With the launch of last week’s micropayments marketplace, you can now buy all sorts of digital goods from 21 Bitcoin Computers, provided you have a 21 Computer yourself.

But if digital goods were all we could buy, we would soon be dead, because one cannot live on emojis alone.

Let’s make our 21 Computer control a vending machine to dispense candy.

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Controller Pins

First, notice that the computer has a set of twelve header pins near the USB port. The GPIO pins can be used for reading an input signal, or sending an output signal.

Pin numbers correspond to the map below.

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The GPIO pin has an output of 3.3V for “True”, 0V for “False”. …


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Today I read Plato’s Republic while, uh, waiting for code to compile.

Previously, Izabella Kaminska pointed out that Bitcoin’s governance has analogues in anacyclosis, the ancient Greek theory of political evolution. Anacyclosis is a progression from Monarchy to Kingship to Tyranny to Aristocracy to Oligarchy to Democracy to Mob Rule.

Bitcoin is now at a political impasse as the core developers jockey for power under the guise of a technology debate.

According to Plato, the ideal (maximum justice) city is ruled by an all-knowing philosopher king. …


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Crowd outside a bucket shop. People wore a lot of hats back then.

Once upon a time, the stock market was an exclusive upper-class arena reserved for the 5% of the population who could afford high margins and round-lot order sizes.

The other 95% could only spectate as the nation underwent a 3-decade secular bull market.

With the invention of the telegraph came streaming price quotes. The common citizens set up bucket shops in the late 1870s to bet on quotes so that they, too, could feel like a player in the stock market.

This didn’t democratize financial market access, of course, but it democratized the feeling of access. Bucket shops were decorated to look just as swanky as legitimate brokers, and for a few dollars, the middle class could do just as the rich people could. …


The ongoing complaints about the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley tech startups is growing louder. Most recently, Carlos Bueno criticizes companies for building uniform cultures where employers only hire their friends. He points to Max Levchin’s following statement:

The notion that diversity in an early team is important or good is completely wrong. You should try to make the early team as non-diverse as possible.

Silicon Valley’s very monolithic culture is really made up of multiple components encompassing values, demographics, and priorities. …


I was transporting a Toyota 4Runner from New Mexico to Mountain View and decided to take the scenic route through the canyons of Baja. Try it sometime, it’s worth it. After some exuberant offroading, the left front tire went flat with a grain-sized hole in the sidewall.

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Attempts to reinflate with a portable air compressor led to the orifice exhaling in my face. I pushed a rice-shaped pebble into the hole and inflated again. A 200-meter crawl and we were flat once more. Useless. I would have to cross rim-crushing rockfalls before returning to pavement.

Rumor had it there was a full-sized spare attached to the underside of the truck. Hidden behind the rear interior panel was a bottle jack. Beyond that, I was on my own. …


I was having lunch with my friend Jeff the other day.

“You’re living like a homeless person,” he said. “Stanford must be so proud.”

I thought that was funny. And Stanford doesn’t care. The Stanford community is quite accepting of its lower-wage earners.

In fact, a Stanford student found pawing through a dumpster behind Trader Joe’s would be regarded with whimsy. We might assume she was a hipster or political progressive. But a Harvard graduate diving in the same dumpster would draw shock and disgust and bring great shame to his dynasty.

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Harvard students are held to a completely different standard of judgment than kids from the west coast. …


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Lessons on life and adventure from an aerobatic pilot, a motocross champion, and an octogenarian author

What happens when your best days are behind you? This has been a very real fear ever since I hit 30. My memory isn’t what it once was. My vision is deteriorating. And I’m pretty sure I’m shrinking.

I first met Marc when he was the recipient of a Barnacle delivery. I dropped off his outboard motor and spotted a framed picture of a Meyers Out-to-Win on his garage wall.

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Nice, I said.

That used to be my plane.

Wow. Do you still fly?

Nah, he said. I just turned 80. I lost my high-pitch hearing many years ago. …


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The Roles of Technical and Non-Technical Cofounders

Dear Non-Technical Cofounders,

A Technical Cofounder’s job is not to write code. Stop treating your cofounder like a commodity you could outsource to Bulgaria. That’s a waste of a CS PhD’s time.

Writing code is not a secret ninja skill, as much as we would like for you to believe that it is.

Python, Java, Lisp — whatever your cofounder’s weapon of choice — is a language in which to communicate an idea. A doctor may communicate his diagnosis to the patient in English, but fluency in English is not what a doctor advertises as his primary asset.

The ability to write code brings an idea into responsive, communicable form. But a Technical Cofounder’s job is not to write code any more than a French cofounder’s job is to translate all your ideas to French. The job of a Technical Cofounder is to be a Cofounder. …


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The trails at Shoreline are caked with goose droppings. Thousands of Canadian geese call this place their home, and they never leave.

There was a time when Canadian geese would migrate twice a year. But at Shoreline, visitors feed them sandwich crusts until they’re too fat to fly.

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No wonder they don’t want to migrate 1400 miles back to Canada. There’s no free food in Canada.

That’s how animals became domesticated. Humans had food, wild animals came for the scraps, and the ones who could play nice with people got more food. …


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Torpedo damage builds character.

I didn’t tell anyone before I set off to ride an old dirt bike around the continent of Australia. Well, I told a handful of people that I would take a short jaunt to Melbourne. Already I was met with opposition: You don’t know anything about camping. Gigantic spiders will eat you. You might get lost. Stuff on the bike is gonna break. You’ll crash somewhere and get stuck.

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Woops.

Guess what? All of those things happened. But they were worth it.

I will never ever tell someone that a venture is a bad idea (although I absolutely tell everybody that remaining at their soul-sucking job is a terrible idea). …

About

Elaine Ou

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