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Project management tools

Posted by icecafe on August 18, 2009

Here are some nice tools, document templates, and websites about the project management:

1. Thymer

A project management and task planning tool.

2. OnlineTaskList

A free task management for teams and individuals.

3. Project Management Knowhow

There are several tools, templates, and methods of PM

4. Project Management Document and Templates


Posted in Software & hardware, Study and research | Leave a Comment »

PDEng program

Posted by icecafe on January 27, 2009

I have already studied in the PDEng program for 4 months. So far, everything is good and I really like this program. There are many good friends and a lot of practical knowledge that I need to learn as well. Look at me (the last guy):

It is not bad, right? :D.

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Some tips to apply scholarship (from Internet)

Posted by icecafe on March 25, 2008

I. Things to Prepare Before Applying a Scholarship

Getting a scholarship for an overseas study is a competitive process. This is because many people like you want the scholarship, but not all can be awarded. The cholarship money is simply not enough to fund all at once. Also, the scholarship providers want to ensure that only the best, well prepared applicants are selected and so the money is spent rightly and efficiently to what it is intended for. So, you have to be a winner!

Lots of people have won scholarship. You hear this every time. But how have they done this good job? Are they luckier or more superior or intelligent than others? No, they are not! If you ask them about the winning secrets are, they may simply give you the following lists: things to prepare or consider before applying a scholarship.

Academic certificate and transcript
Soon after graduation, do not wait. Obtain your original academic certificate and transcript, and make some copies of them. You need to certify them and, remember, that people at university are some times going somewhere when you need their signatures. More importantly, you need to translate both your academic certificate and transcript. Check around, there maybe some people have done the same. This will ease the task. If not, they are yours anyway. When you are done, it is wise to get other people to see them. They may give you valuable inputs, even correcting misspelled course names. Again, you need signatures of dean and rector on the translated version of your academic certificate and record.

Research proposal
You need to decide earlier which study route you are going to undertake – course or research or both. If you prefer a course-based study, you do not need a proposal. But if you are going to do a research, you definitely need a research proposal.

Good research proposal require time and energy to construct. So it is always better to prepare it earlier. Basically, the proposal will not be much different to the one you have done previously in your research as part of your undergraduate study. This will include background, objective, problems or questions to answer, hypothesis, methodology, and references. These are the essences of a proposal.

When you are done with those basic requirements, ask suggestions from others. When the application is open, check if the scholarship provider requires a bit more to what you have prepared.

Letter from intended university and supervisors
Download application form from the university website and fill it before send it back to the university. The university will respond you and issue you with a letter of acceptance. You may indicate in the form that you will begin your study next year, waiting for a scholarship which you are now struggling for. Most likely they will issue you with a conditional acceptance. They will keep reissuing this until you succeed with your scholarship application.

While your are in the website, go to your targeted department or school to find your potential supervisor. Even, this needs to be done first before filling in a admission form. The reason you will not studying in this university unless you have got an academic staff willing to supervise you. So get their email address, and make contacts with them. In the first time, you just need to introduce yourself, mention your academic background and your research proposal, and ask if he/she is available to supervise you. If they are busy because there are many students already under their responsibilities, don’t panic. Ask him/her if they know people around there who are still able to take additional students.

The good with the letter from university and supervisor when you have them at hand is that you can attach them to your application form and present them to the interviewers. These letters will increase your chances of winning the scholarship because the interviewers will so impressed that you are better prepared and have taken more advanced steps compared to other candidates.

For those who are married, this must not be overlooked. Not all scholarship providers allow you to bring family members (spouse and children) with you. The majority is yes, but you need to ensure whether additional funds for family members are available or not. If not, this means you have to be prepared to fund them yourself. Even if they do provide additional funds for family members, there are always cost to be funded using your own money. This is because the scholarship, usually, will only fund basic needs such living expenses, health insurance, health clearance before departure and visa. Other than these such as cost of transportation – international or domestic – are usually not covered and so funds for these have to be prepared.

More need to think if your spouse is working, especially if it is in a government institution or department. Will she be allowed to go with you or not? If, how are you going to overcome this. A discusion with spouse is needed here.

If you are currently working, you need to check if your employer support you for a further study or not. If yes, it will allow you to go and may provide you with financial supports as well. Generally, government bodies support for human resource development of their employees and so this is not usually a problem for public servants. This is not the case for private enterprises, so many candidates working in these commercial bodies have had to maka a tough decision.

Health status is another consideration for successfully obtaining a scholarship. Some people are fail or at least postponed to start their study because of health problems. So, if you intend to apply for a scholarship, keep practicing those healthy habits. Most scholarship providers will provide a health insurance to their awardees, but you need to make sure about what all this insurance covers. Does it cover dental and eyes-related health problems? If it not, then it is cheaper for example going to a dental practitioner or buying glasses here than there.

Driving license
It is advantageous to have a car there, not only to support your daily academic activities but also for your leisures. This is especially true if you are going there with your family members. But to do this, you need to have a valid license. Check with the scholarship or with experienced people whether a foreign license can be used in the intended country or not. This include different policies from one state to another. If students are allowed to use a foreign license, get one here or revalidate your old one. Obtaining a driving license there is expensive and time demanding.

So, these are things that you may prepare or consider before applying a scholarship. Remember that a good preparation equals to halfway through the whole process. Be prepared and win the scholarship!

University of Tadulako, Indonesia. He is an Australian Development Scholarship (ADS) alumni and can be reached at:

II. Winning the Scholarship Award

Searching for and finding scholarships is only the first half of the process. You still need to apply for each scholarship you are trying to win. Applying for scholarships can be time consuming and takes dedication and motivation. But the thousands of dollars you could receive makes the effort worthwhile. Below are some hints to help you apply for and win scholarships.

Be proactive.No one is going to track you down to give you a scholarship; you need to do the legwork yourself. So when you find awards with eligibility criteria that you can meet, contact the provider and request a scholarship application packet. Whether you have to request the application via email, phone or by sending in a self-addressed stamped envelope, do it. There’s just no other way to get the ball rolling than to be proactive and assertive in requesting information for yourself.

Be timely.Almost all scholarship providers set deadlines, and you MUST adhere to them. Make sure you have all materials submitted before the deadline. If the scholarship deadline is approaching and you have not yet even received the application packet that you requested four weeks earlier, follow-up with the provider and request the application packet again. You do not want to miss a deadline, as most scholarship providers do not consider late applicants.

Be organized.Good organizational skills can really pay off – literally! Keep your applications ordered by deadline date and give yourself plenty of time to complete them and send them in well before the due date. Keep letters of recommendation and transcripts on hand so you don’t have to obtain new ones every time they are required for an application. Make copies of your completed applications before sending them in, and file them in folders labeled with the deadline date and the mailing address and phone number of the scholarship provider. Call before the deadline to see if your scholarship application was received. If it got lost in the mail, (the postal service is not perfect!) you still have an extra copy you can send in.

Be persistent.The scholarship search process doesn’t just happen overnight. You must be diligent about looking for new scholarships to apply for. Plan to spend several hours each month reviewing the scholarship programs with deadlines approaching, preparing application packets, and getting the applications in the mail on time. And then the cycle should begin again – finding scholarships, sending away for application information, and applying in an organized, timely manner.

Be positive.Finally, believe in yourself and in your chances of winning a scholarship. Hard work and time spent on the scholarship process will pay off eventually. Keep your chin up and think about how great the reward will be if you can land even one of the scholarships you’re trying for! After all, your education depends on it!

III. Top Ten Mistakes Made on Scholarship Applications

by Laura DiFiore at FreSch!.

How you can guarantee that your scholarship application will NOT win!

  1. Forget to include your name and/or address! You would be surprised how many students do not include their name or address on an application!
  2. Submit an incomplete application. Make sure you include all required references, photos, transcripts, and essays.
  3. Be rude or abusive to the judges. Telling the judges that they will burn in Hades if they don’t pick you, or that they are idiots because they don’t accept applications from students in your major, is a sure-fire way to guarantee you will NOT be considered for this application, and that the judges will tell all their judge friends how nasty you are.
  4. Submit a dirty application. Use a plate for your lunch, not your application. Don’t spill beer on your application!
  5. Apply when you do not meet their minimum requirements. If they require a minimum 3.0 GPA and you have a 1.2 GPA, don’t waste your time!
  6. Send it “postage due.” Oops!
  7. Mail the envelope but forget to put the application in it. Surprisingly common!
  8. Submit inappropriate supporting documentation, such as including a picture of you at age 6 months when the application asks for you to include a photo, or including a copy of your arrest record as a reference! (this really happened!)
  9. No one can read your application. The use of fancy, hard-to-read script typefaces on your essay, or handwriting that even a doctor would be ashamed of.
  10. Spelling errors! Even ONE spelling error can doom your application! Remember, if you do not take the time to spell-check your application, the judges won’t take the time to read it!

YES, I know that these seem like common-sense mistakes, ones that very few students would make… but these ARE the most common mistakes, made by 75% or MORE of all applicants! Last summer, I sat on a judging committee, and fully 96% of the applications contained THREE or more of the above errors. Why so many students make these mistakes is beyond me – but I hope after reading this, you will not be one of them!

IV. Scholarship Applications that Win!

by Bill Reynolds at FreSch!

Bill, whose son won 10 scholarships, shared seven excellent tips on how to make your scholarship application stand out. I liked his tips so much, I’ve given them their own page! Many thanks to Bill for sharing his experiences!

Try and have your application arrive EARLY as possible, absolutely not after the deadline date! I like to send applications with a “return receipt requested” or “registered” to make sure they get there. I think that this also conveys a positive characteristic about the sender.

Sample Packet Cover Letter

1111 WinOne Street
Pensacola, Fl 32503
9 September 1999

Mary Smith, President
Whatever Scholarship Committee
Orlando Central Parkway
Orlando, Florida (zip code)

Dear Ms. Smith,

This letter is an introduction of myself, (your name), and my desire to participate in the (whatever it is called) Scholarship Program. I have been accepted to (Name of your College) for the 1999 fall term.

I would like to thank you and the (whatever) Scholarship Committee for supporting college bound students with an opportunity for financial assistance through your scholarship program. Enclosed you will find my application form, high school transcript, ACT results, letters of recommendation, and other pertinent information. Again, thank you for your interest on my behalf and for the youth of our state.


(your name)

While this seems obvious, you must construct your application to make it EASY for the committee to see that you have provided every thing that was required. I like to provide items in the order that they are listed in the application. If possible, do not mix items on the same page. In another tip I am going to tell you to add extra items that were not requested to give your application that something extra. However, DO NOT add extra items if you are specifically told not to add anything extra. This means that you can not follow directions if you add items when your are forbidden to do so.

Tip #4 ADD EXTRA ITEMS TO YOUR APPLICATION (if not forbidden).
This is where you get to be creative to find ways and things that present you in a positive light to the selection committee. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Write a short essay on MY EDUCATION/CAREER GOALS. Try to keep to one page but no more than two.

2. Write a paragraph or two on how this scholarship award will help you reach your education/career goals.

3. My son’s guidance counselor gave him a paper that congratulated him on being in the top 10% of his class and acknowledged his hard work to get there. We included this because it put him in a “positive light” and his hard work at his academics was recognized.

4. Before my son reached his 18th birthday, he registered for the Military Draft as required for all males when they reach the age of 18. He received a letter from the draft board congratulating him for doing his civic duty prior to his 18th birthday. You guessed it, this was also one of our “extra items”. A lot of scholarship committee members have military backgrounds or see this as good citizenship for this applicant.

5. One of the best extra items is a letter of acceptance for admission to “any” college. If the scholarship application is not for a specific college, you will be able to use the award at “any” college. You do not have to use it at the college you used in your application. Later you can get more college acceptance letters and when your make your selection you can notify the scholarship award committee of where to send the award. Therefore, any letter of acceptance shows that your are serious but it does not “lock” you into using the award at that college.

These are just a few examples to get you thinking. I would limit my extras to three or four at the most. Too many and you “sour” your application. Again, MAKE SURE you are not forbidden to add extra items before you do so.

Be creative to find things that make you look good and share them with the committee.

This is a tip that conveys you took the time to make this application special. When you have a letter of recommendation addressed to the specific organization or person that is administering the application process it says that you took the time and effort to make this letter “Special” for them. If all you have is a letter that starts “To Whom It May Concern”, it is better than nothing. But if you can personalize the letter it says you cared to send the very best.

SUB TIP #5a Offer to do the work for the writer of your letter of recommendation. For example, you want to apply to twenty scholarship programs. When you ask someone to write you “1” letter of recommendation they say sure. When you say you need twenty letters they say “sorry” I don’t have the time. Once they write you one letter, ask if you can put it on the computer so the TO ADDRESSEE can be personalized for each application and your writer only has to “sign their name twenty times”. Now your writer is happy to help you because you have done the work and make it easy for them to help you. If they have nice letter head, ask for blank copies to be used in this process.

SUB TIP #5b This is an “ADD EXTRA ITEM/s” when the application does not require a letter of recommendation.

SUB TIP #5c Try and get three to five letters of recommendation in your files. This will let you pick and choose which one or ones to send in for a specific application. I would never send more than three for an application unless the directions ask for more. I will cover some tips to give your recommendation writer in a later TIP.

When you write anything you must use correct grammar and spelling. If you have a problem in this area ask your English teacher to help you with proofreading your essay, cover letter, extra items you have included, and even letters of recommendation prepared by others. When there are hundreds or thousands of applications to review, correctness and neatness become the first screen out factor. Only when the “pile” is smaller does the content of your application start to become a factor in the selection process.

Now that your application is complete, the final “presentation” tip is to place all of your items in a clear plastic folder, with a slide locking binder. I like the cheap clear ones so that your “Thank You Cover Letter” (Tip #2) is on top. For that final “touch” I also like to include a wallet size picture of the student in the lower left side of your packet. The next item/s in you application packet are those required in the application (Tip #3 Answer the mail). Next I add any extra items (if not forbidden) and finally I place any letter(s) of recommendations.

If “extras” are forbidden, you should consider NOT using a plastic folder, however, this can be a judgement call on your part. Read the application carefully again regarding extras. Some judges feel the plastic folders “give them more work” (to remove the applications from the plastic folder) while others have no problem with it, even though they may forbid extras. I know, this can be confusing!

Your application packet is a great looking presentation of YOU, don’t mess it up by folding it to fit a small envelope. Use an 8X10 type envelope so your application arrives looking great. Consider sending it “Return Receipt Requested” so you know it arrived!

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Insert figures into LaTeX articles

Posted by icecafe on February 15, 2008

Inserting single figures into LaTeX articles

First off, you have to have some text in your file before you can include any diagrams without LaTeX complaining.Then you can insert a picture with something like:

\caption{Transverse momentum distributions}\label{fig:erptsqfit}
  • Fig.[fig:erptsqfit] is your basic picture. The [htp] command works like usual to tell LaTeX how to position the graphic in the text.
  • The placement specifier p lets the figure take up a full page without waiting until the end of the chapter
  • centering tells LaTeX to centre everything within the graphics environment.
  • includegraphics is your basic command to include a graphics object. (The bits in […] shown below are various options that can be omitted. In the curly brackets is the name of the file you want included.) As you can see the extension of the graphics filename is omitted – LaTeX looks for this file with various possible extensions – .eps, .ps, … (Note: LaTeX will look for before filename.eps.)
  • the most important option in […] is the size. There are a few choices that are useful …
      [width=xxx cm], … [height=xxx cm], etc.

A slightly more complicated version looks like the below example. This is used to select only a portion of your picture, and the part of the caption in square brackets is taken as the caption in a list of figures. This means that you can format the caption that appears with your figure differently to the way it will appear in the list of figures. Also, the figure caption will typically be longer, and more detailed than that which appears in the list of figures.

\includegraphics[totalheight=0.8\textheight,viewport=50 260 400 1000,clip]{erptsqfit}
\caption[Transverse momentum distributions - E-R model.]
{Transverse momentum distributions - E-R model fit (intercept 1.2).}\label{fig:erptsqfit}

The most useful option to use, I find, is to set the width or height you want your picture scaled to to be some fraction of the textwidth or height, as is done in the above, where we have [totalheight=0.8\textheight], that is, the total height of the figure is set to 80\,\% of the height of the text on a normal page of typing.

The viewport command needs some fiddling with to get right – if you choose to use it at all (you need it for mathematica files as they are saved very very poorly as PS files). Basically it’s the number of points to take off the top, left, bottom, right, in that order, I think. You just have to play around and see. The idea is, it takes this much space off all around the document, leaving only the inside bit that is what you want to see in your document. You need the “clip” command to force LaTeX to ignore the stuff outside the limits you specify by “viewport”.

  • The stuff in […] in the caption command tells LaTeX what to put in the table of contents. Otherwise is just uses the stuff in the curly brackets if you omit […]. The stuff in curly brackets is what appears as your figure caption.

Multiple figures

Multiple figures can be inserted in this manner (where here I have just used the same figure several times). The \hfill command gives you a nice spacing between the figures.

\includegraphics[width=0.4\textwidth,viewport=50 260 400
\includegraphics[width=0.4\textwidth,viewport=50 260 400 1000,clip]{erptsqfit}\\
\includegraphics[width=0.4\textwidth,viewport=50 260 400
\includegraphics[width=0.4\textwidth,viewport=50 260 400 1000,clip]{erptsqfit}\\
\caption[Transverse momentum distributions - E-R model.]{Transverse momentum distributions - E-R model fit
(intercept 1.2).}\label{fig:erptsqfit}


However, sub-figures using the subfigure package in LaTeX is really the way to do this!! This package come with the standard distribution of LaTeX, is called using


in the document preamble (i.e. before the \begin{document} command).A nice example of the use of this package to create a 2×2 figure is as follows

     \subfigure[Donnachie-Landshoff form factor model in Feynman gauge
     (solid line) and in non-covariant gauge (dashed line). Here
     $\Lambda=0.2\gev^2$ and $\intercept=1.08$.]{
     \subfigure[Ellis-Ross form factor model in Feynman gauge (solid
     line) and in non-covariant gauge (dashed line). Here
     $\Lambda=0.2\gev^2$ and $\intercept=1.08$.]{
%     \hspace{.1in}
     \subfigure[Single-gluon exchange model (solid line) and Scalar
     Pomeron exchange model (dashed line).]{
     \subfigure[Two-gluon exchange model.]{
     \caption{Fit of pomeron models to Thrust Jet
           data\,\cite{Adloff:1997sc}. The fit is only made to points
           after the turn-over of the curves. Curves correspond to
           model fits, while solid points are H1 data. These plots
           show the fits for several models for diffractive masses in
           the region of $M_X=28.58\gev$. The statistical and
           systematic errors have been added in quadrature.}
\end{figure}    (source:

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10 things you can do to make your presentations more effective

Posted by icecafe on January 9, 2008

To advance and succeed in your career, you need more than just technical skills. You also need to be able to present your ideas clearly and persuasively. Here are some suggestions that may help you in that regard. They assume you are in front of a group, using the ubiquitous PowerPoint and a projector. However, the principles generally apply regardless of your actual type of delivery.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: Channel your nervousness

You’ve probably heard of that survey, right? The one that said most people fear public speaking more than they fear dying? Nervousness grips nearly every speaker, regardless of the topic or the size of the audience. In fact, there’s probably something wrong with a speaker who fails to experience nervousness. The trick is to avoid having the nervousness paralyze you. Rather, channel it productively, allowing it to energize you and your presentation.

#2: Know the material

The best way to control that nervousness is to know your material. All of the other tips in the world are useless if you’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the material you’re presenting. I’ll talk later about how you should interact with the slides themselves. For now, I’ll just say that the more you know and care about your material, the more effective your presentation will be. If you’re talking about a product, how often have you used it — and what gotchas can you share? In other words, what can you offer beyond what people can Google for themselves?

Knowing the material doesn’t mean memorizing a presentation. Audiences will recognize memorization, and it will turn them off.

If you really know your material, you can be free of the lectern and be directly in front of your audience. Your presentation will have more life, and your audience will appreciate it more.

#3: Organize the material

Public speakers have an adage:

  • Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em.
  • Tell ‘em.
  • Tell ‘em what you told ‘em.

In other words, a good presentation has an opening, a body, and a conclusion.

The effectiveness of your opening can determine the success of your presentation. You want to capture your audience’s attention and draw them into your presentation. For example, when I do my talks on customer service and communications, I ask the audience for examples of times they, as customers, have been annoyed or upset. Other effective openings employ humor (see below), a quotation (a good reference is Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations), or a hypothetical situation to stimulate or even scare the audience. (For example,. “Suppose you arrived at work and the CEO confronted you, saying the data for the entire company was gone. How would you react and how could you prevent such a situation?”)

In the body of your presentation, make sure you cover the points you allude to in your opening. Finally, conclude your presentation with a summary of what you said. Make sure your material makes logical sense and that it flows smoothly from one topic to the next.

When preparing your slides, remember the “six-six” rule: A maximum of six words per line and a maximum of six lines per slide.

#4: Make contact with the audience

Many guides on presentations advise the speaker to look attendees in the eye. This advice, while well-intentioned, can cause distraction for a speaker. A better technique, I have found, is to look not into their eyes but at the bridges of their nose. When I do so, I’m less likely to be distracted, but it still looks like I’m looking at their eyes.

The worst option is to avoid all eye contact at all. Your talk will fail to connect, and your audience will feel excluded.

#5: Consider using a wireless mouse or pointer

I have found the wireless device is the best option for advancing your slides. None of the other alternatives work as well. Moving forward to press the Enter key manually takes time and distracts the audience. Relying on an assistant to do so requires good communications with that person and carries the possibility of a missed cue. Setting timings in the slide show to advance slides automatically limits your spontaneity.

I once delivered a presentation using my wireless mouse and later got a complaint that its red light distracted an attendee. Since then, I’ve made sure either to cover that light with my hand or else to tape it up.

#6: Empty your pockets

Before I deliver a presentation, I clear my pockets of any loose coins and my keys. That way, there’s nothing to jingle or otherwise make noise. Just remember to put them back when you’re finished.

#7: Properly handle questions from the audience

If you take a question from the audience, first repeat it so everyone can hear. Then, thank the questioner and answer the question. Finally, follow up to make sure you answered the question. Repeating the question first helps put your answer into context. Thanking the questioner allows you to gracefully “cut away” from him or her, so that you’re talking to the whole audience.

If you sense that the answer will take longer than a few moments, offer to speak with the questioner after the session.

#8: Avoid looking at the screen

The audience wants to see your face, not the back or side of your head. Looking at the screen while you’re talking breaks eye contact, and makes the audience feel disconnected.

“But wait,” you say, “How else can I know what my audience is seeing unless I too look at the screen?” Position equipment in the following sequence: screen / you (the presenter) / laptop computer and LCD projector / audience. Now, set your laptop for dual display, that is, so that images go BOTH to the LCD projector AND to your laptop. With this setup, you no longer need to look at the screen, because you will see the same display on your laptop.

#9: Embellish, don’t read

My wife teaches English at a local college, and a few years ago I attended an academic conference with her. Looking back at the one session I attended, I would have preferred root canal surgery. Each participant (there were four or five on the panel) handed out his or her paper before the session started. They then proceeded, in sequence, to read their paper verbatim.

Don’t insult your audience. They can read your slides themselves. What they want is your added value. So when you present, embellish the slides with your own comments and insight. Don’t just read the slides yourself.

#10: Use humor effectively

Humor, when used correctly, can break tension for both you and the audience and can help them connect with you. You don’t need to be a Rodney Dangerfield. People generally aren’t expecting humor, and they aren’t expecting a professional stand-up comic, so your chances of making humor work are greater.

A great book that can help in this area is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Boardroom: Using Humor in Business Speaking, by Michael Iapoce. He talks about various aspects of humor, how and why humor works, and how a good joke should be structured.

My preferred form of humor is to make fun of myself. Once, I was doing a presentation right before one by Scott Waddle, the former commander of the submarine U.S.S. Greeneville, which struck and sank a Japanese fishing boat in 2001. The first thing I asked the audience was, “Who’s looking forward to hearing Commander Waddle?” As expected, the entire room raised their hands. “In other words,” I continued, “You can’t wait for me to finish.”

(Source: TechRepublic)

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