3B – Crying Wolf

I’ve had my share of bumps and bruises through nearly 4 years of university now. I was told 1B would be difficult, but while we did lose something around 30% of our class, I sailed through without much issue. Then the killer was supposed to be 2B, but again, it wasn’t terribly trying. So when I was told 3B would finally bring the pain, I chalked it up to the upper-year students who cried wolf. I wasn’t worried.

But with a day less than a month before I write my last exam for the semester, I find myself living in labs, the library and empty classrooms, working on projects, reports and assignments. It’s been literally weeks since I’ve been able to return home after lectures end for the day. I’m tired.

It’s with a big sigh of relief that I’m spending most of this weekend simply sitting in my room, catching up with lectures and practice problems, taking time to relax in between. I can clearly feel my progress through university. I’ve arrived at the point where I’m understanding most things simply listening in lectures, instead of having to re-learn everything on my own after the fact that was the case for the first couple years. While it’s true that I haven’t retained all the details from the courses I’ve taken in the past, university has improved my ability to learn, as clichéd as that may be, and that’s the most important thing.

It’s coming up to the endgame for the 3B semester. This time I don’t have an exciting co-op semester to look forward to, just another 4 months of school, in the summer. Ho hum.

Another Shot at Microsoft

Last year, I interviewed for a product planning co-op position at Microsoft, which I unfortunately didn’t get. I ended up working at Indigo, and if you’ve been following recently, I don’t regret that one bit.

But it’s a new year and I still have an itch that hasn’t been scratched.

At the beginning of the semester I attended a Microsoft mix & mingle event where I was able to speak with the recruiter for the University of Waterloo, as well as both full-time and a co-op UI program managers. While my work at Indigo showed me that web development is indeed more of a hobby than career path for me, user interface and experience design is something I’m very interested in as a potential career. The opportunity of UI PM at Microsoft was enticing, to say the least.

So, imagine my excitement when I received an interview invitation for a PM position at Microsoft a couple days ago. I don’t have a work term until the fall, and thus didn’t apply to any jobs this semester. Regardless, Microsoft keeps résumés on file for one year and contacted me outside of Jobmine. I got word back today stating it was alright that I interview for the fall semester.

The interview is slated for either the upcoming Tuesday or Wednesday. In addition to studying for an ECE 355 midterm, I will be preparing for an interview I intend on nailing this time.

3B

School’s ramping up for the Winter 2009 semester and I’m not quite certain what to make of it yet. I have 4 core ECE courses and a political science course to fill out my CSE requirements. Of the 4 ECE courses, 3 have labs and two have projects. Furthermore, the initial steps for fourth year design project start this semester, which means coming up with an idea and fleshing out the requirements and design. I have a great group for the project and we’re in the process of working with professors on firming up the details on a few exciting ideas.

I put my name down for two clubs on campus this semester, WIREX (Waterloo Investment Research Exchange) and the UW Photo club. WIREX is all about trading and investing, something I’m deeply fascinated by and of course, the photo club is where I hope to pick up some composition technique from those more experienced. I won’t be joining the university orchestra this semester. Originally, I missed music, but was a bit disenchanted through the last two semesters of participation in the orchestra. It became a chore to attend rehearsal. The material wasn’t challenging and I found myself growing disinterested. Then, the icing on the cake came this past semester in Toronto with the TSO. I realized attending performances by world-class muscians was a far more effective way to get my music fix.

On the work front (part-time with Indigo), I’ve been less than satisfied with my discipline. In the two weeks since starting school, I’ve only put in 4 hours of work. I recently went to Toronto to attend a pre-launch party and found that there was still a whole lot to do over the next few weeks. I will be sitting myself down and ploughing through a bunch of bugs later today.

There’s less than 1.5 years left before I graduate. Scary.

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.

Find Out For Yourself

You can probably look forward to this type of sporadic updating to random process while I tackle yet another semester at the University of Waterloo. Classes started on May 5, and I’ve spent the first week trying to get myself back into a studying mode, which I might add is very, very different from full-time work mode. A ECE 332 lab had me scrambling to rehash my circuits knowledge, and I spent this past weekend finishing up my work report, which has already been submitted. This semester will be rather challenging as I selected a difficult course that few others did.

As course selection times loomed last semester, I was wildly discouraged from taking ECE 332. In particular, the professor, Barby, was cited. In addition, the labs were described to be similar to ECE 241 labs, which were completely off the wall and often did not coincide with the material being taught in lectures. However, I’m far more interested in computer hardware and semiconductor design than software, so when I planned out my 4th year technical electives, I realized that ECE 332 would be a requirement for a few of them.

Long story short, I took the class and I’m not regretting it at all. I certainly second-guessed myself several times along the way, not the least of which was when I discovered that only 18 people (myself included) had enrolled in the course. However, after 4 lectures, a lab and a tutorial, I feel justified when I say Barby is certainly not the bad professor that some made him out to be. In fact, he’s been very patient, although part of that may be due to the small size of the class. Even the labs are extremely good learning experiences. There are 5 people in my lab section, so everyone gets a little more attention than they normally would.

In the end, I’m glad I took ECE 332. There’s a lot of hearsay surrounding the course, but sometimes you just have to take that leap and find out for yourself.