Monday, August 22, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Code Academy uses game mechanics and just-in-time learning to teach you programming basics.

Objective C youtube tutorials

Article on top 10 IT skills for 2011, including iphone apps (on Twago)

Info on app development costs via 2010, $50-$250/hr

O'Reilly trainings and news

Good article on what it takes to be an iphone app developer, "Market watchers say it's the ability to grasp mobile's new usage rules, and not simply the ability to master new programming skills, that separates those with an affinity for mobile development from those who just don't get it." "The need for strong Java, HTML and general technical skills goes without saying. Developers who are steeped in the tenets of modern object-oriented programming and understand user interface and design patterns will have a leg up." "Learning by doing is the next best approach [to school and training], and one likely favored by the bulk of existing IT professionals, according to Nick Dalton, owner of 360mind, an application development consultancy specializing in mobile apps."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Electronics and Robotics

Intro to Electronics from MakingThings
Video from IIT
Circuits and Electronics at MIT OpenCourseWare
Getting Started in Electronics by Forrest M. Mims II
Electronics Learning Lab from Radio Shack
Aruduino starter packs here and here
Gardenbot - a great DIY starter project for the garden!
Fritzing Electronic Design Automation software for documenting and prototyping

BEAM tutorial - low-tech robots from salvaged components.

Forest Mims hand-illustrated electronics books - most widely read in the world.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vinay Gupta - Infrastructure for Anarchists

audio here.

32.10 - "I think America's odds of a really, really severe political crash are massively higher than Britain's and Europe's in general, primarily because the consensus in the American population on fundamental issues is gone - they can't agree on drugs, they can't agree on guns, they can't agree on gay marriage, and the can't agree on abortion... The population is split right down the middle on all of these issues. They're unwilling to agree to differ. They're constantly using the power of the federal government to force their views on each other and the federal government is turning into this blundering beast of an institution, largely because Americans keep trying to use it to coerce each other."

37.42 - "Americans... are four or five generations out from people who came to virgin territory, set up a shack, and started growing vegetables. There's a kind of durability there...that's very, very strong in America once you get out of the city, and fully half the population lives outside the city... The willingness of the European to trust their government to take care of them against violence in situations of critical infrastructure failure is part of why Europe is likely to be more stable, but it's also really really stupid considering previous history. Why Europeans are willing to go without weapons I have no idead. When you look at the Warsaw ghetto... !! ... Why was firearms not an integral part of the reconstruction of Europe? Well, the answer is it wasn't, and fortunately we've stayed out of the gutter on this one, and I think we'll be very glad that we did, because fundamentally a disarmed society is more stable than an armed one. We all know that at some level. But at the same time, with the American model, it's not at all clear why individuals should be in a position where a government you can't trust can disarm them."

58.55 - "I think it's possible to maintain a pretty much Western standard of living on about 20-30 watts of electricity per person."

~1.00.00 - "My concern is that the governments are going to collapse before we have any kind of meaningful alternative in place... the governments that we're working with, all these systems of government were designed a hundred to 200 to 500 to 1000 years ago when change was much slower, so the speed of events has increased by a factor of 500, 1000 or 10,000, but the speed of government might have gotten faster by a factor of 5... Governments are not designed to handle this kind of rapid change environment, and the things that governments are doing are drifting further and further away from what actually needs to be done."

1.02.40 "The bottom line is that governments are enormously limited in their ability to handle the big problems, I have no hope of changing that whatsoever. I hope they continue to limp along, but if you want to understand how we're really gonna take care of this business, look at wikipedia... We're gonna solve this stuff by developing institutions that are more effective than the current institutions because they're designed for the technology platform we have now."

Appropedia - 10,000 articles on appropriate technology and sustainability.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Can the Middle Class Be Saved?

article from the Atlantic. Highlights:

"from May 2009 to May 2011, daily consumer spending rose by 16 percent among Americans earning more than $90,000 a year; among all other Americans, spending was completely flat."

"...studied how several recent financial crises affected income distribution—and found that in their wake, the rich have usually strengthened their economic position."

"Middle-paying jobs in the U.S., in which some workers have been overpaid relative to the cost of labor overseas or technological substitution, 'are being wiped out. And what will be left is a hard and a pure market,' with the many paid less than before, and the few paid even better — a plutonomy strengthened in the crucible of the post-crash years."

"Since 1993, more than half of the nation’s income growth has been captured by the top 1 percent of earners, and the gains have grown larger over time: from 2002 to 2007, out of every three dollars of national income growth, the top 1 percent of earners captured two."

"College graduates may be losing some of their luster for reasons beyond technology and trade. As more Americans have gone to college, Autor notes, the quality of college education has become arguably more inconsistent, and the signaling value of a degree from a nonselective school has perhaps diminished. Whatever the causes, “a college degree is not the kind of protection against job loss or wage loss that it used to be...Without doubt, it is vastly better to have a college degree than to lack one. Indeed, on a relative basis, the return on a four-year degree is near its historic high. But that’s largely because the prospects facing people without a college degree have been flat or falling."

"As recently as 2001, U.S. manufacturing still employed about as many people as did health and educational services combined (roughly 16 million). But since then, those latter, female-dominated sectors have added about 4 million jobs, while manufacturing has lost about the same number. Men made no inroads into health care or education during the aughts; in 2009, they held only about one in four jobs in those rising sectors, just as they had at the beginning of the decade."

"A thinner middle class, in itself, means fewer stepping stones available to people born into low-income families. If the economic and cultural trends under way continue unabated, class mobility will likely decrease in the future, and class divides may eventually grow beyond our ability to bridge them."

" fact, career-academy students go on to earn a postsecondary credential at the same rate as other high-school students...One recent major study showed that on average, men who attended career academies were earning significantly more than those who attended regular high schools, both four and eight years after graduation. They were also 33 percent more likely to be married and 36 percent less likely to be absentee fathers."

"One of the largest challenges that Americans will face in the coming years will be doing what we can to make the jobs that have traditionally been near the bottom of the economy better, more secure, and more fulfilling — in other words, more like middle-class jobs."

"Bad jobs at rock-bottom wages are a primary reason why so many people at the lower end of the economy drift in and out of work, and this job instability in turn creates highly toxic social and family problems."

"A continued push for better schooling, the creation of clearer paths into careers for people who don’t immediately go to college, and stronger support for low-wage workers—together, these measures can help mitigate the economic cleavage of U.S. society, strengthening the middle."

"The top income-tax rate was 91 percent in 1960, 70 percent in 1980, 50 percent in 1986, and 39.6 percent in 2000, and is now 35 percent."

" a neat and perhaps unconscious two-step, many elites have pushed policies that benefit them, by touting theoretical gains to society—then ruled out measures that would distribute those gains widely."

"The post-war decades of the 20th century were unusually hospitable to the American middle class—the result of strong growth, rapid gains in education, progressive tax policy, limited free agency at work, a limited pool of competing workers overseas, and other supportive factors. Such serendipity is anomalous in American history, and unlikely to be repeated."

Friday, August 5, 2011

People of Color in a Future of Resilient Communities

Question posed to John Robb on his blog:

John, I have a blunt question, something I've been chewing on a lot and want to toss your way.

What do you imagine will be the fate of racial and ethnic minorities in America in a future of resilient communities?

It seems that in order for communities to self-police effectively, there is going to need to be an "us" (vs. them) that is known or recognizable. There will likely be some paring off by race and ethnicity in this process. I also imagine the enforcement of community borders must come with a willingness to do what is necessary to enforce them -- e.g., racial profiling and what-have-you.

And will this result in minorities being ghetto-ized in self-governing communities that are in fact economically-dependent serf communities to adjacent, better-off, and probably white communities? (Think Palestine to Israel.)

After all, some communities are bound to start out more resilient than others, and the poor inner city communities in which blacks and immigrants are currently ghetto-ized are not exactly going to be primed for success, being utterly resource-dependent and largely landless.

Finally, if the above, is nationalism actually the better path for minorities EVEN IN THE FACE of the future you see, which I also see? Is it wiser for them to fight like hell for larger-scale governance units, for the sake of their own well-being or even survival? Would it EVEN be prescient for minority groups to join with the hypernationalist and anti-immigrant sentiment in the country right now? Would this allow them to be part of the "us", part of the in-group?

The return of blatant racism and ethnic factioning bums me out. I have grown up and lived in multicultural urban areas, and have always felt this enriched my life and, I'd hope, their life. But can this last?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

DIY Drones and the Open Source Movement

“This technology is different than an aircraft carrier. You don’t need a big military infrastructure to use it, or even to build it. This is more akin to the open source movement in software. You’re flattening the battlespace, and the barriers to entry for other actors is falling.”

In a recent essay, the consultant and futurist Scott Smith noted that both the “maker” movement and the Libyan rebels desperately hacking together weaponry are drawing on the same open source knowledge base. Or for that matter, so are the Mexican drug cartels assembling their own tanks and submarines.

He wonders if the world is headed toward “peak arms,” in which open source, distributed, low-cost tools fatally undermine big-ticket weapons sales in all but a few cases (most of them involving the Strait of Taiwan). And that goes double for non-state actors, e.g. roll-your-own NGOs and drug cartels. “The era of large scale, run-and-gun DIY micro-warfare is just around the corner,” Smith concludes.

Fast Company article here.