I Love You, FYI

Whatever was written on the paper, it must have some kind of political meaning. So far as he could see there were two possibilities. One, much the more likely, was that the girl was an agent of the Thought Police, just as he had feared. He did not know why the Thought Police should choose to deliver their messages in such a fashion, but perhaps they had their reasons. The thing that was written on the paper might be a threat, a summons, an order to commit suicide, a trap of some description. But there was another, wilder possibility that kept raising its head, though he tried vainly to suppress it. This was, that the message did not come from the Thought Police at all, but from some kind of underground organization. Perhaps the Brotherhood existed after all! Perhaps the girl was part of it! No doubt the idea was absurd, but it had sprung into his mind in the very instant of feeling the scrap of paper in his hand. It was not till a couple of minutes later that the other, more probable explanation had occurred to him. And even now, though his intellect told him that the message probably meant death — still, that was not what he believed, and the unreasonable hope persisted, and his heart banged, and it was with difficulty that he kept his voice from trembling as he murmured his figures into the speakwrite.

He rolled up the completed bundle of work and slid it into the pneumatic tube. Eight minutes had gone by. He re-adjusted his spectacles on his nose, sighed, and drew the next batch of work towards him, with the scrap of paper on top of it. He flattened it out. On it was written, in a large unformed handwriting:

I LOVE YOU.

That’s from 1984 (finally got around to it =D).

‘Tis beautiful.

I hear it so much nowadays (no, not directed towards me!) that the phrase no longer stirs up any thought. But this is different. I almost fell into the toilet (jk!) when I read that. It was a big ‘aww..’ moment.

“I Love You” used to require immense courage, crazy preparation, and well-timed execution. Now it’s a day to day thing.

I propose we reserve “I Love You” for informational purposes only, to not contaminate it, and find some other phrase to convey day-to-day emotions. How about, “I’m hungry”? =D

Robotics

I just spent about 20 hours last week reading up on robotics, when I should be doing… many other more important things.

Mostly from this site –
http://www.societyofrobots.com/

They explain things assuming you have no electrical knowledge at all (I have almost half a degree! =P), so it was a pretty easy read. Still very interesting concepts, though. Surprising how simple some of the algorithms are that will allow you to do very cool things.

I’m not sure how I found it, but it’s amazing. It’s like… a whole new world for me =P

I think I just found myself a project for this 2 weeks break – a 2 wheels (differential drive) robot that does something simple. Following shadows or something.

Went on a shopping spree and ordered probably way more things than I will ever need… $150 worth of resistors, capacitors, transistors, regulators, random chips, etc. servo motors (4!), photoresistors, phototransistors, infrared LEDs (for making an encoder), an IR range finder (from ebay!), a bunch of sensors, a microcontroller board (Arduino Duemilanove, amazing stuff. why build my own if I can get an Aruduino for $30 =P), and a huge NiMH battery pack.

Let’s see how this will turn out…

Most of the things have arrived already (from digikey). Still waiting for the servos. Played with the microcontroller board quite a bit. They make it too easy =P digitalWrite(), digitalRead()… I almost lost hope in microcontrollers after the crazy PIP project (all assembly).

It’s a strange feeling. I’m usually a software guy, but this stuff attracted me like nothing ever did before. Maybe it’s what I really want to do. Maybe I’ll even switch to electrical :O.

Hope I didn’t just dump a huge amount of money in for nothing =P. At least now I have my own stock of electronic components. Took me 2 hours to sort everything… and I somehow forgot to order wires. Guess I’ll be stealing some from school =P.
IMAG0023

Artistic talents much?
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The aftermath
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Interview Frenzy

6 interviews in 2 weeks. First of which is the first ever interview in my life!

It’s interesting to see how my level of preparation drops quickly through the interviews.

For the first one, I spent a whole weekend reading up on C++, a whole day researching the company and the interviewer, 1 hour planning the trip, printed google maps, printed several extra copies of resume, and went to bed an hour early. For the third one and beyond, I only checked translink, Google maps, and their website (and maybe wikipedia).

The first interview was with Avigilon, a security camera company, for a developer position, in Vancouver downtown (Yaletown). Beautiful early afternoon, narrow street with lots of parked cars. Cafes and restaurants everywhere. It was a regular office building, felt kind of creepy, though. Dark corridors, narrow halls, small elevator. And locked washrooms!

I arrived 30 minutes early, so I walked around and only went in 15 minutes early. It was a warehouse-looking place, apparently their shipping center or something. The interviewer led me to a huge conference room with big TVs and not much else, with a written test!

The whole test is about multi-threading. Some theory questions (including one about thread priority inversion that I didn’t get. read about it afterwards. interesting problem), and some code questions about writing a multithreaded function to satisfy some timing and synchronization requirements, and making a class thread-safe. Wasn’t too bad.

The interviewer came back after 30 minutes, and went over some very easy (BBI?) questions – plans after graduation, etc, and talked about my previous projects.

The second one was Inetco, a financial data processing company in Burnaby, in the middle of nowhere on Lougheed Highway (had to take a bus and 2 skytrains and walk about 1km!). Dark rainy day, too.

2 interviewers for this one – a VP R&D and an unidentified subject. Very nice people, basically went down my resume and talked about my technical projects. Spent a lot of time on my chess AI, how I developed and debugged it, unit tests and things like that. And then there was a whiteboard test. Had to write 2 functions, one to reverse a string in-place, and one to find the depth of a binary tree. Easy stuff, and I tried to vocalize my thinking out loud, too, which I think helped both them and me. Afterwards, they left the room for a few minutes to talk about it, and came back with a job offer!

The third one was with Blue Castle, a local game studio. One of my most anticipated jobs! In an industrial zone… kind of, in Burnaby. Nice reception area with comfy sofa, soft lighting, weird paintings, and a stack of game magazines. I first met with a hiring manager (I think?). Very friendly and enthusiastic, talked about the company, the work environment (including the fact that some people come to work in big fluffy slippers), what they are doing, and gave me a tshirt! He left, and my 2 interviewers came in. A technical director and a software engineer (I like to think of him as a Russian hacker, though :D, that’s a lot of respect from me). Talked mostly about my projects (almost the same stuff), and some very interesting technical questions – what are some ways to make a program that crashes? what’s polymorphism and how is it implemented in C++ (this one I didn’t know)? and some more general OOP stuff. And then there are some whiteboard coding questions – to write a function that sorts a linked list in the simplest possible way (I cheated by just dumping everything into a vector, call std::sort on it, and dump it back into the list), and… something else I don’t remember. Got a job offer the next day on the phone, and had a little chat with the hiring manager about the job which all sounded very interesting. It will be a very tough choice between this and EA, assuming EA wants me.

The next one is Broadcom in Richmond. QA position, not much to say. The interview was pretty uneventful (waited there for half an hour – I was 15 minutes early and he was 15 minutes late). Random questions (mostly him talking), really nothing technical, and a tour around the lab… ended in half an hour.

Last but definitely not least, Electronic Arts!. Developer position. I’m actually very surprised that I got the interview, since apparently not many second years get developer positions, and even less at EA. First round was a phone interview at the Co-op office. Talked about my independent projects, marks, why I want to work at EA, gaming passions, what team I want to work with, etc. I think I did pretty well. Next day I got a call and scheduled an in-studio interview!

Arrived 45 minutes early (speeding bus!), so I waited at the huge reception area, playing their PS3 (there was also a Wii and an xbox, all side by side). The place is just… gorgeous. They have a “small” campus there that’s like… the size of 10 soccer fields. How do I know? because it has a soccer field right there for scale!
http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&source=hp&q=ea&ie=UTF8&radius=0.11&sll=49.247603,-123.009329&sspn=0.002423,0.004823&rq=1&ev=p&hq=ea&hnear=&ll=49.247897,-123.009608&spn=0.002511,0.004823&t=h&z=18&iwloc=A
Lots of trees, too, felt very refreshing. The inside was equally awesome (at least the reception area). Glass walls, stylistic furnishing and decoration, very spacious, lots of displays and posters. Strong contrast between the “natural” feel when you look outside the glass walls and the futuristic feel inside.

When it’s about time, I signed in at their automated guest sign in station thing. Type your name, and your host’s name, and she will be notified somehow and come out to get you! Very cool. My “contact” turned out to be a UBC commerce co-op. I was a little nervous at that time (I don’t usually feel nervous at interviews anymore… EA was special), and little chat with a pretty girl always helps =D. Oh, and I have to mention that, while I was waiting in the lobby, I saw MANY pretty girls passing by. I totally didn’t expect this. It’s a video game company… they must be arts people.

Signed a NDA (so I can only write about things that are general knowledge or things I already know before the interview through “lawful” means), and started the interview with a manager. He talked about some company organization stuff (no, not unannounced titles), what the job will be about, some project management stuff, and asked about how I manage/work as part of teams, mostly about the PIP group!

Half an hour later, 2 programmers came in, and it started getting technical. There were 2 whiteboard questions on binary trees – traversing them in different orders, and questions on general algorithms and data structures (hash tables!). Talked about my personal projects, and I was surprised that they were actually very interested in the VHDL drumset. And they asked me how virtual functions are implemented in C++ @#&%@$@ I was going to read up on it last night!

All my interviewers were like… without looking at the paperwork –
“So, this is your final year/workterm right?”
“… no, this is my second year/first workterm =D”

And that was it! The end of my interview craziness. Learned SO much these 2 weeks. Now I feel very natural in interviews. No stress at all. Do they hold interviews for US presidency? I will apply to the white house!

Need to do rankings this weekend… tough choice between EA and Blue Castle. Blue Castle job sounds a little more interesting, and I really like the people. But EA is… well, EA =P. There’s the parents factor, too. “Big company! Big company! Big company! The bigger the better!”.

But of course, this is all wishful thinking. If EA doesn’t want me, my life will be a lot simpler.