DINO Weeknotes 001

weeknotes

I’m sitting here, alone, on a Sunday afternoon at DINO’s studio. It’s cold and wet outside, a perfect day for reflection.

We’ve been doing projects together, as DINO, for the past couple of months, but Em has only been able to put in part-time hours as she completed her obligations with her prior employer. Her last day of work was the 15th and she started full time at DINO last Monday (although she couldn’t help herself and came in the weekend before her first DINO day to get caught up on project work and set up her space).

Today marks the end of our first week where all 3 of us are doing DINO — so in my mind, this is truly the first week of DINO, regardless of what’s happened before. I feel like something powerful clicked now that we can physically locate ourselves in the same place during the day, finally.

It’s been a busy week, indeed. I haven’t had things this intense in a VERY long time. What’s encouraging is that I’m not feeling burned out (well… yet). If anything, the intensity is giving me an energy I’m feeding off of. Read More

art&code workshop on OF and iPhone

Events

I’m currently in Pittsburgh at the Art&Code Mobile event.

We arrived last night and came straight from the airport to attend the Rossum’s meetup. The group is an Art and Robotics collective that meet regularly to host speakers, collaborate on projects, and promote their work.

This morning, I particpated in the OpenFrameworks and iPhone workshop taught by memo akten and Zach Gage

The project we were working on was, essentially, pong for the iPhone. It was a great starter project for those that needed an intro to OF because it exposed the basic structure of an OF program (memo and zach did a great, patient job of going through the IDE and the file placement idiosyncrasies of OF). The class proved that OF can be quite cross-platform right out of the box. There are some obvious exceptions (ex. multitouch isn’t available on all platforms). These unique features are handled as addons to the basic OF project.

As expected, the most difficult part of getting an iPhone OF project to work is the whole provisioning / signing process. Luckily, I’ve done quite a bit of iPhone work before, so this was somewhat smooth for me (once I made sure that the correct SDK was selected in XCode — that messed me up a bit).

I didn’t realize that iPhone OF creates ‘legitimate’ iPhone apps that are acceptable for app store submission (and sale). What’s especially exciting about working with something like OF for iPhone is that the platform encourages building art / toy / pretty apps… so the scope of interestingly designed applications that can be offered is small enough that you could iterate through many experiments with ease. That being said, in my experience, since OF can also be essentially use any library that compiles (c++ or objective-c on OS X), you can use it as a framework for more complex applications.

Tonight, I’m spending evening at HackPGH – very cool do-oriented space. somebody’s soldering near me, somebody’s crocheting. I’ll be trying to build an iPhone toy using OF.

Special thanks to Matt Mets for letting me couch surf at his apartment this weekend.

Good times.

art&code workshop on OF and iPhone

Uncategorized

I’m currently in Pittsburgh at the Art&Code Mobile event.

We arrived last night and came straight from the airport to attend the Rossum’s meetup. The group is an Art and Robotics collective that meet regularly to host speakers, collaborate on projects, and promote their work.

This morning, I particpated in the OpenFrameworks and iPhone workshop taught by memo akten and Zach Gage

The project we were working on was, essentially, pong for the iPhone. It was a great starter project for those that needed an intro to OF because it exposed the basic structure of an OF program (memo and zach did a great, patient job of going through the IDE and the file placement idiosyncrasies of OF). The class proved that OF can be quite cross-platform right out of the box. There are some obvious exceptions (ex. multitouch isn’t available on all platforms). These unique features are handled as addons to the basic OF project.

As expected, the most difficult part of getting an iPhone OF project to work is the whole provisioning / signing process. Luckily, I’ve done quite a bit of iPhone work before, so this was somewhat smooth for me (once I made sure that the correct SDK was selected in XCode — that messed me up a bit).

I didn’t realize that iPhone OF creates ‘legitimate’ iPhone apps that are acceptable for app store submission (and sale). What’s especially exciting about working with something like OF for iPhone is that the platform encourages building art / toy / pretty apps… so the scope of interestingly designed applications that can be offered is small enough that you could iterate through many experiments with ease. That being said, in my experience, since OF can also be essentially use any library that compiles (c++ or objective-c on OS X), you can use it as a framework for more complex applications.

Tonight, I’m spending evening at HackPGH – very cool do-oriented space. somebody’s soldering near me, somebody’s crocheting. I’ll be trying to build an iPhone toy using OF.

Special thanks to Matt Mets for letting me couch surf at his apartment this weekend.

Good times.

dorkbot diyCHI

Essays

Tonight there is a dorkbot-boston as part of the CHI2009 conference.

“What do glitter and glue, needles and thread, batteries and wires have to do with Human Computer Interaction? What can makers and crafters teach technology researchers and designers about the world and technology? How can CHI researchers engage with Do-It-Yourself communities? This session will be a dialogue about the relationships between academia and DIY communities. It will include presentations from the workshop organizers and participants who will demo and discuss their own DIY projects and then use them as springboards for open discussions with the audience. Come to see some interesting projects and to share your own insights and experiences.”

I have the pleasure of making some opening remarks; it’s a little bit of “what is dorkbot,” but I’ll be mixing in some of the call-to-arms rhetoric I’ve used before with a DIYist slant: Read More

Speculative Producing – Building Artifacts as Practical Futurism

Essays

I just listened to Eurydice Aroney’s radio piece, “The Dribble Down Effect” – (listen at http://www.thirdcoastfestival.com – Re:Sound #44)

The story is a “mockumentary” done in the style of a radio documentary you might hear as a 30-minute special on NPR. While parts were definitely funny, it didn’t seem to be presented as a slapstick humorous production (a la Chris Guest’s movies).

Instead, this was speculative fiction reported on in a very serious manner, peppered with the sound collages you come to expect from well-engineered radio stories. This particular story was about childcare in the near future. Robots watch kids (cheaper than university-educated babysitters), children have implants that provide biodata like “I’m hungry,” and society faces all sorts of questions about class differences, feminism, and the ever-present abundance of overbearing parents. Read More

Large Letters for greater creativity

Productivity

I’ve recently upped the font sizes in Textmate and the terminal.

It makes me feel like my code is more beautiful, somehow.

Maybe it’s because whenever I watch a brilliant hacker give a technical talk, they put their screens up on the projector and live-code with super-large type.

Perhaps it reduces the amount of stuff that fits on my screen to a more elegant “that which matters.” Too much text via smaller font makes it difficult to focus.

It’s a cognitive hack for creativity.

Terminal bash 80x24 1

Demorb smart lab

Monoco 18pt – Vibrant Ink color scheme for Textmate

Observations at Dev House

Essays

This Sunday I participated in DevHouse Boston. It was fantastic, exhausting, and maybe even inspiring.

Dev House convenes a group of people who all are working on or wanting to work on interesting projects for one, short day. At a strict time after the hack session, everyone shows off what they’ve finished. The scope of each project is necessarily small since the emphasis is on completing something.

skitched-20081209-160819

Mac demo’ing the project we worked on

There were no sponsors (aside from the venue itself, betahouse) nor after-parties; these were just smart, energetic people putting in a good day’s work on mostly side-projects. Pizza and coffee and wifi flow freely and everyone has an impressive skill set and/or project history.

Simple and effective. The organizers weren’t egomaniacal pseudo-celebrities in an insignificant web 2.0 universe. In fact, while there were provably high caliber brains with large profile track records in the room, egos seemed to have been checked in at the door.

The hangers-on that tend to flock to your average barcamp who have little substantive input to offer and just get off on going to tech events would have been really out of place here.

You’ve met these people? Their cards say “Social Media Consultant,” but you still have absolutely NO idea what they actually have accomplished in their lives to enjoy such self-importance.

They somehow show up at every technology conference and happy hour, flitting around and constantly twittering and traveling and collecting “friends” on facebook like points in a game. They name drop other, bigger narcissists with @’s on twitter as if you are supposed to be impressed by their ability to weasel into places where they are hopelessly outclassed.

Engage them in their one-way conversation at an unconference (one of 20 they helped “organize” that month) and they kvetch about how they don’t ever have time to sleep and how their many podcasts and video streams and guest blogging gigs and Uber-secret, open-source coalition of boards and specification architects is just about to launch and change the universe forever.

The have to wear costumes… COSTUMES… to SxSW so they are noticed and photographed since you have never heard of anything they’ve actually shipped before.

You fall for it once or twice or a few years. You may even chase the glory. Then the veneer fades. Then you meet people who are actually smart and are producing projects daily that chip away at real world, observable improvements in our human condition. Then you get angry or bitter or jealous at the “evangelists” and “connectors.”

You look around and wonder what the hell happened and how did so much time disappear.

Not at Dev House.

Everyone was working and the socializing was all in the context of real effort. I suspect that there would have been very little tolerance for the BS that we generously call “expertise” at your typical tech conference panel sessions, for example.

“Tolerance” overstates the case. Valueless people would probably have just gone home on their own because they would have been ignored.

Coding notes

I also got a glimpse of what I’m missing as a lone wolf freelancer. I’ve not really participated much in pair programming sessions, and realized that there are some practical advantages. For example, watching somebody’s terminal commands might reveal a new shortcut that can shave precious seconds off of trivial operations.

With somebody looking over your shoulder and simultaneously working on the same problems, you tend to be on better behavior.

There wasn’t time for much architecture or even goal-setting at the session. We just kind of went forward as fast as we could. The day before, I created an initial framework that was refined pretty quickly by the others’ input and it did the job for the day.

In this team coding environment, you have to constantly think about what you’re doing and be prepared to explain or justify your approaches. So for better or worse, I found myself slowing down– I was coding at maybe 60% efficiency.

This was maybe my second or third effort using ruby-processing (although I’ve done dozens of things (including production work) in processing, proper). It was definitely the most involved ruby-processing project I’ve done. We chose ruby-processing since more people were used to doing ruby work vs. java, and frankly, it just seemed more fun. Processing will ultimately not be sufficient for this project. We didn’t even get into “real” graphics stuff.

I got stuck on some of the issues that “just work” in processing like file inclusions that were a result of our ruby-processing choice. Nevertheless, I do think that using some of the ruby idioms, combined with the ruby expertise in the room made for a more rapid development.

The last version control system I’ve used w/ more than one coder was subversion. I’ve migrated all my active projects to git lately. Git merges, etc, are something I don’t usually deal with as I’m almost always a lone programmer on a project, so I needed some reminding on how to address those in git.

Criticism was constructive, for the most part. There were some people who took conversations off on digressions, but that’s to be expected (reminded me of some of the better undergrad comp sci classes)

Get something done in a day, and you get the respect of at least a few minutes of attention and genuine questions or suggestions.

Most normal people took Sunday off.

lifecasting as a digital notebook

Essays

I had a meeting this morning which I think will help seed a nice, grand project over the next year. We discussed creating an augmented workspace to be used in a laboratory setting. This is the brainchild of Jason Morrison and Mac Cowell of diybio.org. (see the Seed Magazine article featuring Mac and his work)

The concept, called SmartLab, looks to be a fun way to reapply and improve on some work I have done previously in interface design, multitouch tables, and creative workflow research.

The project will involve prototyping a physical workbench (with integrated projection, multitouch screen, and image capture facilities), writing some system software, and developing a user interaction that will stretch my imagination in strange and useful ways. Read More

My grand project

Essays / Personal

I moved to Boston right after July 4th of this year and have had the opportunity to introduce myself to lots and lots of new faces.

I took for granted that Austin was a relatively smaller town and that I could go to just about any tech-related meetup and find at least one person that I knew.

So the question, “what do you do?” has had me stumped for a while now. When most people ask that, they really want to know “how much money do you make” or “can you even relate to my self-important world?” Read More