Link Dump

Just the usual link dump of interesting stuffs for the depths of ye olde internets:

  • NASA’s Voyager 1 Resumes Sending Engineering Updates to Earth – Voyager 1 stopped sending usable data back to earth last November, and NASA has been trying to figure out why. In March, they figured out that a specific chip had failed, refactored the code, and sent the update out 15 billion miles. Voyager 1 has now resumed sending useful data about interstellar space back to Earth. A pretty astounding feat of engineering.
  • Project Lyra is a feasibility study for a mission that would send a space probe out, bounce it off Jupiter, sending it back towards the sun, which will throw it out of our solar system so fast that it can catch up to Oumuamua (the mysterious space rock that passed through our solar system, changing course in a way that was difficult to explain, and thus leading to much speculation that it was an alien spacecraft or somesuch.) This animation gives a much better view of how the Oberth maneuvers at Jupiter and the Sun would work (and it’s set to Free Bird as a bonus):

  • The Man Who Killed Google Search – Speaking of astounding feats of engineering… let’s look at the opposite of that. It’s become something of a truism that Google Search has degraded significantly over the last several years, and it turns out that the reason is rather obvious. All you need to do is prioritize short term economic growth over experience (hiring the guy who killed Yahoo search to do this for you is almost too on the nose, and yet…). Their previous market dominance and simple inertia have kept things going, but man, this story is wild. I suspect AI will eat Google’s lunch (especially since their AI was such a spectacular failure). This story of the enshittification of Google is pretty solid:

These emails are a stark example of the monstrous growth-at-all-costs mindset that dominates the tech ecosystem, and if you take one thing away from this newsletter, I want it to be the name Prabhakar Raghavan, and an understanding that there are people responsible for the current state of technology.

… Do you want to know what Prabhakar Raghavan’s old job was? What Prabhakar Raghavan, the new head of Google Search, the guy that has run Google Search into the ground, the guy who is currently destroying search, did before his job at Google?

He was the head of search for Yahoo from 2005 through 2012 — a tumultuous period that cemented its terminal decline, and effectively saw the company bow out of the search market altogether. His responsibilities? Research and development for Yahoo’s search and ads products.

  • Google Cloud accidentally deletes UniSuper’s online account due to ‘unprecedented misconfiguration’ – Not to completely rag on Google here, I’ve worked on enough of this sort of thing to see pretty surprising lapses like this happen, but it appears the enshittification of Google is not limited to search. Somewhere, there’s a gruff, difficult engineer who pissed off management by insisting they maintain redundant backups, and he’s feeling vindicated at this moment. This whole story reminded me of Taleb’s The Black Swan and his notion of resilience (which is why Google’s growth-at-all-costs short term view is damaging their company).
  • No One Buys Books – During an antitrust trial, all the publishing houses had to disclose a bunch of info about the book business and the information is somewhat eye opening. In brief: Almost all book sales are driven by celebrities (i.e. Britney Spears, etc…), franchise authors (i.e. James Patterson, etc…), and repeat bestsellers from the backlist (i.e. the Bible). Basically, what we think of when we think of books are a gigantic vanity project, with most books making no money at all and typically selling less than 1,000 copies. Seems kinda screwy, but at least that vanity project seems to be persisting (at least, until the publishing industry’s Prabhakar Raghavan arrives).

That’s all for now…

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