King’s Gambit in progress

Lately, I’ve been working in OpenSCAD to try my hand at designing things to print out. I figured an easy way to get started was to design a standard chess set. This is my progress so far.

Doing OpenSCAD changes your thinking a little bit, where you have to picture and rotate things in your head, and actually not worry about where the seams are, because it’ll be taken care of for you, without you having to waste time doing geometric math.

There are things that I’d add to OpenSCAD, however, like higher level operations like stacking pieces (or beveling edges and rounding corners), adding labels to measurements, and ruby-like blocks, querying measurements of objects, and encapsulation of variables in modules.

Update: It’s now done!

 

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What it’s like to do estimation for software.

– You are an inventor. You’ve invented a solar-powered microwave oven, an engine that runs on dead bugs, and a laser-powered weapon to kill mosquitoes. Someone comes to you and says:

“Hey inventor, I need a drone that will pick up mice (but not other animals), locate my ex-girlfriend and drop them on her head. Give me a budget and a time estimate.”

That pretty much sums it up for me

Often times in software engineering, you’re doing something slightly new, so you don’t know exactly how long these things will take. Add up a lot of little tasks, and the margin for error in estimate is going to be bigger the further out you try to plan.

Missing bodies when doing constructive solid geometry in OpenSCAD for Macs

For those of you using Macs with an Intel GPU and Lion OS, there’s a bug in the current releases of OpenSCAD that makes polygons and objects disappear when you try to intersect or difference them. The only one that works is union, which isn’t very helpful by itself.

The maintainer of OpenSCAD has released a workaround for the problem. Download the development version 2012.01.14, and install that. Then go into preferences -> advanced, and check the box that says “Force Goldfeather”

This selects the Goldfeather algorithm from the underlying OpenCSG library, and though it has some visual artifacts, it should be enough to keep you going on your projects on the Mac.

Movie and music companies need learn how to innovate

This year the movie industry made $30 billion (1/3 in the U.S.) from box-office revenue. But the total movie industry revenue was $87 billion. Where did the other $57 billion come from? From sources that the studios at one time claimed would put them out of business: Pay-per view TV, cable and satellite channels, video rentals, DVD sales, online subscriptions and digital downloads.

The music and movie business has been consistently wrong in its claims that new platforms and channels would be the end of its businesses. In each case, the new technology produced a new market far larger than the impact it had on the existing market.

  • 1920’s – the record business complained about radio. The argument was because radio is free, you can’t compete with free. No one was ever going to buy music again.
  • 1940’s – movie studios had to divest their distribution channel – they owned over 50% of the movie theaters in the U.S. “It’s all over,” complained the studios. In fact, the number of screens went from 17,000 in 1948 to 38,000 today.
  • 1950’s – broadcast television was free; the threat was cable television. Studios argued that their free TV content couldn’t compete with paid.
  • 1970’s – Video Cassette Recorders (VCR’s) were going to be the end of the movie business. The movie businesses and its lobbying arm MPAA fought it with “end of the world” hyperbole. The reality? After the VCR was introduced, studio revenues took off like a rocket.  With a new channel of distribution, home movie rentals surpassed movie theater tickets.
  • 1998 – the MPAA got congress to pass the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), making it illegal for you to make a digital copy of a DVD that you actually purchased.
  • 2000 – Digital Video Recorders (DVR) like TiVo allowing consumer to skip commercials was going to be the end of the TV business. DVR’s reignite interest in TV.
  • 2006 – broadcasters sued Cablevision (and lost) to prevent the launch of a cloud-based DVR to its customers.
  • Today it’s the Internet that’s going to put the studios out of business. Sound familiar?
Why was the movie industry consistently wrong? And why do they continue to fight new technology?

I think being in technology, we take innovation-as-a-good-thing for granted. Everyone else in other slower moving industries probably see their business models as granting privilege and right established so long ago, that no one really cares where they come from or how they came to be–and especially whether the world, economy, and landscape is as it was back then.

Or maybe they do, and the MPAA and RIAA willfully ignore how new technologies have helped them make money in the past. You’d think that with the pace of new platforms to be able to make them money on, they’re remember that and find ways to capitalize on it.

But I remember Dalton Calwell puts it: “I don’t envy being [in their position because] they’re dealing with economic realities, and there aren’t a lot of options.”

I suspect this is partially because they don’t innovate on their own, and are usually blindsided by what comes out of Silicon Valley. Movie and Music industries really need to learn how to innovate on their own so they don’t get blindsided so often, time after time. And it may be that they need to become technology companies, according to the Marc Andressen’s insight that Software is Eating the World.

Ironically, the six major movie studios have a great technology lab in Silicon Valley with projects in streaming rights, Video On Demand, Ultraviolet, etc. But lacking the support from the studio CEOs or boards, the lab languishes in the backwaters of the studios’ strategy.

That’s really a pity. 

Browsing Foreign Websites a Misdemeanor in Belarus

The Law requires that all companies and individuals who are registered as entrepreneurs in Belarus use only domestic Internet domains for providing online services, conducting sales, or exchanging email messages. It appears that business requests from Belarus cannot be served over the Internet if the service provider is using online services located outside of the country. The tax authorities, together with the police and secret police, are authorized to initiate, investigate, and prosecute such violations. (Id.)

Additionally, the Law states that the owners and administrators of Internet cafés or other places that offer access to the Internet might be found guilty of violating this Law and fined and their businesses might be closed if users of Internet services provided by these places are found visiting websites located outside of Belarus and if such behavior of the clients was not properly identified, recorded, and reported to the authorities. The Law states that this provision may apply to private individuals if they allow other persons to use their home computers for browsing the Internet. (Id.)

When I read this at first, I thought it was a democratic nation that was restricting internet access of its citizens. I had no idea Belarus is one of the last authoritative regimes. That explains a bit more, as anything that can be used to challenge your power will be tried to shut down. However, even democratic societies are restricting internet access for its citizens, like Australia most notably.

Algorithm Measures Human Pecking Order

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By looking at the changes in linguistic style that occur when people make the transition from non-admin to admin roles, Kleinberg and co cleverly show that the pattern of linguistic co-ordination changes too. Admins become less likely to co-ordinate with others. At the same time, lower ranking individuals become more likely to co-ordinate with admins.

A similar effect also occurs in the Supreme Court (where power differences are more obvious in any case).

Curiously, people seem entirely unware that they are doing this. “If you are communicating with someone who uses a lot of articles — or prepositions, orpersonal pronouns — then you will tend to increase your usage of these types of words as well, even if you don’t consciously realize it,” say Kleinberg and co.

If you can measure actual influence, there will be an entire industry and market that grows up around trying to hack it and influence it. It’ll amplify the positive feedback loop, where the influential will become even more influential, since we’ll look to the ranking to help us decide who to listen to.

This would also affect social networks, especially those like Linkedin, where ladder climbers and recruiters try to find influential people. I can imagine it would help Facebook do rankings on its news feed.

However, those are just retroactively applying a new technique to existing products. The question we should be asking is, what other types of things does this technology allow?

Off the top of my head, you can provide real-time feedback during a conversation or chat of how you’re being perceived. Advertising would find it interesting on the assumption that more influential people can get others to buy. The other thing you can do is see if the measure of power correlates with virality.