Friday, 21 October 2011

Winter Is Coming

In the last couple of weeks the temperature has randomly flipped from being record-breakingly hot for October into proper winter cold. As usual, the temperature itself in Cambridge isn't actually that cold, but there's an arctic wind that makes it pretty chilly once you get outside.

Today was the first day we bothered to turn the central heating on in the house, which in one sense was as simple as flicking a switch to turn the heating on instead of just the hot water, but in another sense was confusing as hell because nothing about the heating system makes sense. It doesn't help that we have an absolutely ancient boiler (with the bizarre name of "Ideal Mexico Super"), but our main issue is that we have no clue how the thermostat works.

The thermostats is in the same little cupboard-room thing as the boiler. This room doesn't have a radiator and has the boiler in it, meaning that the temperature in there has basically no relation to the temperature in the rest of the house, so first off we have no idea how exactly it's meant to judge when the heating should be on or off. The range on the thermostat also apparently goes from -5 to +10C, which has us totally baffled because that's pretty far from the range of temperatures we'd actually like the house to be, so even assuming the sodding thing works we have no idea where to set it.

Today was a fairly packed day as far as my course went, with us having to give a presentation in the morning and having an exam worth 5% of our year in the afternoon. Back in first or second year I would have been completely bricking it this morning. Because we've had lectures all week we've had no real time to do any revision (plus the course material isn't particularly revise-able anyway), and our presentation wasn't that brilliantly prepared either. Despite this my main thought this morning was that our exam was going to finish at 3pm when our lectures typically finish at 5pm, meaning fuck yeah the weekend starts two hours earlier. I'd probably have cared more if there presentation was formally assessed, or if everyone else wasn't also completely unprepared for the exam, but as it turned out both went OK. The questions didn't require a huge amount of memorisation from the lecture material, and I'd been present and awake for all of them (the latter being difficult sometimes) which pretty much seemed to be as much preparation as you needed.

I'm starting a two-week placement at Bosch in Stowmarket on Monday. Initially we were going to have a ~90 minute commute from Cambridge every day, but some of the other people on the placement complained a bit and we're now staying in a hotel for the two weeks, aside from being home at the weekend. I was fairly indifferent to the situation. I'm not a huge fan of a long commute, but I also quite like having housemates and a PS3 and a decent computer in the evenings. The project itself looks like a fair bit of work, though it's hard to really judge until we actually go.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

And So I Bought A Tablet...

Typically I'm not one to impulse buy if it's something that costs real money. If anything I'm the opposite - I'll research fairly thoroughly to make sure what I'm buying is decent, and then I'll shop around and find the best deal I can get for it. That said, I impulse bought a graphics tablet a couple of weeks ago. Emily had impulse bought it on eBay, didn't want it, and I figured why the heck. So I ended up with one of these for £35. My Dad always been moans that I don't have enough technology in my room, so I figured I'd expand my collection a bit.

Now many people will say "But you're an engineer with no artistic talent whatsoever! What on earth would you need a tablet for?!" and to be honest, for most of my life I get by just fine without one. That said, there have been times when I could have really done with a tablet and it's an absolute pain in the ass to not have one. I find the same sort of deal with scissors and multi-tools and a variety of other objects, where I typically take them for granted and then have occasional circumstances where I find myself totally screwed if I don't have them to hand.

There have been so many times when I've been typesetting something that's meant to be hand-written, and I've wasted hours trying to find a font that looks fairly hand-written and is in the right style when if I'd had a tablet I could have just written it myself with my own hand. Or design projects where all my concept sketches have to be done on paper and scanned in (and therefore look like ass) when it would have been so much easier to just draw them on my PC. Not to mention that you can't as easily Ctrl+Z stuff when you're drawing on paper.

The other use I'd quite like one for, besides work-related things, is for this blog. There are only so many images I can find on the internet, and it's nice to draw things myself. I've long followed Hyperbole & A Half, and while I probably won't borrow the text-and-lulzy-cartoons format quite as much as other people I know who blog (mostly because drawings take effort and I'm lazy), it'd be nice insert daft sketches from time to time.

I could have done this before, but I didn't really have the tools to make anything that wasn't completely terrible. Drawing on paper requires either a scanner or a camera that isn't total shit to convert the drawings into an electronic format, and I have neither. Drawing with a mouse was always an option, but not really, because I can't draw with a mouse. To take an example:

That took about five attempts until I got something I was remotely satisfied with, and it still looks like it might as well have been drawn with a crayon by a pre-schooler. I had so little confidence in my drawing I clearly even thought it necessary to write "SHEEP" above the drawing so people couldn't get confused over what it actually was.

On the other hand, this was my first attempt with the tablet:

That picture makes it painfully clear that even with a proper pen I'm still far from some sort of Picasso (though tablets are a bit weird to use, and in my defence I'm still getting used to it), but I'd say it's a considerably better effort and it took me a fraction of the time. Hell, I even got the Gurren Lagann sunglasses in there.

So yeah, when I can be bothered expect some crappy cartoons on this thing, because I'll probably feel a bit guilty if I don't actually use the thing.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Google Analytics Keywords

An alternative title for this post could easily be "completely weird shit people search for on Google". Or "I couldn't be bothered writing a proper post so here is a list of crap I'm just pasting from a website".

I use Google Analytics on this blog, which provides me with pretty details info about the people who visit, where they visit from, and all that jazz. It gives me my hit rate (which is just under 1000 hits a month for anyone who cares) and referring sites, but also really crazy in-depth shit like resolutions and browsers and even what colour settings they have (I imagine this is actually fairly useful if you're running a huge website and want to make it accessible to people on mobiles and the like). The amount of data and detail you can pull up is actually pretty staggering.

For example, I can say that in the past year 43% of people on this site were using Firefox, and 33% were using Chrome. 88% had Java support. 49% had 32-bit colour, and 48% had 24-bit.

All of this is somewhat nice to know, but not particularly great reading. On the other hand, the keywords section proves to be completely crazy. The keywords section is essentially a long list of things that people have typed into search engines and landed on my site as a result from.

The most popular search engine hits are fairly obvious and trivial. 'rostilfc', 'rosti blog', 'for great justice rosti' and all those sorts of things all obviously lead here, and apparently get searched for quite a bit (just bookmark it guys!). From there, various anime related stuff, such as 'summer wars' or somewhat obscure references I've made, such as 'approach your target and attack' or 'cambridge a14 bridge paint'. Again, for most of these I can quite easily see why they'd be searched, and why they'd happen to lead to certain pages of this blog.

The next set is mostly image related. I have a lot of images on here, most of which are fairly well labelled, so when people type things like 'atheist demotivational' into Google Images, go figure this blog is up there. One that confused me a bit was "whyyyyyyy", which apparently has brought 17 independent visits to this site, until I realised that if you type it into Google images (with that many y's) then the first image result is for an image on this blog. So having random token images in my posts generates a fair number of hits.

At this point, things break down. Things break down horribly. After searches that I can logically link to specific pages of this blog, it shifts into searches that I not only find surprising that they link here, but also somewhat unsettling that people are even searching for that thing at all.

The number one why-the-fuck-does-that-bring-people-here search phrase is 'korean internet sex'. I have no idea why this site is apparently highly ranked on Google for that shit, but it does genuinely bring up this blog as a result on the first few pages.

So, out of the 1500 phrases people have typed into Google (or, if they suck, Bing) to find this site in the last year, here are some of my favourites:

jens voigt legs
питер гриффин (apparently Peter Griffin in Russian) (search bar isn't URL bar, people)
retarded charizard
acrobat getting fucked
anime fucking a penis pictures
are you typing fucking novel?
ass shaped things
astronaut fuck when there's really nothing else to say
book how not to be a retard
cannot connect to domain because your pc is fucked
crazy teacher how to fuck
daz, i dont think i can do this much longer mate, ive got cramps
don't fucking my mind
evangelical christians are shit
fluorescent pee
funny picture of cat bitching slapping another cat
gary neville weird face
how do i make the yahoo toolbar fuck off
i told him i want sex he said me to fuck off and played game with spaceships
korean sex for apple
new plymouth arse end
scunthorpe is shit

Each of those being legitimately something that somebody has put into a search engine (the spaceships one being a personal favourite). I guess if I've learned anything, it's that I should probably tone down the profanity. Or maybe not, because apparently it's getting plenty of hits.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

A Trip To Aston Martin

A fairly major part of my course this year, as anyone who has either spoken to me (or "listened to me moaning" as it could otherwise be called) in the last couple of months or reads this blog will know, is that I get shipped off at various points in the year to factories around the UK to do some sort of mild manufacturing/management consultancy work for zero pay. We then have to write an assessed report on what we did and all that jazz.

The first half of this week was our 3-day induction placement. The induction placement packs us into larger groups than normal (nine of us) and is shorter, with the idea that we pick up a bit of an experience without things dragging on too long for our first attempt. On the upside, we get a few days in an expenses-paid B&B outside of Cambridge and have expenses that sort of go towards paying for the various pub dinners we have while we're out there (though they're only meant to pay the difference from food costs in Cambridge and most of the time don't even cover that). The downside is that most of the UK's manufacturing is located in various middle-of-nowhere shit-hole locations in the Midlands. And that we basically have full working days plus working time in the evenings, which is knackering.

In terms of going to Aston Martin, I was definitely in one of the better groups on paper. It was also helped by the B&B we were staying at being totally awesome, and run by an exceptionally nice lady who didn't object at all to getting up at 6:30am to cook us breakfast.

The Aston Martin factory in Gaydon is located in a group of really tiny villages with basically fuck-all there. There were at least a handful of pubs to eat at though. Well, we saw three, and one of them wasn't serving food during either of the two attempts we made to eat there. There was one called The Malt Shovel which was awesome though.

After the first day of being surrounded by Aston Martin cars I wanted one so badly. They seemed so awesome, and so incredibly shiny. After a couple of days that wore off though, and when seeing one on the motorway as we drove home I barely batted an eyelid. Except for the One-77, because holy shit those things are ridiculously sexy.

They also cost over a million pounds each and I will almost certainly never own one.

For the factory visit itself, I can't actually say that much because of confidentiality agreements and all that stuff, which is probably a good thing because it'd be boring as hell anyway. I will say though that claims of the Aston Martin Cygnet is related to the Toyota IQ are vast understatements. Also that the factory is ridiculously centred around showing potential customers around it, and they've gone to pretty huge lengths (and sacrificed obvious efficiency) to make certain things easily visible to people wandering around the main walkways. Also they have an absolutely amazing canteen, and I've been anywhere else that even remotely comes close to it.

I didn't so much enjoy coming back straight into a full lecture schedule and a report to write, but the placement itself was pretty fun. The long hours and getting up early were shit, but it was nice to go out for meals at a pub together every night and have a fair bit of socialising. It was good to chat to people who I've not really spoken to that much outside of lectures (except for Emily, because she's at Downing, and Gemma, because I've worked with her in pretty much every MET project we've ever done).

Anyway, back in Cambridge now for email answering and sorting out the DCBC Fresher's Fair at the weekend. The count of sign-ups for the CURMS stall at the fresher's fair apparently wasn't too bad either, despite my being away from Cambridge and totally shambolic organisation with delegating other people to do stuff.