A Reflection on a Textbook Section

By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination. ~ Christopher Columbus

For the final blog post, we are asked to reflect on the experience of writing a textbook section. The idea of this course was to give students a quick look into both the history and various applications of computer science. All of the sections  for the class were split up into a number of teams to do research for a topic. My team, Group D, focused on algorithms.

Research for the topic was quite easy to obtain, thanks to the number of search engines and resources that the internet can provide. The group was quite efficient at finding relevant material from a variety of mediums: research papers, general knowledge texts (encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc…), and visual examples either in the form of games, pictures, and even movies discussing algorithms as a whole. We looked into the various types of sorting methods and along with the notes presented in the discussion for that day,  were able to get a good feel for what an algorithm did for the discipline.

Even with the research we obtained composing the section was a new challenge altogether. Originally we had missed the established due date for when our part of the section needed to be turned in. This led to a quick creation of a placeholder piece with the general idea of what we wanted the textbook section to look like. Of course, this placeholder wasn’t quite the quality I would have liked. The placeholder had around one hundred and thirty-five words that just basically blasted the reader with a quick look at what an algorithm was. Not very many of the sections were written in detail and overall the thing was a mess.

I was not surprised with the grade we received for the work as I quickly communicated the deadline for the rewrite to my fellow group mates. Constructing the rewrite was one daunting task but the placeholder was already the foundation that I wanted to expand upon. After reviewing sections that other groups did, I got a general feel for what to expand on and began to diligently work on the final piece. Within that period of time for the rewrite, I was able to get together with my group and get feedback on what to expand. Kameron, for example, did a great job on explaining an algorithm that he had worked with previously.

In the end, the completed section was complete makeover of the placeholder expanding and creating new sections to describe algorithms. I found the task quite daunting at first,  as I was started to understand the overall composition of a textbook section. When completing the project I was left with a sense of pride of what our group had contributed and as set piece of what to expect in the future.

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So What Now?

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”   ~Pat Conroy

This is the first of the two reflection blogs that we are asked to write about for this class. This first one focuses on what I plan on doing next for beyond the course.  If I had to describe my plans in its most simplest form, it would be taking CIS 200 and go forward from there.

I believe though that this post though can go deeper and focus on what I plan to do within my studies of computer science here at K-State, but beyond into the work force or even further education.

When focusing on my college career, yes I do plan on continuing my studies in computer science further, which means that taking 200 a class that focuses on programming basics is a must. As mentioned in one of our video interviews 200, 300 (data programming and structures), and 501 (software architecture and  design)  focus on building the foundations for designing and constructing code. As I go further on beyond those “core” courses there is room to also put take electives for a variety of fields. One that was mentioned, security, did catch my attention and is something for me to consider when choosing electives. Another class that would be interesting is the game design courses that I could take later on after completing the core courses.

Along with my studies in my core courses here I also have signed up to minor in leadership studies. I believe that this pairing for my degree will be good for presenting myself to employers. I have also been trying to participate in the ACM (association for computing machinery) club here on campus but have been only able to attend the meetings that happen monthly. Hopefully, as my skills in programming develop, I will be able to compete in the programming contests that they sponsor.

After college is a totally different story. To be honest I haven’t really thought about what lies ahead that far in time. If I had to make a prediction of anything these are the main goals I want to meet in order for me to land a career. The first one is to get a job on campus that relates to the discipline in order to further hone my skills. Second, I will be trying to search for an internship  for a company and hopefully get to participate in that opportunity by the end of my junior year. If I can meet these goals, combined with degree and other activities I do on campus, I will have a pretty strong resume that will show employers that I will be more than qualified for the job.

As Mr. Conroy said the journey never stops. We as human beings will continue to grow and learn about the things that interest us. I can safely say that  look forward to continuing my journey in the field of computer science.

Sources:

http://catalog.k-state.edu/index.php?catoid=13 (catalog search for k-state classes)

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Are Computers Really Everywhere?

Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them. ~Aflred North Whitehead

Our society today is heavily tech driven. You can’t just walk down a city street or through a park without noticing some form of computing technology being used right around the corner. You might be surprised by the most obscure things that actually use computer systems like sensors.

I would like to point out one interesting example of everyday computer systems that was brought up in class was traffic signals. Signals are programmed to switch between going, slowing down, and stopping at regular intervals. These intervals can be modified with the changing events and seasons. For example on Kansas State football game days, Kimball avenues traffic light is usually green to allow the humongous amount of traffic from die-hard football fans  to pass through, while those waiting to cross on browning are forced to find other ways around. During the fall and winter months  in Manhattan, traffic lights are adjusted especially with streets near the campus to accommodate the increased number of undergraduate/graduate students that are here. Traffic is also regulated through infrared sensors usually in the form of the cameras on top of the lights. These can adjust signals based on the number of cars waiting in each lane.

On the topic of sensors the first question that should be asked is, what technically defines a sensor? A sensor Wikipedia claims is a converter that measures a physical quantity and converts it into a signal which can be read by an observer or by an (today mostly electronic) instrument. A good rule of thumb for sensors are:

1. The sensor focuses on measuring the intended substance, temperature, property, etc…

2. Does not sense any other measurement (this could lead to inaccuracies in the data!)

3. Does not manipulate the data in any way

One example that comes to my mind is animal research. For example, research teams that are studying the eating, mating, and various habits of great white sharks will subdue a shark by baiting it with delicious food. After the shark is deemed safe to work on, scientist will attach sensors that can monitor the sharks position, perhaps stomach contents, and other tidbits of data. They could get a good idea of the sharks medical condition if there was an anomaly  in its usual patterns.

Sensors are also quite useful in areas of fault lines, avalanche zones, and areas consistent with forest fires. Sensors can pick up anomalies based off of the usual data and send said data back to researchers, which in turn could save lives and the environment. These sensors could also dispatch information to firefighters/rescue crews in aiding them on how to approach and deal with the situation.

An obvious area using sensors is in the medical field of study. For example people with diabetes have tools that can measure the amount of blood sugar in their system in order to prevent a diabetic attack. Heartbeat monitors for someone on a sickbed keep track of a persons condition if they are gravely injured so that doctors can act if that persons heart begins to give out.

That is just some examples of technology being used in everyday life. Among the ones that I listed there are tons more that help ease and prevent accidents and death as we go on throughout our day.

Sources:

Class Lecture

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensor

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Copyright me Please

In making policy designed with copyright in mind, you end up making decisions about whether other important technologies, such as privacy-enhancing or file-search technologies, should be encouraged or discouraged. A collision is happening between creativity and protecting IP. ~Edward Felton

Ah copyrights, you know those things on major brand names and icons. You see them everywhere advertisements, commercials, or whenever a corporation feels that you violate their licensing and takes your video down on YouTube. With the increased number of new and innovative ideas copyrights will soon also have to innovate and change to meet that demand.

How does copyright work right now? The copyright/trademark system in general is giving the original creator of any form of work whether that be a logo, an idea, even a program exclusive rights to it but only for a limited time. This means that the original owner has exclusive rights to their ideas.

Originally copyright was supposed to be a way for the government to put some form of restriction on printing. The idea at conception was similar if not exact to what it I defined earlier. Copyrights were also territorial which according to Wikipedia means that they do not extend beyond the territory of a specific state unless that state is a party to an international agreement, this has become less viable today due to copyrights focusing on single parties. the amount of time that a copyright lasts has been defined by the remaining life of the creator plus fifty to one hundred years after death. For things that are copyrighted by anonymous or corporate entities, the copyright lasts for a set finite amount of time.

Mentioned earlier in this post I talked about exclusive rights to a copyrighted work. Exclusive rights include that the owner is allowed to create copies of the original work for distribution, to create supplemental texts/materials to that add-on to the original work, to display the work publicly wherever the creator chooses, and most importantly allow the rights of the work to others.

Even though the copyright system is far established in our society does that mean it is secure for the future? In an essay entitled the future of copyright Mike Linksvayer states that copyright laws have become more restrictive. That being said, he points out that as our technology rapidly develops it has become increasingly harder to enforce such restrictions. It comes to a point that Linksvayer states that neither abolition nor police state in service of copyrestriction  scenarios are likely in the near future.

When reflecting on this I can also agree that enforcing copyright laws in the near future will be quite difficult. As more ideas become easier to distribute through social media, blogging, and in the case of software (games, applications, etc…) online distributing systems it becomes more taxing to make sure that credit is given to the original designers of the work. It might just be something that we as computer scientists will have to reason out and solve as we go forward!

Sources:

http://gondwanaland.com/mlog/2012/04/30/future-of-copyright/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

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A Number You Are Indeed

The Internet is so big, so powerful and pointless that for some people it is a complete substitute for life.~Andrew Brown

In our wonderful capitalist society, our government offers a variety of aid and other helpful services. One of these services that they have implemented back in the early 1930’s was social security. The gist of social security focuses on that whenever an employed person here in the United States receives their pay for any employed work they are in, they are required to deposit a small percentage of that check for social  security. When it comes for a person to retire and if that person did actually give a set amount of money to the social security fund they would receive checks for their retirement period. How they keep track of each individual’s own deposit is by assigning each person a social security number that is unique to that person.

Just like social security, there are a variety of ways that computers assign you the users values for a number of tasks. In this blog-post I am going to point out some of the ways computers keep track of who you are in the digital domain.

My first example is doing something as simple as getting on the internet. Whenever you jump onto the vast network know as the internet your internet service provider assigns you a number that represents what to send and receive data/commands from. Say you were searching up something on Google. Well whenever you make a request for a search the website needs to know what that number is so that they can send the correct information to display for you.

When you make support requests for something that is broken whether that is your computer, iPod, or any other device, the website assigns you a support number for that particular situation. This allows the user to ask questions relating to that situation by just posting that reference number. In most cases though most supports use this to access the archive you had with a support technician (assuming that this was chat-based communication).

In modern video games this can be seen as a way to locate friends or make trades with a specific user. In Diablo 3 for example since the executives at Blizzard assumed that the player base for their games would be so huge, that there would be people who wanted to have a certain username. In this scenario lets assume your twin friends Joe and Josh both decide to have the username Megaman67. The thing is you want to make a friend request with only Joe because he is going to play cooperatively with you. When you go to search for the username there could be more than just two people registered on that name. Well if Joe knows the number that was also assigned to him only he can give you that number so that you can put that in the add friends search tool and that problem is assigned instantly.

Search engines have been known to form profiles based on what you are looking for. You might now be actually grouped into a number, but you have been categorized based on what interests you. If I was to search for the newest wireless mouse on the market, I might end up getting ads or other forms of media relating to other computer devices.

That is just a few ways on how the modern user is being defined as a number in the virtual world. Even though some people may not like that idea, with the increasing numbers of our population  giving everyone a string numbers stays the quickest way of keeping track of everyone.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_security

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_service_provider

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Privacy and the Future

At the bottom, the elimination of spyware and the preservation of privacy for the consumer are critical goals if the Internet is to remain safe and reliable and credible. ~Cliff Stearns

Privacy especially on the internet has always been a critical issue for the everyday person. When it comes to sharing information especially on something as expansive like the internet, the risk that the information you maybe sharing could be easily taken and used. In this blog post I want to focus on the various ways users share their information, opinions, or other data and what I feel should be the limit of what one should post on the ever-growing net.

The first and most common way that people share their ideas and opinions along with more sensitive info is through social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc..) or other discussion related webpages (forums and chat-rooms just to name a few). Most people who log onto to social media tend to log in and post/tweet something interesting relating to an event that happened to them or to even someone else that had occurred within their daily lives or at the instant that said event. Not only that users are allowed to upload pictures, videos, and other image related media to their profiles. One final note I would like to add is that users can personalize their profiles with information relating to them. This information can range from their phone numbers, their favorite music,movies, hobbies, etc.., and where they work or used to work. Why then does this relate to privacy and what one should limit to posting on the internet? Well for example how about if a user was recently fired from their job. This user out of frustration says some obscene things about their former boss. This user then gets hired at a different employer who then asks the new hire if they have any social media accounts. The user says yes, the employer sees the comments and boom that person doesn’t get hired. Now this person could have deleted this information but if they website doesn’t allow you to delete information (and there are still some websites that do that) you could put yourself in a really bad position.

Along with social media e-shopping can also liable to revealing personal information. Every time you make a transaction with a credit or debit card on the internet, even with the increase standards of encryption and security settings  there are still chances that this information could be compromised. This could then lead to an unwelcome increase in the number of transactions on your card.  This could also include making bank transactions or looking at your bank statements even though security is pretty tight when it comes to such information it is still a  possibility.

My stance on privacy is that the user needs to be aware with what they are submitting on the internet.  Just keep in mind that there are things that you can post that would offend people even if it is a joke. When it comes to e-transactions just checking your credit card statements is the safest way to make sure that your monetary affairs are in order. As long as we are conscious about what we do on the web, the dangers that it presents should be  no problem at all.

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Education of the Future Today

Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants. ~ John W. Gardner.

Computers have been implemented in a variety of ways to benefit education and research. For example simulations have been utilized in a variety of fields from medical science, aerospace/plane pilots, and even military combat.

For this blog-post lets focus on the medical side of simulations. Simulation was first put into practical application during the 1930s military scientists and researchers tested the Link Trainer for flight and other military related applications. Unfortunately, at the time medical simulations were not possible due to the technology not being fully developed at the time and that the overall medical knowledge was too hard to implement with the simulation technology. It wasn’t until the early 1990s the American Board of Emergency Medicine starts to implement medical simulation technology as a way to gauge student performance. Technology as far as it has come up to this point still needed refinement in terms of medical simulation. That is why the The Council of Residency Directors or CORD established these principles for simulations as a whole:

“Simulation is a useful tool for training residents and in ascertaining competency. The core competencies most conducive to simulation-based training are patient care, interpersonal skills, and systems based practice.

It is appropriate for performance assessment but there is a scarcity of evidence that supports the validity of simulation in the use for promotion or certification.

There is a need for standardization and definition in using simulation to evaluate performance.

Scenarios and tools should also be formatted and standardized such that EM educators can use the data and count on it for reproducibility, reliability and validity.” (from wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_simulation)

What is so important about medical simulations to begin with? Well first off it gives prospective medical students a chance to apply what they have learned in class with a more interactive approach. Such simulations mean that students will actually get a hands on approach to the various operations and other procedures as if they were actually at the operating table. This ultimately leads to students actually being prepared to actually deal with the real scenario when that time comes and with their experience could be the one thing that will save the patients life.

When it comes down to a computer scientist having to design the software needed for medical simulations they must consider a variety of factors. Obviously they must consider the operation they want to simulate; once they have done that, they must consider how they want  to display the users interactions with their patient as they complete a procedure. This can be done through point and clicking, touchscreens, and even for the high-tech simulation actual sensors on the persons hands to get precise gestures. One major thing that must be taken into account is that the software must be presented in a way so that whoever wishes to use it can easily understand and interact with the interface with as few problems as possible.

As our technology continues to develop so will the ability to simulate any medical scenario preventing deaths worldwide.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_simulation

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