Selling my MyVi

My 1.3(A) Myvi ezi is now surpassing 11 years old. He has served us well, the first few years for my father and myself the years after. I do not have anything much to complain about this car. The silver MPV has been a reliable, comfortable and enjoyable car. His lack of acceleration do sometimes make me think twice before overtaking but that isn’t a bad thing given the rate of accidents here in Malaysia. However, as the saying goes, all good things  must come to an end. As my own family grows and automotive technology advances, it makes more sense to get a newer, safer car. The dreaded day has therefore arrived. It is time for me to change my car.

The search was a long one as I was looking for a good balance between quality and cost. After much deliberation and test drives, we settled with a 2017 1.6(A) Proton Iriz MC (Minor Change). After test driving both the original and the 2017 Iriz, I found that although they look the same, the 2017 version has notable improvements over its predecessor. in the newer version, Proton reduced some of the bells and whistles of the 1.6 Iriz and tuned its engine to achieve better acceleration & noise/vibration insulation. The good thing is that all the safety features remain intact: ESC, ABS, Hill Assist, ISO fix and 6 airbags. I agree with Proton’s decision as less fancy features mean less things will break as well as a lower price for the car. The better acceleration & noise/vibration insulation also make the 2017 version a nicer drive.

Once we’ve decided to get an Iriz, the selling/purchasing process starts.

-listed the MyVi on mudah. They took a few hours to verify that I am a genuine seller. Once approved, calls and messages came in all morning. The first caller was a cheerful lady from Bentong who was looking for a better car for her family. The rest were mostly car dealers. Since the lady was the first to call and sounded honest, I decided to let her test drive my car and decide. She and her family came to KL on a weekend. I was very frank with all the defects, I was involved in a few accidents anyway. I was also honest about the Myvi’s service history and how we took care of it. Her husband and herself were happy with the condition and information given and decided to book the car from me. I did not want to take any payment as I knew it would take some time before I could get my new car and sell the MyVi. They might find a better car in the meantime.

Some pictures posted for the Ad:

 

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Front Side View
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Inside View
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Back Side view
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Front view

-booked an Iriz with Proton. The saleslady was very helpful. It was the first time that I am buying a new car. The process is quite complex as well as I wanted to transfer my plate number and NCD from the old myvi to the new Iriz. So I appreciate her step-by-step instruction.

-I first had to do a Puspakom inspection. After booking a slot through the phone from Puspakom’s helpline, I brought my MyVi for inspection. Apparently Puspakom Shah Alam is only for commercial vehicles so we went to Puspakom Padang Jawa instead. At the Puspakom entrance, there’s like a guardhouse where everyone could take a form for their inspection. I first thought that I needed to do a B5 inspection for change of ownership so I filled in the B5 form with the help of the Puspakom guy there. I then drove my car to a 15 min queue for inspection. Just before the inspection warehouse, I had to pay and submit my form to a girl. She patiently explained to me that I will have to do a B2 inspection first for RM26. Only after I’ve transferred my plate number that I can do a B5 inspection to change the ownership of the vehicle. So OK, luckily I did not have to refill another form. I could just reuse the B5 form but she stapled a B2 receipt on it.

-once I entered the B2 inspection bay, the technicians there checked my car and instructed me to move from one inspection point to another. I noticed that they checked my car windows to check if there’s a tint, my engine and the underside of the car. After they finished the 20 minutes or so inspection, they asked me to drive away. Here I got lost a bit since I did not know how to get the inspection result. So I parked my car a distance away and looked for any booths. There’s a waiting room with a counter at the end of the warehouse so I went there and wanted to sit down, thinking that they would call my name. Luckily, the Puspakom officer there noticed my lost face and asked what he could help me with. He then told me that I was at the wrong counter and I should’ve waited at a smaller counter right beside the B2 inspection bay. There, I had to wait for about 45 mins to get my result as they print the result out in batches. Happy to see that I passed the B2 inspection.

-applied for a loan

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Krabi

With a bunch of annual leaves left, my wife and I decided to go somewhere new with our 1 year-old son. It took some time for us to decide as we had to plan our destination properly. Our son was still small so on one hand, any high-octane, super adventurous trip is a definite no-no. On the other hand, we don’t like a dull holiday either like lazing by the beach or shopping in a city. After some consideration, we decided to go to Krabi, a small town by the beach in Thailand. It was just a 90-minute plane trip away from Kuala Lumpur and the baht currency isn’t that strong compared to our MYR. Plus, the place looked beautiful from the net.

We booked a flight with Air Asia for around RM800 for the three of us and 3 nights of accommodation in Ban Sainai resort. We got a last minute discount from booking.com which included breakfast which was an OK deal. There were cheaper resorts in Krabi but I wanted to treat my wife and son a comfy holiday.  It had been a tiring year for everyone, raising a kid and juggling work and life everyday so a nice holiday like this suited us well. Anyway, the flight to Krabi was OK. The Air Asia plane arrived and left on time. KLIA2, being a new airport was also a nice airport to fly from with many shops and restaurants. We arrived at Krabi airport at around 5 pm and it took around 30 minutes to go through immigration. It was a small airport without much shops. Before the flight, I booked a taxi from krabishuttle.com for THB 600 and it was nice to see the driver waiting for us just outside the arrival gate. He brought us along in his Honda Civic which was a pretty solid ride. I was raving to my wife how stable and comfortable the backseat was but this isn’t a review of the car so I wont talk too much about it.

After 30 minutes or so, we arrived at Ban Sainai Resort and was shown our chalet for the next few days. The view from the chalet was OK, with a lot of trees around. We felt like we were staying in a jungle. Green and fresh. Unfortunately our balcony did not face the cliff and a huge tree blocked the view to the river. But it was clean and comfortable which was enough for us. The bathroom smelled a bit weird but maybe it’s just the wood and bamboo. The best thing about Ban Sainai was the staff. They were very polite and were happy to answer our questions. I found that their help was invaluable as we don’t speak thai and they later helped us to organise various trips around Krabi.

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wish we knew the chalet positions before we booked
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calming view from the balcony
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clean interior

After settling down, we decided to take a tuk tuk (kinda of a motorcycle with a passenger compartment attached) to the Ao Nang town for THB80. It was just a 2-3 minutes ride away from the resort. We could’ve just walked but we did not want to take any risk as it was night time and we were not familiar with the area. First stop was Hasna’s Palace. There, we had an amazing halal Thai dinner. The tomyum and somtam tasted fresh, the best I’ve tasted for a long time. Then we walked towards the beach, passing some nice hotels, a small night market with street food and goods, and finally some trendy bars and restaurants. The resort provided a free pickup service so we left around 11 pm and had a good night sleep.

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delicious tom yum and somtam @ hasna’s palace

The next morning, we had breakfast in the resort. Ban Sainai is Muslim-owned so they serve only halal food and no alcohol. The food was just average.  We could either choose from the standard buffet or order additional dishes for free. The view from the restaurant however, was amazing. The wooden restaurant was located by a small lake so we could dine and enjoy the morning view. After breakfast, we decided to go to the Krabi beach via the free shuttle provided by the resort. We just walked around, absorbing the sun and the Krabi atmosphere. Then we walked back to the resort, stopping for a quick lunch and a couple of refreshing drinks.

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view from the ban sainai’s restaurant

The resort arranged for us a half day trip to the 7 islands in the afternoon, organised by Mariam’s travel. An alternative to the 7 islands trip was to take a boat to Phi Phi or Hong Island. However, the boat ride to these islands take more than an hour so we decided not to sign up for the tours to the islands. Around midday, a truck came and pick us up at the resort and brought us to Railay Pier. A boat took us to Chicken Island, Koh Island Poda Island and a few others. We went snorkeling and walked on some nice beaches and saw some glowing blue planktons until nightfall when we returned to our cozy chalet. Overall, I think that the tour was not suitable for families with small kids as we had to transfer from our main boat to a smaller boat each time we were to land on an island or a beach. This had to be done as the water was too shallow for the big boat. The crew helped to make things easier but it was still a hassle having to carry a baby across. We later returned to the resort and had a nice dinner in the resort restaurant.

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sunset by the beach during the 7 islands tour

On the third day, we decided to go to the Emerald & Blue Pools, the Hot Spring and the Tiger Temple. The Emerald & Blue Pools were located in a national park and required some hiking. It took us 30 minutes of hiking through a jungle to reach the Emerald Pool. It was an easy hike as there built a dedicated path for tourist. The Emerald Pool itself is a green, warm pool that was quite crowded with tourists. I guess there would be less people if we came earlier in the morning. Though it was noon when we arrived, we could barely feel the heat as the trees around us provided ample shade. Since there were too many people around we decided against taking a deep and hiked further up the hill to see the Blue Pool. After another 15 minutes or so, we arrived at a quiet, bluish pool where nobody was allowed to bath in. Apparently it was an important habitat of a bird species and thus should not be disturbed. After spending some time chatting and taking pictures, we returned to our van and stopped by the Hot Spring and Tiger Temple. The hot spring was also crowded so we did not stay for long. For more adventurous tourists, they could climb a long flight of stairs to reach the top of the Tiger Temple and get a nice view of Krabi. We did not as we were tired and wanted to return before dark.

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blue pool

In the evening, despite the rain, we went to Krabi night market. There were some nice foods being sold and there were many cheap gift shops there. The rain prevented us to sit down and have a proper dinner in one of the stalls so we went to a restaurant nearby and waited for the rain to stop. After an hour, it was not raining anymore so we made our way back to the market. There were a lot more people there and it was difficult us to navigate around with our baby. So we just visited the stalls nearest to the main road and bought some souvenirs. Just as we went back, there was a blackout. There was no electricity to all shops and stalls in the night market. It was lucky for us that we were already by the main road and could get back to our van easily.

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unfortunately it rained
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insects for dinner!

On the fourth and final day, we woke up, had breakfast and just relaxed in our hotel. Ban Sainai actually confused my booking with someone else’s which gave me a slight scare before we arrived. As a way to say sorry, they gave us some food and drink vouchers so we used them in the morning to taste the famous mango sticky rice and other Thai dessert and drinks. They all tasted fantastic. The fact that they were free just made things better. Just after noon, we took a cab back to the airport, also booked using krabishuttle.com, and flew home. Tired but so happy!

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relaxing before going home

Lenovo Thinkpad x240

Lenovo Thinkpad x240

I’ve been using this workhosrse for the past three years. The store I bought the laptop from wanted to clear our some old stocks so I got it pretty cheap at around RM2,000 without upgrades. At that time the 6th generation intel CPU just came out so it was not surprising that the laptop, which was powered by a 4th generation intel CPU was not selling well. Initially the specs were:

  • Windows 8
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • Intel i5-4200U CPU @ 1.6 GHz, turbo boost to 2.3 GHz
  • 16 GB of SSD, 500 GB of normal HD

After some consideration, I decided to beef it up a little to:

  • Downgraded Windows 7 (from Windows 8)
  • 8 GB of RAM
  • Intel i5-4200U CPU @ 1.6 GHz, turbo boost to 2.3 GHz
  • 256 GB of SSD

Windows 7 back then was a much more stable version of Windows than Windows 8 so the downgrade was a straightforward decision. The SSD upgrade was also a must and proved to be a good choice as it made starting the laptop so much faster. The RAM, in retrospect was the least useful upgrade. I initially wanted to run a few virtual machines on the laptop but since I later got a Dell server to do that, I never needed that much RAM. But who knows, maybe things could be slower without it.

The motherboard died the 2nd month or so after I had the laptop which was such a bummer. The laptop just would not start and gave some mysterious beeping sounds, my guess was to indicate what failed. The 3 years warranty took care of problem but it took a week for lenovo to get my laptop back to its working condition. Ah well, at least I ended up with a brand new motherboard which should help in the long run.

Other than that small hiccup above, I generally do not have any problems at all with this laptop. Applications run fast and wifi connectivity is OK despite not having the 5 GHz option. The VGA port has proven to be very useful for presentations as well. The best things about this laptop are its amazing keyboard and long battery life. I never typed on something as comfortable as these keys and I can last a whole day, roughly 6 hours of typing and surfing without charging the laptop. Unfortunately a small crack developed on the side of the laptop near to its fingerprint sensor, despite its military grade specs. But this is just a minor thing. Overall, I highly recommend this laptop to business users and for those who are usually on the go.

 

Passing the JNCIE-SP

Networks are interesting. The idea that the whole world can agree to a common networking standard in order to connect with each other shows that we can achieve wonderful things when people are willing to set aside their differences. As a network engineer, my job provides a constant reminder that it is actually possible for the world co-operate, and that good things will happen once we choose to do so.

The expert-level, or more fondly known as the ‘E’-level, certifications are highly sought after by network engineers as these certs prove that an engineer is good at what he does. Stories go around telling how difficult the E-level exams are and how much effort one needs to put in to stand a chance of passing them. Without proper guidance, things can be quite hazy for those who are just starting to get their E-level qualifications. Hence I’m documenting my experience of obtaining the JNCIE-SP here with the hope that others would find it useful.

1. The reason

For me, and I believe, for many others, necessity. I work for a telco company. As most of digital data now runs on IP, we see our packet-switched core network becoming bigger and more complex each day. Unfortunately I did not have a good understanding of our network which was frustrating. It was obvious that I needed to learn. Since we have a lot of Juniper equipment in our network, it was a straightforward decision to go for the Service-Provider Expert-level certification from Juniper (JNCIE-SP).

2. The preparation

It took about 3 years since I first touched a Juniper router (an M120) to obtain the JNCIE-SP. I have some Cisco background in Routing & Switching so the fundamentals were already there. However Juniper’s CLI config is different from Cisco’s and the service-provider world uses technologies that were alien to me like MPLS & VPNs. The transition was not easy.

The first two years were spent mostly to get hands-on on-the-job experience, coupled with a lot of reading to pass the ‘A’, ‘S’ and ‘P’ levels. The ‘E’-level however, is a lot more difficult than the other exams and requires a lot of practice as well as experience. In terms of the time required, I spent roughly 1 year of weekends and holidays to prepare for the final exam. My bosses were pretty cool throughout, letting me use an extra rack space in the lab and allowing some extended leaves.

In terms of the materials I used:

-Reading materials:

The A,S,P and E-level books by Soricelli and Reynolds are good references to get one started. These can be downloaded for free from Juniper website. The examples, especially those covered in the P and E-level books, could be replicated in a small lab which could provide a good basic understanding of SP configurations. The books were written a while back so be warned that some of the materials covered are no longer relevant to the exam, for example SONET and SDH-based configs. These topics however remain useful for practising network engineers.

To prepare specifically for the E-level exam, I bought the JNCIE-SP guides by InetZero. The guides only briefly discuss the theory part of things and go straight to the detailed configurations so beginners will not find these guides readable. People usually ask, how different is the guide from the actual exam? Personally I feel that they are quite different. While the guides provide general exercises that cover the whole exam syllabus, only certain portions of the syllabus will be asked in the exam. Consequently, as the exam concentrates only on certain topics, the actual questions are much more detailed. However, I found all the InetZero lab exercises to be useful as they are related to my day-to-day work. Do try to look out for discounts. Every now and then InetZero offer 10%-20% discounts for their products which are good deals.

-Hardware:

It is extremely important for an exam candidate to have a lab setup consisting of Juniper routers that he/she has full access to. I primarily used logical-systems configured in an M120 for my lab. For the ‘A’,’S’ and ‘P’ levels, virtual tunnels (VT) interfaces should be enough to interconnect the logical-systems. For the ‘E’ level, I feel that it is best to configure actual interfaces and interconnect them physically to provide connectivity between the logical systems. Some people do direct connections. some people do the connections via a switch so that the connections are logically reconfigurable. It depends on one’s preferences or the availability of resources. In any case, it’s good to be able to practice physical-interface configurations and verify that our configs can work when physical interfaces are used. This will provide us with the much needed confidence required on the exam day.

I also bought 40 lab vouchers from InetZero amounting to 40×8=320 hours worth of lab hours to practice the labs they provide in their guides. These guys at InetZero put together some neat setups using SRX routers. Certain things cannot be simulated properly using logical-systems such as aggregated interfaces so it’s nice to have a proper testbed like that for rent. A minor complaint is that once or twice, it seemed like the scripts InetZero guys ran to clear the routers after each session did not manage to execute properly. So sometimes I did not get the full testbed available. The technical support was not that responsive either, so a few vouchers were wasted in the end. Overall however, the InetZero’s lab guides were pretty helpful.

-Others:

There are a lot of other reading materials out there for those who are interested. I came across a few useful MPLS guides and books that were either available for free online or shared by a friend. Online forums are a useful source of quick guides and advice as well. Other people used Day One guides, Proteus lab guide and remote proctored exams. Perhaps they are useful but I did not use them so I cannot comment.

In terms of setting up a lab, Junosphere is a useful online tool that one can use to set up a network using Juniper equipment. From what they explain on the web and youtube, it looks more than enough to prepare a candidate. I did try to have a go by buying a $50 session but the connection turned out to be too slow. It might be the slow home broadband. It might be because I live in some remote part of the world. Whatever it was, Junosphere did not work out due to the high latency.

For others who are looking for alternatives, I have colleagues who run VMXs on VMWare/Virtualbox to practice and they seemed happy with it. So perhaps others may follow the same path. There are also those expensive JNCIE bootcamps which are instructor-led training with access to a full lab. Didn’t attend that either due to cost reasons.

3. The exam

It took me two attempts to pass the exam, both of them in Juniper’s office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I thought I was well-prepared the first time but was not so pleasantly surprised at the sort of depth they go for in the exam. In the first seating, it took a while to familiarize with the network topology, trying to remember which routers go where without having to refer to the network diagram every few minutes. I had no idea how to solve a few of the questions but everything seemed ok in the end. Whatever that could be pinged were successfully pinged so I walked out pretty confident that it was a pass. 2 weeks later the result came out – it was a fail. Nice.

I was pretty okay with the result since it’s quite normal for people to fail these ‘E’-level exams on the first try. I noted down the troublesome areas, upgraded the Junos in the lab to the version they used in the exam, added a few more physical interfaces to the setup and redid all the lab exercises. I added a few lab scenarios myself to be more familiar with the more complex topics. After a month or so of preparation, I decided to register for another exam seating, with roughly 8 weeks to prepare.

This time the pressure was higher as taking these exams were not cheap. Luckily, my wife was great in managing our expenses so kudos to her. This time I felt more comfortable and asked for clarification from the proctor if I was not sure about the questions. It was not a smooth seating though as I made some silly mistakes in the configs and was not able to rectify things before the proctor asked us to stop. I left the exam room feeling pretty disappointed. To my surprise, when the result came out 2 weeks later, it was a pass!

4. The aftermath

Passing the exam in the second attempt was truly a pleasant surprise. I actually had been preparing to retake the exam the third time when the result came out since I thought I did not make the cut. It was such a relief to not have to go through the revision process again. For reference, in terms of cost, I spent about USD 4.5k for the ‘E’-level study materials and exam.

How have things changed after that? A few congratulations were received here and there and then it’s back to work as usual. Now, more complicated assignments land on my desk at work which I guess is good for experience and career development. It’s also nice to understand a lot better what I am doing at work. Best of all? I now have more free time at home and to exercise. So for those who are aiming for the ‘E’ level exam, just go for it guys – it will be a rewarding experience.

Good luck.

Starting a PhD

Just writing this for those who have the guts to start a PhD and would like to make the right choices from the start. Getting a PhD does initially seem like a mess, at least it was for me. However, having gone through the trouble of getting a PhD in Engineering from Cambridge, I notice that there is some structure to the whole thing. One could try to build a solid foundation to allow him/her to successfully undertake the challenge. From those eventful years, I believe there are four elements that have to be in place to ensure that a student will be able to truly enjoy a PhD. These four, by order of importance, are:

1. The student
2. The supervisor
3. The research topic
4. The university

A prudent student should evaluate these elements and decide whether he is ready to start his studies. Although preferable, not all four must be properly set up – two out of the first three should be enough for a student to survive and complete the PhD. He might not be happy during his studies. He might not enjoy it. But he’ll live. The fourth element, which is the university you do your PhD in is pretty much a bonus. Nice to do one in a top university but it isn’t that necessary.

1. The student
By far the most important element of the four. This is the element that a student has most control of and is able to most accurately measure in order to determine his/her readiness. A student must have:

(i) the right motivation/mindset to fuel him to work long hours for 3-4 years with little recognition
(ii) the right knowledge to complete a novel piece of work given the limited timeframe
(iii) healthy enough to endure a PhD. (note: I ranked motivation and background knowledge to be higher than health here)
(iv) sufficient financial and moral support

Common misconceptions:
We’ll be rich after getting a PhD, people will automatically like us (actually others may find us boring), we can easily get our dream job, we’ll be famous. These are wrong motivations. We’ll realise soon enough that these aren’t true and may get demotivated halfway.
We need to be already an expert in a subject to do a PhD. Not really. In the first few months after starting the PhD, everyone will realise they know nothing about the subject. We need to do something novel anyway so it’s a new territory by definition.
We don’t need to know anything at all about the PhD topic. We do need a good foundation.

2. The supervisor
We’ll spend a lot of time with our supervisor and need his/her advice to finish. So pick wisely. Unfortunately this element and the rest that follows are not something that a student is able to gauge as accurately as the first element. One can only understand a supervisor only if he/she does a PhD with the supervisor. This is because a PhD requires a lot of interaction between two individuals. And we all know that not everyone work well together. Two nice people may not like each other. Two evil guys may actually enjoy plotting to take over the world. Despite the uncertainties, there are several things that we must look for in a supervisor:

(i) Good reviews from their ex-students, preferably those who just graduated. Current students can be good referees but they may not yet have a good view of how things will work out. A supervisor’s actions and plans may initially look messy but make perfect sense once the student reach a certain level of maturity in the research subject.
(ii) A good track record of successfully supervising PhD students.
(iii) His compatibility with our personality. The best way to do this is to correspond with and if possible, meet him in person for a chat to have a sense of what he’s like. Some people like supervisors who let them do their own stuff. Some prefer more guidance. We know what you want so meet the potential supervisor and we’ll understand if he fits our idea of a compatible supervisor.

Common misconceptions:
He needs to be a Professor. He just needs to be an active researcher.
He must be a well-known expert in the field. Well, good to have but do expect to not see him much. ie: we’ll be ranked very low in his priority list.
A good supervisor is someone who spoon-feeds and holds your hand throughout the PhD. Not quite. We’ll probably need this in the first year. But a good supervisor will train us to be independent. This means letting us chart our own progress after the initial year or two, under his watchful eye of course.
It’s a one way street where the supervisor is expected to always be on the giving end. It’s a two way street my friend. Compliment him when he does good work. Congratulate him for his promotions. Share new papers with him and inform him of exciting call for papers/conferences. He’s a human being as well and our relationship with him will be more fun for both the supervisor and the student if it’s symbiotic.

3. The research topic
We must be very passionate about the subject we’re working on. To be honest, I am a bit divided whether to rank this as the second or third most important element. The reason I rank the supervisor higher is because we’ll eventually find the research difficult and frustrating. Our passion will carry us far but not far enough. Once we hit a wall, only a good supervisor will be able to help us overcome the problem and rekindle our love for the subject. In addition, one may not have sufficient knowledge in an area to start with to fully appreciate a subject. In this case, a good supervisor will be able to ignite our passion in the area by highlighting the importance and the interesting bits of the research subject, therefore providing us with that passion required to finish the thesis.

Common misconceptions:
The subject must be a popular research topic. We’ll have a hard time finding new things to discover as others are rapidly doing good work.
We can do experimental PhDs without a proper lab in place as we can always start our own setup from scratch. Buying things and putting together our experiments take a long time and a lot of money. If we want to do an experimental PhD, make sure the lab has sufficient apparatus and materials.
It’s good to choose an ‘easy’/’straightforward’ research topics such as repetitive measurements or data crunching in an area we’re already familiar with. It doesn’t hurt to do these. We’ll get our PhDs. But these three to four years are perfect for us to attempt something crazy. We’ll have a lot of time to concentrate on solving difficult problems and we’ll (hopefully) have the full support of our supervisor and colleagues. Try something difficult. Learn something new. Discover.

4. The university
Actually I am quite inclined to not even list this as an important element. The reason is because it does not quite matter where we do our PhD. Good supervisors and good research projects can be found even in small universities. The quality of our PhD will in the end be determined by the quality of our thesis and publications. But I guess it does matter a bit as you would like to do it in established, preferably household name universities as they will have a structure in place to: (i) help you if you are in trouble and (ii) ensure that your are able to finish on time. Plus it looks nicer on your CV.

Final words:

What about completing a PhD? Well, I am not going to write much about completing a PhD. The reason is because each PhD journey is unique. Hence, it is more difficult to ascertain what constitutes a good advice and what is not. It all depends on one’s particular situation. If it helps, I followed several advice which I found useful:

(i) Write often – both your thesis and research papers. Since day one. 50% of the papers I wrote was never submitted. I rewrote most of my thesis in the final year. But were the earlier drafts and the rejected papers a waste of time? Not at all. They all helped to form my final thesis.

(ii) Be nice – it can get fairly competitive. Just keep things healthy, respect everyone and never shy away from helping others. Be humble.

(iii) Develop a thick skin – disappointments come often. Papers get rejected, unsuccessful experiments, rude people, being looked down by more senior figures. Just pick yourself up and deal with it.

(iv) Work hard everyday – read papers and discuss with others in the first year. Accept the fact that we know very little. Learn. Do experiments/simulations in the second year and after. Document failures. Try again. Discuss. Document successes. Write. Publish. Everyday.

Just a takeaway point, I just would like to say that despite the sacrifices, I never regretted doing my PhD. I’ve learnt that the important thing is to try. And once we’ve started the journey, keep working hard. It’ll end, most likely happily. And we’ll be glad we tried in the first place.