The Big Goodbye

Dr. Brown said this might be the first blog you will see when perusing previous semesters blogs, so that means it will be the only blog you see of me if this isn’t interesting.

THIS VERY MIGHT BE THE MOST IMPORTANT COURSE YOU WILL TAKE AT PELLI.

I have sat and pondered for a good while what to say in this blog post. I want it to be something you remember at the end of the class and say “he was right.” I gave up trying to be epic and instead just be a rare item. You get to work with many environments in this class and learn a great deal about the computer science world. To rehash the whole course in one blog would do you no service and would not do the subjects justice, so i will focus on three items that stood out to me this semester, scratch(game design), robotics, and current events/side stories.

Scratch is a game design program that was designed by MIT to be used as an educational tool. It is very easy to use but has enough features to do design simple games reminiscent of the original Nintendo or flash games. I made a basketball game as my project but also worked on several other ideas just for fun. I have also made a halo game which shoot bullets and kills monsters, and a racing game that counts laps and slows down when you run off the road. Use these tools, they are fun and will suck you in because they allow you ideas to become reality. In addition to Scratch, we worked in Alice, Greenfoot, and some of you might end up working in Unity, an advanced editor that is currently free.

Robotics is also a very dear subject to me. When I was a boy I watched Star Trek and the character Data grabbed my attention. I fully robotic humanoid, that seemed so real and unique he is given rights and free will. Since then I have kept up with the field somewhat through my life, from the TV show Robot Wars of which I am a huge fan, to tracking the Mars Rovers development. Working with the robots in class give you a hand on idea of what a robot really is, and how they can become “intelligent” before you eyes, but also at your hand. It feels powerful to be giving something “intelligence” and watching it perform its task the way you designed. I have full intentions of joining a robotics club and continue to peruse this field in the future. Many futurists and leaders in our field feel that robotics will be the next big thing to make advancement and we will see more and more of these machines used in everyday applications.

Internet freedoms and privacy is a crucial issue in our field at the moment. The government continually pushes legislation to control the internet and in effect our information. This is strictly prohibited by the U.S. Constitution: Amendment 4, where the government is forbidden from searching or seizing papers, effects, person, or property without probable cause and warrant. We must have a free internet for everyone that allows for the maximum amount of information to be spread to everyone around the world. Knowledge is power and as Computer Science professionals have a responsibility to be informed about the issues in our field. Dr. Brown has posted many videos that are quite interesting about our field from a flying robotic bird to how games are now changing the world. It is also our charge if we are to successful to keep up with recent breakthroughs  and where we are headed.

I hope at the end of this semester you have the same feeling I do that this class is important to anyone who genuinely wants to begin their career as an Computer Science professional. Thank you Dr. Brown for designing such an enriching course that makes learning fun and takes the pain out of school work.

Hunter Sinclair

 

Virtual Worlds

I wanted to start out by saying the most important thing I will say in the blog is to watch Star Trek:Voyager, Season Two, Episode Projections (for Netflix Subscribers). It is a hilarious ride through a virtual world and how it can seem so real under the proper circumstances and future technology.

 

Currently I play World of Warcraft and I maintain 3 “high level” characters in 2 servers on WoW, two horde and one Alliance. I am currently getting ready for the new expansion, Padaria to come out and see the next step in progression blizzard will send us. This is what I currently play but my history with virtual environments goes back to the first Baulders Gate series. Crude by today’s standards, but gold for the time, with a reactive storyline and plot development. That was before the age of MMORPG’s. MMORPG’s changed everything in that you can now play together with thousands of other players to complete the ever evolving storyline. This has changed gaming from something you do in you basement or at a LAN party to a worldwide social network in which people work together to solve problems. I believe the point made in the video we watched in class by Jane McGonigal was completely correct, the next step in gaming is how do we use this inter connectivity and collective resources to solve big world wide problems. Often times, in sci-fi like Star Trek and Star Gate, The technology they project is’nt 300 years ahead, but only a few. Like the IPod coming out just 5 years after the end of The Next Generation, where the Ipod is derived from(the PADD prop). Star Gate similarly used this idea of gaming solving big world problems more recently in the spin off Star Gate:Universe. The “boy genius” for the project was chosen because he solved a highly complex video game puzzle over time that was embedded into an MMORPG.

 

Sure solving big world problems with these virtual worlds and linking them to sci-fi is interesting, but what is the next step in the virtual progression? I think we will find this in holographic technology and full holographic simulation to connect one to virtual worlds. It may be a la The Matrix or another invention reminiscent of a Gene Roddenberry idea.

Artificial Intelligence

Continuing on the Sci-Fi theme of last week, when I think and learn about A.I., it is reminiscent of Star Trek: The Next Generations “Data”, and Star Trek: Voyagers  “The Doctor.” Both of these characters were man made machines who were programmed with advanced A.I systems. What eventually made them sentient beings in the eyes of their peers is their ability to adapt to new situations and go beyond the original design or limitations of their program.

In class this week we discussed how A.I. is really just scripting reactions to certain situations and the ability to extrapolate future probabilities with behavior trees. This, as we discussed, is not intelligence in a technical sense, but merely a program designed to react certain ways when we do things to it. Without human interaction, these robots would likely never amount to more than the sum their parts. True A.I., as we see in movies like The Matrix has the ability to turn on us and evolve just as humans would. Even turn into an apocalyptic race of machines that rely on humans bio electric energy to supply their power cells. Maybe it wont be that extreme, but I do believe soon we will be to a point in which Characters like the Doctor and Data don’t seem so impossible.

This weeks robot work expanded upon what we did last week, making the robot detect the strip and follow it around the race track. This week we went on the theme of A.I. Our group wanted to make it smart and do more than “dig dirt” for us. We wanted the robot to go in a search pattern until it found the track then get on the track and follow it. We wanted it to to appear as though it was looking for his “home” per say. While we completed some search patterns and our work was promising, time constraints obviously held us back from designing a completely intelligent robot who could search for hours on end for the track using multiple sensory nodes, but I saw how it could be done and it fascinates me. I plan on taking taking the Special Topics:Virtual Reality Design this summer and this has me eagerly anticipating learning about making things “appear” intelligent.

Robots

Since I was little I have always been fascinated by robots. Data, off the Emmy winning television show Star Trek:The Next Generation, first peaked my curiosity in this field. Much of what we discussed this week about robots becoming more and more human resembled Data as his goal was to become more human. I watched Robot Wars religiously for years and I have always wanted to participate in those competitions if I ever became skilled enough.

The Lego:Mind Storms were awesome to work with and I am already trying to find a set online to continue learning in this field on my own. The programming IDE used is simple enough to use and the multiple sensors and servos allowed for complex behavioral subroutines and functionality such as the missiles or the claw.

“Another subject which harkens back to Star Trek is cybernetics. “The Borg were a pseudo-race of cybernetic beings, or cyborgs, from the Delta Quadrant. No truly single individual existed within the Borg Collective (with the possible sole exception of the Borg Queen), as they were linked into a hive mind. Their ultimate goal was perfection through the forcible assimilation of diverse sentient species, technologies, and knowledge. As a result, they were among the most powerful and feared races in the galaxy, without really being a true race at all.“(http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Borg)   I have written papers and power point presentations (who knows where they are now) on cybernetics, nanotechnology, and hive minds.

Hopefully our creations don’t turn out to assimilate us and turn us into mindless automatons by injecting us with nano devices which connect us to the hive mind and destroys our individuality, but research and development into this field has only began.

Right now we are only experimenting with cybernetics and neural implants; soon it may become a part of everyday life and only a matter of time before we can interconnect those cybernetic neural implants through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or some other way of connection, thus creating a hive mind of humans of sorts. Nano technology can also be widely applied to the field of medicine. It could stand reason under Moores Law that one day we will be able to build autonomous robots small enough to navigate the human blood stream and perform functions that would be safer and more effective if done without surgery of extreme amounts of medicine. These devices could be programed to:identify and kill cancer cells, bacteria, and viruses(making for almost miraculous recovery time), clear blockages in arteries, or even slow aging by by assisting in the everyday upkeep of a human body.

These subjects are fascinating and I will be learning more about them in the time to come and fully plan on being involved in the Robotics club in the near future.

 

 

 

HTML

HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language, is a simple language that can be read by a human and understood. Its not actually a programming language but shares some characteristics and can use other programming languages in it like Java. HTML is used to create the visual characteristics of a page and display it on a monitor or device. It is the language of the global infrastructure that is the internet.

Before this week I had never really used HTML before. So building my site, as lame as it was, took me a while to work through. The hardest part was making everything organized and understandable, i ended up having random marks across my code and sometimes the code wouldn’t work where it had worked before. It was a constant battle trying to find grammatical mistakes and figure out how to incorporate new things. The biggest problem I ran into was I couldn’t get my tables to show up, even though I was putting them in there correctly(guess not).Learning about it though has me using the HTMLPad to experiment with different things I find on youtube. Now that I have the basics of building a website I can teach myself more over time and maybe even build my own real website.

 

Binary

Binary is a numerical based programming language that allows the computer to retrieve stored data and process information. There’s  a couple different ways of using binary: Hexadecimal, octal, and binary. All three are just different ways of making the same statement. Binary is the most basic and long handed form of computer language, and every “bit” in the program must be given a value. Its a simple system of ones a zeros and take an extremely long time to write. Octal simplified binary into more than ones and zeros and gave whole bytes numerical values based on the 1-10 number system. Hexadecimal takes it a step further and uses a combination of the A-Z alphabet and the numerical system to represent  strings of bits.

These programming languages are the base for any computer operation in a fundamental way, and gives us the ability to further manipulate the computer to play sounds, display graphics, and play video.

Sound files are MIDI and Sampling in origin. Both might sound the same to our ears, but the way it is recorded is much different. MIDI is good for musicians or someone looking to manipulate sound, because it actually encodes each and every note you play onto the storage device, so you can manipulate the sound in a much clearer way. This would allow you to completely change the sound of what you recorded from a singing woman to the sound of a singing man by only telling it to change. Although this is the superior sound file type, Sampling is much more common to the everyday user. Sampling uses high frequency snapshots to resolve a sound recording. The higher the frequency that the recording device  is taking snapshots, the better the sound quality. This doesn’t provide much in the way of manipulation but its simple and small.

Graphics are rendered in two ways: Raster and Vector. Raster graphics store images as a colored pixels in dots per square inch. So no matter how big or how small you try to make it, its still only going to have that many colored pixels in that big of a space, making resizing a big issue. Vector graphics actually store the image as a series of simple math formulas which can be re sized and changed without distorting the image.

Video files are simply a combination of sound and graphics, put through a compiler and displayed in a proper order to the user.

 

NZXT Phantom Full Tower Case – Red: $139.95  http://www.xoxide.com/nzxt-phantom-fulltowercase-red.html

Enermax Revolution 85+ 850w Power Supply- $244.99  http://www.xoxide.com/enermax-revolution-850w-psu.html

ASUS Rampage IV Extreme/BATTLEFIELD 3 LGA 2011 Intel X79 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Intel Motherboard with USB BIOS- $469.99  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131803

Intel Core i7-2600 Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000 BX80623I72600- $299.99  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115071

ASUS ENGTX580 DCII/2DIS/1536MD5 GeForce GTX 580 (Fermi) 1536MB 384-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card- $499.99  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121429

Western Digital Caviar Black WDBAAZ0020HNC-NRSN 2TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive- $269.99  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136830

Two CORSAIR Vengeance 16GB (4 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model CMZ16GX3M4A1600C9B- $94.99×2 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820145347

ASUS Xonar Essence STX Virtual 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Express x1 Interface 124 dB SNR / Headphone AMP Card- $ 172.00  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829132010

Two Asus BW-12B1ST/BLK/G/AS Internal 12x Blu-Ray Burner – BD-R 12x, BD-R DL 8x, BD-R LTH 4x, BD-RE 2x, BD-RE DL 2x, DVD±R 16x, DVD+RW 8x, DVD-RW 6x, DVD±R DL 8x, DVD-RAM 12x, CD-R 48x, CD-RW 24x, SATA- $69.99 x 2

Asus VE278Q 27″ Widescreen Full HD LED Monitor – 1080p, 1920×1080, 16:9, 10000000:1 Dynamic, 2ms, Integrated Speakers, DVI, VGA, HDMI- $319.99 http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=6804682&CatId=3774

Razer Naga Epic MMO Wireless Gaming Mouse- $119.99  http://www.xoxide.com/razer-naga-epic-mmo-gaming-mouse.html

Thermaltake Challenger PRO Gaming Keyboard- $69.99  http://www.xoxide.com/thermaltake-challenger-pro-gaming-keyboard.html

Thermaltake Shock One 5.1 DTS Headset- $94.95 http://www.xoxide.com/thermaltake-shockone-headset.html

I went ahead and took the liberty of putting my parts first, so people could see how awesome this computer will be before you even read my bit. I designed this computer for straight gaming power. In the world of PC gaming, the stronger machine gives you an advantage in almost every virtual environment. To have the stronger machine, you must have the stronger parts. I chose ASUS parts as the brand of choice for most of the parts for a few reasons: ASUS has long been a leader in computer parts and reliability, as well as their power are well documented. Secondly, whatever brand you choose for your motherboard, matching parts always work together much easier than parts made by different companies. We hit on the concept in class, but ASUS installs the parts ROM which tells it what to do without an operating system. ASUS designed THAT motherboard to talk to THEIR graphics card…..ect. The NZXT case is a high quality case with a lot of room for future expansion, as well as a smoking exterior which guests in your house will be afraid to even touch. The 850W power supply might have been a little much for my power supply but yet again I wanted it to be upgradable. The graphics card is a beauty and is the top of anything they are making at the moment. I thought about going ahead and doubling down of them but the SLI double card is completely unnecessary at least for a few years and it would only jack up your power bill. Now the hardest decision I had to make when designing this computer was the hard drive. It wasn’t the brand or type which had me out of sorts, but the size. Now bigger it always better and that’s why I ended up with the 2 TB HDD than something smaller. I honestly believe that 2 TB would actually slow the system down in the short term, but in the long term, software is getting bigger, and after putting so much money into this rig, I had longevity of life in mind the whole time, so the bigger the hard drive, the better off I will be 2 or 3 years down the road when all games are 20 GB, and your Java updates are 2 GB. The only part that i really was unsatisfied putting in my computer was the CPU. I am an AMD man. I used this Intel because of the Turbo Technology and the fact it was recommended for the motherboard. In all other circumstances I believe AMD processors are much better for gaming and if you want raw power from your CPU, go with them. The ASUS sound card is also top of its class, and will be able to run almost any music program, game, or entertainment device without sacrificing any sound quality due to on board sound which cant process everything clearly.  The

The peripherals are just little tidbits I don’t feel as though requires me to write a small novel about, but take a look and enjoy!

Before you touch any parts, be sure to put of your static guard bracelet and place all devices on a static guard mat. You will also need a screwdriver.To put the computer together, we will start with the case and the power supply. Installing the power supply usually takes a few screws and your done. Next you want to install your motherboard into the case, making sure the PCI slots are facing towards the back, open part of the case. While doing this, be sure to put the plate on the back, this should have come with your motherboard and makes the back look professional, and keeps your parts safe. Before moving on, place the DVD/ BlueRay/CD combo drives in their screw less casings opposite the power supply at the top of the case. Following that do the same for the Hard Drive. At this point our computer is beginning to take form, We have the power supply, Motherboard, optical drives, and hard drive all mounted inside the case. At this point we will start work on the inner parts which will be placed onto the mother board. We will insert the processor into the CPU slot, apply the heat sink and fan to keep it cool. If you do this yourself use Thermal Compound to ensure your processor doesn’t burn out. The ram slots should surround the CPU so we will install that next, taking the time to ensure they are all snapped in ALL the way. The last parts we will install will be the PCI cards consisting of the graphics card and the sound card. I always save these for last because once they are in they are bulky and in the way.  These parts to me are the most valuable and fragile, so make sure if you put them in before other parts to be extra careful not to damage them. Lastly before our computer is ready for software, we must connect all the power cords from the power supply, all over the computer. In addition to power supply connectors, you must also connect information connectors so the Motherboard can send commands to the hard drive and the optical drives. Once everything is hooked up, put the cover back on your case and your ready to turn it on and move on the software installation.

 

I hope everyone enjoyed my blog post!

 

Hunter Sinclair is…..

Where to begin? Ive never blogged before or been a huge fan on social media in any way, so the whole concept of me sharing myself and my history for other people to read on the internet is a little strange and in a way daunting. I was born in Macon, Georgia where I attended a private christian school from K-5 to 12th. Some of my earliest memories are of me taking apart electronics and trying to understand how they work. I inadvertently destroyed quite a few electronics that way, but it was worth it. As I got older, my zeal for the digital world was unchanged and I PC gamed many hours per week, all the while learning concepts and tricks I could play on my friends. I learned quickly that many people haven’t the slightest idea how the computer and its peripherals work. Computer science is a very lucrative, growing, and crucially important industry, affecting almost every facet of our life almost every second of every day. My ultimate goal with my degree in computer science is to design nanotechnology that will change the world in a positive way. I see the possibility of microscopic machines that can attack cancer cells, the AIDS virus, clear clogged arteries, or be reprogrammed for any number of uses. Outside the field of computer science, I love politics, theology, and going out with my friends. I am an avid reader of www.dailypaul.com , a website dedicated to getting Dr. Ron Paul elected as president and preserving Liberty in America. I love rock ‘n roll in all forms and some country and rap, The Beatles being my favorites by far. I enjoy sci-fi and fantasy movies, shows, and books, my favorite author being Raymond E Feist and favorite movie being Harry Potter, and show being Star Trek[great morally centered TV, something our society lacks today].

Hopefully this blog gives you an idea of who I am and where I am coming from. I just moved to Knoxville from Clemson, SC about three weeks ago, so I am currently looking for ways to meet people and get plugged in around this area and at Pellissippi.

P.S. I look forward to reading everyone else’s post and hopefully this wasn’t a bore.