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 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, @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/ 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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Links for 2019-07-31

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Links for 2019-07-30

  • How To Talk To Older People In Your Life About Fake News

    Caulfield said it’s common for older people to unwittingly share things that have extremist messages or iconography. “It’s very hard to see people posting stuff that may come from a kind of a dark place that they don’t realize is dark,” Caulfield said. “What do you do when your parents go from posting Minions to posting hard-right memes about cement milkshakes?”
    this is where we’re at. (Thankfully not with _my_ parents, though)

    (tags: family fake-news propaganda facebook memes alt-right fascism)

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Links for 2019-07-29

  • AWS S3 Event Notifications have “probably once” delivery

    you get the following Messages that are delivered once; Messages that are delivered multiple times; Messages that are not delivered This is in fact equivalent to “no guarantees at all” but the phrase “probably once” has a certain appeal to it. In my case I have an application that writes files to S3 at a regular interval. These files are processed by a lambda so they can be loaded into a database. This database is ultimately used in a customer facing application, so any duplicates gets noticed very quickly. Somehow I needed to come up with a way to deal with this pecuilar behavior of S3 Event Notifications.
    Christ, what a mess. Sounds like S3 Event Notifications are best ignored for production use. Disappointing :(

    (tags: aws s3 event-notifications consistency durability reliability ops)

  • Loss of Arctic’s Reflective Sea Ice Will Advance Global Warming by 25 Years

    “Losing the reflective power of Arctic sea ice will lead to warming equivalent to one trillion tons of CO2 and advance the 2ºC threshold by 25 years. Any rational policy would make preventing this a top climate priority for world leaders,” said Ramanathan, a professor of atmospheric and climate sciences at Scripps. [….] Computer forecast models are actually underestimating the extent of this trend.  “We analyzed 40 climate models from modeling centers around the world,” said Eisenman, a professor of climate, atmospheric science, and physical oceanography at Scripps. “Not a single one of the models simulated as much Arctic sea ice retreat per degree of global warming as has been observed during recent decades.”

    (tags: arctic climate-change climate global-warming fear ice earth)

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Links for 2019-07-25

  • Latacora – How (not) to sign a JSON object

    good notes on authentication of API consumers using a HMAC. colmmacc also noted that using a constant-time comparison function of the expected and sent values, is important to avoid timing attacks. “A standard strcmp/memcmp isn’t secure and I still see this error in 2019 :(“

    (tags: hmac mac authentication crypto security json apis api coding signing)

  • twitter thread on how same-sex romance was added to The Sims back in 1998

    Phil Salvador on Twitter: “Sims developer Don Hopkins released a bunch of design documents from The Sims, including this one from August 1998 with his notes about romance: […] It’s incredible to see the internal discussion about romance in The Sims written out so strongly like this.”

    (tags: don-hopkins games history the-sims design romance 1990s)

  • Data isn’t the new oil, it’s the new CO2

    great point.

    We should not endlessly be defending arguments along the lines that “people choose to willingly give up their freedom in exchange for free stuff online”. The argument is flawed for two reasons. First the reason that is usually given – people have no choice but to consent in order to access the service, so consent is manufactured.  We are not exercising choice in providing data but rather resigned to the fact that they have no choice in the matter.  The second, less well known but just as powerful, argument is that we are not only bound by other people’s data; we are bound by other people’s consent.  In an era of machine learning-driven group profiling, this effectively renders my denial of consent meaningless. Even if I withhold consent, say I refuse to use Facebook or Twitter or Amazon, the fact that everyone around me has joined means there are just as many data points about me to target and surveil. The issue is systemic, it is not one where a lone individual can make a choice and opt out of the system. We perpetuate this myth by talking about data as our own individual “oil”, ready to sell to the highest bidder. In reality I have little control over this supposed resource which acts more like an atmospheric pollutant, impacting me and others in myriads of indirect ways. There are more relations – direct and indirect – between data related to me, data about me, data inferred about me via others than I can possibly imagine, let alone control with the tools we have at our disposal today. 

    (tags: data ethics data-privacy privacy surveillance surveillance-capitalism co2 future profiling consent gdpr)

  • Ikea Symfonisk review: affordable, fun Sonos speakers – The Verge

    looks like they’ve done a decent job on getting Sonos into IKEA furniture

    (tags: ikea sonos speakers audio home furniture)

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Links for 2019-07-24

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Links for 2019-07-23

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Links for 2019-07-22

  • “Let’s talk about peeing in space.”

    Great Twitter thread by @MaryRobinette on the intricacies of bodily functions in zero-G

    (tags: space zero-g gravity peeing bodily-functions funny shit)

  • [1907.06902] _Are We Really Making Much Progress? A Worrying Analysis of Recent Neural Recommendation Approaches_

    Deep learning techniques have become the method of choice for researchers working on algorithmic aspects of recommender systems. With the strongly increased interest in machine learning in general, it has, as a result, become difficult to keep track of what represents the state-of-the-art at the moment, e.g., for top-n recommendation tasks. At the same time, several recent publications point out problems in today’s research practice in applied machine learning, e.g., in terms of the reproducibility of the results or the choice of the baselines when proposing new models. In this work, we report the results of a systematic analysis of algorithmic proposals for top-n recommendation tasks. Specifically, we considered 18 algorithms that were presented at top-level research conferences in the last years. Only 7 of them could be reproduced with reasonable effort. For these methods, it however turned out that 6 of them can often be outperformed with comparably simple heuristic methods, e.g., based on nearest-neighbor or graph-based techniques. The remaining one clearly outperformed the baselines but did not consistently outperform a well-tuned non-neural linear ranking method. Overall, our work sheds light on a number of potential problems in today’s machine learning scholarship and calls for improved scientific practices in this area.
    (via Halvar Flake)

    (tags: via:halvarflake deep-learning machine-learning ml papers algorithms top-n heuristics)

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Links for 2019-07-19

  • Bulgarian tax authority hacked, majority of population’s tax details leaked

    Well this is pretty much the worst-case scenario for a tax authority:

    A 20-year-old man was arrested in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Tuesday afternoon and charged with an unprecedented hack of the country’s tax authority, ending with the theft of sensitive personal records from nearly every adult in Bulgaria, according to local reports. The suspect, whose name is Kristiyan Boykov, according to Bulgarian media, faces up to eight years in prison. Police say others may have been involved. The country’s officials have spent the week revealing and apologizing for the pillaging of Bulgaria’s National Revenue Agency (NRA) in June, Reuters reported. Personal and financial data for millions of taxpayers was leaked by email to local journalists. The data leak includes names, addresses, income and earnings information, and personal identification numbers, totaling 21 gigabytes and extending back over a decade.

    (tags: bulgaria security tax hacks leaks)

  • Margaret Hamilton interviewed by The Guardian

    good interview with the software engineering pioneer

    (tags: margaret-hamilton tech software the-guardian interviews history apollo)

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Links for 2019-07-18

  • When Non-Jews Wield Anti-Semitism as Political Shield | GQ

    a spate of ultra-Christian would-be spokespeople have demonstrated outrage against congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for daring to use the term “concentration camps” to describe the camps in which thousands of migrants are concentrated in squalor, and have died, on the Southern border. Wyoming representative Liz Cheney and Meghan McCain have volunteered, unasked-for, as blonde Christian Loraxes, prepared at all times to speak for the Jews. In late June, Cheney demanded Ocasio-Cortez apologize for utilizing the term, stating that “6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this.” But Jews are not trees, not animals, not mute props to use as cudgels in a war of escalating rhetoric. We do not need to be spoken for, we who have been here since before this country was a country, and want to remain, and know no other home; we are not waiting for your apocalypse. As if to prove a counterpoint, on Tuesday, July 15, one thousand “Jews and allies” led by a group called #NeverAgainAction and the immigrant justice group Movimiento Cosecha enacted a protest in Washington, D.C., blockading the entrances and exits to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s headquarters and the approaching street. Their chief slogan defied those who would use Jews’ bloody history to deny present atrocities; those who would utilize Jews as weapons to silence anti-racists; those who want us to wait, meekly, to be cozened by Christ in the end of days. What they chanted, holding hands, were four simple words: “Never Again is Now.”

    (tags: antisemitism us-politics politics smearing aoc rhetoric)

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Links for 2019-07-17

  • The Codeless Code: Case 234 Ozymandias

    Love this:

    I chanced upon an ancient cache of code: a stack of printouts, tall as any man, that in decaying boxes had been stowed. Ten thousand crumbling pages long it ran. Abandoned in the blackness to erode, what steered a ship through blackness to the moon. The language is unused in this late year. The target hardware, likewise, lies in ruin. Entombed within one lone procedure’s scope, a line of code and then these words appear: # TEMPORARY, I HOPE HOPE HOPE The code beside persisting to the last— as permanent as aught upon this sphere— while overhead, a vacant moon flies past.

    (tags: moon apollo coding history hacks comments funny poetry poems ozymandias)

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Links for 2019-07-16

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Links for 2019-07-15

  • Reviewbot

    posts GitHub pull requests that are ready to be reviewed into Slack. How does it know when a pull request is ready? We have a special label in our repositories, aptly named READY TO REVIEW (all caps so it’s easier to spot). When a pull request is ready for review, the author adds this label to their PR to mark it as finished. Meanwhile, all pull requests without this label are seen as works in progress and shouldn’t be reviewed. Next, an engineer can pick from the READY TO REVIEW pull requests and start reviewing — all code changes at PSPDFKit get reviewed by at least one other person. After the review is done, the pull request author incorporates the feedback and merges the PR.

    (tags: github reviews code-review slack integration team)

  • Details of the Cloudflare outage on July 2, 2019

    Great writeup from jgc. Worth noting some important lessons: * config changes should be rolled out carefully and gradually, just like code; * particularly regexps, which are effectively code anyway; * emergency-use rollback systems need to work, of course!; * having emergency-only systems is a risk, too, since infrequently-used code paths are likely to atrophy and break without anyone noticing (as nsheridan said); * /.*/ in a regexp is pretty much always bad news, and would have been worth a linter to catch before commit.

    (tags: cloudflare outages regex postmortems regexps deployment rollback via:jgc)

  • The Configuration Complexity Clock

    This, so much this…..

    Frustratingly there are still some business requirements that can’t be configured using the new [post-config-file] rules engine. Some logical conditions simply aren’t configurable using its GUI, and so the application has to be re-coded and re-deployed for some scenarios. Help is at hand, someone on the team reads Ayende’s DSLs book. Yes, a DSL will allow us to write arbitrarily complex rules and solve all our problems. The team stops work for several months to implement the DSL. It’s a considerable technical accomplishment when it’s completed and everyone takes a well earned break. Surely this will mean the end of arbitrary hard-coded business logic? It’s now 9am on the clock. Amazingly it works. Several months go by without any changes being needed in the core application. The team spend most of their time writing code in the new DSL. After some embarrassing episodes, they now go through a complete release cycle before deploying any new DSL code. The DSL text files are version controlled and each release goes through regression testing before being deployed. Debugging the DSL code is difficult, there’s little tooling support, they simply don’t have the resources to build an IDE or a ReSharper for their new little language. As the DSL code gets more complex they also start to miss being able to write object-oriented software. Some of the team have started to work on a unit testing framework in their spare time. In the pub after work someone quips, “we’re back where we started four years ago, hard coding everything, except now in a much crappier language.”
    (via Oisin)

    (tags: configuration scripting dsls script config rules-engines rules via:oisin dsl coding hard-coding)

  • Palantir’s Top-Secret User Manual for Cops

    The Palantir user guide shows that police can start with almost no information about a person of interest and instantly know extremely intimate details about their lives. The capabilities are staggering, according to the guide: If police have a name that’s associated with a license plate, they can use automatic license plate reader data to find out where they’ve been, and when they’ve been there. This can give a complete account of where someone has driven over any time period. With a name, police can also find a person’s email address, phone numbers, current and previous addresses, bank accounts, social security number(s), business relationships, family relationships, and license information like height, weight, and eye color, as long as it’s in the agency’s database. The software can map out a person’s family members and business associates of a suspect, and theoretically, find the above information about them, too. All of this information is aggregated and synthesized in a way that gives law enforcement nearly omniscient knowledge over any suspect they decide to surveil.

    (tags: police surveillance palantir creepy grim data-privacy privacy)

  • Ireland putting profit before people with genomic medicine strategy

    From David McConnell and Orla Hardiman at TCD:

    Much of the medical information sought by GMI [Genomics Medicine Ireland] has been collected from patients in public hospitals funded by the exchequer at great expense […]. Clinicians are being contracted and asked to obtain consent from their patients to transfer clinical information to GMI, along with a tissue sample for WGS [Whole Genome Sequencing]. We understand GMI will pay for the additional hospital clinical costs required for the project. It will obtain the full genetic code for each patient (WGS), and it will analyse all the data. For the most part …. there is minimal tangible benefit to the patient who participates in this programme. It is important to realise that GMI will own all the clinical and WGS data that they have acquired from the health service, which is of considerable commercial value. GMI will also have complete control over the research and any outcomes. Participating patients do not appear to have access to their data held by GMI – and there does not seem to be a “right to be forgotten”, despite the commercial nature of the enterprise. Moreover, the genomic and clinical data may also be transmitted outside of the European Union, and thus will not be protected by the stringent data-protection laws within the EU.[….] The Government has made a very big investment in GMI. There may be a view that it is not necessary to provide any additional public investments in genomic medicine in Ireland. However, to those of us who care about the longer-term development of genomic medicine in Ireland, this would be a seriously short-sighted approach. One person in 20 will develop a genetic disorder in their lifetime and half of the Irish population will experience a form of cancer. These and many other patients should be able to benefit from a publicly-available genomics project that can drive new medical care in Ireland. Genomic medicine is here to stay. We urgently need a properly governed genomics programme in Ireland that will ensure that Irish genomics remains within the public (non-commercial) domain, and that data obtained from Irish citizens will be used to benefit the entire Irish population.
    (via Aoife McLysaght)

    (tags: gmi wgs genome open-data data-privacy gdpr privacy health medicine ireland genomics)

  • Rossa McMahon re GMI

    Rossa McMahon with a twitter thread on the legality of GMI’s genomic data collection program in Ireland:

    GMI is a big, expensive company. It announced planned investment injection of $400m last year. It is engaged in a hot industry – hot because of investor interest and hot because of regulatory/ethics concerns. GDPR is not new. It has been known since 2016. Data protection law is not new. It has been known since 1988. The impact of these laws on genetic data collection & use is not a surprise. So if you have a $400m+ business and this is a key business issue, you have taken advice. And you have, no doubt, been in a position to take that advice from some of the best and/or most expensive advisors available. Assumptions are dangerous, but I think it is fair to assume this has happened. So read the story again. Would you be looking for repeated meetings with [Department of Health], answers to questions on regulatory matters and assurances from the State, if you had legal advice of your own to the effect that you are operating or can operate as your currently are?

    (tags: gmi genomics genetics data-privacy privacy gdpr ireland)

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Links for 2019-07-14

  • Terrifying thread of Google Maps fails

    ‘This takes you over Hayden Pass Rd. “It’s a real challenging road and a true test of your vehicle and your stamina because the road abounds in twists and turns with wheels sometimes hanging above the precipice.” “There is a very narrow section of shelf road before you get to the top that is very dangerous if icy. There are no rocks to stop you from sliding off the side. This section should not be attempted if there is any ice at all.” I’m a little surprised that Google gave this route to me with no warning. It’s also comical to say you can get the drive done in 30 minutes.’ [….] ‘A couple of years ago I did a drive from Port Headland (Northwest Western Australia) to Perth. When we got onto Nanutarra road (Near Paraburdoo), the maps decided we should take a road that was actually the Lyons River – if we were foreign tourists it would have led us into a spot where we could easily have died. Unfortunately in outback WA, many tourists have experienced this and succumbed to it.’

    (tags: driving safety google-maps google mapping routing fail via:danluu)

  • excellent Twitter thread about Brexiteer attitudes to Ireland

    as one commenter notes: ‘Ireland as Britain’s Taiwan, not a real country but a renegade province that must be brought to heel and reclaimed for the Motherland’

    (tags: brexit britain uk ireland politics)

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