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Endeavor: Projector

I have been half completing most of my personal projects because of school and work duties. I have recently completed one project though, and that would be a projector screen.

To start off: I bought a projector. And to clarify, I bought two. And to be technical, my friend and I both chipped in for those two projectors.

Our school, like many other schools, organizations, and businesses had a surplus auction (I think it is a continuously ongoing auction) and they sell things on there ranging from medical equipment to desk chairs, and pretty much everything in between.

I was looking through it and although I don’t have a need for furniture or medical equipment I found the electronic stuff of interest. This included the computers that they had and some projectors.

The good computers were getting auctioned up to their reasonably standard price, and the bad computers were being sold by the tens. What in the world would I have done with 20 desktop computers that would struggle to run Excel? So I passed on the computers.

But the projectors caught my eye. Good projectors cost hundreds of dollars, to have a reasonable throw range, a reasonable brightness, clarity, and quietness (believe it or not some cheap projectors hum like motors). At this auction though, they were selling classroom grade projectors for ~$50 each. So my friend and I chipped in and got two for ~$100. And it was one of the best purchases of my life.

This bad boy can project a 110 inch screen across our living room with crystal clarity. Sure, I’ll admit it doesn’t have an HDMI port, but it has a DVI port and a great resolution (nothing an HDMI to DVI adapter can’t fix). Aside from that though, this has all sorts of inputs and adjustments, and is capable of even adjusting the screen if we projected at our wall from an angle.

We projected it onto our wall for a couple of weeks, and that turned out alright, but we knew we could do better. I started thinking about how to build a projector screen. Now, I live in university owned housing so I’m not allowed to put any holes in the wall, which means I had to build a stand to our screen as well.

So I went to Home Depot (not a sponsor), bought 8 8 foot boards, construction screws, and then stopped by Walmart and bought a single bed sheet.

The construction was simple. It was to be 8 feet high, 8 feet (plus) wide, and an about 5 foot high screen. I have a power drill, I have a staple gun, and I have a living room floor which can contain this monstrosity.

Getting to work was rather easy, mainly due to the fact that I decided to use construction screws for this project (and hopefully for all future projects). If you don’t know the difference, construction screws have a hex head, are super durable, get a ton of torque, and are almost incapable of stripping. I didn’t have to drill a single guide hole for this thing, truly just plug and play.

The first night I worked on it I built the projector screen (8×5 feet) which left 2 posts dangled downwards supporting the whole thing. It sat as the interim projector screen design until I could think up a good foot design for the stand, and had enough time to construct it… This took a couple of weeks (at least 3 or 4).

Finally school ended and I had time and energy and creativity to complete it. I went back out to Home Depot bought one more 8 foot board, and had them chop it into 1 foot boards, and then went home and assembled the rest.

Here is the final result.

While assembling the feet, I also extended the screen down another foot or so, since we knew we could fit a little more of the up/down projection on an 8 foot screen. It turned out pretty well.

The total cost for this sweet home theater setup (if you exclude the price of the tools):

  • 8 foot boards * 9 ~ $27
  • Box of construction screws ~ $5
  • Projector – $50
  • Bed Sheet – $10

Total Price: ~ $92

For a 105 inch screen and the ability to fulfill 8th grade me’s dream of playing Guitar Hero on a big projector screen, this was a pretty worthwhile and fun project to complete.

Blogging and Botting

I enjoy blogging and releasing content and this site is the perfect platform for that.

So I post here weekly (or at least try!) and I have been noticing a couple of things.

  1. Practically nobody comes to this website other than people who click the link that is on my Twitter.
  2. There are a lot of people who like my posts and follow this blog after I do post.

So I started looking into it, and I’m holistically convinced that the people who are doing so are bots.

Sure there might be one or two of them just trying to do mass marketing through mass following and liking (which is an actual marketing strategy),  but I think the majority of them are bots.

Some are more straightforward than others.

Some of them will just be called “GreatMarketingTips”, “SuperSportsNews”, “TravelDestinationFun” or something equally blatant.

Some of them will try to be more sneaky.

Bill Josephson, but then you look at the first posts and its “5 great marketing strategies” and “Great ways to improve business”

I love blogging and although you might expect my next few words to be of hate they are not.

The bots are funny to me, the idea that this website doesn’t have any users but rather only bots talking about marketing is hilarious to me.

I’m not upset. This is has been a great experience.

Disc Golfing in the Summer Sun

It’s hot outside for those of us in the northern hemisphere (sorry New Zealand). Know what that means?

Time to go outside and have fun baking in the Summer sun.

For real though, there is plenty of activities to do out in the summer sun, and I’m here to suggest one of them for you.

Have you ever thrown a Frisbee?

Have you ever thought that you wanted to get really good at throwing a disc in a particular direction.

Did you participate in discus in high school? Neither did I.

If you have done any of these things then you might enjoy… drum-roll please… disc golfing.

Disc golf is almost exactly like normal golf except for a few factors:

  • It is usually hosted in local parks rather than managed golf courses.
  • It is relatively cheap to start playing, and then to keep playing.
  • You use a disc (fancy Frisbee if we want to be technical) instead of a golf ball, and you throw into a basket instead of into a hole.

To start playing disc golf you really only need one disc: A driver.
A driver allows you to throw really far distances granted that your technique and strength (mostly technique though) are good. Look this stuff up on YouTube, or just go out into an open field and practice.

If you want to get fancier you can also get a putter.
A putter allows you to make shorter distanced throws with more control than a driver.

If you want to be even fancier you can also get a mid-range disc.
A mid-range disc is exactly what it sounds like, a disc that is somewhere in between those two throws.

You could get a driver for $10-15 and as long as you don’t lose it you won’t buy another one.

A putter is about another $5-10.

A reusable water bottle, which I would recommend bringing with you, is also only $10 if you want to get an ultra durable Nalgene (not a sponsor).

I used to play disc golf in high school, and then when I got into college I slowed down. Just recently I got into it and I’ve been going every week and I thought I would just share some of the cool perks of the matter.

 

 

 

Googlin’… It is so Darn Fun!

Before I begin this blog post I would like to link to a Guadalajara Joe song named Segwayin’ and Googling. It is exactly what it sounds like.

Now for the real blog post.

I am a computer science major in college, and for most of the population that means that I’m a computer wizard. But I don’t believe I am. I don’t even believe most of the people who I think are tech savvy are computer wizards.

I believe we are just good at Googling.

Now I’m not trying to demean any of the skills of myself or my classmates by saying that. For one, it is definitely a heavy exaggeration. For two, there is definitely some inherent truth to it.

I believe that this generation is capable of accessing more information than the past generation could even imagine. Following that belief I believe that the next generation is going to access more information than we could imagine, even more efficiently.

Most of the past generation don’t inherently understand computers. They weren’t born with them. To understand how google works, and how the web works, and how your web browser works, and how your keyboard and mouse work you have to learn. They aren’t naturally intuitive.

To understand something intuitively you can’t just know certain inputs lead to certain outputs, you have to know why certain inputs lead to certain outputs. You can learn to intuitively understand computers but nothing beats using a computer as a child, the best time to learn intuition.

This brings me to my next point.

My parents weren’t born with computers.

I was born with decent desktop and laptop computing.

My children will probably be born holding smartphones that will out-compute the computers I had as a child (maybe even the bulk of the computers nowadays).

For example:

My parents’ generation access Google to look up a popular site name that they already know, instead of using the url.

My generation types in sentences to Google that are halfway incomprehensible in order to find better results.

My children’s generation will probably be using our gibberish with fancy search filter terms.

I don’t know if my thoughts came across as complete, but all I’m trying to say is that the ability to Google could be considered a defining distinction between my generation and the last.

Space Capitalism

My friends and I play plenty of board games and we come across some really fun and unique ones.

Some of my recommendations consist of:

Settlers of Catan, it’s a classic game of trading resources.

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Splendor, a deck building game involving become the best jeweler around.

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Betrayal at House on the Hill, a world building game where all of the players explore a haunted house.

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All of these games are super fun because they take really simple elements and stack them on top of each other to create a complex strategy environment. The learning curve on these games aren’t steep. You can pick them up really fast.

Catan is probably the hardest one to understand the first time you play, but that’s mostly due to the freedom given to the players, and the edge cases that don’t appear in the general rules.


Today though, we aren’t talking about any of these popular, well thought out games. We’re talking about a game that my friends and I found in a Half-Price Books one time.

It’s called Trailblazer.

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Trailblazer was a part of a series of games that came out in the 80’s by a company called Metagaming.

What Metagaming would do is release a rule book and board (which was mainly a grid) and then have the players be in charge of maintaining the board and game conditions.

From what I’ve gathered Trailblazer was one of the less popular ones.

Trailblazer defines itself as “A game of space exploration and economic exploitation based on supply and demand.”

On the back of the box, they state “Libertarians will love it.”

If those two sentences don’t have you sold I don’t know what will.

The crazy part is that the rules are actually really good at making a game that simulates free market economics. If that were the only part of the game, it would have me pretty well entertained.

The tough part is that free market economics isn’t exactly easy to simulate.

The game requires that the players fly around the galaxy looking for more planets to exploit and trade with. These planets aren’t on the map in the beginning and when the players find them they have to:

  1. Draw what planet class it is.
  2. Roll for every resource it produces. (3-5ish)
  3. Roll for every resource it consumes. (3-5ish)
  4. Roll for all of the demand modifiers of those resources that it consumes. (3-5ish)
  5. Keep track of all of these stats.

That’s just to find a planet.

During the buy phase every player has the opportunity to bid for any resource that is available on any planet they have a ship or a factor at. Which means there could be tens of planets all with 3-5ish resources each, all of which have to be bid on individually.

Everybody has a ship log for every ship they have, a warehouse log for every factor they have. The game has a board that has to be managed, a star chart has to be logged for all the stats of all of the planets that are found. Anytime goods are sold on a planet, the demand modifier has to be altered for that good.

None of this is automated.

And so after reading the rules, my friends and I have decided not to play.

Free market economics makes for a fun game, but I have no desire to manage multiple spreadsheets for a game that could take “4 hours to days per game.”

 

The Balcony

About a year ago I learned to stop studying in just my room. Don’t get me wrong, I study plenty in my room it would be insane if I didn’t.

What I learned though is that I don’t enjoy being cooped up. If I’m in my room for most of the day I get stir-crazy, especially if the assignment I’m working on is causing me plenty of frustration. If I’m tired it gets even worse because I might convince myself to nap instead of being productive.

So began the quest to find a place on my campus to study, give me a change of scenery and keep me from burning out.

And I found some good ones.

My school’s main library. There is a quiet study floor with some large cubicles. I can completely sprawl out on them and also have a power outlet. All of the elements of a great study space. But sooner or later, I became restless again. So I went to some of the other libraries in the school.

In one of the building I actually have access to an organization’s office, which is a quiet study space with a large desk.

Consistently though, I found fault in all of them. All of them were way too confined. I wanted some place with a good view.

In one of the buildings on campus there is a sixth floor with seating and a good view. Pretty good spot, sat there a few times, it had a great view, and some comfy chairs.

In our campus’ science building there is a balcony, I thought I would give it a shot.
And it was alright, there wasn’t really power, or an incredible view, and the seating wasn’t amazing, but it did give a dose of fresh air. I was hooked… On the fresh air that is.

So I scoped out a couple of more balconies around campus. And I found the one that is objectively the best on campus. Here is a list of reasons why:

  1. It has an incredible view. It overlooks most of campus and although it comes incredibly close to a roadway a pair of headphones drowns out all of the sounds of the cars, which is soothing regardless.
  2. It doesn’t have a bunch of people. I have nothing to hide, privacy isn’t the issue for me, the problem is that even in “quiet” zones some people believe that answering a phone call is a quiet activity.
  3. It has good Wi-Fi and cell reception. Some places on campus don’t have any cell reception at all, but this balcony in the great outdoors, has the best of both worlds.
  4. It has power.
  5. It had alright seating. This by all means was not a studying balcony, it was just a balcony that was shoved into the building design, so the only seating available was a desk that was splintery and bumpy and a single plastic chair. A towel over the desk meant that I could put my laptop on it and avoid splinters, so it worked out.
  6. It now has amazing seating. I don’t know who did it, but somebody put a honest-to-goodness non-splintery flat desk and a cushioned roll-y chair.
  7. No bugs. The balcony is about 4 stories up in the air, sure there are some flies, but other than that there is nothing. No mosquitoes.
  8. It has an overhang. This means that unless it is freezing or melting outside, I can comfortably sit on the balcony and breathe in the fresh air.

I don’t know why I wrote this blog post. I guess I could pawn off some meaning like “try diversifying your study spaces” or “try getting a breath of fresh air every now and then.” Whatever the reason I enjoy this place and I guess I just wanted to brag about it.

Filing Away Another Post

Computers.

It’s the 21st century, computers are all around us, and explaining them can yield to some pretty interesting blog content.

If you have used a computer you’ve used or at the very least heard of a file, and you have probably seen many different file extensions (.png, .wav, .docx, .txt).

“What makes them different?” You might ask.

Formats.

To a computer a file looks exactly like any other file. Strings of binary, rows upon rows of 0’s and 1’s. A computer has no notion of a, b, c, unless we tell them something like 001 is a 010 is b and 100 is c. So that’s what we do. And to make it more readable we turn 8 bits (each digit in binary) into a more compressed byte (which is 2 digits in hex). This is turning 10001010 (base-2) into 8a (base-16).

This means that different files are just different ways of reading those bytes. Some files have strict formatting rules and some have no rules at all.

There are essentially two different kinds of files, even though all files are really just bytes. Human-readable and binary. Binary files are files that aren’t really intended on being read by humans, while human-readable is exactly what it sounds like.

.txt files are human-readable, if you open one up and readily convert the bytes to characters without following any formatting rules then you’ll get a file that you should be able to read.

.csv files are also human-readable but have a common formatting they have commas separating all of the variables. These are common for spreadsheets.

stuff,stuff,stuff
a,b,c
1,2,3

On the opposite end, things like .docx, the document used to hold your Microsoft Word document, is binary. It sounds confusing, but .docx is capable of holding pictures and formatting and colors and so many things that a conventional .txt couldn’t hold.

Another binary file could be something like .png which can display cool images given the proper program to read it, but also looks like this when you open it in a hex editor.Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 3.17.23 PM.png

The right side shows what the byte values on the left look like as character, and is what it will look like if you try to open a .png in a text editor (like notepad). If you didn’t have a program to interpret it (like paint) you wouldn’t be able to get an image.

A couple of thing are worth noting here though. Notice “IHDR” on the first line?Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 3.17.23 PM.png

That indicates to a .png reader that it is the first chunk of the .png. It has to be there and all the future data is interpreted based off of that chunk.

On the flip-side “IEND” indicates the last chunk of the .png. This lets the .png reader know to stop reading the file, since it won’t get anymore information about the image.

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 3.24.34 PM.png

This means that you could shove a ton of data at the end of a .png file and it won’t be read. For example: The entire Bee Movie Script.

LOL_BEE_MOVIE_SCRIPT.png

While retaining a completely normal .png image of Barry from the Bee Movie, you can actually put the entire Bee Movie Script by Script-o-rama.com on the end of it. That said, if you download that image right now it won’t have it on there, because the image reader for WordPress actually will chop it all off after only reading what is needed for the image.

If you did decide to open up a text editor and try it yourself, it would look something like this, and the image would look exactly the same, when you opened it up.

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 3.28.52 PM.png

Printmaking Excuses

I am sorry that I didn’t post last week. I have one excuse and it isn’t a good one. I wanted to wait until Saturday to post because the D&D sessions I have been running would be over and then I would be able to write about those.

The problem was that I got really busy Saturday and then I was also trying to think back to the sessions to see if any of the content was extraordinary. It wasn’t really. There were funny parts but nothing I could make an entire blog post about.

Although, one of the least foreseen and most interesting parts of the sessions was a part where I added a bandit encounter.

Now I’ve been playing D&D for almost a year now and I don’t think our party has ever fought just a random group of bandits. We’ve never had to face the moral dilemma of killing someone vs. sparing their life with the chance that they might keep their bandit ways.

A day or so before one of the sessions began I added a bandit encounter and it became one of the more pivotal parts of our campaign. I did not intend for this. In the middle of the fight our rogue convinced the bandits to stop fighting and we could spare their lives. It worked.

There were two bandits left. Our barbarian immediately dispatched one of them right after they surrendered. Kind of cold blooded, but in his defense he was raging at the moment and he’s a stupid barbarian.

Now there is only one left and one of the party members decides to interrogate him. Then after the interrogation he decides to shoot an eldritch blast at him. No questions, no hesitation, no resistance, no justification, just murder of a now defenseless bandit.

So after what was supposed to be a meaningless bandit encounter our “good” party had to come to terms with the fact that they are evil, or letting evil get away with it.


That was the only truly significant snippet from the campaign.

Aside from that, a couple of weeks I made a new print.

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I made this print with the idea that the phrase that you can find everywhere “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” was always a little too aggressive. It might as well just be “excuse my bad behavior I haven’t had coffee.”

Since when has lack of coffee ever excused anyone from anything serious? In what cases would that phrase ever be fine?

“Sorry for yelling at you, I haven’t had my coffee.”

“Sorry for speeding officer, I haven’t had my coffee.”

“Yes I do plead guilty for premeditated murder but in my defense I hadn’t had my coffee.”

And it became such a terrible excuse that I just had to print it.

So I made the block and I wanted to print it on bloodstained paper, to help point out how aggressive really is. So I got some red food coloring, and colored some water and put it on the paper.

All in all, the process to make the print was much more fun than a lot of the other prints that I’ve made, my only complaint with it is that the “blood” really just looks like Kool-Aid.

That’s all I really have to say for the rest of this blog post. I intend to host more sessions of D&D sometime in the future and I intend to make more prints. If I do either of those I’ll make sure that I keep the blog up to date.

Sorry I didn’t make a blog post last week, I hadn’t had my coffee.

The Hunt for Kettle Corn

I have a stupid sweet tooth.

I love sugar. I love sugar more than a grown man probably should. I am not a man of low sugar ratio candies, I am a man of high sugar ratio candies.

Sugar Ratio – The amount of sugar in comparison to the other ingredients in the candy
Example: Dark Chocolate has a small sugar ratio, being mainly chocolate and then sugar to stop it from being bitter. SweeTarts have a high sugar ratio, being mainly sugar with some flavoring added to stop it from just being sugar.

So that said, I also love popcorn. Normal popcorn. Butter popcorn. Cheddar popcorn. Caramel popcorn. Vanilla popcorn. Kettle corn.

Kettle corn is one of the best variants of popcorn, and by that I mean the sweetest.

When a CineMark was built right next to my house and offered kettle corn instead of buttered popcorn I completely switched my movie theater eating habits. No amount of movie theater buttered popcorn could convince me to switch.

I’ve used microwave butter popcorn, but do you know what is better than that? Microwave kettle corn.

Do you know what is better than microwave kettle corn? Stove-top popcorn.

Do you know what is terribly tedious to make? Stove-top kettle corn. You have to stir it, you have to add just the right amount of sugar, just the right amount of oil, just the right amount of corn, and just the right temperature.

If any of those factors aren’t perfect the sugar will slag, or the popcorn will burn, or there will be too many kernels left.

Just recently, one of my roommates got a stir-crazy popcorn popper. If you don’t know what that is it’s just a popcorn popper that automatically moves around the kernels. This prevents the kernels from burning and the sugar from burning and everything from burning (unless your careless or you just like things burning).

So after popping some popcorn in it I looked up a kettle corn recipe and lo and behold I found one readily available. Here it is if you have a stir-crazy and like kettle corn.

Ever since I found that recipe I probably make kettle corn at least once a week. Sugar is good and on popcorn it’s amazing.

Switching on the Switch

Warning: This might sound like an ad.

When the Nintendo Switch was first announced I was hyped but I didn’t truly believe that it would be a good console. I saw it as a worse version of a couch console, rather than what it is truly is, a better version of a handheld console.

In fact, when the Nintendo Switch was released I was in a speech class where I took part in a group presentation where we talked about how Nintendo should just stop trying to be in the console game. It was shallow and not super insightful, but the summary of it was that the Wii U was a failure… yada yada yada… The handheld consoles like the Gameboy and the DS were successful and own most of the market share for handheld gaming … yada yada yada… Nintendo needs to focus their resources on developing their handheld consoles.

I finally got a Switch and I can undoubtedly saw that I was wrong. I missed the point, but just by a little bit. It isn’t an inferior couch console, it is a superior handheld console.

I’m not usually a first adopter and I don’t like user interfaces that aren’t clean. The switch docking station is pretty dang amazing. I know it is just a glorified HMDI output, but there truly is a seamless transition from playing on my monitor to picking it up and walking to the kitchen to cook food.

Just this week my apartment got another Switch dock put in the living room. When I got home from classes I was able to take my Switch out of my backpack (Hey I have some free time between classes) and plugged it straight into the living room and play there with my homies. But then later that night when I just wanted to chill in my room I simply plugged it into my room’s dock.

I feel like I’m selling out writing and writing an advertisement, but I genuinely and am just having the most fun I’ve ever had with a console since I got a PC. I can’t wait to see what games they release for the switch.

Sincerely,

-A new Switch fanboy