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Saturday, 11 September 2010

Er... Hello

Hi everyone. I thought since I left this space frozen for such a long time (around 5 months to be precise), it would be fair to explain my apparent absence.

During the time I wasn't posting anything, I did actually check out this blog once a while. Meaning which, I login to see any response from readers like you, and updating the counter widget (coz the percentage part isn't automated) etc. However, since around July or August, this checking-out has reduced in frequency. Today, before I started writing this, I saw the "Stats" tab/interface for the first time! I have no idea since when that thing popped out in Blogger...

OK, I'll do more explanation next time coz I need to get to the main point, i.e. some updates from me. Eid ul-Fitr or Hari Raya Aidilfitri as we call it locally is now being celebrated. From the time of posting, it may seem near the moment where the first plane crashed into WTC 9 years ago. The catch is, this is not East Coast Standard Time, but GMT+8. Plus, this article will not elaborate on this tragedy. Also, don't get me started on the "Ground Zero Mosque" title, which is not a mosque and not at Ground Zero. =.="

It's study week on our academic calendar, which means final exams start next week and ends the week after. As many in UTAR and other university friends will discover, this is typically an active period for online activity, relative to study activity. Since the rush of assignments is over, students will release those pent-up pressure (a bit, hopefully) during that break. All will be released during semester break, which in our case can range from 2 weeks to 3 months. Why? For those who will take short semester subjects, you have a short hiatus from studies before starting a new one. Otherwise, I wish you happy holidays! Oh yeah, not to forget seniors who are graduating this semester. All the best after exams!

Well, I'm ending the update here. No plan of writing full-featured and well-planned article now. I will have a short break after exam, so I can't guarantee if I'll be active here at the end of September. Anyway, I will try, and thanks for still checking out my blog. ^^

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Who clicked 1000?

Around March of 2010, I posted the following in my sidebar...
Since I have a counter that tracks visitors, I can tell where the 1000th clicker comes from. Do note that I can't pin-point the person, as the tracker can only give me rough informations.

Now, I let you guess which country the 1000th clicker comes from. All I can give out as clue is that it isn't straightforward. The winner can get a gift from me. Here's how to participate:
1. Choose a country below as your answer, or give yours if you're confident it is none of those countries.
2. Type your answer in my chatbox with this format: (fine without brackets)
GIFT1000 [country] [optional message]
3. Participants MUST include their e-mail address in the chatbox entry for gift-sending purpose. You can be assured that I won't spam you, but I can't guarantee others won't... xP
4. Your chance of winning is greater if you:
– also include the city name.
– follow the given format exactly.
– send many entries (but voided if I suspect spamming)
5. Entries will be accepted until 29 March 2010, 12:00 AM Malaysian time (28 March, 4:00 PM GMT)

As for what gift I will give out, I have an idea but I may change my mind. It all depends on what the winner thinks. Happy guessing!

Countries clues (all are actual visitors): Malaysia, South Korea, United States, Singapore, Australia, United Kingdom, India, Germany, Hong Kong, Russia, China PRC, Czech Republic, Canada, New Zealand, Philippines, Brazil, Denmark, Luxembourg, Brunei, Norway.

OK, it ended here.

The sad thing is, only one reader replied to my contest. T.T Oh well, better than none at all... Thanks Nic, hehe... Maybe you won't even realise this unless I subscribe to your nicbored feed, and realised that you switched to a new blog, and left a comment there reminding you of my "existence". Again, many many thanks to you!

So, what's the answer? Where does the 1000th clicker comes from?

Nic, I believe you missed the phrase: it isn't straightforward. For your information and due to fairness, I excluded myself from being recorded by the counter as a visitor. Thus, I cannot affect the counter no matter how many times I refresh this page. Sorry, but your guess is off the mark, way off...

I wonder if you have any sidebar gadgets that tracks visitors, Nic. They may allow you to visualise where your visitors come from. Due to the universal nature of blogspot, anyone from all corners of the globe can visit or stumble upon your blog. They could have searched for a keyword and landed there.

OK, enough crap... The 1000th clicker comes from...... [drum roll]

Prague, Czech Republic.

Yup, in Europe and half a world apart. Record shows that he/she visited on 18th February 2010. Let's see... I started blogging and placed the counter there since, um... late November to early December 2008. Taking early December 2008, it has been...
[calculate calculate calculate]

...1 year 2 months and a half to reach one thousand! Hmm, that's quite a long time. Well, what can I do? This blog isn't as interesting as my Chinese counterpart. It attracted about 5 times the visitor amount here!

Never mind Nic. As promised, there will be a consolation prize for you –– 3 professional pictures from the search engine Bing. I've downloaded a lot of 'em, and in fact, I can even make a collage out of it.

Haha... no need to pick from that messy collage la. Just tell me what kind of picture you want. I'll try to find 3 and e-mail them to you. Deal?

Friday, 2 April 2010

3rd dream in public domain

This tends to happen to me, yet again. When I'm too relaxed, having too much days off, my mind would wander into uncharted territories. The following contents were jotted down earlier, dated 9 January 2010. That was 2-3 weeks after my industrial training. Those anxious to know what I encountered during training are advised to be patient... Anyway, here goes the dream...

[cue dreamy sound effect]

The last scene I remembered was at home. There was a message tone, so I went to my mobile phone. It was an SMS from a close friend of mine, saying that he was inviting me to Kuantan. Well, I couldn't go there because my dad was about to fetch me somewhere. I didn't ask and he didn't told me. Afterwards, I couldn't remember the journey. In fact, I was there right after the setting at my home.

It was dusk and I arrived at a hybrid place of PA block, the admin block of UTAR in PJ. Not familiar with the word "hybrid"? OK, you can replace it with "rojak" for a touch of Manglish... xP Anyway, compared to the actual block, the corridor leading from the entrance is narrower. The "see-through" computer lab is on the opposite side, and both rooms (instead of just one) were for conducting classes. Outside the building, it looked like the campus is having a Canteen Day of some sort. Space is not a big deal, as it is as wide as outdoor food stall (大排档), unlike the real world location. I saw people eating on long tables outdoors, with the option of eating under a shade too.

I was inside the building, looking for a friend in the computer lab. I couldn't find him, even outside the building. There's a sugar cane water stall nearby, so I ask for a plastic bag of that water. When I reached into my pocket however, I couldn't find my wallet. So I asked her to jot down an IOU, but knew that the seller wouldn't have any paper with her. I excused myself to the nearest "order" stall. Typically this kind of stall will write your order on a paper, clip it on a plate and send it to the cook. That's how the one in my university canteen works anyway.

So I went there and found a young Malay lady just serving Nasi Pattaya on a plate and ready for the next order. I just looked around from a medium distance and didn't ask a thing yet. There were a few plates of fried rice place on the counter, something I usually saw in the factory canteen where I did my internship... Anyway, a Malay guy approached the counter, or more like approaching the Malay girl. They chatted for a while and then the guy started singing a song that really sounds familiar to me. Wow, did it surprised me that he's singing a Chinese song, 珊瑚海 by Jay Chou and Lara! Since it's a duet song, the Malay cook also sings as in the actual music.

Their pronunciation were not bad to my standard, like Chinese pretending to sound Malay. It looked as if they were practising the song for some event. Nope, no one cheered when they opened their voices. In fact, I heard an obvious "shh..." interrupting them halfway, but then they just smiled it away and continued. Well, I woke up just before they entered the chorus.

Not a bad ending really. I would rather have a sample of it than having them to sing the ENTIRE song. Anyway, the entire song is below. A song to challenge when singing karaoke. Trust me, the chorus isn't easy to master... Well, enjoy!

Yup, did you notice that I mentioned passingly on my internship, aka industrial training? Unfortunately, the full story will still need to wait for other times. No matter what, I'll strive to make that post as interesting as possible, soon after I make my assignments as interesting as possible... >.<

Also, did you guys notice that the CEO of TNB wanted to sue WWF over Earth Hour? Huh, what was he thinking, right? One hour only mah... Some more the report said that it's a waste of excess electricity for that one hour! Then the press conference ended with him yelling, "POWER EXTREEEMEEE!!!", filling the room with strong spotlight, blinding the journalists for a moment.

Erm... something sounds fishy right? ^^

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Happy Valentine!

Three days after that faithful day, both Valentine's and Chinese New Year, I'll post something for the former. All pictures below are captured within the span of 2 days, the 14th and 15th.

OK, let's start!

No matter where you are, by the vast seaside...

...or across the rolling mountains.

Indoors, on the ceiling...

...or outdoors, by the roadside...

... I will always stay by your side. (or try my best to do so...)

Happy Valentine's Day!

I'm single btw...

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Overdued U² #2

My last such “update” stopped at Year 2 Semester 2. One year nearly passed since, what happened in between?

Let me first finish the Y2S2 part, coz I literally stopped half way at that time. The second half of that semester is basically a heap of assignments plus midterms plus... lecture notes, plus... er... tutorial questions? Hehe, about that... I wonder how many people really study those questions before the final exam study period? Well, my attitude toward tutorial questions is something like: I'll do it when I'm free, then get bored/distracted, then forgot about it as I'm doing other stuff. Even if I did them or copied down the solutions, somehow I didn't take a second look at those questions, not very deeply even if I do look at them. This is unlike many of my friends who redo and redo their tutorial questions before the exam comes. OK, you can take that as a reason for my inconsistent exam results. T.T

Lets continue with assignments, shall we? As mentioned previously, I would have a working FM transmitter by the end of the Analogue Communications assignment. It is working on the breadboard (temporary circuit connection) but totally not on the stripboard, most probably due to poor soldering techniques. Even the breadboard circuit is not broadcasting as strongly as some of my classmates, where theirs can broadcast up to tens of metres away! Good for them, I mean after several “overtime” sessions in the laboratory, constantly holding their mobile phone in radio mode, watching the spectrum analyser, either yelling at the microphone or playing music from another phone... at least they worked for it and deserved it. Outside the lab, my breadboard mini-broadcaster works at home at a rather obscure frequency, slightly above 108 MHz. So I'm able to hear the television speaker (downstairs) by tuning the radio to that frequency (upstairs). Interesting stuff indeed.

Another interesting assignment, although not hardware-based, is from Signals and Systems. We were analysing past sunspot data to predict the next peak of sunspot activity. It wasn’t straightforward, as the raw data is really noisy as you can see above. According to my amateurish analysis using Fourier Transform, the next sunspot cycle will peak on October 2012. Hmm… isn’t the year familiar…? Do you think it will happen two months after the time I predicted, and exactly on the 21st? xP

Next, it’s Wookie time! If you’re going “dude, what’s that?”, let me first tell you what I did with that. This subject’s assignment required me to design a home security system with a microcontroller at the core. That obviously meant I need to program the micro-C so that it accepts input from a keypad, compare the input with a password entered earlier, at the same time considering the effect of debouncing, counting down 30 seconds and controlling 2 LEDs with a 7-segment display. What a handful… Fortunately, this Wookie thing allowed me to simulate my assembly code for the micro-C, making sure that at least the program logic is correct. A weird name for a software, isn’t it? I believe it’s named after the Star Wars species (with an extra “e” at the end). I hereby release the machine code below in public domain, subjected to the GNU License and Creative Commons, or whatever makes sense.


Dizzying? I’m afraid there’s more to cover… On the remaining 2 subs in Y2S2, I’ll just brief you through. I can say Numerical Methods and Statistics was a breeze, mainly coz the lecturers were giving us plenty of “chances”. During tutorial, it was still Ms Yap who clarified our doubts after attending Dr Fazlul’s lectures. [sigh] On Intro EM, I wonder whether it was necessary to split the lecturing responsibility in the hands of 3 lecturers. Anyway, the subject proved to be more than just an “intro”, with many derivations to do and rather abstract ideas. For final exam, we were forced do Question 2 and any other 3 questions, where Q2 was lectured by that Fah Jeh I mentioned time and time again. Huh, a good little trick to “balance” our understanding of this subject.

We came back after about 3 weeks of holiday to start Y3S1 around June last year. Before we even get to the academic subjects, there was one subject where we have to prepare early before taking it – internship or what we call “industrial training”. For our case, the university allows us to pick those training companies on their list. Other companies will require further particulars from the student. If a student can’t (or don’t want/lazy to) find any companies by the due date, the lecturer in-charge would have to pick for him/her. The experience should be priceless, but many students voiced out their frustrations about paying RM1000+ for the training programme. The “official” stand of the uni could be “since it’s 4 credit hour, 4 multiply by this rate per credit hour gives you the fees”. This payment is more than the training allowance of most students I believe, thus the dissatisfactions.

So, a few of the subjects in Y3S1 have some sort of continuation from the previous sem. The same lecturer who partly taught Analogue Communications, Mr Ng, was the sole lecturer for Analogue Electronics. Names are deceiving sometimes, as we were facing more op-amps and their applications, including filter, oscillator and regulator. Not much connection with the other analogue subject, except for the assignment maybe. Talk about freedom of choice… We can select to do anything for our mini-project, as long as we choose at least a component introduced in the syllabus. More on that later.

From the “intro” subject came Electromagnetic Fields and Waves! Good news: much less derivation and just one lecturer, Dr Lau plus another tutor, [errr…] Dr Lim. Bad news? More “waves” of equations and abstract ideas, plus the crazy micro-ammeter while doing the antenna experiment maybe. The topics had pretty short names: Maxwell’s equation, EM wave propagation, antennas, transmission lines, waveguides and modern topics. Wait till you see the details… By the way, our assignment for this was to study on an antenna, any antenna that we could get our hands on. In the end, we knew more about an indoor antenna bought from Giant hypermarket. It wasn’t bad actually, since we pulled off our presentation nicely and got one of the highest marks among our peers. As the “group leader” said to me once, credit goes to all of us. ^^

We were not done with programming yet, since there was another related but not-so-related subject called Computer Architecture. The humble microcontroller grew into an intricate maze of transistors that power a computer, but thankfully we didn’t go to such a low level. Still, the level is low enough that we have to understand the syntax of the Intel IA-32 architecture. Besides that, we were introduced to RISC as opposed to the complex CISC like Intel. Programming knowledge from both architectures are needed in the assignment, where we created a simple calculator and compare their performance. As always, my computer-plus-guitar whiz friend did his version, and eventually many other friends copied his. As for me, I just refer la…

Since we usually save the “best” for last, I’ll now mention about Process Control and Instrumentation. The lecturer, Dr Niranjan, really wanted us to understand the topics very well that he repeated and repeated the same section. Eventually, he had to speed up a lot towards the end of our study period. His slurry, “toothless” voice certainly didn’t help. Lucky juniors… they got Dr Tham as their lecturer (unit leader and is waaay better), while we have to add an extra effort to guess what our lecturer is trying to say. Dr Tham was also the one who came out with our assignments. We were to design a PLC program that controls our admin block’s air-cond system. There was this nifty little PLC box in our lab that could verify our design. Simply compile the design, download it into the box and it’s ready for testing, through many on-off lever switch outside the box. Haha, it might as well become our “toy box”. XD

OK, here comes the last subject, and you can interpret the “best” part along the way. Communication Systems was lectured by Dr Lo, and boy… did he gave us a very deep first impression. Five minutes into his inaugural lecture and he lectured a student in particular. He asked that student who made noise or laughed or what to leave his class if he wanted to do so, and at one time even called him “brainless”. He knew that his mini-lecture will drag time, but he signalled that this is what will happen when such interruptions happen again.

As if that wasn’t enough, he did not give any notes in softcopy form. We have to hand-copy his transparency notes projected by the OHP. Oh well, I can say that helped me to understand his lectures better. His assignment required MATLAB, which many of my friends dreaded to hear, to model digital communication systems. There were also extra questions in the assignment that many avoided to attempt. Given that I have the enthusiasm to try out new MATLAB stuff, my close friends came to me for guidance. Now I know how to recover data from a seemingly random signal, as shown below.

Oh yes… the Analogue Electronics assignment. To get an idea of what we can create, a group of us went to Jalan Pasar, Pudu to look for electronic hobby kits. I bought a temperature-controlled relay switch, and some of the components became a part of our temp-controlled fan network. The trick was to interface the comparator output with the fan, since the output of an IC cannot drive a motor directly. In the end, we figured that out and the whole system works! Without strictly following temperature levels, that is…
3 fans blowing simultaneously on a 9V supply, due to high temperature of fingers...

After the Y3S1 final exam, I went through industrial training and currently (at post time) doing Y3S2. Both of them will be elaborated in separate posts. By the way, my result for Y3S1 is the worst among the other sems. I only have 3 more chances to fill in that gaping hole. Hence, I wish all who’re dealing with their studies now, ganbatte kudasai!