Wednesday, September 14, 2011

TechCrunch SF 11: Hackathon Roundup

A few notable hacks at TechCrunch Disrupt, currently ongoing at the Concourse in San Francisco.

FAGicon is Tetris in your favicon, by some weird Russian dudes. How does it work? I don't know, but it does. Try the link on HackerNews.

eccube is a very trippy Processing.js game which interacts with music (via the Echo Nest API), from the good folks at Bloom.

WeatherChecker adds weather to your Google Calendar. Did you know WUnderground has an API? More weather mashups are afoot; I can feel it in my little toe.

Germanita was the only hardware project at Disrupt, by yours truly and co-hacker Erik Swedberg. It implements the DMX protocol with an Arduino to drive lighting from a web application, based on music analysis from Echo Nest.

(It turns out we were following in the footsteps of local design personality Ben Cerveny, who developed a project called UrbaNode with some folks in Amsterdam to drive DMX from JavaScript. Great minds think alike!)

BridgeWater Disrupt was not in the Hackathon, but nonetheless a very cool project by two guys from the Bridgewater Associates hedge fund. Not only is it a virtual market for trading "shares" of presenting startups, but it offers an API for writing automated trading agents.

nwm is a tiling window manager based on dwm, written (and scriptable) in JavaScript. Why use any other language? Also not officially presented as a Hackathon hack, but a great hack.

There's a writeup about hackathons in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, whence the photo above. Happy hacking!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Google Sets Experiment: Cities 1337 & L4m3

Google has recently decided to terminate their super-kewl Google Sets service, a "mechanism for quickly and efficiently generating lists of items given one or more example". If you've never played with it before, we'd say give it a try as you may not get another chance. Here's an example of a recent experiment we ran on Sets using one of our favorite topics: cities.

Two cities where your editor has had a lot of fun are San Francisco and Berlin. Conversely, we've always found Brussels to be particularly boring and unpleasant, and have been cautioned by many folks to skip Dallas if possible. We used Google Sets to generate this list of cities which fit the first category but aren't in the second:

  • barcelona
  • paris
  • são paulo
  • shanghai
  • taipei
  • tokyo
  • toronto
  • zürich
Except for Taipei and Toronto this squares pretty well with a list of cities we'd like to spend time in. Contrast with the list of Brussels- and Dallas-like cities:
  • atlanta
  • boston
  • chicago
  • cleveland
  • columbus
  • frankfurt
  • houston
  • washington dc

What can we infer from these lists? Whatever it is we like about SF and Berlin can hopefully be found in Barcelona and Zürich as well - be it art, technology, or general excitement. Maybe these cities were all on Damien Hirst's last world tour, or hometowns of Roboexotica participants. Conversely the second list looks like places people are because they have to be (no offense Boston, but outside your universities you don't have much going on). A first guess might be these are all cities with major airports where people go to get a connecting flight to somewhere good.

If you're interested to help build an open source replacement for Google Sets, please contact us through the website or email EmbeddedLinuxGuy [at] GMail [punkt] com. We are especially interested in folks who want to work with machine learning, text processing, and large databases. Which, according to Google Sets, means we're also looking for "natural language processing", "data mining", and "fun".

Monday, June 6, 2011

Points for Style: Synchronous I/O in JavaScript

Thanks to developments in the evolving Mozilla JavaScript standard, it is now possible to use I/O paradigms from 1982-era ROM BASIC in the browser. You can skip this tediously technical article and try it yourself (Firefox 2+).