What Open AI just did

Open AI just released ChatGPT 4o. The launch demo is available on YouTube, and yes, it is impressive. They did not launch v5, though, and 4o is only incremental, not exponential, as v4 has been compared to its predecessor. It may mean we’re at the end of the “exponential growth” phase of LLM models. However, the most critical aspect of this release is not technical, as Ethan Mollick correctly pinpoints in his timely What Open AI Did post:...

May 14, 2024

Tor: from the Dark Web to the Future of Privacy

This one looks like a promising read: Tor, one of the most important and misunderstood technologies of the digital age, is best known as the infrastructure underpinning the so-called Dark Web. But the real “dark web,” when it comes to Tor, is the hidden history brought to light in this book: where this complex and contested infrastructure came from, why it exists, and how it connects with global power in intricate and intimate ways....

April 26, 2024

Redis is forked

Vicki Boykis has a good piece on Redis’s recent vicissitudes. At the same time, she recaps where we stand and sings the praises of a project that many are fond of, and not just for its technical worth. I, like many developers who have worked on high-scale, low-latency web services over the last fifteen years, have an intimate relationship with Redis. At any new job, when you ask where the data is, and someone points you to a server address with port 6379, you know you will meet an good, reliable friend there....

April 19, 2024

AI isn't useless. But is it worth it?

Molly White’s experience with LLMs corresponds more or less with my own, but she is much better at recounting, critiquing, and drawing conclusions than I am. I find my feelings about AI are actually pretty similar to my feelings about blockchains: they do a poor job of much of what people try to do with them, they can’t do the things their creators claim they one day might, and many of the things they are well suited to do may not be altogether that beneficial....

April 18, 2024

Timeline of the XZ open source attack

The so-called “XZ attack” is all over the internet these days, and for good reason. Over a period of over two years, an attacker using the name “Jia Tan” worked as a diligent, effective contributor to the xz compression library, eventually being granted commit access and maintainership. Using that access, they installed a very subtle, carefully hidden backdoor into liblzma, a part of xz that also happens to be a dependency of OpenSSH sshd on Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and other systemd-based Linux systems....

April 2, 2024

William Adams: english advisor to the Shogun

I am not a fan of TV series. However, I have been following the Shogun miniseries with a fair amount of interest, mainly because I am intrigued by the setting and historical period covered. As is always the case with modern TV series, it started very well (the first two to three episodes). Then it slowed down, getting stuck in the main characters’ fanciful and improbable personal affairs and agendas, straying from the main plot, essentially muddling along until, I assume, the last episode of the season that will end with a bang....

March 26, 2024

Cannibalism as a way to honor the dead

As it appears, cannibalism was much more widespread than previously thought, and perhaps for more complex reasons than we think. To honor the dead, for example. Our ancestors have been eating each other for a million years or more. In fact, it seems that, down the ages, around a fifth of societies have practised cannibalism. While some of this people-eating may have been done simply to survive, in many cases, the reasons look more complex....

March 16, 2024

Quoting Lars Wirzenius

Take care of yourself. Sleep. Eat. Exercise. Rest. Relax. Take care of other people, as best you can. People are important. Software is just fun. – Lars Wirzenius, in his noteworthy 40 years of programming

March 13, 2024

Medieval monks also had focus issues

Medieval monks also needed help with focus and attention. Joel J Miller discusses this in What Monks Know About Focus, the latest issue of Miller’s Book Review, which I recently discovered and shows great promise. While technology has evolved in the last fifteen hundred years, the human brain has not. And few people in the ancient world cared as much about the challenges of attention and distraction as monks. Our reasons might differ today, but we have much to learn nonetheless....

March 10, 2024

Paying people to work on open source is good actually

From my experience as a maintainer of midly successful open-source projects, I have come to the conclusion that people who criticize accepting payment to work on such projects are either acting in bad faith or are incredibly naive. Anyway, Jacob Kaplan-Moss’s recent Paying people to work on open source is good is a stellar post on the topic of open-source sustainability. My fundamental position is that paying people to work on open source is good, full stop, no exceptions....

February 17, 2024