The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

An Oral History of LimeWire

A fascinating history of LimWire from the people who developed the software. I was a huge fan and user of LimeWire back in the day. Miles Klee best summarizes the experience:

At the height of LimeWire, Facebook and YouTube were brand new, and they hadn’t yet monopolized how we interact. Web 2.0 sought to turn your real-life friends into followable accounts and avatars, whereas LimeWire capitalized on near-random, anonymous connections between strangers. You couldn’t talk to whoever was hosting the file you wanted; you had to live by your wits and decide whom to trust. Primitive as that sounds, it made for a thrilling suspense you’ll never find in the walled gardens of today’s social media.

Telsa Cybertruck

Marty McFly : Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Doc. Ah... Are you telling me that you built a truck... out of a DeLorean?

Dr. Emmett Brown : The way I see it, if you're gonna build an electric truck, why not do it with some style?

US Recession Chances

Reade Pickert, Yue Qiu and Alexander McIntyre from Bloomberg predict that the US going into recession in the next 12 months is at 26%.

While recession chatter endures amid a persistent trade war with China and a further retrenchment in corporate investment, robust signals from other aspects of the U.S. economy—like the labor market⁠—have eased concerns of an imminent downturn.

Bloomberg Economics created a model to determine America’s recession odds. Right now, the indicator estimates the chance of a U.S. recession at some point in the next year is 26%, down slightly from 27% in early October. That reading is higher than it was a year ago but significantly lower than before the last recession. There are reasons to keep a close eye on the economy, but it’s not time to panic yet.

As for me, I am starting to hoard cash.

India's Meghalaya 'Living Root Bridges'

Katie Hunt, writing for CNN

Unlike bridges made from wood or bamboo, they aren't easily swept away and they don't rot -- a common problem in what is often described as the world's wettest region. They've also proven more durable than bridges made from modern steel structures that quickly rust and decay in the damp climate, said Ludwig.

"It's an ongoing process of growth, decay and regrowth, and it's a very inspiring example of regenerative architecture," he said.

The bridges are made and maintained by individuals, families and communities from the indigenous Khasi and Jaintia people.

Also, here is another article by Timoty Allen - ‘Living Root Bridges’

Freedom of Speech Is Not Freedom of Reach

Sacha Baron Cohen, best known as Borat - on Facebook, Google and Twitter when he was presented with his ADL International Leadership Award :

Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others — they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged — stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear. It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times. It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth. And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history- — the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous. As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”

On the internet, everything can appear equally legitimate. Breitbart resembles the BBC. The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report. And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel Prize winner. We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.

When I, as the wanna-be-gansta Ali G, asked the astronaut Buzz Aldrin “what woz it like to walk on de sun?” the joke worked, because we, the audience, shared the same facts. If you believe the moon landing was a hoax, the joke was not funny.

When Borat got that bar in Arizona to agree that “Jews control everybody’s money and never give it back,” the joke worked because the audience shared the fact that the depiction of Jews as miserly is a conspiracy theory originating in the Middle Ages.

But when, thanks to social media, conspiracies take hold, it’s easier for hate groups to recruit, easier for foreign intelligence agencies to interfere in our elections, and easier for a country like Myanmar to commit genocide against the Rohingya.

and against Zuckerberg specifically:

First, Zuckerberg tried to portray this whole issue as “choices…around free expression.” That is ludicrous. This is not about limiting anyone’s free speech. This is about giving people, including some of the most reprehensible people on earth, the biggest platform in history to reach a third of the planet. Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach. Sadly, there will always be racists, misogynists, anti-Semites and child abusers. But I think we could all agree that we should not be giving bigots and pedophiles a free platform to amplify their views and target their victims.

Second, Zuckerberg claimed that new limits on what’s posted on social media would be to “pull back on free expression.” This is utter nonsense. The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law” abridging freedom of speech, however, this does not apply to private businesses like Facebook. We’re not asking these companies to determine the boundaries of free speech across society. We just want them to be responsible on their platforms.

If a neo-Nazi comes goose-stepping into a restaurant and starts threatening other customers and saying he wants kill Jews, would the owner of the restaurant be required to serve him an elegant eight-course meal? Of course not! The restaurant owner has every legal right and a moral obligation to kick the Nazi out, and so do these internet companies.

It is imperative that we hold these companies accountable - they should be forced to follow the same rules as the television and print organizations must adhere to.

Naive Bayes Classifier

This is absolutely the best explanation of a Naive Bayes classifier! Probably the best 20 minutes or so you will spend today. Check it out here:

Indian Taxi Roofs

If you need to take a taxi, cross your fingers. Mumbai's 58,000 metered taxis (or kaali-peelis as the black-and-yellow fleet is affectionately called) are driven by a temperamental species. They refuse short-distance rides. They're picky about out-of-the-way destinations. They're simlpy grouchy — even on a good day.

But once you've scored a taxi, get in and look up. You'll notice a canvas that holds the most unusual art. Approximately half the city’s cabs decorate their ceilings and doors in some kind of colorful plastic or vinyl sheeting.

You can checkout all of Rachel’s work at her instagram page.

Efficiency Ain’t Pretty

From the article The Efficiency-Destroying Magic of Tidying Up by Florent Crivello:

Indeed, that love of order is above all else about appearances. Streets arranged in grids, people waiting in clean lines, cars running at the same speed… But everything that looks good doesn’t necessarily work well. In fact, those two traits are opposed more often than not: efficiency tends to look messy, and good looks tend to be inefficient.

Our tendency to use straight lines in design, in many instances, does give us a false sense of efficiency. This tweet by Joe Liss gives a good example:

Video Game Console Logos

A collection video game console logos from 1976 to the present by Reagan Ray. Explained in his own words:

This list covers the second (1976) through eighth (present) generation consoles. According to Wikipedia, there were 687 first-generation consoles produced, so I decided that was a rabbit hole I didn't want to enter. I had fun designing the page to look like an old video game ad or one of those posters that came in Nintendo Power.

Each one had its great titles and was extremely popular in its day - but the Commodore 64 was truly transformative. Most kids got them because they were the best video game machine available - but it introduced an entire generation to programming. But that is another story - see the rest of the logos here.

Anthony Bourdain Documentary

CNN Films, HBO Max, and Focus Features are partnering on the still-untitled film, which is produced by Neville’s Tremolo Productions. Focus will release the documentary first in theaters before a television premiere on CNN, followed by a streaming bow on the soon-to-launch HBO Max, coming in 2020. Dates for the release have yet to be announced.

SNL Cold Open Trump Rally

President Trump holds a rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico SNL style. As usual the usual cast of zany supporters and administration officials. As usual, SNL completely nails it.

UK Establishing a DARPA-like Agency

The idea was unveiled last week in the Queen’s Speech, in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new government announced its legislative plans, but details about the agency are scarce. Skidmore told the Parliament committee that this new agency would sit outside UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the main government funding agency, to have the independence to focus on cutting-edge projects. He said it would “distinguish itself from the traditional grant-led application processes” by having minimal bureaucracy and core leaders who see the projects through.

If the agency is as successful as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been for the US - get ready for even more of an acceleration of technology.

So what has DARPA actual done for the US? The mouse, the internet, GPS, drones, and Siri. Just to name a few. Now that the US just might have a competitor in the race, it could get very interesting…

2024 Summer Olympics Logo

The 2024 Olympic Summer Games logo features Marianne - the “national personification of the French Republic since the French Revolution”.

Journalist Megan Clement explains it best:

The French Olympic logo tumbles out of bed on a Parisian morning. She tousles her messy bob, dons breton stripes and ballet flats and whisks down the stairs from her fifth-floor apartment to grab a baguette before enigmatically texting two men who are pursuing her romantically.

47 Megapixel M43 Sensor

Sony has released a document detailing the specifications for a 47-megapixel Micro Four Thirds (MFT) sensor capable of shooting up to 8K video up to 30 frames per second (fps).

According to the features list, the sensor features 12-bit A/D conversion, has a 2.315 micrometer (μm) pixel size and offers a variable-speed electronic shutter function. Decreased power consumption is also noted, which should help extend the battery life of any camera it’s used in (or at least make up for a fragment of the increased processing power that will be required to handle all of the data).

Both of Olympus and Panasonic have been making cameras with amazing features and industrial design. If they put this in the next version of their flagship bodies - this would be a game changer. The biggest harp people have with the M43 cameras are the sensor resolution.

This sensor makes the following possible:

  • 8K at 60 frames per second
  • 47 mega pixel with image 6 stop image stabilization
  • With the multi-shot you are looking a 160+ megapixel resolution
  • All this possible in a body the size of an EPL7

Combine this with the next generation computational photography hinted at in the EM1x - and well you can shore bet it is keeping the product planners at Canon, Nikon and Sony up at night.

M43 is dead - Long live M43 !

Brainstorming With the Next Team 1985

Starting at 18:24:

I felt it the first time when I visited a school. It was third and fourth graders, and they had a whole classroom full of Apple II’s. I spent a few hours there, and I saw these third and fourth graders growing up completely different than I grew up because of this machine.

What hit me about it was that here was this machine that very few people designed — about four in the case of the Apple II — who gave it to some other people who didn’t know how to design it but knew how to make it, to manufacture it. They could make a whole bunch of them. And then they give it some people that didn’t know how to design it or manufacture it, but they knew how to distribute it. And then they gave it to some people that didn’t knew how to design or manufacture or distribute it, but knew how to write software for it.

Gradually this sort of inverse pyramid grew. It finally got into the hands of a lot of people — and it all blossomed out of this tiny little seed.

It seemed like an incredible amount of leverage. It all started with just an idea. Here was this idea, taken through all of these stages, resulting in a classroom full of kids growing up with some insights and fundamentally different experiences which, I thought, might be very beneficial to their lives. Because of this germ of an idea a few years ago.

That’s an incredible feeling to know that you had something to do with it, and to know it can be done, to know that you can plant something in the world and it will grow, and change the world, ever so slightly.

Gun Shop

This film shows 2,328 firearms, out of the 393 million currently in the US. Arranged in a dizzying 24 frames per second progression, from handguns to semi-automatic assault rifles, “Gun Shop” encourages viewers to critically examine America’s love affair with guns.

The US has the highest gun ownership per capita in the world, more than twice that of the second place country, Yemen. Collectively, civilians in the US own 46% of the guns in the world. We have sickness in this country.

Code That Changed Everything

Slate came up with a list of the 36 world-changing pieces of code, including the code responsible for the 1202 alarm thrown by the Apollo Guidance Computer during the first Moon landing, the HTML hyperlink, PageRank, the guidance system for the Roomba, and Bitcoin.

My favorites - Of course the piece of code from 1972 that launched a generation of developers, myself included:

#include <stdio.h>

  printf("hello, world\n")

That snippet of code, or some form of it is the first thing a budding developer writes. Even today.

And the infamous null terminated string:

char yellow[26] = {'y', 'e', 'l', 'l', 'o', 'w', '\0'};

From the Slate article:

In 1972, Dennis Ritchie made a fateful decision: to represent text in his new language with something called a null-terminated string. The concept had been around earlier, but he enshrined it in his new language, which he called C, and the legacy of that decision has been with us ever since.

There are two primary ways that programming languages represent a piece of text: It can have an intrinsic, explicit length—“I contain exactly 10 characters and no more.” Or it can be null-terminated—“Here are a bunch of characters, keep going until you hit the zero-byte at the end, good luck!”

An extremely common mistake in C code is to copy a long string into a shorter string and overflow the end, meaning you are destroying other data that just happened to be nearby. It’s like scribbling past the edge of a whiteboard.

Besides merely causing the program to malfunction, such bugs can be exploited to change a program’s behavior by convincing it to overwrite something with specific, carefully crafted data. These are the buffer overflow attacks. Very nearly every security exploit you’ve ever heard of starts here, beginning with the Morris Worm in 1988.

You can code carefully in C to avoid these kinds of bugs, but the language makes this class of mistake easy to make and hard to detect. Nearly every modern language eschews the null-terminated string, but C and C++ still run the substrate of the world, from your router to your “smart” lightbulbs. So we’re still playing whack-a-mole with this class of bug nearly 50 years later.

Jamie Zawinski Netscape Developer

Its intersting how Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie in their classic book The C Programming Language gave us the both the lingua franca of the modern software world, and its greatest design flaw.