Developing concurrent distributed systems (M362)

I’ve just started this Open University module. From the module description’s computing requirements:

If you have an Apple Mac or Linux computer – please note that you can only use it for this course by running Windows on it using Boot Camp or a similar dual-boot system.

I started with the OU in 2008 and it’s good to see things have changed – back then it wouldn’t have mentioned Linux at all.

Joking aside things are changing. Algorithms, data structures and computability (M269), which I’m taking concurrently, has Linux software available with instructions on how to install and configure. I can understand why M362 staff would want specific versions of NetBeans and the JDK installed – the forums are already filling up with questions about various incompatibilities and conflicts and that’s just with Windows.

Fortunately the University has a Dreamspark Premium membership – so I was able to download Windows XP and a license key to install in a VirtualBox instance.

Virtual Box running OU software

I hope we continue to see progress with regards to platform neutrality – I’d like to spend more time learning computer science and mathematics and less time worrying about my choice of operating system.

Developing concurrent distributed systems (M362)

Module materials for Developing concurrent distributed systems (M362) just arrived and I’m a little daunted. I completed the now discontinued Object-oriented programming with Java (M255) in 2008 so I think it would be wise to read over the module notes – thankfully I still have them as PDF.

Thoughts on Web Technologies (TT284)


TT284 Web Technologies is a level two Open University module now in its second year of presentation and compulsory on the solutions development pathway of BSc (Hons) Computing and IT (B62). From the module description:

This course will give you an insight into architectures, protocols, standards, languages, tools and techniques; an understanding of approaches to more dynamic and mobile content; and demonstrate how you can analyse requirements, plan, design, implement and test a range of web applications.

Continue reading “Thoughts on Web Technologies (TT284)”

ICT Forums


I’ve studied six computing modules at the Open University, participating in their forums and even moderating one (TU100). I feel that there is a tendency to criticise computing modules that I haven’t noticed on mathematics modules. Unfortunately students are often not specific in their complaints, leading to responses from the faculty which don’t really answer the question (clearly -they don’t know what it is) in turn provoking a hostile response.

This isn’t to say staff are blameless. It infuriates me that while replying with accusations of not providing enough information, they then fail to do so themselves – stating the number of students on the module would give perspective on the number of people actually complaining.

It seems clear that regular forum users believe they are representative of the majority but from experience on TU100 I’m not sure this is true. A lot of students don’t like posting and I’ve met several students who find forums intimidating. I’d love to see some hard numbers here.

Happy Holidays

I’m at home with my family this year but lots of friends are not. My thoughts are with them and their family – I hope they have some time to themselves and a little peace.

So whatever your faith or philosophy, I hope you have a great time and that the new year brings you everything you seek.


MS221 was a grade 4 pass. From the breakdown of the MS221 exam, it looks like most were in the same boat, with 79% scoring under 54%. I’m happy with the result (it’s free choice on my degree path) but it was a valuable examination experience.

I did several past papers (I downloaded eight) but did not concentrate on time management. Looking at the exam breakdown, it’s clear that I was strong on blocks one and two (mathematical exploration and iteration), less so on block three (continuous models) and weak on block four (structure in mathematics). The exam is in two sections – the first had three questions on each section and the second just one on each. The paper and most of the tutors advise doing as much of the first part as possible. A better strategy for me would have been to do the block one and two questions in both parts of the paper then doing the block three and four questions in part one and finally in part two.

Well you live and learn. I enjoyed MS221 and would recommend it. For now this is the end of my study of mathematics, unless I do a second degree in the future.

MT264 held no surprises and I’m happy with a grade 2 pass. My biggest issue was life getting in the way – I skipped the final TMA when I had to deploy overseas at short notice.

TT284 starts at the end of January and I’m on leave from the end of next week. I’m only registered on the one module just now because I’m doing French language training for work (they need French speakers, the course is free and learning a language is on my bucket list).

I hope the OU continues to use IP-City Centre as an examination venue. Until recently exams were in Colchester, where unless you want to be three hours early parking is ridiculously expensive. The new venue has better facilities and free parking plus its only a fifteen minute drive.

Great Space Race!

From Dropbox’s site:

Earn free Dropbox space for everyone at your school! Sign up (or sign in if you’re already on Dropbox) to get an extra 3 GB for two years, plus the space your school earns!

The Open University is now on 1995 points, 4415 from the next level (15Gb). My invites are here.


I completed the MS221 exam yesterday, the last level two module (hopefully) on my degree, if I was to sum it up in one word it would be “time”.

The paper was split in two – the first worth 72% had twelve questions, covering each section; the second 28% had four questions in greater depth. The problem was time. The paper says:

In the examiners’ opinion, most candidates would make best use  of their time by finishing as much as they can of Part 1 before starting Part 2.

I’d completed ten of the first twelve in part one when the invigilator announced there was fifteen minutes remaining of the three hours allocated. Questions eleven and twelve were on Euclid’s Algorithm and Cayley Tables respectively. I don’t understand Euclid’s Algorithm if I’m honest so I skipped it and tried to get as many points as I could in the last few minutes from the first question on part two on conic sections.

The best I can hope for is 60% but I think around 50% is more realistic. Fortunately, although the MS221 result calculator is now offline, reading the assessment handbook (OU) it appears that as long as you have over 40% OCAS (which I do) then you require 40% from the examinable component.

I was never much good at mathematics when I was at school, so it came as a surprise that I’d enjoy it later. It would have been nice to have been able to attend tutorials (I’ve been out of the country) too but I’d definitely recommend this module. This module counts as my free choice so its as far as my adventures in mathematics go for now.

Fingers crossed.


MS221 Exam

Exam starts in a few hours. Not very confident to be honest, I think my
algebraic manipulation will let me down.

MT264 Exam

I did the MT264 exam yesterday. I should have sat it two months ago but deferred the date as I was “unavoidably sent to another country at short notice”.

The exam was damn near identical to the past papers I’d done – even the order of the questions was the same. Part one (64%) covered everything taught and part two (36%) went into a little more depth – with questions on OOP, text handling and databases. I went straight through the from question one to eleven. As you only needed to do two of the last three I didn’t attempt question twelve.

As is often the case with exams, some of the questions were ambiguous. I didn’t care for the naming convention of the subclass properties in question eleven – that confused me.

Anyway, one down and one to go – MS221 tomorrow.