Multidisciplinary Design Program

17 December 2012

With the Fall quarter finally over, I find I actually have time to blog. Great. I also find that I have time to run more, clean up around the apartment, brood over my sloven flatmate, and run some more.

Great.

It’s not all bad. I’m still grateful that I made it through the gauntlet of essays (at one point I was averaging 2 a day and some of them were fairly long and involved) and exams, and I’m reasonably satisfied with how they came out. I say that now, of course; I’m sure I’ll be kicking myself when I get my grades. I’m trying to look on the positive sides of things and remind myself that these essays might have done just fine and I’d be keeping my As in all of my classes if that’s the case. It’s just that the fear of coming in anything under top marks makes me anxious.

I digress. Recently I’ve been getting some good news:

I was selected to take part in a Multidisciplinary Design Program, which I’m going to call MDP from now on because I hate typing that whole thing out. The MDP is a research project for people interested in doing work that involves a number of different fields. It’s great because this particular project incorporates the Informatics department and uses ethnographic methods to learn more about how people use space on campus.

So yeah, this is my kind of research project.

It would be even more ideal if the two departments involved were Informatics and Anthropology (rather than Planning, Policy, & Design - in the school of Social Ecology), but seeing as there were no MDP projects involving Anthropology or Sociology, I’ll take what I can get.

I was also selected as a transfer student liaison for the Associated Students of UC Irvine, the undergraduate government body at UCI. I’m tentatively putting this in the back of my mind because there might be a scheduling conflict that prevents me from taking part, and in that case I won’t be a transfer student liaison. I’ve emailed the president and notified her of the conflict, and hopefully she’ll either give me a pass or we’ll figure something else out. Realistically, I might have to step back from that potential role. It’s unfortunate, but I’d rather put classes ahead of any individual opportunity to do extracurriculars.

On the side, I’ve been keeping up somewhat with this blasted Twitter app, but it might receive more attention over the next few weeks since I’ll be spending more time at home and with family. Some things that need work still:

  • Retweeting functionality
  • Proper display of retweets
  • Follow/unfollow options
  • Display user’s stats properly
  • Proper replies (I forgot if I fixed this)
  • Config file encryption*

*Someone insisted that my configuration file (which contains my Twitter oAuth credentials as well as the user’s Access tokens) be encrypted. I understand the rationale for this, but I’m not sure how to encrypt it in a truly secure way. If someone wants to break into the application somehow, I’m really at a loss for what I can do to prevent them from getting the plaintext results. Maybe I’m just not thinking of the proper solution. Maybe the whole point is to make it hard enough that a cursory scan of the user’s config files won’t reveal everything.

I’ll keep working on it and see what I can get done. I wanted to kill the project because the Terminal - while kind of obscure - isn’t an ideal setting to interact with a stream of data from the internet. Things interrupt your input and that makes everything look bad. Maybe there’s a solution but I’m not bothering to look for it. In any case, I’d rather just make my own GUI that works the way I want it to work. It’s unfortunate that by this point my Java course had gotten around to teaching us user interfaces (if briefly), but the Python class never got there by the end of the quarter. Naturally I’m expecting the second course in the series to get there, but that puts this course on a slower pace than the Java class circuit I started at my community college, lending credence to my feelings that UCI isn’t as rigorous as my community college (and making me feel worse about not being at a “top” university).

And yes, I know UCI is a “top” university by many measures. I mean top ~20 (Berkeley’s 21, but as close as any UC gets and good enough).

In any event, I’ve been looking into Tk and some other UI frameworks, and I’ve sketched out a few ideas for user interface paradigms that I still like after a few days of looking at them and critiquing them. Those are awesome signs; usually I hate my ideas after a few days ruminating on them. At some point in the next few weeks I’ll make some vectors or something and upload them here so the idea is actually out in public. If someone feels like copying my ideas, feel free. A hat tip to me would be nice.

If you have something to say about this post, email me or tweet at me.