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Justin Mason's Weblog Posts

Links for 2021-10-14

  • Fruit fly brains include a variant of a Bloom filter data structure

    Wow, this is incredible!

    We found that the fruit fly olfactory circuit evolved a variant of a Bloom filter to assess the novelty of odors. Compared with a traditional Bloom filter, the fly adjusts novelty responses based on two additional features: the similarity of an odor to previously experienced odors and the time elapsed since the odor was last experienced. We elaborate and validate a framework to predict novelty responses of fruit flies to given pairs of odors. We also translate insights from the fly circuit to develop a class of distance- and time-sensitive Bloom filters that outperform prior filters when evaluated on several biological and computational datasets. Overall, our work illuminates the algorithmic basis of an important neurobiological problem and offers strategies for novelty detection in computational systems.

    (tags: fruit-flies data-structures algorithms brains neuroscience smell)

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Links for 2021-10-08

  • Let’s Encrypt Root Expiration – Post-Mortem

    Overall, I think the expiration of the Let’s Encrypt CA certificates went really quite well, largely due to the work Let’s Encrypt did around arranging for a new cross-signed chain to be available beyond the expiration of the IdenTrust root. That said, there were far more issues in areas we didn’t anticipate. Modern devices, all the way through to latest versions of iOS and macOS hit issues when connecting to servers that had a misconfigured certificate chain and quite serious issues from huge companies like Google and Microsoft in their cloud products that could no longer validate certificate chains was surprising to say the least. In all, I think this just highlights something that many of us that work in this space have known for some time, that TLS/PKI are complex and fragile systems that often go overlooked for long periods of time because they ‘just work’ most of the time. [….] One thing that’s certain is that this event is coming again. Over the next few years we’re going to see a wide selection of Root Certificates expiring for all of the major CAs and we’re likely to keep experiencing the exact same issues unless something changes in the wider ecosystem.

    (tags: postmortem ssl tls pki fail post-mortems lets-encrypt cas)

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Links for 2021-10-06

  • Frances Haugen says Facebook’s algorithms are dangerous. Here’s why. | MIT Technology Review

    This is a good article on FB’s disastrous situation, which would be bad enough were it not endangering our societies. Despite warnings from Google and others, they switched their engagement optimization tactics to rely heavily on machine learning, which (as noted elsewhere) devolves into a situation where it’s thoroughly inscrutable:

    It developed an internal tool known as FBLearner Flow that made it easy for engineers without machine learning experience to develop whatever models they needed at their disposal. By one data point, it was already in use by more than a quarter of Facebook’s engineering team in 2016. Many of the current and former Facebook employees I’ve spoken to say that this is part of why Facebook can’t seem to get a handle on what it serves up to users in the news feed. Different teams can have competing objectives, and the system has grown so complex and unwieldy that no one can keep track anymore of all of its different components. […] “64% of all extremist group joins are due to our recommendation tools,” the presentation said, predominantly thanks to the models behind the “Groups You Should Join” and “Discover” features. […] These phenomena are far worse in regions that don’t speak English because of Facebook’s uneven coverage of different languages. […] When the war in Tigray[, Ethiopia] first broke out in November, [AI ethics researcher Timnit] Gebru saw the platform flounder to get a handle on the flurry of misinformation. […] When fake news, hate speech, and even death threats aren’t moderated out, they are then scraped as training data to build the next generation of [language models]. And those models, parroting back what they’re trained on, end up regurgitating these toxic linguistic patterns on the internet.”
    What. A. Mess.

    (tags: machine-learning social-networking facebook the-algorithm llms models frances-haughen)

  • The Verica Open Incident Database (VOID)

    ‘A community-contributed collection of software-related incident reports’ — this looks like it’ll be a great resource.

    (tags: resilience engineering ops outages post-mortems rcas five-whys incidents)

  • debunking “it takes 48,000 miles for an EV to be greener than an ICE vehicle”

    Looks like this is disinformation produced by an Aston-Martin-affiliated lobbyist/PR company — the true figure is 18,000 miles

    (tags: debunking pr lobbying cars evs aston-martin spin greenwashing)

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Links for 2021-10-05

  • _Endgame: A zero-carbon electricity plan for Ireland_

    A report commissioned by Wind Energy Ireland in June 2021 — key findings:

    Reducing power sector CO2 emissions in Ireland from around 9 million tonnes today to a target of less than 2 million tonnes of CO2 per year is very achievable by 2030, using the approach currently underway to achieve the ‘70 by 30’ target, and implementing more of existing and proven technologies; The current Programme for Government renewable capacity targets of 8.2 GW of onshore wind and 5 GW of offshore wind by 2030 should be maintained, with an additional target of 5 GW of solar PV. This target can be achieved at a lower cost to the end consumer in Ireland, compared to delivery of the less ambitious ‘70 by 30’ target. A zero-carbon power system is possible by 2030 and represents an achievable target in the 2030s.

    (tags: wind-energy energy ireland future 2030 climate-change co2 solar-power carbon)

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Links for 2021-10-04

  • Wanghong

    At the simplest level, [wanghong] means “internet famous,” referring in its earliest iterations to viral personalities or social media influencers. The word has since mutated, expanding and venn-diagramming with a particular hipster aesthetic, strands of urban design and kinds of tech platform architecture.

    (tags: celebrity china photography internet neologisms wanghong instagram fame viral internet-famous)

  • The Three DynamoDB Limits You Need to Know

    tl;dr: the item size limit, the pagination page size limit for query and scans; and the partition throughput limits (which bit me earlier this year).

    (tags: dynamodb limits aws coding ops)

  • Orthodoxy, illusio, and playing the scientific game: a Bourdieusian analysis of infection control science in the COVID-19 pandemic

    I remember seeing discussion of aerosol and airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 observed in Asia, right back at the start of 2020. This paper is right; the WHO in particular were careful to write this off as incorrect, and tell people that it was transmitted mainly via droplets, which we now know was a massive failure.

    Scientific and policy bodies’ failure to acknowledge and act on the evidence base for airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in a timely way is both a mystery and a scandal. In this study, we applied theories from Bourdieu to address the question, “How was a partial and partisan scientific account of SARS-CoV-2 transmission constructed and maintained, leading to widespread imposition of infection control policies which de-emphasised airborne transmission?”. […] Results: Political and policy actors at international, national, and regional level aligned — predominantly though not invariably — with medical scientific orthodoxy which promoted the droplet theory of transmission and considered aerosol transmission unproven or of doubtful relevance. This dominant scientific sub-field centred around the clinical discipline of infectious disease control, in which leading actors were hospital clinicians aligned with the evidence-based medicine movement. Aerosol scientists — typically, chemists, and engineers — representing the heterodoxy were systematically excluded from key decision-making networks and committees. Dominant discourses defined these scientists’ ideas and methodologies as weak, their empirical findings as untrustworthy or insignificant, and their contributions to debate as unhelpful.

    (tags: via:naomi-wu covid-19 discourse infection bourdieu transmission aerosols droplets)

  • Microsoft’s million-tonne CO2-removal purchase — lessons for net zero

    Via David Roberts: “Microsoft is trying to go carbon-negative. Its recent RFP solicited bids for 154 million tonnes of negative emissions; of those, only *2 million tonnes* met its criteria for real, permanent CO2 removal. It has written up its challenges in Nature.” “We write as a team composed of Microsoft staff working on the company’s carbon-negative programme, and research scientists who analyse carbon reduction and removal strategies. We highlight three ‘bugs’ in the current system: inconsistent definitions of net zero, poor measurement and accounting of carbon, and an immature market in CO2 removal and offsets. These challenges need to be overcome if the world is to reach net zero by mid-century.”

    (tags: earth co2 microsoft stripe carbon carbon-capture climate-change net-zero)

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Links for 2021-10-03

  • Forrest Fleischman on “trillion trees” projects

    Some good points:

    A project whose goal is to plant a certain number of trees is particularly vulnerable to failure because its counting the wrong thing. If the goal is to absorb emissions, we should count the carbon, not the trees. A few small large absorb more carbon than a bunch of little trees. When we plant trees with carbon uptake or forest restoration as a goal, we don’t try to maximize the number of trees. We try to maximize long-term carbon uptake, and this might actually mean planting fewer trees up front.

    (tags: forestry science data climate-change planting trees forests carbon-capture carbon)

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Links for 2021-09-30

  • Introducing Echo Show 15

    Amazon’s new “Full HD 15.6″ smart display for family organisation with Alexa”. I’ve built something similar (though much more basic) for our home using an e-Paper display and a Raspberry Pi, so I’m interested. My take: it looks very busy, heavy on the Alexa lock-in, would omit lots of useful data sources (like Home Assistant), and of course the spyware factor is a biggie — although on that note it’s interesting that there’s a prominent “mic/camera off” switch…

    (tags: alexa amazon echo-show devices home family)

  • CR2032 battery review

    IKEA-branded CR2032 batteries last about 70% as long as Duracell or Energizer, or 50% if your devices turn off at 2.7V

    (tags: cr2032 batteries data power via:itc ikea)

  • Big tech relies on refugee labour

    Holy shit this is dystopian.

    All of the largest companies in the world are today powered by a covert crowd of the system’s castoffs. Platforms have found amid those struggling to stay afloat in informal work — or else barely clinging onto a life in formal employment — a desperate mass to be tempted with the promise of a better life. Such a promise, however, is broken as soon as it is made; the petty services of the informal sector resemble little more than a blueprint for the microtasks of big tech, without offering anything in the way of rights, routine, role, security, or a future.

    (tags: colonialism refugees ai data machine-learning amazon google tesla uber mechanical-turk)

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Links for 2021-09-29

  • Partitioning GitHub’s relational databases to handle scale

    wow this is complex. Vitess playing a key part

    (tags: github mysql architecture database)

  • VR-based work setup

    “VR Productivity in (or above) a WFA world” —

    This week, I’ll spend 40–50 hours in Virtual Reality (Immersed), like I did last week and every (work) week for the last 2½ years. […] Yes, really: 8–10 hours a day strapped in.
    Basically, it’s using an Oculus Quest 2 to render multiple desktop displays from a laptop into a huge, full-visible-range virtual world:
    The resolution of these very large displays is surprisingly average—1080p (Reference, Communication) and 4k (Main). This makes the dot pitch unimpressive by the numbers, though still more than twenty-five times that of a roadside billboard display. Higher resolutions are available, but this is my calculated trade-off between pixel parity (more on that below), computer performance, and latency. Applications are tuned for readability and crispness, emphasizing information density over anti-aliasing or smoothness.
    The article sounds fairly solid, with good tips on how to make a VR headset suitable for constant daily use.

    (tags: oculus vr future work headsets display screens)

  • LEB128

    ‘a variable-length code compression used to store arbitrarily large integers in a small number of bytes.’

    (tags: encoding compression integers storage codes leb128)

  • Troll farms reached 140 million Americans a month on Facebook before 2020 election

    This is a staggering stat: “19 of Facebook’s top 20 pages for American Christians in 2019 were run by troll farms in Kosovo and Macedonia, internal documents leaked to MIT Technology Review reveal […] funded by the Russian Internet Research Agency.” (via Charlie Stross)

    (tags: facebook politics russia disinfo kosovo macedonia us-politics manipulation)

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Links for 2021-09-27

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Links for 2021-09-24

  • Do I have COVID or a cold?

    Data-driven results from the UK ZOE symptom survey!

    Currently, the most common COVID-19 symptoms in people who have been fully vaccinated […] are: Runny nose, Headache, Sneezing, Sore throat, Loss of smell (anosmia)
    And “loss of smell (anosmia) or loss of taste is still one of the most important predictors of testing positive for COVID-19 rather than a regular cold”.

    (tags: covid-19 colds health symptoms diseases zoe)

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Links for 2021-09-23

  • Steve Yegge on deprecation policies

    “Dear Google Cloud: Your Deprecation Policy is Killing You”:

    This lack of a support culture, combined with a “let’s break it in the name of making it prettier” deprecation treadmill, is alienating their developers. And that’s not a good thing if you want to build a long-lived platform. Google, wake the fuck up. It’s 2020. You are still losing. It’s time to take a hard look in the mirror and answer for yourselves whether you really want to be in the Cloud business. If you do, then stop breaking shit. You guys are rich. We developers are not. So when it comes to shouldering the burden of compatibility, you need to pay for it. Not us.
    This is absolutely correct — API deprecation is a lovely thing when you’re the one doing the deprecating, but it’s a disaster for the user experience, and sometimes that should be the most important thing.

    (tags: deprecation compatibility google apis support culture)

  • Managing Log Output in Buildkite

    Nice, simple way to collapse long log streams into collapsable/hidable sections, from BuildKite

    (tags: logging cli hacks buildkite streams)

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Links for 2021-09-20

  • Orange-OpenSource/bmc-cache

    In-kernel memcache based on eBPF (via Brendan Gregg):

    BMC (BPF Memory Cache) is an in-kernel cache for memcached. It enables runtime, crash-safe extension of the Linux kernel to process specific memcached requests before the execution of the standard network stack. BMC does not require modification of neither the Linux kernel nor the memcached application. Running memcached with BMC improves throughput by up to 18x compared to the vanilla memcached application.

    (tags: memcached bpf ebpf linux performance kernel via:brendangregg)

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Links for 2021-09-15

  • why Apple devices have wifi problems on non-Apple APs

    I’ve always suspected some bullshit like this — Apple devices (Macs and iPhones) expect a specific non-standard wifi setting. If you’ve noticed Apple devices falling off the network and taking a long time (many seconds) to rejoin, where devices with other OSes do not have the same problem, this may be the cause. tl;dr: the DTIM (delivery traffic indication message) setting, which defaults to 1 in a standards-compliant AP, is expected to be set to 3 by Apple devices, in order to improve battery life. Source: https://twitter.com/revolutionwifi/status/725489216768106496 (“Apple engineers have strongly suggested a DTIM of 3.”)

    (tags: dtim wifi wireless 802.11 apple aps hardware networking)

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Links for 2021-09-14

  • Covid-19 and the new merchants of doubt

    How best can scientists push back against [science denialists]? There is a range of evidence-based strategies. These include: “Public inoculation”–warning people about the risk of being misled and drawing attention to who is pushing the contentious information and their financial competing interests; Highlighting scientific consensus; and Mapping the institutional networks who are pushing controversial information and then using political and legal strategies to counter them. For physicians, scientists, and public health officials to be effective countering efforts like the [Great Barrington declaration], it will be absolutely critical for them to realize that they are not dealing with an orthodox scientific debate based on sound data and evidence, but a well-funded sophisticated science denialist campaign based on ideological and corporate interests.

    (tags: denialism climate-change covid-19 science communication astroturf fakes evidence fake-news)

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Links for 2021-09-08

  • Oracle Cloud Always Free Tier

    Whoa, this is unexpected — Oracle Cloud has a really good deal for hobby projects, including: ‘4 Arm-based Ampere A1 cores and 24 GB of memory usable as one VM or up to 4 VMs; 2 Block Volumes Storage, 200 GB total; 2 AMD based Compute VMs with 1/8 OCPU** and 1 GB memory each.’ The catch is that at the end of the 30 day trial period, the 4 ARM-based VMs will be terminated, but the other resources remain intact.

    (tags: arm oracle hobbies projects hacks hosting cloud free)

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Links for 2021-09-07

  • doctorray117/minecraft-ondemand

    ‘Almost-free serverless on-demand Minecraft server in AWS’:

    Instead of paying a minecraft hosting service for a private server for you and your friends, host it yourself. By utilizing several AWS services, a minecraft server can automatically start when you’re ready to use it, and shut down when you are done. The final cost will depend on use but can be as little as a a dollar or two per month. The cost estimate breakdown is below. This is a reasonably cost effective solution for someone that doesn’t need their server running 24/7. If that’s you, read on! The process works as follows: Open Minecraft Multiplayer, let it look for our server, it will time out. The DNS lookup query is logged in Route 53 on our public hosted zone. CloudWatch forwards the query to a Lambda function. The Lambda function modifies an existing ECS Fargate service to a desired task count of 1. Fargate launches two containers, Minecraft and a watchdog, which updates the DNS record to the new IP The watchdog optionally sends a text message through Twilio when the server is ready. Refresh Minecraft server list, server is ready to connect. After 10 minutes without a connection or 20 minutes after the last client disconnects (customizable) the watchdog sets the desired task count to zero and shuts down.
    This is a very neat hack, actually quite potentially usable, and a good illustration of how viable Fargate+EFS are at hosting transient but not transitory workloads!

    (tags: minecraft fargate efs aws lambda hacks hosting)

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Links for 2021-09-03

  • Climate Adaptation and Equity

    Great read from EARTH3R:

    We have traditionally treated disaster management like we’re trying to build things back to what they were before the disaster. Climate change increasingly is showing us that’s not what we should be doing. Climate adaptation is not about maintaining the status quo. Frankly, the status quo sucks for a lot of people. […] We have to think about doing things differently. New Orleans 100 years ago didn’t look exactly like it does today, and it won’t look like it does now 100 years from now. Things will change. Adaptation is deciding what things from 100 years ago we want to hold onto, and what things will change — and making sure a bunch of rich white people aren’t the only ones deciding what to hold onto.

    (tags: climate-change adaptation future flooding hurricane-ida)

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Links for 2021-08-31

  • Build-To-Rent (BTR), Aparthotels, and Irish housing policy

    Good Twitter thread detailing the (IMO disastrous) history of these “new and exciting” ways in which Ireland’s Fine Gael government were lobbied successfully in 2015 and 2018 to rewrite housing policy and permit co-living, communal living, very small studios, and 1-bedroom apartments. This then resulted in many property developers scrapping existing plans and going back to the drawing board to cram in as many tiny apartments as possible to maximise their returns

    (tags: living ireland apartments rental btr aparthotels housing policy fg)

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Links for 2021-08-27

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Links for 2021-08-26

  • How Data Brokers Sell Access to the Backbone of the Internet

    Interesting, didn’t realise this data was being resold….

    “I’m concerned that netflow data being offered for commercial purposes is a path to a dark fucking place,” one source familiar with the data told Motherboard. […] At a high level, netflow data creates a picture of traffic flow and volume across a network. It can show which server communicated with another, information that may ordinarily only be available to the server owner or the ISP carrying the traffic. Crucially, this data can be used for, among other things, tracking traffic through virtual private networks, which are used to mask where someone is connecting to a server from, and by extension, their approximate physical location. Team Cymru, one threat intelligence firm, works with ISPs to access that netflow data, three sources said. Keith Chu, communications director for the office of Senator Ron Wyden which has been conducting its own investigations into the sale of sensitive data, added that Team Cymru told the office “it obtains netflow data from third parties in exchange for threat intelligence.” Companies that may source Team Cymru’s data include cybersecurity firms hired to respond to data breaches or proactively hunt out hackers. On its website, Team Cymru says it works with both public and private sector teams to “to help identify, track and stop bad actors both in cyber space and on the ground.” “I’m less worried about a bad guy hacker and more worried about a bad guy government or company or politician,” one source familiar with the data said. A source in the threat intelligence industry added that they “always thought it was kinda bonkers,” referring to Team Cymru’s sale of netflow data.

    (tags: vpns surveillance web privacy team-cymru netflow isps threat-intelligence)

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Links for 2021-08-25

  • Back Market

    “Your Refurbished (Super) Marketplace” — an eBay for refurbished devices. “Back Market has created a transparent grading system that takes into account both the cosmetic appearance and technical condition of every device. Every device is guaranteed to be 100% functional on our site—so ”technical condition” refers to the durability one can expect from a product given its refurbisher’s operations/processes and historical quality data). Everything is fully transparent so you can choose from three conditions based on your needs.” Looks decent, Paris-based.

    (tags: refurbs devices hardware smartphones iphones gadgets shopping)

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Links for 2021-08-18

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Links for 2021-08-11

  • DCC’s greenwashing PR

    Excellent demonstration via Robbie Semple on Twitter: “Ireland’s biggest fossil fuel company is @dccplc. They are a FTSE100 company. Last year they made £13.4 billion in revenue and £530.2 million in profit. 71% of the profit came from their fossil fuel businesses. ‘In the face of a global crisis, Ireland’s biggest fossil fuel company refuses to stop selling fossil fuels ’: Why is this not more of a story? DCC are very good at communications. Given how they make their money, most publicity is bad for business, so they keep a low profile. And what they do communicate is very skilful. […] “We have adopted a Net Zero 2050 target for our group Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Our interim target is a 20% reduction by 2025.” This is a masterclass in how to tell the world you won’t stop selling fossil fuels without telling the world you won’t stop selling fossil fuels. The key is referring only to scope 1 and 2 emissions, meaning the emissions produced in running their business. For DCC, that will include things like electricity for their factories, and fuel for their trucks. But they don’t mention scope 3 emissions, which would include emissions produced in their supply chain, or by their customers. For DCC, that means they don’t have to worry about the methane that escapes when it’s fracked out of the earth, or the carbon emitted as their oil and gas they sell is burned by end users. DCC’s 2021 sustainability report refers to scope 3 emissions, but doesn’t quantify them and has set no targets for reducing them. So with their current banner commitments, they could double the amount of fossil fuels they sell and still meet their 2050 targets.” Scope 1/2/3 emissions are a hard concept to get your head around, but very important in dissecting greenwashing PR.

    (tags: pr greenwashing dcc ireland via:robbie-semple net-zero fossil-fuels climate-change emissions scope-3 scope-1 scope-2)

  • Identity verification would not help racist abuse on Twitter

    Twitter UK analysed the racist abuse directed at England football players on the night of the Euro 2020 final, and noted: “our data suggests that ID verification would have been unlikely to prevent the abuse from happening — as of the permanently suspended accounts, 99% of account owners were identifiable.”

    (tags: anonymity abuse racism twitter social-media id-verification)

  • ‘I don’t want to be seen as a zealot’: what MPs really think about the climate crisis

    Well, this is a problem —

    Running these workshops was a fascinating experience. In each, there was a definite point which I came to think of as a “penny-drop moment”, when the participants came to realise the significance of the climate crisis and the way it would shape our collective future. In one workshop, for example, a very eminent scientist explained to MPs how crop yields are likely to be severely affected by extreme weather, a likely scenario if global average temperatures rise by 2C or more – and that this could lead to food shortages. The response was striking. There was a silence, a collective intake of breath, a recognition of the significance of the changes that could be upon us if we don’t act. And then, at the end of our workshop, they walked out of the door and back to their normal lives. […] It became clear to me that there were two main reasons why MPs struggled with the issue: first, because it didn’t fit easily into the culture of political life and their own identity as a parliamentarian; and second, because they worried that public support for climate action was limited, and that, as representatives, they needed to be led by their electorate.
    I have some confidence that a Citizen’s Assembly approach is the right answer here. In Ireland it was clear that politicians felt more comfort with gay marriage and abortion as topics once those CAs had delivered their findings and demonstrated how an electorate really felt about them.

    (tags: democracy elections future climate-change uk politics politicians)

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Links for 2021-08-10

  • Lambda vs EC2 costs

    BBVA run the numbers on AWS Lambda vs bare-EC2 cost effectiveness. This is a good analysis, as of Dec 2020 pricing at least:

    With traffic profiles where requests arrive in at periodic intervals, and a low total amount of requests, serverless architecture seems to be a great architecture in terms of cost, speed of delivery and effort. Thus, Lambda is probably the way to go if our application has sufficiently large periods of inactivity. Once the break-even point is reached, when EC2 is more cost-effective than Lambda, the cost difference grows rapidly, making Lambda less and less attractive in terms of cost. Thus, it is of great importance to know if the expected amount of traffic will be around the break-even point. Be aware of the CPU throttling you will get with the smaller memory flavors of Lambda. If your code is CPU-bound, choosing the smaller memory flavors might not be an option, since execution times, and thus latency, might grow beyond your requirements. On the other hand, if your code is I/O bound, the CPU throttling might not affect you significantly. Break-even point (if there is one, that is) strongly depends on the application itself. Without measuring the target application code, knowing the intended usage of the service, the SLA and the capabilities of the team in charge of building the application it is almost impossible to know for sure which service, Lambda or EC2, is more convenient.
    IMO there are still significant costs in organisational and infrastructure terms around replacing a working EC2 infrastructure with a Lambda-based one; deployment and other integration points with AWS are extremely tricky to deal with. But this is good data on the $ point alone.

    (tags: serverless aws lambda costs cost-control ec2 hosting architecture)

  • For want of a screenless MP3 player

    Yes, I know about Pi-Hole. If you are telling me about Pi-Hole you are inadvertently proving my point, which is that responsibility or intentionally parenting these days involves a frankly unreasonable and untenable amount of both content moderation both passive and interactive and at this point a quite enraging amount of goddamn systems administration.

    (tags: culture tech ads spam pi-hole home parenting life)

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Links for 2021-08-07

  • Edward Luper’s “36 Views of the BT Tower”

    These are fantastic — “Much like Hokusai’s views of Mt. Fuji, Edward Luper’s prints capture London’s BT Tower from various vantage points and throughout different weather patterns and seasons. And while initiative’s like these run the risk of coming across a kitschy copies, Luper’s attention to detail and artistic execution renders them an artful adoration for a city. “[BT Tower] became a point of stability for me; like a lighthouse. My life seems to revolve around it in some way or form. Much in the same way Mount Fuji was to the artist Katsushika Hokusai.””

    (tags: hokusai ukiyo-e art prints london mt-fuji edward-luper)

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Links for 2021-08-05

  • ‘Machine Learning: The High-Interest Credit Card of Technical Debt’

    Cannot agree more with this paper from Google: ‘One of the basic arguments in this paper is that machine learning packages have all the basic code complexity issues as normal code, but also have a larger system-level complexity that can create hidden debt. Thus, refactoring these libraries, adding better unit tests, and associated activity is time well spent but does not necessarily address debt at a systems level. In this paper, we focus on the system-level interaction between machine learning code and larger systems as an area where hidden technical debt may rapidly accumulate. At a system-level, a machine learning model may subtly erode abstraction boundaries. It may be tempting to re-use input signals in ways that create unintended tight coupling of otherwise disjoint systems. Machine learning packages may often be treated as black boxes, resulting in large masses of “glue code” or calibration layers that can lock in assumptions. Changes in the external world may make models or input signals change behavior in unintended ways, ratcheting up maintenance cost and the burden of any debt. Even monitoring that the system as a whole is operating as intended may be difficult without careful design. Indeed, a remarkable portion of real-world “machine learning” work is devoted to tackling issues of this form. Paying down technical debt may initially appear less glamorous than research results usually reported in academic ML conferences. But it is critical for long-term system health and enables algorithmic advances and other cutting-edge improvements.’ (via Grady Booch)

    (tags: via:gradybooch ai ml machine-learning google papers coding research production glue)

  • Fronius Smart Meter 63A-3

    Regarding smart home power management — Niall Douglas on ITC says “If you choose your solar inverter components right, they’ll come with a LAN capable mains AC meter which you stick just after the mains. It essentially duplicates the smart meter, should get very close, but it’s on your LAN and you can Home Assistant script the lot. My notes here suggest [this meter] for €385 inc VAT delivered, it talks to all the other Fronius kit such as inverter and thermal store immersions over your LAN. All with high quality Home Assistant support.”

    (tags: fronius home-assistant smart-home home power energy solar-power)

  • Forecast.Solar – Home Assistant

    The Forecast.Solar service provides solar production forecasting for your solar panel system, based on historic averages combined with weather forecasting. This integration provides an estimated forecast on how much energy your solar panels are going to produce, allowing you to plan ahead on how you spend your produced energy in most efficiently.

    (tags: solar-power home forecasting home-assistant)

  • source for the Irish digital COVID cert checker app

    a nice simple, human-readable Javascript validateRules() method

    (tags: javascript covid-19 source via:itc)

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Links for 2021-08-04

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Links for 2021-08-02

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Links for 2021-07-30

  • Apache Helix

    @KishoreBytes notes: “Helix [is] not well known but widely used at LinkedIn, Airbnb, Pinterest, Uber, Yahoo to build distributed systems. Helix is probably managing hundreds of thousands of servers today!” It is “a generic cluster management framework used for automatic management of partitioned, replicated and distributed resources hosted on a cluster of nodes, [providing] the following features: Automatic assignment of resource/partition to nodes; Node failure detection and recovery; Dynamic addition of Resources; Dynamic addition of nodes to the cluster; Pluggable distributed state machine to manage the state of a resource via state transitions; Automatic load balancing and throttling of transitions” Sounds handy for automatic shard-based scaling. Built on Zookeeper.

    (tags: zookeeper helix sharding scalability scaling via:kishorebytes partitioning architecture)

  • Half cooked & half raw: the Irish tradition of spuds with a moon

    […] a method of cookery practiced by the rural poor in the early to mid 19th century Ireland […] Parboiling or half-roasting rendered a potato that was at once half-cooked and half-raw, with the inner core hard to the bite. Potatoes cooked in this way were called potatoes with the moon (an ghealach) or potatoes with the bone. William Wilde, father of Oscar, describes the practice in some detail in his essay, ‘The Food of the Irish’, which was published in 1854 in the Dublin University Magazine. Here is his explanation of the practice: “the heart of the potato was allowed, by checking the boiling at a particular point, to remain parboiled, hard and waxy; when the rest of the potato has been masticated in the usual manner, this hard lump, about the size of a walnut, was bolted; and in this manner nearly a stone of the root was taken into the stomach of the Irish labourer per diem… it was grounded on a certain knowledge of physiology. “The stomach digested the well boiled farinaceous portion of the potato within the space of a few hours, and that having all been disposed of, the half-boiled lumps remained behind, and a second digestion was commenced to assimilate this portion of food, and convert it into nutritious, life-sustaining material; which latter process lasted some hours longer, and thus the craving of hunger were warded off for five or six hours after the original meal.”

    (tags: parboiling potatoes history hunger ireland rural spuds moon physiology)

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Links for 2021-07-29

  • Funding GIMP developers for sustainable development

    This is a great idea and a good way to approach OSS funding, IMO:

    We have seen skilled developers come and go for years, the latter becoming a growing concern. Contributing takes a crazy amount of time and people have family, work and other responsibilities to take care of. Thus when core team contributors are willing to be paid for making Free Software, we have decided that GIMP as a project should encourage such endeavours by putting more emphasis on their funding. There are currently 2 such crowdfunding projects. You can consider these crowdfundings as “official” as can be and completely endorsed by the GIMP project.

    (tags: oss funding via:hn gimp open-source crowdfunding gnome)

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Links for 2021-07-28

  • Long-term Symptoms After SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Children and Adolescents

    Paper in JAMA, mentioned by Daniel Griffin in his COVID-19 Clinical Updates on TWIV. “We compared symptoms compatible with long COVID in children and adolescents reported within 6 months after SARS-CoV-2 serologic testing [… using] a longitudinal cohort study investigating SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in 55 randomly selected schools in the canton of Zurich in Switzerland.” Results: 4% — so 1 in 25 — reported at least one symptom lasting more than 3 months after the initial infection date, particularly fatigue, or difficulty concentrating.

    (tags: covid-19 via:daniel-griffin via:twiv long-covid children kids jama zurich switzerland)

  • “Brides to be” & Bullshit – A case study in Irish astroturf

    There was a “protest” outside the Dail in Dublin yesterday purporting to be “brides-to-be” disappointed at ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on weddings. As this Reddit post notes, however, it seems extremely likely that this “protest” is an astroturfed PR campaign. Sadly the Irish news media were happy to report it straight and gloss over the astroturfing. ‘Nothing I’ve said here will really be a surprise to anyone, and it’s not exactly the Reichstag Fire, but I hope it’s a useful example of just how poorly Irish media serves the audience, and how easily astroturfing is done here. This protest couldn’t muster the hundred or so “real” people they expected to show up, as the padding they’d have needed to look convincing, but others can – and do. Something worth remembering for how our national media covers major, minor, totally or partly fake protests in future, and how protests are organised in the first place. Not all their instigators are as mostly-harmless as Wedding Planners.’

    (tags: protests ireland pr astroturf)

  • Outdoor Swimming Pools in Ireland

    Pretty short list, unfortunately :(

    (tags: swimming ireland outdoors heated pools kids)

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Links for 2021-07-26

  • lengstrom/falcon

    Chrome extension for flexible full text browsing history search. Press f, then space or tab, in the omnibar to start searching your previously visited websites! Every time you visit a website in Chrome, Falcon indexes all the text on the page so that the site can be easily found later. Then, for example, if you type f mugwort, Falcon will show the websites you visited containing the text “mugwort”! Install from the Chrome store here or get the CRX file!

    (tags: extension chrome search falcon indexing)

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Links for 2021-07-25

  • a 20-year patent blocked gallium doping for solar panels

    ‘the reason we have been stuck using boron instead of gallium over the past 20 years is that the process of doping silicon with gallium was locked under a patent.’ IP destroying the world now….

    (tags: ip climate-change solar-panels energy gallium patents)

  • The known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns of COVID-19 – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

    Finally, a decent article on the origins of COVID-19 from The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, by Ian Lipkin:

    Over the past 40 years, I have personally been involved in addressing several: HIV/AIDS, West Nile encephalitis, SARS, MERS, Lujo, Lassa, Nipah, Dandenong, Ebola, Marburg, dengue, monkeypox, Zika, influenza, and COVID-19. Estimates of numbers of unknown viruses lurking in mammals range from 320,000 to 1,000,000. If even 1 percent of them can infect humans or domestic animals, we may be ignorant of thousands of potential threats to human health and food security. In an increasingly interconnected world, diseases that might once have been contained to a region are now global. Accordingly, the international community can have zero tolerance for wildlife markets and wildlife trafficking for food, medicinal, or pet trade purposes. Our current focus in on China. However, trafficking in wildlife is a global threat and should be banned everywhere. It may have contributed to the emergence of HIV/AIDS and to outbreaks of Ebola and Marburg

    (tags: known-knowns sars-cov-2 diseases zoonoses covid-19 ian-lipkin health future wildlife)

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