Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Connect to AOL Broadband Without Their Application

When you subscribe to AOL Broadband, you are forced to install a resource intensive application (AOL8.0 or AOL9.0) and connect to the internet from there. I have noticed that this application (waol.exe) sometimes uses upto 99% CPU and my computer grinds to a halt!

In order to avoid having to use the AOL application and connect directly to the internet, follow the following steps:
  • Go to Control Panel and select Network Connections
  • Click New Connection Wizard
  • Choose to "Connect to the Internet" and then press Next
  • Choose to "Set up my connection manually" and then press Next
  • Choose to "Connect using a broadband connection that requires a user name and password" and then press Next
  • Type the name of your ISP e.g. "AOL Broadband" and then press Next
  • Choose for "Anyone's use" and then press Next
  • Type your User name e.g. "JohnSmith@aol.com", Password, Confirm password and then press Next
  • Tick "Add a shortcut to this connection to my desktop" and click Finish to close the wizard.
Now you can connect straight to the internet by going to your desktop and clicking on the "AOL Broadband" icon.

In order to automatically connect whenever you startup your computer, add this icon to the Startup folder:
C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Eid in the Square 2007

Yesterday, I went to Trafalgar Square for this year's Eid celebrations. It was bigger and better this year with a line-up of Muslim artistic talent taking the stage and providing an afternoon of thrilling performance.



Eid in the Square celebrates Eid-ul-Fitr, the Islamic holiday marking the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. It is a festival of great happiness and celebration and is rejoiced by millions of Muslims around the world, bringing communities, friends and families together.

The atmosphere was great! The square was packed with people; the Muslims dressed in their colourful Eid clothes. There was also a Muslim bazaar and a children's area with interactive workshops.






Programme:

12.50 Call to Prayer
13:00 Welcome
13:03 Quran Recitation
13:15 Speeches and presenters
13:45 Olive Tree Supplementary School (children performance)
14:00 Tala Al Badru (Group of Musicians)
14:15 Prince Abdi (Somali comic)
14:30 Hamza Robertson (Musician / Singer)
15:00 Poetic Pilgrimage (Female Hip Hop Act)
15:15 Hussain Zahawy (Percussionist)
15:40 Nazeel Azami (Singer)
16:00 Aashiq Al Rasul (Classical singers and percussionists)
16:30 Mesut Kurtis (Nasheeds)
17:00 Close






Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Top 5 Things Every Extrovert Should Know About Introverts

Saw this great article on digg today. I am an introvert and people tend to think I'm arrogant and shy when I really just want my own space and hate small talk!

--

First off, there are those who are reading this who might not know which camp they fall into, the extrovert or the introvert. Chances are, the majority of those reading this will know, but for those who don’t, let’s define those two terms here very broadly.

Extroverts tend to be those who are more energized when around other people. They are the ones who will reach for the cell phone when alone for more than a minute, the ones who love to go out every weekend, the ones who love to chit chat, mingle, and socialize.

Introverts tend to be those who are more energized when alone with themselves. They are the ones who have to be dragged to parties, who are the first ones ready to leave after a short period of time, and who generally enjoy solitary activities such as reading, writing, and daydreaming.

The qualities and characteristics of introverts are often held in a negative light in today’s world, so it’s only natural that the majority of people seem to think that there’s something wrong with them

The reason why the majority of people think that there’s something wrong with introverts is because the majority of people aren’t very knowledgeable when it comes to introverts, in terms of why they are the way they are and why they do the things they do.

Many people tend to hold several potentially damaging misconceptions about introverts, but through no fault of their own.

I’ve been on both sides of the extrovert/introvert fence, and I can understand why extroverts tend to view introverts in a negative light, socially speaking, so I thought it would be best to write an article dedicated to helping extroverts understand their often very misunderstood introvert counterparts.

My hope is this article will help solve that problem by shedding some light as to why introverts are the way they are and do the things they do, so here are 5 things every extrovert should know about introverts.

1. If a person is introverted, it does NOT mean they are shy or anti-social.

This is probably THE biggest misconception that extroverts tend to have when it comes to introverts.

And you can’t really blame them for having that kind of misconception.

Extroverts tend to have to drag introverts to parties, to convince them to go and sell them on attending social engagements. When introverts politely decline, extroverts automatically assume that something might be wrong so they always ask if everything’s all right and of course, everything is all right. It’s just a common misunderstanding. When extroverts see a pattern like this developing, they automatically assume that introverts are shy or anti-social as that can be the only logical explanation to them.

What’s more, when extroverts try to engage introverts in small talk, it seems like they hit a brick wall.

Add to that, most extroverts see that introverts tend to be fond of engaging in solitary activities such as reading, writing, and daydreaming.

Well, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it must be a duck right?

Wrong.

Introverts have more brain activity in their frontal lobes and when these areas are activated through solitary activity, introverts become energized through processes such as problem solving, introspection, and complex thinking.

Extroverts on the other hand tend to have more activity in the back of their brain, areas that deal with processing sensory information from the external world, so they tend to search for external stimuli in the form of interacting with other people and the outside world to energize them.

There’s a deeper science to this that involves differences in the levels of brain chemicals such as acetylcholine and dopamine in extroverts and introverts, but I won’t get into that.

The bottom line is that introverts are just wired differently than extroverts. There’s nothing "wrong" with them. They just become energized through different processes depending on where the majority of their brain activity takes place.

Granted there are introverts who may be shy and anti-social, but that’s just a coincidence that perpetuates the myth that ALL introverts are like that.

You’ll find that all introverts are fine just the way they are until people begin to subtly suggest otherwise.

2. Introverts tend to dislike small talk.

If you really want to engage an introvert in conversation, skip the small talk. Introverts tend to love deep conversations on subjects that interest them. They love to debate, go past the superficial and poke around the depths in people’s minds to see what’s really going on in there. Most, if not all introverts tend to regard small talk as a waste of time, unless it’s with someone new they just met.

This characteristic probably contributes to another misconception that extroverts have of introverts - the misconception that all introverts are arrogant.

Why?

Because extroverts notice that introverts don’t talk that much with other people. Therefore, extroverts assume that introverts think they’re too good to talk to others, hence arrogant and that’s hardly the case.

It’s just a matter of preference.

Extroverts thrive on small talk.
Introverts abhor it.

There’s nothing wrong with either choice, it’s just a matter of preference.

This brings us to the third point.

3. Introverts do like to socialize - only in a different manner and less frequently than extroverts.

Yes, it’s true. Contrary to the majority of public opinion, introverts do like to socialize, but again, only in a different manner and less frequently than extroverts.

Introverts love anything that involves deep conversation. They get energized by discussing subjects that are important to them and they love see what and how other people think, to connect the dots, to dig deep, to find root causes, to use logical thinking via debate in conversation, etc.

And what’s more, introverts can do a lot of things extroverts are naturally good at - give great speeches, schmooze with everyone, be the life of the party, charm the socks off of total strangers - but only for a short period of time. After that, they need time for themselves which brings us to the fourth point.

4. Introverts need time alone to recharge.

Extroverts tend to think introverts have something against them as they constantly seem to refuse generous invites to social engagements. Introverts do appreciate the offers, but it’s just that they know it will take a lot of energy out of them if they pursue these social functions.

They need time alone like they need food and water. Give them their space. There’s nothing wrong with them. They’re not depressed and they’re not sad. They just need time alone to recharge their batteries.

5. Introverts are socially well adjusted.

Most introverts are well aware of all the social nuances, customs, and mannerisms when it comes to interacting with other people, but they simply don’t socialize as much as extroverts, which makes it easy for extroverts to assume that introverts are not socially well adjusted, as they have not seen much evidence of them interacting with other people.

This just exacerbates previous misconceptions and gives way to labeling introverts as nerds, geeks, loners, etc.

It’s easy to understand why society tends to value extroverts over introverts. Human beings have lived in a tribal society so having to interact frequently with people came to be a regarded as a very good skill when it came to survival.

But because of this high value placed on extroversion, introverts tend to feel trapped and find themselves in a catch 22 situation.

Do introverts stay true to who they are and risk social alienation and isolation or do introverts conform and join the extroverted side, pretending to be somebody they’re not just to fit in?

This is precisely why I wrote this article, because if the extroverts can become more educated about introverts, introverts will be able to feel free to stay true to who they are, and that’s a good thing from society’s point of view.

Trying to "turn" an introverted person into an extroverted person is detrimental because it gives off a subtle suggestion that there is something wrong with them, hampering their self worth and esteem when there is absolutely nothing wrong in the first place.

There’s nothing wrong with introverts.

In fact, introverts are the leading pioneers of advancements in human civilization. Albert Einstein, Issac Newton, Charles Darwin are a few introverts that come to mind, just to name a few.

And for those of you not interested in science, but pop culture, you’ll be surprised to see a lot of well known names in Hollywood are introverts as well. Julia Roberts, Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise to name a few as well.

And for those interested in sports, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods come to mind as athletes who are introverts as well.

Introverts have a lot to bring to the table. They have an amazing ability to discover new thoughts, an uncanny ability to focus, to concentrate, to connect the dots, to observe and note things that most people miss, to listen extremely well and are often found having a rich and vivid imagination as well.

The more extroverts become knowledgeable about introverts, the less tension and misunderstanding there will be among the two.

So if you’re an introvert reading this, send a copy of this article to all your extrovert friends so they can get a better idea of what you’re all about.

It’s time to finally clear the air.

By: Brian Kim - October 2, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Excel 2007 Multiplication Bug

850*77.1 gives a result of 100,000 instead of the correct 65,535!
It seems that any formula that should evaluate to 65,535 will act strangely.

More posts here :

One poster in the forum noted these behaviors: "Suppose the formula is in A1. =A1+1 returns 100,001, which appears to show the formula is in fact 100,000... =A1*2 returns 131,070, as if A1 had 65,535 (which it should have been). =A1*1 keeps it at 100,000. =A1-1 returns 65,534. =A1/1 is still 100,000. =A1/2 returns 32767.5."

You've got to wonder: if it worked fine in previous versions what the hell did they do to mess it up this time?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

MSN Messenger 7.5 doesn't work anymore

I tried logging into MSN Messenger a couple of days ago and got an error saying that I had to download the latest "Windows Live" version. My current version is 7.5 and I don't want to download the latest because I hate it as it is a memory hog.

After searching a few forums online, I found the following workaround to get MSN Messenger 7.5 logging me in again:
  • Right click the MSN Messenger icon and select Properties
  • On the Compatibility tab choose to Run this program in compatibility mode for: Windows 2000
  • Click OK
Now, when you start MSN Messenger, it reinstalls/repairs it and then allows you to log in again! Only thing is, you end up with a funny icon in your System Tray.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

RARE Award

Quick note to blog the fact that I won the 8th cycle of the GTO Recognising and Rewarding Excellence (RARE) initiative on the 3rd of August.

RARE is a business initiative with the objective to recognise, reward and celebrate exceptional accomplishments, achieved by GTO AVPs and below.

I was awarded a cash prize and a mug!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Escaping a Character in Oracle

Consider the following table

select * from my_table

NAME
----
FAHD
FAHD_SHARIFF
SHARIFF_FAHD
FAHDSHARIFF

If you want to select only those names containing an underscore, the following query will NOT work:


select * from my_table where name like '%_%'

NAME
----
FAHD
FAHD_SHARIFF
SHARIFF_FAHD
FAHDSHARIFF

All rows are returned even though rows 1 and 4 do not contain an underscore! This is because an underscore is a special character - it is a single character wildcard.

You need to escape the underscore so that Oracle treats it as a literal:


select * from my_table where name like '%\_%' escape '\'

NAME
----
FAHD_SHARIFF
SHARIFF_FAHD

Monday, March 26, 2007

Windows XP Performance Tips

WINDOWS DISK INDEXING
This is a performance tip that I strongly recommend you implement. The Windows Disk Indexer constantly indexes all files on your machine to allow for faster searching using the Windows Search function for example. Since most people don't search their machine very often, having Disk Indexing enabled provides a performance hit for no good reason, and also increases fragmentation. Follow these steps to turn off the Windows Disk Indexer to improve hard drive performance and responsiveness:
1. Go to Windows Explorer, right-click on your hard drive name (e.g. C:) and select Properties.
2. Untick the 'Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching'.
3. Select 'Apply changes to [Drive letter]\, subfolders and files' in the subsequent prompt.
4. Your system will now go through and remove all indexing on existing files, and not index any new or moved files in the future - this will speed up drive read/writes and general responsiveness. Ignore any 'errors' which are shown, this occurs simply because some files are in use or protected and can't have their properties changed to remove indexing - this is normal.

Make sure you also disable the 'Indexing Service' service as it is no longer necessary when disk indexing is removed from your hard drive.

DEFRAGMENTATION
I strongly suggest you get into the habit of defragmenting often, specifically after you delete or add large files or install software.

PREFETCH
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory
Management\PrefetchParameters]
EnablePrefetcher=3

I personally leave the Prefetcher registry setting above at its default of 3, and set the Task Scheduler service to Disabled. This means the prefetcher won't create application prefetch files under the Window\Prefetch directory. I also clear all out existing prefetch (.PF) files in that directory. I have found that this provides for the fastest Windows bootup time.

CONTROL PANEL > SYSTEM

> ADVANCED > PERFORMANCE SETTINGS
For fastest performance, I recommend deselecting everything except 'Use visual styles on windows and buttons' and 'Use drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop'. That will reduce usage of system resources for graphical effects, while still retaining the majority of Windows XP's trademark appearance.

> ADVANCED > PERFORMANCE SETTINGS > ADVANCED > VIRTUAL MEMORY


This is where you can set the size of your pagefile. To determine the optimal pagefile size you should ideally see how much memory your most memory intensive programs use and then set the pagefile to comfortably accommodate this.

Before setting a new pagefile size, first clear your existing pagefile. To do this select the 'No Paging File' option and click the Set button, then reboot your system. This step does two things: first it deletes the pagefile, fixing any potential pagefile corruption which can occur after a bad shutdown (remember this tip for future troubleshooting purposes); and secondly it ensures that any new pagefile you create will start off as a single unfragmented contiguous block on your hard drive for optimal performance, which will remain unfragmented in the future. Note that if you have any problems booting up into Windows due to a lack of a pagefile during this step, enter Windows in Safe Mode (See Backup & Recovery section) and continue the setup procedures for Virtual Memory from there.

Here is a simple general recommendation which is both safe to use on all systems, regardless of how much RAM you have, and provides good performance:
Set the Initial and Maximum pagefile sizes to 2560MB each - i.e. allocate 2.5GB for the pagefile. Whatever you do, don't set a zero pagefile.

> ADVANCED > STARTUP & RECOVERY SETTINGS
For a system with a single operating system, select '"Microsoft Windows XP [Home/Professional]" /fastdetect' in the list presented. If you only have one operating system, or you don't want to select a different operating system each time you boot up, untick the 'Time to display list of Operating Systems' option.

Under the 'System failure' section untick all three options for optimal performance, and the 'Write Debugging Information' option should be set to None. That way if you run into problems you'll see the error displayed (usually a Windows Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) message) and your system won't automatically reboot. At the same time you won't get lots of logfiles and dumpfiles of the event cluttering up your hard drive.

> ADVANCED > ERROR REPORTING
Click the Error Reporting button and select 'Disable Error Reporting' and tick 'But notify me when critical errors occur'. This will prevent your system continually informing Microsoft of errors occurring on your system, but at the same time will still show you important system messages and errors for notification and troubleshooting purposes.

> REMOTE
I strongly recommend that you disable the available options in this section for security and performance reasons.

> AUTOMATIC UPDATES
I recommend 'Turn off Automatic Updates' and instead use the manual method of regularly checking the Windows Update site for updates.

> SYSTEM RESTORE
Turn off System Restore, as it can take up a great deal of disk space

CONTROL PANEL > SOUNDS & AUDIO DEVICES
Disable as many sounds as possible as they take up system memory by being loaded into RAM at startup.

CONTROL PANEL > FOLDER OPTIONS
Use Windows Classic Folders
Open each folder in the same window
Double-click to open an item
Under View, I recommend you tick the following options:
  • Display file size information in folder tips
  • Display simple folder view in Explorer's folder list
  • Display the contents of system folders
  • Display the full path in the address bar
  • Display the full path in the title bar
  • Do not cache thumbnails
  • Show hidden files and folders
  • Show Control Panel in My Computer
  • Show encrypted or compressed NTFS files in color
It is recommended that the rest are unticked for best performance and functionality.

MOUSE
  • untick pointer shadow
  • auto default dialog button jump
  • pointer precision

SCREENSAVER
I recommend you set the screen saver to None to prevent burn-in (permanent image imprinting)

DISABLE STARTUP PROCESSES
Go to Run > msconfig and then choose the Startup tab.
Examine the list and disable any items you do not want started when your computer boots e.g. ypager, iTunesHelper etc.

DISABLE SERVICES
Go to Run > services.msc and then disable the following:
  • .NET Runtime Optimization Service
  • ASP.NET State Service
  • Clipbook
  • Error Reporting Service
  • Fast User Switching Compatibility
  • IMAPI CD-Burning COM Service
  • Indexing Service
  • Infrared Monitor
  • Machine Debug Manager
  • NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing
  • Network DDE
  • Network DDE DSM
  • Network Location Awareness (NLA)
  • Performance Logs and Alerts
  • Portable Media Serial Number Service
  • QoS RSVP
  • Remote Desktop Help Session Manager
  • Remote Registry
  • Routing and Remote Access
  • Secondary Logon
  • Security Center
  • Smart Card
  • SSDP Discovery Service
  • TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper
  • Telnet
  • Terminal Services
  • Uninterruptible Power Supply
  • Volume Shadow Copy
  • WebClient
  • Windows CardSpace
  • Windows User Mode Driver Framework
  • Wireless Zero Configuration
  • WMI Performance Adapter

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Funny Slashdot Post

Doug,

If you weren't aware of it before, you probably know it by now. Anything interesting or useful that rears its head on Slashdot will likely be ripped to shreds by what has quickly become the nets most vicious and petty peanut gallery.

Slashdottians know nothing, they accomplish nothing, and their opinions are worth nothing. They are uniformly bitter, small-minded geeks who overestimate their own importance and their own skillz. They are, for the most part, losers. Their biggest accomplishment is in insulting others' spelling and grammar, attacking the GPL license despite their grade level understanding of it, and tricking people into clicking on goatse.cx links. They are know-it-all blowhards who use their computers primarily for Pornography and online gaming, at which they cheat regularly to offset their complete lack of motor skills.

Despite touting the wonderous greatness of linux and open source, they all use Windows and Internet Explorer. They like Macs because of OSX, but want it to run on X86 so they can steal a copy and give nothing back. They will eventually buy a Mac due to their inability to run Windows without crashing it constantly by their own stupidity, and become raving unbalanced lunatics who do more harm than good for the Mac community by claiming that the G4 is quadruple the speed of a dual 3Ghz Xeon box.

They lie about their own experience to make their case, and when you win an argument with them, they post anonymously in order to tell you they've had sex with your mother.

Don't become a regular here, you will become retarded.

Signed,
Yoda the Retard

http://apple.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=44091&cid=4592270

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Sudanese Girl


This is the Pulitzer Prize winning photo taken in 1994 during the Sudan famine. It depicts a famine stricken child crawling towards a UN food camp, located a kilometre away.


The vulture is waiting for the child to die so that it can eat it. This picture shocked the whole world. No one knows what happened to the child, including Kevin Carter, the photographer, who left as soon as the photo was taken.

Three months later he committed suicide due to depression.

He said: Dear God,

I promise I will never waste my food no matter how bad it can taste and how full I may be. I pray that He will protect this little boy, guide and deliver him away from his misery. I pray that we will be more sensitive towards the world around us and not be blinded by our own selfish nature and interests.

I hope this picture will always serve as a reminder to us that how fortunate we are and that we must never ever take things for granted.

Let's make a prayer for the suffering in anywhere any place around the globe and send this friendly reminder to others. Think and look at this when you complain about your food and the food we waste daily.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Adding Laptop Memory

Last week, I decided to add more memory to my Dell Inspiron 1150 laptop. Its about 3 years old now and only had 256MB RAM! To be honest, I should have added more memory ages ago, but just couldn't be bothered. I only use my laptop for email and internet anyway.

I logged onto crucial.com and ordered a 1GB 200-PIN SODIMM 128Mx64 DDR PC2700 Pb-Free upgrade for my laptop. The total cost came to £68.14 (£57.99 + £10.15 tax) and it arrived the next day - I wasn't expecting such a speedy delivery!

I shut-down my computer, disconnected all cables, closed the display and turned it upside down on my desk. I slid out the battery as shown below:


I then loosened the captive screw in the memory module cover and removed it, revealing the 256MB module and an empty slot:



I unwrapped the new module and slid it into the empty slot at a 45-degree angle until it clicked into place. It required quite a bit of force.


I then closed the cover, put the battery back in and powered up.

As the computer booted, it detected the additional memory. I then went to Control Panel > System to check me new memory which was indeed 1.25GB.

Its amazing how much difference this has made! All my applications, such as Firefox and Eclipse are so much more faster and the system as a whole is much more responsive.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bonus Day

Feb 6th was Bonus Day - a day that everyone looks forward to with eager anticipation. However, its also a day of doom and gloom. No work gets done because people are either ecstatic or aggrieved over the size of their bonus. You're not allowed to discuss the amount of your bonus with anyone as it is a sackable offence! People try not to reveal their true emotions and when asked about it usually respond by saying that they are "content" and "not particularly happy nor particularly disappointed". Some people think they have been ripped off because they are earning a small proportion of the very large sums of money they are making for the bank.

Almost everyone in the bank gets some kind of bonus. A secretary might receive between 6-10% of his or her salary. People in back-office functions, such as public relations or IT, might get 40% to 60%. The big money, though, is "front-office" traders who make four or five times their annual pay!

So how did I do? I made AVP (Assistant Vice President). I'd just like to thank all my colleagues, friends and family for their support and kind wishes. Cheers!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Recovering Deleted Files

When you delete a file using Windows Explorer, the file is normally be moved to the Recycle Bin, unless you used "Shift+Delete". While it is in the Recycle Bin, the file can easily be restored without any problem. So the first thing to do when you want to recover a deleted file is look in the Recycle Bin.

Nothing on your drive is permanently removed when you delete it. Whenever you delete a file Windows simply marks it for deletion by changing one character in the file table. The entire file is still sitting on your hard drive, but it is hidden from view. Windows then allows other files to write over the space where it resides if required, but the file is not gone from your hard drive until it is completely overwritten at some point. This means that you can actually recover files that have been 'permanently' deleted, but you will require special software to do so.

RESTORATION

The best utility I have found to restore deleted files is a small free tool called Restoration. Upon start, you can scan for all files that can be recovered and also limit the results by entering a search term or extension. You can then select a file and click 'Restore by Copying' to recover it - however note that the file may not be complete since portions of it may have already been overwritten, so there is no guarantee you can recover an entire file this way. The chances of recovering the file intact decrease the longer you leave it - because the longer you leave it, the more likely it is that the computer will reuse all or part of the file's disk space for something else.

If you have accidentally deleted an important file, try and minimise any further disk activity. Do not start an application, save files, defragment your hard drive or even reboot Windows for example as these all aid in potentially overwriting the area where the file is sitting. Don't even leave your system idle for long periods of time either, since by default Windows XP starts defragmenting your hard drive in the background when idle. Run an undelete program like Restoration immediately.

Permanently Deleting Files

Restoration also provides the option to permanently delete files so that they cannot be recovered.


ISOBUSTER

If you want to recover deleted or damaged files on a CD or DVD, you will have to use a utility like IsoBuster. However just like hard drive data recovery, there is no guarantee that any usable data can be recovered from a damaged or deleted disk - particularly if it has been erased.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Windows System Tools

These are useful tools which will tell you all you need to know about your Windows system:


BUILT-IN UTILITIES

  • MS INFO
    Start > Run > msinfo32
    System information.
    You will need to have the 'Help and Support' service enabled

  • DEVICE MANAGER
    Start > Run > devmgmt.msc
    Displays your hardware devices which you can choose to update or uninstall

  • DIRECTX DIAGNOSTICS
    Start > Run > dxdiag
    The most useful function for DXDiag is its ability to create a text file with all your major system information, including your main hardware specifications, driver files, and environmental settings.

  • MSCONFIG
    Start > Run > msconfig
    Allows you to select which programs are automatically launched when your computer first starts up. Also allows you to stop/start services.

  • REGEDIT
    Start > Run > regedit
    Launches the Registry Editor. The Registry contains information that Windows continually references during operation, such as profiles for each user, the applications installed on the computer and the types of documents that each can create, property sheet settings for folders and application icons, what hardware exists on the system, and the ports that are being used.


EXTERNAL SOFTWARE
  • System Information for Windows
    SIW is the System Information for Windows tool which can be downloaded from the SIW Website. "Everything you want to know about your computer."

  • CPU-Z
    You can download CPU-Z from the CPU-Z Website. Provides you with everything you need to know about your CPU, such as its name/number, core stepping, package, voltage, cache information etc. It will also tell you about your system's current Bus speed under the CPU tab, your full motherboard details under the Motherboard tab, and your RAM's complete details under the Memory and SPD tabs. Note that for information to appear under the SPD tab you will have to first select the slot(s) on the motherboard that your RAM stick(s) occupy, otherwise the box will be empty.

  • NERO INFOTOOL
    You can download the Nero Disk InfoTool Utility from the CD Speed Website. It is a utility which analyses and displays the most important information about a drive, disc, configuration and software. The information can also be printed or saved to a text file.

  • JDiskReport
    You can download it from JGoodies. Illustrates with the help of graphs, how much space the files and directories consume on your disk drives and it helps you find where space is being used up.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Windows vs Linux System Calls

Windows has grown so complicated that it is harder to secure. The images below are a complete map of the system calls that occur when a web server serves up a single page of HTML with a single picture. The same page and picture. The more system calls, the greater potential for vulnerability, the more effort needed to create secure applications.

The first picture is of the system calls that occur on a Linux server running Apache.


This second image is of a Windows Server running IIS.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Stay Off Vista

Here are some of the reasons why I won't be getting Vista anytime soon:
  • Vista is slower than XP and needs more resources; it has some pretty hefty requirements compared to Windows XP. The fact of the matter is that Windows is bloated - it is now so big and onerous because of the size of its code base, the size of its ecosystem and its insistence on compatibility with the legacy hardware and software, that it just slows everything down. I believe that with time, users are going to end up with a more and more inferior operating system, which is really quite sad. Linux, on the other hand, can run on a 386.

  • Windows is buggy and prone to virus attacks. There is already a Vista Speech Recognition remote execution flaw which could allow an attacker to use the speech recognition feature in Windows Vista to verbally execute commands on a user’s computer. Therefore, its best to let the viruses get unleashed on Vista and stick to XP or another OS.

  • Although 80% of the changes in Windows Vista are positive, there is nothing about Vista that is truly innovative or compelling; there's no transformational, gotta-have-it feature in Vista. But the real problem isn't with Vista, its with Microsoft itself...

  • Vista's Aero graphics are an unnecessary waste of power and slow your system down.

  • You may not alter any of this evil. By installing it, you have agreed that "you may not work around any technical limitations in the software".

  • It is also advisable to wait until Service Pack 1 for Vista is available to upgrade from XP. Microsoft has announced that Vista SP1 will be released in the second half of 2007.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Is Animal Testing Justified?

Every year thousands of animals die at the hands of curious scientists. Before they die, they are routinely burned, scalded, poisoned, starved, given electric shocks, addicted to medicines, subjected to near freezing temperature, dozed with radioactive elements, driven insane, deliberately inflicted with diseases such as AIDS, cancer, herpes etc. Their brains and spinal cord are damaged since the use of anaesthesia is rarely administrated.

Despite all this cruelty, not a single disease has been cured through vivisection in the previous century. More than a million medicines are marketed each year after undergoing the unreliable test methods still in use: vivisection. Two of the most famous tests are the Draize or eye irritancy test and the LD50, lethal dose 50. The Draize test is performed on albino rabbits because they are cheap, docile and do not have tear ducts so as to wash away the chemicals. The substances put in the eye varies from mascara to aftershave. Reactions include ulcers, inflammation and rupture of the eyeball and bleeding. LD50 refers to the lethal dose required to kill 50% of the test species. There is also LD100... ironically of human poisoning.

Some medicines pass safe in case of animals but can prove to be very harmful in humans such as Opren: 3500 people suffered side effects as well as damage to skin, eyes, kidneys and livers. Clinoquenil, another medicine, led to the loss of eyesight. In the same way, many drugs harmful to animals can be beneficial to humans such as penicillin, an antibiotic to humans but killed guinea pigs and common aspirin caused birth defects in mice and rats. Skin irritancy tests differ from species to species for example nicotine is lethal at 9.2mg/kg in dogs and 53mg/kg in rats and 0.9mg/kg in humans (PETA fact sheet). This is proof that animal testing is unreliable but, unfortunately, these sadistic tests will go on every day.

We are cutting down forests which provide shelter to these animals, dump toxic chemicals and sewage in the waters in which they live, where the tusks and fur of the last few of their species and pour cosmetics into their eyes to determine the harmful side effects they might cause to humans.

Animals possess the same kind and of feelings and emotions that humans do and without anaesthesia, they are subjected to unbearable pain which eventually leads to their ill-fated and gruesome death. We fail to give animals the respect and rights which they deserve and treat them as lifeless unfeeling scientific specimens.

Other methods for testing products can be practised which are accurate, less time consuming and less expensive. These include cell and cultures which hold no capacity for pain, less animals better planned work and computer models to answer questions and guide research .If animal testing is totally eliminated, it would free 6.8 billion dollars which can be used for educational processes and health care. Thus, more than 30 million people can be helped who cannot afford health.

[Taken from: Fahd Shariff's Essays Page, Dated Sep, 1999]

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Space Travel: Pros and Cons

This is actually a presentation that we did at school carried out between two people. One is a spokesman for space travel, the other a sceptic who doesn't like the idea at all.

I put it on my website and since then it has been published in a book titled "Pro/Con" (full details at end).

Proposed Pro 1: Survival of the species

SPOKESMAN: At the moment, the human species is intimately dependent on the fragile ecosystem of the planet Earth. This ecosystem is vulnerable to dramatic change, which would be disastrous and probably deadly to human life on Earth. Three example mechanisms for such change are: Nuclear War, Asteroid or Comet impact, and gradual atmospheric change. We can hope to hold off the first cause for as long as we can, but we are helpless against the second two. If we cannot save ourselves against possible disastrous change, we must break free of the fragile ecosystem. We must establish a human presence in space to avoid total extinction in the event of harm to our planet.

SCEPTIC: I agree that asteroids and nuclear war would present a global change quick and severe enough to wipe out the human species. But isn't gradual atmospheric change the kind of thing that species evolve with anyway?

SPOKESMAN: Yes, but only a fraction of the species survive this evolution. If the ecosystem changes, the only species that survive are those already adapted to live in the new conditions. It is not the case that each life form would suddenly change to meet the new conditions. That is not how evolution works. What would happen would be that the only creatures that survive are those already capable of coping with the new conditions by their nature. In this way, evolution selects against all creatures not capable of coping with current conditions.

SCEPTIC: But look at the amount of change that has been brought about to the atmosphere in the last couple of centuries by us. Fossil Fuel burning springs to mind as an example. If we can affect the atmosphere so dramatically, surely we can change it for the good? Also, is it not possible to deflect or destroy any "cosmic bullets" nature might fire at us?

SPOKESMAN: I agree - we have to some extent changed the composition of our atmosphere. But bringing about change for the good is much harder than just disrupting the ecosystem, because it requires a very specific change - the right change - to be brought about. The ecosystem is a very complicated system, far more complicated than the weather, for example - and weather predictions are only at all reliable over a time scale of about three days. The only change we can bring about with any confidence is to find out what changes have been brought about, and lessen the mechanism that brings about such change. An example is the reduction in the usage of CFC?s in domestic products.
Asteroid impacts are even harder to deal with. It is true that an asteroid the size of Texas, like that in the film "Armageddon," would not go undetected. The biggest known asteroid, Ceres, is less than 1000 km in diameter. Texas is about 1400 km across, so if there were a Texas - sized asteroid coming anywhere near the Earth, we would know about it! The bad news is that an asteroid the size of Texas would be very hard to deflect - rather than one bomb, an asteroid 1000 km across would require about a hundred billion megatons to deflect it. Anyone want to carry a hundred billion nukes into orbit?

For example, imagine an asteroid about 200m across, travelling at about 22 km / sec when it hits. If it hit in the ocean, this asteroid would create a tidal wave 5m high. By the time it reached a land mass, with shallower water around it, the wave would be about 200 metres high, travelling at 450 miles per hour, smashing into coastal areas with devastating force. With the best detection equipment available today, the asteroid would not be detected until about eight seconds before impact. Eight seconds!

Another example is the Barringer meteor crater in Arizona. The crater is about a mile wide, but the asteroid itself was about 50m across, which is today completely undetectable. Now it is theoretically possible that with advances in technology and a serious detection programme, such meteors might be detected far enough away to deflect before impacting the Earth.

SCEPTIC: But that particular example of space technology is too dangerous to be developed. If we can deflect an asteroid away from the Earth, then by a miscalculation, or deliberate plan, one could be deflected towards the Earth. The technology of deflection would precipitate the exact catastrophe the space scientists purport to avoid.

SPOKESMAN: Exactly my point. Deflection is too unreliable - we are helpless in the face of asteroid impacts. We need to get some of us out of the way. This way, if - or rather when - the next big asteroid hits and changes the biosphere irrevocably, the human race wont become extinct. It is illustrative to look at the survival of animals on the Earth. Those animals that spread to many habitats have thrived, while those that remained confined to their original small habitat have either died out or are endangered.

SCEPTIC: You said "if - or rather when - the next big asteroid hits." I believe catastrophic impacts occur every hundred million years, and the last one took place roughly 65 million years ago, according to current scientific theory. We aren't due for another hit like that for another 35 million years, so we're safe for the foreseeable future.

SPOKESMAN: You're correct - catastrophic impacts are expected to occur roughly once every hundred million years. But this is an average figure. What this is saying is that a catastrophic impact should happen at least once in the next hundred million years. It tells us about the rate of impact, not the timing of impacts. It might not happen until around the year 40 million A.D. But it might take place next year. Imagine rolling an unloaded dice twelve times. You should get a six at least twice in twelve throws. But the timing of the throwing of the sixes is random. We are always in the firing line!

Proposed Con 1: It's expensive to travel in space.

SCEPTIC: We're always being told about the many ways the space program is said to benefit humanity. But at what cost? From time to time, rockets fail on launch - witness the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted whenever a rocket blows up on launch, or the great human cost of the challenger disaster. I ask myself: are there more direct ways to benefit society with this money? I put it to you that space exploration is a waste of money.

SPOKESMAN: Of course space exploration is expensive. That's because it's very, very hard. It requires very complex and reliable technology and a big support infrastructure to be at all successful. It is true that the money could be spent directly on helping to fix the problems of the human species. For example, the price tag for a manned mission to Mars weighs in at $50 billion. Think what could be done with that money if spent on the education system, for example. Spending money on space exploration must be justified when there are still problems on Earth.

But whether space exploration is a waste of money is, I think, open to debate. To what do we compare the asking price of the Universe? Don't forget the successes of the space programme. The Voyager probes, for example, have cost the average American taxpayer roughly ten cents per year since their launch in 1977. The probes were designed to last three years, enough to explore the planets Jupiter and Saturn. Voyager 2 went on to encounter the planets Uranus and Neptune, with an accuracy in navigation similar to throwing a pin through the eye of a needle 50 miles away. The Voyager probes returned the equivalent of 100,000 encyclopaedia volumes of new information and visions of the solar system, operating for some six times their projected design lifetimes. The Voyagers were spectacular successes.

And are we really talking about huge amounts of money here? The $200 million spent on the Mars Pathfinder mission, for example, is a large amount of money. But compare this with the $2.4 billion spent in one year - 1982 - on the development of the MX cruise missile programme. And this was $2.4 billion fifteen years before Pathfinder was launched, meaning this is an underestimate of the cost of the missile in today's money. I think it is hard to argue that the MX missile has brought more benefit to humanity than the Mars Pathfinder mission, yet it cost a lot more.

It is true that space travel requires lots of money, a fact its opponents are always quick to point out to the public. What is often forgotten is the scale of other expenditures. Let's look at the USA, which spends more than any other country on space exploration. In 1999, the US plans to spend about $270 billion on defence, $200 billion on Medicare and about $400 billion on social security. By comparison, the science budget is about $70 billion, from non - industrial sources, of which $14 billion is to be spent on NASA. In other words, the US space budget is about one twentieth the amount spent on defence, and about one twenty - ninth that spent on social security.

SCEPTIC: Okay, okay - we all know that a lot of money is spent by the US government - what's your point? That money goes towards defending the country from aggressors and looking after the people!

SPOKESMAN: Well, I assume the reason you would cut the space budget would be to allow the money currently spent on space exploration to be spent on solving more down - to - Earth problems. Such as eliminating cancer, or providing better education. This is a very laudable goal. But I think you have the wrong target. Don't forget, the space program in America grew originally out of the military ballistics programme. Were the space budget to be cut, I find it much more likely that the majority of the money would get redirected back to the military, resulting in a larger gap between defence spending and domestic spending. In other words, cutting the space programme would do more harm than good to the American people. We should be able to fund both space exploration and domestic programmes, such as education and health. If you're looking for a few billion dollars to spend on education, why take a quarter off the space budget, when you can take one percent of the defence budget?

SCEPTIC: Because defence programmes do more than just send eight people round the Earth a few times! Look at Apollo. Billions of dollars spent, many lives lost in tests and development, and only one scientist actually got to the moon. The entire space race was politically motivated muscle - flexing by the superpowers, at the expense of the taxpayer.

SPOKESMAN: Don't forget that the manned space flight programme is only one part of the space programme, though it does take over a third of the space budget. Manned space flight is a far harder challenge than unmanned flight - humans require much more onboard support than computers! This means that manned space flight is much more expensive than unmanned. This is true for all space programmes, not just the American space programme we have been using as an example.

I have a much harder time justifying the expense of manned space flight on financial grounds than advocating the space programme in general. I don't have a problem advocating one attack helicopter's worth of money to fully fund a SETI programme, or asking for the same amount to build a robot that will peel a little more away from the mystery of the solar system. But asking for a hundred million dollars to do a manned mission that could be done better and more cheaply by an unmanned rocket - such as the 1986 Challenger mission - is harder to justify, in my opinion. It is true that there are some missions that could only be performed by human operators - such as the Hubble repair mission. But whether the majority of the manned missions are worth risking lives over is I think more debatable. Of course, the manned space flight programme represents the first small steps in a much longer term process. I do not think it is clear that we're ready to take those steps yet. But the unmanned space programme is one of the finest achievements of the last 2000 years of technology, representing value for money that is the envy of most other human endeavours.

SCEPTIC: Then you admit that if we're not ready to do manned space flight, we should axe it on financial grounds?

SPOKESMAN: If it were possible to take out just the money for the unnecessary manned missions, then yes. Two factors stand in the way of this proposal. Firstly, if the unnecessary manned missions are axed, it will make it harder for the necessary manned missions to be carried out successfully. The infrastructure and experience won't be there. The second factor is that the manned space flight programme is the financial - and to a large extent political - reason for the existence of the space programme in the first place. Though by far the greatest scientific returns come from unmanned missions, those in office and the public see the manned programme as the face of space exploration. NASA is a servant of the public, as it must be, and is legislated on by those in power - not by scientists. Were the manned programme to be axed, NASA would no longer be serving the public demand and would actually have more trouble surviving. So I think that it would be a nice idea to trim off the budget associated with unnecessary manned missions, but I also think it is an impossible idea to carry out. NASA?s fortunes rise and fall with those of the manned space programme.
But I really don't think the space programme is a waste of money. In fact, I think that $14 billion a year is a very reasonable price for the Universe! And it doesn't have to be paid at the cost of education or health.

SCEPTIC: Well, I don't think we're ready for the Universe yet.

Proposed Pro 2: Space Exploration helps science education

SPOKESMAN: One benefit space travel brings mankind, which is very much down - to - Earth, is that it furthers education. Once Apollo went up, for example, the number of young people pursuing a career in science increased. Space exploration inspires people to learn about science, and generates demand for better facilities.

SCEPTIC: I find this argument very weak. What is this - give us $50 billion to take a man to Mars, and we'll throw in a free school or two along the way? I think if you want to improve education, you should spend the money directly. A headmaster of any underfunded school will probably say exactly the same thing.

SPOKESMAN: Yes, but as I've argued previously, it's perfectly reasonable to be able to fund both! And if no - one wants to be educated, funding education is harder to justify. The government of any country is still supposed to be the servant of the people! I think the main point behind selling space exploration from an educational point of view is that it really reaches kids. A really genuine space programme is something cool that kids really get into. It isn't an exaggeration to say that it inspires them. Some then go into science for a career to get closer to space exploration. A select few achieve this goal. Many - in fact most - don't and up in science at all, but go on to some other career. But the important point is that they have been inspired to apply themselves to something. If you're ever in doubt of the power of space exploration to move children, I suggest you take some out on a clear night to look at the stars.

SCEPTIC: But this isn't enough to justify the endeavour. My four year old daughter gets more inspired by Sesame Street than she does by space documentaries.

SPOKESMAN: Of course, not all kids are going to get carried away by space exploration! But kids are very hard to lie to. I think your headmaster would much rather have her teachers explain science through the wonder of the Universe and an exploration programme that is actually out there than through some oversimplified, abstract construction to illustrate base principles.

SCEPTIC: Base principles are also needed in education. You can't just give kids the Universe and say "go ahead and figure it out." A similar approach has been tried in the States in the seventies, and briefly in Britain, and it failed disastrously in both places.

SPOKESMAN: And throughout the last century, children were taught only base principles in a very abstract way. Kids were treated as empty vessels to be filled up with facts by their teachers. This method of teaching totally ignores educational theory dating back two thousand years to the time of the Greeks. I think it has been established that, while children were learning the required material, the "Empty Vessel" educational system was failing the children in terms of the usefulness of the education, but more importantly in that most children were utterly uninspired. Children are very different from each other, and it is always possible to find a counterexample to any rule about them. But many children need a point to their learning, a goal to chase. Space exploration provides them with such a goal.

SCEPTIC: Are you really suggesting that kids should all have space exploration as a goal?

SPOKESMAN: No! And I'm not saying that we should explore space just to provide a fraction of children with inspiration. What I am saying is that the inspiration the space programme provides this fraction of children is an invaluable side - effect of the exploration of space. Inspiration isn't the kind of thing you can throw money at and expect to grow on its own! It gets planted in the child when he or she sees something that's already out there and thinks: "wow!" Space exploration is the kind of thing that provokes this reaction in kids. And this is invaluable. Space exploration isn't going to lead directly to more schools, or provide financial benefit to them. But it will benefit all schools, in the kind of way that just isn't addressed by money. Have you ever tried to buy inspiration for your daughter?


Proposed Con 2: Space exploration is very hard

SCEPTIC: I think the whole endeavour of space exploration is beyond our capability. Let's face it, space exploration is very hard, as you yourself admitted previously! I realize the space scientists and technicians are doing their best to overcome the difficulties associated with space travel, with some spectacular success. But if my car had a twenty- percent chance of blowing up per trip, like a space rocket or the space shuttle does, I?d cycle to work every day! I think this is evidence that the whole endeavour of space travel is too hard for us right now. Let's concentrate on problems we can solve. Blake was wrong - the stars are out of reach. To paraphrase Blake, we are not ready to hold infinity in the palms of our hands.

SPOKESMAN: Yes, you're absolutely right in that space travel is hard. And the cumulative failure rate of 20 per cent for all launches since the beginning of the Space Age is fairly high when applied to everyday devices such as a car. But don't forget - space travel is still very experimental. And in comparison with other exploration endeavours, space flight has an exemplary record of safety.
Look at the exploration of the Earth. How many failed attempts were made to launch boats? How many people died in their exploration attempts or routine transits over the ages of the boat? By comparison, in the space programme, the cumulative failure rate is 20 percent. That means that in the history of space flight, including the development stages, four out of every five launches were successful. The total number of people killed in all stages of development of space flight - and here I am counting the German V2 attacks on London - is less than the number killed when the Titanic sank in 1912. Without the V2 attacks, the number of people killed in the name of space exploration falls to less than thirty. A single bus crash can kill more people that have ever died through association with the space programme. And the technical difficulties associated with the exploration of space are much greater than those associated with the exploration of the surface of the planet Earth.

SCEPTIC: Which means it can't be compared to the exploration of the Earth - the difficulties are an order of magnitude greater.

SPOKESMAN: It means that any comparison made serves to show how far we are capable of going in meeting such difficulties. Anyone who actually gets to go on a manned Mars mission, for example, will have conditions on their journey considerably nicer than those facing the men who almost starved to death or dropped dead from scurvy - and those who did! - on Columbus? journey to the New World. But if anything goes wrong, the Mars astronaut will be just as far from help as Columbus? men were. The difficulties are different in detail, but essentially the same. Don't forget, the problems space travel presents would have been utterly insoluble four hundred years ago, but the range of problems we can solve has scaled up with our technology. Though the problems are an order of magnitude greater, a comparison is possible, because our technological ability to meet such problems has increased by an order of magnitude.

SCEPTIC: But you haven't really answered my question - why do something as hard as space exploration, when the money can be spent on other, safer, easier endeavours?

SPOKESMAN: I've shown you how it isn't as hard an endeavour as you made out in your question. As we covered earlier, cutting the space program wouldn't help anything anyway. The money wouldn't be spent on other safer endeavours - most of it would end up being spent on the military. So there are no financial objections at this point.
Exploration tends to go hand in hand with what is today regarded as success in terms of civilization. Looking over history, those nations which are today respected in their time - like 14th century China or ancient Rome - are those with an active exploration programme. It seems to be indicative of the state of health of the nations.


Proposed Pro 3: Population

SPOKESMAN: At the end of the 20th century, the human species is faced with many problems, such as lack of food, unequal distribution of resources and the prospect of wars over limited water. These are all symptoms of one larger problem - the problem of overpopulation.


ADVANTAGES OF SPACE EXPLORATION:

For those that see space exploration as a waste of resources better spent to solve social ills, it is important to understand the benefits of space exploration and how the future of humankind lies with such an endeavour.

Space exploration has resulted in development of application satellites that play a vital role in modern society. These satellites provide global communication networks. They provide accurate weather/crop forecasting that every year saves countless lives and allows for farmers throughout the world to better provide food for their peoples. These satellites are critical for better understanding global environmental change issues, such as ozone depletion and climate changes, that can threaten the very biosphere in which we live.

Space exploration, born out of the cauldron of the cold war, has brought with it a lasting gift. This gift is exemplified by the first pictures of Earth from outer space taken by Apollo 8 as it circumvented the Moon on Christmas day 1968. The famous Earth Rise photograph allowed us to see the Earth as a fragile tiny life-giving biosphere amidst the vast hostile environment of the cosmos.

As we explore and study planets, we learn more about this one. Comparative planetology, the study of Earth in comparison other planets, has been instrumental in identifying global environmental problems. NASA scientists trying to understand why the surface temperature of Venus is warm enough to melt lead have proven the validity of greenhouse warming and its potential devastating effects. Likewise, planetary scientists trying to understand why on Mars materials instantly oxidize due to ultraviolet light penetration from the sun identified what was causing ozone depletion back here on Earth.

The exploration of Mars will reinvigorate the US space program and will bring with it multiple benefits. Exploring Mars will bring a storehouse full of information to the possible origins of life in the cosmos, to the light it casts on the environment of Earth, to the international co-operation that it will give rise to between nations, to the scientific understandings of how humans are able to function and adapt in micro gravity environments, and to potentially extending human civilization to Mars by building closed ecological biospheres or in terraforming that plant.

Human space exploration promotes the very best that humans have to offer. A national commitment of 1% of the national budget (NASA appropriations amount to $13.5 billion out of a $1.5 trillion dollar national budget) or even 2% is definitely not only worth the costs to others, but it is worth the costs for us a nation, for the family of nations throughout the world, and for humans as a global species. Paraphrasing the scientist/astronomer known to millions, Carl Sagan, space exploration satisfies our inclination for great enterprises, wanderings, and quests that have been with us from time immemorial.

[Taken from: Fahd Shariff's Essays Page, Dated Sep, 1999]

Also Published in:

Title: Pro/con / [editors, Sally McFall et al.].
Published: Danbury, Conn. : Grolier Educational, 2002-<2003->
Chapter: Science and the Future
Topic 15: Should Governments Continue to Fund Space Exploration?
Pages 187-198
May 2002


Interview Tips

I've had a few people - interns and grads - applying to investment banks asking me about interviews. I've been through the whole interview process at various places when I first left university and am now involved in interviewing candidates for positions in investment banking technology.

There are a few routine questions which everyone asks, so you should prepare them beforehand. There are also lots of interview question and answer banks online where you can find really good sample answers to common questions. Just Google around. I will try to think of the questions that I have been asked over the years and will categorise them so that they are easier for you to prepare. I will try to give you as many tips as possible. But remember that what works for me may not work for you!


Opening

Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake and a smile. You will probably be nervous but try to stay relaxed, always be polite (e.g. accept a glass of water if offered), smile, make eye contact and pay attention to the questions. Sometimes I forget what the question was, halfway through the answer! Always give clear and concise answers. I also like to take a notebook and a pencil with me to the office. It looks professional, you can make notes while the interviewer explains the company and you can also jot down some questions to ask later. At first, the interviewer will ask you some harmless questions, but answer these nicely because these create the first impression:
  • Hello! How are you?
  • How was the journey? Did you find us easily?
  • Where do you come from?
  • One of my favourite things is to comment on the building (e.g. Nice building / office!) when the interviewer is walking me to the room. It is a nice ice breaker and opens the interviewer up.

Know the company


Interviewers always ask about the company. Research:
  • Core values / principles / morals
  • Company structure i.e. business divisions, hierarchy etc
  • News articles e.g press releases from the companies website or search for the company in Google News. This is important so that you can comment on something read in the company’s annual report, web page or latest news report.
  • You may also want to read about other companies in the same field and update yourself on what is happening currently in this field even though it may not be related to the company you are applying to.
  • Why did you choose this company?
  • Have you heard about us in the news recently?

Know the industry

  • Learn banking jargon e.g. what is an investment bank, stock, bond, share, risk etc. (I was once asked to define an investment bank)
  • What are the main problems facing banks today?
  • Future of banking? (globalisation maybe? More mergers)

Know yourself

Be confident in your abilities and sell yourself! Keep in mind that there are hundreds of candidates applying and you need to make yourself stand out and be remembered.
  • Tell me about yourself (very open ended question: you have to give a brief history of your life including university, work, extracurriculars)
  • Why do you want to work in IT? (be passionate e.g. I like the rapid pace of change of this field, you can’t predict where it will go in the future; I love learning new cutting edge technologies)
  • Why should we hire you? (Sell yourself with lots of keywords: ambitious, energetic, adaptive, versatile, juggle multiple priorities, enthusiastic, an agent of change, I like to be stretched and challenged, I’m the best!)
  • What motivates you? (self motivated, recognition, good work atmosphere, work colleagues etc but NOT money)
  • Why did you choose to do a Masters in this degree?
  • Why did you choose a bank and not an IT company? (I’m interested in the financial world too)
  • What are your short / long term goals in life?
  • What are your strengths / weaknesses? (Strengths: flexibility, teamwork Weaknesses: Everyone has weaknesses, don't say you don't have any! Say how you combat your weakness. e.g. I get nervous during presentations but I always prepare well beforehand)
  • How do you measure your success?
  • How important is money to you? (not very)
  • What are your extra curricular activities?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • Work experience

Team Work


Companies are looking for team players, so expect lots of questions on team work.
  • Describe a project
  • What was your role in the team?
  • How do you handle conflicts?
  • What makes a good team? (a good balance of characters)
  • Desribe a situation in which others in the team did not agree with you. How did you persuade them to see things from your perspective?
  • Describe something that went wrong or a wrong decision you made and what you learned from your mistakes? (Everyone makes mistakes but you have to say what you learnt from them and how they made you stronger)
  • Are you a team player or do you enjoy individual research?
  • How do you handle multiple jobs with conflicting deadlines?

Know the Technology

You have to be well-versed in various technologies especially for a technical interview. Common questions are asked on:
  • Java (especially Threading and Collections)
  • XML / XSLT
  • Web Services and Technologies (e.g. .NET, SOAP)
  • UNIX vs Windows
  • Databases - SQL and Oracle
  • Security issues (e.g. in Wireless Networks)
  • E-Commerce and e-banking
  • .NET vs J2EE
  • What factors would you consider in choosing a programming language (e.g. Java or C++)?
  • Recent Viruses (e.g. Slammer had a big effect)
  • Outsourcing (most banks do it)
  • UML
  • Open Source
  • Up and coming technologies that will have a big impact in the future e.g. AJAX, Ruby, Linux
  • Read recent tech news items - check out my del.ici.ous page for technology links

Brain Busters

These questions are asked in order to find out whether you are able to think quickly and under pressure. I hate them! The trick is to keep talking about what you are thinking / reasoning. Do not sit quietly while you try to solve the question in your head. The ones I got were:
  • If you were an animal what animal would you be and why?
  • What is the cube root of 81?
  • How many tennis balls were used in the Wimbledon Men’s Singles tournament?
  • How many pennies can you fill in this room?
  • Why are man-hole covers round? (so that they don't fall in)

Closing

I know that you will be relieved when the interview is over, but do NOT run away quickly. Stay relaxed and thank the interviewer for his/her time. Say that you enjoyed talking to him/her and have learnt a great deal about the company and that you would love to work there. Its always good to have some questions to ask. I have found that interviewers like to be asked questions about themselves! Be nosy about their life:
  • How did you end up working here?
  • What do you like most about working here?

If you have their email address send them a thank-you email as soon as you get home.

Good luck with the interview and if you have any further questions, don't hesitate to ask me!