Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Case for Working With Your Hands

Lopez August 2007 - 38.jpg
Originally uploaded by Camera Wences

The NYTimes Magazine has a great article about the value, especially in today's world, of manual skills. The author recounts his own journey from cubicle farms to owning his own motorcycle repair shop and the sense of accomplishment, the passion about his work, and the satisfaction he receives from the problem solving involved in repair that such a manual trade gives a person.

Working on the house at Lopez was my own excursion into a project requiring construction skills. It was great to watch my brothers Adam and Noah and our friend Joe work on the house and see the skills that they developed through their carpentry work. I was in awe of how they could literally rebuild and remodel a house using pencils, saws, nail guns, and their imaginations.

Likewise, it is fun to watch Noah work on his motorcyle.

Matthew B. Crawford, the author of the article, discusses how America's rush to drop shop classes in order to prepare tomorrow's workers for the information economy actually made workers with manual skills in a more enviable position:

The Princeton economist Alan Blinder argues that the crucial distinction in the emerging labor market is not between those with more or less education, but between those whose services can be delivered over a wire and those who must do their work in person or on site. The latter will find their livelihoods more secure against outsourcing to distant countries. As Blinder puts it, “You can’t hammer a nail over the Internet.” Nor can the Indians fix your car. Because they are in India.

Y2010 Patch for Newton MessagePad 2100s

Originally uploaded by Camera Wences

Eckhart Köppen successfully patched the Newton OS against the Year 2010 problem, saving this hardware from a nasty bug.

Eckhart describes the problem this way:

The NewtonOS has a bug in handling years past 18:48:31 on January 5, 2010. The bug is located in the NewtonScript interface of certain time functions, and it is caused by an overflow of a NewtonScript integer value. This bug seems to only occur in NewtonOS 2.1 devices.

The overflow happens in all NewtonScript functions which use seconds as the resolution. In contrast to the 32 bit unsigned integer used by the C++ functions, NewtonScript integers are only 30 bit wide. While the C++ functions can handle times from 1904 until 2040 without an overflow, the NewtonScript functions had to be designed with a smaller range of applicable times due to the limited precision.

The seconds-based functions are implemented by taking the value of the real-time clock, subtracting the offset to January 1st 1993, and converting the results to a NewtonScript integer. This limited range causes an overflow on Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 6:48:31 PM.

This is the list of affected functions:


Eckhart's patch includes a diagnostic package to scan your Newton's Dates and make sure there are no repeating alarms that could trigger the bug. The patch itself updates the NewtonOS System to 71J059. Not since Paul Guyot's 710031 patch has anyone outside of Apple successfully patched the operating system. Way to go Eckhart, and thanks for keeping our Newtons running!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Aurdino Stuffed Animals!

The enthusiasm these girls have for creating interactive stuffed animals is contagious! It is great to see them plan out how they want their plush friends to react to different stimuli in their surroundings. I also find it interesting how the girls feel comfortable hypothesizing and planning what they want the technology to do for the toys. I only wish there was a little background on the project and perhaps how they did the coding to combine the electronics with the stuffed animals. This was a very fun project!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Time-lapse Pollock Paintings


I worked on a fun project with the Lower School art teacher. The fifth grade students studied Jackson Pollock and his drip technique of painting. Afterward, they were to collaborate to create their own Pollock-inspired pieces.

Nicole wanted to capture the students painting using time-lapse photography. I knew of an application from a previous project at my old job and downloaded it onto my work Mac: Gawker would take time-lapse photographs using an iSight camera. Gawker is particularly nice because you can schedule when you want the Mac to start taking photos and when you want it to stop shooting. This way I did not need to be connected to the laptop to get it to start filming.

I happened to have an old iBook with no display or keyboard that worked perfectly for this project. I climbed a ladder and zip-tied the laptop and an iSight camera to the fire extinguisher pipe.

In order to "control" the computer I connected to it from my MacBook using Screen Sharing, which comes with OS X. Here you can see what the cameras is seeing from the ceiling, in this case the blank canvas waiting for the students' paint.

Nicole decided we should shoot the footage at 4 frames per second. The results, shown above, are pretty interesting and cool: you can watch the painting come to life before your very eyes!