Thursday, 27 December 2012

Degree confirmed - BSc Computing (Hons) 2.1

It has been a great Christmas break. I am feeling incredibly relaxed after a week off work and have eaten and drank far more than I should have. As a result this blog post nearly hasn't materialised but now that I have a minute I thought I would quickly document my results for my degree.

Around mid December I received an e-mail saying that the results for TM470 were available and I scored 77% (2.1). I was a little disappointed but the matter remains I was in no way able to get a 1st Class Honours degree with my current grade position, so even if I had managed a distinction it would have been to no avail. At the same time a prompt displayed on my Student home indicating that a qualification was to be offered to me which was my B29 Computing degree with corresponding classification. I promptly confirmed my acceptance of the qualification and was proud to be, for all intents and purposes, a graduate.

Just before Christmas I received some written notes about my project. These were minimal compared to typical feedback you might have come to expect from TMAs but gave me a good feel for how my work had gone. There was a sentence for each of the project goals and all in all my feedback was very positive indeed. The exception was my consideration of ethics which was practically non existent and clearly lost me some marks as well as my background reading being focussed heavily on technical implementation issues. It was good to see where I good have gone a little better though and to see that as a technical project it had been a huge success.

The actual degree is conferred upon you by the OU at a future date and you can attend a graduation ceremony of your choice to celebrate the conclusion of your studies. The graduation dates became available on 17th December 2012 and I am currently thinking of graduating at a ceremony towards the end of April 2013. The ceremony appears to be free for the graduate with a cost of £17.00 per additional guest. As far as I can see there are no upper limits to the number of guests you can bring but as only my wife and I intend to go I don't think I will be pushing any boundaries here anyway!

Graduation gowns are hired from a 3rd party vendor and hire of a gown costs £40.00. Interestingly OU graduates are not required to wear a mortar board so the option is not given when it comes to hiring the graduation gowns.

So that about sums up what I wanted to get from this blog post. Unless anything useful or interesting comes up between now and graduation I am unlikely to be blogging very frequently through here. I am kicking off a years hiatus of learning and concentrating on my family and my extra curricular hobbies including kickboxing, beer brewing and I might finally get my teeth into my Raspberry Pi for some fun!

For now merry christmas and a happy new year. To all of you continuing to study, good luck and keep going!


Friday, 21 September 2012 - Free distance learning course from World Class Universities

I thought I'd post this up as it is a really great site, and the best things in life are free.

Coursera is a website that provides free distance learning from world class universities and professors. The provide quite a range of courses and new additions appear to be continually coming along.

Topics available include the following,

  • Biology & Life Sciences
  • Business & Management
  • Computer Science: Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Vision
  • Computer Science: Programming & Software Engineering
  • Computer Science: Systems, Security, Networking
  • Computer Science: Theory
  • Economics & Finance
  • Education
  • Electrical and Materials Engineering
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Health and Society & Medical Ethics
  • Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Information, Technology, and Design
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine
  • Music, Film, and Audio Engineering
  • Physical & Earth Sciences
  • Statistics, Data Analysis, and Scientific Computing

Courses run from anywhere between 4 and 12 weeks and the lectures are delivered via streamed video content. There are also collaborative environments where you can interact with other students as well as assignments which are marked and returned to you.

Many of the courses provide certificates of completion which can be included in your record of achievement or CV for employers to see. The range of computing courses is pretty incredible. I've already got myself signed up to a graph theory and social network analysis module and a statistical and data analysis course. Take a look here and get yourself signed up, its free! If you don't get on with a course you can just drop out and lose nothing :)


Sunday, 16 September 2012

The final chapter

As I put the finishing touches to my End of Module Assessment (EMA) for TM470 and in turn for my degree I couldn't help but feel slightly sentimental and reflective. Whilst it is only another EMA, one of many completed throughout the course of my degree, here in 60 pages of report writing and appendices lay the culmination of 6 years of hard work and life changing events and it felt like the perfect time to reflect on this journey.

Leaving school at 18 I attended the University of Staffordshire briefly before leaving after only a few months due to a number of factors but mainly my inability to finance myself and a gut feeling that I had not made the best decision for my future.

Upon leaving university I went straight into a paid employment with a position at a call centre where I remained for approximately a year. Knowing call centre work wasn't going to be for me I looked around for other opportunities, taking an office position for a major UK insurer. In this job I was able to show an aptitude for computing and I progressed into an IT focused team where I began to learn to program computers, specifically VBA and then onto It was here that I realised IT was where I would like to spend the rest of my career and I wanted to formalise what I had learned over the years about computing into something tangible that would be recognised by future employers. This turned out to be the itch that needed scratching and it took me down the path to where I am today.

So what drew me to the open university? At the time I commuted to work by train and I was able to get to know a few of the regulars who shared the commute. One of them was studying for an engineering degree with the OU and would spend some of his journeys reading through course texts and proof reading assignments. One day I asked him what he was up to and he explained all about the Open University raving about the quality of study as well as tutor arrangements and face to face study time. He explained how a typical module operated and how it was amenable to his current work and life commitments. To me this sounded like the perfect way to complete a degree, after all my financial position was one of the reasons I had left university the first time around. The prospect of being able to work and learn at the same time was attractive to say the least! Armed with a fist full of motivation I visited the Open University website to explore the options for higher education study and the costs that may be involved. It was then that I took the decision to pursue a degree with the Open University.

When I set out to begin my degree in 2006 I had not long met my girlfriend. I was living at home with my parents (paying rent and bills) and as we've already established I had a relatively interesting job and a steady income that was suitable for my needs but in no way earth shattering. The OU offered fantastic support to me as a student, subsidising the cost of my first two modules and making me aware of other support arrangements that were available. I selected the B29 Computing degree due to the range of modules that were available as well as the BCS accreditation that it provided and enrolled on my first two modules of study with the OU. I created this blog with the hope of documenting my progress as it unfolded and capture anything potentially useful for others along the way.

From the outset there was no doubt in my mind that I would complete my degree and whilst 6 years seemed like a long time, the reality was that it passed swiftly. I eagerly watched the completed modules stack up on  my student home record; each marking another milestone along my journey and bringing me a step closer towards my goal. I learned to anticipate the autumn exam season and work it into my family and life commitments and as someone who is always keen to learn something new, the prospect of hitting the books wasn't a particular issue.

So how has the experience been overall? Well I think it is fair to say that its been both hard work and rewarding. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every single minute of it. There have been many late nights, lots of occasions where I have had to say no to social outings in favour of studying and lots and lots of assignments. Would I do it again? Absolutely!

The OU has brought out the best from me and taught me a lot both academically and personally. I have developed great life skills and met a diverse and rich set of people along the way, each experiencing their own journeys in their own way but sharing the common desire to learn. That's one thing that truly stands out with the OU; when you're sat in tutorials everyone wants to be their and is motivated to be their. Each person has a different story and experiences that enrich the learning environment. The calibre of the people is exceptional! Some of my tutors were also tutors at red brick universities, others had incredible professional careers that have brought with them their own anecdotes helping to apply theory to real world examples. The breadth of people that the OU is able to attract really sets the university apart from the rest and is one of its biggest strengths in my eyes.

There have been a couple of hiccups along the way, I had a module where I was allocated a tutor a good 450 mile round trip away from me, so managed to attend a total of 0 tutorials and 0 day schools. I had a tutor who was surprisingly sub standard teaching M359. That is not to say he didn't know what he was talking about, he really did know it inside out; it was his ability to convey that knowledge in a meaningful way that was seriously lacking. This was particularly difficult for me as the subject was one I struggled to get to grips with. In the grand scheme of things though these were minor blips in what has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

To me the biggest strength of the OU has to be its flexible approach to study. This includes the ability to dictate the pace at which you work through each module and the overall degree as well as when you chose to study (at night, at work, at home, on the train). Its this flexibility that has allowed me to get to this point despite undertaking some serious life changes. Let's face it, life changes are something OU students will always face!

In the last 6 years I left my job in change delivery at a UK insurer and took up a graduate position with a large IT organisation where I have been progressing my career successfully ever since. All this despite being just over half way through my degree at the time of applying for the post. Slightly cheeky to apply for a graduate campaign but such is the respect given to an OU degree in industry I am where I am.  The girlfriend I had met at the start of my degree has become my wife, we have bought our first home together and we had the joy of welcoming our first child into the world in June this year. As I write this I struggle to think how I could have done any of these things without the flexibility the OU offers. Being able to study on a train, in a hotel, in advance of a major event (or catching up following one!) the OU's approach to learning has helped me through every step of my degree.

Now it has not all been down to flexibility of the OU. Every OU student will know that its as much about their efforts as it is the people around them who support them and help them reach their goals. For me this has been in the form of support from my wife, family and friends without whom I would not have reached this point. Whilst studying is a truly rewarding and enlightening experience it brings with it stresses and strains that require dedication and commitment in order for you to succeed. It would be impossible to have made the commitment without the support I had around me. I can't recall the number of times I have had to say "no, I have to study" to my wife, family and friends.  I have always tried my best to say yes but eventually you have to do the work and inevitably sacrifices have to be made. Whether it be an invite to dinner, a trip away, planning a holiday or planning a wedding there have been so many occasions that I have had to say no. In the vast majority of cases the response has been unconditional understanding.  Recognising this support is important to me so I'll take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you even though you may never read it. I'll tell you all in person too...

Having my wife looking after not only me, but the running of our house and more recently our family whilst I undertook my degree has been incredible. There are times I definitely wouldn't have reached deadlines, ate or washed without that continual support. She has been a complete rock throughout my degree and if I pass this module, (which hopefully I will) and get to attend my graduation it will be as much about recognising her achievements in supporting me as it will be about recognising my degree.

So what next... My experiences with the OU have inspired me to continue down a road of life long learning and after a year out I plan to pursue an MSc in a Computer Science related field. Exactly what I want to study has yet to be decided. One thing this experience has taught me is that there is so much to learn and so many interesting things to learn about thinking about where to go next is all part of the fun. For now though I think both my wife and I deserve a bit of time where there aren't constant deadlines looming! Establishing ourselves as parents and taking stock of where we are today.

To wrap up, I started this blog with the aim of capturing my experiences with the OU in the hope that it would inspire others to study and act as a useful resource for students. I can only hope that it has achieved some of these goals. Through my interaction with fellow and prospective students, many of whom have got in touch with me as a result of this blog, I like to hope I have been able to share some of the inspiration I took from the commuter on the train who inspired me to turn to the OU 6 years ago.

This post has the title of the final chapter as this chapter of my life is drawing to a close, I like to think that there are a library of books yet to be embarked upon on particularly when it comes to learning.


Friday, 3 August 2012

TMA03 Results

After a slight delay in marking I received my results for TMA 03 at the beginning of the week. I scored a remarkable 92% which I am very pleased (if somewhat surprised) with. This has been a great result and reflects the time and effort I have spent on my project.

This just leaves me to finish up the development work and write up the finished report ready for the EMA submission, marking the end of not only another year of study but also my degree in computing with the OU. I still haven't quite come to terms with that so I'll save those thoughts until once the EMA has been submitted! For now I'm enjoying the Olympic games like every other person in the UK!


Saturday, 14 July 2012

TM470 TMA03

I submitted TMA03 on Tuesday, slightly after the 12 noon deadline due to work commitments but for the TMA's you are given a 12 hour grace period until midnight on the due date so this wasn't an issue.

The project is going well and development has been progressing at the correct pace. For TMA03 we are asked to produce a draft of the EMA, although there is an appreciation that we may not have everything that we need to formally draft the final report. I ended up submitting 50 pages or so including all my appendices but this was a draft with most of the sections completed so I don't think it was overkill. There was a bit of confusion in the TMA03 guidelines which instructed you to write approximately 6 pages on the review and evaluation of the project, but then asked for a draft of the EMA to be submitted which would clearly be substantially more. I interpreted this guidelines as submitting a draft but it appears others have gone for the slighter approach.

All in all the course is going well, it is very light contact - I haven't actually dealt with my tutor beyond the TMA markings however this has been out of personal choice. My tutor was keen for me to give progress updates but I think that's more to do with making sure I am making progress. I've learnt a lot so far both about myself and technically so the course seems to have been good, whether paying over £700 or £1250 under the new funding arrangements would be worth it I am unsure. In my head I've treated it like a discipline bond, I have paid that money I am definitely going to make time to work on my project!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Dropbox, a great resource for all OU Students!

I haven't updated the blog in a little while, but wanted to post up a link to a service that every OU student should be using to store notes and assignments as well as any other file that they may want to use.

I have been using it for my project work but also to store personal photos that I wanted to have backed up in the cloud and accessible from Linux, Windows and Macs. Dropbox is a free service that gives you 2GB of data storage that can be used to back up documents for private and personal use as well as public sharing through file links that can be emailed around. The dropbox website here provides great introductory videos about the service and how it works. It is also possible to get extra free space should you need it by following the dropbox twitter account and watching the introductory videos. For those with bigger requirements you can pay for a 50GB or 100GB account.

I highly recommend it!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

TM470 TMA02

The project has been progressing well, I have been spending quite a bit of time working through JPA and other technologies as well as time drawing models and diagrams of my system. I have had TMA02 returned and scored 78%, particular strengths points out were my ability to reflect on my learning style and progress so far. There were also a few concerns raised by my tutor, despite having rescoped my project to reduce it in size they still feel it may be too much to accomplish in the time available. I'm still progressing well so I feel it is achievable but I will make a point of keeping an eye on progress to ensure milestones aren't slipping any further.

I am enjoying the course, it extends hugely on the independence that an OU learner is already familiar with, so you have to be disciplined with your time and how you use it. The TMA's also take a fair amount of time to write, not so much due to complexity but I've found I go through a process of write, re-read and refine repeatedly until I am happy with the work. I'd suggest to any future students studying this module that they make sure they stay on top of the practical work and give themselves plenty of time to write the TMA's.

My main tips so far would be the following:

- Plan in contingency from the outset, include slippage weeks because things rarely go to plan.

- Don't be afraid of reducing the projects scope, as long as you can justify your decision and it is a sensible one you will not be penalised.

- Start your TMA's early, I've found myself spending many days getting them up together, everyone is different but I have found this course taking longer than any other due to it's report style over the question and answer approach usually seen in the computing syllabus.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

TM470 TMA02 Submitted

Yesterday I submitted TMA02 for TM470, this assignment was focussed upon progress so far with the practical aspects of my project as well as offering plenty of opportunity for review and reflection upon how everything was going so far. Personally, I found that I have spent a large amount of time on the practical activity and getting to grips with JPA and other technologies I had chosen to use to implement my project. This has meant that my original project plan was probably a little ambitious, trying to squeeze in a lot of dev work across a database, web service, user interface and enrichment mechanism. I therefore took this opportunity to reevaluate the scope of the project and adjust the time on my project plan accordingly. I was also keen to incorporate a lot of the feedback my tutor provided on my initial TMA, particularly articulating how my solution will solve the problem that I outlined which wasn't necessarily clear on the first draft. In general I am enjoying the course, it is a lot of work and completely self driven but the challenge of working to a tight project schedule and teaching myself knew technologies along the way is actually enjoyable. (Even if it is getting difficult to stay motivated after a day in the office in front of a computer!)

Thursday, 22 March 2012

TM470 TMA01 Result

Results came in yesterday, I scored 80% on the nose. Not a bad start although there still a lot of room for improvement! The general feedback was positive with many section achieving a 1 score although I needed to be more specific around what I was actually building. I captured the problem statement well but I did not do a very good job of saying how I was gong to solve it. My tutor also commented on my frequent reference to a REST interface that I wanted to build and couldn't really understand why, this was partly the result of an unclear description of my intended solution but also simple "why?". It's made me wonder if I actually need one. I was originally forward planning, through an interface it would be straight forward to integrate applications with the service but I could simply be over engineering the solution. Either way I probably want to spend a bit more time defining my solution. The other point that my tutor raised was that it may be slightly ambitious to try and create a fully prototyped, mocked up and polished web ui within the timeframe of the project so scale back, simple is good enough. I'll continue to progress taking the tutors comments on board. I think the realisation that I'm shooting for a fully developed piece of software and actually all the course needs is something that is progressing my learning from my previous studies is darting to sink in. It's all about being academic and reflective in how you approach your project, this is where the marks seem to be, whether the actual devolution is successful or not is somewhat irrelevant.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Balsamiq Mock ups - UI Design

First of all, thanks to fellow OU student William for bringing this to my attention. Balsamiq is a web app that allows you to mock up wireframe user interfaces through a web application or desktop application.

The application can be used for free through the web interface but it will prompt you every 5 minutes to say thank you for using it, otherwise you can get a one month free trial of the web tool followed by a $12 (£8) per month subscription or $79(£50) one off fee for the desktop application. To be honest the free web access with prompts will be more than good enough for my needs, I'd highly recommend it to anyone!

Visit the url here and try it out

Monday, 5 March 2012

TM470 TMA01 Submitted

I've just submitted TMA01 for the TM470 project and it was surprisingly wordier than I was expecting,  coming in at approx 3,900 words although this was including code examples in the appendix so in reality it was probably nearer the 2,750 mark. It took me about 10 hours to complete and was a nice way to bring together the preparatory and exploratory work that I have carried out around my project.

The one thing I did find that took a little while was the literature review, which involved citing lots of books and websites that I had been reading. The OU specify the Harvard system as their chosen method of referencing however they don't force you to use it, as long as you are consistent with the referencing you method you adopt you are free to use any (recognised) referencing method.

This was very useful as I came across a fantastic referencing system called This tool allows you to automatically Cite references by typing in a URL or an ISBN number. Just select the tab from across the top that is appropriate to the media you are referencing and it automatically retrieves the details. You are able to modify and clean up the citation accordingly then add it to your list of citations. Lists can be saved and added to in the future, I signed in using my Google account but it also supports Open ID, Facebook etc so it is very easy to get started. Once my list was compiled it was a simple case of copying it and pasting it into my TMA fully referenced in the MLA6 format. This is obviously not the Harvard system that the OU recommends but it is perfectly acceptable, you can also switch formats automatically and the tool will convert all your references.

I'd highly recommend this and will be using it for all my citations during this project.


Friday, 24 February 2012

Apple Higher Education discount for the Open University

I'm currently looking at replacing my 2007 iMac 24" with one of the current 27" core i5 models. In the past I have received HE discount from Apple by providing my student information over the phone to Apple but today I have managed to secure a link directly to the Open University store.

So if you are an Open University student and would like to earn between 12-15% off a new Apple computer click this link Quidco are also providing an extra 6% cashback which can bring the saving up to the 20% mark which is nothing to be sniffed at!

I'll let you know if I take the plunge and upgrade...

---Update 10/07/2012---

It seems quite a few people want to take advantage of the quidco cashback, here is how!

First of all join Quidco by clicking this link

Quidco is a cashback cooperative. You know all all those adverts you see on websites? when you click them and make a purchase a percentage of that sale goes to the website that hosted the ad, this is how websites make money! With Quidco you are clicking the referral link from the Quidco website, and when you make a purchase the commission goes back to Quidco who give it ALL to you. There is a small charge of £5 per year but this comes out of your commission payments, you don't actually hand over any of your money. If you make no commission that year you pay no fee, simple.

Ok so now you know how Quidco works lets set about getting you cashback. Each retailer offers a specific rate which will change regularly dependent upon what they are promoting at the time. Apples rate seems to vary between 3-6% but check the Quidco site at the time you make your purchase to be clear on the rate you will get.

Here are the steps.

1. Clear your cookies, if there is already a cookie for the apple store on your PC that wasn't put there by Quidco your commission will go to the retailer that put it there.

2. Log into Quidco

3. Search for Apple store in Quidco and click the link to visit the Apple store from Quidco.

4. That has taken you to the standard Apple store with no Education discount and dropped a Quidco referral cookie on your machine.

5. Now you need to replace the URL so that you are visiting the Education store, so paste the URL into the address bar of your browser and hit return

6. You will now be in the education store, complete your purchase and your cashback **SHOULD** track to your Quidco account, this may take a few days but check the Quidco page for current tracking times.

7. Sit back and wait to get paid (can take a few months, again check the Quidco stats). Enjoy your new Mac in the interim :)

Thursday, 9 February 2012

TM470 General progress update

I've now been allocated my tutor for TM470 and I have sent off an e-mail with a few paragraphs documenting my project intentions for review.

The project choice forum has been fairly active with lots of people and a diverse array of project ideas which seem to have been growing as the late sign ups have been arriving onto the module website. It's odd really, the early sign ups have had access to the site from October/November time, around 4 months before the course start and then there are those who turned up last week just before go day!

All in all things are going well and I am slowly working towards the first TMA, I have purchased a project book that was recommended by the course, and just about every other computing course run by a higher education establishment.

Projects in Computing and Information Systems: A Student's Guide

This book is fairly recent and gives fantastic guidance to working on a software development project as well as a research based project so it should be suitable for all students of TM470 or any other similar course. I'd highly recommend it.

That's about all for now, I should be getting into the project quite intensively going forward, I'm going to use this blog to capture my progress as well as documenting research and ideas so apologies in advance.


Geo Spatial data and the google maps API

Ok so here's the first of many blog posts that I will be capturing thoughts and research around my project, so apologies for those who read this regularly its going to get busy and I guess over time it will also become quite technical.

I have been carrying out some research on geo information as it is going to be fairly critical for my project, firstly for user registration and location management and secondly for identifying things that are close to a given latitude and longitude. In particular I have spent some time digging around the Google Maps API, documentation for which can be found here

This API allows you to pass a partial or fully constructed address and get a fully geo located JSON or XML response with the address modelled including and missing attributes. An example for Brick Lane in London is outlined below.,London&sensor=false

As you can see this isn't exactly a complete address, but look at the JSON response below that documents the full geocode information

   "results" : [
         "address_components" : [
               "long_name" : "1",
               "short_name" : "1",
               "types" : [ "street_number" ]
               "long_name" : "Brick Ln",
               "short_name" : "Brick Ln",
               "types" : [ "route" ]
               "long_name" : "London",
               "short_name" : "London",
               "types" : [ "locality", "political" ]
               "long_name" : "London Borough of Tower Hamlets",
               "short_name" : "London Borough of Tower Hamlets",
               "types" : [ "administrative_area_level_3", "political" ]
               "long_name" : "Greater London",
               "short_name" : "Gt Lon",
               "types" : [ "administrative_area_level_2", "political" ]
               "long_name" : "United Kingdom",
               "short_name" : "GB",
               "types" : [ "country", "political" ]
               "long_name" : "E1 6PU",
               "short_name" : "E1 6PU",
               "types" : [ "postal_code" ]
               "long_name" : "E1",
               "short_name" : "E1",
               "types" : [ "postal_code_prefix", "postal_code" ]
         "formatted_address" : "1 Brick Ln, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, London E1 6PU, UK",
         "geometry" : {
            "location" : {
               "lat" : 51.5173560,
               "lng" : -0.0709070
            "location_type" : "ROOFTOP",
            "viewport" : {
               "northeast" : {
                  "lat" : 51.51870498029150,
                  "lng" : -0.06955801970849797
               "southwest" : {
                  "lat" : 51.51600701970850,
                  "lng" : -0.07225598029150203
         "types" : [ "street_address" ]
   "status" : "OK"

Not only do I now have a fully modelled address that I can easily parse into a Javascript or Java object, I also have the lat/long information that I can use to base geo spatial searching e.g. show me all locations in my database that live within 5 miles of point x, I think it is pretty incredible!

From my research this can be done in any database using the Haversine formula, one solution for MySQL specifically is documented here

When playing around with example addresses I noticed that if the street name is unique enough all you need to provide is the house number / street and you get the same level of detail which is great if your working with malformed user data.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

1970s Style Laptop - My new project logbook

I couldn't resist it, I needed a log book for my TM470 project and saw this in a stationary shop called scribbler today and had to buy it.

It's approximately one hundred pages with ruling on one side and the other side being plain, which should accommodate sketching and capturing of information as I work through my project. I'll eventually have to digitise a lot of the information but it will be a useful thing to have a round.

At £6.99 it's certainly the cheapest laptop I have ever bought... and it will never crash!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

TM470 and my new keyboard

Here it is, the MK520 logitech keyboard! So after a late night of frustration trying to work up a CENTOS 6 installation with JBOSS in Virtual Box I realised that a Mac Keyboard being used in a Linux OS via Windows 7 really wasn't working. I had been trying to get an example instance set up of the Virtual Private Server that I am going to use to host my project application on but the keyboard mappings for Mac keyboards were appalling. 

I decided to go down to PC WORLD this morning and hunt for a keyboard that I could comfortably code on late into the night and would map smoothly onto the Linux operating system and my current setup. After playing around with various keyboards I settled on the MK520 which is pictured below, after 5 hours coding I'd definitely recommend it!
As for the project, I've been working up the project idea in the course forums and it seems to be going well. Without going into too much detail at the moment I am working on an idea for a Java based web application for a corporate service. I've registered my domain name and started to work up my ideas, I'll be keeping a separate project blog but will try to incorporate some of the information as I progress into this blog so that those of you who are interested, or future TM470 students can get an idea of whats involved.

As an overview of what the course has gone like so far (its not even started formally!) once I got around to being able to access the web forums there are two major forums, a project choice forum and a general discussion forum. The project choice forum is a place for all students to post ideas and contribute comments to each others ideas, providing feedback and suggestions where appropriate. For those people who are yet to identify a project, students have been posting the courses that they have previously studied and topic areas with other students trying to help provide suggestions. The course team are also very active posting responses to project ideas and help to try and focus ideas where they are too broad, or widen ideas that are far too focused. The general discussion forum is there to provide a place for discussions around other topics such as "which IDE should I use?".

So far we have had to submit a tutor assignment form, where you list the courses that you have studied in the past or are currently studying and rank the two topics that you wish to base your project upon in priority order. For me this is M362 Concurrent and Distributed Systems and M359 Relational Database Theory and Practice. 

I am expecting to be allocated to a tutor towards the end of the month and will post anything else of relevance that comes up as the course continues.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Back from Christmas and the M359 Results and TM470 registration

Ok, lets go.... Final module of my BSc (Hons) in computing is about to begin, Christmas has been and gone and it seems like a blink of the eye ago that I sat my Exams.

The M359 result came in over the Christmas break and I scored a disappointing Pass 3 with an OCAS score of 81% and an OES of 58%. Whilst it was a disappointing result and the poorest result I have had with the OU to date, reading my blog posts back it was quite obvious that I didn't have the usual enthusiasm for this course and ultimately my final grade reflects that.

It is frustrating because if I had pulled my finger out a little more I know I could have done a lot better but hindsight truly is a wonderful thing and when life and work is already on top of you its easy to reprioritise your M359 efforts.

Whilst the grade is what it is I am still looking for a strong 2:1 degree if TM470 goes well and I am quite excited about getting started on it. I parted with the £735.00 a few days ago, which to be honest seems steep for a 30 point module which is likely to have far less support than any module I have studied. I can't help feel that its the final milking of the Student before they graduate, and when it's your own money you've saved up it makes you that bit more conscious of how you spend it. I'll be interested to see if I still feel this way come completion.

I've got an idea for a project and after all my thoughts around carrying out a project on AI based work, over the Christmas break I have come up with a new idea for a concurrent distributed system. It will be a big piece of work and I will probably only have time to do some basic work on it during this project, but if it does go well it is something that could be developed and commercialised so it gives me that bit of extra drive to make it work. More on that to come once it has been approved, for now I wait with baited breath for the course module information to become available so I can get on with the project.

I'm intending on running a project log through a blog but I'll post all that information up once it has been created. I've been looking at project management tools and I think I'm going to take run the management through BaseCamp which is a basic project management facility allowing milestone setting, document storage and note making facilities. You can host one project for free at BaseCamp by visiting this link. I've also been looking at source control hosting and have been debating between Google Code and Git Hub  I'll post up once I've decided on which to go with.

Until then good luck with the 2012 study!