Bookmarks for February 4th through February 11th

These are my links for February 4th through February 11th:

  • Schneier on Security: Interview with a Nigerian Internet Scammer – "We had something called the recovery approach. A few months after the original scam, we would approach the victim again, this time pretending to be from the FBI, or the Nigerian Authorities. The email would tell the victim that we had caught a scammer and had found all of the details of the original scam, and that the money could be recovered. Of course there would be fees involved as well. Victims would often pay up again to try and get their money back."
  • xkcd – Frequency of Strip Versions of Various Games – n = Google hits for "strip <game name>" / Google hits for "<game name>"
  • PeteSearch: How to split up the US – Visualization of social network clusters in the US. "information by location, with connections drawn between places that share friends. For example, a lot of people in LA have friends in San Francisco, so there's a line between them.

    Looking at the network of US cities, it's been remarkable to see how groups of them form clusters, with strong connections locally but few contacts outside the cluster. For example Columbus, OH and Charleston WV are nearby as the crow flies, but share few connections, with Columbus clearly part of the North, and Charleston tied to the South."

  • Redis: Lightweight key/value Store That Goes the Extra Mile | Linux Magazine – Sort of like memcache. "Calling redis a key/value store doesn’t quite due it justice. It’s better thought of as a “data structures” server that supports several native data types and operations on them. That’s pretty much how creator Salvatore Sanfilippo (known as antirez) describes it in the documentation. Let’s dig in and see how it works."
  • Op-Ed Contributor – Microsoft’s Creative Destruction – – Unlike other companies, Microsoft never developed a true system for innovation. Some of my former colleagues argue that it actually developed a system to thwart innovation. Despite having one of the largest and best corporate laboratories in the world, and the luxury of not one but three chief technology officers, the company routinely manages to frustrate the efforts of its visionary thinkers.

Bookmarks for January 30th through February 4th

These are my links for January 30th through February 4th:

  • Op-Ed Contributor – Microsoft’s Creative Destruction – – Unlike other companies, Microsoft never developed a true system for innovation. Some of my former colleagues argue that it actually developed a system to thwart innovation. Despite having one of the largest and best corporate laboratories in the world, and the luxury of not one but three chief technology officers, the company routinely manages to frustrate the efforts of its visionary thinkers.
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s Resume Explains Why He’s The Renaissance Man For the Job – Davinci – Gizmodo – At one time in history, even da Vinci himself had to pen a resume to explain why he was a qualified applicant. Here's a translation of his letter to the Duke of Milan, delineating his many talents and abilities. "Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below..The document, written when da Vinci was 30, is actually more of a cover letter than a resume; he leaves out many of his artistic achievements and instead focuses on what he can provide for the Duke in technologies of war.
  • jsMath: jsMath Home Page – The jsMath package provides a method of including mathematics in HTML pages that works across multiple browsers under Windows, Macintosh OS X, Linux and other flavors of unix. It overcomes a number of the shortcomings of the traditional method of using images to represent mathematics: jsMath uses native fonts, so they resize when you change the size of the text in your browser, they print at the full resolution of your printer, and you don't have to wait for dozens of images to be downloaded in order to see the mathematics in a web page. There are also advantages for web-page authors, as there is no need to preprocess your web pages to generate any images, and the mathematics is entered in TeX form, so it is easy to create and maintain your web pages. Although it works best with the TeX fonts installed, jsMath will fall back on a collection of image-based fonts (which can still be scaled or printed at high resolution) or unicode fonts when the TeX fonts are not available.
  • Josh on the Web » Blog Archive » Abusing the Cache: Tracking Users without Cookies – To track a user I make use of three URLs: the container, which can be any website; a shim file, which contains a unique code; and a tracking page, which stores (and in this case displays) requests. The trick lies in making the browser cache the shim file indefinitely. When the file is requested for the first – and only – time a unique identifier is embedded in the page. The shim embeds the tracking page, passing it the unique ID every time it is loaded. See the source code.

    One neat thing about this method is that JavaScript is not strictly required. It is only used to pass the message and referrer to the tracker. It would probably be possible to replace the iframes with CSS and images to gain JS-free HTTP referrer logging but would lose the ability to store messages so easily.

  • Panopticlick – Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 342,943 tested so far.

    Currently, we estimate that your browser has a fingerprint that conveys at least 18.39 bits of identifying information.

    The measurements we used to obtain this result are listed below. You can read more about the methodology here, and about some defenses against fingerprinting here

Bookmarks for May 29th from 05:17 to 12:45

These are my links for May 29th from 05:17 to 12:45:

Bookmarks for May 3rd through May 4th

These are my links for May 3rd through May 4th:

  • Dilbert comic strip for 05/04/2009 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive. – Secretary to Pointy Haired Boss: "I live in a rented trailer and all of my money is in my checking account. Your investments are worthless and your mortgage is underwater. My net worth is higher than yours now. I guess promiscuity and a G.E.D. was a pretty good strategy after all." Reminded me of a thought I had earlier this year, that much of Western Civilization is built on valuing delayed gratification, which hasn't worked out so well recently as opposed to immediate consumption in many cases.
  • Without Warning, Twitter Kills StatTweets (Businesses Beware) – ChangeLog – Owner of StatTweets post regarding his network of sports-related Twitter handles being banned. They had several hundred accounts, one for stats for each team. This makes sense for users, given the way Twitter works, but they don't like mass account creation. Interested to see how this sorts out, there seem to be at least a few similar Twitter networks with team/region/topic-specific handles.
  • Dooley Online: What URL Shortener Should I Use? – Comparison of features and some usage data for URL shorteners such as tinyurl and used on twitter and other services.
  • Obesity and Overweight: Trends: U.S. Obesity Trends 1985-2007 | DNPAO | CDC – During the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. This slide set illustrates this trend by mapping the increased prevalence of obesity across each of the states. In 2007, only one state (Colorado) had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty states had a prevalence equal to or greater than 25%; three of these states (Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee) had a prevalence of obesity equal to or greater than 30%. The animated map below shows the United States obesity prevalence from 1985 through 2007.
  • Why text messages are limited to 160 characters | Technology | Los Angeles Times – A look back to the beginnings of SMS in 1985 – Would the 160-character maximum be enough space to prove a useful form of communication? Having zero market research, they based their initial assumptions on two "convincing arguments," Hillebrand said. For one, they found that postcards often contained fewer than 150 characters. Second, they analyzed a set of messages sent through Telex, a then-prevalent telegraphy network for business professionals. Despite not having a technical limitation, Hillebrand said, Telex transmissions were usually about the same length as postcards.

Bookmarks for April 9th through April 10th

These are my links for April 9th through April 10th:

Bookmarks for March 9th through March 12th

These are my links for March 9th through March 12th:

Bookmarks for March 6th through March 8th

These are my links for March 6th through March 8th:

Bookmarks for March 3rd from 05:48 to 12:10

These are my links for March 3rd from 05:48 to 12:10:

Bookmarks for March 2nd from 10:48 to 21:40

These are my links for March 2nd from 10:48 to 21:40:

Registered for SF MusicTech 2009

Took advantage of the discounted ($49 through end February) early registration for SF MusicTech, coming up on May 18th.

The SanFran MusicTech Summit will bring together the best and brightest developers in the Music/Technology Space, along with the musicians, entrepreneurial business people, press, investors, service providers, and organizations who work with them at the convergence of culture and commerce. We will meet to discuss the evolving music/business/technology ecosystem in a proactive, conducive to dealmaking environment.

Unfortunately, it overlaps with ICWSM09, will try to make both though.

Bookmarks for February 23rd through February 24th

These are my links for February 23rd through February 24th:

Bell Labs Holmdel to be demolished for new office parks

I’m surprised to read in Engadget that the old Bell Labs Holmdel research facility is slated to be demolished and turned into three office parks. I recently tossed out some old project papers from the days when AT&T still ran Bell Labs, and I had occasion to visit the site from time to time.

Aside from the long history of really cool projects there (radar, sonar, cosmic background radiation, cell phones, networking, etc), the building (designed by Eero Saarinen), is huge (six stories, two million square feet), and visually striking. Externally, it sits on a large parcel of land by itself, making it hard to get a sense of scale as you approach. Internally, the lobby atrium is vast, open to the ceiling, and surrounded by chrome, gray, and fluorescent-lit mezzanine floors. Stepping inside felt a bit like landing in the Death Star.

As interesting and historic as the building is, what I really miss is the broad scope and scale of activity at the pre-divestiture AT&T Bell Labs. The closest thing to it today is probably at Google, funding a lot of motivated smart people with its massive stream of ad revenues, trying out a lot of interesting but not always commercially viable ideas. I always thought Microsoft could have done more along these lines with revenues from Windows and Office. You pretty much need monopoly-level profits to fund big private research for any length of time.

Update Friday 09-01-2006 16:49PDT: Looks like the developers have come up with a plan that preserves the main building.

PREI announced that the landscape, oval, tower and two of the original Phase I Eero Saarinen-designed buildings will remain (including the 80-foot tall center lobby), in addition to developing a historic library to highlight Bell Labs’ artifacts and paraphernalia related to the facility. Also being built are five new adjacent buildings (in orange, above), though two of the original Phase II buildings (and two wings that were added later) will be demolished.

Refocusing digital photos after the fact

digital refocusing
I dropped my subscription to the ACM Graphics SIG some time back, so this is the first I’ve heard of this project, which is very cool. Take your photos now, and decide what to focus on later.

From Wired News, via A Venture Forth:

A computer science Ph.D. student at Stanford University has outfitted a 16-megapixel camera with a bevy of micro lenses that allows users to take photos and later refocus them on a computer using software he wrote.

The system works by capturing information about the direction of the incoming light, as well as the intensity. This is then used to compute the image that would have been formed if the sensor was in a slightly different plane, effectively changing the focal length. The paper published by Ren Ng and team observes:

As an aside from the biological perspective, it is interesting to note that our optical design can be thought of as taking a human
eye (camera) and replacing its retina with an insect eye (microlens / photosensor array). No animal has been discovered that possesses such a hybrid eye [Land and Nilsson 2001], but this paper (and the work of Adelson and Wang) shows that such a design posseses unique and compelling capabilities when coupled with sufficient processing power (a computer).

light field camera schematic

The system works best with more data, 16 megapixels appears to work pretty well. They indicate that 8 megapixels would still work but with a narrower computed focus range. As shown in the schematic, the effective output resolution is limited by the microarray lens, not the sensor resolution, but it needs the high resolution sensor data to determine the direction of incoming light. The prototype is built in a medium format (Contex) body to make it easier to build the sensor assembly.

It doesn’t look like this is going to turn up in consumer devices any time soon, but I’m sure there are some interesting applications that can afford the cost and physical bulk of the system already.


Kids Programming Language

Kids Programming Language:

What is KPL?

KPL stands for Kid’s Programming Language. KPL makes it easy for kids to learn computer programming. KPL makes it fun, too, by making it especially easy to program computer games, with cool graphics and sound. KPL is not just for games, though – it can be used for teaching many different subjects. KPL’s emphasis on games is based on the belief that learning is best when learning is fun.

via Wei-Ming Lee:

One cool feature is that you can directly translate KPL code into C# and VB.NET, making KPL a very good language for getting kids started on programming and then eventually moving into .NET programming using C# or VB.NET.

This is Windows (.NET) freeware only. I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks like something to try out out on my daughter and her friends.

It bothers me that in my limited observation of school-age kids, there seems to be so much emphasis on being consumers and end-users of media and technology, (or for that matter, government), rather than on taking things apart, seeing how they work, and how they might be made differently or better. This is partly due to the amazing rate of technology integration in everyday items. There are so many layers of implementation abstraction in cell phones, video games, automobiles, or any application software, that it’s hard to see enough of what’s going on to become engaged in the creative process.

I don’t think kids should be spending a huge amount of time learning software programming in elementary school, but I do think that some exposure to the general concepts of problem analysis, decomposition, specification, implementation, and testing as an overall approach would be useful.

Something with animated graphics, sound, and a forgiving interpreter is probably a better bet than starting them out on C#.

Update 10-17-2005 08:42 PDT – a post along similar lines at O’Reilly on Hacking for Kids