Reader's Corner for December 2013

December 31, 2013

WiTrack: Through-Wall 3D Tracking Using Wireles Signals

"WiTrack is a device that tracks the 3D motion of a user from the radio signals reflected off her body. It works even if the person is occluded from the WiTrack device or in a different room. WiTrack does not require the user to carry any wireless device, yet its accuracy exceeds current RF localization systems, which require the user to hold a transceiver. It transmits wireless signals whose power is 100 times smaller than Wi-Fi and 1000 times smaller than cellphone transmissions."

Holy ...

December 29, 2013

Researchers at the Universities of York and Glasgow have managed to successfully extract identifiable images of bystanders from reflections in people's eyes

We should stop making fun of CSI...

December 27, 2013

Pseudo-random ramblings from Fogus.

Classic video games from the 1970s and 1980s have been put online by the Internet Archive and can be played within a web browser.

Fight or flight, or sleep

The Two Cultures originally referred to the schism between the sciences and humanities. However, I've noticed a similar schism in computing between users and programmers, which makes it hard to teach programming to beginners.

"There are now two main cultures in computing: Most computer users treat software as a tool for getting tasks done, while programmers hold conversations with their software. One big challenge when teaching programming, no matter in what language, is getting students used to a conversation-oriented programmer culture, which is very different than a tool-oriented user culture"

December 26, 2013

You may have heard that Haskell is "great for equational reasoning", but perhaps you didn't know precisely what that meant. This post will walk through an intermediate example of equational reasoning to show how you can interpret Haskell code by hand by applying substitutions as if your code were a…

cc: [Alice]

'Tis the season... And it's about time I pose my first question on MMA SE. So, here's an holiday quest for you Graphics (and P-chem?) gurus. What it is your best code for generating a (random) sno...

This is cool.

December 25, 2013

James Mickens has written a number of essays for ;login: magazine. The wall-of-text presentation is kind of scary, and the first time I encountered them, I skimmed the essays rather than reading them through. As a result, my reaction was, "I got tired." But if you follow the path and read the essays...

These are absolutely hilarious and worth reading.

"Interestingly, these kinds of intuitive arguments are not intuitive. A successful intuitive explanation must invoke experiences that I have in real life. I have never had a real-life experience that resembled a Byzantine fault tolerant protocol. For example, suppose that I am at work, and I want to go to lunch with some of my co-workers. Here is what that experience would look like if it resembled a Byzantine fault tolerant protocol:

JAMES: I announce my desire to go to lunch.
BRYAN: I verify that I heard that you want to go to lunch.
RICH: I also verify that I heard that you want to go to lunch.
RICH: I have already left for the cafeteria."

December 20, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - As a key part of a campaign to embed encryption software that it could crack into widely used computer products, the U.S. National Security Agency arranged a secret $10 million

"Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a "back door" in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September."

"Undisclosed until now was that RSA received $10 million in a deal that set the NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSafe software, according to two sources familiar with the contract."


December 19, 2013

Steam Holiday Sale 2013 is on with new deals each day! Plus, flash sales and huge savings on over 2,000 titles across the entire catalog.

My poor wallet :(

Target says about 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been affected by a data breach linked to recent purchases in its U.S. stores.


I want to start by giving a HUGE THANK YOU to Mr. Bill Gates for an amazing gift and secret santa experience. Bill- you ...

"10/10 would receive gift from Bill Gates again"

The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.

This is from 1995.

"Then there's cyberbusiness. We're promised instant catalog shopping—just point and click for great deals. We'll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obselete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet—which there isn't—the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople."

And here I sit, peacefully ordering things from Amazon so that I don't have to interact with people.

December 18, 2013

Parents can give children a comfortable and fun place to learn to use the potty with the child-friendly iPotty from CTA Digital. It features a special stand to securely hold the iPad and safely entertain kids while they play with apps. The adjustable stand can be rotated 360° to switch betwe...

Why does this even exist ...

(found while browsing Amazon's daily deals. don't judge me)

The top million web sites on the Internet visualized in a 5-gigapixel interactive collage

Really interesting stats.

They can flow like a liquid and bounce back like a solid. Masses of fire ants show a duality that intrigues physicists.

This is really cool.

These are awesome.

December 17, 2013

A former prosecutor fights the law and lets it win.

"But in between the important cases, I found myself spending most of my time prosecuting people of color for things we white kids did with impunity growing up in the suburbs. As our office handed down arrest records and probation terms for riding dirt bikes in the street, cutting through a neighbor’s yard, hosting loud parties, fighting, or smoking weed – shenanigans that had rarely earned my own classmates anything more than raised eyebrows and scoldings – I often wondered if there was a side of the justice system that we never saw in the suburbs. Last year, I got myself arrested in New York City and found out."

Pay what you want for Gemini Rue, Little Inferno, Aaaa!, Jack Lumber and loads of soundtracks! Unlock Hero Academy and Anomaly 2, if you beat the average!

Yay new one out, shut up and take my money already.

A long time ago, when I was a college undergrad, I spent some time working on computer video games. This was in the 8-bit PC era, so the gaming hardware was almost impossibly slow by today’s standards.

This is old-school cool.

December 16, 2013

We're seeking intelligent problem solvers who are inspired and motivated to change the world.

This is a really good explanation.

December 14, 2013

SteamOS Beta is the first public release of our Linux-based operating system. The base system draws from Debian 7, code named Debian Wheezy. Our work builds on top of the solid Debian core and optimizes it for a living room experience. Most of all, it is an open Linux platform that leaves you in ful...

Yay it's here.

December 13, 2013

The very laws of physics imply that artificial intelligence must be possible. What's holding us up?

This offers a really good perspective on things.

In September 2010 we introduced the Go Playground, a web service that compiles and executes arbitrary Go code and returns the program output.

This is really cool.

December 12, 2013 | By Bill Gates I read a lot, but I don?t always choose what?s on the bestseller list. Many of the books I read this year actually came out years ago.

December 12, 2013

For a recent National Geographic story on giant sequoia trees, photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols was tasked with capturing a photograph showing the sheer

When people are doing a physical task, it’s easy to assess how hard they are working. You can see the physical movement, the sweat. You also see the result of their work: the brick wall rising, the hole in the ground getting bigger. Recognising and rewarding hard work is a pretty fundamental human i...

This is worth reading.

Offer comes as Interplay prepares to transfer rights to Bethesda Softworks.

GOG is being crushed under the load for now. Figures.

I managed to sign up, got 7 games free, and now no page will load at all. Stop hugging it to death, people.

December 11, 2013

Amazon confirmed today that it has launched its grocery delivery service in San Francisco, as we speculated earlier in the...


Ironclad Tactics is a fast-paced, card-based tactics game set in an alternate history Civil War - with steam-powered military robots!Key Features No microtransactions! Unlock cards by playing the game, not by purchasing them separately.

Does anyone want to split a 2-pack? This has been on my wish list for a while.

Aims at double standards at work

A village in Madagascar has been hit by a deadly outbreak of the bubonic plague, medical experts on the island confirm.

I know it's horrible and I'm probably going to hell for this, but I find it hilarious that the bubonic plague hit Madagascar first ...

December 10, 2013

First, before we look into that alert, the system lets us quickly access a variety of background information about our subject. To start with of course, we can easily see Mr. Benjamin’s movements throughout the course of the day: A sense of the subject’s movements over time can als...

This is scary.

"Even as simple a matter as getting yourself from point A to point B can quickly become a law enforcement matter as travel and public space are ever more aggressively policed. Waiting for a bus? Such loitering just got three Rochester youths arrested."

What the frak...

Award-winning Canadian journalist Charles Montgomery's fascinating new book Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design examines how lessons from psychology, neuroscience and design activism can help us fix broken cities and improve our quality of life in an increasingly urban-centered w...

Google sponsors over $150k of grants for female programmers We're excited to announce that Google is sponsoring over $150,000 of need-based grants for female programmers to come to Hacker School. These grants will allow us to provide financial assistance for living expenses to women for our upcoming...

If anyone wants to do a fully funded 3 month crash course on programming in NYC. Easy visa too.

Chrome: AmazonSmile is a neat program where Amazon donates 0.5% of your Amazon purchases to a charity of your choosing. The problem is that you have to remember to login at before shopping for it to work. Smile Always is a simple Chrome extension that automatically redirects you to…

I think anyone buying stuff from Amazon should use this.

(thanks, [Alice])

December 9, 2013

Patrick Drum was tired of seeing sex offenders continue to hurt children. So he decided to kill them.

There are more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression. This is one of their stories.

Worth reading.

December 8, 2013

At Spike's VGX tonight, four-man team Hello Games announced a seemingly huge, procedurally generated, first person sci-fi exploration sim called No Man's

This looks really appealing.

December 7, 2013

Physicist doubts work like Higgs boson identification achievable now as academics are expected to 'keep churning out papers'

December 5, 2013

Mexican authorities say hunt for missing radioactive over and that the two men who stole it are likely doomed.

Darwin award candidates?

December 4, 2013

NORFOLK, VA—In an alarming case that has baffled and repulsed many, sources confirmed Tuesday that a severely deformed freak born without a penis has managed to live with the condition for over 26 years.

December 3, 2013

For years I’ve used YSlow and PageSpeed to profile page performance on 4chan. Page performance has always been important to me for two big reasons: 1) I browse 4chan daily and can’t stand slow...

"By migrating to the new domain, end users now save roughly 100 KB upstream per page load, which at 500 million pageviews per month adds up to 46 terabytes per month in savings for our users. I find this unreal."

Holy ...

December 2, 2013

Unraveling the story behind the stereotype of video games being for boys.

I think people need to read this.

December 1, 2013

Keys & Locksmiths in Menlo Park, CA

I certainly did not expect to read this in a yelp review for a locksmith.

In 2000, economist Steven Levitt and sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh published an article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics about the internal wage structure of a Chicago drug gang. This piece wou...

"With a constant supply of new low-level drug sellers entering the market and ready to be exploited, drug lords can become increasingly rich without needing to distribute their wealth towards the bottom. You have an expanding mass of rank-and-file “outsiders” ready to forgo income for future wealth, and a small core of “insiders” securing incomes largely at the expense of the mass. We can call it a winner-take-all market."

Just swap "low-level drug sellers" with "fresh PhDs", and "drug lords" with "tenured faculty" and it's still true.