Category Archives: Computer Science

Where am I heading in life?

Last night, I have asked myself the question where I was heading in life. While I am studying computer science here in Innsbruck, my destiny as such seems not to be very clear. Which means, that while I am indeed interested in what I am studying, I haven’t gotten a single clue on what I will realize with my studies one day. Of course, one could argue, that it would be a reasonable approach to just let time go by and see what will happen – yet that is not the way I am used to do things.
You see. In this first semester you will not learn anything new, or let’s call it anything really new. Many of the other students are making their first contact with Linux, or programming. So, different lectures are generally based on teaching you the basic stuff you need to know. The actual matter that gives me headaches is “Software Engineering I”. We get to do some exercises. Alright – I haven’t gotten a problem with that. I actually like to do those little applications. But, the way we are told to write them is more than bogus in my, in this case not so humble, opinion.
The language we are working with is pure C. At the beginning I though – awesome. At least a decent language. Actually, I feared that they would throw Java at us right away. Now, the exercises are basic things – which means they are not very complicated – mostly because the problems aren’t difficult or complex to be implemented. But, to work out the exercises we aren’t allowed at the beginning to use very simple and every day things like loop. And by loops I mean things like a for loop or do – while. Great! We now officially have to type tons of lines, because we haven’t seen those techniques yet in the lecture.
The whole situation gets even better. At the beginning of the semester, everybody was told to enroll at a C crash course. Where a professor briefly went through all of the basic techniques – including but not limited to loops in general.
Where I want to go with this long introduction is, that I feel that even after I have gone through the extensive years of studying, I will not be any further in practical terms. Sure, I will be able to calculate resistances of different circuits. I will know how to calculate how a capacitor will “load up”, and how electromagnetic induction will change this and that. – I will also have an in-dept knowledge of different algorithms and procedures. – And I will definitely know way more on hardware near programming. A matter which interests me quite a lot.
At the moment, I see studying more like of a school where you are taught to learn. Which is interesting and very useful. However, I am used to try and research until I can solve a given problem. And while this hasn’t always been true, at this point in time it is.
Note that I am massively dramatizing the facts here. But what on earth is all this about? I really can’t tell you at the moment. So, what about giving up studying and take up work? Great idea indeed. However, there are some limitations and problems about that. Most importantly, there are still many things I have to learn, which is about normal I guess. I guess, studying is by there a necessity. Another point is, that probably nobody is going to hire you anyhow. (If you are wondering what all the fuss is about at this stage, you can happily jump out.)
However, how many people are able to exactly tell what they can realize – or even better, what they can not… I do not know. But I imagine I should get back to the topic. I am not great at telling stories, so let’s cut short on those.
I thought about what it would be like to work for Google. That’s right I am talking about the company some people are big fans of while other people would want to see them doomed. Working at Google seems to be great. I do not want to say that working there is as good as spending your free time with your friends. Certainly not. Work is work after all. What I am saying is that there are a lot of people who know what they can do, and what they can not do. Which implies that nobody is going to try to persuade you that they can do something, which they can’t. I imagine this to be an intrinsic consequence of the fact that somebody who doesn’t know how to realize decent things in his particular matter of expertise will not be found there.
Where am I heading? At this point I do not know. Sure, it would be great to work at Google. Sure it would be great at a company which worships actual knowledge rather than a degree in this or that, or a paper in this or that matter. However, the chance that I will ever be able to work at such a place is very close to zero. How come?
Well, I think that we touch a major problem our world is in at the moment right here. While I can not understand why anybody would act that way, companies seem to prefer to employ people with degrees, rather than people with the motivation to deliver a great work. The strength of somebody who wants to realize something, is in my opinion far greater than the possibilities of somebody who has enrolled somewhere, because the company was interested in hiring somebody with a degree.
What I want to say by there is actually, that the blog entry I read the other day, over at the official Google Blog, has kind of gotten me into thinking about the situation I am in. This post has actually shed another light on Google, as I knew it. And it was indeed very interesting to read about some the people working for them. – Because those people were motivated. – Because they could change something. At such a place I would like to work one day, not linger in some basement programming stuff, and never seeing the daylight. At such a place I would like to work, because the people respect each other; and I or you for that matter won’t be the freak from the basement or the freak from next office who is the only one not to have any social contacts with co-workers because he is lost in his world of bits and bytes. At such a place I would like to work, because the people running the company have understood that atmosphere and motivated people are worth a hell of a lot more than people who “frequent” the office, because they gain money there. People at Google are motivated, because they can change something, or at least they got the feeling they can.
Imagine a place where you do not have that feeling. That is not a place I want to work at, and by there that is not a place I will head to. By there, I plan to one day sent my resume in.

Jabber Client

I have been on a long quest for a Jabber client that fits my needs. I have tested and used for some time quiet a few different ones. PSI (Linux, OS X), Adium (OS X), Gaim (Linux) and some others of which I have forgotten the names. Still none of them really did the job I intended it to do.

  • PSI is great, but it crucially lags a decent integration in Gnome. Even worse is the fact that it doesn’t “understand” the “geometry” flag. Aside that it really does about everything I could imagine.
  • Gaim is nice as well, it has a nice integration yet it just doesn’t stop to get in my way. Of course this can be an intrinsic consequence of my non-existent skill to configure the piece of software correctly; but still. I just can’t work decently with it.
  • Adium falls out of the row, as I have stopped using OS X for my every day work some time back. It’s not that I do not like it anymore, or that I think that it is broken or whatnot. My notebook is my main workstation at the moment because I am doing trips from Innsbruck to Luxembourg quite often these days.

Today I found what I think is a gem in terms of perfection regarding Jabber Clients. It’s called Gajim, and it really does everything I want it to do, which is great, and best of all, it even has a nice integration into Gnome.

Edit: Cut out some truely useless stuff.

On the London bombings

Something to think about:

I am astounded at the number of commentators, like Thomas Friedman (“Muslims in danger,” Views, July 9), who refuse to link what happened in London with what is happening in Afghanistan and Iraq. Britain and the United States are killing Muslims by the thousands in these two countries, yet we are shocked when there is reprisal.

There are not just extremists as Friedman would have us believe. They are humiliated people fighting back with the weapons they have available. When the dust settles and sanity returns, the war on Iraq will be judged as one of the great catastrophic blunders in all of history.

This is a quote of a Letter to the Editor to the International Herald Tribune, by Robert Billyard, Langley, British Columbia, published on June 12th. The highlighting is my own, and has not been reproduced as in the original.

When consumers do the work

This is another old blog entry of mine I want to have available again. Be assured, I will not start to republish my entire blog. Partly I am way to lazy to do this, and partly that would be extremely bad manners in my opinion.

The reason why I republish a bit of the blog entry over here is not only because I like it, but because I didn’t think, of the situation the quoted article describes, in such a way before. Look at the situation like at the famous egg of Columbus. Which ultimately makes me look like a stupid old fish, but well… It’s interesting, in my opinion.

The article has been written by Nicols Fox and has been published by the International Herald Tribune on Friday, May 6th 2005 on page 11.

It began in the 1970s. Or at least that’s when I became conscious of it. Americans began cleaning up after themselves in fast-food restaurants.

I had been living abroad and didn’t know about such things, but my children, faster to pick up on American cultural expectations, made sure I took back my tray and put my trash in the appropriate bin.

Cleverly, the restaurants made this choice not only easy but gratifying. Customers were given the sense of being good citizens or helping out the teenage minimum-wage workers who wiped off the tables.

I was never fooled. I knew what was going on. We were doing the restaurant’s work, and if we didn’t we felt guilty. My children would shrink into their coats while people stared disapprovingly if I tried to abandon a cluttered table.

Having a quick look on Google just revealed me, that the IHT got an online version of the partly quoted article.

As ridiculous as it might seem. I decided that I would no more clean up my desk in fast food restaurants. I am actually not used to visit McDonald’s. The only fast food I like is the one you can get at Burger King. That said, they do clean up the tables (at least the Burger Kings I have visited – over here, in good old Europe), which means that you do not have to do it.