How good is the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) for Masters in CS?

My answer on Quora to the question “How good is the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) for Masters in CS?

The Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (CSEE) department provides good opportunities in terms of advanced course work, pursuing research at the Master’s level, and good faculty in the research areas especially in Artificial Intelligence (Machine Learning, Robotics, Semantic Web), Computer Graphics and Vision, Security. The department encourages students to pursue research both at the undergraduate and at the master’s level as well. As a graduate assistant and international graduate student, I found the CSEE staff extremely patient and helpful (especially with the international students). The professors in the department are very helpful and approachable. It is also good to see that they are very active in both research as well as teaching. The CSEE department has been recruiting faculties who have graduated from top schools. The most recent hires in the past 3-5 years come with PhDs/Post-doc experience from MIT, University of Washington, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Bing integration with Chrome

I had previously written about how you can search on Google from a new tab in Chrome. Back then the feature only worked only if your default search engine in Chrome was Google. Recently, the feature seems to be extended to Microsoft’s Bing search engine too. If your default search engine in Chrome is Bing, you can go ahead and search right from a new tab. Not only, the Bing search box is available, it also comes with “complete integration” i.e. the behavior of the search box is same as you would experience on Bing’s home page with features such as entity information box (as seen in the image) and entity disambiguation integrated into the search box inside of Chrome. In today’s world of walled gardens, it’s welcome to see such steps.

The trip that almost did not happen

The Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge
The Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge

Wednesday morning. October 23, 2013 [Australian Eastern Time Zone]. I took a seat in large conference room in the Sydney Convention Center. Dr. Ramanathan V. Guha, computer scientist and Google Fellow, was about to begin his keynote at the 12th International Semantic Web Conference on the impact of on the world wide web. I had made it. Barely 2 hours ago, I had landed at the Sydney International Airport. I rushed to the hotel; refreshed my self and headed out to the Sydney Convention Center. This, however, was not how I had planned my trip. I was supposed to reach on Monday morning, Australian EST. However. Read on.

Saturday morning. October 19, 2013 [US Eastern Time Zone]. I wake up and check my email. No news from the Australian Immigration office. My flight to Sydney, Australia was at 5.30 pm. I waited for a few more hours. No news till noon. I went ahead and canceled my flight. I was supposed to attend the International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC) 2013 between October 21 and 25 in Sydney. I had applied for visa nearly four weeks before my trip and it still hadn’t been processed.

On Sunday evening, I hear from my adviser. He had reached Australia and talked with the local chairs of the conference, who in turn put in a request for immediate processing of my visa. On my adviser’s suggestion, I rebook my flight for Monday evening and wait for my visa.

Monday morning. October 21, 2013 [US Eastern Time Zone]. Same story. I wake up check my email. No news yet. Around 9.00 am. It was there. A visa was sitting in inbox. Thanks to the efforts of my adviser and the local chairs of the conference, the Washington DC embassy issued me a visa first thing in the morning. I was going to travel after all. In the next four hours, I hurriedly pack my stuff and rushed to the airport. As I boarded my flight to Los-Angeles (LA) from where I was going to catch my connection to Sydney, I was still shaking my head. Never at such short notice, I made such a long trip.

With no in-seat flight entertainment (yes, you read it correctly), a John Grisham novel, The Racketeer, picked up at the Baltimore-Washington International airport kept me entertained through the long flights. Nearly five hours to LA and then another fourteen odd hours to Sydney. If I may add, a minor adventure on flight was averted. I didn’t get a chance to request vegetarian meal in all this melee and I was more 90% sure that I am going hungry all the way to Sydney. Fortunately someone else who had requested a vegetarian meal had canceled and that food landed on my tray !

Immigration and customs at the Sydney international airport went off without any adventure. I boarded a train from the airport to Central Business District (CBD) area of the city. Central station as well as the buildings and streets around the station reminded me of Mumbai. The old British architecture was evident amidst bustling tall modern buildings. More like Churchgate area if you know Mumbai. More about Sydney later, perhaps another post.

Looking back it was an interesting adventure. The week leading up to the conference, I was unsure whether I would travel or not. I tried reaching out to the Australian Immigration office for an update with no luck. The day before and the day of travel was even more tantalizing. My friends and colleagues had just one question for me – are you going or not ? Perhaps from Saturday all the way upto Monday, I was waking up every morning, not knowing whether I will be spending the evening in Baltimore (and United States) or not !

I wish, in the future, countries around the world make travel seamless. Surely, you should not require four – six weeks to get a travel visa.

The Mysterious Absence of Google Search Box in Chrome New Tab

If you have been using the latest version of Google Chrome, a ‘new blank tab’ would greet you with thumbnails of your most visited pages, a large Google search box as well as links to Gmail, Google+ and other Google products.

 photo google_search_box_zpscb1acbca.png

As my friends received this update on Google Chrome, I was greeted by a ‘new blank tab’ that lacked the large Google search box and the other links.

 photo no_google_search_box_zps4a0b8185.png

I kept wondering why the Google Search box was absent in my browser. My friends joked that since I am a ‘Microsoft boy’ (they joke so because I have interned twice at Microsoft) , Google decided not push that part of the update to me. Turns out they were partially correct! The Google Search Box and other links at the top right corner will appear only if your default search engine for Chrome is set to Google. I have been using Bing as my default search engine in Chrome, which led to the absence of the search box in my ‘new blank tab’ in Chrome.

Mystery solved !