Saturday, September 19, 2015

Stuff I'm reading, mid-September edition

It's such a beautiful day, why am I doing all this reading?

  • Microsoft showcases the Azure Cloud Switch (ACS)
    The Azure Cloud Switch (ACS) is our foray into building our own software for running network devices like switches. It is a cross-platform modular operating system for data center networking built on Linux. ACS allows us to debug, fix, and test software bugs much faster. It also allows us the flexibility to scale down the software and develop features that are required for our datacenter and our networking needs.
  • Improved Digital Certificate Security
    On September 14, around 19:20 GMT, Symantec’s Thawte-branded CA issued an Extended Validation (EV) pre-certificate for the domains and This pre-certificate was neither requested nor authorized by Google.
  • A Tough Day as Leaders
    In light of these events, we must reassert our commitment to stand behind our values and our position as a trusted industry leader. While our processes and approach are based on the industry best practices that we helped create, we have immediately put in place additional processes and technical controls to eliminate the possibility of human error. We will continue to relentlessly evolve these best practices to ensure something like this does not happen again.

    In addition, we discovered that a few outstanding employees, who had successfully undergone our stringent on-boarding and security trainings, failed to follow our policies. Despite their best intentions, this failure to follow policies has led to their termination after a thoughtful review process. Because you rely on us to protect the digital world, we hold ourselves to a “no compromise” bar for such breaches. As a result, it was the only call we could make.

  • Amazon Web Services in Plain English
    Hey, have you heard of the new AWS services: ContainerCache, ElastiCast and QR72? Of course not, I just made those up.

    But with 50 plus opaquely named services, we decided that enough was enough and that some plain english descriptions were needed.

  • The guide to implementing 2D platformers
    Having previously been disappointed by the information available on the topic, this is my attempt at categorizing different ways to implement 2D platform games, list their strengths and weaknesses, and discuss some implementation details.

    The long-term goal is to make this an exhaustive and comprehensible guide to the implementation of 2D platform games. If you have any sort of feedback, correction, request, or addition – please leave it in the comments!

  • The Fundamental Challenge of Computer System Performance
    Performance is not just about capacity. Though many people overlook them, there are solutions on the workload side of the ledger, too. What if you could make workload smaller without compromising the value of your system?

    It is usually possible to make a computer produce all of the useful results that you need without having to do as much work.

    You might be able to make a system run faster by making its capacity box bigger. But you might also make it run faster by trimming down that big red workload inside your existing box. If you only trim off the wasteful stuff, then nobody gets hurt, and you’ll have winning all around.

  • Building a PC, Part VIII: Iterating
    What I've always loved about SSDs is that they attack the PC's worst-case performance scenario, when information has to come off the slowest device inside your computer – the hard drive. SSDs massively reduced the variability of requests for data. Let's compare L1 cache access time to minimum disk access time
  • “Private blockchain” is just a confusing name for a shared database
    Banks and financial institutions seem to be all over the blockchain. It seems they agree with the Bitcoin community that the technology behind Bitcoin can provide an efficient platform for settlement and for issuing digital assets. Curiously, though, they seem to shy away from Bitcoin itself. Instead, they want something they have more control over and doesn’t require exposing transactions publicly. Besides, Bitcoin has too much of an association in the media with theft, crime, and smut — no place for serious, upstanding bankers. As a result, the buzz in the financial industry is about “private blockchains.”

    But here’s the thing — “private blockchain” is just a confusing name for a shared database.

    The key to Bitcoin’s security (and success) is its decentralization which comes from its innovative use of proof-of-work mining. However, if you have a blockchain where only a few companies are allowed to participate, proof-of-work doesn’t make sense any more. You’re left with a system where a set of identified (rather than pseudonymous) parties maintain a shared ledger, keeping tabs on each other so that no single party controls the database.

  • This 4×6 index card has all the financial advice you’ll ever need
    Think managing your finances has to be complicated? Wonkblog contributor (and UC Chicago social scientist) Harold Pollack doesn't. After a talk with personal finance expert Helaine Olen, Pollack managed to write down pretty much everything you need to know on a 4x6 index card. And it would probably fit on a 3x5 index card if you really crammed (that last point, for instance, is probably not strictly necessary for managing your money).
  • The Witness: the creator of Braid talks about his fiendishly difficult new game
    Blow says that The Witness is "very deliberately an homage to Myst," and for anyone who's played both, this is clear from The Witness' earliest moments. You exit a strange cave and enter an island devoid of all other life. The only thing to do is wander around the island solving puzzles.

    However, with The Witness Blow seeks to fix "one of the things that's most broken about Myst and that whole genre of games." Namely: pixel hunting.

    "Point-and-click games generally have some version of pixel hunting," he says. "You look at everything you come across and wonder, is this thing interactive or what? In Myst, you come up to some elaborate, beautiful machine, and you start clicking on different parts of it, and eventually you find the knob that you're allowed to turn, and then you don't know what it does. Back at the time when that game came out, that was a totally acceptable thing to do. It was decades ago in game design. But these days, I don't think that's a very good idea."

  • The Most Misread Poem in America
    But this isn’t just any poem. It’s “The Road Not Taken,” and it plays a unique role not simply in American literature, but in American culture —and in world culture as well. Its signature phrases have become so ubiquitous, so much a part of everything from coffee mugs to refrigerator magnets to graduation speeches, that it’s almost possible to forget the poem is actually a poem.


    The poem isn’t a salute to can-do individualism; it’s a commentary on the self-deception we practice when constructing the story of our own lives. “The Road Not Taken” may be, as the critic Frank Lentricchia memorably put it, “the best example in all of American poetry of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” But we could go further: It may be the best example in all of American culture of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

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