Week in Review for 4/26/2009

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  • Oracle agrees to purchase Sun
    As Ars’ Ryan Paul reports, this is just the first step. The acquisition won’t be complete for some time, in the meantime Paul and everyone else is speculating on the future of Sun’s high profile open source projects under Oracle. I think the reality will be more tame than anyone expects.
  • Obama appoints CTO
    Nate Anderson has the details at Ars, including the appointees background. It is conspicuously light of any sort of technical management or implementation. That’s probably more important in the complementary role of CTO, which Kundra was appointed to earlier. Still it is a bit concerning for this post which will weigh in more on general technical policy.
  • Flash version for use on televisions
    Ars’ Jacui Cheung reports from NAB about Adobe’s recent announcement. I can’t say it is surprising, it would possibly bypass plays like Boxee which could either make broadcasters calmer as it would maintain their direct relationship with viewers or anger them as much as third parties themselves do currently.
  • Google experiments with rotated image CAPTCHAs
    John Timmer of Ars explains that Google believes rotation is an easy task for humans but challenging to machines. I suspect this is little more than a band aid and, once again, doesn’t foil distributed human solvers, one tool attackers have been known to use to get around such defensive measures.
  • What if Smalltalk were invented today?
    via Hacker News, this is a pretty funny take on how a notional standards body or journal would respond to Alan Kay’s idea for Smalltalk. It does make you wonder a little bit about what innovations might be legitimately squashed, today, for the reasons this pieces uses for humor.
  • In browser map/reduce
    via Hacker News, this idea gives further weight to thinking of the browser itself as a sort of operating system. I used to laugh at complex projects undertaken in JavaScript, not sure when I stopped rather thinking these could be genuinely useful.
  • Contemplating a post-OOP world
    via Hacker News, this is more than your usual “My paradigm can beat up your paradigm” opinion posts. It leaves room for techniques for OO but considers them in a more multi-paradigm world, where each is used to best effect security and scalability as needed.
  • Norwegian P2P users buy more music
    Cory has a good write up of this finding at Boing Boing. It isn’t surprising and I don’t even think it is all that unique. It is somewhat unexpected in the wake of TPB’s sentencing and IPRED going into effect, though.
  • FTC issues proposed breach notification rules
    This is currently just a proposal, according to the USACM, with a comment period until June 1st. It is also just for electronic health records but could represent a step in the right direction to protect consumer privacy and manage risk online.
  • Large step forward in simulating the mechanics of the brain
    Fascinating details at the BBC. This is a modest step but does suggest that Moore’s law may be all that is needed to simply scale up from here.
  • Improve distributed code snippets
    Once again, I think Atwood initially misunderstand the problems posed by copy-and-paste coding and then conflates those with a completely different practice, distributed code re-use through the net. I do think his ultimate suggestion to help uniquely identify distributed code snippets is pretty clever, though.
  • Google’s incremental social network
    I like the suggestion that with the new profile features, Google is growing its social platform a bit more organically. It gives credit to Chris Anderson’s long standing view that sites will eventually consider social tools as necessary features, not offerings in and of themselves. A bit of good coverage here by the NYT.
  • PBS follows other national TV producers into streaming
    According to the NYT, this new offering is a consolidation of existing, scatter video programming. There are some key omissions and limitations, though, and this in no way is anywhere near as radical as what NRK has been trying or even the more moderate but still progressive technology efforts by the CBC.
  • DHS chief seeking to repeal Real ID Act
    CNN has the pertinent details, mostly that the chief, a former governor, is siding with a coalition of governors looking to repeal the act and achieve its goals through other means, It is not surprisingly drawing some partisan criticism.
  • A more coherent criticism of relational databases
    via Hacker News, like the post-OOP piece I linked to, this is a pretty considered discussion of the limits of relational databases versus how data is actually used by modern web applications. I am starting to come around on more modern data storage designs, like Hadoop’s distributed file system and CouchDB.
  • Microsoft’s research into parallel processing
    According to this InfoQ piece, while their effort, Axum, is even more limited than just being part of .NET, there is some interesting ideas here that may inspire other, more open parallel processing efforts.
  • DPI could possibly, eventually be outlawed in the US
    via Hacker News, I prefer the Ars coverage since it makes less of a logical leap. Yes, Boucher is for pro-privacy legislation and the NGO’s clearly want anti-DPI legislation but I tend to agree with Nate Anderson’s view of the same hearing, that it is unlikely to result directly in new legislation, like an anit-DPI law.
  • Facebook users approve new policy
    According to the NYT, participation in the vote was lower than expected from the public activism after the last change in ToS. The new drafts are not yet available, so in-depth analysis will have to wait a bit longer.
  • Researchers focus on risk of centralization in cloud computing
    I don’t know about the comparisons to the economic down turn, but I do tend to agree with the call for de-centralization for different reasons. I think it is the best bet for consumer protection and somehow enabling freedom in the cloud.
  • Judge opens hearing on RealDVD case
    This is expected and just the start of legal wrangling over the future of the tool. I don’t think Real as deep enough pockets to see this through to a generally useful ruling but I welcome being proven wrong in the months ahead.

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