Why… hello there! I almost forgot about you… almost. It’s been over 3 years since my last post! So much has happened, I don’t even know where to begin. Some pretty big events include: moving to Bellevue for an Internship, graduating University, moving out of Toronto to Seattle (in the U.S. of A) for work, and starting my first full-time just job to name a few.

It’s pretty interesting that I ended up in the USA because my family entertained the thought of moving down here back when I was in middle, but I *strongly* opposed that move mainly because of two reasons: no hockey, and American history (learning about Canadian history was good enough for me). Now, only a few short years later, I find myself living and working in the land of the free. Who would’ve thunk it? Not me, no siree.

One of the two reasons why I didn’t want to move here was mitigated because I finished school, so no American history for me! But how have I been able to cope with the lack of hockey?? Short answer: I haven’t, I’ve been slowly going insane =( I NEED MY HOCKEY!! Oy, but since there’s really nothing I can do about it and I didn’t want to sit around pining all day, I figured I would try to learn about America’s most popular sport… Football! Haha, Jacob playing football!? That’s crazy, right!? But not! I joined a flag football league with some of my colleagues and I’m starting to become a Seattle Seahawks fan (who have come off to an amazing start this season — 6-1!).

As I learn more about the sport, different positions and strategies, I’ve realized that Football mirrors the traditional core American values of different types of people binding and working together to achieve a common goal. All the individual members have distinct skills which contribute to the greater good of the collective unit. Each position in Football is unique and there’s a broad spectrum of athletic skills and body types. In this respect, it’s unlike any other sport I’ve played. For example, you wouldn’t want a lineman playing as a wide receiver. You also can’t succeed with a whole team of big strong lineman, nor can you succeed with an entire team of quick wide receivers. You really do have  to make use of the differences in size and skill to help the team succeed. All these different athletes who specialize in their respective positions are needed in order to be the best possible team. I think that’s why Americans love this sport so much. It reflects their diversity and how a group of seemingly different people can come together, work together, and in the end, reach a common goal.

That’s all I have for now… hopefully, my next post won’t be in 3 years.

June

June 26, 2010

June came and went just like that, I can’t believe it’s the end of June already! Highlights include my birthday, changing my schooling schedule, and getting some pretty awesome work done at Sybase… and watching the NHL/NBA playoffs =P.

I’m actually writing this blog entry from Windows Live Writer. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s part of the Windows Live Essential suite of applications by Microsoft. It provides an interface for you to write, edit and publish blog entries on a variety of different blogging platforms including Windows Live, WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, SharePoint and some more…  I’ve never actually tried any other third-party blogging applications, so this is brand new to me. I did have some gripes about the online WYSIWYG editor that WordPress provides. I found it to be a clunky experience, it was definitely not as responsive as a desktop application. I even enabled the Google Gears cache functionality which is supposed to make faster. I have to admit, I did see some performance increase, but still not the same experience as a native application. Adding photos to a blog entry and then getting them positioned where you want is not the easiest thing in the world. So, I’m hoping this will be a better alternative… maybe it will encourage me to post more ; ). I like the fact that you can edit a post just as you would see it on the screen, then preview it and still have access to the source code! AND it’s a super responsive interface. Since this is a desktop application, I believe you have the option to save the draft locally before publishing… this means that you can write posts even while offline! Maybe one day… if I’m really eager to blog in an area without internet connection, I’ll try out this offline feature, haha.

This is me testing out the “Insert Image” feature…

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Pretty sweet.

So another year of my life has passed… and before you ask me what I did on my birthday… well I’m not big on birthdays, so it was just like another day with more birthday wishes =P.

Now I’m going to publish this post and see what happens…

Fire Fighting Robot

April 9, 2010

We’ve finally finished our fire fighting robot! If anyone is interested in seeing the robot in action, check out the video below. I know it’s kinda boring, we probably should’ve taken a longer video… but alas, we forgot.

This was taken while we were testing it’s sweeping functionality. It scans the 3×3 grid in front, then if and only if a candle is detected, the extinguishing mechanism (the sponge on the arm) is actuated and poof the flame is gone.

You’ll notice after it extinguishes the first two candles that it “bounces” against the black line before stopping. This is actually its self-aligning algorithm. One of the biggest problems we encountered during the course of the project was that the robot would be misaligned whenever it stopped. Essentially, the momentum would carry the robot in anunpredictable direction… Sometimes left, sometimes right. Obviously, as a result, the subsequent trajectory would be affected as well. So, in order to ensure that the robot is straight before proceeding, it is equipped with two photodiodes on the bottom that enables it to do a kind of a repeated “parallel parking” against the line that it’s perpendicular with (aka the line in front of it)… It does this backing up and driving forward motion repeatedly until it is perfectly aligned. Get it? If not, watch the video!

PS. If you’re wondering… here’s the code for the straightening algorithm =)

while( flag == 0) { 

   set_dc1_power(30);
   set_dc2_power(30);

   //not on black
   while( (sensor[2] > highBlack2) && (sensor[3] > highBlack3) ) {  }       

   set_dc1_power(0);
   set_dc2_power(0);

   sensor2 = sensor[2];
   sensor3 = sensor[3];

   //if both sensors are on black, we're straight
   if((sensor2 < highBlack2)  && (sensor3 < highBlack3)) {
      flag=1;
      break;
   }
   else {
      //right sensor is on black and left is on white
      if( (sensor2  highBlack3) ) {
         set_dc1_power(-35);            //back up
         while(sensor[2] < white2){}    //until white
         set_dc1_power(0);
      }
      //left sensor is on black and right is on white
      else if( (sensor3  highBlack2) ) {
         set_dc2_power(-35);             //back up
         while(sensor[3] < white3){}     //until white
         set_dc2_power(0);
      }
   }
}

Just in time for spring

March 28, 2010

It seems like whenever I get into the middle of a school term, I abandon my blog… but this time I’m not going to let that happen! I shall to take some time out of my busy schedule to write a quick update.

In my previous post, I wrote about an imaginary “Windows Zune phone”. Well just recently, Microsoft announced their newest OS for mobile devices, “Windows Phone 7”! They’ve completely revamped the whole design and approach they took to developing a mobile phone OS. From the early demos and screenshots, the user interface is much more “touch-friendly” and intuitive. Actually, it looks very similar to the ZuneHD interface which turned out to be quite well received amongst the tech crowd. And right now, the same looks to be true for the Windows Phone 7. I realize that it’s not an actual physical device, but they’re getting one step closer to challenging the Apple iPhone and Google Nexus One. The only two things I’m hoping that Microsoft will add to their new OS are: multi-tasking and copy/paste. Right now, it doesn’t seem to be included and I don’t understand why if you consider that those were two of the biggest areas of criticism that Apple got when they first released the iPhone… So I really hope it changes before its final release.

Spring is here, and while others are outside tossing around a frisbee, I’m either cooped up in a classroom or a lab. These past few weeks have been super hectic because we’re trying to finish our robot for a competition next Tuesday. The purpose of the robot is to navigate an obstacle course and extinguish lit candles. At first the problem didn’t seem too difficult. We had a mechanical design and algorithm worked out, but now we’re realizing how different real life is from theory.  We’re running into a lot of issues that are unpredictable and completely out of our control…!! Anyway, it’s slowly coming along and we’re learning a lot… Only two more days left!

Zune Phone

January 18, 2010

Zune Phone, anyone? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been dreaming of a Zune Phone ever since the first ZuneHD rumours. Who knows if it’ll happen, but Engadget posted this mock-up of a “Zune Phone” and it just got me thinking… Microsoft could really put a dent into the iPhone’s dominance if they can produce a phone that was as good as the ZuneHD was a music player!

Disclaimer: This is just a wishful mock-up…

All we can do now is wait until the next Mobile World Congress…

Where do I even begin? The last month has been crazy hectic for me… in the best possible way. I finished up another successful work term with Sybase in Product Management (PM) and then took a two week break visiting Anaheim and Calgary.

I completed my fourth term at Sybase (fifth overall) and this was one of the busiest, but most rewarding terms. During one of my evaluations, my managers told me, “As the number of work terms you complete increase, so do the expectations.” Not only was this my second to last work term, but also my fourth at Sybase. I knew that the expectations were high and that the bar had been raised. I needed to work hard in order to get the most out of the term. That’s exactly what I did, I jumped into the PM experience, the team embraced my openness and allowed me to work on a wide range of tasks.

I truly believe that a unique experience that I gained from Sybase came as a result of my returning for a fourth term. With over a year of experience at Sybase under my belt, I had a clear understanding of the company’s vision and knew the product very well. Because of this, I was able to make responsible decisions and ones that were aligned with the company’s goal. It’s a great feeling to know that your opinions matter and that your work influences people. This kind of experience was invaluable and a big part of what I gained this term.

Almost immediately after the term completed, I flew down to sunny Anaheim, California. I spent a week there, flew North back to Canada and landed in the winter wonderland of Calgary, Alberta. It was the hardest thing packing for these two trips because most of the clothes that I wore in either places were mutually exclusive! Needless to say, I had to pack a lot of clothes and layers were an important part of my attire during those weeks. It was an fun-filled break and I needed it to clear my head before diving back into the books.

What are my plans for next term? Well, it’s up in the air for now… I’ll be going through the first round of interviews. I hope that I can build upon my current experiences and will update as soon as I know what I’ll be doing.

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year everyone!

Goodbye, Gears!

December 2, 2009

So much for Gears support in Chrome OS! And I was wondering why Gears was missing from Chrome OS and Android 2.0… Now I know! Google announced yesterday that they are closing down the Gears project. It’s is kind of sad to see it come to and end because I did a lot of work with Google Gears this work term. Actually, I’m glad that I did because it taught me a lot about HTML 5 and its new features! I guess that this announcement was expected with the shift towards the new HTML 5 standard. There was no point in putting so much engineering effort into Gears when HTML 5 will include all its features and more. Oh, well… it’s kind of ironic since I’m using Gears with WordPress to write this post. I wonder how long it’ll take them to phase it out completely?

Chromium OS

November 29, 2009

Wow, it’s been way too long. Over a month? I think that’s the longest gap ever… It seems like I’m busier when I’m working than when I’m studying =S, go figure.

What’s the hottest thing in technology right now? Google’s Chrome OS, that’s what. And I got a chance to test it out for the first time last week. I’m actually doing some work with Google Gears now, so I wanted to test it out on Chrome OS. Well, guess what… It doesn’t have support for Gears yet!! Why!?! Beats me. I’m going to assume that they’ve just left it out for development and will incorporate it in the final build.

In any case, my overall impression of Chrome OS can be summed up in one word, “depends”. Your experience of Chrome OS really does depend on how you plan on using your computer. If all you plan on doing is surfing the internet and primarily using it for web applications, then sure it may be a great solution. But what about people who need CPU intensive applications like video editing and gaming? I don’t know how they plan on targeting that market, but right now it seems to only consider those heavy web application users. It’s still a fresh concept and is definitely still being changed, but I just don’t see myself buying into this “Everything in the cloud” phenom. Only time will tell though. They’d need a pretty convincing argument to make me switch.

(I really hope to update soon.)

One thing that I really enjoy about the fall season is the colour of the leaves. Fortunately, I live in Southern Ontario where I actually get to see the leaves change colour before they fall =). I don’t know why, but it seems like this year the colours are particularly nice and vibrant. A couple weeks ago, I took a roadtrip to Montreal and on the way there we passed through many stretches of red, yellow, and orange. It was kind of distracting since I was driving, but t’was breathtaking!

As I was marveling at the landscape, I wondered why the leaves change colours and what triggers them to change.

Well, allow me to explain… [Disclaimer: This is an oversimplification. I am in no way an expert on trees.] We all know that plants go through a process called photosynthesis to convert water, CO2 and sunlight into glucose and oxygen. We also know that photosynthesis relies on a chemical called chlorophyll, this is what gives the leaves their green colour.

Now, in the winter, there is not enough sunlight because the days are short. So, plants basically pack it in and decide to store up for the winter and stop producing glucose and oxygen. In turn, the chlorophyll is not needed for photosynthesis. Then, out comes the nice red, yellow, and orange colours!

Wonderful, ain’t it? Now you know why all the trees change in the fall.

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