Seems like everytime I post…..

Haha, well like every other time I post… I am now apologizing for not posting enough! Okay.. apology over. Anyway, school is going great, and I’m finally in the classes that are directly useful to the sorts of things I like to do.

The class I’m doing the best in is CSE 220 – Computer Architecture. It’s all about the inner workings of processors and a lot of the standards that go with modern processor design, from ALU circuit design to the IEEE 754 standard for floating point numbers. Oh, and my favorite part, MIPS assembly language programming. It’s actually pretty cool to be able to write alot of the stuff I’ve been doing with higher level languages right down at the processor level. It’s an awesome connection between the other programming languages and the hardware logic that I learned in CSE 210.

Another one of my classes is CSE 230 – Software Engineering. This class is supposed to make you think about the design of larger applications from various levels (very high level system concepts all the way down to class hierarchies and code). A lot of the tools (UML diagrams, etc) are ones that I have used to at least some extent before, but this class is giving me good experience both with thinking about the problems and with actually using the tools (although I must say…. Together Architect is nice for diagram design, but NOT worth the over-10 grand they charge for it… use Umbrello!).

Anyway, finals are nearly upon us, and I’m probably not going to write another blog post for a long time, so feel free to wait around for my next apology for not writing often enough!

Search Engine

Hello again dear readers!! (Although I’m not even sure we have any readers right now, I think we neglected the site for too long…).

Anyway, even if nobody else is reading it (HELLLLOOOOO OUT THERERERERERERERE), this is a good way for me to keep track of the progress that’s being made on the site, so here’s another cool update.

THE SEARCH ENGINE WORKS!!

Yes, Justin came up with a pretty cool way to keep track of links, etc on this site. It’s not a crawler or anything yet. Since the majority of the website is actually database content that shows up in the right places, I wrote a script to grab all of the relevant information directly out of the database and create an index table. It automagically generates all of the proper tiles and links for the pages as well and then the search engine (seen the upper right hand corner of any page) grabs appropriate information out of that.

I actually considered using MySQL’s Full-Text Search functionality, but it has the annoying property that it only matches full words, so I decided against it and simply used a LIKE query on the content in the search index. Anyway, it does work now! I’ll improve it as time goes on and will eventually have it attached to a crawler that I am working on in my spare time (hahaha, spare time…… hahahahah). If you have any specific issues with it, please do let us know (leaving a comment here will work just dandy).

A Very Nerdy Update

Well well, hello again my dear readers. As usual I have been a bad little blogger and not kept you all up to date on our myriad projects, so this is one big post to let you guys know that we are still here and still alive.

Steve may want to to do a more detailed post on this at a later time, but I’d like to inform you that he has been spending many a long sleepless night learning how to and then building a custom Linux LiveCD based off ofUbuntu for the UConn Linux Association so we can distribute it to any UConn student who would care to grab one and be cool…

On vaguely related note, one of the nights Steve and I spent awake in ITEB doing computer stuff (I was completing the build of my newest LinuxFromScratch on my laptop, he was building the LiveCD) I happened across the techie / hacker series Hak.5 through a link posted on Digg and abused the buildings wireless by downloading a couple of episodes. While they may seem a bit condescending at time and hacks aren’t anything totally mind blowing, I like the series (a heck of a lot better than The Broken). One of my favorite hacks they did was a very simple one that you can use to transfer audio over light waves via a $10 laser pointer from ThinkGeek. So very late last night (around 2 AM this morning to be precise), I got the urge to build it. The write up of the story will be made available within the next couple of days, but I will warn you in advance that the end result suprised even me…….

On an untechnical note, I am sitting here eating Ramen Noddles (mmmmmmmmm) out of an upside-down plastic cover from one of those 100 CD racks because I couldn’t find a bowl to microwave them in…… ah college life 😛

W3C Compliance Attained!

Well the other day Steve made the mistake of reminding me of the existence of the W3C Markup Validator. I think the gist of the conversation involved complaining about it, but the fact that my code wasn’t W3C compliant got on my nerves. So in between compiling LFS 6.2 and BLFS 6.1, I took a night off to learn what parts of my code weren’t being W3C compliant and fix them.

I didn’t get it all done that night, but I did learn a few things. Now tonight, I am proud to announce that fugitivethought’s front page is completely W3C standard compliant. And if they aren’t picky, I don’t know who is!!

A few quick tips for anyone who wants to use the validator to check out their site:

  • If you’re using PHP, be sure that the top line of the PHP file that loads is <? header(“Content-type: text/html; charset=utf-8”); ?> – this informs the browser what type of text format to expect the PHP output to be in. Of course if you are using a different character set, change the utf-8 to whatever it is, but chances are it’s probably utf-8
  • The most recent version of HTML, which seems to be what I’ve been writing in anyway, is HTML 4.01. So right after the header for the text encoding, include the line: <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd”&gt; which tells the browser to expect 4.01 code. I used transitional because I still like such tags as <center> and <font>. Somewhere down the road I’ll break down and convert it all over to 4.01 Strict. But if you put transitional in the DOCTYPE, at least the browser knows what to expect.
  • Be sure to close all tags in the proper place. For instance, W3C doesn’t like unordered lists to be embedded inside paragraph tags. So whenever you are using an unordered list, end the paragraph tag, start the unordered list, end the unordered list, end the paragraph tag. This is true for a lot of other types of tags too.
  • USE THE SHOW SOURCE CHECKBOX! – Especially if you are working on PHP code. This helps immensely because it shows you the code as it sees it and includes the line numbers it references!

Alright, I hope this blog post doesn’t break the W3C compliancy, because that would just make me mad……

Attack on our Server

Well this morning Steve brought to my attention the fact that somebody was trying to spam our comments section and kill it by sending tons of random stuff to our database. He only saw the comments that appeared on the bottom post of this page (they’re removed now), but when I checked the database there were over a thousand entries made and I couldn’t tell if there were more coming in. I took some quick measures to prevent it from happening again and cleaned out the database.

The attack came from the IP Address 82.252.1.62, which is registered to RIPE on top, and then RIPE assigned it to Proxad / Free SAS. Now I’m no psychic, but that doesnt sound like a terribly friendly name for a company to me, especially when you find out it’s based in France.

Anyway, this was just a quick update about what’s going on, I’ll probably post more later!

Time for another Justin rant…..

Steve Maresca: the us is screwed
Justin DeMaris: yea :-/
Justin DeMaris: mm, me thinks i need to buy a can opener
Steve Maresca: cant
Steve Maresca: theyve stopped selling them due to infringements

So this was actually an AIM convo that was inspired by a combination of reading one of the most recent Slashdot stories and Justin opening a can of Cattle Drive Chili With Beans with a pocket knife. Anyway, I could probably make a whole rant on how good that chili is, but this one is going to focus on the status of Intellectual Property and Patent Laws within the US.

Alright, so patents were implemented way back in 1970 in the US and the idea of it all was to set up a system so anybody who had a cool or useful invention would have a record stating that yes, they did invent said invention and it granted them the right to a monopoly on that invention for a specific period of time. After that time, anybody could make or use that invention. This enabled creative thought to be rewarded but the limit on the time frame for the monopoly on the invention made it so that the patent didn’t hinder the furtherment of science.

One feature of early patent law in the US was that in order to apply for the patent, you had to actually have a working prototype of the device. This is nice in that people couldn’t come up with some crazy idea and then put a patent on it just to restrict anybody from building it. You actually had to show that it worked. The only problem was that if you had a great idea, but no money to build it, you couldn’t file for a patent to make money off of it. Sort of a deadly loop…. So they removed that part of the law.

Anyway, fast forward to today, where we have companies like Microsoft using underhanded techniques to push the little guy that the IP system is supposed to protect around (note when reading this that Microsoft doesn’t have a trademark on “Windows”, they have a trademark on “Microsoft Windows”). You also have the patent office granting patents to ideas like this that are just plain ludicrous both because the concept isn’t even fully formed yet and because he isn’t even going to build it. He’s just patenting it because he can.

In a nut shell, the patent system is no longer being used to protect the little guy or the creative guy, but rather being used by large corporations to prevent anybody else from developing anything new because chances are anything they use to develop that idea is going to infringe on somebody elses’s patent. Regardless of whether they came up with it independently or not or whether it’s a new way to deal with the same issue that another patent deals with, the courts are populated by relatively technically unsaavy people (no insult to them, it’s not their job to understand all of the ins and outs of the engineering side of it, they’re only supposed to deal with the law) so whichever side has the better lawyer (big and rich corporations pretty much always will) determines in whose favor the court will decide in a patent infringement case.

Anyway, no real point to this other than to rant! Goodnight all. The only solution Steve and I have to this whole mess is to move to the moon and laugh at everybody left down here still dealing with the beaurocracy.

Work, Work, and oh yea! more work!

Well in FugitiveThought News, Steve and I have decided to give the site a face lift. We’ll probably be working on that this weekend. I’ve been reallllly busy recently with my 23 credits worth of classes (yes, I am a psycho), so forgive me for not having updated anything recently (or don’t forgive me…. I really don’t care :).

Yea, so I had this spare monitor just sort of sitting here taking up space on my desk. We also have an ancient TV (from the 80’s) that doesn’t have the ability to play movies or anything. Soooo, being a dork I decided I needed a solution to both problems. I set up the monitor on top of the TV and ran the VGA cable to the top of our microwave which is the perfect spot to set my laptop, so we can play movies through it now. The only trick to this is that the laptop doesn’t have a large enough hard drive for all of the movies I wanted to collect, so I have to download them to my desktop’s 250 gig HD (I’m going to get another 250 soon too I think). So the question of the day was “how do I get movies from the desktop to the laptop to play without much hassle…..?”. And the solution? Well read on!

My first thought was to run an FTP server on the desktop (it’s a windows box). That meant I would have to download each movie individually whenever I wanted to watch it, which was a bit annoying. So basically what I decided I needed something to stream movies from the desktop to the laptop. To the rescue comes VideoLAN! It works great (I watched three movies with it yesterday). You basically open the movie up on the desktop an tell it to stream to a specific port, open the program up on the laptop and tell it to stream from that computer at that port, and voila, it works! Every now and then it’ll get a bit laggy, but it’s pretty good and I’m going to play with my router a bit to fix that.

I’ll update again in a couple days with more new and amazing stuff. Until then, peace out and hack on!

Nuclear Power

Alright, for a while now, Steve and I have been trying to find a single project to devote our selves to throughout our 4 years at UConn. We couldn’t find one for the first year, so we resolved to make a final choice this summer. At the moment, the general area has been decided to have to be something to do with space, most likely some form of propulsion to help open up the true space age.

There are a number of concepts out there for drives at the moment, but the problem is that they all require high levels of electricity, to a point where it becomes impractical. One of the most promising drives that is an example of this is the Magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thruster. It works using the same effect used in the Rail Gun, but in order to provide 50 pounds of thrust, it needs to be supplied with 3 megawatts of power (in comparison, a typical nuclear power plant produces in the range of 870 megawatts, so 3 megawatts is nothing to scoff at).

In order to produce the needed amount of energy in a practical size with a practical amount / type of fuel, technology is going to need major power boosts. My idea is that modern nuclear power plants work by converting energy from nuclear decay (in the form of heat) into physical work (in the form of steam rotated turbines) and then back into energy again (in the form of electricity). If we can skip the physical work step, we should be able to do this more efficiently. Promising technologies in this area work by converting the heat directly to electricity using a Radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), which utilizes the Seebeck Effect. However, this type of gate is, as of yet, quite inefficient (10 – 20% efficiency tops), so more work needs to be done.

Keep returning for more updates as research continues!

Long Delayed Update

Alright, I admit it! I’m horrible at keeping blogs up to date!!! Any of you who actually read this thing must thank Steve for reminding me to update or I would have forgotten it again for another couple of days.

Anyway, first, there’s the car update. The most recent change on the beast was the conversion from the crappy Mopar automatic choke to a manual choke. This may not seem like much of a story, but sit back and relax and listen in or read on.

Now normally, I’m a pretty easy going guy. And I’m terribly forgiving. So it is unusual that I go off on a rant about how bad a business is. But today I feel the extreme desire to bitch out the boys at Baxter Auto. I can’t say for the whole chain right now because I’ve only dealt with the one right down the street from me in Tacoma. So here’s the scoop.

I go down there to get a converter kit for the choke. Not a major part. Nothing complicated. No problem. I get it, bring it back to the house (saving the receipt of course). We take the air cleaner off, find a nice spot under the dash to mount the pull switch, get it all ready, and then go to mount the switch. Then we run into a problem.

For those of you unfamiliar with a pull-switch for a manual choke, the kit looks like this:

Manual Choke Pull Switch

Manual Choke Pull Switch

When we went to remove the nut on the back of the switch (it has to unscrew from the rear of the switch and slide down the cable) we found a defect in the craftsmanship: namely, the cable was crimped onto the switch in such a way that the bolt couldn’t come off… Talk about defective workmanship. I wonder how many of these got sold. They couldn’t have tested them before they sold them because that’s a pretty glaring error.

So anyway, I saved the reciept, so I bring it back to Baxter’s and show the guys behind the counter. Their response: “well if it was me, I’d have just modified it. Ya know, just bend the crimps around until the nut fit over it”. Great idea guys!! So I’m supposed to screw around with a part you sold me that should have worked in the first place. Then, seeing as that crimp was very poorly done in the first place, as soon as I get it set in such a way that the nut will slide off it’s going to snap the connection with that cheap ass cable. Then I can’t use it and can’t return it and I have to go back and buy another one anyway. I’m sure that sounds good from a sales point of view: I buy twice the parts that I need, you make money and you don’t have to worry about hearing that your product is crap. But from my view, I’d rather return it, embarass you for your product in front of other customers so maybe you’ll actually sell good ones, and then get the money back to buy a different one that actually works.

So I got a different one (after checking at the store that it was actually built right, of course), got it all mounted and working inside the car (after some fiddling around of course: my dad, the friendly family car mentor, says that mopar chokes are the biggest pains in the ass out there, so if I can convert one of them alright I should be able to repear the process on other ones if I need to ^_^).

Now all I have to do is get used to using a manual choke……

Peace out, rant done, happy hacking! And better luck with parts than I got 😉