PSU Lab Status for Windows Phone 8

PSU Lab Status Logo

Are you a Penn State student who doesn’t like lugging their laptop to campus?  Have you ever brought your laptop to campus only to realize that its battery is dead and you forgot your charger?  Yeah, we’ve all been there.  Luckily, we pay an “Information Technology Fee” so that Penn State can provide us with computer labs on campus.  The only problem is that many of the labs with computers are also classrooms, meaning they are are only free for short windows of time during the day.  As a result, computer labs that don’t double as classrooms tend to be packed with people.  Well, I have good news!  My second Windows Phone app, PSU Lab Status, will solve all of those problems (except the unreasonable IT fee, of course).

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CATA Tracker – Version 2.0

Version 2.0 of my CATA Tracker app was released today on the Windows Phone Store.  This update involves changes to both the front end and back end, and brings the app closer to my original vision.  Here’s an overview of the major changes:
Pushpin showing the direction of the Blue Loop.

Bus Direction Display

A beta version of the online CATABUS Locator now provides the information necessary to display the direction buses are moving on the map–one of the features most requested by students.  Users will now find a small triangle on the marker for each bus indicating the direction the bus is moving.

Route Groups

Route Groups are one of my favorite features of the CATA+ app for Android, and I’ve wanted to implement them in CATA Tracker for quite a while now.  Well, they’re finally here!  Users can add the routes they travel most to a group to see all of them displayed on a single map.  This is an extremely useful feature for students moving around campus since often either a loop or link would get the job done.

Windows Azure Back End

Rather than communicating with CATA’s server directly, the app now pulls its data from a middleman Windows Azure server.  While this may add another step to the process of data retrieval, it makes the app more robust by providing a consistent data format that I control.  Previously, the app had the possibility of breaking if CATA made any major changes to their data format.  Updating the app for the new format used to require resubmission to the Windows Phone Store and recertification, a process that can take a few days.  Now, however, I can simply update my Windows Azure server to comply with the new data format and the app will be functional again almost instantly.

CATA Tracker for Windows Phone 8

CATA Tracker Logo

My first Windows Phone 8 app, CATA Tracker, has officially been published and is available for download.  This app provides real-time bus tracking for the CATA bus service in the State College area.

The initial release contains basic bus location tracking only.  I have plans to add more features in the near future.  If you have any feedback or suggestions, feel free to leave them as a comment.

New Site Design has been due for a redesign for a long time, and now it’s finally happened!  The new site is inspired by Microsoft’s Modern UI design, specifically the Windows 8 Start Screen and Windows Phone 8.  In fact, my motivation to redesign the site was a result of publishing a Windows Phone 8 app (look for another post on that soon).  I feel the site is now cleaner but still represents who I am.  Fun fact:  I used Microsoft PowerPoint to help me visualize the design before coding it, which is a process that I highly recommend.

With the more professional design also comes more professional content.  I’m choosing to retain my older posts (despite the fact that some are embarrassing at this point), but you can expect my future posts to be focused more on my career and academics.  I hope it will become a true tech blog containing programming tips and tutorials from my real-life experience.

I would love to hear what you think of the new design.  Feel free to leave a comment on this post or email me with your feedback.

Echo Smartpen by Livescribe

When my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year I wasn’t sure how to answer. Of course clothes are always an option (especially at this age), but it’s nice for both parties if you can think of something unique. The internet is always a good resource for me to find the latest gadgets, so I began shopping around. Eventually I came across a product called a smartpen. I can’t say the idea of a smartpen was anything new to me; I remember reading about a device that would digitize what you wrote on paper and thinking it sounded pretty cool. However, at the time I didn’t really see it becoming something that I would use often enough to make it worth the money. Desperate for gift ideas, I decided I would give the smartpen idea another chance. I did some research and in a short time realized that the smartpen had made great technological strides since they were first introduced. Specifically, a company called Livescribe had created a very nice smartpen that did much more than just digitize handwritten notes.

The Echo Smartpen by Livescribe is essentially every college student’s dream. Simply remember to tap the record button with the pen at the start of any lecture in order to end the period with a lot more than just the fading memories of what the professor said. The smartpen will provide a physical copy of any notes, a very clear digital copy of the same notes, and an audio recording of the lecture that is synchronized with what was written. It is the perfect solution to confusing course material or those “off days” that everyone experiences one in a while (or perhaps more frequently for some people). Thanks to the synchronized audio recording, reliving the lecture is as simple as tapping the pen on any part of the notes. Suddenly the audio that was recorded during the time those notes were taken will begin to play from the pen’s speaker. It is truly amazing! Plug the pen into the computer for even more options, a few of which include backing up, organizing, and sharing the notes and recordings. Plus I haven’t even mentioned the variety of smartpen applications being written every day, turning your smartpen into anything from a ruler to a calculator to a piano. The possibilities are endless!

It should be noted that this smartpen requires special paper in order to record what is written, but that’s not as much of a drawback as one may initially think. I was able to purchase four 100-sheet 8″ x 10″ notebooks (200 digital pages when both sides are used) for $20. Other sizes are also available, but $5 per notebook isn’t outrageously expensive in my opinion. It is also possible to print Livescribe notebook pages from the computer, but usually that requires a laser printer. I have also read that the ink cartridges run out more quickly than one would expect, but five refills only cost $5.

Overall I highly recommend the Echo Smartpen. It’s well-designed, feature packed, and invaluably useful. Used to its potential, I think this pen could easily make grades in any class higher. Even if grades aren’t a concern this pen will still making studying and reviewing easier and more comprehensive than ever.

Do you have a smartpen from Livescribe? What about a smartpen from another manufacturer? If so, please leave a comment below and let me know how you like it. Interested in buying a smartpen now? Feel free to ask me questions in a comment as well.

MATH 230 - 13.1

A sample of my digitized notes from my MATH 230 lecture.


Today I attended an event at Penn State called TEDxPSU. For those of you who don’t know, TEDx is an independently organized TED event, which is basically a program of speakers communicating “Ideas Worth Spreading.” When I first found out about this event I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. I did some research on their website and watched quite a few videos from past TED events and came to the conclusion that it was something that I would really enjoy.
The event took place on 10/10/10 from 10:10 AM – 5:10 PM in Schwab Auditorium at Penn State. It consisted of twelve live speakers, seven prerecorded speakers from other TED events, and two musical performances. In short, every single one of these speakers and performances was spectacular and well worth listening to. It’s amazing how enlightening a person can be when speaking about something they truly have a passion for. As for the topics at TEDx, I cannot really group them into a general category besides “great thoughts and ideas.” I got to hear about topics like technological advancements, economic solutions, education strategies, personal betterment, and so much more. All in all, I loved every second of it.

TEDxPSU is an event that I will certainly take a lot away from. I took notes on every speaker and from each of them I managed to pull at least one great idea. I would like to share these ideas with all of you here, both to benefit myself by reflecting and to attempt to pass my realizations on to you. Not all of these little snippets will make sense out of context, but I would imagine they are still meaningful with a little thought. Sure, it may lead to a different conclusion then I came to in the context of the speech, but I don’t see anything wrong with that. As always, if you have any questions or thoughts please feel free to leave a comment below.

  • Mobility is the next big revolution.
  • Delaying self-gratitude is the key to success.
  • Listen in order to create a space for possibility.
  • Disregard no person.
  • Loop pedals are awesome.
  • Humans generate bias based on unusual versus common, unknown versus familiar, personified versus anonymous, and control versus participation.
  • The best security tradeoffs are made when feeling equals reality.
  • With any idea, the opposite may also be true.
  • The world would be a better place if we all lived in our right brain.
  • Boys and girls are different.
  • Get the basics right first.
  • Don’t share your goals with others because then you are less likely to accomplish them.
  • Just do it until someone stops you.
  • There is no difference between disabilities and super abilities.
  • If children have interest than education will occur.
  • Compliment
  • “While nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer, nothing is more difficult than to understand him.”
  • Be an alien. Don’t take everything at face value—make it your own to fuel your own success.

Finally, here are the websites of some amazing artists that I discovered at TEDxPSU:

30″ Monitors and a Trip to China


College is full of new experiences, many of which can stem from the new resources available at universities. Specifically, colleges usually offer a greater amount and quality of technology to their students. This is because, let’s face it, colleges can afford it. Sure, some of the new, expensive resources are not really any more useful than the ones in students’ homes, but they are still cool to have.

While I was at college I discovered a perfect example of these unnecessary, yet awesome, resources. One night my friends and I wanted to find out which computer labs had computers with some distribution of Linux installed. We search around on the university website and came across a lab that was exactly what we were looking for, so we decided to check it out. We didn’t find ordinary Linux systems, though. Instead, we walked into a room full of 50 desktop towers with 25 30″ widescreen monitors! That’s right! These were the largest monitors I think I’ve ever seen attached to a computer. It is like using a nice size TV as your computer screen. I was amazed!

The two-to-one ratio of towers to monitors may have caught your attention. Well, there was one Windows 7 machine and one Red Hat 5.5 sharing each of the 25 monitors, making 50 computers total. The monitors and other peripherals were connected to a Belkin switchbox that allowed the user to switch between the two machines. This is by far the coolest computer lab I’ve seen so far.
While we were in the computer lab, I decided to tell everyone about an interesting experience my friends and I had with Google Directions earlier in the week. After a funny turn of events, we asked Google how we would travel to China from the US, and we got some interesting results. Let’s just say that a triathlon is nothing compared to the journey Google would take you on!




Yesterday I went to the local movie theater to see Inception…for the second time. Rarely do I watch a movie twice, let alone spend $17.50 to see it only two times. If there were ever a movie that would be worth that, though, it would have to be Inception. It is by far the best movie I’ve seen in years. It’s possibly even my favorite movie of all time (an honor previously held by UP, which would then be my second favorite). It is simply the most well-conceived movie ever created. Granted, it can be difficult to follow at times (Jenny…:)), but if you really pay attention and test the capacity of your bladder, you will leave that theater with a new standard for movies.

Inception is about dreams. It takes place in the future in a time when “dream machines” have been created. These machines, which hook into your body like an IV, allow you to dream on demand. It sounds plausible even today because everyone wants everything right now, so why not dreams? The synthetic dreams are no different from real dreams, and they can even be customized with some extra work. This customization is a basis for the movie. After all, it only takes one person to ruin a good thing, right? These customizable, synthetic dreams are no exception.

People have studied and learned about dreams enough to figure out that dreams can be shared, thus exposing the world of your mind to anyone. Your secrets are always present in all of your dreams, but naturally locked away in a physical safe house. Like anything to which physical access is permitted, these secrets are susceptible to theft. The theft of secrets via dreams is called extraction, and the people that perform extraction are, well, extractors. The main character in Inception is an extractor (actually, the best extractor) named Cobb. His main business is to train the big targets of extraction to protect their secrets from theft. He does, occasionally, take jobs to steal secrets, but can you blame him? Money is money, in the end.

This time, Cobb has been recruited to do something different–inception. This is the opposite of extraction. Since extraction is removing ideas (namely secrets) from the mind while dreaming, inception is adding ideas to someone’s mind during a dream. This is not easy by any means, and requires careful planning and care. The mind has to actually be tricked into thinking it came up with the new idea, because otherwise it is no different than telling someone what to do and hoping they listen. This difficult task forces Cobb to assemble a team of the best and push the world of dreams, as well as reality, to the limit. The action and complexity will have your brain working harder than it has in a while, but it is beyond worth it.

If you haven’t seen Inception yet, please try to see it before it leaves theaters. If you do miss it, then buy it when it is released for purchase. I know I’m going to, and I’ve seen it twice already! Either way, do your best to pay attention and really try to understand. You will take away so much from that movie, including modified definitions of family, friends, love, sacrifice, reality, integrity, and possibly even life. Oh, and don’t be angry at the ending. I will warn you that it may be a little too vague for those of you not accustom to Jodi Picoult, but think of it as a choice. Think about everything you’ve learned and all of the events leading up to the last scene, and then decide. I know my decision, and I firmly believe it. Nonetheless, it’s up to you. Let me know what you choose. Enjoy!

Cedar Point

In a few hours I will be traveling to Cedar Point with this year’s DAHS Yearbook Staff. We have all been excited for this trip since the beginning of the school year! The staff members are all great people and I know we are going to have a wonderful time. I would like to give a special shout out to Gabby and Dane. These studious members of the yearbook staff were unable to attend the Cedar Point trip because they had to take the SATs. Good luck on the test Dane and Gabby! I commend you on your dedication to academics. Do your best and make us proud.

The main reason that I am writing this entry in my blog is to accommodate the new visors that come to as a result of the Cedar Point trip. is advertised on the back of my shirt to promote my website and also to see how many people actually will visit the site as a result. If you visited this site because you saw it on my shirt, please post a comment below to let me know!

Trip Update:

On the way to Cedar Point our bus driver stopped at a rest area. No big deal. However, he then got off of the bus without saying a word to us, closed the bus door, and went to the restroom. Meanwhile we are trapped on the bus because we don’t know how to open the door. Finally the driver gets back on the bus and says, “Did anyone go anywhere?” What?! We don’t know how to open the door! Our bus driver is crazy!

Click for larger size.

2010 DAHS Yearbook

2010 DAHS Yearbook Cover

Today is the day to pick up your 2010 Yearbook! The theme this year is “We are…” We are a family here at DAHS, so we made some changes to the organization and layout of the book this year. For example, grades 9-11 and the staff are all alphabetized into one people section. There are also no divisions between sections because our athletics are just as important as our academics and so on.
I hope everyone enjoys their yearbook! Feel free to post your comments on this post to let me know what you think!