Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Role of a 2 Year Technical Degree in the U.S.

Dear blog readers, I need your input.  In my capstone class, a partner and I have to answer this question:

What should be the role of 2-year technical education in the U.S.?  What should be done to increase its effectiveness?

What are your thoughts or opinions?  We need to be able to talk for ten minutes (TED style) and then lead a ~50 minute discussion on the topic.  Some angles we have thought of are: are technical degrees looked down upon by those who have more education?  Are teachers paid/rewarded enough so that quality teachers are attracted to this area?

Personally, I think that these type of degrees can be quite valuable and should perhaps be the minimum we expect of our next generation-in-progress.¬† Just graduating from High School (even though so many don’t!) isn’t enough for those born and raised here in the U.S. who have the ability to learn at that level.¬†

Please feel free to email me your thoughts, even if they are just bullet points, or post them in the comment section below.

Thanks in advance ūüôā

–Nat

SC2 NATLAN pics

 

September 25th came and went, and StarCraft 2 was played into the ground.

The details of what went down:

Star Craft 2 LAN – Cost will be $15 per cash at the door – this includes pizza (supper/dinner), pop, beer, water, snacks, etc. If you want something really special, please let me know.

There will be Mountain Dew (reg & diet), Coke (reg & diet), etc. and a cooler available if you must bring your own.

Iowa folks, feel free to come up Friday night/Saturday morning and crash where ever there is space for you =) Everyone else – come as early as 1 PM to start setting up if you want. Optimally space for 8-12 – we’ll see how well my home internet connection handles it (hey, it is supposedly a business level service ūüėČ Planning on having folks sit in two completely separate areas so strategy etc can be discussed openly for the best experience.

Bring your LAN gear – PC, Monitor, keyboard, mouse, ethernet cable, power cables, headphones and optimally a microphone. For the love of all that is holy, if you need a DVI to VGA dongle to make your monitor work, bring it! =D

Have SC2 installed when you come or $60 ready for Blizzard. Either way, have the foresight to setup a battle.net account ahead of time. If you want to get the rust off, there is a fairly regular group that plays from ~9-11 PM Thursday nights, ping me for more detail. For those that are concerned and/or curious , I am hoping to still do a “real” NATLAN this winter featuring games where we shoot each other over and over for hours on end.

That should be enough details, eh?

–Nat

Starcraft 2 – Dune 2k all over again

Over the years, Real Time Strategy games (RTS) have always attracted me, but usually only through the single player campaign. ¬†Often times, I even get board of that and never really finish them completely, alternate campaigns that start you back at “you gain one new unit permission!” have little appeal for me. ¬†One game roped me into¬†competitive¬†online play, Dune 2000.

Dune 2000 wasn’t a phenomenal game by any reach of the imagination and bore much in common with Command and Conquer. ¬†On the ol’ dial up and the original family Gateway (Windows 98SE, Celeron 300, 3GB hard drive, 64MB of ram and a screaming for the time 12MB Voodoo2 graphics card) I would play into the wee hours of the morning during high school. ¬†There was a ladder and typically I was in the middle, the highlight of my experience there was a dramatic victory over the 13th ranked player that I could bore you with the details sometime. ¬†By far, that has to be the most played RTS game for me, ever.

I enjoyed the original Starcraft, but to be honest I was late to the party, the game looked old and I never finished Brood Wars, the expansion.  As for multilayer, I played against other real people exactly one time in a ranked Battle.net match where I obliterated some random internet guy (kid?) who accused me of cheating with a good amount of profanity thrown in.  This was a good way to start Рand a good way to end.

A big reason for me shying away from the online¬†multilayer¬†aspect of RTS games is the intensity that the one on one matches bring to the table. ¬†As some of you may know, I like to play games competitively, sometimes to a fault. ¬†I know better, but often times my brain equates fun with winning and that drives me while playing. ¬†Out in the rest of the world, people are really good at these RTS games and playing against them can be a lesson in futility and frustration if you allow it to be. ¬† In Dune 2000, I got to the point where I had a “build order” and a strategy, and played it enough that I just knew what the other player was up to frequently by what units I would see early in the game. ¬†It probably helped that I was in the game playing/learning highpoint of my life, being 15 or so.

Out comes Star Craft 2. ¬†I’ll admit I got caught up in the hype of it, and like Diablo 2 it was purchased Day 1 of its general availability. ¬†Heck, the collectors edition is currently on my desk, complete with its thumb drive containing all of SC1 amongst other nifty things. ¬† Anyway, for the first time really, I knew a bunch of people who had also purchased it and were playing as a group regularly (Thursday night, 9PM for those interested) and this helped take the edge off of playing online. ¬†Dan T. played a 2v2 online match with me versus the great unknown, and thus scary, others on the Internet.

Emboldened by this, I played through the prerequisite five placement matches on the SC2 ladder (there is a very robust,¬†continuous ranking system in place online)¬†¬†and manage to win one and lose four very tense matches. ¬†This got me placed into the “Bronze” league. ¬†The bottom one out of five. ¬†Which is fine, really, because I thought that meant I would play only against other Bronze level players. ¬†Wrong. ¬†You get automagically placed against anyone looking to play, and that can include Diamond players, way up there at the tippy top. ¬†The type of gamers who play SC2 as a job. ¬†Suffice to say, I lost three more matches and then, finally winning one. ¬†This was a good time to wrap up my play for a while.

In the meantime I started watching Day9 daily over lunch after reading an article at Ars. ¬†In the comments of the article, his feed was mentioned as one that focused on improvement over entertainment value. ¬†I have found that true – and have one my last two ladder matches pretty convincingly against folks that I was “slightly favored” over. ¬†Terminology and lingo have also been valuable information gleaned from his daily broadcasts.

In closing, I promise to the people coming to the LAN party that I am not going to 2 gate-Robo into 2 base 8-gate and rush you with speed Zealots every game. ¬†Unless I start losing. ūüėõ

And if you know what that means, I am sure you’ll be able to neutralize it ūüôā

–Nat

Taxes & Such (politics on the internet!)

I had the¬†opportunity¬†to read an article from the Star Tribune that was talking about one of (the?) the Democratic¬†candidate¬†for¬†Governor¬†of MN. ¬† The reason of this article existences was to deplore this candidates¬†commitment¬†for increasing the taxes on the “wealthy” in order to help cover the cavernous $5.3 Billion (?) budget deficit facing the state.

On the one hand, I understand the basics of his argument.  He says that income does not equate to wealth.  Fine.  This candidate wants to hit those with moderately high income ($150k couple) somewhat harder and those that make more than a million a year much harder.  The contention is a classic one Рthe rich paying for benefits for the poor.  The rich getting robbed of their due income because the state government is too needy.

OK – I got it. ¬†Call me a liberal (I like to think of myself as a moderate) but I think that if ¬†paying a 2-3% higher income tax when you make a million vs $100k and your personal economy breaks, or if you really even notice the difference, then your ability to manage your income is suspect at best. ¬†To put that in perspective, lets paint that as 3% on a million dollars different. ¬†That’s what a teacher makes in a year and its a whopping 3% of our millionaires take home income. ¬†The utility of that money to the millionaire is tiny compared to what that money means to that teacher. ¬†Personally, I think that as a wealthy citizen of the U.S. you are obligated to help fund the system and society that made you that way and to keep it working well for those unborn generations of U.S. citizens. ¬†In a rational debate, I think that many could agree this is a reasonable way to view our system of taxation and why those who can be¬†inconvenienced¬†a little but provide much should be for the benefit of all.

On the other side of the higher taxes argument is, what I think, is giving the “Tea Party” conservatives so much momentum. ¬†Where is all this tax money going? ¬†How is there not a clear and public breakdown of this?

Continuing on with my opinion piece, it is necessary for us, as citizens to completely layout and reach agreement on what we expect from our government. ¬†Clearly, we want roads and education – yet these are exactly the places where money is being pulled from for “other things.” ¬†It is just extremely frustrating to not have a clear picture of the state, and countries,¬†commitments and understand where all the extra lard is going.

The fact of that matter now is that if you cut taxes, you lose something that the government provides. ¬†We have huge groups of people clamoring for lower taxes and we need to understand what will be the ultimate outcome to the government and its spending if we do so. ¬†“Big Government” is here and now and has had a good century of so of build up and a century of U.S. citizens becoming dependent or at least accepting the¬†activities¬†of big government as absolute. ¬†One election cycle won’t change much.

With that, I urge anybody with good sense not to knee jerk react and vote for rhetoric this cycle.  Vote for the intelligent candidate who will do the best job of making this best of the mess the economy has gotten us all in.

–Nat

Computers are fun…

Precious blog time has been consumed lately by issues with the home computers.

As the NFL season is ramping up along with new seasons of Survivor and The Amazing Race, I thought it would be a good idea to refresh the Media PC. The one that was there was put there in disgust when I couldn’t get the last refresh built out of some Frakenstein components and smallish case that was a little too loud and ran the drives a bit too hot. Makes sense to recombine a few parts that I had been hoarding from “great” deals to refresh it, right?

Well, this became a huge time waster. The new machine was totally silent, a little bit speedier and looked a lot nicer than the old one. Great, eh? Until it would randomly freeze. This was particularly distressing as that was what had forced me to abandon the earlier refresh in frustration. Just like I did about a year ago, I started down the path of replacing components to figure out the problem was.  I accepted that the power supply was good as it had been in use for over a year and was a solid brand right in the same Antec case, so no worries about electrical  shorts and extremely horrible power supply.  By using integrated graphics, the power footprint for the new media center PC should have been very tiny.

I was convinced that components shared with the previous failed media center build out where the culprits – that was limited to the CPU, heat sink and memory.

  • Changed out the heat sink. ¬†No change.
  • Changed out the CPU. No change. ¬†Ran PRIME95 for hours.
  • The old, failed setup was running better with a newer CPU. ¬†Picked up a used, newer CPU. ¬†No change. ¬†(the PC sat in the corner for a couple days here)
  • Ran memtest4 overnight, no issues. (memory checked out)
  • Plugged the PC right into a surge protector rather than the UPS. ¬†Now getting a “signal lost” freeze when watching TV.
  • Changed the tuner out for a different Hauppauge tuner. ¬†No change.
  • Replaced the power supply with a brand new one. ¬†No change.
  • Added in a ATI all in wonder 3650. ¬†BAM. ¬†Blue screen. ¬†Reinstalled Windows 7, same issue.

I had to think about this for a while. ¬†So, the only repeat part that was still in use from the previous, failed build was the damn ram. Replaced that, no more blue screen. ¬†Theory? ¬† The integrated graphics were using the RAM that was bad, hiding it from memtest. ¬† Tonight I am going to put that ram into a box that isn’t using integrated graphics and test it out.

Lesson learned? ¬†Dammit, maybe memtest doesn’t work with new AMD chipsets (as the memtest forums indicated)? ¬†Bleh. ¬†Too much wasted time.

–Nat