Norther Colorado Mini Maker Faire

Yesterday, I attended the first Northern Colorado Mini Maker Faire.  For those that have not heard of Maker Faires, watch the following YouTube video or accept this explanation:

Maker Faire is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on: Earth a family friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement.

The Maker Movement has been rapidly gaining momentum and it is very exciting to see it in my new home of Northern Colorado.  What I like about the Maker Movement and Maker Faires is that it is the ultimate celebration of DIY.  This group is a socially and technologically diverse group who are excited by and for anybody who makes things.  It includes people who sew with old-tyme spindles to people who build robots with open-hardware Linux computers.  If you have a creative spark, or want to get one, you should visit a Maker Faire.

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Privacy in Art, Fiction, and Film

In my seminar class, Privacy in Electronic Society, I recorded a presentation exploring the “I’ve Got Nothing to Hide” argument.  It starts with a summary of “I’ve Got Nothing to Hide” and Other
Misunderstands of Privacy
by Daniel J. Solove.

Then I cite examples of privacy in other media:

It’s a 26 minute presentation (127MB zipped .mov file or stream from Google Drive) and you can also download the slides.

For class, I’ll be moderating an online discussion, but for the rest of the world, I’ll facilitate a discussion on this post as well!  Think of it like a mini-Coursera 😉

 

Les Earnest is my new favorite person

I just finished What the Dormouse said, which is a great history of the 60s and computing.  Especially if you are interested in how LSD influenced modern computing.  I learned a great deal about LSD and LSD parties from this book; a history of the sixties is incomplete otherwise (or so I’m told).

I recommend this book to the power set of {people who like LSD, people who like computer history, people who like the 60s, people who like counterculture}

Significant attention is given to Doug Engelbart and comparisons to others in the Bay area, like Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL) led by John McCarthy).  This is where Les Earnest worked.

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Required reading for software engineers: The Inmates are Running the Asylum

After reading the Inmates are Running the Asylum, by Alan Cooper, it’s very easy to see its influence on Bret Victor.  Unfortunately, for the software industry, this book is as true in 1998 as it is today.  My two takeaways were: Interaction Design, i.e. how humans interact with a product, is hard and if software engineers are left to design the product, it will lead to a frustrating experience.

The book is well worth a read to anyone who has experienced, as Cooper described, “Computer Tourettes.”  For example, I have an extremely feature rich thermostat; it can do all sort of things like tell me the time, vary its temperature at different times of the day, and I’m sure other things.  I still can’t figure out how to change the temperature setpoint RIGHT NOW.  This is in contrast to my barometer, where I can simply compare the setpoint marker to the current pressure.  I would much rather have the interface from my barometer on my thermostat.

Without looking at the instructions, which button(s) are required to set the temperature?
Without looking at the instructions, which button(s) are required to set the temperature?
I'm starting to realize that when "old people" grumble about analog vs digital, what they really mean is "good design" vs "bad."
I’m starting to realize that when “old people” grumble about analog vs digital, what they really mean is “good design” vs “bad.”

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BeagleBone Tor

My BeagleBone Black (BBB) is now helping preserve Internet freedom by running a Tor relay. Tor is:

free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis.

For those new to Tor, the first step is to try the TorBrowser Bundle to help anonymize your traffic.  If this Tor thing feels a bit weird to you, know that normal people use Tor.

For those that want to help contribute to the freedom loving Internet, consider running a Tor relay on that nice 1GHz BBB.  Of course, you can run a relay from the Browser Bundle, but when your turn your computer off or close your laptop lid, your relay goes nighty-night too.  Plus the BBB is low-wattage so it won’t run up your electric bill as much while you help Tor grow.

The great Ladyada has an Onion Pi project which runs a Tor proxy and a wireless access point. It’s a very cool project but it’s not a relay AFAIK.  Also, if you want Tor to really work, you should use the Tor Browser Bundle.  So, these are directions for setting up a Tor relay, which helps others use Tor.

My BBB in the Adafruit Bone Box.
My BBB in the Adafruit Bone Box.

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Innovation and The Future of Programming

Bret Victor is one of the best presenters I have seen.  With very simple slides, he delivers powerful messages.  I first learned about Bret by watching his Inventing on Principle presentation, which was inspiring in its own right. But his recent “The Future of Programming” delivers another faith-shattering punch.  You should go watch it.  Seriously.  I’ll wait.

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Slight enhancement to fortune.el

The fortune utility remains one of my favorite programs (after all, it’s the name of this blog 🙂 ).  The random quotes are a refreshing reminder not to take myself too seriously.  But since I’ve been using byobu and GNU Screen, I rarely see the fortune cookie when my shell starts.

But then I realized what I really wanted was to see fortunes in Emacs.  Fortunately, there is a package, fortune.el, included in Emacs which provides a front-end to the fortune program.  When invoked with M-x fortune it throws the cookie into a new buffer and makes the new buffer active, which is slightly annoying.

What would be better would be to display the fortune in the mini-buffer.  Well, with the following code in your .emacs (or personal directory in prelude 😉 ), M-x fortune-message will do just that.  I’m considering submitting a patch, but there appears to be a bit of a procedure that I must review first.

Although, to get fortune.el to work I had to create a new writable fortune file as it was not satisfied using the read-only fortunes included with my distribution.  And now I have cookies on demand (om nom nom…)

emacs_om_nom_nom
Yeah sorry… I couldn’t resist 🙂