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Notify My Android + Node.js: node-nma

I got started on a simple Node.js library including a CLI utility to send notifications via Notify My Android. Available via npm [install -g nma] and on GitHub:

https://github.com/randallagordon/node-nma

This is my first whack at publishing an npm package, so please let me know if I’ve overlooked or omitted any necessities. Pull requests welcome!

Self Discipline Bucky Style

Amazing guidelines for self discipline from Buckminster Fuller, starting with:

1. Use myself as an experiment to see what, if anything, a healthy, young male human of average size, experience, and capability with an economically dependent wife and new born child, starting without capital or any kind of wealth, cash savings, credit or university degree could effectively do that could not be done by great nations or great private enterprise to lastingly improve the physical protection and support of all human lives.

And concluding with:

19. Commit whole-heartedly to the above and pay no attention to “earning a living” in humanity’s established economic system, yet find that my family’s and my needs are provided for by seemingly pure happenstance and always only in the nick of time.

Gun Control in the Age of Instant Everything

That snap decision by some asshole to add a nasty reply to a Facebook post?
It might not simply be a textual reply in the future.

As 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing techniques come in to their own there will be profound consequences. The ability to instantly decide to acquire and then take action with a virtual tool will soon be available for physical tools. No longer will anyone be limited by the notion of, “if only I had X…”

Advanced manufacturing infrastructure will provide access to weaponry—not just guns, but things we can not even imagine yet—as easily as you can hop on YouTube and watch a compilation of cat videos. Just go to SomeWeaponDesign.com and hit the Print button. It won’t be that easy next year, it probably won’t even be in the next decade. But, it is coming and we need to start thinking about the implications now.

As I see reflex reactions such as a Congressman introducing legislation to prohibit 3D printing of magazines, I can only hang my head. It is misguided and doesn’t address the issue, but simply kicks the can for someone else to deal with.

Banning digital files has worked so well for everyone that has tried it thus far! Just ask the RIAA and MPAA how well their music and movie anti-piracy efforts are going. I’m sure their lawyers can provide you with quite the list of obstacles to such an effort. Prohibition simply isn’t a tenable option.

Screw “information wants to be free”. Information will be free. There are too many options for the duplication and spread of information and none where you don’t have to give the key away with the lock unless you control the entire chain. And top-level control is decidedly not how the internet works. If no one has been able to stop the illegal spread of pirated music and movie designs, how can someone expect to stop the spread of much more valuable object design files?

I propose that we shift the conversation away from an attempt at centralized control that is not sustainable, to one which provides distributed solutions which are. I’m not sure exactly what that looks like, personally. I’m still in search of answers.

But, I do know this:

In the Age of Instant Everything, self-control becomes one of the most valuable assets we possess. It is also a skill. Practice it.

Think. Evaluate. Introspect. Then act.

This skill is going to become extremely important.

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Empathy is a Skill, Joy is an Asset

  • Empathy is a skill which can be learned—and requires practice.
  • Joy is an asset, one of many fuels for the creative process.

HTML5 Speedometer HUD

Here’s a practical demonstration of how you might use such a Head-up Display setup as discussed in my previous post: a speedometer!

Live on CodePen: MPH version or km/h version

And the Gist:

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CSS3 Transform HUD

Want to use that extra phone or tablet you’re not using anymore to make a custom Head-up Display? CSS3 transforms make it easy! Just mirror and rotate your output:

transform: scaleX(-1) rotate(180deg);

And then all the necessary prefix variations, of course. Check it out on CodePen, preferably while viewing it on a mobile device in a mirror in order to see it in context:

http://codepen.io/randallagordon/full/IzueJ

And here’s the code in a Gist:

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Controlling a ShapeOko using a cup of Coffee creamed with Zappa goodness!

Getting started putting together a little web interface for controlling my ShapeOko using Zappa so the code can be just absurdly minimal.

Figured I’d toss the barebones bits into a gist before I get it built out too far. If anyone else with a ShapeOko or other gear that speaks G code happens to be interested in getting started talking to it via the web, here’s a “Hello World”:

Change port to the path of your Grbl or other G code consuming serial device and then make sure the serialport and zappajs packages are installed:

npm install serialport zappajs

The following request will send a G91 to switch to incremental positioning:

http://localhost:3000/i

Then go nuts sending G1s via requests like:

http://localhost:3000/G1/2500/X/50
http://localhost:3000/G1/250/Z/-5
http://localhost:3000/G1/5000/Y/-173.2

Obviously isn’t robust in any way, shape or form—but, gives me a way to position my ShapeOko via teh interwebs.

More to come. In the mean time, have fun!

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Wicked hack! :D

fabrication-spaces:


Suckerbot, designed by Thomas Tilley, a computer scientist living in Thailand, started with a hacked PlayStation controller, and wound up winning first prize in the tethered robot category. In this case, the tether is the controller’s USB cable, and Tilley attached the rumble motors to a pair of wheels. Suckerbot’s list of parts comes to $8.96, but the real genius is the Chupa Chups. Tilley needed a way for the robot to sense if it ran into something, so he stuck a lollipop in each joystick. Whenever the Suckerbot bumps something, the weight of the sucker tips the joystick forward, and a signal is sent to the processor. 

The AFRON announced the winners of the $10 robot design challenge.  The suckerbot is not the only gem in this group.  They are all very down to earth inventions capable of teaching the most fundamental aspects of robotics to students.

Wicked hack! :D

fabrication-spaces:

Suckerbot, designed by Thomas Tilley, a computer scientist living in Thailand, started with a hacked PlayStation controller, and wound up winning first prize in the tethered robot category. In this case, the tether is the controller’s USB cable, and Tilley attached the rumble motors to a pair of wheels. Suckerbot’s list of parts comes to $8.96, but the real genius is the Chupa Chups. Tilley needed a way for the robot to sense if it ran into something, so he stuck a lollipop in each joystick. Whenever the Suckerbot bumps something, the weight of the sucker tips the joystick forward, and a signal is sent to the processor. 

The AFRON announced the winners of the $10 robot design challenge.  The suckerbot is not the only gem in this group.  They are all very down to earth inventions capable of teaching the most fundamental aspects of robotics to students.

(via fabrication-spaces)

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Cambrian Explosion of Education?

Quite the list of online education services have been opening their virtual doors lately. Coursera, EdX and Udacity chief among them. And they are backed by courseware authored by some of the most trusted educators and industry leaders around. MOOCs as they’ve come to be called—Massive Open Online Courses—currently offer hundreds of freely available courses on an awe inspiring list of topics.

One of the most well-known of such platforms, Coursera, just announced seventeen new partner universities offering courses including Brown, Columbia and Berklee College of Music.

And variety, wow. So much to learn! Check it out:

  • From Brown, Arnold Weinstein’s The Fiction of Relationship will take you on a tour through literary history tackling the often difficult issue of how we relate—to places, people, objects and more—through the words of authors such as Melville and Kafka.
  • Instead of reading those literary classics yourself, you could take a whack at teaching a computer to comprehend them with Michael Collins’s Natural Language Processing course from Columbia.
  • Loudon Stearns from Berklee is going to be demonstrating the basics of creating your own music. If you’re drumming on every surface around you and singing in the shower then sign up for Introduction to Music Production so you can learn how to get that beat out of your head and into the ears of adoring fans.

As I write this there are now 195 courses available via Coursera alone. Many of them won’t go live for several months, but still an impressive accumulation considering the platform has only been online since April. At the moment Udacity has 14 courses available, mostly on the technical end of the spectrum. This includes the Artificial Intelligence course taught by Sebastian Thurn which eventually enrolled over 160,000 students.

EdX is just getting the ball rolling with seven courses recently started or starting within the next couple weeks. Being a partnership between two of the heaviest heavyweights around—MIT and Harvard—combined with an audacious goal of educating 1 billion people for free, they may well be the one to keep a close eye on.

Potential Implications

With such courseware available it seems obvious, at least in my opinion, that much of the cost associated with obtaining an education is about to evaporate. What does that mean for two students entering the higher-education game as a freshman in 2012, one taking the “traditional” route and another opting for freely-available courseware?

Foremost in my mind, the MOOC student has a pretty good chance of “finishing first”. There are already courses available ranging from introductory level up through graduate material. I find it to be feasible that a student could easily accumulate an equivalent education in a shorter time than via a traditional 4-year university. If the explosion of available courseware continues, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see headlines showing up in 2015 along the lines of “First Online-Only Undergraduates Move On To Graduate Courseware!”

Another issue is debt load. I’ve been wary of the concept of financing an education for quite some time now. I’ve even gone as far as suggesting to friends that they find alternative methods to obtain their education—avoid loans at all costs! If the traditional track student finances an education, on average he or she is going to be over $20k in debt when the student graduates in 2016. Meanwhile, the MOOC student doesn’t even have to consider financing. Twenty-large is quite the head start, if you ask me.

But, what about acceptance from employers? Not to be glib, but I think that’s going to solve itself when businesses figure out they have access to a pool of workers who have self-motivated towards education relevant to their interests. A pool of workers who can work for a fraction of the salary of the student who can’t accept less pay because of a massive, unerasable debt load. Great for the employers, incredibly bad for the student who financed.

And then there’s that 1 billion number. EdX didn’t put a date on when they’d like to accomplish that, but take this into consideration. Back in 2010, about 6.7% of the world population had a college degree—or less than half a billion. There are sure to be unique outcomes when tripling the number of college educated people on the planet. I’m keen to see how demand is going to interact with such a change in supply, especially if it occurs as quickly as I suspect it will.

Limitations

There is much missing from the equation, of course. MOOCs alone are not a complete substitute for a university education. Lab work, quality interaction with fellow students and faculty and many other aspects are often not replicated adequately with current systems. Coursera’s encouragement of using Meetup to find local study groups is intriguing. And if you’ve read any of my other posts, you may have determined I’m big on personal manufacturing. I share a dream with many others of seeing libraries re-envisioned as community makerspaces, which I see as a potential solution to the lab access component.

I’m always on the look out for ways people are overcoming the shortcomings of online education. If you know of anyone breaking ground on that front, please get in touch. I’d love to know more details.

So Go Learn Something, Already!

With so many courses available or on their way soon, there’s bound to be a course of interest for everyone. Go find something that tickles your fancy! I’ll even make it super easy so you’ve got no excuse, here are the links to the course lists:

Personally, I’m currently enrolled in two Coursera courses, one from EdX and one from Udacity—in addition to being on the waiting list for several other courses being offered in the future from all of the services. Those courses are:

And then I’ve got my eye on the above listed Berklee Intro to Music Production class as well as an Intro to Digital Sound Design course from Emory. So much to learn, so little time!

As I go through the courses I’ll be posting my thoughts on the experience so please check back if you’re interested in where this new online education model can lead.

Adobe CSS FilterLab

Behold, the power of GPU accelerated CSS Filters!

To really get a feel for what’s possible you need to see the custom CSS Shaders in action. I can’t recommend enough taking the time to install a Chrome Canary or Safari Nightly build so you can poke at the variables and watch the shaders animate. For instance, making a page element look like it’s being crumpled up like a piece of paper. Or folded like a map. Or rolled up like a scroll. All rendered in 3D on the GPU.

I can’t wait to see this on the Android version of Chrome! No looking back at that point.

Get your feet wet with Adobe’s CSS FilterLab ->