Snow!

November 28, 2006 at 4:20 pm | Posted in Personal, Seattle | 2 Comments

Some very light snow started in Seattle a couple of days ago. It’s really fun as I haven’t seen snow in probably around 15+ years!

Yesterday though, as I was about to leave work it, the snow just started falling down in large quantities! It was quite an experience to drive my car on the snow for the first time! Actually, I wouldn’t call it driving, more of slipping and sliding ๐Ÿ™‚ It was quite scary to see this big bus next to me, who had his wheels turned all the way to the left, sliding forward.

Anyway, everything is covered by a big sheet of white this morning, and now I’m off to do some car-skating to work ๐Ÿ™‚

Loving my Zune

November 23, 2006 at 8:08 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Personal | 3 Comments

Contrary to what some news reports out there are saying. My Zune MP3 player is amazing. I use it everyday. I purchased the Brown one from Best Buy with a 12% rewards zone discount (even better than the MS Store which had it for a 10% discount).

As well, contrary to what some people/news reports have been saying it is pretty much selling out quite rapidly. I’ve been to various stores (Target, Circuit City, Best Buy, etc.) and they are all pretty much sold out. I even once came to purchase an armband case for my Zune and had some people ask me about it. There is a lot of buzz around the product and people are extremely interested in purchasing it. I can’t blame them. It just looks fantastic, it feels nice and solid in your hand. The display is very crisp, and sharp. I’ve watched a few videos on it while on the MS shuttle. My car also has an AUX IN port, so I purchased a cable to hook it up to the car and now listen to it on my daily commute.

Another feature I love…It displays the album art when a particular song comes up. This compelled me to fix my ID3 tags on all my MP3s. The Zune Marketplace software helped me with this. I would just click on tracks and choose ‘Find Album Info’. It took a while, but it sure beats updating all this information manually.

One of the killer features I believe is the subscription method to your music. It would cost $15 a month, and you get full access to the entire Zune music collection, with complete freedom to download onto several machines and/or your Zune device (I believe a subscription covers 5 machines, and 2 (or 3) Zune devices). I think this is one major plus to the Apple iPod/iTunes ecosystem.

While there is a lot of buzz around the whole sending music wirelessly to other Zune devices, I have yet to try this. I don’t think I would use this feature much anyway. I believe though this feature is not targeted for me, but targeted to younger teenagers and/or the MySpace crowd. There is also a feature where you can hook up your Zune to the Xbox 360 and get your music/videos over there. Again, something I have not used and don’t think its very essential for me.

Anyway, it’s a really great device and I strongly recommend it to anyone. If you are looking for an alternative to the iPod, I believe that you should definitely give the Zune a try. I am not just saying this because I am a Microsoft employee…I am saying this as a person who was not happy with any of the existing offerings out there. If you have any questions/queries about the device, feel free to leave comments and I will try to answer them (and if I can’t, I will do my best to get the answer for you from the Zune guys).

Busy Busy

November 19, 2006 at 10:47 pm | Posted in Personal | 2 Comments

I’ve been very busy this past week and hence my lack of posts. I’ve officially moved apartments now and am now staying in Redmond. The moving process was a really big pain, and I couldn’t have done it without a friend helping me with his car. Even with him though, I made 3 trips back and forth. It was kind of insane. Also – on the first day, the power was out due to severe wind storms in Washington. Apparently over 100,000 homes were out of power. So it wasn’t a great first experience ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m really excited about staying here. Its a beautiful one bedroom apartment, but very spacious and very modern. I just got back from Marymoor park (within walking distance). Tried taking my dog off-leash for the first time ever which was a pretty fun experience I think for both of us ๐Ÿ™‚ Unfortunately, I was thoroughly soaked (as usual its raining here).

Some of the things that we recently purchased for the new house:

  • Samsung HP-S4253 42″ Plasma HDTVย – This is an excellent hi-definition TV. Although a bit pricey ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve also subscribed to a Hi-def cable package + DVR so this has totally changed my whole television experience. First of all, seeing standard definition on a screen like this just goes to show why you would need HD. If you are watching TV on a standard/smaller screen you probably would not need HD. Also, being able to record my shows using DVR is also pretty fantastic ๐Ÿ™‚ I get to record CSI for example while my wife watches her show. And we don’t have to worry about going home to catch certain shows if we’re out. It’s great
  • Couch + Table from Levitz – An amazingย comfortable microfiberย couch – unfortunately we got a slip cover for it because we have a dog ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
  • Xbox 360 – Got an Xbox 360 so I can play games ๐Ÿ™‚ I love games. What’s great about the Xbox 360 too is it doubles as a DVD player so I wouldn’t need to buy one, and I will also be able to play HD-DVDs if/when I buy the HD-DVD drive accessory. I fully decked it out by buying an extra wireless controller + 2 plug & play charge kits. I also got the wireless networking add-on and a fancy blue faceplate. Also got 3 games: PGR3, Perfect Dark Zero, and Call of Duty 3. I wanna also get Gears of War, but its been out of stock everywhere – so I plan to just wait until it comes out in the MS Store.
  • Zune – Well, this isn’t for the house, but for me and my wife. I got the new Zune player from Microsoft. I was planning on buying an MP3 player as all we had was an iPod shuffle (the old one). I did not want an Apple for a couple of reasons…I think its overhyped, and I would really prefer something with a ‘subscription’ model. I think this is a MUCH better alternative than investing money into a certain ecosystem by buying tracks (and have them non-transferable to other software or other machines). I prefer a subscription I can use/take anywhere. I’ve played with the Microsoft URGE which is fantastic. The Zune marketplace is pretty much the same. I haven’t subscribed yet (or activated my free trial) I may do it starting from next month. I got the brown Zune, which is surprisingly looks great. I dissed this color at first when I heard about it and in general I don’t like brown. But it looks great I must say. It has a sort of green shimmer to it which makes it look so much better than plain brown. The screen is great, very crisp and sharp. I also love the ability to customize it (set a background).ย  The Zune software also helped in cataloging my MP3 collection (I love the ‘Find Album Info’ feature which automatically finds the track/album). Theoretically as well, I can stream my music to my Xbox 360, but I haven’t tried that.

Anyway – that’s all for now ๐Ÿ™‚

Microsoft and Hiring

November 15, 2006 at 3:14 am | Posted in Microsoft | 6 Comments

Today I attended an excellent talk by Adam Barr on how to choose appropriate technical interview questions for Microsoft recruits. It was very insightful and I learned a number of new things. One of the major things though is that interview questions shouldn’t be selected to test a person’s actual knowledge. It is more about their actual capacity and their motivation to answer the question. If they are properly motivated, they will try and keep trying until they get it. If they do not have the capacity to answer the question (assuming you picked an appropriate question) then of course, they just may not be capable to work at Microsoft. It certainly is not an easy task to pick the appropriate question though. We have to assume that everyone has seen most (if not all) of the questions before – and the point is, we need to follow-up and expand on the question using constraints (such as expanding the data set by a huge amount, or placing a restriction on memory usage, etc.)

I also wanted to point my readers to the latest post on the JobsBlog. It is an interview with one of the new H-1B recruits, whose name is Mian Fahim and Priya (one of my recruiters). One of my friends might also appear on an interview on the JobsBlog, so wait for that…

Finally, I saw this post titled Nine Things Developers Want More Than Money. It is an excellent article that talks about what motivates Software Engineers (more than money). I believe Microsoft has 8 or 9 of the things listed there, which is why I am very happy here. I think all software companies should strive for those 9 things. My dream is for one day to see software companies in Egypt that actually care about those 9 items. I am sure though there are probably some out there that care about some of these, so that’s a good start.

Vista RTM Party

November 12, 2006 at 5:14 pm | Posted in Microsoft | Comments Off on Vista RTM Party

As most people would know by now, Windows Vista has finally RTM’d at Microsoft. RTM means Released to Manufacturing so they can begin to produce CDs and send it to customers and prepare for the retail release in January.

In celebration of this Microsoft had a party in one of the building garages. If anyone has seen a college frat party – this is pretty much the same thing ๐Ÿ™‚ They also had a red carpet rolled out for the engineers to walk in on. There were massages, pool tables, and a costume/photo booth. There was also an R&B band playing/singing on stage.

It was pretty cool and lots of fun. We also got to see and hear some words from Jim Allchin and Bill Gates, which was/is pretty cool. I took some pictures with my phone cam, but they are pretty lousy so I won’t even bother posting.

It was lots of fun.

Record Rain

November 10, 2006 at 4:58 am | Posted in Personal, Seattle | 1 Comment

It’s been raining pretty furiously in Seattle the past few days (almost a week). I find it actually pretty funny for it to be able to continously rain day after day after day! What is amazing though, is that its causing all sorts of flooding and problems in Washington at the moment.

Apparently, the average rainfall in November in Seattle is around 5.9 inches. That is for ALL of November. It is now the 9th of November and we’ve had around 8-9 inches of rain already. I think the record was in 1998 at 11 or 12 inches, so we are well on the way of breaking it.

In other news, Vista RTM’d, which is really great engineering accomplishment. There is going to be a party at Microsoft to celebrate, so I’m looking forward to attending that. I haven’t gotten to play with it much, but I plan on upgrading to it soon at work and giving it a spin.

One Month Anniversary at Microsoft

November 4, 2006 at 6:53 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Personal | 2 Comments

November 2nd was my official one month anniversary at Microsoft. Not much to say in this regard. I’m beginning to get more involved and integrated and slowly I am beginning to become aware of things ๐Ÿ™‚ But its still a huge learning curve, but I am enjoying every minute of it.

Some of the amazing “perks” at MS though are finding out about new secret projects. I saw a mysterious, cryptic poster the other day hanging on a well directing me to a website. They were looking for beta testers for this new exciting project which I think will have a major impact in the future for people. I’m sorry, I can’t talk about it at all ๐Ÿ™‚

The December date for people in Egypt wishing to join Microsoft is soon approaching ๐Ÿ™‚ I know several people with phone interviews lined up. If anyone (from Egypt) is interested in applying please email me or leave a comment and I will contact you ๐Ÿ™‚

Switching to my personal life…Some things I recently purchased:

  • 1GB of Kingston DDR2-667Mhz RAM for my laptop. This has significantly boosted the speed of my laptop. 512MB was just not enough and causing it to page way too much whenever I had many webpages open (and since both my wife and I keep many windows/pages open it was becoming painfully slow).
  • Grand Theft Auto – Vice City Stories for my PSP – I love the GTA series. This looks to be a great game too. Not getting much chance to play it. But it visually looks stunning.
  • Books – Recently purchase iWoz, which is the story/auto-biography of Steve Wozniak, one of the co-founders of Apple (along with Steve Jobs). He was the technical genius behind the first Apple. Very smart guy, very interesting book. I strongly recommend it to anyone. Also bought Rich Dad, Poor Dad which is a book about personal finance. I’ve heard good comments about it. This is a field I’m interested in reading and I may start posting some things about it in the future.

Some things I need to begin looking into are buying furniture/items for my new apartment (which I will be moving into on November 15th). I will be moving to The Reflections at Marymoor. It’s a wonderful place in Redmond. It’s new, and within walking distance there is a Fred Myers, and Target (big department stores), and Whole Foods (big organic/healthy food supermarket). It is also within walking distance to Marymoor park which is a big park here in Redmond that has an offleash area for dogs. Great place, the apartments utilize the space internally very well so it feels spacious. I’ve seen some apartments that are larger in square foot size, but due to bad architecture, it feels a lot smaller.

I also want to get a High-Def TV, which should be an interesting experience. So many options. So far I am looking for 40 or 42″ LCD 1080i capable HDTV. I’d like to keep it within a 1500$ budget, which should be interesting. I am pretty clueless when it comes to this so I hope I make the right choice.

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