Notch: I’m leaving Mojang

“If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately.”

Notch

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Sustaining git-annex development

After his successful Kickstarter, Joey Hess is fundraising to continue working on git-annex.

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Free Will, Determinism, Quantum Theory and Statistical Fluctuations: A Physicist’s Take

Carlo Rovelli on free will. You have no free will, but it’s OK because you’ll never understand why you do anything anyway.

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America’s founders would be horrified at this United States of Surveillance

Dan Gillmor:

You may believe there’s no possibility of America turning into a thugocracy, that the amassed information – conversations, business dealings, personal health and financial data, media consumption, gun records and so much more – will never be systematically misused that way. But even if you do, ask yourself this: if a young employee of one of the countless private companies administering the surveillance state could get access to so much for idealistic reasons, how vulnerable is this material to people with baser motives?
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Who Pays?

Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax System in All 50 States..

The main finding of this report is that virtually every state’s tax system is fundamentally unfair, taking a much greater share of income from middle- and low-income families than from wealthy families. The absence of a graduated personal income tax and the over reliance on consumption taxes exacerbate this problem in many states.

(via Flutterby)

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Japanese Movers

Leave it to the Movers – YouTube.

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Senators on torture in Zero Dark Thirty

Senators McCain, Feinstein, and Levin write to Sony Pictures regarding the depiction of torture in Zero Dark Thirty:

Recent public opinion polls suggest that a narrow majority of Americans believe that torture can be justified as an effective form of intelligence gathering. This is false. We know that cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners is an unreliable and highly ineffective means of gathering intelligence.

The use of torture should be banished from serious public discourse for these reasons alone, but more importantly, because it is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, because it is an affront to America’s national honor, and because it is wrong.

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SOPA Roundup

Here are a few smart things people are saying about SOPA and PIPA. Jeff Atwood gets at the key political takeaway:

So yes, join us in fighting the obvious insanity of legislation like SOPA and PIPA that threaten the open, unfettered Internet. But please, please also join us in attacking the far more pernicious problem of lobbyist money subtly corrupting our government. If we don’t deal with that, we will never stop fighting bills like SOPA and PIPA.

Y Combinator wants to invest in startups that will replace Hollywood:

The people who run it are so mean and so politically connected that they could do a lot of damage to civil liberties and the world economy on the way down. It would therefore be a good thing if competitors hastened their demise.

And finally, Nat Torkington responds to the President’s challenge to the tech industry to find ways to fight piracy:

All I can think is: we gave you the Internet. We gave you the Web. We gave you MP3 and MP4. We gave you e-commerce, micropayments, PayPal, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, the iPad, the iPhone, the laptop, 3G, wifi–hell, you can even get online while you’re on an AIRPLANE. What the hell more do you want from us?

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Coal Energy Drink: Keeps You Running Until It All Runs Out

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The Paradox of Backyard Hens

James McWilliams on some problems with keeping backyard chickens.

For those without the fortitude to self-slaughter, keeping older hens as companion animals is also an option. This choice, too, has a downside–one that applies to the chickens while they’re laying as well. Backyard chickens are like fish in a barrel for predators. As a quick perusal of any on-line forum for chicken keepers will attest, chickens frequently fall prey to dogs, hawks, skunks, coyotes, foxes, and, notoriously, raccoons. Owners often declare themselves completely helpless to protect their birds. Forcing chickens into semi-secure locations and inhibiting their natural survival tactics is in the same vein as a hunter loading a feeder with corn and sitting above it in a deer blind. And that’s no way to treat a pet.

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Rushkoff on Unemployment

Douglas Rushkoff has a great piece on CNN about whether we ought to view unemployment as a problem. This reminds me of Robert Anton Wilson’s RICH Economy, written thirty years ago and seeming more prescient all the time.

America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, there is enough food produced to provide everyone in the world with 2,720 kilocalories per person per day. And that’s even after America disposes of thousands of tons of crop and dairy just to keep market prices high. Meanwhile, American banks overloaded with foreclosed properties are demolishing vacant dwellings to get the empty houses off their books.

Our problem is not that we don’t have enough stuff — it’s that we don’t have enough ways for people to work and prove that they deserve this stuff.

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What I learned from reading the Android user manual

I love my Nexus One Android phone and, in general, I’ve found the user interface to be very intuitive. However, I recently discovered that there’s a 340-page user manual for Android. I decided to read the whole damn thing and find out if there were any great hard-to-find features or tricks in there. I learned a bunch of stuff that probably should have been obvious but I also made some nice discoveries.

It’s easier to use the trackball to position the text cursor and select text.

I had been trying to use my finger on the screen to position the text cursor, that usually required extreme accuracy and multiple tries. The manual points out that the trackball is much better for this.

International dialing: touch and hold 0 to enter a “+”.

I’m probably the only idiot who didn’t know this.

That scroll icon on the bottom left corner of the Phone app is the access voicemail button.

Again, this is probably a universal symbol that only I hadn’t figured out.

Touch a contact’s picture to bring up the quick contact menu.

Wherever you see a contact’s picture or icon, such as a shortcut on your home screen or in the contacts list itself, you can touch it to bring up a neat quick contact menu with icons for each contact method for that person.

Compass Mode in Street View is really cool.

This seems like a pretty buried feature to me so here’s how to get to it. Open Maps, then long-touch a point on the map you are interested in. A balloon will appear with the address and place name. If Street View is available at that location, there will be a photo thumbnail next to the address. Now touch the balloon to open an info screen for the location. On that screen you’ll see a Street View icon which you can touch to open Street View. Just this much was new to me, I hadn’t realized you could access Street View from Maps. It get’s cooler though, touch menu and select Compass Mode. Now you can tilt, pan, or turn your phone to look around.

In Gallery, you can peek into an album stack by touching it with two fingers and spreading them apart.

This doesn’t seem terribly useful to me but it’s kind of a neat effect.

In album view, touch Menu twice to enter batch mode.

I never would have figured this out on my own. Very useful for photo management.

Hello, augmented reality.

I haven’t seen this work yet but the manual claims that Goggles will display nearby locations once it has a GPS lock.

The rest are self-explanatory:

  • In Music Playback, touch and hold track information to search for it with various apps.
  • In Weather, touch the screen for details and then touch the hour of the day for the forecast for that time.
  • Drag the Calculator screen right to left to access advanced functions.
  • In Calculator, roll the trackball down to access previous operations.
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“I’m Vegan” Documentary Shorts

My friend Eric Prescott has posted the first five of his I’m Vegan profiles. Eric traveled the country and filmed interviews with vegans from all walks of life. There are many more to come and they’ll all be on Youtube in glorious HD.

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Memory will be the real performance bottleneck on your VPS

This well-done benchmark comparison of several Virtual Private Server vendors gives me warm and fuzzies that I chose Linode for my new hosting provider. However, the benchmarks chosen mostly test CPU performance and the bottleneck when hosting a dynamic web site is likely to be memory capacity.

The number of requests per second that your server can handle is determined by the maximum concurrent requests possible divided by the time in seconds to handle each request. Each Apache process running WordPress PHP scripts via mod_php consumes about 20 MB on my Linode. This means I can only run about 10 Apache processes and therefore handle 10 concurrent requests. If each request takes 150 milliseconds to process, 50 milliseconds transfer time and 100 milliseconds processing time, my server can handle 10 / .15 = 66.67 requests per second. Let’s assume another VPS vendor provides the same 360 MB as my Linode account but the CPU is half as fast. The requests might take 250 milliseconds so the server could handle 10 / .25 = 40 requests per second. In this situation, the faster CPU is a clear win. But several of the vendors in the review provide significantly more memory than my Linode account. If that slower processor came with 1024 MB memory, it could maybe run 45 Apache processes and serve 45 / .25 = 180 requests per second, far outstripping my supposedly faster Linode.

As you add memory to a server, CPU will eventually become the bottleneck again, but my Linode rarely goes above 1% CPU utilization while serving 66 requests per second, so I think that number is probably quite high. There are also other web servers and Apache configurations that are a bit more memory efficient than what I am talking about, but with all of them you will still be limited by the number of 10-20 MB PHP processes you can fit in memory.

I don’t regret choosing Linode as my VPS provider, they have great support and nice management tools. I also don’t expect to get anywhere near the traffic levels I talked about above. But if you are evaluating VPS vendors based on how much traffic you handle for the money you are paying, be sure to consider memory capacity.

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‘We Are All Connected’ (ft. Sagan, Feynman, deGrasse Tyson & Bill Nye)

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