Learn Python with a Free Online Course from MIT

The programming language Python takes its name from Monty Python (true story!), and now courses that teach Python are in very high demand. Last December, we featured a free Python course created by Google. Today, it's a free Python course from MIT.

Designed for students with little or no programming experience, the course "aims to provide students with an understanding of the role computation can play in solving problems. It also aims to help students, regardless of their major, to feel justifiably confident of their ability to write small programs that allow them to accomplish useful goals." Beyond offering a primer on Python, the course offers an introduction to computer science itself.




The 38 lectures above were presented by MIT's John Guttag. On this MIT website, you can find related course materials, including a syllabus and software. And if you're interested in taking this course as a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), you can sign up for the version that begins on May 27th over at edx.

The course will be added to our list of Free Computer Science Courses, a subset of our collection, 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Hayao Miyazaki Tells Video Game Makers What He Thinks of Their Characters Made with Artificial Intelligence: “I’m Utterly Disgusted. This Is an Insult to Life Itself”

For a young person in an animation-based field, the opportunity to share new work with director Hayao Miyazaki must feel like a golden opportunity.

This may still hold true for Nobuo Kawakami, the chairman of Dwango, a Japanese telecommunications and media company, but not for the reasons he likely anticipated at the start of the above video.

The subject of their discussion is a computer generated animated model whose artificial intelligence causes it to move by squirming on its head. Its creators haven’t invested it with any particular personality traits or storyline, but its flayed appearance and tortuous movements suggest it’s unlikely to be boarding Miyazaki’s magical cat bus any time soon.




Even without an explicit narrative, the model’s potential should be evident to anyone who’s ever sat through the final-reel resurrection of a horribly maimed, presumed-dead terrorizer of scantily clad young ladies.

The model’s grotesque squirmings could also be an asset to zombie video games, as Kawakami excitedly points out.

Let us remember that Miyazaki’s films are rooted not in gross-out effects, but redemption, a reverence for nature, and respect for children and all living things.

The master watches the demonstration without comment, then dispenses with traditional Japanese etiquette in favor of some strongly worded medicine that leaves no doubt as to what he really thought of Dwango's artificially intelligent wretch:

“I am utterly disgusted… I strongly feel that this is an insult to life itself.”  

(At this point, you really should watch the video, to hear Miyazaki's opening statement, about a disabled friend for whom even a simple high-five is a painful physical exertion.)

Poor Kawakami-san! Unceremoniously shamed in front of his colleagues by a national treasure, he doesn’t push back. All he can offer is something along the lines of “We didn’t mean anything by it”---a statement that seems credible.

The American president may be into dehumanizing those with disabilities, but the Dwango crew’s heads were likely occupied with boyish visions of a thrillingly gruesome zombie apocalypse.

It’s a harsh, but important message for Miyazaki to have gotten across. Dwango is responsible for creating a lot of online games. In other words, they hold considerable sway over impressionable youth.

Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki grants Kawakami and his colleagues an opportunity to save face, asking what the team’s goals are.

“We’d like to build a machine that can draw pictures like humans do,” one shellshocked-looking young man responds.

What, like, Henri Maillardet's automaton from 1810? While I can imagine such a contraption showing up in one of Miyazaki’s steam-punk-flavored adventures, the hush that greets this statement all but screams “wrong answer!”

What will this encounter lead to?

The release of an online game in which one scores points by hideously dismembering the animated form of director Hayao Miyazaki?

Or a newfound sensitivity, in which cool technological advances are viewed through a lens of actual human experience?

Only time will tell.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

NASA Its Software Online & Makes It Free to Download

A quick heads up: NASA has just announced that it has released its "2017-2018 software catalog, which offers an extensive portfolio of software products for a wide variety of technical applications, all free of charge to the public, without any royalty or copyright fees."

More than 30% of NASA innovations are software-based, and by making its software available to the public, it helps give a boost to entrepreneurs, small businesses, corporations and academics. Ah, the benefits of Technology Transfer.

Available in both hard copy and online, the software archive is divided into numerous categories, including Business Systems and Project Management, Vehicle Management, Data Servers and Process Handling, Data and Image ProcessingDesign and Integration Tools, and more. See all available software here.

h/t goes to OC reader, Kunal

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Stanford University Launches Free Course on Developing Apps with iOS 10

Stanford University Launches Free Course on Developing Apps with iOS 10

Whenever Apple releases a new version of iOS, Stanford University eventually releases a course telling you how to develop apps in that environment. iOS 10 came out last fall, and now the iOS 10 app development course is getting rolled out this quarter. It's free online, of course, on iTunes.

You can now find "Developing iOS Apps with Swift" housed in our collection of Free Computer Science Courses, which currently features 117 courses in total, including some basic Harvard courses that will teach you how to code in 12 weeks.

As always, courses from other disciplines can be found on our larger list, 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Download 243 Free eBooks on Design, Data, Software, Web Development & Business from O’Reilly Media

Last week we highlighted for you 20 Free eBooks on Design from O’Reilly Media. Little did we know that we were just scratching the surface of the free ebooks O'Reilly Media has to offer.

If you head over to this page, you can access 243 free ebooks covering a range of different topics. Below, we've divided the books into sections (and provided links to them), indicated the number of books in each section, and listed a few attractive/representative titles.

You can download the books in PDF format. An email address--but no credit card--is required. Again the complete list is here.

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Software Used by Hayao Miyazaki’s Animation Studio Is Now Officially Ready to Download

miyazaki-gif2

FYI: Early last week, Colin Marshall gave you a heads up that Studio Ghibli, the animation studio behind Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away, was preparing to release an open source version of the animation software used to create its films. This weekend, the software--called OpenToonz--officially became available for download. And we can now tell you where to find it. OpenToonz is available on Github, in versions made for both Window and OSX. This link will jump you straight to the download area.

If you make anything great with it, please share it with us.

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Google Makes Its $149 Photo Editing Software Now Completely Free to Download

nik software

Google's Nik Collection, a photo editing software package designed for professional photographers, once retailed for $149. Today it's absolutely free to download, for both Windows and Mac users.

Here you can read Google's announcement, which includes more information on the software package and its capabilities.

Today we’re making the Nik Collection available to everyone, for free.

Photo enthusiasts all over the world use the Nik Collection to get the best out of their images every day. As we continue to focus our long-term investments in building incredible photo editing tools for mobile, including Google Photos and Snapseed, we’ve decided to make the Nik Collection desktop suite available for free, so that now anyone can use it.




The Nik Collection is comprised of seven desktop plug-ins that provide a powerful range of photo editing capabilities -- from filter applications that improve color correction, to retouching and creative effects, to image sharpening that brings out all the hidden details, to the ability to make adjustments to the color and tonality of images.

Starting March 24, 2016, the latest Nik Collection will be freely available to download: Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro and Dfine. If you purchased the Nik Collection in 2016, you will receive a full refund, which we’ll automatically issue back to you in the coming days.

We’re excited to bring the powerful photo editing tools once only used by professionals to even more people now.

Once you've downloaded the software, head over to the Nik Collection channel on YouTube where you'll find video tutorials, including the one below called "Introduction to the Nik Complete Collection." It's a good place to start.

PS: Some readers have asked whether this software can work as a standalone program, or whether it needs to run with a program like Photoshop. Here's what PC Magazine has to say about that:  "Though you can run the seven different plugins in the collection as standalone products, they tend to work better when you integrate them into an existing image editing program, like Adobe's PhotoShop. '(On Windows) You can make shortcuts to the individual .exe files on your desktop and then just drag stacks of images onto them,' suggested one Google+ user." In short, you have some options.

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Software Used by Hayao Miyazaki’s Animation Studio Becomes Open Source & Free to Download

miyazaki gif2

By now we all know the name of Studio Ghibli, the operation responsible for such animated-feature-film-redefining productions as Grave of the Fireflies and Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. But unless we've paid a visit to the Ghibli Museum, seen the documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, or taken part in the close scrutiny to which Ghibli fans subject the studio's every public move, we won't know much about their methods for crafting such visually and emotionally captivating stories. Soon, though, we'll be able to use their tools ourselves. On March 26, you will be able to download OpenToonz, an open source version of the Toonz software used by Studio Ghibli.

"Included in the OpenToonz are many of Ghibli's custom tools, specially designed to capture trees waving in the breeze, food that looks too delicious to eat, and the constant running Miyazaki's films are known for," writes The Creators Project's Beckett , who quotes Ghibli's Executive Imaging Director Atsushi Okui on why they started using the Italian-developed package in the first place: “We needed a software enabling us to create a certain section of the animation digitally. Our requirement was that in order to continue producing theatre-quality animation without additional stress, the software must have the ability to combine the hand-drawn animation with the digitally painted ones seamlessly." Toonz, evidently, could pull it off.

Ghibli began using the software in 1995, during the production of Princess Mononoke, and has kept using it since. In fact, reports Amid Amidi at Cartoon Brew, "the new OpenToonz is dubbed 'Toonz Ghibli Edition' because of all the custom-features that Toonz has developed over the years for the legendary Japanese studio." With Miyazaki retired, at least from feature-film animation, and nobody quite sure whether 2014's When Marnie Was There will be the studio's last picture, as good a time as any has come for successors to the Ghibli tradition. If you'd like to throw your own hat into that enormous ring, you can download OpenToonz for free on March 26 (or, for a price, buy Toonz Premium) from the official Toonz web site.

via The Creators' Project

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Download the Software That Provides Stephen Hawking’s Voice

hawking capitalism future

Creative Commons image via NASA

Ah to be possessed of a highly distinctive voice.

Actress Katherine Hepburn had one.

As did FDR

And noted Hollywood Square Paul Lynde…

Physicist Stephen Hawking may trump them all, though his famously recognizable voice is not organic. The one we all associate with him has been computer generated since worsening Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, led to a tracheotomy in 1985.

Without the use of his hands, Hawking controls the Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit software with a  sensor attached to one of his cheek muscles.

Recently, Intel has made the software and its user guide available for free download on the code sharing site, Github. It requires a computer running Windows XP or above to use, and also a webcam that will track the visual cues of the user’s facial expressions.

The multi-user program allows users to type in MS Word and browse the Internet, in addition to assisting them to "speak" aloud in English.

The software release is intended to help researchers aiding sufferers of motor neuron diseases, not pranksters seeking to borrow the famed physicist’s voice for their doorbells and cookie jar lids. To that end, the free version comes with a default voice, not Professor Hawking’s.

Download the Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit (ACAT) here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her play, Fawnbook, is currently playing in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Download Free NASA Software and Help Protect the Earth from Asteroids!

NASA’s Asteroid Data Hunter

Yes, you can help save the world. And just by downloading some free software. Writes NASA:

Protecting the Earth from the threat of asteroid impacts means first knowing where they are. NASA is harnessing the incredible potential of innovators, makers and citizen scientists by opening up the search. In an increasingly connected world, NASA recognizes the value of the public as a partner in addressing some of the country’s most pressing challenges. We need your help in identifying asteroids – and to help further this effort, we’ve built an application that enables everyone, everywhere, to help solve this global challenge.

To download the app and join the hunt for asteroids, please click here. To get more information on the project (in which Harvard is a strategic participant) click here.

Next up? Hopefully an app that saves California, which, a NASA official projects, will run out of water by next year.

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