Just trying to make sense of things...

Wikipedia: Create Your Own Books

Tuesday, 3 March 2009 11:14 by jordan.terrell

Just when I thought that Wikipedia couldn’t get any more useful than it already is, they added a really cool new feature: Books.  Put more accurately, the ability to take Wikipedia content and create your own books that you can either download as a PDF, or have bound into a real book.  As a test run, I created a single article book based on my latest interest, Electronics.  I’m am very impressed with the quality and formatting of the book.  I’ll have to spend a little more time looking at the more advanced features, but I can see myself using this feature quite a bit.

Very cool!

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Categories:   Embedded Hardware
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The Secure Site You Visit Could Be Compromised

Tuesday, 24 February 2009 10:47 by jordan.terrell

And you might never know it.

You need to watch the video on this page - it has a lot of techno speak, but it can show you what to look out for.

My recommendation is that you never go to a site that you would care if it got compromised (banking, social networking, etc) on a public or work network, or using a public/semi-public proxy service, like Tor.

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Categories:   General
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RFID Lock Prototype

Friday, 20 February 2009 08:06 by jordan.terrell

Earlier, I mentioned my new found interest in embedded hardware.  I've been working on a small project for my house, a RFID tag controlled lock, and I've got it working on my bench.  Pretty cool if I do say so myself.  My next step is to figure out it's permanent power source and how I manage access control (i.e. specify which cards are granted access).  I've got a few ideas on how to do this, so I'll follow up with another post when I get a little further.


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Categories:   Embedded Hardware
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The Crisis of Credit

Thursday, 19 February 2009 15:29 by jordan.terrell

You’d really have to be living in a cave not to know that there are issues with the global financial markets.  Albeit a bit off topic for this blog, I found a video that was very interesting and very informative – it does a good job of explaining how it all came about and what all the lingo like “sub-prime mortgage” and “collateralized debt obligations” are.  Check it out!

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History of the Internet

Thursday, 12 February 2009 12:54 by jordan.terrell

I just saw this really cool video on the History of the Internet.  Check it out, and be sure to click “Watch in HD” at the bottom right of the video – it looks much better if you do.

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What Is Going On

Monday, 2 February 2009 10:02 by jordan.terrell

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was super busy, and as a result my efforts on this blog have been waning.  The good news is that being busy in this case is a good thing.  I’ve managed to stay with my current client for over a year and a half, and there are hopes that I can continue to do so through the rest of the 2009.  I’m also preparing to take my first Microsoft exam.  I’ve always resisted taking the exams because I’ve seen people abuse the system – however there are extenuating circumstances moving me to take the exams, and I’m starting to get into it.  It seems like a review of everything that I’ve been doing for years, but I hope to pick up a few gems along the way.  Hopefully, I will be ready to take the exam before the end of the month.

On the personal front, lots of cool things.  I’m an uncle, three times over – that has been a blast.  Plus, being the uncle, I get to do all the fun stuff, but I can hand them back to “Mom” (sorry sis) when they get cranky!  I plan to be the math/science teacher to all three of them.

As far as technical things go, I’ve found a new interest: designing embedded hardware circuits and integrating them with Microsoft software.  I signed up for BizSpark (excellent program), which will allow me to have access to Microsoft software personally, and host services.  As far as the hardware stuff goes, I’ve learned some really cool things by looking at some hardware and books.

For years there has been such a movement in open source software, but what I didn’t know is the movement towards open source hardware (general purpose microcontroller boards, MP3 players, etc).  A huge community is building up to help people learn about embedded hardware, and to be able to build there own electronics.  At first, it all seems like “magic”, but as I began to learn, it all started to seem almost simple (for basic things - and some not so basic).  Here are some things to look at.

First, Arduino.  I purchased both a Duemilanove (means “2009”) and a Mini.  Through experimenting with these and by looking through Arduino’s web site, I’ve had some hands on experience with integrating hardware.

Second, MAKE Controller.  This controller does some more heavy lifting.  It can natively control motors and servos, and has Ethernet built in.  It also uses this interesting REST-like protocol called Open Sound Control (OSC).  I’ve used this controller a little bit, but I’m more interested in learning about the hardware itself, so I can learn how to incorporate similar things into my own designs. Arduino and the MAKE Controller are open source – both the hardware schematic/board layout and the accompanying software.  If you interested in learning about hardware, I’d look at Arduino first – but even before that I would recommend you read a book or two.

The first book I read was Practical Electronics for Inventors.  This is a really good book.  It had really good coverage of many areas of electronics and allowed you to dive in as deep as you want.  If fact, it goes really deep – at one point the author, Paul Scherz, said in chapter two that the latter half of the chapter was, in some ways, designed to “scare you”.  Indeed it did, but I kept on reading, and Paul was clear that if you didn’t understand some of the math or science, that the rest of the book would still be very useful.  There were a few spots where you can find some errors, but for the most part the book is spot on.  I hope someday to do a more thorough review of this book on my blog.

The second book, which I’m reading right now, is Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers.  It takes more of a basic, prescriptive approach, and doesn’t get into to much detail.  This is probably the book I would recommend you read first if you want some instant gratification, but I would strongly recommend you read Paul’s book afterword to get a strong knowledge foundation.

I’ve started a Hardware Engineering book section on my Resource List, but I may later expand this to a separate resource list, as it may grow large on its own, have more than just a book list (physical tools, software, etc), and some may not be interested in hardware.

To whet your appetite to start learning about hardware, here’s what I’ve figured out so far, many times integrating it with my XP/Vista computers:

I will say this, learning embedded hardware requires more of an investment than a free SDK and a few books, but I’ve found it has been worth it.  I’ve been able to repair some electronics that I otherwise would have replaced or paid someone to fix.  Plus, there are fewer people in hardware design/development, compared to software design/development – so that is bound to set you apart from the crowd.

I’m Not Dead; Just Busy

Wednesday, 14 January 2009 14:53 by jordan.terrell

I just wanted my handful of readers to know that I’m not dead, and nor is this blog.  I’ve just been really busy since the PDC (as a result I will probably not provide a review of the PDC – more on why to come).  I’ve been learning a lot of things, some of which are outside the historical scope of this blog – more on that to come as well.

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Shout out: Lynn Langit

Friday, 14 November 2008 07:59 by jordan.terrell

An associate of mine and I were at the 2008 PDC, and we were talking very frivolously about different ways that we could “liberate” the Surface PCs that were littered all around the L.A. Convention Center.  We should have know better – Microsoft puts spies in with all the attendees. It’s really hard to spot them too – cause they're developers, just like us!  One of those spies intercepted our “liberation” plans - a Microsoft employee that goes by the name of Lynn Langit, or as many know her by her “spy handle” SoCalDevGal. Interestingly enough, she did seem to think it was cool that we were willing (not really) to go to such great lengths to obtain a Surface – so much so that she seemed to want to participate in our little operation, giving it an air of official Microsoft business as it were.  But I think this was a ploy to gain our confidence, and keep their precious Surface PCs safe.  Well, played Lynn – well played!

I wanted to give Lynn a little unsolicited plug – she’s working on a book now: Smart Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server 2008.  Even at the PDC she was slaving away at the final touches.  I haven’t read her first book, but I’ll keep an eye out for when this when I’m at the book store.

Watch out at the next PDC, spies like Lynn are bound to be lurking around!

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A New Testing Framework

Friday, 7 November 2008 10:23 by jordan.terrell

A new friend of mine wants to collaborate on building a new .NET based testing framework.  I know, I know, there are plenty of testing frameworks out there.  Just to name a few: NUnit, MbUnit, xUnit.NET, nSpec, etc.  Each of these has their own strengths, weaknesses, and implicit/explicit testing methodologies associated with them.  So why would I bother saturating the market further with another testing framework?

I think I have a semi-unique idea.  I say “semi”, because the underlying design idea is applied in other technology areas, but it would be unique in its application to testing.  I think it’s has enough of a fundamental difference from all of the existing testing frameworks to justify building it.  A by-product of the design would mean that it would be mostly compatible with existing testing frameworks (and in fact I would try hard to maintain that quality, but not in all scenarios), but would also open up avenues for experimenting with new ways to represent tests.

So, the reason for this post (besides encouraging a barrage of people telling me not to put yet-another-testing-framework out there) – what do you think is missing from testing frameworks today that you would like to see in the future?

PDC 2008 Pre-Review

Friday, 7 November 2008 10:08 by jordan.terrell

I’ve come to the conclusion that I missed a great deal of good content while at the PDC this year.  I’ve read a number of blog posts about things I didn’t know were announced.  But I’m glad to say that I’m not the only one – an associate of mine that was at the PDC with me found it just as difficult to determine which sessions to go to based on the descriptions given in the master PDC schedule.

I’m going to spend some time reviewing the session videos – perhaps then my review of the PDC will be a little more up-beat comprehensive.

Categories:   Programming
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