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Posts Tagged ‘Rantings’

Disgust & Rust

April 20th, 2013 1 comment

Am I actually returning to blogging after over a year from doing it? We’ll see.

Why am I riled up? CISPA passing the House.

What did I do “about” it/in response? Wrote them an angry letter (thinking of this).

So how was my angry letter to my representative (Tom Graves)? Enjoy!

I would like to state my great distaste in your decision to support CISPA today. CISPA is an affront to the human right to privacy as well as a slap in the face to anyone who still believed that this country cared about them at all.

In my eyes, CISPA is an obvious violation of the 4th amendment, but also puts power into the governments’ hands to ignore the 1st, 5th, 6th, and 7th amendments. Just because the internet is “new” doesn’t mean that our constitution can be ignored.

In the wild (or rather, likely) event that you don’t know what CISPA actually does, please read posts like http://thoughtsonliberty.com/its-time-to-unplug-the-house-votes-on-cispa-today to see how you’ve managed to fail this country.

Thanks and enjoy the rest of your last term representing this constituency.

Isn’t There Something Wrong Here?

October 22nd, 2010 No comments

As a prelude, I was originally going to write a post about how my Google Interviews went, but I decided that would be bad form considering that I am being considered for a position there, so will sum up the experience as having gone well.

I came across 2 news articles just now that both bother me for slightly different reasons. One of them is about the US’s new financial aid to Pakistan’s military (the size of which shocks me!) and the other is about the data Google’s mapping cars captured.

The main part of the whole “giving aid to Pakistan” that bothered me is not that we are giving it to Pakistan, but that the US is talking about putting aside $2 billion for Pakistan’s MILITARY! I totally understand disaster relief (the flooding in Pakistan), and can even understand giving money for civilian infrastructure in Pakistan, but specifically to their military? When was the last time we publicly funded another country’s military with US money that wasn’t South Korea or Israel? Yes, yes, we must bolster their military so that they can help us fight terrorist organizations like the Taliban in the Middle East, but doesn’t $2 billion just sound like a bit much? We apparently gave them $7.5 billion over the last 5 years. WOW! Hey government, I think I found a way to balance your books a bit to reduce debt, STOP GIVING ALL OF IT TO OTHER COUNTRIES!!!

Ok, let’s assume you have sold me on Pakistan being our greatest ally in that area of the world with their proximity to Afghanistan and such (and cooperation with the US for tracking the Taliban and such down). Wait, they helped? Aren’t there still numerous reports of terrorists being TRAINED in parts of Pakistan? So we are going to help their military beef up so that they can take on these terrorist training camps and knock them out… like that’s going to be the main area that they will put this military sanctioned money…

As for the Google story. I’m sorry, if you don’t at least secure your wireless network, that’s like leaving your front door to your house open with a sign that says “Not here right now.” Driving by and seeing wireless traffic and data that is unsecured is not invasion of privacy. It is not taking the necessary precautions to secure your own privacy. Let me use an example that is easier to relate. If you put a lot of personal information on Twitter or Facebook, and then don’t lock down the privacy settings, and then don’t EXPECT spammers and scammers to use that private data, you are naive for lack of a kinder word.

With that being said, it is a bit sketchy that Google went and recorded the data that was seen while driving around in their Google mapping cars. I mean, they didn’t HAVE to collect the data, could have just seen it and moved on with their lives. But the VOLUME that Google was able to see and record says a lot about how people treat their personal, supposedly private, networks. Twitter calls the volume of information that they give access to a “fire hose” of data. I don’t really see unsecured wireless networks as anything else really. Talk about easy pickings! I just wish people weren’t pegging this problem on Google and were instead blaming the people truly responsible, the Joe Schmo who doesn’t know how to setup their private network to be actually private (even though it requires as much effort as logging into your router and clicking the enable “WPA” or “WEP” encryption button and logging the passphrase on your computer and maybe a sticky note if you need it). This isn’t rocket science people!!!

Assignment Design Fail

March 16th, 2010 2 comments

The weekend was definitely a busy one. Between having/attending a party at a friends’ place and then spending the rest of the weekend doing homework (had an assignment for my Algorithms class and a group paper for my Ethics class to finish), it was a very busy, but productive weekend. I got all the work done (eventually), and had a great time Friday night! I’d rant a bit about my Ethics assignments not being clear enough, but I don’t think that’s really necessary when I have better fodder to write about in the form of my Marketing online homework submissions.

So the system is called Management by the Numbers and the site/product is completely new. At the beginning of the semester, they provided us with accounts according to the school we are in and the number we were on the roster (I assume that’s how the number was generated at least). So, the format would be gtxxx, and they initially gave EVERYONE in these classes the EXACT SAME PASSWORD! I noticed this immediately in the email that they sent out to us regarding what our login credentials were. As someone who wants to professionally doing information security for a living post undergrad, I just cringed when I saw this. To make matters worse, I did the first assignment on the WRONG username because ALL the passwords were the same. Of course, I didn’t realize that was the issue when I saw a 0 for the grade, but only after contacting the professor and TA about the issue did it become apparent “Aaron, your username is gtxxx.” “OH MY GOODNESS, I did the homework on the wrong username, I did it on gtxxy.”

After further discussion, I discovered that the company was “working on” a password change “feature,” which I consider standard in ANY login system. I almost asked for a contract to write the code to do it in PHP out of frustration, but thankfully I didn’t because I have had a bunch on my plate this semester. Overall, it was really disappointing. The funny part, that’s not even what I wanted to show with this blog post.

When I was doing the assignment that was originally due tomorrow, I found a few interesting bugs in it (causing the due date change). The first one had to do with an algorithm that was used to obtain the answer for a problem. It was supposed to be:

(($23.90 – 10) / (.71 * $23.90 – 10)) – 1 = 0.99

Instead of:

(($23.90 – 10) / (.75 * $23.90 – 10)) – 1 = 0.75

You see, the .71 in the correct answer was because it was supposed to have a 29% decrease (in this problem, since that number is dynamic) in price for the comparison, but the algorithm had been setup for a static 25% decrease in price instead. This caused correct answers to be completely wrong.

The more interesting bug, pictured to the right, had to do with precision. They were taking the number out to multiple decimal places, and requiring precision according to that, but the dollar amounts were automatically rounding as we expect cents to do. The end result was that a correct answer was STILL wrong. Of course, this was extremely frustrating for me at first, until I thought to myself “I wonder if it will accept the decimal written ALL the way out (I think I did 6 places just to be over accurate). It worked of course, since the issue had to do with their accuracy, but displaying it as a whole cent was extremely confusing. Regardless, I have finished the assignment and the due date has been pushed back to this Thursday now.

Spam and Playing God

February 26th, 2010 No comments

Alright, so first off, if only people wouldn’t post spam to these WordPress blogs. As a lot of you know (yes, all 3 of you readers), my girlfriend is keeping a blog while she is studying abroad in China this semester. Unfortunately, China blocks blogs in general, so she just emails me the posts and I update the blog for her. This also means that I have to do all other maintenance and advertisements though through her Facebook and Twitter accounts, but that’s beside the point. The maintenance is the important, and sometimes annoying part. She gets a bunch of spam comments from all sorts of sources, and it’s funny how most of them actually read like a normal human commenting. Some have the shit grammar that would be expected, but a few read normally, and almost pertain to the post. As a rule though, I have noticed that if there is a website listed with the comment, or if the commenter makes their name something that is a product name or a site name, then I just delete them. As a result, I’ve probably deleted a few legit comments from her blog, but it is difficult at best to tell what’s legit and what’s not. I haven’t installed a captcha system (the pictures with the random characters that you have to type in so it makes sure you aren’t a robot), so I can’t eliminate the spam unfortunately.

As for the “Playing God” part of this post. This is actually an old article that I meant to write about a while back, but it reminds me of Jurassic Park… They are trying to resurrect the Galapagos Tortoises, the ones that were there before Darwin’s famed visit. You know how fruit farmers will splice together certain strains of plants to make new produce like Nectarines from Peaches and Plums? Well, that’s what they are trying to do with tortoises and breeding. At least they aren’t trying to transfuse the DNA of the ancient animals with modern embryo or whatever nonsense they had in Jurassic Park, but it’s a close second in my book! Here’s the article: Mother Nature Network.

My Opinion on the Teaching Process

February 1st, 2010 No comments

Firstly, I really have to figure out a better way to remind myself to do blog posts than my present system. Working on it so I don’t miss days like I did with last Friday.

So, why do I even have an opinion on what the teaching process should be? The answer is simple (-edit: the answer turned out to not be simple at all, but rather long winded and possibly off point-), I have been exposed to a large number of different teaching styles and techniques over the course of my life because of the diverse schools I have attended so far in my life. Personally, I love the Montessori technique and entire methodology and will, to this day, claim that it is a HUGE contributor to my present level of academic success (we won’t discuss how hypocritical it is to try to measure your own academic success in any manner other than GPA, and even that is flawed). For those people who don’t know, Montessori focuses on teaching the student at the student’s pace and giving the student tangible ways to see how intangible, and sometimes convoluted, concepts work. I may have missed some other principles of the Montessori technique, but those are what I got out of my own Montessori education.

Unfortunately, my Montessori education only lasted through 6th grade and from there I went to a more traditional school setting that included desks in rows and a teacher lecturing at the front of the classroom. This of course was simply a precursor to college, but it was on a small enough scale that I was able to continue to learn at “my pace” simply by having the opportunity to easily learn 1 on 1 with the teacher if I so needed. I did learn that I suck at receiving things in an auditory only format and I am STILL a slow writer (by hand that is, computers have really changed that).

My college education is now upon me (and somehow is only a year from finishing already…), and I am seeing that not all teachers picked up or experienced the better teaching practices along the way to becoming a teacher themselves. I have experienced some of the best and some of the worst teachers at Tech in 2009. The two professors that I consider the best that I have had while at Tech were good because of similar, but not exactly the same reason. The first, during the spring semester of 2009, was quite simply engaging and knew all of the students who attended class by their first names. The second one was a little less engaging (a much larger class), but the subject was one that I have a great amount of interest in (Information Security).

In the fall, I also had the incredible misfortune of taking a course from the worst teacher in my educational career (i.e. my entire life so far). The professor was unprepared for class, couldn’t answer questions in class without lots of thought, and would usually opt for answering a question in a later class. Overall, I learned nothing from this professor in a subject I had hoped to learn quite a bit from (Computer Networking 1) and am now unable to take the follow-up to this course because I don’t feel that I have the knowledge required.

So that whole long introduction brings me around to why I am even writing this blog post in the first place. It is my belief that the teacher should understand a subject better than his or her own students and that the teacher should come with the expectation that he or she are going to teach the students something new during the next class period. Instead, I have lately been confronted with a teacher that expects us to learn the entire concept BEFORE class on our own and then come to class so she can tell us that we are either wrong about what we learned, unguided, or that we should have learned the information already so that she can ask rhetorical questions of the classroom at large and not give anyone the time to answer. Overall, while the course is VERY structured with in class assignments every time we meet for class, so it is pretty easy to keep up, the professor’s style and attitude towards us as students completely turns me off to the course as a whole. I will of course finish out the semester with this class, but I do not find her teaching style to my own benefit. For all future students, it is her last year teaching this course, so don’t worry about it.

Frustration = Parenting?

April 24th, 2009 No comments

I don’t claim to understand the reasoning and motives behind other people’s behavior but I there seems to be an increased number of incidents lately where I have been unable to understand another’s view point, alone motives. So here’s the scenario that I don’t understand at all:

A person’s parents are decently well off, we will call this person Sally to have as generic a name as possible. Sally’s parents are not only well off, but the father has worked at many high level (and even fortune 500) companies. Throughout all of Sally’s college career, her parents have supplier her with a monthly allowance so that she can take care of any additional everyday expenses beyond tuition and the like. As for tuition itself, that is covered by financial aid, scholarships, and a few grand that Sally comes up with each year to make up the difference/remainder not covered by scholarships. With this allowance, Sally covers personal food that isn’t on the meal plan, entertainment (on occasion for the allowance doesn’t cover a huge amount of activities), monthly phone bill, and any other expenses that might be incurred during the course of the month.

Well, the summer semester is approaching and Sally is now looking for an internship or job that can fill the summer semester between academic semesters. Well, she has been considering non-paying internships because they typically better augment and enhance a resum? than other opportunities. Suddenly Sally finds out that her parents will not be able to pay her monthly allowance because her father hasn’t gotten a new job yet and the family doesn’t know if they will be moving during the course of the summer to accomodate. They then follow this with trying to get Sally to come home for the summer which not only seems extremely unproductive with the possibility that she won’t be able to hold and job should she even find one in her remote home town.

So now Sally is saddled with expenses during the course of the summer that she doesn’t have a means to pay for, pressure to come home for the summer, and no idea how she is going to come up with the means to pay for her summer expenses. I simply don’t understand the motive behind the wishy-washiness of the parents or the lack of support that is being offered to their daughter because she is looking for a job that will enhance her resum? instead of one that will cover her summer expenses. When Sally asks for advice, her mother tells her that she shouldn’t waste her summer working for a non-paid internship and should work on earning money. The ironic part to this entire scenario is that Sally’s parents want her to succeed, expect her to succeed, and put a lot of pressure on her to succeed. How they expect her to succeed when they limit her possibilities so severely is beyond me, ESPECIALLY in this present economy.

That is my rant/point I am lacking understanding of at present. I am sure at some point a solution will be found for with time, there will be a result regardless of it being a good or bad solution to the problem at hand.

The New Space Race and Cyberspies

April 16th, 2009 No comments

So I have come across a few rather interesting articles over the last few days. One is regarding the newest space race, which is coincidentally between Google and Microsoft. The rest have been regarding computer security in some fashion ranging from the threat of what the article calls cyberspies, which is basically just a term that they are using to include script kiddies to black hat hackers, to a simply ridiculous story from Boston College.

The space race article was really interesting. I cannot wait to see the fruition of the competition between Google and Microsoft. Apparently, Google is working on a program/application to go along with Google Earth called Google Sky which will allow the observation of the sky through the use of the large number of telescopes in orbit around Earth. On the other side is Microsoft announcing that it is going to be broadcasting out to the web the telescope that Bill Gates has funded in South America (in “the world’s Southern Hemisphere space-observatory mecca” according to the article). I cannot wait to get my hands on some of the resulting images!!! Should be awesome!
Source: dailygalaxy.com

The issue with cyberspies is as follows: “Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.”
To me it sounds a little bit like attempt to rouse the public’s interest than anything else, though there is probably some truth to it. The part that is trying to simply rouse the public, from what I can tell, is the part that “the spies came from China, Russia and other countries.” The proof that the newspaper would actually have of both the whereabouts of the supposed threat along with the capabilities of the threat itself does not seem to exist. The one scrap of truth is “the newspaper said, citing current and former U.S. national security officials,” which could just mean more propaganda. Of course, the caveat of the whole thing is that GT predicted this some time ago… well at least the part that hackers would have the potential ability to access the electric power grid. [See the pdf supplied here]
I actually got all of this from gtcomputing on Twitter. Good stuff. Here is the article that is sourced.

For this last little tidbit for this blog post, at least regarding the outside world, I will simply start with a quote from the beginning of the article:
“On Friday, EFF and the law firm of Fish and Richardson filed an emergency motion to quash [pdf] and for the return of seized property on behalf of a Boston College computer science student whose computers, cell phone, and other property were seized as part of an investigation into who sent an e-mail to a school mailing list identifying another student as gay. The problem? Not only is there no indication that any crime was committed, the investigating officer argued that the computer expertise of the student itself supported a finding of probable cause to seize the student’s property.”
The article goes on to even outline parts of the warrant itself and shows how the warrant claims that the student’s computer abilities are what brought him into question. Apparently, he “uses two different operating systems to hide his illegal activities” according to the warrant, going further by stating that “One is the regular B.C. operating system [there is a standard operating system? I will assume they mean windows…] and the other is a black screen with white font which he uses prompt commands on.” From what I can tell, and from what the author of this article can tell, the student was implicated on the simple fact that he could get around a computer. And what precisely was the crime? Besides, a mailing list will typically keep track of the sender of an email. Why not just search that? Seems preposterous to me. I think that this might be a result of our wonderful media making anyone with computer skills look like someone that is a public threat… but it isn’t truly my place to decide if such is the case. I just hope that EFF and Fish and Richardson will get this injustice fixed.
Source: eff.org

On a final note, I actually got ahead with my projects. I am not talking getting it done on time (I always do that), I actually got it done multiple days early, hooray!

Working with Others

March 27th, 2009 No comments

I am sure that everyone, at some point in their life, has worked in a group to meet a certain end, goal, or something else of the like. Well I presently have a CS class that is geared entirely to group projects. Unfortunately, The very people that I originally thought were going to be the strongest members of the group have turned out to be the biggest annoyances in my life. Well that is over dramatic quite honestly, but this specific someone is definitely getting on my nerves at this point. To properly relate the entire story though, I think that it is necessary to start with a quick retelling of a little bit of last semester than my present issues.

When I was selecting classes for this Spring semester, I decided that it would be great to have as many classes as possible with my friends. As it turned out, I determined that I would try to take all my classes with a single friend (ended up being 3 of my 4 classes) and managed to have a friend in all my other classes. Well, I ended up registering for 2 CS classes and an lab science with this certain person (sorry, don’t like calling people out on ranting blogs because I know this is googleable). I thought that it would be great to take classes with this person because we have known each other since Freshman year and can typically cater our work habits to fit each other’s needs pretty easily.

The very ability for us to be able to cater our actions to fit the other’s needs is what seems to have been the downfall of things. The project that we are doing requires us to work together to make a Supply Chain model with seperate pieces that work together. When we have had group meetings, we have done our best to cater them to everyone’s free times, as one would expect. When trying to get things done for a deadline, we have attempted, for the most part, to do the same thing. Unfortunately, it would seem that such is not quite good enough for this person who has become, seemingly, increasingly pushy with making things fit their own schedule instead of the group’s schedule. It has just gotten under my skin during the course of this semester how hard it is to relate information to this person regarding class work and how things should be done when they are NEED them accomplished on their schedule.

</rant>

As for the actual issue that I have run into with my piece of the project, we have a class in the Supply Chain that handles orders from stores to suppliers. Unfortunately, when I was trying to code the UI for this screen, it won’t work the way I would expect. The Order class is set up to contain an Item (what is going to be ordered or what is delivered), a status, the store, the supplier that will receive the order, and that is it. Seems simple right? Well, when coding the UI, and I am trying to dig down to the Item variables, it won’t let me get to it’s instance variables and instead tells me that it doesn’t know anything about that class. This naturally is driving me a little bit NUTS, and this certain someone has just been adding to my general frustrations by sending me repeated messages/texts trying to find out when I am done so that they can go back and tackle their own part again for it is apparently not possible to code their parts without mine… that’s rich. </rant again>

Tax forms == complete

March 17th, 2009 No comments

I have finished my tax forms which is a very nice feeling. Means I shouldn’t have to worry about that again until next year unless there is an issue that the accountant finds with this year’s paper work. Taxes really are not easy at all to accomplish. They require such a large amount of financial information about yourself that, half the time, you don’t even think about recording. Things that I should think to record this year to make next year’s taxes easier (and I probably won’t remember to record anyways):

  • Keep even better track of my mileage for my car.
  • Do better book keeping this year in regard to credit card expenses and car insurance.
  • Handle my business expenses better so that they are in one location instead of 3.

In other news, I don’t feel quite right and that is about all I am going to say about my present feelings.

Lastly, I am not planning on having my computer with me during my trip starting tomorrow, so I will probably not be back online until then. There might be a last minute update post tomorrow before I leave though. I just don’t want to have to deal with keeping track of my computer while out of town where I am supposed to be enjoying the city and new places.

Anticipation

March 10th, 2009 No comments

Sometimes, anticipation can be more stressful than the actual event itself. I am not saying that such is the case for my girlfriend right now as she is presently going through her medical tests, but I have heard how her stress level has fluctuated over the last week while waiting for her tests to occur, and now to get the results. Tomorrow, at whatever time her appointment is, she will get the test results and will learn her next step (surgery or otherwise). The results at that point are presently unknown, but we shall just have to wait and see.

As for the anticipation part, I know that I run into the same problems. Before I met her parents, I was nervous about doing so. The anticipation was killing me and left me with butterflies in my stomach. However, I knew that once I actually met them, everything would be just fine. My intuition about things was completely correct. Once I met her parents, everything was fine. The butterflies went away AND I didn’t make a fool out of myself. Just one example of the anticipation being substantially more nerve racking and stressful than the situation itself ever could be.

<rant> I hate EAS and find it to be a totally pointless class </rant>