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Welcome to a crazy experiment”

Today was the first day of the summer 2013 batch of Hacker School, in which I am a participant. The variety of wonderful people participating in this thing is excellent; I am very much looking forward to the rest of the summer.

I have a few ideas for what I might want to do/learn for the next three months; which include:

  1. Making a minimally functional replacement for Blackboard, the crummy classroom management software that pretty much every University in the world uses. I don’t imagine mine will ever be used; but it’s a concrete project that will motivate me to learn about web programming.
  2. Emacs Lisp. I’d like to learn more about extending the editor and maybe write a minor mode or two.
  3. Julia. Scientific programming is in a bit of a weird place right now. On the one hand, you have MATLAB and Mathematica, which are great at what they do, but are propreitary software, which is problematic in any number of ways. On the other hand, you have the python scientific computing stack (numpy, scipy, matplotlib, scikit-learn, etc.) which has been embraced by many forward-looking people in the community. These tools are wonderful, don’t get me wrong—they have been useful to me and I love them dearly. However, they are something of a hack. Python was certainly not designed from the ground up to be used for scientific computation, and this shows in many places (GIL, etc.). There’s also R, but it has a pretty narrow focus on statistics. I think Julia is a exciting because it is designed from the ground up to be used in a wide variety of scientific applications (like MATLAB/Mathematica) but is also open source (like R or the python stack). Julia is going nowhere but up and I’d love to learn the language and maybe even contribute if I can.
  4. Clojure? I did Scheme in CS151 at UChicago and it was great, but I’d like to learn a Lisp that’s used in the “real world”. Clojure is what all the cool kids seem to be into these days, so it’ll do.
  5. Raspberry Pi hacking? I bought one of these things forever ago and then got really busy and never had time to play with it; I’d love to fool around a bit.

This is, admitedly, a fairly wide variety and large amount of stuff. I’ll likely narrow my focus in the coming weeks and I’m looking forward to learning new things and sharing with others.

Addendum (April 10th, 2015): Note that the organization formerly known as Hacker School is now called the Recurse Center.