Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Life: Leg cramp

I tried to do some programming while on the train. There is very little space, so I was sitting somewhat slanted on the seat so that I can open my laptop enough for me to view the screen. Eventually, this became uncomfortable so I tried to change position by sitting forward and prop my leg on top the other so I can rest the laptop on my leg.

During the process, my leg suddenly cramped really bad. This has never happened to me before where I could not move or twist my calf for like a minute. On the rare occasion my leg cramps (usually from over-stretching my leg), I usually can manage to push my feet up towards my shin which would relieve most of the pain and relieve my calf.

I also could not move my foot with my hands after I managed to put away my laptop which was a task in itself as I am trying to ignore the pain. I was worried that maybe I had torn a tendon, but eventually the cramp just went away. Fortunately, there were no one nearby to witness my odd behavior. It could have been unfortunate if the problem was more serious.

This was probably because the weather was colder than usual and I was outside for most of the day. I had also spent the morning running in the park. Later walking for about an hour to get to the train station. Ending on a happy note, I did manage 20k steps that day (still enjoying my Wii U Fit meter).

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hulu, TV Provider, White Collar - Connection issue

I tried to keep my laptop more locked down on what it is capable of doing. One of those options was to lock down on the third-party cookie tracking. Although harmless, it has the potential to be abused. One of the problems for this is connecting Hulu to my TV provider. This also prevents some of the settings in some facebook games/apps. By disabling the "Block third-party cookies and site data" option, this allowed all the features to work properly. I couldn't find exactly which ones to put onto the exception list. I tried adding hulu and url of my tv provider, but neither fixed the problem. My guess is there is another site that the tv provider uses for authentication.

Friday, December 19, 2014

How to determine a thesis topic for your master's degree (possibly other theses)

Even though I have had many great ideas for a master's thesis, almost all of them are not feasible within the time period to complete a master's thesis (typically a year, possibly two). For doctoral thesis, this can span many years so I assume one could be more picky about their thesis.

The simplest suggestion I can provide is to just skim through a few theses that you are interested in. All theses have some problems or issues. These will become great sources for your thesis topics. Do not worry too much about sticking to a specific topic but try to keep it as concise as possible. As you do more research, you will be modifying your thesis depending on the sources you are able to find. That's about all there is to finding your thesis topic.

The reason for this method is that most of the ideas you think are innovative, you will find that it is far from innovative. You will also find that the topic will be much more precise than what you initially thought or else your paper will become really long.

But have no fear, although most of your ideas are not new, most of the papers you read will become sources for your thesis. All the sources within those sources will be other sources for your use. I do recommend that you track all the key topics though. I spent a lot of time looking for specific arguments in sources. The temptation to think that I could remember, I did not anticipate the large number of sources that I ended up using (easily used more than 20, read more than 50).

Doing your own research with a survey or test also makes a great source and makes the thesis topic a little more genuine. Before doing this, you should be pretty confident that your thesis will not change (or not change significantly) or else you risk that the research to be just a waste of time. This may be normal for a doctoral thesis, but time is quite the enemy for a master's thesis.

Hopefully this will help someone out there... or perhaps for my future self if I ever decide to get a PhD. GOOD LUCK!

Other Fun Links

- PhDComics.com - http://phdcomics.com/

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Future Reading - New Ways to Think of Volunteering/Philanthropy

I like some of these thoughts of long term philanthropy.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

T25 (First Impression)

A couple friends introduced me to T25, and it has been very convenient to add to my list of exercises to do. My personal preference for exercise is primarily running outdoors. This becomes increasingly difficult as the freezing season comes around or simply just rainy or just on the road. At home, I typically go to the gym to run on the treadmill.

One would realize that 25 minutes of constant movement should be rather tiring especially for someone that still cannot jog for a straight 25 minutes (although I did just pass 20 minutes... we'll see how long I can maintain it this time around). But no, I always thing that I can easily put in 25 minutes of my time to work on T25.

Although I really enjoy doing the different exercises (haven't touched the Gamma level yet), I really like that I do not need any equipment and can easily be done at home. Some do require weights or a mat, but I just use a carpet and I have not reached the level to use weights yet. I am not able to keep up with the regular workout thus having to follow Tanya for a good chunk of the video.

Tanya is one of the people in the video but does a "toned down" version of each exercise. But for amateurs/beginners, do not be fooled as this can still be challenging enough to keep the body going. Even then, I still do some of the exercises a little slower which is supposed to be ok still.

The hardest part for me (besides being out of breath) is the constant moving on the balls of my feet. My calves start to tire and cannot keep up throughout the entire video. I am able to follow for the first third to half of the video, then I try to keep up whenever I have the breath and energy to do so.

I do not think many people have the same opinion about the sense of time lapse, but I always find it interesting how each minute once you get tired becomes mentally longer as I reach the end of the video. The worst for me is the cardio since I am somewhat able to do most of the exercises so I have the chance to glimpse at the clock. I have not done the others enough to be used to the exercises yet so I focus more on the pose, position, and steps thus always scrambling to keep up.

Overall, I really like the exercises so far. I have no experience with other types of workout so I do not have much to compare with.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I am a Release (noun) Manager, not Release (verb) Manager

I've been getting several calls from cold-calling recruiters for positions seeking a release manager. After a couple questions, I end up correcting most callers that they are looking for a release engineer. I rather call them deployment managers because most of them understand that rather than release engineer.

This site provides a good explanation of the difference between the two.

I am a release manager (release as a noun), not a release manager (release as a verb). In my line of work/responsibility, I do not actually release any code or compile any code or touch any code (except maybe to forward the package to the operations team which I really should not be doing).

Another way to look at it is that I am like a project manager who are managers on the project level while I am a manager on the release level. If a problem is on the project level (something wrong with project requirements) then it is managed via the project manager. If that same problem cannot be remedied within the release schedule, then it becomes a release level problem thus requiring a release manager to review the impacts.

A release (in my world) is a set of projects to be deployed within the same window. The projects may have weak or strong correlations with other projects within the same release. Not all companies require a release manager as most companies deal with only single project releases. There may be several projects but none are dependent on the other so can always be deployed independently, or small enough to be easily managed by the development teams or existing project managers.

Our releases typically have 2-4 large projects, several small projects, and other production issue patches. For us, releases require quite a bit of coordination due to limited resources including both human resource and hardware resources. Our environments are hardware dependent costing tens to hundreds of millions of dollars so we cannot just simply "spin" up another test environment.

The release manager does not (in my opinion) have the authority to make a final decision on how the new issue should be resolved. The release manager has to be capable of providing the different options and the recommended course. The product, customer, or client should make the ultimate decision.

Typical choices could be:
  1. delaying all phases to accommodate the new timeline
  2. removing the project from the release (there still exists risk that this still delay the deployment if there are issues removing the project)
  3. do not fix and deploy with a known defect (adds risk to customer satisfaction and/or data integrety)
  4. shorten the timeline of a future phase if possible (typically requiring a group to work overtime)
  5. use the buffer time if one was implemented (typically adds risk to a shortened quiet period)
These terms are not set in stone as the position (to me) seems relatively new (within the last decade) as can be seen by all the recruiters that does not know the differences either. The terms have been around long enough for some stability in their usages. Truthfully, I did not know about this type of position until I was hired here, and didn't know about release engineers until the recruiters started giving me job descriptions that did not match my roles.



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wii U Fit Meter - Durability and Tracking, Personal Review

I have been using the Wii U Fit Meter for a few months. I did not intentionally test these "features" so most are just from my recollection.


I had accidentally left the Fit Meter in the pocket of my pants that went through wash and dry cycle. Surprisingly, it has survived and appears to still be functioning accurately. Unfortunately, it did track a bunch of steps and elevation during that time. I did not find a way to cancel these steps. 


The Fit Meter appears to track my runs on a treadmill. I am not exactly sure how accurate it is though but it seems roughly correct. Usually, I have other steps in the day so that kind of complicates how far I actually traveled. I typically run around 3.5 miles and I end up with around 5 miles on the Wii U for the day. 1.5 miles seem to be the typical distance for the usual daily steps when I'm not at the gym.

It also does a pretty good job of determine if I am walking or running on the treadmill. I am quite stumped on how it determines this. Since I am not displacing any relative distance it would make it difficult to determine how far I walk/run. It would have to somehow calculate from just the 'bounce' from my steps (guessing). It would have to estimate my gait from my height and weight if that were the case.

Update (1/8/2015): My guess is that it estimates by the steps. Now that I am in more shape to run a bit faster, I noticed that the distance is not accurate in that the Fit Meter calculates a shorter distance. I think this is due to my sprinting form having a larger gait than walking/jogging so the frequency of my steps decrease.


Interestingly, the Fit Meter tracks the elevation even on an airplane. It does not track it for the elevation walked, but you can see in the graph that the meter was at a certain elevation while flying.


The Wii U sits on the second floor, so most of the elevation at the gym is at a negative elevation as the instructions does mention that it zeroes where the Wii U console unit is. There is a way to reset this but I have not found this to be a problem yet so have not bothered to set the ground level to be 0.

I have also traveled to other places that have a much higher elevation. The Fit Meter tracks this similar to the flight elevation. I'm not sure if you are walking while climbing these elevations that it would record that data. I have not put in any steps during these artificial elevation changes.


The bumps in the car or train does not seem to impact the Fit Meter. I have not walked around the train while it was moving so I cannot say what happens for that. My guess is that the Wii Fit somehow considers the current velocity and uses the accelerometer to determine steps inside a moving vehicle.

Tricking Fit Meter, Distance and Step Compensation

Similar to losing my meter in the washer and dryer, I can shake the meter up and down to add artificial steps to the meter. Steps are also counted while walking or running in place. Jumping will also be considered a step. The distance is still calculated for these "steps" even though I do not move.

Current Status

I am quite impressed with the Fit Meter. I cannot theoretically guess how it calculates all its numbers but it seems to be accurate enough for a leisure level exercise. There are quite some limitations to viewing specific data so I would not recommend this for more hardcore 'steppers' or runners. It is great just for trends that I am steadily improving or seeing holiday splurge of added weight (sigh).