RANT: Should I even bother with a Computer Science degree?

I’ve read quite a few interesting articles recently questioning the necessity of a Computer Science degree in technical fields. For the software development industries, a CS degree would probably be helpful. But for web development, is it really necessary? That’s a question that I’ve received many responses to. Web development does not usually require much math or algorithms, and CS courses don’t teach languages related to web development (except for maybe Python). People who have CS degrees have told me, unsurprisingly, to get a CS degree because I’d be better off. Contrarily, people without CS degrees, who are still successful in the industry, have told me that it’s not necessary and to not waste my time. What’s the right answer?

They’re both right. I’d probably be better off with a CS degree so I’d have a good foundation, but would I be wasting my time with all the coursework? Probably. A business major and a CS major would be too much coursework, and I wouldn’t be able to learn experientially with all the time restraints. The right answer might be a minor in CS, but does that leave me with enough background?

Then again, it depends on what I’d like to do and how much I’d really need to know to do what I want to do. I’d like to start an Internet start-up. This means I’d probably write a lot of the original code, then (hopefully) hire developers to make it better. How skilled would I need to be? Most founders I’ve met didn’t align their education with the skills needed starting a tech company; it just kind of… happened. I’m in a unique position… I have the ability to align my education for this daunting task of starting a tech company. But I’m left wondering what would be the best path.

There are a lot of questions here, some I’ve already attempted to answer. Any input would be appreciated; please respond in the comments below.

HackRU 2013!

I am tired, my eyes hurt, my fingers are numb from typing and my stomach is not coping well with the junk food I’ve consumed over the past 24 hours. Supposedly, this is a common reaction to Hackathon goes, of which I just attended my first. 24 hours, 500 student hackers from around the country, and food… put them together and you get HackRU, Rutgers own student-run Hackathon.

Disregarding the physical destruction of my body following this marathon-like event, I leave moderately content and with a sense of accomplishment. I arrived knowing with the assumption that I wouldn’t be able to make anything at all, but, after some brainstorming with my roommate, an idea came about that had the possibility of being accomplished in this amount of time. The orginal idea was to use Weather Underground‘s API to find cities within a certain range of temperatures and weather conditions that would be favorable for a vacation.

The final app was similar but but completely different. A user enters multiple cities, and weather conditions for all the entered cities are displayed in a comparable format. The first idea would have been better, but Wunderground’s API doesn’t support sorting cities by temperature, and any other workaround would have been too time consuming. The result of my work is hackRU.rubiverse.net, and it works! That’s all I’m concerned with, frankly. Also, if you click the City link, it will bring you to a Wikipedia article (most of the time) about that city. Just a little extra functionality.

Although I didn’t win anything (nor was I expecting to), I’m glad I was able to attend; I learned so much about JavaScript and jQuery, and that’s more valuable than anything else. Thank you to the organizers for putting on a great show. Looking forward to next semester’s HackRU!

Bitcasa — good idea, not so great execution

I’ve been testing an interesting service called Bitcasa over the past few months and have had a lot of fun and some hardships. I’ll get to those later, but first let me address what exactly Bitcasa does. Bitcasa is a cloud storage service just like Dropbox and Google Drive, but with a few differences. Bitcasa offers an option to sync data to the cloud just like the others, but they also offer an option to STORE data in the cloud. This means that the data isn’t on your computer, but it seems like it is. It’s actually streamed directly from Bitcasa’s infrastructure.

How it works

Bitcasa stores all uploaded data to Amazon Web Services and encrypts it in a way that no one, not even them, can access it (here’s some more info about their encyrption techniques). They have proprietary software that allows them to keep one copy of everything on their server. So when I update a song, for example, that’s already on their servers, it won’t upload because someone else already uploaded it. This way they can save lots of money on storage costs and offer unlimited data. This is on the notion that not everyone is going to use 2 TB of data and that most data they only have to store once.

Bitcasa, from what I can see, is the only company that offers a service like this. Every other cloud storage service (Dropbox, box.com, Google Drive, etc…) syncs files between your computers, but it still stores your data locally. Bitcasa stores all your data on their hard drives, so it doesn’t take up precious hard drive space on your computer. This is a godsend for Macbook Air (and other Ultrabook) owners, like me.

In theory, it’s a great service. I just wish it didn’t have so many…

Problems

  1. It’s very slow. Uploading and downloading a few gigabytes takes hours, sometimes days**. This could be because of their encryption process (they encrypt/decrypt locally), but this is unacceptable.
  2. Terrible support. Unresponsive, unhelpful… just not a good experience.
  3. The worst UI I’ve ever seen. It was bad, and then they did an update a few months back, and it got worse. It’s obvious that they haven’t found a good designer yet.
  4. Bugs, bugs, bugs. Was almost unusable when I was a actively using their systems.
  5. Disconnected management. These issues have been persisting since Bitcasa’s inception, they haven’t been fixed, and there’s no sign of them being fixed. That’s my biggest worry with this company. Their focused on getting more users and making new features, but they’ve yet to fix the current issues.

Ugh… I really wish it turned out better than this. This idea is GREAT, they just might not be the right people to execute it. Maybe others have had better experience with Bitcasa? Share them in the comments and maybe I’ll revisit this company.


* For those who have participated in the free beta, you’ll get a discount of some sort.

** From testing almost 6 months ago, data could’ve changed since then. Data not measured scientifically.

Wunderlist 2 Review

NOTE: Originally, this was a review for Wunderkit. Wunderkit is not being developed anymore as 6wunderkinder focuses their development on Wunderlist 2, which was the better product anyway.

What is it?

Wunderlist 2 is the king of all to-do lists. It’s simply the best task management, reminders-like app out there. Period.

For most of you, you probably should just stop reading right here and try it out for yourself. What’s below are just proves the claim that I made above. After all, it’s better to see for yourself how an app can be so functional yet so beautiful as well. It’s almost as if 6wunderkinder took the idea of “form follows function” and threw it out the window because both the form and function of this product are equally outstanding.

Enough jabber, let’s get to the good bits.

The Good

It’s not just an iPhone app as many may think. It’s also available on iPad, Andriod, Mac, and Windows. Yep, Mac and Windows. That means that all your tasks will be with you anywhere you go. If you set it to remind you to do something at a certain time and you happen to be on your computer, a notification window will appear on your screen. That’s a nice touch. Of course, Wunderlist will also send you a notification on your phone, too. Oh, and we can’t forget about the web access, too. If your computer/phone aren’t accessible, they have a really nice web app that works just as well. You just won’t get those nice push notifications that you will on the other apps.

All the apps across the board sync together really well. If you edit a task on your computer, you can bet that the change will show on your iPhone. They’ve had some performance issues with syncing but those seem to have been fixed. It’s been running smoothly for quite a few months now.

As I mentioned before, it’s frickin’ beautiful. I could go into depth and tell you how it’s beautiful, but honestly… it’s better for you to just see for yourself.

As far as features go, there’s a lot. I’ll just go over some of my favorites to keep this short. If you want a full list of features, they’re here.

I think the sub-tasks would have to be my favorite. It’s very useful for shopping, homework, etc. I don’t know how I functioned without it.

Another feature that I liked was the ability to share lists with people. This is perfect if you’re always that guy that ends up leading a group project. Make all your friends download this app and you can make a list of what needs to be done that everyone can see. If one person marks a task as done, it updates on everyone’s app. It’s also helpful for grocery shopping, which my family uses it for. If I need something, I just put it on the shared grocery shopping lists and whoever’s out at the moment picks it up and checks it off the list.

Notes. Although it may seem simple, it’s great. At the time of writing a task, it might make sense. When I actually have to do it, it might not make as much sense. Do you ever get up to do something and then totally forget why you got up? It’s the same thing…. wait, that never happens to you? Well… you get my point.

The Bad

The occasional downtime, but that’s unavoidable and not really noticeable. Also, the option for multiple reminders for a task would be awesome. Honestly, that’s all I could think of for downsides. I haven’t needed to contact support, really. It just… works.

Conclusion

It’s great. Seriously, try it. Do it now.

More posts + general update!

After a few months of silence, Rubiverse is alive again and with many more posts in the pipeline (I have at least 10 posts in the works). Summer is here, and that means time for stuff like blogging, swimming, friends, etc. School has been out for a good two weeks and after complete and utter relaxation, I think I’m ready to resume productivity. There’s lots and lots of content that I need to catch up on, probably around 20 entries worth. These are listed in order if importance…

  •  In May, I attended TechCrunch DisruptNY. It was one of the most awesome experiences of my life, and you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a posts (yes, plural) about this coming very soon. One will be a post about the event in general. Then, I will post a series detailing all the Startups I met at TC Disrupt that I thought were noteworthy. Because of how belated this is, I will try to push this out as soon as possible.
  • I’m a Senior… but I don’t feel like one. I feel more like a Freshman than a Senior, to be honest. It’s strange, and there will be a full entry about this. Look for that soon.
  • In addition to Startups that I met at TC Disrupt, there are numerous apps and services that I’ve found recently that are all worthy of their own posts.
  • I have a couple philosophical entries in the works, but this is low priority. They’ll be finished by the end of the Summer.

Also, I intend to redesign this blog. I have no idea when and I’m not really experienced in designing sites, but it’s something that I definitely want to do. The only way for me to learn how to design/develop well is to practice… so I might be redoing this blog more than once. There’s no time frame for this as of now, so I’m not sure when it will happen.

Tips for incoming Juniors

After about two weeks of break, I can now fully appreciate the school year that I’ve just completed. The PSATs, HSPAs, SATs, AP tests, drivers license, Junior paper… all done! It wasn’t an easy road, but it was one that had to be crossed. It wasn’t even the school work that made this past year so difficult (although it was slightly more challenging than past years), it was the combination of school work, tests, extracurriculars, etc. Whatever it was, I’m glad that it’s over and that I’ve survived.

Junior year is important, there’s no doubt about that. Although it might seem daunting and not so much fun, it’s something we all have to do. There’s some things that I wish someone would have told me before I entered Junior year. Lucky for you, I’ve posted them here, so actually read this because it will help you. I’m sure other Seniors will agree with me on these.

  1. DON’T look at the big picture. It’s easy to become overwhelmed rather quickly when the obligations pile up, but there are ways to suppress this. Complete tasks as they come and don’t think too much about the total amount of work that you have to do. Focus on the current task at hand and you will get through it. If you try to take everything in at once, you won’t be a happy camper. Take bit size portions, and don’t forget to chew your food before you eat it!
  2. FOCUS. I’ll admit, I had a little bit of trouble with this. As mentioned before, focus on what you need to do. Get off of Facebook/Twitter/Reddit/Stumbleupon/etc; put the computer away if you don’t need it. Work until it’s done, and once you’ve finished, you’ll feel less guilty about doing what you were doing before. Don’t think about doing your work, JUST DO IT. It honestly feels so much better when it’s done.
  3. Manage your time wisely. Even if you usually don’t do this, use some sort of task system to organize yourself and your time. Things will begin to pile up as the year goes on, and if you don’t dedicate time for each task, they won’t get done in a timely manner. Paperwork, especially. Don’t rely on your brain for this, it will fail you. If you have an iPhone, Reminders is a beautiful thing (as well as Calendar). Wunderkit, a beautifully designed project management app, is a godsend.
  4. Take a breather. Don’t work yourself too hard, it’s not healthy. Take breaks; naps are always in season. Stress is your enemy, so fight back, close your eyes, and breath deeply.
  5. Do you work. Just do it, it’s not that bad. Even if it’s annoying, it’ll help you somehow. You’ll be a better person because of it.
  6. Get on your teachers’ good sides. Honestly, this makes a world of difference. If you form a bond with your teacher, life will just be so much easier for you. Also, this is good recommendations for colleges. You’ll need teachers that like you to write you good recommendations.

If you follow all of these tips, you might even have time for a social life. Have fun in Junior year!

Video game theme song: finished!

I FINALLY completed this. It took forever, but it needed to be done. I am creating music for a video game that my high school’s TSA club is creating. It is a pain, but it’s fun at the same time. I have been using GarageBand in previous compositions for past video games, but this time is different. I laid down some cash for Roland’s CakeWalk Music Creator 6. It’s one of the most intuitive and best designed software I’ve ever used on a PC, and the music it creates sounds fairly good for 40 bucks. What you’re about to hear is a theme song to a video game that I created myself. I hand wrote (or typed) every note you will hear; there are no per-fabricated loops. Also, all the instrumentation is virtual. Tell me what you think!

Rubiverse.net is on a new server!

I haven’t made a blog post in a while, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been THINKING about doing a blog post. Trust me, I have thought about it. Almost every single time, I decided it wasn’t worth it because I had more important work to do. Now I actually have something worthwhile to post about: I have moved Rubiverse.net to a brand spanking new server.

What: This was not a simple move. I didn’t just copy the site from one shared host to another. I moved the whole site from a shared host to an unmanaged Virtual Private Server (VPS). Most of you probably don’t know what this is. A VPS is a slice of a dedicated server that has it’s own operating system and is separated from other VPSs on a server by virtualization software. Because the one that I bought happened to be unmanaged, that means that I had to set it up, secure it, and make sure my site(s) and programs work as they should. For a person who has never done this before, it was a daunting challenge… but I still did it and I’m pretty proud I did.

Who: I moved from an MDDHosting shared server (they are awesome, BTW) to a TinyVZ VPS.

When: The site was down, as some of you may know, for about a week or two while I procrastinated setting up the VPS. I’m still tweaking the server, but I finished the migration and the site was live about a week ago.

Where: The VPS server is located in Kansas City. I think that this is a great location for a server because it is right smack in the middle of the US. It has decent speeds to EU and Asia, unlike the East coast or West coast. AAAAANNNNDDD… it’s cheap. Server in Kansas City tend to be cheaper than those in more expensive areas (Chicago, New York City, LA).

Why: I can tell you that it was NOT because I didn’t like my previous host. MDDHosting is a top notch, but I wanted something I could have more control over and I also wanted to learn how to manage a linux box, and that’s why I switched.

I don’t really know when the next post will be. This year is insane, and with SATs coming up and all these projects and tests and whatnot, I can’t give an ETA. This blog isn’t really my top priority right now.

Mac VS PC; Which will it be?

Some people claim that PCs are superior while others will exclaim that Macs are the cream of the crop. Can they both be right? No, but is one better than the other? Nope. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

A lot of people grew up with PCs. When they came across a Mac, everything was new and confusing for them, almost always causing them not to like Macs. This is a lot of the times the reason why PC users don’t like Macs. Of course, a lot of them won’t admit this, but they same exact things go for a lot of Mac users as well. They’ve grown up with Macs and aren’t used to PCs and find them difficult to use, therefore inferior.

I’ve grown up with both. They are both good in their own ways and fall short in others. It really depends what you use your computer for. For hardcore gaming and business work, a PC might fit your needs better. For designers and students, Macs could work better for you.

I like Macs better, and here’s why…

  • A more intuitive and less buggy user interface. Sometimes Windows will screw up on me or just take a long time to do something. Macs tend not to do this. It’s just… smooth.
  • Better integration between hardware and software. Both the hardware and software are made by the same company, allowing for a unity that just isn’t available with Windows computers.
  • Programs. GarageBand, iMovie, and iPhoto aren’t available on Windows computers. I actually use those programs.
  • There are other reasons, but they are slipping my mind right now.

What do you use and why?

 

 

New competition

Every so often, a new competitor will emerge in your market with something better than what you have and will steal business from you. Sometimes it may be the new ice cream shop down the road, sometimes it may be Google. Whatever it is, you’re loosing business because of it. So, what are you going to do?

What you shouldn’t do is nothing. The situation won’t get any better if you leave it alone. You need to take action for the sake of your business.

There are a few things you can do:

  1. New marketing techniques. Think of some new, creative way to market to potential customers that the competitors haven’t taken full advantage of yet. Come up with a creative marketing campaign that would take the focus away from your competitors. Be creative.
  2. New Products. Come out with something that is better/cooler than your competition. Find something that would set you apart from your competition; offer something your competitors don’t offer.
  3. Niche Markets. If the new competition is especially fierce, than you can resort to niche markets. Find a niche within your market and focus on catering to that.
These are only a few ways to deal with new competition. I’m sure there are more, but this is a good starting place. Good luck!