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Nicholas Negroponte on OLPC

From this Negroponte email:

Sugar is a very good idea, less than perfectly executed. I attribute our weakness to unrealistic development goals and practices. Our mission has never changed. It has been to bring connected laptops for learning to children in the poorest and most remote locations of the world. Our mission has never been to advocate the perfect learning model or pure Open Source. I believe the best educational tool is constructionism and the best software development method is Open Source. In some cases those are best achieved like the Trojan Horse, versus direct confrontation or isolating ourselves with perfection. Remember the expression: perfection is the enemy of good. We need to reach the most children possible and leverage them as the agents of change. It makes no sense for us to search for the perfect learning model.

I have no comment here—I'd be interested to hear what others think of this paragraph, though. Fob

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My first and last IEEE conference paper

I got a paper accepted to the IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing (ICASSP) a couple of months ago. A great honor…

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My hard drive was stuck

This morning I went to grab my backup drive from the machine room. You may recall that I have offsite backups via a pair of drives that I swap between home and work periodically.

I unplugged the drive cables and grabbed the drive to take off with it—but it was still kind of stuck in the pile of cables under my desk. I wiggled it around to try to get it untangled, but it wouldn't really let go.

Then I looked down, and realized the drive was not attached to anything. I thought about it for a moment, wiggled it a bit…

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Why Git is my default SCMS right now

The question isn't whether to move from CVS or SVN to a distributed SCMS. That's almost always a no-brainer. Do it as fast possible, then watch your project receive more frequent contributions from outside your core team, and watch contributions be much easier to integrate…

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Similarity hashing

A while back I got interested in similarity hashing—comparing files for general similarity. I wrote a little command-line tool and put it up at BartForge. Perhaps it will be of interest to someone. Fob

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Digital broadcast converter coupons

2008 is the year when all US TV broadcasters will be forced by the FCC to switch to digital broadcast only. The 15% of households who depend on broadcast TV and don't have a digital-ready set will be forced to deal with this change. The government is here to help you. Their help comes in the form of coupons good for $40 off any of a number of approved models of digital->analog converter boxes. The boxes are estimated to cost around $50-$60 before the coupon; each household may have up to two coupons.
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Python so far

It looks like I'll finally have to learn Python thoroughly for a project I'm working on. Shouldn't be too hard. I was recommended Dive Into Python as a reference. It seems OK, and it's great that the authors and publisher have made it freely available online. I have to say, though, that the farther I got in it the more I wished I had been allowed to do some editing. Fob

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HOWTO: Disabling Emacs' new "mandatory" splash screen

With emacs 22, apparently someone got the idea that it would be a good idea to drop you into a splash screen rather than your edit buffer when you say "emacs -nw filename". Sending an edit command, such as control-L to refresh the screen, shows you the buffer you wanted to edit. Good plan.
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HOWTO: Picking "random colors"

So, a friend's project tried to blind me today with a hideous "random color" for a large area of text. The quotation marks are because it's hard to say what a "random color" even means. For most purposes, it means a color that is chosen solely as a label, and that therefore can be anywhere in the color palette. The usual constraint is that a set of labels need to be chosen, and so successive random colors should be easily distinguished…

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