Friday, November 19, 2010

More app features!

Hello everyone, I've been wanted to do another update on the app all week but I had some studying for a test to take care of. I had a test in my analog electronics course on wednesday. Pretty sure I got 100% so I'm pleased with that :).

Late last week I asked the iphone subreddit community for some feedback on what I had so far. I took the comments very seriously, and here is some of the work I've done.

So in this screenshot you can see two new features. First, there are little icons beside each category. I feel that they add a little to the experience of using the app, making it feel less like you're just looking at shoveled out tables and made by someone that cares.

The other new feature is the search button at the top. This way, search is readily accessible throughout the app instead of just at the home screen. I'm considering doing the "pull down to search" thing like you see in the Contacts app, but depending on time constraints that might be something for a future version.

Here what we have is the new modified equation view. This tab bar will allow the user to flip between showing the equation and other related material. The "more" button is currently a placeholder and will be replaced with the correct buttons, graphics, and text that I need.

Some things to note about this tab bar. I didn't take a SS of it, but when you rotate the device to landscape mode, the tab bar is hidden so as to not take up vertical screen space.

Now the reason I implemented this is because I've decided to add a worked out example for each equation. I just decided on this a few days ago, and have recruited the help of Carolyn. This tab bar will also allow me in the future to add support for things like derivations, interesting historical facts, etc.

My work for the next bit will be adding more icons and regenerating a lot of the equations for better alignment due to the change in screen size.

As usual, I'm always looking for feedback so feel free to leave some :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Searching and Landscape

Yes that's right, I bring to you today some more updates on my upcoming app! Last night, as I was frustrated with my E&M assignment, I decided to spend some time on the app. Since I wasn't in the mood for starting some more equations, nor in the mood for graphics related work, I decided to implement a big feature that I had been meaning to do for a while...the search function!

As you might have seen from my last post, on the main screen there is a large search button. Until last night, it was just a placeholder. Every time I would show someone the work I had done on the app, one of the first things they would say is "the search button doesn't work". Well no more! Here's some screenshots of the search function in action.


It was a very exciting moment last night when I got it to work. So every time the user hits a key the search results update. Its pretty awesome.

Ah, but at this point last night I still had some time before bed, and since I was feeling awesome for getting the search to work, I decided to also add landscape mode support!

So now the menus, the equations, and search all have landscape mode support! When viewing an equation and the user rotates the device, it automatically zooms to fill the width.

So there you go, progress is coming along nicely.

Let me know what you think!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Early App Screenshots

Hello everyone, I bring to you today an app update!

Since the last post I've added a few sections: Taylor series, probability distributions, linear algebra, and the 4-band colour code for resistors. Still a few sections to add to math, but I took a different direction tonight and was working on the main menu's graphics. I decided to take some screenshots of a few different parts of the app to share them with all of you.

Let me know what you think!

[edit] For those wondering, the name isn't finalized yet. I've been playing around with a few ideas, and I wanted to see how this one looked.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Introducing, the APP!

Sorry for the failing, its been quite the past few weeks. The term has been pretty intense, with homework filling up most of my time. Speaking of term work, I didn't manage to get into Econ 101, the instructor refused to let me in.

Before I get to the main topic of this post, I'd like to mention something. shortly after my last post, my girlfriend and I celebrated out 1 year dating mark! I'm not going to take up a bunch of this blog post with with rambling on about how awesome she is, so go check out her blog here.

So yes, now for the main topic. In the spare time that I've had, I've been working app! Specifically, I've been working on an equation reference app for the iOS platform. I thought to myself, "how can I use my years of physics experience to make an app?" and this is the idea I came up with! I know that I can provide a more comprehensive solution than the few other similar apps on the store, so why not?

After investigating a few of current apps available, I found the following: the majority of them cover the basics well, have a limited physics section, and include some completely useless material (did you know that x+0=x ?? ). Now granted, I understand that not everyone knows everything, but I feel that some concepts don't require an entry in an app like this. That's why I'm not going to include stuff like that in my app just to "pad the equation count".

For launch, I'm aiming to include material that would be useful for a senior high school / early university student. Currently, the following has already been implemented:
  • Physics
    • Newtonian Mechanics
    • Electricity and Magnetism
    • Optics
    • Fluid Mechanics
    • Thermal Physics
    • Quantum (basics such as photo-electric effect)
  • Math
    • Tables of derivatives
    • Trigonometric identities
  • Electronics
    • Capacitors
    • Resistors
    • Inductors
  • Error Calculations
It should be noted that none of the sections in physics have been done at a deep-level. Its all been aimed at the experience level I stated above.

Heck, I'd someday like to have equations from much more advanced material included (equations for time-dependent perturbation theory anyone?). For now, some more fleshing out of the math section is important.

So although a lot of the current apps have a number of the equations that I already have, their organization of the material is very poor. I'm approaching the problem from the perspective of someone who would actually find this information useful, so I'm able to organize the equations in a more optimal way.

I should also note that I haven't seen others with the error calculation equations. That alone could probably be packaged into an app. I know that every time I have to write a lab report, I constantly forget these ones.

There's a bunch I want to add into the math section before launch (integrals, geometry, taylor series, etc) and some tables (eg coefficients of friction for common materials). If there is anything that you would like to see included in the launch version, or in a future version, please let me know in the comments below, via twitter, or by email.

Making equation reference app for iOS, send me stuff you want included.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ready, Set....

So yeah. The term starts tomorrow. I've got so much I still need to do. I've still got a bunch of classes to sign up for. Ugh forms.

The return trip from Boston went well. Went straight from the airport to Waterloo. We installed some blinds on all the windows in the apartment so that we can have some degree of privacy. Afterwards, we went to the Futureshop and picked up a new 37" LG TV. Its very shiny. I'm in the process of installing software to the HTPCs now that they can be used. I just finished installing XBMC Live edition to the first one, did some system updates, broke the nvidia drivers, and now updating those drivers to work again.

But whats a awesome day without some difficulties? Once we finished with those adventures, I went to sit down and browse the internet. I glanced at the dsl modem, only to find that the power led was red, and the only other led that was on was the green wireless led. I finally managed to figure out what was wrong, and it turns out that the power adapter died. Apparently its common for this model of dsl modem to have this problem. Thankfully, I had my PSP power adapter around, which just happens to have the same output specs as the stock adapter. After biking to work to retrieve said adapter, the internet was back up and running.

At least I didn't have to end up purchasing a new modem.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Vacation End and Term Start

So as I sit here in the guest bed, getting ready for my last sleep of my vacation, I can't help but want to reflect a bit on my adventure to Massachusetts...

Everything has been pretty awesome. This area is a nice place to say the least. The family with whom I've been staying with have been very kind to me. They've allowed me into their home, and everyone has welcomed me with open arms. Coming from a much smaller family, the large number of people has been a fun experience.

Today was the first day after several of "no driving allowed" for Carolyn (due to doctor appointments), so we went into Boston. Our goal was to visit Harvard and MIT. Seemed simple enough....until we discovered that parking is pretty much impossible. At the end, we got to drive by some of the buildings. Considerably less than I was originally hoping for. Oh well. Next time, proper visit!

Tomorrow morning I leave for Logan airport to return to Ontario...where I will promptly start getting ready for my 4A term. I have a nice selection of classes this term....and by nice I mean OMG SO MUCH WORK
  • Quantum Physics 3
  • Quantum Theory 2
  • Electricity and Magnetism (part 1)
  • SYDE electronics course* & lab*
  • Econ 101*
  • Research project*
* indicate courses that I haven't been signed up for yet...sigh

On another note, I started thinking about what content I want to put into my Phys 10 presentation about the misconceptions of quantum computing.

Anyways, gotta get some rest for tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

NES to USB Adapter

A few days ago I ordered a NES to USB adapter from , and it showed up in the mail today. I had it sent to the address in the USA I'm staying at this week to save on shipping. I also had the foresight to bring a NES controller with me so that I could test it out when it showed up. That said, it seems to be working like a charm.

I gave it a test on my laptop (running ubuntu 10.04) and after installing a few packages, got it to work as a generic joystick. Seems to be pretty good! Now, it might be my lack of practice, or my aging laptop, or the power setting mode, but I feel like there is the ever so slightest input lag. I'll have to check it out more because I suspect it isn't the adapter, but a combination of my laptop and the software that I was running.

Overall thought, I'm very happy with it! So far, I would definitely recommend their products.

On a more personal note, my flight to Boston went excellently. I'm still here (until Saturday) and having a great time. The people that I'm staying with have been very nice to me so far. I'm hoping that we have the time to go visit MIT and Harvard before I have to leave.

Thursday, September 2, 2010



So I was (freaking finally) given connection to the internets yesterday. The Bell tech needed access to the apartment (turns out our unit's phone lines were cut) but no one was home. When my housemate returned, he called to let me know that a message was left. After informing him to take care of it, he did, and my poor DSL modem that has been struggling for a week to connect to Teksavvy was finally able to see the data signal.

The odd part of this story is when the tech went to the modem to see if it had connected, he noticed my gigabit switch also plugged in. Apparently he declared it "not necessary" and unplugged my switch. This is after he's seen my expensive custom computers around the house. Needless to say I called him up after I returned home, thanked him for getting our internet to work, and (kindly) gave him feedback on unplugging the switch. Yeah, I'm like that.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


The word of this post is "moving", lets see how many things I can talk about related to the word moving.

Moving... a new place in Waterloo. Well, I should say have moved. Just over a week ago, I managed to free myself from the grasp that was shitty housemates, and moved to a far nicer and cheaper (or as my mother would say, "more economical") two bedroom apartment. I've moved in with a fellow physics student, which other than the obvious benefit of being able to have physics related discussions, has the unrelated side benefit of living with someone who cleans up after themselves more often than once every two months. Oh internet, I'll be ranting about that on another occasion. But I digress; the move took the entire weekend. Saturday was full of cleaning and box moving, while Sunday was all about renting a truck to move the larger items (bed, shelf, dresser, table, etc). The new place is also a little further away from the IQC than my previous arrangements, so after walking in to work on Monday I was pretty tired. internet connection. This has been the biggest struggle of my move so far. I called the Friday before I was going to move. Now, my ISP is Teksavvy. I've had great experiences with them so far. For just under a year actually. That said, the man that I was talking to in order to move my service was not a help at all. So after telling me it would be 5 business days to move the dry loop (which is really out of their control, and not their fault at all due to it being Bell's issue) and explaining the moving charges ($20...which is lame) I agreed. I was also informed that I would be receiving confirmation via email within 2 business days, ie Tuesday. So when Tuesday rolled around, and I hadn't received any emails, I called them up. The lady told me that they were very busy, she brought up my file (well, she said she did) and told me that everything was fine. So when Thursday came by, and I still didn't hear anything, I called them again. This time, I was told something different. I was informed that my account only had the address updated, and there was no move order issued the Friday that I did call. If it wasn't for the fact that this lady was very nice and helpful, I probably would have started yelling at her. She made 100% sure that the order went through while we were still on the phone. The bad part was it was going to be another 5 business 1 week. I'm still waiting. blog address. I decided to ditch the old address, so for now its until I think of something better. ass to Boston for a week. I'm leaving this Saturday with my lady friend to visit her family. I'm pretty excited. Well, excited minus the airport part. I am very much against the full body scanners and the ability of the TSA agents to do things like search your laptop hard drive. Rant for another time... computer into a new case! I got myself a shiny new Antec P-183 case, and holy crap, it is definitely MUCH better than my old case. When the CPU fan kicks into high, the dB increase is so much less than my old case. The only issue I had was that since the PSU is now under the motherboard, the +12V 4pin CPU power can't reach the socket on the top of the motherboard, let alone be routed properly. I had to do some creative thinking just to get the cable to reach it. The 24 pin EATX cable can reach the connector fine, but can't do that while being routed properly. I'll have to get some extension cables next time I'm at the computer store. Oh, and pictures of how I got it to work will follow soon(ish).

Monday, August 2, 2010

Continuing at the IQC

So I confirmed with my boss the other day that I will be able to do my 4th year research project at the IQC. He already has an idea as to what he will be having me do, but I don't know too much about it at this point, so I'm not even going to try to explain it :P.

I'm pretty excited though.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Motion Sensors....I hate them.

So the other day, I was taking the bus to work. Normally I walk, but I was running a little behind, so I took the main bus line in town.

But I have a problem with these buses. Every time I get on I think about the terrible, terrible motion sensor on it. You see, the rear doors on these buses require that you wave your arms around in the general area of the door so that they open. Now in theory, that would work fine. You approach the door with your arm, indicating to the bus that you would like to exit. It opens the doors, and you're free to go on your adventure.

Sadly, it doesn't work very well.

So back to the other morning. When I got to my destination, I was stuck waving my arms around in all sorts of directions and ways in an attempt to get the doors to open. You see, the motion sensor sucks. It was a terrible idea, and I have no idea why they use it. I was stuck there for at least 10 good seconds flailing about when someone yelled "Could we get the back doors open?" to the bus driver for me. It wasn't just this bus too. It happens a good percentage of the time I attempt to exit those buses. I see other people struggle with it all the time too.

The don't open when you want them too, and if the bus is crowded, they open constantly at stops from people standing under the sensor. Of course though, in that situation you'd rather they stay closed so the bus can start moving.

And its not like all their buses use this system. In fact, these are the NEWER buses that use it. The older ones have a physical switch hidden in the door handle. If you wanted to exit, you would push slightly on the door handle, and BAM, door opens.

Seriously. Like, wtf?

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Quest for the HTPC

I swear I must have a problem. When I get it in my head that I'm going to do something computer related, I research it for hours, no, days until I'm ready to make a decision. Sometimes its just to save $20 in the end. This is definitely the case with my current project: The HTPC.

But first, what got me on this adventure? I was transferring some videos from my personal server to my external hard drive on my desktop when I noticed that this was taking too long. I'm not sure why this time specifically I noticed that it was only going at about 10 megabytes/sec, but I had to fix that. A trip to the store later, I was the proud owner of an 8 port gigabit switch. After a few tests, I found transfers to hover around 40 megabytes / sec. Not fast enough! After some research on my old hard drive being used in the server, it was clearly the culprit. But if I'm going to upgrade the hard drive, why not go the whole way?

I started this project off with a simple goal, to improve the capabilities of my personal server and to build a device worthy of 1080p playback on a new TV. The TV part came up when it was mentioned that I might be receiving a new HD TV for the fall. How hard can that goal be?

Well, according to my OCD, there is always more to research!

In the interest of keeping costs down, and overall complexity down, I've decided to make one computer that will serve as both the 1080p playback device and my personal server. The requirements I initially have put on both parts are the follows:

  • Smooth 1080p playback. The best quality movie I have right now is about 15Mbps, so that should be something I am for.
  • Relatively quiet. I'm not completely crazy over silencing the components, but I'd rather to make some effort in keeping the noise down.
Personal Server
  • Backup of personal documents (photos, work, etc)
  • SSH
  • Webserver
  • Samba
  • Etc, all easy stuff.
Since all the requirements on the personal server side are easy (assuming I roll with an Ubuntu distro), I decided that I would use XBMC for my HTPC experience. For those that don't know, XBMC is a media center application dealie. Give it a search on google for more information on their website.

However, with this decision, I opened myself to a ton of other questions. General questions include: How do I organize my media best for XBMC? How do I continue to add new media to my collection? Lets start with organization.

I took a look at my movies and tv shows that I have stored. Although I did a tad of work recently for organization, it wasn't anywhere good enough. This is especially true when you take into account the organization required for XBMC (and to satisfy my OCD of course). I started off with just doing some renaming and folder structure. I used this perl script I found for TV shows where it renames the files to include the episode name. That was working for a while, but it required me to name the season folders "Breaking Bad1x" (as an example for the first season of Breaking Bad).

The season folder naming had to be undone when I moved to media scapers. As a mostly Ubuntu user, I needed a media manager program to run under linux. Should be easy enough, right? Well, other than the fact that it needs to organize everything for XBMC, but it also needs to like, run on linux. The problem is nearly all of the popular media managers are made using the .net framework. I tried a bunch of them listed on the xbmc forums. Some require .net fw 3.5 (which doesn't work with wine), some were completely unstable in mono (I'm looking at you, Ember), and the one cross platform one I found (programmed in java) didn't fulfill my needs. After much aggravation, I switched direction. I just downloaded TinyXP rev9 and ran it under VirtualBox. I shouldn't have had to do that, but it got stuff working. Of course there were some issues with getting TinyXP to work (like installing the network drivers, .net 3.5 framework, etc) but I knew how to get those issues resolved (they just took some time).

So with my XP VM running, I decided on Media Companion. Why? It works, and seems to still be doing a good job. So with this program in hand, I'm downloading nfo files containing all sorts of info about the movies / tv shows and all sorts of pictures, including fan art and folder images.

Life is now going well in that regard. Just to point out though, that took a few days of work to come to this conclusion.

I think I'm going to save part 2, the media automation, for another post. This is getting long enough. Actually, I'm not really done figuring out the automation stuff, so it'll be more of a work in progress post :P.

Sunday, July 18, 2010 was kinda soon.

What a crazy last few months its been. And naturally, I've failed to keep track of it.

Where to begin? Well, let me first go over what has happened in WoW. I ended up leaving my previous guild and joining Tabula Rasa on Dragonblight. Amazing people, really fun to hang around and play with. A few months after I joined, the officer responsible for handing out healing assignments had to take a break from the game to focus on his family (I think him and his wife just had a baby at the time....not sure on that though). I stepped up, and filled the roll of assigning healers. A few weeks later I had a discussion with the administration and was made an officer.

Fast forward to May. I'm starting to get really tired of raiding. I was so busy with other stuff that staying up late was killing me. But I stuck with it because I committed to it. At the end of May, I went to a physics conference (which I will talk about later), and ended up receiving an amazing job offer to start right after the conference finished. It was such a good opportunity, that I had to step down from officership to ensure that I got enough sleep, and still managed to get other things done in my life. With that decision I also decided to completely stop playing WoW.

On the academic front, I really put my butt into gear this year. I almost managed to get an 80% average this past term (I was juuuuuuust short). My goal for this upcoming fall term (which will be the start of my 4th year) is to hit that 80% average.

So this past year, I have taken a number of courses. Last fall term I took Quantum 2, Mathematical Physics 1, Intermediate Classical Mechanics, and a lab. In the winter term I took Condensed Matter, Mathematical Physics 2, Statistical Mechanics, Scientific Computation 2, and a lab.

So what's this conference I mentioned? Well, the stars aligned and I was chosen to attend the Institute for Quantum Computing's USEQIP conference. This stands for undergraduate student experimental quantum information processing. It was a 2 week conference consisting of about 14 students from all around the world. I was taught by some of the world leading experts in the field. It was such an amazing experience, and it has really helped push me in the right direction for getting into grad school.

During the conference, I was offered a job in one of the labs. Naturally, I took it. I am currently working for Dr David Cory, a very famous scientist who just received the CERC prize (google it for more info). As part of his prize, he's been given a huge amount of lab space; 10k square feet I am told. Its the entire first floor of this new building on campus. I spend a lot of my time helping set the labs up. One of the big projects I am working on right now is helping setup the low temperature lab. Its absolutely amazing getting to see just what goes into setting up the equipment. The postdoc that I'm working with is a great guy, and answers every question that I have.

I don't just do labour though. I work with a very simple nuclear quadrapole resonance (NQR) setup. Due to its (comparative to other setups) simplicity, its perfect for me to get hands on experience with the basics.

So some of you might have heard that Dr Stephen Hawking was in Waterloo last month. Well, I'll let the following picture speak for itself....


Aww. Yeahh.

All of these events in the past year have been really exciting. None of them compare to me meeting my girlfriend. We started dating in Sept 09 and have been happy ever since. She's really nerdy like me (she's a math major, that's right up there with physics on the nerdy scale). She's a really awesome person. There have been times during my academic terms where the homework load was putting too much stress on me. To help me out, she would come visit the physics study lounge to keep me smiling while working away. Heck, she even brought me pizza when I was working all night on a take home final. I know she's going to read this at some point, so Carolyn: RAWRRRRRRR!!!!

Anyways, that's the key things that have happened. Maybe later I'll go into some more detail about how stupid my housemates are.