Wednesday, 16 April 2014


When he's not studying or working, Ali Aljunied hangs out with his 'working-adult' friends at a local joint in Kembangan or watches that next Naruto filler. He is, in his words, 'a dinosaur of a Year 5 CS student' who may feel out of place sometimes, but he still totally rocked it at #NUSOpenDay2014, with his immensely popular live hashtag printing service, Tagronauts, drawing people from all the different events and halls across UTown that day to the SoC booth!

What are you working on and why are you passionate about it?
I would not consider it working, cause, well, it’s more of a side-project - Tagronauts. You could say I’m passionate about Tagronauts cause it’s something I made on my own, from scratch. I hacked a program to be able to automatically print Instagram photographs. Since I'm in Computing, obviously it had to be THE best Instagram printing service in Singapore, and it is. Really. 
After showcasing it around (big props to the NOC and NHouse RA's), people were really impressed by it. And after some thought, it could be the next big thing in the events industry, or at least until the fad dies.

Describe your SoC experience.
My SoC experience was (past tense cause like I’m graduating, finally, I hope) a pretty an intense, very rewarding roller-coaster ride. My favourite thing about SoC are the professors. They are like soooo friendly and extremely patient! (especially my FYP profs, Prof. Wynne Hsu and Prof. Lee Mong Li. And they are always together so much so they are like BFFs!)  
I think Prof. Ben Leong and Prof. Wei Tsang Ooi made a huge impressions on me. Prof. Ben obviously cause...well...he's Prof. Ben. If you are a Year 1 student, you CANNOT graduate without taking at least one of his modules. You'll understand why when you do! For Prof. Ooi, he has this way of teaching that just makes you feel like he is really interested in teaching you something, which gives you that warm fuzzy feeling in lecture and consultations. Their lessons are really enjoyable in very different ways. 
I think the non-academic staff are very supportive of the students (big props to External Relations Team!). They always look for student feedback and trying to improve things in-line with the latest trends among students. 
Oh, [I also like] the fact that SoC is fully air-conditioned. And we have awesome labs. And awesome equipment. And the print quota. And the many lockers. And that awesome sofa in the basement. 
If there was something I would have done differently during my time here, maybe I would have studied smarter and harder in Year 1? But that would change since there’s no more grading system in Year 1. So jealous. 
I stay in Pasir Ris, and the halls/residences are pretty expensive. I typically take the last bus home cause once I reach home after the gruelling travel, productivity is zero. So I'd do my work till then. For most part of my semesters during year 2 and year 4 (I went to NOC Silicon Valley in Year 3), I'd sleep in computing (remember the sofa?) and shower in iCube. It just doesn’t make sense to travel 1.5hrs, to go home, to take a shower, and sleep, and only to wake up 5-6hrs later, having to rush and travel for another 1.5hrs, for that morning lecture, which I'd most probably be late for anyway. So I slept in school. For free. Well, not really free since I’m paying tuition fees. Heh.

What do you count as your most significant achievements to date? 
Tagronauts of course! Oh and that networked multiplayer game project I did for CS4243 Networked and Mobile Gaming. During STePs, I had two students (specifically these two) who were so engrossed by the game. If any of you two are reading this, yes, you made my heart melt. <3 
Tagronauts happened one night, in my room, some months back when I was bored and broke and I felt I was wasting my life playing games. I had to learn how to make a desktop application from scratch, and boy did that take a lot of patience, perseverance and time. But once you get the hang of it, adding a button or a checkbox for options suddenly seems to be so much fun, even if it’s just to print to console. haha. 
I pestered my friends to tag old photos and upload new photos for me to test the system. And my darling younger brother who taught me WPF and the custom controls and helped me compile a setup file so that I could install the software on other computers. And lent me his laptop cause my laptop's LCD screen wasn’t and still isn’t working when I had showcases. And helped me fix dependencies with the DLLs. <3 Muhammad. (He applied for SoC too!)

What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I slept in school. And that my surname is actually Aljunied, and not cause I stay in Aljunied. And that I’m actually the descendent of one of the forefathers of Singapore, Syed Sharif Omar bin Ali Aljunied. If you are interested you can watch a video about my grandfather’s road (pun intended). 

What advice would you give a prospective SoC student?
It will be a tough journey at the start. But once you brave the storm, you'll be reaping in the sweet, sweet rewards of having a computing background. It’s all perseverance in computing. I came in with zero computing experience, and it was a huge struggle. But it will definitely pay off (and it has for me) especially when Facebook buys your app/software for a few billion dollars.
Also, if you are in Computing, definitely sign up for NOC Silicon Valley. Why you ask?
Cause this.
That’s why.

I also wrote a little blog post called Musing of the 1st NUS Intern in Ensuant about my NOC internship back in 2012 and I have this Awesome Album is Awesome I compiled during my stint in NOC Silicon Valley.

Ali and Elmo striking the pose in front of Radio City Music Hall, New York.

What are your future plans?
Send out my resumes to the cool and hip places to work in Silicon Valley and see who wants me. Heh.

Quick-Fire! Most interesting development in technology this year?
Facebook buying WhatsApp for 19 billion definitely.

Singapore’s best kept secret?
Tagronauts - Live Hashtag Printing.

Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email

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