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College geekery

So, I haven’t updated this blog in a while–sorry about that.  School’s been keeping me really busy the past couple of weeks, but I realized that I needed to rectify this problem with something, at least, so I just wanted to mention a couple things I’ve been doing lately.

1. First off, I’ve been delving deeper into Python lately.  We’re using it for one of my classes, and I’ve gotten to know (and like) it much better than I did before.  Most of my stuff is fairly uninteresting stuff, but here’s a list, anyway.  (Code available on request, though I might post it later.)  I’ve got a couple more things under development, but I’ll add them when they’re finished.
1. A short file full of biological constants that I’m extending as I find new things to add to it.
2. A sequence simulator that generates random DNA sequences based on a given base proportions.
3. A bio-translator that takes in a file with a list of DNA bases and calculates the amino acids that map to each codon, even when you take frameshifting into account.
4. A CoinChanger, which takes in a domain of coins (say the US coin system of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half-dollars, and dollars) and returns the minimum number of coins you need to make change from that.  Since some domains of coins break the standard greedy algorithm for making change, this CoinChanger also implements a recursive algorithm and a bottom-up algorithm for making change.
5. A Sequencer which reads in a FASTA formatted file and outputs various statistics about it.
6. A file which uses the Sequencer code to answer some questions.
7. A timer file which takes in a list of execution times and a list of run time functions, then computes the largest n that can be computed in those given execution times, where n is the size of the input element.  (My favorite result:  If you have a run time function that grows factorially, you could only have an input of 17 elements before your algorithm takes more than a century of microseconds to compute.  That’s bad.)
2. I’ve been learning Matlab, which is another programming language with syntax similar to Pascal and Ada.  It’s got a lot of cool features, like built-in matrix operations, and some pretty annoying stuff (like how basically everything is a matrix, which is almost as bad as Java’s treating everything like an object).  It’s growing on me, but slowly–I still think it should work very differently than it does.  The things I’ve written in Matlab include:
1. An implementation of Insertion Sort.
2. An implementation of Merge Sort.
3. A program that uses and compares the two of them, then creates a couple charts based on that data.
4. An implementation of a Stack.  (Though it’s a global stack because of the requirements of the assignment.  It should be local as far as I’m concerned.)
5. A partial implementation of a singly Linked List.  (Though again it’s a global list, which is annoying.)  Search seems to work, insert works (mostly), but my delete function has issues, part of which stem from a bug in my insert function that I haven’t had time to track down.
3. I’ve also worked with a program called Alice in my AI work.  Alice is a 3D graphics program used to help teach programming.  It has most of the basic programming constructs (loops, conditionals, functions, methods), but it does some weird stuff, and I’m still a little skeptical it will help people really understand those programming constructs.  We’ll see next week when we drop to a real programming language (Python, ironically).
4. I’ve used Audacity to put up a teeny-tiny podcast, but I’m probably not going to keep that one going–too much work, and not really any benefit for me right now.  Maybe someday, but not today.

I think that’s all the major stuff I’ve done over the past couple of weeks.  I’ll try to let you know if anything changes.

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