Four Short Links

Nat Torkington's eclectic collection of curated links.

Four short links: 20 September 2018

Code of Conduct Software, Decision Matrices, Festival of Maintenance, Ambisonic 3D

  1. CoC Beacon -- GoFundMe to get a SaaS product to provide project maintainers with a complete set of tools for managing their codes of conduct at all stages: setting up their enforcement teams, documenting their processes, reporting incidents, managing incident reports, forming consensus about enforcement decisions, and communicating clearly with reporters and offenders. I gave. (via BoingBoing)
  2. Decision Matrix -- like the Eisenhower important/urgent 2x2, this is a consequential/reversable 2x2. Nice.
  3. 2018 Festival of Maintenance -- well worth celebrating, as Why I am Not a Maker pointed out.
  4. Ambisonic 3D Microphones -- nifty tech that's useful for VR. MrRadar on Hacker News explains: It's basically the same concept as differential stereo encoding (where you record an R+L and R-L channel and use them to derive R and L, or just play the R+L channel for mono) extended to all three axis to create surround sound (so you have a sum channel, a horizontal difference channel, a vertical difference channel, and a depth difference channel). This was all developed in the 70s (and thus out of patent today) but abandoned for more direct means of encoding surround since it was more complex to process the signals for not much gain. Of course now with DSPs, the signal processing is much easier, and with VR there's suddenly a niche for it to fill since it fully preserves the 3D soundscape (unlike, e.g., 7.1 surround, which only records seven point sources at fixed positions).

Four short links: 19 September 2018

Golden Age of Software, Another Better C, Robot String Art, and Automated Game Design

  1. Falling in Love with Rust (Bryan Cantrill) -- what caught my eye was: I have believed (and continue to believe) that we are living in a Golden Age of software, one that will produce artifacts that will endure for generations.
  2. Kit -- a programming language designed for creating concise, high-performance cross-platform applications. Kit compiles to C, so it’s highly portable; it can be used in addition to or as an alternative to C, and was designed with game development in mind.
  3. String Art from the Hand of a Robot -- NP-hard geometry from the claws of a mighty robot.
  4. Automated Game Design via Conceptual Expansion -- In this paper, we introduce a method for recombining existing games to create new games through a process called conceptual expansion.

Four short links: 18 September 2018

Causal Inference, Remote Only, Human Augmentation, and C64 OS

  1. Seven Tools of Causal Inference (Morning Paper) -- To understand "why?" and to answer "what if?" questions, we need some kind of a causal model. In the social sciences and especially epidemiology, a transformative mathematical framework called "Structural Causal Models" (SCM) has seen widespread adoption. Pearl presents seven example tasks which the model can handle, but which are out of reach for associational machine learning systems.
  2. Remote Only -- an overview manifesto about how remote-only organizations work.
  3. Third Thumb Changes the Prosthetic Game -- very clever UI.
  4. C64 OS -- a fun project to build a useful operating system for a C64 (The C64 was introduced in 1982 and has an 8-bit, 1MHz, 6510 CPU with just 64 kilobytes of directly addressable memory. It has a screen resolution of 320x200 pixels, and a fixed palette of 16 colors.). The explanation of the C64's constraints are engaging and the solutions interesting.

Four short links: 17 September 2018

Wasted Time, Caught Marshmallows, One-Command Language, and The 9.9%

  1. The Developer Coefficient -- While it’s a priority for senior executives to increase the productivity of their developers, the average developer spends more than 17 hours a week dealing with maintenance issues, such as debugging and refactoring. In addition, they spend approximately four hours a week on “bad code,” which equates to nearly $85 billion worldwide in opportunity cost lost annually, according to Stripe’s calculations on average developer salary by country.
  2. High-Speed, Non-Deformation Marshmallow Catching -- impressive! (via IEEE Spectrum)
  3. SUBLEQ: A Programming Language with Only One Command -- this is built of solid zomg, right down to the no-caps manifesto, aka interview with the author. (via BoingBoing)
  4. The 9.9% (The Atlantic) -- In between the top 0.1% and the bottom 90% is a group that has been doing just fine. It has held on to its share of a growing pie decade after decade. And as a group, it owns substantially more wealth than do the other two combined.

Four short links: 14 September 2018

Automatic Bugfixes, Research Code, Automatic Diagrams, and Alexa Mapped

  1. SapFix and Sapiens (Facebook) -- SapFix can automatically generate fixes for specific bugs, and then propose them to engineers for approval and deployment to production. I'm a huge fan of tools for software developers. This seems pretty cool.
  2. Papers With Code -- list of research papers with links to the source code, updated weekly. (via Roundup)
  3. erd -- Translates a plain text description of a relational database schema to a graphical entity-relationship diagram.
  4. Anatomy of an AI System (Kate Crawford) -- The Amazon Echo as an anatomical map of human labor, data, and planetary resources.

Four short links: 13 September 2018

ML Inspection, Enterprise Architecture, n=1 Study, and EU Shoots Own Foot

  1. What If tool -- allows users to analyze a machine learning model without the need for writing any further code. Given pointers to a TensorFlow model and a data set, the What-If tool offers an interactive visual interface for exploring model results. Useful for non-coders to examine, evaluate, and debug machine learning systems.
  2. Archi Modeling Toolkit -- MIT-licensed software for enterprise architects to create their models and diagrams. (via JB Sarrodie)
  3. Does Knuckle-Cracking Lead to Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Fingers? -- n=1 50-year study. (via Nicholas A. Christakis)
  4. EU Approves Link Tax and Upload Filters (Verge) -- The fallout from this decision will be far-reaching and take a long time to settle. The directive itself still faces a final vote in January 2019 (although, experts say it’s unlikely it will be rejected). Cory explains and EFF vows to fight on. A major threat to the open and uncaptureable internet.

Four short links: 12 September 2018

Millibytes, Webpage Bloat, Neuromorphic Computing, and UX Dark Patterns

  1. Measuring Information in Millibytes -- a cute conceit. Therefore, the information given by one passing test run [in our 1-in-90 failure scenario] is just a little over one millibyte.
  2. The Developer Experience Bait-and-Switch (Alex Russell) -- a pointed observation about bloat: If one views the web as a way to address a fixed market of existing, wealthy web users, then it’s reasonable to bias toward richness and lower production costs. If, on the other hand, our primary challenge is in growing the web along with the growth of computing overall, the ability to reasonably access content bumps up in priority.
  3. Brainchip Launches Spiking Neural Network Hardware -- Brainchip’s claim is that while a convolutional approach is more akin to modeling the neuron as a large filter with weights, the iterative linear algebra matrix multiplication on data within an activation layer and associated memory and MAC units yields a power-hungrier chip. Instead of this convolutional approach, an SNN models the neuron function with synapses and neurons with spikes between the neurons. The networks learn through reinforcement and inhibition of these spikes (repeating spikes are reinforcement).
  4. The Dark (Patterns) Side of UX Design -- We assembled a corpus of examples of practitioner-identified dark patterns and performed a content analysis to determine the ethical concerns contained in these examples. This analysis revealed a wide range of ethical issues raised by practitioners that were frequently conflated under the umbrella term of dark patterns, while also underscoring a shared concern that UX designers could easily become complicit in manipulative or unreasonably persuasive practices. We conclude with implications for the education and practice of UX designers, and a proposal for broadening research on the ethics of user experience.

Four short links: 11 September 2018

Serverless, Predicting Personality, Broken Design, and Hamming Lectures

  1. Serverless Cold Start War -- hard numbers on the cold start time on different function-as-a-service providers.
  2. Eye Movements During Everyday Behavior Predict Personality Traits -- Using a state-of-the-art machine learning method and a rich set of features encoding different eye movement characteristics, we were able to reliably predict four of the big five personality traits (neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness) as well as perceptual curiosity, only from eye movements.
  3. Broken Product Design (We Make Money Not Art) -- Not only did he ask them to fabricate items that would be unusable but he also requested that each worker had full license to decide what the error, flaw, and glitch in the final product would be. Hutchison ended up with a collection of dysfunctional objects and prints of online exchanges with baffled factory managers.
  4. Learning to Learn (Richard Hamming) -- watch lectures in computer architecture, engineering, data, measurement, and quantum mechanics from a legend. (via Star Simpson)

Four short links: 10 September 2018

Optoelectronics, Checked C, MagicScroll, Quantum AWS

  1. The Largest Cognitive Systems Will be Optoelectronic -- Electrons and photons offer complementary strengths for information processing. Photons are excellent for communication, while electrons are superior for computation and memory. Cognition requires distributed computation to be communicated across the system for information integration. We present reasoning from neuroscience, network theory, and device physics supporting the conjecture that large-scale cognitive systems will benefit from electronic devices performing synaptic, dendritic, and neuronal information processing operating in conjunction with photonic communication.
  2. Checked C -- This paper presents Checked C, an extension to C designed to support spatial safety, implemented in Clang and LLVM. Checked C’s design is distinguished by its focus on backward-compatibility, incremental conversion, developer control, and enabling highly performant code. Like past approaches to a safer C, Checked C employs a form of checked pointer whose accesses can be statically or dynamically verified. Performance evaluation on a set of standard benchmark programs shows overheads to be relatively low. More interestingly, Checked C introduces the notions of a checked region and bounds-safe interfaces. Here's the source.
  3. MagicScroll: A Rollable Display Device with Flexible Screen Real Estate and Gestural Input -- a rollable tablet with two concatenated flexible multitouch displays, actuated scrollwheels, and gestural input. When rolled up, MagicScroll can be used as a rolodex, smartphone, expressive messaging interface, or gestural controller. When extended, it provides full access to its 7.5-inch high-resolution multitouch display, providing the display functionality of a tablet device.
  4. Rigetti Launches Quantum Cloud Services (FastCompany) -- AWS-style cloud platform with a fast connection to 128-qubit computing. Grabbing land ahead of quantum computing actually being useful.

Four short links: 7 September 2018

Quantifying Facebook, Deep Learning IDE, REPL + Debugger, and RPC Library

  1. Unveiling and Quantifying Facebook Exploitation of Sensitive Personal Data for Advertising Purposes -- This paper quantifies the portion of Facebook users in the European Union (EU) who were labeled with interests linked to potentially sensitive personal data in the period prior to when GDPR went into effect. The results of our study suggest that Facebook labels 73% of EU users with potential sensitive interests. This corresponds to 40% of the overall EU population. We also estimate that a malicious third party could unveil the identity of Facebook users who have been assigned a potentially sensitive interest at a cost as low as €0.015 per user. Finally, we propose and implement a web browser extension to inform Facebook users of the potentially sensitive interests Facebook has assigned them. (via Morning Paper)
  2. Subgraphs -- a deep learning IDE.
  3. REPLugger: REPL + Debugger -- My belief is that providing tools to augment programmer understanding is one of the most important interventions we can make. Me, too.
  4. brpc -- Baidu's RPC library, with 1,000,000+ instances (not counting clients) and thousands of kinds of services.

Four short links: 6 September 2018

BS in AI, Visual Exploration, Bad Predictions, and USB-C Development

  1. CMU's AI Bachelor's Degree -- ethics course mandatory, likewise seven humanities courses. Nice.
  2. GANlab -- interactive visualization of what's happening in a generative adversarial network, as well as an easy-to-read explanation.
  3. Errors, Insights, and Lessons of Famous AI Predictions -- These case studies illustrate several important principles, such as the general overconfidence of experts, the superiority of models over expert judgement, and the need for greater uncertainty in all types of predictions. The general reliability of expert judgement in AI timeline predictions is shown to be poor, a result that fits in with previous studies of expert competence.
  4. USB-C Explorer -- a development board with everything needed to start working with USB Type-C. It contains a USB-C port controller and Power Delivery PHY chip, a microcontroller, and several options for user interaction.

Four short links: 5 September 2018

Atomic Receiver, Nerdery as AR, Open Access, and Journey Maps

  1. An Atomic Receiver for AM and FM Radio Communication -- lasers detect fluctuations in the outer shell of "Rydberg vapors" (a special form of Cesium) that are caused by radio waves. See also MIT Tech Review.
  2. Geology is Like AR for the Planet (Wired) -- looking at the planet through a geologic lens is something like strapping on an augmented-reality headset. It invites you, from your vantage point in the present, to summon up Earth’s deep past and far future—to see these parallel worlds with your own eyes, like digital overlays. All nerd-level expertise is awesome for this reason. Try going bar-hopping with a bar owner who can talk about fit-out costs, eyelines, liquor choices, branding, etc. Nothing is boring if you know enough about it. (via Dan Hon)
  3. Radical Open-Access Plan (Nature) -- Eleven research funders in Europe announce "Plan S" to make all scientific works free to read as soon as they are published.
  4. Journey Maps -- A journey map is a collection of customer research most recognizable by its timeline—a visual depiction of every touch point customers have with the product or business, laid out from left to right. [...] Seeing the journey visually helps reveal the emotional landscape of the customer, which helps the product, marketing, customer support, and analytics teams understand what users feel at each point and identify ways the team can improve the experience. Steps and advice on how to build them.

Four short links: 4 September 2018

New Hardware, Image Discovery, Interactive SQL, and Fooling Object Detection

  1. GATech Rogues Gallery -- acquire new and unique hardware (i.e., the aforementioned "rogues") from vendors, research labs, and startups, and make this hardware available to students, faculty, and industry collaborators within a managed data center environment. By exposing students and researchers to this set of unique hardware, we hope to foster cross-cutting discussions about hardware designs that will drive future performance improvements in computing long after the Moore's Law era of "cheap transistors" ends. (via Next Platform)
  2. The Art and Science of Image Discovery at Netflix -- really interesting breakdown of the process they go through to automatically identify good stills to use as ads for the video.
  3. Select Star SQL -- an interactive book that aims to be the best place on the internet for learning SQL. Nice. SQL and notebooks are a great idea, especially for education.
  4. The Elephant in the Room -- We showcase a family of common failures of state-of-the art object detectors. These are obtained by replacing image sub-regions by another sub-image that contains a trained object. We call this "object transplanting." Modifying an image in this manner is shown to have a non-local impact on object detection. Slight changes in object position can affect its identity according to an object detector as well as that of other objects in the image. We provide some analysis and suggest possible reasons for the reported phenomena.

Four short links: 3 September 2018

Detecting Skimmers, Forecasting, The Quantum Race, and USB C

  1. Characterization and Fast Detection of Card Skimmers -- After systematizing these devices, we develop the Skim Reaper, a detector which takes advantage of the physical properties and constraints necessary for many skimmers to steal card data. Our analysis shows the Skim Reaper effectively detects 100% of devices supplied by the NYPD. In so doing, we provide the first robust and portable mechanism for detecting card skimmers. Clever. ATMs with a skimmer effectively read the card twice: once for the skimmer, once for the bank. So, the researchers made a fake card that detects double reads, which thus detects skimmers. (via Morning Paper)
  2. Forecasting: Principles and Practice -- The book is written for three audiences: (1) people finding themselves doing forecasting in business when they may not have had any formal training in the area; (2) undergraduate students studying business; (3) MBA students doing a forecasting elective. We use it ourselves for a third-year subject for students undertaking a Bachelor of Commerce or a Bachelor of Business degree at Monash University, Australia.
  3. Classical Alternative to Quantum Recommendation Algorithm -- In its most practical form, the “recommendation problem” relates to how services like Amazon and Netflix determine which products you might like to try. Computer scientists had considered it to be one of the best examples of a problem that’s exponentially faster to solve on quantum computers—making it an important validation of the power of these futuristic machines. Now Tang has stripped that validation away.
  4. USB C is a Nightmare (White Quark) -- Twitter thread from a researcher uncovering the horror that is USB C. It has a provision for a multidrop bus. This is Ethernet. Ethernet running at 300 Kbps over the control channel of a USB-C cable. Why.

Four short links: 31 August 2018

Magic Leap One Teardown, SIGGRAPH, Formats and Protocols, and Nifty Tricks

  1. Magic Leap One Teardown -- interesting rundown of the parts inside each subsystem.
  2. Takeaways from SIGGRAPH -- rundown of the highlights of the show floor.
  3. The SEF Theorem -- you can pick any two of Structured, Extensible, and Forward Compatible. (via Tim Bray)
  4. My Bag of Tricks -- loose notes, design patterns, rules-of-thumb, methods of enquiry, tools, cheatsheets, gimmicks, leverage points, descriptions of systems, key questions, risks, and unknowns. I love these brain dumps.

Four short links: 30 August 2018

Financial Modeling, Deductive Database, Good Memes, and Product Management

  1. Financial Modeling for Startups: An Introduction -- In this guide, we'll walk through building a model for an example company.
  2. Datalog Educational System -- a deductive database system with Datalog, SQL, Relational Algebra (RA), Tuple Relational Calculus (TRC), and Domain Relational Calculus (DRC) as query languages.
  3. Memes as Force for Good -- online jokes can act as guides for a society or group’s larger moral consciousness.
  4. Product Management Mental Models -- plenty that product managers will recognise as hard-won lessons, e.g., 13. Version two is a lie. When building a product, don’t bank on a second version ever shipping. Make sure the first version is a complete product because it may be out there forever.

Four short links: 29 August 2018

Online Harassment, Deployment Software, Text to Commandline, and RL Prototyping

  1. Internet of Garbage (Sarah Jeong) -- updated, available for free as PDF, ePub, and MOBI, or for sale on Kindle. An immediate and accessible look at how online harassment works, how it might be categorized and distinguished, and why the structure of the internet and the policies surrounding it are overwhelmed in fighting it.
  2. Shipping Software Should Not Be Scary (Charity Majors) -- Deploy software is the most important software you have. Treat it that way.
  3. nl2bash (Victoria Lin) -- data and source code release of the paper: NL2Bash: A Corpus and Semantic Parser for Natural Language Interface to the Linux Operating System.
  4. dopamine -- a research framework for fast prototyping of reinforcement learning algorithms from Google.

Four short links: 28 August 2018

3D Learning, Trie DB, Robolawyer Ethics, and Security Controls

  1. Sensing and Learning in 3D -- one of the most exciting areas of machine learning research is in mastering the 3D world. An overview of capturing, representing, and learning about the 3D world.
  2. tkvdb -- Trie (radix trie, in fact) key-value database [...] similar to Berkeley DB, LevelDB or SQLite4 LSM. [...] written in ANSI C, without using platform or OS-specific functions.
  3. Ethics of Using Artificial Intelligence to Augment Drafting Legal Documents -- the further steps a lawyer must take to ensure that the use of the service as part of the representation of a client is consistent with the lawyer’s other ethical obligation.
  4. Top 20 Critical Security Controls -- the glamorous stuff like hiring goth hackers to don high-viz and test your pens is not as important as basic hygeine like: A comprehensive view of the devices on your network is the first step in reducing your organization’s attack surface. Use both active and passive asset discovery solutions on an ongoing basis to monitor your inventory and make sure all hardware is accounted for.

Four short links: 27 August 2018

Notebook Future, Arduino CLI, Robot Mind, and Conscious Computers

  1. Lessons from JupyterCon (Will Crichton) -- reactive notebooks are the future, Jupyter is the new Bash, and data science is a gateway drug. I love that line, "Jupyter is the new Bash"...it's a form of the repl loop that takes the p seriously. For some balance, see I Don't Like Notebooks.
  2. Arduino CLI -- an all-in-one solution that provides builder, boards/library manager, uploader, discovery, and many other tools needed to use any Arduino-compatible board and platforms.
  3. How to Make a Robot Use Theory of Mind (SciAm) -- A simulation-based approach relies on a pre-programmed internal model instead. Winfield describes the simulation theory of mind system as using a “consequence engine.” In other words, a robot equipped with the system can answer simple “what if” questions about potential actions. If it simulates turning left, it might, for instance, detect that it would bump into a nearby wall. To make this prediction possible, the robots are pre-programmed with a basic grasp of physics so that they understand what happens when objects collide. Winfield describes his robots as having a little bit of “common sense.”
  4. Hackable Humans and Digital Dictators -- There is absolutely no indication that AI and computers are anywhere on the road to becoming conscious. More people saying this, please.

Four short links: 24 August 2018

Scheduling Notebooks, Telepresence Parasite, Bite-Size ML Tutorials, and AI Data Sheets

  1. Scheduling Notebooks -- we’re currently in the process of migrating all 10,000 of the scheduled jobs running on the Netflix Data Platform to use notebook-based execution.
  2. Fusion: A Collaborative Robotic Telepresence Parasite That Lives on Your Back -- I'm in favor of any telepresence system that lets me remotely punch people.
  3. 100 Days of ML Code -- tutorials, open sourced.
  4. Fact Sheet for AI (IBM) -- Fairness, safety, reliability, explainability, robustness, accountability—we all agree they are critical. Yet, to achieve trust in AI, making progress on these issues will not be enough; it must be accompanied by the ability to measure and communicate the performance levels of a system on each of these dimensions. One way to accomplish this would be to provide such information via SDoCs or factsheets for AI services.