January 06, 2006

The Case for Mindstorms

I'm still excited about yesterday's Lego Mindstorms NXT unveiling, and I'm not alone. Gary gave me a call yesterday right after he noticed my blog post, just to talk about Mindstorms. Dave emailed to figure out where to get a remote for his RCX. The rebirth of Lego Mindstorms is turning out to be one of the big highlights of CES this year (Engadget video of the NXT at CES). It's funny how a humble Lego toy release can generate more excitement than all the rest of the glitzy Microsoft/Sony/Gadget hoopla at CES.

I think it's because the whole Lego concept strikes a special chord with engineers. While most of the tech industry talks about what some other engineers have built, Lego all about what we can build ourselves.

Mindstorms captures the true gadget spirit. Inventing is fun. Many of us fell in love with engineering through Legos as a kid, and many of us learned to program using toys (or using simple, more toy-like computers from Atari, Commodore, or Radio Shack). We want to capture the same magic for our own children or recreate that magic for ourselves, yet today it can be hard to find really good programming toys. Mindstorms fits the bill perfectly.

And so in the spirit of having fun with Mindstorms, here is another tip on getting the most out of your Mindstorms: get a good case for them...

Continue reading "The Case for Mindstorms"
Posted by David at 05:36 AM | Comments (3)

January 07, 2006

Firefox Tipping Point

I think last week marked my personal Firefox tipping point.

Both Firefox and IE are installed on all my computers, but on Windows, IE has been my main browser for normal daily use, and I have used Firefox mainly for testing what the 'minority browsers' see.

But last week a bit flipped in my head. It was not a conscious choice. I found that I was using Firefox rather than IE for ordinary browsing. I actually only noticed this fact when I had to switch to IE to test some HTML rendering.

Why the switch?

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Posted by David at 06:01 AM | Comments (9)

Ultra Deep Field

These scrolling views by Sebastian Francisco Sanchez let you look deep into the ancient universe, to near the beginning of time. (Or at least near the beginning of galaxies.) It's from the Hubble UDF and GEMS imagery. See anything interesting?

The Ultra Deep Field Skywalker

The GEMS Skywalker

Posted by David at 09:52 AM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2006

Comic about Grown-Up Lego Fans

The AFOL comic been circulating for a while, but I hadn't seen it before. Very funny!

Posted by David at 05:51 AM | Comments (0)

Draw Batgirl Day

Did you notice that last Friday everybody on LiveJournal dropped everything to draw batgirl? Inspired by Andi Watson's shelved batgirl pitch to DC, Jamie Dee Galey drew his own version.

And then so did everybody else. Thousands of batgirls drawn by thousands of people, both well-known and not. A strangely compelling window into our culture. And they keep on coming.

Batgirl by Andi Watson

Posted by David at 06:02 AM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2006

Weimar Iran

The West faces a choice in Iran: should we focus on the weapons or on the internal politics of Iran? Since Hiroshima we have lived in a wonderful world where nuclear weapons have been in the hands of a relatively small number of powers. Much of our foreign policy has to do with maintaining that status quo.

But, speaking as a technologist, it seems inevitable that eventually there will come a time when nuclear weapons technology becomes widespread. When that day comes, the policy of nonproliferation will become futile. And we will have to rethink our relationship with the rest of the world...

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Posted by David at 06:22 AM | Comments (2)

January 22, 2006

More Popular than Mom

I try to avoid commenting on my current employer, because I don't want to let confidential information slip by mistake. The company is in a very tough business, and there are some especially ruthless competitors. But several events this week made me incredibly proud to work where I do, even as GOOG (and my own personal compensation with it) slid 15%.

So I just wanted to say today: I love Google. Yes, I love working here. There is no other company like it.

On a more serious note: Is Google More Popular Than Mom?

Posted by David at 10:25 AM | Comments (1)

January 24, 2006

Hossein Derakhshan to Israel

Hossein Derakhshan is an Iranian blogger who has been urging the west to "help Iran become democratic."

He runs both an English-language and a Persian-language blog, and he has a daily Iranian readership of about 20,000. Today he is putting his money where his mouth is: he is going to Tel Aviv to write about Israel directly. He does this even though "this might mean that I won’t be able to go back to Iran for a long time, since Iran doesn't recognize Israel, has no diplomatic relations with it, and apparently considers traveling there illegal."

Follow Hoder on his journey here. While we wait for his plane to land, here's a bit of Ebrahim Nabavi's nuclear satire.

Update 1/28: Hoder writes an op-ed today for the New York Times where he talks about the insanity of the pro-western voters' boycott of the 2005 Iranian elections: "It's true that Iranian elections are not quite democratic, because the unelected Guardian Council reserves the right to bar candidates. But the real problem here is that boycotting semi-democratic elections ultimately will not make such a system more democratic."

I agree. When we see something we despise, our emotional reaction will be to walk away in disgust, out of principle, hate, or fear. But in the end, engagement is almost always better than disengagement.

Update 1/29: Hoder explains that he has been blogging about Israel mostly in Persian; since English is a second language, it takes him much more effort to update his English blog. But he points us to his host Lisa Goldman's blog for a bit of English-language information on his trip.

Update 2/2: The Jerusalem Post has a good article about Hoder and his journey, and his role as an early Iranian blogger.

Posted by David at 03:59 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2006

NXT Education Version!

More Mindstorms NXT news. Lego's educational version of the NXT is going to have a bunch of interesting features that go beyond the orindary consumer product...

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Posted by David at 08:39 PM | Comments (4)