- Tilt-to-Fly Controller and Copter (Kickstarter) — This looks totally awesome and hackable. The controller has a USB port, the protocol is documented, and you can even connect your own electronics payload, like an Arduino, camera, or homebrewed project to the auxiliary serial (UART + power) port.
- The Privacy Game (The Open University) — This game is designed to highlight how privacy and consent work online. Players make decisions about which information they reveal, who they reveal it to and why. For example, you may decide to trade some information for gifts when shopping on a website; or you may decide to keep other information secret when posting on a social networking site. (via BoingBoing)
- statwing — very easy analysis and visualization of data.
- duraconf — a collection of hardened configuration files for SSL/TLS services. It’s easy to reduce crypto effectiveness with crappy choices and options, so it’s good to have solid configurations to go from.
MOOCs get the attention, but DIY and peer-to-peer exchange are more fertile grounds for development
Somehow, recently, a lot of people have taken an interest in the broadcast of canned educational materials, and this practice — under a term that proponents and detractors have settled on, massive open online course (MOOC) — is getting a publicity surge. I know that the series of online classes offered by Stanford proved to be extraordinarily popular, leading to the foundation of Udacity and a number of other companies. But I wish people would stop getting so excited over this transitional technology. The attention drowns out two truly significant trends in progressive education: do-it-yourself labs and peer-to-peer exchanges.
In the current opinion torrent, Clay Shirky treats MOOCs in a recent article, and Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University, writes (in a Boston Globe subscription-only article) that traditional colleges will have to deal with the MOOC challenge. Jon Bruner points out on Radar that non-elite American institutions could use a good scare (although I know a lot of people whose lives were dramatically improved by attending such colleges). The December issue of Communications of the ACM offers Professor Richard A. DeMillo from the Georgia Institute of Technology assessing the possible role of MOOCs in changing education, along with an editorial by editor-in-chief Moshe Y. Vardi culminating with, “If I had my wish, I would wave a wand and make MOOCs disappear.”
There’s a popular metaphor for this early stage of innovation: we look back to the time when film-makers made the first moving pictures with professional performers by setting up cameras before stages in theaters. This era didn’t last long before visionaries such as Georges Méliès, D. W. Griffith, Sergei Eisenstein, and Luis Buñuel uncovered what the new medium could do for itself. How soon will colleges get tired of putting lectures online and offer courses that take advantage of new media? Read more…
Internet of Copters, Privacy Game, Visualizing Data, Secure Configs
- Print Your Own 3D Parts (Wired) — Teenage Engineering, makers of a popular synthesizer known as the OP-1, posted the 3-D design files of various components on digital object repository Shapeways, and is instructing 3-D printer-equipped users to print them out instead of buying them.
- Legacy Media Demanding Surveillance In ISPs — music rights groups including the Recording Industry Association of Japan say they have developed a system capable of automatically detecting unauthorized music uploads before they even hit the Internet. But to do that they need to be able to spy on Internet users’ connections and compare data being transferred with digital fingerprints held in an external database. That can only be achieved with the assistance of Internet service providers who would be asked to integrate the system deeply into their networks. It’s Japan for now …
- Sensors for Industrial Espionage (NPR) — Genscape also places electromagnetic monitors beneath the power lines running into the Cushing tank farms to measure their power usage. This gives them an idea of how much oil is being pumped into and out of Cushing.
Disappearing Optimism, Delayed Drones, Multicore Conference, and Massive 3D Printer
- Stewart Brand Interview (Wired) — full of interesting tidbits. This line from the interviewer, Kevin Kelly, resonated: One other trajectory I have noticed about the past 20 years: Excitement about the future has waned. The future is deflating. It is simply not as desirable as it once was. (via Matt Jones)
- Commercial Use of Small Drones Still Without Regulations — FAA officials have also been working for the past five years on regulations to allow commercial use of small drones, which are generally defined as weighing less than 55-pounds and flying at altitudes under 4,000 feet. The agency has drafted regulations that were initially expected to be published late last year, but have been repeatedly delayed. Five years. That’s as long as the iPhone has existed. Just sayin’. (via Jim Stogdill)
- Multicore World 2013 — conference just for multicore. Check out the last conference’s program for what to expect. No word on whether it’ll have parallel sessions, ho ho ho.
- Turning a Shipping Container into a 3D Printer — a walk-in printer. AWESOME.
Farm Servers, Federal GitHub Activity, Industrial Robots, and Crowdfunding Medical Appliances
- Business Intelligence on Farms — Machines keep track of all kinds of data about each cow, including the chemical properties of its milk, and flag when a particular cow is having problems or could be sick. The software can compare current data with historical patterns for the entire herd, and relate to weather conditions and other seasonal variations. Now a farmer can track his herd on his iPad without having to get out of bed, or even from another state. (via Slashdot)
- USAxGITHUB — monitor activity on all the US Federal Government’s github repositories. (via Sarah Milstein)
- Rethinking Robotics — $22k general purpose industrial robot. “‘It feels like a true Macintosh moment for the robot world,’ said Tony Fadell, the former Apple executive who oversaw the development of the iPod and the iPhone. Baxter will come equipped with a library of simple tasks, or behaviors — for example, a “common sense” capability to recognize it must have an object in its hand before it can move and release it.” (via David ten Have)
- Shift Labs — Shift Labs makes low-cost medical devices for resource-limited settings. [Crowd]Fund the manufacture and field testing of the Drip Clip […] a replacement for expensive pumps that dose fluid from IV bags.
Distributing Content, Effective Project Dictatorship, Ubiquitous Hardware, Wheelcasts
- The Shape of the Internet Has Changed — 98 percent of internet traffic now consists of content that can be stored on servers. 45% of Internet traffic today is from CDNs, and a handful of them at that, which makes CDNs like Artur Bergman’s fastly super-important. (via Donald Clark)
- Be a Good Dictator (Rowan Simpson) — There is no shortage of advice online about how to be a good designer or a good software developer. But what about advice for those who aspire to be good product dictators? Guidance seems pretty thin on the ground. […] Being a deep expert in just one area is not enough for good dictators. You need to be a polymath living at an intersection.
- Hardware is Dead — 7-inch tablet, Wi-Fi only with all the attributes of a good tablet. Capacitive touchscreen. Snappy processor. Front facing camera. 4GB of internal memory and an expandable memory slot. for USD75. At these levels there is almost no profit margin left in the hardware business. A $45 tablet is cheap enough to be an impulse purchase at the check-out line in Best Buy. A $45 price puts tablets within reach of a whole host of other activities not traditionally associated with computers. (via Steve Bowbrick)
- Car Transmissions and Syncromesh (YouTube) — cheesy old Chevy educational movie that does a great job of explaining how manual transmissions work. Such videos were the screencasts for the auto DIY folks. (via Nat Friedman)
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)
- DIY Spectrometry Kit — This open hardware kit costs only $35, but has a range of more than 400-900 nanometers, and a resolution of as high as 3 nm. A spectrometer is essentially a tool to measure the colors absorbed by a material. You can construct this one yourself from a piece of a DVD-R, black paper, a VHS box, and an HD USB webcam.
- Mind-Controlled Drones — Chinese demo of EEG to Bluetooth to laptop to wifi to UAV.
- Source Sans — Adobe’s first open source typeface.
Broadband Data, Being Evil, DIY Access Control, and In-Place Web Page Editing
- International Broadband Pricing Study Dataset for Reuse — 3,655 fixed and mobile broadband retail price observations, with fixed broadband pricing data for 93 countries and mobile broadband pricing data for 106 countries.
- The Dictator’s Practical Internet Guide to Power Retention — tongue-in-cheek “The goal of this guide is to provide leaders of authoritarian, autocratic, theocratic, totalitarian and other single-leader or single-party regimes with a basic set of guidelines on how to use the internet to ensure you retain the most power for the longest time. The best way to achieve this is to never have your authority contested. This guide will accompany you in the obliteration of political dissidence. By having everyone agree with you, or believe that everyone agrees with you, your stay at the head of state will be long and prosperous.” (via BoingBoing)
- Ultra Cinnamon (GitHub) — arduino-based monitor & access system for restricted locations.