a site about jay

(and computers and stuff i guess)

ds106 assignment – cartoon the head!

Assignment: Fairly simple assignment; though a little technical. You just need to superimpose something’s head onto another something’s head.

Process: I procured the two images from Google image search; one is an advertisements for actual $5 Elvis toast, and the other is what appears to be someone’s oekaki of Ren and Stimpy’s Captain Toast Man.

The tricky part is getting the new toast head onto captain toast man; the Elvis toast head is huge, and it has its own background in its own original picture, so I had to cut it out via a layer in GIMP, then scale that layer down under the layer menu. I played with the number of pixels for the new scaled version until the size was about right; secondly I needed to flip the Elvis head so that the Elvis head representation on the toast matched that of the original Captain Toast Man head, so I just flipped the layer horizontally; again under the layer menu. Then I just finished up with some positioning, and I thought it looked pretty good.

Story: Wow, my favorite child-hood character and Elvis; there’s no relevance or meaning really, I just liked the casual absurdity of it. I originally was going to just do Stimpy’s head on Ren, but I saw Captain Toast Man when searching for the Ren and Stimpy pictures, so I just had to get that. Then I realized it would be eye-catching if it was real toast instead of the drawn cartoon toast, but the final twist of the Elvis head came in when I just happened to see it when searching for toast. There’s a lot freaky toast if you search for “toast” on google; including the Jesus and MLK toasts.


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ds106 assignment – BRING BACK ASTRONAUTS

BRING BACK ASTRONAUTS

Image Credit: ESA/HubbleNASA

Assignment: This assignment has you use the SuperPAC name generator found here and generate a name then get some mashup of data to promote the random SuperPAC.

Process: I went to generate the name for my pseudo-SuperPAC and it happened to come up with “Bring Back Astronauts” as the name for the SuperPac. I went to go find some relevant visuals from Google; but made sure the visuals I got were widely available, and not explicitly copyrighted. My first image I found via APOD, which is a very old and famous site directly from NASA which has astronomy pictures. Then I wanted a budget visual, and the NASA budget numbers are public information so I had no problems finding a graph with that data. I chose to upload the images directly to wordpress as I usually do, because I like to have copies of free data on servers for redundancy instead of linking directly (which is more efficient to be honest)

Story: Though the name chosen was completely random according to the SuperPAC name generator, I totally agree with the name, and we do need a SuperPAC to advocate for more space exploration. Maybe Stephen Colbert’s SuperPAC will take on that challenge in real life, but until then, here is my pseudo space-exploration mashup which shows us a beautiful formation of stars brought to us by the guys at NASA. Along with this beautiful image is a graph showing how screwed NASA is, and how screwed space development is in the U.S., and definitely reflects the sad reality of an uninspired populace. 😦

open source advocacy

okay, I’m late starting my final assignments for the S.O.S. section, but I’ll start with some good content, the notes from my open source advocacy presentation; full of critical keywords that build a larger picture for anyone who’s truly interested:

introduction:
open source
open source code (will continue code explanation later)/data; free information

basics:
what is information?; binary; data vs functional data/algorithms
how is information organized by computers; data, programs
communication & protocols
programming advocacy

application:
software, examples: ds106 (wordpress), whitehouse (drupal), openoffice, gimp, firefox,
hardware, arduino, rasberry pi, many more..
closed source examples; microsoft windows, apple OS X (hybrid), large game developers
license types, public domain vs. copyright; creative commons, MIT/BSD, GPL & “copyleft”

disadvantages:
security, gaming (walling); protocols & hacking
quality (sometimes)

advantages:
quality (corporate funding vs. donate button)
openness/transparency
higher distribution
shared functionality / technological progress / less patent issues / (patent hell)

more examples:
some of open source’s most successful examples:
linux, firefox, apache, bit-torrent…

what is piracy? (DRM); free speech online… darkweb

bitcoin & netsukuku

open source textbooks

 

aaaaannd now I will continue with my final two ds106 assignments

Critique: A Personal Cyberinfrastructure

I have a lot of issues with this article.

Probably the number one issue in general though is that it appears that Campbell is advocating a “personal cyberinfrastructure” when it seems he doesn’t have any real computer-science background or programming ability, though he talks about integrating technology into the classroom, and students lives.

This is just one of those things, some people get the basics, and some people don’t. In my estimation, almost any programmer you find that has applied many of the concepts of information processing to their comprehension of the natural world will be able to quantify just about anything you throw at them short of human emotions.

What am I talking about? Take for example some random everyday object, perhaps an orange. If you gave any particular person an empty book, and told them to describe that orange down to every last detail they possibly could, and gave them an unlimited amount of time to write in the book, what would they write?

Someone without any programming experience whatsoever might write down some well thought out words about the orange. They could have some paragraphs, or if they were particularly detail oriented, they might find some way to describe some sections of the orange.

Okay that’s great, but what about a skilled programmer?

A skilled programmer might develop some ground-rules to describe the orange with as much detail as possible. They might develop some kind of system to specify certain hues and colors. Likely some numeric system where any slightest notable variations in the color of the orange might be represented by different numeric values within the color-coding system. Also they might develop some way to describe the shape of the orange using numbers. Likely they’d plot different points within a three-dimensional space and write down the coordinates in the book with an accompanying explanation about how the coordinates should be interpreted if read by someone else. They also might develop some algorithm to describe the texture of the orange so that if someone were to use the algorithm described, they might be able to engineer a similar texture compared to the orange’s. This could continue for quite awhile depending on how much effort the programmer would put into his book describing the orange, but the point is that compared to the person who uses English alone, without some algorithm or numeric coding backing the description of the orange, the person without such ability would most certainly not be able to articulate accurately as many details.

Where does this factor into Campbell’s article? I don’t see any mention of programming, but I do see mention of some concepts that imply someone would gain such ability/knowledge by simply running their own web-server and maintaining it with school-related content.

Sure, you might learn a thing or two about how to deal with setting up software, and how to social network effectively, but it’s no substitute for a fundamental understanding of how computers work, or how computers process information which someone can learn much more easily by learning some basic programming.

The short answer here is that anyone can throw as many buzz words as you want around, but it’s no substitute for the basics of computing and information processing.

Here are some specific quotes that make me question if Campbell really thought out what he was writing about:

“Fascinating and important innovations would emerge as students are able to shape their own cognition, learning, expression, and reflection in a digital age, in a digital medium.”

  • shape their own cognition, learning, expression, and reflection“? It’s just a $7.99 web server right?.
  • The content, critical-thinking, and thoughtfulness put into what someone writes/says doesn’t care if it’s on a piece of paper, or a web server, or spoken.
  • There are plenty of people who can type a good article, and express themselves and their ideas very well, but how/when will putting your content/learning materials on a web server magically lead to better cognition when it’s the same mental process behind the words?

students would study the design and function of their digital environments, share their findings, and develop the tools for even richer and more effective metacognition

  • So they’re studying the design and function of their digital environments? That makes everything they do a computer-science course. How was wordpress.com, twitter or facebook designed, and how does it function? Get ready to learn PHP, MySQL databases, javascript cross-browser compatibility issues etc… or.. wait isn’t this process supposed to facilitate learning about all of my subjects, not just computer science?
  • metacognition” learn about how you learn right? Learn about how one’s own mind works right? Before you even mention the word “metacognition”, I want to hear more about giving people a fundamental grasp of what computers are, and what the nature of information itself is as opposed to web servers, and extending the LMS concept. (How many non-CS people know what binary is, and how fundamental it is to almost all information we comprehend?)

I think this piece is getting too negative so I’m going to stop it here, but at the very least I just want emphasize that anyone, even children can learn some basic programming skills that will likely give them skills that they can extend as they choose throughout their life. For anyone who’s serious about doing so, I recommend checking out Khan Academy’s section on computer science, I’m sure they have some great intro videos which explain things in a clear way for beginners.

About my F.A.L.O topic

I did a small piece on computer security, but I think it might not be directed enough towards the presentation I had that day, so here’s a more specific response to the article I covered in my presentation for the F.A.L.O section.

The title of that article was “Googler speaks of mobile security, says anti-virus companies are playing with your fears

The article was typical re-hash/re-post/pseudo-blogging  at its best as the writer of the article makes no conclusions, and simply points to what other people are saying, and asks a rhetorical question at the end of the article. He might as well have just posted a link to the original piece which the article is based on which can be found here.

Basically, this “googler” Chris DiBona makes the argument that we should leave all security issues for Android in the hands of the Android development team, and that more likely than not you’ll never run into any security issues.

No.

If you are targeted, you can and will be hacked unless you take the appropriate measure to try to defend yourself at a minimum. This is a simple fact of life when it comes to computers that are networked. Don’t trust me? Ask Microsoft why they haven’t stopped patching Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, and all of their other products. Why do they need patches and updates? Why does Android need patches and updates? Surprise, there are security issues that arise all the time, because of black hat/white hat hackers, and this trend will likely not end until there’s some other medium of computing that provides better security (it’s a long shot, but quantum computing might bring us there one day)

If that last paragraph got your attention, I recommend reading up on my other blog post entitled “ESET” and why it’s a pretty darn good piece of software (for malware protection)

Conclusion: I don’t recommend trusting the guy from the company that’s selling you something; get a second opinion when it comes to security.

ds106 assignment – blogger fanfic (on notch)

(image credit: PC Gamer article)

Assignment: Write about your favorite blogger.

Process: In choosing to write about Notch, one of my favorite game developers by far, I will just highlight some of my opinions on the man. I’ll also take a look at why he’s a very prolific character in the software world (for some of us at least).

Story: So that’s “notch”, AKA, Markus Persson. No big deal right? Just some guy. Let’s take a look at something he made:

(image credit: me, I give it to the public domain!)

Okay, at a first glance, unless you’ve seen this before, you might think this is some type of roller coaster game. Looks like some kind of weird blocky roller coaster game, right?

There are some details about the picture that don’t quite match up with 99% of the other games you’ll find on the market:

  • It’s not a roller coaster game, this just happens to be one of the features of the game, that you can build something that resembles a roller coaster (and of course you can ride on it with a first-person view)
  • All those blocks were not there to begin with; they weren’t put together in that formation by some game designer in some well-funded high quality studio, they’re simply my creation for which I was able to take time to carefully craft how I wanted.
  • Each block has its own functionality, and each block is destroyable. Some blocks are stronger than others, some have fluid physical properties, such as water, and some are dangerous. There are many types of blocks, but try to think of another game where you can build indefinitely into any direction using so many build materials?

Minecraft offers some really novel approaches to gameplay that have been explored by other developers before, but not put together with the quality and thoughtfulness that Markus has. The game he created deserves an introduction before I talk about the man himself, but there are a lot of other interesting qualities about his character that have driven his success; I’ll take a look at a few here.

Notch (Markus) started minecraft after quitting an earlier game development job he had. I won’t say I’m an expert on what happened during the initial period of minecraft development, but ultimately, he took some really simple concepts and expanded them beautifully.

Moreover, he has a welcoming, and friendly approach to the community which helped make minecraft popular, and that simple fact that he got that relationship right, along with the quality of the game, carried it incredibly far.

Of course, there has been a lot of direction directly from notch himself, but the feedback process with players, and the instincts of the main developer of the game really come through in the gameplay.

Personally, all I could really say, is that if you play the game in a dark room on a quiet night, and just let yourself get into it, it truly is one of the better “escapism” games where your focus really does get completely engrossed in what you’re doing in-game.

If I were to try to put into words what they really got right with minecraft, I’d make some of these main points.

  • It’s not a static environment like you’ll find in 99% of other games
  • There’s a real quality aesthetic to the game on the whole, down to every last bit.
  • The number of possibilities when it comes to “what do I do right now to have fun in the game?” is just endless. The gameplay flows wherever you want it to.
  • One gets the sense that it’s a game made for players. People don’t feel like they’re being taken for every last penny of custom artwork like you might find on other heavy-graphics titles.

In conclusion, if you haven’t, I recommend playing minecraft sometime. While playing it, you might try to think of how someone developed the entire experience, and where did the inspiration come from… Notch.

(Disclaimer, ya I know this is a totally biased piece of writing, that’s why it’s called a fanfic assignment. Also, sorry I forgot to mention that notch is a blogger)

ds106 assignment – blogger fanfic

ds106 assignment – revamp your wordpress banner

(image credit: me! usage: public domain!)

Assignment: Revamp your blog by creating a new banner.

Process: The most “advanced” thing about this new banner is the curvy text effect. There’s a few other key steps that went into the creation of the banner that I’ll outline here though:

  • Created a new image in GIMP
  • Under image creation/initial attributes dialogue, I selected the specified banner size which is 500×160 pixels
  • I chose to fill the background with transparency, again, under the initial attributes dialogue when you create a new image
  • At first I just used the text tool as usual, and just put in the first text field “A SITE ABOUT JAY”.
  • So now it says something, but it’s boring and straight looking, so I created a path with the “paths tool” (icon looks like a fountain pen). You can play around with the paths tool, and delete/re-create the path if you don’t get the curvature you want.
  • Now that I have the path I want, I select the original text field I created, and click the “Text along Path” button.
  • Now I can see that they’re two instances of my text, the non-curved, and the curved, so I just delete the original text field, and merge down whatever layers until I just have two main things remaining, my text along a path, and the clear/transparent background.
  • I can now use the “stroke path” option under the edit menu which allows me to choose the thickness of the stroke, so I just played around and did a 6 pixel stroke to start with then make thinner and thinner strokes which is why you see the funny neon-sign effect. (I think it looks like an old-timey neon-sign, but others might disagree)
  • Save in PNG format, and upload it using the “Appearance” -> “Header” option under the dashboard of your wordpress blog.

Piece of cake.

Story: I wanted a simple, but not too simple banner. I didn’t really have anything in mind, and usually I’d put a lot more time if I wanted to be pro about it. I thought the tutorial on the curvy text would be a good supplement for the assignment so it didn’t just turn into an upload a banner only kind of thing.

ds106 assignment – revamp your wordpress blog

ds106 assignment – tell me a story (about an item)

(photo credit: intel.com promotional product photo)

Assignment: Find an item you have extreme emotional attachment to, and tell its story.

Process: This is a writing assignment, so it’s not really technically demanding. The only thing I really did other than the writing is find a decent photo of my hard-drive to post.

Story: One of my most prized possessions is definitely my 120GB solid-state hard-drive from Intel. I don’t know about some extreme emotional attachment, but I would definitely be sad if something happened to this piece of hardware.

Of course, just like everyone else, I used to have a magnetic disk drive which have definitely come a long way in terms of the storage space they offer:

(image credit: no idea, XCOMP apparently. this image has been shared to many times, if you google “old hard drive advertisement” you can see)

Solid-state drives, which mostly rely on NAND-flash memory (think of the small flash drive you keep in your pocket, or on your keychain) entered the market for mass consumption, and gained popularity in the 00’s. They offer some incredible next-generation benefits in terms of performance. They’re usually at least 2~3 times as fast compared to old magnetic disks, and  so far, they’ve been much more reliable. Although large-scale testing has been spotty because it’s a younger technology, they appear that they may have extremely long life-times (possibly up to 10,15,20 years?) compared to magnetic disks which in general consistently die out at the 5~6 year mark, or much sooner.

But enough with the free marketing for Intel; why do I have emotional attachment to my drive that’s sitting in the computer and holding the operating system that’s allowing me to type these very words?

  • It’s fast as heck so I’m always the first in-game when large multi-player levels load when I game
  • I don’t worry nearly as much about the disk failing, and losing all of my (seriously) precious data.
  • Even living in Tokyo which is hilariously earthquake-prone doesn’t bother me with this drive; SSDs can handle a good shaking while in operation (youtube “SSD shaking” if you want)
  • My system boots up crazy fast compared to my old magnetic disk system, usually around 15 seconds (old system was a minute usually)
  • Programs launch faster; I never wait for a browser to come on screen (compare that to the computer lab browser/computer startup time)

In general, I get a ton of benefits from my SSD, and I would be very sad if I had to switch back to a magnetic disk. I actually do have a secondary magnetic disk for storing video, but I don’t use it that often, and it just keeps backups and video only.

In conclusion: It’s been awesome watching technology develop from the 90’s into the 00’s.

ds106 assignment – tell me a story

DFPQ1

Campbell, in his article, states at the end of the fifth paragraph: “But the mirror lied.”

I think it’s true that the “digital facelift” was not enough, and is still not enough, though some thought needs to be put into exactly what web applications we’re talking about here, and exactly what effect do they have on the learning experience? Web applications like blackboard are helpful in their own right, but they’re designed to some specific tasks. A wiser question to ask would be “What web applications are actually helping students in a meaningful way?” where a “meaningful way” implies that such an application should be directly effecting the learning process, and not just smaller everyday issues such as registering for classes.

A good example of a web site/application that is having a real impact on students would be Khan Academy (I think only last year gained Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funding). Khan built up an awesome resource that’s widely available, and has redefined the conversation when it comes to textbooks and a lot of other fundamental questions when it comes to online-learning.

 

Bitcoin

Today, some of our presentations covered illegal online-gambling sites like Full-Tilt Poker and company. One of the topics that came up was the funding of accounts on these sites, and how money-laundering and off-shore accounts were a common practice for such sites.

I won’t name names, but someone mentioned that they had funds on such a site, and that the funds were basically lost/in some kind of legal limbo after one such site got shut down. I mentioned that one might avoid such a situation if they used BTC (bitcoins).

Bitcoins are a digital currency that have no central authority other than the authors who maintain the program/bitcoin protocol.

I’ll make a long story short… most people know torrents, which allow you to share whatever files over the internet… why not have the same concept for a currency?

Here are some simple facts about BTC:

  • You keep the “money” in a small file on your computer. Whomever has access to that file “owns” the money, so keep it secret!
  • To send money to someone, they only need to generate an address which is very easy. The address looks like a random string of numbers/letters like Sdlj43242dd34DSDF for example.

But wait, this sounds like complete crap right? A real bitcoin, just some file on my computer can’t be worth any money right? Actually, as of this writing, the latest price on a leading exchange is 1BTC for $4.90 USD. The price goes up and down according to various factors, and is actually quite unstable lately due to the currency being so young. (at one point in time, they used to be $30 each!!)

The concept of the bitcoin is a powerful idea, and you can find a lot of writings on the subject, and how the project is related to the origins of free cryptography on the internet (the U.S. government used to want to prevent all citizens from having their own private encrypted files until they realized it was impossible, see CypherPunk)

I’m not an advocate of money-laundering or illegal use of such software, but education about this concept is very powerful, and I think we’ve only just begun to hear about projects like bitcoin.