The Past Three Weeks

You’re shocked and appalled and so am I. Or at least I should be. It’s been about three weeks since my last update here. That’s just terrible. But you’ll just have to excuse me. Unfortunately, blogging isn’t exactly a top priority for me here at university. However, I owe something to the people who still read this and my friends back home and around the world now on exchanges. Plus, even my parents are nagging me to update! I have to listen to them right? 😉

So what’s been going on? Well, I finished my exams towards the end of October and that’s where I left off in my last post. So I’ll pick up after that. So you’d think that maybe, just maybe, we’d get some sort of break after midterms. Oh no, of course not. Not only were we blasting through the material during out midterms, there was no letup afterwards and the assignments and quizzes restarted. In addition to that, we had a huge technical report to write for the week after my midterms were over.

Basically, we were given a power inverter and energy requirements. We then had to design a connection from a battery to the inverter that would satisfy those power requirements as well as taking into account the current limit of the conductors, the price, as well as the resistivity of the wire. Since most of us didn’t have any, or at least very little knowledge of electric circuits, the project was generally pretty difficult. I was lucky that my parents are both electrical engineers and so they could help me out with any design or general problems that I had. As I wrote, more issues started popping up which required covering and so the report grew in size. I’m glad I started relatively early. Taking our first draft that was due a long while ago, I started the heavy work on Friday. I worked throughout Saturday and Sunday. I returned to campus Sunday evening and was still not finished. Luckily, I had gotten most of the work in Saturday already (worked for probably 10 hours that day) and so just needed to polish it off a bit. Unfortunately, for many of the other people, they had just decided to start on the project Sunday. That night didn’t go too well for them. I knew at least 6 people who didn’t sleep a wink that night to get it done in time for the due date.

Ahhh moving on, I’m currently listening to the Seussical soundtrack. Now this music brings back some damn fine memories. Actually, I’m sort of cheating. I was organizing my music in iTunes (gasp) to put on my new iPod this past week. If it weren’t for the fact that I had ripped the CD in WMA format, I probably wouldn’t have paid it an extra notice. However iTunes being what it is, doesn’t like anything Microsoft too much. So I had to convert my all my WMA stuff over to MP3 format. In the process, Seussical was converted. And clearly, just seeing the name brought back memories so I decided to listen to it. So I decided I needed to listen to it again while I write this blog post cause I’m sure it’ll bring back some interesting things from waaaaaayyyyyyy back then. I can picture everything so vividly. Hell, I even have the DVD here if I really want to see it again.

To Nick whom I wrote that something really funny happened last weekend: I played UT2004. Yeah I know, that’s just hilarious isn’t it? You know me and my past obssession with UT, well my interest really got piqued this past week. You see, we were talking about games we could play online with the guys here and a few names were rhymed off. Of them, UT2004 was the one that really got me going. So being me, I really got going about those good old days when I’d play competitively with my clan. So that Sunday, about 8 of us got together on our computers (only at Waterloo no?) and had a game of UT2004 Bombing Run. I was in heaven for a little while. Hasn’t this just been the week of reminiscing? Yeah, those were good times. So young so carefree… Haha.

As you can probably guess, I’ve been obsessed and tinkering with my new 5th Gen iPod for the good part of the week. First off, I had to reorganize my music collection to sync it up with iTunes. Then to test out the video playing capabilities of the iPod. I searched around and found out how to properly convert videos over to a format that the iPod could correctly recognize and play. Clearly, I had to try it out with some Family Guy shows first. I was amazed at the quality of the videos. They were absolutely beautiful. Next, I loaded up some Mythbusters. Remember sitting over at your place watching that show Nick? Those were damn good times. So yeah, anyways, I loaded those up and they looked very slick as well. I found myself watching videos on the iPod basically just for the sake of using it this past week. I just as easily could have watched it on a 15.4″ widescreen laptop, but nooooo. Had to watch it on the iPod. Here’s a picture to end off this section. I’ll see if I can’t put up a review of this sleek player this weekend. We’ll see how the work goes. I’ve gotta work on my picture taking abilities of shiny things. Flash makes the pictures look terrible, but apparently I have tourettes or something. Can’t seem to keep my hand steady enough to get a clear picture.

Alright, on to other news. I’ve been feeling a bit better about school in general recently. It seems like either I’ve climbed over some mental obstacle or they’re teaching easier stuff cause I’ve been understanding Chemistry, Physics and Linear Algebra better. Programming is getting there (I’m still not so hot at it, but I think I’m thinking a bit differently when it comes to programming now) and Calculus is coming along. I guess I’d have to say Calculus is giving me the hardest time currently. At the beginning of the year, we were doing pretty easy stuff, but we’ve moved on integration now and boy, they don’t ease you into it at all. I think the biggest problem is that I need to review it more and do more practice problems. Basically after about a week of teaching integrals, we’re supposed to be able to do all single variable integrals already. There’s some solid problem solving involved with integrals. Definitely a lot more than with derivatives. But enough of that; I’m sure I’m boring all you artsies out there. =P

So that’s a pretty decently update for now. I’ve got a few thoughts about some ‘deeper’ things that I’ll write about in another post. That way I’ll provide the illusion of writing more and I’m sure you’re about to either fall asleep or close this window right around this point. I’m reading Nick’s, Will’s and Reese’s blogs and they’re all like talking about the meaning of life and all that and I feel totally superficial. Perhaps that’s what happens when you’re too busy to think about anything other than what you have to do in the next 10 minutes of your life. I’m not poking fun at you people away on exchanges. You definitely should be enjoying your time and taking it all in. Just well… I’m a little busier than I was in high school. From what I hear from you Nick, you’re definitely living it up. =D

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go downstairs and rifle through boxes of stuff to see if I can’t find my Seussical piano music score. I have this sudden urge to play some of those tunes and try out my fingers again. I feel like an old person who can barely move my fingers compared to what I used to be able to do less than a year ago. Toodles.

P.S. This post originally started off titled ‘The Past Two Weeks’ but somehow writing this post has taken the better part of a week of on and off updating. I was never able to pull enough time out of my schedule in one big block to write it all. So yeah, this has taken me a week; you better enjoy it. 😉

And For The Win

The last week has been a week of up and downs. I had three midterms this past week, physics, calculus and chemistry in that order. They were far from fun and I realized that I started studying for this set of exams far to late. Luckily we didn’t really have any assignments due during the course of the week however. The professors are still pretty decent in that respect. Reasonable all of them. Of course they’ve started up again already and I have a calculus, a chemistry, and a physics assignment all due in the next week. In addition, I have a huge technical report to do for our GENE (general engineering) class. That’s a pretty intense little paper that I’ll have to write. It’s going to be in the range of 15-20 pages and it’s just plain rough.

So my week. After the programming exam the previous week, I didn’t feel too good about any of the upcoming exams, but it made me work harder. It’s always a nice feeling when you get totally raped by an exam and all of a sudden you realise you’re not all knowing and all powerful. It’s been rough for me. After doing do well in high school, the sudden trouble I’ve been having is very unsettling to the mind. I’ve been having a lot more troubled sleeps that I’ve had in a long time. But on the other hand, I’ve been somewhat spurred on to work harder. Humbling experiences have a tendency to do that to you.

I studied like a madman for calculus and the exam came and went quite smoothly. There was one question that I didn’t really get but I put something down and hopefully the part marks’ll roll in for that. Generally speaking however, it was a lot easier than it could have been and I did fairly well I’m sure because I prepared better for it.

We had physics on Thursday, which was possibly the exam I felt the worse going into. Unfortunately, coming out didn’t feel much better. I got totally destroyed on the first question and had a very rough time on the second one which threw my moral out the window without a second look. I finally regained my footing about half way into the exam which meant I just didn’t have it in me to make up entirely for it. As a result, I don’t think I did so hot on that exam, but hopefully I passed it. Yeah, after that programming exam, passing’s pretty good. Oh I found out today this year’s physics midterm average. Last year’s was 39%. This year’s is a solid 1% better at 40%. So I’m definitely not looking forward to getting that one back. However try as I might, I can’t change it now. I don’t really understand why the professors bother to make it so rediculously difficult only to bell curve it later. Why don’t they make it a little easier. It’s not like letting us get 50% on it and then bell curving it to 85% really means we know 85% of the material. Anyways, whatever.

Chemistry was our last midterm and was situated on a Saturday morning at 10AM. Basically, I had spent all my time and energies on the first four exams and I had left chemistry to the last day. I had Friday to study and that was about it. So I’ve been sitting by this girl in all my classes and it’s been somewhat difficult to concentrate on the actual material in class. So that’s just plain terrible and I know it’s probably wrong that I still sit with her all the time, but as of yet, I’ve been unable to really discipline myself for that. She’s a ton of fun and definitely makes some of those seemingly unbearable lectures more bearable. In any case, I don’t blame her one bit. She knows when to be serious and get to work which is pretty awesome. So with that said and out of the way, you can see what I haven’t really picked up on the stuff we’ve been learning as quickly as I’d like to. Essentially, I had 1 day to review all the stuff we had learned from the beginning of the year in chemistry. Now we’ve done quite a lot on gases, stuff I’ve never even seen before so I couldn’t use common sense. If you didn’t know how to use the formulas, well you were pretty much SOL. I stayed up pretty late that night studying away, but I still got enough sleep. After all, it’s no good to know your stuff but be falling asleep halfway through the exam.

In the end I did very well on that exam. I think I got either 10 or 11 out of 11, which I’m very excited about. Perhaps that’ll make up for the total utter disappointment I’ll most likely have for my programming and physics exams. We also get our Linear Algebra exams back tomorrow (more than likely) so I’m hoping that goes okay.

So clearly after the exams were done and over with, we had to let loose a bit. No, I didn’t drink if that’s what you’re thinking. However the place I was at was as drunk as anything I’ve ever been to. A bunch of jock guys getting plastered. Actually a lot of fun in general. That girl that I sit with in class, wow can she ever hold her alcohol. She’d definitely put me to shame and probably half the guys back on PEI as well. Without a doubt better than Mike at least (*poke*). So anyways, that was pretty entertaining. Plus we got to watch Toronto as they got totally bent over by the Sens. 8-0. Yeah, booyah. And I’ve been playing Final Fantasy VII. I played Final Fantasy VIII back in the day but didn’t really get into it. Then one day for no reason really I had this werid urge to play Final Fantasy again so I asked a few guys here at res and they recommended FF VII to me, mainly cause that was the most popular one and the one they had. I absolutely suck at it so far, but I’m learning. These RPGs are damn complicated. 😉

Oh almost forgot to mention, I bought that 5th Gen iPod that I promised you I’d buy. Yeah, what I mean by promise anyways… Well, I saw a guy in class on Friday with it and it was like total sex so, clearly I just had to get it now. Yeah, my Zen Micro bit the dust right so I think I’m entitled to a new MP3 player. I’ll be sure to write up a review of it as soon as I get it (as long as I don’t have like 10 assignments to do). I got a black 30GB with ‘nfiniti plus one’ on the back in case you care. For some reason the title of this site is really growing on me. For the while I used my classmate’s iPod, I really liked it. It felt very slick and the thinness. Ooooo the thinness. Plus the screen is just dead gorgeous. Sounds like I’m talking about a hot girl or something huh?

Well, that’s about it for now. I like promise I’ll write more and since I’m done of exams, I don’t even have a half decent excuse to give you for not. So be sure to check back once in a while and I’m sorry to all those people I’ve been neglecting to keep in contact with during the past couple weeks. I’m really sorry but around here time is marks (not money) apparently.

Catching Up

Well I decided that I should try to get some good rest in before classes start so I came home (to Niagara Falls) for the weekend. I’m pretty glad I did. I finally got more than like 5 hours of sleep per night. But as it was back in the high school days, weekends still go by far too quickly and I’m looking at the time now and I realize that I’ve only got a few more hours before I have to go back. We’ve got a residence meeting that I have to attend at 8PM tonight.

Since there was really no work to do this weekend, I decided to catch up on some of my emails. I had a huge backlog of them and needed to respond to a bunch of people. So I spent a pretty large portion of time yesterday writing away. Hope you guys received my emails. Several of them were directed at readers of this blog in fact.

So I’m feeling pretty rested up right now, but still dreading going to actually do work. Frosh week was a ton of fun, but it was meant to be that. I can’t imagine classes being all too entertaining. Plus, everyone seems to be shocked when I tell them our high school didn’t have any computer language classes. It would appear they’ve all get some coding experience under their belts. And no, html does not count unfortunately. Hopefully the classes aren’t gonna start at some stratospheric level of comprehension of computer languages.

I downloaded some more songs for the Zen Micro here this weekend. I couldn’t even download it to my laptop. Hmm, that reminds me of something weird. So I forgot to bring my power cord for the laptop home from my dorm, but that’s okay, I’ve got like 3:30-4 hours of battery life on this thing anyways. So I was reading some articles on my RSS feed and the battery meter was showing like 2:40 of life left. All of a sudden, a little note pops up that says my battery’s low on power. WTF? I look over at the meter. Still 2:40… Then it refreshes and all of a sudden I’m down to 14 minutes??!?!?!! So long story short, the battery was really messed up or something and I can’t even turn the laptop on anymore. I’ll have to do some battery calibration or something. To be honest, I haven’t actually run the laptop on battery much. I definitely haven’t run the battery down to zero before in continuous usage. For all I know, the battery could be defective. Hopefully not though.

Anyways, so I downloaded the songs to be desktop here and I had load up all the Zen Micro’s software to tranfer the songs over. Damn, that was a bitch and a half. I think I’ve finally got the order you have to do everything in order for the syncing to actually work. No wonder Apple has the MP3 player field down. It’s almost problem-free whereas this is far from it. But no matter, it’s what I’ve got and I’ll live with it. Currently, the Ipod Nano is the closest thing to satisfying my mp3 player needs. If it had at least 5GBs of storage and a FM tuner I’d buy it instantly. But unfortunately it doesn’t, so it’ll stay off my list, for now.

Right, I’ve gotta go take a shower and eat some food. We’re probably gonna leave to go back to UWaterloo around 5PM. Yep, listening to Sigur Ros. Good stuff.

Finally a Semi-Good Apple Product

Yes, I have to admit, once in a while Apple will launch something I don’t want to lose my lunch over. In this case, it was the recent launch of the Ipod Nano. Packing 2GB or 4GB into a very small casing, it’s supposed to replace the Ipod Mini. Now the main reasons I like this new player are size and performance. Size well, that’s obvious. It’s very small for especially the 4GB version. The reason behind the large reduction in size is that it’s using solid state storage (flash storge) as opposed to mini harddrives as most players of the 4GB size use. Apple secured a very large and (relatively) cheap order of high density flash memory from Samsung. It has allowed the player to become very slim while maintaining decent battery life. Flash storage, having no actual moving parts brings down power consumption a great deal.

Performance should be improved as well. Flash storage is generally much quicker than hard disk based. Take RAM for example. They run along the lines of 50-200 nanoseconds access times while hard drives (desktop 7200RPM) are usually in the range of 10-13 milliseconds! That’s a huge difference. These MP3 players use slower hard drives than your regular desktop 7200RPM drives as well. Even with flash memory being quite a bit slower than RAM, it’s still significantly faster than a hard drive. So instead of waiting a few seconds when skipping around to random tracks, it should now be instantaneous. Now I’ve personally (obviously) haven’t used this Nano, but if it performs anything like the flash players out there now, it’ll be a great improvement on any micro hard drive based DAP.

But am I going to get one? The answer is still no. Well, if it’s so good, why wouldn’t I get one? Aside from the matter of price (I could get another 5GB Zen Micro for less than the cost of a 2GB Ipod Nano) its storage space is too little. I don’t understand how Apple intends on replacing the Ipod Mini line with the Nano. In terms of storage, it’s going backwards. Of course, Apple should be able to easily slip in another 2GB or even 4GB of flash and launch 6GB and 8GB players, but with the prices where they’re at now, I can hardly imagine what those would price at. Personally, I have the 5GB of my Zen Micro nearly filled to capacity. Even a 4GB Ipod Nano wouldn’t have enough room for my collection. Soon, the Zen Micro may not even be enough, but with 6GB players widely available and 8GB microdrive DAPs coming down the pipe, I should be okay.

So what do I say? A very nice move by Apple to go with flash, improving performance and decreasing size at the same time. However the step backwards in terms of storage space will keep people like me wanting.

Quest For The Perfect MP3 Player: Intro

Once upon a time, I bought on impulse an Apple 3rd Generation iPod. The iPods were all the rave and despite my fascination with technology I never did have a MP3 player. That was just a little before I was about to set off to Quebec over the summer for my job at a National Park. I decided I wanted to be able to carry my music collection with me so I could listen to it over there. I didn’t feel like taking a portable CD player (which I also did not have) with 50 CDs. Thus iPod in hand, I set off to Quebec. That was to be the commencement of my quest for the perfect MP3 player for me, not to mention also the beginning of my gadget addiction.

I spent a whole lot of time with that dear iPod over the summer. It and I went everywhere together. Ha, no I’m just kidding about that, but I did honestly have quite a bit of time to listen to it. It was great to have the ability to listen to my music outside of my home without bringing something overly cumbersome. However, I did find a few faults with it. Firstly, although it is relatively small (and Apple compares its size to a stack of CDs that it could hold) it was still too large for what I wanted. As well, the iPod was essentially devoid of features unless you bought this $50 accessory or that $70 extension. That was money I didn’t feel like spending on the iPod since it would only mean more to carry around with me. Finally, battery life wasn’t all that stellar. Even the rated 8 hours it never reached. Thus began my buying spree…

I needed something smaller than the iPod, had the features I wanted (like radio and voice recording) and could still hold my then 3-4GB music collection. It basically came down to the Creative Zen Micro and the Apple iPod Mini. I threw out the Mini since it was essentially an iPod, shrunk, no more features, and in stupid colors. The Zen Micro on the other hand had all the features I wanted and more. It was 5GB (slightly larger than the 4GB of the Minis then) and had decent battery life. It also came in even more stupid colors than the Mini (it’s as though that were a selling feature or something… /sarcasm). I stuck with the tried and true silver (also the first one available) just cause I’m boring and old fashioned. So I ordered my Zen Micro in late November, early December. I hoped to have it by Christmas.

And indeed I did have it for Christmas. In fact, I got it before Christmas. And by Christmas I was about ready to throw it in the garbage. The firmware I got it with was a total bugfest and so I was recommended to flash the firmware with a newer one available from Creative that fixed many of the previous problems. Little did I know that the new firmware would actually break the player I had. The thing would no longer turn on after updating. So back that player went for a replacement, but I was always left with a bad taste in my mouth. The replacement that was sent to me got lost the first time around and so it wasn’t until early February that I finally received a working Creative Zen Micro.

That’s all for this part of this article. I’ll have few more adjoining articles that will describe my experience with the MP3 players I purchased as well as a final one about why I have still not been completely satisfied with anything I’ve seen in the MP3 player market to date. Perhaps they’ll help any potential MP3 player buyers out there who are reading my blog. Here’s a preview of what’s to come.