We’re saps at heart, really

Friday Five: not Valentine’s Day edition

While we try to keep the Friday Five as topical as possible - latching on to any arbitrary date in the calendar - Valentine’s Day (yesterday, for those with better things to think about) is simply too vomit-inducing to use as a theme.

So instead let’s go for space. Or something. Anything but Valentine’s Day.

1. Fatcache crunches big data

Another week, another bit of tech open-sourced by Twitter*. The beautifully-named Fatcache is described as “memcache on SSD”, and is a separate project to Twitter’s own Memcache fork, Twemcache. Designed specifically to cope with Twitter-level ‘big data’, Fatcache incorporates SSDs to extend regular memory. If that brief description has piqued your interest, the full source - along with quite a bit of theory - is available on GitHub.

* Actually, an interesting note: Twitter’s number of open source projects is in part thanks to their ‘acquihire’ strategy. Chris Aniszczyk last week mentioned at Monkigras that when startups are absorbed into the Tworg, their existing products are often given back to the community.

2. iOS 6.1 unsixcessful

The sixth version of Apple’s mobile operating system will forever be known as “the one that made the maps rubbish”, and it seems the latest update has inherited its predecessor’s curse. Last friday, Exchange server admins found their systems crashing under excessive logging by devices running iOS 6.1 - leading many to block their own users from their system (Apple have since announced that a fix is on its way).

Unfortunately, this week another problem, equally as dangerous, has been identified: a security flaw that allows bypassing of a device’s lock screen. Here’s hoping this one gets a quick fix, too.

3. In space, no-one can hear you sing

Six weeks ago, we featured a Twitter exchange between William Shatner (famous, of course, for his portrayal of Captain Kirk in Star Trek) and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, currently in orbit aboard the ISS. This week, Commander Hadfield and his intimidating moustache are back in the headlines once again - this time recording a song with Barenaked Ladies and a children’s choir, again live from the ISS.

‘I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing)’ was commissioned by Canadian charities to promote music within schools, but isn’t a bad song in itself. The most impressive part of the video - other than Commander Hadfield’s zero-gravity pick - is the incredibly low latency of the live video stream. If only terrestrial Skype was as lag-free.

4. A Star Wars Spectacular

You may have noticed a bizarre glut of Star Wars articles on Wired this month - a result of their February print issue being devoted exclusively to exploring Lucas’ universe. The most inspired piece is surely ‘Inside the Battle of Hoth’, a 1000+ word essay on the snowy sequence that opens The Empire Strikes Back.

“Of all the Empire’s failures, none is a more spectacular military fiasco than the Battle of Hoth,” writes Spencer Ackerman, tongue firmly in cheek. A blow-by-blow dissection of Vader’s failings follows - such as his involvement in the ground assault (which “can’t be justified militarily”) - illustrated with interactive illustrations of the troops’ movement.

Ackerman concludes: “It’s a classic fiasco of overconfidence and theology masquerading as military judgment — and the exact opposite of the Empire striking back.”

5. Goat away from me!

And finally... the Friday Five’s regular animal spot is this week occupied by goats, those lovable scamps. Best-known for their climbing skills and appetite for, well, anything, it turns out that goats are also pretty good at imitating distressed human voices, as this video demonstrates.

Elliot Bentley

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