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Biweekly links for 02/27/2009

by Michael Nielsen on February 27, 2009
  • Paul Graham: What I’ve Learned from Hacker News
    • “When a technology is this young, the existing solutions are usually terrible; which means it must be possible to do much better; which means many problems that seem insoluble aren’t. Including, I hope, the problem that has afflicted so many previous communities: being ruined by growth.”
  • All Consuming: Giving up the Gun: Japan’s Reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879
    • “Guns were introduced to Japan early on with the arrival of the first Europeans in 1543. And yet in 1854 when Cmdr Perry “opened up Japan” in his “black ships”, it seemed like nobody knew much about them. In fact, between those years, Japan had taken up the gun, improved it vastly (initially swordsmen triumphed over gunners because guns were susceptible to wet weather and took a long time to prime and reload), and then gave up on them. This book seeks to find out why.”
  • Geeking with Greg: Jeff Dean keynote at WSDM 2009
    • “Jeff gave several examples of how Google has grown from 1999 to 2009. They have x1000 the number of queries now. They have x1000 the processing power (# machines * speed of the machines). They went from query latency normally under 1000ms to normally under 200ms. And, they dropped the update latency by a factor of x10000, going from months to detect a changed web page and update their search results to just minutes.

      The last of those is very impressive. Google now detects many web page changes nearly immediately, computes an approximation of the static rank of that page, and rolls out an index update. For many pages, search results now change within minutes of the page changing. There are several hard problems there — frequency and importance of recrawling, fast approximations to PageRank, and an architecture that allows rapid updates to the index — that they appear to have solved.”

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