Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of 2008

It's the end of 2008, and I'd say it's been quite the year for everyone. With the darkness of the economy sliding downhill, the hope of having a great President-elect, and the new year coming along we all see the dawn of a different era. No one knows for certain what 2009 might hold, but we must all work hard to ensure that it goes well - don't slack!

This past year I recieved my AA, started at the University of Iowa, got a student computer programming job at UIHC, became ARH Associations Director, got the job of Sun Campus Ambassador, was elected to the Board of Directors of the Mindbridge Foundation, and I've been working on a whole lot more. All in all, it's been a great year propelling me forward, while still adding more to my laundry list of things to do.

Fortunately, I see things continually improving. My skills, my resume, and my to-do list should all improve in this upcoming year. In February I'll have Gamicon completely off my list of things to work on, and I've pretty much got most of my work on the game convention done after a little creative thinking yesterday. Next I'm going to be continuously working on learning more for the Open Source University Meetup as part of my position as Sun Campus Ambassador. I think I might even be able to convince my girlfriend to help me from time to time ^_^.

After that, my major projects are still numerous, but I think I can get it done. ARH improvements, the L campaign, work, classes, learning Kanji, and everything else will all keep me busy. I see a very exciting and opportunity-filled 2009. My pledge is to work hard all year, get stuff done, and be able to relax in 2010. Believe it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Educational Funding

So a mother was arrested in Florida because her daughter failed to attend class 59 times.

This reminds me of those Kaplin College commercials... "I can't get a job because I didn't go to school. I didn't go to school because I don't have any money. I don't have any money because I can't get a job.... "

Well, here's one
You didn't go to school because the school was underfunded.
The school was underfunded because you didn't go to school.
You didn't go to school because the school was underfunded.
The school was underfunded because you didn't go to school.
You didn't go to school because the school was underfunded.
The school was underfunded because you didn't go to school.
You didn't go to school because the school was underfunded.
The school was underfunded because you didn't go to school.
You didn't go to school because the school was underfunded.
The school was underfunded because you didn't go to school.
You didn't go to school because the school was underfunded.
The school was underfunded because you didn't go to school.

Where does it end?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bean Scripting Framework with JRuby and Java

I just developed an excellent tutorial for calling JRuby from Java code. Using the Apache Bean Scripting Framework, scripts written in JRuby can be executed from within Java via some simple calls, and my tutorial explains how to install JRuby and BSF so you can do just that. It's a pretty powerful feature that's been around for a while, but never very well documented in an easy-for-beginners fashion. The feature is great, consider the implications for on-the-fly system patching for servers and applications that can't afford a restart, for game development, automated tasks, and much more.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Class Schedule for Spring 2009

All of us have free time, while most of us complain about not having enough of it. But in college, sometimes if you look at it from every angle, that you just might find that less free time now equals significantly better opportunities in the future. I always tend to advocate that we push ourselves to do more and work harder in the time we have, so that we can better ourselves and the world around us. I kept this in mind while creating my Spring schedule. Yes, I could easily get exhausted and worn out, but one semester of some serious hard work can really help me in the future - I'll have less work to do!

Next Semester I'm taking

  • Computer Science 2: Data Structures

  • Discrete Structures

  • Object Oriented Software Development

  • Japanese First Year: Second Semester

In addition, I'm still busy with a number of other groups and events, all of which I consider vital to my success as a University student. The more you do, the more you socialize, and the harder you work then the more likely you'll find yourself enjoying the work you do, or you'll even find yourself with the ability to cut out the things you least enjoy and replace them only with what you like.

  • I am the Associated Residence Halls Associations Director

  • I am in charge of organizing the Open Source University Meetup

  • I am an honors student

  • I organize a weekly movie watching for my friends

In addition, I had a pretty great weekend. Although I always wish I had the opportunity to be more productive, let me highlight one small event. In checking my mail, I had a statement from Citi - it was my credit card bill (I never have a huge balance, don't worry). Inside, though, they increased my APR! What a shock. But, knowing that I've never paid late in the two years I've had the card, I knew I did not have to let this fly, so I called customer service straight away. In only a few moments I had found myself with a 4.9% APR for 9 months, and then a really low rate afterwards, even lower than I had originally. They key here was simple: I was polite and understanding, while still firm (not angry) at the same time. I explained that I was a good customer and that I find myself negative affected by these changes (boosted by my great background and payment history), and said that I wanted to see if these changes could be negated.

So always keep in mind that as long as you're consistent, polite, understanding, yet still firm, but never threatening, you can often make the best out of any situation, even the bad ones.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Free Dr. Pepper Day

Dr. Pepper decided to give away a bunch of free Dr. Pepper if Guns 'n Roses released an album that had been decades in the making before the end of 2008. They did, and now Dr. Pepper's servers are having a hard time handling the traffic. Learn how to get yours!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Going Strong

I've been going strong at all the work I've got to work on, and things seem to be going well so far. I just finished a nice tutorial for JRuby yesterday, and I might experiment with it a little more to see if I can find any nice uses for it. Tonight I'll be attending a presentation in the Iowa Memorial Union about building digital communities, which could be interesting. I also hope to finish a little of my Java studies, while also working on my Python homework assignment. Always fun!

Friday, November 7, 2008

In A Better World

In a better world we will have more fully adopted Open Source as our standard, and we will build our organizations around community and collaboration. Instead of allowing beauracratic leaders make poor choices of paradigm and program, developers and users would be the collaboration that decides what solution to implement. In a better world we will have a President that will know something about technology and would support a revolution in communication. In a better world we wouldn't worry so much about greed taking over people's hard work.

And on January 20, 2009, that better world will come as President Obama takes office. He will fight with the people for network neutrality, to ensure fair and open access to all. He will build a stronger communication infrastructure to facilitate communication and collaboration, and put more pressure on companies to open their networks while preventing illegal spying. We would enjoy a better world, more open, more communicative, and more collaborative. It's coming.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Concept of Open Source

Today is election day, and all across the country people are going to be voting for the type of change they want. But how does that relate to the title of today's post "The Concept of Open Source"? Well, in a way, the correlation is strong, although you can relate nearly anything to the same principals.

By voting, or volunteering for a campaign, a person is contributing a little to society. Input on how the society should be run, on what decisions should be made. Many people even have contributed more, by getting others involved in the process.

Now, open source is a built on much of the same principals. The project evolves around a community, a community with ideas, and input, that guides the direction of itself. People contribute their ideas, their thoughts, and even their work, much like volunteers contribute their time and energy to rally people to a cause or candidate. Each involves a sense of contribution to the whole, a collaboration of ideas and a synergy of work that can help further progress.

Open Source is like Voting. Now vote, today.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Open Source Software Day

I think I might organize an Open Source Software Day at the University of Iowa. Visit the Iowa Open Source Meetup. It might be interesting to recruit volunteers to sit at tables, give demonstrations of software (ie laptops running OpenSolaris, Ubuntu, PCs with Gimp, OpenOffice), and talk to people about Open Source software. I think this could be a very exciting thing for the University and could do a lot to increase the visibility of the open source community at the University of Iowa. I'll need: volunteers, balloons, tables, laptops for demonstration, two hundred OpenSolaris & Ubuntu CDs, and five hundred Gimp/OpenOffice/Firefox/etc CDs.

In the meantime, take a moment to go download these Open Source pieces of software:
Just released version 3 of this great office suite.

Excellent program for image manipulation and editing.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sun Campus Ambassador - University of Iowa

Good news, I've had a whole bunch of good things going on! So much has advanced that I've even needed new business cards. I'll start off simply, with a reintroduction of myself. This is me:

Ryan Kopf
Associations Director
Associated Residence Halls
Sun Campus Ambassador
Sun Microsystems - University of Iowa

Isn't it great!? I am now, officially, the Sun Campus Ambassador in charge of the University of Iowa. Essentially, I'm sorta like a community organizer - I will be organizing people at the University of Iowa to get involved with and join the Open Source community. I'll be organizing lectures, workshops, and labs about Open Source software and products, giving demonstrations, and hopefully growing a community of like-minded students who appreciate Open Source.

Also, I'm a Board Member-elect of the Mindbridge Foundation. I will be continuing to work with Mindbridge to develop our events more fully, and to focus on implementing new technology and developing long-term efficiency creating and cost-saving strategies.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Free Virtualization Software From Sun

In case you haven't tried it, Sun has an awesome program for any tech guru to play around with. It's called VirtualBox, and it's an open source virtualization package developed to run on a wide array of host operating systems.

What is virtualization? The concept behind virtualization is rather simple: take an operating system and run it within your current operating system. This essentially gives you two computer systems to play around with, although the second (called the Guest) can only utilize resources allocated to it by the main operating system (the Host OS). A guest operating system can enable you to test software on a variety of operating systems, and do all sorts of bug testing without fear of damaging your host computer.

How does it work? The basic principals are easy. Your main operating system allocates file space on your hard drive (just a giant file, which acts like another hard drive to the guest), and it allocates virtual system resources, such as a software-based graphics card to render the guest OS onscreen. In addition, it gives the guest the ability to pass up commands to the host operating system, if specialized hardware calls are needed: for example writing to a floppy disk drive.

What can I do with it? If you don't have a specific need for software testing, there are still a myriad of great reasons to use VirtualBox. You can, for example, test different flavors of Linux/'Nix operating systems, to see which you prefer. You can try an operating system as advanced as Sun's OpenSolaris - and see how it compares with what you're used to. You can enhance your knowledge of computing overall through playing around with all sorts of things on a virtualized guest operating system.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Attending ArtFest in Iowa City

My team went to Iowa City's annual Artfest, a summer arts festival featuring several dozen artisans and craftspeople. There were quite a few people enjoying the festival, despite the occasional rain and sudden gusts stirring up the festivities. We managed to get several pictures, and even interview some of the artists. The smattering of rain and wind did little to discourage many of the vendors (although visitors were caught huddling under shelters), but they were told by organizers to pack it up early on Saturday.

Most of the artists were very receptive to our questions, although a couple told us not to take pictures of their work - bad reviews for them, lol! You have to be friendly with people, it's just common courtesy. But our article on Artfest describes a little of what went down, and details some of our artisan interviews.

Yuriy Maltsev and his wife were selling landscapes, but would rather use his masters in Fine Art to present people, emotion, and movement. Among jewelers, the Ellicksons were appreciative of the crowd, and appreciated the work of the festival organizers.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Blue Ocean Strategy

A couple of years ago I briefly read through Blue Ocean Strategy, a book about winning in marketing by "making the competition irrelevant". The strategy divides the market into two categories: red and blue. Red consists of all market spaces already known and contested - they are filled with blood as epic marketing battles take place in this space. Blue oceans are everything that has not yet been crowded with competition, but mostly market space that has yet to be discovered. In a blue ocean you create demand, instead of fighting over. Imagine the first computer developers. They created something new, and also created the demand for it. It was a blue ocean at that time. A blue ocean can become a red ocean, of course, once enough competition arises. The focus on a Blue Ocean Strategy is the creation of value for both the buyer and the seller - basically adding new innovation to the market.

In my business, and my campaigns, I hope to come up with these sorts of innovations - unique additions to what currently exists. There are so many potential opportunities still unexplored, so many ideas still unthought. I will be certainly working closely with everyone creative around me to come up with these ideas, and I will be sure to use them to quickly win over new markets.

Find that you can't come up with brilliant new ideas? There's always alternatives. There are plenty of ideas already floating around that simply need picked up on. Many things have been tried once, but things have changed since then and need tried again. Research some unique business and marketing ideas that didn't quite work the first time, then tweak them to fit your style. You may find this to be your easiest option, sort of like entering a murkier blue ocean. Businesses newsletters featuring unique businesses, like Springwise, might be an interesting place to get ideas going.

Advancing My Ruby Knowledge With The Ruby Way

I picked up a copy of The Ruby Way and The Rails Way today at Barnes and Noble, and decided to sit down and start reading through the first chapter of each. The both struck me as highly useful resources for my programming needs, but each cost it's own small fortune. In the end of my visit to BNN, I bought The Ruby Way, leaving The Rails Way for another day.

This book is pretty great, I've realized as I begun reading deeper into the first few chapters. Although I have used Ruby for quite a while, these books help bring to the front of my mind many of the concepts that have been a bit more abstract in the past, which is probably exactly what the author Hal Fulton intended to do. The book is, of course, a high authority on the subject, being the second edition of the second English book ever written about Ruby. Even "Matz" has heaped praise for Fulton's understanding of the ideals built into Ruby.

Simply reading over the first section was enlightening. I had the chance to compare some of the many day-to-day uses of the language, and could see a concrete comparison between some things that I never thought too deeply about. For example, Fulton detailed a comparison between at least 8 different types of loop statements (of course showing my favorite for item in list), which really helped to demonstrate the flexibility of Ruby. I should encourage you all to by The Ruby Way if interested in learning the advanced stuff in the Ruby programming language.