I can’t believe I haven’t written a blog post about Net Neutrality. For those of you who know me personally, you should know that I’m a very strong supporter of Net Neutrality, and believe it’s very important that we make sure the Internet is kept neutral. However, for whatever reason, there are a LOT of misconceptions about Net Neutrality, and what exactly it entails. Since Net Neutrality in reaction to Comcast has once again come up in the news recently, I figured I should write a blog post about the subject.
First, let’s go into some background on the Comcast case. A year or so ago, Comcast decided that its network was being congested by too much P2P traffic; namely, traffic from the BitTorrent P2P protocol. So, they decided that they would clear their network of this congestion by carefully denying BitTorrent connections. They did this by looking into the traffic that BitTorrent was sending over the network, and sending back false information so that connections to peers would fail. The actual details of how this was done is outside the point of this post.
After some outrage from Comcast customers who used BitTorrent, the FCC decided it would step in and tell Comcast to stop or suffer consequences. As soon as this happened, there was some question about whether or not the FCC actually had the power to do this. But, the case went to court and a judge decided that the FCC did have the power to do this, and that Comcast had to stop denying BitTorrent connections in this way. This was a major win for users of the Internet: the court decision basically meant that your ISP can’t deny you from accessing information on the Internet. (continue reading…)
Well, it’s that time of year again! That’s right, it’s Oscar season. Since all the nominees were announced a little while ago, and we have 15 short days left until the Oscars, about now is the time when everyone makes their predictions and tries to tell us who is going to win each award. Of course, we can’t know for certain who will actually win until the winners are announced, but… if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
So, while I don’t think of myself as much of a movie critic, and I haven’t even seen all 10 best picture nominees myself, I’m still going to attempt to throw my prediction for who will win best picture at the Oscars this year. Last year, I went to AMC’s “Best Picture Showcase”, and was able to see all five best picture nominees. This year, while AMC is running the event again, I won’t be able to attend. So, I’m not sure I’ll ever get the chance to see all ten nominees, but I’m going to attempt to have an opinion about all the movies anyway.
Before I start, I should note that I am disappointed at the Oscars this year. Having ten movies get nominated instead of the normal five does not “open the field”. Instead, it just removes from the title of “best picture nominee”. Even if a movie doesn’t win the award, it usually still gets bragging rights that it was one of the five best pictures of the year. However, being in the top ten, while still impressive, is less of a title. By attempting to give films more credit, they have actually removed the credit from the films that actually deserve it.
Anyway, the list of the ten nominations is as follows:
My University recently hosted Owl City for a concert here. Tickets were $3, so I bought one and planned on going with a bunch of my friends. At the concert, a bunch of people had cameras because they wanted to take pictures. I’m honestly not very surprised at this. Digital cameras have made it quite easy for anyone to document every mundane detail of their life.
I, obviously, am just bitter because I did NOT bring a camera.
Anyway, I was quite disappointed in how people used their digital cameras, and I now feel that it is my duty to educate the public on how to take pictures at a concert, or any other event that involves a stage and stage lighting. I saw many people take a picture, then look at the result, disappointed. Others will simply get home and realize that none of their pictures turned out very well. Without going into much technical detail, I present to you… how to take pictures at a concert! (continue reading…)
My high school put on a production of Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” for its winter play, and I made the mecca back to my hometown to see the show. I brought two of my friends from my college life with me, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the comedy. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who has the chance to see it. Ever since the three of us saw it, however, we’ve been quoting it, and laughing, because we get the jokes and no one else does.
There’s been one joke in particular we’ve been quoting quite a bit. Originally, we were quoting it because it didn’t really make sense to any of us, and we thought it was just kind of stupid. In the play, only one character (Albert Einstein) actually laughs at the joke. Perhaps, though, we though, we were just missing something. Before I go any further, I should probably share the joke. It goes like this:
A man goes into a bakery and says, “Can you mail a pie?” The baker says, “Yeah, I think we could.” Then the man says, “Well, could you bake me a pie in the shape of the letter E?” And the baker says, “Yeah, I think we could do that. Come back tomorrow, and we’ll have it for you.” So the man comes back the next day, and the baker shows him the pie. The man says, “You idiot! That’s a big E. I wanted a small e, a small e.” So the baker says, “No problem, come back tomorrow, and I’ll see what I can do.” So the man comes back the next day, and the baker shows him the pie. The man says, “Perfect… it’s perfect.” Then the baker says, “So where do you want me to send it?” And the man says, “You know what… I think I’ll eat it here.”
By the silence on stage, it’s immediately clear that none of the characters understand the joke. By the silence in the audience, it’s clear that none of them get it either. Alright, there was some laughter… due to not thinking the joke was funny, and a humorous situation being created due to a non-funny joke being told. I’ll even admit that at first, I didn’t get it. In fact, I’m not even sure if it’s a joke that’s meant to be “got.” But, there are some interpretations we can take that make the joke funny. (continue reading…)
Last semester, some students from my university worked with university officials to get a game of Humans vs. Zombies going. After hearing about the game, I decided I wanted to join up to play the game. It was going to be a two-day game: starting Friday at 5 PM, and ending Sunday at 5 PM, as a trial for the university. Unfortunately, I was going to be off campus that weekend, so I wasn’t able to sign up. However, as soon as I heard they were doing another round, I knew I had to do my best to be on campus for the game.
So, working with the university some more, these students organized a three day game: starting Thursday at 5 PM, and ending Sunday at 5 PM. The students wanted to have a week-long game, but the university wanted to see how the game would work with people travelling between classes before they allowed that. I got a Nerf gun for Christmas, and was eager for the game to get started. I attended the necessary meeting to sign up for the game, and just had to wait until Thursday to start playing.
Now, after the game is over, I have this to say: I can’t wait for the week-long game which is planned for some time in April. Humans vs. Zombies is not only a great excuse to run around campus with a Nerf gun, shooting people for the fun of it, but also a great way to be social and meet new people. The teamwork and strategy involved is amazing, and I definitely met some great people I would have otherwise never said hi to. Needless to say, I’ve been disappointed to find out that some college campuses refuse to allow the game to happen. (continue reading…)
Last semester, I was informed of a class at my university called “Virtual Reality Programming”, and I took immediate interest in it. My university has a visbox 3D projection room in our engineering building, and I’ve been interested in that room ever since I found out about it. After seeing Avatar, I became even more interested in that class, and in how 3D projection works.
I’m not going to try and say 3D projection is simple. Quite frankly, it requires precise timing, and the technology behind it is amazing. However, I’ll try to explain everything as simply as possible, so the information can be accessed by all. Let’s start out with old school: those red and blue glasses. (continue reading…)
By the time of this writing, I have seen Avatar three times: twice in IMAX, and once in RealD 3D. The first time was for the midnight premier in IMAX. Then, I decided I wanted to see it again, so got a bunch of people to go see it in IMAX. The third time, a couple people I knew were going, and I wanted to see the movie a third time. I’m contemplating going to see it a fourth time.
Now, after reading this article and seeing the movie, you may feel the movie isn’t good enough to see it three or four times, and that’s fine. But if you go see the movie and think it was bad, then I think you’re just looking for something to complain about, so you found something. The only people I’ve heard of not liking this movie are comments I’ve read online. Every person I actually know that saw it thought it was a fantastic movie.
But, really… Why should you go see Avatar?
1. The plot line
This is the complaint I see most often, so I’m going to address it before anything else. I’m also fairly certain that this complaint comes mostly from people who haven’t seen the movie. I’m not going to argue that the plot isn’t cliché, because… well, it really is. But, that’s a terrible reason to not see a movie. First off, if the only complaint you can find about a movie is that the plot line/story has been done before, then I’d say it’s a pretty damn good movie. Overall, the basic plot line has little to do with whether a movie is good or not. Let’s face it: almost all movies have a clichéd basic plot line. The reason you like a movie is how the plot line plays out: character development, how the end is reached, tests that characters have to go through, etc. Most people would rather see a story they already know because it’s less confusing, and less to follow. You know what’s going on, you just have to sit there and go along for the ride. (continue reading…)
This will be the second in my series of security topics from a non-security expert, I suppose. I just calls ‘em hows I sees ‘em.
As you may or may not know, I will be attending Valparaiso University this Fall as a Freshman. When I attended Valparaiso’s Freshman orientation program, they taught us a lot about their online systems. One thing I learned was that I will need to change my password every 185 days, and when I change it, it can’t be similar to whatever I had last time. The idea here is that this will be more secure, because hackers will never know your password for an extended period. However, I see a problem with this.
Forcing me to change my password to something completely different means forcing me to memorize a new password, something completely different, too. Now, personally, I don’t think this will be much of a problem, because I’m pretty good at memorizing things. However, if you aren’t that good at memorizing, this could cause a big problem: the urge to write down your password. As anyone could tell you, writing down a password immediately creates a security risk, because anyone could see it written on a piece of paper, or take the paper, etc. The safest place for a password is in your brain, and in your brain only.
So, is forcing users to change their password really more secure? For some people, I think it will help, but I think it’s a practice that could only hurt others. A better idea would be to enforce good password practice: have users create a nice, good length, password, containing at least one letter, number, capital letter, and special character. Want to go for more security? Force it to start and end with a letter. Don’t just let the user tack an exclaimation mark on an otherwise easy-to-guess password.
Overall, I don’t think there will ever be a formula for password security. There is no one end-all be-all tip I can give for keeping your password away from hackers. Perhaps forcing people to change their password every x days really does help security. But, I’d like to see some concrete proof of this before I believe it.
There once was a big, scary monster
Inspired by: http://limerickdb.com/?257
You know what class this is? P.E. You know what that stands for? Physical Excersise.
This quote is attributed to a P.E. sub at my high school. I’m paraphrasing, because I don’t remember the actual words, but believe me: this phrase was actually uttered by a substitute P.E. teacher. Perhaps this wasn’t the best way to start of the blog post. Let’s go back a bit.
A couple weeks ago, I needed a form signed so I could go on a field trip. All of my teachers need to sign a form saying that it’s OK for me to skip out on class, and acknowleging that they realize that I’m not going to be in class that day. Granted, most teachers just sign the form without looking at the date, but that’s beside the point.
On this form, we also have to write which class we have each hour. So, for my seventh hour class I wrote the following: Gym. Seemed fine to me. I go up to my teacher and have her sign it. She first crosses out “gym” and writes “PE”, then signs the form (all without saying anything to me). I thought this was slightly humorous. I didn’t think much of it because, after all, the form was signed. However, I’ve started to think more and more of this small action.
To me, and to most of the world, PE stands for Physical Education. Education, to me, implies that I will learn something. It could be useless information, and it could be useful information, regardless, I should learn something. I would attribute a class like Health to this title. It suits all the requirements: physical — You learn about how your body functions and how to keep yourself healthy; education — did I not just use the word learn?
Let me make this a bit more clear. Here’s how Google defines eduction:
knowledge acquired by learning and instruction
Once again, the key words here are knowlege, learning, and instruction. These are the three important requirements in order to have the “education part.”
I would define my “P.E.” class this year as anything but that. It consists of:
Today we’re playing tennis. Grab a ball, racket, and partner, and start playing tennis.
No instruction, no guidance, no help while attempting to play the sport, just a: “This is what we’re doing. Go.” So, where, then, does the education come in?
Freshman and sophomore year was different: we actually learned about the muscles and bones in our body. We learned about what excersises work which muscles, and we were taught easy excersises to help keep us in shape. Once again: we learned. This was not gym class, it truly was physical education.
So, I suggest a reform of the class. Because Illinois is the only state that still requires four years of gym P.E. in high school, we must be true to the classes title: teach us. It doesn’t even have to be individual attention (although that would be nice). But, at least inform us of the rules of tennis before telling us to play. If you want to get really crazy, try to make us play by the rules. If we are going to take Physical Education, let’s keep the Education there.
Although, I’ve heard an alternative suggestion: make P.E. half-classroom. This alternative would suit Illinois perfectly. We could still have a P.E. class, but we would actually learn. Once the program got started, the school could start offering “specialized” P.E. classes, where you can learn about one specific topic. You could then take the P.E. class that sounded most interesting to you, instead of being stuck in a general gym class.
After all this, I have to question my school’s definition of P.E. I was always taught that P.E. stood for Physical Education (acronym finder agrees), but it seems the crazy old gym teacher is right: PE stands for Physical Excersise.