Older blog entries for mako (starting at number 297)

Wide Scream

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/de/Aspect-ratio-4x3.svg https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/Aspect-ratio-16x9.svg

It seems that nearly all computer monitors have now switched from a 4:3 aspect ratio popular several years ago to a "wide screen" 16:10 and now mostly to an even wider 16:9.

But screen sizes are usually measured by their diagonal length and those sizes have not changed. For example, before I had my Thinkpad X201, I had a X60 and a X35. They are similar laptops in the same product line with 12.1" screens. But 12.1" describes the size along the diagonal and the aspect ratio switched from 4:3 to 16:10 between the X60 and the X201. As the screen stretched out but maintained the same diagonal length, the area shrunk: from 453 square centimeters to 425.

But screens are not only getting smaller, they are also getting less useful. The switch to wider aspect ratios is done so that people can watch wide screen movies while using a larger proportion of their screens. Of course, the vast majority of people's time on their laptops is not spent watching wide screen movies but in programs like browsers, word processors, and editors. Because most of our writing systems lay out documents from top to bottom, the tools we most frequently use to display (and then scroll through) the things we read primarily use vertical screen space -- the dimension that is shrinking.

If you have a desktop monitor, you might rotate the whole thing 90 degrees and "solve" the problem. If you're on a laptop though (as I usually am) this is clearly not an option.

I am not the first person to be annoyed by this trend. In fact, many recent desktop UI changes are designed to work around this issue. In the free software world, both Unity and GNOME 3 have made efforts to hide, merge, or otherwise get ride of title bars, menu bars, and panels that take up dwindling vertical space. I use Awesome which I've mostly set up to do two side-by-side terminals with very little in the way of menu bars.

/copyrighteous/images/awesome_screenshot_2011-small.png

Applications are the worst offenders and the solutions for those things that won't run in a terminal (or people that don't want to live there) are still lacking. I have been using Firefox's Tree Style Tab extension to move tabs to the side and hand-customized toolbars that squeeze everything I need (i.e., back, forward, stop, refresh, and URL bar) onto a single menu bar.

/copyrighteous/images/iceweasel_menu_eg_screenshot_2011-small.png

But the situation still drives me crazy. I'd love to hear what others are doing.

Syndicated 2011-12-07 22:40:01 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Winter Travels in Seattle and Japan

/copyrighteous/images/space_needle_christmas-small.jpg /copyrighteous/images/sapporo_winter-small.jpg

Mika and I will be traveling this winter in the Seattle area and in Japan. The current plan is to be in Seattle December 19 through 28 and then in Japan from December 28 through January 12. After that, we will fly back to Boston for the MIT Mystery Hunt where, as punishment for winning last year, our team is running this year's hunt.

We will be in Tokyo for New Years and then traveling around Japan for much of the rest of the time. We hope to visit Hokkaido and Aomori and to travel there from Tokyo along Japan's Western coast through Kanazawa and Niigata.

We're still figuring out where we will visit and what we will do in both places. If you are interested in meeting up for dinner or drinks in either place (or in organizing a talk or meeting), please get in touch and let's try to figure something out.

Syndicated 2011-12-05 22:00:59 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Bootstrapping

AndroidZoom, along with just about every other third-party interface to the Android Market out there, provides 2D barcodes which aim to make it easy to install Android applications that you find online on a phone. Maybe this would be a nice feature for F-Droid?

Unfortunately, I found this feature when I was trying to help a friend install the (free software) ZXing Barcode Scanner because they wanted to read a 2D barcode.

Syndicated 2011-11-30 00:28:24 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Voice Message of Peace

The Community Wellness team at MIT has a program on stress reduction, mindfulness, and relaxation. Among their services is a guided three-minute relaxation exercise recording (available at extension 3-2256 or 617-253-CALM). It's a very relaxing message.

At the end of the recording, there's a revealing error where a standard voicemail robo-voice say "no messages are waiting" before you system hangs up on you. Turns out, the MIT wellness folks implemented this using the normal MIT voicemail system.

This gave me a thought: What if my voicemail greeting included a guided relaxation message as part of its greeting so that anyone who left a message had the chance to relax a little bit first? Would messages left for me be more positive after a window of serenity? Would people ask less of me? Would my callers feel more relaxed and happier during the rest of their day?

I just recorded a short version of the MIT message as my voicemail greeting. I suppose I will find out.

Syndicated 2011-11-28 02:33:03 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Iron Blogger

I want to blog frequently but usually don't seem to find the time for it. I'm not above tying myself to the mast if it means blogging more.

Iron Blogger is a blogging and drinking club based on this premise. The rules are pretty simple:

  • Blog at least once a week.
  • If you fail to do so, pay $5 into a common pool.
  • When the pool is big enough, the group uses it to pay for drinks and snacks at a meet-up for all the participants.

Nelson Elhage ran the original Iron Blogger for about a year before the effort ran out of steam. I've started a new instance with a couple people from the previous group and a bunch of folks from Berkman, MIT, and beyond.

If you live in Boston and want to join, there are still a couple of spots available. I'm going to cap the current group, at least temporarily, at about 30 people because I think that's the maximum we'll fit into a local pub. Look over the site and send me an email if you're interested.

If you don't live in Boston but want to organize your own Iron Blogger, you can use the software in Nelson's git repository (or my branch) to automate nearly the whole process of tracking posts, generating reports, and updating the ledger of debts.

Syndicated 2011-11-21 04:12:17 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Famous in Scratch

A few years ago, I ran into my friend Jay in the MIT Infinite Corridor. He was looking for volunteers to have their pictures taken and then added to the library of freely licensed and remixable media that would ship with every version of Scratch -- the graphical programming language built by Mitch Resnick's Lifelong Kindergarten group that is designed to let kids create animations and interactive games.

Jay suggested I make some emotive faces and I posed for three images that made the final cut:

/copyrighteous/images/scratchlib-mako-laughing.gif/copyrighteous/images/scratchlib-mako-screaming.gif/copyrighteous/images/scratchlib-mako-stop.gif

But although I've spent quite a bit of time studying the Scratch community in the last few years as it is grown to include millions of participants and projects, I forgot about about Jay's photo shoot.

A couple months ago, Acetarium resident Andres Lombana Bermudez pointed out that there was a mako tag on the Scratch website and that a whole bunch of users had been publishing projects using the pictures of me which, apparently, shipped in Scratch under my name. For example, in this project in which I dance in front of a enormous "MAKO" banner:

/copyrighteous/images/scratchweb-dance.png

That said, given the rather emotive nature of the pictures, I seem to usually end up being blown up shot, shrunk, set on fire by dragons, or meeting other similarly unfortunate ends.

/copyrighteous/images/scratchweb-bad_mako.png/copyrighteous/images/scratchweb-looks_arent_everything.png

There's quite many more entertaining examples under the tag and many more elsewhere on the Scratch website although they are a little trickier to track down.

Jonathan Zittrain likes to say that the best technologies are generative in the sense that they encourage their users to make things with them that the designer never forsaw or anticipated. I feel generative.

Syndicated 2011-11-13 23:34:07 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Slouching Toward Autonomy

I care a lot about free network services. Recently, I have been given lots of reasons to be happy with the progress the free software community has made in developing services that live up to my standards. I have personally switched from a few proprietary network services to alternative systems that respect my autonomy and have been very happy both with the freedom I have gained and with the no-longer-rudimentary feature sets that the free tools offer.

Although there is plenty left to do, here are four tools I'm using now instead of the proprietary tools that many people use, or that I used to use myself:

  • StatusNet/identi.ca for microblogging (instead of Twitter): I have had my account since the almost the very beginning and am very happy with the improvements in the recent 1.0 rollout.
  • Diaspora for social networking (instead of Facebook): Diaspora has made important strides forward recently and has become both quite usable and quite useful. Not having used Facebook, I've not managed to totally figure out where the system fits into my life, but I do periodically post updates that are more personal and less polished than the ones on my blog. I still have not set up my own pod but look forward to work that the Diaspora team is putting into making that process easier.
  • NewsBlur for feed reading/sharing (instead of Google Reader): NewsBlur can be thought of as a replacement for Google Reader and is, in my opinion, much better even before one considers issues of autonomy. You can install the code yourself or pay the author a small amount to host it for you (he will do it for free if you are following under 64 feeds).
  • Scuttle for social bookmarking (instead of Delicious): In the wake of Yahoo's sale and shutdown of Delicious, there is a renewed interest in free tools for social bookmarking. Scuttle, a rather mature project, seems to have been one of several beneficiaries. My Scuttle installation is at links.mako.cc.

In trying to switch away from proprietary services, I have found that there still a lack of good information comparing the different systems out there and giving folks advice on who might be able to help with things like setup or hosting. I really value hearing from other people about what they use and what they find useful but finding this information online still seems to be a struggle.

The autonomo.us wiki seems like the natural place to host or summarize this discussion and to collect and share information useful for those of us slouching (or running) toward autonomy in our use of network services. I invite folks to get involved in improving that already useful resource.

For example, this week, I spent a few hours researching free social bookmarking tools and produced a major update to the (already useful) social bookmarking page on the autonomo.us wiki. Of course, I can imagine lots of ways to improve that page and to collect similar information on other classes of network services. Please join me in that effort!

Syndicated 2011-11-02 22:28:57 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Science as Dance

The following selected bibliography showcases only a small portion of the academics who have demonstrated that while it may take two to tango, it only takes one to give a scholarly paper a silly cliche title:

Briganti, G. 2006. “It Takes Two to Tango-The CH-53K is arguably the first serious US attempt to open the defense cooperation NATO has been seeking.Rotor and Wing 40(7):60–63.
Coehran, J. 2006. “It Takes Two to Tango: Problems with Community Property Ownership of Copyrights and Patents in Texas.Baylor L. Rev. 58:407.
Diamond, M.J. 1984. “It takes two to tango: Some thoughts on the neglected importance of the hypnotist in an interactive hypnotherapeutic relationship.American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 27(1):3–13.
Kraack, A. 1999. “It takes two to tango: The place of women in the construction of hegemonic masculinity in a student pub.Masculinities in Aotearoa/New Zealand 153–165.
Lackey, J. 2006. “It takes two to tango: beyond reductionism and non-reductionism in the epistemology of testimony.The Epistemology of testimony 160–89.
Miller, C.A. 1998. “It takes two to tango: understanding and acquiring symmetrical verbs.Journal of psycholinguistic research 27(3):385–411.
Modiano, N. 1984. “It Takes Two to Tango, or… Transmission is a Two-Way Street.Anthropology & Education Quarterly 15(4):326–330.
Ott, M.A. 2008. “It Takes Two to Tango: Ethical Issues Raised by the Study of Topical Microbicides with Adolescent Dyads.The Journal of adolescent health: official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine 42(6):541.
Rubenstein, J.H. 2009. “It takes two to tango: dance steps for diagnosing Barrett’s esophagus.Respiratory Care Clinics of North America 69(6):1011–1013.
Settersten Jr, R.A. 2009. “It takes two to tango: the (un) easy dance between life-course sociology and life-span psychology.Advances in Life Course Research 14(1-2):74–81.
Skaerbaek, E. 2004. “It takes two to tango–on knowledge production and intersubjectivity.NORA: Nordic Journal of Women's Studies 12(2):93–101.
Spencer, M. 2005. “It takes two to tango.Journal of Business Strategy 26(5):62–68.
Vanaerschot, G. 2004. “It Takes Two to Tango: On Empathy With Fragile Processes.Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training 41(2):112.
Viskochil, D.H. 2003. “It takes two to tango: mast cell and Schwann cell interactions in neurofibromas.Journal of Clinical Investigation 112(12):1791–1792.
Weiner, A. 2001. “It Takes Two to Tango:: Information, Metabolism, and the Origins of Life.Cell 105(3):307–308.
Wittman, M.L. 1990. It Takes Two to Tango: Your Simplistic System for Self-survival. Witmark Pub. Co.

There are also a few hundred groups who have demonstrated that larger groups can so as well.

Syndicated 2011-09-26 19:20:10 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Anxiety

MailBoxes by nffcnnr, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  nffcnnr 

I am haunted by the nagging fear that I have mailboxes, tucked into a dark corner of an office somewhere, and perhaps even full of checks and important documents, that I don't know exist.

Syndicated 2011-09-17 02:09:21 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Software Freedom Day Boston 2011

This year, Software Freedom Day in Boston is being organized by Asheesh and Deb and OpenHatch which means a focus on increasing involvement in free software communities. If you are all interested in getting involved in the free software community in any way and at any level -- or interested in hearing about how that might happen someday -- this is a great event to attend.

For my part, I'll be giving a short talk on getting involved in Debian.

The event will be held on Saturday, September 17 at Cambridge College -- between Harvard and Central squares -- with an after party at Tommy Doyle's in Harvard.

Syndicated 2011-09-17 02:09:21 from Benjamin Mako Hill

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