Entries related to technology.


I've been pretty swamped with life recently and haven't had as much time to play with technology as I would like. Being a geek, playing with technology is an important form of relaxation. On top of that, I'm very interested in constructivist forms of education.

My daughter, Fiona, loves playing games on her smartphone, and I've been trying to find good geeky, constructivist oriented games, and yesterday, I found one, by happenstance.

Every day, Amazon Appstore gives away certain premium apps for free. Mostly, they are games that I'm not all that interested in, but in some cases, they are pretty interesting. Yesterday, the app was Creatorverse. The title kind of caught my eye. The image for the app looked interesting, but what really caught my attention was that it was by Linden Labs. That's right, the folks who brought you Second Life have an app for Android phones. That was enough to get me to download it.

The interface wasn't intuitive and it took a little while for me to get going. Put simply, Creatorverse allows you to create images where the rules of physics applies to the objects. So far, I've only played with gravity. I create balls which fall, and bounce depending on their density. I've created slows that the balls can roll down. It is fun. Relaxing for a geek, and Fiona, who has been playing a lot of mindcraft recently found it interesting.

I'm glad I downloaded it. As I play with it more, I will figure out how I can share some of my creations. Until then, I'm going to try and catch up on my rest, and maybe relax a little, from time to time, playing with Creatorverse.

A Podcast Presentation Tool - @bufferapp and @Tweetchat

On March 30th, PodCamp Western Mass will take place. Already, people are brainstorming session ideas. I've written about PodCamps several times in the past. What is the Difference Between a Good Podcamp and a Great Podcamp? is the blog post that perhaps best captures my thoughts about PodCamps.

A good podcamp does not have people coming in to do presentations. Presentations are done by self professed experts trying to tell other people something important that they’ve learned. There are places for presentations, but I don’t think podcamps are one of them. Presentations reflect a major problem in so much of online media today. Everyone wants to talk, and no one wants to listen. A good podcamp is one where everyone goes to listen and learn.

With this, I thought I'd share my latest favorite presentation tool, a tool that should work well for Podcamp. I've used it for a couple presentations and I know a few other people are thinking of using this idea.

On the screen where the presentation is being projected, instead of projecting PowerPoint, I project a Tweetchat using a predefined hashtag. I set the update speed to 5 seconds to try and minimize Then, I load up my talking points in Buffer. I set Buffer so that it won't do any automatic updates until after the presentation is scheduled to be over.

Then, when I do the presentation, I bring up Buffer on my Android phone. It should work the same way for iPhones. My tweets are their waiting for me, and I can click on the option to send each tweet immediately to twitter as I get the the tweet in my presentation. Within five seconds, it shows up on the screen.

What is also nice about this, is that gives everyone else a chance to add their thoughts to the discussion on the presentation screen.

For those who believe that presentations should follow a 10-20-30 rule, ten slides, twenty minutes and thirty point font, buffer helps with this, if you are using the free version of buffer, you are limited to ten tweets. When I do important larger presentations, I upgrade my buffer account to the paid version.

The problems I run into are trying to see what else has been added to the discussion, responding to it, and dealing with some of the delay. However, it is a great way of doing presentations and a skill I'm working on enhancing.

So, anyone up for some Buffer/Tweetchat enabled presentation/discussions at Podcamp Western Mass?

I Get My News….

Today celebrates the tenth anniversary of the launching of Blog for America. Over the past ten years, I've followed a lot of different blogs and used various tools to do so. Back in 2005, I wrote about using Flock, and Bloglines. I used quite a bit, but over time started using Bloglines more. Both were shutdown and then resuscitated. Flock never really did much for me, but I did end up using Rockmelt quite a bit, including some limited RSS capabilities.

When Twitter came along, I started spending more time with Twitter, and my wife even made a shirt for me with the line, "I get my news on Twitter".

When Blogline shutdown, I moved most of my blog reading over to Google Reader. Now, it has been announced Google Reader is shutting down, and I need to figure out where I go next. A lot of people have been writing a lot of blog posts about the end of Google Reader and what to do next. These have varied from recommending Feedly, news blur, and The Old Reader. Others have spoken about using IFTTT and a 'read later' site. The option that seems like it comes closest for me is the revitalized Feedburner.

Things that are important to me are the ability to look at all unread blog posts, or unread blog posts on specific blogs. It is important to me to be able to have many feeds. Currently, I'm following around 500 different blogs. Bloglines does all of this fairly nicely. The one thing that I'll miss when I finally move off of Google Reader is the mobile abilities. I haven't been able to find a bloglines client for Android.

Another thing that I liked about Google Reader is that besides having a mobile client, you could also read your stories on Flipboard. Hopefully, there will be the ability to read feeds stored from Bloglines or other sites from Flipboard and other mobile apps as well.

Other sites have suggested using newer news services that select what they think I'll be interested in based on topics. So far, other than Google News, none of these have really been all that interesting to me.

All of that said, I have three months before I have to move off of Google Reader, and I wouldn't be surprised to see lot of new developments between now and then.

If any of you have recommendations for good RSS/Blog readers, let me know

Rethinking the Borg

Yesterday, I stumbled across an interesting article, A Brain-to-Brain Interface for Real-Time Sharing of Sensorimotor Information. It goes into detail about how a sensor was connected to one rat's brain, and the experiences were transmitted, over the internet, to another rat who learned from the experiences of the first rat.

My science fiction enthusiastic brain went wild thinking about the possibilities. While the starting point is with sensorimotor information, I wondered what else could be transmitted. While the starting point was rats, I wondered what could be done with humans, or even, interspecies communications. What would it be like to experience the sensorimotor feelings of a horse galloping? Could this information be stored and played at a later time, perhaps as an educational tool? Could I become a better pianist or guitarist by playing back sensorimotor recordings of great performers? Could this be added to albums, so I could not only listen to a great performance, but experience the sensory feelings of the performer during the performance?

And what about the use in dealing with conditions like Parkinson's disease or Essential Tremors: Could a researcher gain insight by playing back the sensorimotor recording of a person with these conditions? Could playing back the sensorimotor recordings of healthy people provide some sort of therapy for people with these conditions?

All of this, of course, is precursor to The Borg. What happens as people become more connected to a collective mind? The borg is portrayed negatively in terms of force assimilation, yet our society has always been based on collective experiences and action. The struggle between individual experience and collective experience is an age old struggle.

Last night, I went to see The Indigo Girls in concert in Northampton with my daughter who started her college career in Virginia. It was striking to think about the collective experience of young women around Northampton and how it compared with the collective experience of some of my daughter's classmates from the south. I wondered how many of my daughter's classmates sought to flee their southern collectives, not for more individuality, per se, but to join a collective that was more tolerant, more embracing of their individual experiences.

I remember, many years ago, gathering around a campfire, to sing songs. Singing around campfires is one of the earliest ways in which experiences were shared, in which the collective spread its common ideas. Yet even two decades ago, around the campfire, different modes of collective engagement were creeping in. Many of the songs we knew, we had learned on the radio, and not around previous campfires. The campfire itself, was most likely started using the remains of another way of sharing collective information, used newspapers. We shared our experiences from around the campfire when we returned to our homes and spoke with friends.

Last night, the individuals who had this shared experience had gained collective information other ways. They had listened to music online, perhaps sharing it online. The newspapers were largely replaced by sharing of news online. Perhaps the most striking change was the way the collective experience of the concert was shared. During the concert, people texted their friends. They called friends from their cellphones so their friends could listen in, or to leave a brief recording of the experience on their friends voicemail. Photographs and videos were taken, and I imagine, shared via social media.

As far as I know, no one had implements allowing them to have the same sensorimotor experiences as Amy Ray or Emily Saliers, yet this omission did not seem to lesson the very strong bond between the audience and the performers.

Progress marches onward and some day, perhaps, we will look back at how we have shared common experiences via pictures, sound recordings or the written word, as being as quaint as the gathering around the campfire many generations before. Yet we would do well to remember the words of John Donne, "No man is an island" and that each one of us should say, "For I am involved in mankind".

Storm Streaming and Raspberry Video Stuff

Today, I was thinking about best ways to live stream the storm and I was interested in experimenting more with the Raspberry Pi. So I did a little digging and came up with a couple interesting projects.

First, was setting up the Raspberry Pi to stream video that could be shared. This was fairly straight forward. Previously, I had hooked up my Logicam QuickCam Pro 9000 to the Raspberry Pi and it worked pretty well. Now came the task of finding the best way to stream it.

I found this blog post, Using a Raspberry pi to live stream video to Bambuser. So, I set up an account on Bambuser. As a brief diversion, I install bambuser on my Android cellphone and found that it streams nicely that way. I streamed parts of my drive home during the beginning of the storm and it seemed to work well, although I haven't looked at the video it produced.

I simply stuck the cellphone up on the dashboard and tried to keep it from sliding around too much. I may look for options to mount the cellphone to stream car rides in the future.

Getting the Raspberry Pi to stream to Bambuser was incredibly easy. Install a program, set up the parameters and start streaming. It is using rtmp: and I'm wondering if there are other things that I could stream with this. YouTube Live? Google Hangout? Other stuff? That is a project I'll explore a little bit later.

It got me back to another project. I have an old Pinnacle PCTV HD Ultimate Stick (880e) that I'd love to get working with Raspberry Pi. So far, I don't know of anyone who has succeeded with this. By doing a little digging it looks like I need to enable the em28xx device. One blog post that goes into details about this is from Bufocam.

I tried doing this, but it requires perl as part of the procedure and for some reason, I'm having problems installing Perl, so I'll save that for a different day.

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