Category Archives: In-Depth

In-Depth #6: Build-Up Brittney

Since my last post I have met with my mentor again, and we have ordered the parts for my own custom computer. Right now I have dubbed her “Build-Up Brittney” seeing as I’ll be taking a pile of parts and turning them into my own computer.

Now it took a while to fully conceive of Brittney, but I am looking forward to her arrival. It was surprisingly easy to come up with my build because I had already learned about what goes into a computer. I honestly think that choosing my graphics card (smooth gaming chip) was the hardest thing to do! At first it was quite simple to choose parts, I knew I wanted a sleek case, a decent ssd, one good ram stick, and a beast of a graphics card. When I initially finished just those parts it was already 1600$. Now, I still had to add the cpu, motherboard, fan and power supply. That was also under the assumption I would not want a official operating system as well!

This is where I significantly needed to alter my plan, as my budget was 1250$ at most. To start off, I made sure to get a cheap motherboard, fan and power supply as they don’t need to be as powerful in order to get a fast computer. A motherboard can make a difference, but for the most part it comes down to the quality of the other parts communicating with it. Now is when I needed to start making some serious cuts to the other parts I had selected. I had to switch from my first case idea to something a lot cheaper but, knowing every part can eventually be replaced it wasn’t too hard to see it go. After that it was just the questions of how cheap can I go without sacrificing what I wanted that part to be capable of. One of the ways my mentor saved me during this process was he reminded me that I still had a network adapter I bought for Sally, which saved me 75$ and a lot of hair pulling.

Unfortunately a couple of days after I ordered everything, I found out that my back-ordered graphics card was out of stock. Not only that but the manufacturer was no longer making them making it impossible to get my hands on one. They presented me with two alternatives, which amusingly enough were two different versions of the same card. The only difference other than 30$ was the fact that one of them had an additional 4 gigabytes of ram. Naturally I chose the more expensive board as I was certain I would not be getting a refund, but also that this card was actually a small upgrade on the one I had previously. Also the new card comes with a free installation of Doom :-) !

At the time I post this (Thursday April 13th 2017), some of the parts have already begun to come in. My case, hard-drive, cpu-cooler/heatsink, and thermal paste. The rest of it is scheduled to arrive before the next meeting with my mentor, but I am not entirely confident that it will. But nevertheless, my custom computer is within reach, and I am so excited to watch it all come together on In–Depth night!!

In-Depth #5: Sandbox Sally

It has been a very long time since my last post, and I can happily say a lot has happened. Being over halfway through the project I can begin to see computers in a different light, and its quite thrilling. Where I saw nothing but funny looking gadgets before, now I can see the possibilities and functionality of countless different components. One of the key contributing factors to this is Sandbox Sally.

Sally has been dubbed due to her purpose, with “Sandbox Mode” being a gamer term for a repeatable experimental environment. So I have done any and everything I could imagine with Sally to see what makes her tick. My mentor had already given me a working understanding for how most of the parts worked, but without being truly able to toy with them it made it difficult to properly comprehend it all.

Sandbox Sally

However, being able to properly toy with ram, heat sinks and, hard drives has really deepened my knowledge of computers. While experimenting I feel that I learned the most about the differences between hard drives. As of right now there are two types of hard drives HDD’s and SSD’s. Now a hard disk drive (HDD) is the older of the two, whereas a Solid State Drive (SSD) is the younger.

Now as mentioned a HDD is older, but currently is the cheaper of the two. Now in order to store information it relies on writing information to a spinning disk. Now ordinarily this is fast and effective, but once the drive begins to fill up it needs to write items in multiple different places. With each piece of data needing to take a physical space on it, as time goes on more space is filled up. Then files will need to be “fragmented” into multiple different positions so that they can fit. This is where the term “Defragging” your hard drive into play. Its role is to move files around so that as many as possible can be in the same place, making it quicker to read. However without frequent defrag’s the disk will need to spin increasingly high amounts, and will eventually break due to the strain.side-b

Now the SSD is the younger sibling, but is far quicker and more efficient than a HDD. While a HDD requires a spinning disk to read data, an SSD functions much more like a flash drive with countless flash cards in conjunction that are used to store data. Another benefit is that an SSD lacks a read head (similar to a record player) , which is another reason why its harder to damage an SSD. Now, currently each card used to store memory can only be written, wiped and re-written a limited number of times. Thus it is almost certain that you would need to replace one of these drives every five to six years. However when looked at a HDD you would only need to replace it if you had used it to the point where fragmentation occurs.


From here, I’ll be looking a bit into computer servers and how to do operating system installs. But for right now I’m looking to practice taking Sally apart and putting her back together so that I can be more comfortable when it comes to constructing a computer. I’m happy with where my project is at this time, and I find myself fascinated knowing where it will go from here.

In-Depth #4

I was making great progress over the last couple weeks, but now with a broken finger it could make a lot of tasks more difficult. Since my last post I have begun to learn the names of several components, but only a few of their purposes.

So while I could now tell you a heat sink from a CPU, I still couldn’t tell you much about what each one actually does. While I have learned more about the basic components (motherboard, ram, fans, ribbon cable, power supply) I still have a lot to learn about the basics before I start begin looking at specialty components.

My mentor has been quite helpful throughout the entire process, because he is able to see computers in a completely different way, and teach me using that vision. While we still have some dispute on how to properly take apart a computer, I think its safe to say we are getting along well, and will be working well together in the future.

In-Depth 2017: Let the Chaos Begin

Once again, In-Depth has returned to Talons. But this year I find myself much more excited rather than afraid to dive into my studies. Now that I have a more realistic idea of how everything goes, I really think that things will go smoother (fingers crossed) and I can enjoy everything more than I did last year. This year I can hope to enjoy a journey into Computer Hardware!

While at first glance it may seem quite similar to web and application based programming, I would argue that other than both being with computers, they have almost no parallels. Programming has to do with computer software, whereas building and deconstructing computers has to do with hardware.

I chose to study computer hardware because I am fascinated with computers, and hardware is one area where I know virtually nothing. While I have spent some time volunteering at Free Geek, they don’t teach you so much about how it works, instead focusing on making sure you do your job right. So while at this time I could take a computer apart for you, it is unlikely that I could do anything past that. Thus, I am hoping that this project will be greatly centered around how everything works, rather than just getting it to work.

Throughout this project, I should be able to work with countless computers, each of which I aim to look at with a curious and knowledgeable eye. This year I have already received a computer donation, and it even came from my school! Despite some of the flaws that it has (no hard-drive, not in working order, very outdated) it still has what I am learning to expect in a computer. I have dubbed this computer “Tear-down Terri” in respect to its lack of function, as well as its components validity. I was able to take Terri apart with no real degree of difficulty, as most computers (school ones in particular) were built with disassembly in mind. Below I have included some images of what Terri’s insides look like.

"Squishy Bits"
“Terri’s Squishy Bits”
"Terri's rough exterior"
“Terri’s rough exterior”
"Side view of Terri's Exterior"
“Side view of Terri’s Exterior”

Unfortunately, as far as mentors go I have had no success in finding one thus far. Although I have many more emails than I had last year as of yet I still lack a mentor. As predicted Free Geek simply did not work, and every hardware expert that I have found has simply declined or failed to respond. Thus at this point I am praying that I can convince a larger store such as  Best Buy or NCIX to take me on as an unpaid assistant so that I can still learn from someone experienced. Regardless of my current mentor situation, there are many goals I hope to achieve throughout this project.

Of the many things that I hope to accomplish during this project is simply to be able to construct and deconstruct a computer. Immediately following that in priority is to have an understanding of the role that each part serves, as well as how the parts themselves function (this area in particular is where a will benefit from a mentor). I would like to be able to know the difference in quality between two computer components, although to some extent you can do so simply through research.

In the end, I have to say I am looking forward to this years In-Depth, and can’t wait to see where it will take me.

In-Depth Post Number Six

Well its one month away from In-Depth night and I am both exhilarated and frightened by it. While it is an opportunity to properly show my programming prowess I am not certain on how others will look at it. Those who don’t know much about it will likely overate what I have been able to accomplish and those who have worked in this field for a long time will likely consider it a waste of time for it changes drastically every couple of yours. However beyond my worry I am still excited to construct my learning center and show everyone I have done.

So, my learning center is something I’m looking forward to piece together. My ideas currently have led me to place at least two computers and as many monitors as I can get a hold of to display code I have created both in action and not. Provided I have enough screens I intend to display my code in chronological order from left to right starting with items that I created before this project and then ending with my last piece of code. But either way it should be an eventful night and I look forward to seeing how everything is going to fall together.

In-Depth Post Número cinco

A lot has happened in my in depth project recently. To start with, when I saw that I was not learning about web-based programming the way I wished I asked my mentor about it. He said simply “You are asking for the tools to build a bridge without knowing how to construct your own blueprints.” It was then that he reinforced the need for learning the basics of object orientated programming as well as a good amount of application based programming.

At first I found this news somewhat crushing but then I realized not only was this an opportunity to expand my knowledge into more currently relevant fields but it also means that Mike is truly guiding this project into what is best for me.

Currently there is not much more I can do to try to accelerate my learning short of creating a nest for myself where I can code all day with minimal to no social contact. So thus I feel that my project is moving along at a nice pace despite that it is not how I saw it moving.

So in the past week or two we have been working on application based programming made in android studio. Most recently he has introduced me to the command currentTimeMillis() which gives you the time. In milliseconds. Starting the count from 1970. So you can imagine how it would be difficult to wield for the value that it produces is just one number and means practically nothing to you or any user that you spew that info on. Thus he got me to problem solve how to use it and I managed to put it into an app that would measure the average of how quickly you could press the button. By taking a snapshot of the time after you press the button and then subtracting that from when you press it next you are able to get the number of milliseconds that it took for you to press the button. Creating that system was easier than one might think but it still was incredibly difficult to create and I am grateful that Mike took a hands off approach when it came to this project for I am quite proud of creating it.

In-Depth: How things have gone down

These past few weeks have been both incredibly informative and curious. As hectic as times are right now we have both managed to still find time to work and thus I have learned much. While  attempting to discover the semi-hidden world that lies in the internet, we have found that he and I have very different programming styles.

For the most part I prefer to use variables as mechanisms to enable and disable pieces of code, whereas Mike prefers to use much more complex statements that will allow functions to only trigger when varying conditions are met. Its fascinating to see how our different styles conflict horribly, but also how they create some truly magnificent lines of code. While for the moment I am merely learning new commands and testing them, it is easy to see how this new knowledge will be able to create something amazing.

While the physical computer knowledge is useful, learning how to properly use the one on one sessions we have will be much more useful down the road. While in the short term perspective learning a slight bit more about things behind the screen might seem tempting, it will be those who know how to work more efficiently with their mentor that will be able to get more out of this project. While the knowledge component is clear the people skills one can obtain are arguably far more valuable than almost any knowledge.

I believe that me and Mike make a great duo for not only to we provide a unique blend of programming styles but we seem to see eye to eye on many things which will only prove more valuable as time goes on.

In-Depth Intro

When I first looked hard at in depth I saw an opportunity to do anything. Now while originally my mind wandered from learning to make sushi, learning to mountain bike and everything in between it wasn’t until I sitting at home on my laptop that I realized I knew practically nothing about web-based programming. While I considered myself to be fairly well educated in programming with games, apps or, object orientated programming (oop for short) I had managed to grow a giant blind spot when it came to the internet.

After that it was fairly clear that I wanted to learn about it. Of course before I did anything I quickly checked that it was not covered by programming 12 for I have the full intention to take it next year. Once I discovered that it did not (no real surprise there) the final immediate hurdle was finding a mentor which I found out was no easy task.

First off, it was near impossible to find anyone locally and all those I could find simply did not care. Then I realized that he who had already taught me most of what I know what likely be happy to teach me once again. Thankfully, I was right. Now even though he may be younger than I am when it comes to programming I consider him in every way my superior.  Now even though I may not be a high bar he still has proven again and again that he can be an innovator and when he does the world listens.  Not only was he sponsored to go to the HTML 500 event but he was also able to go to the Canada Wide science fair in  New Brunswick for some of his code.

In the end I am so glad to be pursuing programming once again and I am so happy that it will be Mike teaching me.

Socials Midterm

Socials in the Talons program has been one of the best learning experiences of my life. First off socials is no longer just memorizing names of people and what they did we are asking why they did it and also what others thought of them and how this affected them. Instead of focusing in on the deeds of people and beginning to grasp who they are, we learn who they are and from there we determine why they did the things that they did. We are also able to focus in on the themes of human action instead of just glossing over it.

For this half of the unit the idea I am choosing to focus on is Emerging ideas and ideologies profoundly influence societies and events. Now while the idea seems so very complex all it means is new ideas can change everything. If a new idea is supported by enough people it will change the world, whether it be by changing attitudes, government or even how one conducts themselves in their daily lives, change will happen.

Now throughout history there has been more than a few things that new ideas have changed. New ideas can easily bring about revolutions that remove discriminatory policies. One of the most recent of these revolutions was the equal rights for persons of colour. Now while my eminent person project on Elvis Presley may not seem to be related in any way I assure you that he may have been the first step in equal rights.

For one thing Elvis’s music combined both gospel and soul with guitar music to create a form of rock and roll. Now since both of those styles of music were traditionally performed by persons of colour, now that a white man was performing it people were able to listen to it without discrimination amongst their peers. Now while that may not seem like much even the link of music that they both enjoy even if only on a subliminal level made them seem equal.

Now to be able to make those connections was no easy task. First off, you need to be able to both gather the information about your person while looking at significant events during their lifetime. Then you need to be able to figure out what the public opinion was on these hot button issues as well as determine whether that issue in particular was the most important. From there one needs to be able to assess it all and then display that knowledge. For without being to show learning there is no proof that you actually did find anything.

All in all, that was what I have learned thus far. While I was unfortunately not able to use any work example other than the eminent person project I still believe that this was an accurate representation of my learning thus far this year. I’m glad to have gotten this point and I look forward to what more I will learn as we finish this unit.