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russell (1413)

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Journal of russell (1413)

Thursday January 24, 2002
10:10 AM


Get it from CPAN now, or here. Read only at the moment, writing may be in the next release.
Tuesday January 22, 2002
10:14 PM


I read in hfb's journal that there was no module for testing whether something was a pangram. There is now.
10:36 AM

End of exams, woo!

The exams are over. The last one, HCI, was harder than I expected. I knew what all the questions were on about, and could answer them, but I felt I didn't give enough detail in most places. Oh well. I'm sure it went alright.

Went to the students' union bar after with some classmates and had a few drinks, then went to pick up the rest of my coursework when people started to disperse. I passed the software engineering coursework element anyway, couldn't get my HCI one back, but my alphabettically close friend told me he noticed my mark and I had passed.

After that we (Bob and I) went to the labs and I upgraded my laptop to Debian testing. It looks very good. University is good for bandwidth :)

Then I went home and slept. For ages. So I didn't end up going out in the evening anyway (I'd mentioned it to and BLUG, but no-one replied)...

Anyway, glad they're over. I'll probably try to get a head-start on my project before uni starts back again. It's great to have free time...
Saturday January 19, 2002
07:03 PM

Newsflash: exam preparation works!

The databases exam went exceptionally well, for me. It followed the same format as the last few years past-papers, and so everything I prepared for came up. This is great, as I pretty much screwed up on the coursework (one part was to create an object-oriented database in Kappa-PC, a terribly buggy Windows app for OO databases and KBS, but stupidly, I implemented it more-or-less relationally).

I hope I did well. It went well, probably the first exam I can say that about...

Two down, one to go...
Thursday January 17, 2002
12:20 PM

Putting up "Smylers" to see Damian in Belfast

Someone took up my offer of a sofa to sleep on when they're coming over to see Damian Conway speak at All I know is he is Smylers and lives and Leeds and he offered to buy me dinner. Hopefully that'll work out okay... I'm looking forward to hearing Damian's talks, I've heard that they are excellent, mind-blowing stuff!
Wednesday January 16, 2002
09:14 PM

Public transport rant, Software Engineering and Databases

I had my first exam of the year on Monday at 2pm. I left my house sometime around 12.15pm, thinking I had plenty of time before my exam. I got to Botanic Station at about 12.30pm or so (I was reading over stuff on the way there). The next train wouldn't be until 13.18, which was okay, I would likely get to the exam hall with 10 or 15 minutes to spare (the train takes ~ 20 minutes and there's a walk from the station to the uni). But no! With Translink, the train didn't get me there until after 2.15pm or so :( Thankfully, I didn't really need the extra time, as I didn't know enough to take a full 2h for this half-module's exam :)

Moral of the story - don't rely on public transport being at all timely.

When studying for the exam, I did start to understand the subject (Software Systems Engineering was the title). I read most of "Software Design" by David Budgen in preparation, which turned out to be quite a good introduction to the subject.
(Okay, I shouldn't need an introduction as I'd already studied a few modules of systems analysis type topics, but I was never interested in the topic before, so it kinda wooshed over my head.)

If you don't know anything about software engineering, here's how I see it in brief overview format:
  • You want the software to be "good quality" and other abstract notions. You need to think about what this would entail and itemise / realise it. (This applies more to software that you're writing for yourself, I suppose.)
  • The software has to be useful. You need to find out what the users want the software to do. In some cases, you need to find out who the users are and think about it from their viewpoints (in the case of different classes of users).
  • The software has to be usable. This is HCI I guess. Not part of this course. I get the feeling that some people have forgotten that computers are here to help people, and that software should just be something that is easy to use and do its task efficiently.
  • The system has to meet the requirements you drew up at the start. Seems obvious. I reckon you get so bogged down in the details that you lose sight of the original goal though.
  • You have to test it to make sure it works. Don't make assumptions.

Methodology is about looking at the software engineering process and trying to create a framework that would help the novice designer. The various methods that have been drawn up are just meant to help you look at it logically.

The problem seems to be that in an academic context, this loses all meaning. It isn't really explained in the way that "you're bound to run into the same problems as software engineers before you, here's how they looked at the problems and came to solutions", but more in a "here is a method, learn it, regurgitate it for the exam, produce meaningless diagrams for coursework, *stamp* there, you've passed the module".

Anyway, enough about that. The next exam is "advanced database systems". I quite like studying databases. At least you know where you stand :)

I have a friend, let's call him Eoin [0], who says that he wants to get rid of all databases as his contribution to the planet. This seems rather... stupid to me. Most applications in the domain I'm thinking about need a database. He says "use a flat file instead". But, uh, isn't a flat file just another database, albeit an ad-hoc proprietry one? If we're going to use a database, why not try to do it right? I think that's what this module is about, or some of it at least.

[0] He also tends to program in assembly language, and hates Perl. We don't exactly see eye to eye on certain issues :)

Thursday January 10, 2002
11:17 AM

Exam time + new laptop

It is exam time again. Need to do a lot of work for them, but feel terribly unmotivated. I'm almost feeling resigned to my fate on the first one, software systems engineering. Advanced database systems should be okay, assuming I get through my revision in time and do some past papers, same goes for human computer interaction 2. HCI is a lot more waffly and is common sense, so it should be okay.

In other news, I bought myself a new laptop, a lovely ultra-portable Sony Vaio, PCG-Z600LEK. I need to get more RAM for it and install Debian on it, but apart from that, no major problems with it. The keyboard is annoying (small shift keys) and the speakers are tinny, but it is yummy.

I have to go to the library now. First exam is on Monday.
Saturday December 22, 2001
11:09 AM

"Should be in the core" - gnat on Text::Echelon

gnat wrote nice things about my little module. *blush*
Wednesday December 19, 2001
07:36 AM


I finally released a module! Admittedly, a really sucky one, but released nontheless. It is Text::Echelon, and I uploaded it to CPAN today. Many thanks to Tony and Andrew and the others on Belfast.PM who gave me feedback. I think there is one user aside from me so far (Hi Leon!). I found a bug in perl when I was writing this, so hopefully that is useful (thanks to Schwern for fixing it in about 5 minutes after looking at my test case - AutoSplit was to blame).

Oh, and I'm going to release a new version soon. The interface is too sucky right now...
Tuesday November 27, 2001
08:09 AM

Project update, university, CPAN

After a night of heavy hacking, the project is moving along. So far, all the initial stuff is mostly done, but needs to be integrated and tested. I won't have time to work on it until mid / late next week though, because of all this university work that has caught up on me.
(List of coursework I'm working on and deadlines: systems analysis thing, Friday; draft of semester 1 report on my project, Thursday, final draft deadline, Monday; HCI assignment, Monday. I hate how the deadlines all seem to be within a few days of each other...)

Other stuff - got my PAUSE registration through, I'm going to modularise my X-Echelon header thingy (currently at and put it in my directory soon, as well as an alpha of my final year project. When I get tuits :)