Thursday, October 29, 2009

Expect the Unexpected

Here’s something you hear all the time but don’t ever expect it to happen to you. Well.. at least I wasn’t expecting it to happen

My dorm was struck by lightning

That’s 1.21 GIGAWATTS of electricity that just hit us.

Interestingly enough, we didn’t experience a fire or power outage, but rather, a huge power surge and many people crying (including myself) that we no longer have internet service. Some of the networking hardware got fried and knocked out both buildings. What’s also interesting is that my computer tower started buzzing when the lightning hit, and my desktop told me I just experienced a power surge… Interesting how it knows when it had a power surge. Beyond that nothing happened, except my Network Interface Card (NIC) no longer works… as in it no longer appears in my Device Manager.. it just vanished. The lights are still on and it’s integrated to the mother board of my tower but… it seems only the NIC card doesn’t function anymore. Thank goodness my hard drives didn’t fry like some other poor unfortunate souls.

It seems if you weren’t using a surge protector, your stuff got zapped. Many people are moaning about the Red Ring of Death on their Xboxes and entire hard drives getting burnt up. I suppose the reason my NIC card was cooked was because that was not on a surge protector, it was simply plugged straight into the wall. A CAT5 ethernet cable is capable of carrying a gigabit of data over 100 meters, providing me with endless youtube videos, and now apparently burning up my network card. Oh ethernet, how I love thee.

On a side note that got me thinking… everyone is in an energy crisis, but the answer to our problems just zapped my NIC card. Wind turbines, hydro electricity, solar power, geothermal, and our newest, lightning electricity. Come on, nature has zapped us with this stuff since day one and no one has tried to harness it? Actually Doc Brown tried… and he went Back to the Future with it. That’s saying something.

Where’s an engineer when you need one..?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Capitol Hill

It’s been a bit since I’ve written on here… As I type, my roommate is playing Ocarina of Time, a fine game indeed.

The College of Engineering took me to Washington DC a couple weeks ago, where I had the privilege of representing UNT, as well as a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Center called the Convergence Technology Center. It’s always a mouthful to say, but that is indeed what I spent my week doing. I did miss all my classes for a few days, which never does my GPA any favors… I try not to skip too often though.

How was my trip to Washington? I had a feeling you'd ask me that

As a student, they gave me a comfy hotel room, a tour of the city, and even a shiny award. I got an award which read "Advanced Technological Education Student Award for Excellence". The NSF is crazy about long names for things. To get this award you have to achieve an outstanding GPA, attend an NSF ATE center, and effectively demonstrate knowledge in your related ATE field. My field in particular is called Convergence Technology, which involves a lot of computer networking, voice over IP, green IT practices, project management, etc. I'm definitely please to have had this opportunity.

One of the more interesting things though was to listen to the key note speaker talk about the challenge of the 21st century: the energy crisis. Perhaps not a crisis, but it will indeed be the defining challenge of our generation. If only we had some *coughcoughengineerscoughcough that could fix this for us… Really, when you look at the world's problems, there's always a solution, and the solution is always thought up my some random smart dude. Need to instantly talk to people across the planet? Need light in dark places? Need to be able to spy on the sneaky red army trying to beat us into space or aim nukes at us during a period of tension and threat of nuclear holocaust, but can't send spy planes in to take pictures because it's costing too much money and man power and could easily spark a war? Send up a sattelite.

OK so that last example was a bit reminiscent of my time at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. If that's not full of Engineering, I don't know what is...

Also this picture is pretty humorous:

It says:
Windows - "Virtual Memory Minimum Too Low"

Your system is low on virtual memory. Windows is increasing the size of your virtual memory paging file. During this process, memory requests for some applications may be denied. For more information, see Help.

So FYI, the Smithsonian runs Windows, and it seems they run very old Windows boxes... ;)


(Too) Small World

This weekend I drove back to Plano because I have a job working with a National Science Foundation grant. I attend weekly meetings with them because we are migrating our web site to a new Content Management System. This is all fine and dandy but guess what else is in Plano? My family… This can be a double edged sword. On one hand I love my family to death. They give me food and a bed to sleep in, but at the same time they can be so irritating. I think this is why so many students like to move away from home for college… veery veeeeeeery far away. I suppose I’m not the only one this has happened to, but it’s a shame I have to be one of the few.

So what happened then? I'm glad you asked. My mother and grandmother give me very basic instructions for my trip back to Denton. “Don’t drive too fast. Be careful, it’s dark outside. Call me when you get home…” Guess which one of these steps I forgot to follow?

I should also mention that it was homecoming weekend, and it was Saturday night as I was driving back. I made it unscathed back to my dorm room, but I suppose not everyone has that sort of luck, as there were a few reported accidents around the area. I brought quite a few clothes and items from Plano too, so I had to make two trips from my car to my dorm room on the third floor. One thing I didn’t bring with me the first time was my cell phone, as I simply laid it in the passenger seat during the hour long drive. On my way back to get it, I saw a few friends of mine at the dorm and began talking with everyone. We were having a fun time and I never got all the way back to my car. The next time I would get back to my car was a few hours later that night… But I was a few hours too late.

As any concerned mother would do, my parents gave me several calls (18), left several messages (9), drove up an hour to Denton to find me and even filed a missing person report with the police. So while I obliviously sat in my room talking to friends and watching the homecoming game, it seemed the whole world was looking for me. A buzz began to stir in the dorm when there were police officers roaming through the whole building. Everyone they came across was asked the same question: “Are you Brett McCormick? Are you Brett McCormick!?” By the time they found me I was on my way to get my phone from my car, 3 hours after I had gotten back to the dorms.

A few of my friends looked pretty freaked out as they watched the police question me, take my ID, walk me downstairs… In the end everything was fine, except my mother was in tears and I had quite a bit of explaining to do. When I say explaining though, I mean explaining to my parents that I’m an adult and I can fend for myself! Whether they choose to believe me or not is up to them. Just think though, what if I lived in Florida or Washington? That’s a lot of trouble to go through just to find out their son left his phone in the car! Interesting that in the past decade or two, we went from no cell phones, to entirely depending on them for everything, including the safety of others. I wonder what the next great life-saving (or irritating!) invention will be!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hello World!

So this is what blogging feels like. I feel as though I've started writing a log in my diary, only it's on the web. I think I'll call it a web log, or blog for short. I'd like to know what the first blogger was thinking when he (or she!) made the first blog... I bet it was a sour journalist who once was an honest reporter, turned bitter by a newspaper or the MSM (mainstream media). Thereon said journalist decided to plot the demise of "journalism" as we know it, and created blogs.

All kidding aside, I'm excited to be writing for UNT’s College of Engineering! I'm writing this from my HTC hero, the culmination of engineering efforts through the past century. Okay okay, so the Hero isn't the only Smartphone out there, but let's be honest, it is the best ;). When you look at Alexander Graham Bell's first telephone and compare it to the phones of today and tomorrow, you'll see how far we've come. The first photograph was snapped in the 1800s, the first phone call was made in the 1870s, 1900 was the dawn of radio broadcast, the World War II era brought electronic computers, the internet was born around the 1960s, and cell phone networks took off in the 1970s.

So why the history lesson? Let's put this in perspective. Engineers over the past two centuries have proven to be the most robust and clever scientists in history. In fact, the terms "scientist" and "engineer" go hand in hand. Every single invention I mentioned just now was born out of the hands of capable engineers, and was the result of opportunities and creativity that people are capable of. America in particular is responsible for a large portion of these inventions!

Still not excited about engineering?? Let me ask you: what are you wearing? How are you reading this? What are you carrying with you? Who is Brett McCormick? All of those things have one thing in common: they all have roots in engineering. On a side note, this HTC has some god-like spell check. Yeah you thought I was kidding about writing this whole thing on my phone. Well I wasn't :P The fact that it knows I meant “Engineering” instead of “Engubrreumg” is pretty astounding. I won’t be writing any of my blog entries on my iPod Touch.