Library of Congress Series on Digital Future - Free on Audible.com

Audible.com has a series of 8 lectures on the topic of the Digital Future, available free of charge, published by C-SPAN. Each lecture is about an hour and a half, and downloadable in mp3 format for you iPod.

I can't post the direct link to the lecture series since audible.com uses session data in the URL and without the session parameter it logs an error, so just search for the topic title or author on their site.

[More]

scienceNow - Special PBS Series

The PBS program NOVA has produced an innovative, educational science program called scienceNow, which started airing this spring. I think the series is absolutely fantastic, not only because of the content, but because the host Robert Krulwich is able to convey the complex topics through his antics as well as serious discussion.

What's best about the actual shows is that they are available for viewing on the internet, so if you weren't able to watch it or record it on your Tivo, no problem. Just go to the site and watch the streaming video there!

Each show covers about 3 or 4 topics, and the most recent edition had a great section about stem cell research and therapeutic cloning.

Getting into podcasting

Not long ago I decided to take the plunge and buy an Apple iPod. It was a great decision and now I love having all my music and photos on one small, portable device that I can take with me walking, running, and driving (while using the iTrip attachment).

One of the best advantages to the iPod is being able to listen to Podcasts. Podcasting is to Radio what blogging is to Publishing. Many individuals and organizations are now providing audio programs as attachments to blog entries. The programs might be a live interview, a tech show, a recorded keynote speech, a short newscast, or even a couple just hanging out.

There are several podcast directories where you can search categories and topics of interest. The two that I use are PodcastAlley and iPodder. PodcastAlley for example even has a Linux podcast category where my favorite there is from Linux Questions.

The convenience of listening to podcasts comes from blog aggregator software that is podcast aware. I use used Feed Demon ($29) from Nick Bradbury, maker of the Top Style CSS editor. With Feed Demon you just configure it to add the podcast channels that interest you and add specific podcasts to queue for download. Feed Demon can then synchronize podcast downloads with your iPod. Another popular podcast aggregator is the freely available iPodder, by Dave Winer and Adam Curry. I've just switched to using iPodder because I find it easier to use than Feed Demon, and I like its scheduling service a lot.

Podcasting was first envisioned by Dave Winer, who added it to the RSS 2.0 specification. In fact, just today I listened to a great IT Conversations podcast interview with Dave Winer where he discusses the origins of RSS, Podcasting, and his vision of how they serve the public by lowering the barriers to publishing so that the little guy can compete toe to toe with large publishers.

If you want to make your own podcasts like I've done, check this engadget blog.

For more on what podcasting is all about, check out the Boston Globe's Computer, microphone, iPod make broadcasting personal, and also Wired Magazine's Adam Curry wants to make you and iPod radio star.

Massachusetts Passes Bill to Strengthen Stem Cell Research

The Boston metropolitan area of eastern Massachusetts has perhaps the highest concentration of biomedical and life sciences research institutions in the world. State restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning have been overturned this week with a bill that was overwhelmingly passed in both the Massachusetts Senate and then the House of Representatives. Had the margin of approval been less, Governor Mitt Romney would have been able to veto the bill which he regards and distorts as a "radical cloning bill". Previously, investigators wishing to conduct such research had to obtain permission from their local district attorney. This bill removes that barrier to scientific research while simultaneously maintaining or even strengthening regulations that ban reproductive cloning.

Harvard's President Lawrence Summers writes in this article that this bill gives scientists the tools they need to help make Massachusetts "a global center in the life sciences revolution". Harvard's Stem Cell Institute (more) was formed last year to conduct the ground breaking stem cell research with private funds since the current federal government's anachronistic policies continue to ban funding of research done with new stem cell lines, limiting scientists to continue to use the aged cultures from the 60 existing embryonic stem cell lines. I can tell you from my own experience maintaing neuronal cell cultures, cell lines that have been maintained for long durations and divided over and over become observably aged and are often retired.

Michael Sandel, professor of political philosophy at Harvard, examines the ethical questions that fuel the controversy surrounding stem cell research in this article from the Boston Globe, where he considers the two primary debates to be a "right to life" objection and a "brave new world" objection.

Despite the Governor's challenge to the stem cell bill, he claims to be trying to increase Biotechnology jobs in Massachusetts, and has even fought to add Science to the MCAS test which determines if high school students may graduate or not. Some sources speculate that the Governor's mixed messages and weak position on stem cell research indicate that he may have ambitions for the next presidential race.

Generating RSS 2.0 in BlogCFC: The Road To PodCasting

BlogCFC currently uses RSS 1.0 in the generated RSS feeds. Most podcasting clients, such as Feed Demon, do not support attachments in RSS 1.0 feeds even though both RSS 1.0 and 2.0 support the enclosure tag. I've recently come up with an idea for a new series of podcasts which I hope to begin producing soon, so rather than fight with RSS 1.0 and podcasting clients, I've added RSS 2.0 support in BlogCFC.

Below is a replacement for BlogCFC 3.5.2 generateRSS() method call which allows generation of either RSS 1.0 or 2.0. Feeds generated with this successfully validate. The RSS 2.0 feed does not yet generate enclosure tags for podcast attachments, a task to be done later. Since the RSS 1.0 feed is well-formed XML with XML directives I have a stylesheet directive for easier viewing, but since RSS 2.0 feed does not have XML directives, I have not included any style information in that feed.

Note that the RSS 2.0 feed includes the optional managingEditor and webMaster elements which require an email address. Remove these two optional elements from the code if you don't want to have your email published in the RSS feed.

[More]

Macromedia Flex for Web Application Developers - A New Course

View Final Project for Macromedia Flex for Web Application DevelopersThis week I've completed a new Macromedia course, Flex for Web Application Developers, recently renamed to indicate the course's appropriateness for programmers from all web application backgrounds, rather than just ColdFusion. The course is designed to be a day longer than the existing Fast Track to Flex course and has a target audience of web application developers that may not yet be proficient with ActionScript 2.0 or Object Oriented concepts and programming.

The Macromedia Training web page has not yet been updated to include this course, but that is expected soon. I was forturnate enough to participate in the course in its final testing stage where the instructor sought feedback from technology professionals, to be used in carefully tuning the class towards the general skill set of contemporary ColdFusion MX Developers. In addition, this week's course in particular was also used to train Macromedia Training Partners who will later be teaching this course as well.

The Flex for Web Application Developers course demonstrates how to easily build robust Flex applications that provide a sharp looking user interface while integrating with ColdFusion components as the primary data provider. Knowledge of Actionscript 2.0 is not assumed, and the progressive use of Actionscript from day one builds fluency in the language through osmosis, so to speak. The course emphasises programming best practices for Flex's markup language MXML, as well as Actionscript and ColdFusion's CFML language.

[More]

Crossover Office for Running Windows Apps on Linux

View Desktop: Installing Allaire ColdFusion Studio 4.5.2 on Fedora Core 3 Linux using Crossover OfficeView Desktop: Running Allaire ColdFusion Studio 4.5.2 on Fedora Core 3 Linux using Crossover OfficeView Desktop: Running Breeze Live Desktop Sharing on Fedora Core 3 Linux using Crossover Office

As a part of my effort to gradually move over to using Linux as my primary workstation OS, I decided to buy CodeWeaver's CrossOver Office product, for only $39, which enables me to run some Windows applications on Linux.

Specifically, for work I must use a CRM app that has Active X and must run in MSIE, and I like to use Breeze Live to help diagnose remote problems. Now that I can run MSIE 6.0 SP1 on Linux, those 2 obstacles have been overcome. Yes, the breezeaddin.exe presenter plugin can be installed on Linux when using with CrossOver Office, permitting me to share my Linux desktop.

The commercial product CrossOver Office is a big improvement over my experiences using the freely available WINE, as I was doing last year.

[More]

Using the the wireless network at the Concord Public Library

Today was my first experience using the wireless network since the library has reopened. I didn't ask anyone for instructions and just assumed I'd figure it out knowing that at least Windows XP would scan for available SSID network ids. Using my little WiFi Finder I discovered that the Periodical Room had the strongest signal at full strength, and the study in the corner beyond the Emerson statue had good reception but less than the periodical room. In the remainder of the library I could not detect a signal at all, including the Thoreau Room and the Rotunda. I chose to read in the study since I was looking for the quietest area and there are several walled desks lined up across the wall to limit visual distractions.

I'll spare you the detailed description with getting on the wireless network, but here's a few hightlights:

[More]

Concord Bookshop: A reading from local author Alan Lightman

A Sense of the Mysterious: Science and the Human Spirit

Ten years have passed since I first met Alan Lightman when I heard him read from his second novel Good Benito at the Concord Public Library in 1995. I particularly enjoyed how Alan used highpitched, nasal tone when he read the part of Arnold Scalapino, a cantankerous old physicist that fell into recluse while living in Fells Point, in east Baltimore. I recall a shiver ran up my spine when Alan delineated familiar places in Fells Point like Aliceanna Street, The Horse You Came In On or the Cat's Eye Pub, as these places I knew very well since I had grown up in east Baltimore.



Once again, I had the pleasure of hearing him read, this time from his current book, A Sense of the Mysterious: Science and the Human Spirit. A crowd had drawn this afternoon in the Concord Bookshop to listen to Alan read the first in a in this collection of essays.

[More]

Wired Magazine on Motor Neurons From Embryonic Stem Cells

Wired Magazine has a brief overview of the importance of a new paper published in Nature Biotechnology. The significance of the article centers around how coaxing stem cells to grow into specific cell types is governed not only by their immediate chemical environment but also the transient nature of that environment. So its all about the timing of what chemical signals are presented to the stem cells.

Being able to focus stem cell growth towards a specific cell type enables scientists to generate new cells to replace damaged or deficient cells of the same type. In this case, the creation of motor neurons from stem cells is a big leap towards solving spinal cord injury.

A former acquaintance Ole Isacson, a Harvard Neuroscientist, comments on the research in the report.

A good review of the state of stem cell research can be found here: Stem Cells - Hype and Hope

Previous Entries / More Entries