- Memory Allocation in Brains (PDF) — The results reviewed here suggest that there are competitive mechanisms that affect memory allocation. For example, new dentate gyrus neurons, amygdala cells with higher excitability, and synapses near previously potentiated synapses seem to have the competitive edge over other cells and synapses and thus affect memory allocation with time scales of weeks, hours, and minutes. Are all memory allocation mechanisms competitive, or are there mechanisms of memory allocation that do not involve competition? Even though it is difficult to resolve this question at the current time, it is important to note that most mechanisms of memory allocation in computers do not involve competition. Does the dissector use a slab allocator? Tip your waiter, try the veal.
- Living Foundries (DARPA) — one motivating, widespread and currently intractable problem is that of corrosion/materials degradation. The DoD must operate in all environments, including some of the most corrosively aggressive on Earth, and do so with increasingly complex heterogeneous materials systems. This multifaceted and ubiquitous problem costs the DoD approximately $23 Billion per year. The ability to truly program and engineer biology, would enable the capability to design and engineer systems to rapidly and dynamically prevent, seek out, identify and repair corrosion/materials degradation. (via Motley Fool)
- Innovate Salone — finalists from a Sierra Leone maker/innovation contest. Part of David Sengeh‘s excellent work.
- Arts, Humanities, and Complex Networks — ebook series, conferences, talks, on network analysis in the humanities. Everything from Protestant letter networks in the reign of Mary, to the repertory of 16th century polyphony, to a data-driven update to Alfred Barr’s diagram of cubism and abstract art (original here).
Neural Memory Allocation, DoD Synthbio, Sierra Leone Makers, and Complex Humanities Networks
Kenyan Entrepreneur, Spooky Open Source, Typing Tutor, and Hacker's Bagpipes
- Kenyan Women Create Their Own Geek Culture (NPR) — Oguya started spending some Saturday mornings with Colaco and other women, snipping code and poring through hacker cookbooks. These informal gatherings became the Akirachix. Oguya graduated and turned her mobile phone idea into a company called M-Farm. At 25 years old, she now has a staff of 18. And 7,000 African farmers use her app.
- Ozone Widget Framework (Github) — open source webapp integrator. The Ozone Widget Framework is released to the public as Open Source Software, because it’s the Right Thing To Do. Also, it was required by Section 924 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Spook-made, citizen played.
- gtypist — open source universal typing tutor. You can learn correct typing and improve your skills by practising its exercises on a regular basis.
- Open Source Hardware Bagpipes — to practice your fingerings without actually killing the neighbours. (via Hacked Gadgets)
Justin Arenstein is building the capacity of African media to practice data-driven journalism.
This interview is part of our ongoing look at the people, tools and techniques driving data journalism.
I first met Justin Arenstein (@justinarenstein) in Chişinău, Moldova, where the media entrepreneur and investigative journalist was working as a trainer at a “data boot camp” for journalism students. The long-haired, bearded South African instantly makes an impression with his intensity, good humor and focus on creating work that gives citizens actionable information.
Whenever we’ve spoken about open data and open government, Arenstein has been a fierce advocate for data-driven journalism that not only makes sense of the world for readers and viewers, but also provides them with tools to become more engaged in changing the conditions they learn about in the work.
He’s relentlessly focused on how open data can be made useful to ordinary citizens, from Africa to Eastern Europe to South America. For instance, in November, he highlighted how data journalism boosted voter registration in Kenya, creating a simple website using modern web-based tools and technologies.
For the last 18 months, Arenstein has been working as a Knight International Fellow embedded with the African Media Initiative (AMI) as a director for digital innovation. The AMI is a group of the 800 largest media companies on the continent of Africa. In that role, Arenstein has been creating an innovation program for the AMI, building more digital capacity in countries that are as in need of effective accountability from the Fourth Estate as any in the world. That disruption hasn’t yet played itself out in Africa because of a number of factors, explained Arenstein, but he estimates that it will be there within five years.
“Media wants to be ready for this,” he said, “to try and avoid as much of the business disintegration as possible. The program is designed to help them grapple with and potentially leapfrog coming digital disruption.”
Aaron Swartz, Baghdad Makerspace, Teaching in Africa, and Ephemeral People
- Aaron Swartz Defense Fund — American computer systems are under attack every day of the week from foreign governments, and the idiot prosecutor is wasting resources doubling down on this vindictive nonsense.
- Baghdad Community Hackerspace Workshops (Kickstarter) — Makerspace in Baghdad, built by people who know how to do this stuff in that country. (via BoingBoing)
- Teaching Web Development in Africa — I used the resources that Pamela Fox helpfully compiled at teaching-materials.org to mentor twelve students who all built their own websites, such as websites for their karate club, fashion club, and traditional dance troupe. One student made a website to teach others about the hardware components of computers, and another website discussing the merits of a common currency in the East African Community. The two most advanced students began programming their own computer game to help others practice touch typing, and it allows players to compete across the network with WebSockets.
- Transient Faces (Jeff Howard) — only displaying the unchanging parts of a scene, effectively removing people using computer vision. Disconcerting and elegant. (via Greg Borenstein)
Angolan entrepreneur Nyanga Tyitapeka on mobile commerce and data's potential.
Infonauta founder Nyanga Tyitapeka says Angola is on the cusp of a technology explosion. Mobile and data are overcoming low levels of literacy to change the lives of everyday Angolans.
In-Line Computing, What Price All The Books?, Android SIM Toolkit, and Small Manufacturing Grows
- Raspberry Pi — the creator of the game Elite has made an inline computer the size of a thumb drive–it plugs into an HDMI cable on one end and USB on the other. 700MHz CPU, OpenGL, 1080p-capable, running Ubuntu. Pricetag: $25. The mission is to supply them to schools.
- A Budget for Babel (Tim Carmody) — What would you pony up for instant access to every book? Interesting insight into the value and utility of such a service.
- Android’s Achilles Heel: The Sim Toolkit — Now if you live in the States, you might not even know what the STK is, so a bit of explaining is in order. Put simply, the STK allows carriers to load a simple set of menus and ‘applications’ on your SIM card. Again, on your fancy iPhone, you may question the need or purpose for such a thing, but that’s because you are still years behind and using a credit card. Here, where credit cards are virtually unknown, the present and future of payments is Mobile Money, which is almost always delivered via.. you guessed it, the STK.
- Democratizing Design — AutoDesk partner with Ponoko and Techshop to allow anyone to design 3-D models, and then turn them into real-life products. Great to see this kind of small-run custom manufacturing heading toward the mainstream.
Street Demographics, Hack for Africa, Opportunity Spotting, News or Filters?
- Brien Lane, Melbourne — an alleyway painted with statistics about the area. Urban spaces as screens. Check out the other photos. (via Pete Warden)
- Apps 4 Africa — from US State Department, The challenge is to build the best digital tools to address community challenges in areas ranging from healthcare to education and government transparency to election monitoring. (via Clay Johnson)
- Hopeful Monsters and the Trough of Disillusionment (Berg London) — this was a great Foo talk, lovely to see the ideas written up and circulated widely.
- Tyranny of the Daily 10 Percent (Julie Starr) — do we have a production quality problem, or do we have a filter problem? Intersection of two trends we’ve seen: “news reinvention” and “information overload”. I find myself wanting to spend more time quantifying what we’ve already got that’s good and being clearer about what we think is missing, before thinking about what to replace it with and how to foot the bill.
Infrastructure, economics and censorship are major issues
In the United States, Western Europe and Asia, e-Books are becoming a major player, especially now that e-Readers like the Kindle and Nook are available. But people living in the Arabic speaking world or Africa haven’t been invited to the dance. Two of the keynote speakers at the upcoming O’Reilly Tools of Change conference are working to improve access to e-Books in these areas: Arthur Attwell in South Africa and Ramy Habeeb in Egypt. We talked to each of them about how e-Books are important in their area of the world, and the challenges that they are facing.
This post from Publishing Perspectives about publishing in Africa came in over the break, and it’s worth a look: Five years later, [Muhtar] Bakare is still a confident believer in the power of the internet to revolutionize the African publishing industry. “The internet is our own Gutenberg moment,” he told the Oslo audience.”The internet is going to democratize knowledge in Africa.” Publishers taking a long view should be sure to pay attention to what’s happening in Africa and the Middle East. We’ll have speakers from both regions at next month’s TOC conference.
Mechanical Turk service provider CrowdFlower and microwork non-profit Samasource have teamed up to make their services available to iPhone users. Users of CrowdFlower’s mechanical turk platform can now opt to send their tasks to iPhone users. The Give Work iPhone app takes tasks (created by real companies) and sends it to iPhone users who volunteer to complete them. Meanwhile, workers in a Kenyan refugee camp perform the same tasks using CrowdFlower’s regular web interface. In essence, Kenyan refugees work to increase the accuracy of the results provided by the army of volunteer iPhone mechanical turks.