Techie Tuesday #1| A Little Bit about Bytes

Feature, News, Tech

Good morning Lion Nation, and welcome back to my weekly tech article, Techie Tuesday. I’m Devlyn Coulter, ACH’s resident tech nerd. This week, I’ll be discussing the units of information measurement and what they mean, as well as throwing in a little bit of trivia.

What are bits and bytes?

At their most basic level, all computers speak the same language, binary. Binary is a system of numbers that operates differently from the numbers we know. Instead of going 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and then going adding a digit, like our numbers, binary has only 2 digits, 0 and 1. Because of this, binary goes 0,1,10,11,100,101,110,111,1000,10001,1010…, hence “binary”, which means “having 2 parts.” Each 0 or 1 is called a “bit.” 8 bits make a byte. It sounds complicated, but with some practice, most people can pick it up pretty quickly.

I hear “Megabyte” and “Gigabyte” a lot, what do those words mean?

In order to understand how these words work, one must first learn how they are made, and why the words are formed that way.

The words have two parts, a prefix and the word “byte.”
The prefixes are the same ones that are used in SI/metric measurements.
Here’s a little chart for you:
Kilo: 1,000 (thousands)
Mega: 1,000,000 (millions)
Giga: 1,000,000,000 (billions)
Tera: 1,000,000,000,000 (trillions)
Peta: 1,000,000,000,000,000 (quadrillions)

About a thousand of each prefix makes 1 of the next prefix down. 2,400 Megabytes makes 2.4 Gigabytes

Trivia

1: 4 bits are called a “nib.” This is because it’s half of a byte!
2: Each step up in measurement units is actually 1024 of the previous measurement. This is because 1024 is a “power of two.” Powers of two are easier for computers to organize
3: The code in The Matrix movie is not binary; it’s a random mixture of different Japanese characters.

That’s all for this week, so until we meet again, remember to stay curious!
–Devlyn Coulter

Techie Tuesdays|Titanfall 3?

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Good morning, Lion Nation, and it has come to my attention that there has been a rumor going around in the gaming community: EA plans on releasing a game soon, and there is a good chance that game will be the third installment of the Titanfall franchise. Some of you may be thinking “What’s Titanfall, and why should I care?” Well, allow me to shed a little light on the subject.

Titanfall is a crossover of so many different game genres that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the next begins. Released in March of 2014, Titanfall brings the gun mechanics of COD, the “mecha” mechanic of games like Mech Assault, a parkour system that makes Mirror’s Edge players envious, and more explosions than a Michael Bay film. There are three mechanics, though, that really make Titanfall stand out from the hundreds of other titles in the FPS category.

First up, we have the titans. After getting a few kills in a match (3-5 usually), you can press a button and a 14 foot mech called a titan will come falling out of the sky, landing a few feet away. This process is called “titanfall”, where the game got its name. Depending on the type of titan, the player will enter the massive exosuit through a hatch somewhere on the titan’s body. Now, the fun begins. Not only are titans equipped with an arsenal that would make the terminator jealous, they are quite fast on their feet and strong enough that a single punch from one of their metal fists can mean game over for even the toughest of pilots. Players can also equip a variety of support options, including cluster rockets, electric smoke, particle shields, and even a core that allows players to set off the nuclear reactor in their titans, dealing massive damage to everyone unlucky enough to get close to the blast. Titans are also tough, taking a coordinated attack from at least two players to take down.

Next up is the grunt mechanic. Titanfall is quite unique in that along with the 15-30 players on each match, a constant feed of ai-controlled “grunts” fight for each team, making the battlefield seem much more populated, as well as giving people who may not be very good at killing other players an easier task.

Last, but certainly not least, are the players’ jump kits. Double-jumping, wall-running, and being immune to fall damage are now possible thanks to the set of miniature jets strapped to each player’s lower back. Combining a fast paced shooter with a fluid parkour system makes for quite a fun game, as any rooftop can be a sniper nest, and any wall can be a good camping spot. Even if the rest of the game was terrible, I’d still play Titanfall just for the fun of jumping around like a sci-fi ninja.

Respawn released a second Titanfall game, Titanfall 2, adding new titan classes, weapons, and gear, as well as a riveting story line and incredible graphics. It was everything the first game was and more, a feat rarely achieved in the video game industry. It’s sad to see that such a great game didn’t gain that much popularity due to its release being right between COD WWII and BF1. And now, it looks like a a third game is in the works.

I heard this news from The Quartering, and after doing some digging, here’s what I have to offer:
•The game will be called Apex Legends
•It will not be a traditional titanfall game
•It will be a battle-royale style game
•there will NOT be any titans
•the jump kits will be massively nerfed, with double jumping and wall running being impossible, but climbing and a lack of fall damage are still a nice bonus
•the game will have the same COD/Battlefield hybrid feel to it
•micro transactions and cosmetics will be available, as per usual

Uh-oh, this isn’t very promising. What made Titanfall stand out were its jump mechanic and the titans themselves. Removing them may be a fatal mistake, turning a wonderful franchise into another run-of-the-mill battle-royale shooter. I sincerely hope that there is some reason for these changes and not another EA cash grab, but that’s just my opinion.

Let me know how you guys feel by leaving a comment or sending me an email to dapiguy3@gmail.com! Thanks for reading and have a great week.
–Devlyn Coulter

What Happens When I Press F?

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“He’s low! He’s low! NOO He got me! This lag is stupid.”

“If I wasn’t lagging this hard I’d win every time.”

“It was lag!”

“Laggggggg”

Of the two most common excuses to losing in an online video game, one of them is that the player is “lagging.” Lag is defined as the amount of time between the instant a player presses a key to the instant the player’s character reacts on the game’s server. Many people believe that it’s a straight shot from their tower to the game, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In this article we will dive into the long journey that your packet of data makes whenever you press a key.

The first thing that happens when you press f on your keyboard is it completes a circuit under the key, telling the processor what you just did. Sometimes, though, this may not happen at all, especially if your keyboard is really dirty. Be sure to clean your keyboard once a month to ensure that your keys won’t stick or malfunction.

After the circuit is completed, a signal is sent to your processor. The processor then relays the signal to your RAM to figure out what it’s supposed to do. Once the RAM tells it, The processor sends a small “packet” of data to the Local Area Network chip (LAN, or WiFi) along with an address and a return address. Simple, right? This is only the beginning.

If you have an Ethernet cable running from your computer to your WiFi router, then the packet travels along the cable before arriving at your modem. If you are using WiFi, however, the packet must first be encoded as a special signal and emitted from your LAN chip. Your router will hear the signal and, once it has decoded the signal, check the addresses. Then, it forwards the signal to your modem, which is the box that combines your internet, tv, and phone line data, and combines it into a single signal. this signal is sent along a cable with a metal head and a spike in the center, called a coax (co-axe) cable. The coax cable will then send your data to your internet service provider’s (ISP) servers.

At this point, one of two things happens. If the game has a “direct line” to your internet, which the game company has to pay for, the signal goes to the nearest internet satellite and beamed to the game’s network. If not, the signal is shuffled around the ISP’s server network until it finds a path to the game. Once the packet reaches the game’s server, the server will move your character. Depending on the game, the server might send its own packet to make the journey in reverse, telling you how much damage you did or whether you won a bet.

This all takes place in less than 1/10 of a second. Lag happens, but at least now you know why! Thanks for reading –Devlyn Coulter

Making Our Game EP 1: The Story So Far.

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Who need’s to upload images? i can use text!

“starter_sword”:”””

————-/^\\–

————/ | \\-

———–/ / /–

———-/ / /—

———/ / /—-

-==========–

——-//——-

——//——–

—–//———

“””,

(above) one of the images Brock made for the sword you start out with. It looks a little wonky because it’s made for a blockier font.

In my last article I went over the process of creating a game. I will infrequently post Making our Game episodes, usually when we make a significant advancement.

currently, in the 10 step method, we are writing our code.

here’s our path.

Step 1: get an idea

Dungeons and depression: a text-based DnD style game with the object being to teach people the basics of Dungeons and Dragons. The game can be played through in 3 hours.

Step 2: write the idea out.

I did, but I’m not posting it here. Can’t be spoiling the game yet, can I?

Step 3: get a team

I invited my good friends Gabe Jelly and Brock Brumley to help out, and both were quite enthusiastic about the idea. I invited Cody, but he turned me down. No worries.

Step 4: pick your hardware, engine, language, etc.

Since the game is text-based, we elected Python to be our programming language. We won’t need a game engine or any special hardware either, since all of the input is through the keyboard.

Step 5: figure out who does what

This part was tricky, but we figured it out quickly enough.

Gabe is writing the quests, I am writing the story line and quests, and Brock is working on our sprites and the interface.

Since we have no engine, we skipped steps 6 and 7.

Step 8: coding your game

This is where we are. We are currently working on a combat system, and after that we will start on the interface.

See you later!

-Devlyn

FAQ | What do I need to be a Techie?

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One question I get asked a lot, “Devlyn, what makes you so good at working on computers?” Since I hear this often, I decided to compile a list of things that are a must if you want to consider yourself a PC nerd.

Deal Breakers

These things are a must-have when it comes to tech stuff.

1. Critical thinking skills: The ability to break open a problem and find a solution is invaluable when it comes to fixing any and all tech related problems. there are only a few people on the planet who truly understand how a computer works on the most basic of levels, and all of them are adults who get paid a lot of money to design new motherboards and whatnot. The key to solving these problems is to approach it with a critical mindset. “What is wrong here?”, “What could be causing it?”, “What can I do to fix it?”, and “What will I do if my fix doesn’t work?” should be your go-to questions when solving tech problems

2. Good at Googling: Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I use Google all the time, it’s not that hard,” but when it comes to tech problems, you have to know how to use Google to find an answer to your problem. Here’s a mini step-by-step of it.

  • try to figure out what’s wrong with PC. if you know what’s wrong go to see
  • if not, google your symptoms. look for website links that have something tech related in them. Walmart.com isn’t going to have your answer.
  • be THOROUGH. look everywhere. even when you think you have the answer, keep looking for another site that confirms your first site. that way, if you’re about to try something risky, you have two opinions saying this is a good idea.
  • be persistent. not gonna lie, for some difficult problems, your answer will be on page 3 or 4. keep looking and you will find that solution!
  • Implement your solution and see if it works
  • if it works, then hooray! if not, go back to a and keep working on it

3. Knowledge of different OS’s. Mac, Windows, and Linux all have key differences that will make or break any project you might be working on, so make sure you know your OS inside and out. you need to know BASH for all 3 of them, and you should know Python for Linux, as well.

Wish List

These items aren’t a must, but I found them to be quite helpful.

1. Some Coding Experience- BASH, BASIC, and Python are very helpful when it comes to software based problems

2. Creativity- Don’t just think outside the box, paint it your favorite color

3. Be Thorough- It isn’t necessary, but every time I’ve tried to fix something and wasn’t thorough when implementing or checking my solution, it broke.

4. Good Memory- With the internet having most of your info just a few seconds away, this isn’t a deal breaker any more, but it’s a lot more convenient.

5. 13rn th3 133t 5p34k. 1f y0u c4n t41k w1th num63r5 th3n ur r34dy.

Techie Tuesday | October 30, 2018

Feature, Tech

image 3

Raspberry Pi’s in School

As I stated in my first article, the Raspberry Pi has many possible uses in every industry, but one that is rarely recognized is education.

A set of them could easily teach several subjects, such as using one with a sensor hat for science, one with a motor kit for robotics, or a Pi with some coding languages used for computer science. RPi’s are quite cheap for an educational tool, with the RPi 3B+ available for as little as $30, and kits for even cheaper. Pi’s are perfect for kids in almost every aspect- they are small, easy to manage, tough as nails, simple to plug in, and replaceable if broken. their only cons are that the processors (the silver fin things) get hot after continued use and the Micro-SD chips that are used for the storage on all the Pi’s code are easily lost.

Another advantage of using them in junior high and high school is the edge its use would give kids in this age of technology.  With 85% of all teens owning a cell phone (Kaiser Family Foundation), these kids have access to a wireless controller that can browse the internet, play games, and connect to Raspberry Pi’s. with a little tinkering on the Pi, and a small app on the child’s phone, a program called RealVNC can allow the kid to connect to his/her Pi without needing a mouse, keyboard, or monitor; all that is needed is a power cord. Although this is possible, I recommend a rather expensive option, using a tablet to do this. a larger screen allows for easier use in my experience, and would allow the child to more tech-related activities with the added safety of school security measures. an android tablet can cost around $120, about the price of a Chromebook, the efficient Google device that most STEM schools use for education. some Chromebooks even have the ability to use Android apps, so for $180 a school could give a child a computer, a tablet, and a Raspberry Pi. it may sound expensive, but considering that schools would spend much more than that on a Windows laptop or a MacBook, I think it’s a very reasonable price.

In conclusion, Raspberry Pi’s have myriad uses in education, and come at a low cost. they are small, tough, and replaceable if broken. when combined with a Chromebook or a tablet, they become even easier to use. They can challenge young minds to push forward and learn ahead of what society expects and become leaders in their industries. With a Pi in their hands, these kids could decide that they want to be an engineer, a programmer, a meteorologist, a game designer, or even a roboticist; and now they have the tools to realize that dream.

Techie Tuesdays | October 16, 2018

Tech

PC vs. Console

download(Ebuyer.com)

PC’s are better, but consoles are cheaper, right?

Before I start, allow me to say that I am not trying to hate on console gamers. Some people prefer to play on a console, and I respect that. There is nothing wrong with liking consoles. On the other hand, I’m not saying that consoles are better than PC’s (just don’t use a Mac ☺). I am here to specifically to answer a question that I was asked earlier Monday.

One of the biggest arguments against PC gaming is that they are too expensive, but I disagree. Let’s crunch some numbers. An average gaming PC will cost you about $700. Pretty expensive compared to the Xbox One’s $500 starting price. This should be an automatic win for consoles, right? The answer is no, and let me show you why. At first glance, a PC is more expensive, but peripherals, games, and online access are often forgotten about. These are what make the difference.

Let’s start with peripherals. An Xbox One controller can cost as much as $60, and one still needs a charging station that costs about $30,  but a keyboard and mouse kit from Walmart for $30 can perform optimally at all levels of gaming except professional. An Xbox One headset costs $30, while my decent PC headset only cost me $20.

After one year the results are still the same, a console will still cost less than a PC. However, after another year, a PC costs ~$55 dollars less. year three, and PC is well over ~$100 cheaper. Over time, the PC user will save more and more. Here’s the catch, though, if a PC bricks(stops working and no fix can be found), it is MUCH more expensive, as consoles are discounted as time goes on, meaning that if your $650 PC bricks after 3 years, then you’ll be paying full price, wheras a console player is only paying $140.

Here’s the TLDR: Console costs less in the beginning, but PC is cheaper over time, if it breaks, its cheaper to replace a console than a pc.

Author’s note: Although I’m a PC player, there is a good argument for consoles. this article was rather challenging to make, so I’d appreciate any feedback!

please email any questions/comments/concerns to dapiguy3@gmail.com (im running out of ideas :p so hurry )

Techie Tuesday | October 3, 2018

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Laptop Brands for Gaming

A question I am often asked is “What kind of laptop should I get for gaming?” for starters, a desktop is much cheaper than a laptop and can offer much more power, but if you need to find a good laptop brand, then you’ve come to the right place. There are many popular brands that sell laptops, including Dell, Lenovo, HP, Asus, MSI, Alienware, and Acer.

All of these brands sell laptops, but not all of them are good at it. The first one to cross off the list is Dell. Poor architecture and under-powered components make Dell less than optimal for a gaming laptop. The next brand to consider is HP. Although HP laptops have OK power and speed, they are optimized for work programs such as Office, Adobe, and MatPlot. They also are prone to overheating when taxed too much, so HP laptops should be discarded as well. Next, we come to the big boys, the brands that have made a name for themselves in the gaming industry, and deserve their own unique paragraph. Let’s jump right in!

MSI computers are inarguably the best computer brand in production when it comes to laptops. The higher end ‘tops have individual, RGB customizable keys and some of the most advanced components in production, minimized to fit in a sleek and compact platform. An MSI is top on my list of “things I want to buy, but can’t because I don’t have a job.” Jokes aside, MSI is a great brand that you can’t really go wrong with. Unfortunately, they tend to be quite unwieldy, as they have a lot of computers to fit in not a lot of case.

Alienware laptops are the iPhone to MSI’s Android. They are a little faster and look prettier but at quite an increase in cost. they also tend to be a little smaller, if portability is a big factor. That being said, they do have battery problems and a tendency to blue-screen (crash) at random times.

Next, we come to Asus, the jack of all trades when it comes to power. They have good speed and power, average power and cooling requirements, and come at a good price. Some of their gaming laptops come with the added bonus of a touchscreen, which can be quite a boon when working on school projects, and quite a bane when around kids who know where the x on your screen is. The main caveat I have with Asus is that their computers tend to be a little fragile. Just don’t drop it and you’ll be fine!

Lenovo computers are the tanks of the computer industry, combining power with the ability to survive just about anything. a ThinkPad bought in 2007 will still be running fine in 2020. Drop it, kick it, spill your water on it, whatever; a Lenovo pc will survive (just remember to IMMEDIATELY unplug the battery if you do spill something on your keys). They may not be the best for gaming, but I highly recommend a Lenovo ‘top for anyone who is a little tough on their computers.

Finally, we come to Acer. To be honest, Acer computers don’t really excel at anything, save price. Nowhere else can you get an inexpensive gaming laptop like you can with Acer. Take the Acer Nitro 5 for instance. It can easily run games like Rainbow 6 Siege, Ark: Survival Evolved, Rust, and Destiny 2. And it’s cost? $600. That’s pretty dadgum cheap if you ask me!

In conclusion, each PC brand has something unique that it brings to the table, and different people may have different needs. I hope this article cleared it up a little. Next week, I’ll explain how a gaming PC is actually cheaper than a console.

Any questions, comments, concerns? email me at dapiguy3@gmail.com

images are courtesy of the following:

Gizmodo.com

funinventorz.blogpost.com

evetech.co.za

notebookcheck.net

Techie Tuesday | September 25, 2018

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A lot of people have asked me for advice on how to build a PC, and today I decided to write a little guide on the basics of computer building. Welcome to Tech Tuesdays, and today we will learn how to build a desktop.

Processors

The first component you should decide on is your processor. There are two leading brands of processors, AMD and Intel. Although AMD processors can have slightly higher stats, people with one need to install different versions of software in order to be able to PCrun it. For this reason I recommend Intel cores. Now, you have to pick your processor. The most modern processors are the Intel i5’s and the i7’s. Although the i7’s are better than the i5’s, they cost nearly twice as much, and those on a smaller budget shouldn’t spend the extra $200. Next comes your graphical processing unit, or GPU. by far the best GPU’s on the market belong to Nvidia. The GTX and RTX models are quite powerful, but cost several hundred dollars. The GPU should be your most expensive component.

Motherboard and RAM

After the CPU and GPU comes the motherboard. There are many models of motherboard and the motherboard you pick depends on your CPU and GPU. if you don’t pick the right motherboard your computer will either not turn on or break every component in your build. Do lots of research and make sure your chosen parts are compatible. Next in the lineup is RAM. 8 Gigabytes of RAM is a good start, but for a truly good computer, you will need at least 12 gigs. RAM should be DDR4 type.

Data Drives and Cables

All the stuff in the previous paragraphs will end up connected to your motherboard. This stuff will be attached to your case. After you pick your RAM, you need to get your drives. A proper PC setup would have a solid state drive (SSD) for games, and a normal hard drive for everything else. I recommend a 256GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive. Make sure to get the right cables to hook them in. if you want to be able to read and write to DVD’s and CD’s then you will need a DVD R/W drive.

Cases, Power Supplies, and Cooling

Your power supply, case, and cooling should be bought together, as they all depend on conditions of each other. Your fans need to be the right size for your motherboard and case, and they need to have the right power input for your motherboard and supply. Your power supply must fit in your case and provide the correct amount of power for your motherboard and components. Your case must be large enough to fit your components and have the correct mounting slots for your motherboard and drives.

Once you get all of these components, try running them through https://pcpartpicker.com to make sure they’re compatible. Once you know it will work, order your parts and enjoy your beautiful new PC!

Thoughts? Questions? Email me at dapiguy3@gmail.com

Images from GoGraph

Techie Tuesday | September 18, 2018

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Good morning Lions and welcome to the new bi-weekly series: Cyber Life! My name is Devlyn Coulter. I love computers and anything to do with them, so I decided to start a tech series for the ACH student body. Although I will be the main writer for this column, members of the robotics class image 3will be contributing as well. On Tuesdays, we will be reviewing different tech products and offering advice.  Fridays, we’ll focus on answering any questions students might have. Now, let’s get to the good stuff!

We don’t know if you guys have heard of this little “slice of genius”, but if you stick around, we’ll give you a “slice.” Say hello to the Raspberry Pi 3b+.

The raspberry pi, commonly referred to as a “Pi” or an “rPi”, is the smallest and cheapest computer money can buy. this microcomputer offers 1 gig of ram, a quad core processor, image 22 usb slots, and HDMI port, and its most interesting feature, a 40 pin GPIO input. These pins allow the pi to be connected to everything from cameras and microphones to lights and speakers. It’s incredible that all of these components can fit in such a small package, with the pi being the size of a credit card and the thickness of a pack of sticky notes. Yet another bonus is that the pi comes with a variety of programming languages installed, including my favorite, python. Mojang even wrote a version of Minecraft for these little miracles, which also comes with the basic version of the software.  Unfortunately, it uses a micro-SD card for its storage, which means that larger programs will not fit on it. Also, the pi runs on a variation of image 1Linux, a free alternative to Windows or Mac OS. this makes it a little harder for less tech-savvy people to use it. However, it is easy to see that the pros outweigh the cons, and for that, I give the Raspberry Pi a 8.5/10.

Have a good week! – Devlyn Coulter

Remember, if you have any questions, please email me at dcoulter@students.aclions.org, or my personal email, dapiguy3@gmail.com.