Tag Archives: computers


I’m a fifth year computing student.

No, wait.

I’m five years into my three-year degree.

Still wrong.

My degree usually takes three years, but this is my fifth.

You don’t really realise how bad it sounds until you say out it loud. Say it out loud to a friend you haven’t seen in a few years, and you might as well wish for the earth to swallow you up right there and then.

I guess whichever way I put it, there’s no getting around the fact that saying that “I’m a fifth-year computing student that isn’t doing honours” is awkward as all hell. And really, as awkward as it might be, it’s fair enough — it is a pretty awkward situation to be in, if I’m honest.

If you’ve bought stuff online from the US before, you might have had the option of shipping your goods via USPS. The United States Postal Service is kind of weird in that their basic service is called “first class”, and a faster service is called priority1. On the surface, this makes very little sense: if you want something shipped fast and have the choice between “first class” and “priority”, which one do you choose? You might lean towards first class, as that usually represents the best out of all the possible choices (it certainly does in terms of airline tickets, anyway), but then you realise that priority is more expensive. This is totally weird the first time you come across it, and if you’re not careful, can lead to a package arriving later than you expected. Depending on how impatient you are, this may be the worst thing in the world, or you might not care.

For the longest time, I’ve put “student” as my occupation in forms and surveys. But it was only the other day that I realised what this actually meant: for me, it means the only priority in my life should be to finish my degree and graduate. Not to be proficient at Mass Effect 3 multiplayer on the platinum difficultly level. Not to capture the flag in Battlefield 3’s End Game. Not to operate like an operator in ARMA 2’s Wasteland. Because when it comes down to it, I should have no other priority than to graduate this semester. Actually, I could have graduated last semester too, but I got lazy.

Now that I think about it, I get lazy a lot.

It just gets to a certain point in the semester where there’s just too much work to do and too little time to do it in, so I just… don’t do any of it. And as stupid as that sounds, I usually write it off with excuses like “it’s just a Benny thing” or “I couldn’t have passed that unit internally anyway” and skive off the exam.

I’ve long considered the possibility that I have an issue with how University-level assessment works, in that it encourages cramming and rote-learning (memorising stuff, then forgetting it over the summer break), and to a certain extent, that’s true. I don’t like how it works. Java? I did that in first year, and I’ll be damned if I can remember even a fraction of it.

I’ve also considered the fact that, for the most part, I just don’t get programming. Everyone tells the joke about “to understand recursion, you must first understand recursion”, but recursion still makes very little sense. Looking at my code these days, it’s just really basic-level stuff; methods/functions that might do complex things, but it still consists of basic if-else statements at the core. There’s heaps of technical stuff I still don’t understand, either. I would have thought that computing students would be able to regex their way out of any given problem. I would have thought that computing students would be able to code fluently in several different programming languages, instead of constantly having to refer to documentation to figure out what any given function does. Maybe I need to re-adjust my view on programming as a whole (as in, how it “works”), but I would have thought that by now, programming would be easier than it is2.

All this makes me wonder: at the end of my degree, what will I have actually learned? I mean, anyone can copy and paste code from Stack Overflow. It might take a few more skills to work out what any given code does or why it doesn’t work, but what are those skills worth? A few years of your life? Tens of thousands of dollars in HECS fees?

Education or no, what you get out of it will depend on what your expectations are going in. I’ve wondered what life without a degree might be like — I see successful people all the time doing things that are completely unrelated to the degree they attained in university — and as much as I might have wanted to quit and drop out, they’ve all said it’s a good thing to get under my belt.

So I guess there’s nothing else to do but grin and bear it. As much as it sucks now, it probably won’t suck as much after, right?


  1. USPS also has an actual express service available, too. In order of fastest to slowest: express, priority, and first class. Go figure. 
  2. Maybe I needed to lower my expectations of what a computing degree would do for me, as if I would magically become some gung-ho programmer overnight. Tangentially related: maybe we expect too much of geeks

Where To From Here?

You may have noticed that things around here are a little funky.

They have been from the start, actually – the very first post was about how Steve Jobs thinks that computers are like a bicycle for our minds, and I said that that was the direction that this blog was going to take.

From there, we meandered though the plains of “infrequent and random posts”, the introuduction of the “is/are AWESOME!” semi-meme (pronounced meem, as in meeem, Martin P and co), and then on to what we now call the “Press This” infatuation – where I cross-post a random article that I find interesting from the World Wide Web.

Yeah, that’s all good and well, but I don’t want to be yet another one of those carbon-copy bloggers that post random crap all over their blog.

So, I’ve come up with a few ideas as to where this blog is heading next:

  • Press This will still be used.
    I’ll still cross post things occasionally – things from obscure corners of the web, things from obscure websites that the people reading my blog won’t necessarily be familiar with.
  • I’ll continue to post posts with links. Lots of links.
    Live I’ve been doing, posts will lots of links will stay. They’ll somewhat replace those Press This posts that were littering the blog… Sure, pictures are nice, but sometimes you just have to share it all, you know?
  • From the Book of Face
    A new section will be introduced, where I post things from Facebook. This will contain mostly explanations of my Facebook status updates, as well as a bunch of other stuff.
  • Fun@Work, Fun@Uni
    So, Uni 2009 looms ahead. Just like the currently single-post Fun@Work, Fun@Uni will endeavour to bring you the best moments from Uni life. From the stresses of assignments, to the joys of meeting new people (/sarcasm), every “lulz moment” will be recorded for your pleasure, right here.

As for the “infrequent and random posts”, as well as the “is/are AWESOME!” posts, don’t worry – they’ll stay.

Got suggestions for what else this blog needs? Shout out in comments below, and I’ll endeavour to hear you out.

I Love WINE!

Well, as some of you may already know, I’m one of those people that game on a Mac. One of the select few, who, despite crappy integrated graphics, try their best to game (CS: Source being the FPS of choice) on what hardware they have.

Now for some strange reason I can get Source to run under Steam (the gaming portal of choice) under Windows, under Apple’s way of Bootcamp – which is pretty much an emulated BIOS, since Mac’s use EFI nowadays.

However, under native Windows it runs great – as a slideshow. I get maybe 5-10fps – totally unplayable.

I even took the step to borrow and upgrade a computer that was just lying around to be able to run Source – something it now does a LITTLE better than it did. Only thing I did was up the graphics card from a Nvidia MX440 to a FX5500 – however, the mobo’s audio is screwed as a direct result of me giving the board a good shock a couple of years back – luckily, the processor, ram, HDD, and all the other parts are still fine. We replaced the case, PSU, and the board now works – albeit loudly as the fan for the PSU is attached to the heatsink by 4 different screws, none of which quite fit properly. Result? Massive vibrations and noise.

Luckily, I’m an advocate (glorified beta-tester) for this great app called CrossOver, by CodeWeavers. It’s basically a cross-platform app that emulates a VERY BASIC Windows environment so that your Windows apps like Office, Internet Explorer *shudder*, and other productivity-based apps. I use their derivative product called CrossOver Games, their Windows emulator designed purely for games (and Mac/Linux gamers!) in mind. From their website:

Based on the latest Wine Games development work, CrossOver Games allows Mac and Linux users to run their favorite Windows games in the environment of their choice. No rebooting, no switching to a virtual machine, and no Windows Operating System license required; CrossOver gives you the best performance possible if you’re not running on Windows.

For those of you that don’t know, it’s based on the WINE package – one of those recursive acronyms for “Wine Is Not an Emulator”. Basically it uses X11 under OSX for GUI stuff, and then wineloader is the process that makes the magic happen in the background.

Again, those of you that are in the know would have heard that WINE 1.0 was released not too long ago – CrossOver games was updated as a result of this. Now before the update to WINE 1.0, I had a couple of strange issues – things that I put down to WINE incompatibilities.

However, one particular issue frustrated the heck out of me – in Source under CX Games, I couldn’t play on Internode servers.because of their “server start screen”, that screen when you join a server, and says things like “Don’t Cheat!”, and “The player of the week is NOT YOU!” Now for some strange reason, I couldn’t click on the “OK” button underneath that screen on any Internode server. Bizzarely, GameArena (BigPond’s gaming portal) servers didn’t load the “Don’t Cheat!” screen either, but I could just hit OK and then all would be, okay.

With the WINE 1.0 update, and the corresponding CX Games update to 7.1, I am pleased to report that Internode servers on Source, under CX Games on OSX, now work.

Here blogs a happy, integrated-graphics card, Mac OSX gamer, all thanks to CodeWeavers and Crossover Games. And, of course, the WINE dev crew. Kudos to you, guys!

Comments below.


Either I fail at Java, or Java just simply fails.

To me, it’s as simple as that – no ifs, ands, or buts.

Today in Computer Science I was trying to create either a Fibonacci sequence generator/recursion experiment (Input nth term of Fibonacci sequence, program then spits it back out the correct number in the Fibonacci sequence) or a stopwatch/number incrementer (press start to start incrementing, press stop to stop incrementing, press restart to reset counter) – none of which worked!

Sure, I didn’t have all the necessary skills (how DO you differentiate between different buttons?), but for something to be considered good (therefore, not fail), I run it past this rule: if it’s sufficiently complicated enough for me to have to refer back to the textbook or included manual, then the developer/creator has made it too complicated. To be honest, those projects weren’t outside the scope of my knowledge, but they were challenging enough to make me think.

If I ever get those projects working, I’ll post back here.

Either that, or Cocoa/Objective-C for the win.

Computers are like a bicycle for our minds.

Hey there,

I just wanted to open with a video from Youtube about Steve Jobs. It’s where he’s talking about the speed of different species here on earth, and at the end he says something along the lines of: “But when humans on bicycles were measured, they blew past every other species by a huge margin. That’s what computers are like for our minds – a device which enhances our brains to such an extreme…

Truly, truly great words. Massively profound.

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did – Steve really has some awesome things to say.

Now the main reason for this post is to explain why this site is here, and a the message that goes along with the blog description, “Computers are like a bicycle for our minds.” Well, you already know why I’ve put the blog description as I have – computers are excellent, and that’s about all there is to it.

But this blog exists as sorta of a personal thing that I whipped up in the period after mid year exams in 2008 – hopefully, it’ll still be here by the time I have kids.

Since we’re talking about personal, why don’t your read my interview at Mactalk? It’s available here, but you’ll need an account to read it.

It’s pretty simple, but if you were looking for something a little more glamerous, try freshbytes, my other website.

Last but not least – stick around. You never know what you might find 😀

Comments below!