01 July 2016


Michael D. Gordin reviews How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet, by Benjamin Peters.
... Peters finds six different proposals to develop an 'all-union' computer network. This stands to reason, given what he calls “the outsized infrastructural imagination of Soviet planners”, who liked their projects big and utopian — think the space programme, dams and nuclear power.

23 June 2016

You could look it up

dominic introduces the new read-write API for the U.S. National Archives' online catalog. Plus-one from me for providing (rate-limited) access without an API key or authentication -- quick start mode, if you will. I also like defaulting to pretty-print.

And search results return a field queryTime, which looks like it's the number of milliseconds that it took to execute the query (the interactive documentation isn't clear about this): of some value to client software, but very useful for developers maintaining and performance-testing the API itself.

Still won't take out the recyclables

Dag Spicer profiles Jim Sutherland's ECHO IV home computer, assembled in 1966 out of surplus modules from a Westinghouse Prodac-IV process control computer. The multi-cabinet machine was the forerunner of today's X10 ecosystem, but it also provided basic word processing, through a modified IBM Selectric typewriter.

22 June 2016

Reading list: 1

Basiri et al., "Chaos Engineering," IEEE Software 33: 3

Abstract: Modern software-based services are implemented as distributed systems with complex behavior and failure modes. Many large tech organizations are using experimentation to verify such systems' reliability. Netflix engineers call this approach chaos engineering. They've determined several principles underlying it and have used it to run experiments. This article is part of a theme issue on DevOps.

For me, the most interesting bit of the paper is this: Rather than simply measuring "is it up or down?" Netflix uses continuous-variable, time-dependent metrics to determine whether system availability has been affected by a test manipulation. For instance, they have a curve that predicts SPS (stream starts per second) over the course of any 24-hour day, based on past performance.