Interesting Things #14 — Unconventional backdoor


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

Here’s some stories to keep you occupied throughout the week. Space it out and only read what you find interesting. Don’t do it all in one sitting. 😁

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For years, a backdoor in popular KiwiSDR product gave root to project developer — Users are rattled after learning their devices and networks were exposed.

What I learned from Software Engineering at Google — Lessons that stick with you a few weeks after reading.

Hobson’s Browser — How Apple, Facebook, and Google broke the mobile browser market by silently undermining user choice. (hn)

The universal VM we call browser — Browsers are kind of accepting they are VMs and finally exposing a decent compilation target.

Packet-Editing Games in Golang — An introduction to modifying binary packets in flight. (hn)

Solving The Three Stooges Problem — How to improve your website’s uptime from 9 5’s to 5 9’s.

The Fundamental Mechanism of Scaling (Jan 2021) — Unintuitively, the fundamental approach used to scale distributed systems is avoiding co-ordination. (hn)

Ship Thesean Software — Design modular software with the intention that it will be updated or replaced. (hn)

Best of .bashrc — Homemade contraptions I use most frequently when farting around with my computer.

Rebasing, work & feature branching — How we release software regularly without stepping on each others' toes. (hn)

Two Wishes for Dev Tooling — Nuanced code quality and bot commits.

Out of the Box Elixir — A pretty good experience. (hn)

I Love Elixir — Elixir made me fall in love with programming again. (hn)

3 Kinds of Tech Debt — Code, data, and architecture. Let’s go over them now with some examples.

Lambdas, Nested Functions, and Blocks, oh my! — Bringing lambdas to C is complicated. Very. (hn)

The 10 Most Valuable Lessons I Learned As A Developer — 21 years Of programming experience distilled.

Building the Debug Trainer Deskop App with Tauri — Like Electron but targeting smaller, lighter, and more secure apps. (hn)

The State of Developer Ecosystem 2021 — A detailed report about the programming community with trends in languages, tools, technologies, and lifestyles.

Four lessons from a year building tools for machine learning — What is needed going forwards and why domain experts will play a much larger role in the future of AI. (hn)

How do Mesh VPNs work? Writing my own VPN tool in Golang to find out — Creating my own mesh VPN tool to learn more about how they work.

How we improved the performance of our Rust app — A writeup of our journey to improve the performance of Zellij, a terminal multiplexer. (hn)

FireCracker internals: a deep dive inside the technology powering AWS Lambda — For both tight security and great performance, Amazon came up with its microVM solution called Firecracker.

Faster (and smaller) uploads in Discourse with Rust, WebAssembly and MozJPEG — A technique compresses and optimizes the images clientside before they are uploaded. Here’s how it works. (hn)

Don’t Solve Problems, Eliminate Them — Avoiding problems is better than solving them. Don’t try to solve problems you don’t have yet.

Public CDNs Are Useless and Dangerous — They’ve become a recipe for security, privacy & stability problems with near-zero benefit. (hn)

How the Kaseya VSA Zero Day Exploit Worked — This article explains the pre-auth remote code execution exploit that was used in a recent ransomware attack.

Cryptanalysis of Meow Hash (Jun 2021) — We break all the security claims of this hashing algorithm. (hn)

#indie biz

Secret tips for effective startup hiring and recruiting — Doing even a few of the things in this post should dramatically improve your hiring outcomes. (hn)

The future of (ads) privacy — The seismic change brewing in the attention economy and how big tech will redesign a trillion-dollar paradigm.

A Manager’s Guide to Holding Your Team Accountable — If you struggle with holding people to account, try this. (hn)

How I Paid for my MBA with Pennies (Mar 2021) — Arbitraging copper pennies. (hn)

Infinity Revenue, Infinity Possibilities — A deceptively cute game growing faster than any company in history. (hn)


The Computer Scientist Training AI to Think With Analogies — Digital minds will never truly be like ours until they can make analogies.

We’ll soon know more about our bodies than ever before – but are we ready? — What if we know the probability of illnesses occurring in five, 10 or 20 years time? (hn)

How Many Numbers Exist? Infinity Proof Moves Math Closer to an Answer — For 50 years, mathematicians have believed that the total number of real numbers is unknowable. A new proof suggests otherwise.

Smell You Later: The Weird Science of How Sweat Attracts — Smell is often dismissed as the least important sense. But it’s the funk that draws us together. (hn)

DNA Has Four Bases. Some Viruses Swap in a Fifth. — New work shows how this is possible and hints that it could be more common than we think.

They stole prized lumber from a national forest. The trees’ DNA proved it, feds say. — In a first for a federal criminal trial, prosecutors used tree DNA to prove a case. (hn)

The Mystery at the Base of One of Biology’s Strangest Relationships — Little crustaceans called tongue biters drain the blood from the tongues of fish. Then things get weird. (hn)

Pavement that charges electric vehicles being developed in Indiana — Electric vehicles could soon charge while driving on certain parts of the highway.

The Curiosity Rover May Have Discovered What Wiped Away Ancient Signs of Life on Mars — Evidence of ancient life may have been scrubbed from parts of Mars, a new NASA study has found. (hn)

Lab-developed chocolate passes the taste test — A research team in Switzerland has just developed lab-grown chocolate for the first time.

‘Inflammation clock’ can reveal body’s biological age — Using machine learning, researchers created a tool that might help doctors improve people’s healthy lifespan. (hn)

New Spring-Loaded Screw Turns Drywall Into Sound-Absorbing Panels — They might one day be an easy way to tune out noisy neighbors.


It doesn’t take much public creativity to stand out as a job candidate — A relatively small amount of work can give a big advantage. (hn)

Status signaling in academia — Does something similar also happen in wider society?

I Never Believed in Meditation, But After I Had a Panic Attack at Work I Tried It and Changed My Life — Meditation is simpler than it sounds. Follow these directions from a skeptic who tried and liked it. (hn)

What the Creator Economy Promises and What It Actually Does — Purportedly, it empowers online creators. In reality, it’s turning digital content into gig work. (hn)


Photographer Makes DIY Lenses with Cake Molds and Epoxy — For her large-format film camera. (hn)

Derinkuyu: the ancient underground city, once home to 20,000 people — The maze-like underground city resembles an ant colony.


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Enjoy your reading and have a good day, Beng