The Aspiring Nerd — Issue #11

Elon Musk quits White House Advisory Councils, US intelligence agencies still stuck at protecting sensitive data and China’s AI efforts might soon outsmart America.

Around the web

Elon Musk Quits White House Advisory Councils In Wake Of Trump’s Decision To Pull Out Of Paris Climate Accord

Trump keeps proving that he doesn’t understand how the world works and puts us all at risk. Glad to see Elon Musk (and Bob Iger) making a statement by leaving his councils.

On Wednesday, amid reports that President Trump planned to withdraw the U.S. from the landmark Paris Climate Accord, Musk said that if the president fulfilled that promise he would have “no choice” but to quit the White House advisory councils on which he serves. One day later, both billionaires have made good on their threats. Trump announced Thursday that he will remove the U.S. from its place as a participant in the Paris deal, and Musk promptly tweeted that he will no longer serve on the president’s councils.

Wikipedia’s Switch to HTTPS Has Successfully Fought Government Censorship

Wikipedia’s latest move makes censorship harder (or at least doesn’t allow half-measures — you either block Wikipedia entirely or you don’t at all).

In short, HTTPS prevents governments and others from seeing the specific page users are visiting. For example, a government could tell that a user is browsing Wikipedia, but couldn’t tell that the user is specifically reading the page about Tiananmen Square. (…) Due to how this protocol works, governments could no longer block individual Wikipedia entries. It was an all or nothing deal.

A Secretive Intelligence Agency, A High-Flying Contractor — And A Big Data Breach

This is what happens when you drop files in an unsecured Amazon S3 bucket. Or the tale of NGA contractors that leaked highly sensitive DoD files like amateurs…

The revelation of exposed and highly sensitive data involving an intelligence agency tasked with everything from battlefield imaging in Afghanistan to satellite surveillance of North Korea’s ballistic missile arsenal comes at a frighteningly tense time for international relations.

Accused of underpaying women, Google says it’s too expensive to get wage data

Google officials testified in court that it would have to spend up to 500 hours of work and $100,000 to comply with investigators’ ongoing demands for wage data. It’s not like Google can’t afford it…

Google argued that it was too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over salary records that the government has requested, sparking a strong rebuke from the US Department of Labor (DoL), which has accused the Silicon Valley firm of underpaying women.


Is China Outsmarting America in A.I.?

While Trump screams to make America great again, China seems to think that AI is a race and America doesn’t. Makes me think of the the whole Soviet vs. America space conquest.

China’s ambitions mingle the most far-out sci-fi ideas with the needs of an authoritarian state: Philip K. Dick meets George Orwell. There are plans to use it to predict crimes, lend money, track people on the country’s ubiquitous closed-circuit cameras, alleviate traffic jams, create self-guided missiles and censor the internet.

The Evolution Of The Bitcoin/Blockchain Narrative

Fascinating article about how the perception of cryptocurrencies and blockchain has evolved over time.

How Your Data is Stored, or, The Laws of the Imaginary Greeks

Fascinating, entertaining and extremely clear explanation of Distributed Consensus and how data storage works. If you are computer scientist, check out the original Paxos algorithm paper here.

If you don’t work in computers, you probably haven’t spent much time thinking about how data gets stored on computers or in the cloud. (…) if you have a piece of data that many people want to read and edit at once, like a shared text file, a bank’s records, or the world in a multiplayer game, how does everyone agree on what’s in the document, and make sure that nobody overwrites someone else’s work? This is the problem of “distributed consensus,”

The best Data Science courses on the internet

It’s all in the title!

The Making of the Weighted Pivot Scatter Plot

See how and why to use interactive Weighted Pivot Scatter Plot charts.

Web development / Web design

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to d3.js

Great advanced d3.js tutorial (including a lot of API use) and lots of useful links and resources.

This guide is meant to prepare you mentally as well as give you some fruitful directions to pursue. There is a lot to learn besides the d3.js API, both technical knowledge around web standards like HTML, SVG, CSS and JavaScript as well as communication concepts and data visualization principles.

Building a Slack bot for channel topic detection using word embeddings

Don’t we all need this!? But on a more serious note, very interesting use of machine learning.

Slack Maestro, a bot that learns the topics of different channels, monitors conversations, and warns users when they go off topic. The bot relies on an implementation of Word Mover’s Distance, introduced at the leading machine learning conference NIPS in 2015, and word embeddings.

The Calculus of Service Availability

Fascinating article about service availability. Like they say, you’re only as available as the sum of your dependencies!

A service cannot be more available than the intersection of all its critical dependencies. If your service aims to offer 99.99% availability, then all of your critical dependencies must be significantly more than 99.99% available. Internally at Google, we use the following rule of thumb: critical dependencies must offer one additional 9 relative to your service — in the example case, 99.999% availability — because any service will have several critical dependencies, as well as its own idiosyncratic problems. This is called the “rule of the extra 9.”

Bits and pieces

Read how truly intelligent enemies could change the face of gaming. It’s been fixed since but check out Judy Malware: Possibly the largest malware campaign found on Google Play.

Very interesting article about edge caching and how Data Science Helps Power Worldwide Delivery of Netflix Content. Don’t miss this guy that has built a programmable 8-bit computer from scratch on breadboards using only simple logic gates!! A motorcycle gang got busted for hacking and stealing over 150 Jeep Wranglers.

If you have a hard time understanding how blockchain works, check out this article about exchanging apples for oranges. If you’re familiar with Vue.js, you might be interested in reading this interview with it’s creator, Evan You. In a world where the governments and companies spy on you, trust only yourself and build your own VPN! And finally, see How Alleged Russian Hacker Teamed Up With Florida GOP Operative.