Five short links

doorfive

Photo by Giampaolo Macorig

Clocks are bad, or welcome to distributed systems – “If your distributed system isn’t explicitly dealing with data conflicts, any correct behavior it exhibits is more a matter of good luck than of good design.” Ten years ago, I was shooting myself in the foot with threads, now it’s distributed algorithms! I think we’re going to look back on the single-core CPU days as a golden age of simplicity.

The colors of sunset and twilight – I’m attempting to measure global pollution levels by analyzing the colors of millions of Instagram photos of sunsets around the world. The data isn’t cooperating yet, but it’s led me into a fascinating world of atmospheric science. Apparently there’s a lot more of a complex relationship between sunset brilliance and pollution than folk wisdom had me believing.

How misaligning data can increase performance 12x by reducing cache misses – Understanding how processor caches work is a secret weapon for serious optimization work. Once you’ve got rid of the obvious algorithm bottlenecks, keeping your working set of data in cache can make an order-of-magnitude difference if you’re chewing through big arrays.

Yale censored a student’s course selection website. So I made an unblockable replacement – The only truly open space for transforming and combining data these days is client-side. It’s a shame browser extensions are such a niche distribution channel, they give small players the freedom to get creative on top of large existing data sets. I really hope a killer app for client-side remixes appears, that would open the door for a lot more innovation.

My dad will never stop smoking pot – I spent my early twenties as a heavy pot smoker, and I was an unhappy mess who let people around me down constantly. I’m glad to see legalization gathering momentum, I know plenty of people who can smoke without those problems, but this story was a painful reminder of those days for me.

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