2018: A Year in Review

It’s the part of the year where people are staying inside with more layers of clothes on, where families will inevitably argue over board games, and where I haven’t bothered to avoid that song (mostly because I lost the Pogues game on the 2nd…). It’s also the day of the year where I seem to have decided to write a wrap-up blog post for the year (see: 2016, 2017), so let’s get started.

As is to be expected, the majority of this year has been involved with the end of my first year and the start of my second year at university, studying computer science. It’s been really interesting, as I’ve been able to learn about a lot of different parts of the subject that I wasn’t really aware of before, such as functional programming and the intricacies of operating system design and concurrency. The exams in the summer weren’t exactly fun, but I managed to get through them, and was even able to get within the top 10 highest grades in the year group before resits (of which I didn’t take any)! \o/

With the online community I’m a part of, we managed to set into motion the creation of a full YouTube series of our Minecraft Gameshow, which is really exciting! We’re in the middle of trying to get it ready to be released to the world, so there isn’t much more I can say about this (without getting in trouble with someone, at least) but it was really fun!

A bit earlier in the year, we all travelled to the NEC in Birmingham to attend i62. This was the first time that I’d been able to meet up with this group of friends for more than a single day, so it was really lovely to be able to spend more time with them in person. We filmed (I guess “vlogged”? Is that a word now?) the weekend and edited it all for our group YouTube channel - feel free to watch those videos here.

We reached our 1 year anniversary as a group (in name only, really - we’d all been friends for years before that point), and so I decided to create a retrospective video asking as many people as I could what their favourite things were that we’d done so far. You can find that video here (although most of it is stuff from 2017, but the video and anniversary were in 2018, so I think it’s appropriate here 😛).

In the summer, we also had a weekend trip down to London. This was my first time in London, and I got to meet a bunch more people that I’d only ever talked to online. I often don’t think it quite hits home how many people you can meet online until you try to fit them all in one room! You can read more about my time in London over that weekend (and me going to Mornington Crescent) here.

Also, this year we held two 24 hour charity streams, one in support of Stand Up To Cancer, and one in support of BBC Children in Need. We were able to raise an incredible £300 and £327 during these streams respectively, plus gift aid, meaning that in total we’ve raised over £1.2k through our charity streams! We’re all really proud of this and (hopefully) we’ll be able to do more of these types of streams in the future!

Related to the gameshow project, I was a part of two game jams this year, making minigames for the show (we also held one last summer, but apparently I didn’t talk about that during last years wrap-up post). Making games within Minecraft is difficult, and as one of the rules we follow is that we can’t just write function files (text files with lists of commands) and instead have to use command blocks in the game, it can get a little bit repetative at times. Either way, it’s always a fun experience and I’m looking forward to doing more in the future.

At uni, I again took part in Hacktoberfest. Mostly, I worked on details for the websites of HackSoc, the main programming society - I’ve also been getting more involved with them since the summer. They’re the society that run the annual HackNotts hackathon that I attended last year. This year I attended as a volunteer (it’s a lot less stress, I can tell you now), but I still managed to get my fill of making a thing by working on a couple of display systems for the event. The first was used during check in, and showed people their names when they had been registered as being in attendance. The second was used on the screens throughout the main hacking area, and showed people the amount of time remaining, as well as any messages that the volunteers wanted to broadcast to the attendees (such as when food was available). I wrote about both of these on my portfolio website, as well as that I open sourced the latter of the two systems. You can read more here.

A week after that event, I took part in the global MLH Local Hack Day. At this, I decided to make a “Twitch Plays” style of game (i.e. controlled by actions sent in the chat) and settled on Tetris. The entire project consists of two Python scripts and one HTML/CSS/JS webpage. One of the scripts connected to the Twitch chat via IRC, the second script ran a websocket webserver that the chat script sent messages to, and the webpage connected to the websocket webserver to listen for the messages that the chat script sent. The webpage ran the code for the game itself, and was also controllable from the keyboard (which made debugging a fair bit easier). You can see a video of the project running here. Overall, this was a really fun experience. Making something in 12 hours alone is something I’m not very used to, and in addition, the project won one of the prizes for the “Best Use of Microsoft Azure” prize category (as the python scripts were running on Azure, because Eduroam blocks the IRC ports…). I wasn’t expecting to win anything at all, so I was super proud of that.

Finally this year, I’ve also been taking part in Advent of Code again. Up until the last few days, I’ve been doing fairly well, but it’s beginning to get quite tricky now. You can see my solutions, as ever, here.

All in all, I have so much to be thankful of this year. I’m thankful to all of my family, who once again were able to put up with me not being able to adult 90% of the time. I’m thankful to my friends at uni for being wonderful to be around and for helping me avoid the stresses of coursework. I’m thankful to everybody at RASA, you guys keep me sane and are just absolutely incredible and lovely to know. And a massive thank you to everybody in the Noxcrew and the surrounding community - without you guys I don’t know what I’d be doing right now, and I wouldn’t have had the chance to make so many friends. I honestly can’t thank you enough. 😊

In 2019, I’m hoping to be able to keep working on my programming skills, and hopefully do well in my exams again! I’d love to be able to keep writing - I know this blog wasn’t as active this year, but hopefully that’ll get better next year. I’d also like to start streaming to RASA’s group twitch account a bit more, but that will likely have to wait until I can build myself a new computer (which will be soon, with any luck!). Anyway, I’m looking forward to the new year, and I hope that it brings you what you’re after as well! <3

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and, until next time, o/