Weeknotes 2024.13

While working on a prototype, I was reminded how valuable a product glossary can be. Elsewhere we have AI and the hardware for it, a couple of severe vulnerabilities, the intersection of IT and law, another Excel horror story, a bit of nice engineering and the memo of the century.

The last week was mostly concerned with prototyping work and removing the kinks out of a concept. When you’re building something that is a bit outside traditional boxes, you sometimes end up shaping even the language used.

The glossary is probably one of the most crucial and overlooked elements in product building. It helps with communication free of ambiguity, both within the team building the product and the people eventually using the product.

Allow me one little side rant: the week was marred with annoying bugs in software I rely on heavily. It's hard to not get cynical about all the advances and promises of AI, when your computer fails at some of the most basic functions.



Mostly Artificial (Intelligence)

Apple is in talks with other companies to use their LLMs. I have seen multiple takes ranging from the typical “Apple is doomed” and shuttering all their own efforts, to Apple doing what they do with search (adding Google Search as default) and like they did maps (partnering with Google Maps before rolling their own). At the same time they release their own models. In the end it may very well be the latter with some smaller on-device Apple model that acts as gatekeeper to the LLMs in the cloud.

xAI releases Grok as open source. How open source? Architecture and weights are Apache 2.0 licensed, which is more open source than say Llama 2. What’s again missing is some indication of what the training data was.

Speaking of which, the largest public domain data corpus for training LLMs has been released. Have at it! How? Look at the next link 👇

Nvidia unveils Blackwell B200 and it’s a beast. There is some trickery with the way they count their FLOPs, but nonetheless it’s impressive, especially the rack version. If Nvidia gave me one, I could certainly find use for it 😂

Mostly Legal

Redis changes its license to ditch open source and the fallout is massive and quite frankly deserved in this instance. The remarks in the Github issue also show how little some developers know about software licenses. That should not distract from the fact that the execution of this license change has been abysmal.

US DOJ is suing Apple for anti-competitive behaviour. There are plenty of comments and articles already and you will read even more. As per usual with lawsuits concerning technology, it’s a pretty mixed bag of valid concerns that need to be addressed and blatant misconceptions which make you question whether the author of the suit was a complete technology illiterate. As I said before, unfortunately this combination of ignorance and arrogance that this knowledge is irrelevant for a verdict is rampant with practitioners of law. Which makes the verdicts often less than optimal, but I digress.

Oh boy, the DMA saga continues. Vestager, the EU antitrust chief, chimes in on it.

Mostly Vulnerable

Firebase is a dumpster fire, excuse the pun. Not Firebase itself, but the way it’s used by most developers. Turns out, it is pretty easy to misconfigure, which leaves the data of huge numbers of sites virtually unprotected, including email addresses, password (some of which were plaintext, to add insult to injury) and banking details. Almost 125 million unprotected records. As Simon points out, only 24% of contacted site owners shipped a fix. Not good. (via)

Apple Silicon has a vulnerability via a side-channel attack. M1 and M2 can’t be fixed. M3 seemingly has an optional mitigation, albeit with “massive” performance hits. If it’s the first time you hear about side-channel attacks, be prepared for plenty of “WTF?!” in your head when reading what they are.

Hackers can circumvent over 3 million door locks deployed in hotels. I still can’t get over the fact, how much “fun” it must be for the local businesses, to have two InfoSec conferences back-to-back in town. So pro-actively inviting a group of researchers to have a go at all the things in your hotel is probably the smartest move you can do.

Mostly good old Engineering

Imagine having a 2 days debug cycle. That’s the reality the Voyager 1 engineers face. I love these challenges. (via)

How does SQLite store data? What you learn from partially implementing SQLite from scratch. Love it.

Williams has been using Excel to manage car design. Unfortunately for Excel fans, this is not a success story, quite the contrary. It shows how much resources are wasted and value is destroyed if you don’t take your IT serious. Another nail in the coffin of the concept of cost vs. profit centers.

A memo about memos

It’s a memo about being short and having it all. It is short and has it all: Gobbledygook, a company named “Smaller War Plants Corp”, with a chairman called Maury Maverick.

See you next week!