Guitar Hero (Clone) Party

I bought a plastic guitar! (There should be a name for those "fake guitars". Any suggestions? I would go for "e-guitar" if it could not be mistaken for "electric guitar" instead of "electronic guitar"...

The model was advertized as compatible with Wii, PS2 and PS3, and came with a connector for the wii remote, a PS2 connector and a USB connector for the PS3. I hoped for the best and plugged it under Linux, it worked directly ;) Then I installed a clone of guitar hero, frets on fire ( http://fretsonfire.sourceforge.net/ ), and it worked almost directly as well (I had to tackle my sound settings a bit). I brought laptop and guitar to a friend's place and we played along, they loved it, I promised I would have more parties like this at my place, but I need to find out how to enter new songs into the game: so far I was writing and recording music on the Mac with GarageBand, which does not seem great to output MIDI: I will check the open source options to make music on the laptop.

I liked the concept of the wii as soon as I saw it a few years ago, and in particular of video games such as wii sports: it was due time for humanity to extend the limited range of digital peripherals (keyboard, mouse, screen and speakers) with some more (input and output, with the mindstorm lego kits becoming totally affordable). I was disapointed that it was sold as a proprietary peripheral, but it seems that nowadays the wii can be connected to any machine with bluetooth, and my guitar is supposed to connect to Windows and Linux alike. The potential for such peripheral is huge, and I think children might again have the incentive to learn how to program at home.

New innovative courses are surging everywhere, with university courses teaching how to program (and sell!) applications on the iPhone ( http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/08/20/iphone ), how to build a computer from electronic components up to the operating system and games running on it ( http://www1.idc.ac.il/tecs/ ), how to use 3d printers to prototype any invention in a matter of days ( http://fab.cba.mit.edu/), and the course I taught with others about how to program lego mindstorm kits ( https://wiki.dcc.uchile.cl/TallerMindstorms/doku.php ).

I hope I will teach someday a course about how to program pedagogic games and make them open source: the games I tested on http://www.lumosity.com/ are so simple that a second year student could program them (and yet learn things by doing so), and yet are fun (and expensive: 10$ a month for access!) and usefull (seems that psychologues help designing them and use the statistical data produced bu the users for their research), so that a student programming those games would fel usefull in addition to have fun...

As I wrote in an article recently submitted to some colleagues:
"As the access to high level technology is democratizing faster and
farther than ever, there is litle excuse left for traditional
courses where students are made to learn skills in a limited
theoretical way before entering the workforce where they will put
this knowledge to practice. Instead, students need to be *taught
to learn* through their own experience and reasoning, as they will
need to continue to learn a long time after they left the school
and university system, in a world where technological change has
outpaced the rythm of the human generations.

Now, I just need to find the time to hack existing games to make them more pedagogical, to learn how to put them in Facebook, and let the world learn how fun it is to learn!!!


Pollution on Santiago

I am sick. I was very tired before I went to Pucon, and since I came back to Santiago I have headaches and pain in the eyes, and I feel exhausted, whether I sleep 6 hours or 10 hours a night, and I find it hard to concentrate on any non-technical work.

A colleague complains about having a cold, and points to several other ones having colds as well. I do NOT have a cold, my nose is not running, my throat is sore but without any glaires. And after asking my colleague for his symptoms, I don't think he has a cold either, it just seems that people cannot think that the pollution is making them sick, because that would make them think about leaving Chile and/or Santiago.

Typing "Contaminacion Santiago Chile" in Google yields various interesting articles (in Spanish), each of them mentioning that Santiago is the second most poluted city in Latin America, and one of the most polluted of earth, one of them (http://www.soitu.es/soitu/2008/07/04/info/1215188220_148075.htm ) predicting the worst for 2010, next year. Yet this is not a new problem: the sesarch returns also articles from 2006 with titles such as "Santiago de Chile: el peor aire de América Latina". I am supposed to go and visit some appartment in a less polluted part of Santiago, but I don't hope for major improvements: the place where work is polluted, the center where I go shopping is polluted, and moving to sleep to the east side of the city will not change the fact that I spend two third of my life having headaches...



I went to Pucon for a conference on Astronomia. I got some nice contacts, maybe I will start to work on some Astronomy problems and visit some observatories in the North. The weather was good while we were meeting indoor, and crappy on the excursion on Sunday: so I don't have too many pictures. I got sick when I came back to Santiago, puffy eyes, feeling exhausted: I guess I can blame the pollution.


"Fractal" concert

I went yesterday to a beautiful concert from the band "Fractal" (http://www.fractal.cl/). I took many pictures, and selected more than a few on Flickr. I will go to Pucon for a conference on Astronomy next week, I expect to bring back some nice pictures: see you then,