Reader's Corner for July 2014

July 31, 2014

Here at EFF, we see a lot of stupid patents.

I approve this thing - though, given the number of patents out there, it should probably be something like "stupid patent of the day"

Last week I joined the "7 Day Roguelike Challenge" and wrote the game Alchemy. The goals I set myself were. Complete a playable roguelike game in 7 days Learn more about Clojure! Share some of my e...

Writing a roguelike in clojure. Great for both roguelike development and clojure.

I would totally live here.

In a country with heavy traffic congestion and poor public transportation, companies are finding new ways to better connect drivers and passengers.

Rickshaws via text. Yay.

The lowdown on the laser speed guns and how they're buggy and unreliable.

In late 2000, the producers and crew for action flick Rush Hour 2 gathered at the now-defunct Desert Inn in Las Vegas and prepared to blow up a casino. The scene, which pitted policemen and Secret Service agents against a counterfeiter attempting to launder $100 million in superdollars, was to culmi…

"Bilson was eventually forced to destroy his entire inventory of currency -- “somewhere in the billions” -- at considerable loss for ISS, which is one of only two firms in Los Angeles that produces fake currency for the movies."

Yesterday, Jared Sinclair published a very candid writeup of the download and sales numbers for his app Unread. It was very refreshing to see such an honest post and to see someone publicly admit that spending so much time on an independent app did not result in the numbers he was hoping for.

"Even though I managed to bring in a paltry $498 for a year's worth of side-project time, it gets even worse. I paid nearly $700 in Facebook and Twitter mobile ads to try and market them. I also bought an iPad Mini and an iPod Touch for development and testing, so I'm even deeper in the hole overall."

On January 25, 1995, at 9:28 A.M. Moscow time, an aide handed a briefcase to Boris Yeltsin, the President of Russia. A small light near the handle was on, and inside was a screen displaying information indicating that a missile had been launched four minutes earlier from somewhere in the vicinity of…

"And so, for six minutes in 1995, the future of the species hung in the balance because a mid-level Russian official left work early, or neglected to find a proper procedure for dealing with a message that someone was sending up a rocket, at an unspecified time, to look at the northern lights. It’s like the forty-six-cent computer chip. There was no redundancy built into the system. If one piece failed, the whole system was imperilled."

Markov chains, named after Andrey Markov, are mathematical systems that hop from one "state" (a situation or set of values) to another. For example, if you made a Markov chain model of a baby's behavior, you might include "playing," "eating", "sleeping," and "crying" as states, which together with o…

This is one of the best visualizations and explanations I've seen.

I wanted to make a simple REST service for queuing file uploads, deployable as a virtual machine. The traditional way to do this is to download a …

Unikernels in Ocaml.

"This demonstrates both the good and the bad of Mirage: the bug was easy to find and fix, using regular debugging tools. I’m sure fixing a filesystem corruption bug in the Linux kernel would have been vastly more difficult. On the other hard, Linux is rather well tested, whereas I appear to be the first person ever to try deleting a file in Mirage!"

Eloquent JavaScriptsecond editionThis is a book about JavaScript, programming, and the wonders of the digital. You can read it online here, and a paper version is being worked on.Written by Marijn Haverbeke.Licensed under a Creative Commons attribution-noncommercial license. All code in this book ma…

Free online book on javascript.

Cloud computing has been pioneering the business of renting computing resources in large data centers to multiple (and possibly competing) tenants. The basic enabling technology for the cloud is virtualization such as Xen1 or VMWare, which allows customers to multiplex VMs (virtual machines) on a sh…

This is a new perspective on operating system design and containerization/virtualization. For all the systems folk.

July 28, 2014

With a tech boom lubricated by VC cash, a startup culture cranked up by fiercely competitive VPs and adrenaline-driven coders, and a corporate model that encourages stressed-out managers to look the other way, illicit drugs and black-market painkillers have become part of the landscape here in the w…

Drug valley.

July 27, 2014

Inspired by a recent purchase of the Red Book , which provides a curated list of important papers around database systems, I?ve decided to begin assembling a list of important papers in distributed systems.

Detailed and amazing list of papers.

A little HTML5 puzzle game that takes a few seconds to take off and a few hours to beat. Playable right in the browser, including mobile

For all those people who want their lives sucked into another addictive game, here you go.

(also I'm counting down till the mobile clones appear)

A refrigeration boom is changing the way Chinese people eat — and threatening the planet in the process.

"‘So many people these days have these massive refrigerators, and there is this sense that we need to keep them well stocked,’ Bloom said. ‘But there’s no way you can eat all that food before it goes bad.'"

Born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, Malcolm X was one of the most articulate and powerful leaders of black America during the 1960s. A street hustler convicted of robbery in 1946, he spent seven years in prison, where he educated himself and became a disciple of Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nati…

"I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive. I certainly wasn’t seeking any degree, the way a college confers a status symbol upon its students. My homemade education gave me, with every additional book that I read, a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness, and blindness that was afflicting the black race in America. Not long ago, an English writer telephoned me from London, asking questions. One was, “What’s your alma mater?” I told him, “Books.” You will never catch me with a free fifteen minutes in which I’m not studying something I feel might be able to help the black man."

July 25, 2014

A free book on functional language interpretation and implementation.

July 24, 2014

Yesterday, The New Yorker made all of its magazine pieces since 2007 freely available online for three months. After that time, everything will go behind a metered paywall, along the lines of what the New York Times has in place. So what should you read during this three-month free-for-all? We canva…

I'm going to have to read all of these, this is a well picked list.

I was walking to a team meeting where I was going to announce that we would likely have to lay off nearly all of our employees because we unexpectedly had almost no money left, and that it was all my fault. On the way, my co-founder and our CTO... | Seth Bannon | Founder & CEO, Amicus. Y Combina…

"Entrepreneurs often write about what’s going right, but too rarely write about what’s gone wrong."

There are tons of valuable lessons in here.

The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtaine…

It's quite scary that this database exists in the first place.

July 22, 2014

What If book tour!Posted on July 22, 2014 by xkcdMy book, What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, comes out September 2nd (pre-order on Amazon!), and I’m excited to announce that I’ll be going on a book tour!Here’s the event list: Thursday, September 4CAMBRIDGE, MA Har…

Just bought my ticket. Anyone else interested in going to the SF one?

If space-time is granular, it could reverse gravitational collapse and turn it into expansion.

This is an interesting phenomenon. I'm wondering how it would work out. Can any of the physicists in my friends list comment on how plausible this is?

Star Trek: DS9 episodes worth watching.

YMMV, I haven't seen this show.

Just a little under 31 years ago, I played a key role in a conspiracy theory that grew up around a passenger plane downed by a Russian missile. Trust me, I did not mean to be involved. On September 1,...

"As this was a very early computer with limited backup capability, hours of work of dozens of experts had been lost when I inadvertently closed down the computer.

I, naturally, felt terrible and was, appropriately, fired."

All I can say is "ouch"

July 21, 2014

The folks at Stack Overflow remain incredibly open about what they are doing and why. So it&...

This is some interesting stuff. I find the coding practices a bit different, but they seem to work well.

A collection of security data science research papers

This is a huge list of papers.

July 19, 2014

- Gist is a simple way to share snippets of text and code with others.

Off by one errors causing geopolitical issues. A good analysis of the bug in Youtube.

Amid an unprecendent glut, Larry the doomed lobster is followed from a Nova Scotia trap to a Toronto table

This is a great read on how lobsters go from the sea to your plate.

According to statements later made by teachers and administrators, the cheating process at Parks Middle School, in Atlanta, began to take the form of a routine. During testing week, after students had completed the day’s section, principal Christopher Waller distracted the testing coordinator. Then,…

This is a sad story about how No Child Left Behind and data-driven teacher evaluation policies forced over a hundred teachers at forty plus schools to cheat and modify standardized test scores (at times without the students' knowledge).

Fred Fletcher doesn’t watch baseball anymore, but one night in May, he got a text from a friend: Something had happened at that evening’s

"How fast was it going? We don’t know for sure, but a line drive from a major league batter can easily exceed 100 miles per hour. We know some other things. We know that a baseball weighs five ounces. We know that force equals mass times acceleration. We know that Fred Fletcher’s six-year-old daughter, whom he will identify only as “A,” was sitting precisely 144 feet from home plate. The laces on her sneakers were knotted in neat bows. And she—well, not just she, but everyone around her—had less than one second to react to Cabrera’s line drive."

You’re right, programming isn’t math. But when someone says this, chances are it’s a programmer misunderstanding mathematics. I often hear the refrain that programmers don’t need to know any math to be proficient and have... | Jeremy Kun | ∈ Mathematicians ∩ Programmers

This is a great read.

July 18, 2014

gists - With way too messy gist.github pages this is an attempt to organise my snippets

"A Gentle Introduction to Monad Transformers

Or, Values as Exceptions"

Sometimes taking the easy way out isn't nearly as bad as it might seem!posted Thursday February 13th, 2014 at 08:19:00Tagged: Math

"That's really surprising, especially realizing that this applies for all NP-hard problems, if formulated correctly. So, simply choosing a random solution is often effectively as good as the best approximation algorithms that are currently known. In fact, in our paper we linked above we present some empirical evidence suggesting that the random solutions are often even closer to optimal than ones produced by state-of-the-art approximation algorithms."

What do you do if your child has a condition that is new to science? Until recently, Bertrand Might was the only known patient with a certain genetic disorder. His parents began searching for others.

This is really really moving. A story about a couple's fight to figure out what was wrong with their son.

The father in question is Matt Might, famous for "An illustrated guide to a PhD" and "Hunting down my son's killer".

This work is really impressive and interesting.

"How to read a research paper"

July 17, 2014

[Gamasutra is proud to be partnering with the IGDA's Preservation SIG to present detailed official histories of each of the first ten games voted into the Digital Game Canon. The Canon "provides a starting-point for the difficult task of preserving this history inspired by the role of that the U.S.…

Ah, the nostalgia, This is a great read.

Nimrod is a powerful statically typed language that allows the programmer expressiveness without compromising run-time performance. As a general purpose programming language, it gives the same sort of power and performance as C++, but in a nicer package and with even more powerful tools!

This language seems really exciting.

David Young, Vice President, Verizon Regulatory Affairs recently published a blog post suggesting that Netflix themselves are responsible for the streaming

""If that’s the case, we’ll buy one for them. Maybe they can’t afford the small piece of cable between our two ports. If that’s the case, we’ll provide it. Heck, we’ll even install it.""

This is awesome.

Microsoft is planning to announce layoffs that will substantially exceed the largest layoffs in the company’s history, according to several people briefed on the decision.


July 16, 2014

Note: I copied this from and stripped out all of the IMHO extraneous formatting. ---Alex

This is great.

Amazon might give readers something to get really excited about: A digital ebook and audiobook subscription service that provides Kindle users with all the..


July 15, 2014

Pangoly is a free service that helps you pick the best hardware and peripherals for your new PC build, according to your budget and personal needs.

Finally, something in this space with a great UI.

One of the big challenges you might face when learning a language like Haskell which favors immutability or purity is that suddenly all of the algorithms you once kept at your side have… well, by-and-large they’ve vanished.

This is an amazing three part series that I need to get around to finishing.

A former student, who was also once a student of Tomonaga’s, wrote to extend his congratulations. Feynman responded, asking Mr. Mano what he was now doing. The response: “studying the Coherence theory with some applications to the propagation of electromagnetic waves through turbulent atmosphere… a…

"You say you are a nameless man. You are not to your wife and to your child. You will not long remain so to your immediate colleagues if you can answer their simple questions when they come into your office. You are not nameless to me.

Do not remain nameless to yourself – it is too sad a way to be. Know your place in the world and evaluate yourself fairly, not in terms of your naïve ideals of your own youth, nor in terms of what you erroneously imagine your teacher’s ideals are."

This visualization displays the data for one random NYC yellow taxi on a single day in 2013. See where it operated, how much money it made, and how busy it was over 24 hours.

This is an enlightening visualization of taxi cab routes.

Federal Communications Commission 445 12th Street, SW Washington D.C. 20554 July 14, 2014 Re: Open Internet Remand, GN Docket 14-28 Dear Chairman Wheeler and Commissioners Clyburn,...

"Mr. Chairman, you say you oppose a two-tier Internet and want to preserve Internet openness, so let’s reclassify broadband as the public utility we know it to be. Ensure that the Internet thrives as a platform for free commerce and speech for generations to come. May the United States of America continue to lead in innovating on the greatest free market the world has ever seen."

ToolsOfTheTrade - Tools of The Trade, from Hacker News.

This is an awesome list of tools for a range of uses.

July 13, 2014

This post was inspired by a Hacker News comment of mine. I presented what follows somewhat poorly there, so I hope my expansion below clarifies the idea.

Amazing read on functional programming, the rationals, and correctness preserving transformations.

Is resistance to Amazon futile in the book publishing world? Its battle with Hachette has many on edge.

"“Publishing is a shyster business,” he reflected. “One day it’s ‘You rock, bro,’ and the next day they’re not returning your calls. If I’m not moving books on Amazon, they’re not going to ask me back. It’s not a charity.”"

This post follows up on OCaml for Haskellers from Edward Z. Yang (2010) and my own Haskell for OCaml programmers from earlier this year.

I hadn't thought about it this way, but the author argues that Rust is inherently closer to a functional language than an imperative one.

An analysis of Facebook activity reveals how fan support changed during the tournament.

This is well sourced.

Low-lying south Florida, at the front line of climate change in the US, will be swallowed as sea levels rise. Astonishingly, the population is growing, house prices are rising and building goes on. The problem is the city is run by climate change deniers

"Low-lying south Florida, at the front line of climate change in the US, will be swallowed as sea levels rise. Astonishingly, the population is growing, house prices are rising and building goes on. The problem is the city is run by climate change deniers"

Fifty percent off? That doesn't sound like such a good deal for sushi or a college degree. We ask some economists: Why not?

"Unfortunately, there's a real world impact here. In recent years there's been a lot of attention to the issue of undermatching. This is the finding that a majority of highest-achieving but low-income students fail to apply to a single competitive college. Even when financial need means that they would pay little or nothing to attend a school like Harvard or Stanford, these students are instead choosing non-selective schools that tend to have a lower advertised price."

Although 1950s suburbia conjures visions of traditional family life, the story of the suburbization of America is also one of exclusion, segregation &

"Levittown itself arguably embodied the best and worst of the postwar American story; it was a result of the entrepreneurship and ingenuity that has come to define the American spirit, but it also participated in the violent prejudice that has also been part of American history."

July 12, 2014

By that I mean that lambda is my tribe. And you know how tribalism works: when two tribes meet, it's usually to argue and not to communicate.

"the machine tribe in two sentences

In the beginning was the
Segmentation fault (core dumped)"

This is a really interesting read on compilation and intermediate languages (CPS, SSA, ANF, etc)

In 2001, a 10-year-old girl named Laura Buxton released a golden balloon into the sky. What happened next is difficult to comprehend.

"“Million-to-one chances,” she said, “crop up nine times out of ten.”"

- Terry Pratchett, Discworld

Is Cynk a short-seller trap? Maybe? I don't know. I guess not? But wouldn't it be cool if it was?

This seems to be a plausible explanation of what happened.

July 11, 2014

A pediatric occupational therapist says schools keep kids in their chairs far too long.

I totally agree with this.

pifs - πfs - the data-free filesystem!

Because infinite compression rocks.

Nearly half of black males and almost 40 percent of white males in the US are arrested by age 23, which can hurt their ability to find work, go to school and participate fully in their communities. A new study released Jan. 6 in the journal Crime & Delinquency provides the first contemporary finding…

Wait ... what?

July 10, 2014

MindRDR connects Google Glass with a device to monitor brain activity, allowing users to take pictures and socialise them on Twitter or Facebook. No physical interaction required.


July 9, 2014

Hello there Reddit. I'm Pat Rothfuss, and I'm here with a few people from the Worldbuilders Team to talk about our cool new fundraiser, [Geeks Doing G...

Starts in a few hours. He needs to hurry up and get back to writing the next book.

The billionaire mathematician James H. Simons had led a life of ferocious curiosity.

This is an amazing profile.

This is a really good take on the perspective of a Mechanical Turk worker.

Table of Contents 1IntroductionJulian Togelius, Noor Shaker, Mark Nelson2The search-based approachJulian Togelius and Noor Shaker3Constructive generation methods for dungeons and levels Noor Shaker, Antonios Liapis, Julian Togelius, Ricardo Lopes and Rafael Bidarra4Fractals, noise and agents with ap…

This is some awesome stuff.

July 7, 2014

Under regulatory pressure, many banks are ending or limiting money transfers, most likely meaning higher costs for immigrants sending money home.

Well this sucks. Limiting low cost money transfers.

Pike's rules 1 and 2 restate Tony Hoare's famous maxim "Premature optimization is the root of all evil." Ken Thompson rephrased Pike's rules 3 and 4 as "When in doubt, use brute force.". Rules 3 and 4 are instances of the design philosophy KISS. Rule 5 was previously stated by Fred Brooks in The Myt…

Rob Pike's 5 Rules of Programming.

I got started hacking on my own roguelike after spending several years avidly playing Angband. Like most projects, I had a few itches I wanted to scratch and it kind of took on a life of its own. One thing that annoyed me about Angband was how monsters dropped loot when they died.

On dropping loot in roguelike games.

I had many “reasons” to make this game. First and foremost, since I’m a gamer (since years ago), I have always wanted to make my own game. I have always wanted to feel what it takes to make all these masters pieces I love to toy with. I would bet most of us here feel …

This is a great read on how to make games and some of the design decisions that go into them.

July 6, 2014

An exploration of expressions of emotions, issues and swearing in GitHub commit messages based on data from the GitHub Archive accessed via Google BigQuery.

gotta love them angry commit messages.

The divergent legacies of the Domino’s and Little Caesars founders

This is an interesting read.

July 5, 2014

This is the story of the rise and fall of Lisp at the Jet Propulsion Lab as told from my personal (and highly biased) point of view. I am not writing in my official capacity as an employee of JPL, nor am I in any way representing the official position of JPL. (This will become rather obvious shortly…

From 2002, but still interesting.

"In the words of Elton John: It's sad. So sad. It's a sad, sad situation. My best hope at this point is that the dotcom crash will do to Java what AI winter did to Lisp, and we may eventually emerge from "dotcom winter" into a saner world. But I wouldn't bet on it."

The victories gained by the militant group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria were built on months of maneuvering along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which define a region known as the cradle of civilization.

This is one of the best infographics / interactive reports I've ever seen. Hats off.

This article was originally published on March 4, 2010 at Max Klein’s blog. It has since fallen off the Internet and into the great 404 void. I am republishing it here because it is one of the very few blog posts that I’ve read in my lifetime that have stuck with me. If the original …

This is applies to much more than just startups, and everyone should read it.

"Being intelligent is like having a knife. If you train every day in using the knife, you will be invincible. If you think that just having a knife will make you win any battle you fight, then you will fail. This believe in your own inherent ability is what will kill your startup. Success comes from the work and ability you put in becoming better than the others, and not from some brilliance you feel you may have within you."

With the latest I/O conference, Google has finally publicly made public its plans for its new runtime on Android. The Android RunTime, ART, is the successor and replacement for Dalvik, the virtual machine on which Android Java code is executed on. We’ve had traces and previews of it available with K…

"ART patches up many of the Achilles’ heels that comes with running non-native applications and having an automatic memory management system. As a developer, I couldn’t have asked for more, and most performance issues that I needed to work around with clever programming no longer pose such a drastic problem anymore."

Kallithea, a free software source code management system supporting two leading version control systems, Mercurial and Git.

This seems to be a great self-hosted SCM.

Everything about this is really cool.

July 4, 2014

Full Stack Python explains each layer of the web application stack, from the server up through the rendering in a user's browser.

This is a great resource.

July 3, 2014

New York’s unofficial shuttles, called “dollar vans” in some neighborhoods, make up a thriving transportation system that operates where the subway and buses don’t. This interactive project, with videos, maps out that system.

This is a really good read.

July 1, 2014

In their Group F World Cup match late last month, Argentina and Iran were still deadlocked after 90 minutes. With the game in stoppage time and the score tied at 0-0, Lionel Messi took the ball nea...

A few choice quotes:

"By this point, it should be evident that Messi has at least a little bit of skill."

"First, to ensure that we’re celebrating the greatness of Messi and not the greatness of Barcelona, we need to make sense of Messi on Barcelona. The easiest way to do that is to evaluate Barcelona without Messi, also known as the Spanish national team."

"Coming in just behind Messi with 289 goals and assists since the 2010 World Cup is Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi’s rival from Real Madrid. When it comes to scoring, these two aren’t just on top of the pile, they’re hang-gliding somewhere way above it."

Thanks to a secretive conspiracy working mostly below the public radar, your time of death may be a minute later than presently expected. But don't expect to live any longer, unless you happen to be responsible for time synchronization in a large network of computers, in which case this coup will lo…

This is a really really great read.

"But Linus' [Torvalds] observation that "95 percent of all programmers think they are in the top 5 percent, and the rest are certain they are above average" should not be taken lightly: very few programmers have any idea what the difference is between "wall-clock time" and "interval time," and leap seconds are way past rocket science for them. (For example, Posix defines only a pthread_cond_timedwait(), which takes wall-clock time but not an interval-time version of the call.)"