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February 11 2015

October 01 2012

July 01 2012

April 29 2012

October 21 2011

Cooking with Machiavelli

Ommatidia's recipe for "Bolognese Machiavelli" is a delightfully savage bit of cookery:

1. Arrange to have garlic and onions cast into hot oil.
2. The carrot and celery you must divide against themselves. Ground beef, too, shall turn upon the burner; crush any coherent resistance with a spoon of wood. Sautee until no hint of blood remains to stain your hands.
3. Perhaps, in a dark place without witnesses, the tomato shall meet with the knife.

(via JWZ)

(Image: Niccolo Machiavelli, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from robert_scarth's photostream and P6123040, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from joyosity's photostream)

Flexible wood

Snijlab's wood flexes and folds thanks to an intricate pattern of laser-cut grooves. The best part, however, is that the materials and hardware required to do it yourself are commonplace.

"Because a laser cutter is a fairly common tool, products like this could be manufactured locally," write the creators on their website. " ... For us this means we can make everything in-house and we don’t need to produce in big quantities to make it affordable. This is really the power of digital manufacturing and personal fabrication."

Pictured above is Snijlab's first offering, a booklet holder you can buy for €25.

Snijlab homepage via Freshome.

Will Wright's business card

This is the business card of game designer Will Wright, interviewed for The Atlantic by Alexis Madrigal.

Naturally, the country that minted the note no longer exists.

4543 c18b
Colorado is working to develop coherent amber waves, which would allow them to finally destroy Kansas and Nebraska with a devastating but majestic grain laser.
How-to: cross-stitched cell phone case

Haley Pierson-Cox of CRAFT found a tutorial from Wee Little Stitches to make a personalized cross-stitched iPhone cover. It uses this terrific Justice League of America Cross Stitch Pattern. How-To: Cross-Stitched Cell Phone Case

Tags: Post

October 20 2011

Buddy Bumper Ball
There are many pretenders to the throne of Violet Beauregarde.

Buddy Bumper Ball

Tags: Post

Occupy Your Money: Putting Infographic Graffiti on Dollar Bills

Occupy Your Money [occupygeorge.com] is a DIY project that aims to circulate dollar bills stamped with infographics to clarify the disparity of wealth in America to the masses. For instance, the illustrations show how the richest 1% of Americans control over 1/3 of the wealth, how the 'average' CEO earns 185 times more than the average worker, or how just 400 Americans control as much wealth as the bottom half of the entire country.

The required infographic templates can be downloaded, which allows you to use your home inkjet printer (and your own dollar bills, I am afraid) in order to participate.

Via @krees.

Tags: art

8-bit remakes fix the past

Back in the day, home versions of arcade hits were often disappointing: low-res screens, tiny sprites and tinny music. At the time, this was seen as the result of computers and consoles lacking the originals' cutting-edge tech. This is true enough; accurate living-room clones of coin-op hits weren't common until the 16-bit era. But expert coders, armed with an intricate mastery of ancient 8-bit computing knowledge, are revisiting the past to prove just how good the early machines could be.

For example, pictured above is the player's craft from 1980s classic shooter R-Type. At left, the original arcade incarnation is colorful and detailed; at center, a contemporary home version is barely recognizable as the same thing. At right, however, a more faithful modern remake, crafted on the same model of home computer, recovers much that was lost.

It's easy to assume such poor results were the result of slapdash programming. But more often than not, crushing development cycles were the cause.

"You make one mistake in your life and the internet will never let you live it down," wrote Keith Goodyer, programmer of the unfortunate R-Type port, on the CPC Wiki. "Electric Dreams / Activision gave me 21 days to do the port. I wish I had the time to do a nice mode 0 port with new graphics, but alas it was never to be."

Impressed by his candor, other readers of the forum decided to make it a reality 20 years later -- and gave themselves more than 21 days to get it done.

For those with the skills and the remembered disappointments, the chance to go back in time to fix childhood downers is hard to pass up. Anyone who grew up with an early Atari, Commodore 64 or Nintendo Entertainment System will likely have their own takes of holiday dismay to share. Pictured above is a fresh remake of Sega's colorful, fast-scrolling Space Harrier, from 1985. The home versions were universally grim, but garnered positive reviews because no-one expected better. On the left there is the arcade original. At center, a typical home conversion. On the right, however, is Sheddyshack's 8-bit remake for the Atari XE on the right.

(Sure, the still image of the remake isn't much. But video shows how close it gets. Frame rate, scrolling and animation -- factors not apparenty in screenshots -- were where many early conversions went to die. Also compare the colorful first version of CPC Double Dragon with the screenshot-ugly but superior rival version.)

In Europe, the nexus of the crummy conversion was the Amstrad CPC, a popular platform similar to the Commodore 64. It used a Z80 CPU, which permitted developers to recompile versions made for older computers such as the Sinclair Spectrum. Above, there's the arcade version of Capcom classic Black Tiger on the left, the notoriously awful CPC conversion in the middle, and, on the right, what I imagine a remake using that machine's capabilities would look like. It's not perfect -- detail and color is still lost -- but the appeal is not about exact reproductions. It's about a strange kind of nostalgia for specific experiences offered but denied; and, of course, the challenge of making the most of limited resources.

In an interview at Reassembler, coder Alan Laird reveals that he and Ian Morrison had to convert the arcade game Out Run to multiple home formats on deadline: "This was whilst attending university," he said. "It was a rather stressful time."

Above are screenshots from the hydraulic hit and a representative port. At left is the original, a spectacular affair that embodies the industry's mid-80s recovery. In the center, the tantalizingly perfect loading screen on the 64kb home version, a broken promise from which I clearly have yet to recover. And on the right, the gruesome reality of the actual game. This one has yet to be remade.

Tags: Post Wide

October 19 2011

Dataviz as defacement: OCCUPY GEORGE

Occupy George presents data about US wealth disparity as a series of data-visualizations that are intended to be overprinted on US dollar bills. The visualizations are available as templates to turned into rubber stamps, or inkjet-printed overtop of US currency that is first lightly affixed to sheets of paper.

(via Beth Pratt)

October 18 2011

EFF: HOWTO keep your mobile phone from ratting you out if you're arrested at a protest

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reminds protesters everywhere that the mobile phones they bring to protests, rallies and marches are little snitches, chock full of personal information that the police can scour if they arrest you, potentially implicating your friends and family, as well as yielding up access to your movements, your email, and your passwords. They have several practical suggestions for hardening your mobile phone against snooping, and for managing your mobile phone use when you're at risk of arrest or search:

Think carefully about what’s on your phone before bringing it to a protest. Your phone contains a wealth of private data, which can include your list of contacts, the people you have recently called, your text messages, photos and video, GPS location data, your web browsing history and passwords, and the contents of your social media accounts. We believe that the police are required to get a warrant to obtain this information, but the government sometimes asserts a right to search a phone incident to arrest -- without a warrant. (And in some states, including California, courts have said this is OK.) To protect your rights, you may want to harden your existing phone against searches. You should also consider bringing a throwaway or alternate phone to the protest that does not contain sensitive data and which you would not mind losing or parting with for a while. If you have a lot of sensitive or personal information on your phone, the latter might be a better option.

Password-protect your phone - and consider encryption options. To ensure the password is effective, set the “password required” time to zero, and restart phone before you leave your house. Be aware that merely password-protecting or locking your phone is not an effective barrier to expert forensic analysis. Some phones also have encryption options. Whispercore is a full-disk encryption application for Android, and Blackberry also has encryption tools that might potentially be useful. Note that EFF has not tested these tools and does not endorse them, but they are worth checking into.

Back up the data on your phone. Once the police have your phone, you might not get it back for a while. Also, something could happen, whether intentional or not, to delete information on your phone. While we believe it w

(via Red Ferret)

(Image: Cell phone freedom, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from numb3r's photostream)

Subway station decorated with pixelart inspired by 8-bit games

A Stockholm metro station has been redecorated with pixel-art inspired by classic games. They're lovely -- what a nice way to start your daily commute.

(via Neatorama)

Commit Logs From Last Night

Sort of a nerdy version of Texts From Last Night, Commit Logs From Last Night chronicles the often frustrating process of committing working code.

SUPER ugly, but it works

Added a bunch of semi colons that were missing for some balls weird reason.

Oops, left some debugging crap

Tags: programming

October 17 2011

Startup U

For a few months, those of us who care passionately about the New York City tech community have been debating the City's Applied Sciences NYC plan, which will drive the creation of a world-class research university here in NYC. Since a significant number of prominent, respected tech leaders have expressed their skepticism about the idea, I thought I'd take a minute to explain why I'm for it.

To start, though, I should explain why I'm surprised to be on this side of the debate. I didn't really go to college (I spent a few months here and there at various places, but not in any meaningful way) and have long been vocal about the fact that many people, including some of the most creative people in the tech industry, don't learn in a way that colleges and universities teach. There's often a mismatch between traditional higher education and the contemporary entrepreneurial impulse, as has been repeatedly articulated.

From Chris Dixon:

Some things we don’t need: Expensive projects like big engineering universities. Again, the more engineers and CS programs in the US the better (even better yet we need more CS majors - which probably means more CS education in high school and earlier), but I can think of far more productive ways to spend $100M to help the NYC startup and tech world.

Fred Wilson's take is less critical:

The effort to build a world-class science and engineering campus is smart. Of course, we already have a number of great universities in the city, and these institutions are not sitting still. They are producing talented scientists and engineers in greater numbers every day.

The Bloomberg administration should also consider investing in science and engineering education in our public schools -- particularly high schools -- and the existing universities. We should be supporting what's already working here in addition to building new institutions.

Even the almost-always-right Caterina Fake weighs in skeptically:

I'm skeptical that a science and engineering campus is what New York needs to become a technology powerhouse. Boston has not succeeded with that strategy.

Entrepreneurship cannot really be taught in a university setting -- that is, a factory model. It's learned by the apprenticeship model. Technology changes so fast. By the time someone becomes a professor, his or her industry knowledge is out of date. For young engineers and entrepreneurs, the only way to learn is by trying, failing, trying again until some great idea works.

Caterina's quote comes from the New York Times debate on the the topic, in the context of whether New York City can rival Silicon Valley for tech entrepreneurship. But "Should NYC build a research university" and "Can NYC rival Silicon Valley for startups?" are two different questions.

And, notably, the second question is already answered: NYC already rivals Silicon Valley for startups, and from my admittedly-biased standpoint, it already exceeds Silicon Valley by the measure of how many meaningful startups are being founded at any given time.

What a School Does

If I didn't go to college and I don't significantly disagree with the descriptions of entrepreneurial attitudes to education as described by Chris, Caterina, and others, then why do I think we need a research university here in New York City?

Because research universities make innovators out of those who might otherwise never consider entrepreneurship. Though I hate to speak in generalities, there are some common traits from those who pursue advanced degrees in applied sciences, and chief among them is that they pursue their area of expertise to sometimes unfathomable levels of detail. While the passion required for such a pursuit is absolutely parallel to that required to create a startup, it's seldom channeled into a compatible set of goals. And there are, simply put, disciplines where extensive post-secondary education is required in order to become competent as a practitioner — despite Chris Dixon's skepticism about the need for a world-class research university in New York City, every single person listed on his startup Hunch's team page has a "College Days" line in their bio describing their background in higher education.

More importantly, many of the cultures and countries which are producing the best technological talents (China and India, most notably) have cultures with a profoundly more respectful attitude towards education. Creative people who are creating brilliant innovations in those countries shouldn't be asked to forgo the educational goals they value simply because a lot of rich, privileged Americans have been able to find success without it. Keep in mind: For every Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg whose success stories include the obligatory description of "college dropout", we are glossing over the fact that they got accepted to Harvard in the first place, and made critical social and financial contacts in that context.

Because, for those whose families haven't been in the United States for generations, or whose families are not from social classes with access to capital and influence, universities provide an incredible upgrade in the amount and quality of access that less privileged students can have.

Put more simply: If you're super smart, are inventing the kind of technology that powers startups, and come from a background that's not a privileged middle-class American family, then a university may be one of the most powerful tools to put you in contact with the social world that will help your business succeed. And hey, you might even learn something while you're there.

What a City Should Do

Just as importantly, world-class universities encourage a mingling of classes, cultures and creativity outside of their walls, bringing their students and faculty in contact with leaders from government, business, and society. Has there ever been a major city that has regretted having another major university open up? Is it ever bad to have more students?

Surprisingly, some people think so. Peter Thiel just argued exactly that point against Vivek Wadhwa in a conversation that I found, frankly, absurd. It's not surprising that someone who's an extremist about the value of large institutions would feel that young people shouldn't participate in a large institution. That's Thiel's reflexive reaction to lots of topics, and it's not surprising it's the one that he brings to this subject.


But the argument against the utility of a world-class university education is a position of privilege, the one that ignores that many people would not have access to the opportunity to excel without college providing them that opening. I know it's true, because I know what I had to do to work around it, and even that was only possible because my parents valued education. Most of the doors that are open to me can be traced, directly or indirectly, to the work my father put into a career that began with his earning of a PhD at a great school.

It's not about the school

I'm never going to enroll in an Applied Sciences university that opens in New York City, as far as I can see. I'll be 100% supportive if my son chooses to go with an alternate path for educating himself. I certainly share many people's misgivings about the brokenness in funding and financing for college education. But there are contexts and cultures that will only be attracted to entrepreneurship and innovation when introduced to it through the context of higher education. It doesn't have to be in the classic model — I hope technology can reinvent education just as much as it's reinvented so many other industries.

What we need most of all, though, is to broaden the definition of education, to encompass both traditional higher education processes as well as the do-it-yourself, trial-and-error initiative that's so familiar to entrepreneurs. We don't do that by pitting these two environments as opposing choices. We do that by recognizing that classrooms and startups are both great ways of teaching people.

Ball-camera that you toss in the air for a 360° panorama

Shared by Jonathan

Jonas Pfiel's "Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera" sports 36 cameras and contains firmware that stitches their output together to form a global panorama; you throw it into the air and at the top of its arc, it takes a snap and processes it.

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

October 15 2011

Ball-camera that you toss in the air for a 360° panorama

Jonas Pfiel's "Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera" sports 36 cameras and contains firmware that stitches their output together to form a global panorama; you throw it into the air and at the top of its arc, it takes a snap and processes it.

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

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