Coming down to the Wire…

In our last lecture for CSIT Intro, Dr. Brown encourages,  “find something you are interested in and Do IT!” It wasn’t the first time, I’ve heard him say it but it reminded me of something I heard two weeks earlier.  I was eating lunch at a family gathering. My sister and her husband invited both sides of their family for an Easter brunch. Both sides are large families and the range of attendees was newborns to grandparents with a large contingent of college students to recent college grads. Cousin Bill was talking to Wyman about his upcoming graduation in logistics. Bill was under the impression that graduating from UT Business in Logistics was a pretty big deal since UT’s program ranks in the top 10 in the U.S.(It may be top 5?). Aunt Mary Ellen says that she heard that the starting salaries for grads was upward of $60,000. She asks him if he is pretty excited about his job prospects and was he interviewing for jobs? Wyman says, “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I’m going to go to graduate school” in basically basket weaving. That’s not the field he said and that is not the point. The point is, Wyman has spent four plus years going to school in a program that many would love to be admitted to. A top college in a hot field and he is not interested in pursuing the best job that he can get. So, why did he do it?

One of the great things about this introductory course is the fact that there was exposure to all things computing. From bits and bytes to programming robots. There was quite a depth of the knowledge presented in this course. Gaming, Social consciousness, the Singularity, Big Brother, Code crackers, hackers, 3D printers, etc. There was a lot of topics that I had never been introduced to. When I get some free time, there are mega links that I can revisit and some that I never got a chance to review. Even if I just have a few once I open one, it leads to so many more links that can be found at the sites I visit. How many days would it take to hear all the TED talks. As it been said, anything I want to learn, I can find on the internet. I guess I have known that to some extent. When I have had to figure out how to get spyware off of my computer, I have been to Forums that have introduced me to “Super-AntiSpyware” and “Malware” and others that really do the job that the crappy McAfee was supposed to.

There is a  downside to just learning on your own. People don’t hire computer programmers into well paid jobs at established companies when they are self-taught. They may know what they are doing, but there is a defined path one is expected to take.  But one of the better aspect of going to school to learn something is being able to learn from someone who already knows and can teach and lead over the pitfalls and valleys that a self teacher can stumble into and never get out. I speak from experience. I tried to teach myself the database program Access. I had some success but I never got the tables right and kept falling into the same bad habits. I bet I spent two weeks working to develop a database for my sales reports only in the end to give up. I needed someone to guide me through it.

Some of this course was difficult to me. Programming in Alice. Scratch was not as difficult but synchronizing Sprites was  time-consuming. The Lego Robot was a challenge but with a team to work on the problems, it made it go faster. Team work definitely facilitates quicker learning it seems. But nothing is impossible to learn if there is a real interest to learn. That brings me back to Wyman.

Wyman to me seems to have just been going through the motions. He seems to think that working in logistics for life is going to be like being under house arrest but being paid. This is got to be vastly short sighted and there is a real lack of imagination there. This is something I have seen in other “kids” his age. There are preconceived notions of what there jobs are going to be like. Clock in and clock out for life in a job. If I were going to graduate in logistics, I’d take a job for $60 grand a year and if I didn’t like it, I find something in logistics that didn’t tie me to a desk. (And here is where I’ll tie this into this class…) Steves Jobs and Wozniak are perfect examples of people who dispensed with preconceived notions of what could be possible. Jobs wasn’t confined to being a Calligraphy expert for the rest of his life. They used what they learned to get to the jumping off point in their lives and then they jumped. It was the same with all the creative minds in computing. Randy Pausch had big dreams and found ways to make them come true. Turing did the same. I think that what this class taught more than computing was to go for it. Dream big and find a way to make it happen. Create. Create. Create. Program your self.




On Second Thought….

Robotics is becoming very sophisticated. That’s not to say that they are becoming humanistic. We have made great leaps in the mechanical progress of machines but it is not really a great leap in evolutionary progress of man. It is only a scientific advancement that can be socially useful. A robot is a machine that can perform a or some defined (or designed) task. The brains are all the human ones that write the program however difficult the task, The bots are “computerized” machines not any more human than the Roomba. Robots have no will, no desire, and no need.Could the Roomba decide for itself that today at 2pm when no one is usually home, that it will not perform it’s scheduled task because it’s master is asleep at home unexpectedly because he is ill and doesn’t want to awakened. Or could the Roomba just not vacuum today because it just “didn’t feel like it”? Could it not “feel like it” because it is overworked and needs a vacation?  Do you have to give a set amount of time off for a robot? Is that because of the state laws or Federal laws or just due to P.E.T.oR. (People for the Ethical Treatment of Robots)?We have heard of an instance where a computer designed a cell phone based on parameters programmers gave it. Could it invent a light bulb? Could three or four of them herd sheep as well as a trained Australian sheep Dog?

There is science fiction in which robots try to take over the world. That would be a lot of coordination. Where would they meet secretly to plan the takeover? Would there be enough powered electrical outlets so that they would all be able to secretly get back to the places they were supposed to be before they were discovered missing? Would any of them be subject to recall like all the Chevy Volts due to potential fire issues when charging. Would this be what made them upset enough to want to take over? Would these type of travel restrictions cause them to have to do everything over the internet? How would they keep it a secret so that the NSA and Homeland Security wouldn’t have them under surveillance at the drop of a hat? Could they set up there own e-mail account in Outlook? Would just one of them feel remorseful and that the takeover thing was a bad idea and then spill the beans on the whole crew?

We have a lot to look forward to but let’s don’t get too carried away thinking these machines are more than what they really are.

See you in class…

Artificial my…Robotic arm

Artificial Intelligence, isn’t that what I see when Rock Stars talk about politics or when Whoopi Goldberg, Barbara Walters, Joy somebody all discuss current events on “The View? Somehow that isn’t what I think this blog was asked to be about.

Robots, (computerized machines) can only display the knowledge that is programmed into them, or so I originally thought. Now it seems with neural programming, a computer has built another computer. Somehow it is still the results of what has been programmed into it.

The most complicated of Robots that seem intelligent, have multiple computers controlling them. A lot of what I have seen almost can be describes as sophisticated choreography. The functions of what they can do is very limited in my opinion, but it is a great start.

Robots have become very functional. Sending them into burning buildings with cameras and sensors to find people inside is not that complicated to me. Build a robot that can withstand high heat. Put a camera on it. Have sensors that allows it to move around the building. Have sensors that detect humans or animals (infrared perhaps). The robot just needs to roll and be able to get around obstructions.

I bet robotic computer resources were mega-expensive until recently. It seems like they are cheaper and more universally accessible than they were previously. From my statement above, don’t assume I think that programming them is a breeze as my attempts to program Lego Mind Storm robots was no picnic. But for someone already employed in the Robotics industry, programming a Lego robot wouldn’t take anytime. Experience would help a lot. Something that I could achieve with another six weeks of labs and I’ll have it down cold.

“It Ain’t Science Fiction No More”

I never was a fan of science fiction. I had enough trouble when I was growing up trying to determine what reality was without having someone add to the “unreality” of the whole situation. If it wasn’t possible, why waste time thinking about it. “It’s not real” might have been something I would say as I disparaged someone else’s taste for the science fiction. As I read through the comic text last week, I was struck by how far back in time the references go. It made me think of science fiction in a different light. After seeing some of the videos of the Honda Robot and the Sony Robot, it made me realize that the science fiction of my youth is not fiction anymore.

The introduction to computer classes has stimulated my imagination in ways that might have been possible in my youth had I had a more open mind to what science fiction was. I find that it is true, if I am not strongly interested in a topic then I will overlook or miss what a presenter is sometimes trying to convey and the point of view from which it comes. Frankenstein is such an example. I was never interested in monsters or werewolves or the Swamp Thing as a child. I didn’t think they were very scary and usually the plot was very shallow.They were not presented in the same way as it was presented in the Comic Text: “It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn” was the quote from Victor F. used in the comic and something I would never have seen in Shelley’s novel because I wouldn’t have read it. Perhaps since “modern” science was made to look so “un-modern” with the dark labs and smoking chemical vats and test tubes, the depth of the thought about real scientific  advancement never took flight in the imagination of my mind.

I had a friend, Steve, when I was 12 that was a bit different. He wanted me to build a spaceship with him that could take off to the moon. We first started experimenting with the homemade gun powder with chemicals we could find at the local drug store (maybe charcoal and some salt peter). We would mess around with the formula a little and watch the powders burn in our make shift pestles. It kind of reminded me of Homer and his friends in the movie “October Sky” but a lot less “prodigous” and a lot less dedicated. I got tired of the chore.  I wasn’t going to be a rocket scientist and neither was my friend. We were bad at this “rocket-hacking thing”. Together we didn’t have enough scientific knowledge to bounce our ideas off each other and the other kids in the neighborhood weren’t the brightest bulbs in the neighborhood and weren’t of any use no matter their ages. In hindsight, most of my enthusiasm came from playing with matches.

Now the tools are all available for 12 years old of today to be able to build their own rocket ships. The resources are online for how to make bigger bangs than we were able to get. Private companies are providing what could only be provided for by governments before. With personal drones and remote controls and GPS and You Tube, Steve and I might have been a lot further along in our project before we gave up to devote more time to our basketball skills.  But on the other hand, or maybe both hands literally, not having those resources might be the reason we each still have ten fingers.

See you in class.


Cyber security, hacking, etc.

I don’t understand why someone would maliciously attempt to infect someone else’s computer with a virus or malware. It’s just not right. I’ve had some problems in the past with viruses and rootkit malware at a time when I didn’t have the time to mess with them. That just made them worse.

I had a business that I sold over a year ago. When it was the week of closing, my computer got infected by a virus that took control of my homepage and also buried itself in some of my backup drives. At first the computer slowed to a crawl. I needed a fast computer to complete 3 payrolls and develop Profit and Loss Statements and Balance Sheets and my computer wouldn’t cooperate. There were a few nights of very little sleep until closing. Even after, I had to rebuild some of the steps that I had taken and trying to make sure everything was correct.

Luckily I found some good websites that helped to  steer me to some free programs that would help resolve some of my issues. SuperAntiSpyware, HiJack This, and a free Kaspersky program were just a few of the programs I ran. My problems were further complicated because the virus knocked out my networking ability and I couldn’t connect to the internet. I had to copy files from one computer and put them on a jump drive and then send them by e mail. It was very time consuming. I had so called security software installed on the computer (McAfee) but it was worthless.

Now I have a program Kaspersky’s that I think does a very good job of keeping viruses out. Another way I prevent attacks is by keeping my son off of my computer. This is how I got those nasty programs. He likes to go to sites that I think he shouldn’t and as a result, risk of infections increase.

The other security problems that we can’t do anything about is privacy. I don’t have anything to hide from our government, I obey our laws, have no influence in affairs of the government, I don’t know anybody that does. I have no doubt however that if our government wanted to see what was on my computer, they wouldn’t have to knock on the door and come in. They can probably do it from their offices and hook into my internet service providers accounts and view all they want. It may not be information that they could present in a court of law, but that is not what they are looking for. They would look for something that could get you into the court of law.

Years ago I met a man who sold me a mortgage. As I spent time with him, he told how he had software that kept anyone from being able to trace the location of his computer and his identity. He was a bit of a conspiracy theory guy. He told me I should get a book about the Federal Reserve, “The Unseen Hands” or something like that which gave the history of 5 families that controlled the world and all money. I thought he was a bit kooky but it made me think. This was in 1986 many years before 9/11 and any of Homeland Security type of laws that have restricted our rights to privacy. I  can understand a governments need to know. I can also understand people can overstep their bounds. I’m glad bad guys are caught but our freedoms have been restricted. It is becoming a guilty until proven innocent type of system these days.


If it itches….Scratch it!

I enjoy working with Scratch. This gives me a new insight into computer programming. Working with scratch gives me some idea of how many things I see on TV or on the internet are developed. Quite cool.

I had problems originally trying to work around a bug in the program. A sprite embedded itself on my stage and it wouldn’t go away. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to copy my scripts for my Spites and export them to another file. It didn’t work. As a results, I had to start over. And as I began the first time, the same thing happened. So, I was at a loss as what I should do. So I uninstalled the program from my computer and re-installed it. By now I was tired of my original project and began a new one.

“No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.”
― Randy PauschThe Last Lecture

Since my creative juices were flowing, I decided to use Photoshop and my Graphics Tablet. I had great vision of creating

backgrounds that would be worthy of “SouthPark”. I would place my sprites in front of these backgrounds and everything would be great.  I also discovered the musical keyboard and began to create a score for the production. But, nothing was working like I thought it would.  But this is a lesson learned about programming. And this is kindergarten programming.

“Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. You’ve got to get the fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff isn’t going to work.”
― Randy Pausch

To program takes a lot of analysis. If I just had one sprite that was changing costumes it would be simpler. To choreograph two sprites takes a lot of planning. If I was programming the guidance computers to land Apollo astronauts on the moon, we probably would be delaying the launch. It wouldn’t be a good idea to not have the project finished before the astronauts launched. I haven’t finished the project but I will complete it this week.

“You can always change you plan, but only if you have one.”
― Randy PauschThe Last Lecture

The Randy Pausch lecture was very moving. What a dynamic guy. Someone so positive and full of advice can be kind of sickening. The fact that he knew he was dying and had an opportunity to deliver a message to his children about how to live makes what he did very admirable.

I was kind of baffled when he was giving women dating advice(don’t judge a man by what a man says, only what he does). But at the end it made sense. What a great parent   he must have been.

In such a short lecture, he gave a lot of advice.

“When there’s an elephant in the room introduce him.”
― Randy Pausch

“Do not tell people how to live their lives. Just tell them stories and they will figure out how those stories apply to them.”
― Randy Pausch

“The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”
― Randy PauschThe Last Lecture

I’ve been around people in my life that are a bit like Randy Pausch. They are teachers 24 hours a day, even if they aren’t teachers professionally. There is an understanding they have that they are willing to share. Many times it has been professional people such as a pharmacist or a nurseryman. They instruct about the specifics in their field of work but they also can instruct you about life. They constantly have a bigger picture in their view and are willing to help you expand yours. I am grateful for those lessons learned.

“It’s a thrill to fulfill your own childhood dreams, but as you get older, you may find that enabling the dreams of others is even more fun.”
― Randy PauschThe Last Lecture


See you in class.



What do you know?

SO THAT’s How They Do It

Before this class, I really didn’t have a clue as to how web pages were made. I assumed that most were like “Word Press Blogging”, you could pick a template and there you go, you are in business. I had heard of the program “Front Page” and assumed that if I was creating a webpage, I would construct a document much more along the lines of using “Publisher” where I would create a text box with borders and insert photos and such until the letter size page could be pasted as a whole as a webpage. Much like a newsletter that I would print and hand out to my local neighborhood association. Hmmm, I guess I was wrong…sort of.

I can see a resemblance in how textboxes and templates can be used for web pages just as in newsletter. The difference being, descriptions (or descriptors) are used (style sheets in CSS) that can be universally applied to every web page if wanted. There is a lot of flexibility using HTML and CSS to make web pages.

At first, I had a hard time coding the page. I would leave out a “>” or a “/” when needed and when I would try to open the HTML document in a browser, it was not what I thought it would be. Once I became a little more methodical and precise, the pages started coming together. One problem I had was trying to progress too quickly. I wanted to Bold and color and italicize and everything at once. It all went wrong. I confused adding CSS styles with basic HTML and things got confusing. I still have problems with my page but I understand it better. The columns that I tried to add early on haven’t materialized but that will come this week when I put together what I have learned. There is a real advantage to be able to style multiple pages as the same time. I think I’ll do better as I try to make everything more simple.

A friend that started a successful business integrating information from multiple operating system inside of hospitals to generate useful reports told me that his programmers were successful because they were basically smart but lazy. They didn’t want to program more than was necessary, He said a key was to make it very simple but precise. It didn’t make as much sense when he said it as it does now. Keep it simple.

Databases are very useful. A few years ago I attempted to teach myself “Access”. I was going to generate all kinds of useful data from my sales reports and customers reports that I received when I was selling medical supplies. I was going to take my monthly sales reports and synthesize them into tables and be able to tell you which of my accounts were buying the most item #40332s and which of those also were buying item #164221s and which months. I could see all kinds of possibilities and it was going to save me time from studying the monthly reports. There was just one problem. I couldn’t teach myself effectively. I couldn’t get my tables set up correctly so that the key data that was linked was correct. I still don’t know exactly what I needed to do to fix the problems that I was having with my links. I spent days on it and came up empty. I got behind on some other items that I needed to do.  I recognize the power inherent in the Databases and using SQL. I may attempt to learn it again if I can find the program on my old laptop.



Creating a Web Page

This has been a learning experience.

To start a web page, I am assuming that it will be the easier to go ahead and write out the content in a word processor and then go back and code the page. That wasn’t my original thought. I started my web page the other way around. First set up the page and then fill in the content. I tried and failed. I copied a Style sheet that was on the board in class, but when I encoded on my Note Pad, I didn’t play out. I kept changing things to make it work, such as adding missing closing tags and/or slashes. It still didn’t work. I thought that I  would modify the coding when I needed to change formats or paragraphs or add headings. This approach didn’t work so well.  Now by already having the content, I can cut and paste the “text and links” and place the tags before and after the elements where they belong hopefully. I still have some work to do on this.

I looked through the Tutorials and copied and pasted and made some reference pages that I can use. I got confused on CSS and Basic HTML, attributes and borders, etc….. . I look at website online and view their source codes. I first envision what I think should be there when I look at the code. In reality, they are so much more complex than I envision. What I didn’t envision is the level of complexity that I have yet to see in my researching.  I guess after a week of HTML I shouldn’t be expected to know how to code like Jonathan Harris. Check out these web pages.



We Feel Fine:

Here is a page that shows a collection of his works:

I guess where I have trouble is when I start to add attributes like centering and color. I will try again and start with the simplest of coding, header1, header 2, paragraphs, body, inserting links, and inserting an image. This assignment really is just about organization and order. It shouldn’t be difficult.  I think I will be successful next time.

After reading some of these tutorials and reading the blogs from the past years classes, I get an idea of how they created some of the web pages that I saw. I look forward to being able to use these creatively, maybe not quite as creatively as Jonathan Harris, but who knows.

See you in Class.

The Assembly Language Simulator

I enjoyed this lesson on the ALS. This helps me to understand the way instructions are written and how a computer carries out the steps it takes. It gives a good idea of how programming language is translated into binary and how execution takes place.

I get confused when “Value” and “Load” are used. If the number is the same as a RAM address location for these, sometimes I’ll put in the value from the statement and then sometimes I’ll put in the value in a memory address. It clears up when I go step by step.

By reading the simulator instruction, it makes more sense.

I like the exposure to the various topics we cover in class. It is not so much introducing me to new topics but it is tying the topics together in a way that I didn’t expect.

From what I have learned, it is my opinion that Babbage, Turing, Von Neumann were geniuses with their developments. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs although significant in their contributions, took advantage of and developed the abilities of others at an opportune times. Gates used IBM technologies and MacIntosh’s and Jobs others technology for the mouse and the graphic interface. They both had driven and significant vision that pushed the industry forward. Jobs may have been a marketing genius that allowed his company to another level. (I just contradicted myself, didn’t I?). Scientific genius versus marketing genius. Jobs knew ‘cool”.

I look forward to the rest of this class.

See you in class.





Lessons in Computer Building or Building the Perfect Beast

The computer I decided to build will be used for my everyday use. My original project was going to be a home theater PC to use for playing BluRay and for streaming movies from the internet. I was stymied from the start by the microATX cases I had to choose. I wanted a case with an LED and a remote control so that I would not need a keyboard to control the system. I didn’t find one that was within the budget I set for the system. I also was concerned that the onboard video of my motherboard options would be sufficient for 3D and other content. There are many media streaming options available that would accept input from anywhere within my home network so the home theater PC was shelved.

My computer will be used to replace my current desktop. I surf the net, email, do homework, and as far as intensive programs go, I edit photographs in Adobe Photoshop programs. In the future I plan to check out virtual reality so I will need a lot of graphics processing ability.

Here are the components, prices, and links.

NZXT Phantom 410 CA-PH410-B1 White Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case  $        99.99
ASUS P8Z68-V PRO/GEN3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard with UEFI BIOS  $      204.99
Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 3000 BX80623I52500K  $      229.99
XFX HD-667X-ZNFQ Radeon HD 6670 1GB 128-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card  $        79.99
Rosewill Xtreme Series RX850-S-B 850W Continuous @40°C ,80 PLUS Certified, ATX12V v2.2 & EPS12V v2.91, SLI Ready CrossFire Ready, Active PFC  $        99.99
Pioneer Black 12X BD-R 2X BD-RE 16X DVD+R 8X BD-ROM 4MB Cache SATA Blu-ray Burner BDR-206DBKS  $        94.00
HITACHI Deskstar 7K1000.D HDS721050DLE630 (0F13178) 500GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive  $         79.99
Corsair Force CSSD-F40GB2-A 2.5″ 40GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)  $        84.99
COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1 “Heatpipe Direct Contact” Long Life Sleeve 120mm CPU Cooler Compatible Intel Core i5 & Intel Core i7  $        29.99

Almost forgot the RAM:  Corsair Vengeance  DDR3 1600

4 GB X 4 for 16 GB total for                                                                          $89.00

I went with an Intel i5 microprocessor and corresponding ATX motherboard. The motherboard is a two time winner at NewEgg for Customer Choice Motherboard of the year.The motherboard will have plenty of slots. It has 3.0 USB on front and back. It has 7.1Channel Digital output audio.  It eill be fine for running Windows 7 or 8 when it arrives and is considered an upgrade from Windows 7. ( I can partition the Hitachi Hard Drive to run both Operating Systems as far as I know).

The i5 is not the fastest chip made, but it is considered to be a good value and fast. I used reviews to help me decide between the AMD 6 core and the Intel. From what I read, the Intel gets the most out of its chip, considering buses, and caches, and chipsets and all that good stuff. I will install Corsair Ram. I’ve used it before and have been pleased and it is priced right. The power Supply will be a Rosewill. It has 850 Watts and is 85% efficient. The wires are meshed sleeved so they will be more manageable and perhaps will not interfere with air flow. I will use CoolerMaster to cool my I5. One day I might move up to water cooling if the temperatures in my case aren’t what I wish. I will install a Pioneer Blu Ray writer player. I will use  SSD to boot the computer and it can also be used as cache.I will also have a 500GB Hitachi hard drive for the majority of the storage.I will use a XFX Radeon HD 6670 Video card. This will be great for running two monitors. All of these will fit in myNZXT Phantom Mid Tower Case.


NZXT Phantom Case
Asus Motherboard
Intel i5
Corsair RAM
Rosewill Power
XFX Radeon HD 6670
Hitachi Hard Drive
Corsair SSD
Pioneer Blu Ray






















These are the stars of the show other than the i5. Now that I am finished editing the photos. I finally read the upload page and noticed that I could embed the url link into the picture.

Live and learn.

See you in class.