Friday, November 7

why i am glad we have ron paul

H.R. 3835: To restore the Constitution's checks and balances and protections against government abuses as envisioned by the Founding Fathers. (Here's the thomas.loc.gov entry, full text available both places).

A lawyer I ain't, and maybe there are tactical problems with the shotgun approach, but I just read the whole thing (go ahead, it's short) and it sure looks like a fine idea.

blinking

I went to an Arduino workshop at SparkFun the other night. Arduino is a platform for experimenting and building stuff with electronics. It offers a simple IDE and a C/C++ dialect related to Wiring and Processing. You write some code, then hit a couple of buttons to compile it and transfer the resulting binary to a microcontroller.

If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, this is all way simpler than it sounds. The stuff we did involved manipulating the buttons, lights, and buzzer on (pretty much) the Simon game we built last month.

This turns out to be quite a bit of fun. The simple hardware makes for kind of an immediate, tactile vibe to the whole process, and there's a certain conceptual freedom in controlling the behavior of a little cluster of blinking lights instead of, you know, a keyboard + monitor + web browser. It reminds me a little of playing with HyperCard or QBasic, back when computing still felt like a question of "what can I make this thing do?"

Technology people have been lamenting the absence of a really good entry-level hacking environment for a long time now, and although the complaint is partly built on simple nostalgia, it's got some merit. Despite the much better free tools available these days, and the sheer number of computers floating around, I think lots of kids don't get much exposure to that real gut-level "hey I can make it light up, what if..." mode of thinking. A platform like Arduino could go a long way towards filling that niche, especially if it was used in schools, and especially if it was treated more like an art medium than another step-by-step procedural assignment.