MOOC Review: The Biology of Consciousness by Christof Koch

Consciousness is one of the top puzzles of modern science and philosophy. Everything we study in science is objective and has physical properties, but consciousness seems to be an exception. It is subjective, it feels like something to be conscious. Each conscious agent has private, privileged access to his own inner experience which is not available to others. A person can report his pain, but we cannot see his pain and analyze it like a material thing. But mysteriously still, the mental and physical can interact, we can tamper with consciousness by tampering with a person’s physical brain.

The great mystery has me hooked for quite some time and I have been reading books by leading philosophers like Dennett, Thomas Nagel, Chalmers and Searle. This course is a bit different, more scientific than philosophical. It is a short introduction to the biology of Consciousness along with a brief primer about Integrated Information Theory.

The course, called Master Class, is offered by World Science U. I am a big fan of the content they offer, in particular, on Physics. The quality of their courses with animations and interactive content is just amazing.

Following are some of the topics covered by Professor Christof Koch:

  • Why is consciousness a mystery to modern science?
  • Understand what we mean by Consciousness
  • Neural Correlates of Consciousness
  • Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness

Connecting Hyper-V Virtual Machine to Wireless network and Internet on Windows 10

Connecting Hyper-V virtual machines to the wireless network adapter can be a painful experience. I was wondering why it is so hard and poorly documented. As explained here, probably the reason is that the product is primarily targeted for servers where we always have wired networks.

To connect the VM to the wireless network, we have to create a virtual switch. There are two types of virtual switches: Internal and External. I initially managed to get it to work with the internal switch, but it stopped working after some time. External Virtual Switch has more chances of working based on what I gathered from blogs on this topic. It did work for me but after some effort as I was getting the following error:

Error applying virtual switch properties changes (catastrophic failure)

I was able to overcome this by running the following on Command Prompt (Admin Mode).

netcfg -d

Please run this command at your own risk as it will reset your host network connections. You will be disconnected from network and security key will be required for reconnection.

After resetting the network connections using above command, I followed the steps for creating external switch and it worked.

Internal Virtual Switch

Internal switch configuration requires minimum changes to the host network settings and it doesn’t expose your guest machine to the internet. But it may or may be work for your system configuration.

Another way of making internal switch work is described here, but it didn’t work for me.

External Virtual Switch

The external option requires more changes to the network settings. Instructions for setting up external virtual switch can be found here.

Mind Mate: Taking Notes with rich text support

(for background on Mind Mate, click here)

Today, I released a new version (0.4) of Mind Mate on GitHub. The chief improvement is the rich text editing capabilities for notes as demonstrated below.

When the focus is inside Note Editor, the ribbon switches to following Contextual tab.

If the cursor is inside a table, ‘Table Tools’ contextual tab becomes available.

So, following are now supported in Note editor:

  • Bold, Italic, Underline and Strikethrough
  • Subscript and Superscript
  • Text Color and Highlight
  • Font Family and Size
  • Bullets and Numbered Lists
  • Text Alignment and Indent / Outdent
  • Headings
  • Clear Formatting
  • Insert Table
  • Table Tools
    • Insert Row (above, below)
    • Insert Column (left, right)
    • Delete Row, Column or Table
    • Move Row (up, down)
    • Move Column (left, right)

BusinessObjects Universe Design Tool: Each calculated column must have an explicit name

In SAP BusinessObjects Universe Design Tool, you might get the following error – “Each calculated column must have an explicit name”.

Each though the query runs fine in the underlying database, but Universe Design Tool doesn’t accept it. The reason is it expects ‘AS’ keyword between the calculated column and it’s alias. So that query should be re-written as:

select to_char(statusdate, 'DD-MMM-YYYY') as datetext 
from person

 

 

CodeSchool courses on JavaScript Frameworks

CodeSchool is a great site for introductory programming courses. With all guides and practice exercises available right within the browser, it is a hassle-free way to start learning. The design of the site is also very pleasing which enhances the overall experience.

Recently, CodeSchool offered a free weekend pass to all their content. I took the opportunity to brush up my skills on the new version of Angular and also quickly went through the React course.

codeschool-angular-2

Course Link: Accelerating through Angular 2

 

codeschool-react

Course Link: Powering Up with React

 

Run MySql without installation

I had to run MySql database without installation and it took a little bit of effort to make it work. Here are the steps I performed for running MySql without going through installation (noinstall):

  1. Download Zip Archive (Community Edition) from http://dev.mysql.com/downloads/mysql/
  2. Unzip the archive and go to the bin folder.
  3. Initialize MySql database: Run the following on Command Prompt (cmd) while being in the bin folder. This creates data folder with database files.
    mysqld --initialize
  4. Start server with unrestricted access to the full database.
    mysqld --console --skip-grant-tables
  5. Reset password for root user
    • Run mysql.exe (MySql client) from the bin folder. This will take you to a prompt (mysql>).
    • Tell the server to load the grant tables so that account management statements work (They are not loaded due –skip-grant-tables parameter to server).
      mysql> FLUSH PRIVILEGES;
    • 
      

      On mysql prompt (mysql>), run the following queries to reset the root password (one of the following will work depending on your version)

      • ALTER USER 'root'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'MyNewPass';
      • SET PASSWORD FOR 'root'@'localhost' = PASSWORD('MyNewPass');
      • UPDATE mysql.user SET authentication_string = PASSWORD('MyNewPass') WHERE User = 'root' AND Host = 'localhost';
        FLUSH PRIVILEGES;
  6. Restart server in normal mode.
    mysqld --console
  7. Connect using client
    mysql -u root -p

    Enter the password (MyNewPass) when prompted

  8. Execute your queries on mysql prompt (mysql>).

Please note that this works for version 5.7, but may or may not apply to other versions.

 

In order to connect to MySql from the application, download the relevant connector from MySql Connectors. For instance, JDBC driver (connector) for connecting from Java application is available at Connector/J.

Mind Mate: Mind Mapping on Windows 7 and 8

(for background on Mind Mate, click here)

I have been developing Mind Mate on Windows 10 machine, so wasn’t sure how it is going to behave on earlier versions of OS. Today, I tested it on Windows 7 and 8 using VMs made available by Microsoft.

Mind Mate worked perfectly on Windows 8 but encountered few issues on Windows 7 related to Windows Ribbon Control. These issues are:

– Images in PNG format are not displayed in the ribbon. Seems like Ribbon control on Win7 only supports BMP, that too generated in a certain version of BMP specification. I found that only PixelFormer knows how to generate the right BMP file for Windows 7 Ribbon control.

– Controls don’t layout properly after initial launch, it requires resizing the main window once, then it starts working fine.

– Non true type fonts are not supported.

These issues are resolved in the new Build. Download it from here and give it a go.

Developed Mind Mapping software–codenamed ‘Mind Mate’

Mind Map is a graphical way of representing concepts and ideas. It starts with the main idea at the center with branches going into details.

Personally, I use it for all my notes taking, to-do lists, managing project information etc. Probably it goes beyond what normal usage of the term Mind Map implies but I found many people using Mind Mapping software in the same way. The appeal of Mind Mapping software, in the regard, is the ability to handle the depth of information. Due to outlining you focus on the level of information you want, dig deeper into a topic or zoom out to the headlines with ease.

FreeMind and XMind are the most popular software out there. Personally, I prefer FreeMind as it is more suitable to the usage style I described above. XMind is more focused towards presentation, rather than daily usage for notes taking. Unfortunately, FreeMind is a not being developed very actively.

Since last couple of years, I have been developing my own Mind Mapping software on Github. It started just as a pastime and somehow I managed to put in some hours week after week. It has been a fun ride and a very good learning experience. I switched to it for my daily use for a few months now. Today I prepared an installer for MindMate to make it more accessible. Please download it and give it a short. I will wait for your feedback.

It would be my pleasure if you are interested in contributing to the project in any role. It could be as a developer, document writer, tester or just providing feedback as a user.

Download Windows Installer or Portable Zip from here: MindMate

(MindMate only supports Windows 10 for now, will test and build it for earlier version soon. MindMate works fine on Windows 10, 8 and  7)

Review: Pixar in a box Tutorial by Khan Academy

Pixar is a box’ is an excellent tutorial at Khan Academy developed in collaboration with Pixar Animation Studios. It is about some of the Math concepts that we learn in school and how they apply to making animated movies. The content is meant for secondary school students (and above Smile).

Tutorial sketches a broad outline of the pipeline for producing animation, with each lesson digging deeper into a particular concept and its Mathematics.

1- Environment Modeling talks about representing curves (parabolic curves) using three points, rather than equations. It is more intuitive to work with three control points while designing and animating curves. This knowledge about curves is applied to create grass blade. A lot of grass blades are put together with randomness and animation offsets to create a natural looking grass field.

2- Character Modeling describes how polygons are used to start modeling shapes and subdivision algorithm is used to smoothen out the edges. 2D sketch of Human hand is designed using this technique without much effort. The crux of the lesson is the mathematics of subdivision and its application in 2D and 3D.

3- Animation lesson explains the role of Bezier curve in representing animation. A realistic bouncing ball animation is created in hands-on exercise.

4- Crowds are created by joining a number of parts in various combinations.  Lesson explores the concepts of permutations and apply it to calculating the number of possible combinations.

5- Sets & Staging deals with placing characters in the environment. Environment contains various objects which are placed around in the scene after scaling and rotating them as required. The lesson explains the mathematics behind these geometric transformations.

6- Rendering is a particularly exciting lesson which brings out the complexity of the whole process. While rendering we have to determine the color of each pixel in a frame taking into account all the light sources, camera position, all objects in the scene and how each object reflects or refracts light. This is done by casting rays out of the light sources and bouncing them off various surfaces. Diffuse and Specular properties of a surface determine how light will be reflected by it.

‘‘Pixar in a box’ is highly recommended as a fun way to learn.

Pixar in a box