Study or Photography?

I’ve spent the last little while studying for final examinations. I have only 4 this semester, but with it being the last semester that grad schools will be able to see, I’m hoping it’ll be a good set. I usually have a hard time sitting down to study for extended periods of time without getting distracted by this or that; case in point, while reviewing logical effort for ECE 438, I had my D90 by my side, staring at me through its Tamron 17-50mm lens. Oh yeah! Remember that debacle with Nikon repair? Well, Canada Post didn’t know where my camera was either, so imagine my surprise when I received both a call from Canada Post regarding the ‘lost’ package and a repaired camera back from Nikon. Oh well. I’m just content that my camera is back in my possession, with the burnt pixel mapped out of existence.

I'd rather...

I had to run an errand Sunday evening, and during the drive back home, I took a wrong turn and found myself amongst the high-rise hotels down by the Falls (the Niagara ones). Being Sunday, I remembered there would be fireworks later that night. I promised myself a small reward for some more studying. I’d hike down with the tripod and set up for some fireworks photography.

Bright lights

Upon further reflection, this was my first attempt at photographing fireworks, and the 5-odd minutes they went off for wasn’t quite enough time to adjust for some amateur mistakes. I arrived a bit too late and wasn’t able to set up the tripod in the best of locations. (The ground was really uneven.) To top it off, the place was infested with some sort of flying insect. They were crawling all over me, as I waited the few minutes before the fireworks started, and through them, too. Oh, and I started off using the camera shutter release, until I realized it was causing some camera shake. I quickly attached a remote shutter release cable midway through the performance. The photos after that turned out significantly better. After the fireworks were over, I walked a ways down down the street for a shot of the skyline. As any visitor (or inhabitant) of Niagara Falls knows, there’s very little behind the wall of lights by the Falls. Looks can be deceiving.

Niagara Falls at night

That’s about it, for the past few days. I also went out early Monday and picked up new Nikon 35mm f/1.8 AF-S from Best Buy. Now, I know what you’re thinking – Best Buy? Well, they sell a few Nikon lenses, and after combining a 10% off sale and some coupons, I was able to walk out of the store, short only about $268 (CAD) all told, and up a 35mm prime. It’s been on my D90 since. First impression: it’s a much nicer focal length on the DX crop body than the 50mm f/1.8D.

One More Day for 3B

My last exam for the 3B semester is later today for ECE 355. I am finding it more difficult than ever to focus on studying, especially with a course like ECE 355 to end it all off.

I am so glad this semester will be done soon.

Goodies Await my Return from Waterloo

It was the final day of lectures for the 3B semester at the University of Waterloo, and I now find myself writing this from the comfort of home sweet home, where I’ll spend the next week or so, studying for final exams.

With that in mind, I came home to a whole pile of goodies that demanded my immediate attention. It goes without saying, there was little in the way of studying this evening.

A whole pile of goodies await me

Deserving of an analysis which I’ll leave for another time, the 3G iPhone hasn’t impressed me much, with my horrendous luck with the hardware, awful device performance (third-party verified), and the piss-poor iTunes application, which is necessary for the management of the device. Everyone says it’s karma for my hatin’ on Apple… Regardless of the reason, it hasn’t been the most pleasing of devices to use. It’s no longer aligned with what I want in a smartphone.

Enter the Nokia E71. Long story short, listed the E71-2 for a stunning $320CAD a short while ago. At about half the cost of a BlackBerry Bold (my other replacement consideration), I decided it was worth the risk to try a device on an unfamiliar platform. Worse comes to worst, I can sell a mint E71 on eBay, at least recouping my cost. Plus who doesn’t like new gadgets to play with? 🙂 I’m stretching the device out right now; hopefully I’ll have something to detailed to write later next week.

The Office 2007 Ultimate package came along with the book on designing forms for InfoPath from, you guessed it, Microsoft. My hiring manager at Microsoft kindly sent me some materials to help me get acquainted with the product I’ll be working on. That’s $1000 of software and textbook there…

Finally, the three CDs are from the marketing director for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, who contacted me after reading the post on my experience at last season’s performance of Holst’s The Planets. I gave her permission to use a quote or two for marketing purposes and was kindly offered a TSO Live CD. She sent three. 🙂 I’m looking forward to listening to them as I study this next week. If you’re reading this, thanks! It’s great to see every sort of organization keeping the pulse of the online community.

Cue End 3A

Just wrapped up exams for the 3A semester and the final exam, ECE 332 Microelectronic Circuits, went much, much better than I could have hoped. There was a point earlier in the week where I was breaking down, fearing a fail in the exam, but after pulling a near all-nighter, I flew through the exam. It also helped that the midterm questions made an appearance on the final. Clearly the professor wasn’t too pleased with our midterm (of which only one person passed…)

Midway through exams, my Dell XPS M1330 (which was my sole computer in Waterloo after taking my desktop home) decided to up and give out, with the video card dieing. The initial indication was some weird artifacting on the external Westinghouse 24″ LCD I use, but I thought it was the fault of the LCD’s since it also exhibited the same sort of issue with my desktop (which in retrospect has a GeForce 8800GT equipped with the G92 chip, which may also be plagued with the weak die-packing issue). However, after unplugging the LCD, the problem persisted and worsened to the point that the display now shows nothing but weird discolorations when I turn on the laptop. I’ve been in contact with Dell regarding the issue, but I imagine I might have to pull some teeth to get it fixed since the problems started a whole 2 days after my warranty expired.

I’m now in relax mode, trying to catch up on sleep, although driving back and forth to Toronto today certainly didn’t help. I’m not having too much luck with finding a temporary place in Toronto for the upcoming work semester. It’s this terrible combination of not wanting to spend too much money and not wanting to live in some ghetto place. I don’t like the big city as it is – I hardly want to sully that feeling further by living in an area where I constantly feel like I’m going to be stabbed. Oh, there’s no need to tell me that it’s blowing things out of proportion; I know it is, yet the feeling remains. At this point, I’m actually considering commuting. Yep, about 4 hours on the road (or rail as it were) each day, but with this 6GB data plan, I could easily spend that time connected to the internet or doing some other bit of work on a laptop.

Also, as a reward for wrapping up the semester, I went and picked up a Sony Alpha A200 DSLR last night from Future Shop. Despite confirming with the sales rep that the camera was indeed new, I came home to find the shot counter at over 1400. The camera quickly went back and with it being the only one in stock, I walked out empty handed. It wasn’t a complete loss – I discovered the image quality to not be significantly better than the Sony F717 that I currently use and the I’m sure the A200’s kit lens is a big factor in that (f3.5 at wide angle compared to the f2.0 Carl Zeiss on the F717). I’ll probably wait until after Photokina to see if anything changes in the entry-level DSLR market before taking another dip in the SLR pool.