Thursday, July 09, 2009

Goodbye Cambridge

I hate moving.

Well, I don’t exactly loathe the act of transferring myself from one place to another. In fact, the whole flight journey back home was quite pleasant. It’s actually the preparations that are making me anxious. Emptying drawers that are usually filled, clearing shelves that are usually adorned by souvenirs from countries I visited, throwing away stuff that I’ve used over the years, looking at the sight of a bare room… it can get too much sometimes, more so than the actual leaving.

I’ve always liked the student life. Of course, spending those years in the best places (MCKK, Atlantic College, and Cambridge) doesn’t hurt either. But now, since I’ve graduated with a Master of Engineering and everything, guess I have to move on to the next phase in life. This reminds me of what the Master said during the graduation dinner (which happened to be my birthday as well):

People always refer to life after university as the real world,” he began, “but there’s nothing shadowy or unreal about the time that you spent in Cambridge.”

Might not be an exact quote, but close enough.

I started the blog after being prompted by someone (I think it was you, Adam) and because I thought it was nice to have a little something chronicling my life in Cambridge. Of course, I didn’t get to jot down everything mostly because of time constraint or laziness in my part. But then again, it was good enough of an effort. However, what this also means is that I don’t think I’ll be continuing this blog afterwards. Several reasons: firstly, I don’t think the blog’s meant to go on forever and while it’s nice to have my Cambridge life documented I’ve always thought of finishing it after graduation. Secondly, when I’ll be working I don’t think the company appreciates it if I give every little detail of what I do day after day, might be giving away company secrets you see. Also, I think my life after being a student will probably be less… eventful compared to university. Although at the moment that’s not yet true, considering in the past few days I’ve just tracked my lost baggage from Heathrow to KL, got involved in an identity fraud and having to go to the station to make police reports, but let’s not get into that.

So anyway, I guess this is where I’ll stop maintaining a semblance of regular postings. I’ve been toying with the idea of having infrequent, once-in-a-while kind of updates but hmmm… don’t think that’ll happen. Therefore, this is it then, the last post. Although, I most probably will be tempted to start again if I managed to land a place for PhD in a university somewhere, so wish me luck for that. In any case, I’ll still keep the blog up on the web in the off-chance that it might be useful to some people.

Well then, it’s been nice sharing and filling this space.



Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Getting Used To a Mac

Right, so I’ve had my MacBook Pro for over a week now and I must say, it works great. Really, really great. Maybe it’s because I’m comparing it to my four-year-old Dell laptop but still, it’s nice to not wait over a minute for startup and having to close background applications for the more demanding programs (I used to have to close McAfee and Samurize everytime I wanted to play games). The transition is not all smooth, of course, and I miss some aspects of Windows but overall, I must say I’m loving my Mac.

Several things/issues that I’ve encountered:

· Transferring files from my PC to my MacBook Pro went without much trouble, thanks to my 320 GB external hard drive. Moving the iTunes library between the computers went alright, thankfully. I used to transfer iTunes between PC’s and that just involves replacing the whole iTunes folder with the one containing your music (I used iTunes to manage my music files, so all the files are located in the iTunes folder instead of scattered all over the computer). However, I found that this doesn’t work when I transferred my music from PC to Mac. So what I did instead was to transfer the iTunes Music folder (just the subfolder containing the music, not the parent folder with the library files and everything) to my MacBook Pro. Then I transferred the iTunes Library.itl file and rename it to just iTunes Library, without the itl extension.

I found that this method retains my original playlists and play count (which is the most important thing). However, it doesn’t keep the album art. This is not a problem though, since I just made iTunes re-download the album arts from the iTunes Store. That took care of most of them. For album arts that aren’t available from iTunes, well, I made a habit of keeping them in the album folder itself, so I just looked for and re-added them manually. It’s just a bit of a hassle but not that much of a deal, since my play count is what matters most and if that’s intact, then it’s fine.

I found the above method in the comments section of the Lifehacker website. I don’t have the link now but thanks to whoever suggested it.

· Since I’m switching from a 17” to a 15” laptop, the smaller screen size bugged me a bit in the beginning, ESPECIALLY with the dock taking up some precious screen real estate. So I made the dock hidden, at all times. In Windows I used Launchy to launch applications and open files and folders, which explains why I hardly have anything on my desktop, and why I rarely use the Start Menu. I used a similar application, Gnome Do, while I was using Ubuntu. So of course, on my Mac, I installed Quicksilver and forgo the dock completely.

Quicksilver is AWESOME (just want to put that in)!!!

· I’m still trying to get used to the keyboard on my MacBook Pro. When I started using it, the first thing I noticed is that it doesn’t have a Delete key! Noooo! Nor the Hash key (#), nor the Home, End, Page Up and Down keys. I do realise that some of these keys are available on the full Apple keyboard, but until I buy one of those, guess I’ll just have to make do. For Delete, I use Cmd+Backspace; spacebar and Shift+spacebar for Page Down/Up. I’m not sure whether to remap the Return key for opening files instead of renaming them or stick to the Mac way of opening files with Cmd+Down. I know a lot of people will say things like if you’re changing to a Mac, you should stop trying to do everything the Windows way cause otherwise you might as well stick to Windows but still, I use ‘open file’ more than ‘rename’ and no matter what people say, one key is more convenient than two, especially if they require both hands.

I missed the Hash key because I use Gmail often and now to delete an email I have to reach for the mouse and press the delete button instead of using the keyboard. You can get hash on the MacBook Pro but it doesn’t function as a keyboard shortcut anymore.

· Finally, I miss the ability to cut and paste files. On a Mac, you can cut and paste text but apparently this function is disabled for files. When I went to search about this online I found some (very patronising) Mac users who said things like “Why would you want to have such a stupid feature on a Mac? If you cut a file and then forget about it and you cut another file, then the old file will be lost. So be glad you don’t have that dangerous Windows feature.

What the HECK?!

I thought everybody knew this, but apparently not. When you cut a file in Windows, apart from the file being greyed out, nothing will happen to it. So if after that you shut down your computer or cut/copy another file, the initial file will remain where it was. It’s only when you use the Paste command that the file will be moved. Seriously, some people should really stop, think and do their research first before criticising something.

In any case, I miss the Cut/Paste feature since it’s more convenient than drag and drop. Not sure how likely, but I hope Apple changes its mind on this. At the moment, I use Quicksilver to map the ‘Move To’ command to a keyboard shortcut, essentially acting like a Cut/Paste command, though this only works for folders indexed by Quicksilver. I still use the drag (and Cmd) and drop for the one or two odd cases.

Those are several quirks that I encountered while changing from PC to Mac. Even so, despite them I haven’t regretted buying a Mac since my new MacBook Pro is AWESOME! Guess there’ll always be some transitioning issues when you change to something new, so I just have to adapt.

Oh, and just to mention, the iPod Touch that comes with the Mac is wonderful. I’m still trying to get used to not having easy access to the buttons (I had a Shuffle before this) so I have to take it out of my pocket to pause it whenever I need to talk to people. But it holds my whole library, so I don’t have to make a separate playlist on what I wanted to put on my Shuffle like before. I haven’t used much of its other features though. I wanted to surf the internet the other day while I was in Starbucks but then I found out that you have to pay for the wireless. Drat!

Just bought a new Sennheiser in-ear earphone to go with the iPod Touch. In retrospect, maybe I should have chosen an earphone that’s more towards rich and detailed sound rather than bass heavy since I don’t often listen to the kind of music with thumping bass but, oh well, this is good too. It is true when they say you can hear things that you can’t hear using normal cheap earphones. Also, now I can listen to music in trains and other noisy places since it tends to block outside noise. Yay!

The only downside: I have a feeling I need to be more careful in crossing busy roads. These earphones can be a bit life-threatening like that.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Marks Breakdown and Graduation

So yesterday morning my Director of Studies placed a sheet containing my marks breakdown for the final year exam in my pigeon hole. And from this sheet of paper apparently my best subject is Rheology and my worst is Electrochemical Engineering. And I did far better in the research project than I expected. And, to my delight, I was ranked 8th in the year (out of 45) which I think is the highest I’ve ever gotten in Cambridge. Yay, go me!

I also had my graduation yesterday, which was quite an experience. In Cambridge, graduation is done according to college. Trinity is one of the first ones while some other colleges will not have theirs until Saturday. At 8:15, we all gathered in Nevilles Court to take a graduation picture, and then we formed a procession for the march towards the Senate House. The M.Eng people with their gown and gold hood (actually it looks more copper-ish to me) were at the front, followed by the M.Sci people with their pink hood, some vet and medic degrees, and finally the B.A. people. At 10, we walked from Trinity through the streets of Cambridge before finally entering the Senate House. The ceremony was a bit weird and involved finger-pulling, kneeling and the Master clasping my fist while reciting some phrases in Latin. After that, we were released onto the Senate House Lawn where we took pictures, mingled around with other people and their families, and paid for expensive photographs and frames in which to put our degrees in.

So after the ceremony finished, I ended up with two degrees: the BA and the M.Eng.

Yay to the fruit of four years of hard work. Hope this is worth it.

Yaz, M.Eng.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Formal Breakfast

This might have been mentioned before, but I was part of the Trinity breakfast club. Well, it’s actually a bunch of people who are usually hungry in the mornings so we tend to go to breakfast everyday. And of course, it’s cool to refer to ourselves as the breakfast club. We even got a facebook group, heh heh.

Anyway, since the year is about to end, and me and some others are going to leave, we thought it would be nice to have a bit of a formal breakfast on the last Saturday of term. So, on Friday night, an email was sent around, telling people to wear formal attire and gowns as well to Saturday’s breakfast. Now, there might be rules against wearing the gown for totally made up formal events but heck, screw it anyway.

So we went to breakfast with suits and ties (dress for girls) and gowns and generally looking very formal and academic. Unfortunately not many Trinity students were there, this being end of term and all, and those few who were weren’t that fazed by a bunch of people in gowns. Drat! (Yes, we secretly crave the attention). Anyway, it was a good breakfast nonetheless, and we stayed there for quite a while until the kitchen staff started giving us glares which means get out of here already so that we can start cleaning the place! So we moved on to Starbucks. Yeah, in gowns and all.

Since it’s Saturday, more townspeople were up and about and giving us strange stares (which we secretly liked) and we relocated to Starbucks, taking over some of the sofas, drinking coffee and frappucinos and the small blueberry cream thingies that they gave out for free, which most of us don’t like except for me but maybe that was because I have a sweet tooth. And it felt nice being able to do this. Just chilling about with friends drinking coffee before we start the day (well, technically this is late morning so the day has pretty much started but that’s not the point) and I wonder how it’ll be when I go back home and start working. We’ll see.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Of May Ball, MacBook Pro and Cancelled Volleyball Tournament

Right, quite an eventful week. Now, where do I start?

The Trinity May Ball was held last Monday night. In preparation for that, I've been staying up until about six for a few nights before. Yeah, you can tell how excited I was. The last time I went to the May Ball was in my second year, and since this is my final year I won’t have any other opportunities to go after this. Not with people I know also attending, anyway.

The May Ball went well, despite some slight rain when I was queuing. When we entered, I went straight towards the oyster stand to have a few. In retrospect, I guess I should have gotten more of the oysters, and the sushi, and the stuff from the chocolate fountain, since you can eat as much as you want. My appetite is just not voracious enough at night compared to during the day.

There was a firework display early in the night, with music and all. Unfortunately this year, for some reason the smoke was obscuring the view to some extent, so we couldn’t see the firework in its full glory. I’m not sure what caused it, maybe it was the rain. Still, it’s nice to watch anyway, and you can see the number of people in punts on the river who gathered to watch them (who are not paying, I might add!).

We had a one day volleyball tournament yesterday. Or, at least, we’re supposed to. Unfortunately, only me, Lennart and two other teams (out of about six) turn up, so we ended up just going home. It was a pity, but I guess the tournament was organised at a very short notice, and yesterday was the last day of term anyway so most people were busy packing and leaving Cambridge. Oh well.

Finally, my MacBook Pro and the iPod Touch arrived yesterday! I’m really, really thrilled. If I haven’t told you before, I ordered them a day before Apple announced new models for the line. However, when I went to cancel it, I found that Apple has automatically upgraded my order to the new model. So now I got a 3.06 instead of 2.99 GHz dual core processor and 500 instead of 320 GB hard drive. It worked out to be around £30 cheaper than if I buy the new model in the first place.

Heh heh, so now I’ll be spending the day playing around and configuring my new Mac. Guess my next post will be from that =D


Friday, June 12, 2009

Yay, Happy, Yay!

Apparently, the day after I ordered my MacBook Pro, Apple had announced new models for the line. Talk about bad timing! I really should have paid more attention to these kinds of things. In any case, my friend advised me to cancel my order and just redo it again.

So I went online to check the order status and cancel it but, lo and behold! They have upgraded my order to the latest model. I was pleasantly surprised. That’s very considerate of them. For some reason I don’t think this will happen if I were to buy a PC. So yeah, my respect for Apple has gone up some more.

On an unrelated topic, my final year exam results were supposed to be out today (Friday). I was preparing for the worst, considering my anything but satisfactory results last year. However, a friend of mine called yesterday, saying that the results are already out at the Senate House. That’s a bit earlier than expected. Now, guess what I got?

Ta daaa!!


Heh heh heh, a first class degree from Cambridge. Although that’s not quite true. Cambridge degrees don’t have classes associated with them, so it will just say that I graduated with an M.Eng, full stop. The B.A. degree doesn’t even have a subject associated with it. Nevertheless, since a lot of people e.g. potential employers will probably ask, it’s much easier to quote the final year results than to go into a lengthy explanation. Which is why I think having good final year results are quite convenient.

So anyway, I’m really, really happy right now, and I can finally enjoy the May Ball in bliss. Yay!


Monday, June 08, 2009

An Indulgent Investment

My laptop that I’m using right now is four years old. It was my first computer ever, bought using my computer allowance money the summer before I went to Cambridge, because at that time I thought all university students should have one and also because I can’t stand the prospect of a whole summer without something to occupy myself with. The laptop is a Dell Inspiron 9300 and it served me well enough for the past four years. However, three or four years is the typical lifetime of a laptop computer, I guess. Are there actually people who use their computer for more than five years?

So in any case, I was thinking of buying a new one to be my second laptop. Guess what computer did I chose?

Ta daa!

It’s a MacBook Pro! Yeah, I know Macs are a bit more expensive but considering that I’m probably gonna use it for the next four years, I think that’s a good investment. Plus, my internship money from last year was sitting untouched in the bank anyway, heh heh.

I did a price comparison between buying it in the UK and back home in Malaysia and it turned out that it’s cheaper here. Two main reasons: Firstly, after the economic crisis the pound was less high with respect to RM compared to what it was before (did you know you can use Google to check the exchange rate? I knew they can convert units but currency as well? Wow!) Secondly, the Apple store gives around 15% discounts for university students here in the UK. So overall, it works out to be cheaper. Plus, I’ve never tried it but I heard you can claim VAT at the airport for stuff you buy in the UK. If that works then I can probably reclaim around £250 or so.

I was thinking of getting a 17’’ screen since I’m used to one (my current laptop is 17”) but a few people advised me to get the 15” one, which is about £200 cheaper, and used the money saved to buy a 20-plus inch external monitor instead. I think that’s a good idea, but I might buy it in Malaysia instead since I have to consider shipping if I buy it here.

So yeah, I just ordered my MacBook Pro yesterday and I really can’t wait for it to arrive. That and the iPod Touch (they have a £145 rebate offer if you buy it with a Mac). Hell yeah!


P.S. It’s June but Cambridge is getting colder. Why, why?!!!!