Our New Pathways App

In December 2016, my club, Central Austin Toastmasters, achieved something that very few clubs in the world get to do. We built our own website, centralaustin.org, so that our members have the right tools to succeed in Toastmasters.

Central Austin Toastmasters is one of the few clubs in the world that has its own website.
Central Austin Toastmasters built its own website so that its members have the right tools to succeed.

Thanks to our website, we are stronger than ever in our 27-year club history.

Here are the awesome members of Central Austin Toastmasters!
Meet Central Austin Toastmasters!

We have 40 awesome members, each dedicated to improve their public speaking and leadership skills.

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We have won 12 awards in the past two years.

As of November 2018, Central Austin Toastmasters stands at #2 out of 186 clubs in Austin and San Antonio.
As of November 2018, Central Austin Toastmasters stands at #2 out of 186 clubs in Austin and San Antonio.

And we currently stand at #2 out of 186 clubs in Austin and San Antonio. This is truly one of the best places you can be for Toastmasters.

We are not going to stop here, though, because there is always room for us to grow. Today, I present to you a club project that will help us evolve in 2019 and 2020: a new Pathways app that I call, Toastmasters Education Tracker (*name subject to change). Let me explain why we need this app, how we are going to make it, and how you can help.

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Lights Out

Two months ago, I got to use D3 to help visualize the steps for getting something approved and interact with these steps. I affectionally call my code Roadmap.

roadmap-screenshot
An everyday example.

I had a great time because (1) the way we draw things in D3 reminded me of Matlab, whom I will always love; (2) I got to re-learn graph theory (fun fact: all digraphs have a topological sort—being able to sort is always nice and being able to in linear time even more so); and (3) I got to play with Post-it notes to make up an algorithm for drawing graphs on desktop and mobile.

roadmap-planning.jpg
Office supplies to the rescue.

I also had a hard time finding out how to use D3 in Ember. Because Ember is rather a rare species, there was only 1 tutorial that helped me understand what I needed to do. Thanks to that tutorial, I was able to create a prototype of Roadmap over a weekend, use Ember’s mixin feature effectively, and write extensive tests to show that Roadmap really works. In case you want to learn Ember and D3, let me show you what I learned.

We will create a game from the 90s called Lights Out. The game consists of a 5 x 5 grid of lights, which you can press like buttons. When the game starts, some of the lights are on. When you press a light, that light and its adjacent ones—top, right, bottom, and left, if they exist—are switched from on to off, or off to on. The goal of the game is for you to turn off all lights, preferably in as few moves as possible.

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p@55w0rd$: Part 2

Last time, we looked at how passwords work. To confirm your identity, companies salt your password, they hash the salted password, and they check your hash. (For brevity, I won’t mention salts anymore. Assume that salts are used.)

We left out 3 important questions.

1. Can a hacker find out our passwords from hashes?

Yes and no. We will see that a hash function that is designed well acts like a trapdoor. We can change passwords to hashes, but there is no way to change hashes back to passwords. However, the hacker can still make guesses at our passwords and check which ones result in the stolen hashes. We call this an attack. I will cover 2 ways to make an attack.

2. Can the hash function stop attacks?

Yes, a hash function that is designed well makes attacks difficult. I will explain what I mean by a good design.

3. What can we do to protect ourselves?

We can’t completely rely on the hash function to protect us. We have to be vigilant, too. I will show you how to create good passwords and keep your accounts safe.

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