The blog of Matthew A. Smith and Michael Chappell, on topics from A to Z

Change Has Come, I Like the Website

by Matthew Smith · January 21st, 2009 · No Comments

Whitehouse.gov - the new lookYesterday was, by even the most humble estimates, a monumental day in history (let’s leave arguements of good/bad at the door, k thx bye). Always the optimist, I feel that changes are quite needed and I’m always seeing the best in the opportunity.

To reflect the change in regime, President Obama’s crack web team has put up a brand new site at Whitehouse.gov, and I must say, I like it quite a lot! It has a very modern, up to date feel and seems easy to navigate. I wish I knew more about the backend, but a (very) cursory glance at the source didn’t shed any light (I’m assuming it is a custom coded backend).

Kottke has a most revealing glance at the change in Whitehouse.gov/robots.txt, which is what prompted my first glance at the site.

Hurray for change… here’s to the future!

» No CommentsCategories: Technology

Programming a Simple MP3 Decoder

by Matthew Smith · January 16th, 2009 · 6 Comments

This morning’s purusal of the interwebs presented me with a particularly interesting gem: a good article about MP3 decoding. It’s written with a nice overview of the format and builds up to a limited but functional bit of code that can actually decode an MP3. Even if you aren’t into programming, I’d recommend skimming it, as it’s nice to know more about something so commonplace but usually never given a second thought.

» 6 CommentsCategories: Technology

This is my Christmas Card

by Matthew Smith · December 21st, 2008 · 3 Comments


Merry Christmas from the Guys of the hQ from Matthew Smith on Vimeo.

Merry Christmas everyone! This is our video Christmas card, and hopefully it will bring you a smile and maybe a little laughter this holiday season. You can click through to Vimeo if you would like to watch the high-def version.

The Making Of

When my roommates and I originally decided to do a Christmas card, we were planning on sending out a normal paper card, adorned with a picture of the three of us in a rather cheesy typical Christmas pose. We hauled out the camera and tripod and proceded to configure and light our scene. During this process, I happened to take a number of test shots to get the lighting right. When we sat down to review the pictures, my infamous “iTunes library on shuffle” just so happened to play “Kiss” by Prince … and the rest is history.

All the shots were arranged in Premiere and the titles were created in After Effects. My video skillz are improving, though I’m not sure how we’re gonna top this next year…

I’ll add details if anyone is interested, but for now I just wanna get this out there! Enjoy!

» 3 CommentsCategories: General

‘Tis the Season… to Blog?

by Matthew Smith · December 16th, 2008 · 7 Comments

Well it seems that here we are, stuck smack-dab in the center of the “holiday season,” for all its’ joy and consumerism. Of course, financially this is shaping up to be one of the worst holiday seasons in the past seven, twenty-five, or seventy-eight years, depending upon where and on what day you get your news. Many, including myself, are predicting fiscal gloom for the next several months at the least. But no worries, its’ still the holidays and there are always lots of things one can be happy, thankful, or at least non-suicidal about.Be happy!

Let us pause and reflect:

  • I still have a job
    Working for the government never looked so good! When the economy is booming, a few people speak poorly of civil service. When the economy is crap… well, I’m still getting paid to protect your freedom.
  • The sky has not yet fallen
    Despite what Chicken Little might have to say about the state of the world, the sky remains in its’ rightful place. The sun rises in the East and sets in the West. The moon orbits the earth and the earth orbits the sun. Etcetera.
  • Bush got “shoed”
    In what may been one of the bestest statements of government disapproval ever, someone displayed both humor and opinion in one deft act of shoe throwing. Bravo. Too bad he’s getting the ever living sh*t beat out of him in jail. Maybe someone stateside should try this as well, I’m sure we can chalk it up to freedom of speech. Of course if you would like to exercise your right to display your angst, but don’t feel like risking your personal well-being, you can mail your old ones to the white house instead.
  • Obama got elected
    Finally, equality for all. Note: this topic may fall under “reasons to celebrate” or “reasons to commit suicide” depending on the reader’s persuasions. To all the people who fall in the latter category, there’s a consolation prize: you finally got O.J.
  • Women are still up to their tricks
    As proof that the world will keep on turning no matter what the guys on Wall Street screw up, the lovely ladies of the world are still plucking heart-strings and crushing your desires. Not to say that the gentlemen of the world aren’t still up to their normal tricks.
  • Friends
    My friends keep my life both exciting and balanced, wonderful and wild. Without them, life would be dull, monatonous, and bleak (kinda like the lives of some ex-Wall Street traders). Seriously, I love you guys. Thanks for everything!
  • Family
    I must also holla to mah’ family peeps fo’ keepin’ it real, yo. They put up with all my shenanigans and keep on liking me no matter what I do. Much love!
  • The world has not ended
    We’re still here, aren’t we? Why are you complaining again? The grass is green will be green in a few months, the sky is blue, there are beautiful women (and men) to be found. Go outside and enjoy it – the world is actually a pretty cool place (and even if you think you don’t live in a cool place, I bet you can still find beauty if you look for it. It’s there, I promise).
  • Video Games
    When the going actually gets tough, or you just get a little bored, there is always the welcome refuge of a virtual world in which to execute your wildest dreams and fantasies. I can personally recommend both Fallout 3 and GTA IV to be fantastic ways to waste exorbitant amounts of time. Also a good reprieve for those who have lost jobs in the current recession; much better than real-world violence, methinks.
  • Gas prices have fallen
    More driving if you have the money, or you can squeeze a few extra miles out of that last dollar if you’re short on cash.
  • Stuff costs less
    Buy more stuff! Save the economy! Better yet, exploit this opportunity to get out of debt and put real cold hard cash in the bank.
  • The Internet is still… the Internet
    When all else fails, the Internet is there to save us. Or provide a venue to blow off steam. Or debate each other. Or play video games (killing each other virtually, perhaps). Nothing quite compares to the wide wonderful world of the intertubes!!

So there you have it; a few consise reasons to be thankful (or a few reasons why I’m thankful). I’m sure you have many more, so don’t hesitate to leave your juiciest thoughts in the comment box.

Merrrrrry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy Hanukkah! Have a festive Kwanzaa!

» 7 CommentsCategories: General

Pictures of Wrecks

by Matthew Smith · November 6th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Random, I know, but I recently ran across a site with pictures of recent wrecks around New York. I really wish something like this existed for the local area.

» 2 CommentsCategories: General

Workout Music

by Matthew Smith · October 29th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Life after college goes in a few directions depending on the person, examples of which I’ve witnessed through my fellow post-graduation friends. Some people take the marriage route, getting hitched a few months, weeks, or days after graduation. Others get jobs, move into apartments by themselves, and do the single life thing (or have girlfriends that visit on the weekends). Still others move back in with their parents where they can use their newfound college smarts to think about ways of making their shiny new diploma profitable. Many people who fall into these categories also stop going to the gym, or start overeating, or something, and end up getting “out of shape,” so to speak. Then of course there’s those people that go to grad school or med school or pharmacy school, but they don’t count.

Then there’s the other group. The one that keeps on living like they are in college, with roommates, few serious responsibilities, etc. These people normally have jobs, since their parents rarely feel compelled to fund a college lifestyle, post college. When studying this particualar group, one may note that the fitness regimen can go two ways – the post-collegiate drunk, or the post-collegiate fitness buff. Since I fall into this overall group, I’ve been trying to align myself with the “fitness buff” category. I’ve reduced my alcohol and tobacco intake (not that I smoked much, and when I did it was usually hookah or something along those lines – I hate cigarettes), been attending the gym religously, and trying to watch what I eat.

I feel I’ve staged a successful return to my fitness regimen (and much more consistently than in college). I’ve been using a variety of tools to assist in the successful execution of my workout plans, including Gyminee (review coming soon) and my iPhone. Recently I made a forum post about the music that keeps me going in the gym, and I am posting that here for your benefit (it’s not a complete list by any means, just some of what’s on my player right now). Now download this music and get your lazy ass in the gym! I’ve been there since August and as of today I’m in better shape then I’ve been in the past couple of years and as a bonus I’m ten pounds lighter than I was when I started.

The Music (playing on the iPhone as of October)

  • Rock / Metal / Pumped Up Music
    • The Accidents – Runaway (With Me)
    • Deftones – Around the Fur
    • blink-182 – Aliens Exist
    • Box Car Racer – All Systems Go
    • Drist – Arterial Black
    • Rage Against the Machine – Bulls on Parade
    • Senses Fail – Can’t Be Saved
    • The Bags – Cafemen Rejoice
    • The Kills – Cheap and Cheerful
    • Warrant – Cherry Pie
    • Korn – Coming Undone
    • Dropkick Murphyss – The Dirty Glass
    • 3OH!3 – Don’t Trust Me
    • The Killer Barbies – Down the Street
    • Disturbed – Down with the Sickness
    • Sum 41 – Fat Lip
    • Bowling for Soup – Girl All the Bad Guys Want
    • Disturbed – God of the Mind
    • blink-182 – Going Away to College
    • The Hellacopters – I’m in the Band
    • The Accidents – I just Want to Take You Home
    • Bad Religion – Infected
    • Disturbed – Inside the Fire
    • Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name
    • Priestess – Lay Down
    • Box Car Racer – Letters to God
    • Serj Tankian – Lie Lie Lie
    • (+44) – Lycanthrope
    • Backyard Babies – Minus Celsius
    • AFI – Miss Murder
    • Foo Fighters – Monkey Wrench
    • Bowling for Soup – Out the Window
    • Earth Crisis – Paint it Black
      • This is a metal version, but the original Rolling Stones version is also excellent
    • Rise Against – Prayer of the Refugee
    • Bang Camaro – Push Push Lady Lightning
    • The Strokes – Reptillia
    • The Who – The Seeker
    • blink-182 – Shut Up
    • Disturbed – Stupify
    • The Donnas – Take it Off
    • Tsunami Bomb – Tetanus Shot
    • Finger Eleven – Therapy
    • Dope – There is Nothing for Me Here
    • Scars on Broadway – They Say
    • The Hives – Tick Tick Boom
    • Helmet – Unsung
    • Sublime – What I Got (reprise)
    • (+44) – When Your Heart Stops Beating
    • Wolfmother – Woman
    • Dropkick Murphys – Worker’s Song
  • Rap / Techno / Beats to Run
    • Tay Dizm – Beam me Up (feat. T-Pain & Rick Ross)
    • Benny Benassi – Bring the Noise
    • DJ Felli Fel – Get Buck in Here
    • Glasses Malone -Haterz (feat. Birdman & Lil’ Wayne)
    • Benny Benassi – I Love My Sex (Pump-kin remix)
    • Stack$ – In My Zone
    • Fidel Cashflow – Lick Yo Body (feat. Lady Lyric)
    • Three 6 Mafia – Lolli Lolli (Pop that Body)
    • Pitbull – Krazy (feat. Lil’ Jon)
    • DragonForce – Through the Fire and Flames (try running to this song)
    • Shawty Lo – They Know
    • U.S.D.A. – White Girl 
  • R&B / Smoother Groove
    • Nelly – Body on Me (feat. Akon & Ashanti)
    • Git Fresh – Booty Music
    • Static Major – I Got My… (feat. Lil’ Wayne)
    • The Cure – Close to Me (Closer Mix)
    • Shawty Redd – Drifter (remix) (feat. Snoop Dogg)
    • DangerDoom – Sofa King
    • Dem Franchize Boyz – Turn Heads (Feat. Lloyd)
    • OutKast – The Way You Move (feat. Sleepy Brown)
    • T.I. – Whatever You Like

Hopefully this will be a tad nudge of motivation for anyone who keeps telling themselves that they need to go to the gym but they just don’t have the right music. Or at least it will give you some ideas or new songs to look for! If you have any suggestions, please use the comment form to enlighten me to my ignorance.

» 2 CommentsCategories: General

Related Rates

by Matthew Smith · October 23rd, 2008 · 2 Comments

A few days ago, a friend asked me a few questions about related rates problems. They are currently trying to get a better understanding of the concepts being taught in their calculus class, and knowing that I have a degree in engineering (automatically making me a math expert), they assumed that I would be able to offer immediate help and provide vast amounts of understanding and insight.

Unfortunately the truth is a little more realistic. It is indeed true that I am an engineer, and also true that I have successfully completed years of advanced math courses. It is also true that I don’t employ the concepts learned on a daily basis and that “use it or [it will be relegated to the dark corners of the mind]” also applies. The fact is as follows: I haven’t explicitly used related rates in the past two years (though I have employed many theorems built upon the foundation of differential calculus). My first thought when asked? “Related rates… uh, I don’t remember those.” Fortunately Wikipedia came to the rescue with a nice brain-jogging overview.

After sitting down to analyze a few sample problems, I realized that in the brief time since I last did math homework, I had forgotten many important math principles. Fortunately I still remember how to add and subtract, but principles such as the chain rule (remember our old friends fog and gog?) had slipped my mind. Problems that should be simple ended up requiring a thirty minute review of the basics of differentiation. Thankfully, after about an hour of contemplation, I was able to solve the sample problems and drag some of those math skills (kicking and screaming, of course) from the dusty corners of my mind. Once I was able to do that, I was then able to create a plausible explanation of the concepts for my friend. I have yet to formulate an excuse as to why I did not know all the answers instantaneously.

In case you were wondering, related rates problems are called related rates because the rates are, well… related. All problems will center around a known rate (or derivative, dx/dt) and an unknown rate (dy/dt), some sort of equation that relates the known rate to the unknown rate for which you must solve (the Pythagorean theorem seems to be a favorite). Thus, all problems should reduce to something in the form of “dy/dt = a* dx/dt” where a is simply a constant multiplier that relates the known rate to the unknown rate. The only things that should change is the value of a, which could be positive or negative (and actually working through the steps to solve the problem is the simplest way to discover the sign and value of a). Of course, your problem could use completely different variables then x, y, and t… but the premise is the same.

I’m sure that didn’t make any sense, and I also do not have any facility on my site for displaying nicely formatted equations, so I apologize but I’m not going to torture you with a step-by-step walk through with textual representations of the math. The Wikipedia page on related rates is handy, as is a quick review of implicit differentiation (also try a google search). Oh and the image at the top of the post has nothing to do with related rates… but it does have something to do with differential equations (read about it here). And as usual, if you have comments or questions, use the comment form and we can start a math discussion!

» 2 CommentsCategories: Journal

My Mom is on Facebook

by Matthew Smith · October 22nd, 2008 · 2 Comments

When I was a sophomore in college, Facebook was in its first iterations. I remember the day that Facebook added “Mercer University” to its list of supported colleges; everyone was talking about it and I had no idea what Facebook was – but I went and signed up. I can proudly say I was one of the first members of Facebook’s Mercer network.

How far we’ve come since those fledgling days a few short years ago. Facebook has gone from a barely-known college site to a household name with millions of users ranging from highschoolers to senior citizens. For the past couple of years, I’ve listened to my friends complain about their parents being on Facebook (and the same friends are also attentive picture-detaggers). I always found it humorous. I didn’t really thing anything of it when my father joined Facebook, and I am Facebook friends with a few of my friends’ parents.

My dad is great at learning new technology and then putting it to use. He has been playing with Facebook for a year or so and has been working to reconnect his high-school graduating class. At a recent homecoming event, I heard him prosyletizing it to his old classmates. Apparently he’s managed to get over half of the people from his graduating class to sign up.

Things really started to get more interesting the other day, when I suddenly discovered a few strange new “friend requests” – my mom and two of my aunts have now joined the social revolution. They find it an interesting way to keep up with me, my brothers, and my cousins (since we all go off and forget to talk to them for long periods of time). Unfortunately I’ve noticed myself being more careful with the status updates I post…

I think this is the point where I say that Facebook has become very mainstream. Very, very mainstream. But it does open the door to new ways for families to stay connected and in touch with the goings on of each other. Of course I’m not sure I always want my family knowing everything I’m up too… but I’ve always claimed I live a very public life, so let the revealing continue!

Now I just need to devise a way to capitalize on the “family connectedness” side of Facebook. Ideas?

» 2 CommentsCategories: General