Simon Willison’s Weblog

Items in 2017

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Frontend in 2017: The important parts. Keeping track of developments in the frontend and JavaScript community is pretty much a full time job here days, so I found this summary of trends and developments over 2017 very useful for trying to catch up. # 29th December 2017, 8:30 am

Game developer’s guide to graphical projections (with video game examples), Part 1: Introduction. Absolutely delightful series of illustrated essays by Matej ‘Retro’ Jan explaining how different graphical projections can be used for video game art. Each concept is illustrated by screenshots or gifs from a mixture of games spanning four decades. Reading this was a real treat. # 28th December 2017, 1:07 am

My Internet Mea Culpa. Rick Webb asks “What if we were wrong?” about the internet leading to enormous benefit for humankind. I’ve been worrying about this a lot recently: it turns out the internet provides tools that allow bad people to spread lies, propaganda and discrimination with lethal effectiveness. It’s hard to believe that universal access to the sum of all human knowledge can have negative effects, but there are clearly a whole load of negative effects that us internet utopians failed to predict. # 26th December 2017, 2:59 pm

First King Tut went to the British Museum in 1972, where over 1.7 million people went to see him. Then in June 1974, with the threat of Watergate and impeachment hanging over him, Richard Nixon signed a bilateral trade agreement that Henry Kissinger had negotiated with President Sadat of Egypt. One of its terms: that King Tut would come to America. Two years later, with Nixon gone under the darkest of clouds, he did.

Chris Michaels # 26th December 2017, 9:08 am

Computer latency: 1977-2017 (via) Dan Luu used a 240 fps camera to investigate the latency between hitting a key and having the character show up on the display across four decades of computing devices... and found 1983’s Apple IIe outperformed everything else. He goes to great lengths to explain why in his accompanying write-up. # 26th December 2017, 12:28 am

Google Maps’s Moat. Gorgeous essay by digital cartographer Justin O’Beirne, exploring how Google Maps has evolved over time and how the fantastically useful “areas of interest” feature (where commercial corridors and business districts are automatically highlighted) uses data derived from a combination of Street View business data and 3D building outlines derived from aerial imagery. # 23rd December 2017, 9:35 am

How to compile and run a Pony program using Docker. My notes on using the Docker ponylang/ponyc container to compile and execute a Pony program without needing to install anything (since Docker will download and run the image the first time you run the command). # 18th December 2017, 9:47 pm

An Early History of Pony. Pony is an interesting looking new programming language, built around actor-based concurrency on top of a mathematically proved type system. The history of the language makes for interesting reading: it’s based on experience with actor libraries in C at an investment bank, combined with research into type systems at Imperial College London. # 18th December 2017, 8:33 pm

How do Ruby & Python profilers work? Julia Evans: “As a precursor to writing a Ruby profiler I wanted to do a survey of how existing Ruby & Python profilers work.” # 18th December 2017, 12:12 pm

The Mirai Botnet Was Part of a College Student Minecraft Scheme. Fascinating story about last year’s Mirai botnet, which was originally developed to help corner the Minecraft server market. # 15th December 2017, 3:18 am

Let your code type-hint itself: introducing open source MonkeyType. Instagram have open sourced their tool for automatically adding type annotations to your Python 3 code via runtime tracing. By default it logs the types it sees to a SQLite database, which means you can browse them with Datasette! # 15th December 2017, 2:22 am

The State of JavaScript 2017: Front-end Frameworks. This year’s State of JavaScript survey results are out. As usual, the “I’ve USED it before, and would NOT use it again” answers are some of the most thought-provoking. Angular, Meteor, Backbone, Grunt, Gulp, Bootstrap and Cordova aren’t scoring well in that regard. # 13th December 2017, 6 pm

Building a location to time zone API with SpatiaLite, OpenStreetMap and Datasette

Given a latitude and longitude, how can we tell what time zone that point lies within? Here’s how I built a simple JSON API to answer that question, using a combination of data from OpenStreetMap, the SpatiaLite extension for SQLite and my Datasette API tool.

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Extended Validation is Broken. Ian Carroll spent $100 incorporating a company called “Stripe, Inc” in the state of Kentucky and $77 on an Extended Validation certificate tied to that legal entity. Safari (and Mobile Safari) now hide the URL bar completely, displaying “Stripe, Inc” in its place. “This means the attacker does not even need to register a convincing phishing domain. They can register anything, and Safari will happily cover it with a nice green bar.” # 12th December 2017, 1:36 am

VICE News Police Shootings in Datasette (via) VICE News collected data on both fatal and nonfatal police shootings from the 50 largest local police departments in the United States. They released the data under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license so I’ve converted it to SQLite and loaded it into Datasette. # 11th December 2017, 10:47 pm

Indexes are models: a B-Tree-Index can be seen as a model to map a key to the position of a record within a sorted array [...] Our initial results show, that by using neural nets we are able to outperform cache-optimized B-Trees by up to 70% in speed while saving an order-of-magnitude in memory over several real-world data sets.

The Case for Learned Index Structures # 11th December 2017, 6:25 am

Datasette 0.14: customization edition. I just released the latest version of Datasette with a strong theme of customization: Datasette now supports custom templates and CSS styling hooks, and the metadata format has been expanded to allow per-database and per-table source/license/description information. You can also now define named canned queries which will be packaged up with your data. # 10th December 2017, 1:55 am

Use a .dev domain? Not anymore. Google bought the .dev gTLD a few years ago for their own internal usage and in a few weeks time Chrome will start shipping a HSTS preload list rule that says that .dev must be served over HTTPS. This means that if you’re using a .dev domain in your /etc/hosts file you’ll need to switch to .test or .localhost (or set up a self-signed certificate) or your development environment will refuse to load. # 6th December 2017, 6:42 pm

PostgreSQL Exercises. Excellent set of PostgreSQL exercises by Alisdair Owens, each with an interactive editor that lets you run your queries against a real database. Starts with the basics, but also covers advanced topics like recursive queries and window aggregate functions. # 6th December 2017, 4:20 pm

Maybe the solution to the Fermi paradox is that significantly advanced civilizations discover crypto currencies and then furiously burn through all available energy sources until they go extinct

Me # 6th December 2017, 2:44 am

deeplearn.js imagenet webcam demo (via) This is pretty astonishing... deeplearn.js is a Google Brain research tool that implements a GPU-accelerated neural network in browser-friendly JavaScript (using WebGL fragment shaders to run the algorithms). This demo hooks into your webcam and runs the SqueezeNet image recognition model against it, showing classification in real-time and providing a live-updating visualization of the different layers of the network. # 5th December 2017, 11:15 pm

A Regular Expression Matcher: Code by Rob Pike, Exegesis by Brian Kernighan (via) Delightfully clear and succinct 30-line C implementation of a regular expression matcher that supports $, ^, . and * operations. # 5th December 2017, 6:36 pm

Evolution of <img>: Gif without the GIF (via) Safari Technology Preview lets you use <img src=“movie.mp4”>, for high quality animated gifs in 1/14th of the file size. # 4th December 2017, 7:28 pm

Cybersecurity Campaign Playbook (via) “The information assembled here is for any campaign in any party. It was designed to give you simple, actionable information that will make your campaign’s information more secure from adversaries trying to attack your or-ganization—and our democracy.” # 3rd December 2017, 7:22 pm

Breaking Cliques at Events. Eric proposes a new guideline for long-running conferences, which have a tendency to form somewhat insular cliques of the attendees who have been going the longest: “For every year you have attended the event, you should try to meet that many new people each day.” # 3rd December 2017, 1:51 am

Python 3 Readiness (via) 345 of the 360 most popular Python packages are now compatible with Python 3. I’d love to see a version of this graph over time. # 2nd December 2017, 11:13 pm

Django 2.0 released. The first version of Django to drop support for Python 2. I’ve been running the RC on my blog for the past 5 weeks and greatly enjoying the new mobile-optimized Django admin for posting links and quotations from my phone. The new simplified URL routing syntax (an optional alternative to regular expressions) is a very welcome improvement. # 2nd December 2017, 4:49 pm

Significant advances shipped by the tech industry in the last 20 years include putting the majority of human knowledge in the hands of 40%++ of the world’s population, available on-demand, for “coffee money” not “university money.”

Patrick McKenzie # 2nd December 2017, 3:17 pm

Datasette: Ability to customize presentation of specific columns in HTML view. Still a work in progress, but Datasette master now allows you to inject links to one or more additional CSS and JavaScript resources (optionally with SRI hashes) which will be included on every page. Each template also now provides CSS classes on the body element derived from the current database and table names to provide hooks for custom styling. Next up: custom template support. # 30th November 2017, 7:27 am

Can I use... input type=color. TIL <input type=“color”> has reached 78.83% support globally already—biggest gap right now is Mobile Safari. # 29th November 2017, 9:56 pm