Codecademy is an Interactive and Accessible Way to Learn Programming

Codecademy lesson

Codecademy has made learning to program, currently only with Javascript, accessible to almost any computer user by using simple prompts which guide you through lessons and a console to type code in. Codecademy is similar to the style of Try Ruby! and Hackety Hack by Why the Lucky Stiff, who is today commemorated in Whyday.

The website currently has eight lessons but is likely to expand quickly. The creators, on a forum, said “we should have more lessons up within the week. We’re going to get on Python as soon as we can”, adding that “hundreds” of people have offered to make courses for the website. Programmers can offer to help by contacting the website owners.

At first, users are not forced to sign-up to the service but later into the lessons an account is needed. Accounts store user achievements and also track progress. The friends mode allows you to “keep tabs on your friends’ progress” by connecting with a Facebook account.

Codecademy was created by Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski who built the website using Ruby on Rails. The new website was also posted to Hacker News in a Show HN thread where the creators got feedback. The terms of service sheds some light on the future of the new service which says “everything on Codecademy is currently free, with premium services a possibility in the future”.

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Five News Analysis Podcasts Worth Listening To

PBS NewsRoom with reporters

1. NPR All Things Considered

Published: Daily

This flagship NPR radio show consists of commentaries, news and what NPR call “insightful features on the quirky and the mainstream in arts and life, music and entertainment.” All Things Considered is released daily for download, due to the long length of the program the podcast is divided into series.

2. BBC Analysis

Published: Weekly

Analysis from the BBC is a podcast which investigates the reasons behind news events. The average show lasts for just below 30 minutes. The program has a strong focus on events in the UK but also cover some international events. Recently the program covered the economic situation of the United States and if they were going to be avert an “economic meltdown”, the podcast had also covered the UK’s policy towards the Middle East.

3. BBC Documentaries

Published: Every two days

Another program from BBC but from the World Service division which often air documentaies in the radio/podcast format. BBC Documentaries offer a global perspective with interviews and commentary from their journalists. These documentaries are presented in an accessible and interesting format.

4. Financial Times News

Published: Weekly to monthly

The Financial Times publishes their own news analysis podcasts occasionally, unlike the other news analysis podcasts these stick almost certainly to large news issues and are very short: no more than ten minutes. Though, reporters are often able to give a wide perspective on issues in this short time.

5. PBS NewsHour

Published: Daily

PBS publish this podcast very often as part of their NewsHour program. PBS divides the podcasts depending on the content type such as report or analysis. The analysis section may pose a question and discussions of the latest news analysis. This is one of the most comprehensive programs in the news analysis section since they publish so often.

Top Five Free Screencast Recorders

1. BB FlashBack Express (Windows)

Recording sound and video in BB Flashback Express

BB FlashBack Express is a slimmed down version of BB FlashBack, however this software is still very usable and excellent for screencasts. Features of this software include recording voice, sections of the screen and keystrokes for the use in screencasts. The software developers, Blueberry Software, have a full list of features.

2. Wink (Windows/Linux)

Recording a window in Wink

This is a very powerful piece of software with the ability to add annotations, quickly edit the video and add navigation buttons. However, the output for the video only SWF and EXE for the video. The bad news is that most video sites do not officially support SWF uploads, download and use a video converter such as FFmpeg if you wish to upload your screencasts for video sharing. It is recommended to quickly read a tutorial to get the most out of this program.

3. recordMyDesktop (Linux)

RecordMyDesktop start screen
Quickly change the quality of the video on the start screen.

recordMyDesktop records your session of a full screen or selected area in an Ogg Theora file.  This simple video record has options for improving performance and whether you wish to record graphical elements such as the mouse. Extra options are available through the command-line box which affect the program when started.

4. Krut Computer Recorder (Windows/ Ubuntu)

Krut Toolbar

Krut is a very simple video capturing tool which requires Java to run. The program creates videos in a MOV format and sound in a WAV format. The program download is only 5 MB and is very user-friendly. From the settings page the quality can be increased as well as the size of the recording area.

5. Screenr (Web-based)

Screenr logo

If you need a recording fast, Screenr allows up to five minutes of high-definition recording without the need for software. The web app allows for quick sharing on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook and embedding on websites and blogs. If you have a microphone, Screenr will record it.

Draw Your Own ASCII Art Using JavE

ASCII art (made using Jave)

If you’ve browsed the internet for a while you have may have seen the often intricate ASCII art, if you haven’t ASCII art is the use of text to create art. Although ASCII art can be created using a text editor and lots of time, JavE can speed up the design process by using a mouse to draw and create elements such as text boxes for annotations.

JavE is a free editor that runs using Java to create ASCII art and requires Java Runtime Environment to start the program if you haven’t installed it already. This powerful editor includes the ability to convert images to text, crash recovery and a paint brush which automatically fills in defined characters. JavE can also be used for manually typing in letters if you prefer to create your own ASCII art without any of the added features.

The download for JavE is tiny, just over 1 MB but if you just want to convert an image to text without downloading the application try PicASCII which converts images to ASCII.

ABC’s Hungry Beast Showcases Excellent Animation

Here is some fantastic animation from The Hungry Beast, a popular Australian television program on ABC (Australia’s national public broadcaster).The television show goes on to describe a powerful root-kit virus called Stuxnet which was discovered last year and was created to spy on industrial technology.

The program uploads most of their segments onto YouTube with focuses on investigative journalism combined with excellent animation and jokes with hints of satire. Here’s another impressive animation made last year on Google:

Five Official Web App Status Uptime Monitors [Showcase]

Today, many web-services use a website to provide the status of the service. if it’s up or experiencing downtime. These websites often use blogs and a simple message on the uptime of the website, today we’ll look at five innovative status websites.

These allow users to check if the web service is working properly without having to use a third-party website like Down for Everyone or Just Me.

1. Skype Heartbeat

Skype Heartbeat

Based on the theme of a heart, the Skype up-time monitor is always pumping (or broken) depending on the status. Here it is pictured after a recent downtime which links to the blog lower down the page.  Blog posts are a few paragraphs but updates are added by the Skype team.

2. Google Apps Status Dashboard

Google Status
The Google status page shows the availability of all services for consumers and businesses. The system is based on symbols with more information available by clicking on the information icon. Google has also created a transparency report which details government requests and traffic in countries, especially reporting on governments blocking internet services.

3. Windows Live Status

Windows Live Status

Looks familiar doesn’t it? It appears to be based on the status reporting system from Google and provides more information by click on the information icon. Though, the page above is the status history which show multiple days, by default it only shows one day at a time.

4. Twitter Status

Twitter Status Blog
Twitter uses a Tumblr-powered blog with short posts to keep its users up-to-date. Updates on the blog are kept very short, with one sentence updates advising that the issue has been fixed with one simply updating with five words: ‘the issue has been resolved.’

5. Formspring Status

Formspring Status
Another Tumblr-based blog with short updates. Formspring, an anonymous question and answer website, encourages the use of Tumblr to follow them, a feature not found on the Twitter status update blog. All updates are made a separate posts and are also very short.

Top 5 Free Video Editing Programs

1. Windows Live Movie Maker (Windows)

Windows Live Movie Maker

Windows Live Movie Maker is a simple solution for video creators who want a video fast. The program is very easy to use and features auto-movie functions which allow you to apply pre-made themes. Windows Live Movie Maker includes all the basic video editing functions you expect, such as audio support, visual effects as well as support for in-built support for uploading to websites such as YouTube and Facebook. The program is packaged in Windows Live Essentials, though you can deselect the unwanted programs.

2. Avidemux (Linux/Windows/Mac OSX)

Avidemux

This open-source software is available for all the popular operating systems. Avidemux is very powerful including features such as scripting and job queue, however simple features such as filtering, encoding and cutting are all well-integrated. The program has lots of documentation made by the community and a forum.

3. OpenShot Video Editor (Linux)

OpenShot Video Editor

OpenShot Video Editor maybe the best solution for free video editors for Linux, unfortunately there is no support for Windows and Mac OSX yet. OpenShot Video Editor is very simple to use and features such as transitions, effects, audio mixing and support for many video file formats. Their goal is very clear, saying in a blog post for the release of version 1.30 that they want to be the ‘the very best open-source video editor.’ A manual is also included for beginners.

4. iMovie (Mac OSX, Free on New Systems)

iMovie 2011 (Image Via Wikipedia)

iMovie is included on all Mac computers for free, though if you want to upgrade you’ll have to purchase a new edition. iMovie is Apple’s flagship video editing program and is even available, for purchase, on the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad as an app. iMovie has a range of themes to suit certain occasions and most of the editing is simply drag-and-drop. Features normally found in professional video editors like video stabilization and audio effects are included. Visit Apple for a full run-down of the features.

5. VideoLAN Movie Creator (Windows/Mac/Linux)

Although, VideoLAN Movie Creator is yet to hit a stable release it looks very promising. The team behind the popular free video player, VLC Player, is developing the software and are also looking for developers. The aim is to be a simple video editor that is powerful.

Inside the Patent and Copyright Troll Industry [Infographic]

With more technology companies ready to sue competitors for patent infringement and use of copyrighted content, we take a look into some of the biggest ‘copyright trolls’ and technology patent owners in our first infographic. The first part takes a look at InterDigital, which claims its patents are used ‘in every mobile phone’; then the classic case of Righthaven LLC, which finds copied articles; the U.S Copyright group and exactly how much money is spent on settlements.

View the infographic at Linear Fix

Dan Awesome’s Rage Maker is a Non-Memebase Rage Comic Editor

Dan Awesome's Rage Maker

If you’re looking for a rage comic editor try the aptly named Dan Awesome’s Rage Maker which allows export to imgur, Reddit, to disk and XML (for saving and loading your workspace). All the meme faces you’ve come to love are all included in the sidebar with the option to browse faces in the works.

The last time we featured a meme comic editor we looked at Rage Comic Editor, a really good meme comic creator but after Memebase purchased the comic editor, all rage comics in the creator stay in Memebase and the export function has been removed.

Using the editor is quite easy, mostly click-and-drag functions with icons on the top to guide you but instructions are included if you need more help. Another feature unique to Dan Awesome’s Rage Maker is the ability to get an offline download. The download is only available for Windows (XP, Vista and 7) and the download is split into the actual program and the image pack.

UPDATE (3/06/2011): The owner has set-up a mirrored version of the website for use.

UPDATE (1/06/2011): It has come to out attention from the owner’s Reddit submission, that Rage Maker has faced a denial of service and subsequently deactivated. Please visit this Reddit comment from the owner for details on downloading Rage Maker offline for use on Windows and OSX.

Top 4 Free Web-Based Blogging Platforms

There are many options for the budding blogger looking for a free platform to publish thoughts, news, images, videos and more on the internet. There are many things to look out for including advertising, up-time of blogging service, user interface as well as the community. Here is a list of our favorite blogging platforms, in no particular order:

Tumblr settings page.

Tumblr

If you frequent micro-blogs published by friends and family, you’ve no doubt heard of Tumblr. Tumblr is mainly used for short quotes, video and images ( those rare full-fledged articles are hard to find) and sharing features like ‘reblogging’ allows users to make a copy of your post on their own Tumblr. It’s a great option if you want a splash in the publishing world and don’t want to write long articles. Tumblr is one of the simplest blogging platforms I’ve seen and making posts are only a click of an icon away.

Posterous Dashboard

Posterous

The main idea behind Posterous is simplicity. By sending a email to post@posterous.com you can post something to your blog immediately making it useful for posting quick words and images, but who says long articles don’t belong on here? There are less features for the power user to customize but they’ve also got a group option which they describe as  an email list on steroids.

Blogger Dashboard

Blogger

Owned by Google, users of this full-fledged blogging platform will get a (name).blogger.com. Features include the Blogger Template Designer which allows more control over your theme, the ability to post your own advertisements through Google AdSense and the use of pages. If you don’t like the dashboard, don’t worry it is set to change later this year as one of the major changes.

WordPress Post Editor

WordPress

WordPress is very popular for its open-source software which users host on their own servers and is 13% of the 1,000,000 biggest websites use it. However, WordPress also has a free hosting option where you get your own subdomain (for example, linearfix.wordpress.com). WordPress has a very active blogging community which can be found in forums and tags. WordPress is supported by advertising and bloggers can’t display their own advertisements. On the positive side, WordPress is very customizable and feature rich including polls, many themes, 3GB storage, sharing options and statistics galore.