Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Everything Mazes

Here is an awesome site devoted to mazes. Not only does it contain a tremendous amount of information on maze definitions and algorithms, but it also lets you play with some 3D mazes and design your own. Also, check out these life-size mazes.

Powerpoint Tips: Jobs vs. Gates

Presentation Zen has a great post comparing the PowerPoint styles of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. More than poking fun at poor, awkward Bill, the comparison really makes the point that PowerPoints must (1) complement the speaker, and (2) look different to audiences. People have sat through so many PowerPoint presentations that they despise the typical templates and bullets. However, audiences are also so accustomed to multimedia presentations that the "no powerpoint" approach can be even more risky (TWIT had an interesting discussion on this topic during last week's show). Presentation Zen emphasizes that the speaker should use PowerPoint to enhance a natural, relaxed presentation. The PowerPoint should never be a crutch to lean on.

Presentation Zen has tons of pointers and plenty of helpful links. If you regularly have to do PowerPoints or think you may need to in the future, consider subscribing to their feed.

Also, check out these excellent presentation posts from Particle Tree and Michael Hyatt.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

UbuWeb: A Fantastic Avant-Garde Collection

If you are looking for avant-garde historical and contemporary artistic pieces, check out UbuWeb. Their vast content includes pdfs, mp3s, and video files from authors such as Samuel Beckett, William S. Burroughs, Henry Miller, Jean Genet, Phillip Glass, Luis Buñuel, Charles Bukowski, Salvador Dalí, etc.

"UbuWeb is a completely independent resource dedicated to all strains of the avant-garde, ethnopoetics, and outsider arts. All materials on UbuWeb are being made available for noncommercial and educational use only. All rights belong to the author(s). UbuWeb is completely free."

Find out more here.

Learn Out Loud

Learn Out Loud is one of the first sites I discovered with a catalog of free educational audio and video materials. Their library and their directory of podcasts have recently gotten much broader - certainly worth checking out. For those of you even marginally interested in issues of copyright problems and protections in digital media, this is also a good place for you to pick up a copy of Free Culture from Lawrence Lessig (pictured).

Monday, November 28, 2005

Free Knitting Videos

I don't knit, and I don't plan to start any time soon. However, if I had a knitting inclination, Knitting Help's 150 free tutorial videos would certainly help me learn. Just don't make any of these.

Textbook Revolution

Textbook Revolution is a fantastic web resource for free textbooks. There is so much in here - even more than first meets the eye. For example, check out these 169 e-books on programming or this library on business management techniques. Teachers definitely might want to consider browsing this archive when choosing books for their classes. While we're on this topic, also check out this excellent physics book, available in dozens of different languages.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Green Solutions

This Friday, we focus on a number of interesting environmental sites. I tried to select groups that indentify and laud progressive environmental actions already occurring rather than the gloom-and-doom guilt-trip sites:

World has been around for a while, and they describe their mission succinctly:

" works from a simple premise: that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. That plenty of people are working on tools for change, but the fields in which they work remain unconnected. That the motive, means and opportunity for profound positive change are already present. That another world is not just possible, it's here. We only need to put the pieces together."

Their blog is full of many interesting devices from Street light/solar power generators/wifi networking to waterless washing machines.

(2) The Watt
The Watt is an interesting forum on alternative energy. Their site also hosts an interesting weekly podcast.

(3) Grist is one of the most popular environmental focused sites - sort of the Slate for environmental issues.

(4) Leicester city thermal imaging
Here is an interest site found my We Make Money Not Art. Leicester city council is using thermal imaging to target homeowners releasing excess heat and offer them free cavity and roof installation.

(5) PVC Greenhouse
An interesting blogspot site that shows you how to make a greenhouse using - you guessed it - PVC piping.

(6) Forests Forever
Last, but not least, here is a site full of great photos of forests around the world. The bad translations and apparent Fuji sponsorship leads me to believe that this came out of Japan. Definitely worth exploring, but only if you have a fast internet connection.

The Talent Myth

Here is an interesting article from the New Yorker back in July 2002. It discusses the "Talent Myth" propagated by McKinsey & Company and suggests that companies might error in recruiting smart, talented, and reckless employees rather than making a well functioning organizational structure. Gladwell considers this error to have contributed to the downfall of Enron. The brief article is full of many observations on varying corporate cultures, psychological studies, and historical events. One particularly interesting analogy compares the British success to American troubles defending against German U-Boats in World War II:

"Throughout most of 1942, the Navy kept trying to act smart by relying on technical know-how, and stubbornly refused to take operational lessons from the British. The Navy also lacked the organizational structure necessary to apply the technical knowledge it did have to the field. Only when the Navy set up the Tenth Fleet--a single unit to coördinate all anti-submarine warfare in the Atlantic--did the situation change. In the year and a half before the Tenth Fleet was formed, in May of 1943, the Navy sank thirty-six U-boats. In the six months afterward, it sank seventy-five. "The creation of the Tenth Fleet did not bring more talented individuals into the field of ASW"--anti-submarine warfare--"than had previous organizations," Cohen writes. "What Tenth Fleet did allow, by virtue of its organization and mandate, was for these individuals to become far more effective than previously." The talent myth assumes that people make organizations smart. More often than not, it's the other way around."

By the way, the link has the New Yorker print version available as a free pdf download. I found the article more readable in that format.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Here is an interesting site discussing MC Escher and attempting to develop an Escherization algorithm to create pictures similar to his famous intertwined images.

Scholar's Toolkit: Suprglu

If you blog regularly, post your pictures on Flickr, and use sites like Digg and, pretty soon the information you are trying to gather together ends up spread over dozens of places. Suprglu is an attempt to "piece your web back together". Sign-up and you will be prompted to enter your user name at each site (not password) or feed URL. Suprglu creates a meta-blog collecting all your postings and bookmarks along with a tag cloud to help you navigate. For example, check out my amalgamation.

Suprglu just started and there are certainly a number of features missing. They definitely needs a search engine, and more templates options would be nice. Additionally, there can be a delay between the time I post here on Blogger and when the posts show-up on Suprglu. I wouldn't use Suprglu as a blog intended for an audience, but I will certainly refer to it in order to keep track of information I want to hold onto.

On a related note, there have been a lot of attempts recently to keep organize and link these useful sites. Check out and only keeps track of, but I update it regularly throughout the day to find tons of great links. Also, here is a useful library of tools for

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

How to Fix Mom and Dad's Computer

For those of you heading home to turkey and your parents' broken computers, here is a helpful repair list courtesy of Lifehacker. Happy Thanksgiving!

Free Alternatives: Database of Free Software

Free Alternatives is a great database of free software. In addition to tremendous depth in its listings, Free Alternatives also includes rankings and a search features that enables you to quickly find free alternatives using the commercial product name. For example, search for "Word" under "Proprietary application" and you will find Open Office, KWord, and two other options. Searches for other expensive programs such as Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Cakewalk, and Cool Edit Pro yield an impressive number of free options. Be sure to check out the education section.

Also, for those of you looking to get started with open source software, check out the OpenCD.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I'm not even going to try to explain dreamlines. Here is how they explain it:

"Dreamlines is a non-linear, interactive visual experience. The user enters one or more words that define the subject of a dream he would like to dream. The system looks in the Web for images related to those words, and takes them as input to generate an ambiguous painting, in perpetual change, where elements fuse into one another, in a process analogous to memory and free association."

Enter a "dream" keyword and watch the effect. It is pretty cool.

Meebo: Life Behind the Firewall

One of the toughest things about a big corporate job is the big corporate firewall. Although many companies have good intentions, the average employee can get cut off from most of the internet - at least the most interesting parts of it.

Fortunately, there are a number of web-based applications that help you get around these limitations. Meebo certainly works towards negating the IM wars between AOL, Yahoo, MSN, and GMail/Jabber. Through the magic of AJAX, you can talk to anyone in any of these applications through a single internet window. And since you don't have to download and install any programs, it is very firewall friendly.

Meebo can also be set as an active-desktop. In other words, a Meebo session can replace your desktop image and you can IM your friends without opening a window.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Blinx to Deliver Legendary University Speeches

Blinkx TV - already heralded by some as the "new Google for Video" - is planning to announce tomorrow that they will be making available a catalog of legendary university speeches from more than 18 top-tier universities including Princeton, Harvard, Columbia and Cambridge. The video is set to include speeches from the likes of Bill Clinton, Thomas Friedman, and many others. Although this sounds duplicative of such sites as UC Princeton, I look forward to browsing these archives and I will be sure to post any great finds.

Sherlock Holmes Project

Starting in 2006, Stanford will re-serialize several Sherlock Holmes stories as weekly e-mails. Go to their page for the free sign-up:

“Welcome to a new year in Stanford’s ongoing rediscovery of the 19th century. In 2006, we will rerelease a collection of Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of Sherlock Holmes, just as they were originally printed and illustrated in The Strand Magazine...Over 12 weeks from January through April 2006, Stanford will be republishing, free of charge, two early Holmes stories, “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Speckled Band”; the nine-part novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles; and the famous “last” encounter between Holmes and Moriarty, “The Final Problem”.”

Friday, November 18, 2005

Einstein's Relativity Theory

Over the past week, Einsteins been in the news a lot. First, University of Manchester scientists developed a new way to prove his relativity theory with graphite from a pencil. Next, Einstein played an integral role in developing new computer keys to prevent hacking.

I thought it might be a good time to round-up some of the many excellent sites that attempt to explain special relativity and his other scientific contributions:

PBS Nova Special with comments from experts
5-minute video on relativity
Relativity Theory in Words of Four Letters or Less
NYTimes: That Famous Equation and You by Brian Greene

Also, here are some other sites that are a more detailed, but worth looking at for those of you who are interested:

Physics Flash Animations (scroll down to relativity theory)
The University New South Wales: Einstein Light
SpaceTimeTravel: Relativity Visualized
Why Can't We Travel Faster Than Light?
How Stuff Works: Special Relativity
UCLA: Relativity (very detailed)
Living Reviews in Relativity
Einstein Archives Online

And finally, something less heady and just fun to watch. Watch some scientists messing around with a vat of corn syrup. Wait...look for the fingers. Very odd. (Via Boing Boing).

Update: See what it looks like to travel at the speed of light.

World Wide Internet TV

Check out wwiTB to watch live streaming video of TV broadcasts from all around to world. This is fantastic if you are working on learning another language or just want to see what television is like in whichever country. Combine this with Silent Bob and make yourself some tracks to listen to on your iPod.

Update: Also check out the free Online TV Recorder, which gathers channels from around the world and provides personal Tivo-like saving function.

Update: Here is an index of the growing number of internet based "IPTV" shows.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

O´Reilly Library

Here is a pretty complete O'Reilly library covering a wide range of topics in web development and networking. If you've never used any of these books before, check them out - they are very thorough, yet easy to follow.

Note: I am not 100% confident these materials should be freely available on this Ukrainian website that spells O´Reilly wrong in the URL. I will leave it up to you to either avoid the page or download the books quickly.

Update: Also check out the list of O'Reilly podcasts.

Update: Here is an even bigger collection.

Update: Here's another one. I think Diggers killed the site above, but I am leaving it there in case it comes back.

Update: Another library. Not O'Reilly, but quite good.

Scholar's Toolkit: Writeboard

While many people are familiar with track-changes in MS Word, there are other options for collaborative writing and editing. 37 Signals - makers of the excellent (and free) Backpack personal organizer - have applied similar AJAX scripts to create a free, web-based writing software that feels like a desktop program.

What does this mean for the scholar? Now you have an easy way to enlist your peers to help you review your projects. For example, let's say you have a writing group - each class member can log on to Writeboard and make their edits. Afterwards you can compare and accept the useful changes. Or what if you are working on group paper? Now you can easily track previous versions and edits.

While many of this functionality is available in MS Word and other word processing programs, with Writeboard the only requirement is internet access (with Javascripts enabled). I personally get a headache from track changes and have used this alternative even when everyone has MS Word installed.

Plus, you can't beat the price.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My First Literary Crush

Today's Slate has a list of various books that famous people loved in college. Here's a sample:

"Mark Bowden, national correspondent, the Atlantic - The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which was not part of any course; in fact, I no longer recall how or why I picked it up, but to me it was incendiary. I was an English major, so I was reading a lot, but this was something entirely new and different. Here was a writer clearly having fun … no, the time of his life, with words, ideas, observation, storytelling. I was already interested in writing, but Wolfe made me crazy about writing. "

A couple of these look books look really interesting. I definitely want to pick-up Personal Knowledge and Fear of Flying.

Oh, and Mark Cuban apparently loved The Fountainhead. There's a shocker.

Update: Also check out this list of the Top 20 Geek Novels.

Tama's E-Learning Blog

Over at edublogs, Tama has a great elearning blog specifically focuses on podcasting and the use of other new media in education. He's making a great record of links and reading on the subject, such as this great article on podcasting in higher education. While you're at it, check out Ponderance, Tama's other blog.

Edublogs is a great resource for education professionals and for those of us hunting for education resources. There are currently 1905 edublogs listed (check out their Frappr map to see where people are blogging from).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Alaska Museum of Fancy Knots

For your inner sailor, here is an extremely thorough index of knots and knot-related sites. Check out Grog's animated knots, such as the Anchor Bend.

Update: I Will Knot (get it?)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Wikiversity? Almost, But Not Quite.

While we wait for an actual Wikiversity, Rice University has given us a glimpse of what it might look like. Connexions is a collaborative, Creative Commons licensed course-sharing site. Like Wikipedia, all content is open to modification and adaptation. Connexions also attempts to implement a less-linear approach to learning through bite-sized modules which more naturally correspond to the rhizome-like flow of information on the internet.

Currently, Connexions' content is a little lacking. As of this post, there are 115 courses, but many of them are not very developed. For example, the Bird of North American course only lists three birds and the Introduction to Logic course jumps into some pretty sophisticated subject matter, skipping an "Introduction". On the other hand, there is a large library of excellent music courses and some unique course such as how to learn Chinese with your mobile phone and the great work of 19th century British satire, the Egyptian Red Book.

It will be interesting to see how Connexions develops. Any open-copyright learning initiative is a good thing, as it means more and more free courses will be available for us stingy scholars. If you are an expert on any topic, go see how to become an author.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Scholar's Toolkit: Rollyo

Ever use Google's advanced feature to search the contents of a web domain? Of course you have. Now what if you want to search the contents of that domain again and again? And what if you want to search the contents of multiple sites simulaneously?

Here is where Rollyo comes in handy. With Rollyo you can set-up and save searches over multiple domains. For the scholar, this is useful in seached through multiple on-line journals. For example, go to the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and choose the journals that interest you. Once you set-up your Rollyo, you can search these same sites again and again.

I also like to browse other people's Rollyos to come across recommendations for good sites. Searches for academic or university yield a lot of great university resources and some Rollyo's that I want to save for future use. If you want to see how it works, try my Social Spider Rollyo to search through the most popular bookmarking pages.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

University Podcast Round-up

I've noticed a flourish of academic podcasts coming directly from universities. Check out this Newsday article on the phenomenum. Here are some of the sites and meta-indices I've come across:

Thomson Academic Feeds Directory
Strategy-Blogs's List of Academic Podcasts
Stanford iTunes
Princeton University Channel
Haven's Center at UW-Madison
MIT's Open Courseware

Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to give a closer listen to some of these lectures and tell you what I think. If anyone knows any other sites or particularly enjoyed one on these lists, please let me know at:

Update: Here are a couple more universities with Open Courseware.

Update: Vanderbilt Podcasts, Berkeley Podcasts, and Carleton University Trial Chemistry Vodcast.

AskMeFi post on educational podcasts.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Harvard University's Computer Science E-1 Podcast

I've been working my way through this excellent and thorough podcast from Harvard University's distance learning program. If you ever wanted someone to walk you through basic computer science principles step-by-step, this is the podcast you have been looking for.

From their site:

"This course is all about understanding: understanding what's going on inside your computer when you flip on the switch, why tech support has you constantly rebooting your computer, how everything you do on the Internet can be watched by others, and how your computer can become infected with a worm just by turning it on. In this course we demystify computers and the Internet, along with their jargon, so that students understand not only what they can do with each but also how it all works and why. Students leave this course armed with a new vocabulary and equipped for further exploration of computers and the Internet. Topics include hardware, software, the Internet, multimedia, security, website development, programming, and dotcoms."

If you are like me - and your computer knowledge has come piecemeal through necessity and curiousity - you will enjoy seeing familiar terms and concepts broken-down and explained in a classroom setting. Here's a direct link to the RSS feed and the iTunes podcast feed. Harvard broadcasts an mpeg video version along with mp3s in both feeds.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Long List of Free Language Learning Sites

This is by far the most thorough index of free language learning sites that I have come across. Not only does Word 2 Word list dozens of sites for popular languages like Spanish and French, but it also includes sites with information on less widely studied languages like Cherokee.

Update: Here is a large index of on-line dictionaries and translators.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Penguin UK Birthday Discounts - f 1.50 on 70 titles

To celebrate their 70th birthday, Penguin UK has seventy great pocket edition titles on sale for f1.50 each. The collection ranges from Homer and Borges to Zadie Smith and PG Wodehouse. Even if you don't want to ship from the UK, check out the page for its clever design. The page let's you read sections from the books and suggests other title you may enjoy. The books themselves have much nicer cover art than you'd expext for f1.50.