Been a long time

October 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s been a long time. But I think everything is under control. So I don’t think I’ve written this anywhere else but I am a college student who recently transferred from a community college to a full fledged (public) university. Haha Still. I’m half way done with my first quarter and its been a while since I last posted. Been busy getting my affairs in order.
The transition has been rough. Things move a lot quicker at university. I never really thought about the difference between 10 weeks and 16 weeks. Or the quarter and semester systems. 6 weeks makes a difference. Had 3 midterms and JUST started the 5th of 10 weeks.
Along with classes speeding by, the freedom of college is absolutely mind blowing. I thought I could imagine how college would play out for me. I was wrong. My college isn’t known as a ‘party school’. But it is. You know those college parties that happen in the movies. I never thought those were real. Recently, I’ve learned that they completely are.

Anyways, been busy. My schedule is a little more under control. So I’ll try to post more regularly. I’ve started up my open-source projects again. My next project is a game physics engine coded in Java. It’s coming along. Won’t be done for some time. Class work slows down development. So do parties. Haha anyways it’s all good.

Is solving a Rubik’s Cube that cool anymore?

September 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Is it really that cool to be able to solve a Rubik’s Cube anymore? Back when they first came out, Rubik’s Cubes were the coolest things. The ability to solve them was probably one of the most valued resume write-ins, but after a few decades, a few movies and the development of the Internet, is it really that cool to be able to solve them?

As a little kid, I remember watching a Fresh Prince of Bel Air where Will Smith ended up solving one because he was literally locked in a room and had nothing else to do. I remember it being THE COOLEST thing. So I got one. But after a few days of frustration, I took a screwdriver to the thing, broke it apart and set it right in a couple of seconds. Easy.

A couple of years later, I picked up another cube and tried. Hard. Still couldn’t get it. So I jumped to the Internet and I was comforted to find the answer and learn a few big math words like algorithm. Haha. After a few hundred solves and then my little brother getting into it and us besting our best times. We kind of moved on.

It must be the idea of diminished value? Who knows. The point of this mumbling is something like, “because the Internet is the new, great provider, do things that used to be impressive like solving a Rubik’s cube impress anymore?” Does the ability to know pretty much anything at the click of a mouse or tap of a screen diminish the value of everything? Has the creation of the Internet created an inflation on the value of living?

Or maybe more importantly, does it matter how we learn things, as long as we know them? If we came to an agreement that things must be discovered organically, then we most likely are in a mental recession that I don’t see ending anytime soon. But if majority rules that knowledge is valuable regardless of how it was acquired then our mental economy is booming.

WallSwap — A Wallpaper Rotator

August 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last weekend I was messing around with my friend’s new Windows 7 laptop and thought that the simple wallpaper changer was pretty sweet. Few days later, while messing around with my Firefox Personas Rotator, I thought why isn’t there one of these for Vista or XP? So, I made one.

It is called WallSwap. It is a small program. Free and open-source. You can download the program here and the source here.

WallSwap is written in C/C++, uses the wxWidgets framework and Code::Blocks IDE. Currently, it only runs on Windows Vista and XP. Probably Windows 7, but 7 already has a changer. I’m working on getting a working Linux version and I’m not sure about Mac yet.

It’s simple and small. You create a folder and place all of the wallpapers or pictures that your want swapped. Start the program and set your wallpaper directory to the folder with all of the pictures. Finally, set how often you want the pictures changed and click ‘Start’.

If you find any bugs or have any comments or questions, let me know: maxwellamante@gmail.com

/****************Basics:Start*******************

Framework: In computer programming, a software framework is an abstraction in which software providing generic functionality can be selectively changed by user code, thus providing application specific software. It is a collection of software libraries providing a defined application programming interface (API). (original)

Code::Blocks IDE: Code::Blocks is a free C++ IDE built to meet the most demanding needs of its users. It is designed to be very extensible and fully configurable. (original)

wxWidgets: wxWidgets is a C++ library that lets developers create applications for Windows, OS X, Linux and UNIX on 32-bit and 64-bit architectures as well as several mobile platforms including Windows Mobile, iPhone SDK and embedded GTK+. (original)

C++: C++ (pronounced “see plus plus”) is a statically typed, free-form, multi-paradigm, compiled, general-purpose programming language. (original)

*****************Basics:End*******************/

LET’S DESTROY THINGS! : CDs

August 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

As I will be moving away this fall, back to college life, I’ve been cleaning up my room. As I slowly dug through this task I found some old CDs with ‘sensitive’ information. Whenever this happens I always check what was left on them, save any needed info and DESTROY!! Then I started to worry that maybe I am not DESTROYING them good enough, mainly because I use the sharp end of a drawing compass. haha. So I decided to see how far you would have to go before a CD was completely unreadable by a computer. YAY DESTRUCTION!!!!

/*************Basics:Start************

In this section I’m going to give you a quick overview of the making of CDs/DVDs/Blu-rays and how they work. Feel free to skip this section if you don’t care or already know this information.

CDs/DVDs/Blu-rays are made from a special polycarbonate plastic that is designed to be perfectly clear so that a laser can read the information stored on them. Data is pressed into the plastic, as bumps and pits, and layered with reflective aluminum, acrylic or more plastic. The bumps are later translated using a laser. When the disc is spun the laser reflects off of the aluminum to a receiver. The bumps cause the laser to alternate back and forth depending on what is encoded on the disc. The code is digital, or made up of 0s and 1s. If the laser hits the receiver it sends a 1, if it misses the receiver the reader assumes a 0. This is the basic operation of CDs/DVDs/Blu-rays.

The main differences between technologies is that the newer ones have the ability to have more than one layer of data and the laser used to read the disc has a smaller reading width. The smaller the laser, the more data you can pack on to a disc. The difference in construction is also what causes these technologies to have more storage than the last but each have the same method of DESTRUCTION!!!!! Lastly, Blu-ray discs are read using a blue ray laser thus “Blu-ray”… it’s wavelength is smaller… and there’s physics… and it basically gets more boring. haha.

(1.How CDs Work)
(2. How DVDs Work)
(3. How Blu-rays Work)

*****************Basics:End***********/

CD:

Starting with CDs I put a single moderately deep scratch going from the center to the edge. Placed it in the drive and in the usual time the disk loaded and all the data seemed accessible. Next, put another scratch from the center to the edge 90 degrees from the last. Still loaded and read. Next, I put a scratch spanning the bottom of the disk from edge to edge. Popped it in to load and waited. After a while a window opened asking if I wanted to format the disc for burning. Mission accomplished: DESTRUCTION. Scratching the bottom of the disk from edge to edge works. Yet that is just temporary, with a good and careful buffing it could be readable again. The way a CD is made allows you to DESTROY the reflective aluminum. If you want to DESTROY things permanently you have to tear up that aluminum. No reflection equals MASSIVE DESTRUCTION. I did tthe same process with scratching the metal and got the same results that an edge to edge line works and that a center to edge line may still yield a readable disk.

DVD:

I also found some DVDs that needed DESTROYING and tried again. Of course scratching the bottom worked exactly the same. Putting a moderate scratch from edge to edge proved unreadable. Yet, when i got to the metal DESTRUCTION I seemed to be scratching off the label, this is because the data is sandwiched between two pieces of plastic. So I used my tool (the sharp end of a drawing compass) and pulled apart the two thin layers and scratched away. Now I didn’t test whether this is effective but think about it, you just pulled apart a DVD… it’s not going to work. Haha.

Blu-ray:

No. I didn’t destroy a Blu-ray but if you think about the results of the CDs and DVDs, and understand that the stored data is protected by an ultra-thin protective layer, get out your pens and knives and GO CRAZY! Just remember edge to edge and deep. Haha One last thing, the Blu-ray’s data is pretty secure because of it’s construction so you should take a little extra time.

So, I know that there are shredders that DESTROY discs, but it’s fun to get your hands dirty ever once in a while. Unless you are being monitored by the government or you are a superstar, your personal discs probably won’t be top black market stock and don’t need a to be completely DESTROYED, but still like mama always said, “Better safe than sorry.”

Advice I’m Not Following — #1

August 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Advice I’m not following, but you should… I should too, I’m just not.

The advice: “JUST DO IT.”

This is my first post. FIRST!!1!!1!one!! With that said let’s begin…

My love of tech keeps me glued to my laptop browsing, programming, and now posting (after JUST DOING IT). Following a lot of blogs, occasionally I come across my favorite type of post, the advice post. These posts are usually lists and titled, “38 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 38 Years” or “10 ways to improve your programming skills.” After reading several of these posts I found the most common piece of advice to be, “Just do it.” Simple, excellent advice. If you look at “successful” people, they are usually “just doing it”. Mr.Zuckerburg didn’t sit around wondering if Facebook was a good idea or a good use of time, he just went for it. Sergey Brin and Larry Page started Google as a doctoral project, right? Now look what it has become.

So, in trying to follow this advice, I cracked open one of my notebooks and started sketching a bunch of different ideas. One in particular had some potential, I called it “Mustachio.” It was basically an app that would allow you to take a picture and put a big, hipster mustache anywhere in the photo. While deciding whether this was a good idea (and NOT JUST DOING IT) I searched the Apple App Store and not too surprisingly found plenty of apps just like it. Having several other projects, I put this one aside for a while (NOT JUST DOING IT). Several weeks later (today) I turn on Hacker News, on the front page what do I see? An HN Show article on a Chrome App called “Mustachio” that puts a mustache on every face on any given web page. Same exact name. Same basic (awesome) idea. Different execution. Either way, the developer thought this up and just did it and now they’re on the front of Hacker News. If you have an idea and it’ll only take a weekend (or other short amount of time) to whip together JUST DO IT (and you’ll get on the front of HN!). Lesson of the day/Advice to follow:

JUST DO IT.

and listen to people’s advice. haha

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