What it was like to fly the baddest airplane the world has ever known
> The X-15 was not the first rocket-powered aircraft, but it is probably the best one ever built and flown. Before the first X-15 took flight in the late 1950s, the fastest speed airplanes had reached was Mach 3. The X-15 doubled that. And, remarkably, it also went on to fly into space more than a dozen times.
3D Ken Burns Effect from a Single Image
> In this paper, we introduce a framework that synthesizes the 3D Ken Burns effect from a single image, supporting both a fully automatic mode and an interactive mode with the user controlling the camera. Our framework first leverages a depth prediction pipeline, which estimates scene depth that is suitable for view synthesis tasks. To address the limitations of existing depth estimation methods such as geometric distortions, semantic distortions, and inaccurate depth boundaries, we develop a semantic-aware neural network for depth prediction, couple its estimate with a segmentation-based depth adjustment process, and employ a refinement neural network that facilitates accurate depth predictions at object boundaries. According to this depth estimate, our framework then maps the input image to a point cloud and synthesizes the resulting video frames by rendering the point cloud from the corresponding camera positions. To address disocclusions while maintaining geometrically and temporally coherent synthesis results, we utilize context-aware color- and depth-inpainting to fill in the missing information in the extreme views of the camera path, thus extending the scene geometry of the point cloud.
The grandmaster diet: How to lose weight while barely moving
> Robert Sapolsky, who studies stress in primates at Stanford University, says a chess player can burn up to 6,000 calories a day while playing in a tournament, three times what an average person consumes in a day. Based on breathing rates (which triple during competition), blood pressure (which elevates) and muscle contractions before, during and after major tournaments, Sapolsky suggests that grandmasters’ stress responses to chess are on par with what elite athletes experience.
> Nearly all retro game systems generate colors in some variant of RGB encoding. But the raw pixel colors are often designed for very different screens than those that emulators typically run on. In this article, I’ll walk through the importance of color emulation, and provide some example code and screenshots.
Chromebook U2F ECDSA vulnerability
> We discovered a vulnerability in the H1 security chip firmware concerning ECDSA signature generation. The firmware code used incompatible transfer instructions when passing a critical secret value to the cryptographic hardware block, resulting in generating secret values of a specific structure and having a significant loss of entropy in the secret value (64 bits instead of 256 bits). We confirmed that the incorrect generation of the secret value allows it to be recovered, which in turn allows the the underlying ECC private key to be obtained. Thus, attackers that have a single pair of signature and signed data can effectively compute the private key, breaking any functionality or protocols that use the key pair in question.
Experimental feature, with an annoying fix. If it had been for real, quite messy.
> I would like to apologize.
The Time Netflix Considered Selling Itself to Amazon for Peanuts
> It was the summer of 1998. DVDs had been in the U.S. market for a little over a year, and Netflix , the e-commerce company Reed Hastings and I had co-founded to sell and rent them through the mail, had been live for just over two months. I was the company’s CEO, Reed its largest investor.
> He was in his office, just hanging up the phone when we walked in. His desk, and the desks of the two other people he shared the office with, were made of doors mounted atop 4 × 4 wooden legs, braced with triangular metal pieces. I suddenly realized that every desk I’d seen in that office was the same.
> That would have been a pretty good outcome for me, since at the time, I owned about 30% of the company. Thirty percent of $15 million is a pretty nice return for 12 months of work—particularly when your wife is broadly hinting that it might be time to pull the kids out of private school, sell the house, and move to Montana.
> But for Reed, it wasn’t enough. He owned the other 70% of the company, but he’d also invested $2 million in it. And he was fresh off the sale of Pure Atria, the company formed out of his first software venture. He was already an “eight-figure guy.” A high-eight-figure guy.
Scraping A Public Website Doesn't Violate the CFAA, Ninth Circuit (Mostly) Holds
> This is a major case that will be of interest to a lot of people and a lot of companies. But it’s also pretty complicated and easy to misunderstand. This post will go through it carefully, trying to explain what it says and what it doesn’t say.
Taskbar Latency and Kernel Calls
> I work quickly on my computer and I get frustrated when I am forced to wait on an operation that should be fast. A persistent nuisance on my over-powered home laptop is that closing windows on the taskbar is slow. I right-click on an entry, wait for the menu to appear, and then select “Close window”. The mouse movement should be the slow part of this but instead I find that the delay before the menu appears is the longest component.
> What this says is that, over the course of two right-mouse clicks, RuntimeBroker.exe, thread 10,252, issued 229,604 ReadFile calls, reading a total of 15,686,586 bytes. That is an average read of 68 bytes each time.
How the woman who broke the news about World War II was also first to the ‘Third Man’ spy
> Much of the coverage following the death of Clare Hollingworth has focussed upon her reporting on the outbreak of World War II and the fact that she broke the first stories about Germany’s invasion of Poland. But a little more can perhaps be said about her role in another major 20th-century news story. Hollingworth played a significant part in the outing of Kim Philby as the so-called “Third Man” in the Cambridge Spy Ring, following his disappearance from Beirut in January 1963.
The Enigma Machine
> The Enigma Machine was one of the centerpoints of World War II, and its cryptanalysis was one of the stepping stones from breaking codes as an art to cryptography as a science. The machine encrypted messages sent between parts of the German army – operators would type a key on its keyboard, the machine would scramble that, and a letter would light up on the top.
> This notebook simulates an Enigma Machine and visualizes how it works. The Enigma Machine is an especially neat thing to visualize because it was electromechanical. As you used it, it moved. Instead of circuit traces, it had beautiful real wires connecting its pieces.
The history of Tetris randomizers
> In Tetris, a randomizer is a function which returns a randomly chosen piece. Over the years, the rules of how pieces are chosen has evolved, affecting gameplay and actual randomness.
> Several of them have been reversed engineered and documented. I’ve curated a list of ones that I believed to be important and show how the state of Tetris has changed over the years.
Hybrid screen-space reflections
> As realtime raytracing is slowly, but steadily, gaining traction, a range of opportunities to mix rasteration-based rendering systems with raytracing are starting to become available: hybrid raytracing where rasterisation is used to provide the hit points for the primary rays, hybrid shadows where shadowmaps are combined with raytracing to achieve smooth or higher detail shadows, hybrid antialiasing where raytracing is used to antialias the edges only, hybrid reflections, where raytracing is used to fill-in the areas that screenspace reflections can’t resolve due to lack of information.
> Of these, I found the last one particularly interesting: how well can a limited information lighting technique like SSR be combined with a full-scene aware one like raytracing, so I set about exploring this further.
> It’s Not Wrong that “🤦🏼♂️”.length == 7 But It’s Better that “🤦🏼♂️”.len() == 17 and Rather Useless that len(“🤦🏼♂️“) == 5
> The string that contains one graphical unit consists of 5 Unicode scalar values. First, there’s a base character that means a person face palming. By default, the person would have a cartoonish yellow color. The next character is an emoji skintone modifier the changes the color of the person’s skin (and, in practice, also the color of the person’s hair). By default, the gender of the person is undefined, and e.g. Apple defaults to what they consider a male appearance and e.g. Google defaults to what they consider a female appearance. The next two scalar values pick a male-typical appearance specifically regardless of font and vendor. Instead of being an emoji-specific modifier like the skin tone, the gender specification uses an emoji-predating gender symbol (MALE SIGN) explicitly ligated using the ZERO WIDTH JOINER with the (skin-toned) face-palming person. (Whether it is a good or a bad idea that the skin tone and gender specifications use different mechanisms is out of the scope of this post.) Finally, VARIATION SELECTOR-16 makes it explicit that we want a multicolor emoji rendering instead of a monochrome dingbat rendering.
And then we move on from there, in quite some depth.
The Synchronization of Periodic Routing Messages
> The paper considers a network with many apparently-independent periodic processes and discusses one method by which these processes can inadvertently become synchronized. In particular, we study the synchronization of periodic routing messages, and offer guidelines on how to avoid inadvertent synchronization. Using simulations and analysis, we study the process of synchronization and show that the transition from unsynchronized to synchronized traffic is not one of gradual degradation but is instead a very abrupt ‘phase transition’: in general, the addition of a single router will convert a completely unsynchronized traffic stream into a completely synchronized one. We show that synchronization can be avoided by the addition of randomization to the traffic sources and quantify how much randomization is necessary. In addition, we argue that the inadvertent synchronization of periodic processes is likely to become an increasing problem in computer networks.
Public Suffix List Problems
> This is a collection of thoughts from a maintainer of the Public Suffix List (PSL) about the importance of avoiding new Web Platform features, security, or privacy boundaries assuming the PSL is a good starting point.
> Equally terrifying, however, is how many providers only discovered the existence of the PSL once LE was using it to rate limit - meaning that their users were able to influence cookies and other storage without restriction, until an incidental change (wanting to get more certs) caused the server operator to realize.
How Tax Policy Gave Us White Claw
> Because of this tax quirk, beverage companies have long sought ways to make flavored cocktail-like beverages for the U.S. market by brewing instead of distilling. Zima, Smirnoff Ice, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade are all “malternative” beverages, brewed from grain, like beer. A problem with malternatives has been the need to find ways to mask the beer-like flavor that results from brewing. To that end, these drinks have added sugar and strong citrus flavors, which a lot of consumers like. But they don’t serve as a replacement for a vodka soda.
> The key advancement with White Claw and its competitors in the “spiked seltzer” market is the use of sugar base for fermentation, which leads to a more neutral flavor than you can get by fermenting barley or other grains.
Batch renaming images, including image resolution, with awk
> I previously wrote about the power of command line tools like sed. This post expands on how to string all this magical functionality into one big, long, rainbow-coloured, viscous stream of awesome.
The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History
> In 1994, Cesare Marchetti, an Italian physicist, described an idea that has come to be known as the Marchetti Constant. In general, he declared, people have always been willing to commute for about a half-hour, one way, from their homes each day. This principle has profound implications for urban life. The value of land is governed by its accessibility—which is to say, by the reasonable speed of transport to reach it.
> But the endurance of the Marchetti Constant has profound implications for urban life. It means that the average speed of our transportation technologies does more than anything to shape the physical structure of our cities. To see how, let’s travel back in time by more than 2,000 years, and move towards the present.
Planned Obsolescence: Innovation Versus Preservation
> We keep making old stuff significantly less useful in the modern day, sometimes by force. We cite problems things such as security, maintenance, and a devotion to constant evolution as reasons for allowing this to happen. But the net effect is that we are making it impossible to continue using otherwise useful things after even a medium amount of time. I’m not even exclusively talking about things that are decades old. Sometimes, just a few years does the trick. Today’s Tedium ponders planned obsolescence and how it theatens preservation.