Final Blog

The last day of school is finally here, and this will probably be my final blog here at Pellissippi. Although I may end up starting my own website again at one of the domains I already own. Previously, I had hosted my blog at Squarespace.com. Which is a great hosting site, but it cost 10$-15$ a month. After this semester, in the next week or two,  I plan on buying an older quad core system and downloading Apache, and do all my own hosting instead for free.

Overall I thought this class was excellent, and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a recommendation. This has been one of the more interesting classes, even though it is just the entry level course. I really enjoyed how each week was like a different class that I can sign up for at PSCC, it really helped me understand what I would like to do with my major. Before this class, I knew I wanted to do something with computers, but it was kind of just a vague goal that I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to pursue. Getting to experience a little taste of all the different fields I can get into, I look forward to taking more classes in the computer science department. I think I want to take more database classes, and continue to further my eductation in Java.

I really enjoyed using Greenfoot, and using the Javabot during the 2 Lego weeks. I had been taking a Java class as well during this semester, and it was really great to apply the skills I have learned into a video game or controlling a robot. I will continue to use Java during the summer, and will probably look at Greenfoot again, and try making a new video game. The other thing I had really liked about this class were the videos that were played on Fridays. Half the videos were very informative, and the other half were essential in the history/culture of the internet. I’m going to miss this class, but I’m hoping I can get into another one of Dr. Brown’s classes next semester.

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Artificial Intellegence

AI or Artificial Intellegence has always intrigued me. The idea that a computer may be able to think or even reason on its own is mind blowing. We are still decades away from “the point of technological singularity”, where computers will one day be able to completely replicate a human brain and with it equal or greater intellegence. Unforunately, in the present time, we are still far from that, and most programs or machines that may seem “intellegent” are instead fairly “dumb” and have little to no common sense.

Once again our Lego Mindstorm machine was continualy being disassembled/destroyed throughout the week, so I pretty much gave up on trying anything advanced with the legos.

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Robots and Lego Mindstorms.

This week we worked with robotics with using Lego Mindstorm kits. It was interesting programming something that physically reacts to the code you put into it.  The first day was the most fun. My partner that day and I had the best kit out of the whole class, so we had more parts than everyone else, which allowed us to build a pretty elabrate 4 wheel drive vehicle, with motion sensors to detect a collision. It didn’t take much code at all, because the Lego platform is pretty easy to work with. When I came in to class on Wednesday, our robot had been completely destroyed. I couldn’t find any reminence of it, and my partner was in class that day so I had to group up with another person. I don’t know that guys name, but he was really weird so I left class a little bit early on that day. Overall though I had a very enjoyable experience with the Lego Mindstorms, and would almost consider buying one for myself.

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Finished Scratch & Security

Scratch proved to be more powerful, than I originally thought. Although I did encounter some limitations, (The ability to use a Not type statement) and there seemed to be a little bit of lag when I tried to incorporate sound effects into my game. I did finish my game, which was surprisingly fun considering the amount of time it took. I have never created a video game, although I always wanted to, and Scatch made it very easy and helped me better to understand the fundamentals of coding. The whole time I was using Scratch I was thinking, “Now how could I write this in C++ or Java” and most of the stuff I believe I could probably recreate on my own in those two languages. Unfortunately when I finally submitted my game to the scratch website, I got some kind of weird clipping issue with java, and I am not sure how to fix it. Everything ran perfect in the editor, I think it has to do with one of the objects moving outside of the given parameters.

This week’s lecture was in security, viruses, and hacking which are all related to each other. Hacking and virus writing invloves finding vulnerabilities in the security of one’s system. The video about Kevin Mitnick, Captain Crunch, and Steve Wozniak was pretty interesting, even though I had already known who all 3 of them were prior to this week’s class. All 3 have made multiple appearances on my favorite Podcast network TWiT.tv.

Kevin Mitnick interview

Captain Crunch interview

Steve Wozniak on his own TWiT special

 

My favorite weekly podcast about security is also on the TWiT network, called Security Now.

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Scratch and of the talk by Randy Pausch.

Scratch is a cool little program that allows you to become an amateur gaming programmer without having to know any of the boring syntax. I think the program is great, because a few minutes you have a moving animation, without having to type all the code. Since I do know a little bit of C++ and Java this program seemed trivial and “kiddy” at first, but it is rather powerful, and helps me imagine what type of code I would need to be writing if I were doing this from a txt based coding language. I hope to delve a little bit deeper into this program in the coming days.

 

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, was a great lecture to watch. I remember when he had done this back in 2007, and I watched a few snippets from it. It was over an hour long lecture put together really well. It must be a very odd feeling knowing you are going to die very soon, but still being in a good enough health to stand in front of all your peers and colleges and give them one final lecture. The lecture was fairly interesting too, and not as emotional as it could of been. Overall, I am glad I had finally watched the whole thing.

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HTML (part 2)

This week we continued with our HTML by going a little further in depth into servers and databases with SQL. SQL is Search Query Language and it helps manage and access databases. Most websites today require some form of database to store things such as contact information for customers to individual accounts that give the user a specialized experience. Our lab this week required us to upload our HTML, which was hardcoded by hand with notepad, to an HTTP server via the SSH shell client. Unfortunately, I attempted to do the day it was due, not realizing I did not have my individual password for logging into the pstcc11 server. Hopefully I will have it fully updated by tomorrow, and I will post an update to this post. One thing I did learn from writing the HTML code by hand (as opposed to an editor) is the amount of code you can save. I often think the editors lack optimization and often write UN-needed or inefficient code. I was also amazed how well the code would work, even if there was an error in it, compared to Java where one error and your program doesn’t run.

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HTML

 

This week’s class was about HTML, the Hyper Text Markup Language used for the basis of most of the world wide web, and although it was not my first experience with HTML, it was still very informative. Previously, I had only used HTML editors, and would only use raw HTML code for embedding Youtube videos to a blog. So hand-coding a page from scratch was a completely different experience. I think the most difficult thing I’ve experienced so far with HTML, is positioning and/or formatting of the webpage. Trying to get pictures in the right spot, can sometimes be difficult, especially when you need to know the pixel count of multiple images.  I plan on handcoding an HTML website for myself (as well as the assignment) and  running it on an Apache server at my house in the next coming weeks, as my prior websites have all been on a 3rd party host like Squarespace.

 

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Assembly Language Simulator

This week’s assignment was the toughest yet. Or atleast it was for me because I had to regrettably  miss class on Wednesday and figuring it out on my own took sometime.  Using the Assembly Language Simulator (ALS) was difficult at first, but  I finally got a program to work by doing Assemble, Reset, Load, Step/Run. This assignment helped me understand how a CPU is communicating with the RAM to do simple instructions on a very basic level. Although I have dealt with binary, hex, and higher level computing languages; this was my first experience with Assembly.

 

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Thoughts on binary.

It’s quite amazing to think everything digital boils down to a seemingly endless sea of just 1′s and 0′s, on and off.  Binary code is the essence of the machine, it’s a little weird using just a base 2 number system when we are used to a base 10, but once you get the hang of it, it is pretty easy, although larger numbers may take some calculating. Binary is written so it can easily be converted to hexadecimal, in 4 digital intervals.

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My computer.

This is my gaming rig I built about 6 months ago.

Monitor: Dell 30 inch LCD 2560×1600

Motherboard ASUS M4N98TD EVO  NVIDIA nForce 980a SLI

CPU AMD Phenomx X4 830 Quad Core, 6MB L3 Cache, 2MB L2 Cache, 2.80GHz (Overclocked to 3.7ghz)

CPU Cooler Corsair Hydro Series H60

Video Cards: (2) Geforce 560 TI 1gb GDDR5 running in SLI mode

RAM: 16gb 4×4 Corsair XMS

PSU: Corsair GS700

Hard Drive: 2 64gb OCZ Vertex 2 Solid State Drives and 1 tb Western Digitial Caviar 60mb cache

I’m using a generic ATX midsized tower case I bought from best buy. Once you have the PC case the next step is the motherboard. Usually a cpu harness goes on the back of the motherboard behind the CPU. The motherboard then is screwed into the case on little gold looking bolt things. Once the motherboard is secured, first install the ram, and then the CPU and liquid cooler. Next is the power bridge from the case to the motherboard, there’s usually 3-6 cables you connect (like power LED, HDD led, reset switch.) After this I would mount the hard drives into the case, and connect them to a SATA cable to the motherboard, and power cable from the PSU. The main hard drive should be in the 1st SATA port. Next mount the 2 video cards to the motherboard, and connect them to one another with an SLI bridge. Then connect all the power cables to the video cards, motherboard, hard drives, optical drives, and fans inside the case. The computer is ready.

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