quaint little rutted bucket

Monday, April 25, 2005

The end of days (vacation, that is.)

I reluctantly dragged my feet to Taft earlier this afternoon to attend my only summer class, a course in guidance and counseling. I was so early that, inadvertently, I was even earlier than our professor. The strange thing about it was that she seemed to make a big fuss out of punctuality, as I was the very first student she called on to ask why I was early and seemed to be in deep thought when she arrived. Boom. Good shot, without even trying. (Bah.)

Anyway, she seems to like students who speak their minds out. The class is very opinionated, with smatterings of issues in education here and there. In a nutshell, a very "CED-like" class, where discussions about education are very prevalent. She also prefers students sharing a thing or two about the class agenda for the day, having assigned different groups to study particular topics and discussing them in front of the class. (Is this "learner-centered"?)

A run-of-the-mill class, if you ask me.

(She is a *clinical psychologist*. The ones who observe and evaluate the behavior of people. Scary. :D

Emerging trends

China is starting to flex its muscles, like an awakening dragon, while Japan struggles to retain its preeminence and influence in the region. China recently enacted a law that essentially allows the use of armed force to retain sovereignty. China continues to reject US' pleas to remove its fixed currency exchange rates. Both the European Union and the US are mulling setting up tariffs to prevent the dumping of cheap clothing from China. China, being a developing nation, is eating up resources voraciously--oil and steel in particular. In fact, the worldwide steel industry may owe its recovery to China alone. And we have to thank China (not to mention the US) for the continued high oil prices in commodities markets everywhere.

On the other side of East Asia, a considerable number of members from Japan's Diet (parliament) recently visited Yasukuni shrine, while Beijing only recently (and perhaps reluctantly) clamped down on anti-Japanese demonstrations. Japan is cooly asserting its influence and interest in Asia, proven by numerous diplomatic visits and even the rhetoric of defending Taiwan in case of an armed aggression (by virtue of current agreements with the US). Its decision to approve a textbook that somewhat "glosses over" Japan's wartime atrocities make both Chinese and Koreans irritated.

What does all these tell us?

Honestly, I dunno. But I am sure that both sides will lose if they continue on doing this. For instance, Japan still contributes a considerable amount of aid to China, since the latter is still a developing nation. And trade between the two nations has never been better: the past few years saw the highest amount of trading ever in the shared history of these two nations. In addition, a combined effort is needed to rein in on their increasingly belligerent, nuclear wanting neighbor, North Korea. For all their differences, they stand to gain a lot if only they would continue the status quo.

But neither side is likely to back down. Given China's increasing desire to gain more influence in the region, Japan, which has been the enjoying the region's preeminent position for the past couple of decades, isn't likely to settle for second place just yet. If they are to go down in influence, they might as well do it fighting. Or trying.

Is this the new Cold War, as some analysts put it? I doubt it, although it may certainly come close to one.

Oh man, I gotta get my popcorn already... in time for the things bound to unfold in the near future.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The power of two: AMD launches dual core processors

Gee, AMD's newest and greatest dual core processors thus far have shown some amazing scability and performance. Taking a look at AnandTech's recent tech preview of the Athlon 64 X2 and Opteron xx5's, these babies show amazing potential when compared alongside Intel's own dual core CPUs. AMD simply dominates.

The Potomac Quad (4 way) Xeons were just saved by its gargantuan (read: 8 megabytes!) amounts of L3 cache. Without those, Intel's server processors would be creamed right off the bat. Even if they were running above 3 GHz, clock speed weren't enough to win the day. As some in the Anandtech forums suggested, a four-socket AMD board loaded with dual core Opterons would be an entirely different beast.

True, Intel may have had a slight advantage before when it introduced Hype[d]rThreading, but remember that it was at best, just a stop-gap measure to keep Intel's wasteful NetBurst architecture busy at speeds well over 3.0GHz. Now that AMD built a processor that also takes advantage of multi-threading, Intel should be wise to stop, look and listen. (I just hope Intel's newer dual core Pentium-M based desktop processors, slated for a late 2006 release, should be enough to provide performance in the league of AMD processors that will be available at that time.)

In multithreaded/multitasking environments the Athlon 64 X2 is even more impressive; video encoding is no longer an issue on AMD platforms - you no longer have to make a performance decision between great overall performance or great media encoding performance, AMD delivers both with the Athlon 64 X2.

As some of you may know, Intel's HyperThreading "emulates" a logical processor within the same CPU to maximize the processor's use of resources. AMD has publicly acknowledged, through Fred Weber of DEC Alpha fame, that the current Athlon (K8) architecture is not suitable for simultaneous multi-threading (SMT). (Simple answer: AMD's K8 processors have less than half of the 30 or so stages that Intel's current NetBurst architecture processors have, thus less branch prediction errors and more instructions done per clock vis-a-vis NetBurst) By adding another core to the physical processor itself and activating the same bit used by Intel to identify a HT-enabled processor, AMD hits two birds with a single shot: it brings to the multi-threaded applications the same power and execution performance the current K8 architecture provides.

Note that this was just done with DDR1 and loose RAM timings. With any luck, a future high bandwidth memory platform (either DDR3 or XDR, not DDR2), with tight timings, and of course, PCI Express and SATA-NCQ enabled drives should make for interesting performance figures in the near future.

It's strange how tables have turned, making Intel look like the value CPU manufacturer in the dual core race.

That is, if AMD manages to bring in Fab36 in time to cope up with the demand; from a economics point of view, Intel wins simply because of its sheer manufacturing capacity compared to AMD. Intel would be able to bring huge amounts of its products, especially in the low-end compared to AMD. What is good is that, in the end, we end users all win. :)

Term postmortem

After six terms in this school, I finally made it to the dean's list (Not that I actually aspired for it.), my lowest grade being 2.5. The thing is, that grade could've been higher if I went to class more often. :D

Anyway, that one aside, I feel that this term was great. I was alone for much of the time, independently working on things here and there. I'm not seeing my high school friends as often as before, or even my CCS block. Admittedly, at times, I felt quite lonely, but heck, who cares. As I jokingly refer to it, isa na akong salawahan ("I've become a maverick.") No real group to belong to. Yes, I still have friends here and there, but for the most part, I'm alone.

I could hear it now: "Why are you alone anyways?" Well, for some reason, I can't really relate to the frosh guys I'm with in most of my classes. In addition, most of my friends are the geekish ones; those belonging to the two dreaded colleges in the entire university. And you know how those guys are, compared with say, a student from arts or business.

And I haven't really met the ID103 English majors. I've been with a few of them in some of my professional education classes, but I've made no serious attempt to really know any of them. Maybe next year. Or this summer term. Oh, I dunno. I seriously doubt that I'll still have the chance to know them, since they'll be graduating next year.

That's why I still often go to Gox or to CIC just to catch up with some of them. (For some reason too, I somewhat miss the feel of being a CS student in Gox. Life outside Gox is really different.) Why, I even joined a CCS program (FORMDEV) where they introduce CCS students to the life and works of St. La Salle! (How I wish this program was a part of the general education program of the University.)

Sigh. I can't wait to finish my undergrad degree.

  • GRAMCO1 - I got 2.5, no arguments there. (I was already prepared for a 2.0... or even lower. :) Like before, I just wish I went to class more often so I didn't miss out on a couple of activities and quizzes. If I had not missed out on those, maybe I could've gotten a higher grade.
  • ACADWRI - 4.0. I really don't know. My paper was somewhat a mess if I were to evaluate it based on what I have learned about writing research papers. But I guess Ms. Chiu was just being kind to us. If that were a formal regular class, I think she may have been more strict with how the papers were made. Can't complain with the grade though. :)
  • ENGLTRI - 3.5. Now this was a fun class. I find it discouraging at first, since speech wasn't exactly something I do well, but after a term of speaking over and over in front of an audience I barely know, I think I've gotten the hang of it. Comments on my papers said that I was fluent, although I had the tendency to read my presentation. I guess its still a work in progress.
  • MEASDEV - 3.0. This was one of the more interesting classes I had for this term. My pre-finals grade on this one was a pitiful 1.5, and I needed to get more than 80 in the finals to get a 3.0. And that was an exam covering largely statistics in evaluation. Nevertheless, three hours straight of studying seemed to do the trick. The part I found really hard was the last one, where we were required to get the Pearson r of two sets of grades and a value related to the Spearman-Brown formula.
  • DEVGROW - 4.0. Wow. She gave me a four on this one? Cool. I wish she would would be handling our GUICOED class this summer term.
  • ARTAPRE - 3.5. I really like my prof in this subject. I dunno. She reminds me of Daria sans pessimism. I wish she'd have a literature class in the future.
Anyhow, there you have it. A term-end summary. Babush.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

My [somewhat] new, [somewhat] shiny Thinkpad!

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I just got myself a notebook last Tuesday. It’s a gorgeous, humble little Class-A refurb IBM ThinkPad R40 stocked with the following:

  • Intel Mobile Celeron (Northwood) 1.8GHz (256KB L2, unlike its desktop counterparts! Essentially performs the same as an equivalently-clocked, older Mobile Pentium 4 Willamette sans Speedstep)
  • 20GB 4200rpm hard disk drive
  • 15" 1024 x 768 display (Native res could be higher, but I'm a happy camper with this. :)
  • 32MB ATI Mobility Radeon 7500
  • DVD/CD-RW Drive
  • 256MB PC2100/DDR266 Memory
  • 2 1/2 hours lithium ion battery (that only received four cycles of battery charges, so it was essentially new)
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • a PCMCIA slot
  • 56k v.90 modem/Fast Ethernet port
  • S-Video out & DB15 (analog) monitor connector
  • Parallel port! (Of all things. Heheh.)
  • and all the good things about an IBM notebook ;)

All that for a little over 30k from a respectable seller over at tipidpc.com. So far, I'm already planning to upgrade its memory. I've also ordered a mini PCI Intel 2915 802.11ABG wireless card from Newegg. (Yes, it has an internal antenna array! Oh man, I'm so excited. :D

After purchasing it, the first thing I did was to pop out my Service Pack 2-slipstreamed Windows XP disc, reformat (leaving around 4.5 gigs unpartitioned for a Linux install, possibly Ubuntu) and install. I did lose all of the preinstalled IBM utilities, but having done my research, I know that this could be easily remedied through a couple of hours of download from IBM’s FTP sites. In addition, before making my purchase, I also downloaded a couple of PDFs of the Hardware Maintenance Manuals of some models of IBM ThinkPads, including this one. That was when I finally decided upon getting an IBM, since they are generally easy to upgrade, and ThinkPads are known throughout the industry as one of the better-engineered ones.

I did have some problems with the somewhat off colors of the LCD after reformatting, but after calibrating it through the use of a color profile, it became significantly better. Still, I’m discovering that higher resolutions, especially on LCDs, are better. (And by that, I’m not referring to widescreen notebooks. In my opinion, they aren’t really necessary.)

ThinkPads aren’t exactly known to be hip PCs; instead, they are known to be more associated with business people who travel a lot. That’s another attraction of this Thinkpad: it’s light (as light as most of the mainstream Centrino notebooks out there) and really built for serious work. It comes with a number of really useful features, such as a number of nifty keyboard shortcuts, a presentation utility that maximizes battery power and streamlines setup with LCD projectors, a centralized configuration application, a hot-swap utility for the Ultrabay Plus drive, a utility for custom networking profiles depending on where you are and the best of them all, an update utility that works like Windows Update! (or Synaptic, depending on your OS of preference. It’s literally click and go! :)

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The Thinkpad is certainly a joy to work on. The keyboard certainly boasts of IBM lineage, with its nice feel and sound. While recent IBM notebooks include UltraNav, a touchpad similar to notebooks from other companies, I find that using IBM’s “eraserhead” pointing device is more intuitive and certainly easier to use than a touchpad. It also incorporates a button that can be used to simulate mouse scroll functions.

My gripes with this notebook are really more of nitpicks, since I can’t really blame IBM for them. First is the Mobile Celeron processor’s lack of SpeedStep. I don’t need the entire 1.8GHz churning away idle when just typing, working on spreadsheets or just plainly browsing the web.

Another are the speakers. IBMs aren’t known for multimedia prowess, focusing instead on productivity. This particular model only comes with monaural front-firing speakers, and they sound worse than those dinky little PhP 180 speakers you can find bundled with generic PCs. But hey, I did not buy a notebook for audio performance; I just wanted something I could lug to school whenever I need to do a little report or work on something in my free time.

Overall, this notebook has been a nice buy. Less than 40 grand got me an IBM. How’s that for a deal?

Monday, April 04, 2005

When a hello is not enough

That's it with this 'hello' thing . Whenever I encounter ******, all i could come up with is that word. Oh, why is it that I cannot say anything else?! Argh. And to think I went home feeling fuzzy all over just because of a nice, purty afternoon, and, ugh, her. :D

I'll be lying if I'd be denying that I think of her at times. How she's doing, if she's sleeping, cuddled up with a book, studying or just staring up a night sky. Usual things. I want to get to know her better. I want to get close to her.

I really need to do something about this.

w00t! I still have no paper!

Oh, this is just great. Out of the five papers I am supposed to submit for this term, I've only finished three. Three!!! And tomorrow's the deadline for two of them, with one still need of *major* work! Weeeeee.

Oh, what the hell. Now, to get my lazy ass continuing work on these.