Blockchain Basics

Marley's Ghost
Marley’s Ghost, sporting an early version of the Bitcoin blockchain.

Google bod and author Ilya Grigorik has written a great piece explaining the concept behind the Bitcoin blockchain and how the whole thing works. Beginning with a simple analogy featuring our good old hypothetical friends Alice and Bob wanting to swap items from their stamp collections, it gradually builds up into an overview of how a cryptocoin blockchain functions.

It’s certainly the best-written and most clearly explained piece of writing on the subject that I’ve come across, since I started dipping my brain in the CryptoCurrency waters.

Enlighten yourself here:

Bracket Beauty Contest

Bracket Babe Boogaloo
Bracket Babe Boogaloo has a nice interactive graph showing the relative popularity of various programming languages. The data is based on a measuring a combination of GitHub commits and tags added to posts on StackOverflow. The data upon which the graph relies is refreshed every four hours in order to keep it up-to-date. Pretty cool –and some surprising contenders for ‘Top of the Pops’.

Mind you, given the sources used for generating the data, being a chart-topper might be more a reflection of the fact that a language generates more bemusement [StackOverflow] or is more prone to needing bugfixes [GitHub] than an indication of Geek-Love.

Kick the tyres here:

Michael Sayman, The Self-Taught iOS Coding Kid

Michael Sayman ©
Michael Sayman © has a story about Michael Sayman, a 17 year old kid, who taught himself iOS coding at the age of 13, through Googling for online tutorials and is now author of one of the best selling word games on Apple’s App Store.

His earnings from his foray into app programming helped his folks keep up payments on their mortgage, when they were in danger of losing their home during the recent recession. Michael is now being head-hunted by Facepuke and has even been ushered into the hallowed presence of ‘The Zuck’ himself.

And, according to the article and various comments on it, he’s also a nice humble kid and not yer typical precocious teenager. Sounds like a nice heart-warming© story.

More here:

Did Leonardo Da Vinci Invent 3D-Imagery?

3D Spex
3D Spex

Er…. no. Next question?

An article posted on, posits a theory that a couple of researchers in Germany have come up with [presumably after one-too-many tokes on the crack pipe] , suggesting that subtle differences in perspective between the original Mona Lisa in the Louvre and a copy in the Prado in Madrid suggest that Leonardo may have been experimenting with 3D-imagery.

Mona Lisa x 2
Mona Lisa x 2

In a move that is sure to delight readers of The Register, the Krazy Krauts have even used Playmobil figures to mock up the deduced positions of the painters of the two masterpieces.

The re-creation has da Vinci standing to the right of the other artist, and a little farther from the subject. “They did not stand just side to side. This would have changed the perspective dramatically, because a body is about 60 centimeters wide,” Carbon says. “So the first person stands a little to the side but also a little bit more ahead of the other,” Carbon says. This setup would have minimised the perspective distance between the artists.

Eat your heart out, El Reg!
Eat your heart out, El Reg!

Duh! –or maybe could it possibly be that Leonardo placed the student slightly in front and to the side of himself, so he could look over his shoulder and keep an eye on how he was getting on?


Ingest the drivel here:‘mona-lisa’

Duplitecture –China’s Copy-Cat Cities.

Paris, Shanghai
San Carlos, Shanghai

If you thought the Americans were bad for copying classical architecture from abroad and rebuilding it in their own image, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The Chinese have been building entire city sized conurbations, based around a variety of classical architectural styles and iconic cityscapes from around the world.

Thames Town, Shanghai
Thames Town, Shanghai site has an interesting article about a forthcoming book by Bianca Bosker called “Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China” in which the author examines this Chinese fascination with copying the urban environments they admire from elsewhere and recreating them bang in the middle of their major cities. Apparently the Chinese attitude to such ‘photocopying’ differs from the Western, which tends to see such unoriginality as ‘tacky’.

Even in pre-modern China, the country’s leaders saw copycatting as a way to assert their status to both their subjects and rivals. Bosker explains in the book that in the third century B.C., the First Emperor celebrated his conquest of six rival kingdoms by rebuilding their palaces within his capital city.

In the time since then, “China has cultivated a more permissive and nuanced attitude toward copying,” Bosker says. “Though China also prizes originality, replication is not only permitted, but also valued as a marker of skill and ability.”

Read the article and find out more about the book here:

Cakebrew –a GUI for Homebrew

Developer Bruno Philipe has released a GUI frontend for Homebrew, called Cakebrew.

That’s not a cake. It’s a bun!

For those of you not in the know, Homebrew is a handy command line utility [ie you run it in a terminal by typing in textual commands, rather than by clicking on 'stuff' in an pretty interface] which simplifies the process of installing and managing various other Linux/BSD command line softwares,  in mac OSX.

Given that anyone using Homebrew will already be using the command line and almost exclusvely installing command line software; and further given that Homebrew prides itself on its ease of use, simple commands and “terminal newbie” friendliness; those of you in the know, might wonder what the point of releasing a GUI for it is. But, hey-ho. what do I know. I thought edible trousers would never catch on!

Anyway, you can wrap your Homebrew installation in some GUI cake here:

U-Boat Type XXI

From our “well, you learn something new every day!” department. there’s an interesting story on about an all-electric U-boat, the Type XXI, developed by the Nazi’s from 1943 onwards as another in their ill-fated line-up of “wonder weapons” that were going to change the course of the war [but didn't].

U-Boat, Type XXI

Unfortunately, the author has chosen to adopt the vocabulary of a spotty American teenager in his intro. But if you grit your teeth and ignore the “fail”s and “awesome”s, it’s still a worthwhile read.

Read it here, dude:

[ASIDE: Some interesting scrolling effects on that page. Methinks I will have to investigate further]