Start of 2013 Blurbs.

Instead of taking a nap (I’m currently running on 3 hours of sleep) and instead of starting my readings (I have to read 9 chapters for my test this week), I’m going to finally write a new blog post. I actually meant to post one earlier than this, but things have been pretty busy (my birthday celebrations and then catching up on work that I set aside).

I actually had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to write about. Every time I sit down to write something, I would stop after the 2nd or 3rd paragraph because I don’t have a ton to say on the specific topic (please send me suggestions *cough*). So I’m going to write up a bunch of blurbs today (anything and everything that is currently on my mind).

New Phone. New Beginnings.

So I lost my phone earlier last week (my old Windows Phone). Although it was upsetting, I ended up getting a new one the day after. Galaxy S2. The seller said it was BNIB (brand new in box), but it was clearly used (had some scuffs), and he gave me a Blackberry charger (didn’t notice until after). Oh well, I bargained the price down pretty low anyway ;)

It’s been awhile since I’ve used an Android phone.. almost a year. The thing is, I didn’t really take advantage of my data plan last time. Oh, and that phone was still on Gingerbread. The point I want to make is that Android has made so many improvements to allow customization. I had no idea you could use custom launchers w/o a flashing custom rom until recently. I was initially frustrated with the settings and the crappy default apps that Samsung provides (Contact sync is also terrible compared to WP). Things got better once I started installing basically every app created by the GO Launcher Dev Team.

The issue I’ve been facing is really bad battery life.. I barely do anything (have 3/4G turned off all day) and the battery life is <30% by the end of my day. The phone is also extremely laggy (I’m unsure if it’s just the model clashing with the OS, or if my device is a defect..) Either way, it’s annoying. Despite the WP experience on my Focus being waaaay slower than what it is on WP8, it was always pretty smooth (I’ve never faced lag). But then again, WP has automatic app management (you can only have a maximum 5 apps running the background).

Overall though, the phone is an upgrade for me. In a way, it’s good that I lost my phone so I don’t have to deal with WP7/8 fragmentation, lack of allowing default programs for certain file types, lack of good quality apps, etc.

So why not iOS? Easy. No widgets, annoying default things you cannot change (i.e. you need to type in your password whenever you want to download/update apps).. It’s the ICON interface that bothers me. Difficult to find your apps. Overall, it’s much more smooth than Android, though, simply because of the way processes are handled when they crash (hahaha).

Anyways, I feel like I’ve talked about this in a past blog post. : / Sorry for the repetition.


So how’s school? Winter term just started. I just recently handed in a few of my assignments, and wrote my first major test (the reason why I stayed up and had only 3 hours of sleep). Work is piling up, so I’m going to start hermitting in my room (or the library) more. Luckily I only have 5 courses to worry about this term (I haven’t had a 5 course workload since first year).

So my elective is also a ton of fun. It’s called Soundtracks in Film. We analyze the background music in movies. Our weekly assignment is to watch a movie. We get to watch Inception. Awesome right? Great prof, too. Although he assigns a little too much reading for my taste. It’s MUSIC 246 if anyone’s interested.

School/Studying Tips

I was going to make a dedicated post for this, but it might not be very long. We’ll see.

1. Actually read over the notes you took after class everyday. This way, you can ask about anything you missed or are not sure about in the following class. It helps you stay caught up in the course.

2. Taking Notes (as a visual learner). So this really varies based on the kind of lectures your profs do.

  • Slide based: Annotate directly on the PDF files. Not sure about Windows, but on Mac Preview, you can add the Edit shortcut. This helps you add annotations and such to PDFs. Choose the Text icon to add text annotations (It’s the dotted box with ‘Aa’ inside). Unless the prof draws a lot of extra diagrams, it’s a LOT less effort to type in your extra little notes than writing them in. Plus, you save $$ on ink + paper. 
  • Board Notes: If it’s a math/physics course, I highly recommend pen & paper. If not, use a note taking application like Evernote or OneNote. Evernote is an amazing product that allows you to organize your notes into notebooks, sync them across all your devices, and more. I’ve personally never used OneNote, but I’ve seen some people use this as well. I am highly against Microsoft Word or Google docs as you cannot really get the 2-3 window pane view and extensive organization that Evernote provides.

3. Study by yourself. Working in groups is good for assignments and projects and perhaps understanding concepts taught in class, but it can end up being very distracting. Especially if you have friends who browse Reddit or Youtube every 30 minutes.

4. Bring snacks to school. Stop eating at the crappy school cafeteria or the overpriced nearby restaurants. Make your own lunch, or bring snacks if you have a 3 hour lecture.

5. Take advantage of office hours and ask questions. Don’t leave it til the end, and be assertive. Profs are busy, you are busy, but don’t just let go on the fact that you’re confused about stuff taught in class. Email the prof if anything. There’s also Piazza for online help (discussion forum system) but not all profs use it.

Man.. I should really take my own advice sometimes. I was a lot more keen in first year, but it’s rather impossible to keep on top of your work if you also want a decent social life.

My Blog and Some Cool Stats

So lately I’ve been getting a lot of traffic from prospective students and first years. For those unfamiliar with WordPress, if you click on a WordPress search result from Google, I will get information on what search term you used. I had 2 hits for “waterloo coop elisa lou” yesterday. So. It’s getting kinda creepy/awkward :P I feel very weirded out when my friends bring up that they’ve read my blog. It’s a very awkward thing. It’s not that I am completely different in real life compared to how I talk on this blog (or maybe I am!?) .. but I still very much consider my blog to be a place for me to rant and complain and share my feelings ‘anonymously’ (even though I have my blog URL on most of my online profiles now).

Anyways, I’m happy that this blog has been helpful/inspiring to many people. I hope to continue posting useful content (not sure if this post was very useful :P).

PS. For those interested, I’ve updated my resume! It actually looks a little empty.. I was actually contemplating on writing up a complete new one that’s just a single page, but I haven’t had the time.


9 thoughts on “Start of 2013 Blurbs.

  1. What are your thoughts on jailbreaking an iOS device in order to install widgets? Just wondering since lack of widgets is the reason you avoided an iPhone. :P

    • I’ve jailbroken my iPod in the past. The process of actually installing stuff is quite a hassle from what I remember (I’ve jailbroken for 4.x and 5.x). It’s just not worth it. :P

  2. If you were to recommend learning one programming/scripting language that would really increase your chances of getting a software position, what would it be?

    • There is no correct answer to your question. Many companies don’t really care what languages you know because it is about knowing concepts rather than syntax (as syntax can be learned on the job). If you know one of C++, Java, or C#, you shouldn’t have more/less advantage competing for a job that involves using any of those languages, as they are all quite similar.

      Obviously there are positions that specifically ask for Java or C# skills, where pretty much everything is object oriented, but there is really no point in learning a new language for the sake of putting it on your resume.

      Now if you are really just interested in learning something new, some modern web languages/frameworks that stand out (IMO) are jQuery, Ruby on Rails, and Python.

  3. I just got into Waterloo for both CompSci and Software Eng. The thing is that I have next to no programming experience(I’ve used Scratch….), but I guess my marks and extracurriculars were good enough for Software Eng that they didn’t care. Do you think I will be adequately prepared for Software Eng if I take a computer science course from MIT OpenCourseWare(or Edx), or would you recommend I go into CompSci instead. I actually love how Software Eng has much less people, and as you said in a post last year, a “middle school” feeling.

    • First of all, congrats on your acceptances! Yes, I highly recommend taking a few online courses before jumping in. I haven’t heard of OpenCourseWare, but I highly recommend or (both free). You shouldn’t feel the need to go into CS rather than SE just because you have less CS experience.

      And yes, you will definitely feel that you have more support and a stronger network if you are in the cohort system that Engineering has :)

  4. Do you use a Windows emulator or a dual boot when you program on your Mac? Which one would you recommend?

    By the way, I just found your blog by doing a quick “Software engineering vs. computer science at waterloo” search on Google. It was the first hit. For a graduating high school student who wants to become a fellow girl programmer (in the Waterloo CS/Business at Laurier program), it’s been incredibly helpful thus far. So, thank you!

    • Hi there, I don’t dual boot. I use VMWare Fusion which is a virtual machine program. I don’t often need a Windows VM, but for one of my current courses, our prof provided us an Ubuntu VM so that we can test our assignments against the same environment the TAs are running our assignments on. I recommend using a VM because it’s a lot more lightweight, and you can have it running while you’re on OSX still. I have 8 gigs of RAM so I haven’t had lag or heat issues at all.

      And I’m glad that my blog has been helpful to you :)

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