Final Blog Entry

This has been one of the most exciting classes I have had the pleasure of taking at Pellissippi.  The main reason I enjoyed this class was because I knew what to expect from beginning to end.  Dr. Brown laid everything out in a very detailed manner especially his expectations for tests and all assignments.  And the material was very easy to consume.

In addition to the ease of information, the material itself was very interesting.  My three favorite topics were computers, databases, and robotics.  There wasn’t really a topic that I didn’t like though.  If we would have been learning scratch and HTML in greater detail, that would have been difficult and not very enjoyable.  But Dr. Brown covered the material at a level that simply created a strong foundation to build upon if the desire was actually there without making you feel overwhelmed with the level of detail required.

The database information was my favorite part, especially the SQL and security portions, because that is actually the field that I am going into.  It’s always good to get more information on an area with which you are already familiar.  I also enjoyed the robotics portion because of how much I used to love to play with Lego’s.

If there was one thing I didn’t like about the class, it would have to be these blogs.  It’s kind of like keeping a journal, and that is something I have never been able to do consistently.  And if there were one aspect of the material that I had trouble absorbing, it would have been the philosophical side of the computer industry.  I find it very hard to believe that computers will ever be able to compete with humans when it comes to the human brain.  A computer can only be as smart as its programmer.

But, at the rate things are going (based on Moore’s Law), I just may be around still to see myself be proven wrong.  I don’t think so though.  I think Moore’s law is about to expire.  It’s just like a rope losing locality to me: you can only cut a rope in half so many times, and then it no longer exists.  Of course the problem with my thought process is that technology is not being reduced (cut in half) it’s actually being increased!  Well, we’ll see!

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

During the class lecture, we discussed such aspects of human beings like awareness, feelings, consciousness etc.  This is a very interesting topic, the philosophy of computers, but one that is given far too much credit.  Based on the definition of each of these items, computers simply can not have those traits.  They are human by nature, and computers will NEVER be able to do anything that a HUMAN created it to do or gave it the ability to do. This specifically is separate from the ability of programming a computer to think.

Even in the year 2040, when it has been predicted based on Moore’s law that we will be able to build a computer with the computing capabilities of a brain, we still will not have the ability to program a computer to think or express feelings.  Any movement or choice will always be carried out based on a strict set of rules or code.  The only difference is that the code will get longer and longer.

Working in the lab with the car that my partner and I built, it was simply a small scale example of this reality.  The car only had the ability to do exactly what we instructed it to do.  The car didn’t have the ability to do anything outside of the building constraints, and then it was only able to do what we programmed it to do with the software.

Having the ability to work with the legos and the software was a great experience though.  I actually grew up with the mechanics and the legos, so it was kind of a flashback for me.  The only difference was that the only drivers we had with our sets were cranks and rubber bands.  There are so many other capabilities with the tools in the class, it’s just unfortunate that there isn’t more time to play around with the parts.  It’s definitely something I would be able to spend a Saturday working on, putting together an operating robot; but only if I got to keep it!

 

Scratch

Scratch is a very neat application that reminds me very much of visual.  It has its own language that has been simplified to the point that even a five year old can create some type of creative programwith it.  It uses code like forever and forever if that is the same as visual’s do loops and do while/until loops.  You can even name and use variables to write a mathematics program with nearly any capability.

Scratch DayComing up with an idea for my own scratch program was not easy, because their site is set up with the mindset of a social network like Facebook, and it has become so popular that every good idea has been taken.  There are currently more than two million programs that people have written and submitted to the site.  Programs have been written to do everything from pong to pac-man. 

I’m glad that I have been introduced to this site and software, because it is definitely something that will come in handy in the future.  I look forward to the day when a program like this exists that can be placed anywhere without the scratch program being in the background to run it: like in Power Point for example.  But for now, it’s fun to use just for entertainment.

HTML

Each week seems to be more enlightening and informative than the one before, and this week was no exception.  When initially faced with the daunting task of creating a web page from scratch, I felt frustrated knowing that hours would be spent figuring out a new language, but the way it was presented in class in addition to the overall simplicity of HTML, creating my first web page was a piece of cake.  HTML is a pretty simple language set up in a logical manner.  It does seem to be sympathetic to mistakes as well, even though it may what you are trying to accomplish with your code doesn’t work perfectly, it’s not like the page simply gives you an error and doesn’t load at all.

I think my favorite feature with HTML is the way everything is text but when it loads into a web page it converts it in to something much more pleasing to the eye.  I especially like how you can pull in almost any data from anywhere on the web by using addresses.

I look forward to becoming more advanced in this area as this is something I can definitely use in the future!

ALS Blog

Software has gone through some major changes since the beginning of computer time.  Software are basically the group of computer programs that tell a computer what to do and how to do it.  Software programs are written all in a code or language in which the computer can understand.  The ALS program that we used in class was a great example of how this takes place.

The first step to creating software is to create a program that can convert “our language” into computer language.  Once you have determined exatly what it is you wish to accomplish, the code is put into the program and then assmebled.  The program must be reset, and then it can be loaded into the ram.  It then follows the instructions that you have given it to carry out the tasks that you want to occur.

The more complex you wish the program or software to be, the more complex the instructions and language will be.  Something like an operating system is extremely complex because it drives the entire CPU.   User interface is where the crossover occurs from human to computer, and just with software, it has become more and more complex over the years.  As we get smarter, coding becomes easier because programs can be created to aid in the creation of newer and better programs.  It has even been said that in time we wont understand computers at all because they will be completely creating themselves!

Thus far, having covered the basics of computer history and how the machines were thought up, the general computer language which is binary, hardware, and now software, I have a much better understanding of how this machine that has become an extension of me came to be and continues to rule our world.  I look forward to delving further into the minds of the geniuses who are responsible for the technology of our recent past and near future.

Week Three: Building a Computer

The first step to building a new computer is determining what components I wanted in my computer, and then finding a case big enough to hold all the components.  Being the tightwad that I am, I have very little that I would need in my desktop, therefore, my case can be fairly small.  Here is the case that I have chosen:

hec Black 0.7mm Thickness SECC Steel 7K09BBA30FNRX Micro ATX Media Center 300W Power Supply / HTPC Case (Model:7K09BBA30FNRX) $59.99

The next step is to choose a motherboard, and mine is fairly inexpensive with many built in components:

Pentium G840/H61 HTPC Supercombo

ASUS P8H61-M (REV 3.0) LGA 1155 Intel H61 HDMI Micro ATX Intel Motherboard (Model:P8H61-M (REV 3.0)) $79.00

Because I like to watch a lot of netflix and have yet to find the appropriate software to record it, I would purchase the hardware to allow this capability:

Pentium G840/H61 HTPC Supercombo

Hauppauge WinTV HVR-1250 Hybrid TV Tuner /Video Recorder 1196 PCI-Express x1 Interface (Model:1196 HAUPPAUGE) $64.99

The next step would be to add the memory and I have again with a very inexpensive choice that has the ability to quickly run the programs that I would need:

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10600CL9D-4GBNT (Model:F3-10600CL9D-4GBNT) $23.49

Next would be the brain of the computer, the processor, which again, I would not need much power, and got off fairly cheap here:

Pentium G840/H61 HTPC Supercombo

Intel Pentium G840 Sandy Bridge 2.8GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000 BX80623G840 (Model:BX80623G840) $82.88

The next and most expensive component of my computer would be the hard drive.


Seagate Barracuda ST31000524AS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive (Model:ST31000524AS)
$139.96

And lastly, I would need a DVD writer, and with the price of DVD-R’s dropping every day, I would not even use a CD writer, as anything I had on CD that I wanted to use on my system, I would simply use another computer to copy the information on to a DVD:

 
LITE-ON 24X DVD Writer Black SATA Model iHAS424-98 LightScribe Support (Model:iHAS424-98)                                                                                                      $25.99

And that would complete my build out!  Total cost:                                                    $476.30

 

 

 

 

 

 

011000100110100101101110011000010111001001111001

I have always been fascinated by the fact that everything most things within a computer are controlled by strings of ones and zeros.  It never made sense to me until taking this class and walking through the steps of what the ones and zeros actually do.  It is still very hard for me to grasp the concept of some aspects of the coding however.  Such as converting music into digital format.  I can understand how music is recorded on to tape or a record, but it starts getting fuzzy when I think digital.  The reason is this: you have software that is generated by 1′s and 0′s that converts the music into 1′s and 0′s, but it seems like there needs to be a “middle man.”  Until I really started to think about the fact that music in all of it’s complexity is really “measurable,” I couldn’t figure it out.  But now that I know that decibels and frequencies can really be broken down into it’s simplest form, it makes sense that it can then be converted into 1′s and 0′s, or switches.

I would like to see what a song looks like in complete code, but I was unable to find that on the web in the brief time I searched for it.  I did however find this picture that somewhat shows the breakdown:

Binary is a fascinating thing to me as well as the concept of MIDI encoding.  And it gets even more complex when you start looking at how video is converted.  It seems like there is still a long ways to go with how binary can be used even with all the current accomplishments, and I look forward to seeing how technology continues to evolve in this area!