Saturday, December 1, 2007

We're Living in the Future

We're living in the future.

On a message board I frequent, someone asked if we would be living in a science fiction future by 2050. But think about it, we're living in a science fiction future right now.

Yeah, we don't have flying cars, and probably never will. But look at all the 1950s predictions that we far surpassed. The black and white picture is the envisioning of a 2004 computer. My cell phone probably has more computer power than what they imagined would be possible.

Speaking of cell phones, now, they're smaller than the communicators used in the original Star Trek, and most even have voice features, so you can tell it who to call by saying their names, rather than dialing a number, like in Star Trek.

And then, the internet. A few authors came up with something vaguely like it. But I don't think any of them realized just how significant it would be. Because of the internet, I regularly interact with people on other continents, in real time. Without the internet, that would be unthinkable.

(The comic is from Questionable Content)

Unsung Technology: Paper

We use paper everyday, and yet hardly ever think about it.

Before paper was invented, papyrus and parchment were used to write things down. Papyrus can only be grown in tropical regions, and isn't durable. Parchment is expensive and takes a long time to make. That's why paper replaced those, but not why it's significant, as papyrus and parchment still work fine for writing on; the Great Library of Alexandria used only papyrus.

The true significance of paper is only realized when machinery starts becoming commonplace. A printing press works better with paper than with papyrus or parchment, and we all know the significance of the printing press.

Also, with the industrial revolution, paper manufacturing could be made to speed up the production of paper. This made paper cheap. Not just cheaper than parchment, but "an ordinary person can buy books" cheap. This improved the literacy rate and allowed for more uses of paper. For example, toilet paper. This cheapness, also allowed for paper money to be used.


I have a new addiction, and its name is Stronghold. I was introduced to the game by my brother over Thanksgiving break. It was made in 2001, and its graphics were probably state of the art at the time. Even by today's standards, they're still pretty good.

The game's concept is to build a medieval castle, and defeat your enemy. You have to make buildings to gather resources, construct walls and towers, and recruit troops. Unlike most RTS games, construction is immediate, which although not exactly realistic, it is very convenient. Most of the rest of the game however stresses realism. Unlike in games like Age of Empires, in which you spend food to get a unit, and then that unit never eats again, in Stronghold, your people need food at a constant rate. Also, the game shows just how powerful fortifications are. There is a significant for firing arrows from a height, so a small force of arches stationed on top of walls and towers can defend against a group of archers twice as large.

One of the most important aspects of the game is popularity. Your popularity determines whether civilians will want to stay and work at your castle. Civilians are necessary, because they're the one gathering resources, and they're who you recruit from if you need more soldiers. There are many factors that determine popularity. If you have a lot of food, you can give your peasants extra rations, which will make them happier. If you don't have much food, you can put them on half rations, which will make them unhappy, but will conserve what you have. Another is the tax rate, which can go from "Downright cruel taxes" to "Generous bribe". Yeah, if you're unpopular, and you have a lot of money, you can pay your peasants to work for you. I've never seen another game where tax rate can go negative. As can be expected, the higher the taxes, the more unhappy your peasants are, but the more money you get, which is necessary to recruit soldiers and build military buildings. Those are the two most important factors that affect popularity, though there are many more.

Although the game has multiplayer and scenarios, there is also a main campaign. Not unusually, but rather disappointingly, the campaign is very static. You have to win every mission, and what you do in a mission doesn't affect anything that happens later in the campaign. The plot is that a while ago, the king led a failed invasion and was captured. Then, several powerful lords rose up and divided the kingdom into their own domains. You work for a group of rebels still loyal to the king. As the game progresses, you attack and eventually defeat the various lords.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Possibly Maximizing Laptop Usage With One Cable

Recently, I have been in a search for a way to use my laptop, for it's screen, and hook up my xbox to it. For me this would save lots of space, and allow me to be less dependent when I am taking xbox. This would mean I wouldn't have to make sure I was taking a TV with me.

It took me a while searching the Internet to find anything in the area of connecting a laptop and a xbox. Then in one of my searches, I came upon an eBay page selling a 4 Pin S-Video TV to 3 RCA AV Adapter, which makes me think my idea is possible. However, for now, I can't say for sure that connecting a laptop to an xbox would work, but I am still searching. If anyone knows if this can work, or if they have tried it and it didn't work, then please tell me what you tried.

Matlab Tutorial

Bubble Sorting

Welcome back to Matlab Tutorial, last week I didn't post an article but I am back this week to give some more fun tips and commands. For this week, I was going to do kind of a fun program that is useful to help organize and manipulate data points. It is what some call a bubble sort. This is where all the values that you are given can be sorted from increasing values to decreasing values or vise verse. It is a simple nested for loop that can help you when you want to find the median of a data set or the mode of the set of values.

So to write this program, you must start with loading your data. If you hard code the data in your program that's fine too. Basically however you have data load it or store it as a variable. After setting a variable to it find the number of data points you will be using for the sort using some kind of length/size command. You now write a nested for loop to rearrange the values so that they are in ascending order or descending order. For my example I will put them in order from least value to greatest value. The loops with be written to tell Matlab to compare each value to the one next to it. If the latter value is less than the former, then the values switch. The first loop's index should be from 1 to the number of values you are given. The second for loop's index will go from one to one less than the number the first index is in. This is prevent the loops from going over already compared numbers that were already sorted. The final nested function in this loop is an if statement. This is where it compares the second index term of the data set to the term right after the latter. It sees if the second term is less than the first. If that's a true statement, then it switches the values. It does this through assigning the first value to a random variable name. (Which I give as SwitchX) Then the first value because the second value and the second becomes the extra, or first, value. Let's show this with code:

X = [9 10 5 3 6 7 1 4 2 8]
Length = length(X);< X(B);
for A = 1 : Length
for B = 1 : Length - A
if X(B+1) < X(B)
SwitchX = X(B);
X(B) = X(B+1);
X(B+1) = SwitchX;

That's all I got now. Stay tune for the possible LAST entry next week! Don't miss the stunning conclusion of Matlab Tutorial!

Resources: While Loop Help with Cyclismo, HTML Tags at Web Source

Thursday, November 29, 2007


A Great Game Unheard of

Carcassonne is a great game that is out for the Xbox right now. If you have never heard of it I totally understand. Until my friend showed me it, I had never heard of such a game. At first it is a little difficult to get used to, but after you know how the game works it is amazing!

Carcassonne is a strategy type game. It is apparently a really old-school board game that is played in Europe. At least that's what my friend has told me. Anyways, the game is straight forward. The point to the game is to play with little square pieces of land that you and your opponents take turns putting down on a board. The goal is to earn the most points based on what pieces you get, where you place them on the board, and what areas of land you own.

There are a few different types of properties or territories that you can own on the potential pieces. One property that is on almost every piece is the farm land. It is any empty plot of grass that is on your piece and any plot of grass that touches your grass area. You earn points with this territory by having a lot of farmland connected and touching other types of property, such as cities. The second type of property is a city. It looks like dirt when the city is incomplete, but it eventually creates a small village looking thing once the property is bounded. You score points when your city is very large, It must be completed when all edges (indicated with a boarder) are connected. A third territory that is on the pieces is the roads. The roads you own add up as they are connected to other pieces. The roads end with little bush/forest markers. The last and most rare type of property is the monastery. It is the best territory to own because after 8 pieces surround the monastery you get a a butt load of points, the most the game offers. But they don't come up that much, so use them wisely.

On your turn, you will have options of where the piece you are given can be added to the board. The pieces must be fit in a certain fashion, so you can't just add anywhere. You have to pay attention how you play the pieces because you may restriction future placements that you desire. Some of these invalid moves are connecting road pieces to a non road, a city piece with no boarder to one with a boarder, etc.

You try and find ways to better yourself or even screw over the other opponents when it comes around to your turn. Sometimes you get a piece that you can't use to your advantage, so you can use it to cut off opponents territories or prevent them from playing a piece of their choice to help themselves.

The game ends when you run out of pieces to lay down on the board. After adding up the points, the one with the most wins. Again is very simple and easy to learn. But the game gets very addicting and competitive the more you play it. If you ever come across the game, don't let it out of your sights. You won't be disappointed with Carcassonne.

Sources: GameSpot

Monday, November 26, 2007

Black Friday: Is The Crowd Worth It?

As I mentioned, this is the first year I have had the chance to experience Black Friday. The only store on my agenda was Best Buy, seeing that they had deals on the things I was interesteed in. Such things included Christmas presents of movies for loved ones, and even TV series for myself. Not to mention a number of other things I wanted to take a look at.
Friday morning I got stuck around my house and couldn't leave until about 5:50. I was already 50 minutes late for the time the doors opened. But this didn't really matter, I wasn't interested in the same things people had camped out the night before to get. I simply wanted movies, and I wanted the movies cheap. So I was in the right place even though I was late. Being 50 minutes late made me realize I wanted to park about a half mile away in a restraunts parking lot, instead of sitting in a traffic jam for hours.

I walked to Best Buy, and quickly found my way to the movie section where they had what I was in search of. The Family Guy 4rth season for 15 dollars. A great deal. I then browsed around the rest of the store for a while looking to see if there were any other great deals present. I failed to find anything even worth considering, except a 500 GB external hardrive for 100 dollars. I passed this up for the simple reason I don't need one just yet, and I have seen deals like that on the internet.

With my movies in hand, I headed to the checkout line, which was just about the length of the store. This was a little disappointing, because I thought Best Buy could've done more to make the line move faster. I knew I had to have patience, so I just waited in line thinking of the few dollars I was saving.

Some people may not think the crowd is worth waiting in line and getting up early. Which in fact depending on what you are looking for, it might not be. But to me, I had nothing better to do, and I had patience, so I was willing to stand in line to save a few dollars. Black Friday is worth the wait and crowd only if you have the patience to stand in line for a while.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Out of Service

I never understand cell phone service. First of all, my cell phone, made back before the cool pictures phones and flipping action, can never seem to decide when it wants to have a connection. It always decides to have a few bars here or there on some occasions, yet those same places the next day may not have any bars. I get service in my basement but not on my front porch. What the heck!? I don't get it. I will be with my friends and they all will have full service on their cell phones but I won't have any. It never seems to work for me. What is it? is it my provider T-Mobile, or is it my my cell phone itself? I hope no one else has this problem using T-Mobile...

PS: I didn't turn this in by Saturday night, but I still got it in my the weekend. Sorry for the inconvenience, but this is my blog for the Thanksgiving break.