Hi, my name is Mark Lalor. I’m currently a second-year student at Case Western Reserve University.
Ok so this page is a sort-of mini-bio… but honestly who in the world wants to read that about a stranger (I know I wouldn’t!). My one-sentence bio is that I’ve always been interested in programming but now I’m truly fascinated by computer science and its more specific fields like software, networks, security, and systems.
When I was 11 years old, I wanted to make a web site, but had no idea how. My google searches didn’t do me any good, they brought me to “design your own website with our software” websites. I thought Adobe Dreamweaver was the only way to do it! One day during school however, my teacher, Ms Brogna, showed me that I could type into a text editor, save it with the “.html” extension, and then open it in a web browser. What is this sorcery?!
From then on, I practiced in my free time. I began the habit of staying up until 3 am to work on projects. I read HTML, XHTML, and CSS for Dummies, C++ for Dummies, and Java for Dummies. Eventually I was promoted from rank “Dummy” and moved on to books such as Beginning PHP and MySQL, jQuery in Action, and Beginning Android 3. Eventually I reached a proficiency where I didn’t need a new book to learn a new language, the internet alone became a good enough teacher and desk reference.
The Best Worst Software
When I was 13 I loved downloading all the coolest apps on my iPod Touch, and wanted to make my own app for it. But without an Apple computer, it was apparently nothing but a pipe dream. After googling around, I begged my mom to buy me DragonFireSDK, a wrapper that allowed you to create iOS apps using C++, something I already was familiar with. My first apps were on the app store within a few months, it was the proudest moment of my 13-year-old self’s life.
In retrospect, there’s a reason the DragonFireSDK website has had the same stock photo on the front page of their website for the past five years… while the concept was cool, it felt like a janky hack. The project seems pretty inactive now, but it does seem like they added a few more things to their API over the years like SQLite, Game Center support, and uhh… a deck shuffling function? Must have been in high demand…
Update: two out of my three apps got removed because they hadn’t been updated in so long (think like 5 years). I completely lost the source code anyways. Maybe I’ll recreate them sometime for nostalgia’s sake.
I was a huge Minecraft fan around this time, and I thought it was interesting how people hosted their own servers, and would have customized features on their servers. I soon discovered that Minecraft had an extremely active, third-party modding community. I dove right in and created server mods, and figured out how to host a server out of my house so that my friends and I could play together. Eventually, I created a huge mod that turned the entire server into a well-known Minecraft minigame called spleef, where you run around try to destroy the blocks underneath your opponents, while they try to do the same to you. I ended up promoting it well enough that there was an average of 10–15 players on the server during peak hours, playing my game!
I made so many mistakes trying to learn Java for this, but every time those mistakes made me stronger. There were definitely tons of us kids with noob level 100, trying our best to learn, but writing awful code. I’m sure there are many other people my age today that got a great background from this same sort of experience.
I’ve kept up the hobby projects in general throughout high school. I’d always find something interesting enough to work on. After taking some physics classes, I wanted to create animations of some of the phenomena we discussed, so I made JavaSim! My high school’s math honor society needed a reliable way to track the tutoring sessions of its members, so I created tutoringlog.com. I wanted a way to find new music without preconceived notions about the artist, album artwork, etc, so I made blindgroove (although nowadays, I’d just recommend hitting shuffle on any music streaming service…)