Experiment with WebRTC (Webcam)

Over the weekend I decided to experiment a bit with the JavaScript WebRTC framework. I wanted to implement an in-browser photo booth using the framework and succeeded in doing so. Please check it out at: photo booth. Let me know what you think. I’ll be updating it over the next week or so to improve on some capabilities. Also note that Internet Explorer is not supported. I’ll be releasing the source code soon.

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When I graduated college a few years ago I thought I was done with class forever. Never did I think, only a few short years later I would be volunteering to go to class even without earning credit or working toward a degree. I’ve began to realize I miss learning. Sure, I’ve read books here and there, but it isn’t the same as the structured learning of a class. Classes enforce deadlines for homework, assignments, and make sure that learning occurs at a reasonable pace. I needed that. I also missed the discussions and sharing thoughts with other people who shared the same desire to learn as you do.

I strongly believe that the direction the world is heading requires life long learning. Learning shouldn’t stop when you earn your degree.

So with this in mind, I decided to check out Coursera after a few people I work with highly recommended it to me. I was pretty hesitant at first, but ultimately I decided to enroll in the Machine Learning class taught through Stanford just to check it out. So far I’ve been pretty impressed. Coursera does a good job of organizing the content and provides a good framework for learning. The discussion forums are easy to search and seem to be used quite a bit by the students enrolled in the class. The assignments are challenging, but not obscenely difficult. I’ve managed to ace all the homework and assignments so far. I’d say the material probably isn’t as hard as it would be if you were to take the class at an actual University, but it does provide a good introduction to the topic.

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Finally I have got some time on my hands, which as you read on, will find is a major theme of this post and something I wanted to share with the world about what I learned in regard to it.

Something that I see many people struggle with every single day is balance. I completely believe that balance is one of the most critical concepts to master in life. Balance, to me, mandates nearly everything and every situation you can encounter in the world. It is almost a “meta” concept. It mandates and controls other ideas and concepts.

The key to balance is finding the median between two extremes. I constantly find myself looking inward and trying to figure out if my life is balanced. I encourage the same of others. I have discovered through years of observation that those who are not happy typically do not live balanced lives and those that are live balanced lives. People tend to over-analyze every situation and every aspect of life, without looking toward a bigger idea and a bigger concept. Many people try to solve issues in their life without ever being aware of what the ultimate cause of the issue is and generally it is an imbalance.

Perhaps, I too generously apply the concept of balance (maybe I need to find balance in that itself, or maybe that would only further the issue :) ), but I have found it a good foundation on which to evaluate my life and my happiness.

To further clarify the idea, for example, it is important to drink water every day to stay hydrated and I think most reasonable people would agree that drinking water is beneficial. However, take it to either extreme, not drinking any water, or drinking many gallons of water per day is not good in any form. People who find themselves on either extreme will not be happy. Although most people would take the preceding as common sense, it can be applied to many aspects of life:

  • Work and play balance
  • Doing things for your friends/family/significant other and doing things for yourself
  • Eating too much; eating too little
  • Drinking too much alcohol; being too uptight
  • Spending too much money; saving too much money
  • Sleeping too little; sleeping too much
  • Cleaning too much; cleaning too little
  • Being too serious; joking too much
  • Being selfish; being selfless
  • Being defensive; being offensive
  • Being too open-minded; being too closed-minded
  • Talking; listening

There are really two significant categories of balance in my eyes. One is time related and the other is behavioral related. Several of the above can be classified as time related (sleeping, working, cleaning, etc.). These items all belong to the greater category of time, which is ultimately time-management. Time is probably the most coveted artificial resource in the universe. Time is so important that it takes many years to learn how to balance it properly. In fact it has infiltrated itself into our education system and one of the cornerstones of society; college, more than anything tests a person’s ability to manage their time. I always have liked the age old adage: “Do you live to work or work to live?” It summarizes the struggle between work and play. I like to respond: “I work to live a little bit, and live to work a little bit as well.” A person should take pride in their work, but not to the point where it interferes with their lives. A person should also enjoy their own time, but not to the point where they can’t accomplish the things they want because of the lack of resources to do so.

I have to constantly balance my dedication to my family and friends with the dedication I have to myself. Sometimes I find myself drifting toward one extreme or another and have to take steps to swing back toward the middle. I do earnestly believe that you have to be happy with who you are and yourself before you have any remote chance of making anyone else happy. At the same time, time on this world is limited and you want to surround yourself with those who love you and cherish your company.

The other category, as I mentioned is behavioral. Your behavior is a core part of the persona that you project onto the world and ultimately that shapes the perception the world has of you. It is important to find balance in this area as well. It is okay to get angry, but getting angry all the the time is taking it to an extreme. People will not want to be around you, talk to you, or even associate with you. On the other end of the spectrum you don’t want to be perceived as a push over either. If you do, people will try to, and perhaps even successfully take advantage of you. It is important to know your limits and isolate your emotions from the concept of self. Your ideals, thoughts, and beliefs should transcend and be more persistent than a fleeting emotion. “Those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.”

Tomorrow, ask yourself… are you living a balanced life? If not try to find ways to bring yourself away from any given extreme back toward the middle. If you are, then congratulations, but be aware that balance can become distorted rapidly.


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Blue Dot

I absolutely love this video. Even though it is several decades old, the message stays the same. The awe of looking back at Earth for the first time from a point in space is arguably one of the greatest accomplishments and moments in the history of mankind. Carl Sagan’s thoughts and ideas are profound. When we as humans get so wrapped up in our day to day lives sometimes we fail to see the bigger picture. The Earth is a grain of sand in the cosmic environment.

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