Wednesday, 25 April 2007

T175 TMA04 complete and submitted!!


Its taken its time this one, partly because I haven't been able to hit it in one go but also because I don't really think the questions are worded as clearly as they could be. I often spent 30 mins deliberating a question before answering it, thinking what do they really want?

TIP: Look at the learning outcomes at the start of an assignment and use them to target your answers, they are more helpful than I would have thought and to be honest I have never considered using them.

The TMA covered a lot of area's,

Question 1 focused very much on telemedicine in the UK and India and the limitations of such systems and implications of there existence. For those of you who don't know telemedicine is basically delivering medicine via technology. This often involves networks of sorts, in remote locations these will be satellite based. The result is that you can have a doctor in one part of the world viewing and diagnosing patient scans from a remote location such as a war zone or village. This can also be stretched further to telesurgery where a surgeon controls robots from a distance operating on a patient potentially from another continent. There seems to be a lot to consider here, from bandwidth and latency right through to responsiveness of the equipment. There would be absolutely no point in having the worlds best surgeon in America operating on a patient in say India if the equipment was very unresponsive and didn't behave as expected.

Question 2 surrounded the use of the U.S.A's Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII) and Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC). The technology is based around the idea that cars can be equipped with GPS, and coupled with there hundreds of existing on board sensors from ABS to rain sensors, be able to communicate to roadside hubs and other vehicles their driving habits, speeds, direction of travel, acceleration, terrain and weather conditions. This should then be able to alert drivers in the vicinity of accidents and congestion and also whether intersections are safe to cross.

Question 3 targeted Databases and the U.K's pioneering National ID card programme and the Biometric data involved. You were questioning the issues surrounding a central database which stored such biometric information and the risks and implications that this could have. This question was very relevant and interesting and I enjoyed tackling it very much.

Finally, Question 4! This question covered health on-line and used this to discuss issues such as content, accessibility and usability of such services. You were asked to compare to online services such as NHS Direct and BBC health and evaluate how well the covered these basics. It was very interesting to see how different websites tackle different accessibility issues, especially the likes of health sites which are likely to have a very wide and diverse customer base.

Anyway all is done and I am looking forward to getting my End of Course Assessment done and completing this course!

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Second Year of the degree is starting to take shape!!

Good afternoon

As I am coming around to the end of my first year with the OU I have decided to write about where I am heading and what I intend to study.
For the first year of my degree I studied two 30 credit level 1 courses. These were T175 Networked Living: Exploring Information and Communication and M150 Data, Computing and Information.

I have found both of these courses thoroughly engaging and enjoyable and they have provided a really good broad base for my future studies in computing. I have found M150 more challenging and rewarding than T175 however this is mainly because I am from a programming background and it is the route I want to persure. T175 is a newer course and the materials are probably presented in a nicer way.

My Degree (B29 BSc(Hons) Computing) should in accordance with OU recommendations, be studied over 6 years at 60 credits per year. I have followed this path for the first year however I am going to step my study up to 90 credits next year with the aim of completing my degree two years early.

The 90 credits I am going to study over the next 12 months are the level 1 course MU120 Open Mathematics, the level 2 courses M263 Building Blocks of Software and M255 Object Orientated Programming with Java.

I found my first year very manageable and hopefully 90 credits should not but overly stretching myself. At the moment though I am looking forward to having the summer off when I will be travelling around Europe for 5 weeks. I look forward to properly blogging these courses as I study them and offering any ideas and suggestions as I go.


Saturday, 21 April 2007

Learn Visual Studio .NET Free Videos!!

Good morning!

Today I want to share a website I cam across in September 2006 at the start of my degree when I was looking to develop my Microsoft development skills. I downloaded the free Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Express Editions with the goal of developing my programming abilities and broadening my skill base. Along side these express editions Microsoft provided Video's from a gentleman by the name of Bob Tabor, a Microsoft MVP, who was comissioned by Microsoft to provide a beginner to programming in .Net video series for newcomers to the platform and programming in general.

Needless to say the opportunity for free training had to be jumped at and I downloaded the VB.NET series to begin learning. Within a week I had worked my way through the development of an RSS Reader application with the help of Bob's videos and I was eager to learn more!

Learn Visual Studio .Net had a collection of well over 500 video's providing guidance and tuition and the liftetime subscription cost $199.00. This was a lot cheaper than any Microsoft Training I could have accessed in the U.K. and I felt that I would be of great benefit to me. I managed to talk to my employer and get them to agree to cover the cost as it was personal development. Within a few minutes of joining up I was downloading tutorial videos on technologies I had never thought I would have had the opportunity to develop in such as ASP.Net, ATLAS and C# 2.0.

If you are considering learning to develop in the .Net Framework or have ever been interested in taking it up I cannot recommend highly enough the free videos of LearnVisualStudio.Net. If you enjoy them as much as I have and want to develop more take Bob up on his rediculously cheap lifetime subsciption, you wont find training like it for anywhere near the money.

FREE video tutorial - LearnVisualStudio.NETOver 500 easy to understand, .NET video tutorials.


Monday, 16 April 2007

M150 - Javascript top tip

****UPDATED 22/04/2008****
Link to tutorial video HERE

I was thinking about which course I should post information on first, T175 or M150? I have gone with the latter for two reasons, coming from a development background this course presented the most programical challenges and secondly I found a great piece of software to help me through my TMA's.

M150 is a great foundation to my degree, I will complete it in two months and I have found it fairly easy to get to grips with the wide range of content you are presented with. So far I have studied the fundamentals of computing, from bits and bytes, to data storage, manipulation, html and JavaScript programming. JavaScript has definitely been the most interesting and rewarding topic covered in this course but on the other hand it has also been the hardest to get to grips with! TMA03 is almost completely programming based, building on the foundations of JavaScript that you are taught in units 7 - 10. The first part of my TMA involved 'debugging' a section of JavaScript code which was provided to me. Debugging is the process by which you analyse or look at a piece of code which contains errors and identify and correct them. This can be an arduous task and considering this question had the smallest score allocation it still took me a long time to solve.

The reason being I am used to having a tool which I can execute code line by line and find errors in specific lines quickly and easily. With JavaScript debugging in IE or Netscape the only feedback given to you is that there is an error!! This means you can't tell whether an amendment you've made has actually worked or not as there could still be different errors causing the problem.

Luckily after hunting the Internet I found a great piece of software called
Yaldex 1st JavaScript Editor Pro which had a built in debugger, allowing me to quickly step through code and solve problems. It was a life saver to say the least! It became invaluable in helping me write my code for the remaining questions in my assignment and I am sure I would not have scored 98% without it!

I used the 21day free trial however I was so impressed with the software I decided to buy it for good as I am sure it will become invaluable. It only costs around $49.00 (around £25 GBP) and was worth every penny.

I have added it to my links collection and would recommend anyone studying M150 or JavaScript makes use of it via the free trial or purchasing.

So that's my top tip for the day! I will have more don't worry!


Friday, 13 April 2007

Hello World!

Ok excuse the cliche, this is still all very new territory for me, a bit like my first attempt at programming!

Here's a little background about me, my name is Simon and I am 23 years old living in the United Kingdom. I dropped out of University after 6 months the first time around as I couldn't support myself financially and I wasn't happy with the course I was doing (BSc(Hons)Sound Engineering). That was 2002. After leaving university I went straight into employment through a temping agency and worked for a Customer Services department. Around 1 1/2 to 2 years later I left that company to move to my current company, where I started in customer services and quickly managed to demonstrate my aptitude with a PC and move into a development role.

4 Years later I decided I wanted a qualification to represent these skills to future employers and started to study again, this time with the Open University.

I am studying towards a BSc(Hons) Degree in Computing and I am going to try my best to blog the next 3.5 - 4 years of my degree and all the useful stuff that comes along with it both with the OU and outside of it.

I work in a small team for an insurance company developing bespoke applications and tools covering a wide array of areas and technologies. I enjoy my job and like to push the boundaries of what I do everyday. I also love to learn and hope that I can pass some of the knowledge I gain during my degree and outside of my degree to the Internet population.

Well I hope this all goes smoothly and look forward to learning and sharing lots of new things.