Archive for March, 2007

Fridays are for job interviews

Friday, March 9th, 2007

Boy, I’m sure glad that I have a schedule this semester with no classes on Friday, because I’d be missing all of them. It seems like every interviewing process I’m getting involved in has interviews on Friday. Next Friday I have an all-day interview in Virginia; two Fridays after that, I have an all-day interview in Pennsylvania. I’m also in more preliminary stages of interviewing with several other companies, and I don’t doubt that my other Fridays are going to fill up as well. Fridays are especially popular with the consultancy businesses, which generally have their people fly out to the location for Monday through Thursday and then return to the home office on Friday. So the only time any of them are really free to conduct interviews is on Friday.

Come to think of it, I think the undergraduate computer science advisers should recommend that second semester seniors don’t take any classes on Fridays. It worked out for me serendipitously, but in the absence of this advice, I could’ve easily made a mistake and ended up missing a good number of my classes. I think I’ll go dash off an email to the head adviser.

I hope that, by the end of this large interviewing process with many companies, I’ll have a job that I enjoy and that really uses my skills and abilities. That’s really all I’m looking for. Oh, and money wouldn’t hurt.

I’m in the right field

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

One of the major take-home lessons from the Career Fair at University of Maryland over the previous two days is: I’m in the right field. It was a general career fair for the whole campus, but, I would estimate, a full one-third of the employers there were looking for (or could use) computer science majors. It was the most sought-after major at the entire fair. The second most-wanted major was engineering.

What to glean from this? Well, we are in the age of the computer. Yes, the dot-com bubble did burst, but it’s not as if it suddenly made computers bad tools. Each year that goes by sees computers used more than ever before in the business world. Every medium-sized company or larger out there needs computer science people. They need IT workers. They need people to develop their internal applications. It’s not just software companies that need programmers anymore. It’s every company. I definitely got the feeling that I was in demand at the Career Fair; people’s eyes seemed to light up when I mentioned that I was graduating with a degree in Computer Science. I already have many interviews lined up and I’ve worked my way to the second level of interviewing with a couple big corporations that you’ve definitely heard of.

So, my advice to anyone going to college soon or just starting off college is this: consider a career in computer science. Unlike, say, a Psychology major, you will be in high demand for the skills that you picked up at college. Real-world programming experience makes for a great resume line-item. The prospective employers I talked with were impressed that I have open source development experience, significant Java development experience working in a group, and that I have three years professional software development experience in Microsoft Visual Studio (sorry, looks like I haven’t blogged this one yet).

One thing that confuses me is that the number of computer science majors graduating per year peaked just after the dot-com bubble, back when it was still “sexy” or the “hot thing”. Since then, the number of computer science majors has gone down significantly, yet the number of job openings in the field has only continued to increase year-after-year. Computers aren’t a fad. They’re now a permanent and important part of how every business works. It’s ludicrous that people were turned off from computer science by the bubble, but the truth is, computer scientists are needed now more than ever before.

Check out these Harvard bloggers

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

The Harvard Law School is running a WordPress MU (Multi User) installation that’s available to anyone with a .harvard.edu email address. Check out the list of hosted weblogs. Is the average Harvard blog smarter and more intellectual than the average blog overall? I honestly can’t figure it out. I’ve clicked through a dozen of these links, and only one of them is a blog that actually has some real expository content. Most of them are just test pages or test posts, while one is composed solely of pictures. All seem abandoned. Harvard Law is even hosting some SEO splogs. They really need to organize the list into two sections, with the top list consisting solely of blogs that have been updated within the past thirty days. This is easy to do; it could be done in software. I really would be interested in seeing what Harvard people are blogging about, if only I actually could see it.

Getting overtaken by my own blog

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

The new blog that I started just a few days ago with my friend, Supreme Commander Talk, is already getting as many daily visits as Cyde Weys Musings, which is four months old now. Yes, I chalk most of that up to my high-visibility posts in the official game forums. But, still, I’ve put a lot more work into this blog, and look at how easily it is surpassed. Sigh. Don’t worry, I’m not going to stop writing here or anything. It’s just clear that single-topic blogs are a lot more popular than personal blogs that try to cover a wide variety of topics, as I theorized earlier. Plus, it’s a lot easier to promote a single-topic blog than a random personal blog: just go to the central community.

If any of you bloggers are trying to get a wider readership, I would suggest taking your current blog and severely narrowing its focus, or alternatively, start a separate blog. The tighter the focus, the better; as long as there are enough people interested in that topic anyway. For instance, a Supreme Commander blog works because the game has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. A blog about collecting wedding cake topper miniatures, though, probably wouldn’t be as successful. One problem, though, is that a Supreme Commander blog, by its very nature, has a programmed-in half-life. The community right now is almost as large as it’ll ever be. Soon enough it’ll begin its inexorable decline, to the point that, a few years from now, the community may slip below the sustainability threshold and largely disappear altogether. Thus Supreme Commander Talk has a planned obsolescence of a few years, whereas I could pretty much continue writing Cyde Weys Musings indefinitely, so long as I’m alive, anyway.

Career Fair schwag

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Today was the first of two days of the Career Fair at University of Maryland, College Park. About 150 different employers were in town today looking for potential recruits. Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, CIA, NSA, IRS, Army, Northrup Grumman, Booz Allen, were all there, as well as many, many others. I talked with many employers, got some good leads on a potential job after I graduate in May, and distributed all 14 copies of my resume that I brought along (I’ll be bringing more to the second day of the Fair tomorrow).

But this post isn’t about the Career Fair in general. It’s about the schwag. That’s right, the free schwag that employers distribute to people who come up to their booths and talk with them. Here’s what I got:

  • Northrup Grumman
    • A strong, sturdy blue plastic clip with a magnet on the back for sticking to a refrigerator, I suppose. It looks like it could hold a two-hundred page paper, if you really so desired. Of course it has the Northrup Grumman logo and name on it.
    • A nice black, silver, and blue pen. This isn’t your typical Made in China throw-away; it’s actually high-quality and I’ll be using it regularly. It has the Northrup Grumman logo and name on it as well.
  • Central Intelligence Agency
    • A refrigerator magnet with the CIA name and logo on it; the logo is a bald eagle over a shield with a 16-pointed star.
    • A metallic lapel pin that has the CIA name and logo on it. I should put this on and go pretend I’m an Agent. Or not.
  • Boeing
    • A set of five cheap pens. Each pen has a different colored highlighter on the opposite end: yellow, blue, orange, green, and pink. Each pen has the Boeing logo and employment website on it.
  • Vanguard
    • A cheap mechanical pencil with the Vanguard name and employment website printed on it (somehow I ended up with two of these).
    • Some sort of weird circular white disc that unscrews to reveal a moist black foam that supposedly contains a shoe polish. I’m not going to risk it. Vanguard is written across the front.
  • Lockheed Martin
    • A nifty cell phone ear bud with a wire loaded onto an automatically recoiling spring feed. Too bad it’s not compatible with my cell phone. It has the Lockheed Martin logo on it, but curiously, not the name of the company. Not everyone is going to know what this logo is.
  • National Security Agency
    • A really cheap transparent green plastic pen with National Security Agency and the website written across it.
    • A nifty black aluminum carabiner with integrated flashlight. It has National Security Agency and the website written on it. The difference in quality between this and the pen is like the difference between night and day.
  • Cigital
    • A cheap-feeling Made in China transparent blue pen with company logo, name, and website on it. It is unique in that the push button on the end of it is a weird squishy ball, not the usual rod as employed in more traditional pens.
  • JDSU
    • A nifty socketed screwdriver set. It’s a cheapish gray plastic case with JDSU written on it that folds out to reveal some real metal socketed attachments: four Phillips heads, two flat heads, an extension rod, and two rods, one embedded with a Phillips head and one with a flat head. The drivers socket in to a hole along the foldout hinge, to provide maximum torque for using the tool. Unfortunately, the hole the metal drivers plug into is only made out of plastic, and I could conceivably see it becoming stripped when lots of force is applied.
  • Intel
    • A full pad of graph paper with the Intel logo on every page. This is actually pretty nice.
  • Cisco Systems
    • A nifty silver combination calculator/word time clock. It slides apart to reveal access to the keys. Despite being Made in China, the quality on this feels really nice and sturdy. It has the company name and logo prominently displayed on it. It includes a faux leather carrying case.
  • Citrix
    • A black T-shirt emblazoned with company name and slogan vacuum-packed into a small, compact disc.

So that’s everything I got in two hours of Career Fairing. The winner for best schwag is a tie between Cisco and JDSU: Cisco’s schwag is higher quality, but JDSU’s is more useful. I should have gotten a lot more schwag, but to be honest, it wasn’t my top priority at all. Most of the schwag I got was purposefully given to me by the recruiters after talking with them for awhile (so the schwag you see listed above is heavily biased towards companies I might be interested in working for). I outright forgot to grab some schwag from some of the other companies there, like Microsoft, who, incidentally, had some really nice schwag. It probably doesn’t give off the best impression to employers if you immediately grab for all of their free stuff, anyway.

So I’m going to the second day of the career fair tomorrow and should get some more schwag out of that. In addition to everything I mentioned above, I also have mountains of paper, literature, and business cards given to me by the recruiters.

The tie lady

Monday, March 5th, 2007

Back in January I went with my dad to the department store to get a nice suit for interviews, which I am currently in the midst of. As clothes shopping experiences go, it was pretty typical: boring, annoying, awkward; basically, an onerous task to bear only out of necessity. But there was one bright spot amidst the monotony of trying out seemingly identical suit after suit: the tie lady. Yes, the store had an employee whose sole specialty, whose raison d’etre if you will, was ties.

And she was good at them, too. Apparently there’s a whole art to picking ties. They have to match with the suit, the shirt, and even the color of ones hair. Apparently you don’t want a tie whose stripes are too similarly spaced to the stripes on a striped suit. And you want some of the colors to match, but not most of them; the tie is supposed to stand out against the shirt, but not clash. My brief superficial glimpse at these rules implies the existence of a whole system of interlocking tie equations, with variables ranging from stripe width to stripe frequency to exoticness of the tie pattern. It’s a real science; it just simply hasn’t been formally studied yet. There’s a PhD out there waiting to be earned, if anyone’s interested.

But not only did she know ties, she cared about ties. She worried over optimizing the final value output of my tie equations to a degree several standard deviations above the mean for salespeople. She was Caribbean and spoke in a charming accent. And she was nice. Unfortunately, she was on the lower rung of the sales ladder (you didn’t think tie salespeople made the big bucks, did you?). She didn’t earn commission on the sale, versus the senior saleswoman who sold me the suit with much less aplomb and made a hefty sum. It’s inequality, I say!

I admire her for taking so much time to make sure everything was right with my tie even though she didn’t stand to gain anything from it. She could’ve simply just pointed at the tie tables and said, “Here are your choices.” But she didn’t. I guess she just gets lonely, sitting by the tie tables all day, waiting for someone to come along and need her help picking out that most useless of clothing items. Hopefully she’ll manage to work her way up the ladder and start earning some commission. Unfortunately, that means she will no longer be the tie lady, which will be a huge loss for us all.

Diebold to get out of the business of stealing elections?

Monday, March 5th, 2007

Diebold Inc. may be getting out of the election-stealing business. They’re starting to realize that their subsidiary, Diebold Election Systems, is giving them a really negative public image. Electronic voting machines are only a minor part of Diebold’s business; they make a lot more money on their ATMs, for instance. But it looks like the reputation for their terribly flawed voting machines is starting to rub off on the rest of the business. Would you buy an ATM for a company with a horrific track record in a similar product?

So Diebold is probably going to sell off its electronic voting subsidiary. I just hope they can’t find a buyer. Diebold’s e-voting products need to die, not simply be repackaged under another name. They’re so insecure that they represent a travesty to the entire electoral process. State after state is pulling the plug on their Diebold machines citing massive problems.

It’s really a pity, too. Electronic voting is the future of voting. It’s the next big thing. But because all of the big players are utterly incompetent (and possibly even working to ensure Republican victories), widespread e-voting with assurances of integrity in the United States is still a long ways off.

Amazing astronomical video of a Lunar transit

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

This video shows a transit of the Moon across the Sun taken by the STEREO-B satellite (it is one of a pair of satellites designed to take 3D images of the Sun). I found this video through Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy site, and he’s right, it is absolutely breathtaking. Make sure to download the best quality version of the video. At 20MB for 8 seconds it’s a bit hefty, but it’s worth it. Where else can you see motion video of one celestial object crossing in front of another?!

Buzz watch: lawyer bait

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

Joystiq is using (and has possibly coined) a clever new term: lawyer bait. They use it in reference to a fan-created Pokemon MMORPG currently under development. This game is lawyer bait, of course, because as soon as Nintendo gets word of it they’re going to issue a flurry of Cease & Desist orders and Pokemon Online is going to go under faster than a tugboat with a Titanic-sized hole punched in its bow. Pokemon Online is even ripping all of the graphics off of the Pokemon games, and basically only changing the gameplay mechanics to make it multiplayer.

It’s a shame. Pokemon Online could be a great game. Hell, I remember how much I enjoyed playing those games back in middle school (and I won’t confirm it completely, but possibly more recently). But Pokemon Online needs a name change and it needs its own graphics. It’ll still be a lot of fun even if it doesn’t use all of the official Pokemon images, moves, etc. I can’t imagine spending my programming time on a project with a huge bullseye painted on it and I hope the devs on Pokemon Online realize the futility of the project.

As for lawyer bait, another project that immediately comes to mind is Goldeneye Source. Goldeneye Source is a remake of the classic Nintendo64 game Goldeneye using Half-Life 2’s Source engine. Unfortunately, it uses all of the same weapons and levels as the original and its graphics are close recreations of the original game. I’ve played it and it’s a lot of fun, but unfortunately, it’s just one C&D letter away from totally being shut down. It’s lawyer bait.

My new blog is up and running

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

My new blog, Supreme Commander Talk, is now up and running. I’m writing it with my friend Grokmoo. So don’t expect any more Supreme Commander posts on Cyde Weys Musings; they will all now be on Supreme Commander Talk. I’ve started this new blog per my own concerns that this blog was focusing on a range of topics that was too diverse. This should help alleviate those issues somewhat. Now, I can feel free to write extremely in-depth posts on Supreme Commander and not have to worry that the majority of my audience doesn’t know what I’m talking about, because everyone looking at the SupComTalk blog will be going there exclusively for the Supreme Commander content.