Links: July 2nd

Yeah, I’m a day late on my links. It’s not that there isn’t much interesting going on, but I’ve been a little busy.

Uh oh, what’s that burning smell?

Google’s AppEngine has been having problems today.

Health is a pain

  • Basic painkillers like Tylenol could be banned due to the liver damage they can cause.

Technology, smells like fish

  • Bruce Schneier spreads word of a new attack against AES. While this doesn’t mean much for the continued security of your data it does remind us that nothing in technology (especially cryptography) is ever static. Be vigilant. That’s good advice, isn’t it?

    As Schneier states:

    While this attack is better than brute force — and some cryptographers will describe the algorithm as “broken” because of it — it is still far, far beyond our capabilities of computation.

    I love his articles.

  • I was going through some backup CDs of mine from years ago (we’re talking 1999–so about 10 years or older) and stumbled across some .ZIPs I had password protected. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the password. Take my advice: If you’re going to password protect some stupid documents that don’t matter a darn to anyone else, make sure it’s something you can easily remember. Maybe even consider writing down the password and stuffing it under the carpet–anything. ‘Cause the fact is, after 10 years, those backups won’t be readable because you won’t be able to remember the password. Plus, you’ll have to look into cracking the password. Fortunately, none of the stuff contained in my passworded .ZIPs is all that interesting to me now. Plus, somewhat humorously, those same files are duplicated elsewhere. At the very least, it’ll give me an excuse to learn plain text attacks against ciphers if I have some time. I’m really curious what password I chose.
  • I neglected to mention that Eclipse Galileo is out. This is probably the most exciting news of the week! I’ve been using it for about four days now, and I’m impressed. It’s a lot more responsive than Ganymede. If you’re going to grab it, consider downloading it from Eclipse Srouce’s Yoxos on-demand installer. Using Yoxos, you can build your own Eclipse distribution complete with the plugins you want. It’s so much easier than hunting plugins down by hand.

Links: June 24th

I’m a little late this time around.

  • PyPy’s developers appear to have given it a boost and it’s now 50% faster than CPython in some tests. ‘Course, this is development code only, but I think it’s pretty impressive for what essentially mounts to a self-hosted Python interpreter.
  • The German Tank Problem, explained. Yeah, it may be a pointless read for some, but I found it to be rather fascinating–and I’m not a math guy. This is the kind of real world stuff they ought to use in schools.
  • Smashing Magazine has a fascinating article on 10 UI design patterns you should be paying attention to. It’s definitely worth a read for those of you with a knack for design. (I’m not exactly one of those types, but this is definitely worth a read for self-improvement. I know I’ll be putting these tips to good use in the future.)
  • Besides the notion of China having a lottery, there are stranger coincidences when dealing with impressively large populations. If true, that has got to be the weirdest thing I’ve read.
  • I couldn’t quite get the latest version of Py2EXE working without totally trashing distutils every time it attempted to run. I have found a suitable replacement called PyInstaller. It seems to work well and with minimal fuss. I like it. Oh, and you can bundle packages for most operating systems (though, I’d suggest looking at Freeze for *nix-specific distribution). I’m not sure how well it handles .eggs, though.
  • Ever been curious about the release timeline of different web browsers including some you may have never heard of? Take a look at this chart on Wikipedia.
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Links June 17th

It’s an uninteresting week but there’s a few nifty things out there tech-wise.

Shaking the world of browsing? Okay, maybe not…

Opera 10’s beta seems to be attracting a lot of attention. I still wish they had done something like a P2P network to work around routing issues.

Imagine the following situation: Person A lives in California. Person B lives in Texas. Person A and B share the same favorite site. It may be a social network or perhaps their favorite new aggregator. Person A can get to the site but Person B is running into a “local” routing issue which allows them to communicate with Person A but Mr. B can’t access this particular site. If Opera included a P2P web sharing mechanism, Person A’s browser could fetch the data for Person B.

There’d be a number of security implications, of course (passwords could be easily sniffed!) but for simply accessing a site, particularly if you really need to read it, this could be a workaround for local connectivity issues. I’d imagine the security concerns could be worked around by prohibiting form submission via the P2P connection in addition to disabling cookie access to the site.

Is HTML 5 the death knell of Flash, Silverlight, and Java Applets (JavaFX?)

It is interesting to say the least. It sounds a little idealistic to me, and the web doesn’t traditionally fare well with massive, wide-sweeping changes. Instead, many of the technological changes we’ve seen have largely been delivered piecemeal with the more interesting or useful features considered for early adoption. Those of us who have been using Firefox, Opera, and WebKit (as far as I know) have been able to enjoy limited Canvas features for at least two years. AJAX-related technologies adopt some parts of the HTML 5 spec from–once again–years ago.

Local storage and background processing seems a little far-fetched for the time being. However, it’s feasible the Internet could evolve into a distributed “operating system.” All it’d take would be merging the concepts of P2P networks (hello, Opera) and HTML 5 proposals.

We’ll see what happens. I’m not going to wager any guesses, but the HTML 5 spec sounds increasingly revolutionary. Revolutionary insofar as the Internet is concerned usually breeds half a dozen incompatible implementations–even if there is an accepted standard in place. What’s this mean for the consumer? Well, not much. Don’t expect to see any significant changes for another couple of years at best. At worst, we might see a few of the neater ideas being integrated into your favorite browser while everything else fades into vaporware.

Eclipse Galileo RC4 is out

You can read about it here. I noticed the other day while running some updates that Eclipse Galileo is due to be out in about two weeks. I’m really excited about this. From what I’ve been hearing they’re introducing a number of performance boosts and have given SWT a bit of a face lift. I really like Eclipse for general purpose coding but it’s pretty cumbersome for incredibly simple tasks. (Quick scripts get written in a simple text editor or maybe a very basic syntax highlighting-capable editor like Notepad++.) Maybe this next version will change that?

DZone has been banging around some more D language propaganda

Actually, I’ll confess. This article is really quite good. It’s actually giving me an itch to try D, and I might have to go about scratching it soon. I’ve been watching the language for a few years off and on (probably since 2002-2003 when I first heard about it from a friend), but I always assumed it was going to fade away into obscurity. It hasn’t yet, and it’s been at least six years and growing albeit rather slowly.

That said, it might be worth a look.

Internet censorship to rise in Germany

This article may be a little sensationalistic, but I think it’s worth a read. The unfortunate thing is that many do-good politicians are pushing strongly both here in the US and abroad (but most especially abroad) to censor Internet services in the name of protecting children. Sure, it sounds like a great idea–but the Aussies are already well aware of what a move like this does to the utility of the Internet. Late last year, there was talk about the Aussie filters being too ambitious, and they were. If I recall correctly, many sites (including Wikipedia) were affected due to simply mentioning a banned term.

People like their freedoms, and when they’re afraid a government initiative could potentially be used to stifle their freedoms, it doesn’t matter if it’s pushed under the guise of protecting the children. Things like this sound great–initially–but when they can be extended to squelch anything else that could be construed as “unlawful” (I see you’re saying something bad about the party in power! Ahhh, what a shame you won’t be able to have your dose of Internets today…), people get worried.

And rightfully so, I might add.

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