Saturday, August 28, 2010

Opensim Grid

Finally got a "serverless grid" going, just the ticket. Three separate opensim instances running on the same database. This is really the best setup for managing multiple projects in my school, and FreeSWITCH provides voice across all the sims, bounded within each region. One thing I learned the hard way is for the grid to work dependably you must disable the megaregion configuration. In the DivaPreferences.ini file CombineContiguousRegions will be set to true so megaregions can be enabled by default. This causes the separate sim instances to lose sight of each other and you have to keep relogging to get them back. To remedy this add the line CombineContiguousRegions=false in the [Startup] section of MyWorld.ini. So each sim instance has to be one region. With this configuration it is very stable, though. I've got 8 regions going without any problems and lots of users bouncing around among them.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

MAKEzine Kids

I love making things, learning about making things, seeing other people make things, and teaching kids how to make things. So I'm very excited that the MAKE video podcasts have begun featuring kids, and girls only so far,  making things. Cool technical things, like rockets and solar powered robot grasshoppers. The girls take center stage and really are the voice of the podcast, no grown up leading the show and telling them what to do, which is also cool. There are four so far, Crazy Putty, Sidewalk Chalk, Rockets, and the Solar Grasshopper.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Black Box Antidote

UPDATE: How timely that there is a new Make video podcast on how to change a broken iPhone touch screen!

This week I taught a robotics workshop to several Bronx teachers. One of my themes for the workshop was providing their students with an alternate view of technology to the 'black box' model that's becoming more and more prevalent. That is, the idea that technology is given to us consumers ready to use and we shouldn't mess with it if it doesn't do what we want it to, Apple mobile devices being the prime example.

To make this point I showed two videos, the first being an SNL Weekend Update in which Steve Jobs talks about the virtues of the iPhone 3, then closes by admitting the battery only carries 20 minutes of charge (It's a spoof). Then I played a video detailing the steps to change your own iPhone battery. It amazes me that in order to maintain the pristine case you are forced to remove the motherboard to access the battery--the most user-replaceable part there is. It would be so easy to put a little door on the back to pop those failed batteries out, but that would ruin the look and feel of the device.

Not that I dislike Apple products or think people who have iPhones have made a poor choice. They are great for what they do. But I don't want people to think we have to be at the mercy of the company making the technology if it's not working properly or if we want it to do something it wasn't specifically designed to do. (I'm a big fan of MAKE magazine, too, for that reason.)

The best thing about teaching robotics is that it's all about inventing with technology. A robotics kit is simply a tool kit that only begins to do something when you have a purpose in mind and make the robot do it. It's a unique experience for most kids to have such control over technology and hopefully that feeling can extend to technology in general.