by Pablo Gonzalez Alonso
BSc Computer Science 2010

After graduating at Surrey, I had the chance to start my career as a mobile developer (or mobile monkey as I like to call it). More precisely, I started doing Android and iOS applications. It has given me a deeper view of computing on the go.

Since the beginnings of computing, similarly to other engineer fields, we have excelled ourselves on producing smaller, more powerful and efficient products. Whenever we think we are at the summit, we find that there is still a long and exciting way to go up. This shrinking of hardware size has meant that now it’s possible to carry the power of what used to be a mainframe, occupying entire rooms, inside our pockets or backpacks. Something that my grandfather thinks is pure science fiction, even though he has one of them.

There is no doubt that technology has found a great place in our lives. It’s changing the way we live and interact with each other. Recently, Stephen Hawking said: “The Human Species Has Entered a New Stage of Evolution”. He talked about how, at this point in time, information is created and transferred by humans at very high rates. About 50,000 books are published in English every year. Much of this information may not be useful at all. However, as Hawking mentions, this process mimics the way we instinctually have transferred information through natural selection by the means of DNA. Creating useful and not so useful data that is discriminated if needed to disappear.

The jump of computers, and the Internet, to our pockets means that we are continually producing and consuming information. It could be “tweeting” how nice the tomato sauce is at your favourite italian restaurant or reporting on natural disasters. It can also increase people’s creativity and allows ideas (whether useful or not) to be promoted, shared and kept alive.

I truly agree with Hawking’s statement and believe we are very lucky to live the time we do. I sometimes have a thought that makes me rejoice. I look at all the things we are capable of engineer today. Travel back 100 years in my head, and realize that no one at that time has even a mere speculation of what the future is bringing. Coming back to the present I realize that what is coming up in the future is going to be beyond incredible. Often, I try to get my mind to imagine what future technology will be like.

Generally, it could be say that what is coming is going to be incredible, it’s going to change our lives to even more extents and mobile technology is going to have a leading part in this process.

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by Yatin Vadhia (

400PB*.  The storage capacity (we assumed) of Google.

On the 23rd of November 2011, for just under two hours, Google’s Andrew Walker came to the University of Surrey to give an extremely interactive lecture (it felt more like a discussion), titled “Designing a Search Engine”. During the lecture he led us through a series of questions in which we gave answers on how we would build a search engine if it were up to us.

And he started by asking a simple question. How would you design a search engine?

So we began, piece by piece we went through some of the considerations that Google go through on a daily basis. As actual figures were not available to the public, we made assumptions. 1 billion searches a day would mean 12,500 searches a second, and 250TB of data transferred per day (assuming each results page is 200 kb/s). A very interesting fact I wasn’t aware of is that Google actually builds its own hard drives and replaces one on average once every 30 minutes.

We discussed what people want when it comes to a search engine, and also the legal obligations Google has. We also discussed the Bing controversy (when Bing was found to be ‘copying’ Google’s search results) and the various services that are tweaked for local users. For example, there is no Google Image Search in Germany because the person that serves the content (which potentially could be child pornography) is legally liable, and not the poster.

We were also told about the atmosphere at Google, and the activities that occur on a daily basis. As you would expect from a technology company, if you have an idea but not evidence (such as a graph) then the idea will go nowhere.

We learnt about an idea that once existed at Google, a box that could see what you were watching on TV, as well as listen to the conversations you were having, and then display relevant ads on the screen. This idea was apparently killed off, because it was perceived that people might find it very creepy.

This was rounded off by some information about the advertisements they serve and the rules that they have about adverts (they cannot be offensive etc), as well as a Q&A session.

Overall I would say the event was one of the best I’ve ever been to, and I think many of the other attendees would agree. I would like to thank CompSoc for making the event possible, as well as Andrew for coming to the university.

*(1 petabyte = 1 million gigabytes = 1 thousand terabytes)

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by Daniel He

IBM technology is all around us. From ATMs to Playstations, we cannot escape the fact that one of the largest companies in the world has had an impact on our lives. But what is it like to work for such a company? This year, I applied for a placement as part of my sandwich course and was invited to work here for one year. Whether you’re thinking of applying for a placement, or you’re thinking of getting a job right after graduating, let me tell you why IBM should be your first choice.

Fancy working here for a year? With a placement at IBM, you just might!

Working at a large organisation such as IBM provides many benefits and rewards. With its placement scheme, not only do you get a lot of skills and experience from your day job, but you also have a lot of fantastic opportunities to broaden your skills and really make your CV shine. As an IBM employee, you are given tasks that carry real responsibility, and there are people who will rely on you to get them done. You are able to push yourself, and the more you push, the more you will achieve.

But enough about me rambling on, I’m sure you want to know what I get up to on a typical day. First thing’s first, I pack my bag, which has the most crucial piece of equipment: my laptop. IBM has a wonderful scheme that means that desktops are no longer the norm within the workplace, and that you are as portable as you want to be. You are assigned a desk, but from that point on, you are able to work outside, during a meeting, or even work from home. Once I arrive on site, I plug my laptop into my docking station, and get stuck in, reading and replying to emails, loading up the applications I will be using throughout the day. I also take out my trusty notebook and pen. Call me old-fashioned, but I am a sucker for writing things by hand; it’s extremely convenient when you need a line number from a piece of code, or the name of a method that you are certain will slip your mind sooner or later.

Bright and early, paper at the ready, ready for another day of work

My current role is developing a piece of tooling software called APT. APT is a tool used by various members of the department and plays a crucial role in mirroring information between 2 (now 3) different systems. Unfortunately it has a wonderful habit of breaking (this is a result of many years of different placement students developing the same tool and the end result being spaghetti code), so my job is to fix any coding errors, as well as add any functionality that the department needs. You will be happy to know that it is developed in Java, and I’m also using the very familiar Eclipse IDE, so for those of you who are worried that your skill-set is not suitable for IBM, have no fear! Throughout the morning, I usually continue on a bug I started working on yesterday, as well as making notes as I go along. I also have an occasional chat with my supervisor, Jason, who sits right behind me, to get a quick idea of how I’m progressing with a specific task. Like the student who worked on APT before me says, “It’s usually a good day if Jason hasn’t said to you ‘What have you broken this time!?’”.

By lunchtime, I am satisfied with my current work and I make my code live, but before this, I also submit a copy for Jason to review, who can check to ensure I haven’t made any mistakes. He also makes suggestions on how I can improve the code further, which is a big bonus. For lunch, me and some other placement students head to the canteen, or if it’s a nice day, sit outside Hursley House and take in the fresh air.

After lunch, it’s a quick rest, then straight to see my professional development manager, Cathy, for a half-hour meeting. As a placement student, I am assigned someone who oversees my work, and makes sure that I am happy with what I am tasked with doing. Cathy is also there to help me develop my personal and professional skills, and we try to work out my career paths for the future. These meetings are extremely helpful and give me an insight into what I want to do in the future after graduating.

As you may or may not know, IBM recently turned 100, and as part of their centennial celebrations, they have asked all employees to pledge 8 hours of community work, also known as GiveBack. For my GiveBack, I volunteered to educate non-technical placement students basic Java for around 2 hours each week. Although our class is rather small with just 4 students, I get a strong sense of satisfaction from teaching, and always try my best to make sure lessons are informative, as well as interesting, as we all know that learning any programming language isn’t a walk in the park! You may have also seen me at a recent talk with the computing students where I gave a presentation to encourage current level 2 students to apply for IBM for their placement year. That’s right, it also counts as GiveBack, but more importantly, builds on your communication and presentation skills, which future employers always love to see.

By late afternoon, I’m working on multiple bugs, creating new versions of APT, getting them checked and making them live. I also have a short meeting with Jason at my desk, and I present to him what I’ve been working on. These meetings are usually the most beneficial to myself, as I can see the progress I am making, as well as being able to get feedback, which in turn allows me to better myself at coding.

By 5.00, I’m feeling the urge to put APT behind me for another day. An email pops up telling me APT has failed trying to process something, but I’ll let the me of tomorrow worry about that.

Such fancy decorations usually means an abundance of cake later on!

So why tasty working? Well, I’ve learnt it’s customary within IBM to bring in cakes to celebrate whatever event happens to be on, whether it’s someone’s birthday, or even when you’ve broken something and you need to befriend your colleagues again after all the grief you’ve caused them. I’m sure I’m overdue for bringing in a cake, but no one has noticed yet! Nevertheless, the joys cake and doughnuts bring ensure everyone is kept happy, hard working, and full of sugar.

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