andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker
[syndicated profile] four_short_links_feed

Posted by Nat Torkington

Decentralized Comms, Multiple Screens, HTTP/S Troubleshooting, and Early Adopter

  1. Matrix -- an open standard for interoperable, decentralized, real-time communication over IP. (via LWN)
  2. RAMSES -- Rendering Architecture for Multi-Screen EnvironmentS: It implements a distributed system for rendering 3D content with a focus on bandwidth and resource efficiency.
  3. -- a shell script for http/https troubleshooting and profiling. It's also a simple wrapper script around several open source security tools.
  4. Early Adopter -- a Valentine's Day sci-fi short story by Kevin Bankston, and it's very good. (via Cory Doctorow)

Continue reading Four short links: 22 February 2019.

[syndicated profile] morning_cup_of_code_feed
Issue #209 - February 22, 2019


Identical Code Folding

(Jan 07) #cpp

When compiling C++ code with the GCC compiler, template instances with different parameters each get their code instantiated, leading to code duplication. However, there are ways to prevent this from happening. In this blog post, the author shows how it can be done using a combination of code optimization and the gold linker.

Exploring The Peano Axioms Through Algebraic Data Types

(Jan 12) #javascript #haskell

The Peano Axioms in mathematics are 8 simple rules that define the natural number system. These Axioms are interesting because they describe numbers in terms of objects and functions, concepts that programmers are familiar with. In this blog post, Francis Stokes implements the Peano Axioms in JavaScript, exploring a fascinating relationship between the logic of mathematics and programming.

CGI: Ruby's Bare Metal

(Jan 05) #ruby

When you're running an online business, you want to make sure that it can still operate during those times when you're not available to handle things yourself. To achieve this, one task you may find yourself faced with is automating the handling of web requests. In this article, Mike Perham, the creator of Sidekiq, discusses a great way to handle automating the onboarding of a new customer using a tried and true web technology, the Common Gateway Interface.

Programming language of the day: Janet. "Janet is a functional and imperative programming language. It runs on Windows, Linux, macOS, and should run on other systems with some porting. The entire language (core library, interpreter, compiler, assembler) is about 200-300 kB and should run on many constrained systems."

And that's it for today! Discuss this issue at our subreddit r/morningcupofcoding.

Did you like what you read? Let us know by clicking one of the links below.

Liked - Disliked

I hope you enjoyed reading the latest issue of Morning Cup of Coding. If you did, consider supporting it by becoming a patron (Patreon), buying me a coffee (PayPal), donating anonymously (coinbase), or purchasing an MCC mug (RedBubble); it helps me keep this going.


Copyright © 2019 Human Readable Publications, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

[syndicated profile] charlesarthur_feed

Posted by charlesarthur

“Are you going to the Fortnite Live festival there, Father Ted?” CC-licensed photo by Insomnia Cured Here on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 9 links for you. Untested on Kodak. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

When kids Google themselves • The Atlantic

Taylor Lorenz:


Allie was in fourth grade the first time she Googled herself. Like Ellen, she wasn’t expecting to find anything, since she doesn’t yet have her own social-media accounts. Google turned up just a few photos, but she was shocked that there was anything at all. She immediately became hyperaware of the image her mother was building for her on Instagram and Facebook. “My parents have always posted about me,” she said. “I was basically fine with it … then I realized I was making an impression and I was an actual person online too, through her page.”

Not all kids react poorly to finding out they’ve been living an unwitting life online. Some are thrilled. In fourth grade, Nate searched his name and discovered that he was mentioned in a news article about his third-grade class making a giant burrito. “I didn’t know,” he said. “I was surprised, really surprised.” But he was pleased with his newfound clout. “It made me feel famous … I got to make new friends by saying, ‘Oh, I’m in a newspaper [online],’” he said. Ever since, he has Googled himself every few months, hoping to find things.

Natalie, now 13, said that in fifth grade she and her friends competed with one another over the amount of information about themselves on the internet. “We thought it was so cool that we had pics of ourselves online,” she said. “We would brag like, ‘I have this many pics of myself on the internet.’ You look yourself up, and it’s like, ‘Whoa, it’s you!’ We were all shocked when we realized we were out there. We were like, ‘Whoa, we’re real people.’”

Natalie’s parents are stringent about not posting photos of her to social media, so there are only a handful of photos of her out there, but she yearns for more. “I don’t want to live in a hole and only have two pics of me online. I want to be a person who is a person. I want people to know who I am,” she said.


We all want to be someone, don’t we? And this is the first way that children discover that they are, to other people – maybe to the people they want to impress, which is their peers. Comes with a word I hadn’t seen before: “sharenting” (parents who share too much).
link to this extract

Lessons from 6 software rewrite stories • Medium

Herb Caudill:


Almost two decades ago, Joel Spolsky excoriated Netscape for rewriting their codebase in his landmark essay Things You Should Never Do.
He concluded that a functioning application should never, ever be rewritten from the ground up. His argument turned on two points:
• The crufty-looking parts of the application’s codebase often embed hard-earned knowledge about corner cases and weird bugs.
• A rewrite is a lengthy undertaking that keeps you from improving on your existing product, during which time the competition is gaining on you.

For many, Joel’s conclusion became an article of faith; I know it had a big effect on my thinking at the time. In the following years, I read a few contrarian takes arguing that, under certain circumstances, it made a lot of sense to rewrite from scratch. For example:
• Sometimes the legacy codebase really is messed up beyond repair, such that even simple changes require a cascade of changes to other parts of the code.
• The original technology choices might be preventing you from making necessary improvements.
• Or, the original technology might be obsolete, making it hard (or expensive) to recruit quality developers.

The correct answer, of course, is that it depends a lot on the circumstances. Yes, sometimes it makes more sense to gradually refactor your legacy code. And yes, sometimes it makes sense to throw it all out and start over.

But those aren’t the only choices. Let’s take a quick look at six stories, and see what lessons we can draw.


Netscape, Basecamp, Visual Studio, Gmail/Inbox, Fogbugz/Trello, FreshBooks/BillSpring. In depth, fascinating.
link to this extract

People don’t want to pay big bucks for a new smartphone • ZDNet

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes:


The survey of 1,303 smartphone buyers in the US, carried out earlier this month for USA Today by SurveyMonkey, makes hard reading for companies who expect buyers to drop a thousand dollars on a smartphone, because it seems that the majority of the market belongs to the sub-$500 smartphone.

Here’s the breakdown

Sub-$300: 30%
$300 to $500: 26%$501 to $750: 25%
$751 to $1,000: 16%
More than $1,000: 3%

For comparison, a 64GB iPhone XR is $749, while a full-spec 512GB iPhone XS Max is a whopping $1,449. This means that the entirety of Apple’s new iPhone line is at the upper end of what people are willing to pay, with the high-end devices existing at the very thinnest end of the wedge.

And it’s the sort of price that most people would balk at when it comes to buying far bigger gadgets such as desktops and laptops.

Apple’s cheapest iPhone currently on sale is the 32GB iPhone 7, which retails for $449. While this seems like a reasonable deal – especially when you consider that Apple’s priciest iPhone is $1,449 – it’s a lot of money for old hardware. It even raises the question of whether Apple could use a budget $300 iPhone designed from the ground-up to be cheap yet functional. 

That would certainly allow Apple the chance to go after a much bigger market share.


In the words of Gregory House, MD, “everybody lies”. Especially about what they’re prepared to pay for a new smartphone. Though that $750+ group is nearly one-fifth of the whole market. And if you’re looking just at revenue, 44% of the total is in the $750-1,000 space; just 9% in the sub-$300 space. You need revenue to make profit, given fixed overheads.
link to this extract

The vanishing flights of the monarch butterfly • The New Yorker

Sue Halpern:


[Emeritus professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas, Chip] Taylor has a one-word explanation for why 2018 was an especially good year for eastern monarchs, and why that good year likely portends bad ones to come: temperature. In March, when the monarchs arrived in Texas from Mexico, the mean temperatures were 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, which should have blown the butterflies all the way to Kansas. The butterflies couldn’t go farther north, though, because it was too cold in northern Texas. “I looked at the weather every day and I’d say, ‘damn, that’s good. Keep your babies in Texas,’” Taylor said. In May, the temperatures were optimal as the butterflies moved north, and they were ideal in the summer as monarchs spread out across their breeding range. Then, in the fall, as the butterflies headed south, those numbers were favorable, too. “What we had this year is everything was positive in every one of those stages,” Taylor told me. “This is why I say this is not likely to happen again—because you’re not likely to see a pattern like this again.”

West of the Rockies, the number of monarchs overwintering in California is estimated to be around twenty thousand, down 86% since last year, which “isn’t completely unprecedented,” Emma Pelton, a researcher with the Xerces Society, told me. “I’ve looked back at data between 1980 and today, and there have been other instances where we’ve had a single-year drop of this magnitude. But the difference is that this is all in the context of a 97% decline since the 1980s.” The current situation, Pelton added, is considered “a quasi-extinction.” There may not be enough butterflies to repopulate the range. If that happens, there will still be western monarchs, but they will be increasingly hard to find. “That would be like losing all the rhinos, except the rhinos in the zoos,” Pelton said. “Really, the threat is that we’re going to lose migration.”


So even when it’s good, the news is bad.
link to this extract

AT&T pulls all ads from YouTube amid pedophilia controversy • CNBC

Todd Haselton and Sara Salinas:


“Until Google can protect our brand from offensive content of any kind, we are removing all advertising from YouTube,” an AT&T spokesperson told CNBC. The company originally pulled its entire ad spend from YouTube in 2017 after revelations that its ads were appearing alongside offensive content, including terrorist content, but resumed advertising in January.

On Wednesday, Nestle and “Fortnite” maker Epic Games pulled some advertising. Disney reportedly also paused its ads.

There’s no evidence that AT&T ads ran before any of the videos brought into question by recent reports. Advertisers such as Grammarly and Peloton, which did see their ads placed alongside the videos, told CNBC they were in conversations with YouTube to resolve the issue.

YouTube declined to comment on any specific advertisers, but said in a statement on Wednesday, “Any content — including comments — that endangers minors is abhorrent and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube. We took immediate action by deleting accounts and channels, reporting illegal activity to authorities and disabling violative comments.”

Also on Thursday, AdWeek obtained a memo YouTube sent to advertisers that outlines immediate changes YouTube says it’s making in an effort to protect its younger audience.

YouTube said it is suspending comments on millions of videos that “could be subject to predatory comments.”


Peloton and Grammarly seem to be a bit lacklustre about something that is a serious breach of ethics. YouTube enables this stuff. Its algorithms make it easier because, as Ben Thompson pointed out, none of the people doing this is going to report it – so self-reporting fails.
link to this extract

Citymapper just announced a subscription service for London’s muddled transport network • WIRED UK

Nicole Kobie:


Citymapper already plots a range of routes in its journey planning app, and soon it’ll let you pay for it all under one subscription. It’s the start of mobility as a service, or at least that’s the company’s ambition. “The idea is to make public transport effortless. The way our app makes it easy to plan, we want to make it easy to pay,” says CEO and founder Azmat Yusuf. “We’re trying to create a vision of this future where mobility is something where, as a user, you care about getting from point A to point B. We want to make it so it’s a bit like a utility, you can access whatever comes along.”

That’s the long-term plan, though the initial packages are rather more limited. From launch, there will be two subscriptions. The first, at about £30 (prices may still be subject to final tweaking), will give Citymapper Pass subscribers full access to zones one and two of Transport for London’s network for a week. For £40, they’ll get the same, plus unlimited rides on TfL’s Santander docked bike shares as well as two journeys on Citymapper’s Ride, its cab-sharing system similar to Uber Pool.

Why sign up? To start, it’s cheaper. The first offer is a £5.10 discount on TfL’s own weekly price for zones one and two. For the second, two trips in Citymapper Ride are worth about £10, while Santander bikes cost £2 a day. Citymapper suggested bulk buying helped keep prices down, and the fares are similar to those offered by group-buying scheme Commuter Club; unlike that system, subscribers will be charged weekly and not be locked in. “It’ll be easy to sign up, easy to pause, easy to cancel,” says Yusuf.


“Muddled transport network”? In what way is the London transport network muddled? If you buy an Oyster card, you can use any part of it. Citymapper is going to pay TfL the full fare, so it’s bearing the losses here. This is screwy. Anyone can sell pounds for 90p.
link to this extract

Norwich’s Fortnite Live festival was a complete disaster •

Tom Phillips:


A festival designed to recreate Fortnite on the outskirts of Norwich has, somewhat predictably, not lived up to expectations.

Event organisers flogged 2500 tickets to kids and parents. Entry cost upwards of £12 and unlimited access wristbands a further £20.

In return, families got what amounted to a few fairground attractions. Photos from the event show a climbing wall for three people, archery for four people, and four go-karts.

An attraction dubbed a “cave experience” was a lorry trailer with tarpaulin over it.

An indoors area where you could play actual Fortnite was probably the best thing there – although it cost money to access and you had to queue to do so. So much for free-to-play.

And all of that was if you could actually get into the event to start with. Hundreds of people were left queuing for hours due to staff shortages.


A tarpaulin over a lorry trailer 😂😂. This is one of those stories which is a delight to research as a journalist, because it keeps turning up people at their absolute bumbling worst. Norwich, as an area, is also famous for its vague efforts to make money by promising far too much from a few lorries in a field.

Unsurprisingly, Epic Games sued since its mark was being used without permission, and the company behind it (“Exciting Events” 😂) has liquidated itself.

As someone commented on Twitter, it was like the episode of Father Ted when the funfair comes to Craggy Island.

link to this extract

A philosopher argues: AI can’t be an artist • MIT Technology Review

Sean Dorrance Kelly, who is a philosophy professor at Harvard:


Human creative achievement, because of the way it is socially embedded, will not succumb to advances in artificial intelligence. To say otherwise is to misunderstand both what human beings are and what our creativity amounts to.

This claim is not absolute: it depends on the norms that we allow to govern our culture and our expectations of technology. Human beings have, in the past, attributed great power and genius even to lifeless totems. It is entirely possible that we will come to treat artificially intelligent machines as so vastly superior to us that we will naturally attribute creativity to them. Should that happen, it will not be because machines have outstripped us. It will be because we will have denigrated ourselves…

…my argument is not that the creator’s responsiveness to social necessity must be conscious for the work to meet the standards of genius. I am arguing instead that we must be able to interpret the work as responding that way. It would be a mistake to interpret a machine’s composition as part of such a vision of the world. The argument for this is simple.

Claims like Kurzweil’s that machines can reach human-level intelligence assume that to have a human mind is just to have a human brain that follows some set of computational algorithms—a view called computationalism. But though algorithms can have moral implications, they are not themselves moral agents. We can’t count the monkey at a typewriter who accidentally types out Othello as a great creative playwright. If there is greatness in the product, it is only an accident.


Your long read for today. May require registration.
link to this extract

When Kodak accidentally discovered A-bomb testing • Popular Mechanics

Matt Blitz:


It all started when Kodak had a problem with its packaging. Even today, X-ray film is highly sensitive (much more so than regular photographic film) and subject to ruin due to dirt, scratches and even minimal light exposure. Proper packaging and protection is essential to make sure the film gets from manufacturing to shipping to the customer’s place of business safely. According to an article Webb would write in 1949 for the American Physical Society, the paper and cardboard used for packaging in the ’40s were often salvaged from wartime manufacturing plants where radium-based instruments were also produced. Radium is a naturally occurring radioactive element that can cause flecks of spots or fogging when “in intimate contact with (sensitive film) for a period several weeks.” During wartime, Kodak took precautions to avoid radium contamination. It moved packaging manufacturing to mills where Kodak had full control over the raw materials.

One of these mills was located along the Wabash River in Vincennes, Indiana; it specialized in producing strawboard, used as a stiffener board between sheets of film. When Webb investigated the mysterious fogging in 1945, he found that it originated not from the X-ray film itself but the packaging, which he tracked to this particular mill, and specifically, the production run of strawboard from August 6, 1945. After testing the radioactive material on the strawboard, he discovered—rather alarmingly—that the spots on the film were not caused by radium nor any other naturally occurring radioactive material, but “a new type radioactive containment not hitherto encountered.” What was this unknown radioactive material, he must have wondered, and what was it doing in southwest Indiana?


This is a wonderful detective story; one wonders whether we could have an equivalent today, in which an innocuous everyday product is a telltale for a huge government project (albeit one that produced a gigantic fireball visible for 250 miles).
link to this extract

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

[syndicated profile] cks_techblog_feed

Posted by cks

For reasons beyond the scope of this entry, I spent a certain amount of today just sitting around somewhere. Wisely, I took my iPad along and used it to pass the time, including doing a certain amount of productive work. As a result of my usage today, I have formed an opinion about why I think tablets (with physical keyboards) are often a superior option to a small laptop of roughly the same physical size.

To put it simply, what I found is that my iPad's display wasn't tall enough when in horizontal mode and wasn't wide enough in vertical mode. As a result, I kept going back and forth between the two orientations depending on what I was doing at the time and what I wanted to do (sometimes swapping even in the same SSH session). This limitation is essentially intrinsic to the relatively small form factor; there is no way around it. And the advantage of a tablet is that it swaps fluidly between horizontal and vertical orientation.

(This works fluidly for me with my iPad because the physical keyboard is also the cover and folds away when iPad is in vertical orientation.)

A traditional laptop is essentially locked to a horizontal orientation because of its physical construction as a clamshell; if you turn it vertically, you still have the keyboard half of the clamshell sitting there in the way, making your handling awkward and distorting the balance. To make it work well in vertical orientation you need something more sophisticated and mechanically complex (and thus more expensive), something that is not really a straightforward laptop any more.

This tablet advantage falls away as the screen size grows so that it's tall enough even when horizontal. Tastes will differ for when this happens; for me, even the XPS 13 is on the edge (and it's significantly bigger than my iPad). But I'm spoiled by my large desktop screens.

(There are also real advantages to a relatively small form factor in a device that is intended to be easily handled and easy to use in a wide variety of situations. My iPad is a comfortable lap device in a way that an XPS 13 sized tablet wouldn't really be.)

PS: Neither the iPad nor a conventional two-in-one device have a good solution for using the device in vertical orientation with a physical keyboard. The iPad's keyboard only works in horizontal mode, and the two-in-one devices I've seen all fold the keyboard away for vertical use. This is an annoying constraint for things like SSH sessions; if I want more vertical space or just to not flop the iPad sideways temporarily as I take a brief look at something, I have to give up a physical keyboard.

[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Just posted a Twitter thread I want to save here for posterity, and also for those of you who don’t bother with that particular service. It involves people complaining about me!

1. So, one of my favorite Hot Takes on Scalzi is the one that goes “I *used* to like Scalzi, but then he went and got all SJW-y” as if this were a new and surprising (and, for me, opportunistic) turn after years of, I don’t know, modest silent neutrality. Well, here’s the thing…

2. I have literally been online for a quarter of a century — my first USENET post was in ’94, and my blog has been up since 1998. I have been spouting off my opinions ALL THAT TIME. I have an electron trail longer than some of these dudes have been ALIVE.

3. And before THAT, I was spouting opinions in print! I was a nationally syndicated newspaper opinion columnist for several years. I have a paper trail that goes along with the electron trail, dating back to ’91 (or ’87, if you want to count my college paper, which, why not?).

4. In all that time, my politics have been — surprise! — pretty much in same area they are now. A few things I’ve moved left on, a few things I have moved right on (no, really), but by and large I’ve been (for the US) mostly-leftish in a petit bourgeois sort of way.

5. And this is checkable because — again — I have a wide and vast trail of my opinions and verbiage going back literal decades. Try it for yourself! It’s all there, somewhere, if you want to bother. Incompleteness will not be a problem for any future biographers of mine.

6. So, when some dude complains that I somehow “went all SJW-y,” the question I’d ask them is: since when? Because I pretty much guarantee you whatever date they pull out of their ass, I can show I was saying largely what I’m saying now well before then. None of this is new.

7. What IS different, perhaps, is that — don’t laugh — I have slightly more humility now, in that I’m willing to accept I don’t know everything, I’m willing to accept that sometimes I show my ass, and I’m willing to at least try to make amends when I do my ass-showing.

8. But otherwise, yeah, this is me, and this has pretty much always been me, as long as I’ve been writing in public. If you think I’ve “gone SJW” it’s because YOU weren’t paying attention before. Which is fine! You don’t have to know my life story. But the issue is you, not me.

9. The thing is, after 25 years online and three decades writing publicly, I’m not going to stop having opinions in public. If this fact bothers you, mute/block me on social media and don’t buy my work. It’s fine, and I don’t need or want your patronage. Read other folks!

10. Just don’t pretend that who I am is something new, or manufactured for sales or cookies. This is me. My track record is long and clear. I’ve been this way for a long time, and will probably be for a while yet. It’s not a surprise, or at least shouldn’t be. Welcome to me.


Books Read

2019-02-21 18:59
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
[personal profile] dsrtao
30. The Frequency of Aliens, Gene Doucette.   Sequel to #29, would not make a lick of sense read out of order. OK. Might read a third, but probably wouldn't displace anything I meant to read first.
[syndicated profile] backblaze_feed

Posted by Roderick Bauer

an exploded view of a Samsung Solid State Drive

What’s not to love about solid state drives (SSDs)? They are faster than conventional hard disk drives (HDDs), more compact, have no moving parts, are immune to magnetic fields, and can withstand more shocks and vibration than conventional magnetic platter disks. And, they are becoming available in larger and larger capacities while their cost comes down.

If you’ve upgraded an older computer with an SSD, you no doubt instantly saw the benefits. Your computer booted in less time, your applications loaded faster, and even when you ran out of memory, and apps and data had to be swapped to disk, it felt like everything was much snappier.

We’re now seeing SSDs with capacities that used to be reserved for HDDs and at prices that no longer make our eyes water. 500 GB SSDs are now affordable (under $100), and 1 TB drives are reasonably priced ($100 to $150). Even 2 TB SSDs fall into a budget range for putting together a good performance desktop system ($300 to $400).

We’ve written a number of times on this blog about SSDs, and considered the best uses for SSDs compared to HDDs. We’ve also written about the future of SSDs and how we use them in our data centers and whether we plan on using more in the future.


In this post we’re going to consider the issue of SSD reliability. For all their merits, can SSDs be trusted with your data and will they last as long or longer than if you were using an HDD instead? You might have read that SSDs are limited to a finite number of reads and writes before they fail. What’s that all about?

The bottom line question is: do SSD drives fail? Of course they do, as do all drives eventually. The important questions we really need to be asking are 1) do they fail faster than HDDs, and 2) how long can we reasonably expect them to last?

Backing Up Is Great To Do

Of course, as a data storage and backup company, you know what we’re going to say right off. We always recommend that no matter which storage medium you use, you should always have a backup copy of your data. Even if the disk is reliable and in good condition, it won’t do you any good if your computer is stolen, consumed by a flood, or lost in a fire or other act of nature. You might have heard that water damage is the most common computer accident, and few computer components can survive a thorough soaking, especially when powered.

SSD Reliability Factors to Consider

Generally, SSDs are more durable than HDDs in extreme and harsh environments because they don’t have moving parts such as actuator arms. SSDs can withstand accidental drops and other shocks, vibration, extreme temperatures, and magnetic fields better than HDDs. Add to that their small size and lower power consumption, and you can understand why they’re a great fit for laptop computers and mobile applications.

First, let’s cover the basics. Almost all types of today’s SSDs use NAND flash memory. NAND isn’t an acronym like a lot of computer terms. Instead, it’s a name that’s derived from its logic gate called “NOT AND.”

SSD part diagram including Cache, Controller, and NAND Flash Memory

The term following NAND, flash, refers to a non-volatile solid state memory that retains data even when the power source is removed. NAND storage has specific properties that affect how long it will last. When data is written to a NAND cell (also known as programming), the data must be erased before new data can be written to that same cell. NAND is programed and erased by applying a voltage to send electrons through an insulator. The location of those electrons (and their quantity) determine when current will flow between a source and a sink (called a voltage threshold), determining the data stored in that cell (the 1s and 0s). When writing and erasing NAND, it sends the electrons through the insulator and back, and the insulator starts to wear — the exact number of these cycles in each individual cell varies by NAND design. Eventually, the insulator wears to the point where it may have difficulty keeping the electrons in their correct (programmed) location, which makes it increasingly more difficult to determine if the electrons are where they should be, or if they have migrated on their own.

This means that flash type memory cells can only be programmed and erased a limited number of times. This is measured in P/E cycles, which stands for programmed and erased.

P/E cycles are an important measurement of SSD reliability, but there are other factors that are important to consider, as well. These are P/E cycles, TBW (terabytes written), and MTBF (mean time between failures).

The SSD manufacturer will have these specifications available for their products and they can help you understand how long your drive can be expected to last and whether a particular drive is suited to your application.

P/E cycles — A solid-state-storage program-erase cycle is a sequence of events in which data is written to solid-state NAND flash memory cell, then erased, and then rewritten. How many P/E cycles a SSD can endure varies with the technology used, somewhere between 500 to 100,000 P/E cycles.

TBW — Terabytes written is the total amount of data that can be written to an SSD before it is likely to fail. For example, here are the TBW warranties for the popular Samsung 860 EVO SSD: 150 TBW for 250 GB model, 300 TBW for 500 GB model, 600 TBW for 1 TB model, 1,200 TBW for 2 TB model and 2,400 TBW for 4 TB model. Note: these models are warrantied for 5 years or TBW, whichever comes first.

MTBF — MTBF (mean time between failures) is a measure of how reliable a hardware product or component is over its expected lifetime. For most components, the measure is typically in thousands or even tens of thousands of hours between failures. For example, a hard disk drive may have a mean time between failures of 300,000 hours, while an SSD might have 1.5 million hours.

This doesn’t mean that your SSD will last that many hours, what it means is, given a sample set of that model of SSD, errors will occur at a certain rate. A 1.2 million hour MTBF means that if the drive is used at an average of 8 hours a day, a sample size of 1,000 SSDs would be expected to have one failure every 150 days, or about twice a year.

SSD Types

There are a number of different types of SSD, and advancements to the technology continue at a brisk pace. Generally, SSDs are based on four different NAND cell technologies:

  • SLC (Single Level Cell) — one bit per cell
  • When one bit is stored (SLC), it’s not necessary to keep close tabs on electron locations, so a few electrons migrating isn’t much of a concern. Because only a 1 or a 0 is being stored, it’s necessary only to accurately determine if voltage flows or not.

  • MLC (Multi-Level Cell) — two bits per cell
  • MLC stores two bits per cell, so more precision is needed (determining voltage threshold is more complex). It’s necessary to distinguish among 00, 01, 10 or 11. Migrating electrons have more of an impact, so the insulator cannot be worn as much as with SLC.

  • TLC (Triple Level Cell) — three bits per cell
  • This trend continues with TLC where three bits are stored: 001, 010, 100, …110 and 111. Migrating electrons have more effect than in MLC, which further reduces tolerable insulator wear.

  • QLC (Quad Level Cell) — four bits per cell
  • QLC stores four bits (16 possible combinations of 1s and 0s). With QLC, migrating electrons have the most significant effect. Tolerable insulator wear is further reduced.

    QLC is a good fit for read-centric workloads because NAND cells are worn negligibly when reading data versus worn more when writing data (programming and erasing). When writing and rewriting a lot of data, the insulator wears more quickly. If a NAND cell can tolerate that wear, it is well suited to read/write mixed accesses. The less wear-tolerable NAND cells are, the better they are suited for read-centric workloads and applications.

Each subsequent technology for NAND allows it to store an extra bit. The fewer bits per NAND cell, the faster, more reliable, and more energy efficient the technology is — and also, more expensive. A SLC SSD would technically be the most reliable SSD as it can endure more writes, while a QLC is the least reliable. If you’re selecting an SSD for an application where it will be written more than read, then the selection of NAND cell technology could be a significant factor in your decision. If your application is general computer use, it likely will matter less to you.

How Reliability Factors Affect Your Choice of SSD

How important these factors are to you depends on how the SSD is used. The right question to ask is how a drive will perform in your application. There are different performance and reliability criteria depending on whether the SSD will be used in a home desktop computer, a data center, or an exploration vehicle on Mars.

Manufacturers sometimes specify the type of application workload for which an SSD is designed, such as write-intensive, read-intensive or mixed-use. Some vendors allow the customer to select the optimal level of endurance and capacity for a particular SSD. For instance, an enterprise user with a high-transaction database might opt for a higher number of drive writes at the expense of capacity. Or a user operating a database that does infrequent writes might choose a lower drive writes number and a higher capacity.

Signs of SSD Failure

SSDs will eventually fail, but there usually are advance warnings of when that’s going to happen. You’ve likely encountered the dreaded clicking sound that emanates from a dying HDD. An SSD has no moving parts, so we won’t get an audible warning that an SSD is about to fail us. You should be paying attention for a number of indicators that your SSD is nearing its end of life, and take action by replacing that drive with a new one.

1) Errors Involving Bad Blocks

Much like bad sectors on HDDs, there are bad blocks on SSDs. This is typically a scenario where the computer attempts to read or save a file, but it takes an unusually long time and ends in failure, so the system eventually gives up with an error message.

2) Files Cannot Be Read or Written

There are two ways in which a bad block can affect your files, 1) the system detects the bad block while writing data to the drive, and thus refuses to write data, and 2), the system detects the bad block after the data has been written, and thus refuses to read that data.

3) The File System Needs Repair
Getting an error message on your screen can happen simply because the computer was not shut down properly, but it also could be a sign of an SSD developing bad blocks or other problems.

4) Crashing During Boot
A crash during the computer boot is a sign that your drive could be developing a problem. You should make sure you have a current backup of all your data before it gets worse and the drive fails completely.

5) The Drive Becomes Read-Only
Your drive might refuse to write any more data to disk and can only read data. Fortunately, you can still get your data off the disk.

SSDs Generally Will Last As Long As You Need Them To

Let’s go back to the two questions we asked above.

Question 1: Do SSDs fail faster than HDDs?

Answer: That depends on the technology of the drives and how they’re used. HDDs are better suited for some applications and SSDs for others. SSDs can be expected to last as long or longer than HDDs in most general applications.

Question 2: How long can we reasonably expect an SSD to last?

Answer: An SSD should ideally last as long as its manufacturer expects it to last (e.g. five years), provided that the use of the drive is not excessive for the technology it employs (e.g. using a QLC in an application with a high number of writes). Consult the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure that how you’re using the SSD matches its best use.

SSDs are a different breed of animal than a HDD and they have their strengths and weaknesses relative to other storage media. The good news is that their strengths — speed, durability, size, power consumption, etc. — are backed by pretty good overall reliability.

SSD users are far more likely to replace their storage drive because they’re ready to upgrade to a newer technology, higher capacity, or faster drive, than having to replace the drive due to a short lifespan. Under normal use we can expect an SSD to last years. If you replace your computer every three years, as most users do, then you probably needn’t worry about whether your SSD will last as long as your computer. What’s important is whether the SSD will be sufficiently reliable that you won’t lose your data during its lifetime.

As we saw above, if you’re paying attention to your system, you will be given ample warning of an impending drive failure, and you can replace the drive before the data is not readable.

It’s good to understand how the different SSD technologies affect their reliability, and whether it’s worth it to spend extra money for SLC over MLC or QLC. However, unless you’re using an SSD in a specialized application with more writes than reads as we described above, just selecting a good quality SSD from a reputable manufacturer should be enough to make you feel confident that your SSD will have a useful life span.

Keep an eye out for any signs of failure or bad sectors, and, of course, be sure to have a solid backup plan no matter what type of drive you’re using.

•  •  •

You might be interested in another post in this series, SSD 101: How to Uograde Your Computer With an SSD.

The post SSD 101: How Reliable are SSDs? appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

In today’s Big Idea, Howard Andrew Jones muses on the nature of heroism, and what it means for his latest novel, For the Killing of Kings.


I think a lot of us are inspired by heroism before we really know what it is. I still remember tuning into an original Star Trek re-run for the first time when I was five years old. Before long I saw Kirk and Spock stand against a horde of angry miners after they discovered that the creature everyone thought a murderous monster was simply defending its young from genocide. Those two faced their own prejudices and changed their minds when exposed to new information, then risked their lives to see the just thing done.

I wanted to be like THOSE guys. Episode after episode, even if they didn’t always have the right answer, even if they sometimes made mistakes, they struggled to do the right thing when there might be no reward but death. They risked everything for their friends, their allies, and those who had no voice.

Of course, at five, I didn’t quite get the weighty stuff, I just liked the adventure of it all. And I sure loved swashbuckling, probably because I imprinted on The Four Musketeers when I caught it in the theatre at about the same time. It may seem worlds away from Star Trek, but that movie and its predecessor, The Three Musketeers (which I caught later) were similar to my favorite TV show in the way that its characters stood as one against their foes.

Nowadays, when fame seems easily acquired by looking good, possessing a lot of money, or shouting loudly, heroism can be taken for granted, or seen as quaint: often the most celebrated modern figures are those who get away with things they probably shouldn’t, or those who act the most outrageously entitled. These are cynical times, I get it, and sometimes it seems that facts and truth are dead (along with irony) and that heroes are just people whose dark sides haven’t been scooped yet.

But I don’t think I’m alone in remaining fascinated with heroes, and wishing we heard more about them. Heroism can supersede our cultural wars because it isn’t about defending a narrow set of beliefs dictated by a few who want to stay in power. It isn’t defined by ideology, but by the selflessness of those who protect others. Above all, heroism stands in stark contrast with selfishness, that most common of evils that creeps into a person or a society too self-indulgent to keep it at bay.

Now that I look back on all my touchstones, both those early ones and later discoveries, like the accounts of brave soldiers and civilians in the Second World War, I’m not at all surprised that I’ve ended up writing about heroes. For the Killing of Kings takes the perspective of a corps of veteran soldiers as they stumble into a conspiracy that may lead all the way to the throne. Truths have been twisted, facts invented, and the less powerful silenced and ignored. When two of these warriors, sworn to lay down their lives to defend the realm, ask the wrong questions, they’re framed for murder, declared traitors, and are forced to flee for their lives, their own friends in deadly pursuit.

Over the ensuing pages their bonds strengthen as they best terrible dangers and cross terrifying lands. They have to make agonizing choices and risk everything both to learn the truth and to seek a just future for all. In short, sacrifices must be made. Sometimes, because of their actions, they discover allies where others would see only enemies. And because I loved the weird world building and the layers within layers I discovered in The Chronicles of Amber (a major inspiration for this series) they see plenty of peculiar sites and uncover multiple secrets.

Of course good heroes need good villains, but given that I want the unveiling mysteries of this book to be one of its draws, the real villains and their plans probably ought to remain hidden here – although I think the back cover mentions that an enemy invasion is taking place just as Elenai and Kyrkenall begin their journey into the shifting lands. The greatest heroes need the biggest challenges to rise above.

I love characters swathed in gray as much as the next guy, from Conan to Corwin of Amber to the Gray Mouser, and yet somehow I keep ending up writing about heroes. I just seemed programmed that way. I have an honest love of adventure stories, and I surely hope my fiction amuses and even thrills readers. But if my words can provide solace and, dare I hope, inspiration for someone to stand tall in the face of adversity, and to take right action when wrongs are being committed, why, that will be a pretty grand thing.


For the Killing of Kings: Amazon|Barnes and Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s|Books A Million|iBooks

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Facebook, or Twitter.

[syndicated profile] four_short_links_feed

Posted by Nat Torkington

Internet of Shite, Parsing JSON, Remote-First, and Biased ML

  1. Nike Just Bricked Its Self-Lacing Shoes by Accident -- Android users are experiencing problems. The bug reports (left in app comments) are classic 21C This Is Not The Cyberpunk Future I Was Promised. The first software update for the shoe threw an error while updating, bricking the right shoe. [...] Also, app says left shoe is already connected to another device whenever I try to reinstall and start over.
  2. simdjson -- Parsing gigabytes of JSON per second.
  3. MobileJazz Company Handbook -- they're remote-first, and this talks about how they do it.
  4. Dirty Data, Bad Predictions: How Civil Rights Violations Impact Police Data, Predictive Policing Systems, and Justice -- Deploying predictive policing systems in jurisdictions with extensive histories of unlawful police practices presents elevated risks that dirty data will lead to flawed, biased, and unlawful predictions which in turn risk perpetuating additional harm via feedback loops throughout the criminal justice system. Thus, for any jurisdiction where police have been found to engage in such practices, the use of predictive policing in any context must be treated with skepticism and mechanisms for the public to examine and reject such systems are imperative.

Continue reading Four short links: 21 February 2019.

[syndicated profile] charlesarthur_feed

Posted by charlesarthur

Machine learning predicted lots about film popularity – but this one surprised it. CC-licensed photo by AntMan3001 on Flickr

»You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email (arriving at about 0700GMT each weekday). You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.«

A selection of 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Pinterest blocks vaccination searches in move to control the conversation • WSJ

Robert McMillan and Daniela Hernandez:


Pinterest has stopped returning search results for terms relating to vaccinations, a drastic step the social-media company says is aimed at curbing the spread of misinformation but one that demonstrates the power tech companies can exert to control the conversation around hot-button issues.

Most shared images on Pinterest relating to vaccination cautioned against it, contradicting established medical guidelines and research showing that vaccines are safe, Pinterest said. The image-searching platform tried to remove the antivaccination content, a Pinterest spokeswoman said, but has been unable to remove it completely.

Pinterest described the search ban—which the company hasn’t previously publicly discussed but went into effect late last year—as a temporary but necessary measure until it can develop better strategies to sift through what it calls “polluted” content. The company made a similar decision last year to block searches for dubious cancer therapies.

Users can still pin vaccine-related images to their online boards, which could lead to suggestions to more similar content, but the posts no longer show up in searches. “It’s better not to serve those results than to lead people down what is like a recommendation rabbit hole,” said Ifeoma Ozoma, Pinterest’s public policy and social impact manager.


They’re being responsible. It’s weird. Quite a contrast.
link to this extract

Samsung’s foldable phone is the Galaxy Fold, price $1,980 • The Verge

Tom Warren:


Samsung has built a sturdy backbone to the device, with a hinge system that has multiple interlocking gears. All of these gears are hidden at the rear of the device, and allow the Galaxy Fold to transform from tablet to phone modes. At the rear of the device there’s also a triple-camera system that will be used for both tablet and phone modes. There’s a 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera, alongside 12-megapixel wide-angle and telephoto cameras at the rear, and a 10-megapixel cover camera for selfies. Samsung is also creating four different colors for the Galaxy Fold, but it’s the main tablet display that’s key here.

Samsung is allowing the Galaxy Fold to run three apps at once on this Android device, and it’s using an app continuity system to adjust these apps when you move between tablet and phone modes. Apps like WhatsApp, Microsoft Office, and YouTube have all been optimized for the new display and modes, and Samsung has been working with Google to ensure Android 9 Pie fully supports this display.

Samsung demonstrated a variety of apps running in this mode, and the switching from phone to tablet and vice versa. It looks rather smooth in the software right now, but it’s fair to say that the Galaxy Fold looks far better when it’s folded out than being used as a traditional phone. The phone display is clearly designed to be used with one hand, but it’s flanked by large bezels that aren’t found on the tablet mode. We’ll need to get a closer look at the Galaxy Fold to find out exactly how this impacts the device usability, though.


Sooo.. an iPad you can fold up?
link to this extract

Oracle claims a fighter of pirated apps is a front for ad fraud • Ad Age

Garett Sloane:


A company that claims to combat app piracy is a pirate itself, according to a report Oracle released on Wednesday. Oracle claims the company, Tapcore, has been perpetrating a massive ad fraud on Android devices by infecting apps with software that ring up fake ad impressions and drain people’s data.

Based in The Netherlands, Tapcore works with developers to identify when apps are pirated and then enables developers to make money from those bootleg copies by serving ads. Oracle says that Tapcore’s anti-piracy code was a Trojan horse that was generating fake mobile websites to trick ad serving platforms into paying them for non-existent ad inventory.

“The code is delivering a steady stream of invisible video ads and spoofing domains,” Dan Fichter, VP of software development at Oracle Data Cloud, tells Ad Age. “On all those impressions it looked like the advertiser was running ads on legitimate mobile websites. Not only were they not on a website, they were on an invisible web browser.”

On its website, Tapcore says it works with more than 3,000 apps, serving 150 million ad impressions a day. The apps whose pirated versions it has worked with include titles like “Perfect 365,” “Draw Clash of Clans,” “Vertex” and “Solitaire: Season 4,” according to Oracle’s report.

Tapcore’s scheme works like this, according to Oracle: the app developer signs up with Tapcore and is given code to put in its software. After the app is downloaded by a consumer, hours, even days later, the code updates with new functions—what’s known as sideloading—that turn a device into a fake ad generator.


Hope Oracle is certain about that, or Tapcore is going to have a big lawyer’s letter.
link to this extract

Zittrain and Zuckerberg discuss encryption, ‘information fiduciaries’ and targeted ads • Harvard Law


“The idea of us having a fiduciary relationship with the people who use our services is intuitive,” said Zuckerberg [interviewed by Jonathan Zittrain].  “[Facebook’s] own self-image of ourselves and what we’re doing is that we’re acting as fiduciaries and trying to build services for people. … Where this gets interesting is who gets to decide in the legal sense, or in the policy sense, of what’s in people’s best interest.”

The conversation segued into another topic area involving competing sets of interests: the use of end-to-end message encryption to make private communications inaccessible to eavesdroppers. End-to-end encryption has come under criticism for making it difficult in some cases for law enforcement agents (with the proper warrants) to access evidence locked up on devices. Zittrain raised the possibility that governments not embracing the rule of law might use their legal and technical capabilities to peek into unencrypted private communications at will. “The modern surveillance states of note in the world have a lot of arrows in their quivers… they’ve got a plan B, a plan C, and a plan D,” he said.

Zuckerberg said he is inclined to implement more end-to-end encryption. “I basically think that if you want to talk in metaphors, messaging is like people’s living room, and we definitely don’t want a society where there’s a camera in everyone’s living room,” he said.

Zittrain pointed out that people are happily installing Facebook’s own smart camera–the Portal–in their living rooms. Zuckerberg laughed. “That is I guess… yeah. Though that would be encrypted.”


link to this extract

How 20th Century Fox uses machine learning to predict a movie audience • Google Cloud blog


Understanding the market segmentation of the movie-going public is a core function of movie studios. Over the years, studios have invested in high-level data processes to try to map out customer segments, and to make predictions for future films. However, to date, granular predictions at the segment level, not to mention at the customer level, have remained elusive because of technological and institutional barriers.  

Miguel and his team have been able to lift some of those barriers by working with partners like Google Cloud. Together, we’ve built privacy-robust data partnerships to better understand moviegoers, and have developed in-house deep learning models that train on granular customer data and movie scripts to identify the basic patterns in audiences’ preferences for different types of films. In the span of 18 months, these models have become routine considerations for important business decisions, and provide one of their most objective, data-driven, and effective barometers to evaluate the tone of a movie, its affinity with core and stretch audiences, and its potential financial performance.

When it comes to movies, analyzing text taken from a script is limiting because it only provides a skeleton of the story, without any of the additional dynamism that can entice an audience to see a movie. The team wondered if there was some way to use modern, advanced computer vision to study movie trailers, which remain the single most central element of a movie’s entire marketing campaign. The trailer release for a new movie is a highly anticipated event that can help predict future success, so it behoves the business to ensure the trailer is hitting the right notes with moviegoers. To achieve this goal, the 20th Century Fox data science team partnered with Google’s Advanced Solutions Lab to create Merlin Video, a computer vision tool that learns dense representations of movie trailers to help predict a specific trailer’s future moviegoing audience.


This is entirely predictable, though also slightly weird. However, notice what happens: the right-hand column is what it forecast, the left-hand what happened. The ones to pay attention to are the unexpected, grey ones – particularly Deadpool.

link to this extract

Which face is real?

Jevin West and Carl Bergstrom at the University of Washington:


while we’ve learned to distrust user names and text more generally, pictures are different. You can’t synthesize a picture out of nothing, we assume; a picture had to be of someone. Sure a scammer could appropriate someone else’s picture, but doing so is a risky strategy in a world with google reverse search and so forth. So we tend to trust pictures. A business profile with a picture obviously belongs to someone. A match on a dating site may turn out to be 10 pounds heavier or 10 years older than when a picture was taken, but if there’s a picture, the person obviously exists.

No longer. New adverserial machine learning algorithms allow people to rapidly generate synthetic ‘photographs’ of people who have never existed.

Computers are good, but your visual processing systems are even better. If you know what to look for, you can spot these fakes at a single glance — at least for the time being. The hardware and software used to generate them will continue to improve, and it may be only a few years until humans fall behind in the arms race between forgery and detection.

Our aim is to make you aware of the ease with which digital identities can be faked, and to help you spot these fakes at a single glance.


So now we’re using humans as the adversarial network (which calls out the generative network).
link to this extract

This Cat Does Not Exist • TCDNE

It’s thispersondoesnotexist but for cats. Though the adversarial network (the yin to the yang of the generative network, which creates the non-existent cat) needs some work; it still lets too many obviously non-cats through.
link to this extract

Is the insect apocalypse really upon us? • The Atlantic

Ed Yong:


In their review, Sánchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys found 73 studies showing insect declines.

But that’s what they went looking for! They searched a database using the keywords insect and decline, and so wouldn’t have considered research showing stability or increases. The studies they found aren’t representative either: most were done in Europe and North America, and the majority of insects live in the tropics. This spotty geographical spread makes it hard to know if insects are disappearing from some areas but recovering or surging in others. And without “good baselines for population sizes,” says Jessica Ware from Rutgers University, “when we see declines, it’s hard to know if this is something that happens all the time.”

It’s as if “our global climate dataset only involved 73 weather stations, mostly in Europe and the United States, active over different historical time windows,” explained Alex Wild from the University of Texas at Austin on Twitter. “Imagine that only some of those stations measured temperature. Others, only humidity. Others, only wind direction. Trying to cobble those sparse, disparate points into something resembling a picture of global trends is ambitious, to say the least.”

For those reasons, it’s hard to take the widely quoted numbers from Sánchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys’s review as gospel. They say that 41% of insect species are declining and that global numbers are falling by 2.5% a year, but “they’re trying to quantify things that we really can’t quantify at this point,” says Michelle Trautwein from the California Academy of Sciences.


Useful nuance, but it’s still concerning unless we’re going to train cockroaches to fertilise all the crops.
link to this extract

On YouTube, a network of paedophiles is hiding in plain sight • Wired

K.G Orphanides:


Videos of little girls playing Twister, doing gymnastics, playing in the pool and eating ice lollies are all routinely descended upon by hordes of semi-anonymous commenters, sharing time codes for crotch shots, directing other people to similar videos of children and exchanging phone numbers along with a promise to swap more videos via WhatsApp or Kik. On some videos, confused children who have uploaded videos of them playing in the garden respond to comments asking them how old they are. On one video, a young girl appears to ask another commenter why one of the videos had made him “grow”. The video shows the child and her friend doing yoga and is accompanied by pre-roll advertising from L’Oreal. The video has almost two million views.

“We’re absolutely horrified and have reached out to YouTube to rectify this immediately,” a Grammarly spokesperson said. “We have a strict policy against advertising alongside harmful or offensive content. We would never knowingly associate ourselves with channels like this.”

A spokesperson for Fortnite publisher Epic Games said it had paused all pre-roll advertising on YouTube. “Through our advertising agency, we have reached out to YouTube to determine actions they’ll take to eliminate this type of content from their service,” the spokesperson added. A World Business Forum spokesperson said it found it “repulsive that paedophiles are using YouTube for their criminal activities”. A Peloton spokesperson said it was working with its media buying agency to investigate why its adverts were being displayed against such videos.


Remarkable investigation – but this is terrible for YouTube’s reputation. (Is there ever good news for YouTube?) This will surely get pickup by the big news organisations. And then, YouTube has a gigantic problem. Not only that; exactly the same story was reported in August 2017. YouTube has failed.
link to this extract

Nest Secure had a secret microphone, can now be a Google Assistant • CSO Online

Ms. Smith:


When announcing that a software update will make Google Assistant available on Nest Guard, Google added, “The Google Assistant on Nest Guard is an opt-in feature, and as the feature becomes available to our users, they’ll receive an email with instructions on how to enable the feature and turn on the microphone in the Nest app. Nest Guard does have one on-device microphone that is not enabled by default.”

Nest Secure owners have been able to use Google Assistant and voice commands, but it previously required a separate Google Assistant device to hear your commands. I suppose it depends upon your outlook on if you are happy or creeped out that your security system secretly had an undocumented microphone capable of doing the listening all along.

Google didn’t really focus on the “surprise there was a microphone hidden in the Nest Guard brain of your Nest Secure” angle, preferring a take on how Google Assistant and Nest Guard can help you out.


This is not something you accidentally include. It’s not something you accidentally forget to tell people about either, because your engineers know that it’s there, because they’re going to enable it in the future: it’s on the schedule.

Surprising that a teardown by iFixit et al didn’t find this. But it’s bad for Google not to tell people, because that’s how you undermine trust.
link to this extract

Grand Canyon tourists exposed to radiation, safety manager says • AZ Central

Dennis Wagner:


For nearly two decades at the Grand Canyon, tourists, employees, and children on tours passed by three paint buckets stored in the National Park’s museum collection building, unaware that they were being exposed to radiation.

Although federal officials learned last year that the 5-gallon containers were brimming with uranium ore, then removed the radioactive specimens, the park’s safety director alleges nothing was done to warn park workers or the public that they might have been exposed to unsafe levels of radiation.

In a rogue email sent to all Park Service employees on Feb. 4, Elston “Swede” Stephenson — the safety, health and wellness manager — described the alleged cover-up as “a top management failure” and warned of possible health consequences.

“If you were in the Museum Collections Building (2C) between the year 2000 and June 18, 2018, you were ‘exposed’ to uranium by OSHA’s definition,” Stephenson wrote. “The radiation readings, at first blush, exceeds (sic) the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s safe limits. … Identifying who was exposed, and your exposure level, gets tricky and is our next important task.”…

…Stephenson said the uranium threat was discovered in March 2018 by the teenage son of a park employee who happened to be a Geiger counter enthusiast, and brought a device to the museum collection room…

…The report indicated radiation levels at “13.9 mR/hr” where the buckets were stored, and “800 mR/hr” on contact with the ore. Just 5 feet from the buckets, there was a zero reading. The abbreviation, “mR” typically stands for milliroentgen, a measurement roughly equivalent to a millirem, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The NRC says average radiation exposure in the United States from natural sources is 300 millirems per year at sea level, or 400 at high altitude.

The commission lists a maximum safe dosage for the public, beyond natural radiation, is no more than 2 millirems per hour, or 100 per year.


At no point explained: what the hell the buckets were doing there.
link to this extract

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

[syndicated profile] cks_techblog_feed

Posted by cks

We recently updated to a version of the Prometheus host agent that can report how many of your processes are in various states. Naturally this caused me to look at our systems, where I was surprised to find that we had a bunch of processes in what the host agent called state 'I', which I had never heard of before. This gave me two questions, namely where did the host agent get this state information from, and what did it mean.

The answer to the first question is that the process state being reported comes from /proc/[pid]/stat:

1 (systemd) S [...]

The various fields in this are covered in the proc(5) manpage; the state is the third field. The manpage documents a number of possible values but doesn't include 'I', so clearly there's more.

The authoritative source for these flags is fs/proc/array.c's task_state_array array, and I might as well just quote the current 5.0-rc7 version here directly because it turns out to explain everything very well:

 * The task state array is a strange "bitmap" of
 * reasons to sleep. Thus "running" is zero, and
 * you can test for combinations of others with
 * simple bit tests.
static const char * const task_state_array[] = {

       /* states in TASK_REPORT: */
       "R (running)",          /* 0x00 */
       "S (sleeping)",         /* 0x01 */
       "D (disk sleep)",       /* 0x02 */
       "T (stopped)",          /* 0x04 */
       "t (tracing stop)",     /* 0x08 */
       "X (dead)",             /* 0x10 */
       "Z (zombie)",           /* 0x20 */
       "P (parked)",           /* 0x40 */

       /* states beyond TASK_REPORT: */
       "I (idle)",             /* 0x80 */

(While /proc/[pid]/stat shows only the first letter, the full text shows in /proc/[pid]/status, which may save you a look into the kernel source if Linux someday adds additional states.)

On our machines, the processes that I see in state 'I' tend to be kernel threads (or if you prefer, kernel processes). Having looked at the kernel code, I believe it is probably only possible for kernel threads to be in this state; see the sidebar.

While proc(5) will tell you that processes can only wind up in state 'P' up to kernel 3.13, this is not quite true. Kernel threads associated with offlined CPUs will go into state 'P' on at least the Ubuntu 18.04 4.15 based kernel, and I suspect on any kernel. However, this is not likely to be a common situation.

(We have such a machine for unusual reasons.)

The usual cause for a process being in state 'T' is that it has been SIGSTOP'd (more or less), either due to shell job control suspending it or because someone is using SIGSTOP for other purposes.

One regular case of processes winding up in state 't' is that they're being run under a debugger and the debugger has stopped them (perhaps because they've hit a breakpoint). Given that strace also uses the ptrace(2) system call, I wouldn't be surprised to see strace'd processes also show up in state 't'.

As a side note, inside the kernel the actual task states are much more complicated than this. You can start to see the sausage made in include/linux/sched.h.

Sidebar: What the 'idle' state appears to mean

Based on reading sched.h and various other bits of the kernel source, an 'idle' task is a sleeping uninterruptible kernel thread that is not supposed to contribute to the load average. Normally, processes that are doing uninterruptible sleeps in the kernel contribute to the load average on Linux (although not on all Unixes). I believe that this makes 'I' a state that is currently exclusive to kernel threads and there isn't a directly exposed way of putting a user process into this state.

(You really wouldn't want there to be a direct API for this, because you normally want to be able to interrupt sleeping user processes with things like SIGKILL. When the kernel says 'uninterruptible' here, it really means uninterruptible.)

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll

Adventurer! Many talented designers of tabletop roleplaying games have joined to celebrate the Bundle of Holding's sixth birthday with this 2019 Birthday Bundle charity benefit. You can find all these terrific RPGs free elsewhere around the web (links below). But, for just a small donation, you get convenient access to them here on your Wizard's Cabinet download page -- and your entire donation (after gateway fees) goes to this offer's designated charity, the RPG Creators Relief Fund. The RCRF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity founded to provide financial assistance to tabletop roleplaying creators suffering hardship due to medical emergencies, natural disasters, and other catastrophic situations.

More details here.
[syndicated profile] postgres_weekly_feed

#293 — February 20, 2019

Read on the Web

Postgres Weekly

Postgres 11 Reestablishes Window Functions Leadership — PostgreSQL 11 once again offers the best OVER clause support among its competitors, plus a comparison of Postgres 11’s procedures feature versus other systems like MariaDB and SQL Server.

Markus Winand

Postgres 11.2, 10.7, 9.6.12, 9.5.16, and 9.4.21 Released — Another barrage of releases which usually means a lot of widely applicable bugfixes are in place.. that’s true here too, but the main improvement is in Postgres’s usage of fsync() which was, as we reported last week, somewhat incorrect till now.

PostgreSQL Global Development Group

Metrics to Monitor in Your PostgreSQL Database — There are several key metrics you’ll want to keep track of when it comes to database performance, and they’re not all database-specific.

InfluxData sponsor

SQL: One of the Most Valuable Skills — Craig Kerstiens of Citus Data explains why, out of all the skills he’s picked up over the course of his career, SQL remains the most valuable.

Craig Kerstiens

DigitalOcean Introduces a Managed Postgres Service — DigitalOcean joins other providers like AWS, Google, MS Azure, and Heroku in offering managed Postgres instances. These look particularly great if you want something on a tight budget. Here’s a list of the installed extensions (which includes TimescaleDB, intriguingly).


How Much maintenance_work_mem Do You Need?work_mem is a key configuration setting for your database, but it can be confusing to understand how much you need. Robert Hass, Postgres committer, highlights the problem and attempts to explain why things are as they are.

Robert Haas

Geo-Redundancy of Postgres Backups with BarmanBarman 2.6 introduces support for geo-redundancy, meaning that Barman can now copy from another Barman instance, not just a Postgres database.

Gabriele Bartolini

Master-Replica & Master-Master PostgreSQL Architectures — Learn about the different ways to achieve high-availability for your PostgreSQL environment.

Severalnines sponsor

Looking at MySQL 8 with Postgres Goggles On — If you’re a heavy Postgres user, you might not have taken a look at MySQL for many years. But if you’re curious what MySQL is like now, Kaarel has done the looking for you and even finds some features he’d welcome in Postgres.

Kaarel Moppel

How to Calculate a Cumulative Percentage in SQL

Lukas Eder

What is Citus? Scale-Out Clustering and Sharding for Postgres — Microsoft acquired Citus Data a few weeks ago, but what does their technology even do? This is a good high level explanation.

Baron Schwartz

Amazon Aurora with Postgres Compatibility Supports PG 10.6

Amazon Web Services

supported by

💡 Tip of the Week

How to check the effectiveness of your table caches

Caching is an important factor in making any database faster and prevents a lot of unnecessary work taking place, such as costly disk reads.

Postgres uses various types of caching to keep things running smoothly, but we're going to focus on checking the effectiveness of the table caches that cache your tables' data.

In psql, select your database and then run this query:

SELECT * FROM pg_statio_user_tables;

You might find the results a little opaque and confusing on their own, but essentially you get to see the IO statistics for each of your tables, including how many 'blocks' of data have been served from the cache (i.e. heap_blks_hit).

We can bring together all of this data into a more readable format with a query like this:

  sum(heap_blks_read) AS read,
  sum(heap_blks_hit) AS hit
  FROM pg_statio_user_tables
) SELECT read, hit, hit / (hit+read)
  AS ratio FROM y;

On a database of mine, I get this result:

Our new query has added together all of the relevant numbers to show how many cache hits occurred, how often the cache didn't deliver (heap_blks_read is the number of disk blocks read) and we calculate the ratio of hits to the total number of blocks read.

In this case, our cache is working effectively as the hit rate is almost 100%. But in a low memory environment or when a server is under particular strain, you may see lower numbers. Take note of these and be prepared to upgrade your database server.

It's possible to go further with checks like these and also dig into things like index usage and index caching as covered by Craig Kerstiens in Understanding Postgres Performance.

This Tip of the Week is sponsored by the database team at Citus Data, now part of the Microsoft family. Book a demo to see how Citus transforms Postgres into a distributed database.

If you have any ideas for your own tips, reach out here - we'll pay $50 for your tip if we use it in an issue.

Nebula Award Nominee!!

2019-02-20 11:28
marthawells: (The Serpent Sea)
[personal profile] marthawells
The Murderbot Diaries: Artificial Condition is a Nebula Award nominee for Best Novella!! Congrats to all the other nominees!!!


The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK)
Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller (Ecco; Orbit UK)
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Witchmark by C.L. Polk ( Publishing)
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)


Fire Ant by Jonathan P. Brazee (Semper Fi)
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark ( Publishing)
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean)
Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield ( Publishing)
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson ( Publishing)
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells ( Publishing)


The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander ( Publishing)
The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly ( 7/11/18)
An Agent of Utopia by Andy Duncan (An Agent of Utopia)
The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births by José Pablo Iriarte (Lightspeed 1/18)
The Rule of Three by Lawrence M. Schoen (Future Science Fiction Digest 12/18)
Messenger by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi (Expanding Universe, Volume 4)

Short Story

Interview for the End of the World by Rhett C. Bruno (Bridge Across the Stars)
The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by Phenderson Djèlí Clark (Fireside 2/18)
Going Dark by Richard Fox (Backblast Area Clear)
And Yet by A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny 3-4/18)
A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow (Apex 2/6/18)
The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed 1/18)

Game Writing

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch by Charlie Brooker (House of Tomorrow & Netflix)
The Road to Canterbury by Kate Heartfield (Choice of Games)
God of War by Matt Sophos, Richard Zangrande Gaubert, Cory Barlog, Orion Walker, and Adam Dolin (Santa Monica Studio/Sony/Interactive Entertainment)
Rent-A-Vice by Natalia Theodoridou (Choice of Games)
The Martian Job by M. Darusha Wehm (Choice of Games)

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

The Good Place: “Jeremy Bearimy,” written by Megan Amram
Black Panther, written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
A Quiet Place, screenplay by John Krasinski, Bryan Woods, and Scott Beck
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman
Dirty Computer, written by Janelle Monáe and Chuck Lightning
Sorry to Bother You, written by Boots Riley

The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt; Macmillan)
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (Rick Riordan Presents)
A Light in the Dark by A.K. DuBoff (BDL)
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (Random House)
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)
Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien (Henry Holt)
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker
[syndicated profile] four_short_links_feed

Posted by Nat Torkington

Software Rewrites, Security, Mirror Worlds, and Third-Party Firmware

  1. Lessons from Six Software Rewrite Stories (Herb Caudill) -- brilliant work. Six very different stories about how companies dealt (or didn't deal) with legacy code bases and the decision to rebuild from scratch or attempt to change the tires on a rolling tire fire. (via Simon Willison)
  2. O.MG Cable -- Wi-Fi embedded in a USB cable. See the video in his tweet to learn (a little) more.
  3. Childhood's End (George Dyson) -- If enough drivers subscribe to a real-time map, traffic is controlled, with no central model except the traffic itself. The successful social network is no longer a model of the social graph; it is the social graph. This is why it is a winner-take-all game.
  4. Magic Lantern -- free third-party firmware for Canon cameras that adds some amazing features.

Continue reading Four short links: 20 February 2019.

[syndicated profile] morning_cup_of_code_feed
Issue #208 - February 20, 2019


Using events to build evolutionary architectures

(Jan 26) #software-architecture

Evolutionary architecture is a programming paradigm for writing software architecture that can be incrementally, continuously and rapidly changed to deliver new functionality. It has traditionally been confined to the lower levels of software engineering, but recently, with strategies such as containerization, micro-services and other DevOps tools, it has become possible to implement the same level of agility at the macro level. In this article, Kislay Verma shows how event-based code can be used to create evolutionary architectures, as well as some of pitfalls and disadvantages of the approach.

Machine Learning for Everyone. In simple words. With real-world examples.

(Feb 05) #machine-learning

"Machine Learning is like sex in high school. Everyone is talking about it, a few know what to do, and only your teacher is doing it." And that's all I'm gonna say about this article.

Understanding breadth-first search with Python

(Feb 11) #python

Graph searching algorithms are a pretty fundamental concept in programming. You get introduced to them early on in Data Structures and they are used in many many applications. While there are numerous variations, two of the most basic are breadth-first and depth-first. In this article Yasufumi Taniguchi walks us through the implementation of a breadth-first graph search algorithm in Python.

Programming language of the day: Fennel. "Fennel is a programming language that brings together the speed, simplicity, and reach of Lua with the flexibility of a lisp syntax and macro system."

And that's it for today! Discuss this issue at our subreddit r/morningcupofcoding.

Did you like what you read? Let us know by clicking one of the links below.

Liked - Disliked

I hope you enjoyed reading the latest issue of Morning Cup of Coding. If you did, consider supporting it by becoming a patron (Patreon), buying me a coffee (PayPal), donating anonymously (coinbase), or purchasing an MCC mug (RedBubble); it helps me keep this going.


Copyright © 2019 Human Readable Publications, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

[syndicated profile] ripe_labs_feed
On Sunday, 17 February 2019, 51 representatives from 37 organisations came together in Cloudflare's San Francisco offices for a roundtable discussion. The aim was to discuss operational aspects of RPKI deployment. RPKI technology is nowadays seen as the best way forward to secure the Internet's routing tables. Participants came from all market verticals: large telecom operators, government agencies, Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), and cloud providers.
[syndicated profile] charlesarthur_feed

Posted by charlesarthur

The US FDA is warning old folk not to be vampires. Yup. CC-licensed photo by Abc Abc on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Almost an armful. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Blood of the young won’t spare rich old people from sadness and death, FDA says • Ars Technica

Beth Mole:


The US Food and Drug Administration issued an alert Tuesday, February 19, warning older consumers against seeking infusions of blood plasma harvested from younger people. Despite being peddled as anti-aging treatments and cures for a range of conditions, the transfusions are unproven and potentially harmful.

In a statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and the director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Peter Marks, wrote: “Simply put, we’re concerned that some patients are being preyed upon by unscrupulous actors touting treatments of plasma from young donors as cures and remedies.”

Establishments in several states are now selling young blood plasma, which is the liquid portion of blood that contains proteins for clotting. The sellers suggest that doses of young plasma can treat conditions ranging from normal aging and memory loss to dementia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, or post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the FDA.

The claims are wild extrapolations from intriguing but preliminary findings in mouse studies.


Ah, mouse studies. When I wrote about science all the time, the phrase “shown in mice” always meant “won’t be shown in humans”. Even so, 2019 really is screwed up if one of its official warnings has to be “don’t be a vampire”.
link to this extract

Dear OpenAI: please open source your language model • The Gradient

Hugh Zhang is a research in the neuro-linguistic programming group at Stanford University:


While OpenAI is correct to be concerned about potential misuse, I disagree with their decision not to open source the GPT-2. To justify this, I first argue that only certain types of dangerous technology should be controlled by suppressing access. Then, on the basis of this analysis, I argue that withholding the full GPT-2 model is both unnecessary for safety reasons and detrimental to future progress in AI.

I broadly classify modern technology with potential for misuse as either destructive or deceptive technology. Destructive technologies operate primarily in the physical realm. Think chemical weapons, lab-engineered super viruses, lethal autonomous weapons, or the atom bomb.

On the other hand, deceptive technologies operate primarily in the realm of our minds and can potentially be misused to manipulate and control people on a broad scale. Think deepfakes, Photoshop, or looking back in history, the Internet or the printing press. With the notable exception of autonomous weapons, fears around AI misuse tend to fall into this category…

…with deceptive technologies, there is an alternative, more effective option. Instead of suppressing a technology, make knowledge of its power as public as possible. While counterintuitive, this method of control relies on realizing that deceptive technologies lose most of their powers if the public is broadly aware of the potential for manipulation. While knowledge of nuclear weapons will not save me from fallout, awareness of recent advances in speech synthesis will make me significantly more skeptical that Obama can speak Chinese. Bullets do not discriminate on one’s beliefs, but my knowledge of modern photo editing makes it difficult to convince me that Putin is capable of riding a bear.


I think OpenAI are trying to work out how to make sure it can’t be destructive.
link to this extract

No, ‘Oumuamua is not an alien spaceship. It might be even weirder • SYFY WIRE

Phil Plait:


for the math to work out with the acceleration seen, ‘Oumuamua had to be flat. Like, really flat: So thin that it looked more like a solar sail, a very thin sheet of material designed to catch sunlight and accelerate. But that, in turn, meant that ‘Oumuamua was artificial. As in, a spaceship.

Besides the obvious (it seems like a big leap!), I have my problems with this idea. Not much has changed with that hypothesis since I wrote that, and while I wouldn’t dismiss it being an alien probe out of hand, the evidence doesn’t support that conclusion, and in fact points against it.

So, I ask again: what the frak is ‘Oumuamua?

A new paper has come out that might have a solution, and it’s really clever. Maybe ‘Oumuamua’s not flat. Maybe it’s fluffy.

Fractal structures can look solid but actually be mostly empty space; this is called a Koch Curve, and snowflakes can have structures similar to this. Credit: Eric Baird / Wikimedia

When the astronomers speculated it might be a thin and flat, giving it a large area like a sail, they had to assume a density for it. That’s because the amount of pressure sunlight exerts is very small, so if an object is massive it has to be spread out very thin and big to catch enough sunlight to accelerate it enough to match the observations. So they assumed it had some normal density like 1 – 3 grams per cubic centimeter (roughly somewhere between the density of water to rock).

The new paper turns that around. Instead of assuming a density to find the area, let’s assume the size determined using normal methods is correct, use that to get an area, and from there get the density needed to match the observations.


In essence, a three-dimensional interstellar snowflake, an accretion disc from the galaxy’s early days
link to this extract

Why women are underrepresented in clinical trials • Endpoints (a science publication by Elysium Health)


Up until the late 1970s , the decades-long Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, one of the world’s longest running studies of aging, followed more than 1,000 men and zero women—even though women represented the majority of the elderly population. The Physicians Health Study, which concluded in 1989 that taking low-dose aspirin might lower your risk for heart disease, included 22,000 men and zero women. And just a few years ago, researchers investigating the possible interactions between libido-boosting drug flibanserin — known as “female Viagra” — and alcohol, used a study group of 25 participants, of which twenty-three were men.

Historically, excluding women in clinical trials has been less about bias, and more so due to a lack of knowledge about the biological differences between men and women and how disease symptoms might present differently based on sex, says Dr. Natalie DiPietro Mager, an associate professor of pharmacy practice at Ohio Northern University and co-author of a recent paper documenting women’s involvement in clinical trials.

While we’ve seen a dramatic shift toward inclusion in the last 25 years, the biomedical research world still has a long way to go in terms of robust representation of women, says Mager.


(Thanks @Reynolds for the link.)
link to this extract

Interview: David Runciman • E-International Relations

Runciman is professor of politics at the University of Cambridge:


Q: You are currently engaged in two fascinating research projects, Conspiracy and Democracy and AI: Trust and Society. Are there conspiracy theories surrounding artificial intelligence in democratic societies and what impact are they having?

DR: One part of the Conspiracy and Democracy project was to look at a common view that AI (and digital technology more generally) is driving conspiracy theories because it’s allowing them to spread. There is a perspective that we live in a world where there are more and more conspiracy theories because the Internet has provided people with an opportunity to believe the craziest things. They then find other people who believe them, creating a network of people. What we’ve found is that this is probably not true. That behaviour does exist, but there are also more people who debunk conspiracy theories, so it’s not all skewed one way. Conspiracy theories are actually debunked quicker. There have always been conspiracy theories, so it’s not a phenomenon of the internet age, it goes way back.

It’s also interesting that there is a perception that this technology is responsible for creating conspiracy theories. However, it isn’t until very recently that there were conspiracy theories about the technology itself. There are lots of conspiracy theories now that say that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is secretly up to something. A lot of the reporting on Cambridge Analytica is written in the style of a conspiracy theory. It involves the idea that you uncover the network that involves the Mercers, Trump, and Brexit and everything connects – they’re joining all of the dots. There are more people seeing the world and how everything connects to everything else, and this knowledge is power for a few players in the tech space. But those are still not the dominant conspiracy theories. There are many more conspiracy theories that are depressingly old-fashioned ones and they are anti-Semitic. Even some of the conspiracy theories about technology are anti-Semitic because every conspiracy theory has an anti-Semitic variant of it. It’s not particularly the dominant mode, but I suspect that it will grow.


Runciman is always worth listening to; the Talking Politics podcast, which he presents every week, is a necessary antidote to the thin gruel of analysis in most news outlets.
link to this extract

Researchers blame YouTube for the rise in Flat Earthers • Engadget

Rachel England:


Despite steps taken to counteract problematic material YouTube is still a hotbed of hoaxes and fake news — a problem that’s become so prevalent the site recently announced it is changing its AI in a bid to improve matters. But now the scope of the problem has really come to light, as new research suggests that the increasing number of Flat Earthers can be attributed to conspiracy videos hosted on the site.

According to Asheley Landrum, assistant professor of science communication at Texas Tech University, all but one of 30 Flat Earthers interviewed said they hadn’t considered the Earth to be flat until watching videos promoting the theory on YouTube. Presenting her results at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC, Landrum said that most were recommended videos after watching clips about other conspiracies, such as alternative 9/11 theories and fake moon landing theories.

Landrum’s interest in the topic was first piqued after she attended the world’s largest gatherings of Flat Earthers at the movement’s annual conference in Rayleigh, North Carolina, in 2017. She visited the conference again in 2018, when it took place in Denver, Colorado, to interview a number of the attendees. According to Landrum, the one person who didn’t point to YouTube as a catalyst for their opinion change had their mind changed by family members who themselves were convinced by YouTube videos.


link to this extract

Japan smartphone market Q42018 • Canalys Newsroom


Smartphone shipments fell 3.8% year on year in Japan to 9.9m in Q4 2018, marking a fourth consecutive quarter of shipment decline. In terms of shipment numbers, Japan came fourth worldwide, behind China, the US and India; 32.5m smartphones shipped in Japan in the whole of 2018, 1.9% fewer than in 2017.


Really wouldn’t have expected Japan to be a bigger market than, well, so many others. (Population of 126 million, 11th largest in the world; China, India and US are the three largest.)

link to this extract

America’s signature mode of transportation is high-cost rail • Hmm Daily

Jacob Bacharach:


This demonstrable ability of other nations to build public works at reasonable—or at least bearable—cost puts lie to the most common excuses for the cost and complexity of American transit projects. America is densely populated and right-of-way property is expensive here? Same goes for Western Europe. America is big? So is China. Unions? Europe, again. You can easily believe that the unique combination of these exacerbating factors of cost and distance would lead to a state where American rail would be the most costly in the world. But more costly by an order of magnitude?

American infrastructure is this costly because of immense, endemic, universal public-private corruption—systems of both direct and financialized graft at every stage of infrastructure development, from the planning to the ribbon-cutting to the use of deferred maintenance to ransack public transportation budgets for cash, year after year, after which the responsible authorities claim that fixing the century-old signals is just too damn pricey. This system of legal fraud begins with the bevies of project consultants, continues through ludicrous private contractor and labor costs, and continues when, years later, high-paid administrative fixers and new armies of consultants and contractors arrive to fix what broke because it was never maintained. It is a system of tolerated kleptocracy that may be the only thing that America still does better than anyone else in the world. It is baked into every assumption about building for the public benefit.

You will of course notice that the responsible scolds saying of a 400-mile railroad, It cannot be done, were not so much in evidence when TransCanada and ConocoPhillips, for example, ran the Keystone Pipeline across 2,000-plus unfriendly miles.


I liked his description of Megan McArdle as “a self-styled contrarian libertarian who writes well-actually columns for the Washington Post in the style of a ‘For Dummies’ book”.

Which reminds me, isn’t the US due another infrastructure week real soon now?
link to this extract

Emoji are showing up in court cases exponentially, and courts aren’t prepared • The Verge

Dami Lee:


Bay Area prosecutors were trying to prove that a man arrested during a prostitution sting was guilty of pimping charges, and among the evidence was a series of Instagram DMs he’d allegedly sent to a woman. One read: “Teamwork make the dream work” with high heels and money bag emoji placed at the end. Prosecutors said the message implied a working relationship between the two of them. The defendant said it could mean he was trying to strike up a romantic relationship. Who was right?

Emoji are showing up as evidence in court more frequently with each passing year. Between 2004 and 2019, there was an exponential rise in emoji and emoticon references in US court opinions, with over 30% of all cases appearing in 2018, according to Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman, who has been tracking all of the references to “emoji” and “emoticon” that show up in US court opinions. So far, the emoji and emoticons have rarely been important enough to sway the direction of a case, but as they become more common, the ambiguity in how emoji are displayed and what we interpret emoji to mean could become a larger issue for courts to contend with.

Emoticons started appearing in court in 2004, and they have since been found most commonly in sexual predation cases. But that’s just counting the cases that were able to be tracked with the words “emoji” and “emoticon.” Electronic databases of court opinions aren’t set up to handle the actual emoji, and they aren’t displayed in case database services like Westlaw or Lexis, which is where Goldman finds his references.


At which point the question is: how do you translate from emoji to legal English?
link to this extract

Morgan Stanley: Spaceflight Industries disrupting rocket launch market • CNBC

Michael Sheetz:


Spaceflight Industries has two businesses: The all-in-one launch services unit, known as Spaceflight, and a satellite imagery unit called BlackSky. The former “has launched 210 satellites” to date, Morgan Stanley said. Spaceflight isn’t slowing down, either, with contracts to launch about 100 satellites this year.

BlackSky represents the company’s reach into satellite operations. The unit successfully launched two satellites at the end of last year, Global-1 and Global-2, and expects to launch six more this year. Spaceflight Industries aims to eventually have constellation of 60 satellites to provide high-resolution photos of Earth nearly on demand.

The company announced a $150m fundraising round in March for the first 20 satellites of the BlackSky constellation.

Additionally, BlackSky is one of several companies working with Amazon Web Services for the recently-announced AWS Ground Station business. Amazon’s cloud business is building a network of satellite connection facilities, representing the e-commerce giant’s first public move into space-related hardware.

Ground stations are a vital link for transmitting data to-and-from satellites in orbit, used by companies engaged in a variety of activities like weather forecasting, communications and broadcasting. AWS Ground Station aims to remove the heavy capital costs for these companies of building their own ground station networks off of satellite operators.


The element of this I find jawdropping is AWS Ground Station, whose announcement completely passed me by. It is “a fully managed service that lets you control satellite communications, downlink and process satellite data, and scale your satellite operations quickly, easily and cost-effectively without having to worry about building or managing your own ground station infrastructure.” Wow.
link to this extract

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: pushups by firefighters (in yesterday’s post) probably aren’t a good guide to how the general population is going to get on or a prediction for heart disease – especially as women show different symptoms from men, and few of the firefighters were men. Thanks @Reynolds for pointing this out.

January 2019

 1 23456
78910 111213

Most Popular Tags

Page Summary

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated 2019-02-22 18:19
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios