- The Remixing Dilemma — summary of research on remixed projects, finding that (1) Projects with moderate amounts of code are remixed more often than either very simple or very complex projects. (2) Projects by more prominent creators are more generative. (3) Remixes are more likely to attract remixers than de novo projects.
- Scratch 2.0 — my favourite first programming language for kids and adults, now in the browser! Downloadable version for offline use coming soon. See the overview for what’s new.
- State Dept Takedown on 3D-Printed Gun (Forbes) — The government says it wants to review the files for compliance with arms export control laws known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. By uploading the weapons files to the Internet and allowing them to be downloaded abroad, the letter implies Wilson’s high-tech gun group may have violated those export controls.
- Data Science of the Facebook World (Stephen Wolfram) — More than a million people have now used our Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook. And as part of our latest update, in addition to collecting some anonymized statistics, we launched a Data Donor program that allows people to contribute detailed data to us for research purposes. A few weeks ago we decided to start analyzing all this data… (via Phil Earnhardt)
If you have a good memory, you know that I’ve written about 3D printers. Technically, I grew up with the laser printer; my first computer industry job (part-time while getting an English PhD) was with Imagen, a startup that built the first laser printer that cost under $20,000, then the first that cost under $10,000, then under $7,000, and died a slow death after Apple produced the first that cost under $5000. Now a laser printer costs a few hundred. And I’ve been cheering as 3D printers followed the the same price curve.
But even as I’ve been cheering, I’ve had this nagging doubt in the back of my head. So I can 3D-print my own chess set. Cool. So what? Sure, you can do great things with them (enclosures for projects; every DIY-bio lab I’ve visited has a 3D printer stashed somewhere). While a 3D printer is an important step in bringing 21st-century tooling to the home hacker, they’re still fairly limited.
Last night, the other shoe dropped. Otherfab, a project of Saul Griffiths’ Otherlab, has a new Kickstarter project for Othermill: a home computer-controlled milling machine. A milling machine is a large, versatile beast that uses a high-speed cutting bit to sculpt material (often metal) into the desired shape. Instead of adding layers of plastic or some other material, like a 3D printer, a milling machine cuts material away. If you’ve ever visited machine shops, you know that milling machines are where the magic happens. Particularly state-of-the-art computer controlled mills. They’re big, they’re expensive, and they can do just about anything. Putting one in the home shop — that’s revolutionary. Read more…
Software is adding more and more value to machines. Could it completely commoditize them?
I’m a sucker for a good plant tour, and I had a really good one last week when Jim Stogdill and I visited K. Venkatesh Prasad at Ford Motor in Dearborn, Mich. I gave a seminar and we talked at length about Ford’s OpenXC program and its approach to building software platforms.
The highlight of the visit was seeing the scale of Ford’s operation, and particularly the scale of its research and development organization. Prasad’s building is a half-mile into Ford’s vast research and engineering campus. It’s an endless grid of wet labs like you’d see at a university: test tubes and robots all over the place; separate labs for adhesives, textiles, vibration dampening; machines for evaluating what’s in reach for different-sized people.
Prasad explained that much of the R&D that goes into a car is conducted at suppliers–Ford might ask its steel supplier to come up with a lighter, stronger alloy, for instance–but Ford is responsible for integrative research: figuring out how to, say, bond its foam insulation onto that new alloy.
In our more fevered moments, we on the software side of things tend to foresee every problem being reduced to a generic software problem, solvable with brute-force computing and standard machinery. In that interpretation, a theoretical Google car operating system–one that would drive the car and provide Web-based services to passengers–could commoditize the mechanical aspects of the automobile. Read more…
Google Ingress, Micrometer 3D Printing, Design Thinking, and Tote Bags In The Cloud
- On Google’s Ingress Game (ReadWrite Web) — By rolling out Ingress to developers at I/O, Google hopes to show how mobile, location, multi-player and augmented reality functions can be integrated into developer application offerings. In that way, Ingress becomes a kind of “how-to” template to developers looking to create vibrant new offerings for Android games and apps. (via Mike Loukides)
- Nanoscribe Micro-3D Printer — in contrast to stereolithography (SLA), the resolution is between 1 and 2 orders of magnitude higher: Feature sizes in the order of 1 µm and less are standard. (via BoingBoing)
- Thingpunk — The problem of the persistence of these traditional values is that they prevent us from addressing the most pressing design questions of the digital era: How can we create these forms of beauty and fulfill this promise of authenticity within the large and growing portions of our lives that are lived digitally? Or, conversely, can we learn to move past these older ideas of value, to embrace the transience and changeability offered by the digital as virtues in themselves? Thus far, instead of approaching these (extremely difficult) questions directly, traditional design thinking has lead us to avoid them by trying to make our digital things more like physical things (building in artificial scarcity, designing them skeumorphically, etc.) and by treating the digital as a supplemental add-on to primarily physical devices and experiences (the Internet of Things, digital fabrication).
- Kickstarter and NPR — The internet turns everything into public radio. There’s a truth here about audience-supported media and the kinds of money-extraction systems necessary to beat freeloading in a medium that makes money-collection hard and freeloading easy.
Paperclip Computing, Packet Capture, Offline Wikipedia, and Sensor Databases
- How to Build a Working Digital Computer Out of Paperclips (Evil Mad Scientist) — from a 1967 popular science book showing how to build everything from parts that you might find at a hardware store: items like paper clips, little light bulbs, thread spools, wire, screws, and switches (that can optionally be made from paper clips).
- Moloch (Github) — an open source, large scale IPv4 packet capturing (PCAP), indexing and database system with a simple web GUI.
- Offline Wikipedia Reader (Amazon) — genius, because what Wikipedia needed to be successful was to be read-only. (via BoingBoing)
- Storing and Publishing Sensor Data — rundown of apps and sites for sensor data. (via Pete Warden)
Ideas on avoiding the data science equivalent of "repair-ware."
Mike Loukides recently recapped a conversation we’d had about leading indicators for data science efforts in an organization. We also pondered where the role of data scientist is headed and realized we could treat software development as a prototype case.
It’s easy (if not eerie) to draw parallels between the Internet boom of the mid 1990s and the Big Data boom of the present day: in addition to the exuberance in the press and the new business models, a particular breed of technical skill became a competitive advantage and a household name. Back then, this was the software developer. Today, it’s the data scientist.
The time in the sun improved software development in some ways, but it also brought its share of problems. Some companies were short on the skill and discipline required to manage custom software projects, and they were equally ill-equipped to discern the true technical talent from the pretenders. That combination led to low-quality software projects that simply failed to deliver business value. (A number of these survive today as “repair-ware” that requires constant, expensive upkeep.)