Week 2


The XML and XSL was actually pretty straightforward, but I could not for the life of me get CSS to behave. In the end, stress got the better of me and I gave up. And now I’m out of time. Hopefully next week will be better.

As usual, w3schools.com was an invaluable asset.

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Week 1

First off, the link to the finished page: http://pstcc11.pstcc.edu/~c2230a03/

Second, I suppose I should tell you what I did this week. For starters, I spent way more time than I care to admit trying to get the search and edit functions working before remembering that HTML is a markup language, not a programming language. So that was embarrassing.

There were also a couple of things I couldn’t remember how to do, but http://www.w3schools.com/html/ was very helpful in “reminding” me. This semester should be interesting, at the very least.

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This has been an awesome class, there’s just no other way to put it. We started out looking over the history of the computer, moved into hardware and software, programming, artificial intelligence, then finally on to virtual reality and how these amazing machines have affected (and will continue to affect) society at large.

Even now, I find it pretty incredible that in a few hundred years we’ve gone from single switches as large as an entire human hand to chips that can easily fit in the palm of one’s hand and contain quite literally billions of switches. The A.I. chapter helped me understand that the Marines in Halo are simply programmed to move towards the player character, and aren’t trying to maliciously run over me with that vehicle. That said, the Marines that steal the ‘Hog and drive off with it (usually over a cliff), leaving me to walk the rest of the level are still unexplained. I never got to play the original Half-Life or any of its expansions, but even today (judging from videos) I consider the AI for both allies and enemies to be pretty good.

Dr. Brown has been an amazing professor, always willing to take time to explain stuff in such a way that the class understands it, and he has an awesome sense of humor. One particular time springs to mind: one of my classmates came to class wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, presumably just for the heck of it. Dr. Brown later walks in wearing the same exact mask. That still brings a smile to my face.

This class started with chocolates. I’m pretty sure I heard something about it ending with pizza and a movie. How can you not like it?

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All in your head

Virtual reality. Innumerable worlds, and just as many possibilities per world. For me, the most common VR experience comes through the multiplayer facet of Minecraft.
My Minecraft avatar admiring his home.

For me, there’s little more rewarding than the popping sound items make when they are picked up, especially so when the item is a diamond gem. The multiplayer aspect means I get to hang out with some awesome people, and indeed we work together on occasion to build some public structure or other. Of course, the (default) graphics won’t win over any HD snobs, but if you’re willing to accept them for what they are (or install a texture pack)… let’s just say there’s a very good reason the game as been referred to as “addictive.” It does take a lot of willpower sometimes to exit the game and return to reality, even if only for a short time.

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Truthfully, I knew that A.I.s were all around us in the first world, though they’re not nearly as sophisticated as the full-blown sentient programs the sci-fi genre has given us. Still, literally every single video game that requires you to interact with a computer-controlled entity has some form of A.I. The opponent in Pong and its clones had to predict where the ball was going and move its paddle appropriately. A “brute-force” type of A.I. was present in Starship Titanic, using keywords from what you typed and responding with one of thousands of pre-recorded lines that would hopefully be relevant to whatever you said. And most of the time, it was. Halo gives us enemies (and allies), each with their own behaviors, which is part of why Halo has become so iconic. Of course, a “true” A.I. is probably a pretty long way off, doubly so in gaming, as a computer that knows EXACTLY where you are at all times and EXACTLY how to effectively counter you every time is not very fun to play against. Still, the fact that computers can “learn” at all, and not need to be told every step of how to do something is hopeful.

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Just when I thought I couldn’t enjoy this class any more, we get to play with Legos! Specifically, the Mindstorms kits Dr. Brown has. There were a few early squabbles over what my group should actually build, and then there was some lending and borrowing of pieces, but things are progressing nicely. Before this week, I never really thought about how many robots I’m actually surrounded by. In a way, even the humble oscillating fan can be considered a robot; you select the speed, and whether you want the fan to oscillate or not, and it puts out an airstream until it either loses power or you hit the “off” switch. Similarly, the alarm clock that tells me it’s time to get out of bed (but I’m rarely exhausted enough that it actually has to tell me to wake up, fortunately). Like it or not, robots are here, and they’re likely here to stay.

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The Gmod Idiot Box

The first time I ever heard of hacking, I immediately thought it would be a good skill set to learn. I imagined being able to smooth out bugs in programs and such. At the time I thought that hacking was a mostly malicious affair, and I would basically be “hacking” the skill set to do good. Little did I know at the time that doing good WAS the foundation of hacking.

Computer security is serious business, for real. Viruses and “black hat” hackers are after your information and/or your computer’s processing power to launch attacks on other systems.

And lest you think that you’re all safe and sound at your Mac…
As Apple computers become more and more popular, the viruses will be written for them. Use your firewall accordingly.

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Up to Scratch

I’d seen the Scratch icon on the desktop before, but until this week I never bothered to click on it. For the uninitiated, Scratch is basically… well… it’s basically animation scripting. Basically, you control images (called “sprites”) and you can control the movement of those sprites and whatnot. It’s actually pretty ingenious. Obviously, I’m not talking too much about what my animation actually is, but you may rest assured that it is entirely relevant to around 15 million people.

On Friday, we watched Randy Pausch’s last lecture. It was quite inspiring, and even though he was living on borrowed time, he had a wonderful sense of humor. I’m sure the world can never have too many people like him.

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Website Online

As I said in my previous post, this was not my first run-in with HTML. It was, however, my first time actually uploading a page I made from scratch with HTML. Using an FTP client was… interesting… Still, it was nice not to need to hyperlink images, which I understand is close to an Internet cardinal sin.

Also discussed this week was databases and SQL. I can certainly appreciate the allure of SQL. After all, SQL is pretty danged close to natural language, which makes it child’s play to learn.

Databases, of course, are much more efficient than any other known method of data management. Think comparing a squirt gun to a hunting rifle in terms of efficiency. I imagine sysadmins the world over threw humongous parties when databases came around and made the job of storing and updating data a matter of typing a few lines as opposed to tracking down every single copy of the file to be changed.

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TAG, you’re it

To be perfectly honest, this is not my first time with HTML. And since I’m being honest, I also have to admit that I still find it interesting. That’s not to say I remember EVERYTHING, of course; my last experience with HTML was over 2 years ago. Still, being tasked with building a webpage, from scratch, using the markup language is fairly straightforward, once one remembers to set the text file to plain text. Having to copy/paste the website’s source code back into the file because the computer’s trying to be helpful and automatically formats the file into the actual webpage is annoying, however. Well, I’m sure it won’t be that awful.

For obvious reasons I can’t talk too much about the actual code behind the page (read: the page isn’t finished as of this writing), but hopefully it will be done quite soon. I’m only working on this beforehand because my memory sucks and I wanna get this out of the way. So, I’ll post this then go back to working on my webpage. See you next week!

Oh, right: /TAG

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