The Aspiring Nerd — Issue #7

Governments keep ruining our freedom and rights, hackers are getting even smarter and we still have a lot to learn about artificial intelligence.

Around the web

🔒 Turkey blocks Wikipedia under law designed to protect national security

Nothing new there but definitely not good for democracy and human rights.

Turkey has blocked Wikipedia, the country’s telecommunications watchdog has said, citing a law that allows it to ban access to websites deemed obscene or a threat to national security. Later on Saturday, Turkish authorities said they had sacked more than 3,900 civil servants, and military and police personnel as the purge of alleged anti-government officials continued (…) [This move] is likely to further worry rights groups and Turkey’s western allies, who say Ankara has curtailed freedom of speech and other basic rights in the crackdown that followed last year’s failed coup.

🔑 FBI director Comey backs new Feinstein push for decrypt bill

How much privacy are you ready to loose for national security? Not sure they’re entirely honest and backdoors or encryption restrictions might still be the most appealing choices for them.

“We’ve had very good open and productive conversations with the private (…) because everybody realizes we care about the same things. We all love privacy, we all care about public safety and none of us want backdoors — we don’t want access to devices built in in some way. What we want to work with the manufacturers on is to figure out how can we accommodate both interests in a sensible way,”

🕶 NSA Backs Down on Major Surveillance Program That Captured Americans’ Communications Without a Warrant

Some good news for our privacy.

Under pressure from the secret court that oversees its practices, the NSA said its “upstream” program would no longer grab communications directly from the U.S. internet backbone “about” specific foreign targets — only communication to and from those targets (…) essentially abandoning a bulk surveillance program that captured vast amounts of communications (…) and turning instead to a still extensive but more targeted approach.

📰 Why the Odds Are Stacked Against the Jimmy Wales Journalism Project

Not everybody shares Jimmy Wales optimism about Wikitribune.

“There’s certainly a model for non-profit news that can be successful if it’s done on a relatively small scale and produces a product that is unique enough,” Benton said. “But I have a hard time seeing this scale up into becoming a massive news organization.”

📈 The global state of digital advertising in 5 charts

Short summary of the last Interaction 2017 report (get the full report here).

Digital advertising is expected to account for 77 cents of each new ad dollar in 2017(…) Unsurprisingly, Google and Facebook are leading the pack. More than two-thirds of global ad spend growth from 2012 to 2016 came from those two companies.

👩🏼‍🚀 WIRED Next List 2017: 20 Tech Visionaries Who Are Creating the Future of Business

*The women and men in these pages are the technical, creative, idealistic visionaries who are bringing the future to your doorstep. You might not recognize their names — they’re too busy working to court the spotlight — but you’ll soon hear about them a lot. They represent the best of what’s next.

😶 I’m an ex-Facebook exec: don’t believe what they tell you about ads

No matter how inaccurate the report might be, Facebook needs to do something about how they use ads targeting in unethical ways.

Facebook claimed the report was misleading, assuring the public that the company does not “offer tools to target people based on their emotional state”. If the intention of Facebook’s public relations spin is to give the impression that such targeting is not even possible on their platform, I’m here to tell you I believe they’re lying through their teeth.

🙅 Facebook rejects female engineers’ code more often

Facebook claims it’s related to rank and not gender but it stills shows how diversity remains an issue at Facebook (and other tech companies).

That implies that, at the very least, one of the two situations is true: female employees have a harder time contributing to Facebook’s code base due to scrutiny from male colleagues, or that those employees are not obtaining higher ranking engineering roles that would allow for more code commits due to any number of factors.

💳 There Is a Fake IDGod, and He Lives in China

Both worrying and fascinating. Gotta love the McLovin / Superbad reference!

A group of Chinese men — they may be gangsters or involved in organized crime, no one really knows for sure — formed IDChief, a huge fake ID operation that sold to teens in the U.S.

📱Thieves drain 2fa-protected bank accounts by abusing SS7 routing protocol

Brilliant yet very scary way of bypassing two-factor authentication.

In January, thieves exploited SS7 weaknesses to bypass two-factor authentication banks used to prevent unauthorized withdrawals from online accounts (…) the attackers used SS7 to redirect the text messages the banks used to send one-time passwords. Instead of being delivered to the phones of designated account holders, the text messages were diverted to numbers controlled by the attackers.

💸 Meet the Hackers Holding Netflix to Ransom

The Dark Overlord attempted to extort plenty of companies before targeting Netflix. See how their operations evolved in a over a year.

Last week, a hacker or group of hackers dumped apparent full episodes of Orange Is the New Black after Netflix allegedly declined to pay a ransom, and has threatened to release a number of other shows too, including Celebrity Apprentice, New Girl, and The Catch


🗿 The Myth of a Superhuman AI

Debunking the myth of a superhuman artificial intelligence: Hyper-intelligent algorithms are not going to take over the world for these five reasons.

  1. Intelligence is not a single dimension, so “smarter than humans” is a meaningless concept.
  2. Humans do not have general purpose minds, and neither will AIs.
  3. Emulation of human thinking in other media will be constrained by cost.
  4. Dimensions of intelligence are not infinite.
  5. Intelligences are only one factor in progress.

🇰🇵 All That Glitters Is Not Gold: A Closer Look at North Korea’s Ullim Tablet

We seem concerned with privacy issues when creating backdoors, they don’t really mind.

Ullim also includes a watermarking system that was first discovered in the Red Star Operating System, the North Korean-developed version of Linux. It records the time and computer registry into a file each time it is opened. So, if a file is shared from person to person, someone in possession of the final copy can examine the watermarking data to determine how it spread from person to person. On a mass scale, this data can be used to plot entire social networks of people.

🤖 IoT Security Anti-Patterns

With the very large-scale IoT botnet DDoS attacks we’ve seen these last years, securing connected devices at the lowest layer possible has become mandatory.

Internet-of-Things technologies inherit many attack vectors that appear in other internet connected devices, however the low-powered hardware-centric nature of embedded systems presents them with unique security threats. Engineers building Internet-of-Things devices must take additional precautions to ensure they do not implement security anti-patterns when addressing new problems.

🐯 How to autoencode your Pokémon

Learn more about autoencoders with…Pokémons!

An autoencoder is a special type of neural network that takes in something, and learn to represent it with reduced dimensions. Think of it like learning to draw a circle to represent a sphere. (…) You can do this because you’ve subconsciously learnt to autoencode a 3 dimensional sphere as a 2 dimensional circle.

🤓 How to build a recommendation engine using Apache’s Prediction IO Machine Learning Server

If you’re out of inspiration for your DIY Sunday:

This post will guide you through installing Apache Prediction IO machine learning server. We’ll use one of its templates called Recommendation to build a working recommendation engine. The finished product will be able to recommend customized products depending upon a given user’s purchasing behavior.

📱Facebook’s fastText library is now optimized for mobile

This morning Facebook’s AI Research (FAIR) lab released an update to fastText, its super-speedy open-source text classification library. When it was initially released, fastText shipped with pre-trained word vectors for 90 languages, but today it’s getting a boost to 294 languages. The release also brings enhancements to reduce model size and ultimately memory demand.

Web development / Web design

🎂 SQL is 43 years old — here’s 8 reasons we still use it today

Happy birthday SQL!

SQL is the second-most common programming language, used by 50% of all developers (Web, Desktop, Sysadmin/DevOps, Data Scientist/Engineer) and beaten only by JavaScript — a language half the age of SQL.

👮🏻The alarming state of secure coding neglect

If you’re working in web development you know you’re probably a little guilty too, right? ;)

Only a quarter to a half of organizations do what their own programmers say is needed for the security of their code: automated code scans, peer security code reviews, and further code reviews by security experts. That’s one of the key findings in a survey of 430 professionals — mostly everyday programmers (…)

🗯 A step-by-step guide to making pure-CSS tooltips

This article is a step-by-step tutorial that will help you understand how to make pure-CSS tooltips. Simple and clean.

🚛 Why and How to Use Docker for Development — Travis on Docker

Some very good reasons to use Docker for development. Here are a couple:

  • The development environment is the exact same as the production.
  • Use multiple language versions without having to resort to all the hacks.
  • Deployment is easy.

📊 How to prevent your analytics data from being blocked by ad blockers

How to get around ad blockers went it comes to tracking your visitors.

If you’ve tried using analytics solutions like Google Analytics, you may have faced an issue where your analytics collection was blocked by ad blockers. According to PageFair, up to 30% of Internet users use ad blockers in 2017, and this number is constantly growing.

📉 A Better Way to Code — Mike Bostock

If we can’t eliminate coding, can we at least make it easier for humans, with our sausage fingers and finite-sized brains?

To explore this question I am building an integrated discovery environment called It’s for exploratory data analysis, for understanding systems and algorithms, for teaching and sharing techniques in code, and for sharing interactive visual explanations.

📚 JavaScript Arrays and Objects Are Just Like Books and Newspapers

If you’ve always been confused about the difference between arrays and objects, today is your lucky day!

Choosing between an object and an array gets much easier when you can quickly determine the purpose of each structure. Arrays closely fit the way that books store information. And objects fit the way that newspapers store information.