Dust to Dust

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Now the crowds have cleared, I went to go see Avengers: Infinity War. And yes, it was all it was hyped to be. Marvel/Disney delivered as usual, and it was a film full of action and dry humour. Although, the banter of the Guardians team does tend to grate a bit (not to mention the fact that Star-Lord was a total d*ck in this film, and no, I have no sympathy towards his behaviour).

Leading up to this viewing, I’ve had a nightmare of a time on social media, trying to avoid all the memes and spoilers, especially those involving the names of those who died/died?/”died”. As it turns out, only two characters I thought were going to bite the dust did (in one case, literally! ūüėÜ), which was cool (though probably not for them).

Still, it sucks that I now have to wait a whole year before I can see the culmination of what’s just happened. In the meantime, I suppose I’ll have to make do with Deadpool and Ant-Man and the Wasp…oh, and the news Star Wars Solo film.

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The end of May also saw me handing in my last two assignments for my Open University first-year modules. Not sure how well I’ll do for L185: English for Academic Purposes online as the tutor (as usual) was contradicting what the question was asking for. It’s been a frustrating course simply because what the essay titles say they want to see written, and what the tutor in his mind wants to see written, tend to be completely separate things. The titles have a more generalistic tone, my tutor, not so much, and I’ve been in a case where the week before the hand-in deadline, I’ve had to rewrite and restructure my essay simply because the tutor has sent out an email detailing what he wants for the essay. Maddening! Hopefully, someone else will be marking it, and they won’t consider the information that I’ve included in my essay “wrong”. If they do, then my academic grammar and spelling will hopefully pull my score up enough to allow me to pass the module. Otherwise, there’ll be hell to pay!

Thankfully,¬†TM129: Technologies in Practice has been less of a headache. Despite a slightly lower than average score for my final TMA (thanks to one question where I completely didn’t understand what it was asking for, and despite my tutor’s notes, still don’t know what it was asking for), I achieved a distinction overall for my OCAS. Hopefully, my EMA won’t ruin that.

So that’s it, year one is now finished! Now I’m free till October (or probably September, as that’ll be when I’m likely to get my materials and the module websites will open). Time to get my drive on!

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#100DaysOfCode ‚Äď Week 5

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Neither noisy house martins, nor the hottest May Day Bank Holiday on record, could stem my coding tide, and the start of week 5 saw me covering the basics of JSON APIs & Ajax with Free Code Camp, after which, I had a little detour to Codecademy to learn the basics of PHP.

In actuality, Codecademy’s PHP course has been discontinued, and if you go straight to their website, it’s not findable. However, they’ve not actually deleted it fully,¬†and Google remembers all (unless EU law dictates otherwise). So when I did a search for free PHP courses, Google threw it up. It doesn’t completely work, as whenever you finish off a section of the course it only registers as 1% complete, but you still get the badges associated with completing each section, and the course code itself still works.

Honestly, I had no idea what PHP was about, having never touched it before, but it turns out it’s relatively simple. Basically, it’s like the love-child of HTML and JavaScript, and instead of writing all your JS code in script tags at the top of your page, you can pop it in the <?php¬†?> tags anywhere in your HTML code, and it can generate numbers, create lists, and add text directly to the web page. In many ways, it’s simpler than JS, except objects, which are a bit more convoluted when it comes to creating them.

Overall, I feel as if I’ve got the hang of basic PHP, so I’ll be ready for my Open University module in Web Technologies come Autumn. I still need to go over the basics of SQL, but I think I’ll go back to Free Code Camp and do a couple of their Intermediate Front End Development Projects first, just to mix things up a bit.

And what do I mean by noisy house martins? Well, the little, feathered, crap-machines that built a nest over the window of my room last year returned in late April, and have finally settled down to nest, and boy, do they like to argue with each other….

This is 12 hours a day, 7 days a week! How I missed them!

OU Y2

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It’s that time of year again; the picking of my next modules for my Open University degree. I’ve not even finished my final first-year modules yet, but seeing as the¬†option to choose my next ones has become live¬†on the site, and I’m guaranteed to pass my first year, I’ve already picked what I’ll want to do for the first¬†half of the second-year. My choices: M250 Object-oriented Java programming, & TT284 Web Technologies.

They’re both 30-point modules, so I’m going to be doing them at the same time. I wish the OU gave the option to start modules in February too, as being able to stagger them would make life less stressful, and I believe that’s something that’s been brought up by many other students too. But, alas, this year has not been the year for implementing that idea (that is if it’ll ever be).

Anyway, choosing these modules now leads on to my next plan, which’ll¬†be to undertake the ‘100 days of code‘ challenge. The two modules I’ve picked involve programming.¬†Object-oriented Java speaks for itself, but¬†Web Technologies (looking at the course blurb) will include HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript and SQL. I have played around with¬†HTML, CSS and¬†JavaScript before, but I’m rather rusty when it comes to¬†CSS and¬†JavaScript (I’d completely forgotten about Bootstrapping in CSS!), so covering these different languages in the summer break seems like the smart thing to do. And hopefully, by doing so, I won’t be completely overwhelmed when Y2 starts.

Although my Y1 modules don’t technically finish until May/June, I’ve finished all the material, and just have the assessments to refine and hand in by their due dates. Therefore, I plan to start the challenge after the Easter weekend. Most of what I want to cover is over on FreeCodeCamp, including building a portfolio page (which is something I’m going to be in dire need of when I go job hunting in the future). Therefore, come April, I’ll be slowly working my way through the ‘basic’ portion of their Front End Development Certification. Stay tuned to see how I get on!

Free Course: A Review – Internet of Everything (IoE)

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During my short break between Open University modules, I decided to do one of the OU’s free courses on OpenLearn. As I have a mind towards the web, I chose to do the Internet of Everything (IoE), which was listed as an introductory level science, maths & technology course.¬†The general blurb seemed interesting enough, and it made the course sound like something that would keep my interest….

The internet of everything (IoE) is the networked connection of people, process, data and things. As more people, data and things come online, we develop processes to harness the vast amounts information being generated by all these connected people and things. The goal of this free course is to introduce fundamental concepts and technologies that enable the IoE.

[OpenLearn]

My studying of it didn’t go completely to plan, as I decided to start my second set of proper university modules as soon as the module websites opened, which truncated my free time rather. Still, I persevered, and shoe-horned in the alleged 15 hours worth of studying time. My stubbornness paid off, and I passed the course. I’m not sure what my overall grade was, but I passed each section’s test with results of over 80% (despite one question in the final assessment quiz being duff, and asking me for two answers when only one was correct).

Week 1: What is the IoE? – quiz score 87%
Week 2: Pillars of the IoE Рquiz score 80%
Week 3: Connecting the unconnected – quiz score 97%
Week 4: Transitioning to the IoE – quiz score 90%
Week 5: Bringing it all together – quiz score 86%
Final assessment quiz score 87%

Anyway, with the course done and dusted, I have a few gripes/warnings to make for anyone else considering undertaking it.

First off, it took longer than 15 hours. There’s a lot of technical detail and waffle in this course, and I’m sure getting through it took me twice as long as it was supposed to. Which is saying something, as I usually breeze through OpenLearn courses in less time than they state it should take.

This brings me to my second gripe, which is, although the blurb says it’s an introductory-level course, I would disagree. Coming at it with computer knowledge already in hand (like I did, having just completed an ICT module) is a good idea if you want to better understand the material when it goes into TCP/IPs, gateways, security, and the like. Otherwise, the module text may come across a¬†bit more technical than you’re prepared for.

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Thirdly, although¬†it’s listed as a STEM-type course, in a lot of places it feels more ‘business management’ in its wording, and because of that tone, I did get bogged down¬†and bored in places. The overall tone of the course was probably down to the people who were responsible for creating it,¬†which leads me to my final complaint…. The course is¬†a collaboration between The Open University and Cisco Systems, which means the material provided comes across as a protracted advert for Cisco Systems at times.

Despite these issues, at the end of the course I did feel as though I understood better what the IoE meant (it’s different to the IoT, but includes the IoT), and how it can be integrated into our lives and businesses, but I doubt I’ll be drawing on this knowledge in the future.

So, in summary, if you have a bit ICT knowledge to hand, and want to know more about what the IoE is, how it’s being implemented, and what it means for businesses in the future, then you may want to consider this course. However, be prepared for a lot of business-type waffle, and be aware that the course may take you longer to work through than it states. The test quizzes are no walk in the park either, so be prepared to actually re-read the material before doing them.

Pumpkins and Pass Marks

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Another one of those posts that’s just a couple of smaller topics mushed together.

First up, I got my results back for my TU100 (My Digital Life) module, and I’m more than happy with the results, having passed it with a distinction. Initially, my score was a more than respectable…

Overall Examinable Score: 94%
Overall Continuous Assessment Score: 86%
Result: Distinction

But the next day I got an email saying they’d miscalculated my score. *Dun¬†dun dun…!* However, this turned out to be good news, as they’d failed to take into account my online-exam, and my¬†overall continuous assessment score (OCAS) went up to 90%!

I must say, I’m genuinely surprised¬†by my OES score. I was expecting it to be in the 80’s. One of the questions asked me to write a couple of pieces of text as if applying for a job, which considering I’m still unemployed, I figured I’d do badly at. There were also some calculations I had to do, and while the maths was simple, last time I did calculations in a TMA I lost marks for layout. I also had to do some argument mapping, which I sucked the big one at during the practice goes in the module. All in all, I was positive I’d lose major marks over these, yet I managed to get 94%. Unfortunately, you don’t get the marked version of the final assessments¬†back, so I have no idea what I rocked, and what I could’ve done better at, which sucks. Now all I have to do is keep this momentum up for the next five-and-a-half-years. Easy! *ahem*

October ended with good ol’ Halloween. Me being me, I gutted and carved a pumpkin, nearly crippling my hand in the process.

The guts I used to make soup, which allowed me to use up the last 2 bottles of utterly disgusting BrewDog’s Nanny State (vegan and alcohol-free) IPA I had. I’d bought the stuff as something different to drink on a Saturday night, but I didn’t make it through the first bottle. Ugh, it was too bitter and so rank! So, I veganised¬†this Pumpkin Soup with Beer and Cheese recipe, using Oatly Cream in place of whole milk, and Tesco’s vegan Jalapeno And Chilli Cheese. The result was passable. The bitterness of the beer still came through (tbh, I doubt anything short of a nuclear explosion could eradicate that stuff’s taste), but the soup’s overall creaminess helped reduce the gag factor.

The seeds I roasted…or rather, I burnt to a crisp. Honestly, it’s a toss of the coin as to whether I get them right. So far, I’ve only ever once managed to cook them okay, and that time was not this year. So into the recycling they went.

So that’s all that done for another year. Not long to go now till Yule!

Monthly Reads – October 2017

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

[The Three Laws of Robotics: Issac Asimov]

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I’ve finally read I, Robot! And none too soon, as I’ve been breezing ahead with my Open University material, and I’m now several weeks ahead in my¬†TM129 studies.

I have to say, the way the book is structured is completely different to what I was expecting, having only ever seen the movie. I’d read that it was laid out in a series of short stories, but I didn’t realise the stories had no real bearing on the movie of the same name.

In reality, the book revolves around an unknown interviewer, and his questioning of Dr. Susan Calvin, a robopsychologist at US Robots. She relates, through these short stories, the evolution of robots and robotics through the mid 21st Century. Simultaneously, the actual writer of the stories, Isaac Asimov, explores his three laws of robotics, and how they interplay with each other in unusual situations, or if their precedent with respect to each other is changed.

Still, despite the stories being completely different¬†to the movie, I found I, Robot to be very interesting, and in places gripping. It gives the reader an idea of what the future of human and robotic/artificial intelligence (AI) interactions could be like, with family companions, superintelligent robots, mind-reading robots, anti-robot laws, and humanity-controlling ‘machines’ being considered through its chapters.

The narrative¬†does come across as a bit aged in places, with characters smoking in buildings, and robots saying “golly”, but even so,¬†Asimov’s view of the AI of the future is pretty believable. However, in reality, we’re a long way off in terms of the types of AI Asimov conjures up in his book. For example,¬†Google’s AI is apparently no smarter than a 6-year-old. Further, there’s unlikely to be a ‘positronic brain’ in the offing anytime soon, to help speed up AI advancement. So, despite the AI scare stories that have been thrown about of late, we’re not heading towards a robot uprising anytime soon.

As well as I, Robot, I read my monthly Essential X-Men magazine, and a Garfield book I had to tag on to an Amazon order to get free posting. But with I, Robot finished, it’s back to my Kindle backlog of free fantasy novels. I’ve started on¬†Pax of Wildly Women, by V.C. Bestor, so stay tuned for its review in November’s¬†Monthly Reads post.

Choosing a New Path at the OU

Recently, I was mooching about the Open University’s revamped study pages, when I stumbled across a widget that lets you plan out your future module choices. This got me thinking more in-depth about what path I wanted to follow.

monitor-1307227_1280As I’ve said before, I’m doing an Open Degree, which gives me plenty of flexibility, but I’ve chosen to follow, more or less, the Computer Science route, but with the two Creative Writing modules thrown in. But the question was, what Computer Science route? The OU provides lots of different ICT modules. Some big (60 points), like the now dearly departed My Digital Life (TU100) was, and others small (30 points), like Technologies in Practice (TM129) is. Luckily I had a vague notion of what I was interested in, namely web page design, and as it happens, the OU has a path for that.

For the Open Degree, the OU helpfully provides lots of different study plans based on possible routes of interest, as (and speaking from experience) choosing what to do when given free module reign can be fairly daunting and confusing. I happened to have a bit more of a direction in mind, as I wanted to make a bespoke degree that would help me with web communications, but I still wasn’t sure what modules to do. However, one of the routes created by the OU happens¬†to be Web Development…

This route provides an insight into the internet technologies required to design and create web, cloud and mobile applications and services together with an appreciation of both technical and business perspectives. [OU website]

Stumbling across this has made me completely rethink what I was going to study in the second year. I had planned on doing¬†Communication and Information Technologies (TM255), which (while it contains the word communications) focuses more on data sharing, wireless networks, online collaboration and the like, which, if I’m honest, wasn’t really the path I wanted to take. But thanks to the route map, I’ve shifted focus, and plan to do two half-modules in its place, namely Object-Oriented Java Programming (M250) and¬†Web Technologies (TT284). This, in turn, led me to think about my third-year modules, and given that some of the modules I want to take will be ending during my duration of study, I had to plan carefully what I wanted to take and when.

Subsequently, I made a thing…..

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*I May have to wait until I complete the previous IT module, or I may be able to start it at the same time

I’m undecided between TM356 and TM352, but I should have a better idea of things once I’ve done the second year modules. TM356 has an exam as part of its marking process, and I don’t do well in exams. Being able to do coursework, and having time to consider my answers, is way better for me. Conversely, TM356 ends in a project, which is a bit impractical, seeing as my final module is also a project. Which means, if I do the modules simultaneously, I’ll be having to work on two projects¬†simultaneously (unless I can do the same project for both). It’s a lot to think about, but thankfully I have a few years to go before I have to make a hard and fast decision.

Plus, during the holiday between the first and second year, I can do a free Java course to prep myself.

Actually, doing all this has got me quite excited for my future studies. Knowing what I want to study, and when it’s coming up, has got me quite invigorated. Kinda makes me sad it takes so long to complete a module, and then wait for the next to start.