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Dear Reader,

NEGC-Logo-Large-768x263

I am at year # 9 of   New England Give Camp.  Over the years, Give Camp has become my haven of hope away from the daily, screaming problems of the world.  I bury myself in working for good and remind myself that the good outnumbers the bad.  It rejuvenates my soul.

This year’s organization is Project Giving Kids. logoProject Giving Kids is all about connecting busy kids and families to fun, meaningful and age-appropriate service activities through a unique website and app experience. Project Giving Kids started with a color wheel full of causes kids care about, and the belief that kids could be powerful drivers of the entire process.

I have always believed in the abilities and power of children as strong, contributing members of our society.  stock-vector-children-volunteering-in-the-farm-garden-322541219My nieces and nephew helped me pick out clothes, become more tech savvy and introduced me to Facebook.   Seeing children courageously and tirelessly work for a world where terrorists and bullies are not the norm reminds me why we are all here.

Rock on!

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Dear Reader,

After a long hiatus, I have returned to blogging.  I’m taking a bit of a 'The boss wants me to create a computer algorithm that can convert hindsight into foresight.'departure from writing about technical issues for the average reader and focusing on a more technical subject in this post.  As a part of my studies at the University of Rhode Island for my BS in Computer Science, I’m taking CSC 440: Design and Analysis of Algorithms, an advanced programming class about how to make efficient use of the hardware resources in computers.  The teacher has chosen Python so he can provide frameworks to work in for projects.  The exercise for the student (me and my classmates) is in choosing / setting up a dev environment to work in.

So far, none of my coursework required me to code in Python so I emailed my teacher for advice.  His recommendation is to code from the command line.  Further, he said that Python release 2.7.14 was the most stable and least likely to case me issues while doing coursework.  Since Windows does not natively support Linux and Python, I knew I would have to do a bit of configuration work.

The last time I used Linux on a PC was about ten years ago – the days of Windows XP and Windows Vista using a virtual machine environment or a dual boot setup.  I quickly discovered the shiny new toy that Microsoft has created!  Googling Windows 10 and Linux led me to the Windows Subsystem for Linux.  “The Windows Subsystem for Linux lets developers run Linux environments — including most command-line tools, utilities, and applications — directly on Windows, unmodified, without the overhead of a virtual machine.”

So the question remained: should I use the Windows Subsystem or install Python and run it in Windows directly?  My first instinct was to run on Windows without the Linux subsystem.  Why create the added overhead and more complexity if it was not necessary?  I researched a bit further by googling Windows 10, Python and had more emails with my teacher.  The collective vote among URI faculty was to utilize the subsystem.   My teacher felt that the subsystem would be configured to run Python and would work much better.  He said that Python didn’t download to Windows very well.

The next item on the agenda was to research Linux distros to find the one I wanted to work with.  It turns out I wound up wasting a bit of time on this exercise.  The Linux distros for this environment are limited; however, the results of my research are interesting so I will mention it in this post.  Another google search led me to “The Best Linux Distributions for 2018” and “The best Linux distros for developers in 2018“.  Since this blog post came from the Linux website and was a trusted source, I decided not to research the original data to save myself time.  For those interested, I’ve listed the sites in the notes at the end of this post.  The choices were overwhelming so I Tweeted and emailed.  My teacher recommended Ubuntu and that is one of the distros that Microsoft has added to this feature.

My machine is  a Dell Insprion 15 – 5568 and the build version is well-supported as I’m running the most recently updated version of Windows 10.

Specs

I decided to follow the instructions in MSDN and ran into problems right away.  I needed to enable the Windows Subsystem for Linux and reboot.  I opened a command window as directed and typed the command.  The system wouldn’t recognize it.  I copied and pasted the command.  Still no luck.  I decided not to troubleshoot that problem due to the semester starting in less than a week.

One of Microsoft’s enduring qualities is that they never have just one way of doing things.  I found an older blog post from when the Subsystem was in Beta release and I manually set my computer to developer mode and enabled the Linux Subsystem via the control panel and rebooted.  After the fact, I decided to troubleshoot the failed command.  It turns out that the directive in the MSDN docs was to use the Windows PowerShell not the CMD terminal window.  I opened the PowerShell and typed the previously failed command.  It ran successfully, but required no system reboot because of my previous work.

The next task was to download Ubuntu.  This was a very simple matter of going to the Windows Store and downloading and running the app I needed.  The install of Ubuntu went seamlessly.

Time to make sure Python was functioning for use.  Contrary to the collective
information, typing “python” and “python2” at the command line resulted in downloadrebukes from the OS.  It WAS familiar with “python3”.  Since my teacher recommended python2 and they could both safely run in the same enviornment, I went about downloading python2.   I found Tim Reilly’s Blog post “Python with Ubuntu on Windows”  and used those intructions.  I paused to do some additional reading along the way on what Python virtual enviornments were and why they were necessary.  I downloaded and installed PIP to manage packages for Python.  I was able to open a Python virtual enviornment, enter the Python enviornment and write instructions from the command line.  With the install completed and successful, I left the other packages as an exercise for another day.

The next order of business would be to work through some Python tutorials; however, that is another story for another time.

Comprehensive information on Linux Distributions:

https://lwn.net/Distributions/
https://distrowatch.com/


Dear Reader,

To my great shock it has been over a year since my last blog update.   My return is inspired by my ong12191934_10207654778633334_5611895828087000928_noing volunteer work with WelcomeNew England Give Camp – aka “How 100 Geeks Form A Perpetual Motion Machine”  Six years and going strong!

This year I had the opportunity to work with The Mystic River Watershed Association! untitled Additionally, I had the distinct privilege of serving as project manager again.   I had an awesome team to work with and they deserve mucho kudos!  Nothing is more rewarding than being able to contribute to the ongoing work towards recovering and preserving the Mystic River Watershed and having a dedicated, talented group to work with.

It was a wonderful weekend filled with hard work, education, and inspiration.   The hard work speaks for itself.   I learned a lot about our natural river watershed in the process and some of the flora and fauna.  Until this weekend, I thought Alewife was the end of the line stop on the Red Line in Boston.   An alewife is a fish and its common name is said to come from comparison with a corpulent female tavernkeeper (“ale-wife”).  My inspiration always comes from the dedicated non-profits we work with.   They devote themselves all year long to work that I’m unable to do myself.  Knowing that I am able to make a difference to them and to those they benefit is reward enough for a weekend out of my life.

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Dear Reader,

Exploration and Innovation have previously been the domain of Universities and Governments marshaling their collective resources.  How does humankind’s drive to colonize Mars in the digital media age take shape?   In the form of a reality show.   Yes, you heard right, Reality show.

It is possible to think that television has been lost in the sea of digital media, but apparently not.   From its inception, television has been leveraged to communicate, bring us together as a digital society, and socially engineer our future selves.   Presidents became closer to mainstream America, we share entertainment, atumblr_mqxvemvpsO1r01w8mo4_1280 (2)nd we witness events as a nation. We all held our breath while Apollo 13 was clinging tenaciously to life.  Broader still, other countries share our adventures into television media.  Although television now has rivals in the Internet, Cell Phones, and Tablets, television has grown to be a dominant force in our global community.

Television with the onset of reality programming has provided  Mars One‘s entrepreneur,  Bas Lansdorp, with the means to finance his dream of colonization of Mars.  Mars One is a non-profit organization working towards the goal of colonizing Mars with the first four people by 2023.   Working within our current technology, Bas, is currently seeking volunteers to go on a one-way trip to Mars.   If anyone ever told you to “Get Lost!” this is the way to do it.

As immediate as 2016, the project will be capable of unmanned demonstration.  The Mars One website showcases a complete list of FAQ’s including the business model, cost of the project, and its feasibility.  Its creator has managed to recruit an incredible amount of support including a Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist, and world-wide suppliers for all the technical resources they will need.

The Journal of Cosmology said, “…, to attain it [an outpost on Mars] would require not only major international cooperation, but a return to the exploration spirit and risk-taking ethos of the great period of Earth exploration, from Columbus to Amundsen, but which has nowadays been replaced with a culture of safety and political  correctness.” in an article exploring the proposal in 2010.   That article goes on to analyze the potential challenges faced in such a venture.

NASA’s footage of Mars Moons passing each other from the Mars surface is beautiful.   There are individuals willing to take the risks involved in a one-way trip to Mars to be able to witness this firsthand:

This will be an epic media event.   mars-one-childrens-t-250The entire worldwide community will watch these events unfold.   Bas Lansdorp has thought of everything.  Where would any pop media event be without T-Shirts?


cloud-computing (2)Dear Reader,

I remember when the internet was on college machines, text-based only, and you could go get a cup of coffee while your conversations scroll up the screen at 1200 symbols per second (baud).  At the University of Rhode Island, if Brown U was down so was URI.   Human nature then was what it still is today.   Remove all the flash and dazzle of parallax scrolling, quad core computing and terabytes of information, and you still have people at the heart of the machines.

So it came as no surprise to me that people tried to hack each other’s accounts, tried to phish for information, blackmailed others, took down servers, or otherwise tried to commit mayhem on a digital scale.  Technology was advancing, not human nature.  The thing with technology crimes is that generally they require more intelligence than a hit-and-run robbery making the criminals more difficult to catch.

For quite aimagesCAMYXG9Nwhile,  I believed the cloud culture to be more fluff than fact – inherently prone to data break-in and server crashes resulting in data loss and unreliable services.   Something for large companies to take risks with for business needs and  Cloud Computing News has extensive articles examining ideas crucial to businesses in the cloud.   Then I got a smart phone.   Between the phone and my home computer, the value of the cloud became apparent.  For a techy, I’m a bit of a latecomer to the cloud.   However, coordinating across devices IS a problem without the cloud.   Some have USB ports, some don’t.  Some are not compatible with others or your friends’ or colleagues’ machines.   He has an Apple … you have a PC ..  they have a Galaxy …   You have an Android tablet … and so it goes….

Apple has iCloud to coordinate, but it doesn’t play well with others – if at all.   To be honest, as I’m becoming more than passing acquaintances with my iPad I’m wondering how Apple gained the popularity it did.  (Anyone feel free to comment here on their behalf)  You can barely multitask, there are bugs just as with any other piece of equipment, and the security is a poor step-child to PC security.

PCs have a variety of cloud applications to coordinate – DropBox, EverNote, and software to create and run your own personal cloud Tonido.

As time has gone by since I’ve been active on the internet, I have realized that the amount I’ve been hacked has been extremely scarce.   One of my accounts was hacked and spamming friends.   I changed the password and solved the problem.   That was it.   Any viruses I caught was from downloading torrents.   I grew tired of repeatedly fighting off viruses especially after I caught a rootkit.  However, its under my control.   Run a good KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAvirus protector, create complex passwords, don’t put identifying information on the internet such as social security numbers, birthdates, and the like and you will most likely be fine.

So the old girl has learned new tricks.   I’m a fan of the Cloud after all.  I may even work to set up my own Cloud for fun.


images (3)Dear Reader,

Is social media the devil in disguise?

The ills of Facebook are legendary – the lack of privacy, cyber bullying, and abuse of personal information for sales.  Whether you are a fan of social media or not, it has become a part of our culture.

Media, social or otherwise, has long been controversial.   The US Constitution guarantees the freedom of the press in the First Amendment established in 1791.   The freedom of the press was universally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.   There have also been laws passed to prohibit abuses of these freedoms – libel being the most noted example.   The press has had some notable influence in the United States when the “checks and balances” system has suffered.  The rise of Joseph McCarthy to almost unassailable power in post-Nazi America in the ’50s was checked by Edward R. Murrow who pioneered broadcast journalism when television was new.   Murrow, on his show “See It Now” exposed McCarthy when the formal processes failed.

Like Edward R. Murrow with the use of new technology, will we allow social media to form us or will we form social media to our needs and best interests?

So what are the advantages of Facebook?   Among other things, my friends who regularly post to my wall are all media-savvy and I stay more up-to-date on the news than before.   I have found long-lost high school and college friends and I’m once again involved in their lives.   I keep up with my brother’s children who are all grown and leading their own lives now.   I keep up with distant family members as well.   Social media, like any other instrument of communication, is what you make of it.   I do not post anything on Facebook I do not wish to be public knowledge.   I take Facebook as the poor man’s advertising.   Your web personality is reflected in your posts.   No one can expect the cyber community to cyber-revolution-FINAL“know who I am” unless they make it clear.  The responsibility for one’s communication with the cloud community is on the individual.

The positive use of social networking is overwhelming – advances to business, professional networking, following trends, in addition to the aforementioned connection with friends and family.   Entire websites have come up to help people promote positive social change including Idealist and  Change.Org among a plethora of others.   The fact is that social good far outnumbers social bad.   The bad just attracts better headlines.

This post would not be complete without covering the topic of cyber bullying.  Cyber bullying iscyberbullying-2 an extension of bullying that has gone on forever.  Sadly, human nature has not advanced with technology and headlines love attention-getting stories.  “When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.”  was coined in the mid 1800s regarding this phenomenon.  How many of the headlines regarding cyber bullying go on in real life?  And are we giving it undue attention?  Cyber bullying will probably always exist in some form as real-life bullying has always existed.   Extensive measures have been taken to counteract this problem and will continue.

The challenges for the modern world really haven’t changed.   Employ critical thinking when absorbing information.   Is something shock journalism or serious journalism?  How accurate are the news stories being published and by what source?   What agenda drives the information?  Buyer beware.


Dear Reader,

I have always been a very average person. So how is it that I am innovating a new application for the educational field?  Magic?

Its actually nothing anyone else can’t do.  Its born of the fruits of hard work,  networking, marketing — all the work that anyone puts into building a career.  Plus, its seeking solutions to problems along the way.    20130810-131904.jpg

When I was running my own business and began running into difficulties, one of the representatives at SCORE explained that I had the ability to analyze where the gaps in my small business were and solve the problem. I’m no longer running my own business, but gap analysis enabled me to process this current dream into vision.  “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” is not just for Gen. George S. Patton in times of war, but for those of us entrepreneurs in difficult business environments.  Innovators are perceived as perfectionists. I decided that perfection is overrated – mostly because people are not perfect and never will be.   I never let flaws stop me from progressing or reassessing my strategy.

My cousin teaches at a full immersion school. The American children learn all their subjects in fluent French. She needs an application to take her vocabulary words and create a weekly puzzle for the children to play with. She currently creates this by hand and it takes hours.  She asked me to develop an application to create the puzzle for her.  When she gave me the specs for this, I immediately Googled to find previous work to use as a guide. Surprisingly, this has not already been developed. As I dug into the algorithms necessary for this project, I realized it was just a little beyond my current experience.

Do I give up? Not at all.  The gap was in some of my experience — software engineering design in OOP paradigm. So, who has those abilities? Software engineers. I began emailing. I found such an individual with the abilities and willingness to work with me on this.

To those who believe they are incapable of innovation – you are correct. To those who believe they are capable of innovation – you are correct. Limits are challenges to overcome unless you see those limits and absolute.

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