Saturday, May 26, 2012

Things I'm reading this weekend

In between the barbecuing and the gardening and the walks with the dog, a few things to read:

  • Michael Wolff: The Facebook Fallacy
    The subtext—an overt subtext—of the popular account of Facebook is that the network has a proprietary claim and special insight into social behavior. For enterprises and advertising agencies, it is therefore the bridge to new modes of human connection.

    Expressed so baldly, this account is hardly different from what was claimed for the most aggressively boosted companies during the dot-com boom. But there is, in fact, one company that created and harnessed a transformation in behavior and business: Google. Facebook could be, or in many people's eyes should be, something similar. Lost in such analysis is the failure to describe the application that will drive revenues.

    And don't miss Doc Searls's take on Wolff's article: After Facebook fails

    Three problems here:

    1. By its nature advertising — especially “brand” advertising — is not personal.
    2. Making advertising personal changes it into something else that is often less welcome.
    3. There are better ways to get to achieve Michael’s objective — ways that start on the buyer’s side, rather than the seller’s.
  • Chris Clark's essay on an unexpected side-effect of performance improvements in the Windows 8 boot process: Designing for PCs that boot faster than ever before
    However, the hardware and software improvements in Windows 8 have collapsed the slice of time that remains for Windows to read and respond to the F8 keystroke. We have SSD-based UEFI systems where the “F8 window” is always less than 200 milliseconds. No matter how fast your fingers are, there is no way to reliably catch a 200 millisecond event. So you tap. I remember walking the halls and hearing people frantically trying to catch the F8 window – “tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap” – only to watch them reboot several times until they managed to finally get a tap inside the F8 window. We did an informal study and determined that top performers could, at best, sustain repeated tapping at about a 250ms frequency. Even in this best case, catching a 200 millisecond window still depends somewhat on randomness. And even if you eventually manage to catch this short window of time, you still have to contend with sore fingers, wasted time, and just how ridiculous people look when they are frantically jamming on their keyboard.
  • David Lowery's essay on the economics of the music industry in the age of the Internet: Meet The New Boss, Worse Than The Old Boss?
    My only explanation is that there is just something fundamentally wrong with how many in the tech industry look at the world. They are deluded somehow. Freaks.

    Taking no risk and paying nothing to the content creators is built into the collective psyche of the Tech industry. They do not value content. They only see THEIR services as valuable. They are the Masters of the Universe. They bring all that is good. Content magically appears on their blessed networks.

    I’m using this language for good reason. There is a quasi religious tone to many tech convention speeches and press releases. What other industry constantly professes utopian visions for all humanity? What other industry would dare proclaim they were liberating artists? Students? Workers? What other industry thinks they are mystical shaman “Let’s send our magic objects, our laptops to poor children in third world countries”. What other industry genuinely believes they (and only they) possess the lapis philosophorum? They have even created their own God. A Superhuman intelligence that they (naturally) have created. The singularity. Their egos know no bounds.

    Not only is the New Boss worse than the Old Boss. The New Boss creeps me out.

  • Google's description of how an email is actually processed: The Story of Send
    Once your message leaves your Internet Service Provider (ISP), it enters an Internet backbone router. Here’s where Google picks up your message and guides it to the closest Google data center. To provide the best possible user experience, we try to pick up your requests as early as possible from the local ISP, so we’ve built an extensive Internet backbone across the U.S.

    And again, Doc Searls has a nice follow-up: The Real Story of Send

    The main intended message of The Story of Send is a green one: Google saves energy. A secondary message is that Google is a big nice company that treats your mail well and has good security practices. But the main unintended message — or at least the one that comes across — is that email is a big complicated business, and you need big complicated companies to do it right. It also ignores the real story, which is about a handful of simple protocols.
  • Jorge Lucangeli Obes and Justin Schuh's nice essay about the details of one of the Chrome security holes that was recently found and patched: A Tale of Two Pwnies (Part 1)
    The next thing Pinkie needed was a target that met two criteria: it had to be positioned within range of his overwrite, and the first eight bytes needed to be something worth changing. For this, he used the GPU buckets, which are another IPC primitive exposed from the GPU process to the Native Client process. The buckets are implemented as a tree structure, with the first eight bytes containing pointers to other nodes in the tree. By overwriting the first eight bytes of a bucket, Pinkie was able to point it to a fake tree structure he created in one of his transfer buffers. Using that fake tree, Pinkie could read and write arbitrary addresses in the GPU process. Combined with some predictable addresses in Windows, this allowed him to build a ROP chain and execute arbitrary code inside the GPU process.

What are you reading this weekend?

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