I feel slightly bad linking to this since I know a couple of the speakers on the list. But I still chuckled a bit as I was reading it. Now I see some chatter about a TED parody event.
The thing that struck me in the video, though, is that the rat is moving involuntarily. The rat’s body is walking, but it’s an advanced QWOP-style computer algorithm that’s in control. To me this research seems more similar to those creepy Boston Dynamics robots than other advances in rehabilitative medicine.
The rat, in this case, is just a meat-based robot. Now watch the video with that in mind, watch the spasms of the front legs, and the cooing encouragement from the lab tech. Creepy right?
Jason Wilson on presenting his project OuterBody while using it:
I’d always suspected that an on-stage experience would be interesting, if not transformative, so I took the opportunity to give my talk while wearing the OuterBody goggles that only allow me to see myself from a third person perspective. I’d imagined that seeing yourself on stage from the perspective of an audience member might reduce some stage fright if the sense of self could successfully move from your body on stage into the camera in the aisle. Let the attention fall on that disembodied you that you’re also staring at.
From yesterday’s New York Times article, “Wasting Time Is New Divide in Digital Era”:
“Despite the educational potential of computers, the reality is that their use for education or meaningful content creation is minuscule compared to their use for pure entertainment,” said Vicky Rideout, author of the decade-long Kaiser study. “Instead of closing the achievement gap, they’re widening the time-wasting gap.”
Policy makers and researchers say the challenges are heightened for parents and children with fewer resources—the very people who were supposed to be helped by closing the digital divide.
The same day Matt Mullenweg posted this video to his blog. It’s a presentation about the social implications of constantly using one’s iPhone, given at a country club.
Digital literacy and attention quality are certainly important across the socioeconomic spectrum, but I do think that it’s legitimate for public policy to focus on the needs of lower income people. More from the Times article:
The new divide is such a cause of concern for the Federal Communications Commission that it is considering a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.
Separately, the commission will help send digital literacy trainers this fall to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Some of the financial support for this program, part of a broader initiative called Connect2Compete, comes from private companies like Best Buy and Microsoft.
Let me preface this by saying that I have much respect for Microsoft’s danah boyd, who is quoted in the article. But the idea of Best Buy and Microsoft funding a national digital literacy program sounds to me like McDonald’s funding a new school lunch program. “Connect2Compete” sounds like a great name for some dystopian parody of corporate-training-mill style technology education.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully support these kinds of initiatives. I just think we need more independent efforts, for example Jonathan Baldwin’s Tidepools. As part of his thesis project at Parsons, Baldwin set up free community wifi for primarily lower income residents of Brooklyn’s Red Hook. The community mapping application he created uses the visual language of gaming to do things like improve civic infrastructure and map out the locations of NYPD stop-and-frisks.
All this talk about “Amercia” is a distraction:
Gaffes stick when they reinforce an existing criticism of a candidate. Is anyone really worried that Mitt Romney, whose personal crest may as well be a spreadsheet, is insufficiently obsessed with details?
Here is Jay Smooth explaining why the Romney “meh” response is dangerous:
Also, my site was down for a while earlier today. It’s all fixed now.
From Common Dreams:
Bill 78 not only “enraged civil libertarians and legal experts but also seems to have galvanized ordinary Quebecers.” Since the law passed Friday, people in Montreal neighborhoods have appeared on their balconies and in front of their houses to defiantly bang pots and pans in a clanging protest every night at 8 p.m.
Twelve years ago, on May 26th, I registered the domain phiffer.org. It started out as a kind of online sketchbook. The first thing I posted here was an experiment in direct manipulation of the page. The point was to surprise visitors with an unexpected opportunity to create something. It’s a very crude drawing interface, and a bit pointless, but I’m amazed that it still works (for the most part). Go web standards!
The site has gone through many permutations since then, but it’s still primarily my online sketchbook. I’ve adopted a fairly conventional weblog format, but I’m still interested in exploring that element of surprise. I’d still like to try out some new things here. More to come!
Update: James reminded me of this box grid interface in the comments.
Steve Coll in The New Yorker’s Daily Comment:
Through its bedrock appeals to friendship, community, public identity, and activism—and its commercial exploitation of these values—Facebook is an unprecedented synthesis of corporate and public spaces. The corporation’s social contract with users is ambitious, yet neither its governance system nor its young ruler seem trustworthy.
Looks like the last time I posted events here was in 2010, just before Bushwick Open Studios. Well it’s that time of year again!
- We Are All Anonymous, Tonight May 23rd, 7pm at Triple Canopy, 155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn, NY (sadly I won’t be able to make this, but it sounds awesome)
- Flux Death Match: The New Aesthetic, Wednesday May 30th, 8pm at Flux Factory, 39-31 29th Street, Long Island City
- Bushwick Open Studios 2012 with my Future Archaeology pals, June 1st and 2nd from 12–7pm. 1381 Myrtle Ave Apt 4C (entrance on Himrod St), near the Knickerbocker M train stop. I’ll be showing some of my recent photography work as well as Occupy.here.
A good text editor is, by far, the most important tool for programming computers. There are many good options available, and each person has their own reasons for choosing one editor over another. On the Mac, popular choices include BBEdit, TextMate, and Coda. For modest needs, an editor like TextEdit.app can be sufficient, while some opt for a full-blown IDE like Eclipse or XCode. Many coders still work with a console-based editor, such as vim.
I haven’t had a Windows box in so long I’m not sure what the popular choices are any more, but in college I was an UltraEdit guy.
My text editor of choice now is jEdit, which is free and Open Source. jEdit is written in Java, so it works on both Mac and Windows, and it supports many of the same features of non-free editors. It seems to be pretty obscure though, in part because getting jEdit into a usable form takes a little bit of work. Plugins must be installed, settings must be tweaked. It uses ugly non-system native Open and Save dialog boxes, but I don’t mind so much because those interfaces let you work with remote files seamlessly via SFTP (using the ‘FTP’ plugin).
I thought it would be helpful to share my preferred settings, to give my favorite editor a better first impression. Below are a few steps to help you get set up on a Mac or on Windows. Desktop Linux can probably also follow along and improvise where things might diverge from Mac OS X.
- Start by downloading and installing the latest stable release, use either the Windows Installer or Mac OS X package
- Download and unzip my baseline configuration:
jedit-mac.zip or jedit-win.zip (these have different default fonts and keyboard bindings defined in
- Launch jEdit once to generate some default settings, and then quit (on Windows you may also need to close the jEdit Server from your system tray)
- Make a backup of the default settings folder, found in
/Users/[username]/Library/jEditon Macs or
C:\Users\[username]\.jediton Windows 7, just rename the folder to jEdit.bak or .jedit.bak (note: your Library folder is hidden by default in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion)
- Copy my baseline configuration folder where the default one was (in your Library folder on Macs or in your home directory on Windows)
- Launch jEdit again, it should look a lot nicer!
Some notes about what’s different in this configuration:
- Nicer color scheme and default font (via the Editor Scheme plugin)
- FTP plugin for seamless remote file management (use a path like
- Tabs UI instead of a drop-down to switch between files (via the BufferTabs plugin)
- Project Viewer plugin lets you browse files from the sidebar
- XML plugin provides handy HTML auto-completion, indentation, and entity conversions
- SuperAbbrevs plugin lets you set up macros for frequently used code snippets (for example type ‘a’, then shift-tab, set a macro for hyperlinks like
<a href="$1">$end</a>—now you can type ‘a’ followed by a tab and save yourself some repetitive typing)
You also get things like multi-line tab indenting and regular expression search/replace out of the box. Of course you’ll want to tweak your own setup further depending on your needs, so be sure to explore the preferences and browse the extensive list of plugins. One thing that’s also worth pointing out is that jEdit listens on a random network port when you start it up to determine if other copies of the editor are running. When I first saw this it made me wonder if I should worry that my editor had been hacked, but apparently this is normal behavior and can be disabled.