Posts tagged misc

Misc. links Aug 19th - 29th

Browsers running Javascript are the hottest thing right now in visuals programming: vvvv has its .js counterpart; while the toxiclibs have been ported for use in Processing.js.

Bootstrap, made by Twitter, looks like a good approach to a HTML+CSS framework.

Falsehoods programmers believe about names. A fascinating read about the actual complexities of implementing something as simple as people’s names in an application. (via Boing Boing)

Convoluted TOS and ‘open’ APIs will be the death of us. A good rant on the pitfalls of using public web APIs and being subjected to the whims and Terms of Service of whoever provides it. Open APIs allow people to do great stuff, but there will always be issues of trust. Handle with care.

A transcript of Charlie Stross’ talk Network Security in the Medium Term, 2061-2561 AD. Worth a read if only for the idea that network security is increasingly synonymous with identity security — as Stross points out, if our existence also manifests itself in bits, protecting those bits becomes a very basic need.

A DSLR controller for Android. Looking at this made my Android 2.1 phone go from ‘great’ to ‘piece of shit’ instantly (as it requires Android 2.3). Even though I’d probably not use this app that much.

90 percent of people don’t know the shortcut to find a word in a webpage. Actually, one of the things I miss from Firefox (I use Chrome) is the option to search-as-you-type. But hitting Ctrl+F is not that much work.

Tom Waits on the difficulty of throwing a private listening party in this day and age.

Kingdom Rush (Flash game) is definitely not recommended visiting unless you want to lose the next few hours of your life. (via Kottke)

Misc. links Aug 3rd - 18th

Paul Krugman suggests reacting to a fake alien invasion as the cure to our economic troubles. Mind you, this guy won a Nobel Prize, so the subtext is perhaps the only cure is some kind of global war (and so, of course it better be against a fake enemy from Mars). But the suggestion also implies that the whole of global economy runs on will, and we are in crisis as long as They want us to. So while we’re at it, we could pull a Civ and direct the whole global economy towards sending a giant robot to Alpha Centauri, or maybe towards building a network of 2km high vertical cities, or — I dunno — actually fixing things?!

Criticising a brand lowers the self-esteem of its adherents. Well, duh! Just consider sports fans, the penis-extension jokes about certain brands of cars, the way Apple computers somehow feel like a prerequisite to many in the creative industries, and the implied criticism when a brand itself ‘declares’ your computer/car/etc. to be last year’s model.

The Objective of Education is Learning, not Teaching. As a cynical would put it, institutions’ survival depends on their own lack of effectiveness, which is why the educational system is thoroughly broken. A very worthwhile read.

An useful side-by-side comparison of PHP, Perl, Python and Ruby. (via Kottke)

Smartass responses to ‘well-meaning’ signs.

xkcd has a good lesson on password strength.

This 2001 article from The Onion shows how predictable these last ten catastrophic years actually were.

The Assembly 2011 archive means it is time for my annual demo watching marathon.

The trailer for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sends the film straight into my Must Watch list.

Misc. links June 25th - Aug 2nd

Here’s something that every true hacker knows: doers know a lot better.

Narcissism is on the Rise, and I believe not just in America. This is the thing many so-called ‘liberals’ (in the European right-wing sense) don’t get: late (neo-)liberalism goes way past the economic laissez faire of older days. Since the 1970s or 80s libertarian polics have started to embed very nefarious ideas about merit and individualism; it is extremely tempting for the rich and privileged to embrace a philosophy in which caring for others is considered a bad thing. We are staring at the consequences, yet the belief most people have that they too can become part of the elite and Show Everyone Else The Finger is what keeps the status quo.

On the subject of online courses worth taking, here’s Stanford’s Computer Science 101 (using Javascript) and MIT’s Introduction to Computer Science (if you rather prefer the typographical neatness of Python). Harvard College’s CS50, by contrast, has a more classical approach, relying on C at the start (but eventually spanning other languages).

The Web Right Now, according to The Oatmeal.

I haz Stellar — I’ll post some thoughts on it once I’ve got the time to play a little more with it.

Arri camera menu simulators. If you want to know how the user interface of hundred thousand dollar cinema equipment feels like.

Starships can be lonely places.

Football: a fearless penalty kick (still, if I was the coach I would have that guy substituted); what happens when you mix a little volleyball and a lot of kung-fu.

Misc. links July 6th - 24th

Andy Rutledge has some thoughts on the terrible design of news websites, and some actual proposals at making it better. A very interesting read, and some very interesting proposals, but I have a feeling news websites are defective by design. There’s no advertising revenue on cutting down confusion and unnecessary clicking. Services such as Readability and Instapaper are allowed to let ‘power users’ actually read stuff (some people do the darndest things!), but their very existence is a sign media companies don’t care about the readers, and content is often considered cattle feed. They’d give us lorem ipsum every day if we read the ads.

If your website is full of assholes, it’s your fault. So says Anil Dash (warning, the link crashes consistently on Chrome, which is something the author should really look into). I agree: moderation is essential. I’ve often learned this the hard way, but there’s no incompatibility between aggressive moderation and freedom of expression (after all the Internet is big, and there are enough free places where you can exercise your expression). It’s all a matter of my house, my rules.

Ted Dziuba is a great programmer, he even built a Facebook clone in 4 days. A great humourous play on the stupid job offers that ask for incredible complicated feats of Web development for indeterminate future money (or, I would add, the digital sweatshops *ahem*, ‘creative industries’ that ask for developers to be proefficient in every language known to Man, with some design software thrown in, which only shows ignorance and a certain path to insolvence).

The Cinefamily is my new favourite blog about cinema. It rawks.

Whose Ideal Was This, Anyway?: the evolution of the ideal body, from late 19th century women in corsets to early 21st century women on the edge of the Uncanny Valley. The contrast between the images of Bond Girls 40 years apart, Ursula Andress and Halle Berry, is the difference between an image of a woman and an image of a Formula1 racing car — an image of science and technology, but not an image of a woman, really. Men, by contrast, have had an easier time keeping the media at bay from blasting their self-image, even if some things are ridiculous — see the steroidal ultra-muscular action figure.

Misc. links June 27th - July 5th

James Gleick on what defines a meme.

Practical tips on writing a book. Which is something I permanently want to start doing, soon.

Werner Herzog explains ‘truth intensification’ to Steven Colbert. I quite enjoy Herzog’s candid approach to the subject; while his manipulative antics (mutant albino aligators!) might horrify some, the fact is manipulation is unavoidable. Like an audiovisual equivalent of the Uncertainty Principle, I believe subjectivity stars when the filmmaker choses a camera angle over another or a moment over another. In that sense, all documentary is fiction (or, a lot more like fiction that most people want to believe), and the debate about truthfulness should hinge on what the author is trying to say rather than what is being shown.

A professor and a professional cheat talk about plagiarism, the business of writing college papers for other students, and the paradoxes of Higher Education.

The Elements of Hapiness, a study capturing the entire lives of more than 800 individuals. It’s a shame you can’t download the PDF.

Misc. links June 13th - 26th

Ten Myths About Introverts. As an introvert myself, I definitely vouch for the article. Too often I felt part of some unrecognized minority and struggled to make myself understood. Most extroverts, like History-writing victors, seem unable to consider others might have different interests, tastes and reactions.

Work has led me away from the Video Editing business in the last few months, so I was a bit surprised (and then again, not) the latest version of Apple Final Cut Pro (dubbed ‘X’) is rubbish. I haven’t used it or seen it in use yet, but the reported loss of backward-compatibility and external monitoring are indeed unacceptable. So great a Fail, it’s mainstream-worthy: here’s Conan O’Brien on the subject.

The Resume is Dead, the Bio is King. I’d certainly hope so, but this rests on the assumption people who hire are, like, readers. The reapparance of a certain CV-optimization industry (which reeks of SEO-for-people sleaze) gives me great doubts. (via Rita Falcão)

How to Land your Kid in Therapy, a great article about the perils of overprotective parenting. Being single and child-less, this is normally not the kind of thing I’d post about or read from start to finish, except that early on the author touches a very important subject: that parents (and I’d say, teachers and the educational establishment) place too much emphasis on protecting their children’s self-esteem from all facts of life; by the time these children get to college their professors and instructors (such as your humble narrator) have to deal with those overinflated ‘self-esteems’ where only a fraction is tied to real accomplishment, and the hypersensitivity to difficulty that comes with it. I’m definitely not for the ‘tough love’ parenting my own parents recall from theirs, but I found the passages about limiting choices and sometimes just letting kids pick themselves up specially spot-on. (via Delivereads)

Werner Herzog reads Go the Fuck to Sleep. Not only a crazy brilliant filmmaker, Herzog also has the best male narration voice I know. Lucky bastard.

Misc. links May 31st - June 12th

What is College good for? I’ve recently had a student ask a somewhat more brutal form of the question the author mulls about — “Why do we have to learn this?” (‘this’ being, by the way, a short tutorial on sound recording in the context of a Multimedia Lab course with a very high amount of audiovisuals in its syllabus) — and found myself unable to provide an answer. I always figured someone who goes to college has a interest in learning stuff, no questions asked (much less when the ‘stuff’ is a downright obvious part of what you commited yourself to study for three years).

In the United States, the advertising industry says the middle class is over.

Nobel laureate Paul Krugman on the ‘rule by rentiers’. No better example than the recent Portuguese election, in which the media (owned by people with a vested interest in the privatizations-to-come) conspired not only to utter demonize the outgoing PM — the only way to ensure a ‘stable’ government by the right, given the overall perceived mediocrity of the right-wing leader and new PM, Pedro Passos Coelho —, but also to present the IMF’s prescriptions as palatable and inevitable (and a good 80% voted pro-IMF, fucking A!). And of course, not content until the country descends (or, as the media would put it, ‘ascends’) into a kind of feudal post-democratic ‘Berlusconianism’, pundits now call for a new ‘modern’ Constitution, stripped of such ‘nagging aspects’ as electoral and labour regulations, then freely available to the MPs and the lobbies to change as they please. And it seems people will gladly take it, as envious dreams of bling are the true opium of the masses. (via Boing Boing)

On a lighter note, about one year ago two players fought a three-day, eleven-hour battle in the Wimbledon lawn. The fifth set of the match ended 70-68.

Misc. links May 22nd - 30th

Disbelieving Free Will Makes Brain Less Free: which makes perfect sense while it doesn’t at the same time. By which I mean I have a lot of doubts whether you can untangle belief and will. In my opinion, the suggestion of a causal relationship between belief and will is as good as saying there’s a possibility free will is an illusion, a mere conscience of quantum probability; but if that is the case then it is as good as being real, so we’re back at the start.

We Are All Stupid Narcissists and I Got the Fancy Psychological Principles to Prove It. Like I said about a different article last week, I think it’s a miracle people do good — it sure seems against nature sometimes.

Film School Thesis Statement Generator: the ideas read like the film-related passages in Infinite Jest (a book I’m three-quarters through).

HTML5 Boilerplate: now this is the sort of thing that makes me revert to the obnoxious arrogance and ill will against any sort of hype of my early years of blogging — can you believe I just downloaded 1.3megs of boilerplate? Anyway, it might actually be useful for quick projects if you don’t mind obeying the organization set up by someone else and bandwidth isn’t a concern. Just forget the hype and use what works. Table tags, even.

Speaking of webdesign, here’s a good tip on improving legibility in Webkit-based browsers via a simple CSS declaration.

The world’s best Tetris player. This is the definition of the word ‘Elite’ — not l33t or any inferior tech-synonym. I mean ‘Elite’, as found in the dictionary, a future edition of which will be illustrated by this video.

Misc. links May 1st - 22nd

The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science: after reading this, I think it’s no small miracle progress happens despite humans’ delusional nature. (via Instapaper)

RSA Animate: Ken Robinson on Education Reform.

An online SLR camera simulator. Might be a good didactic tool.

Colleges Worry About Always-Plugged-In Students. I think the classroom should be an internet exclusion zone for students. There were occasions I found myself competing with Facebook and IM for attention while teaching — not a good feeling. (via Instapaper)

The Handmade Visualization Toolkit. Wonderful idea.

Step-by-step electronics with Arduino. I’m always leaving this for later.

Mechanisms explained.

Waterbear enables you to code Javascript visually.

A website that emulates 1990s Lebanese television. Exactly that.

A cover of New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle on ukeleles.

Misc. links - January 2010

Stuff I’ve been sharing on Facebook lately:

SnapSort, a photo camera comparison service. The Panasonic LX3 seems to win against every pocketable camera in its price range, but it’s a shame the site’s criteria isn’t more transparent. And I’d love to be able to do a reverse lookup, for instance, to list cameras sorted by low light performance.

360 degree views of airplane cockpits. That’s a lotta buttons.

In B-flat, a YouTube video orchestra.

The Sixty One, an alternative music internet radio. It seems many users are unhappy with a recent redesign, but having discovered this last week, I just love it. And the idea of completing ‘listening quests’ so your music recommendations have higher reputation may sound ridiculous — and it probably is — but I just can’t resist literally playing along.

Next time people ask me about my pay as teacher, I’ll send them a link to this video.

Andrew of The Null Device wrote about the intelligent dogs of Moscow that have learned to use the city’s subway system, as apparently London’s pigeons do too. Apropos of that, a blog dedicated to interspecies friendship (‘friendship’ meaning: not in the process of killing each other while photographed/videotaped).

Another great blog discovery is Unhappy Hipsters. It’s just cynical captions appended to images from some interior design magazine, but still.

A trailer for Oliver Stone’s Wall Street 2. I was shocked to find out about this, but soundtrack notwithstanding, the trailer got me interested. I can’t think of a sequel, by the same director and with the same lead, done this many years after the first movie.

Again via The Null Device, a news report on news reporting. Priceless. By professional defect, I sometimes catch myself looking at the utter dullness of TV news reports. Here in Portugal, newsmen love their shots of buildings’ signage — no piece about the economy is complete without three or four ugly shots of some sliding door with the words “Ministry of Finance” in it. And loads of shots of people’s lower bodies walking a busy street. An international classic.

The Oatmeal’s How to suck at Facebook. I think I’ve met every single type of user described in the comic.