Interesting Things #9 — Remix


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

There are a lot of new subscribers this week. A very warm welcome to you all. I hope you like what you’ve found here.

I’m experimenting a bit with the content and presentation. There might be some fluctuations over the next few weeks before things settle down.

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Happy reading!


This is how I was able to see Private, Archived Posts/Stories of users on Instagram without following them — Find a bug. Report it. Earn $30,000. (hn)

Glue: the Dark Matter of Software — Glue code is the unglamorous code that connects two pieces of software. It is invisible and massive.

Artificial Time — We can now analyze and draw conclusions from more data than any number of humans could ever comprehend. (hn)

Privilege escalation with polkit: How to get root on Linux with a seven-year-old bug — I’ll explain how the exploit works and show you the bug in the source code.

Code in Boxes, Why only restrict ourselves to colors? — Is this the next progression from syntax highlighting?

When it comes to git history, less is more — One person’s entry-level contribution is another person’s difficult bugfix or backport. (hn)

Offline Policy Evaluation: Run fewer, better A/B tests — It’s going to become standard practice in the 2020s as part of every experimentation stack. (hn)

Exceptional Naming (May 2021) — When code throws or catches an exception, name to communicate rather than regurgitate.

Designing Software with Predicate Logic — Using predicate logic to determine what states should be illegal can help choose the best representation.

Encoding your HTTP for fun and profit — HTTP content encoding can make your web or mobile application faster, basically for free.

Harvesting Active Directory credentials via HTTP Request Smuggling — Specially crafted requests can be interpreted by the frontend server as 1 request, but interpreted by the backend server as 2 requests. (hn)

Privacy analysis of FLoC — Our analysis shows several privacy issues that we believe need to be addressed.

My first Z80 assembly language program — I was 9 years old and I wanted to write amazing games.

Evolution of code deployment tools at Mixpanel — From the cloud to dedicated hardware to k8s and back to the cloud again. (hn)

The art of Frontend Engineering — As the web continues to expand, how does Frontend Engineering fit and what makes a Frontend Engineer great? (hn)

Cores that don’t count — We thought CPUs do not have logic errors. But Google and Facebook both found computation errors.

the Enterprise eats Software — The enterprise can get great software teams. But they can’t keep them. (hn)

Building an end-to-end typesafe API without GraphQL — Build end-to-end typesafe APIs without code generation by leveraging the power of modern TypeScript. (hn)

How to create NFTs with JavaScript — Maybe you don’t want to but it’s a good roadmap for developers. (hn)

Vim is actually worth it — A gentle introduction for those who are curious about vim. Experienced users need not apply.

Good and Bad Elixir — I document some of the good and bad patterns, and alternatives, that I’ve seen.

(Technical) Infosec Core Competencies — An incomplete list of (technical) things anybody working in Information Security would benefit from knowing. (hn)

TEMP: Time-locked Encryption Made Practical [pdf] — Encrypt a message to a future time such that it can only be decrypted after that time. (hn)

Comment the Why and the What — I find the comments far more useful to reorient myself than my code or my tests.

How to troubleshoot memory problems in Python — Memory problems are hard to diagnose and fix in general, but I’d argue it’s even harder in Python. (hn)

#indie biz

What Makes a Startup Adorable? - The Story of TunnelBear VPN — TunnelBear’s success has three protagonists: product, culture, and cause. (hn)

Equity 101 for Software Engineers at Big Tech and Startups — Several people only realized much later how big of a deal a good equity package means. (hn)

Doordash and Pizza Arbitrage — There is such a thing as a free lunch. (hn)


Will humans ever learn to speak whale? — Can machine learning decipher what those clicking sounds mean?

China’s Top Air Force Pilots Are Training AI in Fighter Combat — And they were often bested by AI pilots.

New discovery shows human cells can write RNA sequences into DNA — This potentially challenges the central dogma in biology and could have wide implications.

Extraordinary new material shows zero heat expansion from 4 to 1,400 K — Researchers have created what may be one of the most thermally stable materials ever discovered.

Quantum microscope can examine cells in unprecedented detail — A quantum trick with laser light has allowed researchers to overcome limits when observing living cells.

This Weirdly Smart, Creeping Slime Is Redefining Our Understanding of Intelligence — This bizarre little organism doesn’t have a brain, or a nervous system. Its blobby, bright-yellow body is just one cell.

Advancing Bridge Inspection — With drones.

Scientists Used CRISPR to Engineer a New ‘Superbug’ That’s Invincible to All Viruses — The team used CRISPR to replace over 18,000 codons with synthetic amino acids that don’t exist naturally.

The Materials Scientist Who Studies the Innards of Exoplanets — Using the world’s most powerful laser to recreate the cores of distant worlds.

Here’s why we don’t understand heavier-than-air flight (Apr 2021) — You may have heard the news: we don’t understand how airplanes work.

Seeing the invisible: tiny crystal films could make night vision an everyday reality — New ‘nanocrystal metasurfaces’ can convert infrared light into the visible spectrum.

What Causes The Northern Lights? Scientists Finally Know For Sure — Disturbances on the sun pull on Earth’s magnetic field, creating cosmic waves that launch electrons to form the aurora. (hn)

How Animals Color Themselves With Nanoscale Structures — Blue jays, neon tetras, poison dart frogs and other animals evolved optical tricks to make blues (and some greens).

How a 30-Year Experiment Has Fundamentally Changed Our View of How Evolution Works — An epic experiment shows that evolution never stops. (hn)

Will a Biological Singularity Arrive First? — Do the principles of the singularity not also apply here?


The Work-From-Home Future Is Destroying Bosses' Brains — Remote work inherently messes with the power dynamic of the worker and the boss, and it is going to make many, many brains malfunction.

The perfect number of hours to work every day? Five — Five work hours a day can improve productivity and bolster wellbeing.

The Ethics of AI (May 2021) — Fundamental questions about what we should do with these systems, what risks they involve, and how we can control them. (hn)

Why I don’t think where I work — It’s easy to get distracted by work if you try to think deeply at your work space. (hn)

Farewell, Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy — The price for Ubers, scooters and Airbnb rentals is going up as tech companies aim for profitability.

The Power of Anti-Goals — How I designed my perfect day by fixating on what I hate. (hn)

10 Admirable Attributes of a Great Technical Lead — It‘s a position that requires intricate calibration of various personality traits

I’m taking a 1-year sabbatical / gap year as a 30-something — I’m sharing my situation, thoughts, and experiences to help others decide by way of comparison whether or not a sabbatical is right for them. (hn)

Using Paper for Everyday Tasks — Paper is cheap. Paper is universal. Paper doesn’t run out of battery. Paper doesn’t vanish when I close the app. (hn)


How I Became the Honest Broker — The Honest Broker may help you for free right now, but don’t be surprised to get asked for assistance on something completely different months or even years later.


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Enjoy your reading and have a good day, Beng