Saturday, May 28, 2005

Anti-Hoff Device

Tired of being hoffed all the time at work or uni? Or do you have a family member / friend / Gaz that is always getting hoffed? Then you need the USB Wireless Security Lock to lock your machine automatically when you move 2 metres away from it.

I can see this being a really useful thing to have, and to be left in your bag / jacket beside your laptop all day so it's actually just wasting cycles and interfering with Northsound Two.

Close Yet Far

As if the stress of the group project wasn't enough, my exams started 11 days later. Eleven Days. I remember having 6 weeks to revise for my fourth year exams, and feeling like it was only just enough time to do everything I wanted to.

This is another way (there are many, far to many to get into) in which my course gets it wrong. The people taking the masters are all studying the same modules, and we can't study anything else (to my knowledge), so there's no chance of exam timetable conflicts with other modules. They could put our exams in September and no other department would be concerned. Instead, we get exams on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of the same week, and get only 11 days (10 days when you count the hangover that has to come with the end of a module) to revise for them.

So I've had little time to get up to much other than work for the last month. I did get a chance to say goodbye to Claire last week though, as she's leaving for Canada for a year.

Yesterday was the last exam, and it finished at 11:30. 20 minutes later around 13 people from my course were all crammed into the Bobbin. A lot of us got food, and Gaz brought to the table a stupid amount of sauce packets, which were then used as ammo for aiming at pints for about 30 minutes. The loud "Oh"s and "Aww"s must have been confusing the people downstairs, but it's all fun and games until someone sabotages a brown sauce packet, causing it to burst open over Paul S.

Not much else to tell really. Went bowling at the beach, played pool and table football (I didn't do all that well at any of them), after which our group had dwindled to 5, so those that remained went to Chi for some quite expensive but very good chinese cuisine.

The group began to grow again afterwards at Slains, with Westhill kids joining in. After Slains came the Bassment and Moshulu. Stayed awake for 22 hours and had a drink in my hand for 14 of them. Slept for 5. I'm very tired! Just as well I have a week off to recover.

Much more to come I hope, including my new individual project idea (it's good, honest).

Hate Kill Destroy

It has been a long long time since my last post (as some will not let me forget). I've been exceptionally busy for the last month, more so than I should have been.

The last module of my masters course was a group project - no exam, just build a system with 4 other people and try to market it to people invited to a Trade Fair. This should've been one of the better modules - no need to try to listen to lectures (the amount of my Agents course I didn't get the first time around became clear when revising, but I'll get to that later), just code all day.

The problem is that you don't get to choose your team - it is allocated based on giving each team the same average CAS marks for the first term, and making sure that there was a good mix of nationals and internationals in each team. Having said that I didn't originally mind my team allocation, but that was before the module began.

Paul Ritchie and I got a head start with the project, brainstorming and putting together a database and framework for the system over Easter. When the project started properly, we were already jogging if not running with the system, and the others did a poor job of getting up to pace.

We just got no commitment from the rest of the team. One guy was alright - you could give him work to do (I was the team leader) and it would get done well - but the other two did very little that could actually be included in the final submission.

"Do this part of the system for 2 days time." Wait a week. Get back a partial implementation borrowed heavily from a rival business' site.

"Prepare the outline of our marketing brochure so we can all write a section and we know exactly what needs to be said and with how many words/pages." Wait 10 days. Get back sketchy notes, written once and never read, borrowed heavily from the course website, adding very little to what we already know and not actually helping to divide the writing task.

I think my favourite let down can be summed up with a quote from my individual report:

The day before the Trade Fair I asked X to follow the Roadmap document to see if it was missing anything. He instead had to leave to buy a shed.

As you can see I didn't let them get away with it. I was more than civil until the project was over - the Trade Fair would've failed if I was to busy with my Spanner! I'm even being nice now by preserving some anonymity.

It's hard to get across just how difficult it was to work with these guys. After about half of the module had passed Paul and I had to basically carry the whole thing to completion - coding the vast majority of the system, making a huge poster, editing the brochure, demonstrating the system, all of it.

This is where a course can fall over: I've been getting really good marks for almost everything I've submitted apart from assessments where I'm in a team. And it's not because I'm poor in a team, it's because team's are allocated based on averaging grades, and that means the team's overall mark is bound to be near that average. (Yes that sounds selfish and all the rest but I've been working damn hard on this course.)