Friday, August 8, 2014

Stuff I'm reading, lazy Friday afternoon edition

So here we are in the dog days of summer. Woof!

As usual, doncha know, I'm all over the place:

  • Too bad everything seems to be a "freemium" game nowadays. Godus: Another Baffling, Bizarre Peter Molyneux Game
    Speaking of light touch, the most interesting thing about Godus is that you’re actually touching your world and peoples instead of wielding a mouse pointer. There’s something about delicately tapping the landscape, even through a glass veneer, that personalizes the experience. If keyboard and mouse exemplify media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s notion that inanimate objects become extensions of ourselves, Godus is partly about removing that extension: You’re god, after all, and god doesn’t play dice with a gamepad.
  • Planet Generation - Part I
    For this chapter I will start by making the simple geometry for the basis of the planet. At later posts I will add more detail including height data, lighting, atmospheric scattering and level of detail which will allow the amount of data the planet contains to increase dramatically.
  • Planet Generation - Part II
    Libnoise is a portable, open-source, coherent noise-generating library for C++. This sounds good for my needs as I am running the code on my Nexus 5 Android phone and the library supports a SetSeed function so it fills the requirement of being able to replicate the same results given a seed.
  • This is a really super essay about the role of plot and narrative in video game implementations: Designing game narrative
    Here’s an example from the first Portal game. In this game, you play as a test subject with a portal gun, trying to advance through different test chambers. Near the end, you are riding a slowly moving platform to what you are told is a reward for your good test performance. Suddenly, it’s revealed that the platform is actually taking you to a fiery death. When I was playing this scene, I genuinely panicked: I was deeply immersed in the game at this point, feeling good about myself for beating the puzzles, ready to be rewarded for it, and now I was being betrayed. Without thinking, my eyes lead me to an ideal surface for firing my portal gun, and I created an exit for myself, escaping certain death. For just a moment, I genuinely thought I broke the system. I had outsmarted the enemy with my wits!
  • Announcing UberPool, Carpooling with Uber
    This is also a bold social experiment. There’s the interaction between riders in an UberPool—should they talk to each other? When is that cool and when is it, well, annoying? We’re going to find out how this brave new world of UberPooling works—we’ll iterate on this beta product and get it right, because the larger social implications of reducing the number of cars on the road, congestion in cities, pollution, parking challenges… are truly inspiring.
  • The BobbyTables Culture
    Countless posts on Stack Overflow are vulnerable to SQL injection attacks. Along with several other users, I always raise this when it shows up – this is something that really just shouldn’t happen these days. It’s a well-understood issue,and parameterized SQL is a great solution in almost all cases. (No, it doesn’t work if you want to specify an column or table name dynamically. Yes, whitelisting is the solution there.)
  • Your computer is already a distributed system. Why isn’t your OS?
    Our goal is to make it easier to design and construct ro- bust OSes that effectively exploit heterogeneous, multi- core hardware at scale. We approach this through a new OS architecture resembling a distributed system.
  • The Network is Reliable
    much of what we believe about the failure modes of real-world distributed systems is founded on guesswork and rumor. Sysadmins and developers will swap stories over beer, but detailed, public postmortems and comprehensive surveys of network availability are few and far between. In this article, we'd like to informally bring a few of these stories (which, in most cases, are unabashedly anecdotal) together. Our focus is on descriptions of actual network behavior when possible and (more often), when not, on the implications of network failures and asynchrony for real-world systems deployments. We believe this is a first step toward a more open and honest discussion of real-world partition behavior, and, ultimately, toward more robust distributed systems design.
  • The US Intelligence Community has a Third Leaker
    Everyone's miscounting.
  • Building Carousel, Part II: Speeding Up the Data Model
    In Carousel, we wanted to fix the experience for users with more than a single page of photos by using a different model for loading photo metadata off of disk. When it comes time to render the view to the user, it doesn’t matter how we store the user’s data on disk as long as we can quickly bind data to the view. We prepare an in-memory “view model”, a data structure that provides exactly this: an index on our metadata that is fast enough to query on the UI thread at render time.
  • Open Source Dickishness
    In a blog post, StrongLoop announced the move as a great next step in the evolution of the project. The blog post masks a commercial transaction as an act of good will by calling it a “transfer of sponsorship”. If all they wanted was to “pitch in and help”, why did they need to take over and move the project? Why is their first public act a blog post and not a pull request?
  • StrongLoop & Express
    Did I consult every contributor that there has ever been on the project? No, maybe I should have? Ultimately I don’t see this as the huge problem that everyone else does, the two primary contributors benefit, the community benefits by having full-time employees improve a project, the company benefits from being closely associated with the project.
  • Non-Transparent Memory Safety
    after using Deputy for a while, its genius became apparent. First, whenever I needed to tell Deputy something, the information was always available either in my head or in a convenient program variable. This is not a coincidence: if the information that Deputy requires is not available, then the code is probably not memory safe. Second, the annotations become incredibly useful documentation: they take memory safety information that is normally implicit and put it out in the open in a nice readable format. In contrast, a transparent memory safety solution is highly valuable at runtime but does not contribute to the understandability and maintainability of our code.
  • Princeton likely to rescind grade deflation policy
    After the policy went into effect in 2005, grades were flat for a few years and then started rising again. So what changed grading practices was not the 35% guideline but the simple fact that faculty were discussing and thinking more deeply about grading policy during the period before the current policy was even a concrete proposal. The policy that worked was “grade mindfully”, not “give 35% A’s”.
  • Silver Village
    Historic structures in the mountains of California are being wrapped, Christo-style, in reflective silver sheets to help protect them against the heat of wildfires.
  • Today is a good day. I just had a call from a telemarketer.
    Like a good IT administrator I put my skills to use for their benefit.
  • Over a Billion Passwords Stolen?
    I've been doing way too many media interviews over this weird New York Times story that a Russian criminal gang has stolen over 1.2 billion passwords.
  • Bruce Schneier is skeptical, but Brian Krebs says it's legit: Q&A on the Reported Theft of 1.2B Email Accounts
    Alex isn’t keen on disclosing his methods, but I have seen his research and data firsthand and can say it’s definitely for real. Without spilling his secrets or methods, it is clear that he has a first-hand view on the day-to-day activities of some very active organized cybercrime networks and actors.
  • The hidden perils of cookie syncing
    The most common use of cookie syncing is to enable real-time bidding between several entities in an ad auction. It allows the bidder and the ad network to refer to the user by the same ID so that the bidder can place bids on a particular user in current and future auctions. Cookie syncing raises subtle yet serious privacy concerns, but due to the technical complexity of explaining it, didn’t receive much press coverage. In this post I’ll explain cookie syncing and why it’s worrisome — even more so than canvas fingerprinting.
  • A Closer Look At Personas: What They Are And How They Work (Part 1)
    A persona is a way to model, summarize and communicate research about people who have been observed or researched in some way. A persona is depicted as a specific person but is not a real individual; rather, it is synthesized from observations of many people. Each persona represents a significant portion of people in the real world and enables the designer to focus on a manageable and memorable cast of characters, instead of focusing on thousands of individuals.
  • PostgreSQL page size for SSD
    What struck me is that there is a significant impact of smaller page size on OLTP performance (6% better for 4 kB, 10% better for 2 kB, with 8 kB as the reference), suggesting that the 8 kB default is not necessarily the best choice, especially when using SSD.
  • Explaining Ark Part 4: Fixing Majority Write Concern
    When a replica set has two primaries, the two primaries should never produce oplog entries whose positions interleave, and primary that produces smaller oplog positions should step down.
  • Everything We Know About Facebook's Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment
    For one week in January 2012, data scientists skewed what almost 700,000 Facebook users saw when they logged into its service. Some people were shown content with a preponderance of happy and positive words; some were shown content analyzed as sadder than average. And when the week was over, these manipulated users were more likely to post either especially positive or negative words themselves.
  • Did OkCupid send a bunch of incompatible people on dates on purpose?
    The question is whether the potential damage of the interventions justifies the lack of informed consent outside of OkCupid's normal terms and conditions. The first experiment is the least troubling on these grounds, since everyone was informed the change was coming, rather than it being rolled out surreptitiously
  • We Experiment On Human Beings!
    We noticed recently that people didn’t like it when Facebook “experimented” with their news feed. Even the FTC is getting involved. But guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work.
  • Why don't OKCupid's experiments bother us like Facebook's did? 
    The tone of the OKC post is just so darned charming. Rudder is casual, self-deprecating. It's a blog post! Meanwhile, Facebook's "emotional contagion" scholarly paper was chillingly matter-of-fact. In short, the scientism of the thing just creeped us the fuck out.
  • Premier League preview links
    It’s a week until the season starts, so here are some club by club preview links
  • If Google was a Guy

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