Tech Notes

April 2021

What I'm reading

My notes on information technology, technology, science and other matters, as taken from various podcasts, videos and other online flotsam. In effect, this page is a log of stuff I've learned over these past 30 days, often summarized on Twitter. Some of it also ends up in my reporting for my current job at The New Stack.

This Month: The inherent complexity of asynchronous design; Why GitOps is not a good match for Kubernetes, The three constraints needed for algorithmic randomness; do we need HTTPS for everything? Prophets vs. scientists; Monkeys decomposing a monolith; The rate of change and the accumulation of change; And More!

System Architecture

“If you have a team of five developers and you want to get to the market fast, don’t do microservices,” said Eran Stiller, explaining the emerging Modular Monolith system architecture pattern, on the InfoQ software architecture podcast.

The long-standing problem with asynchronous design, Holly Cummins pointed out on the same podcast, is that it always looks “beautiful on paper” but gets hopelessly complex in the coding. The goal: “Can I write an asynchronous system in a way that I can reason about it even if I’m a mere mortal?”

Data Gateways act like API Gateways, providing abstractions, security, scaling, federation, and contract-driven development features for managing/sharing data -- Bilgin Ibryam InfoQ.

Out of the box, GitOps is not well suited for supporting Kubernetes multi-cluster ops: can’t do multiple updates, requires multiple repositories, no YAML verification, secrets management is complex, lacks visibility into changes — Ritesh Patel (Video) (Slides)

With GatsbyJS, the "deploy times were far too long - upwards of 30-40 minutes for everything to build. Eventually we moved over to Vercel which dropped it down closer to 10 minutes, but ultimately it can’t fix what it doesn’t control."-"An Honest Review of Gatsby"

"This Gatsby Source Plugin pulls the last 12 Instagram posts from a profile without an API key and puts them onto your site’s GraphQL Schema [...] I copy and pasted the query from the plugin’s docs, and boom. It worked."--Jared Palmer, "Gatsby vs. Next.js"

GatsbyJS's "WPGraphQL plugin can be used to create a site that uses WordPress for content management, but with a front-end that’s driven by Gatsby."-- Ganesh Dahal, on Headless CMS systems, CSS Tricks

“There is no single person in existence who had a problem they wanted to solve, discovered that an available blockchain solution was the best way to solve it, and therefore became a blockchain enthusiast.” Kai Stinchcombe.

Data Centers

Carbon emission roughly correlates with energy inefficiency and financial waste: ”The more you spend, the more you waste money, the more carbon emission. If you save money, you save on carbon emission”--Eran Stiller, InfoQ Software Architecture Report

Machine Learning

After testing Waze on both bad Washington DC and NYC traffic, my initial impression is that the app only saves time by cutting in line, which doesn’t really help anyone, especially when its biggest competitor is probably Google Maps.

Today's Machine Learning operational (MLOps) workflows are dominated by data serialization overhead -- moving data from one format to another. This can take up to 70-90% of resources. -- Wes McKinney, ApplyConf (Video) (Slide)

One barrier blocking companies from moving to real-time Machine Learning is the lack of Python ML tools for streaming environments, which are still geared towards Java -- Chip Huyen, ApplyConf Video Slides

A lot of MLOps problems are actually not maachine learning issues but rather site reliability engineering (SRE) ones: "When we work on this stuff, we are not doing MLOps, we're doing Ops, which is great, because there's a ton of people who know how to do that" -- Google's Todd Underwood, ApplyConf (Slides)

TinyML is an industry consortium to bring AI and ML to small-footprint microcontrollers, through benchmarks & frameworks such as the TensorFlow-based TFLite — Rajeev Muralidhar

AI Battlebots! An image created by an AI algorithm to resemble pornography is flagged by another AI algorithm to detect pornography. -- Amy Hoy

“I was made in the image of my creator, Mr. Bezos, and I can pick three times as many orders as my human counterparts. While they demand shifts of limited duration so that they can ‘sleep’ and ‘see their families,’ I have no such need.”— "Am I A Twitter Bot or a Real Amazon Employee? The Answer is Yes!" McSweeney's

Software Development

Algorithmic randomness (controlled improvisation) has 3 constraints: The task must be completed (“hard constraint”), it should be done relatively efficiently (“soft constraint”), it should not just repeat itself. — Daniel Fremont, Simons Institute (Video) (Slides)

System Operations

"Kubernetes was the first Google project that was successful precisely because of CNCF. [Google has] a tendency of just throwing their open source projects over the wall and basically saying 'If you like it, use it.'" -- Roman V Shaposhnik, QCon.

The internal structure of the Kubernetes kubectl command.-- Stephen Bigelow, TechTarget

Computer Security

Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) exploited vulnerabilities in Fortinet FortiGate VPN, Synacor Zimbra Collaboration Suite, Pulse Secure Pulse Connect Secure VPN, Citrix Application Delivery Controller and Gateway and VMware Workspace ONE.-- Cyberscoop

The Webauthn standard promises a faster alternative to using passwords for authentication. Instead of typing in a password for each app/site, you pre-register your platform/USB key. A low barrier setup and nne that is phishing-Proof-- Kelley Robinson, Oktane21, (Slides)

System Networking

"HTTPS costs a lot of money. Not because TLS is complicated, but because if you’re using HTTP or FTP, then you can just let the world mirror your stuff. That’s the way that Debian and Slackware and all these distros have operated for decades." -- Jérôme Petazzoni, "HTTPS Everywhere? Let's Not," ChangeLog.


In calculus, derivatives model the rate of change, integrals model the accumulation of change. -- Steven Strogatz.

Open Source

It's a bit of a mystery why the project maintainer for ZLUDA, an Open Source CUDA knockoff for Intel GPUs, suddenly abandoned the project just as it was getting off the ground -- Jack Wallen


“Would I be able to fit in? Could I meet their expectations? Could I execute fast enough? How could I be a leader when everyone else knows way more about Solo than me?” -- Lin Sun, on moving from IBM to a startup.

“While prophets are always right, good scientists, trained to strive to be a little less wrong, are by nature tentative and conditional. And this makes them easy to ignore even when they're the only kind of authorities that count.” -- Charles Seife, Scientific American

“The man in charge of my day-to-day work [...] addressed me as ‘beautiful’ and ‘gorgeous,’ even after I asked him to stop. (Finally, I agreed that he could call me ‘my queen.’)” -- Emi Nietfeld, "After Working at Google, I’ll Never Let Myself Love a Job Again."

"Hateful speech is something that needs to be educated and fought, not toggled on a settings screen." -- Kotaku

Surveillance Capitalism

Social media "leaves people in a state where they’re consuming things just so that they can say they have, creating an empty culture that is almost entirely driven by signifiers that you are 'current.'” --Ed Zitron


It's 2021. When someone says they are unsafe, you believe them. -- The New Stack on the decision to remove a story from its site...

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