Saturday, October 27, 2007

Kingdom Hearts 2

So some may say this is an overly talked about game, but I recently picked it back up again and have been on a playing spree.

So as many of you know, Kingdom Hearts is a weird mix of Disney, Final Fantasy, and a few original characters. The worlds you visit are mostly more Disney story worlds along with one or two original places to start and end the game.

Your party consists of an original character, Sora, and the famous Disney characters Donald and Goofy. Sora wields a sword-like weapon called the Keyblade, which not only provides Sora with great power, but has the ability to lock or unlock any lock. In the second game Sora has grown up a bit and gains some new abilities. These abilities are known as forms which Sora can transform into for a certain amount of time. Each of these forms boost a certain aspect such as strength, magic, or later in the game both. The more each form is used, the stronger it becomes. Certain abilities also allow you to stay in form for longer which makes you all the more powerful.

At times the story in Kingdom Hearts 2 can get annoying. One place from the first game, Atlantica, is stripped down to nothing but rhythm based minigames that don't add much to the story. Also the cut scenes in which Sora locks off each world from the inflow of heartless is overly dramatic and lasts far too long. In addition, the first part of the game is long, drawn out, and aggravating even to a new time player.

Other than cheesy dialog, the gameplay itself is addicting, fast-paced, and flexible, letting you customize Sora to your own style of gameplay.

A Tribute Continued

I have decided, in light of recent events, to add on to my tribute to the space race. Except this time, I will write in tribute of those who ended it.

Today, Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, was honored at Purdue. He came to Purdue to help dedicate the new building, named Armstrong of course. He also went to the homecoming football game to cheer on his alma mater.

60 years ago, before he made those world changing steps on the moon, Armstrong was an engineering student at Purdue. At the dedication ceremony, he reminisced about how Purdue was when he first started his studies which shows just how far Purdue has come. The new building is decorated with many things from and relating to the space race, like the replica of the failed Apollo mission craft that blew up on the launchpad and a statue of Armstrong as a student. It also houses a small sample of moon rock.

Because of the discoveries people made back then and what people like Armstrong did, I now fully believe that we really can do anything we want to. I think that we could go to Mars and beyond because people back then believed wholeheartedly they weren't bound to the Earth. I feel more inspired to pursue my dreams every time I am reminded of what those first astronauts faced and what they did. For their contributions, I thank them for the world we have today.

Armstrong also took the time to say a few words at the game and waved his flag. I was there and that we really awesome to see.

Thanks WTHR for the content and the picture.

Computers learning to talk

My oldest sister and her husband are deaf but most of their children can hear. When her oldest finally learned how to talk, he had a bit of a speech problem but nothing that was too serious. His younger sister learned how to talk faster than he did and his youngest brother is already talking up a storm.

The way these babies, my nephews and niece, learned how to talk helps me be on the side of what researchers found using a new computer program.

Some believe that some language is hardwired into your brain. Some go to the extent to believe that babies are born knowing all the sounds in languages in all the world and learn language by how the sounds are put together.

To study how babies learn language, researchers at Stanford University are working on a computer model that does the same processes a baby's brain does when it is learning language. It's not fully completed yet, but they have tested their model out to make sure it is accurate. They found that, when studying both American and Japanese mother's and babies talking with each other that the model learned language at the same rate the babies did.

I'll admit now that I don't know very much about learning to talk. I am an engineering major, not a speech analyst. But I do know how my nephews and niece learned how to talk in a deaf home. My sister can speak but she can't hear so a lot of what she says is distorted. Her husband doesn't speak much. Her oldest son learned how to talk mostly from visiting us and from the TV. He ended up delayed a little in learning how to talk and formed words differently, like he had an accent. My sister's third child, her only daughter, learned in much the same way except that she had a very talkative brother to teach her words. The youngest is still in his toddler age, and he is the earliest of his siblings to talk. I think a lot of language has to be learned and isn't hardwired. I think that they learn from watching how mom and dad form vowels and consonants with their mouth and how they sound.

Of course, I haven't done enough research to say definitively, but I believe that babies aren't born with the knowledge of language. They are instead born with the openness to learn it.

Thanks Wasted News for the content.

Thanks Baby Talk Canada for the picture.

A New Way to Surf

And by surfing, I mean the web. My boyfriend and I talk a lot on the internet and almost every time I call him using Skype or MSN Voice, he's surfing the net. Now, back when the internet was young and people were just starting to use it, surfing the net meant going to different websites and exploring by branching.

Well, now there is a number of ways to do this that, I would say, are better.

Websites have been linking to each other for a long time, but usually which websites were linked to and how they were situated depended on the website owner. Now, we have sites where the user decides.

Digg, Reddit and Stumbleupon are sites where users join the community. They make websites or visit websites and say what they think about it. Then, their thoughts, usually in the form of voting whether is was cool or not cool, is posted online.

I think this is pretty awesome. I like getting link after link of cool pictures or weird news from Digg from my boyfriend. And its easier to tell when you will like something because it'll have more votes. This was bound to be developed eventually, I think. This society is getting to become more and more about choice. Fast food now lets you choose different sides and how you want things made. There are tons of questions I had to ask as a cashier when ringing up people's orders.

Well, if you get the chance tonight, go check out these sites. They are very addictive and quite fun.

Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock

Ever wished you could go head to head with Slash? Ever wanted to mess up your friend as you two face off without him getting pissed? Well now you can!

Guitar Hero 3 is all that you've come to love from the first two games plus a whole lot of new material. Besides the new songs there are a few new features:

First there is the new battle play mode gives multiplayer a whole new depth. In this mode you don't build up star power like your normally would. Instead you get "items" that will mess up your opponent in various ways. For example you can nail your enemy with a move that "jumps" their hand off the frets and makes your opponent miss all their notes for a short time. Another, more vicious move breaks one of your opponents strings. To fix it the other player has to tap the button of the broken string repeatedly and all the while notes keep on coming.

Another new feature is the boss battles in career mode. In these boss battles you go up against a well-known musician or band in the aforementioned battle mode. For example one well publicized boss battle is against Slash. After some boss battles you get special rewards such as the chance to use Slash as a playable character.

Along with these new modes, a whole slew of new bands, classic songs, and challenging gameplay await. I personally can't wait for its release this Sunday October 28.

A Brief History of Computers (1940 - 2000)

Continuing with the history of computers...

In 1941, Konrad Zuse completed the Z3, the first operational programmable computer. It could add or subtract in one third to one fourth of a second, and it could multiply and divide in three or four seconds. In 1945, he developed the first higher level programming language, called Plankalk├╝l.

In 1946, ENIAC was built at the Ballistic Research Laboratory, USA, by John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert. ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was one of the first completely electronic computers and weighed 30 tons. It was used to calculate ballistic trajectories.

In 1947, the transistor was invented. Transistors would later replace vacuum tubes so computers wouldn't weigh tons.

In 1948, the Small Scale Experimental Machine was built. It was the first computer that stored both programs and data, as modern computers do, rather than reading them off tape.

In 1950, Alan Turing published a paper on the potential development of computer intelligence. In this paper, he introduced the concept of the Turing test, in which a judge speaks to a human and a computer and tries to tell which speaker is human.

UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer) was built in 1951, by the same people who built ENIAC. It was the first general purpose computer that could handle both numeric and textual information. It weighed only 13 tons.

In 1951, Whirlwind was built at MIT. It was the first real-time interactive computer. With previous computers, there was no way to issue new commands once the program was running. Whirlwind used a keyboard to input new commands. In 1953, the first computer with transistors is built at the University of Manchester.

In 1957, FORTRAN (Formula Translation), the oldest higher level programming language still in use, was made.

In 1962, the first computer game, Spacewar!, was made by Steve Russell at MIT. It used an early version of a joystick.

In 1965, packet switching was developed. Packet switching is needed for computers to communicate with each other over a network. You're reading this right now thanks to packet switching. In 1969, ARPANET, the precursor to the internet, was started by the Department of Defense.

In 1974, the MCM/70 became the first personal computer to be commercially released. It came with 2 to 8 kilobytes of RAM and 0 to 2 cassette drives. It cost $4950 - $9800. It never took off.

In 1975, Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. In 1976, Apple was founded by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. I don't think I need to tell you the significance of those events.

In 1978, the Apple II, one of the first successful personal computers, was made. In 1981, MS-DOS was released.

n 1983, Apple introduced Lisa, the first computer with a graphical user interface. It was slow and expensive and ultimately failed. In 1984, the Macintosh was made. It had many of Lisa's features, but was much faster and cheaper.

In 1989, the World Wide Web was created. Although the internet already existed (it was only used by universities and government agencies), the World Wide Web is was made it easy to use.

In 1994, Linux was made by Linus Torvalds.

In 1996, Hotmail was founded by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith.

In 1997, Deep Blue became the first computer to beat a world champion, Gary Kasparov, at chess.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Brief History of Computers (1600 - 1940)

Computers are a significant part of today's society. Most of us have computers around us all the time. But computers have come a long way, further than most people realize.

The first automatic calculator was built in 1623 by Wilhelm Schikard. It was of course, completely mechanical, and not at all electrical or electronic. It could only add and subtract numbers up to six digits. Similar devices capable of adding numbers with more digits or in different bases were made soon after.

In 1671, Gottfried Liebniz made a machine that could multiply numbers. Liebniz also refined the binary system used in all modern computers. In 1774, Philipp Hahn built a calculator capable of all four primary functions.

In 1791, Charles Babbage was born. Although he never actually completely any calculating machines, his work was far ahead of his time and he was very influential. In 1822, he began designing his "difference engine" which would solve sixth-degree polynomials up to thirty digits.
Unfortunately, he lost support for the difference engine, so he began designing the "analytical engine", a general purpose computer, run off steam power, that could be programmed with punch cards and that would be capable of doing any computation modern computers can do. Had it been finished it would have been the first Turing machine, before Turing was even born.

In 1906 vacuum tubes were invented by Lee De Forest. In 1919 William Eccles and F. W. Jordan developed the first flip-flop circuit, a necessary component of electrical computers. In 1924, William Bothe built an AND logic gate, another necessary component of electrical computers. In 1930, Vannevar Bush built a partly electrical version of Babbage's difference engine, capable of solving differential equations.

In 1936, Alan Turing published a paper in which he introduced the concept of a Turing machine and showed that it is impossible to have a general solution to whether a program will continue infinitely or not. A Turing machine is a theoretical machine that read a tape and perform actions on the tape based off instructions on the tape.

Next time: A history of computers from 1940 to present.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mainstream Cellular Phones

So who remembers what a "telephone" is? Not just that wireless thing hanging from your kitchen wall. I'm talking old school turn dial phones. Well, I would understand for the kids of today to have little or no recollection of such a futile tool. It was the thing of the past. Who needs those when everyone is carrying around a cell phone. It is personal, light, and useful for more than just calls anymore. So how much has the telephone evolved since the old turn dials? Let us look at just a few of the advancements that phones have had over the years.

One the greatest differences that can be made about cell phones and telephones is the literal fact that telephones run via telephone wiring and now fiber-optics along cable lines. Cell phones are run via satellites sending signals from one phone to the other. The use of satellites over cable and phone lines is the fact that it travels faster and without any cords of wires. It can get reception from just about anywhere and can be used at any time. As far as fiber optics has come for sending information, it doesn't beat the waves used in cell phones.

Another large difference in the old home phone and the cell phones is the portability. Before, when you had to talk gossip with your best friend on the phone, you would have to take the phone cord, pull it all the way to the bathroom and lock yourself in to keep from others to listen. With cell phones, you can take it outside, upstairs, in the car, in a tree, etc. Also, even when they created portable phones in the 80's, they were large and clunky. Now they are sleek enough to fit in a wallet.

The cell phones have come up with other numerous ways to just simply communicate. Not only can you just talk into the phone, but you can have speaker phone, walkie-talkie mode (where everything is voice activated), text messages, AIM connections, etc. If you thought saying words was hard, there are now other ways of "speaking".

With the advancement of memory, cell phones have features never dreamed of by older phones: Cameras, music, games, AIM, Internet, and other fun little bells and whistles. The phones started putting in the little things like the planner with calendar, the calculator, the stop watch, etc into its entourage. Then they slowly added innovations like music downloads, an Internet connection, and music that takes their importance and shoots it through the roof. Now there is no need for any other electronic, it is all on your paper thin 1 by 2 inch phone. You don't need anything else.

One last thing I can mention that makes cell phones so great is the fact that they are cheap! I mean whne I can see a hobo on the greyhound buses using a cell phone, then you know that it is accessable to anyone and everyone. In which it should....except not to hobos....

Resources: RazorTurn Dial Phone

Pandora: Your Own Radio Station

Worried about downloading? Like listening to a wide variety of music?

There is a perfect solution. Pandora lets you create your own radio station playing your favorite artist or music that is close to the same style of music. This takes away the commercials of normal radio stations, and gives you as many hours of listening as you want. You can set up a radio station by picking a favorite artist or genre, and this online radio station will generate songs for you to listen to, based on what you prefer.

This online radio station is great for any use. You could let it play at parties or even while you are just sitting in your room doing homework. Plus this solves the downloading problem of lawsuits. It is the perfect solution for me.

Matlab VI

Basics of For Loops

Everything I have showed you on Matlab Tutorial up to this point has been pretty simple and straight forward. But now I'm going to show a simple command that is the root to all of Matlab programming. It can be a simple command, but as you get better and better at using the system, you find that this command can be very large and complicating as well. This command is the "for loop". The command is used to perform equations or other actions as many times as specified by the index of the code. The syntax really isn't that bad, it's the the fact that you can have a lot of extra stuff inside the command to make things complex.

The first line of code starts with for X = Index bounds. The bounds can either be used with the colon command or linspace.

A quick lesson on both the colon command and linspace command, because I had failed to explain this before loops. Both of these commands are a way to count and display a series of number to you see fit. The colon command is simply [Start : Increment : End], where the first term is your starting value, the middle term is how much you go up or down (Negative increments count backwards), and your last value is the value the sequence stops at. Linspace is a little different, but is written in code as linspace (Start, End, #), where the first term is the start value, the second is the last value, and the last term is how many terms you want to consist in the sequence.

Now that you know how to count sequences, the for loop should be easier. So the first line can now be completed as for X = 1 : 1 : 10 for example, having the loop go from 1 to 10 in increments of 1. Now what you do with this index and your for loop has really endless possibilities. You could make another for loop inside your first, some logical statement, a summation, or another type of loop. For a simple example, you could have the for loop find values for an equation such as X^2 + 5 for each value of the index and display those in terms of a variable F. This would be written in as the next line, indented from the first: F = X^2 + 5 , where F would be displayed as the value of the equation with X changing each time. To end your loops, always have end indented as far as the for syntax. This example for loop would then run and output each of ten values in the equation F.

So that is the basics to making a safe for loop. Stay tuned to learn how to make other loops! Have a good week and weekend everyone!

Sorry for the title misspelling, it is called a for loop not a four loop.

Resources: Matlab Code

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Microsoft Invests $240 Million In Facebook?

Today I was browsing the Internet, when I came across a small headline, "Microsoft Wins One in the War Against Google." Intrigued I clicked the link, and read more.

I come to find out Microsoft has invested 240 million dollars into Facebook, letting Microsoft sell ads for Facebook worldwide. This 240 million dollar investment into Facebook, only gave Microsoft 1.6 percent stake in Facebook. However, it appears this isn't even what Microsoft is really after.

An issue of the Inquirer states "Google formally declares war on Microsoft." Which basically says in 2005 Google confirms it will launch free spreadsheet and word-processing software online. Going on to say that this is a wake-up call for Microsoft.

So, it appears that by investing in Facebook, with only 240 million dollars, and only gaining 1.6% of the Facebook stock, Microsoft is only trying to invest in something against Google. This could be true. Maybe Microsoft no longer knows what to do with their money, or maybe they want to help a smaller business on the rise. Or, perhaps, Microsoft is trying to get one foot in the door. Investing in so little of stock that Facebook has no need to even think Microsoft would want to buy them out eventually. For now, we will have to take Microsoft's investment for what it's worth...240 million dollars for advertising.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Humanity's place in an AI's world

Having concluded that AIs will eventually permeate society, and that they will be better than humans at anything, where does that leave us?

What will we have left to contribute to society that computers can't? Well... Nothing. Suddenly, it's not computers aiding human society, it's humans holding back computer society.

Well, perhaps we could separate ourselves. We could just form two societies, one of humans and one of robots. But computers are so convenient. We wouldn't just give them up and eventually, AIs would once again permeate human society.

Or perhaps, we'd just dwindle and eventually go extinct. The AIs wouldn't need us. They might not even notice our absence.

What I think will happen is that we'll become computers too. By this time, computers will be immensely powerful, thousands of times more powerful than computers now. Also, advanced will be made in neurobiology, so we'll be able to better understand how memories are formed, and how the mind works in general. So, such advanced computers will be able to simulate a human mind, or in other words, we'll be able to upload our consciousness onto a computer, thus gaining the advantages AI has over us, and keeping our place in the new society.