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January 30, 2004

Basic Graphing

For some reason, I can't log into Were-Here today. So, I'm replying to a question here.

I've seen this come up before, and while the answer is simple, it can trip people up...especially if they haven't done a lot of graphing in Math or Science.

Let's say we want to draw a curve, based on an equation. How do we get the x,y values to draw the curve with?

We evaluate the function at certain values of x.

You may see the equation presented in this format: f(x) = 2x - y

To graph this equation, we'll need to rewrite it so that one side has y, all by itself:

y = 2x

Now we decide on a range of values for x, and solve for y at each point:

x=1
y=2(1) = 2

giving us the (x,y) coordinate of (1,2)

x=2
y=2(2) = 4

giving us the (x,y) coordinate of (2,4)

x=3
y=2(3) = 6

giving us the (x,y) coordinate of (3,6)

and so on, until we have all the points we want.

Then we plot these points on a graph, connect the dots, and we're done.

January 29, 2004

Thoughts on saving a bitmap to disk from Flash

This thread, over at Flash Goddess, got me thinking about some of the inner workings of Flash. Funny, but I hadn't really thought about how Flash manages to send data to a printer, but can't save that same data to the system. I guess that from a security standpoint, sending data down the bus to the printer is much like sending it to a web server, and leaves the user's system safe and sound. So, that's got me thinking of the internet as a peripheral device to my system, just like my printer.

Back to the practical, perhaps with Central the whole save to disk issue will give Flash an all new range of uses and position it as a powerful tool for creating applications. hmmm...

January 27, 2004

Graphing Software Thread

This interesting thread, on producing "graphs of high visual quality", showed up in our referrer logs. Toward the end of the thread, Flash is mentioned.

Edward Tufte: Ask E.T. forum

January 25, 2004

Best Defence Against Blog-Comment Spam

Folks are resorting to all kinds of hacks, work-arounds and plug-ins to deal with the Vandalism we call blog-comment spam. But some of the best advice I've seen is posted on the front page of the Movable Type site:

Of course, there are no perfect defenses, and if you're truly concerned about the comments on your weblog, the best defense is prevention by closing old comment threads.
~movabletype.org

I've had very good luck with this, so far. In the next version of Movable Type, I'd like to see tools that make it easier to toggle comments off while in power-editing mode. Adding a check box next to the publish/draft check box would be very handy.

January 22, 2004

Support GalaxyGoo and Get a Gift

This week, I met with a fundraiser and grant writer. The meeting was productive, and I barely noticed the hours pass by. I've got a lot of work ahead of me, as we move this organization to the next level and keep GalaxyGoo sustainable and growing.

You can help. The way the tax laws currently work, a portion of our income must come from the general public and not from grants and foundations. Your small donation can help us continue to provide our educational projects for free.

Companies can also help by offering a matching gift program, increasing both our budget and our "demonstration of public support". Ask your company if they are interested in sponsoring GalaxyGoo. While $2,000 may be a small item in a company's budget, it can go a long way at GalaxyGoo

As a small thank you gift, for donations over $25 (US), we're sending out CD's with all of the GalaxyGoo Blogathon 2003 project experiments.

Because GalaxyGoo is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization, your donation may be tax deductible (minus $5 for materials, shipping, and paypal fee).

January 21, 2004

Piracy, it's not just for breakfast: Part 3

While there are many problems like piracy and decompilers and such, maybe these issues are more proof that Open Source software can be a good way of distributing software & code. There are many different forms of licenses that one can put on Open Source software, ensuring that for instance with some licenses the code that was distributed with the software cannot be used to create Closed Source software or can be used to create commercial software, etc... While these licenses only hold value to those that care about them and not to those that want to rip software regardless, they do hold legal value. And let's be honest, who wouldn't feel proud when someone creates something new building on your code and is acknowledging that its using your code?

The recent purchase of SUSE by Novell for $210million shows that there *is* money to be made in the Open Source world. Also the announcement that China has granted Sun a contract to distribute 1 million copies of its SUSE-based Java Desktop System in China, with a potential order for 200 million copies, shows that more and more people see the enormous potential that Open Source software can offer.

I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I say that GalaxyGoo supports the Open Source community wholeheartedly (while not closing our eyes to the aforementioned problems).

Piracy, it's not just for breakfast: Part 2

To follow-up the Piracy-issue, another hot issue in regards to 'stealing' software, is decompiling and reverse engineering software & code. Using a decompiling tool one can potentially take someone else's piece of work and extract all kinds of info from it such as code, graphical items, sounds, etc... But ofcourse these tools can also be used on one's own files when for instance the source-files were on a crashed HD.

Recently there have been some interesting discussions on the FlashCoders mailing-list on these topics and a page on the FlashCoders Wiki has been created for this topic.

January 20, 2004

Color-Challenged in Flash: part 2

There's been some talk about about color-challenged design issues, in blogs recently. This has inspired me to dig out my explorations with flash and how colors may be perceived with some types of vision.

Color can be a powerful tool for communicating and visually organizing complex data and illustrations. It can be especially useful to highlight a small portion of a larger image. But if these colors are difficult for some users to distinguish, the effectiveness of the tool is lost.

So, I've been toying around with adding custom color choices to Flash projects. I began tackling our HIV animation, because it uses green as a significant color. But this is a big bite to chew, so I'm starting a little smaller. Here's a simple simulation with custom color options. I didn't put a lot of thought into the custom colors--just picked some colors from the translated color-chart for each vision type, that seemed to have at least a little contrast.

If the developer has kept color definitions encapsulated, it should be easy to "redefine" the colors and offer a user interface to select a palate for their vision type. Older, frame-by-frame animations can take some time to go through and set up for easy color definitions with code. There's got to be an easier way to do it, but I haven't gotten there yet.

It would be nice if there was an easy way to pull the hand-set color definitions out of a file, and add new definitions with code. Maybe an extensibility project?

GalaxyGoo Flash Happy Hour

Want to know more about GalaxyGoo? Itching to geek-speak with fellow Flash developers and designers? Are you a science or math teacher?

Our next GalaxyGoo Flash Happy Hour is scheduled for next Monday!

Jan 26, 2004 (Monday)

If you're in San Franciso, join us:

  • Bliss Bar (on 24th street, between Noe and Castro)
  • 6:00pm

If you'd like an email reminder, send a note to bloggingatgalaxygoodotorg

January 16, 2004

Perl and Bioinformatics

My favorite publisher, O'Reilly, recently released a new book on Perl and Bioinformatics. I've been lucky enough to get my hands on a copy. To make my life easier, I've dusted off my copy of Learning Perl and am starting there first.

Why Perl?

1. Open Source
2. Free
3. Great for working with text
4. There are lots of O'Reilly books about it

What am I up to? Well, since so much bioinformatics data is available online, and Perl is so commonly used in bioinformatics, it just seems natural to try using Flash for user interface and visualization of a Perl application. We'll see how it goes :-)

January 15, 2004

Piracy, it's not just for breakfast.

Several days ago, I came across Nick Bradbury: On Piracy. While I knew that there was a problem with piracy of shareware, I hadn't realized how bad it is. What I don't understand is why folks refuse to pay such a reasonable fee for services provided. Have ethics simply evaporated?

Nothing is free. So, what is the price of piracy? When does the cost, trickle back to the pirate? Does it ever?

Math Awareness Month: April 2004

The Mathematics of Networks (It's a Small World)

That's the theme for this year's Mathematics Awareness Month, coordinated by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

Sounds perfect for Flash! We had a great time last year, so let's do it again. More info will follow as we firm up the plans.

Would your company like to donate a prize? Do you have an idea on how to make this challenge more fun? Send us an note, with contact information, to challenge at galaxygoo dot org.

By the way, as of the time of this post, the MAM website hasn't been updated yet.

January 12, 2004

Basic Science Research Threatened by Corporate Agendas

This article was buried on page D3 of Sunday's Chronicle. It illustrates what I consider to be a dangerous practice of letting commercial interests interfere with scientific safety. The basic research scientist strives to solve a small part of the big puzzle, and academia is supposed to provide a safe haven for this. While basic science lacks the glamor of "big science", it is the back bone of all science and technology.

What troubles me most about this article is the possibility that an eminent journal like Nature would take action against a peer-reviewed report without bothering to check the authenticity of email attacking the report:

After an aggressive public relations campaign mounted for Monsanto by the Bivings Group, a global PR firm that began with a vicious e-mail attack mounted by two "scientists" who turned out to be fictitious, Nature editors did something they had never done in their 133 years of existence. They published a cautious partial retraction of the Chapela report. Largely on the strength of that retraction, Chapela was recently denied tenure at UC Berkeley and informed that he would not be reoffered his teaching assignment in the fall.
~Biotech critics at risk / Economics calls the shots in the debate

January 10, 2004

Open Source Convention

O'Reilly Open Source Convention 2004

July 26-30, 2004 Portland, OR

Calls for Proposals: due February 9, 2004.

January 08, 2004

January Happy Hour

We've set the date for the next GalaxyGoo Happy Hour.

Jan 26, 2004 (Monday)

If you're in San Franciso, join us:

  • Bliss Bar (on 24th street, between Noe and Castro)
  • 6:00pm

If you'd like an email reminder, closer to the date, send a note to bloggingatgalaxygoodotorg

January 04, 2004

Umm...Java Isn't JavaScript

Is it just me, or are people still confused about the difference between Java and JavaScript?

Here's an actual quote from an online article: The addition of JavaScript extends development to Java developers. Is the author saying that Director supports Java Applets? Given the rest of the text, this does not seem to be what was actually meant.