The Evolution of Electronic Storage (according to me!)

Do you remember floppy disks?

Thin, plastic squares that you slotted into your vintage Windows 95 desktop?

No?

Let’s face it, technology evolves so fast that it’s no wonder we feel old that we remember the likes of audio cassettes and tape recorders. Is it safe to say that children born in the 21st century have arrived at the peak of technological advancements? Of course not. When they’re in their 20s and 30s, the likes of MP3 players and smartphones will more than likely be old hat compared to what awaits us in the not-to-distant future. I still hold out hope for hover bikes! floppy_disc

So back to floppy disks, which are sadly up on the shelf with video tapes and Walkmans. They are considered ‘retro’ or ‘old-fashioned’ (I think retro sounds better) to those old enough to remember them. That’s right, I said OLD. Let’s face it, today’s generation would not know what to do with a floppy disk if you handed it to them, let alone guess that it was what 80s and, to some extent, 90s babies used to save important documents onto from their computers. Cue the laughter of not just disbelief, but of pity also.

‘That wouldn’t fit into my MacBook Air!’

To me, floppy disks had their benefits, the biggest being that you get to write your name on the handy little labels you got when you purchased a box of five or ten, and ever so neatly stick them onto the disk. And we all played with that steel flap in spite of the widespread myth that snapping it back and forth would wipe the data on the disk. It was the little things, really. Floppy disks were what I used in secondary school and, at the time, that was the norm. (I can already hear my mother’s voice: ‘we didn’t even have computers in school!’)

On today’s school book lists you will more than likely find a USB key with a minimum storage of 2GB typed. I didn’t encounter this new storage gadget until I began my third level education back in 2006 (I used the term ‘old’, right?). They were much smaller than a floppy disk, but still in their infancy at this stage. €15 – €20 would get you 128MB (do they still make things in megabytes?). There was quite a big turnover of USB keys in my class alone throughout the course. This was due to some genius starting a trend that allowed the computer tower, where the USB slots in, to be placed on the floor rather than the desk. You can see where this is going, right? Unlike floppy disks, USBs don’t insert fully into the computer tower, only partially, therefore: USB + knee = BROKEN! Or, in my case, bent sideways but still fully operational.images

By the time I finished college in 2010, I figured data storage had reached its peak, for students anyway. Three years later, in 2013, I decided to re-enter the world of third level education, armed with an 8GB USB key, which cost less than my bent 128GB pal from my first college stint. Technologically I was ready, but…wait, what’s this?

Dropbox?

Dropbox. Now this was something altogether different. There was no hardware involved, excluding the computer that is, and it can be accessed anywhere on any device, phones and tablets included. Remarkable was the only way I could describe it. Surely there’s a catch? No cat- Stop! Yes, yes there is. Once you’ve used up your complimentary 2GB of storage, you are required to pay for more. Fine, I thought, I’ll make a once-off payment and add some extra space, right? Wrong! Monthly payments are required to gain extra space, on Dropbox at least, and they’re quite costly at that. Hello! Student here, society expects me to be poor. I got around it though, once an important document was no longer important, out it went. And now that I’m finished college (again!), I simply use it to back up my photographs from my smart phone.

What will you do once they fill up your Dropbox, you ask?

Do they make USB keys in terabytes yet? Continue reading

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All work and no college: finding the balance when working part time

College fees seem to go solely in one direction: up. Even the grant system can only help the average student so much by merely paying a percentage of the fees. Where does the rest come from? Perhaps your parents can afford to pay them, or you were smart and started saving early and have the money sitting in your Credit Union account. For the rest, a part time job seems to be the only way to make ends meet, not just for college fees, but for basic needs such as food, and in some cases, accommodation. It almost seems like the norm that students struggle financially.

It is not just the stress of having no money that inflicts a majority of Irish third level students, but having a part time job can also be quite stressful. Now you have to find a balance between two almost equally stressful situations. It’s a catch-22: you can’t afford not to work and you can’t afford not to attend classes. Fees are so high that it can almost feel like you’re throwing away money not attending your evening classes for the sake of making your 5.00pm work shift. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?

Fortunately, a lot of employers will do their best to arrange your shifts around your college schedule, but is that really enough? You can’t ask more of your employer, but working evenings and weekends can take its toll. Suddenly you have no time to do your assignments outside of college hours and you can’t remember when you had a day that was free of work and college. A good idea is to book your work holiday entitlements when you have a week off college also, for example, the reading weeks. You can get assignments done and still have time for yourself.

Finding the balance

It all depends on how much money a week you can live on. Some may find that they have to take on extra hours just to pay off loans or rent. Others find they can work just two days a week and still have money left over. Everyone needs a balance, but it’s not the same balance.

Working weekends only may not seem ideal because you’re guaranteed no weekends off for the duration of the terms. However, the upside of not working the weekdays means you have rest periods as well as time to do your assignments, because face it, if you had weekends off you wouldn’t waste them doing assignments anyway. Another plus is that most college courses provide at least one day during the week in which there are no classes. Think of the possibilities!

On the other hand, if you would prefer not to spend your weekend working long shifts, then working evenings can be manageable. Ensure that your employer knows when you can and cannot work. Also take into account the time it takes you to travel from college to work. If, for example, it takes you two hours in heavy traffic to get there in the evenings, chances are you won’t make it for your 6.00pm shift after finishing college at 5.00pm. However, if you finish at 4.00pm, you will more than likely make it; just don’t pressure yourself if you feel it is too much.

College and work can be stressful in their own ways, but they are manageable as long as they don’t clash with each other. No one can tell you what way to arrange your timetable, the only advice is to arrange it so that you’re comfortable and that you are no longer dealing with unnecessary stress.

How to survive college as an introvert

You make an excuse as to why you can’t join your classmates for a trip to the pub after a long day of classes. You prefer to spend your lunchtime in a quiet classroom or the library rather than a noisy, crowded canteen. Basically you just want to come to college, do what you have to do, and go home again. Congratulations, you’re introverted!

College can seem like a scary place to introverts, who need a lot more personal space than others. Stepping into Freshers Week you suddenly find yourself surrounded by students and organisations trying to pull you in. There is nowhere to hide, you are to brave the masses and hope you come out the other side in one piece. But don’t worry, it gets easier.

The biggest challenge of an introvert, I find, is how little extraverts understand you. They thrive on social situations and yet here you are, sitting alone, not doing much of anything. You sit in silence and it’s clear your mind is somewhere else. How can this be? You will find extraverts will try to change you. They will insist on you joining them to every social event the college has to offer, and saying no becomes more difficult as time goes by. In the end, having said no so many times, you will find yourself never being asked again. They have learned their lesson; you’re not going leave your shell any time soon.

It may seem to the majority that you want to be a loner, and maybe you do. However, it’s not always the case. You still want friends. A close-knit group of friends, not over two hundred strangers on Facebook latched to your account. You find yourself being the only one in the computer lab during lunch minding everyone’s bags while they go to the canteen. The biggest failure to yourself is wishing you were extraverted. There is nothing wrong with being introverted. It’s just the way you are.

After four years studying an undergraduate degree and currently studying a year in postgraduate, I still find myself avoiding social events. Some genuinely cannot be helped because I work part time. However, I find if you really want to make the effort and leave college with at least one forever friend, which I do, go to a social event but just stay for a couple of hours. You don’t need to make up excuses, more than likely you will have college the following morning, or you will have been up since 7.00am or 8.00am and are beyond exhausted. If you really don’t want to be the first to leave, or to be the only one, arrange to leave with another person because more than likely others will also want to leave early for whatever reason.

The best advice I can give you for making friends, though I don’t consider myself an expert, is to avoid saying no too often. As I mentioned before, people will eventually stop asking you to go out if you repeatedly turn them down. More than likely you would rather meet up with just a few people you get along with, so why not arrange something? Go to the cinema, grab a bite to eat, go for a drink, etc. Don’t leave everything to the other person. Taking control of the situation will make the social side of college a lot more comfortable and you will leave with friends who understand you and accept you for the way you are.

http://campus.ie/college-life/personal/survive-college-as-an-introvert

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

An article I wrote for the Culture section of my college newspaper.

When a film is terrible, it is only natural to mock it throughout in order to survive eighty plus minutes. Don’t lie, we all do it. Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie, however, does it like a pro.

Generated from a TV series that mocks whatever dreadful, painstakingly bad film they can get their hands on without risking copyright issues, Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie follows Mike, Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo as they battle the eccentric Dr Forrester in a dog-shaped spaceship in which he subjects them to a “stink burger” called This Island Earth in an attempt to break his subjects and, in turn, use it to take over the world.

Rather than succumb to insanity from the bad acting, poor script and general lack of imagination in This Island Earth, Mike and his robots simply tear the film to shreds with good old-fashioned heckling. Not even the credits are safe! From the very beginning to the very end, the jokes and impressions are rolled out, but not so quickly that we risk missing out on one because we’re laughing so hard our breath shortens.

A lost classic this is indeed, you can only get it on Region 1 DVD through online retailers, unless you’re lucky enough to come across a VHS copy somewhere in the ruins of Chartbusters. It is a worthwhile investment, and you’ll find yourself wishing Mike and the gang were around to take down some of our modern day movie bombs!

My First Published Article

The editor of my college newspaper asked me to write up a survival guide for each year of an undergraduate degree. It was a small start, but to see my name in print was truly amazing. Here is my article:

The transition from school to college can be quite a daunting process. Suddenly you find yourself in a position where your timetable is not as consistent as it was in school, the materials you need are much pricier, and the social scene is something altogether different than you’re used to. Some handle it better than others, but that does not mean to say that everyone can’t use a little help along the way. Here is some tips/advice on how to ease your settlement into college life:

Year 1

Get a map: No matter how small a college is, you will get lost! It can take a couple of weeks to properly get your bearings, but the assistance of a map will help speed this up. By the end of your first week, you could be giving directions to other freshers!

Make friends: Remember that everyone in your course is in the same boat as you. Perhaps some people already know each other, but a majority won’t. If they’re studying the same subject as you, chances are you already have a good bit in common with them. The first week is all about settling in, so lecturers will go easy on you. In the free time between classes, get to know your classmates, arrange a lunch date or night out to get to know each other better. These people will be your support system for the duration of your studies at undergraduate level.

Don’t get overwhelmed: Every undergraduate course generally begins with an induction. Aside from the library tours and ice breakers, you are given a summary of what you will be doing in each year of your studies. This can seem frightening. You have only just started and the lecturers are already talking about your final year thesis! Take a deep breath and remember that you will not be thrown into the deep end. The lecturers will do everything they can to ensure that you know exactly what you are doing, and come final year dissertations, you’ll wonder why you ever fretted.

Get involved: College is not just about academics (though it is a vital part!); it is also about socialising and get involved in campus projects. Clubs and Socs week is a great way to get involved and to meet people of different ages and courses. With over sixty societies currently running in DIT, you are bound to find something that interests you. However, in the off-chance that you don’t, why not set up your own?

Manage your time appropriately: Because your schedule won’t always be within the standard 9.00am to 4.00am time frame, it is important that you ensure that any outside commitments are arranged in such a way that it does not disrupt your studies. Maybe you have a part time job. A good employer will ensure that your work hours suit your college hours.

Manage your assignments: Assignments usually begin around mid-October, and you will get them from each subject you are studying. While it is unlikely that more than one assignment will be due on the same day, they may be due around the same week, or month. Don’t panic! Good timekeeping is essential to carrying out assignments. Draw up an assignment schedule and decide when you will work on each one. If you find you need help, or possibly an extension, talk to your lecturer. They will do what they can to help.

Presentations will happen: The idea of standing up in front of a room full of people can seem scary. Just keep in my that everyone in your class will have to do the same thing, so support each other and take away the nerves, it’ll be over before you know it! The more you do them, the more confident you will become.

It helps to talk: Stress can occur under the pressure of assignments and class schedules, and in times like these, it is important not to suffer in silence. DIT has a counselling service that caters for students who need that extra bit of support in their studies. They will listen to you and work with you to reduce your stress. Just remember, no matter how small you think your problems are, they are willing to listen.

Budget: College is expensive, that is most likely the first thing you are told once you’ve decided to go. However, with the rise in student discounts around Dublin, it can be quite easy to manage your money sensibly and still be able to afford reasonably priced luxuries. Make sure to take advantage of the Student Union Ents card, which gives you discounts all over the city centre.

On the same note, buying books is not essential: In school you received a booklist and everything on it had to be purchased. Due to third level books being alarmingly expensive, colleges recommend reading material rather than deem it necessary for you to buy them. Your lecturers will more than likely recommend books that are available in the college library, so you can always get your hands on the material you need without spending a fortune.

Make time for yourself: For a student who has classes and assignments, and possibly part time jobs and/or long distance travel times, it may seem impossible to find time to kick back and relax. However, just two hours a week dedicated to you and what you do to chill can have a positive impact on your college life.

Find your study space: Whether this is the library, or a free classroom on campus, it always good to know you have somewhere to go where it is quiet and you can do your work in peace.

Year 2

There’s no denying that second year is a little easier than first year in terms of knowing what to expect. Assignments and unpredictable schedules are second-nature to you now. Here are some tips to help you get back into your fresher routine:

Dig out your map: You may think that after first year you’ll never get lost again. This is not always the case. The summer is long and your mind is focused on non-college related stuff, and you may come back realising that you can’t remember where your photography class is. If you’re super organised, you’ll still have your map from first year. If not, grab another one and don’t be late for class!

Don’t get cocky: It is a common pitfall that once you’ve completed one year in college, the rest will be a breeze. Wrong! Apologies for sounding blunt, but it only becomes more challenging, but that doesn’t mean to say it’ll be worse. Dedicate as much effort to your assignments as you did in your first year. The lecturers started you off easy, now they want to get you ready for the big stuff.

Get re-involved: Maybe you neglected the societies you joined in first year, wanting to focus more on the academic side of college life. Or perhaps you decided against signing up to a particular society and regretted it later. Clubs and Socs week happens every year in DIT and it always comes with new societies to join. As mentioned in Year 1, you can always start your own society if you’re feeling a bit more confident than last year.

Learn from your first year: It may not just be societies you regret not signing up to, but perhaps you wish you had made a better effort in certain assignments, or you didn’t pay as much attention in a particular subject as you should have. While you can’t go back and change that, you can learn from it and improve yourself this year. College is all about progression, not just in the course, but yourself too.

Help out freshers: This doesn’t necessarily mean volunteering at Freshers Week, or dedicating your spare time to being a tour guide. Should you see a fresher who clearly looks lost, approach them and ask if you can help them find where they need to be. They will appreciate your help. After all, you were in their shoes this time last year!

First Published Article

Year 3

For some, third year could mean the final year, for others it’s just as important, as it’s paving the way to your final year. Stress can be most rife among third year students. Suddenly you realise that you’re halfway through/finishing your course and you’re thinking: where did the time go? Don’t worry; just keep these tips in mind:

Don’t lose the balance of work and play: Third year will either be your final year and or your second last year. Either way it’s a big deal. The assignments will be more challenging, and your workload will increase. However, that does not mean you have to sacrifice fun to make way for work. If you find the balance you managed in years 1 and 2 worked for you, keep it up. Otherwise, try to come up with a schedule that allows enough time for both sides of the coin.

Consider your options: Whether it is your last year or not, it might be a good idea to make an appointment with the career counsellor to help you look at what your options are after you graduate. If you already have an idea of what you would like to do, the career counsellor will help you decide how best to go about doing it.

Don’t beat yourself up: Now that you’re coming to the end of your studies, it is easy to tell yourself that you’re not capable of getting good grades in your final years. You’re quite capable, you just need to focus and put in the right amount of effort whilst not overdoing it.

Support each other: By now your classmates have become your family. They too may be feeling the stress of third year and need some support. Help each other out. If you have techniques to help you decompress after a stressful day or assignment, share this with your classmates.

(Note: For those who are finishing their course in third year, see Year 4 tips.)

Year 4

Here you are: a fourth and final year student. It may require you to write a dissertation and/or carry out a research study, but either way it’s a big deal, but that doesn’t mean it has to get the better of you.

Don’t stress: You have come this far, which means you are more than capable of doing it, and doing it well.

Balance, balance, balance: This cannot be said enough. Don’t tip the scale. Overworking yourself can lead to burnout and your efforts will end up having the opposite effect. Keep the two hours a week you have dedicated to ‘me time’.

Create a good working relationship with your project supervisor: Most courses set a dissertation for their final year assessment. If this is the case, you will be assigned to a lecturer who will act as your supervisor for the entirety of your research. It is important that you have a good working relationship; after all, this person is trying to help you, not sabotage you. Trust is the key.

Attend career fairs: Organisations such as Graduate Ireland hold career fairs in the RDS to help students like yourselves find work in your field. It is a good idea to visit these fairs, as they are a great way of meeting potential employers, and possibly getting your foot in the door of an organisation you are eager to work in.

Don’t procrastinate: The dissertation will be your longest assignment out of your entire course, and it’s easy to put off working on it for the sake of assignments that are due before it. Set yourself a chunk of time a week to work on it so you don’t fall behind.

Be proud of yourself: Perhaps you never thought you’d make it this far, but here you are, and you should be proud. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!

It was edited down because I went over the word count, but I figure it’s easy to cut than it is to add. The picture above is the finished product. I am making it my goal to have a piece published in every issue, which isn’t as difficult as it may seem, as it is only published every three weeks.