Comp-Serfs

Friday, January 21, 2005

The ACID Test and Our Unit Reviews

For those of you on CM20145, you know ACID stands for:-

  • Atomicity - If a transaction fails, no changes are saved to the database.
  • Consistency - Between transactions the system is in a consistent state.
  • Isolation - No other transaction can ammend the partially updated/inconsistant tables.
  • Durability - Once a transaction commits, updates persist despite failures.

You may as well throw that last one out the window though, since anyone who's done their unit module reviews online will probably have to do them again.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Assignments Were Reasonably Timetabled

Theres something about those automated unit review emails that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy deep down. Did anyone who's done it so far notice this gem:-

"Assignments were reasonably timetabled in relation to my other work "

*ticks "Strongly Disagree"*

Monday, January 17, 2005

Three Cubes Exactly

Those anti-war protesting folk at the side of the library today really got to me, and a few others. It doesn't seem right to be at war, but then people should realise that fundamentally:-

  • If America was an occupying force, they'd not have an exit strategy revolving around setting up polls.
  • These so called "freedom fighters" habitually use civilians as shields, and occupy streets to ambush the convoys that bring these people food, water and medicine.
  • The previous government exploited a program intended to allow the use of natural resources to feed the people, in order to extract billions of dollars and resulted in the starvation of millions.
  • Prior to this, a previous attempt to incite democracy by civilians was met with a chemical weapons attack.

I really wish I could support their cause, and promote the starvation of Iraqi children by a wicked regieme bolsted by freedom fighters fresh out of flight school. I guess I'll have to try being a banjo strumming hippy after the exams though, since denial wont get me through the exams too.

Yes it's a cruel world, and war shouldn't be needed in an ideal situation. The world isn't ideal though.


The March to Hand In

It's 6:59, and it begins. A quick dah-dum from the PDA on the desk signals it, and a blurry figure wanders the room starting to defuses devices that would tear down his hopes and dreams. Hopes and dreams that is, of staying in bed.

Just how many bloody alarm clocks do I need to get out of bed each day? Seven today, and my better half had her phone on too. I don't need them to go off either, that's the annoying thing, but I need a palpable threat of buzzing, beeping and poorly chosen music that it'll make me leap out of bed and disable the bunch of them.

I got as far as my temperature sensing desk clock before I was thinking "Wouldn't it be nice to go back to bed now"? With a little luck, I may just hand this one last coursework in. Supposed to be meeting a few people later for revision too, which should be fun, since everyone seems to know about the same as me.

Another day on the march to exams. Our one saving grace is that we weren't hosed by the timetable's this time, and don't have four exams on consecutive days or anything like that. I wonder if the first years will get that again though?

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Did You Know....

Pepsi Max contains just 0.3 calories per 100ml (3kCal/litre). A human male has a daily intake guideline of 2500 calories, while a woman has a guideline of 2000 calories a day. Do you really need another excuse to drink 833 litres of Pepsi a day? (666 for you ladies)

If you start now, you'll have perked your way though almost nine thousand litres by the time your first exam comes (HCI, 24th January, 16:30).

Having gills never looked so good.

Update:- Somerfield in town has twelve packs on buy one, get one free. High taste, no sugar, a real bitch to carry home though.

Creativity Diaries tomorrow??!?!?!?

The HCI coursework is over for most, and while some of you try to figure out exactly what you're supposed to have learned, it's a safe bet that you can burn your excess supply of Creativity Diary sheets, right?

Put the matches down Mr Brown. It looks like that we've still got one to go, Monday at 2:15pm. One wonders what could be written on the creativity diary at this point, other than "At 11:00am, I had the wonderful idea of actually handing in the coursework.". Pure genius. Get the square hat and prepare for your doctorate.

Maybe it's a typo, but don't chance it!

Update:- Looks like someone's heard that they're purely for use by a postgrad, and not actually a relevent part of our course from our perspective, other than we're obliged to turn them in. Funny really, I filled in questionnaires for three other groups without having marks attatched.

Year in Industry

Have you all been doing your placement applications? What, no? Our department has some good people working on lining up companies for us to shoot at, and it's a shame my schedule hasn't allowed me to do the number of applications I'd like. Even if I wouldn't take the jobs, getting yourself used to the interview process is an important thing.

Remember:-

  • Eye contact.
  • Take off that bandana, you're not a rebel. Nose-rings and nipple clamps just don't scream Technical Consultant like they used to.
  • Take off that blazer, you're not flogging furniture. Dress suitably for the job.
That said, bring rope and duct-tape. Getting a job that won't fold on you in five years is pretty important, and if you have to take hostages, so be it. If you're looking for 5,000 empty chairs to tie people to, try try this address.

Combinators, Happiness and the Ever After

Did anyone really understand Lambda Calculus first time they saw it this year? The laugh you all gave off when you heard "Now, forget everything you've learned about Lambda calculus", a week or two before the coursework was due was pretty telling..

I can sort of see the "big fuzzy" of how it fits into computing, but not how it can teach us anything that a good bit of C and math can't. Maybe it's just me, but I've been looking at it ever since I burnt the last of HCI to a CD. As far as It's not just that the subject lends itself poorly to being learnt in a conventional sense, but unlike almost every other module there's no place you can even pretend to see it playing a role in lives, perhaps with the exclusion of math students.

The concepts of recursion can be fully illustrated better elsewhere in my opinion, even the illuminating tail recursion can be replicated with the slightest flick of a pointer in C (Set a pointer to the next function, return and have the previous function execute the next function). I've wondered all through CM20167, where exactly a combinator would fit into my post-university life. There's no-one doing a phD or MSc to my knowledge here that's even touching the things, and we're supposed to be the university that pioneered EuScheme.

The principles of software engineering are all well and good, and those modules have a place in today's industry. However, by running a unit that would only seem to lend itself to a student bending toward and ever more narrow field, do we run the risk of missing material that would be more useful to us?

Industry these days is a jungle. Going into a jungle with a swiss army knife of skills brings you food, see what you can kill with a combinator.

What if the Department see this?

I've been asked by one or two I've asked about this idea, what would happen if the department sees this blog? The truth is, it should be fine. I'm not slandering people, calling the university into disrepute, and I'm definitely not overstepping any marks, unless you subscribe the 1984 way of thinking. If anyone feels they've gotten a bad rap from me here though, post a comment and I'll take it into consideration. I'll even post well-written counter-arguments on modern computer science topics if anyone is inclined as to write them.

All I'm doing is keeping a journal of what we're going through day-in, day-out in the bid for each percentage point on our way to a degree. I doubt it's against any rule to talk about the work-load in a negative tone. I'm still doing the work regardless,, as anyone worth their salt would be.

If any students have gone through hell this semester for their marks, let me know, and I'll post up your stories here.

It's Over, At Last

A million monkeys, a million typewriters. A situation theoretically that could produce the works of Shakespeare, given time.

What were they thinking when they wrote those recommended guidelines for hours to spend on the course? One has to wonder, don't you? I've worked like a gibbon at a typewriter doing everything from Lisp to Godel, right up to today with Human Computer Interaction. There's no way it's explained to us that we'll be doing the amount we did, and for as little reward.

I guess it just enrages me that I spent two and three quarter weeks of solid time with my friend on the databases project for what, fifteen percent? Half-hour in the lab earned us that when it came to the test, and even then many felt the test was harsh so early on. Then theres all these other bits, each with so little reward that it makes you wonder if really, it was worth just saying damn the lot of it and preparing properly for your exams like every other person on every other degree seemed to be doing.

The department of computer science were practically the only ones in the library today. We owned level three, there were groups on level 4, there were more of us on level 2 than other people too, kings of a ghost town. Everyone else was off doing what they should be, revising.

Oh, but don't forget, we had those extra five free hours during revision week. Oh lord, we're saved.

*Slumps back to his typewriter*

To be, or not Toby.