Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Greening of the Web is Dark

A student of mine recently introduced me to Earthle, powered by Google so you have the same results, same options, but it's black. That's so you'll use less energy while you're searching. It's a great idea. I think more of the web should get darker to promote energy conservation. #000000 instead of #FFFFFF.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Microsoft has come up with something really amazing in its research labs called Photosynth. I learned about it from this TED talk with Blaise Aguera y Arcas. He demos the software, showing how it syncs photos of the same geographic location so you can manipulate the object of the photos in 3D passing through the lens of each picture. The pictures come from all over the web, from devices as varied as camera phones to high resolution cameras so as you pull each one into focus you can explore its specific resolution and visual character. The great quote from Aguera y Arcas comes when he compares the experience of changing one's point of view from a distant perspective to an extreme closeup to manipulating paper. He calls paper "an inherently multi-scale medium," which puts the finger on why e-paper could never take the place of physical paper. No matter what happens inside the screen, the metal and liquid crystal provide an impermeable barrier between you and the object you'd like to manipulate. Photosynth does bring you a little closer to that experience, though.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Open Source Electronics

I've found another reason to love the Cricket. The electronics are open source, or at least some of the components are. I was having a lot of problems with wires coming out of the connectors that fasten them into the Cricket's ports. I received a bunch of crimped wires from the manufacturer that I had to splice onto the wires that came out until I started running out of those. Then I made a discovery in an unlikely source. My cordless phone battery was dying, so I went to Radio Shack to get a new one. It turned out they had changed the model and while the battery the sold was the same shape, voltage and amps as my bad one, the connector into the phone was a different shape. But the battery wires fastened into the connector in exactly the same way as the wires on the Cricket do. It turns out the crimps are a standard method of making a non-soldering wire connection. So all I have to do to fix the wires that come out is re-crimp them. There's even a page on the Molex web site (the manufacturer of the crimps) that shows how to make a good crimp.


Now I know why Facebook is so popular. It's the ease with which people can communicate in multimedia formats. The only one that's missing is audio messages. Text, pictures, and video are all there mixed together. The brilliance is how easy it is to relate objects to one another through comments, tags, and probably other ways I don't know about in a very fluid way.:)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Code Comments Are Essential

My 9th graders have been navigating a paper road with their Super Crickets for a few classes now armed only with the knowledge of how to create a long sequence of commands that hard code every turn and straightway. No sensors, yet. So their programs are long. I finally introduced them to the practice of adding comments to code. They were so thankful to have a way to keep track of where each turn in the road was in their programs. I realized how essential comments are.