their sales execs who left and moved to Google. ouch

    (tags: aws amazing noncompetes jobs work legal non-competes)

  • We Already Have the World’s Most Efficient Carbon Capture Technology

    it’s the empress tree, which can absorb 10x to 100x the quantity of CO2-per-acre vs other tree species

    (tags: carbon climate trees co2 empress-trees ccs)

  • David Jeske’s answer to Why do some developers at strong companies like Google consider Agile development to be nonsense? – Quora

    Wow, this is a great answer. As he notes, the Scrum-style process is flawed for big backend projects: “This style of short-term planning, direct customer contact, and continuous iteration is well suited to software with a simple core and lots of customer visible features that are incrementally useful. It is not so well suited to software which has a very simple interface and tons of hidden internal complexity, software which isn’t useful until it’s fairly complete, or leapfrog solutions the customer can’t imagine.” And he goes on to come up with something which works better for Google-style projects:

    Our highest priority is to increase customer (and programmer) productivity and access to information. Work on the biggest, most frequently used problems you can find, and create the largest net impact. Don’t give the customer what they ask for; understand them, and revolutionize their world. Developers should create a Google Design Document (a fairly minimal, but structured design doc), explaining the project, what goals it hopes to achieve, and explains why it can’t be done in other ways. This document should be circulated with stakeholders, to get early feedback before the project gets underway. The written record is essential, as it assures there is a clear and agreed understanding of when the project is a success and how it aims to get there. At all phases of the project, critical design elements for larger components should be concisely explained and captured in a design document. Innovate in leapfrogs. It’s more important to finish and deploy a leapfrog than to attempt perfection. There is no perfection. Instead be flexible, and plan to constantly reinvent at every level of the stack. Deliver working software as soon as is reasonably possible, and no sooner. “Dogfood” projects internally before they are shipped externally. Make sure products meet high quality standards before shipping. The quality of the product is more important than the time it takes to achieve it.

    (tags: agile architecture google scrum development coding projects project-management design)

  • CarbonKit

    CarbonKit provides all the data and models necessary for calculating various greenhouse gas emissions in categories such as car, train and air transport, types of fuel or country-specific grid electricity, electrical appliances, agricultural and industrial processes and building materials.

    (tags: carbon co2 emissions data ghgs)

  • Vectorized Emulation: Hardware accelerated taint tracking at 2 trillion instructions per second | Gamozo Labs Blog

    The goal is to take standard applications and JIT them to their AVX-512 equivalent such that we can fuzz 16 VMs at a time per thread. The net result of this work allows for high performance fuzzing (approx 40 billion to 120 billion instructions per second [the 2 trillion clickbait number is theoretical maximum]) depending on the target, while gathering differential coverage on code, register, and memory state. By gathering more than just code coverage we are able to track state of code deeper than just code coverage itself, allowing us to fuzz through things like memcmp() without any hooks or static analysis of the target at all. Further since we’re running emulated code we are able to run a soft MMU implementation which has byte-level permissions. This gives us stronger-than-ASAN memory protections, making bugs fail faster and cleaner.

    (tags: fuzzing hardware performance programming virtualization avx-512 avx)

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Links for 2019-08-01

  • Coal Ash Is More Radioactive Than Nuclear Waste – Scientific American

    I didn’t know this:

    At issue is coal’s content of uranium and thorium, both radioactive elements. They occur in such trace amounts in natural, or “whole,” coal that they aren’t a problem. But when coal is burned into fly ash, uranium and thorium are concentrated at up to 10 times their original levels. Fly ash uranium sometimes leaches into the soil and water surrounding a coal plant, affecting cropland and, in turn, food. People living within a “stack shadow”—the area within a half- to one-mile (0.8- to 1.6-kilometer) radius of a coal plant’s smokestacks—might then ingest small amounts of radiation. Fly ash is also disposed of in landfills and abandoned mines and quarries, posing a potential risk to people living around those areas.
    (via Jamie McCarthy)

    (tags: via:jamiemccarthy coal environment nuclear pollution fly-ash coal-ash safety health)

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