Rustie Lin UC Berkeley CS, Distributed Systems, Blockchain

Update & 2Burgers

Haven’t posted in a while, so here’s some content I guess.

School started up again around a month ago, and I’ve been busy ever since. Towards the end of summer, I was introduced to a couple of talented entrepreneurs (who happened to be developers) and developers (who happened to be entrepreneurs). We connected over our shared love of mobile and blockchain technology, and have decided to build an exciting project, which will consist of a modular app environment, with the central application emulating a sort of virtual trusted execution environment. Keep on the lookout for that!

Since I have already declared my major, this semester I’ve had more time to pursue my interests, and not just study at the library all the time (I still do that though.) I’m one of the Android developers for Berkeley Mobile, UC Berkeley’s official mobile app, sponsored by the ASUC. It’s my first time writing code for an already established user-base, and the feeling is pretty exhilarating. I’ve also continued my involvement with Blockchain at Berkeley, this semester as an official member. Having been certified already, my current blockchain projects involve management of our decals and also hopefully internal development later on.

So with all this stuff going on, plus classes, etc. it was very refreshing when my classmates and I attended Hack Into It, an annual hackathon hosted by Intuit on the UC Berkeley campus. This time around, we had more working knowledge of various programming languages and platforms, so the atmostphere was very productive for us. For me, it’s always critical to dedicate the first couple hours of a hackathon to brainstorming and planning, so that the team has a clear idea of what the end product we’re aiming for is, and how to achieve our goals. As the senior hackathon-attendee and developer, I facilitated a very productive and collaborative environment for our team members. (This was a very proud moment for me, as I remember very clearly teaching the same team members how to use git, python, and how to send HTTP requests for API calls.) I architected our application and delegated tasks to our team members based on their strengths and what they were interested in learning. In the end we all learned!

Our app, called “2Burgers” based on some half-asleep banter, was essentially an opportunity cost tracker, aggregator, and analyzer. The user primarily interfaces through our Android app, where they sign in with their Google account (through Firebase authentication), and start logging information about their recent purchases. This information would then be sent to our Django server, which would run a simple K sum problem on the amount they spent, what they spent their money on, etc. to calculate what the user could have purchased with the same amount of money. The datasets we used, for the prices of everyday items, was collected from data.world, one of the sponsors for the event. The idea was that swiping credit cards sometimes doesn’t give the same effect as paying with cash, so we’d inform the user: “instead of buying another __ you could have bought two burgers!” And that’s when the name stuck.

In the end, we did not win any awards, but for the experience of building a fun project with friends, taking a break from work, and of course eating all the free food, it was well worth. Events like these satisfy the hacker side of me. Computer science theory and statistics and cybersecurity and consensus algorithms and cryptography etc. are all very interesting to me, but sometimes I just have the urge to get my hands dirty and build, break, build…

Sebastian Thrun’s (co-founder of Udacity) Universal Law of Innovation:

Build, Break, Build...