Low-powered computer attempt #1 — One year later

One year ago last week, I put the finishing touches on a new computer.  I started my game plan for a low-powered device  in January 2009, but I was teaching a course at the time so it wasn’t until reading week that I found three (almost) uninterrupted days to bring my plan to fruition.  While I’ve seen a number of articles and blog posts about building a low-powered computer, I’ve seen only a few documenting the end result after real-world use.

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Cur bloggo?

People keep blogs for many reasons.  So why do I blog?  I haven’t really figured that out, entirely, yet.  All I know is that this blog is here to help with my research… somehow.  It’s sometimes helpful just to write thoughts down.  Feedback is useful for more mature thoughts.  My recent blog posts are all related, if only tangentially, to my depth paper.  I’ll start posting excerpts here, soon.  Meanwhile, some of my blog posts will magically be transformed into my depth paper.  I hope to update this blog on a weekly basis (instead of every other day as I have been for the last few weeks).  We’ll see how that works out!

The Big Toolkit

When the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail. — Abraham Maslow

I used to think versatility and choice were always good things.  In fact, I wrote something to that effect just over a week ago.  Knowing what is out there means not having to reinvent the wheel.  It means being able to select the right tool for the right job.  When all you’ve got is a hammer, you end up writing messy 50-line snakes and ladders programs in assembly language when you could instead write the same thing in 7 elegant lines of Python.  But?

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Tragedy of the Commons: Part IV — In the World

But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me. – Vizzini (The Princess Bride)

Contrary to initial expectations, we’ve found that a perfectly rational player ought not to defect in a game described in Part I. So what? How does that apply to the real world? Game theory is useful for modeling decision making processes where abstractions reduce the variables to be considered. Examples in real life of situations modeled by a tragedy of the commons dilemma are readily available.
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Tragedy of the Commons: Part I — The Setup

Back in 2006, I took the undergraduate course Individual and Organizational Behaviour offered to students in the commerce programme at the University of Toronto.  One of the highest quality lectures I have attended was given in this class by a guest speaker, a professor in the Rotman School of Management.  During this lecture, students were put into groups and pitted against each other in a friendly competition.  We faced off in what seemed to be a tragedy of the commons scenario and our gameplay was analysed by the speaker.  However, I argue that what we were playing was not actually a tragedy of the commons scenario and that the analysis given in class was incorrect.  Apparently, what I thought was extremely obvious was not.  Or perhaps I’m just wrong; I’m no game theoretician.

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More on Paper vs. Screen: The Creative Process

I thought that, as a reasonably quick reader and a user of a laptop that sips 8W of power while in use1, it would almost always make sense for me to work with content electronically (To Print or Not to Print?).  While sitting in a meeting, it struck me that, on an almost daily basis, there are pages of text with which I spend more than an hour.  I was, of course, thinking about writing my depth paper.

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  1. With the screen turned low and with wi-fi turned off. []

Renaissance Man Renaissance

The Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto is considering changes to its requirements regarding the number of courses students must complete in various sub-disciplines of computer science in order to obtain an M.Sc. or Ph.D.  While I am in moderate opposition to these breadth requirements, I present here an argument partially in favour of breadth; this argument is entirely an academic exercise for the sake of challenging my existing views (okay, it’s also fun) and is presented as a single-sided argument.

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