"hacks" entries

Four short links: 11 April 2013

Four short links: 11 April 2013

Automating NES Games, Code Review Tool, SaaS KPIs, and No Free Lunch

  1. A General Technique for Automating NES Gamessoftware that learns how to play NES games and plays them automatically, using an aesthetically pleasing technique. With video, research paper, and code.
  2. rietveld — open source tool like Mondrian, Google’s code review tool. Developed by Guido van Rossum, who developed Mondrian. Still being actively developed. (via Nelson Minar)
  3. KPI Dashboard for Early-Stage SaaS Startups — as Google Docs sheet. Nice.
  4. Life Without Sleep — interesting critique of Provigil as performance-enhancing drug for information workers. It is very difficult to design a stimulant that offers focus without tunnelling – that is, without losing the ability to relate well to one’s wider environment and therefore make socially nuanced decisions. Irritability and impatience grate on team dynamics and social skills, but such nuances are usually missed in drug studies, where they are usually treated as unreliable self-reported data. These problems were largely ignored in the early enthusiasm for drug-based ways to reduce sleep. […] Volunteers on the stimulant modafinil omitted these feedback requests, instead providing brusque, non-question instructions, such as: ‘Exit West at the roundabout, then turn left at the park.’ Their dialogues were shorter and they produced less accurate maps than control volunteers. What is more, modafinil causes an overestimation of one’s own performance: those individuals on modafinil not only performed worse, but were less likely to notice that they did. (via Dave Pell)
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Four short links: 10 April 2013

Four short links: 10 April 2013

Street View Tiles Hacks, Policy Simulation, Map Tile Toolbox, and Connected Sensor Device HowTo

  1. HyperLapse — this won the Internet for April. Everyone else can go home. Check out this unbelievable video and source is available.
  2. Housing Simulator — NZ’s largest city is consulting on its growth plan, and includes a simulator so you can decide where the growth to house the hundreds of thousands of predicted residents will come from. Reminds me of NPR’s Budget Hero. Notice that none of the levers control immigration or city taxes to make different cities attractive or unattractive. Growth is a given and you’re left trying to figure out which green fields to pave.
  3. Converting To and From Google Map Tile Coordinates in PostGIS (Pete Warden) — Google Maps’ system of power-of-two tiles has become a defacto standard, widely used by all sorts of web mapping software. I’ve found it handy to use as a caching scheme for our data, but the PostGIS calls to use it were getting pretty messy, so I wrapped them up in a few functions. Code on github.
  4. So You Want to Build A Connected Sensor Device? (Google Doc) — The purpose of this document is to provide an overview of infrastructure, options, and tradeoffs for the parts of the data ecosystem that deal with generating, storing, transmitting, and sharing data. In addition to providing an overview, the goal is to learn what the pain points are, so we can address them. This is a collaborative document drafted for the purpose of discussion and contribution at Sensored Meetup #10. (via Rachel Kalmar)

Comments: 2
Four short links: 13 March 2013

Four short links: 13 March 2013

HTML DRM, Visualizing Medical Sciences, Lifelong Learning, and Hardware Hackery

  1. What Tim Berners-Lee Doesn’t Know About HTML DRM (Guardian) — Cory Doctorow lays it out straight. HTML DRM is a bad idea, no two ways. The future of the Web is the future of the world, because everything we do today involves the net and everything we’ll do tomorrow will require it. Now it proposes to sell out that trust, on the grounds that Big Content will lock up its “content” in Flash if it doesn’t get a veto over Web-innovation. […] The W3C has a duty to send the DRM-peddlers packing, just as the US courts did in the case of digital TV.
  2. Visualizing the Topical Structure of the Medical Sciences: A Self-Organizing Map Approach (PLOSone) — a high-resolution visualization of the medical knowledge domain using the self-organizing map (SOM) method, based on a corpus of over two million publications.
  3. What Teens Get About The Internet That Parents Don’t (The Atlantic) — the Internet has been a lifeline for self-directed learning and connection to peers. In our research, we found that parents more often than not have a negative view of the role of the Internet in learning, but young people almost always have a positive one. (via Clive Thompson)
  4. Portable C64 — beautiful piece of C64 hardware hacking to embed a screen and battery in it. (via Hackaday)
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Four short links: 24 January 2013

Four short links: 24 January 2013

Google's Autonomous Cars, DIY BioPrinter, Forms Validation, and Machine Learning Workflow

  1. Google’s Driverless Car is Worth Trillions (Forbes) — Much of the reporting about Google’s driverless car has mistakenly focused on its science-fiction feel. […] In fact, the driverless car has broad implications for society, for the economy and for individual businesses. Just in the U.S., the car puts up for grab some $2 trillion a year in revenue and even more market cap. It creates business opportunities that dwarf Google’s current search-based business and unleashes existential challenges to market leaders across numerous industries, including car makers, auto insurers, energy companies and others that share in car-related revenue.
  2. DIY BioPrinter (Instructables) — Think of it as 3D printing, but with squishier ingredients! How to piggyback on inkjet printer technology to print with your own biomaterials. It’s an exciting time for biohackery: FOO Ewan Birney is kicking ass and taking names, he was just involved in a project storing and retrieving data from DNA.
  3. Parsley — open-sourced forms validation library in Javascript.
  4. ADAMS — open sourced workflow tool for machine learning, from the excellent people at Waikato who brought you WEKA. ADAMS = Advanced Data mining And Machine learning System.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 31 October 2012

Four short links: 31 October 2012

Turing Complete Users, Live Bootstrap Editor, Remix Exemptions, and Automatically Strengthening 3D Designs

  1. Turing Complete UserGeneral Purpose Users can write an article in their e-mail client, layout their business card in Excel and shave in front of a web cam. They can also find a way to publish photos online without flickr, tweet without twitter, like without facebook, make a black frame around pictures without instagram, remove a black frame from an instagram picture and even wake up at 7:00 without a “wake up at 7:00” app. [… They are] users who have the ability to achieve their goals regardless of the primary purpose of an application or device. (via BoingBoing)
  2. Bootstrap Live Editora WYSIWYG HTML5 Editor built for Bootstrap. It offers a nice and elegant way to edit and beautify html content with Bootstrap-ready UI elements. I love how Bootstrap has become this framework for simpler website creation. I’m just disappointed they’re all startups chasing $ instead of being open source infrastructure.
  3. DCMA Exemption Recommended for Remixrecommended expanding the noncommercial remix exemption to cover both DVDs and online services. The reference to “motion pictures” covers “movies, television shows, commercials, news, DVD extras, etc.”
  4. New Tool Gives Structural Strength to 3-D Printed Works (Science Daily) — Findings were detailed in a paper presented during the SIGGRAPH 2012 conference in August. Former Purdue doctoral student Ondrej Stava created the software application, which automatically strengthens objects either by increasing the thickness of key structural elements or by adding struts. The tool also uses a third option, reducing the stress on structural elements by hollowing out overweight elements. (via BoingBoing)
Comments: 2
The Transportation Security Administration's QR code flub

The Transportation Security Administration's QR code flub

Prank or mistake? A QR code on a TSA poster links to a non-TSA site.

Fred Trotter discovers that a QR code embedded in a TSA poster at the Orlando airport links to justinsomnia.org, which is about as far as you can get from a government website.

Comments: 9
Four short links: 25 October 2011

Four short links: 25 October 2011

Smart Thermostat, Lamer News, Expensive Meaning, and Hardware Kits

  1. Nest Learning Thermostat — learns how long it takes your house to adjust temperature, so can tell you not just “it’s 55 now” but “it’ll be 65 in 16 minutes”. Looks gorgeous as well as being a good example of embedded intelligence. Data really does make everything better.
  2. lamernews (Github) — an implementation of a Reddit / Hacker News style news web site written using Ruby, Sinatra, Redis and jQuery.
  3. Information is Cheap, Meaning is Expensive — interview with George Dyson. That quote is a wonderful summary of why data is important. But George also says: The danger is not that machines are advancing. The danger is that we are losing our intelligence if we rely on computers instead of our own minds. On a fundamental level, we have to ask ourselves: Do we need human intelligence? And what happens if we fail to exercise it? (via Mathew Ingram)
  4. Cubelets, Littlebits, and Others (Russell Davies) — he’s been playing with some sweet hardware kits. It’s not new and surprising behaviour in a toy and it’s not unbuildable with Lego or Mecanno. But there’s something different and good about being able to do it so quickly, roughly and spontaneously – throwing bits together and getting behaviour out. Not following instructions or typing laboriously. That ease makes it magical and educational – you start to understand the functions of things as a builder not a thinker. (Slightly, you know, slightly – at a lego level, not at a 5-year engineering degree level, but it’s a start.)
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Four short links: 29 July 2011

Four short links: 29 July 2011

SQL Injection, Optical Stick, SQL for Crowdsourcing, and DIY Medical Records

  1. SQL Injection Pocket Reference (Google Docs) — just what it sounds like. (via ModSecurity SQL Injection Challenge: Lessons Learned)
  2. isostick: The Optical Drive in a Stick (KickStarter) — clever! A USB memory stick with drivers that emulate optical drives so you can boot off .iso files you’ve put on the memory stick. (via Extreme Tech)
  3. CrowdDB: Answering Queries with Crowdsourcing (Berkeley) — CrowdDB uses human input via crowdsourcing to process queries that neither database systems nor search engines can adequately answer. It uses SQL both as a language for posing complex queries and as a way to model data. (via Big Data)
  4. The DIY Electronic Medical Record (Bryce Roberts) — I had a record of my daily weight, my exercising (catalogued by type), my walking, my calories burned and now, with the addition of Zeo, my nightly sleep patterns. All of this data had been passively collected with little to no manual input required from me. Total investment in this personal sensor network was in the range of a couple hundred dollars. And, as I rummaged through my data it began to hit me that what I’ve really been doing is creating my own DIY Electronic Medical Record. The Quantified Self is about more than obsessively cataloguing your bowel movements in low-contrast infographics. I’m less enthused by the opportunities to publicly perform private data, a-la the wifi body scale, than I am by opportunities to gain personal insight.
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Four short links: 20 June 2011

Four short links: 20 June 2011

Recording Glasses, Food Hacks, Visualizing Documents, Human Computation

  1. HD Video Recording Glasses (Kickstarter) — as Bryce says, “wearable computing is on the rise. As the price for enabling components drops, always on connectivity in our pockets and purses increases, and access to low cost manufacturing resources and know-how rises we’ll see innovation continue to push into these most personal forms of computing.” (via Bryce Roberts)
  2. Sketching in Food (Chris Heathcote) — a set of taste tests to demonstrate that we’ve been food hacking for a very long time. We started with two chemical coated strips – sodium benzoate, a preservative used in lots of food that a significant percentage of people can taste (interestingly in different ways, sweet, sour and bitter). Secondly was a chemical known as PTC that about 70% of people perceive as bitter, and a smaller number perceiving as really really horribly bitter. This was to show that taste is genetic, and different people perceive the same food differently. He includes pointers to sources for the materials in the taste test.
  3. Investigating Millions of Documents by Visualizing Clusters — recording of talk about our recent work at the AP with the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs.
  4. Managing Crowdsourced Human Computation (Slideshare) — half a six-hour tutorial at WWW2011 on crowdsourcing and human computation. See also the author’s comments. (via Matt Biddulph)
Comments: 2
Four short links: 16 June 2011

Four short links: 16 June 2011

Solar Wireless Sensors, CSS Lint, Options Explained, and Web Hacks

  1. Solar Powered Wireless Sensor NetworkChris is building wireless sensor networks using open source software and hardware that could be used in a variety of applications like air quality or home energy monitoring. It looks like he was inspired by Tweetawatt and is using xBee and ASUS wifi for communication in conjunction with Pachube for data display. (via MindKits)
  2. CSS Lint — validate and quality check your CSS. (via Jacine Luisi)
  3. An Introduction to Stock Options for the Tech Entrepreneur or Startup Employee (Scribd) — nice introduction to board, stock, options, finance, dilution, and more.
  4. Interesting Web Hacks (Quora) — You can quickly run HTML in the browser without creating a HTML file: Enter this in the address bar: data:text/html,<h1>Hello, world!<h1> (via Alex Gibson)
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