2016-12-10T10:20:40.193-08:00Cynical, mercenary, and dark, this book aptly serves as an opposing view for any idealism you may have been feeling about Silicon Valley startups or their bigger brethren. Some of us work in technology to make a difference. That is not what you will find in this book. It is a tale of a startup that wasn't really a startup, three people with no real product acquired after 10 months. It is a tale of sales and personal marketing, spinning unfavorable realities into golden-sounding tales capable of jumping the next hurdle and moving on to the next deal. It is a tale of greed and personal ambition, everything viewed through a Wall Street lens of climbing a hierarchy of wealth and power, some in the world of venture capital, and particularly detailed at Facebook. Facebook comes out of the book particularly poorly, as if Zuck is a some kind of fickle boy king holding court with his sycophants. During his time at Facebook, the author appears to try to join this clique, only to grow bitter when entry is rebuffed. Most interesting is the description of Facebook's struggle with advertising revenue, especially after its IPO. As the author describes it, Facebook couldn't figure out how to make the promised revenue. Eventually, in mid-2013 or so, they found a way, not by using data on what people do, but knowing who most people are, which turned out to be particularly important on mobile ("basic targeting like age and gender was a godsend to data-starved marketers ... data-wise, you have a first-party relationship with [only] a few apps"). The real value of Facebook turned out not to be its data on what people are doing, but merely being able to identify most people consistently and willing to exploit that to its fullest. It helps if you know at least a few of the personalities featured in the book. Paul Graham, Sam Altman, Chris Sacca, Greg Badros, and many others make at least brief appearances, usually to get splattered with the slime that drips from these pages. Many VCs and people at Facebook and Twitter are also mentioned, mostly described as the amoral who's who of the rich and powerful of Silicon Valley. Like many who got lucky, the author confuses luck with skill. Sure, that pitch meeting went well, but that meeting almost didn't happen. Success often was a result of a chance connection at the right time. In cases where the author angered someone with his arrogance or foolishness, someone should have killed the deal, and might have had they been in a slightly different mood that day. This startup was almost stillborn, barely making it into Y-combinator. The acqui-hire almost didn't happen, almost killed by lack of customer growth and shenanigans by the author. That everything worked out even as well as it did was mostly good fortune. To his credit, the author realizes some of this in the end. In the acknowledgments, he writes, "Let's be blunt: ours was a relationship of pure convenience, and I exploited you as much as you did me." But he also writes of some he encountered, "In a Valley world awash with mammoth greed and opportunism masquerading as beneficent innovation, you were the only real loyalty and idealism I ever encountered." I'd like to think mammoth greed and opportunism have much smaller representation than idealistic innovation. Some may call me wishful, but I think pushing for that idealistic world to be true is part of making it true. This book is not going to stop me from thinking that tech companies should be a force for idealistic innovation and promise for the future. At least in my circles, most people I talk with are awash with idealism, a genuine belief that what they are working on can make things better for others. It saddens me to see that the author's perception of the tech industry is so different than my own. [...]
2016-11-25T21:49:36.011-08:00Some of the tech news I found interesting lately, and you might too. Heavy on the comics this time to lighten the mood: Jeff Bezos: "Good leaders ... seek to disconfirm their most profoundly-held convictions, which is very unnatural for humans ... Anybody who doesn’t change their mind a lot is dramatically underestimating the complexity of the world we live in." () Amazon is hiring 120k employees just for the holidays. I can't believe how our baby is all grown up. () On building products: "Keep it extremely simple, or two thirds of the population can’t use your design" ( ) "The problem isn't the users: it's that we've designed our computer systems' security so badly that we demand the user do all of these counterintuitive things." () Fun AI experiments from Google. Don't miss "Quick, Draw!" () Interesting new phone design, screen taking up the entire front: "Hands down, the best looking smartphone ever" () Great article on Netflix recommendations, tidbits on the importance of reacting immediately to new data, using immediate intent, freshness (esp. new releases), and perceived quality (difference between online evaluation and offline). () Opinionated summary of RecSys 2016, and also somewhat of a summary of recommendations and personalization research as of 2016 ( ) Xavier Amatriain on lessons learned from building recommender systems () YouTube is now using deep learning for recommendations, more than just embeddings, includes a ranker with heavily engineered features () Ex-Facebook employee: "News Feed optimizes for engagement. As we've learned in this election, bullshit is highly engaging." () Pfeffer: "You need to be careful with what you measure, because you are going to get it, and often you don’t really want it." ( ) Obama: "Traditionally, when we think about security and protecting ourselves, we think in terms of armor or walls. Increasingly, I find myself looking to medicine and thinking about viruses, antibodies." () Surprising, just set up a hotspot, and the interference from people's fingers moving in the WiFi signal is enough to catch most of the passwords anyone enters while connected ( ) "An entire company’s product line has just been turned into a botnet that is now attacking the United States" ( ) Bit.ly short URLs hid malicious content that was then used to get at Colin Powell's e-mail () Carefully picked textures on eyeglass frames to fool face recognition, pictures in the paper are amusing ( ) AI guru Andrew Ng: "We're lucky the AI community is very open, and top researchers freely share many ideas and even code. This helps the whole field progress. Hope we can keep it that way." ( ) Love this: "Being able to go from idea to result with the least possible delay is key to doing good research" () Two new massive labeled open data sets from Google, one for images, one for videos ( ) "Translations that are vastly improved compared to the previous phrase-based production system. GNMT reduces translation errors by more than 55%-85% on several major language pairs" () Google CEO Sundar Pichai: "Our goal is build a personal Google for each and every user." () I got a mention in The Guardian for some of my past work: "Greg Linden may not be a household name..." () Data on what Amazon Echo is actually used for. Mostly playing a song, it appears. () Like at the last dot-com boom, there are a bunch of delivery services cropping up with models that don't seem like they're likely to be profitable. Uber, which was in a better position than most to do this profitably, just shut their food delivery service down, which doesn't bode well for the others. () Current state of virtual reality: "None of these uses are particularly compelling right now, especially given the cost of buying a VR headset. This may change in the future." () "Giving employees hours, days or even months in which to work without close scrutiny has enhanced productivity instead of harming it" () T[...]
2016-08-28T09:10:55.608-07:00A tightly curated list of what has caught my attention lately: New Yorker on AI: "A lot of what people are calling 'artificial intelligence' is really data analytics -- in other words, business as usual. If the hype leaves you asking 'What is A.I., really?,' don’t worry, you're not alone .... Intelligent software helps us interact and deal with the ... [information] onslaught ... winnowing an increasing number of inputs and options in a way that humans can’t manage without a helping hand .... A set of technologies that try to imitate or augment human intelligence .... [But] we are a long way from creating virtual human beings ... In the meantime, we're going to have to deal with the hyperbole surrounding A.I." () Tim O'Reilly: "Humans are increasingly going to be interacting with devices that are able to listen to us and talk back .... [Alexa] demonstrates that conversational interfaces can work, if they are designed right .... Smaller domains where you can deliver satisfying results, and within those domains, spend a lot of time thinking through the 'fit and finish' so that interfaces are intuitive, interactions are complete, and that what most people try to do 'just works'." () Netflix: "We think the combined effect of personalization and recommendations save us more than $1B per year" (  ) "The main reasons cited for using ad blockers include avoiding disruptive ads (69%), ads that slow down their browsing experience (58%) and security / malware risks (56%). Privacy wasn’t the top answer. So Facebook thinks if its can make its ads non-interruptive, fast, [useful,] and secure, people won’t mind." ( ) According to the NYT, Uber lost $1.2B on $2.1B in revenue in H1 2016 ( ) "Amazon reaches new high of 268,900 employees — skyrocketing 47% in just one year" () Amazon's going hard for Netflix on their key vulnerability, strength of the catalog () Great example of how Bezos sees failure as just a step toward success, following up on their $170M loss from an expensive Amazon Fire Phone with another (and I think very promising) attempt using existing cheap phones ( ) Talks from ScaledML 2016, including Jeff Dean, Qi Lu, Ilya Sutskever, and more ( ) Great paper on the data pipelines at Facebook and some of their design tradeoffs () Good article on Facebook's approach to research, not separate from engineering, not part of engineering, but just open ( ) Great article in ACM Queue on Amazon's microservices, which allows for "permissionless innovation" and has many benefits for testing, deployment, debugging, and reliability ( ) Nice example of fine-grained control of data center power and cooling using machine learning to save electricity () Precision agriculture using GPS, self-driving tractors, and crop and nutrient sensors () Pew Internet study of Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), lots of remarkable details, including that most workers are making less than $5/hour, almost all less than $8/hour () "The line between outright deception and poor user design is often hard to distinguish" () "[The] many confusing design decisions made us wonder if projects were assembled entirely from poor stackoverflow posts" ( ) Amusing story of what happens when a geolocation is missing () On education: "A feeling of hopefulness actually leads us to try harder and persist longer -- but only if it is paired with practical plans for achieving our goals, and specific, concrete actions we’ll take when and if (usually when) our original plans don’t work out as expected." () On management: "We have to give them the space to fail in the short term so they can succeed and grow in the long term ... There is that magical moment when we delegate and allow an emerging leader to grow into their new responsibilities, and they end up being way better at it than we ever were. That’s real management success." ( ) On teams: "The best teams r[...]
2016-06-02T19:39:28.426-07:00A tightly curated list of what I enjoyed in the news recently: Bezos: "Every single important thing we’ve done has taken a lot of risk, risk-taking, perseverance, guts, and some have worked out. Most of them have not." () Bezos: "You need to select people who tend to be dissatisfied ... As they go about their daily experiences, they notice that little things are broken in the world and they want to fix them. Inventors have a divine discontent." () Page: "Is it going to affect everyone in the world? Very few ... think this way." () "More than anything else, the rise of the bots signals the death of the mobile app ... The whole app thing didn't really work out." ( ) "As it turns out, the mundanity of our regular lives is the most captivating thing we could share with one another" () "This is the most demonically clever computer security attack I've seen in years ... insert a nearly undetectable backdoor into the chips themselves" () "Most Android vulnerabilities don't get patched. It's not Google's fault. It releases the patches, but the phone carriers don't push them down to their smartphone users ... This is a long-existing market failure." () "It’s not like iPhones have somehow gotten worse. Other phones, though? They’ve gotten a whole lot better. And they’re cheap." () "Google, with its tech chops and its control over digital ad delivery, is positioned to do what individual publishers and their associations can’t do on their own, though, by requiring that ads are not obtrusive or annoying — a main reason people choose to block ads." () "How quickly cars can learn to do the really hard parts of driving ... navigate congested cities in the pouring rain where humans, pets and rodents run into the road" (  ) "With so many advances in machine learning recently, it’s not unreasonable to ask: why aren’t my recommendations perfect by now?" () "Developers’ speed mattered ... only to the extent that we made effective product design choices ... It didn’t matter how fast they were moving if they were moving in the wrong direction." () "Building and growing startups may appear glamorous from the outside ... It is anything but that from the inside." () "% of pitches for bots and/or AI companies approaching 100%" () "Tech firms are plundering departments of robotics and machine learning ... for the highest-flying faculty and students, luring them with big salaries ... The field was largely ignored and underfunded during the 'AI winter' of the 1980s and 1990s, when fashionable approaches to AI failed to match their early promise." () The FizzBuzz Tensorflow interview "will probably only make sense to people who have gone through really terrible CS interview processes" ( ) Remarkable, deep networks trained on artistic style, then used to apply those styles to video () A good summary of the state-of-the-art in deep learning () "There are limits to the predictive abilities of even tremendously superior intelligence (due to partial observability, chaotic behavior, or sheer randomness)" ( ) SMBC comic: "Once you realize there is no hope, you can relax and just enjoy the progress in machine learning." () My favorite old T-shirt from Amazon.com, Earth's Biggest Bookstore () [...]
2016-05-14T09:51:52.145-07:00Code Monster from Crunchzilla is now open source, free to use and modify.
2016-04-02T12:24:22.963-07:00What has caught my attention lately: "We simply don't know how to securely engineer anything but the simplest of systems" () Impressive at their scale: "Facebook ... releases software ... three times a day" and makes configuration changes "thousands of times a day... every single engineer can make live configuration changes." () Pew Research report on global internet and smartphone usage () Cute idea for telepresence: "We propose projecting [2D] virtual copies of people directly onto (potentially irregular) surfaces in the physical environment" () For those of us tracking virtual reality, a detailed review of the Oculus Rift (), a review of Hololens (), and a fun TED talk motivating augmented and virtual reality () For disk to be the new tape "custom disk designs uniquely targeting cold storage" are required that are "much larger, slower, more power efficient and less expensive." () Related, Google seeks new disk designs () Lessons from building AWS, including automate everything and favor primitives over frameworks () In the AWS service terms: "However, this restriction will not apply ... [when] human corpses to reanimate and seek to consume living human flesh, blood, brain or nerve tissue." () Google says, "With multi-homing ... failover, recovery, and dealing with inconsistency ... are solved by the infrastructure, so the application developer gets high availability and consistency for free and can focus instead on building their application" ( ) Remarkably successful contest: "The winning team exceeded the power density goal for the competition by a factor of 3 ... Some of us at Google didn’t think such audacious goals could be achieved." ()"Welcome to the Internet of Things... and its tradeoffs" (  ) Netflix's catalog has dropped to 5,532 titles from 8,103 titles in about two years ( ) "The James Webb Space Telescope will be a major advance ... primary mirror will be 50 times [larger] ... eight times the resolution" () "The price of planetary insurance, it turns out, isn’t all that high." ( ) Teaching math: "In most people’s everyday lives ... what [people] do need is to be comfortable reading graphs and charts and adept at calculating simple figures in their heads ... Decimals and ratios are now as crucial as nouns and verbs." () He's the "‘seagull of science.’ He used to fly in, squawk, crap over everything, and fly away." () Good answer to the question, "What are the most important things for building an effective engineering team?" () Related, similar advice from Amit Singh ( ) An old Amazon.com office map from early 1997 (back when Amazon only sold books, "Earth's Biggest Bookstore"). My "office" was a card table in a kitchen. () What If comic: What would happen if you tried to squeeze all the water going over Niagara Falls into a straw? It's worse than you'd think. () Xkcd comic on bots: ""Python flag: Enable three laws" () Good Xkcd comic on Celsius or Fahrenheit () SMBC comic: "Philosophy tip: Make any sentence profound by adding 'true' to it" () Dilbert comic: "No need for conversation. I know everything about you." () Comic with a Calvin and Hobbes crossover into Bloom County, brings back memories () [...]
2016-03-05T16:55:20.385-08:00Virtual reality is hot again, with dedicated hardware headsets launching from multiple manufacturers intended for general use.
2016-03-05T19:19:41.751-08:00In 2012, Professor Daniel Lemire and I bet $100 over the question of whether tablets would replace PCs.
2016-01-17T13:01:33.120-08:00What caught my attention recently: "Big ideas emerge from spills, crashes, failed experiments and blind stabs .... As people dredge the unknown, they are engaging in a highly creative act .... the habits that transform a mistake into a breakthrough" () Lots of details on recommendations, personalization, and experimentation at Netflix in a new ACM paper () Fun and interesting Slate article on how Facebook selects posts for the news feed () New paper claims the filter bubble for news is much stronger in what people self-select and on social media than in search and recommendations () "Bayesian program learning (BPL) framework, capable of learning a large class of visual concepts from just a single example and generalizing in ways that are mostly indistinguishable from people" (  ) NIPS 2015 paper on problems that accumulate in machine learning systems, such as dependencies between features, dependencies between models that build off each other, and complicated and fragile data preprocessing () "Should they teach [self-driving] cars how to commit infractions from time to time to stay out of trouble?" () Wal-mart is doing poorly against Amazon, which is surprising, I think () Good article on product management. I particularly like the points that most products fail (so you should expect to experiment, adapt, and iterate) and that a good product is about experiences not features () "People keep mentioning how different things are to the period just before the AI winter" () "Smartwatches still have a long way to go in terms of proving their usefulness, necessity, and style" () "CYA security: given the choice between overreacting to a threat and wasting everyone's time, and underreacting and potentially losing your job, it's easy to overreact." () A new $7M XPrize for autonomous undersea drones ( ) Simulating the World in Emoji is a very fun educational simulation, similar to the Artificial Life work a while back, great for kids () From the Exploratorium Museum, a demo of how wave motion arises from swirling smaller movements in water () Dilbert comic on tech jargon () Pearls Before Swine comic on clickthrough agreements () SMBC comic: "Update 9.1.2.001.241 has been a test of your loyalty." () [...]
2015-12-28T19:53:41.771-08:00I'm joining Microsoft! I'll be part of the excellent Analysis and Experimentation team, helping people learn from data. I'm excited!
2015-11-30T14:44:12.589-08:00What has caught my attention lately: Tog (of the famous Tog on Interface) says Apple has lost its way on design: "Apple is destroying design. Worse, it is revitalizing the old belief that design is only about making things look pretty. No, not so! Design is a way of thinking, of determining people’s true, underlying needs, and then delivering products and services that help them." ( ) Good advice on adding features to a product: "'Great or Dead', as in, if we can't make a feature great, it should be killed off." () Great data on smartphone and tablet ownership. Sometimes it's hard to remember that only five years ago most people didn't have smartphones. () Advice for anyone thinking of doing a startup. Here's the conclusion: "So all you need is a great idea, a great team, a great product, and great execution. So easy! ;)" () Related, a Dilbert comic on the value of a startup idea () "People might think that human-level AI is close because they think AI is more magical than it actually is" () "VCs hate technical risk. They’re comfortable with market risk, but technical risk is really difficult for them to reconcile." () Google finds eliminating bad advertisements increases long-term revenue, concluding: "A focus on user satisfaction could help to reduce the ad load on the internet at large with long-term neutral, or even positive, business impact." ( ) "Crappy ad experiences are behind the uptick in ad-blocking tools" () On filter bubbles, a new study finds algorithms yield more diversity of content than people choosing news themselves (  ) Facebook data center fun: "The inclusion of 480 4 TB drives drove the weight to over 1,100 kg, effectively crushing the rubber wheels." () Great data on who uses which social networks () "One of the great mysteries of the tech industry in recent years has been the seeming disinterest of Google, which is now called Alphabet, in competing with Amazon Web Services for corporate customers." () "Maybe part of AWS value prop is the outsourcing of outages: when half the net is offline, any individual down site doesn't look as bad." () "87% of Android devices are vulnerable to attack by malicious apps ... because manufacturers have not provided regular security updates" () Fun maps showing where tourists take photos compared to locals (  ) Multiple camera lenses, an idea soon coming to mobile phones too? () Another interesting camera technology: "17 different wavelengths ... software analyzes the images and finds ones that are most different from what the naked eye sees, essentially zeroing in on ones that the user is likely to find most revealing" () And another: "Take a short image sequence while slightly moving the camera ... to recover the desired background scene as if the visual obstructions were not there" () Useful to know: "Survey results are mostly unaffected when the non-Web respondents are left out." () Surprising finding, meal worms can thrive just eating styrofoam: "the larvae lived as well as those fed with a normal diet (bran) over a period of 1 month" () Autonomous drone for better-than-GoPro filming? ( ) "We see people turning onto, and then driving on, the wrong side of the road a lot ... Drivers do very silly things when they realize they’re about to miss their turn ... Routinely see people weaving in and out of their lanes; we’ve spotted people reading books, and even one [driver] playing a trumpet." () A fun and cool collection of messed up images out of Apple maps. It's almost art. () SMBC comic, also applies to AI () [...]
2015-10-02T07:43:02.423-07:00It was a surprise, to me at least, that I wasn't able to find a good fit at Google Seattle.
2015-05-01T12:57:38.550-07:00Some of the best of what I've been thinking about lately:
2015-04-06T08:33:53.675-07:00a long interview with the Internet History Podcast mostly about Amazon around 1997, especially the personalization, recommendation engine, and data-driven innovations at Amazon, and the motivation behind them.
2015-04-02T18:05:50.133-07:00What I've been thinking about lately: "The chip is so low power that it can be powered off energy capture from the body ... 35 microamps of power per megahertz of processing ... and less than 200 nanoamps ... in deep sleep mode" () "Forgetting may be nearly as important as remembering in humans" () Only 40% of people use maps on their smartphone ( ) OkCupid and Dataclysm: "In the age of Big Data, the empirical has deciphered the intimate" () Cross functional teams might seem slower when you're in them, but, long-term, are more productive () Very good article on mostly evil uses of personalization ( ) "Fake accounts are given a veneer of humanity by copying profile information and photos from elsewhere ... [and] a picture of a beautiful woman" () "Because almost no one patches their BIOSes, almost every BIOS in the wild is affected by at least one vulnerability" () Cracking by forcing non-random memory errors, just about all RAM chips currently used are vulnerable (  ) Computer security "backdoors will always turn around and bite you in the ass. They are never worth it." ( ) "Facts can only do so much. To avoid coming to undesirable conclusions, people can fly from the facts and use other tools in their deep belief protecting toolbox" () Why TV is losing viewers, the ads are annoying: "Decline caused by a migration of viewers from ad-supported platforms to non-ad-supported, or less-ad-supported platforms" () "The same dysfunctional folie a deux playing out between credulous tech media and even more credulous VC investors" () Does the difficulty of building intelligent systems grow exponentially as we make progress? That question has big implications for whether we should expect (or fear) an AI singularity. () Very fun version of Family Feud using Google search suggestions ( ) Do you know what you don't know? Try this confidence calibration quiz. () Love this quote: "I have thrown away a number of successful careers out of boredom" () Humor related to recommendation systems: "An exciting new system that takes all the bother, all the deciding, all the paying—all the shopping—out of shopping." () Two SMBC comics related to AI ( ) [...]
2015-03-07T19:09:40.308-08:00Crunchzilla just launched Data Maven!
2015-03-02T16:38:29.544-08:00Some of the best of what I've been thinking about lately: Great TED talk titled "The mathematics of love", but probably should be titled "A data analysis of love" () Manned submarines are about to become obsolete and be replaced by underwater drones (  ) "No other algorithm scaled up like these nets ... It was a just a question of the amount of data and the amount of computations." ( ) What Google has done is a little like taking a person who's never heard a sound before, not to mention ever hearing language before, and trying to have them learn how to transcribe English speech ( ) Teaching a computer to achieve expert level play of old video games by mimicking some of the purpose of sleep ( ) "Computers are actually better at object recognition than humans now" (   ) The goal of Google Glass was a "remembrance agent" that acts as a second memory and gives helpful information recommendations in real time (  ) A new trend, large VC investments in artificial intelligence () "Possibly the largest bank theft the world has seen" done using malware () "Users will prioritise immediate gain, and tend to dismiss consequences with no immediate visible effect" ( ) "Crowds can't be trusted". It's "really a game of spamfighting". ( ) SMBC comic: "All we have to do is build a trustworthiness rating system for all humans" () Dilbert describes most business books: "He has no idea why he succeeded" () Architect Clippy: "I see you have a poorly structured monolith. Would you like me to convert it into a poorly structured set of microservices?" () Man kicks robot dog. Watching the video, doesn't it make you feel like the man is being cruel? The motion of the robot struggling to regain its balance is so lifelike that it triggers an emotional response. (  ) SMBC comic: "Are we ever going to use math in real life?" () [...]
2015-02-04T18:29:25.582-08:00What has caught my attention lately: "Ads are often annoying ... [and] the practice of running annoying ads can cost more money than it earns" (  ) Robot plays beer pong, but the real story is the clever bean bag robotic gripper using the "jamming phase transition of granular materials" (  ) Good list of features a modern phone should have but does not () "At this point, Apple is basically an iPhone company with a few other side businesses ... The iPhone accounted for ... a staggering 69 percent ... of Apple's revenue." () "We were not building the phone for the customer — we were building it for Jeff [Bezos]" ( ) "One of the biggest problems in organizations is that the meeting is a tool that is used to diffuse responsibility" ( ) Pew poll on how opinions of US scientists differ from the US population, and public's perceptions of scientists () Pair a "brash, young scientist" with a "wiser, older scientist" to maximize innovation (  ) Google Earth Pro is now free, lets you get high res stills and movies of anywhere on the planet ( ) People told a placebo was "expensive" had twice the improvement as measured by physical tests and brain scans () Blind men successfully train themselves to "see" using echolocation, and brain scans determine that they are using the otherwise unused visual centers of their brains to do so (    ) Rather than modeling crowds with attraction and repulsion between agents, only avoiding anticipated collisions behaves closer to real humans () Xkcd comic: "I can't wait for the day when all my stupid computer knowledge is obsolete" () Xkcd What If: "Getting to space is easy. The problem is staying there." () [...]
2015-01-14T16:11:12.797-08:00Some of the advertising out there is getting spooky. If you look at a product at many online stores, that product will then follow you around the web.
2015-01-02T14:10:54.567-08:00Some of the best of what I've been thinking about lately: Tiny cheap satellites will provide near real-time imagery of the entire Earth to anyone who wants it, starting in about a year (  ) Amplifying motion and color changes in video, which allows augmented perception ( ) Birds can hear the very low frequency sound produced by severe weather and are able to flee well in advance of incoming storms () Nice example of blending computer science with another field, in this case genealogy, to yield big new gains () "An energy gradient 1000 times greater than traditional particle accelerators" () People "don't want to watch commercials, are fleeing networks, hate reruns, are increasingly bored by reality programming, shun print products and, oh, by the way, don’t want to pay much for content either. Yikes." ( ) Everything we know Google is working on () Funny and informative: "Riding in a Google Self-Driving Car" () Google is rejecting security based on firewalls (  ) "Whether you call it a Star Trek Universal Translator or Babel fish, Microsoft is building it, and it's incredible." () "Every dollar a worker earns in a research field spills over to make the economy $5 better off. Every dollar a similar worker earns in finance comes with a drain, making the economy 60 cents worse off." () "I’m a big believer in making effectively infinite computing resources available internally ... [Give] teams the resources they need to experiment ... All employees should be limited only by their ability rather than an absence of resources or an inability to argue convincingly for more." () "We think of it as a one-on-one tutor. It will test you and generate a personal lesson plan just for you." () "Apparently, a sufficient number of puppies can explain any computer science concept. Here we have multithreading:" () Fantastic to see a US president promoting computer programming to kids: "Becoming a computer scientist isn't as scary as it sounds. With hard work and a little math and science, anyone can do it." () [...]
2014-12-03T17:50:44.610-08:00More of what caught my attention lately: "Make infinite computing resources available internally ... Give teams the resources they need to experiment ... All employees should be limited only by their ability rather than an absence of resources or an inability to argue convincingly for more." ( ) "Accept that failures will always happen and guard ... [against] cascading failures by purposefully causing failures" ( ) "The importance of Netflix’s recommendation engine is actually underestimated" ( ) Courts are getting more skeptical about software patents () Nice way of putting it: "The prevailing business culture in the banking industry weakens and undermines the honesty norm" ( ) "[On] the overcrowded, overstuffed, slow-loading web, you are bound to see a carnival of pop-ups and interstitials — interim ad pages served up before or after your desired content — and scammy come-ons daring you to click. Is it any wonder, really, that this place is dying?" () A very effective social engineering attack "compromised the accounts of C-level executives, legal counsel, regulatory and compliance personnel, scientists, and advisors of more than 100 [major] companies" () An 11 hour Microsoft Azure cloud service outage that impacted just about everyone using it worldwide, including internal users like MSN.com and Xbox Live () Stack traces at arbitrary break points in Google's cloud services running live with near zero overhead ( ) Free SSL certificates (for HTTPS) from a non-profit out of EFF, Mozilla, Cisco, and Akamai () The journal Nature makes its papers free for everyone to read ( ) Combining neural networks like components yields new breakthroughs ( ) Robotics guru Rodney Brooks says, "Relax. Chill ... [The press has a] misunderstanding of how far we really are from having volitional or intentional artificially intelligent beings." () Undersea drones are enabling new feats: "The first time ... the black sea devil anglerfish ... has been filmed alive and in its natural habitat" () Bats jam the sonor of other bats when they're both trying to catch the same insect. It's like a dogfight up there. () Great tutorial on CSS and HTML just launched by Khan Academy and jQuery's John Resig () Fun visualization of the periodic table by how common the elements are in the earth's crust, ocean, human body, and sun () Hilarious parody of the Amazon Echo promotional video () South Park has a surprisingly good (and funny) criticism of freemium games that gets all the issues correct around preying on people with a tendency toward compulsive gambling ( ) Great Dilbert comic on how engineers think of marketing () Good Xkcd comic on over-optimization () Loved this SMBC comic: "He said I wasn't very good at math" () [...]
2014-11-03T19:52:36.746-08:00What has caught my attention recently: Netflix says the value of its recommendations algorithms is $500M/year () Details on the internals of LinkedIn's recommender system () Fantastic list of some hard and interesting big data problems at Facebook ( ) Google Glass may target "'superhero vision', like seeing in the dark, or magnifying subtle motion or changes" ( ) A claim that Amazon's cloud revenue is $4.7B this year, supposedly x30 bigger than Microsoft ($156M) and x70 Google's ($66M) () "We have a 10 petabyte data warehouse on S3" () Google's Eric Schmidt says, "Our biggest search competitor is Amazon" () Apple was and still is almost entirely an iPhone company () Tablet sales are projected to be flat now, and the growth boom for tablets appears to be done () But, it's interesting that specialized, expensive, and often poorly done custom hardware is getting replaced with a cheap touchscreen tablet () So far, it doesn't look like Windows 10 is going to fix what was wrong with Windows 8 () What? "Microsoft loves Linux" ( ) Delivery startups are back: "Silicon Valley wants to save you from ever having to leave your couch. Will it work this time around?" () Despite the difficulty older adults have with tiny mobile keyboards, older adults and seniors don't use voice search much () Speculation that hardware to enable gesture control on mobile phones will be widespread on new phones next year () A claim that "solar will soon reach price parity with conventional electricity in well over half the nation: 36 states" () "HP’s Multi Jet Fusion printer can crank out objects 10 times faster than any machine that’s on the market today ... 3D print heads that can operate 10,000 nozzles at once, while tracking designs to a five-micron precision." ( ) Is biology about to be transformed by the use of many drones to gather lots of data? ( ) More evidence that some of the best innovations come from combining ideas from two very separate fields () "Every success in AI redefines it. But we haven't just been redefining what we mean by AI-we've been redefining what it means to be human [and intelligent]." () "China is merely regaining a title that it has held for much of recorded history" () Funny Dilbert comic on multitasking and checking e-mail too often () The Onion: "This already vanishing glimmer of pleasure is exactly what we've come to expect from Apple" () Great SMBC comic: "The humans aren't doing what the math says. The humans must be broken." () [...]
2014-10-25T08:40:24.789-07:00You can get over-the-air HDTV signals using an antenna. This antenna gets a better, stronger signal with less interference if it is direct line-of-sight and as near as possible to the broadcast towers. So, you might want an antenna that is up high or even some distance away to get the best signal. But if you try to do this, you immediately run into a question: At what point does that antenna become too long to be legal or the signal from the antenna is transmitted in a way where it is no longer legal? Let's say I put an antenna behind my TV hooked up with a wire. That's obviously legal and what many people currently do. Let's say I put an antenna outside on top of a tree or my garage and run a wire inside. Still seems obviously legal. Let's say I put an antenna on top of my roof. Still clearly fine. Let's say I put it on my neighbor's roof and run a wire to my TV. Still ok? Let's say I put the antenna on my neighbor's roof, but have the antenna connect to my WiFi network and transmit the signal using my local area network instead of using a direct wired cable connection. Still ok? Let's say I put the antenna on my neighbor's roof, but have the antenna connect to my neighbor's WiFi network and transmit the signal over their WiFi, over the internet, then to my WiFi, instead of using a direct wired cable connection. Still ok? Let's say I put my antenna on my neighbor's roof, but my neighbor won't do this for free. I have to pay a small amount of rent to my neighbor for the space on his roof used by my antenna. I also have the antenna connect to my neighbor's WiFi network and transmit its signal over their WiFi, over the internet, then to my WiFi, instead of using a direct wired cable connection. Still ok? Let's say, like before, I put my antenna on my neighbor's roof, pay the neighbor rent for the space on his roof, use the internet to transmit the antenna's signal. But, this time, I buy the antenna from my neighbor at the beginning (and, like before, I own it now). Is that okay? Let's say I put my antenna on my neighbor's roof, pay the neighbor rent for the space on his roof, use the internet to transmit the antenna's signal, but now I rent or lease the antenna from my neighbor. Still ok? If this is not ok, which part is not ok? Is it suddenly ok if I replace the internet connection with a direct microwave relay or hardwired connection? Let's say I do all of the last one, but use a neighbor's roof three houses away. Still ok? Let's say I do all of the last one, but use a roof on a building five blocks away. Still ok? Let's say I rent an antenna on top of a skyscraper in downtown Seattle and have the signal sent to me over the internet. Not ok? The Supreme Court recently ruled Aereo is illegal. Aereo put small antennas in a building and rented them to people. The only thing they did beyond the last thing above is time-shifting, so they would not necessary send the signal from the antenna immediately, but instead store it, and only transmit it when demanded. You might think it's the time shifting that's the problem, but that didn't seem to be what the Supreme Court said. Rather, they said the intent of the 1976 amendments to US copyright law prohibit community antennas (which is one antenna that sends its signal to multiple homes), labelling those a "public performance". They said Aereo's system was similar in function to a community antenna, despite actually having multiple antenn[...]