Four Short Links

Nat Torkington's eclectic collection of curated links.

Four short links: 28 September 2016

Offline First, Machine Translation, Kernel Security, and Javascript Maps

  1. Offline First -- as Google designs for the Rest of The World, they're learning to build entirely different priorities and assumptions into their software. Meet YouTube Go: a new YouTube app built from scratch to bring YouTube to the next generation of viewers. YouTube Go is designed with four concepts in mind. It’s relatable, with video recommendations and a user interface that is made for you. The app is designed to be offline first and work even when there’s low or no connectivity. It’s also cost effective, providing transparency and reducing data usage. And finally, it’s a social experience, connecting you with the people and content you care about.
  2. Google's Neural Machine Translation System -- On the WMT English-to-French and English-to-German benchmarks, GNMT achieves competitive results to state of the art. Using a human side-by-side evaluation on a set of isolated simple sentences, it reduces translation errors by an average of 60% compared to Google's phrase-based production system.
  3. Linux Kernel Security Needs Fixing -- "Cars were designed to run but not to fail," Kees Cook, head of the Linux Kernel Self Protection Project, and a Google employee working on the future of IoT security, said at the summit. "Very comfortable while you're going down the road, but as soon as you crashed, everybody died. That's not acceptable anymore," he added, "and in a similar fashion the Linux kernel needs to deal with attacks in a manner where it actually is expecting them and actually handles gracefully in some fashion the fact that it's being attacked."
  4. Leaflet -- JavaScript library for mobile-friendly interactive maps.

Four short links: 27 September 2016

Microsoft's Fuzzer, Fed Game, MadLibs Machine, and Secure Time

  1. Microsoft Springfield -- Microsoft's fuzzing tool, now "with AI." Good to see competition not just around keeping software running in the cloud, but now around making sure your code is cloud-safe in the first place. (And by "cloud-safe," I mean against the cybers.)
  2. Chair the Fed -- a monetary policy game. Monetary policy and games, two tastes that taste together. (via Bloomberg)
  3. The Eureka -- Victorian mechanical MadLibs machine.
  4. RoughTime -- secure time synchronization. (via Imperial Violet)

Four short links: 26 September 2016

Linking Records, Encrypted Editing, Neural Photo Editing, and Self-Care Resources

  1. A Bayesian Approach to Graphical Record Linkage and De-duplication (PDF) -- When data about individuals comes from multiple sources, it is often desirable to match, or link, records from different files that correspond to the same individual. Other names associated with record linkage are entity disambiguation, entity resolution, and coreference resolution, meaning that records that are linked or co-referent can be thought of as corresponding to the same underlying entity.
  2. CryptPad -- encrypted group text editing, but the server doesn't know the plaintext being edited. Open source.
  3. Neural Photo Editor -- don't clone; paint with "what looks like it might go here." Bizarre!
  4. -- a repository of self-care resources for developers & others.

Four short links: 23 September 2016

On Reproducibility, Robot Monkey Startup, Stealing Predictive Models, and GPU Equivalence

  1. The Winds Have Changed -- wonderfully constructed rebuttal to a self-serving "those nasty people saying they can't reproduce our media-packaged research findings are just terrible stone-throwers, ignore them" editorial, which builds and builds and should have you reaching for a can of petrol and a lighter by the end.
  2. Kindred AI -- using artificial intelligence and high-tech exoskeleton suits to allow humans—and, at least according to one description of the technology, monkeys, too—to control and train an army of intelligent robots. Planet of the Apes inches its way closer to being.
  3. Stealing Machine Learning Models via Prediction APIs -- Unlike in classical learning theory settings, ML-as-a-service offerings may accept partial feature vectors as inputs and include confidence values with predictions. Given these practices, we show simple, efficient attacks that extract target ML models with near-perfect fidelity for popular model classes including logistic regression, neural networks, and decision trees. We demonstrate these attacks against the online services of BigML and Amazon Machine Learning.
  4. GPU Equivalence for Deep Learning -- In our own testing, we've found that one GPU server is about as fast as 400 CPU cores for running the algorithms we're using. The article itself is an unremarkable overview, but this anecdatum leapt out at me.

Four short links: 22 September 2016

Ops Papers, Moral Tests, Self-Powered Computing Materials, and Self-Driving Regulation

  1. Operability (Morning Paper) -- text of a talk that was a high-speed run past a lot of papers that cover ops issues. Great read, which will swell your reading list.
  2. Moral Machine (MIT) -- We show you moral dilemmas, where a driverless car must choose the lesser of two evils, such as killing two passengers or five pedestrians. As an outside observer, you decide which outcome you think is more acceptable. You can then see how your responses compare with those of other people.
  3. Self-Powered "Materials That Compute" and Recognize Simple Patterns -- “By combining these attributes into a ‘BZ-PZ’ unit and then connecting the units by electrical wires, we designed a device that senses, actuates, and communicates without an external electrical power source,” the researchers explain in the paper.
  4. NHTSA Guidance on Autonomous Vehicles -- requires companies developing self-driving cars to share a lot of data with the regulator.

Four short links: 21 September 2016

Simple Text Processing, Future Work Strategies, Chatbot Errors, and Formal Verification

  1. textblob -- simple Python library for text processing, which plays well with NLTK and pattern.
  2. 10 Strategies For a Workable Future (PDF, IFTF) -- These 10 strategies invite us to consider both the technical details and the broad policy questions that will help us build a workable future.
  3. 11 Mess-Ups While Making a Chatbot -- When people fully tune into a bot, they hand over complete control of their thinking. And common sense can go out of the window; it means your bot needs to cover all of the bases, however small. Following instructions one after another seems to put people into a passive state—and if you don’t tell them to do something, they just don’t do it.
  4. On Formal Verification (Quanta) -- introductory article to the idea that formal verification methods will make systems more secure.

Four short links: 20 September 2016

Aligning Incentives, Git Recovery, Google's Public Service, and Quadruped Robots

  1. Lessons on Comp Structures from Wells-Fargo -- employees were evaluated for continuing employment by supervisors on cross-selling. Yet, they did not receive the same financial incentives to make such cross-selling. Branch managers and supervisors could receive bonuses of up to $10,000 per month for meeting cross-selling quotas when employees who hit their monthly quotas received, in addition to continued employment, $25 gift cards.
  2. Oh Shit, Git! -- recovering from common mistakes made with git. Caution: contains even more swearing than you've already read.
  3. Inside Jigsaw (Wired) -- Jigsaw is Google's moonshot not to advance the best possibilities of the Internet but to fix the worst of it: surveillance, extremist indoctrination, censorship.
  4. Minitaur: An Affordable Quadruped Robot (IEEE) -- ok, not affordable YET, but the $10K current price could be as low as $1,500 if manufactured at scale.

Four short links: 19 September 2016

Visualizing Circuits, Working on Climate Change, Cashless Challenges, Architecture & Politics

  1. OmniBlox -- visualize your BRD circuit layouts in the web browser. So purty! And open source!
  2. What Can a Technologist Do About Climate Change? (Bret Victor) -- software isn’t just for drawing pixels and manipulating databases—it underlies a lot of the innovation even in physical technology.
  3. The War on Cash -- the cashless society assumes you can get a bank account, and there are many for whom that is very difficult indeed. 'Cashless society' is a euphemism for the "ask-your-banks-for-permission-to-pay society."
  4. Architecture's Impact on Politics (Wired) -- All 193 assembly halls fall into one of five organizational layouts: “semicircle,” “horseshoe,” “opposing benches,” “circle,” and “classroom.” And these layouts make a difference.

Four short links: 16 September 2016

I Rock Moments, Trusting Black Boxes, Design Heuristics, and Chart Components

  1. Building Activities -- framed around creating math activities that don't suck, but the approach to crafting meaningful "I rock!" moments apply to more than kids and math. Give students opportunities to be right and wrong in different, interesting ways.
  2. Whose Black Box Do You Trust? -- Here are my four rules for evaluating whether you can trust an algorithm: 1. Its creators have made clear what outcome they are seeking, and it is possible for external observers to verify that outcome. 2. Success is measurable. 3. The goals of the algorithm's creators are aligned with the goals of the algorithm's consumers. 4. Does the algorithm lead its creators and its users to make better longer term decisions?
  3. Hints for Computer System Design (Paper a Day) -- worth it for the sweet diagram breaking down design heuristics into Why/Where.
  4. plottablejs -- Palantir open-sourced set of flexible, premade components that you can combine and rearrange to build charts.

Four short links: 15 September 2016

Slowly Self-Driving, Effective Deep Learning, Andreessen's Bookshelves, and Robotaxi Financial Models

  1. Ford Charts Cautious Path Toward Self-driving, Shared Vehicles (Reuters) -- see also Google's car project losing leaders and advantage. Both talk about this being a long game, not a short one, where this is a genuinely hard problem.
  2. The Extraordinary Link Between Deep Neural Networks and the Nature of the Universe (MIT TR) -- “We have shown that the success of deep and cheap learning depends not only on mathematics, but also on physics, which favors certain classes of exceptionally simple probability distributions that deep learning is uniquely suited to model,” conclude Lin and Tegmark.
  3. Marc Andreessen's Book Collection -- book shelves tell you about their owners.
  4. Robotaxi Economics (Brad Templeton) -- financial models for the prices of robotaxis and the operating costs.

Four short links: 14 September 2016

Open Innovation, Infrastructure Security, Brain Sensing, and Inside/Outside Data

  1. Open Innovation Toolkit (Mozilla) -- a community-sourced set of best practices and principles to help you incorporate human-centered design into your product development process.
  2. Someone is Learning How to Take Down the Internet (Bruce Schneier) -- These companies are seeing more attacks using three or four different vectors. This means that the companies have to use everything they've got to defend themselves. They can't hold anything back. They're forced to demonstrate their defense capabilities for the attacker.
  3. Brain Sensing: 12wpm Typing -- That technology, developed by Stanford Bio-X scientists Krishna Shenoy, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, and postdoctoral fellow Paul Nuyujukian, directly reads brain signals to drive a cursor moving over a keyboard. In an experiment conducted with monkeys, the animals were able to transcribe passages from the New York Times and Hamlet at a rate of up to 12 words per minute.
  4. Data on the Outside vs. Data on the Inside (Paper a Day) -- “Data on the inside” refers to the encapsulated private data contained within a service, and “data on the outside” refers to the information that flows between independent services. Data on the outside must be immutable and identifiable so that it is the same no matter when or where it is referenced. Within a service, you can refer to “The New York Times” and always mean the current version. “The New York Times” here serves as a version independent identifier. But when data goes on the outside, just saying “The New York Times” is no longer enough, the version independent identifier needs to be converted to a version dependent identifier. For example, “The New York Times on Jan 4th, 2005, California Edition.”

Four short links: 13 September 2016

Surveillaphone, Logical Induction, Reading List, and Open Information

  1. Gordon Bell No Longer Lifelogging -- Better hardware plus artificial intelligence should do both the capturing and the retrieval of all our personal data automatically.
  2. My New Paper on Logical Induction -- I think there’s a good chance that this framework will open up new avenues of study in questions of metamathematics, decision theory, game theory, and computational reflection that have long seemed intractable. I’m also cautiously optimistic that they’ll improve our understanding of decision theory and counterfactual reasoning, and other problems related to AI value alignment.
  3. Vacation Reading List (Liza Daly) -- book recommendations from a smart and interesting person.
  4. Carl Malamud has Standards -- wonderful piece on the most dedicated open information worker I know.

Four short links: 12 September 2016

Generating Speech, Algorithm Employers, Internet-Scale Services, and Unfair Predictions

  1. A Generative Model for Raw Audio -- DeepMind generates speech and it' The breathing and mouth noises, the's astonishing.
  2. Suing To Establish An Algorithm Is An Employer (FT) -- Some gig-economy workers and unions are bringing this question to court. They argue that these companies’ algorithms exert so much control over workers that they are really employees in the eyes of the law and thus owed hourly minimum wages, sick pay, holiday pay, and the like. (via Slashdot)
  3. Designing and Deploying Internet-Scale Services (PDF) -- 2007 paper that's still very relevant today. (via Adrian Colyer)
  4. Stuck in a Pattern -- In an overwhelming majority of cases, departments operate predictive systems with no apparent governing policies, and open public discussion about the adoption of these systems seems to be the exception to the rule. Though federal and state grant money has helped fuel the adoption of these systems, that money comes with few real strings in terms of transparency, accountability, and meaningfully involving the public.

Four short links: 9 September 2016

Chinese Hardware Startups, Cognitive Biases, Sweet Hardware, and Blameful Postmortem

  1. Created in China -- The tools for sourcing parts, testing ideas, gathering user feedback, raising funds, and distributing products can now rely as much on the Internet as they do on the Pearl River Delta’s physical network of stalls and shippers. This has taken the form of an informal economy where “Shenzhen speed”—Shenzhen sudu—reigns supreme.
  2. Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet -- nice redux to help make sense of the mountain of cognitive biases that psych has found.
  3. ODROID-C2 -- a 64-bit quad-core single board computer (SBC) that is one of the most cost-effective 64-bit development boards available in the ARM world. Think: super-charged Raspberry PI.
  4. The OPFM Data Breach (PDF) -- a blameful postmortem.

Four short links: 8 September 2016

Retro Cases, Wild Telepresence, Pi Configuration, and Web UI

  1. RetroConnector -- 3D-printed miniature replicas of classic Mac hardware, functioning as cases for Raspberry PI. (via BoingBoing)
  2. Double 2 Review -- interesting to see the crappy UX caused by poor interactions between cellular and the robot. The scary part is that when the video lags out (as in the image above), you have absolutely no idea what’s going on. Is there a toddler near my wheels? A peacock crossing the road? You have no clue. Needless to say, Double's use cases are really more in-office, well-networked, uniformly-floored than zoo field trips ....
  3. Pi Bakery -- easily configure a Raspberry Pi.
  4. vue.js -- a library for building interactive web interfaces. It provides data-reactive components with a simple and flexible API.

Four short links: 7 September 2016

Recruiting for Managers, Designing for APIs, Editors for HTML, and JSON for Arduinos

  1. How to Recruit (Michael Lopp) -- For every open job on your team, you need to spend one hour a day on recruiting-related activities. Cap that investment at 50% of your time. No open reqs? There’s still important and ongoing work you need to do on a regular basis that I’ll describe below.
  2. API-First Transformation at Etsy Concurrency -- building APIs (or "service layers" or "microservices" or sub-containerized-micro-virtualized-cloud-endpoints or whatever they are called today) presents really interesting design challenges, and it's great to read how Etsy solved them.
  3. Quill 1.0 -- sweet in-page edit box w/formulae, styles, extensibility.
  4. ArduinoJson -- small-footprint JSON library that's particularly useful for embedded systems. Cue old-school embedded systems engineers to snort at JSON being "small footprint."

Four short links: 6 September 2016

Early Modern Software Engineering, Self-Sailing Boats, Deep Learning Framework, and Artistic QR Codes

  1. No Silver Bullet (A Paper a Day) -- If the conceptual components of the software development task are now taking most of the time, then we must consider attacks that address the essence of the software problem. Brooks offers us three recommendations that still speak to us today: reuse, incremental development, and investing in your software developers. And remember that Brooks was writing almost 30 years ago!
  2. Robot Sailboats Scour the Oceans for Data (NY Times) -- At least 20 companies are chasing the possibly quixotic dream of a self-driving car in Silicon Valley. But self-sailing boats are already a real business.
  3. Baidu's Paddle -- Baidu's deep learning framework, open-sourced.
  4. Artistic QR Codes -- It can generate common qr-code, black&white artistic qr-code, colorful artistic qr-code, and animated qr-code.

Four short links: 5 September 2016

Homomorphic Encryption, Conflict and Cooperation, Mobile Shell, and Information Extraction

  1. A Brief Survey of Fully Homomorphic Encryption -- caution: math ahead. What did you expect for an emerging crypto+database field?
  2. Does Conflict Drive Cooperation?​​ -- Asabiya of a group is the ability of its members to stick together, to cooperate; it allows a group to protect itself against the enemies, and to impose its will on others. A group with high asabiya will generally win when pitched against a group of lesser asabiya.
  3. mosh -- Mobile shell... Remote terminal application that allows roaming, supports intermittent connectivity, and provides intelligent local echo and line editing of user keystrokes.
  4. clausie -- an open information extractor; it identifies and extracts relations and their arguments in natural language text.

Four short links: 2 September 2016

Automated Web Regression, AI Policy, Defining Computation, and Go Patterns

  1. BrowserLab -- Facebook's automated regression testing for web front ends.
  2. AI100 -- Stanford's research report on AI. No machines with self-sustaining long-term goals and intent have been developed, nor are they likely to be developed in the near future. Instead, increasingly useful applications of AI, with potentially profound positive impacts on our society and economy are likely to emerge between now and 2030, the period this report considers. At the same time, many of these developments will spur disruptions in how human labor is augmented or replaced by AI, creating new challenges for the economy and society more broadly. Application design and policy decisions made in the near term are likely to have long-lasting influences on the nature and directions of such developments, making it important for AI researchers, developers, social scientists, and policymakers to balance the imperative to innovate with mechanisms to ensure that AI's economic and social benefits are broadly shared across society.
  3. What We Talk About When We Talk About Computation -- the fields of computational complexity theory and programming language theory. My goal in this post is to show that while both sides use the term “model of computation” (or even just “computation”), they each refer to something radically different.
  4. Go Patterns -- A curated list of Go patterns and idioms.

Four short links: 1 September 2016

User's Manual, Future of Humans, Enhancing Images, and Atomic Design Tool

  1. Create a User Manual for You -- Basically, the user manual is a “how to work with me” guide: It outlines what you like, what you don’t like, how you work best. It was something these CEOs would give their team members when they joined the company in order to shorten the learning curve of working with them. It’s a “cheat sheet” of sorts, giving employees a way to quickly and efficiently learn about executives, which in turn allows them to work together more effectively. What a brilliant idea -- it makes you kick yourself and wonder, “Why didn’t I think of doing that?” A very experienced colleague joined my team and her first questions were about how I preferred to work and receive information. This is damned sensible and useful (and rarely done) stuff. (via Brad Feld)
  2. Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, Review (The Guardian) -- Twentieth-century political dystopias sought to stamp on individuals with the power of the state. That won’t be necessary in the coming century. As Harari says: “The individual will not be crushed by Big Brother; it will disintegrate from within.” I loved "Sapiens", can't wait for "Homo Deus".
  3. srez -- Image super-resolution through deep learning. "Enhance! Enhance!
  4. -- my new favourite wireframe/mock tool. Imports from Sketch, integrates with Slack and Trello.