How the outdated TI-84 still holds a monopoly…[Slashdot]

How the outdated TI-84 still holds a monopoly…[Slashdot]

Well, that didn’t last long– I missed a day, but we’re getting back on the boat here.  Came across this article on Slashdot about how the ridiculously old TI-84 is still the calculator of choice in many classrooms today.  Texas Instruments apparently released an update in 2004, but back when I was in high school I used a Ti-85 with it’s high-end monchrome screen.

Having gone through Calculus and now Discrete Math, I can’t imagine doing any of it without a calculator– hats off to you folks that did not have this technology at your disposal when completing these classes. Yeesh…  I use TI’s latest variant, the Nspire CX CAS– and yes, I know that is a completely stupid name.  It’s got a nice color screen, USB out, and most importantly has an OS that runs in an emulator I use liberally on my Mac.  Being able to have some flexibility when doing homework is key, and I love that I can dump the files back out the calculator when I’m finished with the assignment.

The article points out there are languages like R around, and of course using something like Wolfram Alpha or the desktop version of Mathematica would be a suitable course of action too.  Can I admit something though? I find Alpha ridiculously difficult sometimes to get things out of, even when following their crazy formatting standards.  Mathematica is available to me as a UW student via their site license, and while I’ve downloaded it– it became too much to learn to solve (at the time) what should have been a very simple problem.

Hats off to the TI-84 for lasting this long– when they figure out how to prevent cheating with newer devices I’m sure schools will move to a new device.

Celebrity Hacking

Due to a breach in someone’s cloud service authentication photographs of several nude celebrities are making their way around the Internet.  There used to be a time when I could say they were making their way around a “dark corner” of the Internet, but it seems the net of the present (and maybe the future) is for everyone and a lack of privacy for anyone. I think the phrase “celebrity hacking” will continue to be a prevalent headline in the coming years, but I wonder what happens when it starts to affect the little guy.

I can’t tell whether this is a sensationalist headline or not: Everything we know about the the”Celeb Nude” and Trading Ring.  Or this one, at CNN.  I don’t know if anyone is really concentrating on the real story, which is that there was a failure to keep privileged information secret.  I think of the things I store (encrypted and unencrypted) around the web in public and private clouds, and I would be very shocked to have my private data come out.  I don’t have anything nearing what these people had, private photos, etc. but I think would be rocked just the same.  I’m supposed to be part of the body responsible for helping to keep your information safe, to make you trust us as developers when we say “Hey, I’ve got it under control. Your stuff is secure.”  Instead, I see no articles on the ACM or IEEE privacy group pages.  You might say that this breach happened over a holiday weekend, but I’d still expect some type of response from the provider in question.

The whole thing just kinda bums me out.  I’m going to keep working my way through this course on Obj-C and put my energy to good use.

Gabe Newell Says He’ll Do A Reddit AMA

Gabe Newell Says He’ll Do A Reddit AMA If Charity Reaches $500k. Source: Kotaku

From the article:

[…]So Newell has agreed to participate in one of Reddit’s greatest services, the frankly-titled Ask Me Anything. Once his charity hits $500,000 in hospital donations—which should be easy, considering this is Gabe Newell and the Internet—he’ll let anyone ask him questions about life, the universe, and Half-Life.[…]

Alright, so I think this is an interesting gamble– the organization (Seattle Children’s Hospital) is fairly well known, and I can’t imagine anyone really having a problem with cardiac research.  The design on the site, The Heart of Racing is an exercise in a nice HTML5 design where you can pledge your money towards this race.  However, there seems to be no way to check the current pledges in process, or have some sort of estimate of how far they are away from their $5 million goal.  WTF?

How can you have a public facing goal (a public ask at that) and not include any sort of metric for how close they are to their goal?  I’m sure there’s some science around giving that shows that seeing how close you are to the finish line causes people to give more, potentially even just to kick them over the finish line themselves.  Generally, doesn’t every ask you see nowadays show you the milestones on the way to 100%? Kickstarter, Kiva, etc?

Etc 10/2/11

I’ve got a whole host of things going on lately and really not enough time to think about or write about them all.  I’ve got some cool new projects I’m working on, and work may take a big potential upswing this week (fingers crossed!).

In the meantime, this week there are a few things goin on in tech land.  Tuesday is the launch of id Software’s latest game, Rage, which I have happily pre-ordered like every other id game that I own.  Rage promises to illustrate id Tech 5 the latest incarnation to their engine and probably the only competitor (IMHO) that the Unreal engine has.  I have nerd adoration for id’s Technical Director, John Carmack and the impressive amount of things he has created or envisioned over the last 20 years.  If you do anything with computer graphics you owe this man a lot.

Anyway, Rage looks awesome.  3 discs? 25 gigs of data?  This thing has to rock….

On Tuesday, Apple’s holding some press event.  I expect them to announce a lower-end iPhone 4S model and a top-end iPhone 5 and a release date for iOS5.  While I am in the beta, I’ll report on what others are surmising, namely FaceBook integration at a system level.  Personally I’m more happy about iCloud persistent storage for apps and what that means for devices: Game saves in the cloud anyone?  How about automated push downloading of the Daily without me having to manually fire up the app?  It’s very exciting.

Plus, I’m looking forward to getting rid of the “razor blade” phone that my dropped, cracked, but-barely-there-still-works iPhone 3GS currently us.  I’m due for an upgrade and I’m hoping to hear something good on Tuesday.  Stay tuned.

08/21/11 etc

Wow, where have I been these past few months?  Most of my time has been attributed to work, and trying to find more projects and gigs to keep me afloat.  It definitely hasn’t been easy out there.  On another front a lawsuit I was involved with has reached an amicable conclusion which has helped things.

 

  • I’m running a marathon!  I’m training for the Seattle Full Marathon in November, and raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Washington.  I’m blogging about my progress over at GeekRunsMarathon.com, and I’d encourage all of you to check it out and donate if you can.  The money isn’t going to me; its going to fund awesome research to help find a cure for this horrible disease.  Frankly given the amount of training I’m now doing, I’m not sure how I can find time for anything but I’m trying to do a good job and not injure myself during this process.
  • I’ve been on a roll with my Obj-C stuff lately.  I’m back to following the courses and trying to solve the problem sets.  I have some plans for education in mind, but everything is on hold at the moment until I can clear some financial hurdles.  Having two businesses means always thinking about money sadly….
  • And speaking of Obj-C can I mention how difficult it is to learn a language and an API while both are changing?  I just got use to using retain counts and autorelease pools and all sorts of memory management, only to have the rug pulled out (not really) with this new tech called “Automatic Reference Counting“.  I guess nothing ever remains static for very long…
  • Reading a lot: I’ve finally started the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin after getting hooked on the HBO show.  I know I’m late to the game, but I can’t seem to find enough time to do all this reading and writing….
There’s a brief synopsis.  I’ve got some articles planned in my head, I need to crunch them out, especially given the dearth of info released this week regarding HP and webOS.  Hearing reports of people flying out to scoop up $100 tablets has me chuckle– they’re talking about chunking the back-end services and servers that support these things; why on Earth would you go out and buy a soon to be crippled device?

etc. May 21, 2011

The last few months have been kind crazy for me professionally as well as personally. I’m not at liberty to talk about most of it, but probably the biggest thing is that I was sued for some insanely stupid stuff. That in turn has kind of I don’t know, put a lot of other things off the table for the moment. Most days I feel like my mind is trying to fragment itself, so I kind of grasp and gravitate towards small things that I can actually solve.

On the proj. front I’ve been thinking of taking the not-updated-for-x64-architecture UHARC compression and seeing if I can port it to x64. This isn’t a requirement but sort of a simple need of mine as I have some thing compressed in the old 0.2 format that is apparently unreadable currently. It’s not a deal-breaker, but I sure would appreciate being able to get that data back. I’ve written the author for permission considering it’s apparently released under GPL, but I don’t know what the response will be. I’m not sure I’m really ready to reverse-engineer a 16-bit app into a new architecture, but perhaps that’s the challenge. Maybe this that tipping point where you just decide to go for it and not look back.

On the biz side of things, I’ve realized that I need to ramp up on my Medialon development and exposure. Medialon is a great system used to coordinate technical elements in a show: Barco lighting panels, Christie projectors, actuators and pistons, the whole nine. I’ve been working with it off and on for a few years with the tech, but I think I need to really start advertising it. My problem is just one of finding the problem too large at the moment, bringing me to my next point.

We ducked out to Ocean Shores for the weekend which is great. I’m already very relaxed and I suddenly feel ready to take on these challenges. My problem is that this will evaporate a few days into returning to Seattle. I’ve gotta find a way to get out here more often, or maybe by myself for a couple of days once in a while.

I find myself completely obsessed with the late 1940’s right now. I’m thoroughly enjoying playing through L.A. Noire and I’m listening to Lionel Hampton radio on last.fm. I’m also interested in checking out some more mystery novels, a genre that I’ve probably neglected since my teen years. I’m hoping to keep this good feeling rolling for a bit.

And maybe a bit less time between updates.

Barcelona: Day Two

For those who don’t know, I’ve been sent to Barcelona to help out Google at Mobile World Congress this year. I’m helping to deliver CEO Eric Schmidt’s keynote on Tuesday night, which should be streamed live.

Well, after 24 hours in Barcelona I can definitely say the city is growing on me. I spent most of the day walking around and trying to get myself acquainted with the map of the city and my surroundings in general. It probably doesn’t help that I’m staying just off of “La Rambla”, a sort of main promenade here in Barcelona. Apparently it is famous for getting folks lost with its narrow winding alleys.

My hotel is tiny and neat. El Jardi Hotel is located in the Barri Gotic district, and I’m literally looking out of my terrace on the Eglesia de Santa Maria del Pi. I apparently missed my opportunity to visit it this morning because I didn’t understand its closure in the afternoon.

I had to find my way to a pharmacia to get some meeds for my head– I was up most of the night with a fever, and suffering from a bit of sleep deprivation due to the time change. In broken spanish I gestured to my runny nose and bleary eyes and she gave me something called Stop Cold which sounded just perfect for what I’ve got. I’m feeling generally ok right now…my eyes are still watering but my nose is no longer a leaky faucet.

I wandered down to Port Vell and the marina to finally see the Mediterranean. Check off another major body of water on my list. The main footbridge that takes you across to the port’s shopping mall, restaurants, and aquarium swings open to allow boats and other yachts through. At 10 AM sharp it opened for 15 minutes and half of the marina emptied, full of tourists going out on water tours.

The aquarium was awesome: Its centerpiece was a 360 degree wraparound shark tank that had a moving floor to keep everyone circulating through. Very cool.

I wandered East for a bit, saw a few parks and incredibly, a Chinese movie being made at one of the landmarks. Headed back West, I decided to see how long the trek was to Fira de Barcelona, the tradegrounds were Mobile World Congress is being held this year. It was a bit of a hike, and it’s more than that getting back to the hotel. Methinks I spring for a cab the day I’m suited and booted.

And now I’m back. I’m going to try a bar tonight and see what kind of tapas I can find tonight. I haven’t been very hungry lately, and aside from a light breakfast this morning and a Clif bar, I haven’t eaten. I am trying to keep up on my water intake to help my body flush whatever awful sickness this is.

Tomorrow starts a busier day, client meetings, and a dress rehearsal. Hopefully everything goes well.

New Year

In the last month that I’ve generally ignored that itch in my head suggesting that I go make some posts up here on GeekApproach. I did fullfull my internal process of trying to learn something new each day. In early December I started work on an iPad app for doing a gallery slideshow. That process (and its still going) led me to picking up an OpenGL book to attempt some of that API’s craziness.

In the meantime, I received an iPad as a gift from my parents for Christmas. I’m completely thrilled with it and have loaded up some of my previous iOS projects on it as samples. I feel completely energized in solving some of these issues because…

…I’m participating in an RFP that might involve me doing some hardcore development and other awesomeness. I’m trying not to get too excited about it, but I’m heading down to present with the team in two weeks. If we nab it, its probably 8-10 months of solid work for me which would be great.

Lastly, the project I’ve been working on for the last 6 weeks comes to a head next week– I’m headed to CES, the Consumer Electronics Show to help TD a keynote for a client. Should be stressful, challenging and fun all at the same time. I’ve arranged to stay an extra day to actually see some of the show as well as set up some conversations with potential employers for myself. I’m hoping some really good things come out of these meet-ups.

So: We’ll see what happens next, but I’m keeping all of my fingers and toes crossed. Look for some posts of my wanderings from the CES floor. Should be pretty crazy.

Quest for Knowledge

I’m going to try a little experiment.  I’m going to attempt to “learn” something every day of December.  By learn something I’m going for doing some type of training, reading, or other lessons related to programming, Flash or other software topics.  I’m kinda pissed at myself because AGAIN, I’ve been unable to commit.  And AGAIN, my problem is that I just get swayed by so much new shiny stuff coming down the pipe.

Example: I downloaded a copy of the Unreal Development Kit.  Why? Because the sample game looked cool.  UDK uses a scripting language (or so it appears at first glance) with a rendering engine and bloom effects.  It looks very cool.  I have absolutely no idea why I’m futzing around with it aside from the fact that it looks cool.

Whizzle

Whizzle, a sample game produced with the Unreal Development Kit

Aside from being just generally distracted, I keep finding job ads that are looking for skills that I just don’t currently have.  Rather than bemoan that fact I’m trying to improve my situation.  I don’t know whether web dev is for me but I figure I can make some ActionScript 3 skills out of my knowledge and work in that direction.  I just need to keep focused.  To that end I’m going to try and limit my other “recreation” time and really knuckle up and start working.

Thanksgiving was rather low key this year.  Often we hit both sides of the family but this year we only had to do one.  I hit my parents place where my aunt was using an iPad as a recipe lookup device.  It again cemented where the iPad’s market is for me: lightweight web browsing, appliance, utility, lightweight PDF reading, and games.  Using the device is a lot of fun– I know there’s rumor of the revised one coming out soon after January which sucks for the Holiday shoppers, but is probably the best thing for the folk waiting for the 2nd gen like me.  I’ve drawn some parallels to the Star Trek Tricorder in the past and I still think it is an early precursor to some future device like that.

Lastly, my time has lately been taken up with a new addition to our household: a Japanese Bob kitty named Suki.  She’s pretty badass;

Suki!

Suki!

playful, excited, active, and pretty chill when she wants to be.  I’d forgotten what it was like to have a cat, much less any living animal in the house.  She’s totally a part of the family now and reminds me that someone wants to hang out and watch while I attempt to code all day.

Out of Practice!

Just a quick note to say that I just tried to play some Halo 3, local single-player mind you (I know my limits). Wow. What a frustrating mess. Controls aren’t like Call of Duty OR like Gears– I’m throwin shields and stuff out when I want to reload my guns. It sucks!

Not to mention that the game came out in 2007 and in 3 short years it has not held up…I’m disappointed!

Bah… Back to Assassin’s Creed II.