Links of the Week: January 30th

I’ve been collecting quite a few gems this week, especially with the launch of the Apple iPad (which, according to my mother, sounds like a product that could be confused with a feminine hygiene product). There’s a great deal of excitement and resentment surrounding Apple’s announcement. I’m sure it’ll be fascinating to see how it plays out.

I’d like to link to a site run by a couple of buddies of mine (for whom I occasionally do contract work) dedicated to the Apple iPad: Dan’s put quite a bit of effort into consolidating a significant amount of news and information–even prior to the announcement–so it’s worth investing some of your time into browsing the site or contributing.

Apple, Inc.

This last week’s news has almost entirely focused on Apple’s latest announcement related to the iPad. I won’t bore you with the details, because a quick Google search would certainly turn up anything you may have missed. Furthermore, since most of your are Slashdot readers, I’m convinced you’ve likely seen at least one story related to the tablet… thing. Daring Fireball has a glowing review of the iPad (of course).

There’s even another article here that speculates Apple’s release of the iPad is a “great day for open technologies.” I’m a skeptic, but the author raises a few good points.

Apple’s marketing department is nothing short of amazing.

My most favorite article, however, is this one. “Is Apple Evil?” may be considered by some to be a knee-jerk reaction to what is–for lack of a better term–nothing more than vendor lock-in in a sleek case, but I think it’s worth reading. Is it crazy to think that Apple may be trying to control everything about their products, including applications? Maybe, but I think Aaron Swartz may have hit the nail on the head. I hope he’s wrong for the sake of the industry, but judging by Apple’s past behavior, my gut is telling me he’s right.

Earlier this month, a company by the name of Freescale Semiconductor released reference designs of a new tablet that might serve to compete against the iPad. In a similar thread, electronics firm MSI also plans to enter the tablet market, albeit with Android OS (thank you, Google). Hopefully this showdown will result in a win for consumers: There’s no sense to have a locked-down device.

So the vendor lock-in business doesn’t bother you, because you see the iPad as an appliance rather than a computer? Maybe the $99 developer fee (yearly) doesn’t scare you off because you don’t care? Well how about this: the iPad is an antisocial device.

If you’re part of the bandwagon that feels Apple has every right to lock down their devices, consider this: Apple says jailbreaking is illegal. Of course, this article relates to the iPhone and EFF’s attempt at pressing for DMCA exemptions, but since the iPad runs iPhone OS, you can see where this is going. The FSF even steps in and takes a few shots, stating why they feel the iPhone and free software don’t mix. Since the iPad is essentially a giant iPhone, I expect this debate to be on going for years to come.

Since the Apple App Store is going to play a significant part in iPad usability, I think you ought to read this article by Paul Graham. Essentially, Apple’s treatment of developers is starting to breed resentment.

There’s also a pretty big debate going on related to Amazon’s Kindle versus the iPad. Both solutions are DRM’d to the hilt, so regardless of whoever wins, the consumer still (technically) loses. Amazon, however, has been pushing to keep the prices of eBooks low in spite of the wishes of some publishers. But consider, for a moment, what it would be like if a central authority controlled what you could read. Are the eBook wars beginning?

Speaking of DRM, Ars has a great write up on the limitations imposed by the iPad.


Ever wonder what color dinosaurs were? There might be new, emerging answers. I still say: Nothing would completely ruin the intimidating pose of a tyrannosaurus rex than for a human visitor to gaze upward at the beast’s monstrous frame, frightened, and hear a thunderous… BUCKAW! Cretaceous chicken: You’re what’s for dinner.

I’ve never been a fan of Jazz, but if you’re particularly interested in the brain, this article “The Neuroscience of Jazz” should make for a fascinating read.


When do you fire your co-founders? No, don’t panic! It’s not about being (intentionally) mean to those who might otherwise have good intentions. It’s about business: If you’re going to put together a team to make a business work, you need to find people who will do exactly that. Obvious? Maybe, but you really need to read this article if you’re planning on starting a venture of some sort. Frankly, I think this is pretty important advice.


Looks like there’s still fallout over those e-mails that pointed to what was essentially data hiding and disingenuous science.

Speaking of climate, here’s an interesting thought experiment on using Clojure to analyze climate data. Read ahead for a surprise ending.


While this article takes jabs at Americans and the English, I think it’s a very good read for anyone who travels, especially overseas. Cultural sensitivity may have negative connotations thanks to political correctness, but there are times when it most certainly pays off (business).

Developers, Developers, Developers Develop

Did you know that some indie games have made money? It’s true! Just look at those figures. This is pretty impressive news. Microsoft may be evil (WGA comes to mind), but they certainly aren’t as evil as Apple.

I stumbled across a brief article on 0MQ, a “new” approach to messaging. If you’re planning on writing a networked application in the near future, you may ought to consider 0MQ instead of writing your own custom socket wrappers.


Setting a rather odd precedent, a German family has been granted political asylum… for home schooling.


New and “damning” evidence has surfaced related to the doctor who linked vaccinations with autism, New Scientist reports.


Well, it looks as if the PS3’s hypervisor has been hacked, potentially opening the doors to new and interesting uses of the console.

Life and Living

I wish I had heard this advice years ago. There are always more than two options. It’s centered more around business and entrepreneurship but has wide application to literally everything. This is a great read.


Here’s an interesting topic discussing vector clocks. I’ve not encountered these before, but this looks like a great tutorial if you’ve run into a situation where you find yourself horribly confused by them: Vector Clocks are Easy.

Speaking of the dazed and confused, here’s an article detailing why students hate algebra. I highly recommend reading this thought-provoking article, particularly if you were in school at some point during the 1990s or later. Thinking back on it, the issues Dan Meyer raises are exactly why I hated algebra when I was a student.

This completely boggles my mind because I was never especially strong at math. It sure sounds interesting though: using the sum of squares to “translate” complicated equations.

Natural Resources

There’s a war that will be raging against China soon. No, it’s not likely to involve troops on the ground, planes, and other implements of war–at least, not in the traditional sense. There’s a battle underway involving rare earth metals. It’s ironic that these precious elements–almost a requirement in building “green” technology–has been sourced largely from China, one of the biggest polluters in the world. The Chinese are planning to reduce their exports of rare earth metals by a significant margin. Worse, because of environmental restrictions and low market prices, the US’ ability to produce a sufficient quantity of high quality ores has almost completely diminished. Some geologists estimate we have enough of the materials locally to become self-sufficient and maintain that status for over 150 years. Too bad.


Here’s an article by Raphael Mudge about using “tries” to offer accurate spelling suggestions. It’s excellent and quite thorough! Definitely recommended reading for anyone putting together a modern web 2.0 application that offers something akin to spell checking.

Here’s a list of 10 tips for a new Django developer. I’ve been tempted to try Django for a while now, if only because Pylons and TurboGears miss some of the configurability I’d expect from a web application framework and require some tweaking in order to support table prefixes. (But prefixes are stupid! Real developers use schemas! Yeah, well, if I’m using an ORM like SQLAlchemy and someone is really desperate for MySQL support, I haven’t much choice!)

Did you know that writing multithreaded code can be like juggling chainsaws? Okay, maybe not quite (you won’t lose a limb). Still a worthwhile read for anyone who might have to deal with massive concurrency.

Scala 2.8 is getting closer to completion.

Here’s a great piece on the debate (again) about DirectX versus OpenGL. Honestly, I really wish this is a debate that would die. As the author points out: It exists mostly due to marketing hype.

Programming Humor

Here’s a humorous piece on github that demonstrates Python programmers with varying proficiencies attempting to calculate the factorial of a number. I’m with the whole import math; math.factorial(6) crowd.

Also in the humor section, but in what I would like to describe as the “sad but true” section, is this gem. Hint: This is satire.


There’s a vulnerability affecting FreeBSD 7.1-8.0. However, unlike what the Slashdot article suggests, the exploit is a local exploit–not a remote one.

Survival School

Should you ever find yourself in free fall from 20,000 feet or higher, this guide is for you.


The FreeNAS project has decided that they’ll be switching from FreeBSD to Debian for their 0.8 release. While I think the move is stupid since it completely eliminates ZFS from the equation (a great reason to stick with FreeBSD), I don’t think it’s quite the end of the world. Already, at least one company has announced they plan to create a fork. The discussion surrounding the project’s reasons is here. Though there are a few reasons suggested, it seems to me that the most “important” one is the lack of hardware support (not that I’ve ever really encountered problems in FreeBSD myself…). And frankly, I hate Debian. Ubuntu may be impressive, but the Debian roots make me want to cry in terror.

Oh noes! The Russians have released pictures and video of their newest stealth fighter. While it looks like a 1:1 copy of the F-22 nose cone, the rest of the aircraft hardly looks that different from an Su-27. Personally? I’m not worried.

Flash is doomed. It’s about damned time.

Web, The

Looks like Facebook has decided to scale down custom tabs. Also in that link is a template you can use to assist in migrating your Facebook whatever-it-might-be to the new size. (Disclaimer: I don’t use Facebook, but I find it interesting that they’d be reducing the maximum width from 760px to 520px when most professional designers are considering even higher widths.)


With HTML5 and many video providers (including Youtube) supplying beta access to non-flash embedded video, have you ever wondered why they only Chrome, Safari, and MSIE? It’s a licensing issue. More details are available here. In short, the MPEG LA will not (and probably cannot due to the nature of how they issue licenses) offer coverage for free software.


There was an interesting Ask Slashdot a couple days ago related to some system of maintaining what amounts, effectively, to two distinct, isolated desktops on different monitors. On proposed solution was awesome (no, really, that’s the name). I don’t think that’s the ideal solution as it’s intended for almost exclusive keyboard access but it is certainly an interesting solution.


3 Responses to “Links of the Week: January 30th”

  • Jonah H. Harris writes:

    A bunch of good links ;)

    Having worked in a startup where the co-founders eventually needed to go, “When to fire your co-founders” is an article every entrepreneur should read and have a good understanding of. In the end, business is business; while an organization may have been started by someone with a great idea, it doesn’t take long for candidates who are better suited to successfully manage that idea than the original founder(s) come along. Of course, sometimes those replacement candidates end up being far worse than the original founders, but that’s a whole different story…

    The one about the good Dr. Wakefield was a fun read.

    0MQ rocks.

    Vector clocks are wonderful and extremely useful in distributed systems. Unfortunately, I’ve found that quite a few people seem to have a hard time understanding them. Though, I believe the blog entry you referenced could easily provide such users with a good real-world example capable of helping them grasp the basic underlying concepts.

    “Why Students Hate Algebra” was fairly good. I especially liked the bullet point, “No youth group leader would ever solve this problem with a system of equations”. Ahh, how I remember my first day of Geometry and my teacher saying, “you’ll never use this unless you become a Geometry teacher.” However, she was very wrong.

    I believe the main problem today is that most mathematics are taught in a non-applied way. Having done comp-sci for many years now, I’ve learned to love math. A thorough understanding of math can help solve many problems. And, even though you don’t need a complex set of equations to solve everything, knowing when and how to apply them is a very important thing. As mathematics play an essential role in so many areas of life, it’s unfortunate that very few textbooks/teachers help students learn by means of real-world examples.

    Nonlinear thinker was a good read.

    I don’t find multi-threading difficult, but I think the whole article could be summed up by the statement, “never assume anything, test everything”.

  • Apple ipad Forum writes:

    How many of you guys think the ipad is that crazy?

  • Benjamin writes:

    My personal opinion is that the iPad is going to be a total flop. It’s basically a gigantic iPhone (or iPod Touch) with identical vendor lock in.

    Though, it’ll be interesting to see if Apple’s gamble pays off. They’re due to face-plant with a product as they haven’t really had a significant market failure since the Newton.

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