This Is The End???? Oh! Of the Semester!

Okay, let’s start with the big picture. First – I have learned a little bit about how computers actually work. This included learning about the language of computers, Binary. Next – I learned about putting a computer together with it’s bare parts. After that – I learned about how a computer’s processing works, with an Assembly Language Simulator. Second – I have learned a teensy tiny bit about programing with HTML and with programs such as SCRATCH. Thirdly – I have learned about more advanced technologies such as Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality.

What stands out the most in my mind is probably hand coding my web page in HTML. It was a very challenging project. And I felt like it tested me. After my initial panic about the assignment, and the many hours pouring over the tutorials to learn how HTML works, I really enjoyed writing my page. I’m so thankful I figured out how to create and modify tables. That was the key to successfully creating a page that looked good.

What most intrigued me, however, would either be Robotics or Virtual Reality. Both are crazy cool. Looking a little deeper into the world of robotics reveals how close we are to having artificial limbs that can replace lost limbs with incredible functionality. Arms that use sensors to actually move, and grab and release objects, and they do so when/how their operator desires! And researching virtual reality shows how pervasive it is in our world. It is extremely likely that people today have at least one “avatar” of themselves (if not several) in games that are virtual worlds. And, most mind-blowing of all, is the fact that people have made “real” money from “virtual” worlds. Actual money. In this world. Like I said earlier, it’s crazy.

All in all, I feel like this semester I have learned the most in this particular class. I know it has had a broad range of topics, but the information about each topic was very rich. I can honestly say that I enjoyed this class. I do wish that I had been able to take the class on campus instead of online, because I feel like I missed out by not getting to actually hear the lectures each week. But that’s okay. I have made it to the end of the semester without giving up, and I’m proud of myself.

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Artificial Intelligence

I had absolutely no idea how much artificial intelligence exists! It’s everywhere! Games like Halo, and the Sims. Who knew? I sure didn’t. Or, at least, I hadn’t really thought about it. I also hadn’t really thought about how a computer could beat a person in a game of chess. But after seeing how a game tree works, it makes a little more sense. I mean- the fact that Deep Blue could examine over 200 million game positions per second, is pretty substantial.

I also don’t know if I fully understand about neural networks. How can we train something to learn some pattern, but then not really know what it learned? That’s complicated and very confusing. Anyway, that’s it for this week on Artificial Intelligence.

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Secure? What’s that?

I never realized the quantity of types of malware and viruses that exist! After I finish this blog, I’m going to run an anti-malware scan on my computer. Seriously, it’s not cool. Worms, trojans, viruses, spyware, logic bombs, rootkits!!!! This is a nightmare.

I now understand why hardware firewalls exist. But even those don’t offer perfect protection for your computer. I’m not sure what type of malware I would consider the most harmful. For a network, I might say a worm could cause the most damage. But for a single computer perhaps a rootkit is cause for most concern, since they try to seize control of the OS and also try to make their presence unknown. Because, how can you get rid of something that can’t be detected??

One more thing I really took note of this week is John Draper hacking the phone system with a child’s toy from a cereal box. Not only is this fact very interesting, but it’s also extremely amusing to me. Captain Crunch is a very resourceful hacker. I have to give him props for creativity.

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“SCRATCH”ing my head…

So, this week I have been introduced to the world of writing programs. Who knew? Anyway, it’s a pretty cool thing. “Scratch” is a neat little program that has some pretty powerful capabilities. You can create animations and make stories or games. It’s a pretty easy to use program, as well. The instructions are straightforward, and that makes it much more fun than I was anticipating. I was dreading having to code a program for the next week, with little to no help from anyone or anything. Thank goodness that’s not the case!

At first, the example videos seemed a bit too simplistic. I thought, “there’s no way it’s really that easy.” But then I tried a couple of things, and to my surprise- it really is quite easy to make the sprites move and dance and “talk” to each other. Now I just need to figure out what I want my program to be/do…and make it. So, until next time!

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It Has Happened!

I finally finished my webpage and uploaded it to the web server! Gracious, that was a big project. I can’t believe I actually have written a HTML web page from scratch…And it looks good! I know it isn’t perfect, but at least I feel like I did a good job with it. I now have more respect for people with careers in web design. While it may be a really fun and interesting field, it is also very complex and detailed. I also believe this would be a very rewarding career choice. You are able to see your work unfold and turn into something that the world (in theory) can view. That’s a pretty big audience. Of course, there’s also the flip side of the coin. You know, those moments when you need to have something put together or fixed, and your boss/company wants it done yesterday. That would be a pain. And stressful. But still…

Also, this week’s topic was databases. I think it’s really cool how relational databases work. It makes perfect sense to me to have something “common” in the tables so that data doesn’t have to be re-entered numerous times but can just be linked together with other relevant information. If you ask me, that’s brilliant.

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Web Page Design

Holy Crow!! I’m building my own webpage! ………………. Okay… Now wait a minute… This is actually really difficult. Hand coding my own HTML web page? Seriously? This is incredibly interesting, but even more challenging. I have never even looked at HTML code before! Now I’m supposed to write a web page about 3 hobbies or interests I have. This might not turn out too well.

The layout of the page is, by far, what I’m having the most trouble with. I know what I want to create the page about, but I’m having a lot of difficulty with making the page look how I want it to look. I think that tables are the answer to this problem. But I still have a lot to figure out about making the tables. I’m glad the web page isn’t due for another week. Perhaps I’ll have a breakthrough. Or perhaps not…

At least I understand that when I make a table, I have to start a row with <tr> and end it with </tr> , and the same idea for each cell in a row by using <td> and </td> to sort of “surround” the cell’s content. That’s a start, right? Ha ha! All in all, I find HTML coding to be a lot of fun. Tedious, yes, but still fun. And hopefully, I can figure out how I can make my page look good.

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Assembly Language

This week I got to use an Assembly Language Simulator for class. It was really cool. Getting to see how a program written in assembly language is “assembled” into machine code and then loaded into memory locations was awesome. Going step by step through a few programs made it possible to watch what was happening in the program counter, the instruction register, and the registers. And getting to run the programs let me see the ALS receive input from me and store that into memory, as well as giving an output to the screen of something stored in memory. So, things are starting to click a little bit. I’m beginning to understand more of how a computer works. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to completely understand, but at least I have a good base knowledge. Most of it still seems to hold true with being “indistinguishable from magic.”

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My Own Computer!

So this week I get to talk about how I would build a computer and what parts I would build it with. So, here are some specs.

Sunbeam Transformer IC-TR-US-BA-WOPSU Black Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case

  • With Power Supply: No
  • Power Supply Mounted: Top
  • With Side Panel Window: Yes
  • External 5.25″ Drive Bays: 5
  • Model #: IC-TR-US-BA-WOPSU
  • Item #: N82E16811166004

I picked this tower because I like the window side panel. For $69.99 at Newegg.com.

Sunbeam PSU-H680-REV-US-BL 680W ATX 12V 2.0 Power Supply – OEM

  • Fans: 120mm LED fan with Fan Grill
  • Main Connector: 20+4Pin
  • +12V Rails: 2
  • PCI-Express Connector: 1 x 6-Pin
  • Model #: PSU-H680-REV-US-BL
  • Item #: N82E16817709025

The sunbeam case does not come with a power supply, so I picked this one because of the led fan. I think that would add to the effect through the window side panel. For $39.99 from Newegg.

MSI 785GT-E63 AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 785G HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard

  • Number of Memory Slots: 4×240pin
  • Memory Standard: DDR2 533/667/800/1066 (OC)
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16: 1
  • Onboard Video Chipset: ATI Radeon HD 4200
  • Model #: 785GT-E63
  • Item #: N82E16813130266

I liked the price of this motherboard from MSI at $64.99. It seemed like a steal, with DDR2 support, several PCI slots, and sata connections for the drives.

AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition Deneb 3.4GHz Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor HDZ965FBGMBOX

  • 4000MHz
  • 45 nm Deneb
  • 6MB L3 Cache

I picked this processor for it’s Phenom II Quad- Core’s. For $129.99.

Kingston 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model KVR800D2K2/4GR

  • Cas Latency: 6
  • Voltage: 1.8V
  • Multi-channel Kit: Dual Channel Kit
  • Heat Spreader: No
  • Model #: KVR800D2K2/4GR
  • Item #: N82E16820134730

Since my motherboard doesn’t support DDR3 Ram, I went with this Kingston DDR2 kit. For $49.99.

Western Digital Caviar Blue WD5000AAKX 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

  • 500GB
  • 7200 RPM 16MB Cache
  • SATA 6.0Gb/s

I figure, 500Gb is plenty of space for my hard drive. By the time I fill this up, we probably won’t even use hard drives like these anymore. For $44.99.

HP 16x DVD-RW Optical Drive Black SATA Model 447328-B21 LightScribe Support

  • Type: DVD Burner
  • DVD+R: 16X
  • DVD-R: 16X
  • CD-R: 40X
  • Model #: 447328-B21
  • Item #: N82E16827140059

I chose this optical drive for the price. $69.99 for a dvd/cd burner.

EVGA GeForce GT 430 (Fermi) 01G-P3-1430-LR Video Card

  • GeForce GT 430 (Fermi)
  • 1GB DDR3
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16

And I decided to go for this video card, just in case I wanted to do some small-time video editing. This has 1Gb DDR3 on the card. And it’s a steal at only $59.99.

Logitech Wireless Combo MK260 920-002950 Black USB RF Wireless Standard Keyboard and Mouse

  • Mouse Included: Yes
  • Tracking Method: Optical
  • Buttons: 3
  • Mouse Color: Black
  • Model #: 920-002950
  • Item #: N82E16823126197

Now that I have the computer parts, I need the input devices! So I picked this Logitech keyboard/mouse combo. For $29.99.

eMachines E210HVB Black 21.5″ Full HD WideScreen LCD Monitor

  • LED Backlight: No
  • D-Sub: 1
  • DVI: No
  • Stand Adjustments: Tilt: -5°~ 15°
  • Model #: ET.WE0HP.002
  • Item #: N82E16824114009

And now I need a nice HD monitor to use with my computer. For $99.99, this was the largest size screen for under 100 bucks on Newegg.

 

Now that I have my parts, I must assemble them!

I would start by opening my case and installing the power supply, optical drive, and the hard drive. Next I would install the processor onto the motherboard, and place the motherboard inside the case. After connecting the front panel connections to the motherboard, then comes the memory, followed by installing the video card. After I have put all these parts in the case, I would connect the power to everything, and connect the drives to the motherboard. Then I would close the case, and connect the keyboard, mouse, and monitor. And viola!

This has been a very fun post to write! See you later!

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The Language of Computers

This week’s lecture and comic were about the “language” that computers speak – Binary! It’s hard to believe that everything a computer does (input, processing, storage, and output) is sequences of 1′s and 0′s. From simple text, to dizzying video, as well as touching music and audio. All is done by a computer with bits, which are 1′s and 0′s. Crazy. And thinking about how the number system we use is base 10 probably because we have 10 fingers is, again, crazy. What if we had 11 fingers? or 9? It makes my head hurt a bit thinking about it. Anyway, I guess that’s it for now.

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A New Beginning

Welcome to a new semester at Pellissippi. It should prove an exciting term. Already I am fascinated by the history of computers. And I look forward to learning about where they have come and where they could be going.

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