Wednesday July 18, 2012

Smart Systems 4

I'm doing a 4th elective this semester because the Animation paper had some hand-in requirements that I wasn't aware of. I now have a very annoying blip on my academic record and am 15 points in deficit of my graduation requirements. I was going to argue the point but after some investigation it turns out I wasn't just diligent enough in this case. Oh well, shit happens.

That said, this paper looks like it will be rather interesting, especially given our two tutors credentials. We're going to be exploring location awareness and hopefully coming up with something interesting from it. We can interpret location awareness quite broadly too. I have a couple of ideas already but will do a bit of research before I divulge them.


    Sunday July 22, 2012

Project Ideas

This week before the next Smart Systems class we have to figure out a project to look into. I have 2 ideas, one is really kind of basic but kind of neat though not really useful in any way. It was a mechanical flower with a long stem that moved toward light. I had an idea of how it would move mechanically and it is pretty neat, it would wow people I think then it would just be a matter of programming it to sense the direction of light using an array of LDRs. It's all a bit basic though. Would impress people in year 2 but I think the standard (for me at least) should be a bit higher. I might still do it though, because as I said it's neat.

The other idea was something I came up with last year and wanted to use for the Dragons Den pitch that we had to do in year 2. The group I was in didn't seem too receptive to it, but a friend of mine reminded me about it when I told her of my location-aware project. It's a device that knows where a toddler is in relation to a driveway when a car is moving. There has been a spate of toddlers being run over in driveways over the years, enough to make one recognise it as a real problem in need of attention, and "good parenting" is clearly not the answer. Much the same way that "just eat less" is not the answer to obesity really.

I still need to read more on location awareness though.


    Wednesday October 17, 2012

Smart Systems End

Well whoops, I overlooked updating the blog on this paper. What I ended up doing was my third idea, I threw it in at the last minute and my tutors happened to favour it. It was a game for iPhone that I had come up with a while ago as something I might develop next year outside of the BCT. Mainly because I could see it failing if it was a project, especially now, as it's beyond my current skills. It was a sort of laser tag using iPhones (or other devices). It made sense though when I considered that it was location-aware and I was already going to build a location-aware app for iPhone for Studio. So I could merge the knowledge  Well, we know how that unfolded, I dropped Objective-C to make it a web app and never got far enough along to start re-coding in Objective-C.

The paper had 2 assignments, one was an annotated bibliography, which is something I had never done before. I didn't enjoy the process so much, mainly because this is the 3rd elective so I sort of resented the time sunk when I had papers that I had actually chosen at the beginning of the year to do. This semester could have been so cruisy for me if it weren't for the animation paper screw up. And I should have contested it, I took way too much responsibility for a marking schedule that just wasn't there when it should have been. I was able to compare it to outside papers that told me in the first week what the marks were, the breakdown and when it was due. all of that was essentially missing but for some mystery bit of paper floating around. We have an online system called Blackboard and it should have been there. That 30% that Jackie had mentioned to me and I had decided to flag it... 2 things there: One is it turned out to be 50% that I was flagging, and the other is that I could have just handed it in a day later or even a week later it turns out (for less marks but still). Some students get chased up, but I didn't. Normally I'm not someone who has to be chased up, but this one time it might have been nice. The actual animation -  the main part - that I handed in got a good mark. But that's no good when it's onlt worth 50% of the final mark and you get 0 for the other (useless) bits. So through out the semester, as much as I liked the idea behind smart systems, I just found the position that I was in incredibly annoying.

I did get something out of the annotated bibliography though, as painful as it was to do. It helped to connect the academic research, conceptual ideas and actual making of something into one package. This helped me with my Studio project. It's always been a stumbling block for me (and others) connecting concept with practical. Last year Anneke and I attempted to create a security system that networked to other security systems and even perhaps connected to a social network in some way. But we also did a whole pile of conceptual research that at the time seemed nothing but a distraction, particularly as we couldn't really connect it with what we were doing in a way that didn't frankly seem like bullshit. The links were tenuous and one didn't really inform the other. It was like 2 projects in one, to appeal to arty tutors when it wasn't an art project. Nor was it supposed to be a thesis on the state of the self in modern society. It was a bloody alarm system.

However, something clicked somehow with the annotated bibliography and perhaps with the way our tutor described things. Andy comes from a mathematics and sciences background, but can grasp the BCT conceptual thing very well, so actually manages to connect the dots in my head more. I'm still not sure if I could really make a more solid link between Michel Foucault and an neighbourhood watch alarm that is truly meaningful without being flowery but it was a step in the right direction.

I looked at augmented reality and urban gaming mostly in my annotated bibliography. Mainly because I downloaded way too many pdfs and those were the first ones I opened. They all happened to be about the same thing. And I was finding hard going and running out of time (had been working hard on Studio then I realised the bibliography was due in something like 4 or 5 days and had to drop what I was doing... which I always find a painful thing to do).

I was happy enough with the mark I got back, it wasn't amazing at all, but my expectations were not as high as they usually are so it was pretty okay.

The next step was to build something. This was an excruciating idea because my idea was complex anyway then and I have to implement it in Objective-C which seems to be a major stumbling block for me. So, it's like, not only do I have to learn some Astro physics, fine... but I have learn it in Italian. Yep. Objective-C reminds me somewhat of AppleScript. It looks nothing like any other language I know and doesn't make sense despite being in your face in plain english. It's just... too abstracted or something. AppleScript was impossible to learn because it was so natural language that you couldn't determine what was allowed and what wasn't. Computer languages that actually look like computer languages are easier, at least you can see how it works. I find the program flow in Objective-C hard to determine and all the button and UI stuff is hidden away. Sure you can connect buttons to events. Okay... so what is the app doing when no button has been pressed? Where is it looping? Hell, where does it even start running? What the hell is an App delegate? Developer docs don't actually make that much clearer for me. Am I stupid or are explanations that don't actually tell you what is happening good enough for most people?

I also just have too much on my plate (aside from the other 3 papers) and this is the hardest and most frustrating given that I'm doing it because I was cheated from an animation mark (yes, I'm bitter). And other stuff...

So with less than a week to go I finally had time (not really but now it was the most urgent) to look at my smart systems project. And I had no idea where to begin. Whatever I did it would not be up to my standard. But having said that I find little of what I do up to my standard. But this would be a new low. I spoke to Andy though to ask how I could mitigate the disaster somewhat.

Today I presented. I didn't feel like going, but I had to, it was a summative assessment. I'd had a weekend and a couple of days to do it and I've never been so demotivated. A cross between resentment at doing 3 electives, the difficulty of the task I'd set myself and just some personal issues invading my headspace (constantly lately, and it's driving me up the wall). When I did try really hard to work out how to create a game concept at the very least I drew blanks. I realised I had to try to make something before I could design the game, I seem to work like that. But it's in bloody XCode so I can't really (I have enough experience of how slow and sometimes backwards things go here). I decided to finally look at what is already out there. Oh look, my game idea has been done before. I also decided to try something that I'd never bothered with before. Git Hub. I didn't realise it was an easily searchable repository of open source code.

What I wound up presenting was the process I'd gone through and how much of it didn't work. This semester has been a mess in a few ways and last semester was the catalyst for the mess (the personal stuff too). I don't know how I'll do, I imagine I will still pass (just) and that is enough for me now. I got an A last time I did Smart Systems.

[update] I passed at least...