Saturday, May 17, 2014

My Impressions in 71 Minutes of CS:GO

I recently downloaded Counter Strike: Global Offensive about a week ago and have played it as much as possible with AP tests and qualifying for state track, aka 71 minutes as of today. I realize this is nothing compared to what most people spend on this game in the first week, and I have by no means mastered it yet, I have figured out quite a bit of it and I feel I can accurately say why I like it quite a bit more than other FPS games.

The first reason is because it is much more realistic strategy-wise. When I obsessively played Call of Duty (38 hours in my 4 months of owning it, just on multi-player), I always felt like there were serious flaws in designing strategy. It was fun because it was very much a run-n-gun game that was fast paced and gave me a rush when fighting at close-quarters. With CS:GO, I feel like it is much more realistic in terms of strategy. Its not quite like in Arma where you really need to preserve your life, but you are always using more strategy and caution, partly because you die for good until the next round in most game types as IGN says, and the ballistics is different. I have found that it is much more realistic in that it takes into account that a bullet is about as powerful no matter where it comes out of, so at close range, you're almost on the same level with any gun save a high-powered rifle. I always felt that I was almost surely dead if I was equipped only with a pistol in CoD. I could maybe bring a couple guys down before someone's firepower was more than my aim could compensate for.

I am also a bigger fan of the weapons. In CS:Go, you can join and be on about the same level as anyone else because you don;t have to unlock guns. Everybody starts out with random one and you can buy more in the actual game, as TechReport argues. I had a big problem in CoD where you had to level up for new weapons, so the more time you spent, not only were you more experienced, you also had vastly superior guns. The two things I do wish CS:GO had better gun customization so that I could have a little more interesting guns. The other thing I would like to see come is sights. It still feels really weird for me to be hip firing with every gun. I would much better aim down some sights, which is an option only available with certain weapons, which I am definitely not a fan of, especially coming off CoD where that stuff is essential.

on the whole, I find CS:GO much more enjoyable. I think it places much less emphasis on how long you've been playing and places that stress on how good you actually are. I appreciate that there is a game out there like this, though I do have some problems. I'm looking into buying Battlefield 4 and testing that one out to add onto the comparison, so if anyone has played this game and happens to read this blog, please comment on what you think of it compared to the two games I compared here.

Recent 3D Printing

3D printing is a technology that is on the up and coming, as its uses are increased faster than I ever imagiend they could be. 3D printing has been mentioned in the news recently for the very things I predicted could happen in a previous blog. This being said, I am going to gloss over some of the news and explain its effects here. It really is the future, as Harvard will tell you. The advent of really useful 3D printing is arriving with methods to print off useful things and to vastly improve how we make things now.

The first piece of news I read recently was perhaps the most interesting piece of new I've ever read on 3D printing. It was about colonizing Mars, and how they will build there since it will be hard to transport pre-built buildings to an alien planet. The current plan that is being developed and has had some success is to take dust from the planet, put it into a printer, and literally print buildings from dust, TechCrunch says. How cool is that? There won't be glass or steel on Mars right away, because it would be hard to carry that all the way from Earth, but we'll have buildings that were 3D printed from dust! They also went a little less into detail about how 3D printing is helping out in today's Earth construction. Apparently it is used extensively, parts of buildings and models are quite often just 3D printed now, which is very cool that the precedent for building is that high already, it just raises my hopes even more that there will be more consumer-based products like this in the future that will see integration into people's everyday lives.
Successful 3D Printed Plane
The second piece of interesting 3D printing news I've recently read is about weapons, the part of this technology that I am most worried about. In the most basic sense of this news, weapons are being made more and more for use in 3D printers as the hardware becomes more advanced. This is a scary topic because right now, people who shouldn't have guns are often deterred by traditional gun sellers, in a world of 3D printing, someone could pirate the schematics that they are barred from using as TechRepublic attests to or just design their own weapon. This is a scary prospect and alludes to an even bigger potential problem. This problem was one I recently discussed with a friend on how schematics will be regulated, because it is hard to stop someone from using a schematic downloaded once,  a lot of times. In other words, people could print multiple objects for themselves and friends after paying for the item only once and getting the plans. This problem is not likely to be addressed soon, and will likely be the first major problem when 3D printing comes to the consumer.
3D Printed Assault Rifle Designed Pistol
This technology is something that I have great hopes for in the future, as this technology moves to being able to be used everywhere, making everything more efficient. There are some significant problems I could see developing, which is not uncommon to technology as many probably know. Things are often never perfect at first, but I have full confidence that with the import of this technology, it will be dealt with promptly.


I started learning to code about 9 months ago, and I am now confident in Java, HTML, and CSS. I am now delving into learning how to code Android apps after I took a stab at it a couple months ago. Obviously coding is what I want to go into, I want to be a technological entrepreneur, but I don't think that coding should be something that just people who need it for jobs should be doing, and there is a lot of support behind this, everybody in tech agrees, and many outside are starting to endorse it, such as Obama himself. Here I will explain through my experiences what coding has helped me with, and why it should be much more emphasized in schools. It is important because it teaches critical thinking skills and allows you to keep up on operating a computer.

I was talking with a friend after the Computer Science AP test in Java. He's been coding for longer than me as his parents taught him at a young age, something my parents had no interest in teaching and I regret not having a start like his. He told me that over the years he has benefited greatly from coding because it taught him advanced problem solving and being able to think through complicated tasks, as Forbes confirms. From what I've done this year, I definitely agree. In Java especially, which is based around data, I had to teach myself to look at a task, and to think of a way to solve it ni every possible case. In a simple example, say you want to mulitply a given number by 2, unless the number is over 10, at which point you want to multiply it by 3. You have to learn to think of every possible value that could be put in and prepare for it in your code. It teaches very logical, wholesome problem-solving that I believe has really helped me in other areas of school. Math and physics are where it is most apparent. I have to use the same logic in order to solve math problems, and it has helped me to apply what I have learned better. Often times you are given an equation to handle, and don't usually go beyond that. This year my teacher has put those kinds of problems into our work, and it has been extremely beneficial to have known how to code and think like that beforehand, and not to just go through problems mindlessly.

The second reason coding is important for everyone is because it helps you stay up-to-date with computers. Just the interaction with computers and learning the terms you need is very helpful to all areas of electronics, because they all interact, and this is an important skill in the world today as Lauren Orsini says. I have been able to do so much more with computers and phones now than I ever have been able to before, and I attribute most of that to what I have learned in coding. Even for the average person, it is increasingly helpful to know computers. I know some people who claim, in high school, to being tech-illiterate, and it always amazes me. If people are having trouble now, what's it going to be like when they're 50 or before where most people start to get confused with the newer technology? In this day and age, having problems with basic technology is a very bad thing. Coding lets you stay modern with your understanding of technology, and for those looking for a job, will help your application out tremendously.

These observations are coming from me after very little coding compared to how much I doubtless have left in my life, but for me and countless others, just this little amount is incredibly beneficial. Just starting to code before college puts me ahead of an amazing amount of people because it is not emphasized at all. In the whole city, AP tests usually garner about 200 each, and at computer science there were 12 people. Please, learn at least a little bit of coding, and I promise it will pay off.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Apple's Acquisition

Apple has been buying up companies like they are packs of gum lately. Most of them are probably companies that you haven't heard of, because they are more infrastructure apps that Apple brings in instead of having to create their own. These acquisitions are all in the millions (low, I know) but Apple has put forth the largest acquisition attempt in the company's history, offering to pay $3.2 billion for Beats by Dre headphones. And here's why I believe this could ruin the company: It will lose the only legitimacy it was holding on to.

This deal, which will make Dr. Dre the first billionaire in hip-hop, is a huge deal for not just the etch world, but everybody who has ever seen Beats headphones, basically everyone, because what you see is probably going to change. Mac Rumors cites analyst Gene Munster, who questions the motives of this deal. The actual hardware in Beats is nothing special, so Apple is buying just the brand, something they have never done before. They have a very exclusive brand already that they normally don't like to taint by being associated with the brands they buy. This could be one precursor for the downfall of Beats as a brand as it loses its independence to Apple. One thing that was so attractive about Beats was that they were perceived as being personally inspected and approved by the rap legend Dr. Dre. The fact that Dre is getting a majority of the money in the deal, he has a good chance not to be even involved in the company anymore. I believe that this, mixed with the fact that although Apple owns it, I don't think it will adopt the Apple effect, at least anytime soon. I think the brad will tank, but I could be wrong considering not much has changed in design and they've still sold. In fact, this could turn out the exact opposite way: two companies who are primarily known for their brand as a status symbol will combine into one non-innovating powerhouse. Wonderful.

So there's my opinions on the acquisition of Beats by Dre that is likely going to happen within the next week. It could go either way for Beats, but I really think its a bad thing for Apple. It hurts their brand and their reputation as an innovative brand. I've never been a fan of Apple or Beats, and this is just a conglomeration of these two.


Friday, May 9, 2014

New Focus on New Energy

Obama in Mountain View, CA
Solar power has been an energy creation medium that has been around for years, being used for the first time in the early 20th century. The problem was that with the huge amounts of nonrenewable resources, over the years there was just no economic reason to pursue solar power to become more efficient. That may change majorly as of today after Obama's visit to Silicon Valley. The odd part about this was that he visited a Wal-Mart, as Silicon Valley Business Journal says, as opposed to the normal venue of Google or Facebook. He was there to commend Wal-Mart on their decision to add solar panels to all of their stores in order to create a  much more self-sufficient store. This also heralded Obama's newest plan to increase renewable energy, focusing on solar energy, which could be the push towards renewable energy the world needs.

There have been several other places where presidents have tried to increase energy production through renewable sources, and many missed opportunities to get some real force behind the movement such as in the immediate wake of 9/11. Right after that tragedy, he could have mobilized the great feeling of patriotism and the fear to leech the United States off the oil dependence that caused the growth of the Middle Eastern terrorist movement in the first place, as Thomas Friedman suggested. Obama is now proposing a new plan to make the country more green as whole, focusing on developing cheaper and more efficient forms of solar power. I really think that this time its been rolled out at the right time to actual get a lot of traction and progress. The most obvious reason is that we're really having problems with energy, as the amount of resources we have available to us goes down constantly, driving prices up. Most people notice this in gasoline, which isn't horrible, but I bet its going to get a critical level of support from the public who would rather not deal with rising energy costs. Obama has introduced this in my opinion too late, which is partially the fault of other presidents, but at least we're getting around to it before its too late. Many private companies have been pursuing this technology for years, but without a huge market necessarily. I believe that having the government planted firmly behind the initiative for renewable energy could jump start progress that has been laying idle right on the brink of discovery for years.
Obama visiting solar farm
As US News reports, the White House is kickstarting its campaign for clean energy with the addition of solar panels to the top of the White House after they were taken off in the late 1900s. This initiative is something that will actually work because it will have more than enough support from the public to become a legitimate movement to replace the source of where we get our energy.

Why I Don't Regret My Computer in the Slightest

I've had my computer that I built for over a month now, enough time I think to determine my opinions and whether I think it was worth it. In short, it most certainly was. I spent a lot of money on it, about $900 total, and a little money on games as well, and I don't think I've made a better purchasing decision. This computer is able to do anything I want it to at any time, I can relax, and more importantly, I can work at a high level.
The first thing that I like to do with my computer is to relax. There's the obvious stuff like Netflix and Youtube that run on any computer, which I utilize quite often. Then there's the gaming. I went with a pretty high end graphics card that costed about $270. Extreme Tech confirms that in addition to the graphics card I bought, a self-built computer generally runs better, especially for gaming. I have played about 8 hours of  Bioshock Infinite, which is a very fun game with a sophisticated plot line that makes it much more interesting than just your normal shooter. I have also been playing the ever-addictive Civilization V and  am just starting Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. I haven't had a lot of time lately with AP tests, but when I have a chance I enjoy playing all of these games, although at this point I am way out of my league in Counter-Strike. I haven't played FPS games for months and I'm new to the whole series, so it puts me at major odds to the veterans of the game, which will hopefully change with time. To relax I am also much more comfortable just when surfing the web for interesting things. The speed I have in y computer is very convenient, especially compared to my old laptop. That was pretty slow and had a small screen, making everything much harder to do. The most amazing thing to me was that I didn't even notice how restricted I felt by that laptop. I feel this weird feeling of power with my own powerful desktop.
Bioshock Infinite
The other part of my desktop is the working. I alluded to this a little in the last paragraph, but I feel much more exploratory with my desktop. I am much more empowered I feel to code and learn more code to further prepare for my career. It has also helped my preparation for AP as well. I can easily check the College Board website, fill out practice tests, and read the sample essays from years past. This sounds a little weird, but I also feel more confident going into important academic situations, like I built a computer, I can handle this! Weird feeling, especially considering its not much of an accomplishment. In addition to hardcore learning it is great for casual nightly homework. Having a powerful computer means I can easily multitask, which is sometimes bad if my mind wanders and I get too involved in one topic. I do like how I can play music, have multiple Chrome tabs up, download music, monitor game forums, check e-mail, and write documents all at the same time without having to load each one separately each time I switch. Its a great feeling to have so much running and to have your computer be able to handle it.

Building a computer was a step in my technological interest that I thought could be one I really regretted. After enough time to figure it out for sure, I do not at all, I love the ability it has granted to me to be able to function at a higher level and to finally have a computer that works much faster and almost on pace with what my brain is thinking. So I'll end this by reiterating what I said in an earlier post, which is that everyone should build a computer sometime in their loves. I may never buy a desktop again!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Illegal Torrenting

I posted awhile ago about torrenting, which in case you don't want to read that is basically a fast way of downloading something taking small pieces from many different users and assembling them into one file. As you can imagine, there's quite a  bit of copyright infringement in this set-up, as many movies, TV shows, and paid software are available for download. This isn't just random stuff too, you can get any movie, any TV show, almost any piece of paid software you want, which as you can imagine is a major problem for law enforcement. Popcorn Time is what I will be talking about mostly here, because it has made the act of illegality less illegal in your head then it normally is.

Before I start this I will say first that BitTorrent is a very good piece of technology and it can be used with no harm to you or to people with copyrighted content. I will also say that if you want to illegally torrent movies, unless you are a heavy user, you probably won't get caught, because the sites that supply the torrent links aren't even commonly harassed by law enforcement, and much less the thousands of users. That being said Popcorn Time seems like even less of an illegal program as Digital Trends says.It has a Netflix-type look and they promise that the files will be hid in a secret folder on your computer where you can't even find them easily. The program itself looks almost exactly like Netflix and uses a similar playback program, unlike a normal torrent where you would open a file that was downloaded. What they don't tell you is that there is something in BitTorrent called leeching and seeding. Leeching is a person who takes a small part of another's (a seeder's) file, and through taking millions of those small pieces get the information much faster. Alll of that is to say that that gives you away as someone who downloaded that file, so it's not quite as safe as Popcorn Time would lead you to believe. People are often fooled by this, which is why this is a bad deal for movie producers as TechCrunch reports, as people can sue this and not even necessarily know it's illegal, I had to do some research to find out if it was legal or not myself.

Popcorn Time is the easiest way today to pirate movies and TV shows, and will probably actually continue to be a running site with many users, despite its being shut down by the government once. In my opinion, this is the first step in a radical changing of the movie industry, that could actually use this technology for their own benefit, but which at this time is really hurting them. And a quick disclaimer to protect myself here, please don't illegally torrent things.

Amazon's Relentless Push in Hardware

If you've ever read any of my blogs or talked to me almost at all about technology, you will find that even though I love the "traditional" Amazon I absolutely hate their hardware. Luckily, they recovered my opinion with the Fire TV, which was actually better than I expected it to be when I first heard of it. Now Amazon has created their own phone set to debut this summer, and it has again hurt my opinion of them, especially since it reportedly runs on a similar version of Android as their Kindle tablets. These phones will sell because of Amazon's name on them, but their software will continue to be substandard and their hardware will be ruined by it.

To start out with the software, VentureBeat confirms that it is likely to be a very similar software model as Kindle tablets. I have always hated Amazon's software, I think that it is the only thing that makes their otherwise stellar devices so unyielding when using it. It is hard to navigate, and I have told that to just about anyone who cares to ask on my opinion on their software. Where they could hit a home-run with this phone is just to put a stock version of Android on there, like the Moto X or Nexus 5 and use the undoubtedly good specs that it will have. As it stands, it is supposed to have some cool gesture-related features that could be interesting and a definite game-changer for that yet unexplored facet of technology. Other than that, I believe Amazon's phone will be about as amazing as their tablets on the software side, which is to say, not very.

On the other side of every tech product, the hardware, they might actually be able to recover a bit. As they usually do, the phone is likely to be running the latest Qualcomm processor and a couple GB of RAM, the usual for phones. In addition, from the leaked photos out right now, the phone seems to be a mix of the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy as Gizmodo speculates, which could prove to be very beneficial. Many customers are debating between the two phones, so to incorporate parts of the designs of each phone was a good choice on Amazon's part. This would allow those on-the-fence customers to have a phone that they like a little bit more. Of course, these are leaked photos, so even though it is likely that they are, they might not be photos of the actual phones, so on the hardware end my opinion is tentative.

All of that being said, I think that Amazon will sell quite a few of these phones, simply because it is from Amazon, much like how everyone buys anything with the Apple logo on it. If they changed their software I would be a huge fan, but as of right now I am relegating it to where almost every other Amazon product has gone, the graveyard of valiant attempts with one major flaw.

Technology Copyrights

One of the bigger patent infringement cases in history just ended yesterday, the one between Apple and Samsung. The judge ruled that Samsung infringed on the Apple's patents, ruling on the slide-to-unlock feature, the ability to open one app from another, and autocompleting words as reported by engadget. These seem like fairly common features that have to be in all phones, which brings into question how do technology patents work? Does the similar camera design on two phones deserve the labeling of patent infringement? If it does, how many different "types" of separate patent-worthy designs are there? This case, especially with is verdict, calls into question the traditional method for of technology patents because features can be very similar in many cases.

A quick overview of the features ruled on if you haven't heard of any of them yet or haven't ever used them. slide-to-unlock was a feature that came first on Apple phones, then was used in a different fashion in many Android phones. The ability to link two apps together again was created by Apple, and used by Samsung (among others) later as developers started using it. The third was a minor ruling, the autocomplete of words. This feature starts predicting what words you are going to type while you are typing it. The problem I have with this ruling is that none of those features save maybe slide to unlock was something I think that Apple had an exclusive right to using. Linking two apps together is a fairly common feature for many developers, so the fact that Samsung used this feature after Apple is not necessarily fair. I am grossly over-simplifying here, but by that logic it seems that Apple, just because they've been in the smartphone business for longer, could just use all kinds of technology that they have the exclusive right to just because they developed it first. I would agree with this for some things, like software features or a special motion-sensor or something, but for very common components of technology it should not apply. The Guardian reports that this is the same attitude Samsung has (ironically because they also sued Apple over patent infringement) saying, "They felt as if they could not compete in the smartphone market without unfairly copying Apple's flagship product".

All this reporting and opinion on intellectual rights is basically me saying that patent laws should be changed, because $120 million to Apple for technology that was crucial to survive as a company int the market is ridiculous. Many believe Apple was trying to do this just to suppress the up-and-coming Android platform, though it showed the entire world of technology just how big the issue of intellectual property in technology actually is.

*Side note: That is in fact an old picture, because Apple sued Samsung way down the lines several years in history for their patent infringements, on phones that neither company even makes anymore