August 25, 2009

This Summer: Not So Awesome Weather-wise [Historical Data] | Posted at 11:30 AM

I don't know about you but I was not a big fan of this summer's weather patterns. Lots of rain, storms, not as much sun, etc. I was interested to know how this summer compared to past summer's, so I naturally hopped onto to find some historical maps (numbers are cool and all but they are harder to interpret).


The first piece of data that interested me was how precipitation has changed over the years. Once you look at the maps below, it actually appears that this summer has had less rain than last summer. In fact, it seems like every other year there seems to be crazy amounts of precipitation.

June 2005

Picture 1

June 2006

Picture 2

June 2007

Picture 3

June 2008

Picture 4

June 2009

Picture 5    

So, what it appears (at least for June) is that this year is less than last year in terms of rain but 2006 was by far the least amount of rain.

The rain, however, isn't what gets at me so much as the lack of sun. What kind of maps can we find relating to cloud cover?


Unfortunately I could not find any historical radar data or maps relating to cloud cover. However, using the daily weather observations for the Twin Cities, I was able to get monthly weather reports and in them there is a section that specifies how many days were clear, partly cloudy, and cloudy.

I put the 3-month data for years 2006-2009 into Excel and generated some simple line charts.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4 

Picture 5


What kind of things can we see here? Well, there seems to be a common trend of usually more clear skies in July, however we can see that this summer is an exception with a particular low number of clear skies (the purple bar in the last chart). An interesting observation is also that this July has had the most partly cloudy skies compared to previous summers.

Last July saw zero cloudy skies which was the lowest compared to July 2007 which had the most.

The last chart makes it very apparent that this summer is a bit lacking in sunshiny days (during July and August). What a bummer! Hopefully next summer will be a bit more friendly.

August 19, 2009

Windows 7 RTM Available to MSDN-AA Students | Posted at 2:02 PM

Just so you know, if you are apart of the U's MSDN-AA (MSDN Academic Alliance) program, the RTM was approved by my friend just last week. It's Windows 7 Professional (32 & 64-bit editions).

I have installed Windows 7 RC on my desktop, laptop, brother's desktop, and my dad installed the RTM on his laptop. I plan on installing it on my other laptop as well. I love Windows 7.

May 7, 2009

Going to the U of MN? Check out these professors. | Posted at 11:10 AM

As a junior going on senior this coming year, I've had a lot of classes. I've also had a lot of professors… both good and bad. Some make me wonder why I'm in college and others reassure me that I made the right choice.

Rather than complaining about the bad professors, I want to highlight all the excellent teachers I've had over the years and what classes I took with them.

The following list is not in a specific order.

  • Holly Littlefield: Holly was my MGMT 3033V "Business Communication" teacher and she's awesome. I really enjoyed the class even though it required a lot of work. She's my faculty advisor for my honors thesis and I look forward to working with her.
  • Corrie Fiedler: My IDSC 3202 "Systems Analysis" class has been one of the best classes I've taken in my college career, not because it's a slacker class or because it's easy (it's not), but because I've actually learned skills I can apply in my life. Tons of teamwork and hands-on case studies have taught me that Visio is awesome and MS Project is amazing.
  • Justin Revenaugh: He teaches GEO 1005 "Geology and Cinema" and I really enjoyed him as a teacher because he's pretty funny and uses movie clips during class.
  • Kurt Kipfmueller: In my freshman year, I took GEOG 1403 "Biogeography of the Global Garden" with Kurt and it was amazing. He's such a good teacher, he encourages everyone to ask questions during his presentations, he's funny, and gets really into his subject which made me really enjoy it.
  • Ken Reilly: Even though I know a lot about VB.NET, I took Ken's IDSC 3102 "Intermediate Programming" class and still learned a lot. Ken is super helpful and worked on the original MSDN team for VB.NET so he knows a few tips and tricks. I still keep in contact with him about programming projects.
  • Laura Gurak: Last semester I took HSEM 3067H "Digital Literacies", an honors seminar, and it was a really fun class. Laura is a great professor, easy to talk to, and is very open to new ideas like creating class podcasts.

All of these teachers made me glad I chose to go the U of MN, so I really encourage you to take classes with them if at all possible. Many, many thanks to all of them.

February 24, 2009

Rewriting Comcast's Abuse Notifications [1-Up] | Posted at 9:32 PM

In my business communications class, which is actually quite fun, we had an assignment to rewrite a memo. We had to make it friendlier, easier to read, and more concise.

Continue reading "Rewriting Comcast's Abuse Notifications [1-Up]" »

January 28, 2009

Human Resource Management Golden Rule [Kinda] | Posted at 8:00 PM

I was skimming reading an article we had for my Human Resource Management class called The War for Talent. Well, it was a research paper but there was one sentence that really stuck out to me as being incredibly important.

But like it or not, people learn by being put in situations that require skills they don’t have -- a truth poorly served when "Who can do this job best right now?" dominates staffing decisions.

I find that statement to be common sense but it seems like a lot of people either don't realize that or are too busy with corporate politics to think about it.

That is exactly how I came to learn everything I know. I constantly seek new things beyond my skill level to learn. Over winter break I taught myself how to use Microsoft Expression Blend 2 and how to develop Windows Presentation Foundation-based client applications (I bought a book on each subject). I learned how to make a proper object-oriented program and I also wrote my new Intrepid Studios website in C#, a language I just started to use this summer. In the site I use Linq-to-SQL and Dynamic Data, both brand new technologies in ASP.NET. At work, I am developing a room viewing application that will replace our existing static one using PHP and MySQL. I am learning about Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture and PHP all at the same time.

So you see, that is exactly why I think that quote is important. Of course, I can't assume everyone is like me, but if we are going by "talented" individuals as the article is talking about, I think that people will work better on the job when you give them work to do that they may not be familiar with. I don't believe that if you give a marketing person a balance sheet and tell them to audit it that they will be very passionate about working on it, but for the right person giving them something to do within their realm of experience that they aren't familiar with may be just what they need.

January 21, 2009

Getting What I Paid For [Is it so much to ask?] | Posted at 12:56 AM

I'm in college. Do you know why I am in college? Well first, because my parents made me. But second, it's because I want to learn. It's because when I walk down that aisle at graduation, with a fancy paper waiting in a fancy frame for me at the end that says, "You've made it," I want to say that I learned something here.

Continue reading "Getting What I Paid For [Is it so much to ask?]" »

December 6, 2008

Sample: Using A Strongly Typed Data Source in .NET [Exercise] | Posted at 1:40 PM

From my IDSC 3102: Intermediate Programming class, here is the second program we had to complete. It was a simple Database connection project, but I used and played with a strongly typed dataset.


What It Is

A grading program that allows you to input grades for a select number of students, save changes to the DB, and view a semester report. The report should show a list of students and their cumulative semester average calculated using a specific formula. It should also display a "printable list" for your students to view their grades, showing only the last 4 digits of their SSN.

What You Will Learn

  • How to set up and utilize a typed DataSource (DataSet.xsd)
  • Dynamically save any changes from a DataGridView to its underlying Datasource
  • Validate and prevent data entry errors
  • Set up a Mask (i.e. ***-**-1234 for a social security number) for a  column on a DataGridView control

Download Source

Download zip (165KB)

November 21, 2008

Sample: Using Multidimensional Arrays in .NET [Exercise] | Posted at 1:57 PM

From my IDSC 3102: Intermediate Programming class, here is the first program we had to complete.

IDSC 3102 Assignment 1

What It Is

A basic implementation of a fake airline reservation program. Add/remove passengers to a seating chart and waiting list.

What You Will Learn

  • How to use a 2D array to manage a seating arrangement
  • Display a graphical representation of the airline seating chart
  • Use an ArrayList to manage a first-in, first-out waiting list
  • Add and remove passengers from the seating chart or waiting list

Download Source

Download zip (86KB)

October 12, 2008

How To: Create a Tinker Toy Tractor | Posted at 2:57 PM

This instruction set is for my HSEM 3067H class, where we get different restrictions on making instructions for a tinker toy creation. Our restriction is that we can only use text-only on a blog or wiki.

That means no pictures, so we've tried our best to standardize our vocabulary and being pretty specific on what needs to be done.

What You'll Need

  • 4 Yellow Wheels
  • 2 Big Red Wheels
  • 2 Red Rods
  • 2 Purple Connectors
  • 1 Purple Rod
  • 1 Green Rod
  • 1 Dark Green Cross
  • 1 Orange Sombrero
  • 1 Blue Wheel


What you'll be constructing today is a tractor. There are 3 parts to creating the tractor: 1) Create Back Axle, 2) Create Front Axle, 3) Insert pedal shaft, seat, and steering wheel.

At the top you will find the list of materials you will need from the Tinker toy box. Keep in mind these are the "big" tinker toys, not the smaller ones.


When using Big Red Wheels, we are inserting rods into the side that appears to be the inside of the wheel. The "center" is the hole that is surrounded by 4 other holes.

Part 1: Create Back Axle

The Back Axle consists of:

  • 2 Big Red Wheels
  • 1 Purple Rod
  • 1 Blue Wheel


  1. Take a Big Red Wheels and insert one end of the Purple Rod into the center hole of the wheel.
  2. Take the Blue Wheel and slide it (using the center hole) onto the Purple Rod so that it is situated in the middle of the rod. The Big Red Wheels should be able to turn without turning the blue wheel.
  3. Take the other Big Red Wheels and connect it to the other side of the Purple Rod so that it reflects Step 1.

The Back Axle should resemble the rear wheels of the tractor.

Part 2: Create Front Axle

The Front Axle consists of:

  • 2 Purple Connectors
  • 3 Yellow Wheels


  1. Insert one end of the Purple Connector into the center hole on the 1st Yellow Wheel.
  2. Repeat Step 1 for the 2nd Yellow Wheel and Purple Connector.
  3. For the first pair, insert the other end of the Purple Connector into the center hole of the 3rd Yellow Wheel (the side of the wheel that consists of only one hole).
  4. Repeat Step 3 for the second pair.

The Front Axle should now resemble the front wheels of the tractor.

Part 3: Insert Other Connectors

The Pedal Shaft

The pedal shaft consists of:

  • The Front and Back Axles
  • 1 Dark Green Cross
  • 1 Red Rod
  1. Slide the Dark Green Cross onto the Red Rod, so that it is situated in the center.
  2. Insert one end of the Red Rod into the Blue Wheel of the Back Axle. At this point it does not matter which hole you use in the Blue Wheel.
  3. Insert the other end of the Red Rod into the center Yellow Wheel of the Front Axle.
  4. The back Big Red Wheels and the front 2 Yellow Wheels should be touching the ground and the Red Rod connecting the Front and Back Axles should be parallel to the ground.

The Seat

The seat consists of:

  • Back Axle
  • 1 Green Rod
  • 1 Yellow Wheel
  1. Attach the Green Rod to the Blue Wheel of the Back Axle so that the Green Rod is perpendicular to the ground (i.e. sticking straight up).
  2. Attach the Yellow Wheel to the Green Rod, so that the Yellow Wheel is sitting flat atop the rod (i.e. use the center hole to attach).

The Steering Wheel

The steering wheel consists of:

  • Front Axle
  • 1 Red Rod
  • 1 Orange Sombrero
  1. Attach the Orange Sombrero to one end of the Red Rod.
  2. Attach the other end of the Red Rod to the Yellow Wheel of the Front Axle so that, when all 4 tractor wheels are touching the ground, the Red Rod forms a 45 degree angle with the Pedal Shaft.


You should now have a tractor/go-cart/vehicle. The front wheels don't really turn, but we made do with the parts we had.

October 1, 2008

Does PowerPoint affect how we think? [Trippy] | Posted at 10:36 PM

It's an interesting question and we'll be discussing this tomorrow in class.

I wanted to point you in the direction of two great articles on the topic:

PowerPoint Does Rocket Science--and Better Techniques for Technical Reports

Basically, this is an article talking about how the teams at NASA presented their reports to executives using PowerPoint and what their format said about how they thought.

Absolute PowerPoint

An article in The New Yorker, it basically goes into more detail about the idea of PowerPoint "editing thoughts."

My Take

It's an interesting discussion, to say the least. I mean, in my class on Digital Literacies we talk a lot about the affordances of technology, i.e. what is inherent in them and what is developed by society.

In PowerPoint, as is alluded to in the NASA report article, you have a limited amount of space, how can you communicate a complex idea on one slide? Indeed, the very thought that you have to convey a single idea on every slide is an inherent quality of our thinking, isn't it? I tend to convey ideas across however many slides I need but we are still conditioned to convey the least amount of text possible since we know (or think we know) that no one reads long paragraphs of text on slides.

As you might have seen in Edward Tufte's article, the word "significant" appeared many times on one single slide but its meaning changed every time. Instead of being able to write about phrases that normal executives could understand, PowerPoint's affordances tend to produce sentences that are very short and staccato'd.

What I also thought was interesting was the way we order bullet points, normally from most important to least important, or bigger idea to smaller detail. Tuft mentions how the ideas that mentioned the shuttle not being able to safely land were smaller, end bullet points, as if it was a bad idea to talk about them.

This set of articles is under the theme of this week's class: "visual literacy." It's interesting to consider PowerPoint visual literacy considering the meat of a PP is its textual content. However, this goes back to the hierarchical ordering of data, that we organize our thoughts and ideas in a presentation in a visual way. Big to small text, bullets, charts, images, logos, etc.

From a personal standpoint, even I can see how right these articles are. When I will be working on my Windows Live presentations this or next week, I won't be able to fit all the things I want to say on the slides. I am going to have to abbreviate them, to make sure I stay under my 10-15 minute pitch. At the same time, when I give a PowerPoint presentation, I don't rely solely on what's written on the slides, it's as much about speaking as it is about the slides. I like to think of them as complementary to my talking… but sometimes it gets the best of you, if you are pressed for time you skip through slides (and what you were going to say).

I think that it is a valid point of contention to say that, "Well, PowerPoints aren't all about their text, it matters what you are saying as well." I think that's true, I think that maybe what we see on that NASA report isn't necessarily everything that was discussed but also remember that most of the time you are pressed to finish the presentation… if you had done a speech/non-visual presentation, you probably would have written out an essay and than refined it until you managed to say everything you had to say within your allotted time period.

Still, a presentation or speech is no substitute for a properly written document… if you are presenting on a complex topic, you better have a formal document to go with it.

September 29, 2008

UMN MSP Blog [Wired] | Posted at 9:46 PM

I've created a separate blog using Windows Live Spaces. All it really means is that I will be posting exclusively on Microsoft stuff on that blog rather than filling this one up. I'd rather push people to a more official blog so they can check that for updates.

In other news I have an official email:

kamran.ayub [AT] student-partners [DOT] com

Content to look forward to:

  • Windows Live Writer review
  • Windows Live Mesh preview
  • Windows Live SkyDrive preview
  • Windows Live Workspaces preview
  • HP 2710p Tablet Review
  • Zune 8GB Review
  • Information about Zune Social/DDR Sweepstakes
  • Upcoming events I'll be hosting

Oh, I will have a busy October.

New Facebook Page [Being More Social] | Posted at 10:33 AM


I've created a new Facebook Page for Microsoft Student Partners at my University. I'll be using it to promote events, contests, reviews, etc.

Later this week I'll be creating profiles on MySpace and YouTube as well, so look out for that.

If you're reading this, make sure to become a fan!

September 26, 2008

Academia: Reloaded [More Busy] | Posted at 12:25 AM

Well, between my 3 jobs and class, I am a fairly busy person. Right now it's 12:10am and I felt like I should write a blog post.

Although I am busy setting up events and completing homework, I am doing pretty good. I still find time to just relax for a little bit but often times that doesn't include writing blog posts.

That said, I do have some posts lined up for this week.

In other news, I have plenty of Microsoft work. I'll be announcing some new things I'll be doing like a Facebook Page, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter account.

I'll also be posting some essays I've done for class… just for fun.

September 10, 2008

Classes in Review [Too Soon?] | Posted at 3:52 PM

In the vein of posting first impressions, I will list the classes I am taking and my humble opinions about what they will soon hold for me.

  1. MGMT 3010: Introduction to Entrepreneurship. At first, this class seemed like it would be a lot of work and tedious. However, things have really brightened up. We have to create an actual microventure and sell it for at least 4 weeks near the end of class. My team and I think we've come up with a good idea and if we choose it, I will post more about it. Grade: A
  2. IDSC 3103: Data Modeling. This will be an interesting class. We're being taught by a Korean graduate student but she knows what she's doing. Sometimes it can be hard to understand but it's definitely not a big deal. She's nice and the class seems to be fun. I enjoyed doing the Entity-Relationship Diagram exercises, simply because it's interesting to try and reverse engineer a form into its database component parts. Grade: A
  3. HSEM 3067H: Digital Literacies. This class will prove to be some amount of work, with weekly readings and several large assignments. It will be fun, though, considering we get to create a podcast for our last assignment. Grade: A-
  4. FINA 3001: Finance Fundamentals. I already like this class which is something I didn't expect. I think it's because my instructor, John Molloy, is fantastic… he doesn't teach solely from a PowerPoint and puts things in an easy to understand scenario. Thank God! Grade: A

I have two other classes that don't start until B-Term, so I can't review them yet. Overall it looks to be a fun semester but extremely busy. Lots of reading, on top of working on my Microsoft projects, on top of working at SUA.

There was a sweet research project on video games and entrepreneurship, but I just don't have the time to do it. It would have been an excellent research topic though.

August 7, 2008

I Guess I Am Now a BAM Board Member [More Work] | Posted at 11:10 PM

I met with the president, VP of operations, and the now retired webmaster of BAM, the student group who’s website I recently subjected to Extreme Makeover. They asked if I wanted to be the new webmaster since it really only made sense… not only is BAM a group I can be a part of, I already know a lot of members in it and I created the tools to administer the site.

So I accepted, another duty added to my growing list of academic responsibilities. It should be a lot of fun, though! And this means I can skin the blog and forum now…

July 9, 2008

4 Tips on Saving Lots of Money on Textbooks | Posted at 1:08 PM

Since I ordered my books already today, I don’t see why I can’t share some of my tips with you fellow college students.

Tip 1: Don’t Buy From Your Bookstore. Ever.

There’s no reason you need to ever buy from your college bookstore, as long as its more expensive than anything you find online.

99% of the time your college bookstore exorbitantly raises its price. Once in awhile a book will cost less there just because it’s old. I maybe have bought 2 books at the bookstore during my 2 years of college.

Tip 2: Search Online Using ISBN, NOT Title

I’ve seen it happen. You find this great deal on your textbook and you order it. When you get it, it says “Study Guide.? I made that mistake. Always search via ISBN number because it usually guarantees you’ll find the exact book. That brings me to my next point…

Tip 3: LOOK OUT for International Editions

When searching by ISBN you will come across International Editions. Here’s a pro tip: even though they are cheaper, don’t buy them. Because when you want to sell it, they’ll be worth about $5. Plus, even though the contents of the books are usually the same, the problems are almost always different. Case in point: I bought my Accounting book as an International edition. Guess what? ALL the problems in the back of the book used different monetary values than the US edition. I had to go and write in all the proper numbers from the problems on my syllabus. Now I can’t really even sell the damn book.

My girlfriend bought a textbook as an international edition and she can’t sell it on Amazon for more than $3 or so. Plus no one will see it on Amazon because it has to the the same ISBN… and guess what, people search for the US edition ISBN, not the international! You may have better luck listing your book on AbeBooks, people seem to sell it under the US ISBN anyway.

Tip 4: Use Trusted Websites

This is so you won’t get jipped. Use a site like the ones I mention below so that if something goes wrong you can easily return it. Always look at people’s return policy, condition, and description of the book.

How I Bought My Books

So today, I went onto my U account and looked at the books I needed for my classes. Since I’ve had experience with this, it didn’t take me long to find my books online and order them within about 15 minutes.

If you don’t like scouring the interwebz for the best deal (like me), you can use a site like to find what you’re looking for.

Personally, I use two websites because I’ve never had problems with them. AbeBooks and Amazon Marketplace.

About half the time, AbeBooks has much better deals than Amazon does. Once in awhile, you’ll see a better deal on Amazon. I bought two books today, let’s see how much I saved.

Book Bookstore I paid
Finance $129.50 $68 (Amazon)
Entrepreneurship $100.75 $15 (Abe)
Totals: $230.25 $83

So, let’s see, I saved $147.25. Not bad, eh? And all US editions, too.

July 1, 2008

Blogging for the Long Tail | Posted at 2:09 PM

If anyone has taken a business management class or a supply-chain logistics class, they’ve heard of, if not examined, the idea of the “long tail.?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the long tail, it is when companies provide products that have low demand individually but add up to a lot cumulatively. It’s complicated enough to warrant a whole book but that’s the idea.

As an example, digital distribution caters to the long tail because long-tail items don’t cost much different to keep in inventory than popular hits (i.e. pop albums vs. classical albums). That’s why a platform like Steam does so well, it’s able to keep old games for a long time.

So what do I mean when I say “blogging for the long tail.? I am sure many bloggers have realized this but I’ve found it is better to blog about topics not many people blog about than to blog about topics lots of people blog about. More specifically, in my case I write how to articles for seemingly mundane things like LAN’ing someone’s favorite video game.

Here’s the thing, though. People like to find answers to problems. While many people can perhaps eventually find a solution to these problems by lots of Googling, if I write articles with a walkthrough and screenshots, I get more visits and readers. I do it, because as a user myself I search for problems with Google and it takes me awhile to find a straight answer. Now, I find an answer and then I blog the answer with an easy to follow list. Let’s take, for example, some of my recent popular articles.

Before I wrote the article on how to LAN Red Alert 2, I was maybe getting between 10-20 visits a day. Since that article came out (a month ago), I’ve gotten about 235 visits by people using keywords containing “red alert.? That article is one of my top hits (362 page views). Since I released the Age of Empires III Hamachi article (a week and a half ago), I’ve gotten about 100 visits from people searching (178 views).

There are a few other examples of traffic increasing by writing some other articles (e.g. IPX on Vista). My point is that catering to the “small? demographic with many articles can turn out to be your biggest traffic generator. I went from an average of 15-20 visits per day to now over 100 in less than a month. I have plans to write many more how to articles, since they seem to be very popular searches.

Even though it’s not on the economic side I think there is still a “long tail? idea to blogging. Since a blog can keep posts indefinitely if you choose to, there’s really no limit to how varied you can make your articles. I choose to cater to the computer problems crowd because it’s a heavy hitter but there are many other small niche topics that you could blog on.

June 30, 2008

Microsoft Student Partner | Posted at 10:08 PM

I applied to be a Microsoft Student Partner for my university a few months ago. I am excited because they’ll start calling people for phone interviews soon. It was supposed to be by June 30 but I guess they got a lot of applications.

I would be happy to get the “job? (it is about 5 hours a week paid) since there are some great perks. First, it will open a lot of doors after graduation. If I could work in the Xbox division at Microsoft, that would be sweet. Second, it comes with a free MSDN subscription. How awesome is that? I need Windows Server 2008 for my server now.

I applied for the Marketing position. If their advertisement was serious and I get to plan a Halo 3 Gaming Tournament, that would be amazing. They asked a lot of questions on that application. I feel like it was a bit subjective because new ideas for marketing an event would come up when I talked with people about it. I mean, advertising on Facebook is a given. Anyone should do that, I’ve seen how well that works. And then putting up flyers in high traffic zones around campus is a great way to advertise. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen ads just walking on the bridge or through campus.

Since I have some people who’d be interested in helping me with these events, leveraging them for word-of-mouth or just chalkin’ up the paths works wonders.

How this all will work with my current job and classes, I am not sure, but I tend to have at least 5 hours of free time a week minimum so it shouldn’t be an issue.

Hats off to thee.

May 20, 2008

Exposing Hollywood: A Short | Posted at 1:21 PM

For Geology and Cinema (GEO 1005), we had to create a geology presentation for lab. Well, my team and I decided that it would be fun to do a little animation. So we did. It came out well, I never animated before and Premier Pro isn't that great at animating. I'd rather use Flash instead, but the audio is one mp3 file, which makes it impossible to sync in the Flash timeline. With more time, I would have split the tracks.

May 19, 2008

Selling Textbooks | Posted at 7:04 PM

I just finished listing all my textbooks on Amazon (over 20). They keep it up for 60 days and after that they are taken down. My plan is to do textbook buy back with the books that don't get sold through Amazon. That way, I am getting the best price on the books I do sell and I can get rid of the ones I don't sell for some specified price closer to the time when students buy their books.

BookBytes had the best price, but they only took 6 books out of my 20. AbeBooks took the most, leaving only 4 or 5 left, but it was the same price as BookBytes' 6 books.