Interesting Things #4 — Superhistory, Not Superintelligence
Welcome to the fourth edition of Interesting Things, a curation of interesting stories and links from tech, indie business, science, and adjacents.
(Housekeeping: I recently moved this newsletter from Substack. This is the first edition to be sent out via Buttondown.)
The following are things I came across during my Internet wanderings. I find them interesting, and I hope you do too.
Superhistory, Not Superintelligence — Simpler algorithms and more data do better than more complex algorithms with less data. What are the implications?
More doorbell adventures — Reverse-engineering an internet-enabled doorbell and discovering the code is … meh.
Email explained from first principles — Modern email is a patchwork of protocols and extensions. Here is one article to understand them all.
The hidden performance overhead of Python C extensions (Apr 2021) — Rewriting python code in a compiled extension is sometimes actually slower.
Dependency Managers Don’t Manage Your Dependencies — Manage front end dependencies yourself instead.
Apparently, You Can Use DNS as a Blazingly Fast Database (Mar 2021) — Possible but not advised.
General Guide For Exploring Large Open Source Codebases — A general guide to help people with open source contributions.
HDR: Part 1 — In this post I’ll cover what high dynamic range (HDR) is and why we care about it.
GitHub repositories to improve skills (Dec 2020) — Free programming books, algorithms, public APIs, and much more.
How to optimize ORDER BY RANDOM() — Selecting some random rows is an SQL antipattern as databases don’t have optimizations for this use case.
My second impression of Rust and why I think it’s the best general-purpose language! — You won’t appreciate Rust unless you spend a few weeks building something with it.
What I Learned by Relearning HTML — I wondered what I was missing by never learning HTML in a comprehensive way. So I decided to relearn it and discover my unknown unknowns.
Cryptographic shuffle — What if I needed to shuffle a list (or traverse it in a shuffled manner) but couldn’t hold the whole thing in memory?
Ruby Garbage Collection Deep Dive: Compaction — Compaction is the solution to fragmentation. Well okay, but what’s wrong with fragmentation? What is compaction solving?
Reimagining Databases for Vector Embeddings — How is a vector database different from a conventional database?
Performance-testing the Google I/O site — Imagine if a restaurant told you: ‘We spend 20 minutes cooking everything you might possibly ask for so when you pick something, we can give it to you instantly’.
How Performance Became the Nemesis of the Secure Python Code — Nothing forecasts the future of a programming language better than the epos of its community. For Python, one word dominates: performance.
Boosting Dropbox upload speed and improving Windows’ TCP stack — As a result, Microsoft improved the Windows implementation of the TCP RACK-TLP algorithm and its resilience to packet reordering.
I forgot how to spellcheck — My project has ultimately failed. All I am left with is some insights on the spellchecking problem and I am sharing them now.
Avoiding concept spill in API design (Apr 2021) — Assuming an understanding of internal concepts in order to use an API significantly increases the user’s cognitive load.
SSHing to my Raspberry Pi 400 from a browser, with Cloudflare Tunnel and Auditable Terminal — Using Cloudflare Tunnel and Auditable Terminal to connect to a Pi 400 at my home network using nothing more than a browser.
55,000+ lines of Rust code later: A debugger is born! — The Record & Debug Tool (rd), a record/replay debugger written in Rust, has entered alpha.
Transport vs Network — In today’s public Internet it appears to matter a lot that the transport protocol header is visible to the network.
The game that almost died during COVID and how I made it an app — A reflection on 1 year of writeydrawey.
Someone mailed an AirTag to themselves to see if they could track its route — Capturing it’s location every 2 minutes, I am trying to figure out the route of a letter by regular mail.
Reverse Engineering an Unknown Microcontroller — From nothing to a full SDK in one week flat!
a unified theory of low/no code, middleware, and the future of enterprise applications (Feb 2021) — Why is Salesforce unbundling itself? What are the implications for the future of enterprise software?
The Psychology of Clubhouse’s User Retention (…and Churn) — A semi-humourous case study into the psychology of user retention. Via TheSlice.
The new rules of the creator economy — Social media platforms used to get most of their content for free. That dynamic is changing.
Don’t build products, build relationships — In order to validate your product idea, you have to first forget about it and start building relationships.
Do you know how often people have the problem you help them solve? — The natural frequency of the problem your product solves helps gauge what’s too little and what’s too much.
Sharks Use the Earth’s Magnetic Field Like a Compass — Someone finally figured out how to prove these animals rely on magnetic sensing to migrate across oceans.
3,000-Year-Old Submerged Settlement Discovered in Switzerland — Humans may have inhabited the Lake Lucerne area 2,000 years earlier than previously thought
Measuring time accurately increases the entropy in the universe — The better a clock is at timekeeping, the more entropy it will produce in the form of heat.
How Gravity Is a Double Copy of Other Forces — An enigmatic connection between the forces of nature is allowing physicists to explore gravity’s quantum side.
Mind-boggling magnets could unlock plentiful power — Powerful magnets are bringing nuclear fusion a step closer.
How Mathematicians Use Homology to Make Sense of Topology — Originally devised as a rigorous means of counting holes, homology provides a scaffolding for mathematical ideas.
New images of Jupiter reveal some of the planet’s mysterious features — Unique atmospheric features of the gas giant include superstorms, cyclones and the Great Red Spot.
One of the World’s Longest-Running Experiments Sends Up Sprouts — After lying dormant in buried bottles for 142 years, 11 seeds germinated after scientists planted them.
Neural implant lets paralyzed person type by imagining writing — A paralyzed individual hit 90 characters per minute, 99% accuracy.
The Promise and Perils of Insect Farming — Insect farming is on the rise. The industry is now building insect farms on a huge new scale.
Privacy Implications of Accelerometer Data — Accelerometer data from smartphones can reveal location, passwords, body features, age, gender, level of intoxication, driving style, and reconstruct words. Reddit.
It Began as an AI-Fueled Dungeon Game. It Got Much Darker — The game touted its use of the GPT-3 text generator. Then the algorithm started to generate disturbing stories.
My email workflow in Fastmail — Customising your email setup to be less noisy and more productive.
Boot Vector — A history of the live CD form factor that changed linux forever.
The Wolf Tree and the World Wide Web — Reflections on parenting, climate change, and the networks at the heart of the forest.
The Neuroscience of Busyness — We’re biased towards doing more than doing less.
Contribution and abundance — A remarkable response to a question about joy and happiness.
The Great Online Game — How to Win the Internet.
Japan’s Rikunabi Scandal Shows The Dangers of Privacy Law Loopholes — A job-seeking platform calculated and sold algorithmic scores which predicted how likely individual job applicants would decline a job offer.
How I overcame my hatred for small talk — There are generic questions that you can ask new people, which often lead to interesting stories.
Personal systems, productivity, and slippers — A reflection on personal tooling and how people have different expectations about them.
GRIDENTIFY — A tiny online puzzle game.
Low Poly Landscapes — These look like half-finished renderings by the machine that’s simulating our universe.
Flatpack of morphing pasta for sustainable food packaging and greener cooking — Flatpacked pasta that inflates itself during cooking. Yes, really!
A Feather in her Cap — A global trade in feathers, with London at its heart, saw hundreds of millions of birds killed every year. Emily Williamson waged a long and furious campaign against it.
Black holes, buckyballs and boxing hares — April’s best science images — The month’s sharpest science shots, selected by Nature’s photo team.
If you enjoyed these stories, I’d love it if you shared this newsletter with a friend or two.
And should you come across anything interesting in your wanderings, please email or tweet me! I’d love to give them some exposure too.