Back To School Online

In 1961, FCC Commissioner [Newt Minow] famously described TV as a “vast wasteland.” But TV can do great things; educational programming, news coverage, and great performances do appear, just not all that often. You can draw the same parallels to the Internet. Sure, it’s mostly cat pictures, snarky comments, and posts of what your friends had for dinner. But it can also be a powerful tool, especially for education. Recently, top-name schools and other institutions have posted courses online for everything from Python to Quantum Mechanics to Dutch. The problems are finding these classes and figuring out which ones are gems and which are duds. A site called Class-Central aims to solve these problems.

The site aggregates class descriptions from a variety of sources like edX, Coursea, and more. Users can rate the classes. Many of these courses are free to take. The recent trend is to offer the content for free, but charge for people who want an assessment, such as a certificate of completion or even a full-blown degree. Even then, the cost is typically far less than traditional college costs.

There’s also news about courses. For example, a recent post highlighted that edX now offers nine online master’s degrees in conjunction with major schools. A computer science masters from the University of Texas, for example, runs about $10,000. A Georgia Tech cybersecurity masters degree costs even less. There are another seven not ready yet, including one for electrical engineering.

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Hack Your Own Computer Science Degree

We ran across something interesting on GitHub of all places. The “Open Source Society University” has a list of resources to use if you want to teach yourself computer┬áscience for free. We found it interesting because there are so many resources available it can be hard to pick and choose. Of course, you can always pick a track from one school, but it was interesting to see what [Eric Douglas] and contributors thought would be a good foundation.

If you dig down, there are really a few potential benefits from going to college. One is you might learn something — although we’ve found that isn’t always a given, surprisingly. The second is you can get a piece of paper to frame that impresses most people, especially those that want to hire you but can’t determine if you know what you are talking about or not. Lastly, if you go to the right school you can meet people that might be useful to know in the future for different reasons.

The Internet has really changed all of those things, you can network pretty easily these days without a class ring, and there are lots of ways to earn accredited diplomas online. If you are interested in what we think is the most important part — the education — there are many options for that too.

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360 Degree Video For Next-to-nothing

[Luis], a regular Hackaday reader, sent in some info about his 360 degree video experiments. He wanted a cheap device to use with a video camera, producing video that can be displayed using a free Flash software library.

The hardware consists of a mirrored light bulb, a square of glass, and some threaded rod. The camera lens attaches to the glass with the rod right in the middle. The lens will capture a donut image reflected in the mirror of the bulb. [Luis] then processes the result and uses Ryubin’s Flash Panorama to handle playback. He’s posted two clips as examples, the first of an “Existentialist Suburb Walker” and the second is some test footage while setting up for a shot. You can click-and-rotate the video while it’s playing to look around the area.

This could produce some great driving videos, without the need for multiple cameras. [Luis] does point out some problems with oscillation as the mirror on the end of a rod will amplify the effect of movement on the image.