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January 17 2014

Four short links: 17 January 2014

  1. Making Remote WorkThe real­ity of a remote work­place is that the con­nec­tions are largely arti­fi­cial con­structs. Peo­ple can be very, very iso­lated. A person’s default behav­ior when they go into a funk is to avoid seek­ing out inter­ac­tions, which is effec­tively the same as actively with­draw­ing in a remote work envi­ron­ment. It takes a tremen­dous effort to get on video chats, use our text based com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools, or even call some­one dur­ing a dark time. Very good to see this addressed in a post about remote work.
  2. Google Big Picture Group — public output from the visualization research group at Google.
  3. Using CMOS Sensors in a Cellphone for Gamma Detection and Classification (Arxiv) — another sense in your pocket. The CMOS camera found in many cellphones is sensitive to ionized electrons. Gamma rays penetrate into the phone and produce ionized electrons that are then detected by the camera. Thermal noise and other noise needs to be removed on the phone, which requires an algorithm that has relatively low memory and computational requirements. The continuous high-delta algorithm described fits those requirements. (via Medium)
  4. Affordable Arduino-Compatible Centimeter-Level GPS Accuracy (IndieGogo) — for less than $20. (via DIY Drones)

January 02 2014

December 24 2013

Four short links: 24 December 2013

  1. Arduino Robot — for all your hacking needs.
  2. LIDAR for Smartphones (DIYdrones) — The device attaches to the back of a smartphone and combines a built-in laser range finder, 3D compass and Bluetooth chip with the phone’s camera and GPS.
  3. Bridge Inspection Robot Equipping Magnets — 7.8 inches/second, magnets, can scuttle up walls and along ceilings.
  4. OpenEmu — nice-looking emulator framework for OS X. Make your Christmas present a trip back in time.

November 28 2013

October 24 2013

Four short links: 24 October 2013

  1. Visually Programming Arduino — good for little minds.
  2. Rapid Hardware Iteration at Scale (Forbes) — It’s part of the unique way that Xiaomi operates, closely analyzing the user feedback it gets on its smartphones and following the suggestions it likes for the next batch of 100,000 phones. It releases them every Tuesday at noon Beijing time.
  3. Machine Learning of Hierarchical Clustering to Segment 2D and 3D Images (PLoS One) — We propose an active learning approach for performing hierarchical agglomerative segmentation from superpixels. Our method combines multiple features at all scales of the agglomerative process, works for data with an arbitrary number of dimensions, and scales to very large datasets.
  4. Kratuan Open Source client-side analysis framework to create simple yet powerful renditions of data. It allows you to dynamically adjust your view of the data to highlight issues, opportunities and correlations in the data.

June 14 2013

Radar podcast: the Internet of Things, PRISM, and defense technology that goes civilian

On this week’s podcast, Jim Stogdill, Roger Magoulas and I talk about things that have been on our minds lately: the NSA’s surveillance programs, what defense contractors will do with their technology as defense budgets dry up, and a Californian who isn’t doing what you think he’s doing with hydroponics.

The odd ad in The Economist that caught Jon's attention, from Dassault Systemes.The odd ad in The Economist that caught Jon's attention, from Dassault Systemes.

The odd ad in The Economist that caught Jon’s attention, from Dassault Systemes. Does this suggest that contractors, contemplating years of American and European austerity, are looking for ways to market defense technologies to the civilian world?

Because we’re friendly Web stewards, we provide links to the more obscure things that we talk about in our podcasts. Here they are.

If you enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe on iTunes, on SoundCloud, or directly through our podcast RSS feed.

April 16 2013

Four short links: 16 April 2013

  1. Triage — iPhone app to quickly triage your email in your downtime. See also the backstory. Awesome UI.
  2. Webcam Pulse Detector — I was wondering how long it would take someone to do the Eulerian video magnification in real code. Now I’m wondering how long it will take the patent-inspired takedown…
  3. How Microsoft Quietly Built the City of the FutureThe team now collects 500 million data transactions every 24 hours, and the smart buildings software presents engineers with prioritized lists of misbehaving equipment. Algorithms can balance out the cost of a fix in terms of money and energy being wasted with other factors such as how much impact fixing it will have on employees who work in that building. Because of that kind of analysis, a lower-cost problem in a research lab with critical operations may rank higher priority-wise than a higher-cost fix that directly affects few. Almost half of the issues the system identifies can be corrected in under a minute, Smith says.
  4. UDOO (Kickstarter) — mini PC that could run either Android or Linux, with an Arduino-compatible board embedded. Like faster Raspberry Pi but with Arduino Due-compatible I/O.

February 26 2013

Four short links: 26 Feb 2013

  1. School of Data — free online courses around data science and visualization.
  2. libshorttext — classify and analyse short-text of things like titles, questions, sentences, and short messages. MIT-style open source license, Python and C++ source.
  3. Letterboxd — a site for movie lovers from Kiwi Foo alums. I love people who build experiences to help people express their love of things.
  4. RadioBlocks and SimpleMesh — mesh networking for Arduino.

February 19 2013

Four short links: 19 February 2013

  1. Using Silk Road — exploring the transactions, probability of being busted, and more. Had me at the heading Silk Road as Cyphernomicon’s black markets. Estimates of risk of participating in the underground economy.
  2. Travis CIa hosted continuous integration service for the open source community. It is integrated with GitHub.
  3. Chinese Cyber-Espionage Unit (PDF) — exposé of one of China’s Cyber Espionage Units. (via Reddit /r/netsec)
  4. $250 Arduino-Powered Hand Made by a Teenthe third version of his robotic hand. The hand is primarily made with 3D printing, with the exception of motors, gears, and other hardware. The control system is activated by flexing a pre-chosen muscle, such as curling your toes, then the movement is chosen and controlled by a series of eyeblinks and an EEG headset to measure brainwaves. The most remarkable part is that the hand costs a mere $250.

December 31 2012

Four short links: 31 December 2012

  1. Wireless Substitution (BoingBoing, CDC) — very nice graph showing the decline in landlines/growth in wireless.
  2. Maker’s RowOur mission is to make the manufacturing process simple to understand and easy to access. From large corporations to first time designers, we are providing unparalleled access to industry-specific factories and suppliers across the United States.
  3. mySight (GitHub) — myspectral.com Spectruino analyzer for light spectra in UV/VIS/NIR.
  4. State of the World (Bruce Sterling, John Lebkowsky) — always a delight. Come 2013, I think it’s time for people in and around the “music industry” to stop blaming themselves, and thinking their situation is somehow special. Whatever happens to musicians will eventually happen to everybody. Nobody was or is really much better at “digital transition” than musicians were and are. If you’re superb at digitalization, that’s no great solution either. You just have to auto-disrupt and re-invent yourself over and over and over again.

December 26 2012

Four short links: 26 December 2012

  1. Arduino IR Remote Control — control your Arduino project via your TV’s remote control. (via Arduino)
  2. holler — WTFPL-licensed Javascript library for real-time in-app notifications via the commandline (uses node). (via Javascript Weekly)
  3. First Tweets — numbers of “first tweet from my new {X}” giving indications of the popularity of each. Not good for Surface, alas.
  4. It’s Clear Verizon is Blocking Google Wallet Anti-Competitively — Verizon blocked Google’s mobile payments app until Verizon’s own was available. One irony of course is that in conjunction with Verizon, Google worked to gut meaningful network neutrality rules that would have prevented this very thing from happening on wireless networks.

December 24 2012

Four short links: 25 December 2012

  1. RebelMouse — aggregates FB, Twitter, Instagram, G+ content w/Pinboard-like aesthetics. It’s like aggregators we’ve had since 2004, but in this Brave New World we have to authenticate to a blogging service to get our own public posts out in a machine-readable form. 2012: it’s like 2000 but now we have FOUR AOLs! We’ve traded paywalls for graywalls, but the walls are still there. (via Poynter)
  2. Data Visualization Course Wiki — wiki for Stanford course cs448b, covering visualization with examples and critiques.
  3. Peristaltic Pump — for your Arduino medical projects, a pump that doesn’t touch the liquid it moves so the liquid can stay sterile.
  4. Breeze — MIT-licensed Javascript framework for building rich web apps.

August 27 2012

Four short links: 27 August 2012

  1. International Broadband Pricing Study Dataset for Reuse3,655 fixed and mobile broadband retail price observations, with fixed broadband pricing data for 93 countries and mobile broadband pricing data for 106 countries.
  2. The Dictator’s Practical Internet Guide to Power Retention — tongue-in-cheek “The goal of this guide is to provide leaders of authoritarian, autocratic, theocratic, totalitarian and other single-leader or single-party regimes with a basic set of guidelines on how to use the internet to ensure you retain the most power for the longest time. The best way to achieve this is to never have your authority contested. This guide will accompany you in the obliteration of political dissidence. By having everyone agree with you, or believe that everyone agrees with you, your stay at the head of state will be long and prosperous.” (via BoingBoing)
  3. Ultra Cinnamon (GitHub) — arduino-based monitor & access system for restricted locations.
  4. CKEditor Beta 4 Out — moving to Github, added inline editing. (via Javascript Weekly)

August 01 2012

Sensors and Arduino: How to glue them together

Federico Lucifredi (@federico_II) is the maintainer of man(1) and also the author of the upcoming book, Sensor Interfaces for Arduino. We had a chance to sit down recently and talk about how to connect sensors to microcontrollers (in particular Arduino).

Given how many sensors there are in the wild, there’s a lot to say about sensors. Some of the key points from the full video are:

  • When to look for a library to support your sensor and when to just write a few lines of code to read it. [Discussed at the 3:00 mark]
  • Thinking about sensors that return non-linear responses and how that might affect your code. [4:40]
  • Detecting a human presence on a door mat. [6:00]
  • Using a Geiger counter to measure radiation and generate random numbers. [8:14]
  • Where to look for docs and code when you start working with an unfamiliar sensor. [11:30]

The full discussion is available in the following video:

Related:

March 16 2012

Four short links: 16 March 2012

  1. Militarizing Your Backyard With Python and Computer Vision (video) -- using a water cannon, computer video, Arduino, and Python to keep marauding squirrel hordes under control. See the finished result for Yakkity Saxed moist rodent goodness.
  2. Soundbite -- dialogue search for Apple's Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro. Boris Soundbite quickly and accurately finds any word or phrase spoken in recorded media. Shoot squirrels with computer vision, search audio with computer hearing. We live in the future, people. (via Andy Baio)
  3. Single Page Apps with Backbone.js -- interesting and detailed dissection of how one site did it. Single page apps are where the server sends back one HTML file which changes (via Javascript) in response to the user's activity, possibly with API calls happening in the background, but where the browser is very definitely not requesting more full HTML pages from the server. The idea is to have speed (pull less across the wire each time the page changes) and also to use the language you already know to build the web page (Javascript).
  4. Why Finish Books? (NY Review of Books) -- the more bad books you finish, the fewer good ones you''ll have time to start. Applying this to the rest of life is left as an exercise for the reader.

March 08 2012

Developer Week in Review: The new iPad and the big meh

The wacky climatology continues here in New England. We got half a foot of snow last week and it's 65 degrees today. Combine that with the unseasonable tornados Friday in the Midwest and South, and the icebox Europe has been suffering under, and you want to quote Bill Murray from "Ghostbusters": "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together ... mass hysteria!"

And speaking of mass hysteria ...

Apple announces new products. World yawns.

iPad third generationSomewhere on a sleepy little ice-covered moon in a far-off galaxy, 12-eyed alien sloths watched the live-blogging of the Apple iPad reveal yesterday, so over-hyped are Apple's product announcements these days. The big surprise this time was that, well, there were no big surprises. A combination of leaks from companies in Apple's supply chain and good guesswork meant that we've known for days what was likely to be announced, and the rumors were pretty much on the money. A 4-core iPad with 2x display resolution and a better camera, on LTE, and an upgraded Apple TV unit. It seems that the days are gone when Apple's master pitchmen can pull something genuinely novel out of the hat with no advanced warning. I can remember the stunned applause when the iPhone was first unveiled. The "new" iPad's announcement was more like "yeah, OK, cool."

That having been said, the new iPad is going to blur the laptop/tablet lines even further, as a combination of more processor power and a higher resolution display are letting more and more advanced applications make the transition to a tablet form factor. For developers, this is going to mean abandoning the mouse and keyboard as the primary way of doing things in user interface design, even for products that traditionally were thought of as "desktop applications" (such as CAD).

And yes, for the record, I bought a 64GB LTE model (black). If you're looking to trade in your old iPad, Amazon seems to be giving the best offers at the moment for used ones.

Great moments in patent extortion, the series!

Steve Jobs famously vowed that he'd destroy the Android, but recent reports indicate that Apple has decided it would rather make profits, not war. Apple is reportedly offering to back off patent litigation against handset vendors in return for a $15/unit license fee. If you combine that with Microsoft's $10/unit fee, that means that $25 of every Android sold is going to companies that directly compete against the platform.

What a great business model! Buy our product, or don't buy it, but either way we'll make money on the deal. Mind you, I'm sure Apple and Microsoft clear more than $25 and $10 respectively in profit off each iPhone and Windows phone they sell, so they'd still rather you buy one of theirs. Still, if you can't beat 'em, tax 'em!

Welcome Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi model BThe Raspberry Pi is finally here and shipping. Not surprisingly, the $35 single-board Linux computer immediately sold out. However, there's evidently a robust supply chain in place because I was able to purchase a unit for delivery in just a few weeks.

For my money, the big loser in all this is going to be the Arduino, which is cute but underpowered and hard to develop for. Given the Pi is cheaper than most Arduinos and offers networking, HDMI and USB, plus an easier-to-use Linux OS, I can see a lot of developers deciding to drop Arduino in favor of it. It will run happily on 4AA batteries and has GPIO ports available, so you could even use it in your favorite autonomous flying vehicle autopilot application if you wanted.

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February 14 2012

Four short links: 14 February 2012

  1. Why I Hate The STOCK Act (Clay Johnson) -- an attempt to reform insider trading within government, but because Congress exempts itself from substantial penalties then it has little effect where it's needed most. We won't see change on the issues that matter to us (copyright, due process for Internet takedowns, privacy, etc.) while the lawmakers are distracted by money.
  2. Instruction Medium is the Message (Dan Meyer) -- Print is a medium. Same as digital photos. Same as a teacher's voice. Same as a YouTube video. Same as a podcast. These are all different media. And as we know, the medium is the message. The medium defines and constrains and sometimes distorts the message. The math that can be conveyed in a YouTube video is not the same math that can be conveyed in a digital photo or a podcast or a print textbook. Anything that can be replaced by a computer should be; it's doubtful that successful widespread education consists only of things a computer can replace.
  3. Eolas Patent a Hollow Victory (Simon Phipps) -- those who were extorted by the patent troll will go uncompensated, and the loss of one patent leaves their business model still intact. The patent system is extremely broken in the US, it's a giant cost of doing business, a regulation-created tax that is paid to trolls instead of to the US Government. What idiot supports a tax that doesn't go to the government? An ethically-corrupted one (see point 1 above).
  4. Monitor your Continuous Integration Server with Traffic Lights and an Arduino -- nifty little hardware hack. It's an example of making physical objects which control or portray virtual systems, and it's tied into this Continuous Integration trend whereby software changes go live as soon as possible rather than being held off until 2am on the first Thursday of the month, when the IT team come in to manage the rollout of the new code. CI, in turn, is an example of failing early on something small rather than failing later and larger. (via Sandy Mamoli)

December 01 2011

November 18 2011

Developer Week in Review: Adobe sends Flex to Apache

Although Turkey Day is less than week away, things have been distinctly Labor Day-ish around here, at least as far as the weather goes. Following the Halloween snowstorm, it's been mild and sunny, T-shirt weather.

Today is when my day job company does their annual Thanksgiving lunch, with all the fixings. So, before I become comatose from starch overdose, here's a look at the week that was.

Apache and Eclipse: The Salvation Army of software

FlexIt seems as if a week doesn't go by without a major donation of remaindered code to an open-source foundation. But even recent large donations, such as Oracle's donation of Hudson to Eclipse, are dwarfed by the announcement this week that Adobe is donating the entire Flex SDK to Apache.

Considering Adobe's announcement last week that it plans to drop mobile support for Flash in favor of HTML5, this isn't completely surprising. However, the speed with which Adobe is moving to divest itself of its Flash assets is somewhat breathtaking. By shedding Flex in this way, Adobe can concentrate on building its HTML5 portfolio without leaving existing Flex developers out in the cold.

Donating obsolete products to open source is a commendable effort, and one I wish more companies would undertake. Beyond allowing developers to tinker with the code and improve the product, it also can be a valuable teaching tool (either in a best-practices or bad-example function). Unfortunately, patent encumberment and corporate paranoia make it difficult to do.


This year, Thanksgiving dinner includes Raspberry Pi

Raspberry PiOne of the reasons that the Arduino has become such a popular Maker platform is that it's so cheap; if you hose one, you're only out $20 or $30. Unfortunately, they're also pretty primitive, both in terms of memory and how you have to code them. You can buy a Beagle board or similar kin, which can run Linux, but those are fairly expensive.

The Raspberry Pi is an attempt to create an affordable single-board that can run Linux and interface to consumer-level components. The organization building it just celebrated a milestone, finishing the final cut of the first-gen printed circuit board (PCB) design. This raises hopes that the single-board computer (SBC), with a price projected in the same range as Arduinos, may be available in the near future.

The Pi runs standard Linux ARM distributions, has a USB connector and HDMI out, and if it works as planned, should become the go-to board for homebrew hardware projects. The Arduino is a nice board, and it will continue to have an advantage for those who want pin-level I/O access. It shouldn't be hard to jigger up a cheap USB-based general purpose input/output (GPIO) breakout board, however, so this advantage is likely to be fleeting.

Skynet v0.1 is now operational

People hoping for the eventual enslavement of humanity by sentient machines got good news this week. Researchers at MIT reported the development of a chip that contained 400 neuron-analog circuits. Unlike digital switches, these new circuits mimic the ion channel mechanism that is found in the brain.

The MIT team claims that the work will lead to better understanding of brain processes and the development of prosthetics, but we here at DWIR know the real truth. We have photos of Siri entering the building through a back door, and a witness claims to have seen a large man with an Austrian accent in the vicinity, looking for a student named Sarah Connor. Claims that the Tech Square parking garage control system refused to open the gate for anyone named Dave are still being investigated.


Strata 2012 — The 2012 Strata Conference, being held Feb. 28-March 1 in Santa Clara, Calif., will offer three full days of hands-on data training and information-rich sessions. Strata brings together the people, tools, and technologies you need to make data work.



Save 20% on registration with the code RADAR20

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September 28 2011

Fighting the next mobile war

It's arguable that with the arrival of touch displays, the current form factor for the smartphone is going to be with us for some time to come. You can't get much simpler than a solid block of glass and aluminum with a button. Unless you remove the button. Thinking about it, that's probably a solid suggestion — I'd look for that next.

If things aren't going to change very much on the surface, underneath the glass things might not be much different either. Oh, the devices will be faster, and they'll have more cores, better displays, faster network connections, and the batteries will last longer. But fundamentally, they'll still be the same. The device won't provide you with any new levers on the world. With the exception of NFC, which admittedly is a big exception, there are no new sensory modalities on the horizon that are likely to be integrated into handsets. You'll interact with your smartphone tomorrow in much the same way you interact with it today, at least in the near term.

That said, it's quite possible that your smartphone will interact with the world in a very different way. That's because the next mobile war has already begun, and you've seen nothing yet.

The phoney war

It began quietly, with little noise or fanfare, just over two years ago with Apple's announcement of iOS 3, the External Accessory Framework, and the opportunity for partners in the MFi program to build external hardware that connected directly to the iPhone.

For the first time, it was easy, at least for certain values of easy, to build sensor hardware that connected to a mass-market mobile device. And for the first time, the mobile device had enough computing power and screen real estate to do something interesting with the sensor data.

Except of course, it wasn't easy. While initially the External Accessory Framework was seen as having the potential to open up Apple's platform to a host of external hardware and sensors, little of the innovation people were expecting actually occurred. Much of the blame was laid squarely at the feet of Apple's own MFi program.

There was some headway made using the devices as sensor gateways, mainly in the medical community, which Apple had initially pushed heavily during the launch. But in the end, the framework was used to support a fairly predictable range of audio and video accessories from big-name manufacturers — although more recently there have been a few notable exceptions.

Android Open, being held October 9-11 in San Francisco, is a big-tent meeting ground for app and game developers, carriers, chip manufacturers, content creators, OEMs, researchers, entrepreneurs, VCs, and business leaders.

Save 20% on registration with the code AN11RAD

Opening a second front

Things stayed quiet until earlier this year when Google announced the Android Accessory Development Kit (ADK) at Google I/O in May.

While there was a lot of criticism of Google's approach, it was justifiably hailed as a disruptive move by Google in what had become a fairly stagnant accessories market. Philip Torrone hit the right note when he speculated that this might mean the end of Apple's restrictive MFi program.

I've talked about the Arduino here before. It allows rapid, cheap prototyping for embedded systems. Making Android the default platform for development of novel hardware was a brilliant move by Google. Maybe just a little too brilliant.

The counterattack by Apple

Around the middle of the year, right in the middle of Apple's WWDC conference, I was approached by Redpark and sworn to secrecy. Apple was on the brink of approving a serial cable for iOS that they would let Redpark sell into the hobbyist market.

I'd known about the existence of the cable since the preceding November with the release of the SkyWire telescope control kit. I'd begged Redpark for developer access to their cable, and after signing a thick stack of NDAs, I got my hands on one around mid-December. At the time there seemed little chance of Apple ever approving the cable except for specific use cases where the cable and an accompanying iOS application were approved together as part of the MFi program — exactly as Apple had for Skywire for telescopes and Cisco had for networking gear.

The news that the cable might soon be generally available to hobbyists was surprising. Despite Apple's beginnings — and the large community of indie developers surrounding its products — the hobbyist market isn't something Apple is known for caring about these days. Quite the opposite: Apple is notorious for keeping its products as closed as possible.



Controlling an Arduino with an iPhone.

Close on the heels of Google's ADK announcement, Apple's sudden enthusiasm was suspiciously timed. Someone high up at Apple had obviously realized the disruptive nature of the ADK and this was their response, their counter-attack. Despite the Android ADK actually being an Arduino, it was now easier to talk to an Arduino from iOS using Redpark's cable than it was to talk to an Arduino from Android.

The long war

The Android ADK board is only now appearing in large numbers as the open hardware community gears up to produce compatible boards cheaper than Google's ruinously expensive initial batch of "official" developer boards. The Redpark cable also faced supply issues, with the initial production run selling out on the Maker Shed within a few days. We're only now seeing it in larger volumes. So, despite appearances, it's still the early days.



Discussing the Redpark cable at OSCON 2011.

I think the availability of both these products is going to prove to be amazingly disruptive in the longer term. After spending two days at the recent World Maker Faire in New York, I know there's a lot of enthusiasm inside the Maker community for that disruption — and Apple may have the edge.

Because of Apple's policy restrictions, you can only develop applications that work with Redpark's cable for your own personal use or for distribution inside an enterprise environment without going through the MFi program. The ease of use and popularity of the iOS platform with developers means there will still be a big uptake, and after a few people struggle through the process, I think that, with time, the cable will spell the end of the MFi program.

Over the next couple of years, we'll be seeing some real innovation in the external accessory product space. Rapid prototyping combined with ease of access to increasingly powerful mobile platforms means that the next mobile war, and the next big thing of a real ubiquitous computing environment, is just around the corner.

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