A very special day

There’s something in the air today that just feels… right.

I could have sworn that I woke up to birds chirping something about some kind of ‘release.’  Is it a sign?

Furthermore, as I made myself a nice cup of coffee just a few hours ago, I noticed the froth formed a pattern that looked like a gear.  A very peculiar gear, in fact, that I happen to know very well…

mekanism-logo

Well, as it turns out, the universe is right.  It is indeed a very special day.  Today, a new version of Mekanism will (finally) be released: v9, with new technological breakthroughs that I hope will leave you in awe.

Mekanism v9 has been in development since the pre-release days of v8.  Some of this content has been planned for years – some of it has been added during spur-of-the-moment ideas (that tend to occur to me routinely while I code).  As Mekanism will be turning five years old this November, I figured we needed a solid release to carry us to that milestone.

Unlike v8, which involved a boatload of (sometimes game-breaking) internal changes, Mekanism v9 focuses primarily on new content that builds upon what is already a part of the massive mod.  Because of this, you can expect a less stressful transition than many of you may have experienced last year.

Before I get to the changelog, I do have several important announcements.  Firstly, I will begin attending college this summer at Georgia Tech, and the amount of time that I will be able to devote to Mekanism will be directly dependent upon my workload.  I’m confident I’ll still have time here and there for fixes and sometimes new content, but I have a feeling I won’t be able to get any serious work done unless I’m on break.

Secondly, and this is big – I’m happy to announce that Mekanism will be officially co-hosted on CurseForge starting in the next few weeks.  I’ve been in conversation with the Curse team for a while now, and I figure it’s useless to delay the inevitable any longer.  I was initially intending on releasing Mekanism v9 on CurseForge to begin with, but I figure it’d be best to wait a short while until I’ve pushed a build with fixes for all the release-day issues.

Finally, and this is most important, in my opinion – Mekanism v9 will be released for Minecraft 1.9 in the coming weeks.  You heard me right.  I’ve been spending countless hours per day getting everything transitioned over into the new update, and I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel; you can expect McMultipart and JEI support from day one as well.  It’ll likely be buggy at first, but once everything is sorted out, this will mean that Mekanism v9 will be supporting Minecraft 1.7.10 and 1.9.4 simultaneously for the first several months following its release.

And here it is.  The glorious changelog.

Content:

  • Industrial Turbines
    • Massive, intricate, multiblock structures capable of processing massive amounts of steam to generate energy.
  • Thermoelectric Boilers
    • Scalable, multiblock steam boilers capable of producing massive quantities of steam from water and heat energy.
  • Quantum Entangloporters
    • A fancy block that uses frequencies to transfer items, energy, gas, fluid and energy both inter-dimensionally and across long distances.
  • Thermodynamic Conductors
    • A new type of transmitter that allows for heat energy to be transferred among specific heat-supporting machinery.
  • Resistive Heaters
    • Machines capable of translating electrical energy into heat energy, capable of being transmitted via Thermodynamic Conductors.
  • Fuelwood Heaters
    • Machines capable of creating massive amounts of heat by burning combustible resources.
  • Formulaic Assemblicators
    • A block that doubles as an advanced workbench and auto-crafting machine, using Crafting Formulas to store and process recipe patterns.
  • Muffling Upgrades
    • A new type of upgrade that muffles the sound of an active machine by 1/4 per unit installed.  Four upgrades will make a machine completely quiet.
  • Security Desk
    • A high-tech terminal which binds to its owner upon placement and allows for the maintenance and control of all your owned machinery’s security preferences.
  • Infusing Factory
    • You requested it, it’s finally here – a whole new set of factories dedicated to the Metallurgic Infuser.
  • Structural Glass
    • Replacing Dynamic Glass, Structural Glass serves as a universal form of multiblock glass that can be used in any structure, aside from the Fusion Reactor and Thermal Evaporation Plant.
  • More Tiers
    • Four tiers of Bins, featuring different storage capacities
    • Four tiers of Fluid Tanks, featuring different storage capacities and output rates
    • Four tiers of Gas Tanks, featuring different storage capacities and output rates
  • Complete texture and model overhaul
    • Thanks to CyanideX, Mekanism has a whole new, beautiful look.

Enhancements:

  • Heat Framework, designed from the ground-up as a new way of transferring heat between specific machines and devices.
  • Security Framework, an intricate, owner-based network grid that allows for a player’s complete control over his machines.
  • New Flamethrower Modes, allowing for the focus of the Flamethrower as a tool, as a weapon, or as both.
  • Gas Generator Improvements, specifically a new automatically-scaling processing rate that allows for a single generator to run on much larger simultaneous amounts of fuel.
  • Transmitter Improvements, including the new ability of upgrading an already-placed network of transmitters by right-clicking them with a Mekanism alloy corresponding to the next tier.
  • Teleporter Improvements, including a more efficient frequency grid and auto-player-orientation upon teleport.
  • Thermal Evaporation Plant Improvements, including its new name, better crafting recipes, and heat framework integration to allow for heat to be directly funneled into existing Evaporation Plants via Thermodynamic Conductors.
  • Electric Pump Improvements, with complete upgrade support for faster pumping, and a new default config option that allows the Electric Pump to not suck water source blocks.
  • General Machinery Improvements, including upgradability of Fluidic Plenisher, side configuration of Energy Cube and Gas Tank (allowing for multiple output sides), and much more.
  • Interface Improvements, with better GUI icons thanks to CyanideX, in-game toggling of energy and heat units, and auto-scaling tooltips based on string width.
  • Packaging Improvements, with a more consolidated asset directory and the shipping of the Redstone Flux API to fix mod interactions.
  • Stability and Performance Improvements, which should result in reduced client-side and server-side lag.

Note that these are just the features I’m remembering right now, there’s a lot more that you’ll have to discover for yourself.

As always, new Mekanism releases can sometimes come at a cost.  Back up your worlds, and remember there’s always a chance some inter-mod compatibility will break.  You’ve been warned!

Enjoy the release! :)

DefenseTech: A New Project

It’s been quite a while since I last posted, and for good reason- I’ve been busy.

As of right now, I’m finishing my last semester of high school before I go off to college, and I’ve been focusing on my studies to make sure I finish on a good note.  Over the past couple months, however, I’ve been getting back into coding; along with working on Mekanism v9, I’ve been putting time into a new project that I’ve called ‘DefenseTech.’

Back in the late-beta/early release days of Minecraft, a new mod emerged – ICBM – that brought fancy-looking missiles and cool explosive things to the game.  It quickly became one of my favorite mods after messing around with it, and I ended up getting close with the mod’s developer, Calclavia.  ICBM was maintained for a good long while, and eventually spawned the “Universal Electricity” framework that Mekanism integrated with.  However, Calclavia ended up failing to find the time to maintain ICBM after 1.6.4; something I found disappointing after the great fun I had playing with it.

This isn’t to say that a mod like ICBM was completely abandoned, however.  Darkguardsman began maintaining his own version of ICBM that is up-to-date with 1.7.10.  This version, however, is a complete remake of the original ICBM; something some may appreciate, but I found myself missing the classic mechanics and style of Calclavia’s version.  There’s sadly not a single classic port of ICBM available for Minecraft 1.7.10.

Well, not until now.

I decided to port the last stable release of Calclavia’s ICBM to 1.7.10.  Calling it a ‘port’ is not necessarily accurate; I’ve completely overhauled the engine to use Mekanism’s core source libraries and removed some of the content I found unfitting with the mod’s original theme (if you miss the sentries, check out OpenModularTurrets- I prefer them personally).  As of right now, all the assets are the same, but I’m in contact with CyanideX who has plans to work with me in retexturing the entire mod to follow a more consistent, modern theme.

Content List:

  • Missiles. Advanced missiles that can be launched from tiered platforms with varying target accuracy.
  • Explosives. Countless different explosives with unique, devastating explosions.
  • Radar Systems. Track friendly and enemy missiles, and fire off anti-ballistic missiles when necessary.
  • Rocket Launchers. Launch certain missiles directly from a handheld device.
  • EMP Towers. Disable missiles before they reach your base, and take enemies’ power systems offline from a distance.

I’ve also implemented some general improvements that should make DefenseTech more streamlined and stable than any past ICBM release; most all machines now have OpenComputers and ComputerCraft integration, all machines work with RF, EU and Mekanism power, and extraneous libraries have been eliminated to leave Mekanism as the only dependency.

I’m really excited about this, and I have some ambitious plans for new content in the future.  For now, though, DefenseTech serves to continue the experience from ICBM that you loved.

Downloads can be found on DefenseTech’s shiny new download page.  Enjoy!

An October Update

Hey all.

I’ve been wanting to post an update here for a while- I actually typed up a few posts I was hoping to publish but I thought it’d be best for me to clear a few responsibilities from my plate first.

I’m now in the very middle of the first semester of my senior year of high school, and though my classwork definitely isn’t letting up, just this past week I submitted my final university application, something that was (for a while at least) my biggest time commitment.  Now begin the grueling months of waiting before decisions come in the mail; even my ‘early action’ schools do not notify applicants until mid-December.  On the bright side, it’s a relief to finally have free time again.

I’m working with my city’s conservancy right now on an informational mobile app, and am having a great time doing so. Hopefully I’ll have it finished by spring, but in the meantime I also have been dying to get back into Mekanism development, even if it’s just fixing up some of the seemingly endless bug reports that have piled on the GitHub page since my absence.  Expect to see me active again soon!

Microsoft – Week 7

My final week has been exhilarating and yet fairly depressing- it’s been hard to say goodbye to the friends and coworkers I’ve been seeing every day for so long now.  Luckily I had a chance to check in with all my different teams I’d worked with over the summer before I left.

I spent my all day Monday with Microsoft Research, working to finish as much as I could of the TouchDevelop extension for Minecraft.  I ended up putting in ten hours of work- rewriting the networking layer to allow for multiplayer support, fixing crashes and other problems I had encountered in testing, and attempting to polish off all loose ends.  It was great to finish off the day being able to see real, concrete progress after investing so many hours developing.

On Tuesday, aside from a quick breakfast in Building 99, I ended up spending seven hours in Building 9 for what was supposed to be a quick fifteen minute checkup on the intro-to-modding session preparations.  A lack of adequate distribution software meant IT was forced to manually install the necessary modding tools on each individual computer (in a stack of over thirty), and this meant that if there were any issues, we’d have to go through another installation sweep of every unit.  Sure enough, there was an issue I spotted as soon as I walked in the door.  The wrong Eclipse installation was installed, meaning that the team’s progress so far was a waste.  It seemed to only get worse from there; I had another set of files I needed installed, and I soon realized that Eclipse workspaces were not portable (or in other words, they were locked to the computer they were created on), meaning I would have to manually set up the workspace on every computer.  Luckily, about two hours of grueling work in, my manager walked in with another co-worker who happened to have a solution to our problem- the creation of a single VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) with all the needed software that we could easily copy onto all the machines.  It worked and within an hour we had accomplished more than we had a good five hours prior.  We were good to go!

On Wednesday I started off in Building 99, moved onto The Commons for lunch and then on to The Visitor Center to shop for gifts for my friends back home, and then I finally returned to Building 99 to finish up a bit more work.  This was also the day before the intro-to-modding session, which forced me to polish off my presentation and review the schedule for the next day.  The amount of time and effort that went into making this session possible blows my mind- I never thought a little class like that would require so much preplanning and logistical organization.

Thursday was easily the busiest day of my week; I slept in as much as I could (which was only about a half an hour more than usual), since I knew what was in store for me for the day.  I started off the morning with my last video session in Redmond Town Center Building 5, and held “puppet Briana” on camera for the last time.  I just barely made it to Building 99 afterwards to catch a bus to the “Intern Envisioning Tour” with the rest of my MSR coworkers.  This experience was remarkable!  The tour took us through prototype software and appliances that would improve life both at home and in the workplace, all of which seemed real and ready to become commonplace.  I enjoyed a final lunch at The Commons, where I finalized the final few remaining preparations for the intro-to-modding session. Aside from a few technical issues we had getting the pixel editing software set up on the computers, the setup went very nicely, and the class itself went even smoother!  Several students had a syntax error here or there that the other interns and I helped them sort out, but regardless everyone managed to complete the projects I had planned for and we finished right on time.  I can’t say the experience transformed me into wanting to become a teacher, but I did have a great time talking about and explaining what I’ve done for so many years to students with similar interests, and I loved seeing their faces light up after playing with the block they had created; that was priceless.

Friday was, unsurprisingly, a very sentimental day for me as I walked around the campus for the last time.  My last real working hours I spent finishing my last few projects with Microsoft Research.  I said goodbye to Peli, whom I luckily will continue to be in contact with regarding a contract offer.  As I left the building, I made the mistake of putting on one of my Bobby Darin playlists and ended up listening to “Softly I Leave You” while I rode on what would be my last shuttle ride; I won’t lie, I was on the verge of tears.  I got off at Building 9 where I said goodbye to my fellow TED interns, cleaned off my desk, and had a heartfelt last farewell with my manager and mentor.  I went onto Building 16 to meet up with a few of my friends for the last time to play some Xbox, which definitely helped cheer me up.  My last few minutes on campus I spent walking the familiar route to Building 9 and dropped off my Microsoft badge on my mentor’s desk, before walking back to my apartment.  It didn’t feel right to leave.

Overall, I am so happy that I was a part of this amazing internship; it truly was an experience of a lifetime.  I have to keep convincing myself that it’s not over and I’ll likely be right back on campus next summer (or perhaps even sooner).  Well that’s it for my Microsoft internship blog series.  I hope you enjoyed reading about my technical ramblings, stories and thoughts about my time spent in Redmond.

Microsoft – Week 6

This week has easily been the hardest week of my internship so far.  Not only was my calendar completely packed giving me close to no free time at all, I still have a lot of projects I’m working on with the end date of my internship right around the corner.  On the other hand, though, it may have been my favorite week too.  I guess I like being busy!

Monday was an all-out day of code.  I parked in MSR’s Building 99, met up with Peli, and got some serious work done on the TouchDevelop extension- I actually stayed a couple extra hours to get ahead.  We managed to get through the entire week’s worth of planned projects which definitely helped lighten up my load for the next few days.  There’s still more to do, but I luckily have one more week to get through it.

Tuesday was the real start of my event-packed week; in fact, I didn’t come close to my office one time the entire week.  I started off my day by attending the ‘Hololens Academy,’ where I finally got to try on that beautiful piece of technology.  The three-hour session covered the essentials of Hololens application development; we went through the entire process of designing a hologram, animating it, and testing it out on the device.  My main takeaway was just how easy it was to work with the core software development kits (SDKs) provided by the Hololens team; it just took a few lines of code to integrate with the region mapping, voice commands, and hand gestures.  The device itself was fantastic too- super comfortable, actually fairly stylish, and providing a resolution much richer than I was expecting.  My only disappointment was the small field of view you have of the holograms, something many other critics have noted as well.  I hope they manage to improve it before release.  Right after the session I sped off to RTC Building 5 to present to the Learning Experiences Leadership Team, where I talked about all of my projects and the progress I’ve made over the past five weeks- my idea of keeping the actual presentation PowerPoint simple to allow me to narrate the story worked very well!  After watching the other interns’ presentations I was just about exhausted- the day’s busyness had caught me off guard.  I didn’t realize I’d be putting in a solid twelve hours of work just the next day…

My giant day of judging the Imagine Cup finals began at 6:40 to make it down to Building 92 in time to grab a bite to eat before the presentations started.  I had about fifteen minutes to snack on some yogurt and granola until we were called into the ‘Normandy Room’ to watch the first round of contestants.  These lasted about ten minutes each with a ten minute break between each presentation- and with five of these in a row, I was fairly tired out once we finished.  The end of the presentations meant the start of the live demos, giving us judges a chance to actually play the games we had seen before.  This process repeated itself again after a lunch break, giving us a chance to both see the presentations and experience the demos of a total of nine competing groups.  All the games were very impressive, but it actually wasn’t too hard to narrow down the top three; these were decided on almost unanimously by the judges (in fact, out of the nine groups, my own rankings coincided with seven of the final results).  After having dinner and saying goodbye to the panel I ran over to the Microsoft Commons to review my role for the next day’s award ceremony, which resulted in me getting back to my apartment at almost 8 PM.  Gah!

Thursday’s award ceremony went perfectly!  I gave out the third and second place prizes ($5k and $10k respectively) and had the opportunity to watch the winners of each main category be announced- it was fun to help hold up the giant checks on stage.  I followed this up with my weekly video session over in the LeX studios, and then a trip back to the Commons for a brief interview with a Belgian blogger, Joey Driessen.  After grabbing a quick lunch (and checking out the awesome OneWeek expo), I took a shuttle to The Garage (a massive ‘maker’s space’ filled with 3D printers and other gadgets) to participate in the High School Interns Build Competition where we competed in a couple fun competitions to build tall and realistic structures with sticks and rubber bands… both of which our team lost.  Regardless, it was fun to meet up with my fellow coworkers again, and at the end of it I was off work for the day- yay!

Friday was the first day of the entire week I was able to sleep in (something my body desparately needed), and (most of) the rest of the day involved attending the Imagine Cup finals in downtown Seattle- a great way to end the week!  I got a backstage tour alongside the event’s producer, and even though the production was on a much smaller scale, I had a big flashback to my backstage moments during Build 2015- it’s crazy how much work goes into a single presentation.  Satya himself announced the World Championship winner, which was the leading group of the Innovation category.  The team, eFitFashion from Brazil, had developed a website to make tailored clothing more accessible.  Overall, I had such a great time working with the Imagine Cup; it was a great opportunity to see what other students with my passions were working on.  I’ll definitely be following next year’s competition!

At this point I only have five days left here in Redmond and I’m not ready to leave.  Hopefully I can make the most of my last week.

Microsoft – Week 5

As expected, I had a crazy week, and it’s likely going to get crazier for the final two weeks on campus.  This internship really is flying by…

Though I spent the majority of Monday and Tuesday in my office, I had zero free time; I wasn’t even able to do my routine “Monday research session.”  Aside from responding to the many emails that seem to stack up in my inbox over the weekend and attending my weekly-check-in meetings, I did a ton of work on my ‘Real Reelz’ script, pushed out a new build of the TouchDevelop Minecraft extension, and helped the IT team get it set up on a good fifty computers for the event we held on Wednesday for MSR.  I also had to start work on the presentation I’m giving to the LeX Leadership Team next week.  I will be meeting with the GM of LeX and all of her direct reports to share details about my time here as an intern.  I had to complete a draft of my presentation by Friday.  I definitely understand the pressure of a full workday now- I swear I had a hard time staying awake for dinner several nights this week.

Wednesday was the day of the big event!  I had about an hour in my office that morning to get a few things prepared for the session, and then it was off to Building 40.  As expected, we ran into some immediate IT issues – quite a few of the computers didn’t have ready Forge installations, and a networking problem was preventing the Minecraft launchers from actually signing in.  Everyone was running around like mad for the half hour leading up to the start of the event; it was miracle, but we somehow managed to get the whole room prepared despite a couple stubborn computers.  The session ended up going very well- with raffle tickets and prizes as motivation, the students had a few minutes to play around in an empty world to get warmed up, and the TouchDevelop extension and tutorial worked as intended.  Most importantly, though, the students were clearly engaged and having fun.  There was one clear recurring issue though- all the TNT being ignited was seriously weighing down the software and constantly crashing the Minecraft clients, and I ended up becoming very familiar with the Microsoft task manager as a result.  Luckily I took some quick pictures of the crash logs with my phone so I’ll be able to get the issues fixed quickly once I have some time to get back into the code!

Although it was technically just another office day, I had a big meeting on Thursday with a member of the Redmond-based Minecraft team regarding my Minecraft MVA course proposal.  It turns out we’re not going to be able to put it up on the Microsoft Virtual Academy site, but the team is interested in hosting a course on a new Minecraft educational site.  It’s not exactly what I was looking for but it’s still an awesome opportunity- the only issue is going to be time, as I only have two weeks left here on campus.  Right now the plan is to do one or two trial videos in the studio during my last week to see how things go, and if the team likes them to continue them from home (though obviously without the LeX studio resources).  There are so many things stacked on my plate and time seems to be flying by- I’m definitely feeling the pressure!

Friday, summed up in a few words, was a studio day.  From 10 AM to 4 PM I was at Redmond Town Center B5 either waiting to go on camera or hanging out in the studio.  At least my Reel Realz video is all done, which means I have successfully crossed one more project off the ’to do’ list.  Whew!

Microsoft – Week 4

Hey there!  It’s now week four, also known here in Redmond as “two-weeks-before-OneWeek,” where a ton of awesome events are planned (as well as the Imagine Cup… hype!).

Aside from the waking up part, I had a great Monday!  After getting settled in with a can of apple juice and having my weekly checkin with my manager, Briana, I dove right into the code of the Touch Develop Minecraft extension I started on last week.  With everything running smoothly already, most of the work I did was general cleanups and optimizations.  I’ve also gotten in the rhythm of spending a bit of my Mondays doing some research- this week’s topic of study was data encryption.  This is a great resource if you’re interested in the nitty gritty of hashing algorithms, cool stuff!

(Oh!  It’s a secret, but I think I’m going to hold an intro-to-modding session on campus during my last week.  I’ll leak more details when I have them!)

I spent my Tuesday polishing off the Touch Develop extension: fixing a few last-minute issues, setting up my Gradle environment (a build automation service) to compile the project, and packaging the obfuscated files into a shared folder for the Mojang team to try out.  I also wrote up a little readme file with installation instructions and a brief tutorial, something I haven’t done in years.  I also finally decided to try out the IntelliJ IDE for Minecraft development- I wish I had done this sooner!  The setup process was so much easier than it is for Eclipse; no detailed project structuring was necessary to deal with my various Mekanism modules, it just magically set itself up from my build script.  I went to the Lincoln Square Cafe in downtown Bellevue with a few friends for lunch- not only did I get to enjoy a delicious taco salad while overlooking the city skyline, but I actually saw the Manchester United soccer team’s tour bus pull up right beside a hotel on our way back- I was not expecting to see Rooney himself today.  I’m still a little caught off guard.

Though my Wednesday started out slow, it picked up in pace pretty fast!  I finally had a meeting with Peli of the Microsoft Research team who I demoed my work on the Minecraft extension to, and we came up with some cool (but confidential!) ideas that I’ll be starting on soon.  The extension itself should also be reaching the Mojang team by now, I’m excited to hear feedback!  I’m also starting to seriously plan out this intro-to-modding session; it’s really shaping up well and I know it’s going to be awesome.  It’s also proving to be good logistics/coordination experience for me – there’s a lot that goes into making these kinds of things happen that you wouldn’t realize!

I only spent about an hour in my office on Thursday and not much more on Friday- definitely full days!  I had the opportunity to attend the CEO’s intern talk where I managed to grab front-row seats (after waiting in line for over an hour), it was crazy to see Satya so close in person after only seeing him in pictures.  Even better, he mentioned me and my projects during the Q/A session- crazy!  Aside from my weekly LeX video shoot, I held a meeting on Friday regarding a demo session we’re holding next week for my Minecraft extension I’ve been working on.  It will be the first time my software is actually going to be used so it’s pretty high stakes- I have to make sure everything is working beforehand!

I only have three weeks left, but there’s still so much more to do.  I have a feeling I’m going to be fairly busy… see you in a week!

Microsoft – Week 3

It’s that time of the week again: blog time!

I had an awesome long weekend; after running a patriotic 5k early Saturday morning on Bainbridge Island, I went on to see a spectacular fireworks show at Gas Works, a retired gasification plant turned into a popular green space.  And what a way to end the holiday with the U.S. Women’s National Team winning the Women’s World Cup!

Anyway, Monday and Tuesday were primarily office days for me- getting up to date via email and having meetings with my mentors.  There’s now a chance the Minecraft modding MVA course may fall through, but I won’t know for sure until the team gets back to me.  Regardless, there’s a new project in the works that will take its place if it doesn’t work out – the MSR (Microsoft Research) team is in need of a developer to port its Python-based tutorials for its Minecraft extension over to Touch Develop, and make a mini-series of tutorials.  It’s a bit tricky as I’m not really sure what I should be putting my full focus on yet, so I started my “Real Reelz” video script (a short self-narrated video of my story as a programmer) for the Hour of Code, which we’ll be filming at the end of my internship.  Although these days were a bit slow, I’m learning that this is just a part of the job – and when it is, it’s best to adjust yourself in order to stay productive.  I also spent a bit of my free time researching and learning the popular and lightweight data framework known as JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), just for fun (which should come in handy!).

Wednesday was also an office day, but it was much more busy.  After a morning meeting with Peli de Halleux of the MSR team I found that instead of taking up Python-to-Touch Develop port project, I’m actually going to be actively contributing to the Minecraft extension itself.  Rephrasing, I’m getting paid to develop a Minecraft mod- crazy!  After getting my development workspace set up and grabbing lunch I went onto my next meeting, this time with the group behind the Imagine Cup.  I had no clue how big this is going to be – there are three different focus categories (innovation, world citizenship and gaming), each with roughly ten participating teams, competing for first place prizes of $50k.  The event itself lasts an entire week (Microsoft’s “OneWeek” to be specific) and takes place right here on campus.  I still can’t believe I’m going to be serving as a judge- not only will I have the opportunity to work alongside some of the brightest minds in the tech industry, but I’ll be able to see competing projects at the forefront of innovation.

Thursday and Friday were my first real “code days!”  It’s been a bit of a challenge getting accustomed to the Windows platform- I’m just so used to developing in a UNIX environment.  I’m starting to get used to MS-DOS, though, with a little help from the internet.

Until next time!

Microsoft – Week 2

Sorry it’s late!

It’s now week two here in Redmond!  It’s commonly known that going back to work after a fun weekend is not exactly something you look forward to- I spent my Saturday rock climbing and going on a run through Bellevue, and had dinner with some family friends right on Puget Sound after seeing the new Mad Max movie (seriously awesome) on Sunday.  However, I for one was excited to get back in the office.

Monday and Tuesday were fairly relaxed for me.  I had some free time I used to research a few concepts I was unfamiliar with, including basic SQL authentication and “geofencing” using location services, both of which should help me complete my city’s park informational app.  I managed to finish the course structure and outline for my Minecraft modding course for Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA), meaning I’m in the home stretch to presenting it to the Minecraft team!  I also ended up meeting with a group of college interns about an IoT project we plan on starting next week; I don’t know much, but from what I heard we get to mess around with Raspberry Pis and other goodies which sounds good to me.  On Tuesday I also ventured out to Cafe 34 for lunch to try some Indian- I was not disappointed!

Wednesday was definitely a more packed day – after getting to work, I had just over an hour to check my emails and make sure everything was in order before I took a shuttle to Building 92 to help the Learning Experiences team out with the Hour of Code event (specially for Microsoft’s annual Bring Your Kids to Work Day).  We ended up working through three consecutive sessions with 30 minutes rest in between (most of which was spent cleaning up after the last group and resetting the computers), it was definitely hard work.  After replacing some broken hardware it was onto answering the many questions the participants had – most of which just required quick clarifications, but several requiring a bit more thought.  I was asked at least five times about an issue relating to the way lives were removed in the game the students were editing; luckily my coworker Jayden ended up come up with a workaround.  In the end, though, it was lots of fun to watch as the students messed around with the programming tools- you could tell that they were really learning and having fun while doing so.

Thursday was jam-packed with tasks and events, but I have the long weekend to look forward to once I’m finished (no work Friday)!  Due to my general clumsiness I lost my ID towards the end of the day Wednesday, which meant a trip to Global Security Access Management (GSAM) early in the morning – the office that manages the fancy Microsoft ID cards.  Right after getting my shiny new card, I had to scurry to my office to check my email and submit my hours before meeting with the IoT group for a day-long kickoff.  After a quick run-through of the program, we were each handed bags filled with parts for what would end up becoming awesome little self-aware rovers after a little bit of assembly.  Sadly, I had to depart early to make it to my LeX video shoot, which should last right up until the end of my shift.

In other news, someone in my shared office space moved out, meaning I moved up to a bigger desk – yay!  See you in a week!

Microsoft – Week 1

I’m tying into my blog to provide weekly updates of my experience here at Microsoft. This post will serve as an introduction to both me and the internship program; some of this may seem a little redundant if you’ve already read my About page.

Hey there! I’m Aidan Brady, and this here is my first blog post as a Microsoft intern. I’ll be working under the “Developer Experiences” (or DX) team which encompasses development partners, education, and platform evangelism in general. I’m writing this post just so soon not because I don’t have anything to do, but rather because so much has already happened and I don’t want to lose track of it all!

A little bit about me: I’m 17 years old, a rising senior in high school, and an almost-11-year resident of Atlanta, GA (where it is currently near 100 degrees, thank goodness I’m here in Redmond). I’ve had an interest in computers for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been doing serious programming for close to seven years now. I’ve dabbled in Python, Swift and C++, but Java is definitely my specialty; alongside my most popular project, Mekanism, I’ve developed countless Java-based applications that I still maintain.

Outside of the tech world, I play piano, tennis (even though I’m one of the worst tennis players I know), love to run with either my music or my friends, and am known to spend quite a few hours at a time watching various shows on Netflix. Speaking of which, if you don’t watch Mad Men, you really should.

I arrived here in Seattle this past Saturday and am staying just across the street from the Microsoft campus at an “Extended Day America,” where I am accompanied by my parents due to what I assume are child labor restrictions. On the start of day one, I still didn’t quite believe I was actually going to be working for Microsoft, and I honestly still don’t. Every employee I talked to was welcoming and more than happy to answer my silly questions (“Where’s the restroom?” “Is the coffee free?” “How exactly do I get out of this building?”) – that includes the college interns who I work alongside in my shared office space. And yes, by the way, the coffee just so happens to be free!

Unlike some internships, there was really no “lazy warm-up period” – right after lunch orientation I was assigned my office and computer and briefed on how my next seven weeks would look. I spent the rest of the day filling up my computer with some shiny new Windows betas, including fancy copies of Visual Studio Enterprise 2015 and Office 2016 which managed to download in minutes thanks to the company network’s gigabit internet. And just like that, I finished my first eight-hour workday at Microsoft. I was in heaven.

Day 2 consisted of me finishing my computer’s setup, grabbing lunch with my intern co-workers, talking with my mentor and attending my first real meeting (woo!). I also found myself already habitually checking Outlook for new emails, and discovered that my calendar was rapidly filling up with company events. As I downed my sixth cup of coffee in my shiny new Microsoft mug, I was feeling like a true employee.

The third day was quite a bit more busy. After doing a bit of work on one of my programming projects in the morning, I took a 30 minute 8:45 shuttle to Redmond Town Center (RTC) where I met with Briana Roberts from the Learning Experiences team, a group within the larger DX organization, that is likely to take a good bit of my time throughout the rest of my internship. After a short meeting, I learned that aside from writing up these blog posts, I’m going to appear in weekly video blogs, work with the Harvard-hosted CS50 event, as well as serve as a judge during for Imagine Cup – and these are just the projects I remember off-hand. I hope I have a chance to work with the Minecraft team, too!

And here I am at the end of my fourth day! I had to get started a bit earlier to be able to hop on a shuttle to the CS50 Bootcamp, but that wasn’t too hard now that I’m getting adjusted to the three-hour time change. I didn’t exactly know my role when I first got there so I got myself some of the free catered breakfast (really good) and took a seat – the actual event started about 20 minutes later. After David Malan, the star of CS50, finished his speech, the attending teachers all filed into another room where tables were set up for different groups – the goal was to come up with a curriculum to teach students the basics of computer programming. Without clear instruction of what I was supposed to do, I decided to just take a seat at one of the tables and help a group with their lesson plan. I realized that I actually could contribute a lot to the conversation, being a student myself! After an insightful discussion on the issues with a typical course-based computer science education, we came up with a plan that involved a more individualized approach to programming, with students following their own projects that interest them and learning various concepts along the way – kind of like the way I learned. Little did I know that the outcome of this planning, however, was to actually teach it – David had a big group of students come into the room, and we all were paired up to have real one-on-one computer science instruction sessions. And that is how, on day four of my Microsoft internship, I became a computer science teacher.

My time here is definitely going to be busy, but it’s by all means going to be fun, and the experiences and connections I will make I’m sure I will take with me far past college. I have a new-found appreciation and respect for Microsoft, too.

Oh!  The Microsoft Learning Experiences is starting a weekly video series of some of us LeX interns, and I happen to be one of them. I’ll attach each video to its corresponding blog post, including this one!