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Friday, September 30, 2005


Reply to comments

Man, Blogger's comment system sucks. I'll just post this as a new post rather than a comment, since Blogger doesn't even have a concept of replies.

You're right, commuting is a huge time commitment for me. I spent between 10 and 15 hours a week commuting (1 to 1.5 hours per direction, twice a day). 10 to 15 hours a week gets a lot of homework done when it is not wasted in a situation where doing most homework is impossible (Try doing calculus with one hand while standing on a bus :P)

Unfortunately moving closer to campus isn't really an option. The money just isn't there. I've saved up a decent chunk of change, but I'm paying for pretty much everything myself, so there is no budget for rent and other living-on-your-own costs.

I was hoping to get more time by taking the train. The idea didn't pan out. While the train gets me downtown faster, it also doesn't get me as close to the campus as the bus... and while I sometimes get seats on the bus, I NEVER get seats on the train. They've got some new double-decker trains going into service (They seem to be very similar to the GO trains) that have double the seating capacity, but I haven't seen any during my morning commutes.

Study groups are an interesting concept, and might be useful for Cal 1, Linear, and Discrete. I'm not certain how to find study groups, though.

I'm not dropping discrete because I'll never be able to do it, only because I don't have time to do it. Think of it this way; if I spend 10 to 15 hours a week commuting (Probably closer to 15 hours), dropping discrete would seem to roughly balance that out.

Man, up to 3 hours a day commuting. It really is a huge waste of time when you think about it.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


I'm dying here

I'm approaching the cusp of total breakdown; I simply don't have time to try to stay caught up in all my classes. The combination of both Calculus 1 and Discrete Math is not working out; I spend all the time trying to understand one of them, and by the time I do there isn't enough time to catch up in the other one.

In short there simply isn't enough time in the day for me to work through two courses of this difficulty; math does not come easy to me.

At this point I'm probably going to drop Discrete and take it again some other time in the future when I can handle it. The problem is that it fits prominently in the CS course progression, especially the co-op progression.

The co-op progression is fairly tightly locked up. I'm going to try to meet with some supposedly important person tommorow to find out if I can drop my course load from 5 per semester to 4 per semester, and throw out a core course, destroy my course progression, and still stay in the co-op program.

If I can, great. I'll just deal with the messed up progression in the future, perhaps by simply delaying the whole thing by one semester and shoving in easy courses around discrete for one semester.

If not, well, I'll have to drop out of co-op and go for a regular degree; much more flexibility there. Who knows, maybe I could get summer jobs at NITI again.

I know what you're going to say, "That's nothing, two low level math courses and you're already overwhelmed." I've never absorbed math as readily as most other people. It is depressing.

Ugh, stupid Blogger spell checker isn't working in Firefox again.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Slogging along

Well, it has certainly been a while since my last update, hasn't it. Probably since I've been pretty consumed by school. I'm in week 3 of my first semester of university, and the homework load sort of caught me off-guard. I know, I know, I should have expected it, but I was good enough to sort of coast through CompSci in CEGEP and still get the highest mark in the program. That doesn't work when you hit math courses :P

My course load is, to be honest, pretty dull. I've got three math courses, a writing course, and a compsci course. And to be honest, I hate math. One of the reasons I shied away from Waterloo.

I'll give a bit of a rundown of my courses, and throw some Concordia course numbers at you guys to balance out all the Waterloo course numbers. They're meaningless to you guys, but isn't that half the fun?

COMP228: System Hardware
My only truely interesting course this semester. CEGEP stuff means I got to skip the "intro to computers" type shit, so this is as close to it as it gets. Starts with the basics; overall processor architechture, converting between bases, etc, and then moves into what seems to be the focus of the course; programming in assembly. I've been avoiding assembly, so this is my chance to get into it. I was following pretty well until we hit division and multiplication in assembly; x86 does some pretty unintuitive things with the registers that will take some getting used to. I'm certain I'll have no trouble with homework in this course, it's just the tests that I'm more worried about. I really don't like not having any reference material. I think it's pretty stupid, since it is obvious that in the real world you can use as much reference language as you want, which actually helps you more quickly get used to things so that you don't NEED that reference material anymore.

COMP238: Discrete Mathematics
I was originally worried about calculus, but it looks like this is going to be the bruiser; propositional logic and the like. It's not that complicated, there is just so much to remember. Ugh. I've got one assignment for this on the burner that is causing much mindbending. I hate equivalencies. I am told this is a filter course, so obviously I am determined to get through it to the more interesting stuff.

MATH203: Calculus 1
Not quite as bad as I imagined. It pretty much picks up where highschool Math 536 left off. Of course there is the minor problem that I took 536 over 3 years ago. A bit of review helped, both on my part and the professors, so I seem to have picked up the most important stuff again. I was always bad at trig though. We'll see, but I don't see this course as being much of an obstacle; I've also secured a tutor to ensure that this course isn't a problem.

MATH204: Linear Algebra
I'm finding myself surprised to be enjoying this course so far. For some reason I find it all very simple, after some initial difficulties the first week. There was some stuff to get over that mostly had to do with the long gap since 536, once I got past that it just came easy. I actually sort of find it interesting, and I really don't think it will be too much of a problem.

ENCS282: Technical Writing
ENCS being Engineering and Computer Science, since at Concordia those are the two departments that are merged into one faculty. An odd combination, but we have a kick ass lounge with leather couches that is as wide as a city block with great wifi. Anyhow, I digress. This course is a bit boring, but doesn't seem to be terribly difficult. The professor, at least, isn't dull, and the reading so far has been interesting enough.

Well, that's it. I mean, it isn't exactly a thrilling course load. I guess I have to get past this sort of stuff to get the interesting stuff. Hopefully I'll be able to keep my GPA high enough to stay in co-op and return to NITI in the spring. Or maybe Alcan. I understand they are the largest co-op employer at Concordia and fly the co-ops all over the world, changing locales every few days. It sounds a bit interesting. On the other hand, NITI is super great, so there's that ;)

That's pretty much it. My laptop died and is in the mail back to Nepean (Ottawa) for repairs. LCD connector died meaning the onboard LCD is dead but the rest of the notebook works fine with an external monitor. This is annoying as hell since I was using it to take notes, and I've really been suffering in the notetaking department since then (I just don't write fast enough to take good notes by hand). Hopefully I'll get it back the week after next. This is the second time I've had to RMA it since I got it in August 2004. I'm guessing I'll be buying another laptop within the next 6 to 12 months; while most of the notebook isn't really out of date, the GPU (video card) in the thing pales in comparison to even the midranged notebooks out now. It has a Mobility Radeon 9700, which was top of the line high end when I bought it. Now it is literally half the speed of the midrange GeForce Go 6600 and Mobility Radeon X700 in modern notebooks that cost $500 less than I paid.

I'll probably grab a dual-cored Yonah with something from the next gen (or the revision after that) when I get a replacement. Either midrange or mid-high. I won't be going high-end, because I don't want a huge beast of a notebook. I'm actually really dissapointed with the direction that notebook graphics are going. Instead of taking the same route as CPUs, where we now have specialized notebook CPUs (Pentium M) that are so good that they are starting to take over the desktop space, GPUs are actually converging with desktop parts. This means that while GPUs on the high end were once reasonably low power parts, modern notebooks essentially ship with slightly modified versions of the fastest cards; the GeForce Go 6800 Ultra actually beats out the desktop 6800 Ultra in a few benchmarks, and the mobile version of the 7800 is due out in a few weeks. So really the only way to get a decently small and power-light notebook is to go midrange, with a possible sneaking up into mid-high without getting too big.

Speaking of the Pentium M, people who follow processors have probably heard about Intel's roadmap by now; the NetBurst architechture (used in the P4) is going out the window, and the Pentium M is going to be used for everything from handhelds (They got it down to 5W) to notebooks, to desktops, and servers (Yes, Xeon is going Pentium M style). All they kept from NetBurst is the FSB, the rest is either Pentium M, or new. Of course, they're also going massively multicore. Pretty much everything next-gen is dual-core, with higher end stuff seeing quad-core and octo-core. Anyhow, I'm rambling now. This went from an update into a braindump.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Last day

Probably should have blogged about this sooner, I tend to forget things as they leave my short term memory.

Pretty crazy day today. Last day at NITI after working there since January. The first four months were a co-op work term from John Abbott, the second four were a summer job, and with school starting that's it.

I started out the day running into Nikhil on the metro. It was a pretty strange coincidence, because I always board the second car at Lionel Groulx, and I had almost sat down when I realized that the person I was sitting down next to was my co-working Nikhil. We chatted a bit before seperating to head off to our respective parts of the office.

Spent the morning talking to Mich, trying to bring him up to speed on some stuff; he'll be taking over one of my two primary responsibilities. sjwalters isn't going to be back until the 6th, so I think I'll try to brief him when I swing by sometime next week to visit and say goodbye to all the people I missed this time around.

Headed off to Conordia at 1-ish for an orientation session. Most notable things? Beer and foosball. A fitting orientation indeed.

When I got back all that was left was to try to commit a few of the scripts that I had hacked together for my own use while at NITI; I figured somebody might find them useful so they should be stored permanently somewhere. I zipped up the 12MB of stuff in my home dir that actually mattered (Some pictures, videos, stuff that was downloaded off the net that I didn't have at home, etc) and emailed it to myself. Isn't GMail grand? ;)

The night was spent with sfllaw, who offered to take me out for a drink. We stopped by his place to drop off some purchases and made our way to a nearby microbrewery for a beer and a bite. The bites turned out to be extremely small, but also extremely tasty. The beer was quite interesting, something I've never had before, sort of a smooth citrus taste with little bitterness or carbonation. I liked it quite a bit and found it very easy to drink. We had a great discussion for what must have been a few hours, and then parted ways at about a quarter to 10. I really like the discussions I have with Simon, they're always quite interesting and touch on a large number of topics. For some reason, though, we always end up discussing Google. I guess Google is just up to a lot of stuff ;)

I don't have many of those types of conversations anymore, the long ones that are so interesting that you lose track of time. I used to have them with a friend I went to highschool with, but we don't see eachother all that often any more, so they are now only occasional. I'm leaving NITI now, though, so I guess such conversations with Simon will also become rare.

I always like riding the metro. There is just something "cool" about it, for one thing, and I just feel safer underground than I do elsewhere. On the way home from Simon's I started out at the Mont Royal metro stop, one I'd never been to before. The Montreal metro system is a bit unique in that for each metro stop in the whole system they had a different architect/artist design the stop. Because of this each stop is unique, and there were a whole bunch of stops on the orange line on the way home that I hadn't seen before. Some were quite interesting.

I grabbed a bit of a candied snack at the Couche-Tard that has taken up residence on the platform of Lionel Groulx. Would you believe they still sell those Popeye cigarette sticks? Of course they don't call them that anymore, but for 25 cents a box, they were a great deal. Also grabbed a packet of seseme snaps, but haven't eaten those yet. I mentioned that the bite at the brewery was rather small, and I'm useless at preparing food. I tend to prefer easy to consume items, since they are easier to prepare, despite my like of finer foods. I understand Simon is a bit of a gourmet, perhaps one day I'll be able to try one of his confections. Anyhow, I spied a bag of mini carrot sticks in the fridge, and not seeing anything else premade or easily consumable, I'm currently snacking on them. They're not really filling me up though, so I'm still rather hungry. I really can't cook ;)

Thursday, September 01, 2005



I have decided to officially convert to Flying Spaghetti Monsterism. It is, in my opinion, the only religion that makes sense.

I've been reading Interdictor's blog from New Orleans. He's holed up in a datacenter in a highrise trying to tough it out. The place is a mess, with widespread looting going on, residents shooting at cops, COPS looting, and of course 80% of the city is flooded with up to 20 feet of water. Marshal law has been declared, and the police force is effectively out of commission with no way of communicating with eachother.

They've set up makeshift security patrols around the datacenter and armed them with guns. So far they're holding out and seem to have enough fuel to keep the generators going, along with food and water to last. They even managed to trade some data recovery and hosting services for 25 gallons of water when a company that had evacuated asked them to go into their offices and take their mission critical server back to the data center for protection.

And despite all this, despite the fact that the city of New Orleans is a lawless crime zone in ruins, somehow they've managed to keep their DNS hosting service up and running. Remind me to put them on the top of my list of DNS hosts if I ever need one.

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