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Normally I really enjoy helping out in SE15 lab sessions, I always relish the chance to encourage our budding young programmers, some of whom are doing incredibly well.

However, there is always an issue with the “computers to first years” ratio and we [the helpers] often have to ask [note the emphasis on ask] second and third year students to come back later. Most students are more then happy to either relocate to Eniac or grab a coffee or three before coming back after the session was over.

Oh if only it could always be the way! I approached a group of three girls all scratching theirl heads over the AI22 coursework and asked as politely as I could if they’d mind coming back later. They certainly did mind. I’ve never seen such pretty faces contort into such grusome sneers as the blonde one protested “WE HAVE COURSEWORK TO DO, WE HAVEN’T DONE IT YET! BESIDES WE’RE ONLY USING ONE MACHINE!!!!”

Did I deserve such harsh barating? I only asked, I am nothing but a loley happy helper doing my job. This encounter totally sapped any enjoyment I normally get from working in the labs [so thanks if you’re reading].

They were only using one machine, but there were none free with four 1st years waiting, how selfish! So what if they have coursework, what do they think the 1st years were doing? They have coursework too and the lab was booked for them.

For the attention of first years really, I can’t stress enough the importance of studying carefully those first few lectures you had in SE15. A worrying number of people are still not aware of the mathematical implications of dividing two integers, and how things get rounded when you do. This is causing a lot of problems with the first coursework.

For those reluctant to crack open your folders of lecture notes, here is a few pointers:

int valueA = 1;
int valueB = 2;
System.out.println( valueA / valueB );

This will give an answer of zero. This is because the answer must be an integer due to dividing an integer by an integer, and integers must be exact whole numbers, so in this case it will be 0 rather than 1 as the result gets rounded down by default.

float valueA = 1;
float valueB = 2;
System.out.println( valueA / valueB );

This gives you more what you would expect if you did the calculation by hand, 0.5 This is because you have specified both values to be floating point numbers and so the answer will be as well. For some input values (I’ve picked simple examples) you will get a lot of zeros after the decimal place. To rectify this you will want to check out string formatting in the java documentation.

There are many other litte mathematical quirks like this with Java, but that one in particular should help with the first coursework. Please do re-read over your early lectures though as this kind of thing will come up time and time again and it always helps to be sure of yourself.

It looks like that time of the year has finally come, when the 9am start is just too much for most SoC students and lecture attendance starts to drop off sharply. This mornings SY21 lecture was a prime example with what was a full lecture theatre at the start of term having more empty seats in it than full ones. This is rather worrying considering we are only half way through the term and in many modules the most challenging content is yet to come.

The plus side to all of this is that walking around on campus and in buildings is that much easier as less students means less of a crush, so if you fancied waking up 5 minutes later but didn’t because of the amount of time taken to traverse red route in the mornings, you may in fact be able to get those precious few extra minutes in bed now ;)

Reading through my blogroll this morning I noticed a number of posts from school of computing folk discussing lack of motivation and concentration problems with respect to coursework and other tasks for the course. In addition to this I’ve also noticed a number of people suddenly feeling the pinch after the long summer break of not being “tuned in” to the academic workload.

While I’d love to be able to offer some magic remedy to these people I’m afraid there is none. Time management and more importantly effecient use of the time you manage is something that is difficult to master, and no one can ever claim to have mastered it 100%. The few things I will offer in the form of help though are these;

  • Plan your time, and concentrate on minutes, not hours. Life doesn’t come in hour blocks, only our timetables do that. 15 minutes spent reading a book connected with your course is better than realising 15 minutes isn’t long enough to even make a start on your next piece of coursework and consequently doing nothing.
  • If you get stuck, don’t get bogged down. We’ve all felt like throwing our keyboards out the window, but when you get to that point, have a cup of tea and start something else. Forget what you couldn’t do and concentrate on what you can, after all the solution may come to you later after you’ve left the stress of not being able to find a solution behind.
  • Take time off, but plan it in advance. It doesn’t take being told that we can’t work all the time, but all too often we go out when asked by friends and this is usually at short notice. They don’t know what work you’ve done and what you still have left to do, only you know that. Know how much you wanted to get done in a day and reward yourself when you achieve that, not when a friend suggests going out. This also has a knock on effect of allowing you to enjoy nights out better because you are not stressed about work left undone back home
  • Choose a condusive working environment. Home where our TV, games consoles and music collections lurk is often not such an environment. Try the long room, computer lab or library. If you are going to work with others keep an eye on how much work you do as a team and if you notice it slipping below what you could do alone, question how productive working with a friend is.
  • Finally, if you don’t understand something, ask. We have lecturers and tutors for a reason. If they are not around try news or an e-mail. You could also try asking friends, although be aware they may not have such a high quality answer as they are usually in the process of learning the same material you are asking about!

These are just a few ways I try to keep on top of things, I hope people find them useful. If you have any handy points to add, please leave them as comments.

Finally I struck upon a way to enjoy live jazz and make good progress with my coursework at the same time. All I needed to do was choose my venue for the SE20 coursework as the Wardrobe. That way I could go along and enjoy a bit of live music, and as long as I paid attention to what was going on at the bars and with the staff and such it would be productive too.

I went along last night to do the first stage of my fieldwork and have pretty much covered all the angles asked for in the coursework spec, even asking a friend questions to form the customer interview. Seeing as I go so often I should be able to check my diagrams quite easily too. Jazz and coursework seem to play very nicely together, I could get used to this!

Due to some kind of chemical leak, supposedly from Physics the DEC-10 computer lab will be closed tomorrow for health and safety reasons. Now we just have to find the physics student or member of physics staff responsible so we have someone to blame for the closure of our favorite computer lab….

I thought it was worth mentioning on SoC Gossip that is has now been confirmed that LUU have an anti-blogging policy for employees of the union that prevents them from talking about their job, the union, people they work with or anything in between.

Id like to make a personal and general point that this seems to be a smack in the face for the principles of free speech that every university students union is normally is so proud to support. I urge all bloggers in the school of computing and beyond that you should not allow yourselves to be intimidated by LUU policies. If you want to blog you should feel free to do so. If you are threatened by LUU about your blog we at SoC gossip want to hear about it. If necessary we will put you in touch with the free legal advice you need to find out where you stand.

We support free speech wholeheartedly and are dismayed at the unions policies on this. Please voice your views on this issue in the comments section.

In my LUBS module lecture today we discussed a rather interesting social phenomena called the Halo Effect. This is essentially where we make a judgement of people and then no matter what they do or say subsiquently we allow our minds to bend that action so that it still conforms to pigeon-hole we placed the person in when we first made our judgement.

I found this interesting because I see this around me all the time and it goes a long way to explain why friends stick up for one another even when they can be rather nasty to each other on occasion. Its also rather worrying in the sense that by forming a positive opinion and judgement on someone we almost automatically and subconciously allow then to carry out any action in the future and it will immediately be alright by us, or at very least it will immediately be forgivable by us.

Why this is so interesting in a group of friends context is because quite frequently a group of friends will look at the actions of an outsider to the group that they don’t know and condemn it, and yet if they took one look at their own actions to others or even each other, they might surprisingly find that their judgment techniques need a swift review. Certainly food for thought anyway.

If you can avoid DEC-10 today then do; it seems that the air conditioning has failed/been switched off and as the sun warms the side of the building and the computers churn out their own heat contribution the temperatures are getting uncomfortably high.

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