Reader's Corner for March 2014

March 31, 2014

Five years ago, a team of researchers from Google announced a remarkable achievement in one of the world’s top scientific journals, Nature. Without needing the results of a single medical check-up, they were nevertheless able to track the spread of

“Big data” has arrived, but big insights have not. The challenge now is to solve new problems and gain new answers – without making the same old statistical mistakes on a grander scale than ever."

This week Microsoft has the pleasure of hosting thousands of developers from all over the world at our Build conference in San Francisco. They don’t travel because they like airline food. They travel because they recognize we’re in the early stages of a platform shift and want to influence the next…

I think it's cool that Amazon, google, and Microsoft have all decided to reduce the prices of their cloud offerings. jam in the history of the video game industry, and how it was dismantled by a single man. Let’s get started. GAME_JAM didn’t start out as a...

I don't even know where to begin with this

"In this paper, we propose to turn JIT compilation into a precision tool by adding two essential and generic metaprogramming facilities: First, allow programs to invoke JIT compilation explicitly. This enables controlled specialization of arbitrary code at run- time, in the style of partial evaluation. It also enables the JIT compiler to report warnings and errors to the program when it is un- able to compile a code path in the demanded way. Second, allow the JIT compiler to call back into the program to perform compile- time computation. This lets the program itself define the translation strategy for certain constructs on the fly and gives rise to a powerful JIT macro facility that enables “smart” libraries to supply domain- specific compiler optimizations or safety checks."

Most states shut down their debtors’ prisons more than 100 years ago; in 2005, Harpersville, Alabama, opened one back up.

"It was a system of extraction and coercion so flagrant that Alabama Circuit Court Judge Hub Harrington likened it to a modern-day “debtors’ prison.” In a July 2012 ruling in a civil action brought on behalf of Debra Ford and three others, Harrington wrote: “The court notes that [debtors’ prisons] generally fell into disfavor by the early 1800s, though the practice appears to have remained commonplace in Harpersville. From a fair reading of the defendants’ testimony one might ascertain that a more apt description of the Harpersville Municipal Court practices is that of a judicially sanctioned extortion racket…. Disgraceful.”

Then he seized control of the Harpersville Municipal Court."

It's only feature creep if there isn't the time to implement (and doesn't mess with a clean interface). Otherwise, it's innovation of neat things (provided there is a customer request). :)

"And that's how I set out to simplify ordering Starbucks and created an internal banking system. "

"Rendering a Head in WebGL" - This is cool.

A university study about lying did not investigate the number of lies told by entrepreneurs looking for investment capital, but I fear we would top the chart.

"It was obvious why our team wasn’t working: People didn’t trust each other. The result was a culture of obfuscation and backstabbing in which we achieved less than we were capable of achieving. Staff members and volunteers became disheartened and eventually left. The leader’s constant lies, no matter how insignificant they seemed to him, had caused a breakdown of integrity and trust in the organization, and without integrity and trust nothing worked."

Hello World Open 2014, the first ever Coding World Championships, aims to bring together the toughest coders in the world. It is organized by two Finnish tech companies, Reaktor and Supercell.

This is a really interesting challenge for those looking to exercise their programming chops.

I recently discovered that Microsoft’s VC++ compiler loads mshtml.dll – also known as Internet Explorer. The compiler does this whenever the /analyze option (requesting static code analysis) is use...

no comments

March 28, 2014

Earlier this year, I asked a question on Stack Overflow about a data structure for loaded dice. Specifically, I was interested in answering this question:

"This writeup is my attempt to give a quick survey of various approaches for simulating a loaded die, ranging from simple techniques that are highly impractical to the very optimized and efficient alias method. My hope here is to capture different intuitions about the problem and how each highlights some new aspect of simulating loaded dice. For each approach, my goal is to explore the motivating idea, core algorithm, correctness proof, and runtime analysis (in terms of time, memory, and randomness required)."

This is a really interesting look into stats and randomness.

The Path to the Metaverse I'm tremendously excited to join Oculus, and when I think back, it's astonishing how unlikely the path to this moment is. I've told most of the parts of this story before, but never all together, and the narrative, now spanning twenty years, just keeps getting more remarkab...

Abrash and Carmack working together again. This is huge.

Meet the engineers who code Facebook

This is a really good blog post on speeding up the C/C++ preprocessor.

A new iOS app called FireChat is blowing up in the App Store. But it's not the app itself that's causing such a stir; it's the underlying networking technology it taps into.

Sensationalist headline aside, it's cool that iOS supports mesh networking. I did not know this.

It’s been a weird and awesome couple of months. Our expectations for our tiny game were well, fairly tiny. Basically, we hoped it’d do better than Puzzlejuice. It did. By a lot. It’s still hard to address the world’s response with something beyond a wide-eyed daze but essentially we couldn’t be more...

"It’s all in good fun, at least we’d like to think so, but try as our logical brains might, we still got the same “cloning feeling". Especially when people called Threes, a game we poured over for nearly a year and a half, a clone of 2048. Others rifled off that they thought 2048 was a better game than Threes. That all stung pretty bad. We know Threes is a better game, we spent over a year on it. And obviously, Threes is the reason 2048 exists."

March 27, 2014

GenericMakefile - A generic makefile for use with small/medium C and C++ projects.

This is really useful.

March 26, 2014

By Andy Friesen Since early 2013, we at IMVU have used Haskell to build several of the REST APIs that power our service. When the company started, we chose PHP as our application server language, i...

Some more Haskell stuff.

Bugs that reproduce intermittently are hard to debug with traditional techniques because single stepping, setting breakpoints, inspecting program state, etc, is all a waste of time if the program execution you're debugging ends up not even exhibiting the bug. Even when you can reproduce a bug consis...

This sounds like a really really useful tool.

"Many, many people have noticed that if we had a way to reliably record program execution and replay it later, with the ability to debug the replay, we could largely tame the nondeterminism problem. This would also allow us to deliberately introduce nondeterminism so tests can explore more of the possible execution space, without impacting debuggability. Many record and replay systems have been built in pursuit of this vision. (I built one myself.) For various reasons these systems have not seen wide adoption. So, a few years ago we at Mozilla started a project to create a new record-and-replay tool that would overcome the obstacles blocking adoption. We call this tool rr."

March 25, 2014

News and perspectives covering the top stories, events and activities from Microsoft. The content for this blog includes the official information and stories from all of Microsoft's primary businesses.

"On Tuesday, we dusted off the source code for early versions of MS-DOS and Word for Windows. With the help of the Computer History Museum, we are making this code available to the public for the first time."

This is a good gesture. Though the license doesn't allow redistribution from what I can tell.

Many people bemoan the sharp divide between experts and beginning Haskell programmers. One thing I've noticed is that "advanced" Haskell topics all have one thing in common: there exists only one good tutorial on that topic and only the experts have found it. This post is a collection of links to wh...

This is a really great Haskell reading list.

March 24, 2014UncategorizedLeave a commentWe’re F****D, It’s Over: Coming Back from the BrinkIn 1997, about a year after launch, Hotmail was growing exponentially, adding thousands of new users every day. We were on fire. And then one night, it all seemed to unravel. We had a program called the “jan...

"Here is what went through all our spinning heads: We're fucked, it's over"

This is a good read on how to survive crises.

March 24, 2014

Russia and Ukraine are overshadowing President Barack Obama's trip to Europe and Saudi Arabia, a journey that was supposed to showcase Obama's global leadership.

I usually don't follow world news and/or politics much; but I think Russia being kicked out of the G-8 is kind of a big deal.

Gbatteries has come up with a new technology called BatteryOS that provides better performance without battery life degradation. The first example of this..

Some much needed innovation in the battery space.

March 23, 2014

These emails will make you angry if you believe that companies ought to compete instead of fix prices.

"I would prefer Omid do it verbally since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later"

I have an honest question. How does one become a CEO of a huge tech company and still not know to not send such emails?

"In February 2013, Google Flu Trends (GFT) made headlines but not for a reason that Google executives or the creators of the flu tracking system would have hoped. Nature reported that GFT was predicting more than double the proportion of doctor visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which bases its estimates on surveillance reports from laboratories across the United States (1, 2). This happened despite the fact that GFT was built to predict CDC reports. Given that GFT is often held up as an exemplary use of big data (3, 4), what lessons can we draw from this error?"

The Hardy Boys and the Microkids build a computer

This is a really interesting behind the scenes look at how computers from a previous generation were made. It's from 1981 but the story is still relevant and interesting.

(Part 2 at

"And part of their corrupt little game is to produce new editions every year or so, even though 95+% of the books are the same. So the "new and improved" book being pushed was hardly different than previous editions (I checked page by page). But it would help undermine the used book market."

Prosecutorial discretion poses an increasing threat to justice. The threat has in fact grown more severe to the point of becoming a due process issue. Two recent events have brought more attention to this problem. One involves the decision not to charge NBC anchor David Gregory with violating gun la...

"But the problem is much broader. Given the vast web of legislation and regulation that exists today, virtually any American bears the risk of being targeted for prosecution."

Earlier this month a new paper by Naomi Benger, Joop van de Pol, Nigel Smart, and Yuval Yarom hit the news. The paper explains how to recover secret keys from OpenSSL's implementation of ECDSA-secp256k1 using timing information from "as little as 200 signatures"; ECDSA-secp256k1 is the signature sys...

"Earlier this month a new paper by Naomi Benger, Joop [Alice] de Pol, Nigel Smart, and Yuval Yarom hit the news. The paper explains how to recover secret keys from OpenSSL's implementation of ECDSA-secp256k1 using timing information from "as little as 200 signatures"; ECDSA-secp256k1 is the signature system used by Bitcoin."

FROM the way police entered the house—helmeted and masked, guns drawn and shields in front, knocking down the door with a battering ram and rushing inside—you...

"Because of a legal quirk, SWAT raids can be profitable. Rules on civil asset-forfeiture allow the police to seize anything which they can plausibly claim was the proceeds of a crime. Crucially, the property-owner need not be convicted of that crime. If the police find drugs in his house, they can take his cash and possibly the house, too. He must sue to get them back.

Many police departments now depend on forfeiture for a fat chunk of their budgets. In 1986, its first year of operation, the federal Asset Forfeiture Fund held $93.7m. By 2012, that and the related Seized Asset Deposit Fund held nearly $6 billion."

March 22, 2014

In the 1960s, professional bowlers were the sporting world's rockstars; today, most of them struggle to get by.

I did not know much about the history of professional bowling. I now know a little bit.

"Indeed, these gambling events attracted more than the best bowlers -- mobsters often got in on the bets and threw down “huge wads of cash” on their favorites for the evening, often placing local bowlers in hairy situations. In one such instance, bowler Iggy Russo fixed his match and bet a ton of money on his opponent to win. During his last frame, in which he was positioned to either win or lose the match with a spare, he learned that some “”unsavory characters” were betting on him to win.

He was caught in a catch-22: if he won, his financial backer would kill him; if he missed the spare, the “unsavory characters” would. Instead, he avoided the entire predicament by faking a heart attack."

March 20, 2014

SITTING in my office last week, facing the man whom I had just fired, I thought of the contrast between that interview and our first one, nearly two years ago! Then he did almost all the talking, while I listened with eager interest. Last week it was I who talked, while he sulked like a petulant chi...

This is an excellent piece of writing and has some good advice (though some parts need to be taken with a grain of salt, as it's slightly dated).

"In that blunt answer lies the substance of my experience, and what I believe to be the real secret of business achievement. So sure am I of the soundness of this philosophy that I have five very simple rules for hiring men, which are the outgrowth of it! ......

4. Does he finish what he starts? Geniuses almost never do. I look very critically into little things respecting the men I hire; the details of their dress, their handwriting, their record of tying up a job and leaving no loose ends. The biggest men of my acquaintance in business are "detail men" to an amazing degree. Often the president of a company is the only man in it who knows the little things about every department."

"The candy weighing demonstration, or, the unwisdom of crowds"

This beautifully illustrates why it's important to have a random sample in a survey.

March 19, 2014

We’d like for Y Combinator to fund more breakthrough technology companies—companies that solve an important problem, have a very long time horizon, and are based on an underlying technological or...

"It used to be the case that governments funded a lot of development of breakthrough technologies. The bad news is that they have mostly stopped; the good news is that the leverage of technology is such that now small startups can do what used to take the resources of nations"

Our supposed ally had a special desk devoted to managing Osama bin Laden. How can the U.S. fight extremism when we’re unable to confront it where it really lives?

This article is adapted from “The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014,” to be published next month by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

From a synopsis of the book: "Carlotta Gall has reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan for almost the entire duration of the American invasion and occupation, beginning shortly after 9/11. She knows just how much this war has cost the Afghan people, and how much damage can be traced to Pakistan and its duplicitous government and intelligence forces. Now that American troops are withdrawing, it is time to tell the full history of how we have been fighting the wrong enemy, in the wrong country.

Gall combines searing personal accounts of battles and betrayals with moving portraits of the ordinary Afghanis who endured a terrible war of more than a decade. Her firsthand accounts of Taliban warlords, Pakistani intelligence thugs, American generals, Afghani politicians, and the many innocents who were caught up in this long war are riveting. Her evidence that Pakistan fueled the Taliban and protected [Alice] bin Laden is revelatory. This is a sweeping account of a war brought by well-intentioned American leaders against an enemy they barely understood, and could not truly engage."

Unreal Engine 4 launches today. $19/mo you can have access to everything, including the Unreal Editor, and the engine’s complete C++ source code hosted on GitHub.

This is pretty huge. Kudos to them for opening up their code and making it easier for the average indie developer to get started.

"Epic’s goal is to put the engine within reach of everyone interested in building games and 3D content, from indies to large triple-A development teams, and Minecraft creators as well. For $19/month you can have access to everything, including the Unreal Editor in ready-to-run form, and the engine’s complete C++ source code hosted on GitHub for collaborative development."

"It’s a great market to be an engineer, but finding the right job still requires a lot of time and effort. Spray applications anywhere and everywhere you like the look of, and see what sticks. A little organisation will go a long way, but a little over-thinking will quickly make you go insane. How best to conduct a technical interview process is a hot and very worthwhile topic of discussion at the moment, but just go with whatever is thrown at you, regardless of what you think is and isn’t a good hiring strategy."

March 18, 2014

Dorian Nakamoto has vehemently denied being Bitcoin's creator. Did Newsweek act irresponsibly in pursuit of a scoop? Could they have known, prior to the denials, that Dorian wasn't Satoshi?

"Now, more than a week after the story's publication, it seems clear that Newsweek fingered the wrong man. So the question now turns to Newsweek and the level of irresponsibility they displayed in publishing this at all."

Leslie Lamport Contributed to Theory and Practice of Building Distributed Computing Systems that Work as Intended

How can they mention all he did and not even make a passing reference to LaTeX?

March 17, 2014

FiveThirtyEight is a data journalism organization. Let me explain what we mean by that, and why we think the intersection of data and journalism is so important. If you're a casual reader of FiveTh...

"It’s time for us to start making the news a little nerdier."

This is a very good read on journalism, and FiveThirtyEight's goal to make journalism much more quantitative.

March 14, 2014

This experiment has come to an end

It's sad that it only lasted 4 days.

"At some point, we decided that somebody on a bike or on foot is not traffic, but an obstruction to traffic."“If you look at newspapers fr...

As someone who saw way more than his fair share of car accidents growing up ... this rings true.

"In 2012, automobile collisions killed more than 34,000 Americans, but unlike our response to foreign wars, the AIDS crisis, or terrorist attacks—all of which inflict fewer fatalities than cars—there’s no widespread public protest or giant memorial to the dead. We fret about drugs and gun safety, but don’t teach children to treat cars as the loaded weapons they are."

Go's concurrency primitives make it easy to construct streaming data pipelines that make efficient use of I/O and multiple CPUs. This article presents examples of such pipelines, highlights subtleties that arise when operations fail, and introduces techniques for dealing with failures cleanly.

This is a very good writeup on how to easily work with concurrency in Go.

March 13, 2014

March 12, 2014Why you might not want to incorporate in the USAThis blog post first appeared on the Razuna blog and has been replicated here with permissions.USA used to be the “Land of Opportunities” for us Europeans. For decades, we looked in awe at the big country to the west, and millions emigrat...

I knew tax laws were crazy, but I didn't know they were this crazy ...

"In Denmark, all reporting to the authorities is done via web – or in most cases even, automatically.

In the US, however, it’s like being in the 70’s in Denmark. In a country, where the NSA supposedly reads all my email, knows how much money I make, what I ate for breakfast and what color underwear I prefer, I cannot report electronically to the authorities!"

News Genius breaks down breaking news – write on the wall of history

This is a good analysis of how gambling odds can be used as a predictor for the excitement during a game.

"What are the most exciting matchups in sports? What’s the most exciting sport? What if a computer could tell us which games are hot right now—like an NFL RedZone channel, not just for NFL football, but for basketball, soccer, hockey, and baseball?

Introducing, a tool that uses live in-game gambling data to quantify excitement in sports, write automated game recaps, finally settle the debate about whether the first half of NBA games is even worth watching—and much, much more. It might even make you rich."

March 12, 2014

It began hundreds of years ago, deep in the Albanian Alps—an unusual tradition where women, with limited options in life, took the oath of the burrnesha. A pledge to live as a man. To dress like a man, to work like a man, to assume the burdens and the liberties of a man. But these freedoms came with...

"It began hundreds of years ago, deep in the Albanian Alps—an unusual tradition where women, with limited options in life, took the oath of the burrnesha. A pledge to live as a man. To dress like a man, to work like a man, to assume the burdens and the liberties of a man. But these freedoms came with a price: The burrneshas also made a pledge of lifelong celibacy. Today these sworn virgins live on, but their numbers have dwindled. Many Albanians don't even know they exist. What happens when the society that created you no longer needs you? And how do you live in the meantime?"

In start-up land, the young barely talk to the old (and vice versa). That makes for a lot of cool apps. But great technology? Not so much.

I'm not sure what to quote here. It's long and presents a very good view of technology, start-up culture, ageism, and life in the valley.

March 11, 2014

Owen barely communicated with my wife and me. But he opened up to the parrot from “Aladdin.”

"After visits to several doctors, we first heard the word “autism.” Later, it would be fine-tuned to “regressive autism,” now affecting roughly a third of children with the disorder. Unlike the kids born with it, this group seems typical until somewhere between 18 and 36 months — then they vanish. Some never get their speech back. Families stop watching those early videos, their child waving to the camera. Too painful. That child’s gone."

How did a chain-smoking geek from Hanoi design the viral hit Flappy Bird - and why did he walk away?

"By early February, the weight of everything – the scrutiny, the relentless criticism and accusations – felt crushing. He couldn't sleep, couldn't focus, didn't want to go outdoors. His parents, he says, "worried about my well-being." His tweets became darker and more cryptic. "I can call 'Flappy Bird' is a success of mine," read one. "But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it." He realized there was one thing to do: Pull the game. After tweeting that he was taking it down, 10 million people downloaded it in 22 hours. Then he hit a button, and Flappy Bird disappeared. When I ask him why he did it, he answers with the same conviction that led him to create the game. "I'm master of my own fate," he says. "Independent thinker.""

Edited* by Nancy Hopkins, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, and approved February 20, 2014 (received for review November 11, 2013)

"Entrepreneurship is a central path to job creation, economic growth, and prosperity. In the earliest stages of start-up business creation, the matching of entrepreneurial ventures to investors is critically important. The entrepreneur’s business proposition and previous experience are regarded as the main criteria for investment decisions. Our research, however, documents other critical criteria that investors use to make these decisions: the gender and physical attractiveness of the entrepreneurs themselves.

Across a field setting (three entrepreneurial pitch competitions in the United States) and two experiments, we identify a profound and consistent gender gap in entrepreneur persuasiveness. Investors prefer pitches presented by male entrepreneurs compared with pitches made by female entrepreneurs, even when the content of the pitch is the same. This effect is moderated by male physical attractiveness: attractive males were particularly persuasive, whereas physical attractiveness did not matter among female entrepreneurs."

When Manu Prakash, PhD, wants to impress lab visitors with the durability of his Origami-based paper microscope, he throws it off a three-story balcony, stomps on it with his foot and dunks it into a water-filled beaker. Miraculously, it still works.

This is pretty cool. Hats off.

ToGL - Direct3D to OpenGL abstraction layer

"Direct3D -> OpenGL translation layer.

Taken directly from the DOTA2 source tree; "

This is awesome!

An intro is worth its weight in gold. Don’t waste one by saying the wrong thing, or worse, not replying at all. Here are some notes on how to maximize your success in either sending or receiving...

Some very good tips on introducing people over email.

Steal WhatsApp database (PoC)“Is it possible to upload and read the WhatsApp chats from another Android application?”With this question my brother and I started an interesting conversation which ended in underneath proof of concept. The tldr answer is: “Yes, that is possible”.The WhatsApp database i...

Let's hope some of that $19B goes towards securing user data, at least.

(the same AES key for every user? tsk tsk tsk...)

March 10, 2014

Adaptation of Douglas Adams's cult science fiction comedy series

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Game - 30th Anniversary Edition"

This is awesome.

This is sort of like the iphone game "threes". I'm kind of addicted.

"In fact, technology companies appear to be extremely picky in even choosing to interview applicants, let alone actually hiring them. This pickiness alone probably accounts for the perceived “shortage” of “qualified” applicants. It also explains why a minority of software engineers who fit or appear to fit the extremely narrow, rapidly changing, and often unstated criteria of the tech companies report fierce competition and multiple job offers, while many others like Chand John or Darin Wedel (and perhaps Brian Acton in 2009) report a long frustrating job hunt."

The writer makes a very good point.

09 Mar 2014How I resurrected my MacBook Pro by putting it in the ovenOne late night I opened up my trusty MacBook Pro only to find it turned off. “That’s odd, I never turn it off. Must have ran out of battery or something”. Without a further thought, I pressed the power button and the computer promp...

Today's dinner menu: One (1) Baked Macbook Pro.

An illustrated collection of (sometimes violent) fables, concerning the Art and Philosophy of software development

"Wangohan’s head fell to his desk. “Clearly a cardboard box must be a fit meal for the Emperor’s daughter, for here it is on the Imperial menu.”"

Google uses its FeedFetcher crawler to cache anything that is put inside =image(“link”) in the spreadsheet. For instance: If we put =image(“”) in one of the cells of Google spreadsheet, Google will send the FeedFetcher crawler to grab the image and cache it to display.

This seems surprisingly easy to do.

March 9, 2014

The Ship of the Imagination, unfettered by ordinary limits on speed and size, drawn by the music of cosmic harmonies, can take us anywhere in space and time. It has been idling for more than three decades, and yet it has never been overtaken. Its global legacy remains vibrant. Now, it's time on

The first episode of the Cosmos remake airs tonight!

"[Alice] Chiang has only published three SF stories prior to this one and his first, “Tower of Babylon”(1990), won the Nebula Award; another (“Understand”) won the Asimov's Readers Award in 1991, and he won the John W.Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1992. He is a careful and accomplished writer, and his work is distinguished by originality combined with the high quality of his re-imaging of old SF ideas. This is his fourth published story, his first in more than five years (he seems to have a satisfying life in the Seattle area that leaves him little time for SF writing). It is the longest story in this book and may well be the best. The theme of communicating with aliens was prominent in the SF fiction of 1998, but nowhere better done than here."

"It’s uncomfortable to focus so intensely on what you’re bad at."

"With the exception of Grade nine, the winning team , “came from a private school, an exam school, a parochial school, or a public school populated by the children of Apple engineers,” Tough writes.

Except, that is, for middle school grades, the space where [Alice] Spiegel teaches.

These students didn’t win just one grade, they won every grade they entered. “The roster of schools they beat,” Tough writes, “reads like a wealthy parent’s wish list of the most desirable private schools in the country.

The chess program at IS 318 is one of the best in the country. But why?"

Dewey & LeBoeuf, the product of the largest law firm merger in New York history, was often referred to in the press as a “global super firm.” Five years later, the partnership was riven by intrigue, animosities, and defections. It was uncertain that the firm would survive. Steven Davis, its former c...

Long, compelling, and quite interesting.

RAM footprint per unit of concurrency (approx) General Purpose Constructors and record accessors become values Control flow Erlang's pattern matching allows non-linear patterns.

This is a very good intro to Haskell.

This is a really good article on how to become more productive.

"I went through this when I went to id software. I had rationalized that John Carmack's success was just a factor of timing and luck since, hell, he was my age, and I was pretty smart, so what else could it be? Upon my arrival I had a crash course in humility, because he was way smarter than me and way more productive as well.

This took a while to sink in, because until then I was used to believing I was one of the better programmers at a company. And then working with Carmack I realized he was not just a little better, he was orders of magnitude better. And I couldn't dismiss it with a "But I write a lot of code" hand wave, because he also wrote like 80% of the Quake code base."

We've heard ideas like this before, and they almost never turn out to be more than a catchy headline

"First: I don’t trust people in Silicon Valley to tell me what’s happening elsewhere in California, let alone what’s happening (or should be happening) in Africa. The steady stream of idiotic products that accompanies every sliver of innovation from the tech world is evidence enough of this. "

I don't necessarily agree with most of the article, but this part rings true.

March 8, 2014

A view from the top of the 1 World Trade Center tower

This is a really impressive gigapixel shot taken off the new WTC.

Malaysian Airlines says it lost contact with flight MH370 about two hours after it left Kuala Lumpur en route for Beijing

It's sad that in this day and age we still rely on modes of transportation that can result in such catastrophic failure.

March 7, 2014

SlateEducationGetting schooled.March 7 2014 8:15 AMPowerPointlessDigital slideshows are the scourge of higher education. By Rebecca Schuman REPRINTPRINTEMAIL '; $("#outbrain_placeholder").append(divHtml); } if (mobileMode()) { createOutbrainDivs("MB_1"); } else { createOutbrainDivs("AR_6"); createOu...

With great powerpoint comes great responsibility.

Myths about /dev/urandom There are a few things about /dev/urandom and /dev/random that are repeated again and again. Still they are false. I'm mostly talking about reasonably recent Linux systems. A few remarks about FreeBSD or other systems may be found here and there. /dev/urandom is insecure. Al...

This is long, detailed, and quite interesting.

Early Thursday morning, a Forbes senior executive was woken up by a call from her assistant, saying that she'd be working from home due to a forecast predicting the snowiest day of the year. When she ended the call, the executive saw on her Blackberry that she had just received [...]

Yay for social engineering.

Obesity may have harmful effects on the brain, and exercise may counteract many of those negative effects, new studies in mice suggest.

"Obesity may have harmful effects on the brain, and exercise may counteract many of those negative effects, according to sophisticated new neurological experiments with mice, even when the animals do not lose much weight. While it’s impossible to know if human brains respond in precisely the same way to fat and physical activity, the findings offer one more reason to get out and exercise."

commentary Commentators appear to have assumed the worst about Netflix's recently announced paid peering deal with Comcast. What's the real message in the deal? The Internet isn't broken. Read this article by Larry Downes on CNET News.

This is a really good perspective on the deal.

Hi Reddit, My research focuses on some of the big mysteries: the origin of the cosmos, quantum mechanics and reality, the possibility of other unive...

For all the physicists out there, Brian Greene was doing an AMA.

March 6, 2014

CivClicker: Click to build a Civilisation -

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I shall show you something that will suck up all your free time.

Finally, I would like to relay that feels that their use of data in their game is for the purpose of "optimizing fun", not profits...�

"Research has shown that putting even one intermediate currency between the consumer and real money, such as a “game gem” (premium currency), makes the consumer much less adept at assessing the value of the transaction. Additional intermediary objects, what I call “layering”, makes it even harder for the brain to accurately assess the situation, especially if there is some additional stress applied."

Just reading that leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

March 4, 2014

This is a really impressive writeup on the lighting and rendering that went on behind the scenes in BioShock Infinite.

If you're talking tech with Americans, you may want to avoid using any jargon.

"12% said "USB" is the acronym for a European country. In fact, USB is a type of connector."

Another day, another report of a Windows price cut. Having lost the war for mobile computing, Microsoft is finally trading operating system revenue for ubiquity -- Google style.

"Microsoft, it seems, is also following in the footsteps of Google operating systems such as Android and Chrome OS. Last week, The Verge reported that Redmond is preparing a free version of Windows 8.1, its latest operating system for desktop and laptop PCs."

Despite a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis three years ago, Kayla Montgomery, 18, has gone on to become one of the fastest young distance runners in the country.

“I make myself do it,” she said.

“I tell myself, ‘I know you’re tired and you can’t feel anything and it’s hard but you’re going to finish this.’ And then I do.”

Can a policy that banks use to combat insider fraud also make tech companies produce better products and happier employees? Sure. At Sourcegraph, our mandatory vacation policy requires everyone to completely disconnect from work for at least 2 weeks each year—no exceptions. We’ve instituted this pol...

"Can a policy that banks use to combat insider fraud also make tech companies produce better products and happier employees? Sure. "

This reminds me of "A pale blue dot".

This GnuTLS bug is worse than the big Apple "goto fail" bug patched last week.

*sigh* ...

Arunachalam Muruganantham has helped bring cheap sanitary pads to rural India, by inventing a simple machine to make them - but it nearly cost him his marriage.

"He was once asked whether receiving the award from the Indian president was the happiest moment of his life. He said no - his proudest moment came after he installed a machine in a remote village in Uttarakhand, in the foothills of the Himalayas, where for many generations nobody had earned enough to allow children to go to school.

A year later, he received a call from a woman in the village to say that her daughter had started school. "Where Nehru failed," he says, "one machine succeeded.""

This guy is inspiring.

March 3, 2014

Let’s say you have a brand-new Windows laptop and you’re just oh, so happy. You’re pretty sure the NSA did not interdict it during shipment, and thus that it comes only with the flaky goatware Micr...

This illustrates a very good point.

Now it appears that PA Consulting staff uploaded the entire hoard to Google servers based outside the UK ?a process that took weeks, as the data came to them archived on 27 DVDs (making it on the order of 125Gb, after compression).

"I'm asking because it now appears that management consultants PA Consulting acquired the hospital admission and treatment records of every NHS patient in England and Wales (all 47 million of them). This is almost certainly inappropriate, and comes at a point when the roll-out of the national health statistics database is on hold for six months over concerns about who would be able to access it and whether the records could be de-anonymized. Now it appears that PA Consulting staff uploaded the entire hoard to Google servers based outside the UK—a process that took weeks, as the data came to them archived on 27 DVDs (making it on the order of 125Gb, after compression)."

We are doing something a little different this week. This issue is a round of all the Top Python projects of 2013 as determined by you(your clicks in our 2013 issues). So take a look as there are plenty of great things to see here! Did we miss anything or do you have some suggestions for projects th...

I'm a bit late to the party, but this is a pretty cool list of projects/libraries/frameworks for anyone that develops in Python.

Taking apart the shattered power station and its three melted nuclear cores will require advanced robotics

"A radiation-proof superhero could make sense of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in an afternoon. Our champion would pick through the rubble to reactor 1, slosh through the pooled water inside the building, lift the massive steel dome of the protective containment vessel, and peek into the pressure vessel that holds the nuclear fuel. A dive to the bottom would reveal the debris of the meltdown: a hardened blob of metals with fat strands of radioactive goop dripping through holes in the pressure vessel to the floor of the containment vessel below. Then, with a clear understanding of the situation, the superhero could figure out how to clean up this mess."

The partition functionp(n) counts the number of partitions of n, i.e. the number of ways n can be written sum of positive integers when disregarding the order of the terms. For example, 4 has the five distinct partitions 4, 3+1, 2+2, 2+1+1, 1+1+1+1, so p(4) = 5. This week, I set a new record by comp...

"The full number is not currently available for download, as it is 4.6 GB in packed binary format."