Thursday, December 16, 2010

SWF Transcoder

So as you may know, I like phones. It seems the world is migrating away from traditional desktop and laptop computers and adopting a more mobile model. Despite mobile's maaaaaaany many many many many drawbacks, there is still a place for mobile devices. So that's where I find myself interested in nowadays.

As a result I decided to enroll in CSCE 4930 under Dr. Garlick. Due tonight is my android app for the class. Rather than working on the app, I'm blogging about it right now. Great idea right?

It's called SWF Transcoder
I'm going to have to pat myself on the back for this icon. *Pat Pat.

What it does is it takes flash content, namely content from youtube, and transcodes it into a standard codec; namely any codec readable by Android phones. Right now all it can do is SWF to MP3, but I'll add OGG and MP4 later. The resulting MP3 file is saved to your SD card on the phone and is then fully available to be played to your heart's content in your media player.

A very basic UI at the moment

Anyway all you do is search for a youtube video, select it, and then in 3-4 minutes the MP3 pops up in /sdcard/SWF_Transcoder/song.mp3. It happens Like this: the mobile phone sends a search request to youtube.com and is returned an XML file containing all the search results for the given query. Then, I used the Java SAX XML Parser to parse the results into an Object list, and then when the user selects a video, the phone gets an mp3 file of the video.

Actually it would be much easier and sell much better if I just said "IT'S LIKE MAGIC!!"

The app is not in the Android market, mind you. It's far too under-developed and inefficient to release. Perhaps in the near future I could release it if I polish it up a bit and make it more efficient. As for now, hopefully it will score me an A in 4930.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Student Orgs

There's a lot of types of student organizations out there. Greek life, professional organizations, intramural sports, etc. I can assure you I'm not a part of greek life. The only Greek lettering I know come from math terms. It's actually really funny when I meet someone in a sorority or fraternity, and they tell me lambda is one of their letters.and I say "you're an empty string?"

I get blank expressions and short conversations with these folks.

These groups sort of have a negative stigma attached to them, whether it's stories of hazing or wild parties or the like. That's not to say sororities/fraternities are ALL bad. One of the engineering ambassadors is the president of an engineering fraternity. The name escapes me at the moment, but I know it has several Greek letters.. In addition there are several engineering societies like IEEE, society of black engineers, society of women engineers, etc. I joined IEEE and I've been to a couple robotics meetings at discovery park. Most of the time, these groups look great on a resume, and can even hook you up with seminars or job offers. Not to mention the meetings are interesting as well. Point is, extracurricular activities are also an important part of college life.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Alive Week

Sorry for the absence of posts recently. I've been exceptionally lazy busy. And now that good ol dead week is back, I can become busier than ever.

"So, we meet again, DEAD WEEK!"
"Yes, you look just as worried this semester as you did last, BRETT MCCORMICK."

"Hah, if by worried, you mean worried I'm going to blow these exams out of the water, you are correct"
"That's not what your Calculus exam said about you last semester"
"Hmph. I left that chump in the dust half a year ago. Bring on some new challengers"
"Let's see how you handle my new and improved Dead Week."
"I'll show you to your grave, Dead Week!!!"

...To be concluded

In all seriousness, I've got 3 exams and a final project due. Everything should work out okay, but that's not to say I don't have plenty of work in front of me. There will be plenty of coffee consumed in the next week. Also, my mobile app is almost finished. I'll reveal that little gem when it's complete. I won't be selling it on the market since it's my first app and it's not very pretty and/or efficient but it's still something I will be using personally! Perhaps I'll publish some random apps in the coming months, now that I've waded through App development 101. Actually it's CSCE 4930/CSCE 5420 to be exact, but you know.

In case you're not familiar with app development and/or could be interested in it, this class isn't necessarily required but provides a structured case study with like-minded students. There's a forum to ask questions in case you miss class, and everyone is developing either an Android or iPhone app. Curiously, only one person is developing an iPhone app. As a reference, iPhones are programmed in modular C, and android is written in Java. Consequently, since Java is an open platform, it is very easy to decompile a paid app, and piracy seems to run rampant in the android market. The question is, do you spend millions in a fight against piracy, or do you embrace hackers and simply inform them that what they do to their phone is their own business, and if they break it, they're SOL? I can personally assure you I'm more than happy to pay 99 cents for a neat app. I mean, to put it in perspective, people are willing to pay $9.00 for a drink and popcorn at a theater, but not 99 cents for a Random Ringtone app? Seriously, that random ringtone app is awesome.

Anyway, I feel fantastic and I'm still alive.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanks for Giving... me a break

Right now, its 6:45 PM, and I just got out of my math class. Wednesday night, the night before Thanksgiving, I'm getting a private gig on the mean green express straight to my destination. Despite how I live a few blocks from the stop I'm getting off at, I couldn't resist the opportunity to take advantage of this. This town gets pretty quiet during beak time. To be fair, the whole campus is closed. It closed at noon today, but I still chose to go to math because the teacher offered extra credit. the bus driver told me I was his first passenger in 3 hours. He was a jolly fellow that laughed and talked with me on the way home. I don't normally take the mean green express but since the next North Texas bus came in 20 minutes and this bus was leaving instantly, I took it. The Mean Green Express, by the way, passes by my old dorm. It gave me quite the Nostalgia trip seeing my old dorm. I met my girlfriend and made all my friends out of this dorm. At first I was hesitant to live there but now that I look back on it, it was definitely worth the while. My roommate became my best friend and now still live with him in an apartment complex. People used to tell me that I shouldn't live in the dorms because it was just a bunch of partying and I would never be able to focus on my school work. Others told me it is all part of the college experience and highly recommended it. In my humble opinion, dorm life is worth trying out at least for a semester or 2 so that you can get to know the people on campus and make new friends.

This table is where I would sit and chat with other people that lived in Santa Fe.

Anyway, enough of the Nostalgia trip. The bus driver has dropped me off and I'm going home. See you next week. Enjoy your long weekend full of turkey and shopping(?)!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Computer Science and Engineering

This is the Second in a 5 part blog post series about every single department we have at Discovery Park.

UNT's College of Engineering at Discovery Park has 5 departments, each significantly different from the other, but with a few similarities.

  1. Materials Science and Engineering
  2. Computer Science and Engineering
  3. Electrical Engineering
  4. Engineering Technology
  5. Mechanical and Energy Engineering
Today's post will be about Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). This is my department, and I live here. I spend 20-30 hours here every week. Don't get me wrong, I love it. Never do something for that many hours if you hate it, believe me. That wisdom can be held true to just about any topic. The reason I'm in Computer Science and IT is because I love it. This semester, a lot of that time is spent working and doing homework. Studying at Discovery Park is much better than studying at home, in my opinion. There are plenty of tables set up and each have their own plug outlet for myself and friends/teammates.

CSE has several research wings and computer labs. One of the most popular being our LARC lab. That's Laboratory of Recreational Computing. What they do is game programming. It's headed by a man named Dr. Parberry and was founded in 1993. UNT's LARC was the first lab to offer courses in game programming in the United States and still remains competitive as it ranks in the Princeton Review's top 50 schools in game programming out of the 500 game programming schools out there. The alumni are consistently successful as Activision's recent "Call of Duty: Black Ops" team consisted of the LARC's very own Cesar Stastny as the Director of Technology.
On top of gaming, CSE has a million other opportunities. You could expect to be working at any tech company big or small. In IT I learn different languages ranging from Java(+JSP), C++, PHP, PERL, Bash scripting, MySQL, etc. Computer Science touches on some of these languages but delves into Assembly language, software engineering, algorithm and software design, etc. Computer Engineering degree goes into similar studies but focuses more on the hardware side of things including the parts inside a computer, game system, airplane, or war machine. The possibilities are indeed quite endless in engineering.

Regardless of your degree, the computer science department also houses the UNT Robotics Society, which I blogged about in this post. In robotics you could be learning more about C++ or even BASIC Stamp, and LabView. Again, there's a million things to do in engineering.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Materials Science Department

This is the First in a 5 part blog post series about every single department we have at Discovery Park.
UNT's College of Engineering at Discovery Park has 5 departments, each significantly different from the other, but with a few similarities.

  1. Materials Science and Engineering
  2. Computer Science and Engineering
  3. Electrical Engineering
  4. Engineering Technology
  5. Mechanical and Energy Engineering
Today's post will be about Materials Science and Engineering. This department offers a four year Bachelor's in Science degree in Materials Science and Engineering, as well as Masters and Doctorates' degrees in Materials Science and Engineering.

I recently got to roam around this department's millions of dollars worth of equipment. In fact, I was giving a tour to a few high school students and the Materials guys were kind enough to demonstrate a few of their machines for us. Research fields in this department span a huge amount of topics ranging from nanotechnology, applications of nano-scale research in materials, medical materials in prosthetic limbs, material coatings to be used in hospital operating environments, materials used in the United States Air Force aircraft, and much much more. It's one of the hardest departments for me to describe while giving tours, but also one of the most fun. The machinery used is something you would expect to see out of a movie like Iron Man or iRobot, or at local corporate giants such as Raytheon, Bell Helicopters, Lockheed Martin, and so on. They range from Electron Scanning Microscopes, to Dual Ion Beam Microscopes, to a LEAP - Local Electrode Atom-Probe - machine:

This LEAP machine pictured out of Discovery Park is one out of only 5 in the United States. You can see on the right hand side of the picture a blurry depiction of an atom being rendered in 3-D

The order of operations goes something like this; use the Electron Scanning Microscope to seek out a piece of material you would like to examine. You can examine a material at X300,000 zoom, and see things at a level that light based microscopes cannot see. Then you can use a laser powered Ion Beam to cut a piece of the material out at a level so precise, it would be the equivalent of shooting a bull's-eye with an archery set from an airplane at 35,000 feet. Then, if that weren't enough for you (and nothing is ever enough for engineers), you take that material over to this LEAP - Local Electrode Atom-Probe - machine, and you can "scan" the atom and you are presented with a 3-D view of the object and all its properties. There are millions of combinations of applications of these machines, but this is just one example.

And this LEAP machine pictured out of Discovery Park is one out of only 5 in the United States.

With a degree in Materials Science, jobs are available in small and large companies in research, development, manufacturing, marketing, and materials design and structures. You might work in such industries as aerospace, appliance, automotive, biomedical, communication, computer, construction, forensics, manufacturing, microelectronics, nanotechnology, nuclear, oil and gas, power generation, shipbuilding, or sports.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Coppell High School Engineering Expo

I'm telling you, engineers love expos and conferences. I've been to quite a few of these and they're just as fun as the last one every time. It's basically a bunch of engineers and nerds getting together and sharing stories about how great it is to be in engineering.


This event took place at Coppell High School. There were many schools and businesses there looking for bright minds - high school student minds to be exact. Here's a list of a few of those who attended:

  1. Armadillo Aerospace
  2. AT&T
  3. Bell Helicopter
  4. Dunaway Associates
  5. EF Johnson Technologies
  6. ExxonMobil
  7. Fujitsu Network Communications
  8. General Motors
  9. IBM
  10. NASA - High School Aerospace Scholars
  11. Nokia Siemens Networks
  12. Sikrosky Aircraft
  13. Southwest Airlines
  14. ST Microelectronics
  15. Teradata
  16. Texas Instruments (TI)
In addition, the Air Force ROTC, US Air Force Academy, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Naval Academy, US Merchant Marine Academy, and West Point were also looking for engineering students. On top of that there were 37 colleges recruiting engineering students, including our very own UNT.

The building was packed. In addition to the myriad of schools, businesses, students and groups, there were also student presentations. One that I visited was a student built solar powered car. It was quite the site and I got to ask him a few questions about his work. It's a project of about three years now, and this student worked in a group of about 8 students. There are 6 panels on the car that cost about $800 each with the total cost of the car equaling about $20,000. It takes ~6-7 hours for the car to go from 0 charge to full charge. It can go 40 MPH and drive around all day he says. The students made a good argument in pointing out that cars like these aren't very cost effective - a common argument when dealing with solar powered tech. If the skeleton of this car cost $20,000, and my Hyundai cost $13,000 brand new, there's some work to be done in making a project like this cost effective.

Great job Engineering students!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NewToy Lecture at Discovery Park

You may have heard of a game called Words with Friends. It's a scrabble-esque game for the iPlatform where two players slowly take turns playing through a game. The game could take hours, days, or weeks, and that's the beauty of always connected hardware and a turn based game such as this. It's one of those games you can play in your 4 minutes of spare time while in line at the cafe, bored at home, or while listening to the NewToy lecture (hehe). Words with Friends has been a top grossing iPhone app for just about as long as it's been on the app store.

"Toy Maker" Vijay Thakkar, developer at NewToy, came to lecture at Discovery Park to prospective Mobile device programmers to give some insight on what it's like to develop for mobile platforms.

"The average age people get their first cell phones nowadays is 8" Vijay explained, "with 35% of 8 year olds owning a cell phone." Clearly mobile devices is an exponentially growing field. Vijay goes on to explain that since smart phones are basically a compass, game system, camera, newspaper, laptop, and gps (oh yeah and a phone, too) all in one, it's no wonder mobile phones are on the up-swing.

One thing Vijay hit on was the vast differences between programming on a mobile device as compared to traditional computers. He said one thing you have to concentrate on is getting the core idea of your "app" developed 100%, and that your app should be able to perform it's core functionality all day, all night 24/7 with no problems. Even if that core feature is something very basic like make farting noises, parse XML, or run a scrabble game engine, your app should be able to perform that activity with 0 flaws. Traditionally, computer programmers have focused on developing full-fledged programs that can do A-Z but not necessarily be able to perform functions F, P, and Q very well. It's especially straining on a small development team or on a team with limited financial resources. With the ideology of developing the core function 100%, releasing, and building from there, your development time is cut in half and your users can provide feedback in order to shape the future of your project. In addition, if users reject your idea all together, you'll have saved that much more time in development whereas you would have spent all that time developing a full fledged app for nothing.

Needless to say, a lot more was said during his lecture, but I don't have enough space, time, or patience to share it all. There are, of course, many lectures held at Discovery Park outside of regular course work, and this was just one of them.

Oh and I felt like a tool for asking, but I got a picture with him specifically for this blog entry x)

Cool cats. Shame I didn't get a shirt EDIT 12-8-2010: My mobile dev teacher Dr. Garlick was gracious enough to give me a shirt. Thanks!!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fort Worth Air Show

This weekend I went to the Fort Worth Air Show - a 15 minute drive from Denton. . I've never been to an air show before.. but upon getting there, I found out it's like a military parade but with planes.

Notice how I'm representin' Go Geek!

There were helicopters too. A lot of them. This orange one has got to be my favorite. This whole air show has only intensified my desire to learn how to fly and to skydive. Some day.. some day.
There were all sorts of things to see. An A-10 Warthog, C-130 Cargo plane which they nick named "Fat Albert", a Chinook, commercial airliners, and more. The things that they actually flew in front of us was a different story. They flew a million planes. I remember seeing the F-16
Falcon first, followed by the F-22 Raptor, and bringing up the grand finale was the Blue Angels.



All of the world's engineering efforts in the last century just flew over my head
The 1940's era P-51 Mustang with a 1970's era F-16 Falcon and a modern day F-22 Raptor as its wingmen

Their breath taking precision flying make them a sight to see.. In addition we saw several skydivers doing some tricks and Ross Perot made a guest appearance as a skydiver. I think I'm a bit too young to know exactly why he's famous but I know he ran for office at some point. There were also stunt planes tumbling through the air all day.
That will be me some day

There were plenty of familiar companies at the air show. Bell helicopters being one of them. They are the ones that manufacture most of the parts for the helicopters I saw at this show. They are at every single solitary job fair UNT's college of engineering hosts. In fact, my blog post from February of last year details every company that was at the job fair that year including Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. Seeing as Bell is right down the street from us, I'm sure it'd be easy to get a job there, if you set your mind to it in engineering.


Blue Angels playing chicken

Wish I could post all my pictures!

Monday, October 25, 2010

UNT Women's Lacrosse Tournament at College Station

_
It was a beautiful day for Lacrosse, a day at the amusement park, going to the beach, and playing mini golf, but most importantly, it was a beautiful day for Lacrosse. The UNT Women's Lacrosse team traveled to College Station just this last weekend to compete against top tier schools for first place. The UNT Women's Lacrosse team is made up of about 26 players and is open for anyone to join and learn about lacrosse. This is one out of many many teams that UNT hosts out of its sports clubs - I myself play with UNT's Tennis sports club. It's surprising how many people have no idea what Lacrosse is. It's fun of course but it can be a little rough at times.

The team during a match

As a bystander, I got to take pictures. That works out though because now I have a lot of material to use for this blog entry.
Lindsey taking on SMU

The team played their hearts out and played 3 games that day. We played our first match against Empire - a Texas A&M alumni team. Most of them had played before and UNT tried their best but ended up losing.

Round 2 UNT played against SMU. UNT lost 14-0
Round 3 UNT tied against Texas Tech 8-8.
Defense is critical

By the end of the day, everyone gained valuable experience, had tons of fun, and ate ice cream. Who doesn't like ice cream? Well done Mean Green!
Sarah after scoring a goal. Complete with fist pump and referee approval. Nice

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Traditions - UNT Bonfire

Every school has traditions. Here's one of UNT's.

The bonfire being built

We build bonfires. Every homecoming, students put together a huge bonfire. I've heard it's the biggest hand-made bonfire in Texas. No cranes or heavy machinery used ever. Above is a picture I snapped of it the day before the thing was lit ablaze. You can sort of make out a few kids walking around on top stacking up more wood. Why have this tradition? I'm not sure, to be honest, but maybe it's to light the fire of encouragement and watch it spread freely and wildly until we consume our opponents in a furious unstoppable rage.

Or maybe it's because fires are awesome.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hello World v2.0

It's been a while, but I'm still alive. And believe me I am still alive. And while you're dying I'll be still alive. I feel fantastic and I'm still alive..... still alive... still alive. (Portal, Still Alive)

It's a new semester and a new start. Now that I've settled into the new semester, gotten my classes well under way, taken a few tests and lost a few nights of sleep studying, I can start blogging again.

So what am I up to nowadays? I'm delving into the core of my degree plan. I have 4 classes; namely Database Systems and Information Integration, IT Systems and Administration, Mobile Device Development, and Discrete Math. I have another three or four semesters of school work to go before I can call myself a graduate. Perhaps if I continue to take summer school courses I can finish sooner but, I don't know if I've ever had a summer all to myself since I've started my college career. Summer school is just something that has to be done sometimes. It's for the betterment of myself and to get ahead. The sooner you finish, the better!

That said, I still had a fantastic summer. I got to go to New York state to visit my family and participate in paintball (it was my first time, and it was awesome), Kayak, and visit with all my family. The very next week I went to Florida to partake in an NSF conference. Luckily I had enough time to pay Sea World a visit! Some day I will swim with dolphins... some day.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Oh Happy Day

Today was move out day at the Dorms. Every May, each and every student must file out of their respective dorms and go find somewhere else to live while the building licks its wounds gets cleaned. Actually, the students are required to clean their rooms like big boys and girls and ask your local RA if it's ok to leave yet. I was there from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM just trying to leave the dang place. I was also helping a friend move out of her place! Poor girl has so much stuff left to move.

Anyway, where do I live now??

I've officially moved out of my dorms, cleaned up, and checked out with the Resident Advisor. I'm all on my own now! My roommate and I have moved into a nice apartment complex on the first floor of the building. Living in dorms really teaches you how to appreciate the little things in life. At first I was living in a house, under my parents' wing. That's probably a grade B living scale. Nothing too extravagant, but I was living comfortably. Then, I moved into college dorms. Granted it could have been worse, It's still a significant downgrade. I'd rate dorm life as a D on the living scale, with F being homeless. It's not that dorms are bad, per se, it's just that I have none of the common appliances that everyone is used to.

Now that I live in apartments, my living environment has increased substantially. Probably back up to level B. An A, by the way, would be like celebrity living in a mansion in Beverly Hills, or North Dallas. So I get my own Laundry facilities, a bathroom of my own, my own room, pets are allowed, a nice big refrigerator, disposal in the sink, fast internet (that's a biggie). Dorms really teach you to appreciate things in life!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Good Luck

"Luck favors the prepared mind." Whoever came up with that quote has obviously never taken final exams at UNT. I mean, to know when your exam is, where it is, what questions are going to be on it, and what grade you need to get on it to get an A in the class requires at least SOME luck... right?... right.?..

It's exam week. I took 2 exams last week as a matter of fact, and this week I have another 2 exams. The fun never stops at UNT! This summer I've got a couple of summer courses I'm taking as well. Summer courses operate in a flexible fashion. You can take a Summer I, Summer II, or Long Summer course. Summer I and the Long Summer courses start June 7, and registration is already ongoing. Summer II starts in mid July, I believe, after Summer I courses end..

I myself am signed up for 2 Long Summer session courses in Information Technology, with Mr. Keathly! Anyway good luck with exams!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Denton Arts and Jazz Festival

Recently I paid a visit to the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival:


The arts and jazz festival is chock full of all sorts of people, art, and jazz as you might imagine. It was interesting to walk around town and see what Denton has to offer beyond engineering. I mean I'm not saying engineering is all I care about... but it makes up for a healthy portion of it.

This is one of the stands. It's a lovely display of trinkets and things

If you've ever been to an art festival, you'll know that there are plenty of these things scattered around. It's a healthy mix of different types of artsy fartsy things that I can't really understand or appreciate very much, but I can pretend to as I 'ooh' and 'ahh' at people's work. I love it when people 'ooh' and 'ahh' at my work, so it's only fair to give a little take a little. Even if the other party doesn't fully understand all the work that goes into a project, it's nice to give credit where it's deserved. I think we need a city-wide Denton Engineering Festival, where everyone can show off the trinkets and toys they make over the years.

Unfortunately I lost my iPod that weekend. A sad weekend indeed. I put hours of work into getting my own app onto that thing, and I lose it... :(

In other news, it's dead week. I guess I've posted about Dead week before. This time, Dead week came back much quicker. It depends on who you ask I guess.. But at first this semester crawled by... then all of the sudden it was gone! First exam is this Thursday!!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Oh the Drama

You know, there's just as much drama in the Tech world as there is in the 'other' world. Who cares about Miley Syrus, Britteny what's-her-face, and what the latest fashion stores are selling. Look at what is happening to the Flash platform! First off, Virgin America ditches Flash for its website and adopts HTML5. No biggie, it's just one site. Well next, I find out that video juggernaut sites Vimeo and Youtube are eyeballing HTML5. Not to mention that Apple ditched Adobe Flash back in 2007 with its iPhone platform. Apple continues to deal blows as they still do not support flash on their newest "magical" expensive brick ipad (Mark my words they will release an ipad with MAC OSX on it, while cranking up the prices to the 3k+ mark. Perhaps called iPad X. or iPad OSX. or just iOSX...). Finally, Jobs outlines a few reasons why he continues to show the cold shoulder to Adobe. Adobe won't take this sitting down as its CTO Lynch defends his platform, saying that HTML has had a history of inconsistently rendering on different platforms and browsers, and that Flash's relevance and standard output across all platforms that it is implemented on is part of what will keep flash alive. He has a point, but recent criticism of Adobe's Flash platform causing battery life drainage and overall performance hit on less powerful devices has not been disproved and even succumbs to some of this criticism. Nevertheless, Flash 10.1 has been well under development and is soon to be every mobile device's savior as it will bring performance increases and a better user experience!!

Anyway, moral of the story being that you have to make conscious and smart decisions when designing software. If you're sure you don't want to develop for an up coming mobile platform, be sure you're ready to face the music when your users or investors question you. If you want to cut support for X product or limit your users to only Y protocol, you better be sure you know what you're doing. I for one would love to see some Flash apps on the Android now that iPhone is out of the picture ;)

In other news, HP buys Palm. Now we're going for a web-OS powered HP netbook!? I think it would have been neat if Adobe bought Palm.. As Palm recently faced its own music as it was forced to sell its assets in its ailing Web-OS.

But think about it.. A Flash powered phone? That may be the prettiest phone ever.. or perhaps the slowest phone ever. We'll never know now. I myself am fairly versed in Flash.. at least I used to be back in the Flash MX and even Flash 8 days.

Friday, April 23, 2010

UNT Robotics Society

Recently I paid a visit to the UNT Robotics society. A Jolly group of engineering students and graduates who like robots. They showed me a bunch of things they were working on and even invited me to join!

Not the prettiest thing I've ever seen, but definitely shows off the guts of the project

This is the Self-aware Coke-Mobile, as I've just now decided to dub it that. It's a work-in-progress autonomous remote control car. What it does is navigate through hallways and avoid objects by itself. Given the correct programming in a language called Spin - a multitasking high level computer programming language, it uses something called a Parallax Propeller Chip to interpret sensor data and Spin commands. At least, I think that's a pretty accurate description.

Today in particular was a pretty exciting day for the Robotics Society, as they've just received a golf cart:
It's so that new members can use it to run errands around Discovery Park for them...

Nah it's actually their newest guinea pig of sorts. They plan on hacking this thing apart and installing some new toys onto it. What they plan on doing with it is akin to DARPA's autonomous vehicle challenge. They're going to attempt to upgrade this thing to be totally autonomous, and be able to navigate Discovery Park, while avoiding obstacles, pedestrians, walls, polls, and what have you. It takes quite a bit of knowledge in computer science, but the feat is definitely worth bragging about.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stop the Presses!

It seems that today, some of the computer systems around campus are acting up. Namely, any computer running Windows XP and UNT's standard suite of software (*coughantivirusandadministrativetoolscough*). That means most the computers in the computer labs, general classrooms, and regular desktop computers that run Windows XP are going through some down time. I happened to noticed today in Math, the PC at the front of the classroom shut off, as the distinct Windows XP shutdown noise went off. Within a second, the classroom next door emitted the same sound. It just so happens that most PCs on campus are running Windows XP with McAfee Anti Virus "Protection". Seems to be causing quite the stir across campus.

That must mean whoever manages these computers must not have graduated from UNT, otherwise we'd be fine right now!!! Actually that's not the case. In fact, here's a quote from the CSE Systems Administrator:

"It should now be safe to turn Windows computers on again. It appears to
have been a false positive of sorts, related to the latest McAfee DAT
file."

I think we all know who the next Criticism of the Week goes to. *CoughMCAFEEcough*

Friday, April 16, 2010

We're Home to More than Just Engineers

Look what I found:
What is this exactly? Is it.. a Vulture? A turkey or something? There's a legend about UNT and its strange animals. One of them includes the tale of an albino squirrel. There's an entire organization about it

But this thing is strange. This is the second time I've walked by this window at Research Park and spotted this thing. This time I stopped to take a picture. Although as soon as I whipped out my Hero, it started getting mad..

It tried to attack me! What did I do? =[

Indeed when I went to get a closer look it lunged at me. What is this thing? I'm obviously no Zooligist if I can't even name this bird, but I'll describe it. It's black, about 1'4" tall, did not make any audible noises, and it's extremely pissed. Perhaps there's an engineer here who keeps a pet vulture? Or maybe this guy feeds on helpless engineers... :(

And to my knowledge, Discovery Park does not house wild animals or Zoos of any sort!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mean Green Lacrosse

We play other sports besides football? Oh yes , indeed. And I'm pretty sure every sport has its male and female counterparts, including Lacrosse!
It was a beautiful day, for sure, and we were at UNT's Eagle Point Intramural Rec Sports Fields. In the background of that picture, you can see my favorite spot: The Waranch Tennis Complex!

So how did we do? Mean Green played against SMU and Texas Tech. Southern Methodist University won their match 9-16 (I believe), and Texas Tech pulled a last minute come back to win their round at 9-10. Close games indeed. UNT's women's Lacrosse performed very well, and improved their game compared to last season exponentially. Mean Green's team captain is quoted in saying, "It was disappointing to have lost the game in the last few minutes of the half, but a great game nonetheless. I'm proud of my team. We've performed so well this season." Hats off to Mean Green Lacrosse - I'm pretty sure any of them could beat me in an arm wrestle. Then again, I'm left handed, so I'm pretty sure my lefty could beat anybody else's ;)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Everything's Connected

Really, everything is. I'm connected to my life at UNT.. and here I am in Frisco! I'm in a meeting with some old friends.
This is the Convergence Technology Center (CTC). You've heard vague references to them in the past, and for good reason. They're the reason I am where I am, and I'm doing what I'm doing. They're who got me on my college feet, and sent me off into the world. The world is UNT, I guess!

The CTC is based out of Collin College (CCCC) in Collin County. Some of you may know it as a two year community college. That would make sense, because that's what it is. But it's also the place I worked for 2 years, went to school for 2 years, and learned a million things (in 2 years).

Once I was set in my ways of computer networking, voice over IP, Cisco/Juniper/Nortel networking, operating systems basics, and public speaking, they sent me off to UNT. Or rather, I chose UNT as the next best step - as it is! My degree in particular - the Bachelor's in Information Technology, melds very comfortably with the work I did at the CTC. It is fantastic that UNT accepted so many of my credit hours that otherwise overlap so many other lower level courses. All other schools I looked at told me I'd have to drop all my Convergence credit hours, and restart my degree at their school. Instead, at UNT, I transferred 18 hours of my Convergence credit hours, plus all the other core classes that I had taken at Collin. Now I'm an academic Junior, and am well on my way to my bachelor's degree!

Anyway, what I'm doing in Frisco now is listening to a National Visiting Committee meeting, as they listen to and critique the CTC on their activities, degree programs, alumni (that's me!) and current or future students. The CTC constantly has focus groups and meetings with businesses and National Science Foundation representatives to help direct them and ensure that the students they are teaching get the most out of their education. I am here to share with the NVC my story, and how great Collin, the CTC, and UNT are!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Green Government

UNT ain't such a mean place, despite what everybody says about us. You know, Mean Green? In fact, I take the Mean Green bus route to class every morning. I've never been threatened or hurt on the bus, for that matter. I think it's kind of nice being green. And no matter what Kermit tells you, it really isn't that hard being green.


Why the Green talk? University of North Texas students are voting on a proposed tuition fee of an extra $5 that has been dubbed the "Green Fee" to "support environmental improvements and sustainability efforts on campus. Ideas could include a student-run sustainable garden or additional trees, solar panels on buildings, a composting center or improved recycling equipment." (Source).

The vote will take place from April 19 - 23. If you are a current UNT Student, go to the Student Government Association site that week to vote.

Speaking of the SGA site, there are referendums and senator elections going on right now! This week, vote for your major's representatives and for who should be the president/vice president of the SGA!

As for the school of Engineering, there is only one student running for a seat - Jasmine Breedlove! I guess she wins since no one else decided to run against her. Represent us well Jasmine! To be honest, I didn't know anything about the SGA until last week. So now I'm passing on the word to you.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Geeks of The Future

I'd like to ask, who invented 3D goggles? Or 3D in general. I know we started off with those neat blue and red glasses that were just pieces of plastic taped over a cardboard cutout that we could put on and pretend everything was in 3D. Let's be real with ourselves though: those things didn't work worth diddly. In addition, we looked like goof balls wearing them.

Sweet, Rad Racer 3D on the NES!
Fast forward two and a half decades and we have 3D TVs coming into homes! And this time they actually give a satisfying 3D effect. One thing is still troubling me though. And it's obvious that this was a bunch of nerds designing these because... well just take a look:

Here's a picture of me with my usual shades. I'm so stylin

3D Glasses^^

See the problem? Watching 3D TV isn't something you can do and cook dinner, or something you can have on in the background while hanging out with people or throwing a party. It's an experience you must set everything else aside for to enjoy. Even watching movies with your significant other may take a way more exciting shift as you look at each other wearing these glasses, and see who can pull off the best Zing on the other! Seriously I look like an Android or something wearing those.

I'm not sure why they're so clunky, large, and just overall unappealing. Today's engineers are on the right track, for sure, but there is something lacking. Something that a strictly engineering major may not be able to catch or care about in the first place. Thankfully, UNT has a healthy balance of Engineers, Radio/TV/Film, and Art majors to balance out this act. Had 3D glasses been born at UNT, I'm sure there would have been a fantastic compromise, and we'd have something more akin to the Star Trek glasses from the movies. Now those are something I could wear around the house.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Break Time's Over

I hope everyone had a refreshing Spring Break. By the obvious absence of posts recently, I can assure you I did. What made it so great? I'm glad you asked. Even if you didn't ask, here's why:

My roommate and I went to downtown Dallas last weekend. We didn't travel further than a mile away from the dorms over the break, so we figured before school started back up, we were going to make a road trip. And a road trip did we make

A small one, to be sure, but one none the less. We visited North and Downtown Dallas areas to see what the city was all about. An interesting place, to be sure. We rode the Red Line DART rail to downtown Dallas. Speaking of DART, they are expanding closer to Denton! The Green Line will be making its way toward Denton

Alright so President George Bush Turnpike isn't quite Denton, but we're getting there. It's always an interesting experience to take public transit to hot destinations downtown. One of these days perhaps I'll see a Mavericks game..

All in all, my Spring Break was pretty grand, so thank your for asking. I did spend a significant chunk of it catching up on some Information Systems classwork. Our site was knocked for a loop, but it's back up and running to be sure.

Class doesn't wait up for anyone though, and we're back in the game!

Remember: FAFSA deadline is June 30!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Keep Denton Beautiful

This weekend, I volunteered at Keep Denton Beautiful's "Great American Cleanup"


It wasn't required for a class, I didn't get sentenced to community service, and no one paid me to do it, I just volunteered... My roommate however, was required to, as it was part of a class he is in. I decided to tag along!
We spent the morning, from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM cleaning up the town. Any place as big as Denton will need a cleanup every once and a while, so I was happy to play my part. I won't say I enjoy cleaning up after others, as others should not arbitrarily be throwing their lottery tickets and beer bottles out their car windows. But if it means a greener society, then I am willing to spend some time. Had I not come along, my roommate would have been by himself. Cleaning a city requires at least one other person to tag along, I was happy to oblige.

I'd say this is the best piece of trash I found

All in all, it was a successful day. Any day of picking up trash for a cleaner Earth is a successful day, mind you. I've always heard you can learn a lot from a person's trash. Well you can learn a lot more about a society by its trash as well. For example, Dentonites love their lottery tickets, 7-11 drinks, and beverages.


Anyway, we had 4 bags to turn in at the end. Two trash bags, two recycling. It was nice seeing so many people come together and clean up a city. There should be more Great American Cleanup days! I encourage everyone out there to lend a hand as well!! Besides, it looks fantastic on college applications, job applications, and girlfriend scholarship applications.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Genius

As part of going to college, you get to learn how to deal with all sorts of situations you never thought you would have had to. Deciding whether sleep or homework is more important, saying bye to friends at 1 in the morning as opposed to 4 in the morning, and dealing with washed ipods

Yes indeed, I washed my ipod in the pocket of one of my pants. As by a miracle of some sort of supreme being, or corporation which makes decent (lol) hardware, the device is still fully functional... well... with the exception of one significant caveat - the Wifi doesn't work... That's the #2 thing I liked about the ipod. The #1 must be the music browsing/playing software on it. I like just searching for the song I want to hear instead of sifting through long lists of MP3s and artists. I wish the Android had something akin to this.

So what's the first thing I do with broken Apple equipment? Take it to the Apple Store! Granted I hate the Apple store. I have fun whenever I'm in there, for sure, but most of the time it's cracking jokes about their store. For example, here's a picture of the Apple Store's wall of software:

An entire wall just for software for your Mac. I didn't know they could fill up an entire wall!! hahahahahaha

*wipes tear* ah that was a good one. Get it? Macs don't have that much software so to fill up an entire wall of Mac OSX software is so surp-....

ah ehm well.. I think you get it.

No but seriously we went there and spoke to a sales associate about my ipod. He said he wasn't sure what he could do for me, and that I had to speak with a tech support guy Genius rep to figure out what was wrong with it. Why do they call themselves Geniuses? To me it shouts many things, but for the sake of this blog, I'll go ahead and just say that that's what people perceive techies and engineers to be. Between the Geek Squad and the Genius Bar, nerds are the go-to people for anything you're not sure of. Another reason I'm confident in my decision to study in engineering and IT!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Midnight Snack

Sometimes there's just not enough time in the day. In high school, I felt like there was too much time in the day. I'd spend 7-8 hours on campus at high school, and I was about ready to yank the hair off my head. There was also a notable amount of homework in high school, which added another hour or 2 onto the grand total amount of time I spent on school related things in high school.

Now try college. Community college was a step up from high school I guess, but in most cases was the same feeling. Drive to campus, listen to lectures, drive home, do homework, repeat.

UNT, however, is a game changer. Any 4 year school would be I imagine. I spend 24 hours of my day on campus and I still don't have enough time to do all my stuff it seems. From the moment the alarm sounds in the morning, it's go go go. And if there's anything I hate most, it's missing class. Sometimes I don't have enough time to even eat! Which is when this place comes in handy:


Eggs, OJ, steak tips, French Toast, Hash Browns?? There's only one joint in town that can provide me all this at 1 in the morning... Of course it's IHop! It's a 10 minute walk or 2 minute drive. The staff is funny and the food is always good and available. To be honest, I'm not sure how long the on campus cafeterias are open, but this place is open 24/7. There is one thing missing from this picture... and I'll bet you've already spotted it. Yes it's the pancakes. I always swap out the pancakes for the french toast.. You'll even notice some strawberry and grape jelly sitting to the side. Indeed that is for my french toast! Perhaps I could beg my parents for a gift card to IHop, because my roommate and I hit up this joint all the time!

Also, if you've ever mixed half n half with orange juice, I swear it tastes just like a Creamsicle.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Engineering Week

So today when I walked into Research Park, I was pleasantly surprised to see dozens of well known companies lined up waiting to chat with the brightest upcoming minds in North Texas! Alright so I wasn't surprised (I've known about the event for weeks!), but I was still happy to see such a wide variety of businesses, interests, and knowledge base gathered in one room. If you submitted your resume, you have a chance to be interviewed by any of the 2 dozen companies present, as well as a chance to jump start your career in your engineering field!


There were lots of companies here; let's go over the full list, just for good practice:

  1. American Airlines
  2. Argo Data Resource Corporation
  3. Austin Commericial
  4. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.
  5. CA
  6. CareSmart Solutions
  7. Constructors & Associates
  8. Dibon Solutions
  9. DRS RSTA - Infrared Technologies
  10. Fidelity Investments
  11. Freese and Nichols
  12. Frito-Lay
  13. Hispanic Associateion of Colleges and Universities
  14. L-3 Communications Integrated Sys.
  15. Labinal, Inc.
  16. Lennox International
  17. Oncor Electricity Delivery
  18. PepsiCo
  19. Raytheon
  20. Texas Teaching Fellows/NTP
  21. Tyler Technologies
  22. Vought Aircraft Inc.
  23. Weber Aircraft
  24. United States Navy
  25. UNT Army ROTC
The first thing you'll notice is that there is a very wide variety of companies. There were several technology firms, tech consulting firms, as well as weapons manufacturing companies, aviation companies, a softdrink company, the US Navy, and many more. What do all these companies need with engineers, computer scientists, and network analysts? Well, just about everything. The only fields really projected for growth in the next decade are Engineering related fields, and medical related fields. In fact, with the baby boomer generation diving into retirement in the next decade, it's obvious as to why this is. But engineers and tech savvy individuals are also going to be in high demand. Looking at just about any field - you can draw a link between tech and the aforementioned profession.

Take the soda or snack food company - there were a couple of those present today. These are perfect examples of companies that need IT analysts, computer programmers, and project managers for managing all of their remote offices and keeping their networks up and running

Next, the aviation companies. Aircraft is an excellent example of innovative engineering and clever programming and networking technologies. All come together to form the biggest and baddest flying machines out there today. In addition to the need for engineers to think , aviation companies also need programmers and IT management professionals to keep their offices running as well

Of course we can't forget about the US. Navy. The Navy is probably where most of the cutting edge technology ends up - especially tech that the public isn't even aware of. Raytheon should not be neglected, especially, as Raytheon manufactures many radar and radio systems, communications, missile defense systems, and other technologies used in the military. I actually used to live next to a prominent Raytheon leader named Al. He had an adorable dog named Winston, and a lovely house in a modest neighborhood. I was in middle school, though, so I had no idea what Raytheon was, much less what a prominent figure he was. Men in camouflage uniforms used to come by our house and question my parents once or twice a year about his activities...

Anyway, to say the least, just about any degree field in the College of Engineering is a direct pathway to success. When I spoke with the Raytheon associate, he mentioned that GPA is an important indication of work ethic and intellect, but also that prospective students and freshmen should also prepare for a life of learning. Looking ahead, I can already tell I will never stop learning. That's probably the most appealing thing to me about engineering - constant learning.

Also, for all prospective students of UNT, and UNT College of Engineering in particular, the freshman Fall 2010 application deadline is March 1!! UNT Site for more info

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ready, Set...

With the Olympics under way at full steam, I can't help but draw parallels between athletes who have dedicated their whole lives to becoming the best of the best, fastest of the fastest, skilliest of the skilled, and me... Wait skilliest of the skilled?

Actually, Olympians and myself don't have a lot in common, I'll admit. But there is no one that can time when that bus in parking lot #19 will make its stop outside my dorm as well as I can.

8:37 AM: McCormick dries off after a shower and readies for Econ 1100 - a 9 AM class at the other side of campus.

8:40 AM: admire self in mirror

8:42 AM: glance out window to ensure bus arrival is not immanent

8:43 AM: McCormick spots the Mean Green Express making its stop, 120 meters south of his position, in the Fouts Field Parking Lot #20. The Starting whistle sounds!


8:44 AM: T-minus 3 minutes and twenty seconds until dust off of Mean Green Express from SFT stop out of parking lot #19. McCormick stumbles as he slaps on deodorant and socks. Can he really make it to the bus stop in time??

8:45 AM: McCormick's heart beat is racing, the pressure is on. He can't find his belt! T-minus 2 minutes 11 seconds until dustoff.

8:46 AM: The final pat down; McCormick checks for Wallet, Keys, Phone, iPod, and Glasses, as he grabs his messenger bag (man purse?) and runs (walks briskly?). From the third floor, the elevator isn't a viable option (I actually never use the elevator. Save a tree! Use Stairs!!). Take the stairs quick! T-minus 1 minute 8 seconds til dustoff

8:47 AM: Slow from brisk walk to calm stroll, as the front doors to his housing bursts open, McCormick in full stride. The sound of a roaring bus engine sounds in the distance

Approach bus stop calmly, casually glancing at the phone to find out how cold it is, and how I really should have slapped on another layer of clothing... -1 degrees Celsius??

Observe jealous onlookers, as they realize they have a long way to go until they can perfect approaching the bus stop, every day, on time, right before the bus leaves, thus avoiding the wait in the 30 degree weather.

Zero Hour: Bus departs, arrive in class 9:00 AM. Pen in hand, spiral in... desk. I'm ready to start the day.

A gold medal to you, McCormick, for perfect timing of the Mean Green Express.

Seriously, I love the bus system. My roommate refuses to use it, and it confuses me to this day still why he won't use it. When I ask him, he says he doesn't want to board a bus that will take him to Downtown Dallas, or California. Heck if all I had to do was board a bus to get to Dallas, getting to DFW Airport would be a heck of a lot easier! Instead, he'll leave for class 30 minutes early and walk. To that I say, no thanks. During the summer, I'll start walking to class again, but in freezing weather, I'll pass. I'll take 110 degrees over 10 degrees anyday.

Heck Yes, Lone Snowball outside Research Park lives on!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

And the Crowd Goes Wild

Here in Texas, we Don't get much snow. In fact, I think it snowed once last winter. When it does snow though, we go crazy. Not like the New Englanders and their 57 inches of snow this year, no. That kind of crazy is the kind where you're pulling hair out of your skull. Snow, in Texas, snow is like some sort of freaky foreign substance.Neither me nor those kids rolled that ball of awesomeness...
An Unknown Hero of sorts m
ust have

It was snowing all day long, but not very much of it stuck to the ground it seems. Plenty enough to make snow men and snow angels, but not enough to dig tunnels. I've always wanted to dig tunnels in snow... Actually I tried that once in New York, but we still didn't have enough snow. I ended up on my belly trying to throw snow out of a cave. I got really hot, and really tired. Snow is so misleading. One moment I'm freezing, and the next moment I've got sweat dripping, and I'm hotter than I've ever been in the summer...

Speaking of Snow, snow boarding is the hardest thing I've ever done... I tried snowboarding once in New York, and it felt like my legs were on fire. I took it as a sign as to how out of shape I am... It was so fun, but legs on fire and me losing my cell phone on the hill made it not fun. Whenever we stopped half way down, we noticed my phone was missing, but I decided to grab a snack before heading back to the slopes. I ate like a pig, I was so fatigued. For some insane reason I will never understand as to why I made it, I agreed with my brother to go back up to the top of the mountain to look for my phone... I'm not sure what was wrong with me to let me think I could have ever found my gray phone in the dark when I couldn't even remember what hill we came down.

In the end though, someone DID find my phone, and turned it into lost and found. I'll never get that lucky again in a million years!

Anyway, enjoy the 2 snow days, stay warm, and have a great 4 day weekend!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Let the Games Begin

This week, I have two exams coming up. Next week, I have another exam in a core class - econ. I feel like no one gives those classes any cred. There are some classes out there that are the butt of student jokes. They're the red lights of a college degree plan. They stink, plain and simple. Despite the fact that it's somewhat of a slap in the face to those who teach the course or to others who major in that degree field, I always refer to my economics, math, science, et al. classes as core classes, and the types of classes I just have to "get out of the way". The phrase is all too common amongst undergraduates, but for good reason. An Information Technology major has no interest in the biology lab, yet I find myself there, as I require 3 classes worth of life science.

Don't get me wrong though, life science courses are just a piece of the Bachelor's Degree pie. You may call it the breading of the pie. Core classes such as math, science, english, and political science make up the crusty foundation of the degree plan. Every well rounded scholar must have his/her merits in liberal arts and sciences. Engineering courses such as programming in C++, Information Systems, Enterprise Architecture and Design, and Networks and Security Management make up the warm and delicious center of the pie, with the bulk of your interests taking place within this field. Then of course comes the delightful toppings. Then finally, the whipped cream on top, comes in the form of capstone classes, co-op opportunities, competitions, and more exciting things to spruce up that resume.

mm pie

Anyway, whichever degree path you choose *coughengineeringcough*, it should remind you of pie. That way, when your alarm goes off at 7 AM, and you are dreading going to that econ class all the way in Wooten Hall, just remember, pie. It's all worth it if it's for pie.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mix n Match

So last week I wrote about why there are so many reasons to become an engineering major. Well here's something for the non-engineering majors out there. Computers are more than just ones and zeroes. In case you haven't noticed, technology has creeped into every part of our daily lives. I sound like just about every other tech article out there right about now but hear me out:

Take a computer. It could be anything from your desktop computer, to your laptop, netbook, iPhone, Android, smartphone, watch, XBOX, PS3, Wii... etc. What makes one computer better than the other? Hardware? Software? User friendliness? How you market your computer?

It's all of the above. There is a lot that goes into technology. In fact, the other day, I was talking with my roommate about how much psychology goes into designing web pages. When a person is interfacing with a computer, there is nothing there but you and your computer. Why do you think some people take it so personally when one operating system is bashed or another operating system is praised? The connection that happens between a person and his/her computer is one of a sort of friendship, or pet perhaps. You choose your species (aka manufacturer), then you choose your breed (Operating System), then you choose your nick knacks (your software). You customize your technology for the way it most pleases and benefits you in life. That's why when someone says, "iPhones suck!" so many people take offense to it, because despite how pathetic it sounds, these little devices play an intimate role in people's lives.

Even more, my entire life is on my phone, and to go further, my phone is customized to my personality. As technology becomes smarter and smarter, humans have a choice on what technology to utilize and how to utilize it. Someone insulting your Windows computer for crashing all of the time will not hurt any one's feelings, but I'm saying that a lot of thought goes into designing software and hardware, and how users choose to utilize it. Especially as phones these days get better and better, they seem to be little portals to our personalities.

When I was sitting in Humanities class one day, a kid's cell phone went off real loud, and was playing the Captain Planet theme as his ringtone. These things are more and more becoming an icon for who we are. It's like choosing an avatar for a video game or a logo for yourself, you want it to represent yourself. That kid's Captain Planet ringtone was hilarious for sure, but the poor guy had the teacher making fun of him saying "Boy, I bet that's embarrassing! What is that some sort of cartoon??" I still laughed loudly at that though. haha. It even played the entire theme, because he couldn't get it out of his pocket for so long. Good times...

Anyway, the reason some companies and web sites do so well (despite how they may be lacking in other fields) is because of the design approach that the company takes with their proudct(s). Often times the design is radical, different, human, and connects with people. I've heard Apple's developers described as artists, rather than programmers. On a certain level, that may be true. It just goes to show that computers are not just ones and zeroes. There's more behind that monitor than you first may realize. In fact, hiding behind everything worth loving - your phone, computer, flash drive, TV, couch, bed, steak dinner, car, internet, desk, chair, clothes, video games, and significant other, is a clever engineering major. I guarantee it

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Told You So

There are a lot of reasons to be a geek. Besides being a chick magnet (girls if you decide to get into engineering, you will have no problem finding a great guy :P), tech savvy, and being a part of an elite group of people who laugh at xkcd, you also get to save the world. On the same level as James Bond, Super Mario, and Gordon Freeman, you too can prevent the demise of all the things you love. Or so says the Pentagon:
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/01/darpa-us-geek-shortage-is-a-national-security-risk/

DARPA, or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, says the "ability to compete in the increasingly internationalized stage will be hindered without college graduates with the ability to understand and innovate cutting edge technologies in the decades to come…. Finding the right people with increasingly specialized talent is becoming more difficult and will continue to add risk to a wide range of DoD [Department of Defense] systems that include software development"

They go on to say "the decline in degrees in CS [computer science] is particularly pronounced for women and minorities…. Proposals that have plans that specifically increase the number of women or minorities in their activities are encouraged."

Now DARPA is the same group responsible for Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAV), driverless cars, several space vehicles and more. By the sounds of things, it seems like the military needs more nerds as well. The UAV drones used in Iraq seem to be using unencrypted network communications to relay video intelligence from drones to HQ. The problem with unencrypted channels is a kid with a cantenna and cheap computer software (perhaps free for linux?) could look at these drones and watch the on board video. Now uploading a youtube video of me hacking a UAV video stream would be totally cool, but something like this shouldn't have happened in the first place. See? I told you we need more nerds.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Who's in Charge Here?

A lot of times, I fall under the illusion that I'm in control of my life. I find myself pressing the gas pedal of my car, and the car goes. I arrange to play tennis with a friend, and we play tennis. I sign up for 14 hours of classes... and I go to class. Alright so I'm in control!

Until, on the way home, I get a flat tire out of nowhere. And I know nothing about cars. I know how to drive, but I don't know the first step in vehicle maintenance. People watch me work with computers and they say, "Oh Brett, how are you so smart?" That's my least favorite compliment, is when people tell me I'm smart. When I worked at Collin College, I once experienced this very predicament. I was showing a co-worker my most recent project, and he told me "Geez Brett, how are you so smart?" Now this kid was 18, an academic sophomore, and working directly for the department of engineering's director as a student assistant. He was an honor's student and was probably 3 levels of math above me, so him saying something like this was a bit flattering I'll admit, but ultimately unwarranted. I responded to him by saying, "I'm not necessarily smart, I just know a lot about computers, computer networking and programming. I don't know the first thing about mechanical engineering, cooking, the metric system, or car maintenance. Just like you know a lot about math, physics, and soon to be mechanical engineering, you're "smart" in that way."

He then proceeded to stare blankly for a moment, and all of the sudden the expression on his face illustrated a feeling of a new beginning. "Wow... I have never thought about it that way... I.. I think I'll go home and re-think my life" he responds humorously, and we both laughed.

It's very true though. Inside my degree plan, my work, and home, I feel like I know what I'm doing, and I know what calls to make. But throw me a curve ball, show me a musical band, a TV show, tell me to DJ a radio station, cook, or show me the inside of a car, and I'm a lost puppy. I've all of the sudden lost my way, and little things like what's for dinner, flat tires, sickness, new living environments, and new class material have me struggling to keep control of my life here at UNT. It's all a part of the learning process though, and it's all equally important.

So to answer who's in charge here, it's still me. I still make the final call on all my decisions, just like you, the student applying to come to the University of North Texas right now, have that same control! You just have to learn to wield that control and power, and you can be a raging success.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Green Paper

Green is pretty important yes? Green plants keep our planet alive, green is the color of UNT, green is what my blog is called... Though my blog also stands for Green Releases Excellent Engineering Nerds. O Green how I love thee. Though to be honest, orange or blue is my true favorite color, sorry green.

Green is also the color of our United States currency... In high school, I never really paid for much of anything, except for something I wanted to buy for myself. That's not to say I didn't work hard to earn money! In 7th grade I was a soccer referee, calling the shots and running the party. For sure it was fun while it lasted, parents screaming at me and all. I quit refereeing during my freshman year of college, while I worked at Starbucks as a barista and went to school full time. I was quite busy for sure. I decided to quit one Saturday... I had an 8 am soccer game to referee, 3 games in fact, all consecutive. By the time I got off it was 2:30 pm, and I had work at Starbucks at... 2:30... I closed that night, ending my 14 hour day. Had I not had caffeine running through my veins, I probably would have napped on the floor... :)

Anyway, going in to community college I was doing fine with finances. But now that I'm at a University, finances suddenly became a whole lot more relevant. If you're a prospective student, odds are you're more concerned about which school to go to rather than how much to spend at a school. To an extent, you are right to do so. Although picking a school that's right for you should be number one priority, price is a pretty big object to consider. It baffles me as to why this is, but some schools will charge an outrageously high tuition rate in order for you to attend.

Regardless of price though, managing your finances at a University is just part of the adult pie. Luckily there are people that can help you. As part of paying to come here, you get to talk to financial advisers, the school arranges a debit card for grants, scholarships, and loans, and averages 85% of need met. So if your parents or family don't come through, you didn't quite qualify for the financial aid you need, or you simply need help, you're covered! Someday when I'm rich after getting my degree and a fantastic job, donating to scholarship funds will be on my to-do list. Perhaps I'm already donating indirectly through my tuition and/or taxes I pay to the state, but alas, financial aid and scholarships are important to all students, and I appreciate the opportunities!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Back to the ol Grind

It's about that time again. I've paid for classes, texted the roommate and picked up my room key. For those who need to pay for spring classes, the deadline is in 15 minutes!! Otherwise you'll have to sign up tomorrow, during late registration. Here's a tip on late registration though: avoid it. At all costs. Not only is it bad for your schedule, it's bad for your peace of mind. Personally, if I don't have my schedule laid out ahead of time, I'm a mess. My whole life is on my Google Calendar (4 Calendars in fact), and it always impresses someone when I show them how "busy" I am or how "organized" I am. Here's another tip: all college students are busy. I just choose to organize my schedule in my calendar. In fact, you should have a calendar. I don't care if it's iCal, Thunderbird, Outlook, or a retro paper calendar with inspirational phrases on it, you should probably get a calendar if you don't have one already. Being organized is the first step to success.

I got pretty busy last November

Once you have your calendar ready, it's time to sync it to your phone. That's right you can sync electronic calendars to your phone! Just about any smart phone has this capability, and I think even some "un"smart phones have it as well. Point is, here's what it looks like:
I'm so organized, I'm sure my parents are proud

Ignore Navi in the background
Each of the days with triangles in the corner means I have something happening

As you can see, it's pretty handy being able to keep track of your own life through small glowing screens. You can even tell yourself you have to do something through these small screens and it will hark you about it later. If you so choose, you can allow other people to add things to your calendars and then you'll never see the end of it!

Bottom line is...be organized. If you're in high school getting ready for college, this is something VERY VALUABLE AND WORTH LEARNING, if you haven't done so already. Planners worked for me in primary and secondary school, then once I got to undergraduate studies, it was obvious that I'd need something to plan my work, personal life, other work, and school work with, thus my Google Calendar was born! Of course you don't have to use Google Calendar. MSFT and APPL have their own version of these that host your calendar "on the cloud", and then you can always have a local calendar file.

Look at me going off on a software tangent again. tl;dr: just get organized. It's good for you!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy Everything

Happy new year, Happy Holidays, Happy beginning of a new semester. Happy birthday to my roommate. There's a lot to be happy about right about now, well except that the SD card in my phone somehow became corrupted and it told me I had to reformat, then after an hour of fooling around with it and trying to scrounge up all the files I could to back up, it started working again in my phone. It's especially troubling that I'm an IT major, and I have no idea what's going on here. I have my assumptions, but that's all they'll amount to I assume.

It could be the Mobile Defense app I just installed, but no one else seems to have run into this problem. For those familiar with iPhone terminology, Mobile Defense is probably the equivalent of the "Find my iPhone" thing that some users subscribe to. It's worth mentioning that MD is in beta right now, and the service is currently free. Could be a little creepy if your significant other found out how to access it and track you everywhere you go, or anyone for that matter. Nonetheless it's still kinda cool.

Anyway enough monologue about quirky phone behavior, if you haven't signed up for classes already (at UNT), sign ups start again on January 7, so get your brains, calendars, eyes, and fingers ready, because my.unt.edu is the place to be thinking, planning, searching and clicking away to register for classes that day. I have one additional class to sign up for that day, as well as certain parents to be begging for money. (Dad if you're reading this that means you).