Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Results are in, M256 and M253 are over and I have a Dip Comp!!

So I got my results today from the Open University for M256 and M253. In M256 I scored a grade 2 Pass (seems to be the going grade for me so far!) with 88% OCAS(Overall Continuous Assessment Score) and 77% OES (Overall Examinable Score) so not quite meeting the 85% OCAS and 85% OES needed for a distinction but still a 2:1 which I am happy with all things considered.

In M253 I scored a Pass with a mark of 63% in my OES which I am happy with, as most of you will know this course is a pass fail course so I did what I needed to do to get the job done and I think that really sums up how I approached the whole course and not just the OES component. Its a shame really as I paid good money to be on the course.... For me it was one of those courses that I would never had looked at had it not been compulsory for my degree, although as you will see from my blog, it wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting!

Still I now have a Diploma in Computing which I am more than proud off and I am stepping into my Penultimate year of Study with the OU. My course texts for M362 arrived last week and I got straight through unit 1 on the evening they arrived, its great to get back into studying after a couple of months rest, although I am under no illusions as to what will be expected of me in the coming 12 months.

I hope everyone achieved what they wanted to achieve/deserved! Good luck with your 2010 studies!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

The calm before the storm...

The blog posts have been non-existant since I completed my exams in october because for the first time since I have been with the OU I have a break until January before my level 3 work begins. Still, January will whip round no doubt and I'll be back in the thick of it in no time.

Thanks to a lot of hard work and my OU studies today I have taken up a new role at work for the new year which will see a bit more commuting, so hopefully plenty of study time can be made up on public transport! Looking at Student Home the exam results are due out on the 18th December but if experience tells me anything they will be available a few days before.

I'm looking forward to reading how people got on this year so be sure to check the blog around next month for my results and post your results/opinions of the exams and what you are planning for your next years studies.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

M256 TMA04 Results, M256 Final Exam Day!

I received my results to M256 TMA04 a few weeks ago and completely forgot to post them. I came in at 91% again which brings my TMA average above the 85%. Today is the exam day and I'm just skimming over my notes after 4 solid days of revision and a few past exam papers. Hopefully everything goes o.k. I'm finding learning gaps now and then andtrying to fill them as best I can but it may be a little late! At least I know what exam hall I have to go to this time which should alleviate some of the stress compared to my last exam. Good luck to everyone taking exams!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Year 4 Study decision time

The time has come to decide what to study next year and the choices are as follows.

• M362 Developing concurrent distributed systems

• M363 Software engineering with objects

• M364 Fundamentals of interaction design

• M359 Relational databases theory and practice

I know some people have studied these courses and I am hoping somebody out there can give me a bit of insight into their experiences or if they would recommend any in particular.

M366 natural and artificial intelligence was on the cards but Reading blogs and peoples feedback I decided against it.

My current view is M362 and M363 or M364, I'm not sure about M363 as it seems like another theory vased course like M256 and I'd like to get back into practical computing.

I'm looking forward to reading peoples thoughts. All opninions welcome!

- Posted from my iPhone

Friday, 11 September 2009

M253 Milestone 2 Results, M256 TM04 Submitted

Results are in and I scored a better 70%. I'm quite happy with this result and as explained in my previous post I was conscious that I wouldn't be hitting the high marks as my contributions haven't been as full on as other team members. Still I am happy with this and I think our whole team are confident about Milestone 3. Role on!

I submitted TMA04 for M256 which consisted of a theory based question a coding based question and a final question which required us to answer multiple choice questions on the entire course material to aid with revision. The TMA was o.k. and hopefully I can get above 85%. I have also been invited to a pub quiz for M256 today via the OU Elluminate forums, I think it may well be a great method of revision and I am quite looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

M256 TMA03 Results and M253 Milestone 2

I received my results for TMA03 Today and scored 91% which I am pleased with as it brings my average to 86.6% after the three assignments. There was a delay in getting this grade back due to my tutor not being particularly well over recent months. I have to submit TMA04 on Thursday then sit the exam at the end of October so this course has really flown bye.

M253 is keeping me busy though, we had the deadline of Milestone 2 last week and all got submitted on time. Our team seems to be working well, I have definitely taken a bit of a back seat during the last Milestone as some team members are taking an unofficial leadership position but this actually suits me with my current work commitments and I appreciate the time they are putting in.

I will say that this course isn't appearing to be as bad as I thought it would be, probably because everyone on our team is contributing equally and we are getting on with it, however I can see how it could be a nightmare if your team had people that didn't even show there faces. My word of advice to any would be candidates is that if you do enrol on this course, get involved and stick to a schedule, if you meet deadlines it makes things nice and easy and if jobs are shared out amongst the team everyone has more than enough to write about during their self reflection work and Milestone reports. Also be open to peoples opinions and share your own, any conflicts of opinion can be discussed and if a compromise cannot be reach within your group you can always approach your tutor for some advice.

We have just started work on Milestone 3 and as long as things stay the way they are I think I will make it through this course alive and without any of the wounds I read about in the course reviews over at the OU Website. I'll let you know when the results of Milestone 2 are in.


Thursday, 20 August 2009

Mac OS X Snow Leopard and iPhone App Development

I've just installed a copy of OSX Snow Leopard onto my MacBook Pro and its running fantastically, it has also free'd up 6GB of hard disk space over Leopard, I assume mainly due to the fact that Snow Leopard doesn't have to support legacy code for PowerPC like Leopard does. The UI doesn't seem to have changed a massive amount though as most of the changes are under the hood with new technologies such as OpenCL and Grand Central Dispatch.

The reason I'm posting is because for the last 4-6 weeks I have been try to teach myself Objective-C 2.0 using this book

Objective-C 2.0 by Steve Kochan

Its actually a really good book and so far has carried over a lot of the information I have learnt from the OU about the Java language and expanded on Objective C specific details. I'm only a few hundred pages deep so far but I am thoroughly enjoying it and getting a chance to test out code in the X-Code IDE. The book is geared predominantly at the languages and not the graphical side of OSX in the form of Cocoa, for that I will need another book which I will buy in due course.

My ultimate goal is to do some iPhone development and my first project is going to be an application to post blogs and photo's onto blogger. It is going to take some time as I am having to fit all this around my studies but if it goes well it may be something I will try and pursue for the computing project M450 with the OU (if they let me that is). It will also allow me to keep programming whilst I'm studying courses which are more theory and less coding based such as M256 and other level 3 courses.

Apparently it is good to learn a new programming language every year! I'll guess i'll find out whether this is true or not in the not too distant future!

Friday, 7 August 2009

M257 Exam Results and a new MacBook Pro 13" Mid 2009

The result paper came through today for this exam and I scored 95% OCAS score and 80% in the exam giving me a Pass 2 which I'm a little disappointed with. It is a good score but I thought that I had done enough to get that extra few percent for the Distinction I wanted for this course.

In different news I managed to buy a new MacBook Pro 13" with a huge discount thanks to apples Higher Education and Back to School offers. The HE discount is available for Open university students!!! Just phone up and explain your an OU student and you want to take advantage of the HE discounts and they will apply them, this gives you 14% off the price. The back to school promotion running until the end of september gives you an iPod touch for free (after rebate from apple) which you can then sell on to bring the price of the mac computer down even more.

In my case this has meant the £899 13" After 14% discount is around £772.00 with a further £145 off after I sell the ipod touch, which isn't bad at all, factor in the sale of my old laptop and a few other bits and its costing me next to nothing! I definitely recommend taking advantage of the offer if your an OU student and interested in buying a Mac.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

M253 Milestone 1 result

I received the result for Milestone 1, which was 55% and my tutors comments said a pass was good for this course due to the nature of the type of team response that are submitted. To be honest I'll take a pass on this course, it's difficult to control your grade in this type of course and it seriously eats up the time. For 10 points I spend more time on it than the 30 point M256!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Windows 7 Ultimate and other Microsoft software for Students (Top Tip)


This is a bold move as I have not tried it yet but I was looking at an IEEE student membership today as rates have dropped to half price (which is currently $12.50/£10). The IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and they aim to advance technology through engineering. They are responsible for things like Firewire and 802.11a/b/g/n (wireless communications standards) and a whole host more, see their website for more info.

Look Here

Whilst looking at there student memberships I noticed that they give you access to the MSDN academic alliance suite of free software, which currently includes a huge amount of top of the range of development tools but also operating systems such as XP, Vista, and Windows 7 Ultimate RC. This software is free through MSDNAA so once you are a member of the IEEE you should have access to a fully licensed copy of Windows 7 Ultimate plus whatever else interests you from the suite of products available.

Looking at the terms you need to be studying 50% of a full time academic qualification undergraduate or graduate which is relevant to IEEE. 60 points per year counts as your 50% of full time and hopefully a BSc in computing is relevant. I fully plan to join this in the coming days as Windows 7 releases RTM on August 6th 2009 and should be available on MSDN shortly after.

I'll let you know how I get on.

Monday, 20 July 2009

M256 TMA02, M253 Milestone 1 and MobileMe

I received my results to M256 TMA02 last week, fairly delayed due to my Tutors apparent ill health. I scored 85% which I am fairly pleased with, the con is that TMA 03 is due in just under two weeks so no respite at all.

We recently submitted Milestone 1 for M253 and are awaiting the outcome. I am tending to agree with the course reviews in the sense that we are required to put a fairly large amount of time towards what is essentially a 10 point course. Our team took it all a bit easy so we had a bit of a rush towards the deadline, all was o.k. though and we managed to get our work submitted. Looking at the initial feedback from our tutor we seem to have been a bit off track for the team submission so I am not sure how the marks will come in, I'll be pleased with a pass to be honest.

With M257 finished I'm definitely missing the coding element of a computing degree and I am looking forward to getting tucked into M362 concurrent distributed systems and other level three courses in January. It's strange how you always look forward to your next course?!

I've just started a trial of Apple's MobileMe service to sync my PC, Mac and IPhone. The software seems good and I am really enjoying the benefits of Push E-mail. I'm just a little unsure about paying £59 a year for services you can essentially get for free from the likes of google (with the exception of push notifications). I am hoping to make use of the hosting services and photo sharing services though and give the suite a real test. It's also good to have my OU Calendars sync'd using the iCal link at the bottom of each course calendar. This means I shall never miss a tutorial again!

p.s. Looking at ebay there are subscriptions available for a more reasonable £42.00.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

M257 Final Exam

I had the final exam for M257 today, I feel that it went well as everything I revised seemed to appear in the exam, including Aglets (which I read about this morning!!).

What an experience though, I left my house an hour before the exam, headed into bristol and parked near the Wills memorial building (Bristol University) and arrived with about 20 minutes spare, only to find I was at the completely wrong building and I should be at Wills hall which is about 3 miles away. My heart sunk as I really thought I was going to miss the exam, all my previous exams had been in this building and when I saw the phrase wills again I wrongly assumed thats where it meant.

Luckily I had some money on me and I caught a cab, arriving in the exam literally as the announcer called "3 hours, begin now". Not the best way to start an exam but its over now! I also had to walk the 3 and a bit miles back to my car an unnecessary opportunity to reflect.

There is one lesson I will not be forgetting in a hurry, assume nothing!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

M253 Milestone 0


Well what can I say, it's certainly different from anything else I have studied with the Open University. The course ultimately revolves around a team of 6-7 people spread out across the UK coming together online to work through tasks following a weekly schedule towards each milestone.

The first 4 weeks leading to Milestone 0 were a bit strange. Picture 7 people turning up in a FirstClass forum, with the goal of evaluating a selection of websites which sell flights and deciding on a team standard to come to an overall ranking for these sites. You have the keen person kicking up a bit of a fuss from day one because they want to do all 4 weeks work by the first week so they don't get behind, you have the people who turn up in week 4 when the first milestone is due with their introductory posting about themselves and then you have everyone else sort of in the middle. Its err entertaining to watch! I'm not sure about anyone else out their studying this course, but I thought there would be some personality clashes judging by some of the posting that were flying around.

Fortunately it all seemed to calm itself down, with the exception of the people who just don't bother to do anything of course! We managed to get the work done and get our milestone submitted but purely because a few people put in extra work. I think it was because nobody thought to take the time to decide on roles and responsibilities for team members from the outset, however we have agreed on this now with a bit of democracy and a little less coup d'etat than I was expecting. Each member is taking turns as team leader to ensure everyone gets a chance to develop this skill and also so that nobody gets the unfortunate job of e-mailing the people who aren't bothering all the time.

To be fair the course has not been as bad as the reviews on the OU website however I don't know what to expect going forward. I'll try my best to keep you updated.

P.S. It does seem to take a lot of time for a 10 point course, so bare this in mind if you intend to study it at the same time as other courses.

M256 TMA02 Submitted

Sorry for the lack of postings and replies to comments, I have been hard at work revising for M257 Exam and getting my M256 TMA02 submitted as well as keeping on top of M253. This TMA looked at Object Oriented Design principles and in particular design solutions for a hotel system and some of its use cases. It was a bit of a tricky one and I think some of the design methods covered could be used in various ways, therefore leaving TMA answers open to interpretation. Fingers crossed it comes in as a reasonable mark though!

I have been finding the study materials a little tedious to say the least, and sometimes I have re-read sections as the clarity has just not been there for me. Looking at the forums on FirstClass i'm not the only person to feel this way, hopefully it improves in the second half of the course. We appear to be taking the most drawn out approach to deciding which way something should be implemented in a design, and I completely appreciate that for large scale systems it may be more than necessary to take this approach but it feels a little drawn out for the examples we are using.

The exam for M257 is next Wednesday and I have taken a week off work to study and have a few days break afterwards. It should be an interesting one and I'm actually looking forward to the challenge... (now that is worrying!)

Friday, 5 June 2009

M253 TMA03 results

I received my results for TMA03 last week and acheived a respectable 94%. The exam is coming up on 17th June and I really need to get studying for it but M256 TMA 02 and M253 is taking up a fair bit of time aswell. I've taken a week off work to revise for the exam so hopefully this will leave me good stead!

I recently attended a day school to cover the exam and this was really good ably pointing out areas of strength and areas for improvement. I'd recommend attending a day school if the opportunity is there for any OU course.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

M253 Late Registration

Just had confirmation today that my late registration application for this course was accepted, enrolment ended on Saturday the 9th which I missed as I was away for a few days. I phoned 1st thing Monday so I'm glad I made it, it means I will be getting my Diploma this year!

I managed to get TMA03 off this evening, all present and correct, after battling with aa hang in my code on the last part of question 3. Ends up just printing the words +Ok solved it, which will mean nothing to anyone but I don't want to give away anything as the deadline isn't until tomorrow.

Its always the way with these things though, debugging code and not being able to spot the simplest of problems for a rediculous amount of time yet the 'complicated' code works straight away. The funny thing is I had my realisation just as I was putting a Jacket Patatoe in the oven (I had almost given up at that point) so I ran back up stairs and tried it out and all worked. Thank god!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Deadlines!! M257 TMA03, Windows 7 RC and Day Schools

I've just made the upgrade to the Windows 7 RC and I have 4 days to the deadline of TMA03 of M257 so I am frantically trying to install the old app that is netbeans 4.1. The upgrade took about 4.5 hours which is unbelievable but I wanted to keep all my Windows Vista config so it was worth it.

Everything seems to be working fine under the RC but the Open University netbeans install cd looks a little shocking. No checkboxes, or cool graphics for that matter, but I'll put that down to the new underpinnings of Windows 7. I couldn't install the mobility pack for netbeans 4 as it couldn't work out where the current install was in my hard drive. Great! (I don't really need though, why the OU can't let us use netbeans 6.5 is beyond me).

I'll keep you posted on the progress but so far everything seems to be working fine including firstclass v9.1 which is good to know.

This Saturday I have a day school for M257 then it will be revising time until the exam day. Unfortunately my M256 tutorial clashes with this so it will have to be missed.

P.s I've added a few blogs to the blogs of note section so take a look at them if you get a chance.

UPDATE: I spent a good 20 minutes trying to install netbeans 4.1 but Windows 7 was having none of it. I did manage to get it installed though by doing the following. Right click on the netbeans installation file and click troubleshoot compatability settings near the top. Once it tries and detects problems click "Troubleshoot Program". You will be presented with 4 checkboxes check the top one labelled "The program worked in an earlier version of Windows but won't install or run now". Then click next. You are now presented with a list of Operating systems, I tried these sequentially and the first one that worked was Windows 2000, which suprised me as windows xp sp2 and sp3 didn't work?? Hope this helps with netbeans or any other programs you have trouble installing on Windows 7.

Friday, 17 April 2009

M526 TMA01 results and M257 Telnet and Windows Vista

I received the results for TMA01 of M256 and scored 84%. I'm dissapointed with this as I seemed to completely misunderstand Q4 and lost quite a few marks. It wasn't anything difficult just looking for Class Descriptions and variable names but I was on a completely different tangent. I'll have to pull the old socks up for the next TMA's to get my TMA average above 85%.

On a different note, for anybody trying to do Telnet work on M257 running windows Vista please see below. Microsoft removed Hyperterminal from Windows so in order to use telnet the following instructions need to be followed.

Start > Control Panel > Windows Programs and Features. On the left menu click Turn Windows features on or off. A list of features comes up, select Telnet Client and then click install. It may take a few minutes. Once its installed you can run it from C:\system32\telnet.exe

I hope this helps, its not obvious from the activity instructions what you need to do.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

M256 TMA 01 Part 1

I received the results back for this a few days ago and scored 27%.... that's out of a possible 30% so not a bad start and with the rest of the TMA due in on 2nd of April I'm starting to wonder when I'm going to find the time to tackle it. This weekend seems to be a good option but fitting it around all my work commitments at the moment is a bit of a chore to be honest.

I tried to read some of the course material during my lunch breaks this week and I'm finding it all a bit dull. I'm not sure if its because M257 is so fast paced and engaging and M256 just seems to be reams and reams of text or because I just have so many other commitments at the moment that any free time I get I don't want to be studying.

I seem to be constantly having those day dream moments when you read a page about conceptual modelling and then realise when you get to the bottom of it you haven't taken any of it in at all. What you've actually been doing is thinking about whether you should have bolognese or lasagne for dinner. You then have to go all the way back to the top and re-read it, egging yourself on line by line to concentrate and take it in.

Lets be honest, learning shouldn't be this arduous and to date it hasn't been, hopefully when we move on to units later in the course it perks up a bit. It will definitely be all go next year with these level 3 courses kicking in.

Monday, 16 March 2009

A few good books....

I have recently bought some books to help me with Java and programming in general and thought I would write a brief description of each here on the blog, something that I can add to as I acquire new books and hopefully others studying this degree will find them useful.

The first book is Java In a Nutshell 5th Edition published by O'Reilly.

This book is big, don't get me wrong, but already it has proved a loyal desktop reference. It contains the full Java API documentation and the author has descriptive chapters covering all the key parts of Java from the basics through to Threading and Security. I think its one of those books that will stick with me well beyond my degree and came highly recommended by my tutor and half of the Internet according to google.

The second book is Head First: Design Patterns also published by O'Reilly.

Don't judge a book by its cover! This book is incredible and I am only a few chapters in. It takes everything I've learnt about Object Oriented Programming and shows me how best to apply it in differing circumstances. The great thing about this book is the way it is written. It uses lots of pictures and activities to reinforce you learning and I personally think the OU could take a leaf out of the authors book (no pun intended) and apply it to some of there course materials.

Head First is a whole series created by leading technical authors aimed at flipping technical texts on there head. I really feel like the learning is sticking without too much effort and I am sure I will read this cover to cover. Once I'm finished I think I will pick up the Head First: SQL book as looking at the sample on Amazon it looks as good as design patterns (and I can hopefully skip the dreaded M359!! or at least make it less painful!)

Take a look at the preview of any of the Head First books and I'm sure you will agree that they are good, if you don't want to buy them try and get them from your local library as they are not worth missing out on.

M257 TMA02

I received the results for TMA02 on Friday, they came in at 98% which is a great score and I'm very pleased with it.

I'm finding the course really interesting and it suits me as it is heavy on the programming front which is something I thoroughly enjoy. In this assignment I was able to make use of the Swing package of the Java platform to write some pretty interesting GUI's and simple animations. The more familiar I get with Java the more I enjoy using it and in addition it is extremely similar to C# which I think will be of great benefit for cross training in the future.

The course is on the final stretch to the Exam now and I am studying the remaining core units on Threads before submitting TMA03 and prepping for the exam. Looking at the test paper its going to be a challenging one!


Monday, 2 February 2009


I was approached by Mark of TutorHunt.com recently to see if I would link to his site as he felt it may be appropriate for readers of the blog.

After looking at the website I had to agree. Mark has developed a great free service where prospective students who would like to find a tutor can freely search for tutors local to them. Also tutors who want to offer their services are able to list their contact details and the subjects they tutor on the website, which will hopefully provide them with a bit of extra work.

I thought this may be of benefit to OU students and OU tutors and I encourage you to take a look at the site.

For more information visit the website or contact Mark

Monday, 19 January 2009

M257 TMA01

Happy new year,

So I had to nurse the new years hangover and get to grips with the first TMA of M257 due in on the 8th of January. Fortunately it went quite well, 94% is a reasonable enough start to a course as any.

The course seems to be flying by, I'm almost half way through according to the course plan and it seems like it only began yesterday. Fortunately the pace of the materials hasn't been too heavy to date, although we have moved on to more interesting Java like the swing library, and with M256 due to kick off next week I'm sure the study hours will pile back on.

I am looking forward to M256, we'll get to properly study development life cycles and design classes on paper first and then convert those designs into working software. Learning UML and making the most of the Java IDE's. I'm enjoying the progression of the B29 degree and finding the material is covering everything in enough detail yet travelling at enough pace to keep me engaged. Hopefully it continues!

That's it for now, I have a date with the Windows 7 Beta and my better half has the Jamie Oliver cookbook out, so I wish everyone all the best for 2009.