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April 03 2012

Four short links: 3 April 2012

  1. Why Our Kids Should Be Taught To Code (Guardian) -- if we don't act now we will be short-changing our children. [...] their world will be also shaped and configured by networked computing and if they don't have a deeper understanding of this stuff then they will effectively be intellectually crippled. They will grow up as passive consumers of closed devices and services, leading lives that are increasingly circumscribed by technologies created by elites working for huge corporations such as Google, Facebook and the like. We will, in effect, be breeding generations of hamsters for the glittering wheels of cages built by Mark Zuckerberg and his kind. (via Karl von Randow)
  2. The Pwn Plug -- $770 gets you a wall-wart full of network attack tools and wifi for remote access. Plug and Pwn. (via Ars Technica)
  3. Mobile Phone as Companion Species (Matt Jones) -- They see the world differently to us, picking up on things we miss. They adapt to us, our routines. They look to us for attention, guidance and sustenance. We imagine what they are thinking, and vice-versa.
  4. 8-Bit Linux -- Ubuntu 9 ported to an 6.5KHz 8-bit CPU (running a 32-bit emulator because Linux itself requires at least a 32-bit system). Takes 2 hours to boot up the kernel, four more to get to a login prompt. Moore's Law for the win: I've seen more than 1000x improvement in speed from my first computer (1MHz C64) to current (1.7GHz i5). (via Slashdot)

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.

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 16 2011

Four short links: 16 November 2011

  1. Q&A with Rob O'Callahan (ComputerWorld) -- an excellent insight into how Mozilla sees the world. In particular how proprietary mobile ecosystems are the new proprietary desktop ecosystems, and how the risks for the web are the same (writing for one device, not for all).
  2. Bikes That Charge USB Devices -- German bicycle maker Silverback has recently launched two bikes with built-in USB ports that can charge devices as the rider pedals. (via Julie Starr)
  3. Mobile Farm Robots (Wired) -- The Harvest Automation robots are knee-high, wheeled machines. Each robot has a gripper for grasping pots, a deck for carrying pots, and an array of sensors to keep track of where it is and what’s around it. Teams of robots zip around nursery fields, single-mindedly spacing and grouping plants. Think Wall-E without the doe eyes and cuddly personality, or the little forest-tending ‘bots in the 1972 sci-fi classic Silent Running.
  4. ThinkUp 1.0 -- out of beta, the software to build your own archive of your social network presence is ready for prime time. See Anil's post for a pointed take on why this is desperately important right now.

September 26 2011

Getting physical with Android, NFC and the ADK

Android is rapidly extending beyond the phone and becoming a hardware hub, with capabilities that allow a wide range of applications and interface possibilities. Features like Near Field Communication (NFC) and the Open Accessory Development Kit (ADK) are opening new arenas for developers.

Brian Jepson (@bjepson) is an O'Reilly editor and hardware hacker who's recently been focusing on making things with technologies like Arduino and Android. Jepson and Tyler Moskowite (@tmoskowite), a programmer and engineering intern at Make Magazine, will be presenting a workshop on "Getting Physical with Android: Open Accessories & NFC" at the upcoming Android Open Conference. I recently spoke to Jepson and Moskowite about the convergence of Android and hardware hacking, and what it might mean for the Android ecosystem.

Our interview follows.

What does Android's openness allow developers to do?

Android logoBrian Jepson: I think the biggest thing is that it allows developers to experiment. On iOS, you have to spend money to even deploy apps to a phone that you own. And unless you put an app in the App Store or sign up for the Enterprise or Academic programs, you can only distribute apps to 100 devices total. It's cumbersome. I love that you can "sideload" apps on Android: make an app, distribute it outside the Android Market, and people can use it.

Tyler Moskowite: Allowing developers to reproduce their own versions of the Android operating system has resulted in many custom versions of Android. The most notable one is Cyanogen Mod, which provides the base for lots of custom Android systems.


What kinds of things are makers building with NFC, the Accessory Development Kit, and Arduino?

Brian Jepson: I haven't seen much being done with NFC, though I did a wacky demo with it that involved Processing, Arduino, and Twitter. But there have been lots of cool things done with the ADK. I've seen everything from tablet-controlled dancing robots to a cell-phone-controlled ball maze inspired by the life-size labyrinth at Google I/O.

There have been interesting projects going on with Arduino since before the ADK. In fact, I built a variation on Tero and Kimmo Karvinen's Soccer Playing Robot (from Make: Arduino Bots and Gadgets) and brought it to Google I/O. This combined Android and Arduino, but they communicated over Bluetooth instead of a cable, the way the ADK currently works. Tero and Kimmo's robot is one of my favorite Android/Arduino projects. Amarino is also very cool, though it's more of a platform for connecting Arduino and Android.

How big a problem is fragmentation in the Android ecosystem?

Brian Jepson: It's more noticeable to me because I work with things like NFC and ADK that require a very recent version of Android. I don't know how big a deal it is for lots of other folks. I can look at the fragmentation dashboard, and yeah, it's not pretty. At least Android 2.x is dominating. But it's a problem and a headache for developers. I figure Google can mitigate the problem, but I don't see them ever making it go away.

Tell us a little about the Mini Maker Faire event at Android Open. What kind of makers are you looking for?

Brian Jepson: We are looking for anyone who has made something cool using Android and related technologies. We'd love to have a broad spectrum of crafts, electronics, robots, and so forth.

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

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