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    Saturday, April 17, 2010
    What have I learnt in this semester..

    What is this semester about? About CS3216? Not really. I think it's more about life. And I think I had a wonderful semester to conclude my years of studying life.

    What have I learnt? I actually dislike this kind of topic because I can't seem to be able to pen down what exactly I have learnt because a lot of stuff are intangibles I dunno how to explain them in words. I guess there's still a lot for me to improve.

    So looking back at my past 30 blog entries (ya 30.. I didn't realise I wrote so much), I realised that I wasn't really just learning what was actually presented during the lecture. My thinking seemed to have changed, and I'm getting more and more used to writing.

    I admit that I used to care a lot about my CAP. But I think I'm not grade-centered. Instead, I'm more result oriented. Who cares about how much effort you put in? In the end only the result matters. I'm also very focused on what I think I should do in order to achieve good results. I prefer things to be well organised so that I can slowly work towards my goal. There is no such thing as instant success, if you want to be successful, you need to work towards your goal.

    I thought CS3216 would be the same, the module is divided into different portions with % allocated for each component, you just have to grab as much % as possible in each component, and you will be on track to get an A, but I was wrong. CS3216 is not about teaching you stuff, it's a module for you to learn independently and for you to get a chance to execute something you want. I think CS3216 is sort of like a motivational + entrepreneurship course, although I don't really know if I'm right because I've neither attended a motivational nor an entrepreneurship course before. It's also a jungle survival course, as we are thrown somewhere in the middle of the jungle, and we must learn and adapt in order to survive in this harsh environment. (Actually this mimics life.)

    That is why I was very unreceptive of Prof's words that school is unimportant and grades doesn't matter when I first entered this course. Prof mentioned about people who dropped out of school and became successful. That is why grades are unimportant. I didn't really understand why it is so that time. It's totally opposite of my beliefs. My beliefs that grades are important started when I tried to apply for internship back then. I remembered that I was chosen for many of the interviews that I've applied and out of 5, 4 replied me and 2 accepted me. My friends' internship journey weren't that smooth, although they all still secured an internship in the end. That was when I realise that our grades are important, as it helps you get a chance to be interviewed and get recruited. I want to secure more of these chances, that is why I focus so much on my grades from then on. Actually now that I'm graduating, I realised that grades are pretty important to help you get interview chances too.

    Then about half a semester later, Prof suddenly had an impromptu session which talked about grades, scholarships and meritocracy, and that's when I realise that his definition of not important is different from my definition of not important. I agreed with him and understand a lot more things. From then on, I think I really 开窍 a lot. Without grades, there are still a lot of different ways to get employed, just that I chose the route that most people choose without questioning why.

    Another thing I've learnt is about making choices, and this relates to streaming in the educational system. Prof mentioned that if your child is given a chance to go into 2 different streams, make sure you choose the lower one. It's a lot better to be at the top of the lower stream than to be the worst at the higher stream. Actually I was one of the victims of streaming too. I was in EM1 when I was in primary school and special stream in secondary school. It wasn't that bad in primary school because I wasn't really the worst but in secondary school, I was the rock bottom student in the entire school. My level of confidence really took a great dip. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't improve, so I might as well stay at the bottom. I believe that I'm lousy, and I shouldn't have continued studying since my brain can only accept that much information. In secondary 4, just before the 'O' level examinations, the principal asked us if we want to get retained so that we can study for 1 more year. At that level of standard, we DEFINITELY WOULD NOT BE ABLE to pass my 'O' levels.

    I didn't heed that advice in the end and continued with 'O's, and luckily I scraped through. I entered PJC which was a new school then. At that place, at first I was still quite demoralised and unmotivated, until my first common test when I did quite well as compared to the others. FYI, I just managed to pass while most of my friends failed. Thus, it gave me a great boost in my confidence and in my 2nd common test, I did quite well for most of my subjects, except Physics. However, due to my over-confidence and complacency, I didn't do well for my 'A' levels.

    So what prof actually say makes sense, to be the top of the lower level is better than the bottom of the top level. However, maybe it isn't that true in the lowest levels because the nurture factor may cause the students to be demoralised too. "Teachers really don't care about lousy students, and despise them too" That's what I heard from my friend in normal tech in my secondary school.

    So after saying so much above, what I've actually learnt is to analyse things better from various perspective so that I could make better sense out of things.

    I also learnt that life is about choices, so think it through before making decisions, but do not regret after making it but look forward and make the best out of your choice.

    Next, I understand that we all can do a lot of things if we dare to try. In the past, I would have jumped into programming straight away as that's my forte and I know I can do well in it. However, I realised that the programming guys here are actually elites and they can do a lot much things in a faster time. So during MisMatch, I took a step back to try and do something that I'm not familiar with, design. Actually the initial designer was Li Yen, but she has and she wants to do the actionscript herself too. Thinking that she has too much work in her hands, I took over the design part partially because my brother is a designer.

    The first time I open illustrator was when I felt very lost. I don't understand what each tool does because I've totally not touch it before. I keep bugging my brother until he got frustrated with me and don't want to care about me. So I've no choice but to learn everything online and it was a slow and torturing process. But the results I got was quite satisfactory, at least imo.

    In Google Wave project, we wanted to start developing the gadget on flex and I started to read up on them. However, Mr Continent, Angad, hopes that he can solo it himself so I end up creating pictures, writing reports, and developing small functionalities like Wave Embed which Mr Continent do not wish to care about.

    For the final project, design sort of became the biggest scope of what I'm doing, although I did more marketing than design imo. I've a lot of marketing ideas in my mind and I listed all of them out for discussion and see which are more feasible than the others. Luckily my team are cooperative people and everybody is encouraged to do things that we think might succeed. Execution was carried out pretty well initally, until we realised that Wai Hong is unable to contribute much because of his very heavy workload. Thus, we improvise and I'm happy that we did quite well, at least for now.

    So what have I learnt here, is that we can do a lot of things if we dare to try. But the first step is to step out of your comfort zone and try something different. You will be surprised at your potential, and even if you don't succeed, at least you tried. Of course I learnt design and put my marketing skills to use too haha.

    The next one I've learnt is that words seems harsher than they are when it's not said but written out. Actually if you map the face and the comments together, you will realise that it isn't such a big deal, but when you remove the face, it does seems harsh, for you will interpret it in your own tone. That is why sometimes staring incidents evolved into fights. And I will try to avoid that next time.

    And well, through these very different project scopes I've done, I've learnt more about team management too. I understand that things should be said out instead of keeping them in our hearts because if you don't say, they won't know. So try and communicate and iron out problems before anything happens. I also learnt more technical skills too. But I guess all these are trivial. The things that are important in CS3216 are the things you can't really learn own your own or you don't seem to be able to grasp it. (to Prof they are common sense, but for us it doesn't seem as common to us, until we actually think it through)

    There are definitely more things that I've learnt in this short semester but I guess I shall end it here because it's getting a bit long (and my train of thought broke when my mum ask me to send my grandma back home). I guess this is going to be my last entry here and well, blogging will not end because I've another blog and I would be continuing my blogging over there. Well, I just like to retain memories, that is why The Mood Diary came about? Looking back at the past 10+ blog posts, don't you think that they are memories worth keeping?

    Thank you everyone, for making this module possible and the experience would never be the same if it weren't the same guys in this class. Stay happy and stay hungry (for knowledge). :)

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    Mr. WiRuS CraCk HeaD DoiNG ProGRaMMiNG @ 1:04 AM | 7 Comments

     
    Wednesday, April 14, 2010
    Poster Design.

    I never knew I could design, until this semester. Step out of your comfort zone, and try the things that you thought you would never be able to do.

    Results are, either you fail gloriously and understand that there are just some things that you are not that good at, but at least you tried. Or you realise that actually some things just ain't as tough as you thought it would be.

    Dare to try, only then you will truly learn.



    Actually I'm quite happy that I do have some design sense, not just my brother.. :)

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    Mr. WiRuS CraCk HeaD DoiNG ProGRaMMiNG @ 10:55 PM | 1 Comments

     
    Wednesday, April 7, 2010
    Wow wow presentations..

    I'm actually quite surprised that I didn't see Joshua's blog post this week. Although his blog entries were short and just list out the points that were mentioned in the lectures, I find it quite good in trying to recall the actual lecture after some days has passed. Maybe because Prof Ben has declared himself the blog king of this sem already. So no point blogging anymore haha.

    So why do I still blog? Hmm, I guess I will just finish what I've started, 做人要有始有终吧.. Blogging seems pretty beneficial to me too, although sometimes it just takes a lot of time because I've to think through what has actually been going on in the lecture and try to make some sense out of it.. So well, let me just continue this for another 2weeks and I'll officially end this blog and continue my blogging + ranting in my personal blog.

    So this week's lecture slot was for us to present our progress for our applications. Actually I really feel like presenting for my own application but I knew I wouldn't have time to practice enough for the presentation because I had an interview straight before so I shouldn't take everything into my own hands. Thus, I just done up the slides and wrote in some remarks and points and pass the baton to my team members to present. But hmm, in the end I screwed up the interview anyway, so I guess I should say goodbye to the job that I'm most interested in, unless some miracle happened. I guess I was just too ill-prepared that day because of all the deadlines that were gushing in. Never mind, I'll take that as a lesson learnt. :)

    Onto the group presentations, I'm really impressed with some of the ideas and how some of the teams actually executed them. Some people took this opportunity to start their businesses and I think it's really a good start. Some teams were very focused on what they want to achieve and were progressing straight to their goals. Some however, may not execute their applications well enough but you can see the amount of effort they put in into developing it.

    We can see that no same teams has the same skill set and every team has different levels of competency. Some teams have tried to acquire new skills to use in the projects, while some engaged the help of external parties, some teams have more manpower while some have less. So by right, we shouldn't compare every team together on the same scale, but I guess in the real world, only the fittest survive. So if you set your mind to it, you will be able to accomplish it.

    Some teams' presentation actually caught my attention. Firstly, of course, it's Supremacy, the biggest and most ambitious one. And based on the presentation, they are really doing quite well. I'm amazed at what they could actually do and how many parties they can liaise with in this short amount of time. And to change the very complicated game mechanics into a 'Bang' like game, I think they really have gone through a lot of serious brainstorming process and made a lot of big decisions. I truly respect them.

    Secondly, beat roulette. I really think that the idea is interesting and workable. I've never heard of chat roulette or similar things before but this idea is really an ingenious one. I hope that the user base could quickly rise and maybe I'll be one of the users in the near future. :P

    Thirdly, Foodwerkz. They actually had an idea that was pretty similar to my initial idea when I went up to pitch during the pitching party. However, I didn't remember them pitching their idea. If not, maybe now the Mood Diary won't exist anymore, but then, I think Mood Diary is a pretty cool idea too, right? haha.

    Next, stickywars. 2weeks+ ago, when I tried out their application, I couldn't reach their servers. 1week+ ago, they had some ugly looking pictures when the main content in plain text on white background. And now, the graphics look professional enough and the game seem to be working well. I really admire their effort they put in.

    Lastly, PeopleBAWX. Bernard did an awesome presentation initially by telling us what is lacking in the developing countries and what they need people to help them. I was so absorbed by their presentation that I keep trying to think what kind of wonderful program have they done to save the world now. They talked about recording videos on tapes and hard disks and distributing them to the broadcasting stations. It was such a great idea. And then they demo-ed the scheduler program. Hmm, actually I don't quite understand why is this very very important and can save the world. Doesn't the broadcasting stations have their own scheduler, be it on paper or any other mediums? Maybe I didn't understand the situation well enough because it is hard to convey the idea within the short presentation. If PeopleBAWX team do read my blog, and you all have the time, I hope you could explain the idea to me. Thank you. Cos the scheduler feels just like a Google Calendar to me.

    Actually all the presentations seem very interesting and everyone seems to be producing a lot of work in such a short time. This is indeed not the average module and people you would see in a normal NUS module. I'm actually very glad that I'm part of it, although I think all my other modules are suffering, and I'm trying to rush out all the projects that are due these weeks. I think everyone else is the same as me ba, gambatte everyone!

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    Mr. WiRuS CraCk HeaD DoiNG ProGRaMMiNG @ 2:49 AM | 3 Comments

     
    Wednesday, March 31, 2010
    Security & Privacy..

    This week's lecture is about security and privacy. Actually I've been writing up for this topic so many times I'm pretty sian about writing it again. I've been writing it for the pre-interview tests I went for, and when I apply for jobs that are security related, I've been mentioning about all these. So I shall try my best to write something out for this particular entry then.

    I'm actually very interested in security stuff but I'm one of those that is more interested in seeing how things break instead of seeing how secure they are. I'm not a hacker nor do I harm anyone but I'm played with keyloggers and scripts because I'm interested to see what results would I get. I've also programmed my own bot when I was playing maplestory in mapleglobal (that was like 6+years ago) and well, I try to incorporate different stuff as compared to standard bots so that moderators won't catch me. I've also taken several security related modules and the most interesting one is the most non-technical one, Introduction to Cybercrime. The lecturer is super interesting and he keeps talking about all the different stories he encountered or heard of and he really makes u feel that everything you think is secure now is actually not secure. I was pretty paranoid at that time and I went online to research a lot about encryption technologies and stuff. I also switched my wifi encryption to WPA2 from WEP (because my DS only has WEP support to go online to play games) after hearing about all the scary stuff the lecturer talk about. But knowing about all these are actually quite useful in fact. If you don't know how things actually work, you don't know how to protect it.

    Back to the lecture, the speaker talks about how a standard phrase that is well known in the security area. Security is only as strong as its weakest link. This is in fact quite true. And I want to point that to the current NUS password scheme. I understand that NUS is trying to allow people to have strong passwords and cultivate a habit to change their password regularly. However, since a semester ago, they have enforced additional rules to make sure that our password contains alphabets, numbers and symbols, be at least 8 characters long, and older 6 passwords could not be reused. Although this is good, it does make people forget their passwords and in the end, people jot them down, which poses a security risk. In another module, we need to register for an account for the textbook quizzes and their password policy is even more stringent. Password need to be 16 characters long, and cannot repeat any string of characters in the password. So that means a password like "MyCatIsAtHome" cannot be used because 'at' is both repeated in C'at' and 'At'. So in the end, we are really forced to randomly generate a string which we record down in the computer. So it is good to have strong security, but don't make it too strong until it hinders people and force people to create security risks. This is also what the CIA (Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability) triangle is about, developing strong security without hindering either parts of the triangle.

    The speaker also talks about privacy and how sometimes we should give up privacy for the greater good to enforce security, for example, airport baggage checks. To many of us Singaporeans, we don't really seem to notice how much we reveal our privacy to others, and how much implications it may bring. 2 reasons, 1. Singapore is too safe a country and we don't get spammed by telemarketers (not so much) and we don't have much crimes related to privacy. OR 2. In Singapore, there is no such thing as privacy. There is no protection against privacy and there is no human right to privacy. Work surveillance is allowed. Employee monitoring is allowed. Employers can monitor everybody's emails. The government is allowed to get whatever information that is needed as long as they think it is good for the country. (This is what I learn from CS4259, Legal Aspects of Information Technology, it's an interesting module. I recommend you all to take if you are interested) However, things are starting to change slightly right now as we do see that telephone numbers and IC numbers are not being shown publicly on the media now. Only when we know how much revealing your privacy can hurt or harm us, we will then be aware and take note of how we should protect our privacy.

    The speaker also talked about the more technical parts of security and privacy like SQL injections, script kiddies and how Facebook protects its privacy but I still think it's more important to grasp the concept rather than go into technical details that may bore people off if they are not interested. I believe that he is here to create awareness and let us know about the danger that is lurking in the internet world rather than try to make us into security gurus, and well, I'm sure the things he presented are not enough to make you a security guru too. :)

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    Mr. WiRuS CraCk HeaD DoiNG ProGRaMMiNG @ 4:00 PM | 0 Comments

     
    Wednesday, March 24, 2010
    Entrepreneurship..

    What does it take to be an entrepreneur? You need to have an idea, a concept, a plan, money & most importantly the never say die attitude.

    Although the entrepreneurs that were presenting on Monday all told us that we shouldn't start our own business, they are just trying to make us think it in another way. Are you prepared for the hardship that will come along if you start your own business? Are you strong enough to hold out and have the never say die attitude? If you just want to try out for fun, I guess you should not even start one.. Cos it's money and time wasted.

    However, if you think you got what it takes, there are some pointers which they sort of disclosed when they are trying to 'discourage' us from being entrepreneurs. One of them would be there is no one true path to take when you want to be an entrepreneur. What people can give you is suggestions. But ultimately, the decision lies with you. You can heed or choose not to heed others' advice. But don't be indecisive. A wrong decision is better than no decision. If you are the kind who can't make decisions on your own, this is not for you.

    Secondly, is how much you believe in this business. You must have a strong mind. Although family and friends should be supporting you, you will realise that after that time, they will try to discourage you from continuing with the business for your own good. After all, this is not their business and when they see you have a hard time managing the business, they will try to ask you to give up just out of goodwill. And for Chinese, every CNY, you will find those relatives talking about careers, families and more.. Most of the time, you will find their words most discouraging. But if you really believe in what you do, you will have a strong mind, and you must hold on to what you believe. In these circumstances, maybe the believing in the higher powers would be beneficial for you.

    Next, monetary issues. Don't just think that you can invest an initial sum of money and let it roll and roll without needing to invest more. You must make sure that you have enough money to support yourself during the 2-3years when you are trying to recoup the initial capital. And depending on the nature of the business, you need to know how much you have initially before starting the business. If you just need a website and a server to do your business, maybe you don't need to have so much money upfront. But if you are dealing with f&b or businesses which requires you to stock inventory before sale, be sure that you have enough money to restock several times. You never know when you might incur a loss or find bad debts. In short, you need to have enough capital flow..

    Lastly, hiring generalists. I think it sounds very true. Instead of spending money to hire people who are specialized, we should hire people who can 包到完, the do-it-all kind of people. In the way, money can be spent more efficiently and this allows the employees to enhance their resume more, because they do more things here and we can see significant contributions by them.

    Other stuff, Hong An said that whoever want to join hungrygowhere would need to have a pay cut. This will allow him to identify people who truly want to contribute and help grow the company. Interesting idea, but won't it scare away potential employees who are devoted but need the money to survive too? School of thought. Tong Yee is really devoted to helping the society and he is the rare few entrepreneur that started without the aim to make money initially. People like him are a rare breed and I really respect him.

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    Mr. WiRuS CraCk HeaD DoiNG ProGRaMMiNG @ 4:48 PM | 0 Comments

     
    Sunday, March 21, 2010
    Performance and Optimization. Grades, Scholarship and Meritocracy

    Zit Seng delivered the lecture last week. Actually I don't really know how to start because I can say that although all the terms he mentioned sounds familiar (from CS2106 OS) I do not really have much idea about what he is talking about. But the gist of it is that there are many different aspect that may slow down performance, not just the server itself.. Therefore we must determine the true cause of the problem before pointing our fingers at the server or network itself. More often than not, the bottleneck is not at their side. Somehow I have a feeling that Prof invited Zit Seng not only to talk about performance and optimization, but to let us have an idea of how things work, and let us know that we should not always blame others when something happen. Instead, try to look for the true cause and then solve it. We really shouldn't start finger pointing at people when things goes wrong. Yup..

    The 2nd part was a impromptu 1hr lecture by Prof Ben about Grades, Scholarships and Meritocracy. The lecture is really very informative and I've learnt a lot from it. Actually, in many of the CS3216 lecture, I keep feeling that I'm actually not in NUS but in some motivational talks or something as every lecture allows us to reflect a lot about life. As a gamer, I would say that I always feel that going for CS3216 lecture is like going after a super high level creep, and when you defeat it, you gain a lot of things, like experiences and artifacts.

    So about grades, it is just a key to opening the door for interviews. I do agree with that and I do emphasize quite a lot on it. Because without connections or relevant experience, what an employer can judge, is your academic performance and the way you portray yourself during the interview. But without the key, you would hardly get a chance to go for interviews. And this is really true because this is what happen when I apply for internships and now jobs. That is why grades are important and I do recognize this fact. And maybe because I've a worker's mind, I do believe that grades are important as I foresee myself working for people at least in the near future.

    About scholarships, I really didn't know that the government is so ingenious about the whole plan. Prof says that because people only think for themselves and didn't take a look at the society as a whole. It's pretty true. Well, in the end, you are you and if you are a person who can't survive in this harsh environment, who cares about the society. Only if you have enough for yourself, then you will think about other things. This follows Maslow's hierarchy of needs right? Only if you satisfy basic needs and stuff, then you will go for self actualization and talk about support for the nations and other stuff? But at least now, I know that the government works this way because they should work this way.

    About meritocracy, meritocracy is defined as a system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement. (Dictionary.com) So it means that if you have the means, you can rise to the top, if you don't, you deserve to stay below. Sounds fair? It is, and it isn't..

    Prof Ben stated that meritocracy is about equal access instead of equal outcome. Therefore, although there are less people living in landed properties, they are more of them securing scholarships. True. I always believe that parents who are clever will be more likely to give birth to a child that is more clever than parents who aren't as clever. Of course there will be exceptions, but we cannot deny the genetic factor that builds all of us. Some people just can study, and some people just can't. If you can't study, it doesn't mean you are a goner. You may be good in other stuff. Just that you can't take the route that many of us want to take, the studying route. However, if you just have no ability to excel in anything, you just deserve to be at the bottom, and this is meritocracy, so is it fair?

    So, meritocracy tries to be fair to provide equal access to all, so on the big scale of things, it is fair, but as an individual, if you are the bottommost part of the society, with no skills and abilities, you will personally think that it's unfair, since from the start, right when you were born, you are doomed, and you are destined to stay at the bottom.

    But it is also this false hope of fairness that motivates the society to move, if everyone is equal with equal outcome, there will not be any progress as people will not be motivated since no matter what they do, everyone will have the same outcome. (Sounds like communism?) Another thing, if you search for meritocracy in wikipedia, they will talk about Singapore. Therefore, maybe we Singaporeans think that meritocracy is good because since young, we have been influenced to think that meritocracy is good?

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    Mr. WiRuS CraCk HeaD DoiNG ProGRaMMiNG @ 11:56 PM | 0 Comments

     
    Sunday, March 14, 2010
    Blogging helps..

    I've always love to write and blog, that is why I've been keeping a blog since my NS days.. However, in the past when I blogged, I always blog in a 你懂啦,要讲什么就讲咯 eh think what then write what singlish style blog.. But for this CS3216 module, I had to change my blogging style a bit to make it more apt for the viewers. (I didn't change on purpose, but it seems that my friends do say that I blog differently for my CS3216 blog)

    Initially, it was quite a chore to blog because I need to spend time to think and review what I've learnt throughout the past week and when things start getting busy, you realise that blogging is of least priority but it's just not my style to give things up completely just because it doesn't appear to be significant in the grand scale of things.. However, this blogging actually paid off in the recent interview I went last friday. Although I didn't do really well in the MCQ sections because the questions are super hard and out of my scope, I do write a lot for the essay. The flow just come naturally and I find myself writing a lot in that short 1hr, when I see people finding difficulty churning out even 1 page of essay. When I entered uni last time, blogging helped me too. During the QET, I found it very easy to write and I managed to complete the whole essay without much difficulty and thank god, I passed it. (My English is always borderline in my earlier school years.)

    So I'm glad to say that blogging really helps in coordinating my idea and flow when I write, although I know that my english isn't really that perfect. But I think the idea of language is to enable communication between one another. If you are able to convey your idea across using speech or words, I believe that your language is good enough already. Right?

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    Mr. WiRuS CraCk HeaD DoiNG ProGRaMMiNG @ 3:25 AM | 4 Comments

     
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