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Notes on developments in computer technology

Open Circuit is a technology-sharing group in Minneapolis which hosted its first educational meeting at the Acadia cafe on December 1, 2007. The organization has a sliding-scale membership fee based on $4 per $10,000 in income each month. The charge for the meeting was $5.

The following notes give an often incoherent account of the presentations. There’s some website information. Otherwise, it identifies some of the topics discussed. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Keith of the Science Museum of Minnesota made the first presentation concerning Scratch software. ( This is a type of programming for nonprogrammers that allows people to mix images and sounds in a dynamic presentation, though it can’t handle video. Can download to either Mac or PC. Keith has been teaching Scatch to school children at public libraries. The area’s libraries are becoming hangouts for young people who don’t have computers at home.

Scratch has a “stage” in which to place images, on the right. The script area, to the left, is where icons are used to manipulate the images. The images are called “sprites”. You can change sprites and have them interact in various ways. You can also mix images and sounds, importing sounds by MP3s. The result is a visual-musical presentation like a cartoon.

After creating a short video, you can store it on the scratch website using the “share” feature. Anyone can use it. There are 45,000 scratch users.


Derek and Amanda, who works with Phillips Community television (, talked about “drupal”, which is described as an open source content management system ( . Phillips Community television had accumulated an unmanageable collection of video recordings, and this helped organize the collection. Actually, no videos were shown. Instead, we saw how to put together tables and other text material. Drupal was a way to access a database.

The stored items are called nodes. The idea is to import nodes into a spreadsheet using a CCK (content construction kit). Drupal helps to create nodes. Amanda described several features: content types, body field, views module. This software is for cataloguing data. RSS feeds. Open Source will soon offer a class in Drupal.

The cable program material, the videos, are actually stored in Google video. Google gives lots of free stuff but, in return, Google owns the content. This is a disadvantage. An alternative is “Internet archives”, a nonprofit funded by the government. Internet Archives wants all the stuff you have. You can embed materials from Internet Archives in other pages.


Dan Vite talked about Indy media. Locally, it’s called Twin Cities Indymedia. The site runs on Google: tc-imc. Open DNS This is open publishing. Indymedia creates an open community forum. Globaldrupal.

Looking at the site, go to home - create content. People can post articles anonymously. Put URL in 3rd field. Site wise- contact forms. Indy media pulls off Rss feeds from other webistes. share icons. UDM - add on Drupal for $20. Available in January. or .org (Sorry for the incoherence. I think Twin Cities indymedia is a local forum for public discussion where you can post articles and comments.)


Building a community wireless mesh network This is an independent wireless network operating in San Francisco. Can buy a Meraki box, a router, for $50. There is a $100 flat fee for service. Meraki either supplements the Minneapolis wireless system.

personal wireless becomes community-based wireless. Can use a Meraki so a whole apartment building can get wireless service. Don’t need ethernet connection - will grab existing signal.

DSL or cable connection to power a grid. The Meraki device has a range of 100 to 150 feet. Some art solar powered. Roofnet project at MIT. Meraki is loaded with easy software; it’s like a computer. Best to register your device with Meraki. They’ll help configure the device.

The presenter lives at 3rd & Franklin. Not too many Merakis in Mpls. The Meraki provider can turn signal off to particular customers and can block unwanted sites - e.g., porn sites.

The city of Minneapolis has a wireless service. Buy the Minneapolis box for $80. Monthly service costs around $20 per month. Meraki could amplify the wireless signal. Wireless signals are impeded by stucco. tells sections of Mpls. being equipped with wireless. Connect:


Bryan Kennedy employed by Science Museum of Minnesota. Topic was web development.

Tools to track website: Mourtasik (?) sends email when the system isn’t working. will send a text message to cellphones to the same effect.

Apache has module. Mod-status: shows how many servicers are accessing your web page. http:conf.file Google analytics also has info about visitors to your website: Google owns this information. It owns the statistics on traffic, not the content. This info is useful in selling ads. MINT is an alternative to Google analytics.

A problem is that spam accounts for a significant share of visitors. Log file includes spam visits. Sam robots. robots.txt tells robots which part of the website to visit.

Google webmaster tools tells webmasters how Google is spidering your file. Akismet - service to aggregate all comments. Can recognize Spam. 92% of all comments are spam.

J-meter Apache software endala Run on 05-106)


Bretton Jones. Web video production.

This is a way to put video productions together. Can assemble visual elements from different sources. For instance, shoot video of a newscast and then put imagery such as a world map behind it. Capture footage in your home using “green screen” Istockphoto

image file in .jpg. Put the image together in layers. First pull the green out of the live bar. upland process on widescreen format. video RSS feed.

edit - convert MP4 (for sound). width about 640, height is 360

Democracy player - MIRO may video RSS iptvs

Green screen lights on either side of scene being shot. Chromikey in software. views - effects - chromikey


Tom: how to create a flash 3D panorama. For instance, like a real-estate virtual tour. modem -
YouTube papervision 3d-showred7

QVTR is not interactive. It does show a scene in 360 degree perspective. He illustrated by shooting the room in which we were meeting. Pieced together the various segments to complete the whole. Then, on the computer, you could guide your view to look at any part of the room you desired.

He took 140 separate pictures to film the entire room. Then they’re stitched together. Stitcher - program. Import stitches.

What is flash? Started with Macromedia which was sold to Adobe. plug in for browser, dynamic flash moves.
SWF red 5 drupal, linux, and wikipedia are examples of open source software. There’s a collaborative effort to create it.

For Tom, Epic 2015 was the production that got him started on this. Highly recommends the production.


Christy: talked on social-networking sites is the prime example of a social networking site. Some try to use it for self-promotion but the culture discourages this.

Some rules for successful use of social-networking sites:

1. Find the right community (check blogs)
2. Be an active participant (don’t just post articles and leave them)
3. create interesting content - articles, photos, videos, etc. Catchy titles are important. Check www.copyblogger for tips on how to create successful content.
4. Adopt a consistent user name (Part of this is tracking each other’s comments)
5. avoid blatant self-promotion. Users can spot this a mile away.

Some social-networking sites:,,,, (a crazy site). and are some of the most popular sites. was aimed at college students;, more at the high-school crowd., stuntdubl - tells where to find social-networking sites.,, and offer free blogs. offers free blogs. books offers free editing tools.


Subramanya Sastry talked about, which is a tool for personalized news monitoring which he created in India and then brought to the United States.

Google, for instance, uses certain key words to search the web for topics of interest to the user. A search engine to monitor recent newspaper stories can do the same thing. The problem is that key words mean different things to different users.

This device lets the user define what topics are covered by a key word. For instance, "Organic" might include: pesticides, round-up ready, and insectidies. Each key word thus has user-defined sub-keywords. the user can modify the terms to suit his or her interest.

Media coverage analysis. Material often found by RSS feeds. Rules written in specification language.

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