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Old news entries imported from my site into my new Wordpress blog.


January 18th, 2009

Well! A new year already. This break I was working on organizing my media collection. I’ve been playing around with minishowcase, which is a very nice little AJAX web gallery. I was looking for something pretty much like Picasa, and this is the closest I’ve found. Light, easy to install, well coded, it is quite nice. I’ve always thought gallery2 and coppermine were utterly useless when it comes to gallery managment. minishowcase doesn’t have all the admin features, but the UI is sweet! Just throw all your photos in a folder and bam, you have a nice interface to select galleries, and move between photos (with keyboard, just hit right/left arrow keys) without reloading the page (I’m looking at YOU Flickr! Grrr….). I also tried out ampache, which seems pretty nice as well. I think I’ll upload my photo and music collections to this website (after all I do have like 150GB)…

October 2nd, 2008

Well I had a good time in Amsterdam for the FG2008 conference and then in Barcelona and Rome a few days afterwards. The conference was useful and the time off was fun. But I have gotten behind in research and coursework unfortunately. For some reason I’ve found it hard to get back into the swing of things. I really need to crack down and get a lot of stuff done. On a related note, I’ve thrown up my Face Recognition Evaluator, which is a MATLAB package for comparing face recognition algorithms.

September 13th, 2008

Wet, cold, stressed, sick, and exhausted would best desribe me today. 3 days until ICRA paper submission and my advisor has totally changed how the underlying algorithm should work. I have no idea how I’m going to get it coded, tested, and written about in 3 days. On the upside, Enrique is creating the PowerPoint presentation for FG2008 and I uploaded my Facebook Downloader program for getting face recognition data. This allows you to collect data from Facebook for research and academic purposes in the field of face recognition.

August 31st, 2008

Well, I survived my first real graduate conference in Vancouver, Canada. It was pretty fun, although I did hit a new low – I actually fell asleep during a presentation! At least I still have my record of never falling asleep during class…we’ll see how long that lasts. My advisor and I took one of the more uninteresting days off, rented some bikes, and toured the town. I didn’t find out until a little bit into this that he routinely bikes 15 miles in hilly Pittsburgh. And I hadn’t been on a bike in 2 years…a recipe for disaster. If he didn’t think I was a wimp before hand, I’ve definitely cemented the impression. It was touch and go for a while as I wasn’t sure I’d actually make it. Thankfully he made frequent stops on my behalf, otherwise I wouldn’t have survived. But it was fun, we biked about 25 miles all told that day and got to see a lot of the area.

I went to go install filethingie on my new webserver after like a year (I figured it was time) and to my surprise there was a new version out! It is awesome! All nice and AJAX, with background saves for editing files. I’ve decided to use it for this site for now. I hacked it a bit so that it can build my site with txt2tags and the default operation is edit instead of view, but otherwise it’s quite nice. Well I have two weeks until the ICRA paper deadline so I better get cracking. Last week I had two nights where I only got an hour of sleep, looks like that might be a continuing trend. Sigh….

August 9th, 2008

Well it’s been half a year since I last posted news and over a year since I last really changed up the website. Thus, it was time to redo the website. I ripped off a template design from Steve’s Template that I sorta liked and then modified it to suite my needs. The new theme looks a bit dated, but it is a bit cleaner and definitely more logically laid out. While I was at it, I re-wrote the PHP code that generates my website for me. The old code was terrible, literally. The new code is much cleaner and better organized. However, it is still a bit kludgy. I have a new tag-line for the website: “Arcane Robotic Incantations.” I’m not sure if I like it all that much but it’s better than my old “Escapades in Arcane Programming.” I have a hunch it is too esoteric; maybe “We’s gots robots” would be better. In any case, there is still a lot to do on the website and once again it probably won’t get done. But one can hope, right?

April 12th, 2008

I’m always surpised at the long lengths of time I neglect this site (unfortunately). One day I’ll either dedicate more time or admit defeat and give up. Or just have it automatically redict to a Rick-Roll video. Speaking of which, my KDC class (Kinematics, Dynamics, and Control) team rick rolled our professor this semster. He didn’t get it, but the class laughed. Our prof thought we were going to get up and sing-a-long to this weird guy singing “I’m never gonna let you go”. In other news, CMU is definitely putting me through my paces. The KDC course is really time consuming as our assignments are to simulate a 2D walking 5-link biped. It is really intense, but at the end of it we generate some cool videos which you can find on my youtube site. I’ve also written two papers, that due to some mystical bad luck (Murphy cough cough) wound up due on basically the same day. I was able to get them both done, which is good. I also failed my 3D vision midterm (got a 51% on the exam and yes that was below the class average). So I need to do a really good project and study hard for the final. Speaking of which, is only a few weeks away. Back to work, sigh…

October 28th, 2007

I have pretty much settled into “da Pitts” and CMU. It’s getting cold though. This poor Florida boy is not liking the cold sweeps of air moving down out of Canada. Tomorrow it is supposed to potentially freeze and go into the high 20s. Brrr! In Central Florida, it only freezes a few times a year max. And going into the 20s is very rare. Oh well…I tried to buy some hypnosis balls and swing them in front of my eyes and use self-hypnosis to convince myself that I liked cold weather, but it’s not working so far. Actually I didn’t buy hypnosis balls and try that, but somehow I doubt it would work. But if it gets cold enough, I might just give the crazy idea a try. So I mentioned earlier that I might try making my own CMS using the Google Web Toolkit. This is the first news item that uses the new half-baked CMS I’ve made with it. I really like how it is turning out. There are some frustrating things with the Google Web Toolkit (GWT), especially with sizing and stilly tree items, but overally, it is a nice package. Sure beats doing it through straight Javascript. I really don’t have that much yet (a few hundred lines of code in Java and PHP), but I have it so it loads in my existing page/file structure in a tree that I can browse. I can double click and open up pages that load in tabbed text area boxes. Since this site is done in txt2tags, a simple text area does fine. I could do it in HTML as well by using the RichText control. There is a lot that is still ghetto (not counting the fact I don’t have creating pages or editing templates or anything) and hardcoded, but I’m proud of it so far. Of course, it’ll probably crash when I try to save this page, but… Anyhow, when I slack and make time to work on this, I’ll update it some more. I’m hoping to make it a bit more generic and release it as a very simple CMS (yes I know there is a CMS with basically that same name). Well it’s late so time for bed. Gotta get up in 4 hours and I still haven’t showered tonight. Sigh…This is going to be a very bad week for me.

August 27th, 2007

So yes, an auspicious start to the whole “beginning classes at CMU tomorrow” deal. First I discover that apparently I left the lights on in my car – for an entire week. So yes, I don’t have a volt-meter handy (gasp!), but I’m guessing the battery is much, much less than 12 volts. So much for that RI picnic I was supposed to attend this afternoon. Unluckily, I don’t know anybody well enough to ask for a jump. Luckily, I now live in Pittsburgh were stores are crammed ontop of each other with absolutely no woods, lots, or any sort of green growing fields anywhere. Wait, why is that lucky again? Oh right, that’s good because I have an Advance Auto Car Parts only a half mile or so away. Thank you Google and thank you Pittsburgh. And lo and behold, according to the Advance Auto website, they have a rechargeable jumpstarter for only $40 and it is in stock. Hurrah! Of course, when I arrive I discover that they lied and the jumpstarters were all sold out. OK, so I’ll make do with a plain old car battery charger. Sure it takes 8 hours to charge, but it’ll get the job done. And if I grab another car battery and an inverter, I can make my own UPS in the future. So I buy my battery charger, great. I spend 10 minutes unscrewing things to get my car battery out of the car, but I get it out and myself dirty in the process. Oh well, I get it charging and everything will be good to go tomorrow. However, that’s not the end. I decide to have some spaghetti for supper and get a pot of water to boil and turn my gas stove to “LITE” – and nothing happens. Hmm…the range top is still pretty warm so the pilot light must still be on. How about another burner? Nope. Feel up the stove again and it’s cooler. Drat! I must have extinguished the pilot light. It is times like these that I’m glad I’m good at software because hardware stuff sure doesn’t like me. Now I have to decide, should I try to toaster oven to make some supper or will it break too? Hmmm…difficult decisions ahead…

May 2nd, 2007

Tonight was the Honors Banquet, which was sorta fun/sorta boring. It was fun because my sister and her boyfriend came in place of my parents (they are in Scotland living it up). It was also fun because I got to sit with Enrique, Chris, Christina, and Jason. My advisor Dr. Gonzalez was supposed to be there but he was in Jordan (see the trend!) so Dr. Georgiopoulos was my “substitute advisor” for the night. It was funny because when they called me up to get my medal (everybody got one), they didn’t say “Dr. Georgiopoulos filling in for Dr. Gonzalez.” Nope, Dr. Georgiopoulos was announced as Dr. Gonzalez. That was pretty funny. Some of the Honors in the Major undergraduate thesis titles were pretty funny too. One was about Superman and the legacy of heroes or something. It was boring because of all the speeches and the giving of the medals. I suggested they just do what the rock concerts do: just throw the medals out to the audience and let them catch them. The speeches were extremely boring except one by the student. As Jaryd (my sister’s boyfriend) said, you can totally tell she thesaurus’ed the whole thing. Half the time she was bragging about her accomplishments (without making it seem obvious…and failing) and the other half of the time she was simply making stuff up that sounded so “dressed up” that it was incredibly cheesy and laughable. I think I laughed my whole way through it as she threw out words like “indubious” and phrases “consciously committed this moment to memory.” Ahh me…at leas the cake was good; in fact, I stole a piece from the table next to us on the way out.

On the technical side, I was thinking over my pretty ghetto website and CMS that I made. I was thinking it could be so much better with a (gasp!) AJAX interface. I know, I know, AJAX is the newest buzzword. But what I want is a more “desktop-like” experience when developing my website, but from the web. For instance, auto-save anybody? Ever entered a post/website content into an edit box only for the page not to load and then when you hit back it’s all gone? Anybody else do the “copy before you submit so you don’t loose everything you typed for the past 15 minutes?” Ever wanted to edit multiple pages at the same time in tabs? So yeah, AJAX would be an awesome application of this (in my opinion). And not too many CMSes seem to have these features. So I’m investigating the Google Web Toolkit, which compiles Java code to Javascript. That means you can develop your code in eclipse and then have it compiled to HTML and Java. I was initially suspicious (and still sorta am), but looking at it more, it seems not only a cool idea, but one with merit too. It would be cool to have an AJAX CMS with a PHP backend. I found this link helpful when trying to access PHP from my local machine using Google Web Toolkit http://www.drivenbycuriosity.com/mywp/?p=52#more-52. I never have enough time, so this is probably a passing fancy, but I thought I would share my initial (and favorable) impressions.

April 27th, 2007

I am DONE!!! No more undergrad (unless I fail a class, which would really stink). A lot has happened in the past month and a half. I finished my thesis, defended, wrapped up our Netflix project (nope, we didn’t win a million bucks), accepted CMU’s offer for grad school, pulled my first allnighter in college (on a project that wasn’t even mine), missed an awards ceremony where the dean of Engineering/CS talked about me for 3 minutes (while I was supposed to be on stage), slept on the table in the lab, got a research job for the summer, and finished my finals (borderline A/B in one, B/C in another). So yeah, it feels really good to be finished. Now I have graduation, robotics, my job, a few papers to write, and have fun during the summer! Bring it on! But first let me sleep for a week 😉

March 9, 2007

This past week I spent all my spare time (well, almost all my spare time) working on my thesis for the deadline today. As of 3:30 today, I had 7 chapters, 94 pages, and a very tired Brian. And all Dr. Gonzalez could say was “it feels light”…sigh….must sleep….

March 2, 2007

Fun with my thesis, at least that’s what I keep telling myself so I don’t realize what I’m actually doing and break down crying 😉 Working from 8 AM until 2 or 3 AM does not make for a terribly happy Brian. I have considered pulling a few all nighters, but I’m trying to stay on a reasonably night/day schedule, so I usually go home to sleep for at least a few hours each night. I think the worst one was when I passed out on the weekend and slept until 11 AM, then stayed in the lab until almost 7 AM. I decided to go home that night, or morning actually, to grab a few hours of sleep instead of just staying until the next day. I did get to see pre-dawn light and almost the sunrise. I guess you could almost qualify that as an all nighter. Go Mountain Dew (I don’t like coffee)! On the plus side, my adviser Dr. Gonzalez extended my deadline until March 9th. Whee! An extra 4 days, how nice. I turned in chapters 4 and 5 this afternoon, so now I have to finish the code, write the test cases, test them, and then write chapters 6 and 7. Sigh…better get going…

February 10, 2007

The crunch is on! My thesis must be finished by March 5th. I’ve got a new title now: “Automatically Determining Consequences of Unexpected Events.” Not exactly related to what I want to do, robotics, but hey, it was a paid topic so I took it. Now that my first three chapters are being reviewed, I finally started the code…let’s see…Thursday I think it was. I have the model pretty much completely designed, but I decided against writing it in case it changes while I code. I now have 800 lines of C++ code so far, thanks to forcing myself to write comments as I code and the marvels of modern IDEs and tools like Visual Assist X. I must admit, the coding is quite a bit more fun than writing the thesis. Oh, on a slightly unrelated note, Cameron and I came up with a thesis roadmap to a Lord of the Rings analogy. For a quick sample:

  • Thesis topic decided: Inherit the One Ring
  • Successfully defended: Dropping the One Ring
  • Graduation: Boarding the boat

Yes, that does make me an official dork. On a completely unrelated note, I am saddened to hear that Jackson will not be directing the Hobbit. I hope the director who climbs on board will do as well a job as he did with Lord of the Rings. OK, enough procrastinating, back to coding my thesis.

February 6th, 2007

Wow! Today my adviser Dr. Gonzalez let me know that I had been awarded the UCF Presidential Fellowship! I emailed him back and said UCF was looking more and more attractive. We’ll see if I get accepted to any of my other universities and if they can give me any financial aid (or if I get a national fellowship). But at least the “safety net” of UCF is looking pretty solid at the moment. Yesterday I handed in the first three chapters of my thesis to Dr. Gonzalez again to review. Unfortunately, those PhD and Master’s students he has all want to graduate or propose their topics, putting me in the back of the line. Actually, now that I think about it, that may be a good thing – maybe he’ll just pass my thesis off without looking at it too hard. Of course, that’s just wishful thinking…sigh…

January 27th, 2007

Robotics is coming along pretty well. Our robot Gamblore is back in one piece after swapping out the motors for newer, more powerful ones. The path planning is progressing smoothly, I have A* and Potential Fields both coded up and working pretty well in the little simulation I’m using. The one thing we are still waiting on is the compass, which should be arriving any day now (or any month now, knowing how the ordering system works at IST). All in all, things are looking pretty good. Nice cool Florida winter weather doesn’t hurt either 🙂

January 22th, 2007

Hurrah! My backup safety school UCF has accepted me into their Computer Engineering PhD program. Now I don’t have to be a bum under the 417 bridge. They said they would let me know if I got any financial aid later in March. I’m still waiting to hear back on all my other fellowships, etc, etc.

January 21st, 2007

Tonight I went to Winter Jam with a few friends (OK, if I want to be completely honest about it, my friend Enrique dragged me to it). We went downtown Orlando to the TDWaterhouse (or whatever it is now called). It was really really loud 🙂 It was 4 hours, but it seemed like half of it some sort of plug for homeless kids, various movies, etc, etc. But I think it was worth it for Steven Curtis Chapman and Jeremy Camp (the other people weren’t that great….Newsong was OK). I would recommend showing up 2 hours into it if you don’t care about Britt Nicole (pretty bad), Hawk Nelson (blast you away hard rock), Newsong (decent), or Sanctus Real (one good song), homeless kids, the new Amazing Grace movie, or the preaching. But it was worth the $10 for Steven Curtis Chapman’s Dive and Magnificent Obsession. I thought it funny that Winter Jam’s sponsor is a giant sweet potato and they show a clip of how you can use sweet potatoes as like “God’s food to man” in just about any recipe, including sweet potato pancakes. Ick!

January 8th, 2007

Today began my last semester as an undergraduate (I hope!). I did not get off to a good start. I was fifteen minutes late to my first class because I thought it started at 12:30. That’s actually when it got out…I think I was remembering that because I was more focused on getting lunch after the class than remembering when to show up. Oh well…the good thing is it’s group project based and a bunch of us in there know each other and formed a group. That’s usually much better than being randomly paired. One of the guys is a real perfectionist too, much worse than I am. Enrique is also in it, so I know he knows how to program from robotics. I’ve also worked with Christina before and she’s an absolute knock down, drag out superstar at making any mumbo jumbo sound good and be grammatically correct. Newegg also replied to me saying I could still do an RMA on my RAM (hey, just noticed it’s the same letters, just jumbled up :). I also got two pages done on my thesis! OK, so they are the first two pages of my introduction, but still! Finally, I got an email from CMU saying they couldn’t view my uploaded essays I wrote for my application. I emailed PDFs and DOCS to them, but that means they are actually looking at them! Whahoo! Now if they would just let me in and give me money….oh, and move to Florida or California or somewhere where there aren’t 145 days where the temperature is below 32 degrees. 🙁

January 6th, 2007

Welcome to the new year everybody. I’ve had a very enjoyable time the past few weeks watching movies, reading books, generally doing nothing, and regaining the ability to eat normal food after having my wisdom teeth extracted. Alas, the semester is almost upon me. However, my computer is not doing so well. My DVD/CD drive is failing I think. It ejects randomly, and I can no longer burn at full speed; it starts making this terrible burnt rubber smell before aborting. Also, Friday night I backed up my stuff (I use SyncBack freeware, highly recommended) before leaving the ISL lab to go to Robotics @ UCF. Good for me, because my computer promptly bluescreened when I got to robotics and then Windows wouldn’t boot (error in ntfs.sys). Oh well, no biggie. I’d just boot off a Windows CD and copy the file over. Except it kept giving me errors booting off the CD. Blast! I had forgotten my CD drive was on the fritz. Hmm…So I have Ubuntu Linux installed on my computer, but not GRUB, so I can’t boot into it (thank you Windows XP for overwriting GRUB the last time you installed). Aha! Maybe I can boot from USB? I have my 512 CF card from my camera and a Sandisk card reader. With some hellp from Pen Drive Linux, I was up and running DSL Linux in no time (btw, if you give a shot, you need to download the latest syslinux if you plan on running it under Windows XP). I was back in business! I mounted my Windows partition and then tried to copy over the ntfs.sys file. Arg! DSL linux doesn’t support writing to NTFS partitions. So close yet so far. Hmm….How about grub? Yes, I can restore grub! Great, now my Ubuntu boot menu is back. Kernel Panic! No, it can’t be! Arg! Maybe one of the other Ubuntu entries? A previous kernel version? No, still kernel panic. Hmm…Ubuntu memtest86+, sure why not – can hurt. What!?! My RAM is bad. Oh please let it be my 256 stick, and not my gig stick. Bother, it’s my gig stick. Well that explains a lot, including why Ubuntu wouldn’t load either. So that’s all fine and dandy. I bought my computer about a little over a year ago and then the gig stick a few months later. Maybe it’s still under warranty and I can return it for a replacement. Newegg here I come. You have GOT to be kidding me. I bought it on 1/4/2006 and today is 1/5/2007 – one year and ONE day later. You know, I’ve heard of all the horror stories about products that fail right after the warranty is up and I’ve even heard the conspiracies that companies design products to fail after the warranty is up. But hearing about it and then experiencing it are completely different. Even more interesting is the RAM stick I bought a year ago is no longer being sold by Newegg…something smells fishy here. So I dropped Newegg an email to see if I can still return it. In the mean time, I had to take the gig stick out and put in my old 256 MB RAM stick. 512 MB of RAM is sooooo painful! It’s like I can’t do anything without waiting 5-10 seconds for memory to be swapped to/from my slow harddisk. Oh well, maybe Newegg will replace my stick. And if they don’t, maybe tomorrow will bring something cheery my way. Oh wait, I have to write an essay for a fellowship. Sigh…..

January 2nd, 2007

Wow, a lot has happened in the past few months. But related to this site, I got a new webhost called Bluehost and just swapped this site over. It seems to be pretty good so far. I was getting cramped on my old server and this one has plenty of space for me to put up files and photo galleries if I want. Also, it has newer software such as the latest version of cpanel and file managers and such. The other new change is I ditched my old PHP content management system and am now using a new system based off the Google Web Toolkit (GWT). GWT is really nice, but it still has some weird issues. I’m still getting used to it and my CMS app is still really ghetto, but I’ve jury rigged it to work. Anyhow, I hope everybody has been having a great holiday!

December 24th, 2006

Well Merry Christmas everybody! If you are like me, you haven’t done any Christmas shopping whatsoever and it’s 15 minutes until Santa is supposed to come down the chimney (assuming he visits every house simultaneously). My plan is to jump him on his way down and get me some free Christmas gifts. I just hope Rudolf hasn’t gotten any improvements to that blinking red nose. I’d hate to be a causality of a laser nosed reindeer.

On another note, I joined posted my first YouTube video a few days ago. It’s entitled “Quest for a Grade.” I was really worried about my grade in my Senior level Electronics I course. Since it looked like I might get a B after 8 semesters of a 4.0 at UCF, my friend Johann suggested I film the whole thing so he could see my reaction if I got a B. I thought it was a good idea so that’s exactly what I did. Check it out, initial reviews include

  • suspenseful…
  • oh god this is so horrible to watch
  • props on the suspense
  • you created a heart felt expression
  • i was very impressed, and amused

So watch it!

December 16, 2006

Today wasn’t too bad as things go. I was expecting to be in much worse condition after having 5 teeth pulled (4 wisdom and one molar that couldn’t be uprighted). I hurt a little bit, but the pain meds kept that under control. The worst part was the food. I had yogurt for breakfast along with some scrambled eggs that I basically swallowed. I had pudding and another yogurt for lunch. Supper consisted of a smoothie and some ice cream. So much sugar! Arg! I just want a burger or something cheesy. In an effort to satisfy my hunger for something non-sweet, I had some chicken broth. I am going to be so glad when I can eat real food again.

December 15, 2006

Yesterday night I completed all my graduate apps (all four of them, CMU, UCF, Berkeley, and of course MIT just for grins). In another hour, I’m going to be having my teeth pulled, sounds fun, huh? I have to have 4 wisdom teeth out, plus an “uprighting,” where they use a mini crow-bar to pry a tooth that’s grown in sideways to the upright position. Sounds like fun, off I go…

December 12, 2006

I traveled home today to begin the processes of getting my wisdom teeth extracted. I had a consultation today at 1:30 PM and basically the doc said it wasn’t going to be fun. They want to extract all four wisdom teeth and then try a special procedure called an “upright” to try to bend my sideways 12 year old molar into an upright position. There is a pretty good chance it will crack and they will have to remove that guy too. So in another words, I am going to be having a lot of fun after my Friday appointment with him. He says they now have drugs where you are groggy, but awake and responsive, but you don’t remember anything afterwards. I’m not sure if I should be happy or frightened about that. I think I’m a bit of both. I’m happy I don’t have to remember that, but the fact that they have drugs that make you completely forget what happened is sorta weird. Hmm…actually, now that I think about it, isn’t that exactly what copious amounts of alcohol does to you? Never mind, we’ve had this drug for a while now.

December 10th, 2006

Now that I’m done with finals, it’s time to hit up the graduate school applications. I’m applying to MIT, CMU, UC Berkeley, and my undergraduate school UCF. I’m about halfway done with that; I mainly just have to write my essays. Of course, that is definitely the hardest part. On another note, my new website backend is now live. As mentioned earlier, I’m using txt2tags as the backend for the site. It is a bit slow (I try to think of it compiling my website ;), but it’s ability to convert (err compile) standard text into a bunch of different formats such as HTML, Latex, etc, is nice. One of the problems now-a-days seems to be the fact that data formats go obsolete so quickly. You know anybody who can open a MS Word from 12 years ago? Nope, me neither. In two decades, when I want to go look at my content, who is going to be able to read my PDFs or Word 2003 documents? Of course, that begs the question why anybody in 20 years would want to look at something I wrote now, but let’s not consider that right now. The point I’m trying to come to is the fact that text is probably going to be standard a lot longer than any other format. Hence, the ability to use a simple markup language and then convert it to any other format you want. I may even write my thesis in it 😉