Monthly Archives: September 2011

Metro-style Internet Explorer 10 ditches Flash, plugins

The solution to this conundrum on the iOS platform has been the app: companies like Netflix and the BBC have applications to watch video on these devices. The result is that in the desire to push an open, plugin-free Web, companies are being forced to migrate away from the Web entirely.

On some non-obvious consequences of Microsoft’s move do ditch all plugins in Metro version of IE 10.

Time, technology and leaping seconds

Very large-scale distributed systems, like ours, demand that time be well-synchronized and expect that time always moves forwards. Computers traditionally accommodate leap seconds by setting their clock backwards by one second at the very end of the day. But this “repeated” second can be a problem. For example, what happens to write operations that happen during that second? Does email that comes in during that second get stored correctly? What about all the unforeseen problems that may come up with the massive number of systems and servers that we run? Our systems are engineered for data integrity, and some will refuse to work if their time is sufficiently “wrong.” We saw some of our clustered systems stop accepting work on a small scale during the leap second in 2005, and while it didn’t affect the site or any of our data, we wanted to fix such issues once and for all.

Since most of us have already sold our privacy to Google company, it’s at least some consolation to know that they care even about such seemingly minor issues like leap seconds.

Amazon is More Interesting than Google

But the world has changed, and Google can’t seem to keep up. Amazon has become the polar opposite of Google, empowering every developer on the planet to make incredible technology. Want MapReduce? Amazon has you covered. Want to play with terabytes of data like it ain’t no thing? Check. Want to launch thousands of servers to handle a tough computation? Check, check, and check. Want to launch thousands of human brains to solve otherwise unassailable problems? No problem. Heck, want to simply send email to your users? They have that too.

Amazon embraced much more pragmatic and commercially-driven approach to technology than Google. While the latter company may seem more open, eventually it may lose the hearts of developers for its inability to successfully commercialize the results of its R&D, effectively reducing them to impractical toys.

Political science: why rejecting expertise has become a campaign strategy (and why it scares me)

With the exception of Huntsman, the candidates don’t know science, haven’t bothered to ask someone who does, and, in several cases, don’t even know anything about the settled policy issues (judicial precedent and investigation of claims about fraud).

Richard Dawkins comments shocking views on science among Republican presidential candidates.

Google & the Future of JavaScript

Classes will give us a humane, interoperable inheritance syntax, but it leaves composition unaddressed by syntax. I’m hopeful that we bless traits in future versions, removing the use of inheritance in most cases. Similarly, I think we can find a way to repair “this” binding foot-guns with softly-bound “this”. Repairing the shared-prototypes issue, either through DOM or through something like Scoped Object Extensions, can and should be done. And once we have all of this, the stage will be set for a flexible, advanced type system that does not need to be all-or nothing and does not need to be hobbled by the ghost of C++/Java’s inflexible nominal-only types. That’s the dream, and we’re not shying away from it.

Alex Russel’s ideas are at least controversial (Dojo comes to mind), but he is for sure influential and it’s interesting to see what he thinks about the direction JavaScript should take in the future.

A Deathbed Story I Would Never Tell

I know how this story would feel to me. It would be as though the universe had somehow noticed what had happened, that some invisible hand slipped into my world and pointed, as if to say, “We know. This is part of the plan.”

So many of us, I think, would have this sense. Lawrence Krauss, in his new biography of Feynman, Quantum Man, says, “We seem to be hard-wired to find that what happens to each of us naturally appears to take on a special significance and meaning, even if it’s an accident.” But Feynman, he says, was unable to think that way. He couldn’t and he wouldn’t.

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Apparently acknowledging that the world doesn’t revolve around you is a first step on developing a scientific mind.

Twitter Doesn’t Give a Damn Who You Are

At a very basic level, Google+ and Facebook are in the identity delivery business, and Twitter is in the information delivery business. That’s a powerful distinction. It reflects a fundamentally different conception of what’s more valuable: information or identity. It also gets at who is more valuable, advertisers or users.
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Slightly sugar-coated article on the difference between Twitter vs. Facebook and Google’s social network (how is it called, again?).


Doing this – interacting with a bunch of organizations from the tiny to the giant in attempts to get something inaccessible fixed – was outwardly not much like the community-wide spasm fandom had last year over accessibility. Totally different ways of processing a problem. But it felt exactly the same to me. Like I am a second-class citizen, like I am imposing by existing and by being a user, like I should please please please go away. And I think the results here demonstrate the exact same thing that fandom did last year.

One persons sets out to educate website owners how they can fix accessibility problems. He didn’t achieve anything and shares his frustra^findings.