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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.

I dont want to scare you, but cal 1 is a joke compared to cal 2...

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