How Much of a Genius-Level Move Was Using Binary Space Partitioning in Doom?
> A decade after Doom’s release, in 2003, journalist David Kushner published a book about id Software called Masters of Doom, which has since become the canonical account of Doom’s creation. I read Masters of Doom a few years ago and don’t remember much of it now, but there was one story in the book about lead programmer John Carmack that has stuck with me. This is a loose gloss of the story (see below for the full details), but essentially, early in the development of Doom, Carmack realized that the 3D renderer he had written for the game slowed to a crawl when trying to render certain levels. This was unacceptable, because Doom was supposed to be action-packed and frenetic. So Carmack, realizing the problem with his renderer was fundamental enough that he would need to find a better rendering algorithm, started reading research papers. He eventually implemented a technique called “binary space partitioning,” never before used in a video game, that dramatically sped up the Doom engine.
History of research into BSP.
The History of the URL
> On the 11th of January 1982 twenty-two computer scientists met to discuss an issue with ‘computer mail’ (now known as email). Attendees included the guy who would create Sun Microsystems, the guy who made Zork, the NTP guy, and the guy who convinced the government to pay for Unix. The problem was simple: there were 455 hosts on the ARPANET and the situation was getting out of control.
How the CIA used Crypto AG encryption devices to spy on countries for decades
EASYCHAIR - CIA covert listening devices
> EASYCHAIR – also written as Easy Chair or EC – was the codename of a super secret research project, initiated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), aiming to develop covert listening devices (bugs) based on the principle of the Resonant Cavity Microphone – also known as The Great Seal Bug or The Thing – that had been found in 1952 in the study of the US ambassador’s residency in Moscow, hidden in a donated wooden carving of the Great Seal of the United States.
> Upon discovery of The Thing, many US agencies – including the CIA – investigated the possibility of using the new – hitherto unknown – technology to its own advantage. The secret research took place in the Netherlands at the Dutch Radar Laboratory (NRP) in Noordwijk.
Work Is Work
> Every time I’ve written or spoken about organizational design, I’ve regretted it. There’s something about staking out a position on it which manages to prove me wrong a few years later. But I’ve been having some long thinks about it again, and here’s what I’ve got. Strap the fuck in.
Little Bay Islands relocation
> The strains on Little Bay Islands — emigration, resource collapse, aging populations — are familiar to small towns around the world. Local leaders have tried to revive dying villages with offers of $1 homes or promises to pay would-be residents to move in. Newfoundland and Labrador takes a different approach: It pays you to leave.
Towards a unified theory of reactive UI
> In trying to figure out the best reactive structure for druid, as well as how to communicate that to the world, I’ve been studying a wide range of reactive UI systems. I’ve found an incredible diversity, even though they have fairly consistent goals. This post is an attempt to find common patterns, to characterize the design space as a whole. It will be rough, at some points almost a stream of consciousness. If I had the time and energy, I think it could be expanded into an academic paper. But, for now, perhaps these rough thoughts are interesting to some people working in the space.
Zombie Miles And Napa Weekends: How A Week With Chauffeurs Showed The Major Flaw In Our Self-Driving Car Future
> A few years ago, Mustapha Harb realized there was a problem in his field of research about how autonomous cars will change the way people travel. The solution to the problem he settled on was as simple as it was revealing.
> Using 13 volunteers (a very small sample size due to budgetary constraints) from the San Francisco Bay Area who owned cars, Harb and his team studied their travel patterns using GPS trackers on their cars and phones for one week, then gave them a chauffeur for a week who would drive the participants’ personal vehicles for them. Finally, the researchers observed the subjects for a final week to look for any changes returning to their chauffeur-less life.
The Unrepeatable Architectural Moment of Yugoslavia’s “Concrete Utopia”
> Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija, in Petrova Gora, Croatia. Abstract, boldly expressive memorials once dotted the Yugoslavian countryside by the thousands.
A sport of their own
> A high school wrestler from Kansas spent four years fighting to give girls the opportunity to compete in an official state sport.
The 3 A.M. Phone Call
> It went to a national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was awakened on 9 November 1979, to be told that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the combined U.S.–Canada military command–was reporting a Soviet missile attack. Just before Brzezinski was about to call President Carter, the NORAD warning turned out to be a false alarm. It was one of those moments in Cold War history when top officials believed they were facing the ultimate threat. The apparent cause? The routine testing of an overworked computer system.
Inside the Phone Company Secretly Run By Drug Traffickers
> All over the world, in Dutch clubs like the one Kok frequented, or Australian biker hangouts and Mexican drug safe houses, there is an underground trade of custom-engineered phones. These phones typically run software for sending encrypted emails or messages, and use their own server infrastructure for routing communications.
> For MPC, the process of setting up the devices was relatively simple: MPC would take a Google Nexus 5 or Nexus 5X Android phone, and then add its own security features and operating system, according to social media posts from MPC and a source with knowledge of the process. MPC then created the customer’s messaging accounts, added a data-only SIM card (which MPC paid about £20 a month for), and then sold the phone to the customer at £1,200. Six-month renewals cost £700, the source added. MPC only sold around 5,000 phones, the source said, but that still indicates the business netted the company some £6 million. At one point, a version of MPC’s phones also used code from an open-source, security-focused Android fork called CopperheadOS, three sources said.
How these American dishes evolved from foreign roots
> Gumbo. Chile con queso. California roll. Spaghetti and meatballs.
> The names are as familiar as household brands. Yet how much do you know about these dishes? Based on the names alone, with their roots in other languages and other cultures, each dish sounds like an import. In some ways, they are. But each dish also morphed and adapted to its new environment, transforming into something uniquely American.
Text Rendering Hates You
> Rendering text, how hard could it be? As it turns out, incredibly hard! To my knowledge, literally no system renders text “perfectly”. It’s all best-effort, although some efforts are more important than others.
I lost it at multicolored ligatures.
The Shaw Family Admission Plan
Mostly about buying college admissions through donations, but also how he runs his house.
> The 68-year-old Shaw made his estimated $7.3 billion fortune by bringing the computing revolution to finance. D.E. Shaw & Co., the legendary hedge fund that bears his name, pairs proprietary trading algorithms with obsessive risk management. Less well publicized, however, are the various ways in which Shaw has applied his fund’s risk-averse, quantitative approach to nearly every aspect of his life. Employees tell stories about Shaw wanting Chinese food or a comfortable mattress, and Shaw staff exhaustively researching and testing the options in advance. It was company lore that before Shaw traveled, an assistant would take the exact same trip — same car service, same airport, same seat on the plane — to eliminate any inefficiencies. Shaw has been said to purchase tickets for several different flights on the same day in case his plans change.
"Stubs" in the .NET Runtime
> ‘Stubs’, as they’re known in the runtime (sometimes ‘Thunks’), provide a level of indirection throughout the source code, there’s almost 500 mentions of them!
> This post will explore what they are, how they work and why they’re needed.
Visual Information Theory
> Information theory gives us precise language for describing a lot of things. How uncertain am I? How much does knowing the answer to question A tell me about the answer to question B? How similar is one set of beliefs to another? I’ve had informal versions of these ideas since I was a young child, but information theory crystallizes them into precise, powerful ideas. These ideas have an enormous variety of applications, from the compression of data, to quantum physics, to machine learning, and vast fields in between.
> Unfortunately, information theory can seem kind of intimidating. I don’t think there’s any reason it should be. In fact, many core ideas can be explained completely visually!
The (Mostly) True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway
> There is a commonly held belief that Helvetica is the signage typeface of the New York City subway system, a belief reinforced by Helvetica, Gary Hustwit’s popular 2007 documentary about the typeface. But it is not true—or rather, it is only somewhat true. Helvetica is the official typeface of the MTA today, but it was not the typeface specified by Unimark International when it created a new signage system at the end of the 1960s. Why was Helvetica not chosen originally? What was chosen in its place? Why is Helvetica used now, and when did the changeover occur? To answer those questions this essay explores several important histories: of the New York City subway system, transportation signage in the 1960s, Unimark International and, of course, Helvetica. These four strands are woven together, over nine pages, to tell a story that ultimately transcends the simple issue of Helvetica and the subway.
The Invention of Recombinant DNA Technology
> In the early 1970s, a momentous series of events in the history of science unfolded at points around the San Francisco Bay. Lines of inquiry pursued at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California, San Francisco converged on a set of discoveries that vastly expanded the productive capabilities of molecular genetics, disrupted the customary rhythms and routines of the scientific community, sparked bitter disputes about risks and responsibilities in scientific experimentation, and generated a tsunami of technological change that spread rapidly across multiple domains of productive activity and all around the globe.
> The first recombinant molecule containing DNA from different organisms was assembled late in 1971, in Paul Berg’s laboratory at Stanford. Berg hoped to transduce bacterial and mammalian cells with a recombinant virus in order to study gene expression systems, but subsequently chose not to carry out the planned experiments. He was persuaded by scientific colleagues to consider potential biohazard risks before moving ahead.
> The technology for propagating and expressing recombinant genes was invented by Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer in 1973. It enabled the transformation of bacterial cells into living factories for the directed manufacture of select proteins. The technology was immediately recognized as a tool without parallel in genetics research, and was soon applied to practical ends in a wide variety of fields including medicine, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, chemicals, and energy. It has since transformed the world in which we live.
> The history is complicated.
Where oil rigs go to die
> When a drilling platform is scheduled for destruction, it must go on a thousand-mile final journey to the breaker’s yard. As one rig proved when it crashed on to the rocks of a remote Scottish island, this is always a risky business