Alex JF

New semester

  • Category: Personal

As usual, I get distracted with lots of other things and end up neglecting this blog. Fortunately, February only had 28 days so my "little" delay is not as big as it appears. Anyway, a lot has happened since my last post so lets get to it shall we?

Vall de Núria intermediate station

Ok so last time I interacted with you fine crowd I was getting ready for my snow trip to Vall de Núria. I'm happy to say that it was an awesome experience! Besides getting to meet the great EMDC group currently in Lisbon (hail to you guys!), some very nice ladies from the previous EMDC batch currently working on their thesis and the main coordinators of the Master's degree, it was also my first experience with abundant snow. I had been in Serra da Estrela before (that's the highest mountain range in continental Portugal) where there is usually some snow (though not that much when I went there). In Vall de Núria, we had up to (or should I say down to?) -15ºC and rather strong winds which provided some awesome white flurry causing temporary where-the-hell-am-I? situations.

During our stay there we had some presentations by previous students, coordinators and teachers regarding interesting subjects related to the area of Distributed Systems along with what we should expect from our life in Sweden. Each of us also gave their own presentation explaining who we were and what our interests are. Besides the presentations, we had a lot of fun playing Werewolf, pool and other activities. The breakfasts, lunches and dinners were very nice, following a buffet-style first-plate followed by an 'a la carte' second-plate. As for the actual skiing, I equipped myself thoroughly for that adventure on my second day there along with some other brave souls. In total we were 4 (2 skiing veterans and 2 newbies - yey me!). Why so few and why brave you ask? Well, turns out that was a particularly bad day for skiing with winds up to around 60km/h and heavy snowing. There literally were times when I couldn't see anything around me (the fact that I forgot my glasses on the room didn't help either lol) and the skis hardly slided with all the fresh snow piling up fast. After about 30 mins I went back inside as my eyelids were starting to freeze to one another.

Vall de Núria hotel Morning of my skiing day My presentation IST guys + Some UPC guys + EMDCs from previous batch

We left Vall de Núria on Friday, the 8th of February around lunch. When we were at the intermediate station waiting for the train to Barcelona, I noticed I hadn't returned the key card used to open our room. Quite worried that I might have to return back to the hotel, I phoned a friend that was still there and everything turned out to be okay. Still have the key card in my wallet, you never know when it might come in handy.

Next monday, the second semester classes officially started. These are my subjects for this semester: Cloud Computing, Supercomputer Architectures, Decentralized Systems, Network Optimization, Sensors and Wireless communication. Fortunately, this semester has a bigger focus on continuous evaluation with weekly paper readings and reviewings (ok this part sucks), presentations and a greater emphasis on projects. If I'm not mistaken, we'll only have 1 small exam at the end so it should be a lot less stressful. As for the actual content, I'd say they are ok. The Sensors and Wireless subject is rather strange in that it has been interesting but up until now I haven't seen that much relevance with the actual area of Distributed Systems (we've been studying how accelerometers, gyroscopes and other sensors you can find on your smartphone work). I'd say the one I'm disappointed with the most up until now is maybe Decentralized Systems but truth be told, the main components of the course (the project and the report) haven't started yet.

We also found this very cool bowling place near the university. From the 3 games we played the time I went there, I won 1 so it wasn't so bad. I also got a free extra burger since the waiter took half of my previous burger away when it was my turn to play. Also went with one of the EMDC guys from the previous batch to a free flamenco show in Grácia. I'm not an expert in flamenco but the performance seemed to be very good! And right next door there's one of the best burger places I've tried here in Barcelona. Have to go there again soon!

This last week it rained a lot here in Barcelona which meant that I could no longer bike to the university and had to shell out some money for the tram. Fortunately, the rain has given way to a very nice warm sun which helps to lift spirits.

Bowling skills Flamenco show Return of the sunny days

Track My Money logo

Finally, lets talk about my new toy: the Nexus 4. I had ordered it through a friend (thanks again) since Google doesn't accept payment with credit cards outside of the country of purchase (I don't have a Spanish bank account). This was at the beginning of February but the delays that plagued the Nexus 4 delivery along with some mixups during the actual expedition resulted in me receiving the phone only on the 27th. I must say I'm loving it and when I now look at my previous phone (a LG-P500), I wonder how I could ever have lived with such a small screen. The arrival of the Nexus 4 also gave me a much needed boost to finish the first version of my expense tracker application Track My Money since the app I was previously using doesn't work with Jellybean. After a weekend filled with a lot of coding and debugging I release the first official version of the app last Monday and released it to the Play Store. Check it out and give a review! smiley

I'm going back to Portugal on the 25th of March and besides visiting my family in Portugal, I'll also see my father who's arriving on the 24th. I also have to remember to bring my running gear to Barcelona so I can resume my 1 hour and a half runs now that the weather is more favourable.

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