Category Archives: Discussion

Humanity is Good.

There are many, many events that make me doubt the goodness and the heart of humanity as a whole. Of course, this is definitely an over-generalization and there are definitely occurrences that make me realize that there are a lot of good people in the world.

I want to describe one of those occurrences.

If you do not know, I am currently employed at a Dining Hall here on campus. Although I have no interest in working in the food service industry, I thought that it would be a good experience getting to know the ins and outs of the businesses that so happily serve us food almost every day of our lives. So far, it has been a very rewarding experience, and I definitely recommend an employment in the food service industry to everyone who frequents restaurants.

Now, back to the story. I was working the cash register as usual. Everyone was diligently paying for their food and getting water cups. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then, a woman with sunglasses and a skateboard approached the cash register. Once again, nothing out of the ordinary. Then, she kindly offered to pay for the four customers after her in line, of whom she informed me she did not know. I’ve never experienced someone offering to pay for strangers before, so this was a transaction that I was extremely glad to make. I thanked the woman, told her how kind she was, and sent her on her way with her food.

The expressions of the people who had their food paid for were priceless. First, a look of awe and embarrassment. A poor man was under the impression that the woman had attempted to pay for his food as some sort of sign that she was interested in him. However, when he learned that the next person was also being paid for, he become less embarrassed and more appreciative of the gesture that this stranger had made. The next individual in line curiously waited to see if the person behind him was also being paid for, and when he realized that they were, he left. Whether this was because they knew eachother or that he was simply concerned that the person behind him would get the short end of the stick, I’ll never know.

The third person to be paid for did as expected: They take their prepaid food and left. The fourth person, however, did something that has inspired me to be a better person everyday. He asked me about the person behind him. “Is the person behind me’s meal paid for as well?”. Of course, I responded with a “No.” To this, the customer gladly stated that he would pay for the person behind him. Not only did this customer get a free meal, but he also cared enough about the people around him to make sure that he wasn’t the only one getting something for free.

This trend surprisingly continued for the next 10-or so people. Each one, after learning about their free meal, was immediately concerned with the status of the person behind them. After learning they hadn’t been paid for, they quickly offered to pay. Of course, there was bound to be someone who did not take the time to check on the person next in line, but the fact remains that a single act of gratitude, paying for the next four people in line, sparked a huge chain of people who were looking out for one another and taking care of each other’s meals.

This event made me extremely excited, and I immediately told my roommates about the event when I returned home. Inspired by it, my roommate actually decided to surprise me and pay for my laundry that night. In order to give back the good feeling, I decided to pay for someone elses’ laundry, to which they were very receptive, and we have become good friends.

This event has taught me that people, no matter how ignorant, arrogant, or self-centered they may seem, have a lot of good in them, and are very capable of accomplishing astonishing things. Because of this event, I am now inspired to look out for anyone else who may need help and immediately offer my assistance. On top of this, I think it’s a good idea to surprise people once in a while. I want to show those around me that I care about them.

Now I challenge you, reader, to go out and do the same. Pay for a stranger’s meal. Help a stranger carry something. Offer your aid wherever you think it could be useful. It could make someone’s day, start a chain reaction, and maybe change the world.

The Interesting Side-Effects of Evolution: A Brief Discussion

As a huge Randall Munroe fan, I pre-ordered his book What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. I have been reading it almost every night before bed, really trying to understand the science, math, and reasoning behind every one of Munroe’s responses. Although sometimes it is hard to decipher whether or not Munroe is being serious, all of his responses to submitted questions are both informative and entertaining.

One of the more interesting question-response pairs that I have read was entitled New York – Style Time Machine in which Munroe explores what New York would look like at various periods in time, including the distant past, past, future, and distant future. Although his explanations were very interesting, one line in particular stood out to me:

The modern pronghorn (American antelope) presents a puzzle. It’s a fast runner — in face, it’s much faster than it needs to be. It can run at 55 mph, and sustain that speed over long distances. Yet its fastest predators, wolves and coyotes, barely break 35 mph in a sprint. Why did the pronghorn evolve such speed?

When I first read this, I simply shrugged it off. “But of course! Everything evolves for a purpose.” It’s something we all learn in biology class. However, after reading it again, I realized that this quote demonstrates the true power of the analysis of evolutionary adaptations. For any trait that an organism possesses, there is a link to a need for that trait. This allows us to deduce what the organism’s world was, is, and will be like.

For instance, take a look at that hair on the arms of humans. It is present for a few reasons, but analyze it’s response to fear. As we are scared, the hair on our arms rises. Why is this? The commonly accepted answer is that it makes us appear bigger – making us more threatening to organisms who may want to prey on us or organisms that we may want to prey on. Currently, however, we are not common targets for predators. We have very little use of this evolutionary adaptation. So why does it exist? Its mere existence shows that in our past we were hunted. It shows that we have changed since then.

This kind of analysis does not only apply to us, but to every organism in existence. If there is a trait, there is a reason for its existence. Seemingly useless traits can provide powerful information into the organism’s past or present and how it has changed since then. Everything is constantly growing to handle the organism’s surroundings, and sometimes these changes give the organism such a large evolutionary advantage that it will outlast its original purpose and carry-on to be an “over-powered” advantage, just like the case with the Pronghorn mentioned by Munroe.

The world is constantly changing and it truly is a fascinating place.

Segregation In Technology: A Short Rant

For the past few weeks, I have been running Arch Linux on both of my machines. This switch was made because I was hoping for a little more adventure with my machines and a little more understanding of how Linux is setup. I have been very pleased with the decision. Not only is there a constant feeling that I made the right choice, but every single problem that I have run into has been fixable and feels great to fix.

Now, I will give a more detailed explanation of how big of an Arch Linux fan I am sometime in the future. For now, I would like to travel about 3 weeks into the past and take a look at when I was first installing Arch Linux. I decided to dual boot Windows 8.1 and Arch Linux so that I am still able to use my new gaming machine to play all of the newest games on Windows. During this install, I ran into minimal problems.

After everything was setup on both my laptop and my desktop, I noticed a quite unfortunate problem. On my laptop, when I booted into Windows, the system time was incorrect. (It was 5 hours ahead of my local time). On my Desktop, there was the same problem except that my Arch time was 5 hours ahead of my local time. For the first few days, my thought process was something along the lines of “No big deal; I can manage.” But after switching back and forth between my desktop and laptop, I found that it was hard to keep track of what operating system had the incorrect timestamp on either machine.

After doing some Googling, it wasn’t hard to find that this problem was due to the fact that Linux requires the BIOS system time to be set to GMT while Windows requires the BIOS system time to be set to an accurate local time. In order to fix the problem, one has to use an unreliable method to make Windows or Linux convert the BIOS time into their required time formats. Personally, after experiencing some problems with getting Windows to recognize the BIOS time as GMT, I decided to set my BIOS time to my local time and force Linux to handle the conversion.

After this small delay, I spent a good amount of time thinking about how many of these type of problems exist: when two different, yet very similar, things decide to use different standards that cause problems when trying to get things setup in coordination. Even though all of these technologies share the same functionalities, they go about the architecture design choices in completely different ways.

I like to call this the “Segregation in Technology” problem. As technology evolves, every creator of the new technology will attempt to make things better by making new decisions; however, any decision they make may go against the already established standards, and any time this happens, confusion is undoubtedly going to happen.

Another example of this type of problem that comes to mind is filesystems. Several popular filesystems are in existence (FAT, NTFS, EXT4); however, no operating system can seem to agree on which file system to use. What does this mean? When switching between these systems, some type of conversion must occur in order to access the files from another type of system. This becomes incredibly annoying, for instance, when trying to do large file transfers from my Windows machine to my Android phone, which causes problems because of the incompatibility between Window’s NTFS system and the SD Card’s FAT file system.

This very same problem was about to occur recently when ChromeOS announced that they would drop support for the EXT4 file system (Which is essentially the standard in all UNIX-esque systems). Of course, there was a large uproar from the community because of this, and Google revoked their previous announcement. Although the problem never occurred, the consideration for the drop of filesystem support by Google shows how easily the “Segregation in Technology” problem can manifest itself.

As time goes on, take time to notice pieces of technology that do not share standards (Hint: Pre-Lolli Android). If I were an old man who didn’t have the time to learn the ins-and-outs of the many forms of technology that exist today, I would not even attempt to use these devices in my daily life. I can see why most elderly folks don’t. I think that this problem of segregation is one of the largest problems in modern technology and its recent boom in the “Internet of Things”. What do you think?

CODE Keyboard: First impressions

Let me preface this post by saying that I am by no means a typer. I have never really took time to look into what keyboards were good, what keyboards I liked the best, or what keyboards allowed me to type the best. To further prove my point, all of my previous typing was done on the Microsoft Sidewinder X4, a keyboard that I am almost positive lacks merit in the land of keyboards that are “typing” boards.

The world of mechanical keyboards has interested me for quite some time now. Their clicky nature, their claims for faster speeds, the way that they feel while typing. Everyone always had good things to say about mechanical keyboards, and I’ve never had one. Thus, it only made sense that I got one. Following the recommendations of a few friends and of Jeff Atwood himself, I decided that I would go ahead and get the CODE keyboard without a number pad and with Cherry MX clear switches. What this meant, I had no clue. I was more than excited to get started.

I have been using this keyboard for about a day. So far, I love it. Typing feels great, the sound is very satisfying, and the amount of tactile feedback really is incredible. There is no question as to whether or not I hit a key or I just kinda-pressed it. The keys actually depress as you press them, and I think that’s awesome.

The CODE with LEDs turned off.

The CODE with LEDs turned off.

Build Quality

As far as the keyboard itself goes, it feels great. It’s a little on the heavy side, but I don’t think that anyone ever expects a keyboard to be comparable to a feather. After all, all it really does is sit on the desk. The material feels solid, the keys look beautiful, and the paint gives the keyboard a classic look when the LEDs are toggled off, but a beautiful modern look when the LEDs are toggled on. In fact, when I first opened the box for the keyboard, I was a little underwhelmed. Without knowing what it was, it looked just like a normal keyboard. However, as soon as I held it, flipped a couple optional switches, ran the USB wire in its dedicated slot, and began typing, I knew this was no ordinary keyboard. It felt great. It still does.

The Sound

One thing that always interested me about mechanical keyboards was their sound. They sound as if you’re actually typing. Because of that, I was very concerned when picking out a keyboard. Now, I know nothing about the different color switches and which ones are loud and silent and soft, but I wanted to make sure that the keyboard I got had a satisfying sound, while not keeping my roommates awake. This keyboard (with the help of the MX Clear switches) does exactly that. It definitely isn’t too loud, and actually doesn’t require the keys to “click” in order for them to be pressed. The most noise is produced when the keys are fully depressed. However, while typing one will quickly realize that isn’t necessary. A keypress is registered about halfway down. Thus, there is no need to actually “click” the key. Not only does this provide a non-irritating sound profile, but it also gives the typer a little bit of control as to whether or not they want to be a quiet typist or the most annoying computer user in the library (of course, this means that you would have to bring the keyboard with you to the library).

The Feel

So many people raved about this keyboard because they felt “pleasured” to type on it. It was relaxing and it felt great. Honestly, as someone who is not a typing enthusiast, I don’t feel much “pleasure”. So far, I find that it is actually fairly tiring typing on this device. Now, keep in mind that I come from the world of chiclet laptop keyboards, so I definitely do not appreciate the levels of effort required to type on such a well-built device; however, all of the wild claims about this being the “best feeling” keyboard ever made do not resonate with me. As of right now, at least, I do not feel anything special.

Of course, I am not trying to say that the device doesn’t feel good. It feels good. I enjoy typing on it because of its sleek design, it’s clicky-clack nature, and it’s beautiful LEDs. However, I do not think that I would find myself carrying this keyboard around because using anything else would be an abomination and a sign of disrespect to my fingers. If anything, my fingers will need a bit of a break after typing on this device for so long. However, for a typing enthusiast, I can definitely see how this device has potential to feel great. I just don’t notice anything super outstanding.

 

The CODE with LEDs turned on.

The CODE with LEDs turned on.

 

Overall, I am very pleased with my purchase. Keep in mind that I have only been using it for a day, so I can’t comment on much, but I am not suffering from any buyer’s remorse, which is always a good sign. If anything, this keyboard is making me want to type more and learn how to actually type properly (I currently type in a strange fashion where 75% of the keys are typed using my index fingers. I will work on changing this soon!) There will be more comments to come regarding the CODE keyboard!

On Dropbox’s Recent Announcement

First off, if you haven’t heard of Dropbox’s new Pro Plan announcement, see it for yourself here.

The Overview

In short, Dropbox has revamped its pro plan to add a couple new things.

  • There is now only one plan option: 1TB for $10/month
  • Shared links can now be password protected
  • Shared links can now be set with expiration dates
  • Shared links can now limit access to ReadOnly/Read+Write
  • Shared folders can now limit access to ReadOnly/Read+Write
  • Unlimited version history for a year

Analysis

It is clear that most of the items on this last are good for the consumer. Let’s take a closer look.

New Price Point

Dropbox seems to have lost their minds just a little bit. Previously, Dropbox was $10/month for 100GB of storage. This is a 10x increase in storage space for users who were already paying for the standard 100GB pro plan. This is a great deal for those who were reliant on Dropbox’s services.

I believe the reason that Dropbox was able to do this was because they realized that a large majority of their customers actually used less than their allocated limits. Thus, they figured that upgrading everyones’ limits would not hurt too much as most people won’t use up to 1TB of space. I doubt that Dropbox has enough storage space to actually house 1TB of files from every single user – but they were confident that not everyone would be utilizing the full 1TB of cloud storage. It is a little insane to put that much in the cloud, after all.

The interesting thing about this price point is that it does not change their base price at all. They still have their free version, but to upgrade from the free version you still need to fork over the $10/month. Thus, this recent pro plan change does not do anything to separate them from their competitors who might offer 100GB of storage for $5/month. Although 1TB/$10 is a pretty sweet deal, Dropbox is not going to be gaining any new customers who are hesitant to pay the $10/month fee.

The main competitor that Dropbox was going against with this price revision, I think, is Google Drive, who is known for their notoriously low price points. Combine these price points with Dropbox’s speed and native clients… that’s enough to make any existing Dropbox customer drool. But it makes me wonder how many old pictures are now going to be hogging all the hard disk space in Dropbox’s headquarters.

Upgraded Sharing

When sharing a file on Dropbox, it was obvious that there was a gap. When sharing from Google Drive, for example, the sharer had the ability to give the receiver specific permissions (whether they could only view, edit, or comment). Dropbox did not have this functionality, causing it to slump a bit when it came to sharing. Either you shared the file or you didn’t. Those were your only options.

With this new update, Dropbox is leveling the playing field just a tad. Just like Google Drive, sharers who use Dropbox to share their files can now specify what people can do with these files. This makes it much easier to collaborate on documents, something that Dropbox definitely didn’t have the functionality to do previously.

Expiration dates on links are a great touch, too. There have been numerous times when I want to share something with a coworker in that moment, but wanted the link to expire so the public could not see it after about 30 minutes. It would serve as a quick interaction between my colleague and I. Since usually I share code, I previously did this through Pastebin. However, now that Dropbox has the functionality natively, I will definitely start using Dropbox for this function.

I think this is a major win for Dropbox. The only downside? Maybe sharing files will take a few extra seconds to make sure that all the permission and expiration settings are correct. I think it’s worth the sacrifice, though.

Version History

Previously, Dropbox’s version history capabilities were only available to those who subscribed to their Packrat service, which provided unlimited version history for all files in the user’s Dropbox folder. Now, this functionality is available to all subscribers for a year.

Of course, Dropbox didn’t eliminate the Packrat service. For those who still want unlimited versioning history, users can opt-in to the Packrat service again, even though it has essentially disappeared from the public eye.

Being a subscriber of Packrat, I know that it can definitely come in handy. I think that this feature being available to everyone is great, as it is a perfect solution for when you’re coding and you forget to setup a git repository and something breaks. Dropbox has your back! (As long as you had an internet connection while creating and editing the files).

 

Summary

Overall, this upgrade is a major win for Dropbox customers. Although the amount of new customers it may lure in is questionable, it still provides existing customers with a huge slew of new features. I honestly don’t know how Dropbox is able to handle this much data (1TB for each pro subscriber as well as 1 year of backed up versioning history), but I think the primary reason is that not every subscriber will be utilizing the full 1TB of cloud storage space. I know that I probably won’t be.

If you’ve been hesitant to join the Dropbox Pro club, though, maybe this recent pro plan revision will convince you otherwise.