Friday, September 30, 2005

Sure


IMG_3513
Originally uploaded by Web Essentials.
I like this photo. Not mine at all, but expresses a sentiment that I feel right now.

I should be doing something useful with my time, rather than surfing flickr, but occasionally, you reach a point where you have to take a break.

Tests this week didn't go as well as I would have hoped. I need to study harder, and perhaps re-evaluate my realtionship with my employer.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Defused



THANK GOODNESS!

Now just an assignemnt and two tests to face this week. The assignment is due tomorrow, and the tests are back to back on Wednesday.

So much to learn, so little time.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

IA-32


IA-32
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.
Ah yes, the homework assignment of the weekend. It has actually been quite entertaining, well entertaining until about five hours ago. I have been stuck since noon. I am sure that pretty soon here I will figure it out. Have you ever wondered what all of your beautiful high level code looks like just before it becomes a bunch of ones and zeros? Well, I used to. Now that I know, I really think it is cool, but the thought of writing a compiler seems a bit daunting!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Red Swingline


Office Space Anyone?
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.
Seriously, of the movies I have seen in the last year, Office Space is by far one of the funniest. Mostly because in my line of work it is very easy to see parts of yourself in the characters of the movie.

Today was a "day in the life" day over at flickr, and the red stapler is a new addition to my cubicle at work, so I thought that I would photograph it.

Life is still way busy. I told my father that at least I am breathing through a straw, which is better than not breathing at all. Maybe it isn't that bad. I might even be able to see some of the light at the end of the tunnel.

Maybe tomorrow I will talk more about my current learnings. To put it shortly, IA-32. If you understand that, then you might understand my pain.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I'm Still Here

Just inundated with stuff to do. Before the day is over I need to finish a programming assignment, and finish an analysis assignment. It sounds trivial, and maybe it is, but it isn’t something that will get done in a matter of mere minutes.

Building programming languages is fun; it helps the programmer to really understand what a programming language really is, and how it really works.

Analysis builds critical thinking skills. It should also help build the foundation of calculus, but I don’t know if I am that grateful for it yet.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Coming Up For Air

It is trite, but thank goodness it is Friday. The mere fact that the day is here, and that I am sitting in the math center is a good thing. It means that somehow have almost made it through this week. It doesn’t mean that I am on top of everything, but it does mean that some of the most urgent fires have been put out, and that I can take a quick moment to breathe. I have one more class today, I have to go to work this afternoon and I have to meet with my math tutor this evening. Those are the items currently on the top of the stack.

The thing that makes school complex is that things tend to run in cycles much like the life of Sisyphus, spending time pushing stones up to the top of the hill, only to have to do it again the next day. The only difference between a student and Sisyphus is that the journey of learning makes the student stronger, and though for 16 weeks the tasks are essentially endless, there is usually some benefit to the exercise. Knowing that there is benefit to the exercise should probably make it easier, but that isn’t always true either.

Last night I finally turned in the ‘bits’ lab, after struggling with it for who knows how many hours (I should have kept track), and getting some encouragement from good friends who wouldn’t let me quit, it was relief to hand the thing in completely finished. I got to the bottom of something that I didn’t think I could do, so we’ll call the event of handing the completed assignment in a success. The only down side, is that the next assignment in that class was handed out on Wednesday, so the clock is already ticking.

I am learning a lot along the way. Two weeks ago, I couldn’t have read hexadecimal or binary numbers as quickly as I can today. I also didn’t have as great an appreciation for bit-wise logical operations, or those genius people who implement hardware. I hope that I never take my “high-level” functions for granted again. Have you ever considered the work that has to happen in a processor to make this blog entry happen? If that seems to much to consider, thing about the concept of ‘>’,‘<’, and ‘= =’. Yes, something as simple as a less than operator gets to be quite tricky on the bit level, and that is just comparing numbers. What about the idea that you can compare objects. It really is quite amazing, and I am again humbled by the miracle that is the modern computer. It took lots of great minds to pull the thing off. Again, the concept of ‘no free lunch’ as described in my first CS class comes full circle. Every case must be accounted for at the binary level.

There is a lot to do this weekend. I have homework in every class; I have some ecclesiastical and family duties to tend to as well. And just to top it all off, on top of everything already mentioned, I do have a job, though I am sure they are wondering where I am, even I am beginning to wonder where I am going to make the lost ten hours went this week. Next week doesn’t look to friendly on that front either. Yesterday a co-worker suggested that I needed to figure out how to be more efficient with the time that I have. I agree, but am not sure how to go about it. It seems I am going to have to learn to enjoy small hours like this one where I have written a blog entry. There simply isn’t time to waste. If I could pound down that homework in one of my classes before I go to sleep tonight, we can call the day a success.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

On the Edge

Someone like me, prone to hyperbole might get skeptical responses by claiming that life as situations currently are is overwhelming. Yet, I will say it anyway, and if you choose to believe it great. The last week has by far been the most academically challenging week I have had in my college career. That is not to say that things weren't rough when I was taking o-chem, human anatomy, cell biology, and physics at the same time. What is different is that last time this happened, I got crushed. I left my biology major, and switched to CS. This time, there is no leaving, no switching. I don't want to. But that means that I have to figure it out, which is much harder than quitting. Not only that, but it is more frightening.

I won't even speak of the hours I have spent thinking about problems only to come up with a solution that isn't a solution. Does this mean I am not fit to be a computer scientist? I sure hope not. It feels like I am being attacked in every weak place all at once. I am growing as a problem solver, and as a mathematician, but apparently not fast enough.

I don't see things getting easier, and that is ok, but I do need to gain capacity to be able to work through it, and come out on top. I guess 8 hours of sleep may just be a luxury that I can't afford. But what do you do when you have stared at the problem for hours on end and haven't even the slightest idea as to how to approach it? Does sacrificing sleep somehow bridge the gap?

Should I be reading more books?
Should I be trying more problems?

I refuse to believe that puzzle solving can't be learned. That idea just sounds preposterous.

So I'll keep trying, and hoping to find the light at the end of the tunnel, or at least a faint glimmer.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

SUSE anyone?

It has been a fairly rigorous day. It started off quite early this morning with the installation of a hard disk drive I purchased at CompUSA yesterday. The disk drive was necessary if I was going to get Linux on the Desktop in a dual boot configuration. Yes, I know that I said I was done with Linux several weeks ago, but I have this class that won't let me, unless I am willing to live in the lab at school. Fedora was completely frustrating, but the machines at school were running SUSE, and it looked a lot happier, and felt a lot more friendly, so I decided that I would give it another go.

The setup was MUCH simpler, and so far things seem to be pretty happy. The sound isn't working right now, but I can do the important stuff (email, web, chat, program). If I get a chance, I will probably install SUSE on the laptop as well. Though I am 99% positive that I will have the same problems with the wireless card. However, I think that even if I can't get the wireless going on the laptop, between my desktop, and the lab at school I should be quite comfortable.

SUSE as an OS is good enough that I can happily do my work and not miss Windows too much. I really like the fact that I can browse all of my Windows files from the SUSE installation. It has meant that since I got this thing up and running I haven't had to switch back even once today. Yes, I consider that a major victory.

In other news, I am beginning to question the value of having the “contact” page on this website. I has been used legitimately a couple of times, but I have also received a TON of spam through it. I changed the script a little bit today so that hopefully I can weed out the spam-bots, but effectively broke the flow of the page if you don't give me what I want. I suppose I could try to do it with JavaScript, but I am not nearly as proficient in JS as I would like to be, so I slammed it with the PHP sledgehammer. Maybe if I find some free time in the next few weeks, I will revisit the issue. If anyone has any suggestions for those types of forms, feel free to pipe in. Do you all just put up with the spam? Do you try to filter on the sending or receiving side?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Too Rich?

Yesterday while eating lunch in the Union with a few fellow CS
students, we were discussing things geek like we usually do. There
was some banter about flavors of Linux servers versus Windows servers,
various technologies .NET, JSP, PHP, but of most interest to me
yesterday DHTML or Flash. Let me premise this discussion by putting
forth a couple of general statements.

First, I am not a designer, so most of what I am saying comes from my
personal experience using the web, not as that of a usability
specialist.

Second, I know that I am not perfect; this site has some pretty major
flaws in its code validation and rendering in browsers other than
FireFox.

Third, I am not setting out to start fires. I would just like to
contribute to a discussion that I think is interesting.

That brings us back to lunch yesterday. One of the guys said that his
employer had just finished writing a .NET web service and that they
had contracted with a design firm to create a flash front end to
present it to their customers. We talked about how "slick," flash
sites look; no one could argue that they have a certain polish. A
couple of us even admitted that having Action Script as a tool in the
box would be handy. But why is it that I get tired of flash sites so
quickly?

I recently had the opportunity to click through 15 websites and choose
the one that I thought was my favorite. They were all well done, and
the flash sites were absolutely beautiful. I can't imagine how many
hours someone spent working out all of the subtle details for those
sites. It re-affirmed to me that there are a lot of very creative
people in this world that are creating amazing websites. I found
however, that I got tired very quickly of looking at the flash. It
was like a dessert that was just too rich after a couple of bites.

So what is the role of flash, and is it ever too much? I won't say
that it doesn't have its place, because it really does some cool
things (like the titles on this site for example). In the age where
we want everything to be shiny slick and new, is it becoming a rule
that if you build a web application for the masses, the best way to
give it the rich client look and feel will be to implement it with
flash, or maybe .NET 2.0?

I think that it is a give and take thing. I think Flickr as re-worked
with DHTML is a lot faster than the flash used to be. However, the
Flash in many cases was prettier. When I want information from a
site, I think I would prefer to just browse nicely formatted HTML
rather than waiting on fancy flash transitions, sounds, and waiting
for the files to load. My favorite solutions seem to be hybrids. Use
flash to do what flash does best, use HTML to do what it does best,
and all will be happy.

To skip technologies a bit, where I work, we are in the process of
re-writing many processes that were once carried out on AS/400 client
terminals to JSP's. The thing that I find most frustrating is that
while the JSP is pretty, in many cases I am much faster on the green
screen. Waiting for the page to post, and reload just seems an
incredible waste of seconds that if on the green screen would be spent
keying the next record. I don't know much about so-called 'AJAX', but
I wonder if somehow that would make things happier with moving heavy
data entry applications to the web.

It will be interesting to see how all of this pans out in the next
couple of years, or if it will even be an issue then. In the mean
time, I will tend to favor the Flash as a helper, but not as the main
medium approach.

--Sorry that there are no links, but I have yet to figure out how to
include them from the email-publishing tool with out them being
verbose.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I want my Email



This has been my greeting for the past hour or so. I suppose this serves me right for moving the majority of my email traffic through Gmail. I love the interface, I love the ease of the whole thing, and thankfully down time has been non-existent in my experience until today.

Maybe my professors were correct when they warned against registering for the class mailing lists with "free" email accounts. Gmail never promised 100% up time. Some of my friends aren't having this trouble, and I can't find anything, anywhere about this "problem" on the net. However, I am experiencing it from any computer I try. The funny thing is, I can see the login screen, but the above message is what I get anytime I try to access my account. Oh, and just for the record my other google related account stuff works fine.

Let's hope that when I get up in the morning, I have email again. If not, I may need to re-think how I handle my email.

Update
Thursday, September 8, 7:00 AM

Thankfully, I have my email again. There were even some messages in the inbox, so I don't think that anything was lost!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Rusty Day


Rusty Door
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.
Sometimes going back to work and school on Tuesday after a Monday holiday is harder than just getting though a Monday all on its own. As I sat in a meeting this afternoon, this fact became very clear. We are gearing up for a major hardware/software change that will take place at the end of this month, and are planning to try our change in a test environment this weekend. It was funny the way that we all had a hard time keeping our days and dates in order. Monday off really derailed the thought processes.

On a happy note, it seems that while I had a quiet moment this morning to look at some of my Analysis homework, things started to come into perspective. That is not to say that I have a perfect or even really good understanding of the whole process, but some things are starting to come together and it is encouraging. I am still feeling rusty about my homework duties, but I am beginning to think that is just going to be a part of my life for the next little bit.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Labor Day


Power, Fence, Water
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.
Labor Day turned out to be very nice. I must admit to not having done all of my homework, I enjoyed a nice ride out into the desert county of Tooele, Utah. My poor little Corolla didn't take too well to the dirt roads, but my friend Amanda and I had a good time. We took pictures of some old buildings, an abandoned car, saw a whole bunch of spiders at Salt Air, and visited the shore of the Great Salt Lake.

I have decided to milk out this photo op, so rather than sharing all of the photos at once, I will try to upload a new one every couple of days, until I have shown all of the ones that I care to post to the internet. This picture you see here, we found while traveling west on I-80, I was amazed with the reflection of the poles and fence in the still water. I had a friend mock me on Sunday night about taking a trip to Tooele, but I think that it paid off decently.

If anything, it was nice to catch up with an old friend. School starts in earnest now. No more procrastination weekends. I need to learn how to be a mathematician pretty darn fast here.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Media Overload

The title says it all. I can not bear to read another article, listen to another description, or watch more pictures of humanity in its most desperate form run across the television screen. It makes my heart ache, and brings tears to my eyes. It is something akin to the numbness I felt as the world watched and listened to the reports for days, weeks, months, and years after 9/11. After one has made their financial contribution, after one has prayed and put it in God's hands, what is he then to do?

May we all find the strength to learn from the past, to love and help one another and to move forward united as brothers and sisters.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Happy Friday

If I said that I was bored a few weeks ago, perhaps I should have reveled in that boredom a bit more. After my first full week of school, there really isn’t time for boredom. With my four classes and a holiday weekend ahead, I have been loaded down with studying. Each professor has managed to find some nifty project that his students could work on over the holiday. Really, one can’t expect any less from a university. Even though it is early in the semester, the calendars are set, and there are many topics and conversations that need to happen by the December if the course is to be successful. The only way to ensure that is to keep pressing onward.

With any luck, I will be on top of things by the end of the weekend. At least to the point that I can enjoy a photo journey I have planned with a friend. On the Monday holiday, we want to go explore some ghost towns that are a few hours away by car. Something of a final hurrah, recognizing that from then on out, school will only get more and more demanding on one’s time and mental exertion.

At this point in my education, classes I took earlier are playing a more major role in the way that I understand my current tasks. Discrete Mathematics is helpful not only in Models of Computation, but in Introduction to Mathematical Analysis as well. Last semester’s class, Computer Organization and Design has been very enlightening with respect to Computer Systems. My Introduction to CS classes are quite helpful in deciphering concepts in my Programming Languages classes.

The reason I bother to write all this is that I am finally beginning to see the fruits of two years of labor. I am learning and growing as a programmer, and computer scientist. And for the record, I am in the camp that discerns between the two, but that would be a topic all to its own.

Oh, and congrats to the Utes for winning their opener tonight!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

When One Can't Sleep

(define (scheme-understanding understanding)
    (cond
        [(string=? understanding "Great!") "You can now go do something fun!"]
        [else (scheme-understanding understanding)]))