I want to get into open source

Lately I’ve been thinking about getting into open source development. Right now, I’m thinking about diving into a project that I like a lot. You’re using it right now, if you didn’t know! It’s the Typo blog engine which is based on Ruby on Rails. I’ve been running this blog, for better or for worse, on Typo for some time now.

Typo has been coming into its own recently but still needs some good help. I’ve been studying Rails along with Ruby in general and I think it’s time I get my feet wet. I’ve been listening in on the mailing list and might submit a patch to the Trac site sometime soon.

Have any of you done open source development? Do you have any tips or things I should read before I get going?

Back in Oklahoma City

I’ve graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Olin College, which means I’ve finally moved out of the cool climate of Needham, Massachusetts.

For the time being, I will be living back at home with my parents in Oklahoma City. As soon as I find a job, I will be relocating to who knows where!

People are humans

Lately people have asked me frequently what I want to be doing once I graduate. I’ve finally found a quick answer that I believe encompasses all of the different areas in which I’m interested.

I’d like to go into interaction/interface design, web application development, user-centered product design, or some similar area.

I’d also be happy doing some sort of audio-oriented digital signal processing, audio synthesis, or audio electronics sort of field as a backup.

On top of all this I hope to become politically active somehow at the local level, wherever I end up. Possibly I could even work for a think-tank that deals with technological issues.

These fields are fairly disparate, and I don’t have a good sense of which one or ones I will end up in. But they do all hold a common thread.

So when people ask me, now I answer, “I want to ensure that my work treats people as humans, rather than mindless drones.”

Any engineering work that I do ought to make technology more accessible and natural to use for real people. Any audio work I do should focus on making things sound natural and pleasant to real people. Any political work I do should help bridge the gap between arcane policy, political wrangling, and the real people who are affected.

So that’s my new answer. It’s not too focused, but then again, it finally makes my plans cohesive in some manner.

By the way, sorry I’ve been gone for a while. My blog software should work properly now. I had to revert to the default theme. Hopefully the problems will get fixed soon because I liked how it was before.

What does dining out-rank?

“Dining moves up on the college priority list” is an article that talks about the improvement of dining halls at colleges, especially highlighting Olin College’s dining hall, my personal dining hall.

The real question is, if dining really has moved up the college priority list, what did it surpass? Hopefully not anything like actual academics! I’m one to believe that there really isn’t such a priority list. Silly North Jersey Media Group. In the original Washington Post publication of this article, the headline was instead “Yes, Sushi’s on the Meal Plan”

My comment featured on Signal vs. Noise

I was just featured as a good commenter on the popular blog Signal vs. Noise. 37signals is a pretty popular up-and-coming company that makes web-based software. They also created Ruby on Rails, the web framework that I’ve recently learned and actually made good use of recently, including on this Typo blog.

Anyway, sorry to bore you with all of that technical mumbo-jumbo. Here is the comment I posted:

I think that the competitive success of a good phone UI would be a watershed moment for interaction design. I feel like the general public would finally understand the idea that having lots of features is not what they want. I’m still shocked that none of the phone companies has stepped up and been bold enough to do it.

I really do think this is true. All of the cell phone companies are running around with their heads cut off not giving anyone what they really need.

There’s a reason my mom faithfully sticks to her old Motorola StarTac.

Thoughts on work styles in Los Angeles

I spent a few hours today walking up and down Venice Beach and reminiscing on life. I’ve always preferred heat to cold and so I appreciated being out of the Boston weather. I doubt I will ever choose to live so far north again after I graduate.

All of my friends out here are hired for jobs that last a few weeks, a month, or just a couple of days. My mom has also recently picked up this style of employment. Being raised by a salaried father, I realize I haven’t been exposed to the contract worker lifestyle, which is a lot different. Each week brings something new and the days off might be the weekend one week and weekdays the next. Not sure if I would prefer the randomness of this style or the regularity of a salaried Monday-Friday job.

Either way, it’s looking like I’m headed toward the entrepreneur lifestyle, which seems to be some weird mix of the two. Each day during the day I ought to be expected to contribute some real value to the company, anywhere from product design to keeping on top of everything else that’s going on. But when something big hits outside of the normal hours, there’s still work that needs to be done, sometimes on really short notice.

In a way, it’s a lot more work, but I love the diverse challenges, the freedom, and the do-it-yourself attitude, so I should be fine.

Fun with SketchUp

I’ve just discovered SketchUp, a fun 3-d drawing program that Google bought out today.

Anyway, I gave the Mac version a quick try, and after about 15 minutes I finished this mockup of Olin’s Academic Center.

Academic Center

This took me about 15 minutes and is my first 3-d rendering in SketchUp. It’s loosely based on Olin College’s Academic Center. I didn’t strive for too much accuracy, but the general idea is there.

It’s pretty fun to play with. The interface is golden.

I want this watch

I have found a watch that I just love! It gives a relative time readout on a handwriting-styled LCD display. The letters are based on Frank Gehry’s handwriting. I’m not a huge Gehry fan but I love this concept.

So much out there

Lately I’ve been checking out a lot of books from the library. I used to be quite a book person when I was young, especially in elementary school. Most of my fondest memories from when I lived in Enid, Oklahoma, and went to Hoover Elementary School involve me in the library reading a book on language or music or computers or something else that I’m still interested in today.

At the time I had no idea that I was probably seeding ideas and thoughts that would recur throughout my entire education. The ideas that have come most readily to me over the years often involve pieces of my experiences from a few key times in my life in which I immersed myself in some sort of media, such as all of the digital stuff my friends and I toyed around with in high school.

Reading all of these books lately has gotten me thinking about how I want to keep up after I leave Olin. With Wikipedia to whet my tastebuds, I have found countless subjects that I want to learn more about, but each thing I find leads to three more. I’m a bit overwhelmed with the sheer amount of stuff I want to know about.

I think once I graduate this May I will initially fill most of my newfound free time with books and music and perhaps some documentaries. Fiction doesn’t interest me much, so I will probably spend only just a little time with my Thomas Pynchon books.

If I had all of the money in the world, I would buy music all day long. Of all of the songs I’ve heard, there are far too many by artists whose other music I have never heard.

I don’t know if I can really portray how I feel about all of this stuff out there. I know that on her radio show Dr. Laura always says she doesn’t know how people can ever get bored with so many books in the world. I think that people get bored when they lack social stimulation, and books don’t really solve that. But I’m pretty happy with my social situation, so I feel I can heed her advice and dive in.

There’s this certain depth at which I used to immerse myself into books that just cannot be duplicated on the Internet and in flashy video games, movies, and television shows. I think what has happened is that I’ve rediscovered it.