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Mostly about computers, generally Linux-related

Fourth Semester

And so we reach the end of this three-post sequence, the real reason that kept me away from this blog. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining; I don’t really like to keep a log of my life and I really love what we’re doing in school so far. Without further ado, I’ll list my thoughts on every subject I have, with the warning that my translation of names will probably not be accurate and that the list is in (almost) random order.

Communication Protocols

An introduction to network models and protocols, without going too deep into the field of networks (which I will study next semester). A young team, slides prepared beforehand, but a slight lack of skill from the teacher (Florin Pop). Thumbs up for trying, though, and also for this: he finished his lecture 15 minutes earlier and asked us to stay that 15 minutes and have a chat. This didn’t happen to the entire year — a group will stay longer each week (note: this might be hard to understand if you’re not familiar with Romanian superior education organization).

At the lab we were introduced to Jasper, a protocol simulator written in Java. The idea is wonderful and the result is great, but it’s horribly written, especially because it’s Java. I realise OOP was well chosen for the task, but I have a personal spike against Java.

We have a homework, spanning two weeks, where we must implement RUPD (Reliable UDP) in Jasper. Myself and another classmate have already expressed concerns about putting the packet header (which we must implement) in a String (hence Unicode). What’s more, last time checked, the course portal did not have a forum associated with this homework, so we’re pretty stuck. The homework was almost 48 hours late to appear, which is disturbing, even though the deadline was extended.

Virtual Intruments

I honestly hope I translated this right. It’s a “filler” course, not specifically linked to Computer Science, but still better than History of Philosophy (yes, I studied that). It has so far dealt with standard setups for extracting information from a physical process, but will hopefully come to actually using virtual instruments.

The course is pretty boring, but has the merit that it fills certain holes in the Systems Theory course. The lab looks exciting; although “hard” by our standards (i.e. not programming per se), it introduces us to actually working with an outside device that is not another computer.

Digital Electronics

A continuation of the “Analogic Electronics Elements” from previous semester, with the same two gentlemen for the lecture and seminar, and a different lab assistant (the same one as in Virtual Intruments). I honestly hoped this would be more interesting than the past semester, it started off amazingly interesting, but died out after the first two hours. Still clinging to things which should primarily concern electronics engineers IMO, still a shitload of theoretical nonsense shoved down our throats, still making fun of us with every opportunity. Hopefully it will all be worth it and in the end we’ll actually have a mental image when we say CMOS or TTL.

The lab, however, is particularly new, in that we are actually doing something. We learnt what the four boxes on every desk do, how to operate them, and this week we even got to work them. Of course, Lucian actually got all the work done, while me and Roxi were in utter amazement at how fast and accurate he was. We did make a few funny mistakes, but nothing really crucial.

To top things off, we got a homework for this class. I frankly don’t understand why they did that, because we will ultimately copy them from each other, even though we have separate numerical values for each student.

Numerical Computers

An amazingly interesting course at first sight, going closer to the hardware, yet keeping a computer engineer’s view to it. We’re learning Verilog HDL, but everything is a bit to high level for me: using a huge IDE (Xilinx ISE) and learning how to click through it thus far. I got a simple homework, building a simple FSM that has to work on the FPGAs in the lab.

For testing purposes, we’ve been introduced to a virtual interface to the FPGAs built by older students. Myself and a few classmates agreed that it could have been much more impressive, but it’s still a wonderful effort. Too bad they’re not giving us accounts to the damn thing yet, although they promised to almost a week ago.

Algorithm Design

A continuation of previous semester Algorithm Analysis, for which I will be a lab assistant, Algorithm Design is a very badly held class. The lecturer just brings papers which he reads, occasionally writing silly and inexpressive drawings on the blackboard. He doesn’t even write the lecture notes himself. Moreover, we have the option of just listening to him, because he gives us the photocopied notes in advance.

We have a young (read: a year older than us) lab assistant. Not very sure of herself, but she’s definitely trying. Too bad the problems we’ve had to solve the past 2 labs have been insanely difficult (highschool algorithm olympics, and, hell, that’s hard). There’s also a semester-long project, a program which will play chess. They could not have picked an uglier game, or one that’s so easy to find readily-written programs for. Still, I’m happy with the group I’m in and it will probably be fun regardless of the badly chosen homework.

Programming Paradigms

I intentionately left this last. It’s about “exotic”, as our professor calls them, languages and paradigms. We will study (to some degree) Scheme, Haskell, CLIPS, and Prolog. But beyond the contents of the course, I have the utmost respect for the professor, mister Cristian Giumale. He truly has a gift for making us understand. Listening to him is sheer pleasure. As a comparison, I use some of the best professors I have met thus far; they come with slides, hold an interactive, energetic course, insist that you not take notes since slides are publicly available, and encourage you to address them by their given name; a true hope for higher education in these times. Then, there is mister Giumale. He comes with nothing but a set of keys (God knows why), speaks at a slow pace, and gives the impression of a shy person. But then he catches your attention and soon you’re all ears to what he says. Not using any sort of helping material for apparently hard constructions in lambda calculus is truly amazing, although I realise that to him things appear mundane. The two types of professors are definitely not in competition, but shold both be equally appreciated; they belong to different eras, equal in talent and potential, with the sole difference that one has already proven itself.

The lab is held by someone whose name has a keen resonance to me, Mugurel, whom I know by name from algorithmics highschool olympics. He’s apparently quite bored and uninterested in what he is doing, but will engage conversations on the subject and prove he’s just a bit chronically tired. We’ve been promised a project, preferably in Scheme, but I’ve been (informally) given the permission to write it in Haskell, as long as it has a graphic interface (for which I can use GTK2Hs or wxHaskell). It is my new great ambition to become a lab asistant for Programming Paradigms next year, and hearing that there is a desperate shortage of personnel in the faculty brings a new hope to me.


March 15, 2008 - Posted by | school

1 Comment »

  1. SHIT! Here’s my comment! I study at the same college, same year, and most of the stuff taught is utter nonsense and crap.

    Communication Protocols, should have been fun, ended up sucking BALLS.

    Virtual Intruments!? WTF!? There was no introduction course for this, nothing new here, not the first pop-fly course, then again it’s a “filler”, one for which I guarantee a 20% failure ratio.

    Numerical Computers. Ummm… let’s just say it’s … different.

    Algorithm Design. GOD!, no further comments.

    Digital Electronics. Same asshole, different shit.(What kind of teacher/ assistant, brings 2×300 page books to show us what was done “in the past” and brags about him barely failing entrance for international math olympics at a COMPUTER SCIENCE college!?)

    Programming Paradigms. The lab has nothing to do with the course, nothing is explained. The “elitist” attitude is only second to Digital Electronics.

    Then, there’s the Autumn Olympics session. :D But that, is another story …

    Comment by bb778 | March 26, 2008 | Reply

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