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LED Light Bars

I love this idea. I drive a Toyota Yaris, which isn't cool enough for Eagle Eye LED Light mods.

So, I need to do something with the idea. I don't know what I'd want to do with it, but I want to.

You know, I might just start with a straight one, make it a light stick, and work on the use at a later time.

Randy did suggest that this might be useful toward the sunrise lamp idea, and there is something to that.


Radical Change in Higher Education - CS for Everyone!

I was pointed to a blog post titled Radical Change in Higher Education: Money, Sports and Computers. The author presents a distrust in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like Udacity, then goes on to present her ideas for deeper, more radical change.

There are things I kinda agree with but don't forsee happening, such as the ending of college sports in the way they exist now and the creation of minor leagues in their stead. I never really thought it made sense to associate institutes built upon intellect to associate so tightly with teams built on physical prowess. The minor leagues of baseball exist because the baseball is a summer sport and college students are generally off over the summer, so collegiate sports cannot attract the same audiences. Summer break exists because summer is when people were needed back at home, and the low number of people involved in agriculture makes that no longer a design requirement, so the fundamental change I would make, trimesters, would tend to make collegiate baseball more viable and minor league baseball less viable. Ah well.

Unless I misunderstood something, I believe that my school's sports program is self-supporting. I think that, if a university's program is not self-supporting, or if there isn't something else that the school gets from it that justifies it (and for the life of me, I can't think of anything, but I've never been a team sports guy), it would be better if it got rid of it.

I see the point of "replacing" collegiate sports with fitness and wellness programs, but honestly, every personal improvement in wellness I have ever experienced has come from working with myself, not with a group. I think the group dynamic messes it up, but that might just be me.

The last point, the one I'll quote, is one I strongly agree with and disagree with.
Computer Science: CS should be required. For everyone.  Can you be a historian today without using a computer?  An artist?  A salesperson?  Anything?  Shouldn’t we aspire to turn out a new generation of educated men and women who have more than a surface knowledge of how the blasted things work, since their success in no small part will depend on that knowledge?
I hold a CS degree. I work with computers in the day and play with them at night. My day work with computers involves the use of computers in science, and I've been saying this for years: Today, all science is computer science, because the research that could've been done without computers has been done without them already. I think that the same is becoming true in other fields. Between Processing, Tod Machover's work and work with genetic algorithms in composing, there's precedent for the use of computational tools in the arts. I think you can still be a historian without using a computer much more than using it for email and word processing, but I've heard of historians making more interesting use of it. First, there's the wider dissemination of contemporaneous source material, but beyond that, many are beginning to see digitized libraries as a Big Data source, where you can graph the rise and fall of ideas and people by the number of occurrences of them in the text.

I'd throw in the idea that this goes down to the level of skilled labor. Adam Davidson writes in the New York Times magazine about the "Skills Gap", saying that machinist training starts with using tools to cut metal but quickly move on to computer-aided methods.

So, yes, I'm big in agreeing that there's value in a great many fields in embracing the computer revolution. I'm all for teaching programming to all. I'm just not sure that Computer Science is really where you want that.

Computer Science is different. Computer Science, properly considered, is a branch of mathematics built around complexity. Yes, students go into Computer Science as a step toward becoming programmers, but this means there's a great deal of knowledge they gain and never use, and a great deal of knowledge they don't gain until they get on the job and find they need it. I still feel undertrained in the use of version control, for example. Those would be better served with a program built around Software Engineering, and that term is problematic, as there is no mechanism for becoming a licensed software engineer, but are required to call yourself an engineer in other fields, and many of the greatest advances in computing come from people who have the most tenuous claim to that title. Linus Torvalds was a college student when he started developing Linux.

Consider the case of databases. I would consider that there is one set of skills where users (be they artists, historians, scientists, programmers, machinists...) might use to collect what they need, another set of skills that programmers use to effectively create the tables and data structures to be used by others, and another set of skills which programmers use to create the database engines themselves. The first set of skills are things I would wholeheartedly endorse encouraging everyone to know. The second set is a little less useful unless you're stepping up to start collecting your own data. I'm learning it a little at a time, and finding holes in my knowledge every time I create a set of tables. The third set, the skills that those at Oracle or in Microsoft's SQL Server team or involved in PostgreSQL develop, are ... I don't know enough about them to really describe. But it's more about how to make these things fast at the hardware level, so you can have several thousand transactions a second go through when under load.

Thing is, while the last category is closest, none of it is really Computer Science. I think forcing this association between computer use and Computer Science doesn't help any party involved.


Social Media and Me

Facebook: I tend to keep that friends-and-family, which means, if you're one of my Facebook friends, you are more than likely someone I have met face-to-face. Because of this, things that I post there, I am unlikely to post elsewhere, and vice versa. My friends and family have very little interest in the totality of my interests.

Google Plus: By and large, this is where I post my geekery, and where I follow my geekery. My go-to groups are:

  • Purdue, which is filled with IT/programming people in the Purdue area
  • Android, which is filled with people developing or reviewing apps written for Android
  • Arduino, which is filled with people developing things based around Arduino
  • Lafayette Tech Labs, which is filled with people who go to Lafayette Tech Labs, which is an attempt to create a hackerspace in Greater Lafayette, and has much overlap with the above
I use a script I wrote called Plus2RSS to export my public posts (which is most of my posts) to ...

Twitter: The core. For just about anything I post, anywhere but Facebook, it ends up on Twitter. I could use Buffer to focus it all in Twitter "Prime Time" (10am-4pm local time) but I won't. I'm vaguely open to having a real-me feed and an automated, copy-from-blogs and such feed.


Restarting the Big Three

I finally have some things to throw into the Big Three, which has been left vacant for too long.
  1. Product Research - I have an idea. On the technical side, it's pretty much "a small matter of programming", which is to say that it might take some time, but nothing that too involved in any specific step. The trick is that you have to get buy-in from a bunch of people, and you have to know the size of the market, etc. I don't know how to do this. I'm much more excited about the R&D than the marketing, which means it is the marketing I need to force myself into.

    And, yes, there's the knowledge I have to develop to be a member of the R&D team.
  2. Old Business - With TEDx, we've broken it up into "Old and Busted" and "New Hotness", a la Men In Black II. I'm on the Old and Busted team and there's a little bit of administrivia that needs to be done with it. Soon, it'll all be done and I'll be able to dive into the New Hotness.

    Plus, I've agreed to make an HTML5 frontend to someone's backend, and agreed to help someone with parts of another web tool. I need to spend time with those.
  3. Me - I did an act that might be mistakable for crunches this morning. I made an argument this weekend that my window for exercise is after I wake up but before I go to work, and I have to start using that window. I will start slow, like I did with Couch to 5K, but I will start.
So, that's my top three points of focus. What's yours?


Mood and Quantified Self

From what little I've done with Quantified Self, I know that the more it takes from you, the less likely that it'll get done.

  • FitBit: I wear it, it keeps track. I've worn it most days since I got it, and have numbers to go along
  • Run tracking software on my phone: I start it up after I start my music but before I run, and I have maps and times and per-mile lap times for each one. I use the free version of endomondo.
  • Weight: I roll my own, where I weigh myself on the way to the shower and enter the weight after. I get most days, but don't get all.
  • Weight training: A while ago, I was a member of a local gym, where I would do some cardio (treadmill, elliptical) and some weights. We had a piece of paper on a clipboard to write down what we're doing. I never digitized the data, never tracked progress, eventually stopped tracking and soon after stopped going.
Interaxon does "Thought Controlled Computing" and specifically goes to the Muse, which monitors your brain waves like a FitBit monitors your steps. Like most things, you don't know if this works until you unbox it yourself, but I am excited at the thought of this, as are the folks at KurzweilAI


Hacking NTP into an Alarm Clock - Talking Through A Problem

Photo by  Douglas Heriot. Thanks.
In my life, there are very few clocks I rely on, and few of them need me to manually set them. The ones in my computers are connected to the network and use NTP to stay correct. My phone syncs to the phone network, which isn't quite as accurate as NTP, which can cause problems for flashmobs but is within tolerances for my daily life. The clocks with my cable boxes similarly connect outside of themselves to keep correct time.

There are three that I can think of that need manual maintenance: my watch, my car and my alarm clock.

My watch is an analog self-winding Seiko watch and I really don't think it is hackable. I have never really trusted in-car timepieces, so while driving, I'll check my watch or my phone. This leaves my alarm clock.

For me, I don't set the alarm, so that's almost a wash. But I might want to set it up for one. So, an alarm clock has 
  • An LED display
  • A speaker
  • A snooze button
  • Other buttons for different purposes
  • Stuff to be cleared out to make room for my stuff.
It strikes me that, if there was something that could do NTP within the case, the only issue is knowing where it is, and you could use IP Location lookup (like ) to figure out where you are, and determine time zones from there. That is, if all the smarts are within your alarm clock, which doesn't have to be true.

The snooze button is a switch like any other, so you could easily connect them to whatever electronics project you put together, and we're talking just a few LEDs and four seven-segment displays, so driving the display itself should be easy enough. One alarm clock hack I saw went to 24-hour time rather than learning how to drive the AM/PM light, which is fair enough.

If this ends up being an Arduino project, you could write your alarm to the speaker output yourself, but if you use an MP3 shield or go Raspberry Pi, it would be just as easy to use an audio file for your alarm. And, once you factor in the $80 for a WIFI shield vs the $10-20 or so for one that plugs into your Raspberry Pi, the Pi solution seems less and less overkill.

So, this seems like a doable thing. Is there anything I'm missing?