blog
ximwix.net
Work
(rants, work)
posted by on Sunday April 30, 2006 at 1:10AM (EST)

So I've been working for a month or so now. It's a software quality assurance job, which, according to my job description, means I test software. The software testing that I did in school was different from this, however. I've learned quickly that the testing umbrella is pretty big. One end is overlapping slightly into development and the other end is overlapping slightly into production. Everything inbetween is absolutely covered by it. As such, it all seems very hectic.

As a typical way of doing things, we have the developers put together a release and send us an email. Our build team (which I'm a part of) has to take the release and build it on one of our testing boxes. Pretty much, we just have to make sure we can install the thing. This is a more complicated process than it sounds, since it's not simply a matter of running setup.exe or some such. Anyway, once that is done, we have to send out an email to the developers and the testers to let them know that we accepted the release and that we're going to start testing.

Then the testing begins. I'm foggy on this area since, despite being a software tester, I don't run too many tests. I've been assigned to help test a very early project. There is no production stage yet, so we're not testing it for anyone other than the developers. Instead, I have to look over the releases and create test cases for it. This seems wrong to me, since I'm writing test cases that a tester will one day have to use without ever having run through test cases for an in-production product. At the moment, though, I'm the only one running through my test cases, so I can shrug off the notion.

As is my understanding, once all these test cases have been written for a product and the product has gone into production, there is a long game of pass-the-product that goes on for the lifetime of the product. Basically, the developers give the testers a release; the testers build it, test it, and give it to customers; the customers use it and find some bugs that testing misses; the bugs are reported to the testers and new test cases are written; finally, the news is sent down to the developers to fix. From here, the game enters the next round and continues to go on until the product gets too old to use or support.

And that is what my office does in a nutshell. In a way, I've known for a while that there was a lot to testing. I guess I just never thought of what kind of overall structure a testing team would have. I knew that developers write their own tests, and testers write their own tests, and that users report their bugs. I knew that this was a large part of the software lifecycle, but I never put time into thinking up how this part of the cycle actually takes place -- what jobs are created by it, what company policies are written for it. It's a lot more complex than I had figured.
Employed Again
(rants)
posted by on Tuesday March 28, 2006 at 10:33PM (EST)

Here's a summary of my life's current situation.

I've been attending RIT for the past 5-ish years. I'm enrolled in their Computer Science program, going for a BS. RIT prides itself, so I've come to find out, on its high percentange of graduates who have jobs as soon as they get their degree. They keep this stat pretty high by using a Cooperative Education program. What this means is that I am required to work a total of 1400 hours at jobs related to my major as part of the CS program. You are supposed to do this by signing up for classes for a quarter (RIT uses quarters instead of semesters) and, while you're struggling through those, also be looking for co-ops (a co-op is a paid internship). You get your co-op lined up for the next quarter or two, finish your current quarter of classes, go to work, and then come back and take more classes. It's a sort of bob-and-weeve pattern that ends with you taking classes.

At least, that's how it's supposed to work.

The fact of the matter is that searching for a job is like a full-time job in itself. There's a lot of work involved. What makes it worse is that this hard work is very rarely acknowledged with even a rejection notice. But that is a slight digression. RIT has a site with a good number of available co-ops. You can see which ones you can do, and apply away. There's the problem of saturation here, though, since every RIT student is looking for a co-op and every RIT student is checking this website. They advise looking elsewhere -- in a less saturated market.

What RIT fails to tell the students is that there are practically no companies who know what a co-op is. This is where the phrase “paid internship” came from. They know what an internship is, so they have some idea what you're talking about. The biggest issue with that is that they don't want to hire interns. They want full time, long term, graduated, experienced workers. I haven't gotten a single company that wasn't listed at RIT's site to respond to a co-op request. I've tried quite a few in the NJ/PA area.

So, my attempts have been constantly thwarted. I'd look for a co-op while struggling with my classes, only to come out with mediocre grades, a few rejection letters, and a bunch of wasted effort. I either spent the next month continuing my search (eventually causing a complete waste of a quarter) or patched together a class schedule from the remaining available classes. Neither of these were mentioned in RIT's brochure, I can assure you.

What ultimately happened to me is that I finished all of my classes while still needing 1050 hours of co-op time. (Yes, I did get one co-op block finished thanks to efforts of one of my room mates. If you're reading this, thanks!). This has left me in a bit of a limbo state that students aren't supposed to be in. I had to email the CS undergraduate coordinator about my situation and, somewhere in his holier-than-thou response, he said that I'd just have to finish my co-ops. It was pretty much the response I was looking for.

While I was still in my last quarter of classes, my job hunt was in full force. I applied to a bunch of places and was hearing a whole lot of nothing in response. I remained bitter, knowing that my previous co-op had come from an inside-man and not some internet job posting. It's who you know, really. This is exactly what had happened to me before so I was angry, but not at all surprised. I was sure that all I had to look forward to was months and months full of the perils of job searching.

Now this is where things get turbulent.

I get an IM from a friend saying that he knows of a job I can apply to. He has a friend in the company who can put in a good word for me. What's better is the job is in NJ, so I'd be able to spend my free time and weekends with Amy instead of the internet. I talk to his friend online for a bit and he tells me that they really need programmers and are hiring everyone they interview. I give him my resume, he passes it off to the HR person, and the ball is officially rolling.

With that in motion, I concentrate on my classes and wait for a response from the HR person. I wait. And wait. And wait. I don't hear anything. I talk to the friend about it and he nags the HR person for me. I keep waiting. Still nothing. Eventually, I decide that it'd be best for me to contact the HR person personally (I didn't want the HR person to get pissed at the friend for nagging them). I get their contact info from my friend and send off an email. I'm pessemistic at this point, but I'm desperate to hear anything from this company. I wait. I wait. Absolutely nothing comes back in response.

What ails these HR people, anyway? Is it really so hard to send off a rejection notice?

In the midst of this fiasco, I get a call from one of the co-ops I applied for earlier. I tell them that I have another interview lined up out-of-state right when the quarter ends. They work around my schedule and give me an interview date almost a week after the quarter is over. I lied a bit, of course. I had no such interview lined up. I was hoping for it, though.

This is one of the few moments in my life where I was truly being optimistic. I was sure I'd get this job and be able to spend time with Amy. I refused to think otherwise. This other interview was meaningless. I'd never need to attend it since I would already have the other job by then.

My classes come to an end. I go home for the interview that I didn't have, positive that they'd call me during the few days I was going to be home. It never happened. I went back up to Rochester to get to my other interview. It went very well (somehow). It's a generic testing job, no coding involved, not very interesting. I almost got the feeling that they were trying to convince me that the job wasn't worth taking. An odd experience, but an experience nonetheless. They say they'll get back to me.

I go back to my apartment and work on some coding projects that I hadn't had time to work on due to my classes. I'm still waiting for an interview call. In a few days, I get a call. It's the other company telling me that I got the job. I tell them that I'm waiting to hear back from another company and ask for a few days to get back to them. They give me a few days. I lied again. I'm sure they'll call me for an interview in the next few days. They don't.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

It's at this point that my optimism hits a brick wall, spontaneously combusts, and has an anvil dropped on its head. The first job, of course, never comes closer to a real job than it ever did from the start. I take the job, get a bunch of forms to fill out, and then go back home for a week.

I return to my happier, pessemistic self. Amy and I have a great week together. I head back and start my job. That's where I am now. I'm employed with the job my optimistic self didn't want and my pessemistic self suspected all along. I don't hate the job, but I hate the fact that I'm so far away from Amy. I'm bitter with the first company for never acknowledging my existance, but I'm very appreciative of my friend and his friend for trying to get me the job.
Idiocy transcends
(google)
posted by on Sunday February 26, 2006 at 12:39AM (EST)

I was browsing a rather half-baked debate at Zophar's Message Domain about Islamic extremists today. Why an emulation forum even has a political subforum is beyond me; and, really, it hasn't been entertaining to read at all after Bush's reelection. Anyway, a more respected member (more respected by me, anyway) ended their post in the thread with the phrase, “The whole point here is that idiocy transcends belief systems.” I really liked that since it sums up what is probably my (and I'm sure many other's) number one problem with how people perceive religion.

Anyway, I thought I'd google that up and see if it was a quote from something. It is not. However, I decided to pick through the results and see how else “idiocy transcends” was being used. Here's my results (with some minor editing):

  • Idiocy transcends location.
  • Idiocy transcends screennames.
  • Idiocy transcends ideology.
  • Idiocy transcends left and right, authoritarian and libertarian.
  • Idiocy transcends the sexual divide.
  • Idiocy transcends ethnicity.
  • Idiocy transcends politics.
  • Idiocy transcends even the coolest crowds.
  • Idiocy transcends administrations.
  • Idiocy transcends race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political affiliation.
  • Idiocy transcends nationality, and all countries have their share.
  • Idiocy transcends races, and puts a middle finger up in the face of pure reason and intelligence.
  • Idiocy transcends political bias.
  • Idiocy transcends his mistakes.
  • Idiocy transcends expectations.
  • Idiocy transcends universes.
  • Idiocy transcends all borders, and is free for The asking wherever one travels.
  • Idiocy transcends team loyalty.
  • Idiocy transcends into adulthood.
  • Idiocy transcends all borders and bounds, these days.
  • Idiocy transcends all ideologies.

Also, I doubt you've noticed, but I've decided to use “fancy quotes” instead of "regular quotes". I think this counts as my New Years resolution.
Adventures in Job Hunting
(job hunting)
posted by on Friday January 27, 2006 at 10:56PM (EST)

My seemingly never-ending quest to get employed in the Computer Science field continued today. Seeing as how Amy is in southern NJ, I decided to look for jobs around that area.

For those who may not know, my school uses a co-op system in which I work an entry-level job for a company at reduced pay for a limited time period -- this is what I'm currently looking for. Now my school does offer a decent list of jobs, but they have approximately zero jobs that are within a commutable distance from my parent's house (which is where I would be staying if I had a co-op in NJ).

So, this leaves me to the numerous internet job search sites. Oh wow are there a lot of broken job search sites. I did manage to find one really good one eventually, but not before I spent my time browsing some very odd search results from others. Here are a few that I thought were worth mentioning:

Blogger:
"Blogger wanted to create and maintain blog. Update once a week."

Wow, apparently I could be getting paid to do what I'm doing right now. Where were the jobs like this when I was in high school? This is exactly the kind of throw-away job that I was looking for back then. Bad timing, I guess.

p/t web development:
"Qualified applicant will wear many hats."

I know it's just a saying, and I know what it means, but it's still funny to see it in a job description. It's one of those sayings that works in conversation, but looks out of place on paper.

Website Manager:
"I have launched my companies 4th adult website."
"Adult industry experience not necessary."
"This is not a gimmick in anyway."

Hmm...I could work for an experienced porn distributer. If I hated my school's CS department a bit more than I already do, maybe I'd actually go talk to them to see if I could get credit for it. I know it would pay well and I know that the work required for the position would fit all their requirements. I dunno. Just a funny scene in my head.

Technology Internship:
"Compensation: Training and hands-on Experience"

Come on now. I know internships don't pay, but it's not something you have to brag about.

IT CO-OP:
"JOB DECRIPTION: Provide general support..."

Wow. Sometimes IT people just make it too easy...
Should we talk about the weather?
(weather)
posted by on Tuesday January 24, 2006 at 4:36PM (EST)

Like many Firefox users, I have the ForecastFox extension installed. I have it put little icons on the bottom of my browser that tell me what it looks like outside. It's like a really tiny window embedded into my browser.

ForecastFox in action
As I was sitting by the window at the library, I noticed the snow icon in the second window. This window is a window into to future. It's what the left window will look like later. Snow. Great. I get to drive home in the snow. So I click on the snow window and up comes a more detailed forecast. As that page is loading, the first icon changes from a regular gray cloud to the rainy gray cloud.

As a side note (which warrents its own paragraph for some reason), I don't know if the cloud icons are white or blueish for other areas, but they're always gray for me. This is fitting for Rochester, but I just wonder about it sometimes.

So the cloud changes to a rain cloud, right? I take a look out the library window and it is not raining. Then, the idea crossed my mind of some kind of charmed ForecastFox installation that was unique in the fact that it was always right. I supposed that if I had this unique installation, I would notice its uniqueness. I would indeed notice and, further, I would question its operation. Could such a program be perfectly predicting the weather, or is it actually controlling the weather? Could I somehow use it to control the weather myself?

And then, I didn't think too much farther into it. I mean, it would make for a pretty dull story, wouldn't it? It's a strange and uninteresting twist on a tired old theme.

Oh hey! A white cloud.

It's wrong, of course. It's dark and very gray outside.

I think I would make it create white clouds. And make snow when the weekend comes and I have nowhere to go. Snow with white clouds.
Composite Video Emulator
(emulation)
posted by on Thursday January 12, 2006 at 9:30PM (EST)

A thread over at ZMD recently linked to a thread at the nesdev forums titled "NTSC NES Composite Video Emulator". What this basically means is that when you use an NES emulator, instead of getting a pixel-perfect crisp image of the game, it also emulates the various graphical quirks that using a real NES on a TV screen would add to the video.

Now, adding filters to the emulator's video output is nothing new. I mean, even attempts at making it look like a tv have been done. The problem with such filters is that they do little more than add fake "scanlines" to the video. I use quotes because this usually means they do nothing but draw horizontal black lines across the screen. It's always looked ugly to me and I've never used it because of this.

What makes this filter (if I can even call it a filter at this point) so great is that it gives some really good results. It has scanlines, but they make sense. They aren't static black lines, they move and they blur. The whole screen does. This is the first time I've seen a filter cause the image to move while nothing on the screen is actually moving.

The source code given out by the author uses a "raw nes image" and not roms. It doesn't play games, just show you what the effect looks like. It took me much longer than it should have, but I found a way of converting FCEUdx's screenshots into this raw nes image format. Having figured this out, the next logical step was to finally see what Gorby no Pipeline Dai Sakusen's title screen was meant to look like.

So, here's a before and after. Unfortunately, I can't show you an animated capture of it in action, but the stillshots are still pretty good. You can really see how the colors bleed together at the edges. Please note that these aren't the most accurate images for side-by-side comparisons, as the pre-filtered image aught to be displayed at a resolution much closer to a square (256x240) and the colors used for the filtered image are a little different (since, inside the emulator, the mouse is used to adjust hue/saturation in the image and I couldn't get it quite right).

Gorby, without the composite emulation.Gorby, with the composite emulation.


Now when you look at the two of them without considering what the filtered image is aiming to do, the unfiltered one seems to be the better choice. The objects are clearer. The colors are more defined. It looks altogether brighter. What is so great about this is that the filter is actually causing the image to lose data. In a way, it is making the image look worse. However, because it is trying to emulate the effects of a TV display, it's actually worsening the picture in a good way. What's more, the filter is better at what it does than anything else I've seen. It's more accurate in worsening the image.

At any rate, I love the effect that this thing gives and I can't wait for it to be more accessable in emulators.
And the winner is...
(rants)
posted by on Tuesday January 10, 2006 at 11:44PM (EST)

For those of you who entered the contest, the correct month (in which I update my blog again) is January. Contact Shmike to claim your prize.

Why is it that nearly every rant that I type up here ends up being about why I don't update my blog? I have a few things that I'd like to mention, but I don't want my rants to all become huge recap posts. The problem is that I really would like to mention them. What I'll do, then, for my current plan, is do one more recap post now, and from then on start posting smaller entries that don't try to encapsulate such a large period of time. This way, I can make posts about smaller things that I tend to forget about later and I can write longer posts for more significant events (that is, events that are briefly mentioned in these recap posts). Make sense? I think so.

Of course, if you've at any time read my site, you know that I'll never stick with that plan and that my next update will probably be in March as a summary from now to then.

Now that I think about it, though, I didn't do all too much since the last update. There was Christmas, New Years, and lots and lots of time with Amy. Christmas was good. I got to see some family and I got all of the few gifts that I asked for. I won't bother to list everything I got, suffice to say that my parents spoil me. New Years was spent over Amy's. I watched Twilight Zone episodes with her, played around in Animal Crossing while she played Sudoko, and had about as much fun as two people on a couch can have while there's a parent in the room. The rest of my vacation was spent either working on computers, sleeping, or having fun with Amy.

And that's the super-summarized version of my three-week Christmas break. Other than that, there were classes, but I try not to recall those unless there's a test.

So, in summary, watch this space. I just might update it.
What happen!
(rants)
posted by on Sunday December 11, 2005 at 3:14AM (EST)

Yeah, please pardon my mess.

I'd like to say I've been busy for the past...what is it now...months? I'd like to say I've been busy, but really I haven't been. I mean, how hard is it to write a rant into a textbox?

Anyway, if you've been to my front page you'll have noticed I changed it page from my stories site (Lucky 13) to some kind of horrible splash page. If the handful of readers out there are kinda pissed about this, then I apologize. I can concede that Lucky 13 is the best design that I have done to date. I would further say that it will most likely be the best design that I will ever create. However, I have to move on. I get bored with the same design over and over.

Part of me wants to keep Lucky 13 as it was. Part of me wants to go back to the No-Design design of version 3. Part of me wants to scrap everything and start an altogether new site. I'm trying to reach some middle ground with this. Lucky 13 is still there, it's just one click away from the main page. You can bookmark Lucky 13 and never view the mainpage if you want. I don't care. The frontpage design is selectable, and I'll be making new ones whenever I get the motivation to do it. By the way, it'll remember the last design you choose and load that one automagically the next time you go to ximwix.net. I've also added a few new sites for the sake of having new sites to play with.

So there you have it. A new front page and some new neglected sites. Don't go around thinking I'm going to update regularly, though. That would be a very foolish thought...
copyright, etc
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