Thursday, February 11, 2016

Stuff I'm reading, President's Day edition

El Nino is apparently over, as the rain has completely stopped. Sigh.

  • Gas leak at Porter Ranch well is stopped -- at least temporarily
    The leaking well is one of 115 injection wells at the 80-year-old, 3,600-acre Aliso Canyon facility, which stores 86 billion cubic feet of gas that serves 11 million people in the Los Angeles basin. Many of those wells are corroded and mechanically damaged, the gas company said.

    Yet it is the only field in a distribution area stretching from Porter Ranch 60 miles south to Santa Ana that can ensure reliability in both winter, when homes and businesses use significant amounts of natural gas for heating, and summer, when gas-fired generators supply power to air conditioners.

    Efforts to kill the well are being conducted under new orders imposed by the Safety and Enforcement Division of the California Public Utilities Commission in consultation with the state Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.

  • The Princeton Bitcoin textbook is now freely available
    If you’re looking to truly understand how Bitcoin works at a technical level and have a basic familiarity with computer science and programming, this book is for you. Researchers and advanced students will find the book useful as well — starting around Chapter 5, most chapters have novel intellectual contributions.
  • Transitioning from SPDY to HTTP/2
    HTTP/2 is the next-generation protocol for transferring information on the web, improving upon HTTP/1.1 with more features leading to better performance. Since then we've seen huge adoption of HTTP/2 from both web servers and browsers, with most now supporting HTTP/2. Over 25% of resources in Chrome are currently served over HTTP/2, compared to less than 5% over SPDY. Based on such strong adoption, starting on May 15th — the anniversary of the HTTP/2 RFC — Chrome will no longer support SPDY.
  • The Malware Museum
    The Malware Museum is a collection of malware programs, usually viruses, that were distributed in the 1980s and 1990s on home computers. Once they infected a system, they would sometimes show animation or messages that you had been infected. Through the use of emulations, and additionally removing any destructive routines within the viruses, this collection allows you to experience virus infection of decades ago with safety.
  • Planning for Disaster
    I’m not optimistic that, as a group, computer scientists and computing professionals can prevent this disaster from happening: the economic forces driving automation and system integration are too strong. But of course we should try. We also need to think about what we’re going to do if, all of a sudden, a lot of people suddenly expect us to start producing computer systems that actually work, and perhaps hold us accountable when we fail to do so.
  • The Moral Hazard of Complexity-Theoretic Assumptions
    Computational-complexity theory focuses on classifying computational problems according to their inherent difficulty. The theory relies on some fundamental abstractions, including that it is useful to classify algorithms according to their worst-case complexity, as it gives us a universal performance guarantee, and that polynomial functions display moderate growth.
  • Jepsen: RethinkDB 2.2.3 reconfiguration
    I offered the team a more aggressive failure model: we’d dynamically reconfigure the cluster membership during the test. This is a harder problem than consensus with fixed membership: both old and new nodes must gracefully agree on the membership change, ensure that both sets of nodes will agree on any operations performed during the handover, and finally transition to normal consensus on the new set of nodes. The delicate handoff of operations from old nodes to new provides ample opportunities for mistakes.
  • Einstein's gravitational waves 'seen' from black holes
    Expected signals are extremely subtle, and disturb the machines, known as interferometers, by just fractions of the width of an atom.

    But the black hole merger was picked up by two widely separated LIGO facilities in the US.

    The merger radiated three times the mass of the sun in pure gravitational energy.

  • Top 5 Targets of a Gravity Wave Observatory
    an instrument called LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) had apparently observed a “spectacular” direct gravitational wave signal, minute ripples in the fabric of spacetime created by distant and very massive objects—in this case, the collision and merger of two black holes, one 36 times the mass of our Sun, the other 29 times. Einstein first theorized that gravitational waves should exist in 1915, but evidence for them has been indirect so far. LIGO may be the first instrument to ever see them directly, by measuring the slight contraction and expansion of the distance separating distant mirrors.

    We asked physicists what they’d be most excited to observe with a fully functioning gravitational wave observatory. Here are their top 5 favorite targets.

  • The Resetting of the Startup Industry
    The startup industry may be “resetting,” which doesn’t mean a “crash” but rather just a resetting of valuations, timescales, winners/losers, capital sources and the relative emphasis of growth rates vs. burn rates.
  • Was Black Friday A DiSaaSter Or Simply Reversion To The Mean?
    Last Friday, LinkedIn, Salesforce and Workday lost $18B in market capitalization. To put that in perspective, these three SaaS companies lost more in market cap on Friday than 15 current SaaS leaders are worth…combined.

    How can this be possible? LinkedIn, Salesforce and Workday are growing revenue with sticky customers and they are targeting large addressable markets. Are they now suddenly undesirable companies?

  • Founders – Use Your Down Round To Clean Up Your Cap Table
    I learned this lesson 127 times between 2000 and 2005. I started investing in 1994 and while there was some bumpiness in 1997 and again in 1999, the real pain happened between 2000 and 2005. I watched, participated, and suffered through every type of creative financing as companies were struggling to raise capital in this time frame. I’ve seen every imaginable type of liquidation preference structure, pay-to-play dynamic, preferred return, ratchet, share/option bonus, option repricing, and carveout. I suffered through the next financing after implementing a complex structure, or a sale of the company, or a liquidation. I’ve spent way too much time with lawyers, rights offerings, liquidation waterfalls, and angry/frustrated people who are calculating share ownership by class to see if they can exert pressure on an outcome that they really can’t impact anyway, and certainly haven’t been constructively contributing to.
  • Why Commons Should Not Have Ideological Litmus Tests
    The final point I want to bring up here is how codes of conduct should be used. These are not things which should be seen as pseudo-legal or process-oriented documents. If you go this way, people will abuse the system. It is better in my experience to vest responsibility with the maintainers in keeping the peace, not dispensing out justice, and to have codes of conduct aimed at the former, not the latter. Justice is a thorny issue, one philosophers around the world have been arguing about for millennia with no clear resolution.

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