Monthly Archives: October 2010

What does China *really* know about cutting-edge technology, anyway?

Left: a Seagate factory in Wuxi, China

A couple of anecdotes to remember before accepting the conventional wisdom that all China is good for is mass-producing (or copying) non-Chinese tech products (i.e. iPhones):

From Seymour Hersh’s recent New Yorker piece examining the hype of cyber-warfare:

A few weeks after Barack Obama’s election, the Chinese began flooding a group of communications links known to be monitored by the N.S.A. with a barrage of intercepts, two Bush Administration national-security officials and the former senior intelligence official told me. The intercepts included details of planned American naval movements. The Chinese were apparently showing the U.S. their hand.

“The N.S.A. would ask, ‘Can the Chinese be that good?’ ” the former official told me. “My response was that they only invented gunpowder in the tenth century and built the bomb in 1965. I’d say, ‘Can you read Chinese?’ We don’t even know the Chinese pictograph for ‘Happy hour.’ ”

And today’s New York Times, on a Chinese research center building a supercomputer that outclocks the current one by 40 percent.

Modern supercomputers are built by combining thousands of small computer servers and using software to turn them into a single entity. In that sense, any organization with enough money and expertise can buy what amount to off-the-shelf components and create a fast machine.

The Chinese system follows that model by linking thousands upon thousands of chips made by the American companies Intel and Nvidia. But the secret sauce behind the system — and the technological achievement — is the interconnect, or networking technology, developed by Chinese researchers that shuttles data back and forth across the smaller computers at breakneck rates, Mr. Dongarra said.

“That technology was built by them,” Mr. Dongarra said. “They are taking supercomputing very seriously and making a deep commitment.”

The Chinese interconnect can handle data at about twice the speed of a common interconnect called InfiniBand used in many supercomputers.

NYPD’s Feris Jones is too old for this shit

NYPD officer Feris Jones

“Lethal Weapon” reference inspired by @andymboyle

From the New York Times: Off-duty NYPD officer Feris Jones was at Sabine’s Hallway, a beauty salon in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, when a robber came in, brandishing a gun, and ordered her and the other patrons into a bathroom. Jones told the owner to call the bathroom before stepping out and ordering the robber to surrender. The robber, from 12 feet away, fired four shots at Jones with his .44 Magnum revolver. Jones dodged the bullets and returned fire with her own revolver five times, hitting the robber’s hands and causing him to drop his gun and hitting the front door lock, jamming it and slowing down the robber’s escape.

Five-time prior arrestee Winston Cox, 19, was apprehended at a Bed-Stuy hotel on Monday, his hands wrapped in towels.

Jones has been with the department since 1990 and worked in evidence collection for the past 12 years. The Oct. 23 attempted stickup was the first time she had fired her gun in the line-of-duty. Not only should her marksmanship should be commended, but her restraint and levelheadedness in not shooting the fleeing robber in the back (he apparently had to crawl out through a glass panel, even though moments before he nearly killed her. No wonder the suspect’s mother is proud of Jones.

Sometimes, life is like a cop movie.

The Big Pharma-Dollars-for-Doctors Database, at ProPublica

Haven’t had much time to blog, or eat, or sleep in the past few months because of this project, but the first part just rolled out today (at about 2am, actually): at ProPublica, my colleagues and I collected the past two years of reports (albeit just from 7 companies) disclosing what they pay doctors to speak on their behalf. I still have a few posts and articles to write about what undertaking and background, but it’s the first time that someone has compiled all these reports and made them available to the public, something that will be mandated by law in 2013.

Our first investigation related to the data looked at how some of the companies’ top earners, who are ostensibly supposed to be experts in their field, had either shady or slim expertise. I did most of the datawork, including collecting the data and managing it, polling the various state websites to look up physician disciplinary records, and designing and coding (with the help of my genius coder co-worker Jeff Larson) the website. Whew!

Check it out.

The Rosé Bull Cocktail

I just wanted to post this so if it becomes a big hit among the sophisticated Red Bull crowd, I get some credit for creating it while bored at my friend’s engagement party:

Rosé Bull

• Three parts rosé wine
• One part Red Bull, chilled
• Served neat, in a plastic cup

The name not only refers to the ingredients, but can be considered a play on the phrases “red bull” or The Rose Bowl, depending on whether you’re socializing with bullfighters or football fans.

Hacks/Hackers NYC’s Open(source).athon…coding for news/public interest is kind of cool

If you’re a coder looking to hack for the public interest, or a hack wanting to join the coding world, there’s no better club to join than NYC’s Hacks/Hackers (if you’re in NYC, at least). Last weekend, they hosted a daylong code-a-thon, where programmers and writers teamed together to knock out (and document) their open-source projects. It was held at the swank OpenPlans penthouse and catered (thanks to Google’s sponsorship) with Baohaus’ amazing pork buns.

Cracks in Apple’s Magic Trackpad

Cracks in Apple’s Magic Trackpad, originally uploaded by zokuga.

I’ve owned the Apple Magic Trackpad since it came out in late July. Even at its steep price, I’ve considered it a worthwhile purchase…essential when my laptop is on a stand, and useful even at the coffeeshop, when paired with the wireless keyboard, so I can keep the coffee away from the actual laptop.

I’ve carried it uncovered inside my leather messenger bag…I don’t exactly throw that bag around, since it almost always has my laptop in it. But at some point last week, something cracked the trackpad, and now it’s grown into a crack halfway across the pad.

So far, no changes in functionality, and the crack is pretty much imperceptible. Not promising, though…