Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter weekend reading

There is some sort of magic substance in chocolate-covered marshmallow bunnies, that's all I know...

Fuelled by the yummies, here's a few things I'm reading

  • Bravo to Meagan Marie for speaking out: What Would You Do if You Weren't Afraid?
    The treatment and representation of women in gaming has come to a head this past year, and I know some of you are tired of hearing about it. I’m tired of living it. I want to feel safe and valued as a member of this industry, whether I’m conducting an interview, talking to fans on a convention floor, or cosplaying. And I have a right to that. I’m not afraid anymore.
    Carol Pinchefsky also has good coverage in Forbes: Really? IGDA Party At GDC Brings On The Female Dancers
    The Game Developer Conference is full of fun, with hands-on demonstrations of unreleased games, talks from the developers, and day-long workshops designed to cram as much information into our game-soaked brains as possible. But not every event is as enjoyable as the others
  • Next week is the 10th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI ’13). The program is here, and it looks superb. I'm looking forward to studying all of this work in detail, such as the FAWN team's work on optimistic cuckoo hashing and the Eiger project on causally-consistent replication.
  • The battle over global-scale cloud platforms is intense, with the news that EBay/PayPal are abandoning VMWare for OpenStack and Netflix announcing a contest for improving cloud computing. Meanwhile, Joe Masters Emison wonders whether the industry is standardizing and consolidating too soon: How Netflix Is Ruining Cloud Computing
    Locking yourself down to AWS today, for greenfield cloud architectures, would be the equivalent of deciding to develop an iPhone-only application when you know you'll have to support iPads, Android and others in the future
  • The best description of the SpamHaus/CyberBunker incident appears to be from CloudFlare: The DDoS That Almost Broke the Internet
    Then the attackers changed their tactics. Rather than attacking our customers directly, they started going after the network providers CloudFlare uses for bandwidth. More on that in a second, first a bit about how the Internet works.
    Professor Ed Felten of Princeton offers some additional observations here: Security Lessons from the Big DDoS Attacks
    Attackers will strike where the defenses are weakest, and defenses are often weakest where the incentive to defend is lacking.
  • We happened to drive across the Benicia bridge a few weeks ago, and I noticed that there's barely a dozen hulks left of the once-immense "Mothball Fleet". If you have no idea what I'm talking about, start here: Inside the Ghost Ships of the Mothball Fleet
    On subsequent trips, we spent the entire weekend aboard the ships, each time on a different row. Because they are tethered closely together in rows, we had many ships to explore—enough to keep us occupied for a week or more if the excursions were not so draining and we did not have jobs pulling us back. But the main reason we stayed all weekend is simply because it was such a challenge to get out there.
  • Great article from the MemSQL blog: Common Pitfalls in Writing Lock-Free Algorithms
    How to write a correct lock-free stack

    Most of the above problems have many different solutions. Here I’ll describe the approaches I use at work for our lock-free stack.

  • Distributed systems take debugging to a whole new level. Pindi Albert takes us through a great example: Debugging a race condition with client-side load balancing, and I love the description of the Ah-HAH moment:
    While doing some routine development one day, I accidently reproduced the issue on my local machine. This was a significant breakthough; until now the issue had only surfaced on production machines where many variables complicate debugging.
  • It is sadly true that most government regulations are actually written by members of the industry being regulated; this article in Washington Monthly digs into a recent example: He Who Makes The Rules
    But the executives stood their ground. Their lawyer quietly referred Chilton to the end of the sentence in question: as appropriate. Those two little words, the lawyer said, clearly modify the verb “shall.” Therefore, the statute can be interpreted as saying that the commission shall—but only if appropriate—establish position limits, he explained.
  • Professor Michael Mitzenmacher explains why the Weev verdict is problematic: Update: Andrew Auernheimer Watch. As Justin Peters notes in Slate:
    While the specifics of the charges in each case differ, all three illustrate the unfortunate plasticity of the CFAA, and how it can be shaped and contorted to cover almost any computing-related actions.
  • Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures describes the way that most startups end: When Things Don't Work Out
    In this scenario, the company runs out of cash and there is no more coming from the investors. The company cannot sustain itself and one of two things happens. There is a fire sale or an acqui-hire, or there is a shut down. The fire sale is the preferred outcome and VCs and entrepreneurs have gotten pretty good at finding homes for the teams in recent years. There is such a vacuum of talent out there that a fire sale can often be arranged just for the talent that a company has assembled. But often the fire sale cannot be arranged and the company has to be shut down.
    What Wilson doesn't really discuss is the sad fact that, in most of these cases, the investors and executives do just fine, but that "talent" that the company has "assembled" finds that they've given years of their lives to an effort that returned the favor by telling them how lucky they are just to have jobs. Oh Bryan, don't dwell on those lessons; let's just go back to celebrity star-gazing and glorifying the lucky few.
Hey, it's a nice weekend, and my grand-daughter says it's time to walk the dog. So get off that computer, Bryan, and get outdoors!

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