Pat's Log
Tue, 28 Sep 2004

Stupid Course Rant
20040927 This past weekend brought about a fridge replacement for the ailing one controlled via cron job. That one also had a failing compressor. The new one is a huge stainless steel Kitchenaid monstrosity. But it works.

While working outside on Sunday I came across this little green guy. Actually, it's the largest insect of this type I've ever seen. Though not apparent from the photo, it was about 8cm in length, it basically had the same dimensions as my index finger. Happy little fellow... even has a little tail.

The weekend also saw me getting Multi Theft Auto, a client-server system that uses the already-present network hooks in GTA: Vice City to make network play possible. It's quite unstable and scoring is very unfair. Bullets that should hit do not. It's still fun, but it's too bad that Rockstar Games could not make an official version that is better integrated with the game.

Now the rant. My university program requires me to take a Software Engineering class. The professor (with a heavy French accent) won't shot up about the Unified Modeling Language, including its subset, Object Constraint Language. He sounds like he truly believes it's the best thing in the world (next to Java, of course!). Today, he introduced us to how the labs will be run in the course. It will be a week-by-week exercise in micromanagement. Basically, every lab will be a stack of short answer questions that have to be entered into a retardedly designed online form. We are not allowed to listen to music or participate in online chatting while we work; that will cost us marks. Coming in a few minutes late will also deduct marks. We cannot close the browser in which said script is running, or hit the back button. After questions are answered, a special button has to be hit so that the database is left in a consistent state, or we lose hours of work. There is no session management whatsoever. For a software engineering course where "professionalism" is equated with marks, this system looks like it requires a few more Use Cases. The professor blames the fact that the back-end is "a free database, MySQL, so there is no session management." Like that has anything to do with it. A friend who took it last year summarized this man very nicely: "You know that saying: '...those who cannot, teach.' He's a living example of that." I am beginning to agree.

[] | posted @ 03:57 | link
Mon, 27 Sep 2004

Relaxing Weekend
xbox/20040926 What a nice weekend. The weather was perfect, the body well rested. I got a lot of chores done. Also, many paint chips on the car were filled. I discovered a nice technique of applying touch-up paint, sanding down with fine sandpaper, removing sandpaper marks with polishing compound, and then applying Turtle Wax. It works surprisingly well. Initial testing was done on the hood, which is all dented up anyway. It's good to own an older car; it really lets one play and learn things that no sane person would do on a new vehicle.

Today's accomplishment was building a USB<->Xbox cable. The Xbox end was purchased as part of a controller extension cord. The USB end used to be a Logitech USB<->PS/2 adaptor. It works really well with a 64M IntelligentStick. The Xbox thinks it is its proprietary storage unit. Copying the MechAssault Linux Installer to it actually shows nice Tux icons in the built-in file browser. Now I need to go out and get MechAssault to really get going in the 4th-year project by installing Linux.

This Thursday will be the semester's first quiz. Everyone is dreading it, seeing as it's from the impossible Quantum Mechanics class.

[/xbox] | posted @ 03:47 | link
Wed, 22 Sep 2004

Arts Elective
20040921 Tuesday night, 18:00-21:00, is my Baroque Music elective. The lecture is long, albeit interesting. I've never had an arts course, so I've made several observations about arts courses thus far:

  • Much higher female-to-male ratio
  • Coursework involves more reading and writing
  • Notes are provided orally (I have to write?!)
  • People don't get computers

Regarding that last point, the course outline was posted as a WordPerfect document. When people started complaining "But the file doesn't open!" the instructor said "Oh, I didn't know that for it to work on the internet I had to post it as a Word file." This, in turn, led to a comment by one of the students, "Well, I've found a way to open it. Just save the link and double-click on it and Word will open it just fine." Man, those arts people.

Being stuck on the top floor of the Loeb building isn't all bad. First of all, the music I'm getting is entertaining and informative. The view of the sunset tonight was phenomenal. On the other hand, I would have rather seen the sunset from the pond (it was boat night!)... all I have to show is a blurry photo of the sunset reflected from Dunton Tower. Bah!

[] | posted @ 03:50 | link
Mon, 20 Sep 2004

Eventful First Week
20040919 The first week of classes was eventful. I didn't have any free time at all, catching up with people, classes, grand EngSoc projects. On Tuesday I came down with a terrible sickness (commonly known as The EngFrosh disease) that is still eating away at me. Wednesday night I actually slept from 1800-0800.

I must have passed the disease on to the EngSoc mail server, seeing as Saturday at noon both drives on its data RAID array died simultaneously. Those are astronomical odds. After ten hours of coaxing, only one of the drives in the array came up, but one is better than none. It was a very stressful day.

Today was finally a day of relaxation. The major project was to finish up with the car, so I did. First, a good rub-down with rubbing compound over the previously painted window frame evened out the paint. Then a nice thick coat of acrylic lacquer finished the job. At some point in the next short while I might rub it down a notch, the thing reflects like a mirror now!

The photo is the result (dusty already!), with the inset from six weeks ago. The inset shows the previous patch from two years ago. Clearly this did not work, so this time around, steel was removed all the way through the frame (the resulting hole was the size of my thumb), and what was left was treated with all sorts of anti-rust agents. Then it was filled, sanded, glazed, sanded, primed, sanded, painted. Hopefully it will work better this time around. It certainly looks better.

[] | posted @ 03:07 | link
Tue, 14 Sep 2004

Back To Normal Life
20040913 Frosh week turned out very well. I'm extremely tired and glad to have life get back to the normal flow of things. On the other hand, a schedule as busy as last week's does have a certain appeal to it. I made sure to save the Yukon's OnStar number so that I can prank call the rental truck frequently.

Course-wise, I can see that some courses will be crazily hard or keep me crazily busy. I'm looking forward to Electronic Materials as well as Integrated Circuit Design & Fabrication, and maybe the Music elective I'm taking, though I haven't had the first class of that yet. The two Systems courses are much less exciting.

On the EngSoc side, fantastic improvements have been made to how EngSoc can handle wireless connections via WPA with user-specific certificates. I've gotten wpa_supplicant to work smoothly, meaning that it should be a lot more sane getting a wireless connection with the laptop. It should also be hugely beneficial to Windows users, who can just double-click on the certificate file to connect. Finally, it should allow a properly configured access point to be plugged in anywhere and just work against our server, which saves a lot of cabling.

On a side note, we now officially have the coolest fridge hack. Over the weekend, the temperature-sensing circuitry died (though the individual components on the PCB appear to work), and the fridge was getting very warm. As a temporary fix, my dad rigged the compressor into an always-on configuration, and the whole thing is plugged into an X-10 appliance cube. Our NetWinder cron daemon now controls the fridge from the basement; less on-time in the evening, more during the day. Who needs a computer inside the fridge anyway?!

[] | posted @ 03:45 | link
Thu, 09 Sep 2004

Frosh Week Madness
With EngFrosh this week, time has been extremely limited, and sleeping patterns have been quite erratic.

The frosh are, as usual, a lively bunch. Today was white water rafting day at Wilderness Tours and I finally went. It was fun, though when I fell out, I got a painful scrape on one of the ankles.

Throughout the week I get to drive one of the EngFrosh rentals, a GMC Yukon. This is the most ridiculous vehicle ever. I hate it, at least the way it drives. Being fully loaded, it has fancy electronics, and the console display goes as far as to show oil viscosity, as well as individual tire pressure. If it were not for the size and terrible handling, I might like this thing. Being as it is, my fourth year project should cover a lot of the electronic gizmos in a saner car.

This evening CUSA put on a Billy Talent concert. It sucked. The cover band was even worse than my to-date least favourite group, Big Jeezus Truck. Billy Talent himself was hardly better. He sounded like my mother when she's pissed off and makes babies cry.

Tomorrow's the first day of classes. Yikes!

[] | posted @ 03:50 | link
Fri, 03 Sep 2004

Last Day of Work
20040903 Last night's boat cruise was pretty fun. It dragged on a little, since the oragnizers decided to extend it an extra 45 minutes. I realize now that taking one-second-long exposures on a moving boat is difficult. Most of my photos are blurry whenever something is less than a few hundred metres away. This phenomenon did produce a nifty shot of the very clear Museum of Civilization framed by a blurry Alexandria Bridge. The museum is clear enough to see the totem poles inside.

I cursed upon getting home, and, upon inserting RAM, getting cryptic overclocking messages spoken at me by my new motherboard. Yes, the POST speaks error messages. No, they don't always make sense. In this case, a little bit of Googling showed that it was because the RAM wasn't Registered ECC and anything with a Socket940 needs that. I cursed further at the extra $150 expenditure.

Today's the last day of work. I will miss the freedom...

[] | posted @ 17:14 | link
Thu, 02 Sep 2004

September Craziness
20040902 It's September! That's crazy! I suppose it's due to my general business, but August flew by much more quickly than June or July. School starts way too soon.

The big news of the week is that I spent small fortune to get parts for the AMD Athlon64 FX-51 chip that was given to me by Greg KH back at OLS. The processor itself is tiny, but sports an amazing 940 pins. Makes for a cool depth-of-field shot. The system consists of the following:

  • AMD Athlon FX-51 Processor
  • Asus SK8V Motherboard
  • 1 GB OCZ PC3200 Dual Channel DDR Memory
  • 128 MB ATI Radeon 9800 Pro Dual Head Video Card
  • 200 GB 7200rpm Seagate Serial-ATA Hard Drive
  • Cooler Master Centurion 5 Case with 350W Power Supply

I just got the last components today, so I'll be putting this stuff to use later tonight. Right now, I'm a little disappointed with the motherboard, because it came in a very badly beaten up box and has a broken corner. I'll be exchanging that after I play a little, seeing as it still works. The RAM, however, is amazing: completely covered in thick, shiny copper heatsink, the two sticks weigh almost as much as my new hard drive. The case is really sweet too.

In other news, the car doorframe is nearly done. I'm just applying the last coats of primer, and I got the finishing paint at lunch today. It's getting pretty smooth, only a little more sanding...

Tonight, CUSA is throwing a fundraiser, and so I've been invited on a boat cruise. It should be a cool evening, but the sky is beautifully clear.

Finally, I can sleep well now that my fourth-year project to use the Xbox as an integrated car computer got approved. It will be a fun project, too.

[] | posted @ 21:09 | link

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