Entries related to technology.

RIP Aaron

"Some days it seemed like all there was was gray". With those words, Aaron Swartz started off a blog post about his relationship with Quinn Norton. This morning, I started off my blog post about driving to a funeral with, "It was a grey January morning as I climbed into my black 1997 Nissan Altima and headed north".

It seems appropriate that my RSS feed is full of posts about Aaron Swartz who help with the creation of RSS. The posts are by some of the bloggers I respect most, David Weinberger, Ethan Zuckerman, and Larry Lessig to name a few.

I don't have stories of meeting Aaron when he was 14 or of him staying at my house at some point. I'm not sure if I ever met him, but given our mutual friends and mutual interests, I suspect we probably met somewhere along the way.

Yet Aaron's death hits me hard. Perhaps it is because of the recent death of my mother and of my cousin. Perhaps it is because now, more than ever, we need people like Aaron fighting for open access to information on the internet, in the courts and in our government.

There is not much more to say than I am so sad.

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SuperCollider, Middletown Remix and Raspberry Pi

At work, I've been speaking with people involved with Middletown Remix. As part of the project, I met with Ron Kuivila, who teaches electronic music at Wesleyan. His biography on Wikipedia mentioned SuperCollider, "an environment and programming language for real time audio synthesis and algorithmic composition". So, last night, I downloaded Supercollider and started playing with it.

I downloaded the Mac OSX universal image version 3.6.2 and started it up. It comes with documentation built in and it was fairly easy to get started. On my Mac, I had to use Shift-Return to kick off snippets of code. The server didn't appear as described in the documentation, but using s.boot; did the trick. The instructions saying to use Cmd-. to stop the sound weren't exactly clear. That's the command key and the period key.

Once I got that far, things started to come together really nicely, and I had my computer making some interesting sounds. Another bit of documentation that I found very interesting was How to Program in SuperCollider. It explained PBind which gave me the ability to play some tunes.

It took a little bit of remembering music theory, to get a scale that sounds half way decent.

\freq, Pseq([ 1/1, 9/8, 5/4, 4/3, 3/2, 5/3, 15/8, 2 ] * 440, 5),
\dur, Prand([0.2, 0.4, 0.3], inf)

The next subject it looks like I need to explore is SynthDefs.

With all of this coming together, the next obvious question was, what other devices could I run SuperCollider on? There is a great blog post on SuperCollider on the Raspberry Pi. I plugged in my Raspberry Pi, loaded the SuperCollider program on it and tried to get it to run. It seemed to run okay, but the instructions talked about using Overtone to control the SuperCollider server, and I haven't gotten that far. Nor have I done anything with Synths yet, which is what I read about in the SuperCollider 3 Server Tutorial.

It does seem like an exciting project would be to use a large number of Raspberry Pi's running SuperCollider, and perhaps some sensors to make them react to what is going on around them. This could be used to create a sound installation, perhaps similar to what Ron spoke about with his rainforest installation.

I also started playing with SuperCollider for Android. I got it to start and make a sound, but not do anything subsequent. Their page, How to control SC Android remotely didn't seem to work with my Android. and server remained listed as inactive. However, using the same commands to my Raspberry Pi, I did manage to get indication that the Raspberry Pi SuperCollider server is running properly.

That pretty much captures where I am with SuperCollider, Middletown Remix and Raspberry Pi this morning. It's time to get about my chores. If've you're playing with SuperCollider and/or Raspberry Pi, let me know what your up to.

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Playing with the Raspberry Pi - Part 1

For Christmas, I got a Raspberry Pi. This is a $35 computer that you can do all kinds of interesting things with. I'm just starting to explore the device. Here some of the things I've done, or am thinking about doing:

To start off, I bought four different 8 Gig SD cards so I could put different builds on each card. The first card is currently running Wheezy (the default Linux distribution). It is great to get a feel for the machine. I've added Pianobar and use it as a Pandora Box. I haven't started adding much else yet.

I've been downloading distributions and then installing them using the RPi Easy SD Card Setup. Yes, it is very easy to set up cards this way. The one downside is that you end up using small partitions, depending on the image you start with and whether or not there is any automatic repartitioning.

The second card has OpenELEC. A very nice XBMC distribution. I've used it as my media center, similar to how I use my Roku. Very simple. Works great. A little slow at times.

As I was loading pictures off a camera today, and it struck me that I could probably load OpenElec on an SD card in a camera. Then, when I popped the card out of the camera and into the RPi, I could view the pictures. So, I loaded OpenELEC on a 16 Gig card I have for one of my cameras. Sure enough, the pictures are then viewable in XBMC. The video, which my camera saved in .MOV format, however, did not play, although I could hear the sound. The bigger issue, was that it created an initial partition of 125Meg. I haven't found a nice way of resizing. I'll save that for another day.

However, a better approach may be to use Raspbian. That would allow me to install XBMC as well as GIMP so I could take a card out of the camera, load it in the Raspberry Pi edit the pictures, view them on XBMC or share them via Raspbian to social networks.

I also want to play with other operating systems on the RPi. I have a Nokia N900 and I'd love to get some of the development from that community on the RPi. There are instructions for loading Mer on the Raspberry, which provides a good framework for exploring Tizen as well. Likewise, I'm interested in Android on Rpi, and when Ubuntu mobile comes along, that as well.

I like virtual worlds, so I'm wondering if I can get OpenSim running on an RPi, perhaps even with a viewer loaded as a great game machine. Or, since Scratch seems to be working, can I get Croquet or Open Cobalt running.

I also read about a project to Build Your Own Google Glass-Style Wearable Computer. I started looking around and found a promising looking head mounted display, the Vuzix Corp. Wrap 920. It looks like it should connect easily to the Raspberry. For even more fun, it should be possible to connect the The PEREGRINE Wearable Interface - Medium Glove. This would make a great gaming set up.

A possible related project includes AR, Kinect, Head mounted display project which has led me to OpenKinect

So many great projects possible!

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Uplift: What's your SuperBetter Online Score?

As I sit down to write this, I find that my Klout score is current 73, my score on PeerIndex is 65, and my stock is at 229 on Empire Avenue. Klout shows my top topics to be social media and social justice. PeerIndex has news, lifestyle and the arts as my top benchmark topics and on LinkedIn, the skills I've received the most endorsements in are Blogging, Social Media and Social Networking.

Yet I have to wonder, how much does this really mean? Are these the scores that matter? I remember one person describing HITS on a website as How Idiots Track Success. How influential am I really, what sort of impact am I really having? These are thoughts I think about as I struggle with setting my goals for 2013, especially as part of the CT Health Foundation's Health Leaders Fellowship Program.

I've been writing a bit about Jane McGonigal's TED talk, The game that can give you 10 extra years of life which she calls SuperBetter.

In SuperBetter, you work on building up physical, mental, emotional and social resilience. It is a great concept and it made me wonder, what my SuperBetter Online Score would be. How often do I read a post that stops and makes me think (+1 mental resilience)? How often do I stumble across something mind numbing or brain dead (-1 mental resilience)? How often do I see something that warms my heart and causes me to want to do something good for the people around me (+1 emotional resilience)? How often do I see something that makes me want to just quit (-1 emotional resilience)? How often do I see something that makes me feel more connected to friends on line (+1 social resilience)? How often do I see something that makes me want to hide in a cave and not talk to anyone (-1 social resilience)? I have skipped over physical resilience; I'm not sure I get much for pluses or minus physically from my online activities.

Wouldn't it be great if someone came a long with a game, perhaps as a mashup of Klout, StumbleUpon and SuperBetter, where a post could be rated, and optionally shared using these scores? Instead of simply 'liking' a post on Facebook, I could say it gave me a +1 mental resilience. I could chose which posts to share based on this, and make an effort to only share those posts that are increasing resilience in whichever areas I'm most interested in at the time.

At times, I could go back and see which friends have posted things that have been most uplifting. I could thank them for it, tell others about how uplifting I find them. For people posting material generating negative resilience, I could decide if I really wanted to keep following them. Perhaps even a back propagating neural network could be added, but that's probably pushing the envelope beyond the scope of this blog post.

As Facebook, Amazon, Google and other sites continue to refine their searches and recommendations, perhaps I would start getting more uplifting content. Perhaps brands and news organizations could start promoting their material in a more uplifting manner.

I'm probably too busy to write something like this myself, but perhaps I'll find some open source tools I could tweak to get close to this. So, if someone wants to steal this idea and implement it great.

So, what sort of SuperBetter Online Score is this blog post worth?

Random Stuff

Last night, I had another one of those dreams about trying to find my way. In this case, it wasn't about finding a room in a hotel, it was about finding my way home. Mostly there are just fragments of the dream remaining. We were riding in a car that my brother was driving. Barreling down a hill we came to an abrupt end of the road. My brother couldn't stop in time and we went over the embankment. Airbags misfired, no one was injured, but the car was unusable.

So, we got out and started walking. Along the way, we were befriended by some bears that travelled some of the way with us before getting reunited with their families. All of this was in some sort of national park. We continued walking along the road, until we saw a sign indication our destination was something like thirty-six miles away. We headed off in that direction and soon left the park. The area were were traveling felt abandoned, in some not quite post-apocalyptic way. Eventually we got to an area where there were some people and it was about this point that I woke up.

Meanwhile, back in non-dream space, I had a pretty busy day at work. I found out that the order for the Raspberry Pi at Amazon had gotten lost. I don't know what happened with that. The Raspberry Pi was one part of a larger order, and the rest of the order has gone through and been delivered. I called up Kim to make sure we hadn't been billed for it, and we hadn't.

However, Kim discovered that we had a strange bill from Rackspace. Initially, I thought it was just the normal billing for the hosting service for my website. However, the amount was not what it had been. It turns out that Rackspace had migrated my VPS to the cloud, resulting in a new billing structure. Fortunately, this cut the cost of my service in half. So, this evening, I spent some time getting used to Rackspace's cloud service. There are a bunch of upgrades I've been meaning to do, and now that my server is on the cloud, it makes more sense to try and do them.

I did find a different place to order my Raspberry Pi, so there are all kinds of geeky things that I should get done, as well as upgrading my personal cellphone which has been out of commission for a while.

Beyond that, I'm trying to organize my calendar for the coming couple months, do some of my reading for the Health Fellowship, get more writing done here, and generally try to keep my head above water.

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