Posts Tagged Code

Free Ivy-League Education

 After I mentioned theScienceNetwork in the previous post and you might already be aware of sites such as SciVee.tv, labtube.tv and iTunes U it’s time to share some recent links in the area of online-courses:

First, with a biological focus, there is iBioSeminars accompanied by iBioMagazine – let me just highlight this talk by David Baltimore.

On the computational side, there is udacity which was started by former Stanford professor and Google fellow Sebastian Thrun. He developed a vision for “University 2.0” under the motto of “democratizing higher education”. After having experienced that he could reach out to more people in a better way by a single online course than he could have by traditional teaching (even in huuuge overcrowded lecture halls) during the next couple of years he just couldn’t go back to the olden ways. He really has a point in dumping his professorship I heartily agree with, and that’s an understatement. I highly recommend to check out his talk at DLD (hosted by the gorgeous Maria Furtwängler), here is a teaser-trailer for the CS101-class “Building a Search Engine”:

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(You might want to check out this previous post on the online courses at Stanford)


To round things up, at the moment there is a free introductory course on Machine Learning “Learning from Data” ongoing at Caltech by Professor Yaser Abu-Mostafa covering basic theory, algorithms, and applications. Registration is still possible, the previous lectures are available here.

Video et studio, ergo sum.

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deBugging Code


Just recently, I found this REAL bug sitting on the edge of my screen while coding – the (admittedly quite nerdy) irony of it is hard to miss. Rest assured, I ‘guided’ it away from ‘the system’ to the outside as gently as possible, resisting any impulse to to squash it using the keyboard on the spot. You know the rule, “Never touch a running system”, and unfortunately double-clicking and pressing <DEL> didn’t seem to work here.

A more funny (and nerdy) take on debugging code is this video by Atlassian called “Software Bugs” that made my morning:

“All bugs welcome! … create some buzz, … and when the spider gets here, I guess we can start talking web development”

Some more in-depth understanding of the issues involved is provided in this talk by Prof. Stephen Freund on “Stopping the Software Bug Epidemic” – he also touches on the halting problem, memory leaks and parallel code execution.

Although the talk is very informative throughout while presenting the basic issues in an entertaining way, I wonder why he didn’t mention the “Dining Philosophers Problem” – I guess it’s hard to trace deadlocks by automated checkers? In addition, he only refers to the (ancient) waterfall-modell of software engineering. Some comments on how more modern development philosophies (eXtreme programming, agile etc.) fit into the picture would have been nice. Anway, Happy deBugging!

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Watching them watching us

Collusion is a plug-in for FireFox that visualises the sites that track your movements on the web – and then displays the results for you as a directed graph. Each node represents one particular web-site, each edge a “tracking through” relationship. After installation, collusion summarizes the data on the trackers. After a bit of the usual browsing you might be in for a bit of a surprise as you can almost see your digital footprint grow in real-time. No worries, it just displays the data that is gathered by companies on you, so it helps to get a better idea what your rights to electronic self-determination might entail.

Privacy Policy: When you’re using the add-on, we collect sites you visit solely to show you how they’re connected. We don’t keep them and don’t give away the information to anyone except you.

It is quite educational to see what the central nodes are – google of course, as you might expect, is one of them. But ever heard of ScoreCardResearch?

See also the collusion blog for more background info and links to the (open source) code – additional references are lifehacker.com: “Collusion for Firefox Shows You Who’s Tracking You on the Web In Real Time” and (german) heise.de: “Add-On für Firefox visualisiert Webseiten-Tracking” (Permalink)

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Computational Geometry Algorithms Library

Last week CGAL-4.0-beta1 was released – as with most X.0 and beta releases of any kind of sofware, this is not yet intended for use in production. Howevever, previous releases look quite stable.

The goal of the CGAL Open Source Project is to provide easy access to efficient and reliable geometric algorithms in the form of a C++ library. CGAL is used in various areas needing geometric computation, such as: computer graphics, scientific visualization, computer aided design and modeling, geographic information systems, molecular biology, medical imaging, robotics and motion planning, mesh generation, numerical methods… CGAL can be used together with Open Source software free of charge.


Also, a Book on “CGAL Arrangements and Their Applications” just became available (Springer).

The list of features packed into the kernels is impressive and too long to be summed up in a few lines – see here for the Package Overview – I am sure you’ll find quite a few items of interest. Especially the spatial sorting functions and matrix searches sound very useful to me. In addition, there is support for 3rd party software such as the Boost Graph Library. So much to check out – here are some tutorialsmanuals and videos on CGAL … For example the dynamic 3D Voronoi demo below.  Have fun!

Thanks for hints to Kasthuri Kannan and Chris Sander.

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A bitter taste of things to come?

On January 18, 2012, sites all over the internet will be blacking out to protest and try to mobilize more people to speak out against this bill coming up in the Senate next week — S. 968: the Protect IP Act (PIPA) — in an attempt to let U.S. lawmakers know how much opposition there is. [WordPress.com News]

Unfortunately, this is really no hype – just recently I heard highly-paid, no-nonsense corporate lawyers on the topic saying they’d recommend their clients to basically shut down most of their internet-presence immediately in case this bill passes, just to be sure not to be sued to the bones. Ruling by fear, that is….

A video on the topic is on http://fightforthefuture.org/pipa/

Please see this post from last year on how the story developed.

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The Science of Insecurity

From last week’s 28th Chaos Communication Congress (28C3) – an annual four-day conference on technology, society and utopia – there are a couple of really interesting talks. Of course, these are freely available (the logo on the right directs to their youtube-channel, the link in the blockquote takes you to the wiki) under a creative commons (BY-NC-ND) license.

As practised with 26C3 and 27C3 we want you to come together. no nerd left behind: Allow those unable to attend the Congress in Berlin to celebrate their own Hack Center Experience, watch the streams, participate via twitter or chats, drink Tschunk, cook and have a good time.

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Visualizing collaborative networks

Moritz Stephaner and Christopher Warnow used data from SciVerse Scopus (>94,000 publications in total) to map the collaborations of Max-Planck Researchers (inside and outside the MPG) over the last decade. A nice combination of (social) network logic and geography!

The network view shows the Max Planck Institutes and their connections. The size of the circles represents the number of scientific publications for each institute, and the width of the connecting lines the number of jointly published papers between two institutes.

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