Thursday, May 29, 2008

Take the ChipWits Challenge!

I've been playing ChipWits from the very beginning. I played it on my friend's Mac 512K (and he pirated me a copy for my 512K that my parents bought me: sorry Doug!!).

I spent a good chunk of the early 2000s trying to remember the name of the game. Somewhere along the line I lost track of the ChipWits disk I had. After stumbling upon Doug Sharp's accolades web page, the quest shifted to trying to find a binary for my Mac Plus (my original 512K board was destroyed after my college roommate poured beer into my Mac after I cut him off from Tetris).

Thanks to the collective memory of the Intarweb, I eventually found a copy of ChipWits. It crashed when I opened it on my Mac Plus!! Not to be deterred, I followed advice on the pre-polluted Macintosh Garden site and built an MFS RAM disk on my HD20. For some reason the old juju RAM disk actually allows you to run ChipWits!! Other users with similar old hardware were able to use similar setups to get the original ChipWits running on yellowed but loved early Mac hardware. Eureka! The _best_ early Mac game (well, until a working copy of "Feathers & Space" is available again) was available for those nerds who owned the right old equipment and who remembered this classic. Others, unfortunately, were left out: the old version of ChipWits was hardware dependent and didn't jibe with emulators. People who were interested in IBOL and a revolutionary way of learning to program were left out of the ChipWits game! And programming didn't really make sense without the documentation to get you started. So the quest shifted to me trying to find the photocopied manual I made when my friend pirated the copy. I eventually located the manual and scanned it, but it only got two other people to play ChipWits.

Enter Web 2.0 and a New Beginning for ChipWits!! Doug Sharp resurrects ChipWits like a phoenix from the flames! I managed to make my way onto the Hall of Pie with one of my new 'Wits programmed in the new version of ChipWits!!

This is one of the best programs to introduce anyone, young or old, to programming! IBOL is revolutionary! Build a robot today!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

PocketWeb for Newton a No-Go

Jon Glass asked on the NewtonTalk list whether anyone was using PocketWeb on their Newtons. Wow: the website is still alive and you can download the package and the Monoco font to go with it. I loaded the two packages on to my eMate using Simon Bell's NCX. It looked promising: PocketWeb supports Newton Internet Enabler (NIE), and it purported to connect to the intarweb. My experiences proved otherwise, unfortunately.

I started with the requisite nerd visit to, though I did choose the low-bandwidth "Palm" text version of the sites that just lists the most current of the current articles. Unfortunately, it was unable to use Type: text//html;charset iso-885. Darn it.

OK, for giggles I tried Google. Hmmm: 60797, Get DNS Address error. Evidently PocketWeb cannot resolve this newfangled Google.

I try to head over to 40hz's Courier site to reconsider my Newton web browser options. PocketWeb says it connects and loads the site but nothing displays.

I also have to note that when PocketWeb couldn't deal with a DNS call or otherwise goofed up, it did not always properly disconnect NIE and left the wifi card going. Additionally, if you tried to open a different page from the one you tried to load unsuccessfully, PocketWeb helpfully told you "There is already an open connection trying to open a different page" and would not load the new page.

It would have been cool to find another lightweight web browser. For now I am going to stick with NetHopper for the lightweight browsing experience, Courier for offline reading of html, and my registered copy of NewtsCape for heavy-duty html work and conversion to books. PocketWeb didn't make the transition to the modern Internet, unfortunately.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Greens Farms Academy

I was flown out to Connecticut last Thursday for an interview and to teach a fourth grade class at Greens Farms Academy, an independent K-12 school. Despite taking the red-eye flight, I managed not to put my foot in my mouth and the lesson I taught, a writing assignment that utilized a Microsoft Word form I created and VoiceThread, was well-accepted by the students, teachers, and Technology department members.

So, next fall I will join the faculty at Greens Farms Academy as the new Lower School Coordinator of Academic Technology! It is an exciting position and a new challenge for me!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Newton on the Road


I attended WEA's Representative Assembly in beautiful Spokane, Washington and decided to take the MessagePad 2100 along instead of my PowerBook for two reasons: weight and the fact that the PowerBook's battery is shot. (It seems that the replacement batteries for the PowerBook recall are all failing now: see this Apple thread).

Over on the NewtonTalk list some people have been venting their frustration about abandoned locked software and the limitations of what the Newton MessagePad can do 10 years after its cancelation. Others, like myself, feel that the MessagePad is particularly well suited to a small group of tasks that include limited use on the Internet.

I personally use my MessagePad as an NPDS web server which you can find online at a NPDS Tracker most of the time. I used to carry it with me everywhere I went. I used it as an organizer, to take Notes, and for email.

On my trip to Spokane I wanted to be able to use the wireless network available to us at the Spokane Convention Center, keep track of my email on my .Mac account via IMAP, and read some RSS feeds. Here's how I made it all work on my MessagePad 2100.

Wireless driver: Hiroshi opened the source to the driver to coincide with the 2007 Worldwide Newton Conference where Paul Guyot made his second Einstein presentation explaining his intention to migrate the Newton OS off the Newton hardware onto a more modern computing platform. With the unlocked Newton wifi package you are able to use WEP with your wireless card and take advantage of roaming and power saving preferences. There was a free wifi network but I had to ask somebody with a MacBook what the SSID was for the free network as there were several different networks available. She also clued me into the fact that you had to validate on a web page before you were granted access to the network.

NetHopper 3.2: So I needed a web browser to make this all happen. And I needed to be able to submit a form, which meant I could not use Courier. I have NewtScape registered and installed on my Newton, but NetHopper is faster for what I am using it for, important when you don't want the wifi sucking down the batteries. By the way, I used Duracell PowerPix batteries here and before and they work very well in the battery sled. With NetHopper, all I had to do was request a URL (but I did need to request a new one every time I wanted to check my mail because I was too lazy to turn off caching; it didn't really matter which page I was requesting because all I was after was the proxy validation page). NetHopper handled the redirect to the proxy page just fine and I could enter the username in the form and submit it.

Mail V: The email client for the MessagePad. This wonder handles both POP and IMAP. I chose to browse my messages because I was receiving documents, evites, and other items that I did not want downloaded onto my Newton. After validating through NetHopper (which I had to keep open to prevent disconnecting the wireless card because it was the application that initiated the TCP/IP session) I opened In/Out and Received my email. Mail V would synchronize with my .Mac inbox and display the new messages. I could then tap on the message and it would download it from the server so I could read it. Brilliant. I could respond to email messages and choose to send them out later. I tended to download the messages I wanted to read then reply offline to important messages. I would then open NetHopper, load a page and validate to the proxy then open In/Out to send the group of messages in a single burst rather than individually replying and using the wifi card and batteries.

Raissa: RSS reader for the Newton built on the NewtApp Framework. Each feed is treated like a document, so you can save them on your Newton and refresh them for newer content. Lightweight and fast on the 2100; acceptable on the eMate with the memory upgrade. I checked the NYTimes, BoingBoing, CSMonitor and NPR to stay up on events.

So there you have it. Relevant and capable in 2008. The batteries held up well (they are at 80% after using the MessagePad for the above activities for 2 days straight, from 9 until 22:00 each day, checking email every hour or so and updating the feeds a couple of times). I also spent time reading old Notes on the MessagePad and playing a couple rounds of Daleks, checking out where the Moon was in its cycle, and consulting Mr. Advisador, Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies, and the iChing (a neat little package by J. Brad Hicks). Unfortunately, after I posted this entry he took down his entire Newton directory. I have a copy of of iChing, but J. Brad doesn't seem keen on distributing it, so I won't.

I also took a trip down memory lane by reading old email I had filed away into the Notes application back in 2001.

For lightweight Internet usage the Newton MessagePad still works wonderfully and suits a low-weight wifi conventioneering excursion.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dr. Yong Zhao's Presentation Notes

Yong Zhao, Ph.D

University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education at the College of Education, Michigan State University

Presentation to the Mercer Island School District Community
May 12, 2008

These are my notes from Dr. Zhao's fascinating presentation on globalization and its implications on education.

- Measure the size of the idea before you dream it up
- Problem in public education is we all want to be better than other people

= Meeting in Singapore: somebody is going to be a loser, who should the loser be?

- Everybody is trying to compete in the same domain
- PISA test

= international test
= 2009, over 70 countries will be using this test
= this kind of test is driving international instruction

- Achievement gap

= measure in different ways: how many bottles of beer can you drink in 1 second?

- 2 million minutes:

= students from US, China, India
= "don't watch it if you haven't already"
= how American students are failing in their education
= conceit that China and India will surpass American education system
= American students don't know how to spend the 2 million minutes that comprise high school

- Missile Gap

= fear has always been used to mobilize public support for public policy

- Accountability

= standardization
= high stakes testing

- NCLB was the result of work going on since 1983

= southern governors trying to force more money for education from the federal government
= elevate tests to the highest level

- At the same time education reforms in other countries took a different path

= in China, for example, 2 million students are taking ballroom dancing to combat obesity

- In China, a 2002 policy forbids ranking school districts, schools, or individual students based on test results or making rest results public. Additionally, it calls for alternative assessment beyond testing
- Most countries are working towards decentralization unlike the U.S..
- Japan, since 2001, revising system

= enhancing emotional education
= diverse, flexible ed system encouraging individuality and creativity
= decentralized education administration

- Singapore has been revising since 1997

= explicit teaching of critical and creative thinking skills
= reduction of subject content

- Why does the U.S. take such a different path than China and East Asian countries?
- U.S. takes test scores as proof of achievement gap

= other countries look at the number of patents issued to citizens to look at achievement gap

- Maps of patents, toy exports
- East Asian countries realized that "testing and constrained definition of talents and knowledge is not the way to do it..."
- Traditional education is a dictatorship

= School Board decides what is important and needs to be taught

- Almost impossible that a test score is going to predict a person's life
- Took daughter to England during the standardized test period
- First International Mathematics Study (FIMS)

= 1964 test of 13 year olds
= U.S. finished second to last among 12 countries

- "Jefferson told us where to look to see if a nation is a success. He did not say to look at test scores. He said to look at 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'" Keith Baker, 2007
- no relationship between FIMS and hourly output
- no relationship between FIMS and quality of life, livability, creativity
- The damage

= education becomes another
= cheating
= kills creativity
= discrimination
= narrows curriculum
= demoralization

- Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools¨, Nichols and Berliner
- Campbell's Law

= the more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more likely it will be to corrupt pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it was intended to monitor

- More damage

= Linguistic
= Logical
= Interpersonal
= Intrapersonal
= Musical
= Visual/Spatial
= Naturalistic
= Kinaesthetic

- In China teachers are referred to as "gardeners"

= "yank out the weeds"

- School Board decides what is weeds and what is flowers

= math, reading, and science are the flowers to cultivate; other talents are weeds to be removed

- School does not necessarily mean education
- What knowledge is of most use?
- Technology redefines talents

= whenever tech becomes accepted it renders some talents as valuable and others as useless

- Modern curriculum was developed in 1859 with the rise of the industrial revolution
- today's society is characterized by virtual and global
- Death of distance

= flattening of the world

- Fragmentation of the production process

= companies can use a global supply chain
= the Mini is made of parts from 14 different countries

- Education can be outsourced as well

= tutoring services: Pakistan is poised to be the leader

- Need the niche

= something that cannot be completely replaced for some time

- Cannot compete in the same areas: need talents different than others
- Yao Ming and Herbet Hoover

= global trade of talents
= both had special talents that were needed

- Globalization redefines talents
- To the students we produce complement their talents?
- Do we still see reading, writing, and math as the most important subjects
- McDonalds

= taught Japanese to be more relaxed people: won't eat without chopsticks, have to abandon tradition of using chopsticks
= taught people in Hong Kong how to stand in line

- Students are affected by global forces, culture clashes, and different value systems
- 30% of congress members do not have passports
- Isolationalism of the U.S./Mexican fence
- Climate change and the bird flu

= what happens elsewhere in the world affects us

- Global citizenship
- Niche talents

= do not compete in the same area

- To work internationally, you need a sense of global citizenship
- Virtual life: socializing virtually

= virtual marriage and Second Life
= virtual life is part of physical life

- What kinds of skills do we need for a virtual life?
- Gold farming

= people quit their jobs to earn virtual money that they sell to gamers for real money
= by some estimates that are 100K people working these jobs

- Every individual is becoming a personal producer and you do not need a network to produce
- Youtube and podcasting: running your own show

= everyone can reach an audience
= redefines talents and abilities

- Technology has created a new environment and a global world
- Need to think about what knowledge is worthwhile
- Schools are still defining math, science, reading as the standards

= does not give American students a promise of a good future

- Creativity is important

= schools do not teach creativity
= schools can kill creativity

- Digital talents
- Need to enable children to become whole, well-rounded people
- Education is about bringing happiness
- Education, with technology, can be personal

= move from a dictarship to a democracy

- Schools need to personalize the educational experience
- Defining a student in limited areas makes it so students do not develop in other areas
- Should see schools as "churches"

= creativity is a spirit instead of a cognitive ability
= cannot teach creativity

- Creativity is tolerance of different ideas
- The U.S. has spent the most on technology

= China and India lag behind in this area
= the U.S. needs to continue to innovate in these areas

- "Personal skills that cannot be outsourced"
- Need to recognize individual talents
- Prepare students as global citizens
- Encourage a sense of idealism in schools

= "can do spirit"

- Worth and value
- See rise in other economies as our loss

= can no longer be an empire: we need to coexist

- Nobody teaches how the globe is interconnected
- Culture clashes

= globalization brings additional nationalism
= being able to live in peace will be one of the toughest challenges we face
= need to teach children that we need to coexist with people

- We do not teach conflicts: we teach people how to be comfortable
- His ideas are antithetical to this culture
- Most other countries place importance on sending teachers and students abroad
- Bring schools back to before NCLB, add globalism
- Virtual schools have grown very fast
- Imagine schools as global enterprises

= in many ways they already are global enterprises: the students are going to work on the global stage
= schools are judged ona global basis as well

- Personalized education plan for every child

= contract people from outside the school district to provide the resources that are not available locally
= global outsourcing of education

- Offer your resources to others
- Niche talents
- Think of your school as a global enterprise, not a local entity

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Taipan: Ma Tsu the Hard Way

Eldrid and I played Taipan on my Apple //e this week and did terribly: he scored -117 and I got a 0.

Today I played it on my PowerBook on the version I found on the interweb. The Linux version compiles on a Mac with a minimal change to the makefile.

I started with 5 guns. Immediately got attacked by pirates and scored some booty. Started with general cargo, moved to arms for a couple of moves before getting more booty and starting in on the opium.

I had 4990 units in the warehouse when the price of opium hit 120,000 in Hong Kong. Moved it all onto the ship, sold it and retired as a Ma Tsu.

Didn't use Elder Brother Wu at all. Deposited money in the bank every couple of moves. Got robbed once, warehouse was ripped off once, busted by authorities once, had to pay 500k to Li Yuen once. Not bad all in all.