Archive for January, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

January 18, 2008

Guess what happened yesterday?
We must have chosen a felicitous time to be in Georgia. Even the locals have not seen such heavy snow for a while.
Looks like winter is here to stay! Until at February at least.
The drape of snow that embellished the surroundings subsided today. I hope it snows at least once more.

First Signs of snow. It got heavier as evening came.

Here’s a shot that comes with a video!

Watch the video
The building on the right with a circular atrium is the ECE (Electrical & Computer Engineering) block called Van Leer.

I think this is a zebra crossing.

This is the open field near the nice-looking fountain and the students’ center

Walkway toward the CRC. Was heading down to the gym. Better to exercise indoors!

“”Winter Sonata””

This is the hockey/soccer field next to the CRC. The whole area is covered with snow.

This is the site of the buidling of the snowman. The snowman also served as a fort for snowball fights.
Didn’t bring my gloves, but thankfully Leow gave me the left side of his glove so I could make snowballs and not be left “unarmed”.

Load & Ready

Frosty the Snowman

The finished product!

I’m unable to upload videos of the snowball fights because they contain violent scenes. (actually my hand was too cold to take any more videos)

Checkout all the small snowmans that someone put on all the cars!

Who thinks only Leow has small eyes?

Another sumptous meal served up by Leow & Choo & friends from Hemphill, after all the snow merry-making.

If Leow can cook – Episode II


What makes the world go round?

January 15, 2008

To find out the answer, click on the following link:


This is William Scott Madden, my roommate. Picture was taken after a few soccer games.

More videos to come!

PIC18LF4321. What on earth is it?

January 11, 2008

At the risk of being perceived as a geek, check out this neat microcontroller that I worked on in lab today:

The neat little PIC18LF4321 powered by a 3V coin-cell. Actually strictly speaking, this is a Qwik&Low board which incorporates Microchips’ PIC18LF4321

There you go, don’t be afraid to zoom in.

Low-power designs are the way forward in embedded applications (i’m just lifting off the text, actually written by the prof who’s teaching!), and it’s ability to extend battery life serves countless applications such as heart implants, automobile electronics, ipods, PDAs and many other devices. Pictured above is an 8-bit microcontroller, i.e., it operates on instructions 8 bits at a time. For years, Motorola has dominated the 8-bit microcontroller market. Since 2002, however, the market has been overtaken by Microchip, who passed on reduced costs to consumers, as a result of economies of scale. Therefore, the board used above is a Qwik&Low board that has incorporated Microchips’ PIC18LF4321/2321 package. It has a unit price of about $3.

It is my speculation that these low powered devices make use of diodes which serve as parisitic capacitors that discharge power at low voltages. But these physical features are limited.

That is why it becomes the chip’s perrogative to have several power-saving features. Allow me to briefly explain what some of its features are:

– It has the option of swtiching between INTOSC and INTRC internal oscillators which serve as clocking devices (every computer has a clock, that runs in cycles per unit time known as frequency which is measured in Hertz, e.g. 1 GHz). The INTOSC oscillator draws more power than the INTRC oscillator when the chip is running continuously, and the MSB determines the of the chip’s OSCTUNE register can be set to select high-power but accurate INTOSC or the low-power, less accurate INTRC for less demanding tasks.

– It has a “sleep” mode which is run by a watchdog timer. It has programmable timeout periods of 4ms, 8ms, 16ms, 32ms up to something over 2 mins. Lengthening the period of the timeout can help to reduce average current drawn because the CPU is sleeping during this time. However, it must take into account time intervals to accomodate debouncing of the electromechanical switch.

– Interesting to note is that while using the sleep mode, using a higher frequency INTOSC oscillator actually draws less current than INTRC oscillator ( 5.6 microA vs 49 microA).

– Lastly, the chip has an idle mode, whereby the CPU goes to sleep while performing peripheral tasks, and upon completion awakes the CPU using the chip’s interrupt ciruitry.

I guess that’s about all I can describe about the power-saving features of the chipboard. I have yet to find out what other things it can do! The Qwik&Low board can be linked to a PC via a USB-to-serial adaptor, and it is programmable in C. I may enquire about it’s price and consider getting one of these.

I would say that I kind of enjoyed my lab session today, and it’s so different from what I experience in NTU labs. And I’m thankful for it. The lab assistants don’t press you for time by going through the motions (because lab hours are not limited, it’s OTOT), and I’m not sure about my peers in EEE now, but I wonder if they get to handle such gadgets at all? I got to work on this thing alone, unsupervised, and being able to use the oscilloscope without somebody breathing down your neck was a good respite.

Elevator Conversation

January 10, 2008

When I first entered the US, I knew something was different (from Singapore) about the society, but I just couldn’t put a finger to it.
I knew that most people here liked to talk, or perhaps converse, and with a degree of proficiency and articulation as well.
Wit is a salient feature in their communication as well.

To test the locals’ propensity to converse, I tried to engage in small talk while in the elevator. I was on my way down to the laundry room, and the lift stops at the fifth level. Enter typical white american. He walked in with a perfunctory glance, more to access the vault he was entering – the number of people, what kind of people (it was just me). Then he looked curiously at my improvised laundry bag (it was a cubic plastic bag with a zipper, the packing of the comforter that I bought), with a curious frown on his face. Then I looked at him with a half-smile on my face and a upward-motion nod of the head, and when the gesture was reciprocated with an acknowledging pair of eyes, I knew I had the ticket to start small talk.

Tim: How’s it going?
Stranger: Good. (emphatically)
(lift door opens, and while we walk out)
Stranger: Going to watch a basketball game. We’re playing tonight.
Tim: Oh there’s a game tonight?
Stranger: Yeah, UGA’s playing down at *somewhere*, and I gotta friend, she drives, so I’m gonna watch.
Tim: Cool.
(As he was about to exit the main building)

Tim: Ok, have fun!
Stranger: You too! (although I don’t know how laundry could be fun, but I guess he didn’t know I was heading to the laundry room to do my laundry).

There you have it. A typical elevator conversation in the United States. Try going past the “How’s it going?” in Singapore. See if you can exchange a few lines without people assuming a form of mental disorder on you.

I still don’t have a name for this social disparity, maybe some sociology students can tell me?

Anyway, while blogging about this incident, I was reminded of the first day @ days inn motel, Leow pressed the elevator button by accident, opening the door to an elevator in which someone was inside:

Leow: Sorry!
Man in the elevator: It’s okay. Everybody makes mistakes. America was born out of mistakes!

Beat that!

Need a black hole to clean up my room.

January 8, 2008

Quote from Leow. Haha.

Thankfully my apartment as isn’t dire as that. Here’s the kitchen:


And Living room:


And who can leave out the toilet?

Here’re some sights of the University Campus:

Gym Haven!

This is the Campus Recreation Center which houses the monster gym

Forgot what this thing was called. It had a frozen fountain below it.

That’s the frozen fountain

Squirrels are everywhere on campus.

Decided to attempt a “daniel leow” yesterday. We cooked french soup, eggs and bread to go with.


My roommate (technically we don’t share rooms but we stay in the same apartment. Easier to say roommate though)
William brought me to Campus Christian Fellowship for lunch, which was served free of charge. I forgot to put the SD card in my camera then, but I guess this is better than nothing:


Poor guy spelt my name with 2 ‘m’s and got chided playfully by a girl: “Who spells ‘Timothy’ with 2 ‘m’s?”

A picture a day…

January 7, 2008

keeps procrastination away.

I’ve been very busy running around to Chinatown, Lenox square and even Church today.

Chinatown @ Chamblee station

Here’s some male cooking action yesterday. It was the best asian dinner so far!
Thanks to Daniel Leow (main chef), Daniel Choo, Yi Jian & Kok Heng.

Daniel at his culinary best!

What’s Cooking?

Nobody believed he could cook the lovely bowl of beef stew. That’s terrible. Should assume the validity of his claims to culinary proficiency next time, until proven wrong. Well done Leow!

Tenth Street United Methodist Church. 6 of us went there today.

Hold & Cold

January 4, 2008

It’s been cold here in Atlanta, reaching sub-zero degrees celcius at night. However, it can be warm indoors. Can’t really get enough of the smoke-coming out-from-the-mouth phenomena (aka condensation I believe):

Smoke 1

Smoke 2

The weather’s also been dry and I’ve been feeling very sleepy from 7 – 9 pm for the past 2 days. Symptoms of jetlag? Also, the lips are cracking even with lip balm applied. So if I don’t smile in the pictures, it’s not because I’m unhappy. It may hurt to smile! The throat’s also dry. Keep drinking water. Anyway, I shall cut short my dissertation and let the pictures speak my thousand words, hopefully!

Balcony outside Days Inn Motel

Chartered Bus gets us to our Apartments, good stuff!

Getting checked-in our rooms

My Room


Departure & Arrival

January 2, 2008

After 24 hours of gruelling flights and transit, I’m now in Atlanta, Georgia.
Spending the night at Days Inn, a motel. Sharing a queen-sized bed with my friend, Daniel Leow.
(This is purely fraternal, I swear. And for one night only)
Apart from experiencing a brain-freeze from the sub-zero weather, I think everything else has panned out without a hitch. Here are some pictures! (Mouseover for description)

Chilling out with Grace, Mervyn & Eugene @ home after watchnight service. Was to receive no eye-shut till my flight

Sheow En post new year @ 0330

One with the Family

BB Boys

Nice and first. Fellow Comrades from NTU

One of those attempts at self-taking. To ridiculous effect.

Narita transit to our 2nd flight.

More NTU comrades

Japanese Customs

Gathering En Masse

Travelator @ Narita. Same like Singapura

View from the concourse @ Narita

The Photogenic Daniel

Darkness in the skies

-18 C @ Minneapolis!

Sad Happy + Tired Daniel Leow

An iPod Vending Machine!

Mcpherson Guitar @ Minneapolis Airport?

Art Pieces along the walls of Minneapolis Airport


Winter Wonderland Minnesota

Blue Skies

On the Coach to Days Inn