Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How To Beg For Suggestions

I added a Skribit widget to the right side of my site. If you have any thoughts about anything I should write about, give me a suggestion!

Friday, January 08, 2010

How To Write Your First Jetpack Extension

I've been meaning to this for months, and I just kept putting it off. So many other things going on, so I didn't think I had the time. I decided to take a look this morning, finally, and put in the energy required to try this cool looking stuff out.

Took me ten minutes.

If you don't care about writing a Jetpack extension, but you have Jetpack installed, you might want to try out what I wrote. "Twitter, Who Am I?" is the name and making your currently-logged-in user at twitter.com obvious is the game. You'll get a nice label above all the pages, so you don't accidentally follow Ashton Kutcher with your business account.

The tutorial is fantastic, so I'm not going to try and rewrite or replace it, but I do want to make some comments about the process of getting into this. Firstly, the tutorial on the website is the same as that in the about page, but crippled. Same text, no interactive features. The tutorial built into Jetpack lets you edit and try out the samples, and the website uses the identical text without those features. It still tells you to push the install button, which doesn't exist. Use the about page.

It isn't obvious enough from the website how to get started. You can get to the tutorial and documentation, but none of it makes it obvious what to do with the stuff when you write it. The documentation for actually installing and distributing seems hidden. Again, the about page comes to the rescue. I'm going to assume they expect you to install Jetpack, get the about page up after the restart, and look at that stuff right away. If you don't, you're going to get lost.

Go to the about page and click the "Develop" tab. This will give you the install and deploy overview, as well as an editor you can test code from without installing the jetpack permanently.

I don't know if anything will come of it, but I created a subreddit for any interested parties.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Top Ten Science and Technology Predictions for the 2010's

Looking at Science and Technology over the next year is one thing, but its far more fun and far easier to make wild guesses that cover the next decade!
  1. There will be at least one machine capable of carrying out a phone conversation that passes the Turing test. This is bigger than it sounds, because you can fail the Turing test and still be smarter than a lot of people, these days. The end of the decade will likely see annoyingly friendly automated phone services and websites, first as terribly novelties and slowly as useful, subtle additions to our user interfaces. When you click the wrong thing in Firefox and mutter, "Ugh, not that!" and it corrects it for you, you'll finally stop finding it annoying.

  2. Automated photo and video manipulation is going to get weirdly good. I mean, this stuff is going to creep you out. People will delete their ex from entire collections of videos and photos without a trace, like they never existed (not a bad thing). Weird, is inserting people into photos and videos. What takes a skilled artist to craft with stock, original media, and a wacom table today, we'll have it toy web apps in a few years. The technology is already here, and it only needs to improve and become more accessible. Both are inevitable.

  3. Combinations of nano-materials and solar cell advancements are going to make cheap, compact water filtration devices cheap enough to mass produce and distribute among the third world. Clean water will stop being something requiring a civil infrastructure to provide, and become something that requires only a cheap, donated pump with an integrated filter.

  4. Between eye and head tracking cameras and ever cheaper display technologies, billboards are going to start preaching to us. Literally.

  5. Broadband won't be an option.

  6. Rosie is going to be in our houses. Dyson is revolutionizing vacuums and doing equally impressive things all over the board. I expect to see combination vacuum/sampoo units within five years and to see them self-propelled and operating within the decade. They'll part in a charging unit with a drainage hookup near you washer and drier and clean while you're at work.

  7. Recycling is going to become digestion. Our garbage is already a huge problem and tiny solutions are going to start making inroads. Custom bred bacterial strains, nano-materials to filter and break down petrochemicals and other difficult materials, and plasma generation facilities are going to combine to get a bigger buck for our garbage. Hopefully this will mean we can stop paying them for the gold they haul away from our homes.

  8. Google (and other search engines, if anyone catches up) is already working on the natural questions being queried, like "What is Mel Gibson's top grossing movie?" It's only a matter of time before the next generation, seeing those questions get results, responds with even more natural queries right after it, "No, I meant the other guy." and the engines are going to have to follow the queries and start having conversations about what we're looking for. Context is going to be key and the context is going to be broad and personal.

  9. We'll still be using HTML and Javascript.

  10. We'll hit a roadblock on storage capacity, but it will have been driven so far down in cost and size that the paradigm will completely shift. We'll shift away from a monolithic storage units and into storage pools. We'll replace machines with a large drive or an array with a multitude of microstorage units (micro in size, storing petabyte or more each). We'll add "bits" to the pools when we need more space and toss out defunct hardware, if they aren't extremely reliable and long lasting. The storage will be replicated and spread out over the collection, much like a local distributed storage network. The same technology will scale between machines and locations.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Top Ten Science and Technology Predictions for 2010

I made a few long-term predictions in conversations over the past week about science in the next century. Focusing on only the next year is much more challenging. Also, I'll be proven wrong much more quickly.
  1. Mass market CPU/GPU hybrids are going to make netbooks and tablets very viable machines. HDMI outputs will make them powerful docked machined, capable of replacing a laptop realistically. Intel might have dropped the ball, but Nvidia's Tegra chips are going to prove this in the early half of 2010.

  2. Cheap DNA tests are going to be a noticeable social problem. We're going to see numerous news items this year about disgruntled parents trying to prove some fear with a few stolen strands of hair and a self-addressed envelop from a shady testing company. The legal and social implications aren't going to be pretty.

  3. At least one eBook reader will be released with color support in the US market. TMOS displays will appear in netbooks and phones. Our display technologies will continue to dive in cost and energy usage.

  4. Solar technology is going to hit a cost that will begin to make it a selling point for new housing development. There are likely to be new tax breaks for home's built or renovated with solar panels on the roof tops. This won't lessen the demand for the energy grid, but will slow its growth. The social idea of what a house is will begin to absorb energy production along with gutters, fake window shades, and central air.

  5. Bio-Fuel from algae will start to compete with soy and corn fuel in the sustainable fuels market. At least one company will start to sell commercial and possibly consumer targeted units for self-run fuel production. There are already such units available for breaking down biowaste, and a unit containing algae tanks is a sure attempt to be made.

  6. Google will begin public launches of plugin support for their major applications, starting with Google Spreadsheets' plug-in beta moving out of the sandbox and into Google Docs Labs. These plug-ins will run on AppEngine and be able to integrate with other products to extend and customize them in ways that aren't feasible for Google to do for the entire market. Don't expect to see a plug-in custom sorting your search results, but aside from Spreadsheets, I would expect Docs, Gmail, and possibly Picasa.

  7. The Google Nexus One phone will release and it will not be impressive. It will essentially be a shinier development phone mass-produced to give them better sample sizes for new experiments.

  8. The first commercial production trials of vat-meat will begin. People will be grossed out, but they won't ask if it's already being put in their hot-dogs or not.

  9. IPv6 will not be used much more than it was in 2009.

  10. No one will use public/private key signing, but they'll still complain about spam all the time.
You can see my list of other and upcoming 2010 predictions.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

My Top Ten Goals for 2010

Call them New Year's Resolutions or whatever else you want, but we all should have some goals and we should lay them down. Of course, I'm not sure if its better or worse to make these goals public. I'm just doing what feels natural.

  1. I'm going to move this blog away from Blogger and Blogspot and self host. I've spent the last couple days building a new server, for personal and future business use. I really like the setup I've built to launch and manage a bunch of domains easily. It should be a piece of cake to set up, but migration I'll have to look into the details on.

  2. I will launch up to ten websites in 2010. Some of them will be very small and nifty. Some of them will be undertakings and hopefully profitable.

  3. I'll put more focus to my "Personal Brand" and to my business as an actual business, rather than a dude who does stuff for cash. I won't let that business face become cold, however.

  4. I will read 50 books. This one is tougher, because I know I keep loosing track of my goals when I try to read more often. If I set page-a-day goals, I can get books into my regular cycle of media consumption again. I'm restarting and completing the Wheel of Time series, first.

  5. I will write at least one book. This includes the editing, so I hope to finish more rough drafts, as well. I used to write constantly, and I never do it anymore. This blog is evidence of that, but I don't only mean technical writing. I miss writing fiction as much as I miss writing it.

  6. I will paint at least one painting. I haven't painted anything for a decade.

  7. I will relearn how my guitar can relax me. I'll probably submit some recordings to Sound Bush.

  8. I will do science with my son. We will get shirts that say so.

  9. I will write a JetPack extension.

  10. I will finish and submit the patches to the dozen or so projects I've made internal modifications to in 2009 without time to clean up.
You can see a list of my other and upcoming 2010 predictions.

2010: A New Hope

I couldn't have chosen a cheesier headline. I'm breaking my "How To ..." pattern of titles, but I figure this is probably for the best, and when better to make a refreshing change? I still want to post more How To articles, but I don't need to stick with the pattern for everything. It gets difficult to twist some titles into the right shape, anyway.

Prediction posts are always a big thing the week before and after January 1 and years ending with 0 always have even more of them. Why should I miss out on a great meme that only comes around once a decade? I'm going to mix it up a bit and give you more than a top ten predictions on some random topic:

Developing Upwards presents,

My Top Five Lists of Top Ten Predictions for 2010

This originally was written "My Top Ten Lists ...," but damn if I don't wanna do that!

I apologize for anyone who just let out a huge groan. You can skip them, if you want. The plan is to post one Top Ten Predictions list a day. I'll update the list linking to them here. I had a few conversations about predictions over the last week, and I really wanted to write them all down in one place.
This post is about a bit more than just some predictions and hand waving. This is also about a commitment: I need to commit to this blog more. This isn't some stupid blogger mentality that blogging is inherently awesome and should be the main focus of everything I do and make me lots of money. The facts are simple.

When I blog more, I am happier. The posts give me a means to reflect on what I've been working on and iron out thoughts that would only bounce around in my skull, otherwise. Getting things down on (virtual) paper gets them out of the destructive cycle of constantly bothering me. I think we should all commit to solidifying our thoughts more often.

Allowing title flexibility is a part of that. I'm not going to force myself to blog, but I'm going to put more into this than I used to. I hope to do more than that. The name change a while back was one part of a project that never got off the ground. I'll be moving this blog somewhere I can control the software and do things I can't or don't like the facilities for in Blogger.

I'll talk more about that in a post with more solidified thoughts.
I write here about programming, how to program better, things I think are neat and are related to programming. I might write other things at my personal website.

I am happily employed by the excellent Caktus Group, located in beautiful and friendly Carrboro, NC, where I work with Python, Django, and Javascript.

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