Five Tips For Doing Well In A Co-Op Interview

This winter, I will be going into my third work term in the Computer Science Co-Op program. Over the past two work terms, I’ve found that I’m pretty good at interviews; in fact, I have only gotten lower than a #1 ranking for one interview. I’ve also had the experience of being one of the interviewers, so I’ve seen the process on both sides. Interviews for winter work terms are coming up, and to help out some people who may be going through their first work term, here’s some quick tips to survive your first set of interviews and get a great job.

1. Get Some Sleep

Look, if you show up to your interview with bags under your eyes, chances are you won’t get hired. Show up awake, alert, and not hyped up on caffeine. Being on a good sleep cycle shows that you’re capable of preparing for things in advance, not at the last minute.

2. Do Your Research

Is the company you are applying for a major corporation or a mom-and-pop IT firm? Are they local-only or nation-wide? How many employees do they have? What is their mission statement? Where is their office located? Are you able to get there via transit, or will you have to drive?

It’s important to do a lot of preparation for an interview. Almost all interviewers will ask you what you did to prepare for the interview, so have a mental list prepared. You should also have a list of questions you want to ask them. Bring a written list of these questions. I have gone through interviews where they have asked if I have had any questions and they answered all of them in the interview, so have the list there to prove it. Show that you have questions and are interested about the job.

A quick word here on the job posters which you read prior to applying for the job. If there’s a technology or TLA (three-letter acronym) listed on the poster or in your job poster, be prepared to know what it is and what it’s used for. If you don’t, you look like you’re just padding your resume or didn’t do research about the job.

3. Don’t Skimp On The Answers

When you get asked a question, don’t just say the bare minimum to get by. Interviews are painful if it feels like the interviewers are pulling teeth to get a reply from you. Gerri (our co-op coordinator) always refers to the STAR method for situational questions. Tell them the situation, the task at hand, the action you took, and the result. Contrary to popular belief, it is FINE to tell them about a situation in which things did not turn out for the best, but be sure to tell them what you learned from the situation.

On the other hand, don’t keep talking until the cows come home. There’s a healthy balance between talking too much and talking too little.

4. Relax

Nobody likes seeing an interviewee so uptight they can barely speak. Many times the interviewers are very relaxed. While I was waiting for my first interview for the interviewers to show up, I overheard the following in the hallway as they approached:

“God, why the hell did Gerri schedule us for eight in the morning? NOBODY’S up this early!!”

Needless to say, we all had a great laugh in the hallway before my interview started. That interview went great.

Again, there’s a healthy balance. Don’t show up so relaxed that you’re acting like you’re talking to your friends. It’s possible to be professional while still being relaxed and enjoyable.

5. Show Up Early

At no point should you EVER show up late for an interview. If you’re taking a bus, go one bus early. You should always be at least fifteen minutes early. If you’re going to show up late, be sure to call them to let them know that you will be late, and hope that you have a great excuse.

So, those are a few tips to get you started. For those that are going into their first work term, I wish you all the best in your interviews, and I hope you get the job you want (unless, of course, it’s the one I also want, haha). For a bit of extra reading, take a look at Tipping Canoe, who has a great blog post about going through the interview process with them and their “infamous” interview questions. Who knows? Maybe those extra 5 gold coins you earn from reading that article can be cashed in for a job with them…

Fix Your Facebook Privacy Settings

Earlier this week, Facebook rolled out a new privacy policy which allows outside applications to view information stored on you, including your likes, connections, education, current city, and more. Needless to say, there’s a big issue with privacy here. While you want your friends to be able to see this information, you want to avoid giving it to 3rd parties as much as possible. Here’s some key tips to locking down your profile from those automated prying eyes.

1. Remove Instant Personalization [link]

Instant personalization gives your information to 3rd party websites such as, Pandora, and Yelp. Uncheck this box to prevent these sites from accessing your information.

2. Remove Unused (and sketchy) Applications [link]

Chances are you’ve added some application at some point, and although you deleted it off your profile, it probably still has access to your profile. Remove any unwanted applications by going to the link above and deleting those apps which shouldn’t be there. You might be surprised how many pages can see your information!

3. Remove Your Public Profile [link]

Data mining will largely rely on your public profile as a starting point for gathering your information. Remove that ability by going to the link above. Change your Facebook Search Results to Friends and Networks, and then Uncheck the option to have a public profile.

4. Lock Down Your Contact Information [link]

On this page, you can find all of the contact methods that are available to you. Unless you really want anybody to contact you, it is best to set almost all of these to “Friends” and nothing else. The only exceptions are the option to add you as a friend, and to send you messages. Both are worthwhile to leave open to everybody unless you happen to get spam from them.

5. Lock Down Your Profile Information [link]

Finally, there’s your actual profile information that should be locked down. Setting all of these to “Only Friends” is the best course of action.

If you haven’t done so, lock down your information soon. I can guarantee that the automated data mining services are working full-tilt in case Facebook reverts its privacy settings. It’s time to take control of your profile settings.

5 Goals For The Next 6 Months

Well, in an attempt to get back on my ‘writing horse’, I figured I’d start with some of the things that are rattling around my brain right now in terms of what I want to get accomplished in the short term. Some are computer-related, others are not. Nevertheless, I have some goals for things that I want to get done or accomplish in the next 6 months. Here are five of them.

1. Buy a new car

With the potential of a great new job headed my way (possibly more on that later), I should have some disposable income in the near future. To celebrate this, I think it’s time to get a new car; my current car, although it holds 5 people, is hardly what you consider sporty, is developing a bad case of rust, guzzles gas like nobody’s business, and isn’t fun to drive at all. I plan on buying a 2003 Hyundai Tiburon with a 5-speed manual transmission. They come in around $9000 before taxes, so on a financing plan I’ll be able to buy that no problem.

2. Build a customized car trunk sound system enclosure

I’d love to put my DIY skills to the test and create a proper molded sound system enclosure for my new car. It’s a lot of work, but it’ll be a lot of fun. This will also be very useful to work on some woodworking skills and some custom fabrication work.

3. Start my development website

For about two years, I ran a security-based site, but eventually shut it down because my interests simply did not coincide with my interests and life aspirations. As such, I’ve decided to start a development-based website. I can do the security-aspect within the programming and development, but I can also get into graphics design. It fits into my interests much more at this point in time, and I think it will be more beneficial to the internet as well.

4. Develop Thimbleberry

I have a new site in the works with a friend. That’s about all I’ll tell you for now. Either way, should be a fun time.

5. Start actively contributing to the open source community

The open source community is amazing. Those of you that have heard of a little operating system called Linux may know that it’s open source. That’s right: it’s free to use, free to modify, and free to redistribute. There are tons of open source projects available online, and I’d like to start contributing to one or start a new one that people will actually use. I’ve been using open source software for a long time, and it’s about time that I gave back to the community that has helped me out in so many ways.

Well, it may be feeble, but it’s a start at getting back in the writing groove. Soon I’ll start doing a bit more technology writing again, and will hopefully do some stuff on interface design. Thanks for sticking with me through my creative drought, and we will hopefully see you Monday.

Five Steps To Protect Against Browser Attacks

Some days, it pains me to see how woefully insecure some web browsers are. Every day, it seems that ten new browser-based exploits (or client-side attacks, as my presentation will tell you) are publicly released, and just because you’re on a site that you think is legitimate doesn’t mean that somebody hasn’t compromised it.

For those of you using Internet Explorer (IE), I pity you. IE, still being the #1 most commonly-used browser in the world, is the target of the most attacks by far out of all the major browsers. If you’re smart enough to use another, better browser, then you’re already one step towards protecting yourself. I’m going to assume, though, that you’re using Firefox or one of it’s derivatives such as Flock, since the plug-in libraries are huge.

1. Use the Web of Trust
My Web of Trust (MyWOT) is a plugin for Firefox that warns you about potentially risky sites. It can alert you to known scam sites, spam sites, and pages that are known for hosting malware. It’s great for getting an idea of how trustworthy the site you are visiting is, and is a great extra level of protection against attacks against your computer.

2. Block Javascript and Popups

AdBlock Plus:
The most common form of browser-based attack is cross-site scripting, or XSS. XSS uses Javascript (a scripting language that websites use) in order to force your browser to do something. Typically, Javascript usage is legitimate; when you post something on somebody’s wall on Facebook, Javascript is used there to push the new message to their wall without refreshing the page, and to create that cool sliding effect as the old posts move down the page. You can also use it for malicious use, though. Stealing login credentials is a common one, but I’ve seen Javascript sophisticated enough to hijack your browser, forcing you to visit sites without you having any input or even downloading and running malware and viruses against your will. NoScript will block all Javascript, and then you can tell it what you want to enable. It takes a while to configure properly, but after a week or so of setting it up, you’ll be a lot more secure. XSS sometimes propagates through ads, so AdBlock is nice to have as well.

3. Use Different Passwords

This always seemed like a no-brainer to me, but I know many other people who won’t do this. Using the same password for multiple sites is just stupid. If somebody manages to steal your password from one site, what’s stopping them from going to the other site (and no, having a different user name isn’t going to prevent anything). Instead of using the same password, use different ones, minimum 8 characters, and random characters. If you can’t remember all of those, take two 4-character random strings, and take the domain name, and put each random string on either side of the domain; there’s your password. For example: “4n$sFACEBOOKn4%l”. Swap “e” for “3”, “s” for “$” or “l” for “1” – think L33T!

4. Clear Those Tracking Cookies
Although you may not realize it, tracking cookies are used to track your movement around the internet. Although you may visit very different web pages, the company that displays ads on the sites may be the same. Beat these cookies with BetterPrivacy, which removes tracking cookies and LSOs from your browser cache.

5. If You Didn’t Expect To Get It, Don’t Click It

I hate to have to reiterate common sense, but sometimes it escapes us. If you didn’t expect to get a link from somebody, or they sent you a file that you weren’t planning on getting, don’t open it. I don’t care if it came from their MSN account; if you didn’t follow rule #3, there’s no reason why their account couldn’t have been hacked. If someone sends you a link, do yourself a favour and just ASK the person what it is before you click it; if you get a reply that is something that your friend would say, then you’re probably okay.

Well, that took longer than expected. Hopefully that’s of some use for people. As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback. If you like what you read, help me out by posting the article on Reddit, Facebook, or Digg (or sending the link to a friend). See you next Monday!

Five Sites To Waste Your Time On

Well, I start my new job today at Manitoba IPC. Next post I’ll talk about that, but seeing as how I will have only been working for about 3 hours by this point, I won’t have much to go off of. In the mean time, here’s a couple amusing sites if you have nothing to do and feel like burning some time.


We’ve all come to realize that IRC chat rooms are the source of a lot of junk online. It also tends to act as a cesspool of stupidity, amusing stories and typos that end up embarrassing somebody and also providing entertainment for quite a while. QDB is a collection of submitted quotes from IRC. Many are obscene, some are geeky, and most will probably cause you to at least giggle a little. (For more, check out

2. Lifehacker

Lifehacker, although one could waste plenty of time on it, will hopefully help you streamline your life. The site provides a number of tips to improve productivity or perform certain tasks by a cheaper alternative means. It’s kept in my daily reading because of some of the ingenious things that they come up with.

3. TED

TED’s slogan is “Ideas Worth Spreading”, and that is certainly what they do. The site is filled with over five hundred talks about science, technology, art, psychology, and many other topics. Some of the most amazing ideas have come from TED talks. I guarantee that if you like to be amazed, this site will chew through your bandwidth like a teething puppy.

4. StumbleUpon

Create an account, tell it what you’re interested, and click Stumble. StumbleUpon finds a page which matches your interests. That’s what StumbleUpon is all about. For each page you visit, you can tell it if you liked it or not, and it will further refine your Stumbles. I highly recommend the Photography topic.

5. Wikipedia

I shouldn’t need to tell you what Wikipedia is. If I do, you need to educate yourself. Wikipedia is the one big free encyclopedia online. It’s accessible, it’s full of information, and covers every topic imaginable. The best part: it has a Random Page link. Click the link, go to a random page, and repeat.

Five Albums I’m Listening To

For this installment of “Five Things“, I have decided to talk about some of the albums that are on my playlist right now that I enjoy listening to.

Mute Math - Mute MathMute Math
Mute Math – 2006

Mute Math is difficult to fit into any one genre. While they have an electronica base, they also exhibit both rock and pop stylings. Their music goes from fast-paced trace to smooth downtempo, and is guaranteed to get your head bobbing to the beat. Although this is their first main release, they have also released an EP back in 2004 entitled Reset which is a phenomenal addition to their repertoire. If good music alone doesn’t do it for you, they also have a phenomenal stage presence as demonstrated by their both their live performances and their music videos.

Queens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris

Queens Of The Stone Age
Era Vulgaris – 2007

Queens of the Stone Age have never fit into the mold, and their quirky music certainly shows this. Their odd style of music stands out from the crowd, but not so much that their music doesn’t go mainstream. Their guitar styling is great to listen to, even if it sometimes isn’t the most pleasing to the ears. Their rock styling with lyrics a-la-“Red Hot Chili Peppers” make this a unique band that shouldn’t be passed up.

Cake - Comfort EagleCake
Comfort Eagle – 2001

Cake’s music has always been something to chuckle at, and Comfort Eagle is no exception. Cake is an indie-style band with a sense of a humor and a way with words, and they enjoy using different instruments and effects in their songs. If you’re looking for some music to put on while friends are over to hang out, consider this album (and their others) for some background listening. Other notable songs on other albums include the remake of the Muppets song Mahna, Mahna, and the Frank Sinatra song Strangers in the Night.

Royal Crown Revue - Passport To AustraliaRoyal Crown Revue
Passport to Australia – 2000

Royal Crown Revue is a rockabilly swing group with a knack for getting your feet tapping. Normally I steer clear of live albums because of all the screaming in them. This album is different; there is very little applauding and cheering in it, but is instead graced with the music that you paid for. The band is one of my favorite contemporary jazz groups for their unique sound and groove, and their live album Passport To Australia reaffirms my choice. If you pick up one rockabilly album, make it this one.

Pronobozo - Zero = One = EverythingPronobozo
Zero = One = Everything – 2007

Pronobozo is a phenomenal artist; his unique style redefines breakbeat music. After getting exposure on the internet podcast Hak5 by providing much of the music used on the show, he released his album to the masses under the Creative Commons license. The pressed version of his album is a limited quantity version, and is definitely worth picking up for a listen. This is currently my preferred album to listen to while I program; it has the perfect mix of downtempo stylings, breakbeat, and that instrumental “smoove” feel to keep you in the programming groove. What are you waiting for? Go buy this album. Now.

Five Web Comics I’m Reading

Something that I will try to do every once in a while is give a review of five of something that I think is particularly noteworthy to take a look at. It could be plugins, software utilities, websites, photos, or, web comics, like today. Today’s installment of Five Things is about five web comics that I make a point of reading whenever they update.

1. Everyday Decay

Everyday Decay takes place in a post-apocalyptic zombie survival scenario, updating Mondays and Fridays. The art is quite impressive, with an interesting story line including drama, comedy, and “a healthy dose of WTF”. If you like zombies (and who doesn’t?), this is definitely one to check out.

2. Cyanide & Happiness

If you’re looking for a daily giggle involving plays on words, take a look over here. The art isn’t amazing, but it’s always worth reading for the comic relief, and there’s no story line so you can pick up at any point without feeling that you’re missing some key point brought up a year and a half ago.

3. Optipess

This is currently one of my favorites that I never miss. Kristian Nygård from Norway does a great job with each comic he makes. The name, Optipess, comes from the combination of two opposite words, optimism and pessimism. And, as Kristian puts it, “the comic is devoid of continuity, character development, story arcs, logic and wit”. Despite that he thinks that his art isn’t great, I disagree. Optipess updates every Monday and Friday.

4. Least I Could Do

LICD is not for the prudish. Its quirky story lines and abundant sexual humor are great for an open mind. The stories are great, the art is fantastic, and it updates every day. Seriously. Check it out.

5. Return on Insanity

Return on Insanity is a comic starting out by my good friend Tyler. It’s had its ups and downs trying to get itself started, but it’s doing great now. There’s a committed artist helping out, and I help with the web design. The story lines have departed nicely from reality, and center around Tyler getting started with his first business endeavor. The art and story has improved ten-fold over the past year as you can see from the archives, and this is one comic not worth passing up.