Hacker School banning “feigned surprise” is absolutely brilliant

eksith:

“Feigned surprise” should be banned in any organization that purports to bestow knowledge and build confidence as it does the opposite in both.

Originally posted on Coffee Spoons of Code:

[Since you might wonder while reading this piece what my relationship to Hacker School is: I have no relationship with Hacker School. It has been described to me, and I have devoured the blog. If I made a mistake, let me know.]

The biggest insight I’ve had as a programmer is just how often other programmers are portraying false confidence. My natural approach to problem-solving is Socratic, feeling out different ideas and taking small, well-supported steps. Compare and contrast that with making gigantic pronouncements full of bravado. Writing software is inherently an exercise in managing complexity, which is best done with caution.

The best developers I’ve worked with were willing to admit when they didn’t know something. Of course they could learn quickly. If you meet an arrogant developer who pretends to know everything, be careful. To them, their ego is more important than your software. An insecure person who…

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Virtual Reality and the F word

People hate Facebook for almost the same reasons they hate the DMV. They’ve become a de-facto license provider for content and contacts with friends and this is even before we get to the privacy issues. After all, you can’t drive to see your folks or drive to a political rally by car without a license. The act ( driving ) and the means ( car ) require special access now that enables said privileges and, to my eye, much the same as commenting on a blog post or seeing your family and friends.

The act ( commenting ) and the means ( site ) require special access as well. The major difference, of course, is that the Department of Motor Vehicles is a government institution and Facebook is a convenience institution. Both have dubious records keeping private records private; one due to incompetence and the other due to profit.

Plenty of sites E.G. Quora and Scribd make Facebook the login provider and, in many cases, the only means to interact such as leaving feedback. So many, in fact that virtually everyone I bump into these days look at their FB account with disdain, yet keep it around for fear of losing contact. Much like the DMV, Facebook is a necessary ( arguable ) evil.

Via @jasonforal

Via @jasonforal

So Oculus VR

Oculus VR created the best and, thus far, only product that takes us closer to the goal of fully immersive VR. Previous efforts have been marginal successes at best and vaporware at worst, however OR was one of the first to not only have the viable product, but a usable development framework that is already seeing applications put into practice. When they signed aboard the legendary developer and sexy beast ( anti-lag and anti-me ) John Carmack of Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D and, more recently Armadillo Aerospace fame aboard, we all thought “now we’re actually getting somewhere with VR!”

If you haven’t been off the tech radar for a while or, like me, are a borderline luddite, you’ve probably come across the product or at least the name of this nifty company. Oculus Rift ( OR ) aims to do for Virtual Reality, what the mobile phone did for communication. To strip it from the pages of speculative fiction and bring about a new age of interaction and experience into the world of gaming and… herein lies the problem.

Oculus was bought by Facebook for $2 Billion, with a b, a capital B and illion boy howdy that’s a lot of money, probably. Now we have a company that aims to reimagine the way we experience reality and a company that has rewired the way we experience experiences. They both touch upon the need for voyeurism and vicarious fancy, of the innocent kind I’m sure, that we all possess to some degree. The problem is what will Facebook, a profile vendor much like Google is an ad space vendor, will do to the experience that OR brings.

Is this the kind of power we want to leave in the hands of a private profile vendor?

That’s a stupid question.

It’s a stupid question because the answer to it is irrelevant no matter what the appropriateness is of a Virtual Reality vendor teaming up with a company known for selling experiences. Or rather the profiles of those having those experiences.

Cannot be unseen

You can close your eyes, but you cannot avert them or look away from the experience completely without taking off the set. We’re far away from contact lenses that will directly project an image into your eyes, but not too far from the fact that OR is capable of creating a full immersive experience that’s pretty much the next best thing until the next leap in technological progress.

Facebook is no longer interested in just your vacation in Hawaii. They’re interested in selling Hawaii to you right at home into your eyes. Not only that, it isn’t a far stretch of an imagination to see a future in which you not only share your profiles via text, but profiles as experiences. Why leave home when you can live with your family without actually getting on that car at all? And with that, I have fulfilled my Philip K. Dick quota for the day.

Facebook’s purchase makes perfect sense in that context and it would have been stupid for Oculus VR, which engages in some of the most expensive research in tech space, to turn down the offer.

Whether we like it or not, we’re living in a world that any product or service that can be imagined, will eventually be created and experienced with varying degrees of success. Whether Oculus VR or some other company will take the last mantle of glory is yet to be seen, but suffice it to say, we’re not too far off from the time when people will look back at our text and emoji based status updates and exclaim, “my, how quaint!” or an equivalent in whatever vernacular exists at the time.

Pellet Stove 3.0 (now in color)

After almost 2 years since the last iteration and my considerations on heating the cabin, I’ve finally gone ahead and made some much needed improvements; particularly related to safety. This version does away with using old gas cylinders (propane etc…) as the burn chamber and sticks to plain, steel, square tubing and flat stock with maybe an angle or two thrown in for reinforcement. This was following some much needed advice I got from a welder who emailed me after reading my previous post (thanks, Mike!)

For comparison, this is the original “automatic stove” idea.

This is a quick sketch of all my ideas for an "automatic" pellet stove

This is a quick sketch of all my ideas for an “automatic” pellet stove

And the 2.0 design.

Stove 2.0 with improvements

Stove 2.0 with improvements

And the new and improved 3.0. Note, the flue/cleanout setup is the same as in version 2.0.

Stove 3.0 with new safety measures and simpler materials.

Stove 3.0 with new safety measures and simpler materials.

For this design, I’ve made using flux core welding wire to put it together a bit easier. Flux core tends to be more beginner-accessible (no gas needed) a tad safer and requires less skill, which is a big deal since this design is meant to be DIY. I’ve also increased the diagram size and font sizes by request. Apparently, a lot of folks couldn’t read my rubbish text without squinting at the screen. Apologies for that. I really didn’t expect any more than the 4-5 regulars who read my blog to be interested in the design, let alone the 300(!) who emailed me.

I’ve separated the interior components to two easily distinguishable sections : The stainless steel pellet hopper made of thinner flat sheets clad in cement board and the burn chamber with its all square tubing and flat stock construction.

Flat stock is almost always easier to weld than curved surfaces; as is cutting it. If your material has the same thickness, it makes switching temperatures, changing welding wire, voltage etc… completely unnecessary within each section. We can stick to one temp, one voltage, one thickness and, best of all, we’re not relying on old gas cylinders which may or may not withstand the high temperatures they were never designed to endure.

The only time any temp changes would be necessary is for the stainless steel hopper. I elected to use stainless here since often, the pellets you get from the store may contain moisture. The pellets in the burn chamber will, of course, quickly dry out making moisture less of a problem. The thinner stainless steel hopper is also separated from the hot burn chamber by the slight gap created by the space needed for the pellet stop. This tiny gap, along with the cement board wrapped around it, greatly reduces the amount of heat transferred to the rest of the hopper and our (highly flammable) fuel.

The grate is now designed to be replaced relatively easily if necessary since it’s in one piece and welded only at one spot that’s accessible by the air inlet pipe. There are two grates to ensure burnt ashes fall away without being sucked back into the burn chamber and without clogging the air inlet. In addition, this allows hot ashes to cool down in the lower chamber which isn’t as exposed to the full heat of the burn grate.

Also, being mildly OCD, I wanted to ensure there’s ample room to put a wide tray underneath the stove to collect all the burnt ashes without making a mess of my floor. The bent steel rods used as feet reduce the heat transfer to the floor, which may be bamboo or hardwood.

I also tried reducing the overall size of the stove. This one is about the same height and is roughly 2 – 3 times the width as a full ATX tower computer case, like the one housing the computer I’m typing this post in. I want it to be safe and stable, produce enough heat while still be “out of my way” as much as possible. The interior of the entire stove case is clad in cement board (such as Durock®) and the case itself is cut 4 – 5 inches short of the front hot exhaust tube with only cement board used to close opening. This reduces the heat transmission from the exhaust to the rest of the case while at the same time allowing me to reduce the interior volume needed for insulation.

If anyone does build this design or find it useful in any way, please drop me a line and let me know. Any improvements or suggestions are most welcome.

Enjoy!

Nerds and Buddhism

Originally posted on Essays in Idleness:

The Buddha's First Sermon

(Sometimes it’s just better to be quiet and listen…)

Recently I had a small epiphany about Buddhist “culture” in the West, especially convert (non-Asian) Buddhists.

Buddhist communities online and some communities I’ve seen in person remind me a lot of Star Trek conventions or UNIX system-administrator meeting: You meet a lot of white, nerdy, type-A, obsessive people who argue and debate petty intellectual stuff, and some of them have big egos. I work in a large, global IT company so I work with nerdy, type-A, obsessive people daily. When they argue about network security, or other computer discussions, it reminds me of the same discussions I see online discussing Zen Buddhism or just arguing on Wikipedia. It’s the same people.

Being a fellow white nerd, who spends his days blogging about Japanese waka poetry, this was all perfectly normal until I changed departments and started working with lots of…

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Friday the 13th Challenge: Summon a spirit

Over the last two years or so, I’ve received a heap of emails from people (some mostly curious, but others with paranoid fear or outright vitriol) about my talking (Ouija) board. Now, I don’t normally pay any heed to the vitriol and try to calm down the paranoid and fearful folks with explanations on what’s actually happening. Alas, my efforts were mostly in vain.

Today, I’m issuing everyone who has been on my case a challenge:

Put up or shut up

You say a spirit, ghost, demon or other such entity has attacked, plagued or otherwise been connected to you since you used one of these boards? Show me proof. Better yet, summon a ghost, spirit, demon or whatever and record it. Show me some evidence of books flying, chairs moving, loved ones (or yourself) possessed or otherwise influenced by another entity. I dare you!

I’m not responsible for actual damage including, but not limited to, direct, indirect, special, or consequential damages arising out of, resulting from, or any way connected to the use of the talking board. I’m only interested in evidence.

Minimal

Minimal pattern for non-discerning spirits