Well that was emotional, the TU100 forums opened yesterday. My poor co-moderator Nicky got thrown in to the deep end (I was at a mess top table).

I checked in before work, and there were a few posts (about two dozen) so I thought we’d be OK. Checked in earlier and there’s several hundred!

I’m studying for MS221 and MT264 but it’s clear I’m going to have to put some time in this weekend reading through TU100’s material – especially with Sense, which seems to have captured student’s imaginations.


I applied to stand as a candidate for the Executive Assembly of the OUSA in the East of England today. I’d like to thank Carey for seconding me.

Should be interesting, if I make it.

Conics (or Khanics?)

I’ve been reading over the course material for MS221 (I quit this module’s last presentation for personal reasons).

Khan Academy has a very good series of videos. Plus it gives you points (seriously I’m addicted to rewards – you should see me driving for PS3 trophies).

Anyway, for block A part 1 try these: Introduction to Geometric Sequences, Sequences and Series (part 1 and part 2) and Write a Fibonacci Function; for part 2 try Introduction to Conic Sections through to Foci of a Hyperbola and Parabola Focus and Directrix.

Open access to data

During T175 there was a section on “eGovernment” – block 4 part 3. Section 2 discussed modernising government and suggested that two essential aspects of electronic government should be:

Making most, or even all, of the government’s services available online.

Bringing online services together, so that the user does not have to go to different departmental websites for different services.

The text also remarked there are a multitude of formats and making tools to mine this data is complicated.

Hand Rosling has a talk on TED about a dedicated tool to mine such publicly funded data – Gapminder. The software is free to download and the site even offers handouts, lecture plans and interactive presentations. It’s a fascinating talk, highlighting the possibilities of presenting data in new and more accessible ways.

Edit: Here’s Tim Berners Lee discussing open data availability a year after requesting it.

Injuries, contracts and holidays

Physiotherapist thinks that it’s going to be a while before I’m back running, although I haven’t had a specific diagnosis (the Army seems to feel physiotherapy is a panacea). He thinks there’s a 75% chance of recovery without further referral. So no impact PT and watch what I eat.

It’s all quiet on the education front – my next course (or module as the new terminology  dictates) isn’t until the end of September. The Open University also sent me out my contract for TU100’s Café forum – never read so much legalise.

On leave just now, which is nice. Kids are busy with youth club activities this week so I’m pretty much just relaxing at home. Re-read World War Z (someone I know is an extra in the upcoming movie) and re-played Final Fantasy VII.

I’m also drudging through Assassin’s Creed II. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great title but I’ve already done it. I rented it and finished it. Then I saw it on offer and bought a copy to play the add-on levels. FYI, the Platinum versionwon’t read the original’s save game.

Talk about first world problems, lol.

Largest prime factor of a composite number

The prime factors of 13195 are 5, 7, 13 and 29. What is the largest prime factor of the number 600851475143 ?

Prime factors are prime numbers that can be multiplied together to make a given number. One way to find them is to start by dividing the number by the first prime (2) and continuing to do so until it cannot be divided, then moving on to the next.

Module Module1
  Sub Main()
    Dim beganAt As Date = Now
    Dim n As Long = 600851475143
    Dim factor As Integer = 2
    Dim highestFactor As Integer = 1
    While n > 1
      If n Mod factor = 0 Then
        highestFactor = factor
        n = n / factor
        While n Mod factor = 0
          n = n / factor
        End While
      End If
      factor = factor + 1
    End While
    Dim endAt As Global.System.TimeSpan = Now.Subtract(beganAt)
    Dim took As Integer = endAt.Milliseconds
    Console.WriteLine(highestFactor.ToString + " in " + took.ToString + "ms.")
  End Sub
End Module

Finally succeeding?

I read an article by James Somers at The Atlantic called “How I Failed, Failed, and Finally Succeeded at Learning How to Code“. I’d encourage anyone with an interest in learning to code to read it – he discusses how computer programming is an excellent learning experience but that his own experiences have been tempered by poor instruction, particularly from books. He goes on to discuss how Project Euler became the titular success.

Euler provides a series of programming challenges of increasing difficulty, as the student solves each in turn they gain experience of what does and does not work as well as confidence in their abilities. Importantly, the student is also applying programming to practical problems (if you’re a mathematics student) from the outset.

I’ll post my solutions here as I go. I’m aiming to do one a day but I’ll see how I get on. Not sure what language is best to get on with, Python is popular in open source circles but most of my courses are based around Java.


Completing BSc (Honours) Computing and IT

With ten years remaining in my contract and the government’s intentions unclear, I’ve decided to get my finger out and focus on completing the BSc (Honours) Computing and IT (B62). It can use 120 points from four completed modules – M150T175MST121 and M255 as well as 30 points from MS221, which I have already started.

At level two I’m taking two courses on top of MS221 which I intend to study concurrently, so as to be half way through by the end of next year:

  • T215 – Communication and information technologies (60)
  • MT264 – Designing applications with Visual Basic (30)

Leaving 120 points at level 3:

  • M359 – Relational databases: theory and practice (30)
  • M364 – Fundamentals of interaction design (30)
  • M366 – Natural and artificial intelligence (30)
  • TM470 – The computing and IT project (30)

TU100 Café

I’ve submitted T175‘s EMA and I don’t mind saying its a relief. Although not a difficult module, the OU changed the Computing degree structure introducing TU100, replacing T175 and M150 (which I did several years ago). Along with MST121 I had thought that I had my level one courses out of the way but with the changes, I needed to take T175.

This course used Moodle forums rather than FirstClass. This seems to have been a lot more accessible to new students and the Café in particular has proved popular. The Open University have kindly asked me to be one of the moderators in the Café on TU100. It came as quite a surprise – I hope I make a good job of it!