HTTPS: the end of an era — Medium

Mozilla, the foundation that maintains Firefox, has announced that it will effectively deprecate the insecure HTTP protocol, eventually forcing all sites to use HTTPS if they hope to use modern features.

This essay explains why this was such depressing news to me, why this shift marks the death of a way of life.

Part 0: HTTP vs HTTPS

If you know the difference between HTTP and HTTPS, you can probably skip this part.

But for those of you not into tech acronyms, HTTP is the hypertext transfer protocol that your browser uses to talk to web servers bringing you data. It is relatively simple, to the point that if you have a way to inspect the packets of data as they come down the wire, you could read the web page right off of them. Those packets are being sent down a long series of routers between you and the web server, and there is a not-insignificant chance that somewhere along the way they are being inspected or stored by criminals, overly aggressive advertisers, the US National Security Agency, or some bored creep somewhere.

Thus HTTPS, the secure version. Via HTTPS, the site you are connecting to (herein, because I don’t feel like inventing something clever) has some associated encryption codes, and your PC (or phone or watch or whatever contraption you are connecting with) uses the codes to encrypt all data before sending it, and the other side sends encrypted data back. So all of the packets are basically illegible to any of the many parties that handle those packets, but are legible to you and the web server at

But what if the NSA intercepts your connection, tells you it is, and tells your PC to use NSA’s preferred encryption codes? You send data encrypted with NSA keys over the wire, the NSA decrypts and records your data, then passes it on to, and passes’s requests back to you after recording those. You think nothing is wrong, but the man-in-the-middle (the NSA) has read all your communications, rendering all that encryption useless.

So you can’t trust the data until you get the right keys, but you can’t trust the keys as being from until you get some other verification, but then how do you trust that other verification? The solution is a signed certificate registering the identity of There are a small number of certificate authorities providing such trustworthy certificates, and your browser knows them by name.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Design History: Design Observer

From the packaging of our belongings to the presentation of our surroundings, most of us recognize that design has, over the course of the past century, become a ubiquitous component in everyday life. Design is signage and graffiti and labels and lace, posters and propaganda and toothbrushes and teapots: objects and artefacts that captivate and delight us, frustrate or provoke us, but why?

This is where design historians come in.

Design history is, after all, social history: it’s an evolutionary (and somewhat cautionary) tale of use and abuse, of innovation and migration, of the inevitable tide of obsolescence that puzzles some of us to such a vexing degree that we simply have no other choice but to become design historians to start making sense of things.

And we begin, like all historians, by doing research.

Live Like a Hydra: Thoughts on how to get stronger when things are chaotic. #2 The Chaos Monkey — Medium

Netflix has a server architecture that currently serves a pretty high percentage of all of the internet’s traffic, due to their streaming video service.

One of the most interesting things about their server architecture is that they routinely attack their own systems. They have a tool called Chaos Monkey that randomly disables their own production instances to make sure they can survive that common type of failure without any customer impact.

Because there are several ways in which servers can fail, they’ve also employed a fleet of monkeys that attack all manner of servers — some that are too slow, some that aren’t connected up to the proper server groups, some that just look weird, etc. And finally, there’s a Chaos Gorilla that doesn’t just turn off individual servers, but occasionally wipes out an entire availability zone, as if Godzilla had destroyed an entire portion of the country.

The philosophy is simple: by building a server architecture that expects failure, the system as a whole can learn how to withstand bigger and tougher obstacles even if they don’t know exactly when or how they will occur in real life.

Meet Margaret Hamilton, the badass ’60s programmer who saved the moon landing – Vox

In the early days, women were often assigned software tasks because software just wasn’t viewed as very important. “It’s not that managers of yore respected women more than they do now,” Rose Eveleth writes in a great piece on early women programmers for Smithsonian magazine. “They simply saw computer programming as an easy job. It was like typing or filing to them and the development of software was less important than the development of hardware. So women wrote software, programmed and even told their male colleagues how to make the hardware better.”

“I began to use the term ‘software engineering’ to distinguish it from hardware and other kinds of engineering,” Hamilton told Verne’s Jaime Rubio Hancock in an interview. “When I first started using this phrase, it was considered to be quite amusing. It was an ongoing joke for a long time. They liked to kid me about my radical ideas. Software eventually and necessarily gained the same respect as any other discipline.”

Hamilton is now 78 and runs Hamilton Technologies, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company she founded in 1986. She’s lived to see “software engineering” — a term she coined — grow from a relative backwater in computing into a prestigious profession.

Meet Margaret Hamilton, the badass ’60s programmer who saved the moon landing – Vox

Apollo was also a major software project. Astronauts used the Apollo Guidance Computer, which was placed in both the command module and the lunar module, for navigation assistance and to control the spacecraft, and someone needed to program it.

The software for the guidance computer was written by a team at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory (now the Draper Laboratory), headed up by Margaret Hamilton. Here’s an amazing picture of her next to the code she and her colleagues wrote for the Apollo 11 guidance computer that made the moon landing possible.

The process of actually coding in the programs was laborious, as well. The guidance computer used something known as “core rope memory”: wires were roped through metal cores in a particular way to store code in binary. “If the wire goes through the core, it represents a one,” Hamilton explained in the documentary Moon Machines. “And around the core it represents a zero.” The programs were woven together by hand in factories. And because the factory workers were mostly women, core rope memory became known by engineers as “LOL memory,” LOL standing for “little old lady.”