The online home for Greg Leedberg, since 1995.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Honored and confused

I was supposed to go on a whale watch this Saturday, but it got cancelled because of the hurricane. And that was gonna be such a good blog entry! :) I might have even posted a picture of a whale! Oh well. I might still be going to Boston for the day, we'll see I guess.

In other news, I was offered membership in Pi Mu Epsilon. PME is a mathematics honor society. I'm above average at math, I guess (it seems sometimes you have to be in order to be a computer science major) but I never thought I was honor society good at math. I think I'm going to do it... I don't have tons of free time this year, but any time that I can devote to it would be good, I think. If nothing else, I could meet some new people, and maybe learn a little more about math :) And one more honor society never looks bad on a resume, either, for what that's worth. PME seems to be pretty active -- contrast that with Golden Key and Sigma Alpha Lambda... two other honor societies I'm "in", but haven't done anything with so far. Active or not, it's an honor to be in an honor society.

As it should be, I guess. :)

I'm liking my artificial intelligence class so far, but at this point we have only really been learning LISP. LISP is a strange language, if you ask me. I'm grasping it fine, but still am not sure if I like it. It's functional, like SML, but not nearly as elegant. It's more elegant than C/C++, but not nearly as powerful (as far as I can tell). It has the potential to be object-oriented, like Java, but feels more like the OO aspects were all tacked on too late in the game -- which, I believe, they were, in fact. Oh well, interesting to learn about and every new language a programmer learns makes them a better programmer, in my opinion. I'm also learning Perl. Which is sort of neat in its own way.

Also, a funny anecdote. I tried e-mailing a virus scanning tool to someone today, who was using Outlook to receive it. Now, Outlook is the *cause* of just about every virus out there, because it chooses to run just about any code that comes through it. But of course, when the virus tool was received, Outlook refused to save it, saying it was "potentially unsafe." Virus scanner = unsafe, Viruses themselves = a-okay. Sometimes I feel using Windows is like Bizarro World in the Superman comics, and this is a fine example of that. Windows is one of the biggest, most bloated operating systems ever, while Notepad is the smallest, most useless text editor I've ever seen. Users get treated like potential criminals every time they try to access "C:\Windows" on their computers, but viruses can delete that whole directory without problem. You have to click "Start" to shutdown. Windows XP ships with a firewall, but disables it by default. I have a headache now... :)

OK, relaxing tonight...

Monday, September 15, 2003

Big day yesterday!

Well, yesterday was a big day.

I released Billy 4.0 (finally), which I have been designing for over 2 years, and programming, in some form, for about a year. It was actually somewhat emotional for me, as this project has been a big part of my life for so long now -- no other version of Billy was in development for nearly as long.

But it was a happy occasion, as well. It feels good to design something that is beyond you at the time, and then keep at it and follow through and actually see the project get finished and released. And, to wit, it had a somewhat successful opening day -- there were 331 recorded downloads yestersday, and Billy was only posted at around 1pm. Not too bad.

But it was indeed crazy. I had been testing Billy 4 for about a week prior, by giving it out to just three of my friends. Between the three, they had Windows 98, 2000, and XP Home covered (and I myself have XP Professional). They managed to find 2 significant bugs that I had not seen until that point -- one of which was a crash bug, ew. Good thing I tested.

Then, at about 10pm on Saturday (the eve of the release) I was playing around with "Beta 2" of Billy 4.0 at my girlfriend's, and discovered that:

1) The section numbering in the manual did not come out right when viewed under Opera 7. Instead of numbering correctly (1, 2, 3, 4, ...), each section was numbered within its own sub-list, so the numbering to the user was 1, 1, 1, 1, ... and so on.

2) If you restarted Billy (File | Restart), after he prompts for your name, there was no USER> prompt.

3) There was one sentence in his mind file that kept causing *really* strange responses to be generated.

and 4) I had spelled "chatting" as "chating" in the welcome dialog that displays the first time you run Billy.

Now, I got back home around midnight or so, and had a big decision. Do I push back the release, try to fix the bugs, or leave them be? I did NOT want to push it back, I had all the history files and web pages already written with 9/14 entered (and at any rate, it's already been over 2 years since the last version of Billy... I can't wait any more!). For a short amount of time, I had decided to just release it with those known bugs, and follow up with a 4.01 release soon thereafter.

But then I remembered how much it stinks to get a newly released program on opening day, only to find it riddled with bugs. I just couldn't live with myself if I went down the Microsoft path, and released it with bugs I knew about but could possibly be fixed with a little work.

So, I stayed up till 1:30am, redoing all three manuals (Billy, Advanced Billy, and Link shell), fixing the little restart bug, correcting the spelling mistake, and removing that one sentence (which entailed re-generating the default mind file). Then it was time for bed.

I got up the next morning, tested the new Billy a little, had my girlfriend install this "Beta 3" to make sure it worked on non-development systems, and then released it at around 1pm, just 12 hours after I had been cramming to fix bugs. And I celebrated with a Mountain Dew.

Ah, it feels good to achieve a goal. Especially one which requires writing a 10,000 line AI program... ;-)

Now, go try it!

Saturday, September 13, 2003

You heard it here first...

Tomorrow is the day.

Tomorrow Billy 4.0, the product of years of work, will be released to the public.

You'll be able to get it here.

That is all... :)

Thursday, September 11, 2003

What's senior year of college like? Well...

I haven't done too much yet this year to really talk about, but it has already turned out to be a BUSY year.

My Object-Oriented class has just a much of a workload as I had heard. We've already had a design exercise and a Java program which is due tomorrow (I'm done, though... I think). And my AI class has already assigned 400 pages of reading, in addition to a program in Lisp... guess I'll have to learn Lisp real quickly. And my Electrical engineering class has already started tough homeworks and labs. My philosophy of religion class is fun, though, and not too much work.

The program I'm writing for my CS department is starting to get interesting, though. I'm starting to get as excited about it as I get about my own programs, which is a good sign. It's weird to think that a program I'm writing will actually be used in an important setting, and will continue to be used possibly for years to come. Actually, weird was the wrong word -- that's scary. But at least I finally ended up an internship-like job where I can actually build skills and experience that will help me in the real world -- and get paid at the same time.

I grew a goatee, as well. Don't know if I'll keep it yet. My facial hair is weird: My hair is dirty blond. and so is most of my facial hair, except on my chin, where it's dark dark black. I don't know if that makes me look unique with a goatee or just strange and dirty. We'll see.

I'm off to lunch and to pass in my first timesheet to the computer science department... exciting times!

Thursday, September 04, 2003

The start of a senior year

Classes have started. It's senior year, so the classes are going to be very hard, but at the same time, they will be classes that I should hopefully actually care about. I have no classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays (yay!) but more than make up for it by going from 8am to 9pm on Wednesdays. Ouch. A quick overview of my classes:

Object Oriented Methodology: Should be interesting. All about designing OO programs. I feel good about my sense of OO right now, but this should solidify what I (think I) know.

EE: A second EE course. I forget the name. It's the hardware side of the CS assembly language course, which I loved. So, this one should be interesting. I've heard the teacher is hard, but I've heard that before and have always made out just fine. So we'll see.

Philosophical aspects of religion: I love philosophy! If I had the time, I would have minored in it. This is a freshmen-level course I'm taking as an elective, so it shouldn't add much to my workload. This is also the first class my girlfriend and I have ever taken together, which makes me look that much more forward to this class every day ;-) And the teacher seems pretty interesting, too. Unfortuantely he says that participation means a lot to him, and I've never really said anything in any class, ever. Ick.

Artifical Intelligence: Now THIS is the class that is the cornerstone of my senior year. I have been looking forward to taking this since, like, senior year of high school. The teacher seems really good with this stuff, and most of the topics that are mentioned in the syllabus are ones I've touched upon with Billy and Daisy or have at least read about. And our "final" is an AI project we design and develop at the end of the semester. Sweet.

Another cool thing is that my CS professor from last semester (who also happens to be my advisor) has offered me a job with the CS department, developing a program to grade SML and Java programs for one of the junior-year courses. I couldn't pass this offer. It was an honor to be approached about it and it seems like a genuinely interesting project, and a good experience. Hopefully I'm up to the challenge :)

Also, my girlfriend and I registered to take the GRE today. Now I guess I have to do it. Yikes.

OK, so it's not THAT late but I'm pretty tired for some reason and have to get up at 6:40 tomorrow morning, so this is it. If there's lots of spelling/grammar mistakes, you know why. Someone, post a message in the message board, okay? Discuss... something. :)

Monday, September 01, 2003

A long ResNet weekend

Well, I am back online now. Keeping up to date with Slashdot, e-mail, and world news... in that order.

No entries lately because my ResNet job (network tech support) has been keeping more than busy enough. We trained for 3 days, and then the freshmen moved in. That is the day I dread the most -- we start at 8am roaming dorms around campus. At that time in the morning, everyone is just moving in and most haven't set up their computers yet. Which sounds like it would be a nice break, BUT, that just means that you have to walk around nonstop. At least if someone had a problem, you could sit down to work on it.

After lunch, though, the fun starts. Now everyone has set up their computers and some find that they can't get online. I spent the afternoon in one of 2 massive twin tower dorms that exist mostly for freshmen. Ten floors. Lots of people who have never put a computer on a network before. Which is understandable. At least that means most of the problems are relatively easy. Except for a few standout problems, like disabled NICs for which the person has no drivers. I don't mind though, challenges are fun.

After dinner, I did a sweep of the largest dorm on campus, and knocked off quite a few problems. I stopped working at 8pm. Twelve hours. But that brings us to one of the nice things about opening weekend -- long hours mean lots of money.

Then on Sunday we focused on trying to finish up the freshmen problems before the upperclassmen moved in, which brings us to today. Today was actually uneventful -- the upperclassmen have all already been on campus and so any problems they'd have, they've probably already had.

Now, actual classes start tomorrow. I'm lucky, I have no Tuesday classes, so my first day can be spent sleeping and recovering from the long hours worked this weekend.