I never thought this day would come

From Google+

I never thought this day would come. My mom, who is the most technophobic person I know, said to me recently that she’d like her own computer. I had a similar thought, since she’s asked to borrow my computer a lot over the last several months. We were eyeing the Chromebooks this week, but I’m letting her think on it.

Laptop buyers should pay some attention to the Chromebook

Google and female employees

From Google+

An interesting article on gender bias, “bias” being used not to connote “discrimination,” but rather a process, or personality profile of a group, that by its nature screens out those who “don’t fit” what are considered desirable traits. It’s not deliberate. It may have materialized “organically,” but it may need to be looked at, nevertheless.

Google looking for an algorithm for keeping women

A calculator that teaches number sense

I had a tool that was similar to this (in a much more basic way) when I was a kid. It didn’t do what this one does (prompt you to estimate the answer, and it’ll tell you if your answer is close). You could do simple arithmetic with it. It didn’t have a digital display. Instead all it would do was tell you if your answer was right or not. I found it really helpful.

I’ve heard from mathematicians that a skill that’s really important in learning mathematics is the ability to estimate. It would seem this would be a good educational tool for that.

Originally shared by Timothy Gowers on Google+

I’ve just been told about a calculator that refuses to give you the answer unless you first give it a reasonable estimate. Apparently, it has had remarkable and positive effects on the willingness of young people to engage with mathematics. Designing it was difficult, because what constitutes a “reasonable estimate” is much subtler than just a tolerance for being out by a certain percentage. For example, the calculator does not consider 102 to be a reasonable estimate for 10 times 10, but it would consider 2.2 to be a reasonable estimate for the square root of 5.

I don’t know whether it lives up to its hype, but it’s an ingenious idea and I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on one.


Why it’s dark at night…I wonder…

Hmm. I feel like I want to see a more detailed analysis of the radiation from the distant stars (like, what would it be in Lumens if it were in the visible light spectrum as compared to the Sun) before I’d give more credibility to this notion. This makes it sound like we would be in daylight all the time if the light from the more distant stars weren’t red-shifted. I could buy the idea that the stars would look yellow-ish if not for this, but the “daylight all the time” notion feels like a stretch to me. I like the idea nevertheless. Interesting theory.

Originally shared by Daniel Dulitz on Google+

It turns out this is not a simple question. It’s dark at night because of the Doppler effect — what??!

Re. Windows 8

From Google+

A good demo about what’s different with Windows 8, and why it’s troubling to existing Windows users, and probably to developers. This video is from May 2012.

The thing that’s emphasized here is that W8 is made for a touch interface. It’s compatible with a mouse, but the UI mouse actions only emulate someone touching the screen where the mouse pointer is. All of the gestures operate from a touch interface metaphor. So it’s frustrating to someone who’s used to using a mouse.

What really struck home for me was the ending of this video, because it’s something that I sensed just from reading about W8. The guy who made this video said that what you notice almost immediately is “how much you’ve lost.” Microsoft has tried to simplify, simplify, simplify with W8, and I imagine a lot of people will like that on a tablet form factor. What MS has neglected is what this does to desktop users. The person who made this video said that you can “feel almost trapped” by the interface, that you can’t do what you used to do with Windows, or you can do it, but it’s all unfamiliar, and so feels frustrating.

Support for Windows 7 is going to be around for years to come, though my guess is MS is going to push W8 as much as possible by making it the default OS on new PCs when it comes out. It just seems to me MS is pushing this idea too fast and too hard, and it’s going to cause server/desktop/laptop users to seek an alternative.

What has Apple really invented?

From Google+

I already knew that Apple didn’t invent very much, but this video really adds specificity to that notion. They get into some popular Apple technology, and then talk about who they deem to have invented it. They seem to have a good basis for what they say, as they talk about how they’ve reviewed the patent record for this stuff.

Just to be clear, I’m not posting this because I hate Apple. I use a Macbook Pro as my primary computer. What I really like about this is they identify what Apple’s basic philosophy is, and then they illustrate it through some examples. They say that Apple is not a technology invention company. They’re a “technology recipe” company. They’re basically saying that Apple is a really good “kitchen.” They don’t usually grow the basic ingredients that go into what they create. They may do some processing and “prep” for the ingredients. They may invent a recipe to make out of those ingredients from time to time. I think most of what they do in this context is enhance existing recipes, but most of what they do in general is create “a very tasty meal” out of it, and that isn’t all bad. The issue is they often get more credit than they deserve (people thinking that they grow the ingredients in addition to making the “tasty meal”), and these guys are just trying to set the record straight.

Excellent history of NASA’s early space program

From Google+

Excellent YouTube channel showing some history of NASA space flight. I’ve been watching the videos on the Apollo missions. I’ve known some things about Missions 1 and 11-17, but I didn’t know much about 2-10 (I don’t see anything about 1-3 in the channel). Each mission tested something new. Watching these I get a sense of how much preparation went into the later missions. You can also get a sense of this by checking out the Apollo missions Wikipedia page, which covers the many earlier unmanned tests.


What really surprised me was the rapid progress. Manned Missions 7-11 were all launched in the span of less than a year, from Oct. 1968 to July 1969. In 7-10 all the systems, procedures, and maneuvers were tested. Problems were found and fixed for Mission 11 in the span of months. Amazing, considering that the total of each launch vehicle was made of millions of parts.


Wall Street on trial

From Google+

The setting is a mock trial of Wall Street (which was a farce), but there was a lot of good analysis here from people who have been deep in the belly of capitalism. They are pointing at some real problems in Wall Street and our federal government that are creating the problems people are complaining about. The ironic reality is we’ve all participated to some degree in creating the problem, but I think if we listen and contemplate, we can find a way to correct it. The challenge in finding a solution is it will go against our instincts.


Chad Perrin and I were talking about this a while back

From Google+

Chad Perrin and I were talking about this a while back. Alaric Snell-Pym has come up with a Turtle graphics package for Chicken Scheme. There was another post on the Scheme list talking about how Chicken Scheme has been ported to the Raspberry Pi. Alaric wanted to create a way for beginners to get right into “something interesting” with Scheme. With just a “using” statement, beginners can get right into graphics using Logo-like calls.

Originally shared by The Scheme Programming Language on Google+

Could Scheme be the first language of a new generation?


Ian Bremmer is worth listening to

From Google+

Ian Bremmer is worth listening to. He’s able to distill the players on the global stage down in terms that make the world more understandable, yet I think he conveys the complexity of geopolitics as well.

A key point he tries to get across in his new book, “Every Nation For Itself,” and in his previous one, “The End of the Free Market” (a provocative title he didn’t choose), is that politics matters a lot in the global economy, and it behooves us to pay attention to what political leaders in other parts of the world are doing.

I liked hearing his take on Obama vs. Romney, though he didn’t have much to say about Romney.

The main reason I wanted to share this video was a couple of small parts at a) 0:57-1:02, and b) 1:05-1:07.

a) was chilling to me, basically saying that as a country, there is currently no financial pressure to solve the government’s fiscal problems, so the federal gov’t will likely go on overspending at a feverish pace. Secondly, there’s no political incentive to solve our unemployment problem, because the monied interests that like our current policies, which happen to not help unemployment, can basically support the government by themselves.

He made the point that “we need to retrain our people,” but that’s been said for 20 years. Our government sponsors job retraining programs, particularly for jobs affected by lowered trade barriers, but so far as I’ve heard, none of them are that successful.

b) was interesting, because he said that a lot of industries understand his thesis, but that none of the tech companies do!


Celebrating Turing’s birthday

From Google+

On June 15 & 16 the ACM celebrated Alan Turing’s 100th birthday (which was on June 23). You can see some of the proceedings here. All living Turing Award winners were invited to attend. Thirty-three showed up.

Unfortunately not everything went well with the online video. The audio is out of synch with the video by a good bit…


Got this from The Weekly Squeak (http://news.squeak.org)

Holy moley!

I’ve known that Jackson has been working on The Hobbit for a while. It’s gone through some trials and tribulations, but it’s been getting made. I expected it to be one movie, but now he’s announcing it’ll be a trilogy all its own! Goodness. I thought I had seen a good enough movie version of it when I watched the Rankin-Bass animated version in the 1970s. Glenn Yarbrough’s “The Greatest Adventure” still rings in my ears…

Anyway, the first movie, “An Unexpected Journey,” is coming out this December. Cool!

Originally shared by IGN on Google+

Whoa, The Hobbit has now become 3 movies… http://www.ign.com/articles/2012/07/30/the-hobbit-3-officially-announced

“A world without doubt” by Mark Guzdial

From Google+

I’ve been following Prof. Mark Guzdial’s blog for a while, from the days when he used to have an author’s blog on Amazon.com (he moved to WordPress). You can find his blog at: http://computinged.wordpress.com

The Weekly Squeak referred to a post on Mark’s blog from a few years ago, but the author makes a really good point that I hadn’t considered at the time.

GA Tech announced a few years ago that it was dropping Smalltalk from its CS curriculum (it had dropped Lisp in 1999), and was moving to a curriculum that begins with Python, but goes totally with the “C-languages”: C, C++, Java, and C#. TWS says that this was a move to a “world without doubt,” and that this has costs:

“Doubt is an ingredient of the creative process. Innovators aspire to live in as large a world as possible. To shrink one’s world is to shed possibilities.”

A world without doubt

Dan Ingalls demos Lively Kernel

From Google+

Hat Tip to The Weekly Squeak for this (http://news.squeak.org).

Dan Ingalls demos an updated version of Lively Kernel at JSConf in AZ. Ingalls said his goal was kind of to recreate Smalltalk in a browser. It looks like he did it, but using JavaScript as the base language that programmers of the system use.

He hints that the objects he pulls out of a library are actually pulled live off of a server somewhere. When he tries to select a few objects, a nasty exception stack shows up. He just chuckled and said, “Someone’s working on this right now,” and picks a different one. Pretty cool, that.

Another cool thing he showed off was the “live coding” you can do. You can pull up the class for an object that has instances being executed in threads, edit its code, and update the instances while they’re running.

What I love about this is it reminds me of what the atmosphere around computing and programming was like 25 years ago, at least what I saw at the time. The idea was to have a collection of materials that followed some rules, to be conscious that they were all things you could manipulate using computational principles/code, and to have some fun making something out of them. Enjoy.

Should private interests have a say?

From Google+

Sen. McConnell has been a feckless conservative, as far as I’ve been concerned, but I was riveted to this speech he gave yesterday. He gets down to the root of an issue I’ve seen swirling around ever since Obama got elected: There are some in this country who do not believe that private interests should influence politics at all, that professionals in office should be the sole arbiters of what is in the public’s interest. Thereby speech should be regulated by these same professionals. With the DISCLOSE Act in 2010 the threat of this felt very real to me.


“Commodore OS Vision”

From Google+

I happened upon a few videos talking about an operating system called “Commodore OS Vision”. It’s based on Linux Mint 10. As expected, the hardware runs on Intel. The commentary said it was going to run on “a new Amiga”. Well, the “new Amiga” is really a Linux PC. So, besides the “gee whiz neat” GUI on the thing (it looks like some video game designers were part of this. Neat stuff!), it doesn’t have the feeling of the design philosophy of the old Amiga. Not that I owned one, but I knew some things about it in the old days, and I had the chance to play around with it a couple times. Oh well. This is nice to look at, at least.

Here’s a March Time Techland article talking about it:


Despite what the reviewer says, it looks like there’s an Amiga emulator on it. So it should be able to run old Amiga software.

A libertarian proposition. Will anybody listen?

From Google+

This discussion put on by Reason TV is interesting, though the interesting part doesn’t come until about 19 mins. into it. The rest is background info. Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch talk about their book, “The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America.” The thesis is that since we’re now able to unbundle things in the private sector, and ask for what we want, that people are coming to expect that of politics as well, and neither of the two parties is delivering it. So the two parties are experiencing push-back from the public on some issues. They don’t anticipate that there will be a third party movement out of this, but that it is something to which the political class should pay attention.

Principles of the Constitution. Are we done with it?

From Google+

Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College summarizes the principles of the Constitution with law professor and radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt. I like this as well because Hewitt plays devil’s advocate with Arnn re. whether the idea of the Constitution, the idea of a free republic, the idea of individual states, the idea of a free people is outdated, and whether it would just be better to centralize all power in Washington, D.C. It reminds me of some conversations I’ve had with people on the internet lately re. the Constitution.

They also talk about the administrative state that has been in the process of forming, whose basic idea is “turn government over to the experts.” While it’s useful to use the concept of a trend to describe what’s been happening, I thank Arnn a lot for saying (quoting Winston Churchill), “I don’t believe in trends. I believe in choices,” and Arnn says, “We need to make a choice.”

If you’re interested, Hillsdale has an online course on the Constitution (registration is free), that is in progress. You can follow along, and participate, at http://constitution.hillsdale.edu/


Originally shared by Tom Anderson on Google+

Bioluminescense is light produced by a chemical reaction which originates in an organism. There are a variety of examples of it, but most come from creatures in the ocean. This image comes from this National Geographic website: http://bit.ly/GS1jav and what you’re seeing here is phytoplankton.

I did not take this shot, but I’m sharing it because I want to seek out something like this… Anyone know where this is going on in the world right now? I’d love to go see it and photograph it. If you start searching and finding other cool photographs, please hashtag them so I can see what you find. #bioluminescence

Here’s an old-school website about the phenomena: http://www.lifesci.ucsb.edu/~biolum/

Photographing photons

From Google+

This was amazing to me. It’s a reconstruction of samples, plus some compositing of imagery to fill in the full image of what they had set up, but what they show is light in motion. They recorded the reflected or refracted light of laser pulses “at time t” as individual images, and then “ran the movie” to indirectly show light moving through space over or through translucent objects they had in the setup.

From what I can gather in the description, all they really captured were the laser pulses. In the videos they composited in the other objects in the setup to show you what the light was reflecting off of, or refracting from.

For a science buff like me, this is really cool!


Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Cold War, and trying to talk about having a future

From Google+

Evan Schurr created this great video, splicing together some audio from Neil deGrasse Tyson. Tyson explains very well how we got the technological and economic development of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. It wasn’t just NASA’s contribution that did it. There were other agencies that were brought on line as well to do R&D after Sputnik. A good part of what we got was a by-product of the Cold War. Strange how that turned out. Not that I’d like to see a repeat of history, but Tyson tries to make the point that a “half a penny” in tax revenue going to NASA would do a lot, without an adversary to drive it. Unfortunately, that may be pollyannish. I don’t get a sense that our culture is willing to look at financing science and engineering research for its own sake. Hope I’m wrong.

Related post: Are we future-oriented?

Trying out Windows 8

From Google+

Hmm. Microsoft might want to look at this. It seems that when newbies go into the old Windows desktop on Windows 8 they get “trapped” there, because they can’t see a way back to the Metro interface.

This other guy manages to get back, but only when his son shows him how. Upon seeing this you realize Microsoft introduced a new “feature” in the interface: Hidden “portals” to other screens. You have to know where to look for them, because they’re hidden. It doesn’t sound like a great UI strategy to me, even for a touch interface.

James Delingpole and the EU

From Google+

Whether you agree or disagree with him, this is an articulate, knowledgeable guy, James Delingpole. I found his analysis…well, not wild-eyed and radical, despite the stark and scary pictures he paints. He uses the situation in Europe as an example of where we’re headed if we don’t change direction politically–not just in small steps, but in a major way.

His analysis of the EU is interesting, because I’ve heard this from a few other knowledgeable sources as well: The elite designers of the EU designed it to go into crisis! They didn’t expect it to go into the crisis it’s in now for another 10-20 years, but here it is. The idea was to use the crisis, when it hit, to get European nations to hand over more power to the EU government, and get them to give up some of their autonomy and identity, the goal being to forge an EU nation state more or less like the United States is today, where the states have a little autonomy, but the real action happens in the central government. Most of what the European states would do is implement what’s been centrally planned by the central government. This process of trying to wrench autonomy from the European states is going on now as the debt crisis there continues.

Howard Rheingold, Ted Nelson, and Doug Engelbart get together for Engelbart’s birthday

Wow. I wonder if this has happened before. Howard Rheingold invited Engelbart and Nelson to his place for a little chat. Looked like they had a good time. I really enjoyed listening to Nelson’s comments about the web. He speaks with such clarity on it.

It was also interesting to listen to Nelson’s wife talk about lyme disease. I vaguely remember hearing about a documentary that talked about some weird thing going on in the medical/insurance field, involving several doctors and a patent issue, around this disease that’s led to misdiagnosis for years for many patients. In light of this, hearing that she’s gotten conflicting information about the disease doesn’t surprise me. It sounds like a really unfortunate situation, though it also sounds like she’s probably gotten appropriate treatment for it.

Happy birthday, Doug 🙂

Originally shared by Howard Rheingold on Google+

It’s Doug Engelbart’s birthday today. We wouldn’t be doing this without his vision and tenacity in realizing it.