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:

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 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 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).