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Computer & IT Blog

Fountainhead's Computer & IT (Information Technology) Blog connects this community by sharing current events, news and trends in industries related to network security, programming and computer technology. Join the discussion!

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First Programming Course

03GamePicker

Starting to Program

So, I have finally started my first programming class (ok, its nearly over now) and have just been enjoying the crap out of myself. I don’t know how many of you read the posters on the walls around the school but one of them is a flow chart to help you choose the perfect video game you should be playing.

How to Pick the Perfect Video Game

I decided to take that poster chart and convert it into an application. After a week or two of hunting pictures and typing in short "If statements," I finally coded this simple program that helps you figure out the perfect video game for your personality.

How to Pick the Perfect Video Game is a graphic flowchart that begins by asking: “Do you want to avoid using much of your brain?” Faced with dozens of Yes or No answers, the user is asked questions like "How are your reflexes?" and "Are you on drugs?" and "Do you want the hardest game ever?" In all there are some 90 questions that potentially face the user.

Hint: answering "No" serves up more questions, whereas answering "Yes" will end the questioning fast.

Click Here to Download the Perfect Game Picker  (Zip file: after downloading, you must "run" an .exe file to play. This is a Safe program!)

I wrote the Game Picker using Visual Basic, so it won't work on Android devices. It was fun to make and quite simple. Yes, it was a lot of work but totally worth it I think. Leave a comment below and let me know how you like it, what could be better, or if you found a glitch (I found a few typos already).

Enjoy!

View the original poster here, and the top of the picture below.

how-to-pick-the-perfect-video-game

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Game Hacking Competitions

Pokemon Hacking Competitions

01 vizzed.comA week or so after the release of my biggest hack (Pokemon – UltraViolet Version), while I was minding my own business, basking in the popularity of my work, I got an email asking me a lot of specific questions about Pokemon Gold (Emu Edition). I was a bit surprised as this game seemed pretty straight forward and it was odd that he needed the exact locations and times to find specific Pokemon. I answered his questions and he told me that he was entered into a contest to attempt to catch all the Pokemon in MY game. A website called Vizzed allows users to play games online and they had started a contest offering Viz (their version of online fake money) to whoever could catch all the Pokemon in my game the fastest.

This interest in my hack inspired me to join the site. I passed on tips and tricks to a few fellow hackers that were on the forums, but mostly I hung out in the chat rooms of my games. Each game being played has a little chat stream and ALL the people playing it can chat. Anytime anyone would have an issue with something I implemented (something they could not google themselves) I would help.

I became tired of answering the same questions several times a day, so I decided to make a Players Guide to Ultra Violet Version. After releasing a massive PDF file to the public I was contacted by the owner of Vizzed, mostly nonchalant banter and congratulations and such. We chatted awhile, I continued to lurk and eventually found no need to return to Vizzed very often at all.

A month goes by and I get another email. This time from a Vizzed fan of mine, she told me that Vizzed started a Pokemon Hacking Competition with a cash prize, and proceeded to tell me that if I entered a hack I surely would win. By this time, however, I had already begun work on a new hack. I was about 40% finished. One of the rules to the competition was that it could ONLY be released on Vizzed. I had no intentions of releasing my new BIG hack on only one website.

01 Pokemon StealerIf you remember from my previous blog post, I mentioned hacking games for a reason (previously it was to catch them all), my new hack was a hack that would add the Orange Archipelago to the games. The Orange Archipelago is an area from the TV show that was never made into a game, so I had a reason to make it. I had no other ideas to make any other hacks. The fan from Vizzed gave me a GREAT idea. Her idea was to play as the bad guys, following the main character of the real version of the game, cleaning up the messes he made. I fell in love with the idea, my mind filled with ideas and in just a few hours we had layed out the entire game and all the events that the player would get to see from the villain’s side.

01 Rocket Science TS2It was time for me to actually read up on the contest. With a $200 grand prize plus $20 extra per every 10,000 plays, I was sold on the idea of entering. The contest would be graded by the players, only hacks with a rating above a 7 (out of 10) and with a minimum of 5,000 plays would qualify. To win you must have the highest “rating X votes” so if I had a rating of 9 with 10 votes, and you had a rating of 8 with 30 votes, you win. The contest had a 3 month deadline (with a few other stipulations) so I had little time to remake an entire game. I worked non-stop (around 20 hours a day) for a month and released Pokemon – Rocket Science.

01 Back Sprite1This hack forced me to learn A LOT more about the game's graphics. I learned how to make sprites - sprites are the moving characters in the game. I made many super complex scripts and inserted new game mechanics. An entirely new main character and story was created. Most of the maps are the same and all of the music is the same but other than that, this game has everything changed. It was a lot of learning, but with everything I learn, I can put it to use in my next hack.

01 Biking scientist

 

With the contest coming to a close (no more hacks can be entered) and my hack slotted to win by a landslide, it just reinforces my beliefs that I am on the right degree path and that this is the right school for me.

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Hacking Pokemon Games

Hacking Pokemon Games

AMapSo I have been spending a lot of my time making Pokemon games. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a huge Pokemon nerd, I enjoy the games but I don’t own a houseful of plushies and posters or anything. It is an interesting story as to how I fell into this sort of hobby.

It has always been a dream of mine to get my name in a real video games credit list. So one day I just started doing research into hacking video games. I think it is pointless to hack a game without a point, so I needed a reason to hack. I decided that I had always wanted to play a Pokemon game that had all of the Pokemon in it (for the specified generation). If you are unaware, Pokemon is a video game series that came out around 1998. The point of the original games (the only ones I care about) is to catch all of the Pokemon (little monsters you can obtain by battling and capturing in items called “PokeBalls”). Pokemon games require multiple cartridges to complete the games 100%. You have to trade Pokemon between the cartridges until you have them all. My idea was simple, I wanted to hack the first generation games, Red, and Blue (my favorites) in particular, to contain all 151 Pokemon so there would be no trading needed to complete the game.

Pokemon Red Version Title ScreenMy Plan

The idea was simple so I used a simple tool to create “Pokemon – Red Version (Emu Edition)”. The name “Emu Edition” came from the realization that you would be playing this game on an EMUlator, and it is generally considered impossible to trade on emulators (yes I know some emulators have this ability, but they are few and far between, and it does not change the fact that you must play 2 versions of the game to trade Pokemon to get them all by yourself). I don’t know how well the name took off but that’s what I went with. My first Emu Edition game simply tossed all the unobtainable Pokemon in legitimate locations. This was not difficult for low level Pokemon like Ekans (only obtainable in Red version) or Meowth (only obtainable in Blue Version), I would simply place them in the location they would originally be if you played their version. But SOME Pokemon could only be obtained by trading and evolving a Pokemon at the same time. If you traded a Haunter to a friend, it would evolve to Gengar by the time your friend got it. I tossed these high level Pokemon in logical locations too but it made the game silly to run into these very powerful wild Pokemon.

I made an Emu Edition for Red Version and then the second generation game Gold Version. These hacks were moderately popular but you can see some of the downfalls. I started working on a first generation game remade with third generation graphics and hardware. This game was FireRed. FireRed is the same game as Red Version but it is made for GameBoy Advance instead of regular GameBoy. So much it had better graphics, full color and the series had just generally gotten better in the several years it took to get to third gen.

Working on FireRed was much more appealing. The graphics were better, it was the story I loved, and there were more tools. I started with the same steps, adding all game specific Pokemon to this game. There was a tool that allowed me to change how Pokemon evolved so I did not have to add random powerful Pokemon to the game. So by this point the game was about what my Red Emu Edition was, but I wanted more. Mew was my favorite Pokemon and I wanted him to have his own event. So you can catch him in a special event during the game and there was only one Mew. I needed to learn how to script events, how to create new things and make the game do what I wanted.

An adde Mew EventTo do this I started looking at scripts already in the game. I began to learn how the game made things happen and started creating my own by simply copying how the game did it and altering little things. For instance there is a Mewtwo event where you fight the only Mewtwo in the game, I simply copied that event and changed the Pokemon to be Mew, I also changed his level and the noise it makes (so it sounded like Mew and not Mewtwo). I released the game just like this. And people wanted more.

A 3rd gen game actually as 386 Pokemon in it, but my hack only had the first 2 generations of Pokemon in it (251 total) because I only cared about the first two gens.

PUVV more

Getting Noticed

To accommodate my growing fan base I started learning how to create maps, and levels, and areas. I made a huge new island the player could travel to that contained all of the 3rd generation Pokemon. By doing this I learned a TON about scripting and pretty much gained the ability to make the game DO anything I wanted without rewriting HOW the game thinks. Staying within the games capabilities I could script any event.

Because there were so many changes to this game I decided to rename it. I mixed Red and Blue (the first generation game colors) and came up with purple or violet. Then it needed to be special because FIRE red or LEAF green are special colors, not just red and blue, I decided to call my hack Ultra Violet Version. To rename the game I had to learn to change the title screen from the standard screen to my custom one. I learned how to work with graphics and LZ7 compression (which is the image compression that the GameBoy Advance (GBA) uses.

PFRV TS PUVV TS

Born to Make Video Games

Now I am a fairly good authority on scripting and mapping and graphics editing for these games. Not that I’m the biggest Pokemon fan in the world, but I enjoy making my own games, and am apparently good at it. People loved my hack, it’s one of the more popular hacks out there. In 3 months I learned A LOT, but still had NO IDEA what I was doing. I decided to actually learn how to program because I was good at it, and I enjoyed it, and people enjoyed my work. I enrolled in Fountainhead College of Technology and started a new chapter in my life. Not to mention I grew up wanting to make video games - that passion had faded through the years until I actually started hacking.

PUVV Credits

Welcome back passion.

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Programmer Wages in TN

Interested in a Career as a Computer Programmer?

Computer programmers earned a median annual salary of $74,280 in May 2012, or $35.71 per hour, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics. Click on the map below (then scroll down) to see wage details for computer programmers in Tennessee.

 CP-wages-by-county

What Computer Programmers Do:

Computer programmers create instructions for computers to follow based on designs created by engineers and the requirements of end users. Most programmers work in an office environment with other programmers in teams. Some programmers work alone or even telecommute from home. Most programmers have a bachelor’s degree, although some employers employ programmers with an associate’s degree. Programming languages evolve over time, and so programmers who can evolve with the languages are the most desirable.

CP-matrix-code

Computer programmers typical tasks:

  • Write programs in assorted computer languages, such as C++ and Java
  • Update and expand existing programs
  • Debug programs by testing for and fixing errors
  • Build and use computer-assisted software engineering tools to automate the writing of some code
  • Use code libraries, which are collections of independent lines of code, to simplify the writing

The job outlook for computer programmers is projected to grow 8% from 2012 to 2022 which is similar to other occupations.

What are important qualities for programmers?

  • Analytical skills: the ability to understand complex instructions in order to create code
  • Concentration: must be able to work at a computer, writing code for long periods of time
  • Detail oriented: must closely examine code to find small mistakes that can affect the program
  • Troubleshooting skills: the ability to check the code for errors and fix them

programmer

To learn more about Fountainhead's Associate’s Degree program in Computer Programming, call us to speak with an education specialist.

 

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Computer Programmers

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Job Outlook for Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Love to tinker with computers and networks?

If you do, you will be happy to know that you can earn an excellent living pursuing your passion.

Network and computer systems administrators earned a median salary of $72,560 in May 2012, or $34.88 per hour, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the job outlook is good. Click on the map below (then scroll down) to learn wage details for network and computer systems administrators in Tennessee. 

payscalemap

Nearly every organization uses computers, networks and the Internet in their day-to-day operations. Computer network and systems administrators are responsible for the operation and security of these systems and networks. These network admins organize, install and support an organization’s computer systems, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs) network segments, intranets and other data communication systems. System administrators also work with anyone that uses a computer in an organization - from the CEO to the receptionist.

They usually work in an office environment and oversee the physical operations of the network servers as well as the end-user systems. Some systems may be in extreme environments such as manufacturing. Most employers require new hires that have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field.

network-administrator

What jobs do network and computer systems administrators do?

  • Determine what the organization needs in a network and computer system before it is set up
  • Install all network hardware and software and make needed upgrades and repairs
  • Maintain network and computer system security and ensure that all systems are operating correctly
  • Collect data to evaluate a network’s or system’s performance and help make it work better and faster
  • Add users to a network and assign and update security permissions on the network
  • Train users on the proper use of hardware and software
  • Solve problems when a user or an automated monitoring system inform them that a problem exists

What are important qualities for network and computer systems administrators?

  • Analytical skills: must evaluate performance and determine how changes will affect it
  • Communication skills: must describe problems and solutions to non-IT workers
  • Computer skills: oversee connections of many different types of equipment and ensure they all work together
  • Multitasking skills: must work on many situations at the same time
  • Problem-solving skills: must be able to quickly resolve computer problems
 

 

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Network and Computer Systems Administrators

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Privacy vs. the march of technology

garbage_cansHow important is privacy to you?

Wireless has a way of getting around. And criminals have a way of getting around security mechanisms to profit from the information contained on RFID Tags.

Do you refuel at Exxon? Exxon uses "SpeedPass," a convenient way to pay for gas using just a swipe of your wrist. But convenience brings vulnerabilities.

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New IT Certifications

CompTIA-LogoNew Certifications Offered to IT Students


Fountainhead College of Technology is now providing industry certification vouchers to its Information Technology students* at no additional cost.

Beginning in January 2013 students in the Information Technology Associate’s Degree program can earn up to seven industry-recognized certifications as part of their coursework. Previously, students had to purchase each of the eight certifications exams, which cost nearly $800.

MTA-logo-small

The following vouchers will be provided at no cost to IT students beginning in January 2013.

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