Reader's Corner for May 2014

May 31, 2014

Pointers Gone WildClick to demoMay 28th, 2014A large part of the allure of Haskell is its elegant, high-level ADTs that ensure1 that programs won’t be plagued by problems like the infamous SSL heartbleed bug.However, another part of Haskell’s charm is that when you really really need to, you can dro…

Pointers gone wild, indeed. Dependently typed languages are awesome.

May 30, 2014

The Linux kernel is quite different from its user space: many abstractions are waived, and you have to take extra care, as a bug in you code affects the whole system.

This is a really cool tutorial on how to write your own kernel module.

Looking for interesting data sets? Here's a list of more than 100 of the best stuff, from dolphin relationships to political campaign donations to death row prisoners.

Yay, data. Lots and lots of data.

A father reflects on his son's search for employment

This is really deep, thoughtful, and insightful. Worth reading for everyone.

To support a low-latency trading system I needed a logging call that had minimal impact on the calling thread. It was imperative to be responsive to market events at all times. My solution was a wa...

This is pretty cool. A mix of both distributed systems and OS.

The short version: He doesn’t give an inch.

Here is my Katas for creating BASH programs that work. Nothing is new here, but from my experience pepole like to abuse BASH, forget computer science …

A lot of these are useful.

A game to learn XSS (by Google)

Silicon Valley is in a bubbly race to wash your clothes better, faster, and cooler. This is not a metaphor. Unless, you know, it is.

"Of course, this was not at all true. In reality, when people in a privileged society look deep within themselves to find what is missing, a streamlined clothes-cleaning experience comes up a lot. More often than not, the people who come up with ways of lessening this burden on mankind are dudes, or duos of dudes, who have only recently experienced the crushing realization that their laundry is now their own responsibility, forever. Paradoxically, many of these dudes start companies that make laundry the central focus of their lives."

Five days with the great single-girl airlift from NYC to SF.

"For every tech guy struggling to find love in San Francisco, there is one struggling harder to find novel ways to spend his money. The funds necessary to fly 16 girls cross-country so they can sleep four to a room is nothing compared to the sums that disappear when hotly anticipated start-ups go bust."

I really have no words for this article aside from "what the ..."

May 29, 2014

Picture Mildred, Agnes, Ethel and Blanche. Perhaps you imagine the Golden Girls or your grandmother’s poker game. These are names for women of age, wisdom and distinction. The median living Mildred...

This data is really interesting.

All four boxes of The Ledge, the 103rd floor tourist attraction atop Chicago's Willis Tower, were closed Thursday morning for what an official said was a routine inspection.

Never going on the Skydeck again...

Follow­ing govt appeal, WHO offici­al grants time for effect­ive implem­entati­on.

So you have to get a vaccination four weeks before you leave Pakistan. What if you're only going to be there for a shorter period of time?


May 28, 2014

In an industry that has been famously guarded about its workplace diversity, Google on Wednesday disclosed its record when it comes to hiring women, African-Americans and Hispanics. The data reveals statistics that the company itself admits are too low and strikingly below other industry averages. W…

"The data shows that Google trails others when it comes to the tech workforce in particular."

Lucrative incentives seek to attract U.S. companies from Silicon Valley.

This is an interesting move.

I envy economists. Unlike computer scientists, they seem to be able to publish best-seller books with innovative research. One such book is Piketty’s Capital. The book is reminiscent of Marx’s capital in its scope. If you haven’t heard about the book yet, it has a simple message: the yield on capita…

"It is said that Piketty used an enormous amount of data, for an economist. I think that economists will have to cope with very complex and abundant data. They will need to do ever more complicated analysis. I hope that they will learn to use better tools and techniques."

May 26, 2014

Recently, a number of schools have started using a program called CourseSmart, which uses e-book analytics to alert teachers if their students are studying the night before tests, rather than taking a long-haul approach to learning. In addition to test scores, the CourseSmart algorithm assigns each…

"Recently, a number of schools have started using a program called CourseSmart, which uses e-book analytics to alert teachers if their students are studying the night before tests, rather than taking a long-haul approach to learning. In addition to test scores, the CourseSmart algorithm assigns each student an “engagement index” which can determine not just if a student is studying, but also if they’re studying properly. In theory, a person could receive a “satisfactory” C grade in a particular class, only to fail on “engagement""

What the...

[clock] 37-MINUTE READ PUBLISHED: May 14, 2014 Revolutionizing American agribusiness from the ground up, one seed at a time. From a distance, Jim Myers looks like an ordinary farmer. Most autumn mornings, he stands thigh-deep in a field of wet broccoli, beheading each plant with a single, sure swipe…

Long but enlightening.

When David Good was a kid, and his friends asked where his mother was, he’d always say the same thing: She died in a car crash. “I experimented with responses, and I found that the most effective,”...

"By 14, [Alice] was drinking heavily. He thought that kids who wanted to party would always hang out with other kids who wanted to party — no chance of abandonment there. And the alcohol sanded down the anguish, if only temporarily."

My fourth book.

This is from 2008, but it's still really great.

May 24, 2014

The brutal truth is that most people can't pay the bills by "living their passion." So what can we do instead?

"See, commencement speakers are the outliers — the most successful, interesting people that colleges can find — and their experiences are the most inspirational but also the least realistic. Even worse, they tend to be far too willing to dish out the craziest, worst advice, simply because it somehow worked for them. “Follow your dreams” and “live your passions” are insanely unhelpful tips when the bills need paying or the rent is almost due. "

Check out Virgin America's fly new website at on your desktop, mobile device, or tablet! #VXnewlook

Love the new look. And the new boarding pass design is something that was sorely needed.

May 23, 2014

Ignore simple physics and your appendage could be amputated by a tug of war rope.

I'm never playing tug of war again.

May 22, 2014

We are tired of pretending this stuff doesn’t happen.

This is a very thoughtful piece.

What happens when you leave cleanliness up to your microbiome?

This is a pretty interesting experiment.

"The most extreme case is [Alice] Whitlock, the M.I.T.-trained chemical engineer who invented AO+. He has not showered for the past 12 years. He occasionally takes a sponge bath to wash away grime but trusts his skin’s bacterial colony to do the rest. I met these men. I got close enough to shake their hands, engage in casual conversation and note that they in no way conveyed a sense of being “unclean” in either the visual or olfactory sense."

"How did we get so busy?" the New Yorker asks. Let's define busy. And, while we're at it, let's define we, too.

This is an interesting rebuttal.

Disruption is something that you can usually only establish after the fact. A decade later or so you can look back and say ‘x’ disrupted …

This is interesting.

Last year I started reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius1. While I was reading it, I was struck at how many of the entries were just simple reminders to himself. Don't get mad at people unnecessarily. Remember that you are just one of many. Don't get distracted.He was making the same mistakes over…

These are amazing quotes that every software person should follow.

ZeniMax Media Inc


This could get ugly.

Arcade Story2014-05-21This is a story about me and a video game. Although I have always been and expect I always will be a nerd, the events of this story take place when I was approximately 8-10 years old, meaning I had not yet worn away the extra layer of turbo-nerd that little boys of that inclina…

"Maybe that’s what streaming games on Twitch is like for the current generation of kids. But even knowing that 60 people from around the world are watching you set new records in Call of Duty, I wonder how it stacks up to an actual crowd of people standing directly behind you, as you listen to them whispering to each other about how good this kid is at this game."

The mystery of why six people admitted links to two murders - when they couldn't remember anything about the crimes.


"I’ve worked on miscarriages of justice in many different countries. I’ve testified in several countries - hundreds of cases I’ve done, big cases. I’d never come across any case where there had been such intense interrogation, so many interrogations and such lengthy solitary confinement. I mean I was absolutely shocked when I saw that.”

May 21, 2014

Bugs ain't fun. Except when they are. This is the story of the greatest bug I never fixed. In an earlier life I wrote addons for World of Warcraft. Aside from being addicted to the game at the time, it was a mindblowing experience for someone obsessed with plugin architectures and the evolution of p…

Now this is hilarious.

To celebrate the publication of the eBooks of The Art of Computer Programming, (TAOCP), we asked several computer scientists, contemporaries, colleagues, and well-wishers to pose one question each to author Dona…

This is absolute gold, everyone should read it.

"I did write a compiler manual in 1958, which by chance was actually used as the textbook for one of my classes in 1959(!)"

For clarification, he was a student in that class, not the professor...

StaticGen is a leaderboard of the top open-source static site generators. Promoting a static approach to building websites.

This is a pretty cool list.

A free open public domain football (soccer) database & schema for use in any (programming) language (e.g. uses plain text fixtures/data sets). Example:

Oh man this is awesome. Time to start hacking.

It's hard to bring science to the public. The subtleties of research are often lost in translation when they surface in the news. Commentator Alva Noë wonders why.

Yay for misreporting the facts.

May 20, 2014

when AES(☢) = ☠ -- Episode V

This is absolutely nuts. Creating a JPG that encrypts to itself ( Talk available at

The way I thought you used a dictionary was that you looked up words you’ve never heard of, or whose sense you’re unsure of. You would never look up an ordinary word — like example, or sport, or magic — because all you’ll learn is what it means, and that you already know.

This is absolutely beautiful.

"It’s as if someone decided that dictionaries these days had to sound like they were written by a Xerox machine, not a person, certainly not a person with a poet’s ear, a man capable of high and mighty English, who set out to write the secular American equivalent of the King [Alice] Bible and pulled it off."

On Wikipedia, the wisdom of the crowd often rules—as insensible as the crowd can be.

This is interesting. On how you should always fact-check Wikipedia.

Some major ISPs appear to be attempting to extort money in exchange for peering with Level3

"These companies are attempting to extort more millions from us just to provide the service we have already paid for.

I say throw the bums out."

I have recently read an article about computations on C++ templates. One of the comments to the article was a

A lambda calculus interpreter (complete with macros, variable lookups, tail recursion). Written using C++ templates and processed completely at compile time.

Because why not.

May 19, 2014

To change false beliefs, appealing to a person’s sense of self may be more important than the facts.

This is a really enlightening read. Especially relevant nowadays due to the spread of false information and misconceptions.

Since the 1930s, U.S. G.D.P. has grown, in real terms, by a factor of sixteen. Why hasn’t that wealth translated into more leisure time?

"It is, to say the least, disappointing that things haven’t turned out that way—that inequality has grown, that leisure is scarce, that even the rich complain of being overwhelmed. And yet so much of what we do, collectively and individually, suggests that we still believe more wealth is the answer. Reëxamining this belief would probably be a good idea—that is, if anyone had the time for it."

Active cancellation technology for people with hand tremor.

I think this is a great example of tech that can actually help people. Kudos.

When people are isolated from human contact, their mind can do some truly bizarre things, says Michael Bond. Why does this happen?

"What message can we take from these stories of endurance and despair? The obvious one is that we are, as a rule, considerably diminished when disengaged from others. Isolation may very often be the “sum total of wretchedness”, as the writer Thomas Carlyle put it. However, a more upbeat assessment seems equally valid: it is possible to connect, to find solace beyond ourselves, even when we are alone. It helps to be prepared, and to be mentally resilient. But we shouldn’t underestimate the power of our imagination to knock over prison walls, penetrate icy caves or provide make-believe companions to walk with us."

Google's YouTube has reached a deal to buy Twitch, a popular videogame-streaming company, for more than $1 billion, according to sources familiar with the pact. The deal, in an all-cash offer, is e...

Not sure how I feel about this. One of the main draws for Twitch was that it wasn't YouTube.

May 18, 2014

cppnow_presentations_2014 - Presentation materials presented at C++Now 2014

These slides are amazing.

Don't Become a Scientist!

This is from 1999, but seems relevant.

May 17, 2014

How libraries decide which books to keep—and which don’t stand the test of time

"We like to think that merit is eventually recognized, that a great book will make its way, but we know only the success stories."

May 16, 2014

How George Soros made his fortune on a daring bet against the British pound and Bank of England.

This is an interesting and detailed take.

May 15, 2014

So far, you've focused on familiarizing yourself with the tools that Clojure provides: immutable data structures, functions, abstractions, and so on. In this chapter, you'll begin learning how to think about your programming tasks in a way that makes the best use of those tools. You'll begin integra…

This is a really good read for people looking to learn clojure.

Kenya’s handy alternative to cash THE SELF-SERVICE tills at Home Depot, an American home-improvement store, offer customers an unexpected payment option alongside...

Long and an interesting perspective on things.

May 14, 2014

Today Sift Science, a credit card fraud prevention company, has closed an $18 million Series B round of funding led by Spark Capital, with participation from..

This is really cool. The tech behind it sounds really awesome.

A unique first-person shooter game where time moves only when you move, making each level a deadly puzzle. PC/Mac/Linux.

This looks really cool. On the fence about backing it.

This opinionated guide exists to provide both novice and expert Python developers a best-practice handbook to the installation, configuration, and usage of Python on a daily basis.

This is really awesome. I plan on going over this in detail.

Just a decade ago, JavaScript – the programming language used to drive web page interactions – was thought to be too slow for serious application development. But thanks to continuous optimization efforts, it’s now possible to write sophisticated, high-performance applications – even graphics-intens…

Self modifying code that optimizes itself as it runs. This is mindblowing.

This post is part of the series "Debris: Opening the box". Okay, previous posts from this series aimed to actually convey useful technical information: assuming you actually want to write say a mes...

The "madmen" bit is absolutely right. I was thoroughly impressed by .kkrieger the first time around too. Need to read the rest of the series. Especially when you dynamically optimize your code down to the point that the following happens:

"The small enemies at the start can hit you, but he didn’t get hit by any enemy shots, so in the released version of .kkrieger enemy shots deal no damage."

Removing User Interface Complexity, or Why React is AwesomeMay 13 2014I've been studying frameworks and libraries like Ember, Angular, and React the past several months, and given Web Components a lot of thought. These all solve similar problems to varying degrees, and are in conflict in some ways a…

This is a great read on implementing user interfaces in JavaScript.

Is it sad that I can identify the vendors almost thoughtlessly?

This is a written (expanded) narrative of the content from a talk I first gave at PhillyETE on April 23rd, 2014. It mostly follows the flow of the presentation given then, but with a level of detai...

This is a really great read.

So I have a computer. My computer contains hardware (like a CPU! RAM! L1/L2 caches!) But I don’t understand very well how fast that hardware is …

Software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster.

May 13, 2014

Adventures in the land of JavaScript

Playing around with javascript to produce semi realistic terrain.

Scaling SQL with Redis 12 May 2014 I love Redis. It's one of those technologies that is so obvious it makes you wond...

This is really cool.

May 12, 2014

Its coming up on 8 years ago in a few weeks now since I posted a cheque for 900k for 2 months of adsense revenue. I'm going to post the history of adsense from the day I added adsense to the sit...

Plenty of Fish's adsense revenue breakdown.

Here goes my life for the next 4 days. Valve, Y U HAVE QUALIFIERS DURING WORK HOURS?

May 7, 2014

A cancer doctor on losing his wife to cancer.

"We were finally caught in cancer’s ­Zugzwang, the point in the game where all possible moves make you worse off. The point that the other 40,000 women each year who die from breast cancer in the United States also encounter in one way or another. I will never again be mystified, as I had been with many patients, by why someone who is at the precipice of death seeks out yet another shot at treatment, even with something harmful that has a near-zero chance of helping. “Why not?” was suddenly a winning argument."

May 6, 2014

Google has updated its apps for iOS and Android with a bunch of new features, including Uber integration directly in its collection of options for travel..

This is kinda huge.

It has been the better part of a year since I first started hacking on PyPy.js, an experiment in bringing a fast and compliant python interpreter to the web. I've been pretty quiet during that time but have certainly been keeping busy. Some of the big changes since my previous update include:

Yo Dawg, I heard you like JITs, so I put a JIT in your JIT so you can trace while you trace. (

The very short version: if you contact an open source project anonymously, you may not get the best help. Feel free to also reach out privately and share that your post from is actually (...

"In fact, next to development resources, a great community and funding, having impressive deployments is one of the most important things for an open source project."

May 5, 2014

We received a lot of positive feedback, as well as a lot of questions when Mike posted his recent story, Chicken. Many of the questions asked for more spec

"That leaves the remaining six peers with congestion on almost all of the interconnect ports between us. Congestion that is permanent, has been in place for well over a year and where our peer refuses to augment capacity. They are deliberately harming the service they deliver to their paying customers. They are not allowing us to fulfil the requests their customers make for content.

Five of those congested peers are in the United States and one is in Europe. There are none in any other part of the world. All six are large Broadband consumer networks with a dominant or exclusive market share in their local market. In countries or markets where consumers have multiple Broadband choices (like the UK) there are no congested peers."

Many doctors, and the news media, don’t understand that because of the statistics of screening tests, a test with 90 percent accuracy can give a wrong diagnosis more than 90 percent of the time.

Yay for the base rate fallacy.

May 4, 2014

hlisp - Lisp written in Haskell

I wrote a lisp because I clearly have way too much time on my hands.

May 1, 2014

Despite it assosiation with large, bureacratic, and slow enterprise shops, and big, unwieldy frameworks, recent additions to the Java language, tooling, and libraries, combined with more lean programming styles, have turned programming Java into a rather pleasant experience.

This is enlightening.