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Archive for April, 2009

Commerce vs. Engineering

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Someone asked,

hi. I am a Grade 12 student. I am deciding whether to choose commerce or engineer as my undergraduate program. More specifically, I will choose finance or ECE. Which program is easier to find a job? Which program is easeier to find a high salary job? Furthermore, which career has more opportunities? I applied for commerce in UofT. If you know some of the students from Uoft commerce undergraduate program,can you tell me how many of them find good jobs and their salary? What kind of jobs do they do?(ie investment banking or something else)
Thank you very much.

So here’s my answer:

Which program is easier to find a job?

In engineering, the biggest demand is for software development (web, mobile or desktop). Almost 90% of my electrical engineering buddies ended up in software development. So if you have an engineering degree, and have 1 year of software development experience (from coop, volunteer or hobbies), then it’s easy for you to find a job. If you don’t have work experience, you will have a hard time finding a job.

According to one of my colleagues in investment banking, he says new grad employment rate is about 50% within the first year of graduation because of the poor economy (things could be different 4 years from now). He graduated in 2004, and back then, the employment rate for commerce grads within first year of graduation was 80%. From his experience, most of his classmates ended up in marketing or accounting.

If you do not have work experience, then getting an engineering job (software) or getting a finance job (accounting or marketing) are equally hard. The more elite disciplines (aerospace engineering, investment banking etc..) are practically impossible. Getting a job depends on your reputation first, your work experience second.

Which program is easier to find high salary job?

The salaries for accounting, marketing and engineering are similar, even when taking years of work experience into consideration. However, if you have what it takes to survive engineering, but you choose to do commerce, then you will be paid more in commerce than in engineering. This is because commerce is generally easier than engineering, so you have a better chance at being top 10 in a commerce program to demand a higher salary than if you were a bottom feeder in an engineering program. If you work as an investment banker (only the elite get here), and you work your butt off and take abuse from employers like a dog, then you’ll be paid more than the average engineer who’s typically in software development or IT. There’s potential for you to make lots of money in engineering only if you start your own business. So again, high pay requires you to have a good sense of business (ie. commerce).

In the end, how much you get paid depends on how well you market yourself and how valuable your skills are. The best way to do this is if you work part time jobs in industry while studying. By exposing yourself to industry, you’ll see first hand which skills are most valuable.

Alright, I think my two answers answered all your other questions.

Written by John Lai

April 23rd, 2009 at 7:19 am

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Web Space Quota 1and1

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To check your webspace quota on a 1and1 linux package, login to Then go to “Package Information” and click on “Quota”. See image below:

Written by John Lai

April 21st, 2009 at 6:09 am

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Take a Break

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I’ve been working so much I forgot how enjoyable some of my other hobbies were. I took a break this weekend and re-discovered my passion for theorizing and formulating wacky ideas. I ended up writing 5 blog posts:

Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr. – 5 hooks in 4 minutes

Why Superpower Nations Aren’t Democratic

Career or Love

Rationality – The New Cool Aid

Google Reader Impedes Discovery

I also spent a lot of time debating subject of science vs. non-science at

So I wrote on 5 different topics and researched countless more. It’s good to think outside the box every so often!

Written by John Lai

April 20th, 2009 at 8:58 am

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Google Reader Impedes Discovery

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I do not have an RSS aggregator. I do not use Google Reader. Why? It’s because I do not “follow” any particular topic. I like to “discover” topics.

I like to Google “how to enrich uranium” and discover a delicious a recipe for “Swedish meatballs“. Why would I manage a Google Reader of exponentially growing feeds on topics I read only once?

As for the couple of topics I do follow, I frequent one or two credible and high quality sites. Why waste time logging into Google Reader to browse a couple of headlines when I can go to the website directly and read everything?

When a friend asks, “But John, don’t you follow my blog? You’re missing out on important [subjects] people  care about.” My response is, “If a [subject] were really important, or if it’s directly related to my work, then the [subject] will surface in our normal conversation. I will subsequently follow up with research. Otherwise, I’m content with reading the good old newspaper (online).”

Written by John Lai

April 18th, 2009 at 6:32 am


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On, I asked, “Why do most large companies prefer WISA over LAMP?”

Some interesting answers are found here:

In short, the reason is because Microsoft is liable for “problems”. With open source, no one is liable for “problems”. It’s all about who you can sue…

Written by John Lai

April 16th, 2009 at 12:00 am

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HTML Email Templates – Use HTML 4.0 for Newsletters

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A designer coded an html template using CSS best practices. But many webmail clients supports only HTML 4.0 markups, which means I must re-code these templates using table layouts and font tags.

For best compatibility across webmail accounts & email clients it’s best to use HTML 4.0 markups. Here are some tips to follow:

  • Do not use CSS files or style tags
  • Use tables for positioning and layouts and specify width and height values
  • Use font tags to control appearance of text
  • Specify height and width on images so when images are blocked, other elements are still in position

Test with the following email clients:

  • Outlook 2003
  • Outlook 2007
  • Thunderbird
  • Entourage (OSX version of Outlook)
  • Gmail
  • Hotmail
  • Yahoo Mail

If you can get the email template to work on all these clients, then you should be in good shape.

Written by John Lai

April 15th, 2009 at 11:53 pm

Recover Deleted SVN File

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I keep forgetting how to do this, so I’m going to write the steps down here.

Type the following to see a log of revisions:

bash> svn log -v

Once you’ve spotted the file and the version you want, type

bash> svn up myoldfile.txt -r29

Replace myoldfile.txt with the name of the file you want to recover, and 29 with the version number of the file you want to recover.

Now you’ve got your file back but it’s still registered as the old 29 version. So you’ll need to make a copy of it and then do an “svn add” to include it as a recent version.

Written by John Lai

April 8th, 2009 at 6:36 pm

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OS X Installation Date

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If you want to know when OS X was installed on your MAC you can do the following:

  1. Go to your Applications folder and open up Terminal
  2. In terminal, type vi /var/log/OSInstall.custom

The file you opened will tell you the installation date.

Written by John Lai

April 7th, 2009 at 10:15 am

1and1 Review

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I’ve been using’s business package (shared linux hosting) as my staging server for the past 4 years without problems. I’ve used it for the following purposes:

  • php 4 and php 5 applications
  • mysql 4.0 and mysql 5.0 databases
  • subversion
  • multiple domains and multiple sub domains
  • setting up ssh keys for other developers (because they only offer 1 ssh account)
  • purchased an SSL for one of my domains (easy to set up)
  • to host a blog that gets 500 pageviews per day

I’m fairly happy with the’s service. I don’t have any big complaints.

Some things which people may find annoying are:

  • automated recurring billing: So don’t expect your account to terminate upon expiration. This is by far the biggest complaint others have about
  • email tech support: sometimes it could take up to 12 hours for a junior technician to respond to your message. If it’s something he can’t handle, it may take another 12 hours for a senior sysadmin to respond. So be prepared for 12 hour delays between emails. I haven’t tried their phone tech support yet.
  • no remote database access: so I borrow my friend’s godaddy webhosting because there’s remote db connection there
  • customers get’s admin control panel as opposed to a popular one like cPanel. But’s control panel is pretty good.

Written by John Lai

April 6th, 2009 at 4:59 pm

Average Time on Site 0:00

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I recently discovered why Google Analytics lists so many visitors with Average Time on Site 0:00.

Average Time on Site is calculated by subtracting time stamps between page views on your site. So if a visitor views one page and leaves (indicated by Bounce Rate 100%), there is no second page view to calculate the Average Time on Site. Google Analytics automatically assigns a time 0:00 for that visitor.

Some people have asked, “Why not just run a javascript timer on the site and ping the google analytics server every X interval?” The answer is because Javascript programs consume resources. Web analytic js scripts should not interfere with the operations of native web applications. (I am very suspicious of ClickTale because it records all user activity on a site. Do ClickTale operations interfere with the functionality DHTML rich web applications?)

**Reference: Bounce Rate and Time on Site – Google Forum Thread

Written by John Lai

April 5th, 2009 at 7:07 am