I recorded an audio version of my first Intellectual Denial of Service Attacks blog post from March 2019. Let me know what you think!
In this episode, I show how I use Roam Research to take book notes (among other tangents). Hope you enjoy it.
I finally bought a camera for my desktop, so I figured I’d give it a spin with OBS Studio. This was mostly a trial run to see how my mic, camera, video quality, etc. were working. In this short video, I give a quick rundown of how I write Go code, and mention some VIM plugins I find useful.
Let me know what you think! Should I make more videos? If so, what would you like to see?
Anyone who read my post yesterday is probably confused by 1) this domain name and 2) my mention of it being my “first post”. This blog is a reboot of my previous site (where the older posts came from). I’m starting over in hopes that it will incentivize me to take blogging seriously again. This post will explain my plans for this blog, and with any luck, convince you to come along for that ride. I had imagined writing a longer and more thoughtful introduction, but events have conspired to force my hand. When in doubt, start.
… one must never allow disorder to continue so as to escape a war. Anyhow one does not escape; the war is merely postponed to one’s disadvantage.Machiavelli, The Prince
For several years, I fell out of the habit of writing regularly. I would occasionally post something on Medium, but mostly I just lapsed into silence (except on Twitter, where I’m rather noisy). Inertia took hold, and the habit of not writing eventually replaced my habit of regularly doing so. I regret this mistake.
Writing clarifies thinking. It also preserves a record of unadulterated and imperfect thought. Reading old blog posts of mine, I get a sense of what was in my mind at the time of writing. I can see specific patterns or beliefs that I’ve since outgrown, but also interesting ideas that I had lost and forgotten. To make up for my sloth, I’ll be writing one post a day for a little while. So much thought has gunked up my brain without being released that it’s time for a core dump.Read More
It’s never a good time to suddenly find yourself jobless. But it’s never a bad time to evaluate your skills, your goals, and where you’re headed.
We all want to be a valued member of a winning team on an inspiring missionGraham Weston
It’s easy to get complacent after a few years in a good job. You tell yourself, “I’m doing such important work! We’re making so much progress! I love my team!” You’re churning out pull requests, responding to emails and Slack messages, burning through your JIRA backlog.
Then, one day, it all stops.
I’ve become somewhat obsessed with Pokemon GO since I started playing it, and I’ve been trying to cobble together a mental guide for how to be successful from a hodge-podge of sites, people I’ve met while playing the game, and some of my own experiences. Here’s what I’ve got so far. Items in red are ones I’m less sure of.
- The panel at the bottom right tells you what Pokemon are near. 3 feet = far, 2 feet = nearby, 1 foot = close, none = very close
- The Pokemon in the panel are arranged by closeness. Watching how they re-arrange as you walk in one direction will tell you if you’re hot or cold. Work together with friends to cover a wider area
- Rustling grass patches aren’t necessarily Pokemon. They may be nearby, though
- Look for Pokemon GO maps of your city on reddit. You can also use the official Ingress map for a rough guide, but you have to sign up for an account, which I didn’t bother to do.
- Bonus! For those lucky enough to live in Austin, here’s a user-created map of the various locations of note
- Some Pokemon are easiest to get by hatching eggs. Check out this list of Pokemon with the distance required to hatch their egg to get an idea of what each of your eggs might be
- Incense seems to mostly attract common Pokemon, so it’s useful when you’re trying to catch a few to level up
- Walking along roadways SEEMS to yield fairly weak results. Try finding parks and other open areas that are high in pedestrian traffic. There also doesn’t seem to be any universal rarity scale – it appears to be dependent on where you are, so look around when you’re far from home!
Once You Find Them
- Spinning your pokeball with your finger (swiping to the side) before throwing it makes you throw a curveball, which gives you a 10XP bonus. It MIGHT make your throw more effective too, but I’m not sure about this
- Hitting a Pokemon in the colored circle, when the circle is small, gives you the best chance to capture it. Hit it outside the colored circle, or when the circle is bigger, and it’ll be harder
- Waiting to evolve your Pokemon until you’re a higher level will improve the boost in CP your Pokemon gets
- Poke Stops regenerate after a few minutes. If you find a comfortable spot, hit one a few times. If you’re surrounded by them, walk in a circuit so that the first one is recharged by the time you return to it
- Controlling a gym for 21 hours gives you a small number of Poke-coins that you can spend in the store. Work with teammates to help lock down gyms
Battling Other Players
- To train your Pokemon, go to a gym owned by your team and tap the boxing glove icon to train against the Pokemon at that gym
- Leaving a Pokemon at a friendly-controlled gym will help strengthen it against rival teams, since rivals will have to defeat your Pokemon before taking on the gym’s master
- Here’s Niantic’s guide for attacking a rival-controlled gym, and using attacks in general
Battling the App
- Carry around a battery pack for your phone. Seriously.
- Turn on the “battery saver” and turn your phone upside down. It will dim the screen, vibrating when there is a Pokemon nearby
- Disabling the AR feature saves some battery, and sanity (you won’t have to turn around constantly trying to find your Pokemon)
- If you want to get really hardcore, you could buy a Pokemon GO wearable for ~$200 on eBay so you don’t have to stare at your phone constantly (they supposedly ship in late July). Caveat emptor. Pre-orders sold out, but Nintendo will probably offer them for sale again in the near future given the game’s popularity
- Be aware that, on iOS at the moment, you’ll be giving up full access to your Google account if you log in with it. Niantic says they’re working on a fix, but in the meantime, maybe try creating a Trainer account instead
- All those people you see huddled around popular Poke stops, pacing around while staring at their phones? Go talk to them – they probably know something that you and I don’t!
Good luck out there!
Tonight on the program “Last Week Tonight” on HBO, John Oliver exhorted his audience to go file comments on the FCC website to address their proposed rules that many believe will destroy Net Neutrality. In visiting the page, it is clear that people are interested in commenting on this particular item.
A few more comments than usual. I suspect this didn’t happen in the 5 minutes between when John Oliver made his comments and when I visited the site. What if we look back in time? Did this all happen very quickly and overwhelm their servers?
So then why are they down? Try posting a comment right now. You can’t. Try pinging the server it’s on, apps.fcc.gov. You can’t. It’s hard to imagine that they couldn’t have seen that this might be something that needed some load balancing to allow comments from the huge number of people who obviously want to make their voices heard.
Is the FCC using the same tactics the cable companies are – creating artificial “scarcity”? I don’t know, but I’m very curious. A neutral content policy is what has made the Internet great. If bullies like the worst company in America can just congest sites that it doesn’t like, it can control speech. I can’t prove that the FCC is doing this here, but this is A PERFECT EXAMPLE of what would be possible if the cable companies get their way. “Sorry, we couldn’t possibly build more capacity to deliver the stuff you want. That would cost money, and we’re too busy swimming in a pool of ours.”
Edit 6/2 – The site still isn’t allowing comments, and appears to have actually lost a number of them! 1,162 to be exact.
If you care about Net Neutrality and want to voice your concerns, first go complain on the FCC bug tracker about not being able to.
If you’re like at least a quarter of the people who read my original article, “Am I evil, or is killing patents just plain fun?” a few days ago, you probably read the title of this post as “Killing parents part 2” or “Killing patients part 2.” I have to wonder how many people originally clicked it simply for that reason.
This is but one of the many responses I got, however. Overwhelmingly, people who responded to the article were in favor of at least reforming software patents, and many favored getting rid of software patents altogether. I expected at least a few responses to my challenge, but so far the only patent posted is one that hasn’t yet been granted, and I suspect won’t be.
This may be sampling bias, as there are relatively few people producing software patents, and even fewer who actually want to be. Most people don’t have any real motivation to go find them, unless they want to win the prize of forcing me to write a post about how great patents are. Regardless, the fact that not a single one of the nearly 40 thousand people (almost all software developers, and smartasses too, if I had to guess) who saw this article pointed to one good patent is fairly telling, at least to me.
Several people were skeptical that submitting prior art to Ask Patents would have any effect at all. Well, while it isn’t a landslide victory for patent reformers, there’s a tag for rejected patents that suggests that 24 patents have been denied so far, with several drawing at least partially on answers from Ask Patents. Here‘s one example from 2010:
A computerized method of analyzing weather data to improve the selection of contextually relevant communication, the method comprising: 1. Automatically receiving geolocation information of a viewer's location; 2. Receiving weather data relevant to the viewer's location; 3. Analyzing the weather data to identify a weather condition; 4. Accessing a database containing multiple available advertisements assigned to weather conditions; and 5. Selecting a communication associated with the identified weather condition based on a viewer's preference.
In English? Sending ads based on the weather. Sounds boring. Also sounds an awful lot like Weatherbug, an application which has been around since at least 2000, and about a million other weather sites. And, thankfully, the patent office agreed.
24 patents doesn’t sound like a lot, but that represents tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars likely wasted by these companies. That makes me happy! Why? Because the biggest thing I want out of all this is for companies to stop treating patents as weapons to use against competitors, and status symbols for managers with no direct involvement.
Right now, it’s a gamble, not dissimilar to the VC industry: Apply for a patent and spend a little money upfront, for the potential to make a boatload down the road. It’s a moonshot, but every once in a while they hit the jackpot. The problem is that money is made via dubiously ethical behavior like waiting for lots of people to infringe and then suing when they get successful, instead of actually creating value. At least their lawyers make a lot of money. Direct costs to U.S. businesses have been estimated at $29 billion a year, indirect costs as much as $83. This is grade-A sleezeball material.
So, will my humble daily search for prior art on relatively few patents help? Maybe, maybe not.
Either way, I’d rather do something than nothing.
In the spirit of April Fool’s, but also because I think it might actually make me more productive, I’ve made a Google Chrome extension to slow down Facebook’s timeline feature.
Long for the days of 56k? All this high-speed gigaboot Internets nonsense got you frazzled? Just install Slowpoke in Chrome by going to “chrome://extensions/” and dragging the .crx file onto the page. Instantly, your Facebook addiction will be both sated and abated.
As some of you may know, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein from California has introduced a bill called the Fisa Improvements Act that she is portraying as a reasonable reform of mass government surveillance. I’ve been skeptical from the beginning, reading headlines like “Stop the NSA ‘Fake Fix’ Bill” from EFF and others. I’ve read through some of the bill, but here’s a list of reasons why this bill should be dumped that don’t even require reading it.
The author of the Patriot Act is sponsoring a more reasonable bill
To my surprise, one author of the USA Patriot Act, Jim Sensenbrenner, is proposing a competing bill with the support of Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, called the USA Freedom Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-Collection, and Online Monitoring Act). Here’s a summary of what the bill would bring about, including the elimination of the meta-data collection programs often mentioned in the revelations of Edward Snowden this summer, and a closing of the “backdoor” that allowed the NSA to search for data about Americans in collected data that was obtained with non-individualized warrants.
Silicon Valley is revolting in Feinstein’s backyard
Several California tech giants like Google, Facebook, Apple, and others have banded together to call for a reform to government surveillance initiatives to restore trust in the Internet. Crucially, they argue against the provisions in Feinstein’s bill that would continue to allow the meta-data collection programs, in favor of the USA Freedom Act mentioned above. If Feinstein is facing a revolt from the very California companies that she’s supposed to represent, there’s clearly something wrong.
Her donors list shows where her loyalties lie
According to Open Secrets, her biggest donors for the 2009-2014 election cycle include General Atomics, General Dynamics, BAE Systems, and Northrop Grumman, all of which involved in defense contracting. I wouldn’t call it a stretch to say she’s pretty invested in the defense industry, which happens to be the same defense industry the NSA contracts all this mass surveillance work to.
For these reasons, I urge you to write to your Senators to oppose this bill.