Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Itches (things that I want to make when I'm competent and not hosed) : Calendars, DIYbio, Email for Elderly

Itches I would like scratched / will scratch myself once I both (a) can code and (b) have time:
(above disclaimer added since I don't want to be one of those "I have this cool idea please code it for me" business people...)

Events for MIT: is good but not comprehensive. Instead, I have to manually create a Google calendar entry for each event that gets mailed to me (Autosuggest often doesn't pick up on these emails, for some reason). I think a solution specific to MIT would be used by a lot of people (e.g. Gcal seems confused by our completely-number-based rooms). Some way of mailing events, or some sort of "event ical link" so that I could one-click add them to my calendar would be nice.
Some merging of the calendar feature of Noontime Networks and would be ideal.

Noontime Networks: (a) automatically grabs Stellar calendar information, and (b) lets users share calendars they've created with each other. However, you have to sign-in to access these, and almost everyone on there is a Sloan grad student.

(b) is important because many classes don't have a Stellar calendar, so I have to create my own (e.g. from the syllabus) Existed for one semester, never maintained. Nice idea.

International Email for Elderly:
Because I shouldn't need to teach my grandma how to use Gmail to get an email client in Chinese. She really does not need to know about labels, and the interface is non-intuitive for someone who's not familiar with computers / email. Alice (my best friend) drew a cartoon instruction manual and it's still confusing for her, and I can't explain this long-distance (Boston is a bit chilly for her to move up here =] ).

There are (non-free, non-open-source) email programs for the elderly already, but they're all in English (and being non-open-source, I can't translate them).

Also, keyboards are such fail. Why are there so many different arrows on the keyboard? Why is it difficult to find keyboard translations? (Google Images, I don't want images of super-special keyboards, I want images of normal keyboards sold in China, with backspace and other key names translated, not with weird labels all over the keys).

Right, that's why I want a tablet. **

In addition, I hope that there's good open source tablet software for Chinese character recognition. I did try one variant once a few months ago and didn't find it easy to use (it was an ibus input method, ibus-handwrite). I was trying it out on my netbook, and the input rectangle was awkwardly located right on top of my bottom panel, so that I couldn't reach the ibus icon to turn it off the way I normally do.

Speaking of which, eclectus is an awesome Chinese dictionary tool (it has integrated handwriting recognition, so it's not an input method but inside eclectus you can write words and search for them).

And laoshi looks very promising, although all the example lessons were in traditional Chinese (and they were for beginners). Of course, the goal of Laoshi is that you can make your own lessons.
Eek, I just checked the Laoshi website and looks like it hasn't been touched since the summer. I hope it's still being worked on.

Things that I want to make:
cereal dispenser - for putz breakfast co-op -- this could actually be a nice straightforward weekend project to learn more machining with

hot glue molded  lego gummis, (hot glue is nontoxic, right? Or I could go the Jello mold route. Hmm.) -- kept putting this off because the instructables called for food-grade silicon, and I have this aversion to spending money for some reason >___<;;
 I'm also reluctant to take working (even if obsolete) things apart. This... this creates issues for building things. Seriously, op-amps cost $5. I should simply buy some. (special low-power op-amps, common ones (like LM786 I believe) can be found at MITERS).

weld a breakfast cart?

touch tablet? / email in international languages, calendar for MIT... crowdsourcing of gcal, or email of events) **

isolate bioluminescent bacteria from squid* (who doesn't want a vat of glowing bacteria? =) I want to streak plates and get messages, like bio-art. See (also see Mario bio-art!

* I tried about 2 weeks ago, didn't get any glowing bacteria. Bad squid / wrong kind / not fresh enough, or too high saline content (I had it about 1.5x sea salt content by accident). Or perhaps there was glowing bacteria, I just needed to let my eyes adjust more. (also in Boston) (he's not responsive to email).
Apparently the easier / more rigorous way to go is to find people who know where to order Vibrio directly, but then it's no longer highly accessible to anyone with a kitchen.

Also, missed the DIYbio meetup at Sprout because I was hosed :( I didn't even volunteer at the last Swapfest (the MITERS frosh seem to have it handled, though. Also, the MITERS frosh are awesome this year and make me even more aware of my incompetence).

**Well, tablet was solved with iPad / netbook tablets. (Now that the price for a netbook tablet is under $300, I might just buy one instead of hacking my own by backward-hinging a netbook and a digitizer) (I want it for grandma, but I would be tempted to use it for myself instead >____>)

Punted learning:
Urdu / Hindi (same thing! >__>)
everything in the world ever
how to be awesome / not incompetent / not hosed

Augh, I should stop punting 24.900 (which, by the way, is an awesome class which involves a lot of doing your own fieldwork by studying a friend who speaks a foreign language natively =] ).
(It's Intro to Linguistics)

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