bloggin it up

May 05

Week 14 – A semester recap

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hal

 

We are drowning in a sea of technology. Computers are all around us. Wireless technology passes through our bodies all day. We are constantly monitored by companies, organizations and our government. It is becoming less and less feasible for individuals or companies to operate without staying current with the latest technology. The majority of us can’t make it through one step of our day without using technology. Technology is advancing faster than ever.

My day stars when the alarm on my phones goes off. I don’t even have a separate alarm clock any longer. Using NFC tags throughout my house I tap my phone against one to disable my alarm permanently(instead of just snoozing) once I am actually standing up and walking out of my bedroom door. As I walk into the bathroom I have another to start playing music that isn’t physically in my home but streams through the internet, wirelessly on my phone. As I go to work GPS can route me past traffic jams and warn me of bad weather ahead.

Once at work I bounce from several different computers or computerized devices that autonomously do parts of my job for me. My phone periodically will remind me when I need to send invoices, check inventory or order supplies. If we have an issue that needs to be documented the same device is able to take pictures that are instantly synced with my Google account so I can retrieve them once back at my desk or instantaneously send it out to corporate where they will immediately be able to see it and respond. Something that once took weeks or months to travel thousands of miles can now do it in a fraction of a second.

As we learned in this class a growing concern is security. While we often have the illusion of safety many times it is just that, an illusion. We can take every measure possible to secure data, passwords, bank account information, etc but just like with your house no matter how secure your front door is there are plenty of other places that could be exploited to gain access to the home. As technology advances securing the information on those devices will be a continuous job.

More and more technology in our lives will increasing interaction with it. As we interact more and more we will also see an increase in artificial intelligence. It is much more pleasant to interact with someone who we feel is as intelligent as us instead of someone who seems ignorant. This will hold true with technology as well. In order to make interacting with technology more pleasant we will see an increase in AI and in the ability of that AI.

While it may seem that technology could never get much better than it is now we have been saying that for years and yet it continues to amaze us. In order to stay current and functioning in the world we need to strive to be as familiar with the changing tech as possible. It is hard to imagine where we will be in 20 years or even 5 years. 20 years ago the computer in my room was less powerful than the watch I wear on my wrist that is blue tooth connected to my Android phone. If technology has snowballed that much in the last 20 years I look forward to seeing where we are in the next 20. I hope to see self driving cars, holograms and a manned trip to Mars by 2033.

May 05

Week 13 – Virtual Reality

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oculus rift

Ever since I had the original NES I have dreamed of having a VR room in my own house. Star Trek fueled the fire. In the 90’s I saw a huge amount of gimmicky toys that were meant to simulate or give the illusion of VR. Nothing has yet to impress me.

The Nintendo Wii was the first thing to show real promise and it is fun but after playing with it for a while you begin to see that it is very limited. It is still fun but since it is mostly targeted at children it can get old fast. Many community members have started to mod it and unlock its potential.

The Xbox Kinect is another step in the right direction. Using the Kinect you can interact with the video game world without the need to hold a controller or be tethered to a wire. While both of these systems are fun they are still just a small glimpse of what could be. Phones are starting to have eye tracking and gesture detection. They eye tracking is something that will be crucial in virtual reality worlds however I don’t think we will really be able to experience true virtual reality until all the senses are involved including sound, smell and haptic feedback with the world as you interact with it.

May 05

Week 11 – Robots

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mindstorm

 

For years we have been using robots to save time and money in production environments. Recently we have started to see robotics become more and more available for residential purposes. From things as simple as garage door openers to more complicated robots that can mop and vacuum our floors.

Another robot that is available to anyone is the Lego Mindstorm toy robot. They are designed for kids however they are powerful enough to be fun for adults too. My group was able to make a robot that would drive forward until it detected something dark and then it would say “uh oh” and turn around until it saw something dark again.

While this was just a simple exercise it got me thinking about ways I could use more capable robots to do different things in my life.

Mar 31

Week 9 – Security and Scratch

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justin scratch

 

The security of personal computers is something I have worked with for several years. Eight years ago I started as a counter technician for the Geek Squad in Best Buy stores and was an in-home tech when I left. The biggest problem our customers faced were virus infections and other security breaches.

More damaging than malware attacks in my opinion is social engineering. It could take weeks or months to brute force a companies server but a few well placed interactions with staff members could leave you with the passwords without ever having to touch a computer.

For my scratch project I decided to do a top-down shooter. I have played many of them over the years and I didn’t think it would require too many graphics or scripts to get rolling. Once I started creating it everything fell together rather easily. I have some experience with C++, PHP and Java and Scratch has the same basic feel of any other object oriented language.

To play as Dr. Brown, trapped in a computer like Kevin Flynn from Tron, play my scratch game here:

http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/justincredibleg/3223532

Mar 25

Week 8 – Playing with Lego’s in Scratch

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justinscratch

Scratch is like the Legos of coding. This was my first experience with Scratch and so far have had a lot of fun. Rather than looking at a wall of code you have color-coded blocks of code actions that you stack together in ways that work for you. It is easier for me to troubleshoot problems when I can graphically visualize the problem. Another nice thing about scratch is that you don’t have to worry about syntax problems for the most part since everything is a drag and drop block.

Until last Tuesday I had never heard of Randy Pausch. He is an impressive individual. It’s hard to imagine how I would react to knowing I had less than a year to live. I know that I wouldn’t be giving an hour long presentation and handling the introduction as well as Randy did during his “Last Lecture”.

I enjoyed his entire lecture but one of the parts that stood out to me was when he talked about being so impressed with his students that he was going to give them all an A. He said that a mentor of his said that he should tell the students that they did good but he knew they could do better. He talks about not setting a bar for his students because he would likely just hinder their potential. As a manager there are often times when I set a bar then ends up being exceeded and I sometimes wonder where we could have gone without a bar to begin with. I also liked him talking about the “head fake” method of teaching people to do things.

Mar 16

Week 7 – Uploading a website

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Once you get used to the process of logging into an FTP server a few times then it is a piece of cake. Depending on your client it can be as easy as dragging and dropping files from one folder to another.

I missed the second half of class due to work so I was unable to get log in info for the Pellissippi server so I uploaded my site to one of my own web servers.  My HTML website about my RC hobbies can be found here:

http://agknoxville.com/justin/index.html

Feb 26

Week 6 – Creating a page in HTML

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webpage

I got started developing web sites during my junior year of high school when I took an intro to HTML class. The next semester after teaching myself some Flash I redesigned Farragut High School’s website and received credit each semester for updating and maintaining it as my senior project. My design was used for 4 years after I left until a company with a CMS developed towards schools specifically went to Knox County and moved all of the schools over to their system.

After I graduated from High School I taught myself how to use PHP and CSS to create more robust, uniform and easily managed websites. Despite knowing valid XHTML, PHP and CSS most websites I develop are created using a CMS like WordPress, Joomla or Xencart. The coding knowledge gives me the ability to manipulate the stock theme or site layout as needed by my client.

This was a good opportunity to remember how life was before CSS, PHP and CMS options. It is much more time consuming to manually code each page, paragraph and layout than it is to just edit a style sheet that is used across all pages.

Feb 11

Week 3: Building A Custom PC

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PC BUILD

I have built over 100 computers for work, friends, personal, etc over the last 10 years. Almost all of the parts have come from Newegg with the exception of a few deals from Buy.com and TigerDirect.com. I built myself a computer about 2 years ago but I am about due an upgrade. Here is just a simple build that I am considering:

CASE – $40

case

NZXT GAMMA ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146061

I have used this case on a few builds before and have been impressed with the features for the price. Plenty of room for storage, graphics cards and fans.

 

 

POWER SUPPLY – $110

psu

Rosewill 750W ATX12V v2.31 / EPS12V Power Supply

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817182073

For the number of drives and graphics cards I typically use I like to have at least 750w power supplies and this one has good reviews.

 

 

MOTHERBOARD – $165

mobo

GIGABYTE AM3+ AMD 990FX SATA 6Gb/s ATX Motherboard

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128509

I have had great luck with Gigabyte AMD motherboards and the 990FX will allow me to run dual graphics cards and have extra slots for audio.

 

 

RAM – $58

ram

G.SKILL Sniper Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1866 RAM

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231460

For my uses 8GB of DDR3 1866 RAM has been more than sufficient. Even when gaming and watching a movie simultaneously I rarely exceed more than 5GB.

 

 

CPU – $124

cpu

AMD FX-4170 Zambezi 4.2GHz AM3+ Quad-Core CPU

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819106009

The initial AMD bulldozer release was a flop but I have heard good things about the Zambezi chips and would like to give one a try.

 

 

GPU – $300

VGA

HIS Radeon HD 7950 3GB PCI Express 3.0 x16 Video Card

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814161420

HIS is my favorite AMD/ATI gpu manufacturer. The HD 7950 will be a nice step up from my current HD 5950.

 

 

SSD – $419

ssd

Crucial M4 2.5″ 512GB SATA III Solid State Drive

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=20-148-527

I currently have a Crucial M4 128mb SSD and have had great luck with it but I have to move some stuff to my external.

 

 

CD/DVD BURNER – $18

dvd

ASUS 24X DVD Burner

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827135204

I rarely ever use an optical drive so I generally just buy the cheapest CD/DVD burner combo.

 

 

Before beginning to build a PC you should make sure that you understand each step completely and have done sufficient research. Here is a quick overview…

  1. De-static yourself and wear a anti-static bracelet clipped to a ground if available. Open all packages and keep components on top of the box it came in but keep it in the anti-static bag until needed.
  2. Look at the motherboard and see where the mounting screw holes are located. Make sure there are standoffs on your case for those holes and add if they aren’t.
  3. Open your computers case, place the motherboard rear I/O plate in its location and install your power supply, hard drive and optical drive.
  4. Install the motherboard and gently tighten screws holding it to the case
  5. Gently install your CPU and heatsink
  6. Install RAM and Graphics Card
  7. Connect all cables from case buttons/lights, power supply, optical drive and hard drive
  8. Power on your computer, insert your OS disc and install your OS.
  9. Install drivers provided by your components manufacturers
Jan 22

Week 2: Mind Boggling Binary

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binary tunnel

Binary is the base-2 number system used by computers to do everything.  All media, information and software is a series of 1’s and 0’s at the lowest level of a computer.  This is because a computer is a series of switches that only have two positions, off and on. The combination of different “offs” and “ons” is what generates unique information.

Place values in binary are always double the place holder before it. For example 128 – 64 – 32 – 16 – 8 – 4 – 2 – 1. So if you wanted to convert the base-10 number 18 to binary it would be 10010 because if you add placeholder 16 and 2 together you get 18.

Once you know how to convert information to binary it is mind boggling to think everything about all the work that the computer is constantly doing to convert binary into information we can understand.

Jan 22

Week 1: Intro to Info Tech

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i386

Hello everyone! My name is Justin Gibson and this is my CSIT-1110 blog.

I have been working in various IT positions over the last 8 years including phone tech support, in home computer repair for the Geek Squad and web design/development.

My dad was a computer programmer for Word Perfect and my first computer was an Intel i386. We had it made when we upgraded to two 5.25″ floppy drives and the 40Mb hard drive that we have never had a need to upgrade as the salesman boasted.

I had every intention of testing out of this class when I showed up on day one however have decided to stay in the course through the semester thanks to Dr. Browns teaching style and course content. I think it will be an entertaining course and a good way for me to refresh and stay up to date on what is currently going on in other IT fields.

I look forward to getting to know everyone better and learning together this semester in Intro to Info Tech!