(Not) Belly Up

I’d like to start off by declaring that I’m not complaining when I say that eighteen credits definitely keeps me moving. Actually, after being consistently busy the last two months with the help of the 18 credits, I don’t know if I could go back down to 12 unless filling up my time otherwise. I don’t really have any tech news to report or any college tips to suggest. I don’t even have a band in mind to review.

I did, however, start getting prepared to build a music blog that I dubbed MusicBytes and reserved the musicbytes.us domain. For now it simply just has a landing page saying that the site is being built. The reason for this is while I get deeper into Content Management Systems and now as we’ve hit on topics like child themes, it could help me make that site/blog better. I’d prefer to have it set up right the first time instead of having to take it down to fix it later and lose readers as I’m doing so. It wouldn’t surprise me if I started typing up some reviews on text files until that point though. That would give me a nice glob of content to already have pre-written so that all I would have to do is amend it and format it.

However, for informational purposes, I aim to have MusicBytes.us very open to where I can literally write about any musical artist, or “genre” if you prefer, without any lines or boundaries. I’m also looking to set it up to have more than one author which should give it a broader perspective of music and style. I realize the landing page isn’t visually spectacular, smiles, but am still brainstorming a visual theme and atmosphere.

musicbyte.us
Temporary Landing Page for MusicBytes.us

For now, I’m going to have to keep this blog running as is, as a free WordPress hosted blog at that, because school and other things have me pretty booked up, especially if doing the MusicBytes blog. I’m starting to learn moderation so I don’t start trying to do too many projects at once. A photography site is also on my agenda. I would rather start up a few websites on my own before starting out on developing for others.

Thank you for your time,

~SpartanByte

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Early Morning Update

A Break In Homework

It’s one in the morning and I’m breaking in my homework, starting to create my first database, using Microsoft Access, for my Microcomputer Databases class. With the heavy 18 credit course load, I am thinking I am going to just put up a small reminder whiteboard as well for small projects that aren’t as important as homework of course, but still important. Granted, the semester just started Monday but my last post here was on the 2nd. If I want to try and bring people back for tech fun, current events, etc…it needs to be more frequent. I do have a few projects other than school in play as well but I’ll get to that, and yes, I like to stay busy.

Dropbox heated up the “cloud storage wars” and is now offering a breathtaking 1 Terabyte (1TB) of online storage for $10/month or $99/year. Right now, I’m having to split my storage with my free OneDrive account, which is now going up to 15GB, plenty for most people. I just still don’t trust Microsoft. I want to, but it’s difficult to. Potentially though, anything is crackable. So anything I truly want secure, until I know far more about security, stays on a hard drive that I can disconnect until it is needed. When it comes to backing up school work, website work, the Dropbox will be great as I can use a desktop external hard drive to back up the files but use Dropbox to have it portable. I use two machines currently and that’s just at this point (gadget geek). I like to work from a variety of places for inspiration as well, schoolwork included. OneDrive will, no doubt, fire back with something as well and at least match Dropbox. “I bet my drive’s bigger than your drive”.

Projects 🙂

We love our projects don’t we? Of course school comes first, that goes without saying, but I also have come to a point where I feel I’ve finally hit the intermediate level instead of just a “noob” on everything. I’m still a “noob” on many things and technically I’ll always be a noob at something. However, at using the skills already learned such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and so forth. I’d like to keep practicing those as well instead of nearly forgetting about them until I get rusty and then have to use them.

First, and foremost, I am taking a Content Management Systems (CMS) class which, at the least, will be teaching me how to use and modify, manipulate the WordPress software CMS (not this website). Which means, eventually, this blog will move to it’s own domain. Moving the blog itself will be a first for me since it will move to a new server, but it will be a fun challenge. I’m still thinking about having others post on here and even know of some tricks to make things even slightly more secure that I will have to play with tomorrow.

The other site is building a photography site for myself. From the very start of my Web Development classes, my goal is to learn to work with a team and go through project management for a company and all that, but also learn to be self-sufficient as well. This means taking some extra classes that aren’t under the Web Development requirements such as Electronic Drawing (using Adobe Illustrator) so that I can do logos, Digital Photography (so that I can take better photographs myself), and so on. I realize I don’t have to do everything myself but I’d like to at least have the ability to if needed. I do have a proposed domain name in mind for the site already and am actually working with an old friend, and Graphic Designer, who is very good at what she does for a logo. I just have to start coming up with some concepts on how I want it to look. I don’t want to go with a simple “only letter configuration” like I’ve done for my musical project in the past. That’s simple enough that I can even do it in Photoshop and doesn’t look as flashy unless she were to put some shadow, texture to it. I also plan to put some examples of photo enhancements on the site as well, if I can get enough permissions from the owners of the original photographs.

I am also a musician and there is a project name that’s defined and a musical concept in mind, however, I would be overloading myself to take on that project at the time and wouldn’t be giving it the time that it deserves. So, that will have to wait.

I will update again much sooner with a more technology, “less me” projected entry. There’s a lot going on in the world out there, I’m sure there’s plenty to discuss.

~SpartanByte

Romo’s, Books, and Godsmack

Before I get to to the earlier Tumblr post, I want to plug a well deserved local eatery that I am very proud to find early on, with help of a friend

Romo’s Tacos and Mexican Food, Fargo ND

  • 3402 13th Ave S, Fargo, ND 58103
  • (701) 364-9757

Romo

Romo’s in Fargo, North Dakota

A friend got into Romo’s as it’s one of her favorite places. This place has only recently opened and already gained enough popularity to also earn a location in downtown Fargo’s Black Building (118 Broadway N). It was my first time and their $9 dinner sized burrito, pictured above, not only filled me up once but twice as leftovers later that night. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful. I’ll gladly return and would highly recommend it to anyone.

Education

In twenty five days, the Fall 2014 semester starts. I have my notebooks, OneNote, folders, new dry/erase board, etc all ready to go. The only thing I’m missing are all my books. I do have two of them early that I have been browsing through. I’m also beginning some work on a book on Perl (server-side language) that comes highly recommended by many technical blogs. The book is from the library, but I’ll get my own copy when I have the cash to do so. I’m hoping to find a better programming series that I like. So far, this book seems to come at the topic pretty straightforward.

I did plenty of thinking and think I have a school plot figured out, with some help of some friends and one semi-mentor lending thoughts. The only downside is I’m too eager to learn. I have to realize that I’m not going to get there all at once. Which is obvious, I know this, but it’s hard to not get excited and “weee”.

Grateful to the Fargo Public Library, I do also have books on:
ASP.NET
Office 2013 (in depth)
Access 2013 (in even more depth)
Making Windows 8 Apps with C++
Wireless Networking
, and so on.

Most I don’t intend to read a whole lot but it gives me an idea if I find it interesting or not. With most computer (or Computer Science/Information Technology) books being so expensive, it’s much easier to do it this way. Then, I go with Amazon typically and by rating since most of these books are rated by geeks anyway.
notebooks

GODSMACK

Godsmack is set to release their sixth studio album titled 1000hp next Tuesday on August 5th, 2014. You can Pre-Order on Amazon now, although I do want to note I see a lot of “clean version” which I’m personally not a fan of. I like the dirty versions, I admit. At the band’s official website, you can check out the link to stream the album for free and hear it now. I’m personally waiting for the “it’s out” moment. Seeing Godsmack in Sioux Falls, SD was very awesome and I hope to see them on the road again very soon.
Godsmack

Paradise Lost: Musical Evolution

Image property of Paradise Lost.

Paradise Lost: The band, not the poem

Many hear the name “Paradise Lost” and think of the famous poem written by English poet John Milton in the 1600’s, I believe. There have also been movies and likely books titled the same or very closely related. That is all fine of course as it’s a great two-worded title.

The band Paradise Lost was formed in Halifax, England in 1988 by singer Nick Holmes, guitarist Greg Mackintosh, guitarist Aaron Aedy, bassist Steve Edmondson, and drummer Mathew Archer. Between Lost Paradise (1990) and, most recently, Tragic Idol (2012), they’ve spent twenty two years racking up thirteen studio albums and four live recordings despite very little media support. In 2013, the band announced that they have begun work on a fourteenth studio album.

I picked up the One Second album in 1997 after a coworker of mine suggested them to me when I said that I was looking for a band that was heavy, yet melodic. They fit like a glove for that point in my life. This as even more true with the One Second album in particular being higher in tempo. I then grabbed its predecessor, Draconian Times (1995). The album’s opener of “Enchantment” starts with a thirty second long piano introduction, the second track “Hallowed Land” starts with a very distorted but pretty guitar riff and the fact that Draconian Times was (is) so much different from One Second in that it was much slower in tempo and much darker. I knew I had found a band that was much different than other bands I was into at the time. Being only 18 years old at the time, finding my musical identity was pretty important

The band released Reflections, a compilation, in 1998 and little did I know that would be it for Paradise Lost releasing physical CDs in the United States for some time. There isn’t a wealth of information as to why, other than record label issues, but they no longer had a US distributor. Thus, no more physical albums were to be released in the United States itself. Keep in mind that the year was 1998, Cdnow was still (as I remember) the top online music store as Amazon hadn’t acquired Cdnow until 2001 or so. I also remember that due to legal reasons, cdnow.com was still based in the United States and therefore wasn’t able to carry (among other things) any future Paradise Lost album. Note: if this information is incorrect, please comment and correct me. Credit will be given.

This opens up my own personal facts on how the band that still receives very little or no media support still continues to thrive. Like many bands of many different genres that have achieved longevity and survived often decades, they seemed to work hard (and patiently) building a very strong and loyal fan-base. They chose the “solid, brick-by-brick” approach rather than what seems to be more common in current times: “as fast as we can with straw or anything we can find”. When Paradise Lost’s music went to strictly overseas, I was still hungry for more of them. I heard a few songs of their Host (1999) album that had taken a much softer, melodic direction and was immediately intrigued considering I love many genres of music. Nick Holmes’ voice was cleaner and it sounded more mature. I don’t remember which website it was but I had found a UK copy of the album and ordered it despite the much higher shipping cost. In fact, I believe any album I bought the UK version overseas cost me nearly double what it would have been if I had bought it in the United States. Even so, when the Host album came, I was as excited as a boy getting a shiny new bike.

This method continued with their Believe In Nothing (2001) and Symbol of Life (2002) albums. Symbol of Life, I remember, I was particularly shocked by when I threw it in. “Isolate” started and I just slowly sat down as they seemed to have gone back toward a higher tempo and heavier direction. Symbol of Life was also eventually assigned to Koch Records in the United States, but I still had bought the import a year before it was available. Music addiction.

2005 brought their self-titled album produced by Rhys Fulber (of Conjure One, Delerium, formerly of Front Line Assembly, and had worked with the likes of Fear Factory, among others). Fulber had also produced the Symbol of Life album. Paradise Lost (self titled) was a continued progression back toward the earlier days. Though early albums like Lost Paradise were very much in the vein of death/gloom metal, they were headed back in the direction of Draconian Times, or at least that’s my opinion. It seemed that their days of experimenting with a lighter, progressive metal style had ended and (to date), that seems to be true.

Paradise Lost officially returned to the United States via, my opinion again, one of the most important independent (and eventually international) metal labels that has been conceived: Century Media Records who released Paradise Lost’s eleventh studio album In Requiem in 2007 which was, again, produced my Mr. Rhys Fulber. If there was any doubt that the band may backtrack to the softer style, In Requiem and songs such as the ultra dark “Praise Lamented Shade” proved otherwise. The cover also featured what had become iconic of Paradise Lost: dark, unsettling, and ultimately very well done.

Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us (2009) was introduced to the world and Nick’s vocals pulled back to a more strained and pained, yet melodic style while songs such as “As Horizons End” proved that Paradise Lost isn’t through reinventing themselves. Even I was guessing they’d pull back completely to their doom metal origins, but yet they took a hard left (or right if you wish) into new territory and somehow made doom beautifully, darkly melodic and inspiring.

Their thirteenth, and most recent, body of work titled Tragic Idol is possibly one of their heaviest albums since the pre-Draconian Times days (albums such as Lost Paradise, Gothic, Shades of God, and Icon). The song “Crucify” especially really quite surprised me in guitar riffs as it pulled apart from Aaron Aedy’s rhythm guitar style. It’s much heavier with more hooks and pull-offs than he normally uses.

What Paradise Lost has been up to

According to the bands official website, ParadiseLost.Co.Uk, they are continuing to work on their fourteenth album but do have quite a few concerts in the near future, which is not surprising considering Europe’s summer festival traditions:

  • M’era Luna Festival – Hildesheim, Germany on August 9th
  • Vagos Open Air – Vagos, Portugal on August 10th
  • Alt-Fest – Kettering, UK on August 15th
  • For tickets and other dates across Europe, please visit Paradise Lost

The Dilemmas of Loan Budgeting

The Dilemmas of Student Loan Budgeting

The headaches and anxieties of paying for college is far from a secret and far from a solution. I am an e-Campus student (also known as Online Student or Distance Learning), sometimes that makes things easier but I suspect it also complicates things sometimes as well. However, I do think the on campus students have more “unknowns” to worry about. I do get the luxury of avoiding gas, possibly dorm costs, on campus meals, and many other costs. Although, there are many other costs such as full rent, my own Internet (many Colleges/Universities provide), electricity, and all of my supplies. In the end though, I really can’t compare nor do I think it’s relevant. Likely, I will be doing on campus classes next fall and my perception of the difference between the two is probably drastically off.

When it comes to student loans, I always have dilemmas though. If you’re like me, who likes to take summer courses, I often have no grant money remaining to help pay for any of those classes, not that I’m ungrateful at all. So, planning ahead is essential and regardless if you’re an e-Campus student or an on campus student, there’s little worse in the financial department than running out halfway through the school year. For me, I have to budget the cost of, usually, six credits plus the estimation of books for the summer courses and of course also try and predict what will be needed for the spring semester period.

To do this, I broke things down into categories on priority. Nothing can ever prepare us for the “unknowns” and things that just happen. One week ago, my car decided to start overheating and with me not being mechanically inclined, I have to wait until that first installment to even find out what the repair will be and the cost or even if it’s worth fixing. So, cross that bridge when you come to it but if it’s already happened such as me needing rear tires too, just give it an educated high estimate and also do a separate estimate of worst case scenario. Which, in my case, is how much is feasibly possible to spend on another used car as reliable transportation is helpful, granted there is the bus system. Go Green! This is my breakdown of my categories, this is only my system, everyone’s situation is different of course.

“The Must Haves”
This is mostly self-explanatory: the necessities. However, I do take it a step further and if you’re living on your own, with room-mates, or a similar
situation: I plan to try and pay some monthly bills ahead. This takes the strain off monthly income, which also stresses us out so it does likely help us
do better academically or at least focus better. Anything that you can do from paying the six month bulk payment on your car insurance (which often generates
a discount anyway) if you have a car, or pay your mobile phone bill three or so months in advance, your Internet bill in advance if your College/University doesn’t
provide it, and so forth. This also gives breathing room for socializing for stress relief when you need to or making it to that gathering if that male or female
that you wanted to meet shows up somewhere. Logically, if anything comes up, then you’re already set.
“Productivity Boosters”
Some would argue these, some wouldn’t. “Productivity Boosters” to me are anything that help me perform better academically. Whether it’s a better
desk that has more surface space, a task chair that decreases back pain from long hours of studying, even a certain type of pen that helps my hand not cramp up so bad or
notebooks that are tougher that can be tossed around in a Targus backpack without getting demolished along with your notes.
Even if it’s a book stand to hold it up so you can type your notes while reading and not create a notorious neck ache that seems to live forever. I do better academically, it lowers
my stress, and I tend to enjoy the assignments that I’m doing more.
“The ‘Need’ vs. ‘Want’ Battle”
This is where the gray area begins. Of course, I’m not including frivolous spending because students can argue just about any use of spending. I’m very likely in that group, maybe
even among these. With me being a Web Development major, it’s pretty easy to put up a good argument why it would be helpful to invest in an Asus MeMo Pad tablet to test and practice Responsive Designs on. It’s a valid argument because it’s also true, but do I need it now? It may benefit or
it may not. Another example visiting my mind right now too is picking up an inexpensive/benchmark Dell Inspirion 15.6″ budget laptop. I type
pretty fast and can sometimes be a little tough on the keys. I have noticed that techies and companies alike connect the possibility that users of more inexpensive and budget laptops are going
to be a little harder on them, especially the keyboards. With a keyboard that I don’t have to be as delicate with such as my
Asus X750JB 17.3″
, which I adore by the way, I could likely kick out notes quicker. I also see it, “trying to justify it”, as a laptop that I can experiment a bit such as the example of
learning to wipe the hard drive clean if able and run Linux operating system on it instead of Windows. Also, the ability to type out or have more compact ease to practice programming,
at least anything that isn’t going to be processor hogging since many budgets are lower in memory, hard drive space, and processor power. With enough brainstorming, we can probably justify nearly
anything and maybe that’s a problem in the geek world. Gadgets aren’t among the cheaper items on the market.

Regardless of your college financial situation, major or background, I think every college student should know how to budget. This should be especially true if of the younger generation or if you’re entering college just out of high school. It took me far too long in my adult life to realize it’s massive importance. As when it pertains to studying, it’s not always the most fun to decline a fun social outing, but (shrug) responsibility isn’t always glamorous but it’ll get us where we can enjoy those things far more….or so we hope. However, especially in College, where it’s so easy to type in a loan amount and click “enter”, budgeting is protecting ourselves from temptation. I apologize if that sounded preachy.

~SpartanByte

Afterthought:

I will be working on making sure this blog/Wordpress site doesn’t look so “blah”. It almost reminds me of the old Geocities days. (Shivers).

Introduction To Me

     The Introduction:

     The subject lines aren’t the best, however, we’ll let the fact that I haven’t posted a single serious blog entry in about two years. So, when much of this first post (especially the use of the standard text box instead of HTML and other custom formatting) is amateur, think of it more as a warm up.

     I am a student about to go into my fourth semester for my Web Development AAS, not including summer school. I should only have this semester and one more semester and my Associates Degree is complete. While I’m using the regular text editor on the WordPress site, not even the text/HTML tab, it is simply to warm up and get familiar with the WordPress way of doing things. I am still getting used to the idea of frameworks and similar. So far in college, we have simply done everything by hand and by scratch. I’ve enjoyed it and it really helps us understand certain things such as, example, why floats in CSS act the way they do.

     One of my upcoming classes, Web Applications I, I have a gut feeling will start introducing us to the idea of frameworks, although my school did add a Content Management Systems class that teaches frameworks such as WordPress. My goal is to be completed at latest of summer of next year as I am contemplating starting a four year school next fall, or beginning a second Associates Degree or, another possibility is a Certification program. So the “CMS” class is uncertain as there are other classes I will need before that in order to graduate.

     I promise to work on becoming more concise in future posts, pinky swear. I do have the WordPress software downloaded, but am exploring it and working with a book to help me understand the basics. I’ll plug the book, then explain a bit about my goal for this blog and some. The book is Building a WordPress Blog People Want to Read (2nd Edition) by Scott McNulty.

     The Blog:

     I’m not setting out for this to be a personal blog, or a tech blog, or a music blog, or a social awareness blog. To be honest, I want it to be a little bit of everything although I don’t plan on getting too personal at all. For example, I probably won’t mention specific situations, persons, schools (at least not my own), and so forth. This won’t be a journal. I am going to leave the idea open to possibly have another (or more) join to post if there’s something important they want to raise a hand about but they would be hand picked and it would be respectful. I don’t want this blog to take a political, religious or any other side other than informative and simple discussion on topics. If there is an entry on an issue, it would most likely be to simply raise awareness. I’m still refining a more professional and proper writing style so feel free to comment if a point may have been put in a more objective way. However, comments on grammar, etc are okay but unnecessary. There may be some geekery and humor, but I would see cursing and inappropriate slang as unacceptable of myself. Even if a post is on a metal band that I very much enjoy, I will try and keep it as objective as possible. This blog is more for practice at coexisting while speaking my mind more than anything.

Because of this, I did leave comments open for now because I hope to receive some good feedback. However, if abused with vulgar and offensive comments, I will close that feature. I don’t need to see that and other readers most likely don’t need to see that or appreciate that.

     Me In A Nutshell:

     As I mentioned, I was born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota. In my younger years, I spent much of my time working in restaurants before moving onto working in call centers. I wasn’t the most successful high school student and left for personal reasons in my junior year. I pushed ambitiously to return nine years later to receive my GED and did surprisingly better than I ever thought I would, contrasting my C, D average in high school. I applied to college in late 2012 and began in the spring semester in January of 2013. I’ve worked ambitiously and hope to retain the knowledge they’ve taught me so when I do enter the field, I haven’t lost any more than a little bit of that information, if any. As I mentioned, I am within a year of completing my Associates in Web Development. My mind is contemplating either an Associates in Computer Programming, Software Development, Web Programming, or similar. A far more ambitious option is to enter a four year school and begin working on my Bachelor’s Degree for Computer Science and Information Systems. I’ve struggled with math in the past, so the large amount of math is one of the main apprehensions I have. Understandably, so is drastically increasing my student loan debt, even when I know the output is more than worth it.

     Even if I were to stay with this single Associates Degree, I’d feel mentally wealthier by far. College has showed me a side of myself I didn’t know existed. I seek out non-fiction books and read intently to see the world in different ways, unlike I had seen before due to thinking maybe a bit small. Granted, I set my compass to the technology books first but I definitely have a strong interest in other subjects especially psychology. Communication, philosophy, ethics and marketing are also subjects I would enjoy dabbling in enough to gain perspective.

     I do enjoy fiction too, though I admit many are tied to movies whether it be the books themselves or authors who have also written books made into movies. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk is one of my favorites. I am still trying to get started on Invisible Monsters as well. I have been a fan of Ray Bradbury since I was a child even. The list goes on but books, movies and music seem to run a similar theme and they all often tend to be dark, or at least well written and well done. Though I still don’t understand many of his movies, I continue to be a huge fan of David Lynch and Twin Peaks continues to be one of my favorite mini-series, while Lost Highway is one of my favorite movies.

     In Closing:

     This first post became far too long, my apologies. I do plan on creating and launching my own blog site along with other things. A catch is I don’t feel I quite know enough yet, unless I just want to make a simple static page. I don’t know the programming quite yet to create interactive/dynamic pages such as posting blogs, images, and so forth. I would rather wait and do it right than try and get by unless I’m simply doing a gallery site using JavaScript/jQuery mostly, and “winging it” at that. Hopefully soon, many projects will evolve. I appreciate your time. 

~SpartanByte (name of school mascot + byte)