Apparently this has been out for a while, but I missed it. A beautiful example of functional, technical art. It's thought-provoking, visually clever and appealing, and really shows how far we are from exhausting all the possibilities of web-based media. And did I mention thought-provoking? Also worth checking out, the developer's Patreon page (hint hint), which is linked at the bottom of the page, also has a really interesting and remarkably intimate 2014 in review video (short version: helluva year).

Anyway, seriously if you haven't seen it yet you should really check this out.
Hey! Are you in the Boston / Camberville area with an interest in the intersection of open source and education technology? This is something I'm very passionate about, and I'm trying to organize a meetup of like-minded people to talk about and contribute to OSS projects that are helping to make education more flexible and accessible. If you're interested, just RSVP here. Once we've got enough people, we'll try to find a date, time, and topic that works for everyone!
Hey OSX+CommandLine people... I just had one of those "this tool would be so useful, maybe it exists... holy crap it does!" moments. Behold the simple glory that is pbpaste, which dumps your cut/paste buffer to stdout (there's also a pbcopy for stdin->buffer).

Need to open a bunch of links from an email? No more "click link, switch windows, repeat a zillion times" for me, no sir! Now all I have to do is copy text, switch to terminal and...

pbpaste | egrep 'http.?://' | xargs open

Boom! Mind. Blown.
I want to signal boost a funding campaign that strikes me as really worthwhile, but that hasn't been getting as much publicity as it deserves. It's called "Tunapanda" which, according to their site, is "a Swahili word which can mean 'we are planting,' 'we are growing,' and 'we are climbing'".

Personally I think they're missing out on some great potential for the most amusing/terrifying mascot ever via the English interpretation... but I digress.

Here's their IndieGoGo page:

The basic idea is this: they're based out of Kenya, where the government funds education through the 8th grade, and a lot of people can't afford to go to high school. But hey look, sites like the Khan Academy have most of a high school curriculum available for free online, and there are other sites where one can learn software development and college-level topics too!

The problem is that in Kenya bandwidth is crazy expensive, making these resources unavailable to the people who could get the most out of them. So Tunapanda's goal is to create offline versions or workalikes of a selection of these courses that can all fit on a hard drive and/or DVDs, no Internet required, and set up a facility in Nairobi where Kenyan teachers can get the equipment and training they need to use them.

I can't say I have as strong a grasp on the nuances as I would like, but people talk about charity that makes developing nations dependent on more charity vs charity that helps them become self-sufficient on their own terms, and this seems pretty solidly in the latter camp. Remember a while back there was that guy from a rural village in Africa who figured out how to build his own wind power generator from books at the library? I recall seeing an interview with him, where he was talking about coming to the US and being introduced to Google, and once he grasped it, saying to himself "where was this all the time I was in the library?! It would have been so much easier!". In the absence of ubiquitous bandwidth, this seems like the next best thing, and they're doing everything through partnerships with local Kenyan orgs and educators.

So please take some time to read through their site, and consider donating.

P.S. A heads-up to tech/ed people: I'm considering organizing a code-a-thon in a month or so to try and assist them with tech issues (for example: Lemme know if you'd be interested.
Last Friday I tweeted about the fact that I'd spent most of my workday designing a single SQL query. I'm pretty happy with what I ended up with, but while I'm good with SQL I'm not an expert by DBA standards. Then it occurred to me that, for once, nothing about what I was doing was proprietary or anything, and I should be able to freely share it, so, database folks, whatchathink of this...

Suppose you've got a table with a bunch of logs kept by a training content server (Moodle). Each log record has a timestamp and keys that reference tables with related information like user details, course details, etc.

You need to design a single MySQL query (multiple queries, temporary tables, etc are not an option) that gets the following...
  • For each user who...
    • Has accessed a course in the last 30 days...
    • ...but only counting courses of a certain type (type information is in the related course record)
  • Get aggregated for details from that subset of records for that user (total logged events, unique courses, unique dates, etc)
  • AND certain non-aggregated details for the most recent event only from the subset for that user (date of visit, course visited, etc)
  • BUT, there can be multiple records for the same user/timestamp combo, in which case you only want to produce one record, by just taking any one of the matching records for the non-aggregated details.
The combination of aggregated and non-aggregated fields in a single query, based on aggregated and non-aggregated criteria, and the fact that I couldn't count on having a unique key to work with proved particularly tricky.

The solution I ended up with is under the cut-- I wonder if others can think of a better way... )

CMS recs?

Jun. 21st, 2011 09:46 am
The A.S.S. (the company behind the recent production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in which I played, about which I really will do a longer post asap) is talking about putting together a website, and I've volunteered to help.

My instinct is to design and code the thing from scratch, like I did for the Second Shift site, but I'm beginning to think that that's old fashioned (or is it?). For a site that doesn't need to do anything special, just text, photos, and videos, should I just deploy a CMS and be done with it? If so, which one? I kind of like the Stranger Ways site, which [ profile] natbudin put seemed to put together practically overnight with WordPress, though my ideal would be extensible using Python instead of PHP (though that's just a preference-- can do PHP fine).

Anyway, suggestions?
If anyone is still interested in Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, the weekend long Victorian history/fiction mashup larp running this weekend at RPI, they still need players! Reply if you're interested and I'll get you in touch with the people running it.

...also, @theandyhicks on Twitter linked to a review of what looks like a nifty exhibit on computing history at the Museum Of Science. Having only recently said to a housemate something along the lines of "it's sad that the MoS is having to put on Harry Potter exhibits that don't even pretend to have anything to do with science just to get people to show up nowadays, but thent I haven't been inclined to go there myself so I'm part of that problem", I believe I would like to organize an outing there.

Would anyone else be up for this? Maybe on a weeknight, since I expect it wouldn't involve staying out super-late and my weekends are pretty booked?
I would like to nominate Verizon's Droid phone website for a Giving-Flash-A-Bad-Name award. Seriously. The intro is ok, in fact, it's a more effective sales pitch than the actual site, which:

- Hung on a blank screen the first time I tried to load it
- Makes you read menu text that is upside down and sideways
- Has non-link text scattered at random throughout the menu
- Requires a click and an animation PER SENTENCE of information
- Has a Store Locator link that goes to the wrong page on Verizon's site

I'm far from a pro at interface design, but my mind reels nonetheless. Seriously, someone go paid for this? It's silly for me to get this worked up over crappy web design, I know, but urgh. =:\

...still want one of them phones, though.

Update Mea culpa. It turns out I was the one who had it wrong after all. The email said to "reply to this message with.." all the phish'd information. I'd seen the url (which is still a suspicious-looking url) and thought it was directing people there. *sigh*. Well, that was embarrassing. Maybe that'll teach me to skim things and assume I understand. =:\


Going to have a little mini-rant here, so I can hopefully then move on and stop thinking about it (nothing heavy, just annoying, and the annoyance is taking up cycles I don't have to spare right now). Heck, maybe I'm missing something, too. If so I'd appreciate having it pointed out.

See, I received a phishing email that said "blah blah blah your account may have been compromised blah blah, go to https: // and enter your username, old password, new password and DOB or we will de-activate your account" (the mis-formatting in the url was added by me to keep it from linking, even though the phishing site has since disappeared).

For those not familiar with phishing scams, a url like "https: //" basically says "Hello, I am a server that someone broke into and set up a hostile site on in a subdir they hope no one will notice until they've hooked some victims".

I looked up the domain's support and abuse addresses and forwarded them the message. Their response was:
Correspondance cut for those who don't care )
Work let me borrow a laptop, thus allowing me to fullfill my lifelong ambition of coding at Denny's.

Plus, the hotel has dsl. sw33t. =:)
I have been buried in gadgets.

I'm tired, so I'll make this short <python-esque lackluster applause>

Yesterday we were at a relative's house and I noticed that she had a Compaq Aero 2100, which is exactly the kind of PDA I used to have until it got leprosy and slowly began to dissolve. In fact, at first I though it was mine (I had given it, such as it was, to Lizbeth's mom and it's plausible it could have ended up there) but then I noticed that the stylus actually fit into the stylus holder and popped out when pressed, unlike mine which was held in place by a wad of tape at the end to prevent it from being lost in the pit-of-no-return that my stylus 'holder' had become.

So anyway, different PDA, same model. I commented on this and was met with 'do you want it?'. She says that she'd had it for sbout 8 months and just couldn't think of anything to do with it but play solitaire. In fact, there are scratch marks on the otherwise pristine screen exactly over the section where the deck resides when playing.So, in short, I have a 'new' PDA. This is good because I have PDA again and bad because not only does it have the same annoyances as my old one (stupidly placed power button, winCE (not even pocketpc), etc) but it also robs me of my excuse to get one of the new Sharp Zauruses (Zaurii?) when they come out. I mean, not only do they run Linux, they have an actual thumb-sized keyboard and a 640x480 display! It's a like a pocket sized laptop. I could ssh into stuff (wirelessly) from my PDA!! Too cool.Oh well, later.

Gadget number 2: So Lizbeth and I are probably going to end up in Florida as I'm sure you're all aware(still no word on jobs for either of us, which makes things... interesting), and since we will probably be moving around a lot for the first week or so we figured we would do what some of our friends have already started doing and get cell phones in lieu of a landline. So, in the absolute least time it has taken me _ever_ to decide to spend a largeish sum of money, we went out and got cellphones. We were going to go with T-Mobile, but stopped along the way at a Xingular kiosk. They offered us a better deal and after some shuffling back and forth between the two shops, we ended up taking it. So we now both have niftycool cell phones that do all the sms and so forth that the kids are all crazy about these days. Huzzah. Their also by Siemens, who's website is If that's not funny to you, then you have probably been sleeping more than I have of late.

Anyway, I won't bother giving out the numbers since we're going to change them to Florida numbers as soon as we get there, but they're on a national plan so we get free long distance and all that (even without tellme=:) so maybe they will help us keep in touch.

Ok. I am sooooo tired and I didn't get any of my prepping done today. Instead I sorted out my portion of the packing and bought a cellphone. The outline for the class and a large portion of my personal prepping is done (though I still have to cover the API for this database). Now all I need to do is design and write the big example program that will for the basis for the hands-on exercises throughout the course and correlate each step of development with a lesson in the outline. 'Whee' and stuff.

Oh, and one more thing: What about this user icon? Every time I look at it I see something different: Nice Guy, Ming the Merciless, child pornographer... I'm really just not sure what to think. Opinions?



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