Monthly Archive for August, 2005

Choosing a Statistics Class

CEP522

I’ve been busy this week taking six potential classes for as part of my program requirement, with special emphasis on the statistics classes. I’ve taken stats before, but the required qualitative class in the graduate level of the communication program went by so fast that even though I could replicate the techniques pretty decently (got an A for it), I could barely remember what everything was for. For some reason, my graduate faculty seems to rush through the required stuff, leaving it to us individuals to figure things out on our own. This can be a good thing, as it teaches us to be self-reliant, but it can also be a real test of effectiveness…

The threshold of how much to teach should at least accommodate some form of reasoning as to why we do things in a certain way. I’m pretty ok with computers, so understandably, those classes don’t need much explanation for me. But for statistics, I felt like I started off on a bad foot and really have a bad taste in my mouth at every mention of it. Fortunately for me, I’ve sampled three statistics classes for the past two days; all of them from external departments and they seem to put statistics in a better light. Still, I’m not going to kill myself over three stats classes, so I’m picking just two.

Since there’s no official guide to stats classes, here’s my raw review of selected University at Buffalo’s statistic classes (applicable to your school too). I attended these classes and looked out for the following factors:
1. Explanation of Application (the train of thought being “why use this”)
2. Syllabus Coverage (whether it gives you what you need)
3. Amount of Homework (important for busy people)
4. Methodology (mathematical techniques used)
5. Instructor’s Charisma (we’re warm humans, not cold-hearted robots)

CEP532: Intro to Statistical Research
From the Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology. Easy enough for anyone new to statistics… maybe too easy. I’m probably taking it to make sure my bases are covered. Recommended for stats newbies.

PSY607: Advanced Statistics (experimental stats)
From the Psychology department, Dr. Kenneth Levy seems to be prone to making mistakes on the board… he knows it and says it isn’t as important as understanding the concept, but man, it’s enough to clearly exasperate the class . Goes pretty fast… clearly advanced and requires lots of patience.

CEP522: Statistical Methods in Education I
Excellent middle ground stats class. Seems to go from a case study in journal articles to statistical explanation, making everything seem like a useful tool (assistive) rather than the start and end of everything. Prof. Jeremy Finn is very experienced and loves teaching stats, so he explains things with clarity. Includes SPSS computing classes. This is one of a two/three semester series, but it’s great as a standalone class too.

As you can tell by now, I’m going with CEP532 & CEP522.
If you’re wondering what happened to the Human Factor’s class I was planning to take… well, it’s got too much redundancy in other engineering areas and I really can’t afford the time to learn really bizarre kine metric algorithms.

Doom Movie FPS Effects: Gimmick or Revolution?

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You’ve probably heard of Doom sometime in your life, let alone played it many times over. With each iteration of the game (till Doom 3 which had you buying a new computer to play it), Doom has indirectly turned into a historical documentation of the technological advances in personal computing, as well as reflected the kind of expectations society sets for the gaming industry over the years.

With the introduction of the Doom: The Movie, I didn’t really hold my breath that it would be of any good since most comic book and video game screenplays aren’t usually as good as the original. Still, there was one slight difference with this new movie which was seen in the trailer… think FPS or First Player Shooter. Essentially, the Doom movie features scenes where the camera takes the perspective of the first person while wielding all kinds of weapons (including the infamous chainsaw!). It remains to be seen how effectively this will be played out, but while it works for games, it might not hold up that well on the big screen (risking motion-sickness puking from unwary audiences). While it’s easy to think of this as more of a gimmick than brilliant cinematography, it is perhaps a sign of things to come.

Ironically, in a reversal of media influence, the same effect was brought into a “sleeper hit” Xbox game title called Breakdown. In this unique Japanese game, everything is set in a realistic FPS fashion, and I mean everything! From the wielding of weapons, to donning of kelvar armor, to the consumption of rations to restore health, you would see your character’s hands realistically bringing up your item allowing you to inspect it, before opening it up to be used. If you decide to do a backflip, you’d see the world spin vertically around you as if you really did it in gym class. If someone punches you and you fall over, you’d see the floor rushing up at you. It’s that real and it make this game very distinctly different. Why not check out some gameplay video of Breakdown to see what I mean?

Ultimately, doesn’t that make you wonder how incredibly woven such intertextuality exists across multiple media? The big question is: Who’s really influencing who? If we can spot these patterns of influence, we could better predict future styles of gaming or movie productions which go well with different audiences.

Blog Traffic Report: Road closures due to heavy traffic

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What a month of blogging! For the diverse range of articles I’ve published in August (especially for x86mac news & Singapore National Day), I’ve been getting more internet traffic than previously thought (no thanks to SiteMeter!).

Steve and Peter of TunedWeb.com have been very accommodating to how I’ve been sucking up a lot of their bandwidth. Just this month alone, they’ve raised the bandwidth limit on my site several times already! Yessirree, about 28,093 of you unique visitors have downloaded 6.36 GB of content from my blog in August 2005. This doesn’t include videos I’ve posted (hosted on .Mac and Internet Archives) or the other sites I run on the same server.

I’m taking two major steps to reduce bandwidth consumption:
1. Reduce the number of articles displayed on the blog from 25 to 15.
2. Allow for WordPress to compress articles (gzip) should browsers ask for them (good for some RSS newsreaders)

If you know of other WordPress options I could modify to make my blog more efficient, do tell. And no, I’m not going to take away images… I love pictures and I do whatever I can to compress them effectively.

Mac OS X + Sony Vaio = The “coolest” Powerbook ever!

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A few weeks after the Mac x86 project started, I’m became pretty impressed with what my friend has managed to accomplish on the Sony Vaio TR3A. Side-by-side, my 12″ Apple Powerbook looks huge and dated compared to the Vaio with its bright widescreen. Ultra-portable, running way longer (6hr battery life), cooler and faster than my real Powerbook, Mac x86 on the Vaio seems to work smoothly, with the exception of audio, wifi and the Vaio’s built-in web camera (still dealing with driver issues). Even though the Vaio is smaller, the screen resolution is at an insanely sharp 1280 by 768, which means you get the approximate desktop space of a 15″ Powerbook within Sony’s 10.6″ xBrite screen.

In some way as a Mac loyalist, I felt betrayed by Apple’s PowerPC processor marketing which long spread the belief that PPC was way faster than Intel chips. Even CrashOverride said that RISC was good; I thought CISC would soon reach a dead-end. After comparing general Finder operations and Safari rendering speeds between my 1.5Ghz Powerbook and the 1Ghz Vaio, I’m pretty blown away at the spring in the steps of the older Vaio. Looks like Intel has come a long way…

The real question now remains:
What does this mean for Apple?

While many Apple fans believe that the final Intel version of Mac OS X will have improved software/hardware protection, I won’t be surprised if the hacking community manage to crack it wide open. Will Apple be able to deal with the consequence of switching to the Intel chip? Can Apple survive as a software company as Microsoft has? From this case study, I believe a that a deeper strategy exists as to why Apple made the switch.

Conspiracy theorists in various x86 Mac forums suggest a popular belief that Apple is actually trying to discretely increase their share in the personal computing market. While Apple does make incredible hardware and software, the real seller is the holistic approach Apple takes they design a Mac. It would be exciting to see if consumers would still choose to buy an Apple-issued Macintosh over a competitive PC running Mac OS. What do you think?

Back in the academic groove

Not winter yet but just in case

Like the rest of you, I’m starting this Fall semester with a barrage of priority-level to-dos. From today till end of this year, you’re going to witness me performing a series of academic miracles, including writing two publish-able papers (one theoretical & one quantitative) as well as my dissertation proposal, so that I can be in line for my application to candidacy by next year. This is essential since my funding will run out this year and for the next year, I hope to be just paying for 1 credit “dissertation guidance” courses just to finish my big one. As Prof. Halavais said: Think of writing dissertations as a book you’ve always wanted to write.

Fortunately, I have written quite a few papers already which I intend to update for one of my theoretical paper, so I just have to prepare a brand new quantitative paper by the end of this semester. For the quantitative paper, one of the ten ideas I’m working on revolves around investigate how opinion leadership works and where memes generally cluster in a specified realm of the blogosphere, for example opinion leadership and meme clustering as seen on Singaporean blogs. It’s still very up in the air and while it’s generally not a good idea to publish brainstorms (since they are not to be taken as absolute), I’m hoping to see if this can be a sounding board for anyone doing research on the culture of blogs.

Do share what you’re working on so we can share our research. In the mean time, here’s my reading list for blogging research (thanks Alex!)

As the last real bunch of classes I’ll officially be taking in my university before I begin my dissertation writing journey, I’m probably settling on an advanced statistical methods class in the school of psychology (on experimental stats), a usability class in the industrial design discipline and finally, my required Pro-seminar class in School of Communication (should have taken it at the start of course, but I thought I could skip it… can’t blame me for trying!).

While things are starting to heat up for me, the weather is going south as the temperature has begun to drop. Summer is almost over and soon everyone will be covered in layers of clothing, masking their identities and turning winter into a cold and faceless world once again. Gosh, what great way to start!

How to satisfy Singapore food cravings abroad

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If you live far far away from Singapore like me, it would be a good idea to be prepared for one of the most important things you’ll definitely miss about home… Singapore food! Here’s how I’ve managed to survive so far (ranked by significance):

1. Get a girlfriend or boyfriend who cooks!
Ideally, someone who would be able to compete against any of the Food Network’s Iron Chef.

2. Get to know friends who love cooking!
Last weekend, Nelson made Chee Kway and Chai Tau Kuey, Penny made Lor Mee, Sam made his fried vegetables while Jiayi made authentic coffee shop “Kopi”. Damn Power!

3. Get to know a Singaporean restaurant!
There are definitely Chinese eateries anywhere you go, but real Singaporean restaurants are a gem! Nelson found “Lion City Restaurant” which is in Ontario, Canada (near Toronto). He brought Jiawen as well as Jiayi there, who later reviewed it on her blog. For those who happen to live around Buffalo or Toronto, you can find this restaurant at Lion City Restaurant Inc, 1177 Central Pkwy W, Mississauga, Canada.

For those who are curious, I’ve scanned Lion City Restaurant’s extensive menu for all to see: LionCityRestaurant.pdf (700kb).

BlogBeat: The Better Blog Analytics Tool?


For bloggers interested in keep tabs who reads their blogs and finding those posts which are especially popular, Steve Rubel alerts us to blogbeat, a great alternative to the ad-supported SiteMeters most of us currently use. The service, which focuses specifically on blogs, offers a simple way to get your hands on data such as your most popular posts, links/refers, RSS clicks and more. It’s free and ad-free. Sitemeter’s what I use too and they want you to pay for deeper analysis (bummer!), so I’ll be trying out BlogBeat for sure. Is it really better? We’ll see…

UPDATE: Blogbeats seems to have limited the number of new users to its service. It’s currently counting down from 190 registrations and it’s fast dropping. Strange that they put this countdown only on the registrations page when they should put it on the front page. They would have gotten more people registered rather than then giving them the illusion that they could hold it off for later. Bad bad marketing.

Overheard Nun Joke at Starbucks

Overheard at a local Star Bucks…
What do you call a nun who lives upstairs?
Leave your guesses in the comments.

Video: Singaporean Life Abroad (Florence’s house warming)

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Here’s our second visual slice of Singaporean life as students living abroad (see our earlier NDP special). Our friend, Florence, invited us to her new place downtown for a house warming. From this quick video, you’ll get to see the kind of living you can expect to find as an international student in America (depending on your budget of course!). See if you recognize any of the Singaporeans here, check out the glorious home-cooked buffet and get a tour of her new home. You can also see more photos in our Singaporeans in UB photo gallery. Do let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like to see about life in the United States for future posts. Enjoy!

Music Piracy still making Singapore headlines?

Three nabbed for music piracy

Believe it or not, music piracy is really old school… While we know that the Singapore government’s trying hard to send home the message that music piracy is bad (not to mention illegal), it’s disheartening to know that such news makes the front page of the nation’s most significant newspaper, The Straits Times. Either Singapore media had a slow news day, or such crimes aren’t that common back home. I doubt such messages really have an effect on people since it’s really a case of uses and gratification. People download music, movies, what-not, despite it being illegal because to them it’s worth the trouble. Warning letters from RIAA should stop them in their tracks, but if they’re silly enough to carry on their activities, it’s really their own downfall. Here’s the same article published in a New Zealand publication, while Wired did their take on it today. In other news, McDonald’s seems to have an awesome assortment of chicken nuggets and wacky sauces… one of the reasons I miss home (those asian flavors are so yummy!)

BTW: It’s worth noting that iCheerful sent me the newsprint in pure “McGuyver” style. Since Straits Times Interactive now charges for access to news (bummer!), he sent it to me using his digital camera and an improvised photographic rig.