Interesting Things #8 — Meta-/beta-stability


This is Beng Tan and welcome to Interesting Things, a curation of interesting stories and links from tech, indie biz, science, and related fields.

I hope you find the following stories interesting. If you don’t, it’s my fault, not yours. But you can [unsubscribe]({{ unsubscribe_url }}) and I won’t bother you again.

Happy reading!


Metastable Failures in Distributed Systems [pdf] — A class of failures that can arise even when there are no hardware failures, configuration errors, or software bugs.

Hiding miners on Linux for profit (Apr 2021) — How a rootkit could hide malicious programs from being visible.

Untapped potential in Rust’s type system — What types can be used for other than checking code properties.

A Brief History of Browser Extensibility — I wanted to learn how browser extensibility has evolved over the years. Since I couldn’t find a complete history, I wrote my own.

Optimise Node.js performance by avoiding broken promises — An in-depth look at promises, the Node.js event loop and building highly performant Node.js applications.

Kerckhoffs’s Law for Security Engineers — The security of your system should rely only on secrecy of things you can change easily.

How to organize your code? — Why you should organize code by logical entities rather than by layers of the tech stack.

How We Brought the Online Collections into the Modern Age using Web Technology of the Past — After surveying the latest in javascript, we decided to use state-of-the-art, cutting-edge … static pages. 1.24 million of them.

Humane Software and the Role of Developer Advocacy (Mar 2021) — A guide for engineers who care about the worlds they build.

What is REST? — This guide is an intro to RESTful services with common use cases.

Writing a Technical Book (Apr 2021) — Book writing has changed and evolved over time. The best way to write a book today is not necessarily the same as the past.

How I Learned Symmetric-Key Cryptanalysis (Apr 2021) — I’m hoping that this could be helpful to someone who has decided to work in the area of symmetric key crypto.

The Spanish engineer who created the ‘Yayagram’ to communicate with his granny (Apr 2021) — The computer expert devised a system to let his 96-year-old grandmother stay in touch with her grandchildren.

Reasons why bugs might feel ‘impossible’ — Here are the categories I came up with for ways a bug might feel impossible to understand.

Introduction to Phoenix — The leading web framework in the Elixir ecosystem, perfect for building scalable and reliable web experiences.

Implementing Private Fields for JavaScript — I’ll explain what private fields are and why our implementation diverges from the specification language.

I wrote a linker everyone can understand! — It might be fun to design our own object file format and write our own linker. I’m sure we’d learn something useful.

Real-world CSS vs. CSS-in-JS performance comparison (Apr 2021) — I took a real app and converted it from Styled Components to compare the app performance of CSS-in-JS and normal CSS.

#indie biz

Evaluating Startup Ideas and When to Pivot: Learn From Our Mistakes — How do you validate an idea? When should you pivot? Don’t learn the hard way like us.

The startup founders' guide to software delivery — Software delivery on a team of 2 people is vastly different from a team of 200. Optimizing too early or too late can cost you.

Product After Product Market Fit (Apr 2021) — What’s the point of improving a product after it has product market fit?

How to sell to large enterprises? — Before we delve into how, let’s first understand how a large enterprise works.


How counting neutrons explains nuclear waste (May 2021) — Explore the beta-stability line and the island of stability. Does the island exist? No one knows for sure.

Scientists remotely controlled the social behavior of mice with light (May 2021) — New devices rely on optogenetics, in which bursts of light toggle neurons, to control mouse brain activity.

Mathematicians Identify Threshold at Which Shapes Give Way — A new proof establishes the boundary at which a shape becomes so corrugated, it can be crushed.

Israeli scientists extend mice’s lives by 23%, say method may work on humans — Mice not only live longer, but are more youthful and less susceptible to cancer, after boosts of a single protein.

Placing the Platypus — Defying categorisation since its discovery, was the platypus a mammal, a reptile, or something else?

Humans Can Learn How to ‘Echolocate’ in Just 10 Weeks, Experiment Shows — Researchers were able to teach participants how to navigate obstacles and recognize the size and orientation of objects.

DNA Jumps Between Animal Species. No One Knows How Often. — A gene shared by two unrelated species of fish is the latest evidence.

This Long-Awaited Technology May Finally Change the World (May 2021) — Solid-state batteries are poised to emerge in the coming years.

How Science Has Revealed the Inner Consciousness of Invertebrates — We tend to believe that invertebrates lack any mental life whatsoever. But science has been exposing the frailty of such a belief.

Fusion & Magic — Technology has created marvels that become everyday. Could that save us soon?

Data Crunchers to the Rescue — Genetic diseases that puzzle lab scientists are being solved by quantitative biologists.


Advice for Junior Developers — Software developers aren’t paid to code. They’re paid to build products that help the business succeed.

‘Positive deviants’: Why rebellious workers spark great ideas — There is psychological evidence that rebelliousness is essential for creativity.

Communication is shared state (Mar 2021) — Human communication is similar to computer communication but humans do it poorly.

Why You Should Talk to Yourself in the Third Person — Evidence suggests that there are real benefits of talking to yourself in the third person.

Life, DevOps and Goals: A Guide on why Goal setting fails and Systems don’t — Goals are necessary but insufficient. You also need a system.

The Rational Software Engineer: A Guide to Work Time Organization — I often try to optimize my productivity: I want to get more work done, without having to do more work.

4 Types of People. That’s it. (May 2021) — Givers, Takers, The Smart Ones and The Super Smart Ones. I wish I knew earlier.

It’s Hard Work to Make Ordering Groceries Online So Easy — Workers who pick items off the shelves often feel the pressure of being tracked.

Why Cryptocurrencies? (May 2021) — A book about what they are, what they do and why they matter?

Young Creators Are Burning Out and Breaking Down — Creators are struggling with building, managing and monetizing a following online.

Work Hard and Don’t Burn Bridges — How some insignificant work during an internship transformed my career 11 years later.

No general method to detect fraud — Are there rules to help detect scams?

How to Feel Less Overwhelmed as a Developer — There’s a lot going on in the developer world. Here are some ideas on how to handle it all.


The rise and fall of the world’s largest lake — The ancient Paratethys Sea once held more water than all of today’s lakes combined

A growing number of governments hope to clone America’s DARPA — They will not succeed unless they adopt the spirit which motivates it

MINIMS — A statement expressed in proverbial or sentential form but having no general application or practical use whatever. Nice.


If you liked this newsletter, why not share it with your friends? Make their life interesting too. 😁

And should you come across anything interesting in your wanderings, please email or tweet me. Thanks in advance!

Happy reading!