Archive for the ‘Personal stuff’ Category
One of the hardest topics in school next to computer science is physics. Time and again I see students struggle with the topics, and I have to admit I didn’t find it easy in high school myself. So I started studying physics again using Khan Academy, and gained much insight into the basics. I have admired Sal Khan since he started his site, and as a school teacher I also think I should help him, and my students, wherever possible.
I started drawing a diagram of how all things in physics connected to each other, and while doing that, I realized there should be software to do this better. After a short search I found the wonderful D3 toolkit, based on web standards, just as I like it. D3 can create awesome diagrams, graphs, infographics, you name it.
So now I have for your pleasure and learning aid a physics based overview of common physics quantities. Click the image to see the actual animated model.
Some tips on how to use it:
- Click the diagram to automatically redraw it
- Drag nodes to change the layout
- Mouseover a node to see related info
Use in physics assignments
The colors in the diagram denote related quantities:
- blue – essential axiomatic units m, l, t
- green – related to movement
- orange – related to energy
- red – related to a single unit
To use this diagram in your physics assignment, look at the known variables. Find those in the diagram. Now see if you can combine those to make more variables: follow the arrows. If you can start from two known values you can usually calculate a third. You continue doing this until you have found the desired outcome.
The world is changing. At some point in the future, says Ray Kurzweil, computers will be more intelligent than humans. He thinks it will happen in the year 2045 to be exact. That’s a scary thought, but he could be right. Many say he is the smartest man in the world.
But today I realized that Salman Khan is ahead of him. Khanacademy is an online tutorial for everything including math, biology, economics, chemistry, physics, history, and more. And Khan made all videos himself.
But not only did he do that, he is expanding at an exponential rate, to offer his courses to classrooms. And that could revolutionize education.
And all of that… for free, because he is filthy rich anyway, and doesn’t care about making more.
World changing: Khanacademy. See for yourself.
First of all, I hate the “Like” button. However, I have to be honest, I hated the “fan” button even more. Now I am not just being negative. Let me give you some background on this.
The Fan button
The first time I saw the “become a fan of ….” button on Facebook I didn’t know what to think of it. I started thinking, OK, so what am I a fan of. I soon realized it’s a very short list, that also changes over time: Rubik’s cube, Aikido, House, Monk, Rush, Led Zeppelin, and some others some to mind. But to say I am a fan of e.g. Harry Potter is quite exaggerated. So, reluctantly I clicked the fan button for “House” (the TV show, not just any house). The next thing I knew I found myself drowned in messages about (from?) my temporary favorite TV show. It’s just plain stupid. I do want people to know I like the show, but not get stupid messages all the time from it. So I stopped being a fan of anything else.
The Like button
I was happily surprised when Facebook decided to change the Fan idea to a “Like” idea, thinking they must have heard some voices echoing my thoughts. Unfortunately though, the button still does the exact same thing: squirting out a barrage of nonsense messages. I soon found out though that now it’s quite easy to hide those messages without losing your ‘like’ status.
Another thing I am fan of is Google Reader. Ever since I got a new PC I never felt like installing applications. I realized that even though compiled software is faster, and sometimes has really nice features, using online software just works anywhere, and is good enough for me. Also I have been moving around between computers more, so it becomes quite necessary to synchronize application status. But that’s another story.
Google Reader has had a “like” button perhaps even longer than Facebook (can anyone tell me if that’s true?). And since Google Reader doesn’t followup the click of a “like” with a barrage of nonsense messsages, I was happy to click “like”. After a while though, I found out that on the top of my ‘suggested reading list’ were a hole bunch of really stupid posts. I thought: “there must be something wrong with Google’s algorithm”. And then it hit me: Google uses the “like” button to learn what you want to read. But I had been using it all wrong. I clicked “like” usually when something was really, really funny. And so Google decided I was mostly interested in humor. And that’s pure BS. I like a joke once in a while, but not all the time, when there’s interesting serious news ahead. And it was impossible for Google to tell what I found really hilarious and what I found just plain stupid (a sense of humor is not a computer’s strong point).
So I revised my like-button-decision-making-process and was happily surprised when only weeks later Google had adapted itself back to a more serious note, and I could suffice with reading the top 50 or 100 items, and send the rest of the news to a peaceful death.
Still, I was faced with another issue: once in a while I read interesting news about natural disasters. But I found it morally appalling to mention to Google that I liked the fact that over 200,000 people died in Chili, or that dozens died in a freak accident. But I learned the hard way now it’s wrong to think that way, we have to redefine the “like” button to an “adjust-neural-net-weight”-button, even though that sounds a lot more complicated.
Now what’s next?
I am going to continue clicking ‘like’ for everything that I wish to associate myself with, or wish to receive messages about in the near future. My advice to readers: please realize that there is a commercial incentive to all this ‘liking’: ads will always be tailored to the user, wherever possible. And Facebook nor Google can do this properly when it doesn’t know what you ‘like’.
So far, I like where it’s going, though the wording is wrong in every single way.
Finally solved all computer problems, where nobody else could. After having Infoman have a look at my PC they said it was a virus, and it was repaired, but the problem (sudden reboots) kept occurring. In addition, my DVD player didn’t work anymore. I opened the case and found a dangling cable end, almost touching the motherboard. I think when the fan started blowing, it would sometimes short-circuit the MOBO (it’s a guess still). Anyway I secured it and the problem is now gone. 2 weeks, no reboot.
The broken CD player was a problem with an application named ‘HotSpot Shield’. Actually a pretty good app that enables you to access all kinds of sites that are blocked in your country (e.g. Veoh, Hulu, some YouTube vids). But, the thing came with very annoying ads so I uninstalled it. A couple of days ago I bought a wireless router and setup a network. All went well, but the connection dropped suddenly. I checked the TCP/IP stack and saw ‘Hotspot Shield’ as a layer in there. Damn! I said: “He’s the guy”.
Here’s what happened (Adrian Monk style): “At first we thought it was maybe a virus causing this, but cleaning with plenty of scanners didn’t resolve it. The next suspect was the hard disk, but even chckdsk /r didn’t solve the problems. Then we suspected the drivers themselves and reinstalled and updated all drivers. That didn’t work. But then we found HotSpot leaving a trace in network settings. Hotspot Shield needed to intercept all traffic in order to make sure it looked like it was coming from the US. So it put itself not only in Program Files, but also as an add-on in browsers, and as a layer in TCP/IP. That interfered with the built-in modem driver, which then failed. The modem driver looked for another resource and used one that conflicted with the DVD drive. After removing HotSpot from all network settings and uninstalling the DVD driver, it came back automatically and started responding again. Patient saved, and HotSpot put away.”
Now all he needs to learn is to listen to Mom and Dad. For the rest all is going fine. Too bad he can’t do his acrobatic stunts at school (they say it’s too dangerous).
We didn’t bring a camera, I forgot it while rushing out. Stupid. But we may get some pics from the other parents.
The teacher gets an F for spelling (Orion v/d Blok?)
If you want to know more about the state of the world, pay a visit to gapminder.org. Yes, that term comes from the London underground (‘mind the gap’). I remember almost tripping over that gap between the subway train and the platform, trying to understand what the voice on the intercom was saying…
On this website Hans Rosling explains the history of the world by using animated statistical charts. Perhaps you’ve seen these charts as part of Google analytics. In fact, Google bought the Trendalyzer technology for these charts from them.
The whole world is in a financial crisis. How did this happen? Here’s my own analysis of the past events.
I believe greed is the key word. When greed comes in, and is not controlled, it behaves like agression. Agression uncontrolled leads to crime, sometimes murder, most times war (which should be a crime, but isn’t).
When greed is not controlled, it leads, usually, to more greed. Capitalism is not to blame, though. The goal of capitalism, as I was told in my first economics class, was not profit. That was a misunderstanding. The goal of any organization is continuation of the business. That’s why usually you don’t see businesses like Apple or Yahoo (!) being purchased and stripped apart for profit. E.g. in the latter case, Microsoft was only interested in Yahoo’s services, not the money they could make off selling it again. At that level, continuation of the business is much more important. And that is what MS is looking at right now, a risk of not being able to compete in the OS market. Well, enough about that side story about Microsoft.
The banks, just like any other business, should be in the system for continuation of the business. However, when the economy is in a surge, going uphill, there is no stopping the banks. They get more and more money, and since they are in the money business, continuation seems only so easy. And since none of their clients really understand that business, they can basically sell anything. Just like it was with IT in the eighties. And guess what, IT also experiences these collapses for almost the same reasons (web 1.0 bubble, web 2.0 bubble).
I don’t have a good solution for this, I have to admit. Some things that spring to mind are to have more regulation, but regulation doesn’t always work well. Perhaps more transparency would be enough. Perhaps when the fine print is actually readable and understandable, and has to pass a readability score, then we’d all know what we be getting into.
Yes We Can – Barack Obama Music Video
Normally I don’t post videos on my blog, because it’s done too much already, but I though this one was appropriate to share with as many as possible. It’s not just the lyrics (eh. sorry speech), it’s also a new concept in music…
If it’s up to Michael Arrington, Yahoo loses, but it’s not clear why. Yes, stock is going down, but that doesn’t define them. Just like your wallet is not your personality. Yes, Jerry Yang looks like a nerd, but so does Bill Gates.
If they go under they fail, of course, but how could they, having been nr 1 on the net for so long… There will always be advertisement money then, it’s simply a matter of downsizing and waiting for better times.
I am almost always impressed by the services of Yahoo, as delicious and even Yahoo Photos (deceased). It’s too bad that they don’t get what they deserve. Google is becoming like MS, they do great things, but always a little too late. Yahoo had autocomplete on their search a looooong time before Google. But when google delivers Google Suggest it’s suddenly something ‘new’. All eyes are on Google, but Yahoo technology stands already. Google doesn’t have BOSS, or YDN, or YUI. Google code is usually a bunch of spaghettiballs, so smart it doesn’t understand itself anymore. Yahoo code is clean, organized.
But inertia happens. It’s hard for such a big company to get rolling in a different direction. At least I hope they stop pursuing the social network dream. Let it go to Facebook and try to improve search this time, for real. Why don’t Yahoo index the dark matter in the web? There are still many new ideas to be tried which can result in a big success. Google is betting everything on keyword search, Microsoft is already in the natural language game (with Powerset), but real indexing done right hasn’t been done yet.
How about the interface? I need to do ‘hum hum hum’ and get the song title on my screen. Like that. I need to be able to sketch a flower and get the word ‘flower’ on my screen. And instead of ‘did you mean’ I need navigtion through association. By the way, I believe it was Excite that had that functionality a decade ago. You would type ‘Gibson’ and it would come up with ‘Mel Gibson (person)’ – ‘Gibson – guitar’, etc. It can’t be that hard if it was already possible ten years a go.
Yahoo, you have my vote.