The Importance of The Indie Web #

Dan Gillmor:

We’re in danger of losing what’s made the Internet the most important medium in history – a decentralized platform where the people at the edges of the networks – that would be you and me – don’t need permission to communicate, create and innovate.

This isn’t a knock on social networks’ legitimacy, or their considerable utility. But when we use centralized services like social media sites, however helpful and convenient they may be, we are handing over ultimate control to third parties that profit from our work, material that exists on their sites only as long as they allow.

Even if most people don’t recognize what’s at stake – yet – I’m happy to say that a small but growing group of technologists does. And they’ve created what they call the “Indie Web” movement to do something about it, in an extended online conversation and at periodic in-person meetings.

Shellshock: Critical Vulnerability in Bash #

Uh oh.

Leonardo DiCaprio Addresses UN Regarding Climate Change #

A celebrity doing important work.

Roman Vishniac: Humanist, Photographer #

Living with the memory of hardship, Vishniac was, “an absolute optimist filled with tragedy. His humanism is not just for Jews, but for every living thing.” He probably believed in God or some similar concept, but he was non-denominational and did not adhere strictly to the principles of any religion. He even clashed with Orthodox Jews in one well-known instance: The religious Jews he met on his trek around Europe would not let themselves be photographed, quoting the Bible and its prohibition of making of graven images. Vishniac’s famous response was, “the Torah existed for thousands of years before the camera had been invented.”

Vishniac was known for having great respect for all living creatures. Whenever possible, he returned a specimen to its precise home before it was captured and one time “[lent] his bathtub to tadpoles for weeks until he could return them to their pond”. In accordance with this philosophy, he photographed almost exclusively living subjects.

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The Experience of Flying in a Spaceship

Deep Space in the Milky Way.

Looking into a side of the Milky Way from the Asellus system in Elite: Dangerous. The glowing red star is Asellus Primus B, 0.16 light years away.

Thunder ends the hyperspace jump and we are now in a different here in a different now with glowing orb of fire filling our view. Hazard proximity sensors are going off and we maneuver away toward points of light in the darkness of space — some very bright, others invisible if not for the navigation overlays which indicate the orbits and positions of celestial bodies in this system. We are in Super Cruise mode, a sort of crawling speed setting in the space travel throttle and the ideal way to fly around the local solar system with red and blue-shifting star and dust trails all around.

As we gather speed away from the ball of plasma the blackness of space begins to fade away, gradually revealing the number of other stars there and then. The heavens begin to change colour, blues and violets of interstellar clouds of dust, nebulae illuminating the glinting night, a long section of which is bright as an Earth day. The middle of this bright river of light is the center of our own Milky Way galaxy, another point of which we have reached.

Second burst of thunder and we are now out of Super Cruise in local time where Newton’s maths of motion rule our ballet. Thrusters up, throttle forward, flight assist off, push stick forward slowly, then release. The distant jewels now spin slowly around us in the infinity of the universe. Black sphere with half-circle sliver of light perpendicular to thin illuminated ring of giant dust rises from the horizon of our lower dashboard, followed by a crescent moon, and then a cuboctahedron — a Coriolis station.

The original Elite. Shortly after leaving a space station in the original Elite from 1984 running on a BBC Micro emulator.

Approaching, we feel the size of the station. As towers and other appendages of this spinning city in space fly by our ship we hear the moan of a massive structure. As in film, sound and music help form the whole of our flying experience. Staccato popping-and-buzzing of directional thrusters, twanging sounds of a 1970’s cross-between-VW-bus-and-space-shuttle Hauler ship engine, heaving heavy machinery opening cargo bay or landing gear doors; utter silence followed by crunching of ice crystals forming around cockpit glass panes when switching off systems to reduce heat signature and disappear from sensors. Elite’s orchestra puts us here inside a ship flying in space, our hands and feet on the controls, cockpit’s metal frames moving with inertia casting dancing shadows in pools of colored light from stars, planets, stations, our own and other ships, their engines glinting, tracing a disappearing line in the immensity of the cosmos.

We align ourselves with the the entrance and match the Coriolis’ rotation. Now the stars are moving and we, along with the station, are still.

We have come far in 30 years. We push the throttle forward.

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Picnic CSS #

Lightweight CSS framework. A nice alternative to Bootstrap. See also Min.

Boyhood #

Just finished watching Boyhood, a film shot over twelve years with the same cast — amazing work by director Richard Linklater, known for the Before Sunrise trilogy.

Here’s Deep Blue by Arcade Fire, from Boyhood’s soundtrack:

Gravit: Open Source Design Tool #

In the spirit of Macromedia Freehand, my favorite drawing program ever. Looking forward to seeing further development on this!

Falling in Love With The Dark #

We need to solve the problem of light pollution so we can continue to see our galaxy with our eyes rather than only through monitor screens, even though the view through monitor screens can be awesome.

Jenga in JavaScript #

Simulation of physical movement is one of the best uses of computers.

Some of Vivian Maier's Contact Sheets #

Looking at someone’s contact sheets is like taking a peek at their soul.

Response to BBC Newsnights's "What is Twitch?" #

The best gaming moments are social — we like sharing our experiences with others. I remember playing SimCity 2000 for hours together with a friend in São Paulo. I’d have the controls while he sat next to me and discussed the computer simulation before us.

World Peace is None of Your Business #

Morrissey’s fantastic new album. A sustained shout of protest to our world. Favorites songs so far are World Peace Is None of Your Business, I’m Not a Man, Istanbul, Kick the Bride Down the Aisle, One of Our Own, Drag the River and Art Hounds.

GIF Youtube #

Add “gif” to the beginning of any URL.

Via Andy Baio.

Elite: The Game That Changed The World #

I’m enjoying the Beta very much indeed.

Why Racket, Why Lisp #

The itch to try a new programming language is there again. Racket seems a good choice, which I might explore using the Pollen publishing system that is written in Racket:

At the core of Pollen is an argument:

  • First, that digital books should be the best books we’ve ever had. So far, they’re not even close.
  • Second, that because digital books are software, an author shouldn’t think of a book as merely data. The book is a program.
  • Third, that the way we make digital books better than their predecessors is by exploiting this programmability.

That’s what Pollen is for.

Subtle Racism #

Your children are watching. See also: Silent Technical Privilege.

The 1,000 Hour Rule #

Great advice from Philip Guo. See also, The Function of Education by J. Krishnamurti.

On the Shortness of Life #

The majority of mortals, Paulinus, complain bitterly of the spitefulness of Nature, because we are born for a brief span of life, because even this space that has been granted to us rushes by so speedily and so swiftly that all save a very few find life at an end just when they are getting ready to live. Nor is it merely the common herd and the unthinking crowd that bemoan what is, as men deem it, an universal ill; the same feeling has called forth complaint also from men who were famous. It was this that made the greatest of physicians exclaim that “life is short, art is long;” it was this that led Aristotle, while expostulating with Nature, to enter an indictment most unbecoming to a wise man—that, in point of age, she has shown such favour to animals that they drag out five or ten lifetimes, but that a much shorter limit is fixed for man, though he is born for so many and such great achievements. It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is—the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it. Just as great and princely wealth is scattered in a moment when it comes into the hands of a bad owner, while wealth however limited, if it is entrusted to a good guardian, increases by use, so our life is amply long for him who orders it properly.

Email Is Still the Best Thing on the Internet #

Whatever service you use to communicate non-ephemerally on the internet, an email address is needed to do it.

This is not the first time I mention the work of Eric Sachs of Google’s Identity team:

Then during the early 90s, a “hack” was found that created the foundation of most user account systems on the web. That “hack” was the idea of logging into a website with your email address, and proving you were the owner of that email address by having the site send you an SMTP message with a hyperlink back to the site which contained a long code. For the few of us who considered ourselves identity geeks at the time, this did not seem like an approach that would last a long time. Even SMTP seemed like a fad when we already had high end systems like Lotus Notes relying on things like PKI, digital certifications, signing, encryption, etc.

However twenty years later, that “hack” is still the most powerful technique that we rely on to build user account systems. From a purist perspective, emails have some downsides as identifiers. Much of this guide will discuss those downsides, and how to handle them. However nothing else, even phone numbers or social network IDs, has come even close to being as powerful an identifier.

People Simply Empty Out #

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

Robustness Principle #

Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others.

Real Conversation #

Carol Gilligan:

I’ve found that if I say what I’m really thinking and feeling, people are more likely to say what they really think and feel. The conversation becomes a real conversation.

Interactive Visualization of 950+ Planets Discovered by NASA's Kepler Mission #

NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered more than 950 confirmed planets orbiting distant stars. Planets with a known size and orbit are shown below, including Kepler 186f, an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone.

Great visualization work by Jonathan Corum in the New York Times’s Space & Cosmos section. See more of Jonathan’s work here.

Rosetta Spacecraft Hours From Historic Rendezvous With Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko #

Exciting times to be alive. I look forward to comets in Elite: Dangerous! Update: BBC article with images of the comet released by the European Space Agency, a detailed New York Times article with details of the Rosetta’s mission, including the fact that it has spent 10 years flying to get to this point, and more information on the Rosetta blog.


Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 3 August 2014 — front. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

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The Web is Agreement, The URI is The Thing

Two drawings by Paul Downey which summarize good (and bad) software development practices when making things for the World Wide Web. That is, use REST and open source software. Avoid SOAP and proprietary software.

  1. The Web is Agreement - High quality scan
  2. The URI is the Thing - High quality scan

I was reminded of these recently by my friend, Gallant Dutchman Erik van Ingen — thanks, Erik!

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John Cleese on Creativity: Transcript #

On Rap Genius, which is now just called ‘Genius’.

Here’s the video.

Signal: Free, Worldwide, Encrypted Phone Calls for iPhone #

Made by Open WhisperSystems.

Minecraft #

We’re in a new century now, and its hallmark is humans doing things together, mostly on screens, at scales unimaginable in earlier times.

Is the Universe a Simulation? #

But there is one area of human endeavor that comes close to exemplifying the maxim “manuscripts don’t burn.” That area is mathematics. If Pythagoras had not lived, or if his work had been destroyed, someone else eventually would have discovered the same Pythagorean theorem.