Tuesday, 29 November 2011

M366 Results are in....

The results for M366 were made available today, I obtained a Pass 2 scoring 66% in the final exam and having and OCAS of 86%. Speaking with one fellow student they scored nearly identically to me so it looks like I wasn't the only person to struggle with the exam. 

The fact that I scored as pass 2 with 66% suggests everyone under performed however I can't find the usual OU course breakdown which shows where the exam results distribution sat for all students sitting the course. If anyone has it please let me know.

So thats it for now, I'm in the process of working out what to tackle for my final project and will update once I have got a proposal together.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

M359 Exam complete, TM470 here I come...

Just returned from the M359 Exam and it was tricky although I think I have got enough marks to pass (well here is hoping).  I made sure to take time over the questions and go back over them trying to squeeze out any marks that I may have missed and whilst there were the odd 2 marks where I was literally clueless in general it felt better than it could have done. I certainly wouldn't have liked sitting the course on its first few presentations as I really think I would have struggled without access to all the past papers.

I have also enrolled on TM470, the project element of many of the Computing degrees run by the OU. I believe this is its second presentation, and in a nutshell as a student you chose a topic of interest out of those that you have studied at level 3 and carry out a project into a particular area with some (but not a lot of) tutor support.

I'm quite excited about the idea, I bumped into Paul a fellow OU undergrad at the exam today who has been mirroring my courses over the last few years as we both head towards the same degree. We were discussing how the AI area is of particular interest and it sounds like Paul has already made good progress with thrashing out a concept for his project and starting to research it. As for me I am pretty confident that I will base mine on AI although I'm fully intending on giving myself a few weeks off before I start to do any research into the matter.

The good news is that was the last exam I have to sit for my degree (and hopefully for a little while longer), I didn't find the course fairly dry compared to M366 but it is bread and butter computing theory so everyone really should do it or something similar to become well rounded in the subject.

That's it for now, I'll update anything new with TM470 as it comes around, I wish everyone who is sitting exams good luck and hope the Christmas results period is a festive one.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

OU Degree Classification Calculator

In the midst of exams people may be wondering what grades they need to be pushing for in order to obtain the degreee classification that they want, I've come across the following unofficial degree classification calculator which may be of some use.

Degree Classification Calculator

It appears to be working although I, like the developer, would not want to make any promises of accuracy. It is definitely worth a look if you are interested in how you are progressing or awaiting those grades or also experimenting with course grades to see what the outcomes could be.


Thursday, 13 October 2011

M366 Exam Complete and Assignment scores

So the exam is complete and there is no doubt about it, it was a real slog.... This is the first time I have ever had to write all the way up to the end of an exam, there is just so much content in this course that you end up putting down lots of information. I think it went ok, a couple of bits didn't go too great but overall I managed to work through the questions reasonably.

One issue I had was a misprinted formula in the exam book, I knew the formula must have been incorrect but thought I would revisit it at the end, little did I know how long the exam would take and when I had a quick glance at the end I noticed what the issue was but didn't have time to re-write my calculations. I've posted this up in the course forums and it looks like everyone else had noticed the formula issue, hopefully we won't be penalised for using the incorrect formula.

I'd agree with a lot of people that this course could be considered a 60 pointer, it has a phenomenal about of work to get through and when it comes to revision time you realise just how much you need to learn. That being said it is an extremely interesting course and I would recommend it for anyone with an interest in the subject matter.

I noticed I never posted the TMA 04 results for the two modules so here they are..... As it stands I'm operating at something like 86% average for M366 and with substitution I think I will be around the early 80% for M359.

M366 TMA04 - 88

M359 TMA04 - 83

Back to revision for the M359 exam next Wednesday, my last exam with the OU! Just a project to go after that!


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

M366 The night before the exam + some mind maps to help with revision

Well... the final night of M366, its been a real joy to study but revising truly has been difficult. It's one of those subjects where you are trying to remember so much you seem to forget what you learned the day before! I have been revising for quite a while and it has been going well but spending the last two days working through past papers has had me caught out on more occasions than I want to admit. I know the concepts its just making sure you pin point the buzzwords, which has lead to a lot of interesting acronyms being thought up last minute.

One thing I did do was create mind maps using a piece of software called FreeMind, this really helped me link the materials together so I am sharing them for people who study the course in the future with the hope that they will benefit from them. I have covered blocks 1,2,3,4 up to unit 3 and block 6.

I ignored block 5 in an aim to reduce the amount of information I had to remember, the way the exam works you have three sections the first two made up of 3 questions each (compulsory to do one from each section) and the final section of one question which is mandatory (covering block 6). You have to answer 4 questions in total and block 5 appears as one question out of the 6 you choose from, so I decided to ditch it and stick to block 4 which appears twice in the exam.

The files can be downloaded here

They will open with FreeMind, I hope you find them useful.

Ok time to get some sleep and get this exam out of the way, I hope it goes better than I expect!


Sunday, 9 October 2011

M366 Revision Aid

A fellow student has made a set of flip cards that cover the bold statements from all 6 blocks of M366. This is an excellent exam revision aid and I would highly recommend its use.

The cards are hosted on StudyDroid.com and can be used on any android phone by downloading the free study droid app from the android marketplace.

To move the cards to your phone create a free account on the studydroid website and then add the m366 card packs to your device by clicking the card pack you are interested in an then selecting the add cards. If you then move on to the Study Droid app and sign into your account you can click the sync icon from the main menu and all the card sets will be downloaded.

I hope this is useful.


Saturday, 27 August 2011

Bringing everything up to date

Life has got the better of me for the last few months and I haven't kept on top of my blog in any way whatsoever. Now that I have a few moments I thought I'd write a short blog to bring everything up to date.

TMA02 - As expected this didn't go particularly well and I scored 65%, the less said about that the better.

TMA03 - I managed to get back into my stride with this TMA and scored 89% so hopefully pushing through TMA04 which I am currently doing I should be able to bring the average back up to a respectable position.

TMA02 - I scored 95% in this TMA which I was really pleased with, the course content is extremely interesting and up to this point my marks reflected how enjoyable it was.

TMA03 - In this TMA I scored 75%, I struggled a little with the work on error curves but to be honest this asignment was probably one of the worst I have ever been delivered by the OU. Multiple errata were issued and the TMA had a rushed feel about it, a lot of students on the course forums voiced there concerns about this so hopefully the OU have taken note.

In general I am finding M359 fairly dry and uninteresting which is making it that much more difficult to spend time working at it compared to M366 which is extremely interesting and engaging and is a real pleasure to study. I am concerned about how the timetable has split the work for M366 with the vast majority of the work, two 30% weighted assignments and the final exam, falling in the last 11 weeks of the course. I'm not sure much can be done about that as you have to cover the basics before tackling the more advanced topics, but its not the most fun I have ever had!

This years study comes to a close in Mid October and then I will have a short break over the winter until I begin my final module, the computing project in February. The majority of the theory for my degree has been taught and now its just a case of putting it into practise before being a graduate, which has got me feeling fairly reflective already but I don't want to get ahead of myself just yet and will save those thoughts for another blog post.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

M366 TMA01 Results

I received my results for M366 TMA01 and scored a great 93% which I am really chuffed with. This easily felt like the hardest assignment that I have had to complete in my degree so far, and it took me a lot of time to complete. I was honestly thinking this is going to be a fail and was nervous when the results e-mail came through but it looks as though the hard work paid off.

I submitted M359 TMA02 this evening which has been pretty tricky in itself, in particular the problematic Q3 B) iii) which had a discussion well over 50 posts deep in the course forum with what looks like only 1 person so far claiming they have managed to solve it. It surrounds relational algebra and I'll confess now I didn't solve it, I put down all my working to get to the different relations I thought would help answer the question, but ultimately it is worth 6 marks out of 100 and I invested many many hours into it to no avail. If I can scrape a couple of marks from what I managed to jot down I will be pleased, but I'm somewhat comforted by not being the only person in this position.

Hopefully the results aren't too hideous!

Monday, 25 April 2011

M359 SQL Anywhere and Interactive SQL in Windows 7 Java Errors

The Open University provides course software to load and manipulate databases, their choice of program is SQL Anywhere and when trying to query anything using Windows 7 the version used just dumps huge stack traces.

This seems to be a common problem for a lot of Windows 7 users, here are the instructions for getting it to work for anyone who comes across this issue on future presentations.

You need to run the programs in compatability mode. To do this Go start > programs > m359 > right click on the "Start M359 Server" shortcut and click properties.

choose the compatability tab then check the "run this program in compatability mode" checkbox, select windows vista service pack 2.

under privilege level at the bottom, check "run this program as an administrator".

Do the same for the Interactive SQL shortcut in the same location. Once done, close down the server, fire it up again manually and it should all work.

M359 Relational Algebra Checker RAEval

Fellow student Nick E has developed a relational algebra checker in Java which can be used to prove your relational algebra and ensure that it is generating the results you can expect. This is an awesome piece of software that I think should be noted for future students who will be studying M359 as it will help massively come TMA time and during study/revision.

Here is Nick's original post to the course forums.

Relational Algebra Interpreter
Attachment Screenshot.png
I've written an interpreter that can work with relational algebra.

The idea is that it is easier to get the hang of relational algebra if you can play around and experiment with the different operators. I looked at some of my solutions and though 'if only I could just run this to see if it works'.

The interpreter handles select, project, join, divide , rename, union, difference, intersection, alias and times.

The main limitation is that you cannot create a relation within the interpreter - you have to load it in from a CSV file. But then you can create new relations from it.

For example,

rela := load "/home/nick/my-rela.csv"


select rela where a > 2

project rela over a, b, c

project (select rela where a > 2 or b <= 5) over a, b It also handles assignment, so: relb := project rela over a, b, c Which creates a new relation called relb. Loads more examples in the documentation along with some example CSV files and how to make your own. Hint: in the interpreter use to get a newline (for long expressions) and use to evaluate.

The project is written in Java and has a re-usable class called Relation that does all the work. It's free for anyone that wants to use it.

You can download the executable jar file and/or source code at:


The interpreter itself is a JAR file called "raeval.jar" and is available under the downloads tab. To run it you need the Java Runtime Environment that is also available free. I have had it up and running on Windows, Mac and Ubuntu Linux.

There are some (really) basic instructions there too.

Note: this is beta software. I've tested all of the functionality but there probably are some bugs left. Contact me from the project home if you spot them. But please be gentle, because this has been an obsession...

Sunday, 10 April 2011

M359 TMA01 and the year so far

Well its been a long time since I last got around to updating the blog so I thought that it would be important to take a little bit of time to write down how the year has gone so far.

I'm currently studying M359 Relational Database Theory and Design and M366 Natural and Artificial Intelligence. Its fair to say that the workload of these courses has definitely made me have to raise my ame a bit to fit everything in alongside work and social commitments.

M366 has a particularly heavy workload with lots of theory which I found myself re-reading and expanding upon further through online and offline resources. It feels like everytime I turn a page another intruiging concept or idea is dropped on me and I have to go and explore it further to make sure I am understanding it fully or just to find out that bit more. It's an extremely interesting course, but it is definitely taking up more time than any other 30 credit module that I have studied to date. I am currently working through the first TMA which is due during the middle of next week so hopefully it all goes well.

The first TMA for M359 was due during the end of March and I scored 80% which I am quite pleased with. Databases have never been something I have invested much time in learning before, getting by with what I have picked up as I have worked with them over the years. It is nice to actually sit down and go back to the beginning and truly understand how databases have evolved and how we have reached the relational database models that are so common today, but also where we seem to be going in the future. The course is covering the fundementals but also more advanced concepts and I hope that by the end of it my patchy DB experience will be much more well rounded. Watch this space ...