Udacity’s Intro to Computer Science course and Snowden Leaks article

I resumed my Intro to Computer Science course I am taking for free on Udacity.com. I took some time away from it because it got more difficult and I was lost. I realized that I just needed to go back and review the last lesson, which I now have done. This is a great online class, which I have talked about some in a previous post. It takes you step by step and the professor teaching the class is very good at explaining the material in a logical order. Udacity in general, despite only having a dozen or so courses so far, is probably the best resource for online classes I have found. It is free and constructed very well.

Below are some links to awesome educational stuff!

Here is a excellent in depth article with interviews of key players about the NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden and the impact they have had.

Here is a real time world map of births and deaths that is mind boggling!

Here is an article about a planet that defies what we know about planets!

Here is an article about the future of the internet as a peer to peer network with no servers and no top-down administration!

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Sick day learning: Vice and Vsauce2


First I just want to thank everyone who has read my blog so far! It feels great to have the good feedback and some pretty good numbers for just starting out. (Over 100 views!) I am definitely encouraged and will keep posting regularly. Thank you!

So the last couple days I was sick and I didn’t have a whole lot of energy to study hard stuff, so I just watched a lot of educational/ entertaining stuff and wanted to share with you the best of.

If you aren’t familiar with Vice, it is a magazine (physical and online) and video channel on youtube. They create a tremendous amount of content and much of it is pretty great. I’ve learned about the riots in Greece, Mitt Romney’s mormon family in mexico’s battle with drug cartels, the civil war in Syria, and tons of other amazing subjects. Motherboard is their science and technology channel, which is my favorite at the moment.

Yesterday I discovered Vsauce2, which is my new favorite channel on Youtube. I could spend days watching these, especially  the Mind Blow ones. Lots of awesome things at a fast pace with links to learn more about all of the things.

Here’s a website about making robots!
Here’s a guy who made his own ‘Thor’s Hammer’ with a Tesla Coil in it so it actually harnesses the power of thunder!
Here’s an article about a ‘starquake’ that released 10,000 trillion trillion trillion watts!

See you later!

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Free course on Udemy.com: WordPress Essentials

Oh yeah, I made my blog cooler from things I learned in this free course.

It was helpful and well done. It is definitely aimed at people paying for Word Press Premium, where you can do a lot more customization. But it was still helpful and I learned how to put the spiffy twitter feed to the right, and do a couple other things.  Follow me on Twitter if you would like!

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Ace Monster Toys and Udemy’s Bitcoin Course

Yesterday Jaela and I went to Ace Monster Toys, a non-profit hacker-space in Emeryville, for their meeting and a tour. It is an awesome smallish warehouse space that is home to woodworking equipment, sewing machines, several 3d printers and the coveted laser cutter. Everyone was friendly and happy to see new people. Everything is free to use for members and non-members alike, accept for the laser cutter which is a reasonable $1 a minute for non-members (counting only while it is running) and $.50 a minute for members. It is reasonable because the thing cuts FAST. To use the laser cutter one must complete a training class on how not to break the machine, cut your fingers off or burn the building down. One must also learn how to prepare files for the machine to accept them. While we were there it was cutting/ etching these nice little wooden keychains to serve as a cooler version of business cards.

Here is a demonstration of a similar laser cutter presented by Mythbusters’ Adam Savage:

I also browsed the free courses at Udemy.com, which has free and paid courses. Udemy has its pros and cons. There is no interactive element like in Udacity or Codeacademy, it is just lectures. Some of the paid ones are quite expensive, and it seems like just about anyone can design a course and sell it on the site without necessarily being an expert, so buyer beware. However there are great resources too. I signed up for the course on Bitcoin and listened to the lectures while playing solitaire for about 3 hours last night. I know a whole lot more about it and how it works and I look forward to listening to some of the 9 more hours on the subject. There is a video element too, but I just listen and do something else or else it would be boring. If you want my opinion, Bitcoin is a brilliantly conceptualized invention and a totally new kind of money. I understand people’s resistance to it, but why wouldn’t you want your money to be untraceable, un-taxable, un-freezable, not subject to run away inflation, not have spooky illuminati graphics on it, and not be controlled by the modern feudal lords that are the worlds wealthiest banking families? Think about it, right now everyone on the planet pays some kind of tribute in the form of interest, fees, etc. to banks. How much better of a place would the world be if money managing, lending and printing were all decentralized? It seems like Bitcoin is not going away and will continue to increase in value forever. Some people worry that it is hackable, but it uses the same encryption as the NSA, which is essentially unbreakable.  I’m no financial planner, but I would recommend investing  and/or setting up your business to accept Bitcoin. But don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself.

I want to give a quick shout-out. As I write this there are brave citizens protesting #UrbanShield, which is a urban war games training op happening in Oakland right now. It takes guts to protest while the security industrial complex are toting around their new toys designed to squash protests. I take some comfort in the fact that their are way more good nerds out there fighting the good fight than their are evil nerds spying on them. Stay safe everybody!

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The Crucible

Yesterday I went with my fiancé Jaela to the Crucible for their open tour. The Crucible is a school for the industrial arts and teaches classes in everything from glassblowing and blacksmithing to robotics and jewelry making. It isn’t free, or I would live there. But you can volunteer to get up to half off so I am looking into that. I won’t go into it further because this blog is about ways to educate one’s self for free. But it is amazing and I recommend going to their website and checking it out if you are interested in anything like that.

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Mini Maker Faire and The Sudo Room

Yesterday I closed my laptop and went into the field! First I went to the East Bay Mini Maker Faire. I can’t wait to see how big the regular sized one is, because it was huge and inspiring. The Maker Faire is a faire by and for people who make stuff from leather working and pickling to robots and bio-printers! Some was for the kids, and it was inspiring to see how excited they were on being surrounded by cutting edge creativity. Some of it was being done by children, which was also inspiring, especially two 11 or so year olds proudly showing off their award winning robot. Plenty was more adult oriented and mind-blowing. I learned a lot and left extremely inspired and with a bunch of  new resources for my unschooling.

I saw bronze casting in sand molds, and a blacksmithing demonstration. I saw silkscreening and soldering workshops. I saw all kinds of smart and simple art making techniques.

My favorite stuff was all conveniently in one building: robotics, 3D printing, and bioprinting. I learned that 3D printers are as cheap as $600 now almost fully assembled, and that they can be built out of 3D printed parts and a few cheap mechanical parts if you have the know how.

I talked to a member of Counter Culture Labs, a citizen scientist team based in Berkeley, who built a bio-printer out of mostly repurposed other stuff! He told me that there is a ton of money being put into bio-printing technology for animal cells, and he couldn’t compete with that, so he is focusing on plant cells. Their goal is to print a leaf capable of photosynthesis. Here is a short explanation of bio-printing:

Assuming you already know something about 3D printing, here is a Ted Talk about a direction that might go in:

There were two things that I had heard of but had very little understanding of that came up again and again. One is Raspberry Pi:

Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer that runs Linux and costs about $40. You can plug in a mouse and keyboard and program it and it is hugely popular among makers that use electronics. However I talked to Eric Maundu, the founder/owner of Kijani Grows, who makes incredible intelligent gardens. He said that instead of buying the “too expensive” Raspberry Pi, he just modifies wireless routers which already are tiny computers and can be purchased used for as low as $0.99 on Amazon!

The other is Arduino:

Ardruino is a microcontroller capable of receiving different kinds of inputs and giving out different types of output. It is also enormously popular and often used with Raspberry Pi to do incredible things with robots, sensors, motors and more. Thats about all I know so far about these things so far.

I could go on and on about the faire, but I want to tell you about another amazing resource that I found. Before I do that I highly recommend checking out the MAKE‘s website, which organizes the events, publishes a magazine, has an online store and is an amazing resource in general.

So the second part of this post is about the Sudo Room in Oakland. It is a hacker/diy space where I am now sitting and writing this. As I am writing this, right behind me I am eaves dropping on an interview a woman is doing for her web series with two scientists no older than me about “biohacking” or diy bio-engineering. Basically people experimenting on their own without major corporate or university affiliation. On the subject, one of them explained that while people are sometimes scared of hackers doing bio, worried that they will create a virus or something, it is far more likely that professional government funded scientists will do that. (They have). He said that people in their basement are usually more interested in doing helpful things that are difficult to find funding for, and the only real danger they pose is that of electrocuting themselves.

Remarkably, I just spoke to one of the scientists after their interview, and he was also a part of Counter Culture Labs, as well as a professional scientist/entrepreneur.

The Sudo Room has been sitting three blocks from my house since I moved here! Before I knew about this space I did my work at a coffee shop where I would generally overhear less interesting conversations. I’m going to be here all of the time.

The Sudo Room is free to come and hang out and use their resources, which includes a 3D Printer! To have 24 hour access you must become a member which costs between $0- $60 a month. That’s not a typo. Yesterday I came here for a online privacy and security workshop, which I missed most of because I was at the Maker Faire. It was an amazing smart group of programmers, hackers and socially minded people around my age hanging out and sharing knowledge. YES! To think, I could be paying thousands to sit in a crowded lecture hall!

Apparently these spaces are not uncommon. Check out this list of hacker spaces to find a space like this near you.

More on all of this soon! I gotta get back to my physics course!

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Heading to the Mini Maker Fare!

I’m going to go learn about quadcopters and pickling! If I can sneak in successfully I’ll tell you all about it. If you are interested it  is today from now to 5 PM and is $20. (Hence the sneakin’.)

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