It is All about Traffic, and Programming
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P.E. Exam – Finally Done.

P.E. exam is less of technical of any sort than a legal visa to practice engineering service in a domain. Technically speaking,  it is a C-Level students’ exam – as long as you can get C-grades in undergrad courses,  you should have no problem with it.

Apart from the hard-lined precondition on years of industry experience,  the “difficulty”  lies in its extensive coverage on many undergraduate subjects.  The breadth of the exam calls for a devoted study.  This is particularly true if you’d left school for some time while your memory started getting rusty.

I took the Oct 25 2013 P. E. exam yesterday – could have selected the subject of Civil Engineering with a focus on Traffic and Transportation.  The required part of Structure,  Water and Environmental was quite aloof to me.  In the end, I opted for the Electrical Engineering subject with Computer Engineering as the specialized area.

Keep in mind,  the PE exam is nothing special but one of old-school-type of exams: they are  the simplest and easiest events of life. Why ?  Taking an “exam” – you are dealing with something for sure with standard answers  – whatever “standard” out there.  Real life is beyond an exam.  – NO “standard” answers,  or having at least 25% chances of getting it right simply by wild guess.

For preparing the P.E. exam on Electrical and Computer Engineering,  here are some of my suggestions/recommendations/dismissals:

I would rate this manual as completely useless,  and  a big waste of money.  Why PPI has published such a White Elephant book,  remains a mystery to me.

The book granted a largess of 2/3 of its pages to the subjects of maths and Engineering Economics, which have nothing to do with the Exam.  Ridiculous the book is extremely sparing and reticent in giving only TWO pages to the important subjects such as Computer Architecture – which is expected to make up 35% of the Exam!

Speaking of Math,  I didn’t even bother to use any calculator during the exam.  If you are smart enough to opt for this Electrical and Computer Engineering exam,  you should be able to do all the numerical computation during the exam manually by hand or by brain, mostly binary.

These two little booklets turned out to be extremely helpful and you can count on them as the probe guides for preparing the exam.  As a matter of fact,  some problems actually showing up in the exam were quite similar (if not identical) to the samples  in the booklets.

Introduction to Computer Engineering: Hardware and Software Design. Taylor L. Booth. John Wiley & Sons

The Internet for Scientists and Engineers, Brian J. Tomas. SPIE Press.

These two books are very good at downgradig your brain.

If you dare to use these two books,  they would do you more BAD than GOOD for the exam.  Do yourself a favor getting away from them!

  • IEEE Guide to the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge (SWEBOK)

Fairly speaking,  the book is not bad – but it is not good,  either; useless for the exam.  No indices for fast key-word search.  The writing is too laconic to have any good information for the Exam.

  • The book I used for preparing for the exam, and found very helpful is:

Digital Design and Computer Architecture (2nd Ed) by David Money Harris and Sarah  L. Harris. This is an excellent, well-written, all-in-one book for the Exam. It covers a lot of the subjects in just one book.

  • Some chunky books that you don’t need to extensively study, but just remember to bring them to the exam site:

Modern Operating Systems (2nd Ed) by Andrew S. Tanenbaum – This book helped me with 2 or 3 Operating System problems in the actual Exam.

Software Engineering (9th Ed) by Ian Sommerville: This book helped me with 3 or 4 esoteric Software Engineering problems in the actual Exam.

The following general subjects showed up in the exam – particularly, pay attention to subjects such as Gray Code,  RAID,  Interrupt and DRAM timing diagram:

System Verilog, VHDL; Hamming Code, Parity check, checksum; Flip-flop, D-, J-K, S-R, Logic Arrays; CPU pipeline,  speed-up with multi-core,  real-time operating system scheduling algorithms, binary encoding, Unicode, Big-endian, Gray Code, interrupt (non-mask-able, mask-able), two’s complement;Floating point representation (exponent with mantissa), IEEE floating point exceptions; Shannon theorem, wireless communications (WDM/crosstalk), Network Protocols (TCP); CPU energy consumption, CMOS static and dynamic energy consumption; Arithmetic Shift, ALU, Instruction Set; Diode, operational amplifiers (very simple).

Bottom line,  Digital Design and Computer Architecture (2nd Ed) plus the two sample booklets would cover a large part of the exam subjects,  and the Software Engineering book by Sommerville and Operating System book by Tanenbaum can help with some unprepared problems in the actual Exam.  These books PLUS the two little booklets will help you pass the exam.

When studying, I didn’t invest much time on Electronics and it turns out that saved me a lot of time  – just basic understanding of the subject would be good enough (using the two booklets as guideline).


Hushing the nagging screen from Syncrho Education Version

Synchro Education Edition – has a nagging screen EACH time the software is launched – Until you click “Accept”,  you will be going nowhere.

After “Accept” is clicked,  you will see the main UI water-marked with the line saying “Educational Use Only”.  Also you will experience a noticeable freezing period up to 1 or 2 seconds – the software is surreptitiously checking with a Trafficware server in Texas for any new version available, and verifying the license information.

This Fall semester I am teaching a Traffic Control & Simulation course at NYU-Poly, and get to use the Synchro academic version with some sort of frequency.  This nagging screen is becoming quite annoying to me – not to mention personally I tend to attribute this nagging trick as being somewhat paranoid and pointless, especially when the actual protection with Syncrho is shockingly weak.

I simply don’t like that each time I have to manually click the “Accept” button, in order to proceed. Don’t get me wrong,  this is not that I disagree with the terms,  just I don’t like manually doing it.  I would like to make a tool, and authorize the tool,  representing myself, to Agree and Accept to the license terms by clicking the “Accept”  button for me.

Therefore – with my tool of choice – AutoIt,  I prepared a little nifty script so that each time the software is launched, the computer itself will automatically click the button for me to Accept the terms – I don’t need to bother to move any of my fingers.

Wowooo – La!

The following is download link to the compiled version of the script, just put it anywhere on your computer’s desktop to replace the default Synchro shortcut lnkYou are still going to see the nagging screen appear, so you know what you are going to Accept,  but immediately it will be closed since the script, as authorized by you, and truly you,  automatically click the “Accept” button for you.  Besides,  the version checking window will be immediately closed as well,  and you won’t see the initial 1 or 2 seconds freezing period.  You can always to go to “Help” -> “Check for Updates” to do the explicit version check, yourself.

Midtown In Motion Covers More Intersections and Wins National Innovation Award

New York City Department of Transportation today announced the expansion of Midtown in Motion, the innovative congestion management system deployed in Manhattan since last year.

The first phase of Midtown in Motion has resulted in an overall 10% speeds improvement as suggested by the E-ZPass travel time data and taxi GPS data.   The initial deployment for real time congestion control included 100 microwave sensors, 32 traffic video cameras and E-ZPass readers at 23 intersections to measure in real time traffic speeds,  travel times,  traffic counts and occupancies.

This new expansion of Midtown in Motion will have  a total of 210 microwave sensors, 56 traffic cameras and E-ZPass readers at 59 intersections, covering the Midtown Manhattan area from 1st to 9th avenue and from 42nd to 57th street,  more than 270 square blocks  (more than 300 controlled intersections) .  The collected real time data are fed to sophisticated algorithms and signals are updated accordingly (operator-in-loop or autonomously).

Midtown In Motion has won ITS America Smart Solution Spotlight Award , in recognition of New York City’s commitment to “smart” technologies that allow engineers to respond to traffic conditions in real time.

 “From cameras to microwave sensors and EZ-pass readers to Advanced Solid State Traffic Controllers, Midtown in Motion is a showcase of the most sophisticated intelligent transportation solutions available to public agencies. ITS America is excited to recognize this comprehensive use of technology and real time data which has resulted in a highly successful deployment that can be replicated in cities throughout the country.”  – Scott Belcher, President and CEO of ITS America.

Details of the Press Release are available at the NYCDOT website and the ITS America website