April, 2005

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April 28, 2005

A word of warning: when learning a new language, never ever assume anything! Today for work I was trying to integrate a Flash frontend and Java backend using XMLSockets. Another coworker had been working on an XMLSocket’s server in Java and had some XMLSocket code working in Flash (basically a chat-like program). Also, the Java backend was setup to work with the XMLSocket’s program, so I was pretty much set to go. Of course, I had never worked with Flash before and had very little Java experience. So it was a frustrating experience. I had defined a communication structure between the client/server, but for some reason sections of the data was disappearing. I tracked it down to the function and then finally tracked it down to a single for loop. I almost went crazy trying to figure out why a single for loop would cause data to disappear. Then I had this realization: maybe my “i” variable was global! Sure enough, change the variable to “j” and bam, it works. Goes to show that even when you create a variable in a local function, it’s not really global. Lesson learned: never assume anything about a new langauge!

April 27, 2005

Wahoo! 3 finals down, 1 to go… Now if only that last one wasn’t the hardest. On the up side I found this really cool MIDI player called Timidity++ that uses software rendering to produce awesome sounds even if your audio card isn’t top of the line. Download it and a 100 MB SoundFont file and you’ve just updated your MIDIs a notch. Now if only singing synthesis would get far enough a long…

April 21, 2005

So how on earth do you import movies into PowerPoint? Our group is doing “The Spin in Sports” dynamics project analyzing baseball, tennis, and curling (guess which one I got ;-). Anyhow, we have a bunch of cool video clips to import, but we couldn’t seem to get it to work. Of course, QuickTime doesn’t work (for obvious reasons). But mpeg should work, right? Nope, won’t work… Neither will AVI. We tried on multiple computers with multiple versions of PowerPoint. Some sluething on the Internet told us to embed the videos in a webpage and then embed the webpage in PowerPoint. Sound needlessly complicated? Sure sounds like it too me. So I had to create a web page, use the embed tag to embed the video, and then add a Microsoft Web Browser control to the PowerPoint slide, and then add code to the DocumentComplete event, test the current location for nothing loaded (“”), and then load the webpage with the embeded video. Ehew, what a pain. And I had this one WMV file that I needed to clip, but I couldn’t import it into VirtualDub because Microsoft asked them to take the feature out. So I tried an external utility to convert it to an AVI, but of course, the utility crashed. I tested the utility on some other WMVs and it seemed to work. So I got the bright idea of simply converting the WMV to another WMV and then converting to an AVI. So yeah, that worked (figures, right?).

April 20, 2005

UCF Software team (which includes me) took 3rd place!

This past weekend I spent at IEEE SoutheastCon 2005, an engineering conference for undergrads. I was recruited about a month ago to go as part of the programming team. I said yes and forgot about it. Until last week when they told me to be ready to go Friday at 3 PM. So I’m like OK, well that’s good. So I meet this guy named Jaime there who it turns out is also on the programming team (this was the first time I had met him). We waited for another guy named Malic and then went from UCF to Ft. Lauderdale. We got there around 7:30ish and checked in to a Marriot (a nice one near the beach) and then went to try to register and find the other 9 people from our school (none of which I knew). Unfortunately they had already shut down registration, so we wandered around talking to people. Turns out since we didn’t come by and register earlier, another team took our seat in the programming competition. So we went to find the rest of our UCF group to figure out what to do. We found out the hardware team hadn’t qualified and nobody knew where they were. Our faculty sponsor was nowhere to be found. We did get a hold of the other guy on the programming team to meet him. He was a CS major (we were CpE) named Jobby. He seemed to be a smart guy who had been a lot of programming competitions. Unfortunately we were not able to reach our chapter president back at UCF so we didn’t know what to do. So we went back up to our room and got pizza and watched TV. We got a call later that night from Justin our chapter president and he assured us we should be in the compeition and he would sort everything out.

Saturday we got up early at 6:30 AM and went downstairs to register. That took a while. We also submitted our t-shirt design for the t-shirt competition. Ours had a picture of the robots in the hardware competition running around picking up little metal balls. Underneath it read: “Do you have the balls to compete?” And yes, we did have to wear these shirts, although I felt a little bit uncomfortable with that on my t-shirt. We ate at the hotel (no contenental breakfast) for an outrageous rate of $4 a pancake. We then went and met with Jobby and the three of us went over some Linux stuff to refresh ourselves. We also went out and stocked up on subs, water, and snacks.

The software competition started at 1 PM. Basically it worked like this: a team of 3 from each university has a workstation with one computer running Linux with basic editors. You are given 8 problems to solve. Your team tries to solve as many as possible in a 5 hour period (no breaks, no nothing) using C, C++, or Java. And you could do them in any order. We got there and each took a a few problems to read. After reading through our individual problems, we came back and explained the problem to the rest of the group. We then choose the easy ones first. I decided I could do one right off, but got stuck after 20 minutes or so. During that 20 minutes, Jaime caught onto a patern in one of the problems and we wrote like 1 line of code to solve it. It turned out to be correct and that put is in first place being the first team to get a problem right. The second one we spent a bit of time, but got winthin another hour or so. That put us just barely in first place. After that, we spent the remaining 3.5 hours trying to solve the rest of the problems. We were able to solve 2 more, but only using a brute-force method. Unfortunately, the program had to run under 2 minutes, even with 50,000 inputs, so we were not able to get those. So we gradually lost position as other universities overtook us. When they froze the scores an hour before the competitionw as over (so we couldn’t see who won), we were in 3rd place. Immediately afterwards, we went up to our room and relaxed for a bit. Then we went to the awards ceremony banquet to find out who won. The banquet was really cheesy, just some wings and pizz for the students. The grownups got salads and meat and desert, which we viewed as totally unfair. The next hour and a half was boring as all as all the bigwigs talked and got awards. Then we got to the student awards. Our hardware team never even qualified (we don’t know if they even showed up!), but it was fun watching the other teams get their awards. The top two teams acutally competed right then and there to determine first place, which was really cool to watch. I was pretty surpised with the results of the software competition as we held 3rd place. I thought that was really good considering none of us 3 on the team knew each other before we got to the competition and we didn’t have a faculty coach and 2 of us had never done a programming competition before! We also won the t-shirt competition (they wouldn’t say our slogan outloud, but we have an official certificate bearing the words: “Do you have the balls to compete”, which is pretty funny).

That night back at our rooms, two guys were trying to get on the Internet. Unfortunately, you have to pay $10 per day for internet, so they plugged in their wireless cards to see if they could hop onto an unsecured wireless network. It turns out that the University of Alabama Huntsville were directly below us and had unsecured networks. So they hopped on, and then one of them couldn’t resist the temptation any longer and started to hack them. He booted into Linux and started doing packat sniffing. Before long, he had AOL screennames, instant messanger conversations, websites they were visiting, and even passwords. It was scary what they were doing. The other guy then decided to start chatting with them. He signed on and started to chat with them which totally freaked them out (as he knew their names and stuff). He told them he was on a hotel computer and the hotel kept records of all the trafic (which was a lie). Anyhow, as he was chatting with them, he would insert things that they had already said in chatting with other people, which freaked them out even more. They never told them who they were, only that we were a Florida team. After a couple hours of sniffing their traffic and chatting with them, one of them mentioned that he was going majoring in internet security. All of us in the room absolutely died laughing about that, because our guys were hacking them at that very moment. I don’t think they even caught on that we were using their internet connection to surf the web and chat with them! Anyhow, scary stuff.

Today we checked out, ate, drove by the beach, and came home. It was actually not nearly as bad as I had expected and our team did win, so I’m pretty satisfied. Now back to all the stuff I have to do this week.

April 15, 2005

Wow, what a week. Monday and Tuesday I spent 15 hours in a 24 hour time span working on a poster to present my research on. Yesterday I got the poster back from the print place only to find out they smeared the ink – in the worst possible spot: the title. So I had to so some reconstructive surgery (read “I mutiliated it more”). Today I presented it with 150 other undergraduate students. Part of the time I got to walk around and look at other people’s posters – there’s some neat stuff going on around campus. I also met with my professor to show him the completed research project and he seemed pleased, so I’m happy.

Friday April 8, 2005

3B (Busy Beyond Belief), that’s my new motto. I have a semiconductors exam today, a IEEE Southeastern Conference 2005 this weekend, have an exam Monday, a poster to design by Tuesday to present on Friday and a bent to polish for initiation on Saturday. Oh and I have to write an abstract for a paper, do two assembly programs, do a chapter’s worth of Dynamics homework, start and finish a Dynamics project, and present my research to a professor all by the end of next week. Oh yeah, and get a completely working vision system ready by next weekend. 3B it is!