Dec 31 2011

It’s Not the Critic Who Counts: 2011 Part 2

Published by jfrank at 4:04 pm under open source, resources

In part one I moved and started new things… here is what else I did.

helicopters that fly upside down

One of my big goals this year was to study machine learning. I worked my way though Andrew Ng’s Stanford Machine Learning course. One of his demos is flying a helicopter upside down using reinforcement learning.

Technologies used: Python’s NumPy, Octave

transformations in 3d

I quickly learned that in order to grasp most machine learning algorithms, an understanding of linear algebra was a must. I put Machine Learning on hold and took Gilbert Strang’s MIT Linear Algebra course next. This guy can describe your haircut before and after in terms of a matrix operation. I earned 83,802 Khan Academy points mostly working through semi-advanced mathematics.

Technologies used: Python’s NumPy, Octave

the basic tools of science

I think everyone should own the basic tools of science, that’s why this year I set out to buy them. I acquired a 1600x microscope, a digital thermometer, a magnetic stirring hotplate, lab glassware and a balance that is sensitive down to a thousandth of a gram. Somehow in modern media portrayals home science equipment has nothing but bad connotations. I wholly reject that idea. Science belongs at home! In a great article Bill Nye put it best

People who want to make meth will find ways to do it that don’t require an Erlenmeyer flask. But raising a generation of people who are technically incompetent is a recipe for disaster

combine at 80 degrees celsius

Women’s deodorant is bad. Not because it doesn’t work, it does, but because it contains aluminum. For those with sensitive skin, its awful. There are also a few potential hazards with applying nano sized metals that are easily absorbable into the human body.  My brother is a PhD chemist, so he helped me with my lab technique. I asked a large chemical company for a sample of sodium sterate (they sent me 2 kilos free!), bought some propylene glycol locally, and made a variant on old spice. Colorless, odorless. My wife loved it, but it needs some work.

wingdings and matisse

An Android app that uses Wingdings AND Matisse? You’re thinking “No you didn’t” but in fact I did. I did. In case you forgot these fonts.. let me give you a refresher:

I built a task manager with Android push notifications for a client who really really wanted one. I wanted to build an Android app, so we had a deal. A few weeks later it was done. I don’t know why people complain about Android development, I found it fairly painless.

Technologies Used: Java, Android SDK, Eclipse, PHP (client backend), Google’s Android Push API

no pie for you

A friend of a friend approached me with an idea, and I took it on as a co-founder. We built out a QR powered profile site for hot-rods called After printing up some stickers we got some enthusiastic responses. We even applied for PIE, an incubator here in Portland but we were denied. There was stiff competition, but perhaps they were right. This site never really took off as planned. It costs next to nothing to run, so my partner and I will continue to let it run, but it was a good lesson in the cost of prototyping. I still think the idea is good, especially if adopted by a whole car club for the purposes of a unified car show.

Technologies Used: Google App Engine, Java, Groovy, QR codes

Next Post: Un-Shredding and Electronic Brain Surgery

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “It’s Not the Critic Who Counts: 2011 Part 2”

  1. Joe Ernston 09 Jun 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Hey Joshua,

    I came across your blog via LinkedIn the other day. It’s awesome to see such a diverse set of interests! I’m still working at Mentor, but I have a side project that I’ve been nursing along in my spare time. I’d love to talk tech and get your perspective on the Portland startup scene sometime.

  2. jfrankon 11 Jun 2012 at 11:45 am

    Hey Joe,

    That would be fun! I don’t know too much about startups at least the fancy ones. I’m downtown many days, we should grab a drink of something and talk tech.


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