Monthly Archives: January 2007

Work\Study\Life balance

As I am not or “independently wealthy” I need to work for a living.

As I enjoy learning, wish to improve myself and my career options I need to study.

As I have a loving girlfriend, three daughters and a son who I want to have around I need to spend some time with them.

“How do I manage this feat of time management?”, I hear you cry.

Well, quite often I don’t.  At the moment I’m making some repairs to my house that take a lot of time.  Changing light fittings, switches and sockets is fairly straightforward but it is time consuming.  Plus the company I work for are buying this other firm so I’ve got the fun of developing the systems for them.  So OU study has taken a back seat for the last week or two. 

It’s a good thing I took the time to get ahead.

I tend to spend a week solidly working on OU stuff in the evenings after the kids are in bed and then do nothing for another week.  This is probably not as effective as spending an hour each day going through the course materials but sometimes the kids want cuddles or Hil wants a snog.  Frankly, if I have to choose I’ll spend time being a good father or boyfriend rather than getting even cleverer than I am now.


Filed under Your starter for 10

Pesky Technology update

It’s all working.

We have wireless Internet from everywhere in the house and even in the garden.  Not that you can see much on a laptop screen when the sun is up but if I fancy doing some midnight surfing then it’s all set up and ready.


Filed under Keen Scimitar +2

Thoughts on TMA01

First of all I’m not putting my answers here.  It would encourage plagiarism and probably get me kicked of the course.  If you see anything that is too close to giving away an answer please tell me and I’ll delete it.

Secondly, never underestimate the power of cutting and pasting.  As a programmer I would have to say that cut and paste is the single greatest time saver ever invented when it comes to programming.  Ever!

As usual it is important to ready all the submission rules at the beginning of the TMA booklet as well as anything that your tutor may have in the way of personal preference.  Fortunately this course has an eTMA option to submit the TMAs online so that effectively gives me an extra two days to get them finished.  I usually need these extra days by the end of the course because of my time management skills (or lack thereof)

Question 1

Question 1 is actually part 1 of the TMA and needs to be submitted as TMA00 by 15th February.  The swot that I am, I submitted it on the 18th January when the eTMA system was opened.  Note that the eTMA system allows for me to overwrite this if something comes up during a discussion or I have a revelation.

Essentially Question 1 tests whether or not I have read the first unit, if I’ve picked up on some key terms and if I can find my way around a simple C++ program.  I have, did and can so I’m expecting a great mark for TMA00. 😉

Question 2

Based on Unit 2 it provides a typical OU made up example where some programming would be useful.  In this case a program to record and display the results of lots of interviews with students.  The top level design is fairly straightforward and, if this were the real world, I would have already coded it.  However the question is testing my ability to revise and refine a design and not my coding skills.  Having said that, part (b) of the question looks at my ability to straight from the refined design.  The answer is similar enough to the worked example in Unit 2 as to not be a problem.

Remember to take screen shots of the working program.

Part (c) asks for a further refinement of the program design.  I’m afraid that I couldn’t stop myself from using a different method than the one explained in Unit 2.  My method was neater and did the job more efficiently that using nested if statements.  Sadly the question didn’t want my enhanced code, just the top level design.


Question 3

Based on Unit 3 this question essentially asks you to write code to trim extra spaces out of a given piece of text.  A cheaty person could just google this and arrive at a final answer but that would be no fun at all.

Again we’re asked to capture screen shots as well as code listings and tehn to modify the design slightly.  It’s fairly basic stuff really.

Question 4

Watch out, this question only carries half the marks of the previous two questions and it does not actually require any coding.  Reading through Unit 4 should enable you to answer the question not only correctly but using the methodology outlined in the unit.

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Pesky technology

Stupidly I have installed all the course software form MT262 on my laptop and not on my PC.  I intended to set up a wireless network at home so that I could have access to the course website and FirstClass conference from my comfy chair.  My comfy chair is where I read the course material and it seems logical to extend this functionality to other parts of my study regime.

I have therefore purchased a Netgear DG834G ADSL Modem Router with super whizzy firewall and a jolly WG111 dongle for The Hildy’s old laptop.  I set it up last night and was about 3/4 the way through the installation when I was prompted for my IP address.  “What?”, thought I.  My ISP is Tiscali and they provide a dynamic IP address every time I connect to t’Internet.  Best I ring them up and ask for a static IP address.

You’d think it would be easy to do this.  You’d be so wrong that I’d need to sing the Wrong Song at you.  An obviously very busy lady from the call centre informed me that Tiscali don’t provide static IP addresses except to businesses.  “Arse”, thought I as I began my quest for a new ISP.  She was very polite though and her English was impeccable. 

Having commented on the quality of her English I should point out that my assumption here is that she was Indian and that Tiscali have an Indian call centre.  She could well have been sitting in a call centre in Dublin.  Anyway, I’ve always disliked call centres but she was so enthusiastic that I just had to smile.

After undoing all the changes involved in setting up my super whizzy new Netgear rocket propelled ADSL router I finally got back onto t’Internet and started my research.  Rather than change over to BT (yuck), AOL (ha ha), or someone similar I decided to keep my existing email address and upgrade to a business account.  A business account has the option for a static IP address and is exactly the same price as a consumer account but with double the bandwidth.

Now I’m waiting for them to send me the details.

*twiddles thumbs*

Why didn’t I sort this out weeks ago before my course started?


Filed under MT262

Swotty swot swot

Officially my OU course doesn’t start until tomorrow. Would it be really swotty to say that I’ve completed TMA 01 already?

I need to get ahead, you see. My brother, Adam, is visiting this weekend with his girlfriend, Tracy, and their baby, Jessica.  We’re paying a visit to my mother’s grave.  What fun!  The following weekend is filled with kids parties. The weekend after that we’re celebrating Cait’s birthday with a movie night, courtesy of the projector from work, and a day of bowling and eating till we burst.

TMA01 is due on the 15th February.

I’m still a geeky swot aren’t I?

Grandpa in The Princess Bride

When I was your age, television was called books


Filed under MT262

Thursday Thirteen

Some lovely people have suggested titles for future Thursday Thirteens.  I’m going to do them in the order I receive them and would be more than happy to receive suggestions for future entries

Suggested by the adorable Michelle:

  • 13 things you love about your house;
  • 13 things in the room that you are in right now;
  • 13 things you would do if you suddenly won the lottery and;

13 childhood memories suggested by the fabulous Tracey.

And Mas suggested these:

  • 13 things (that mean something) on your desk, (shelves or noticeboard/pinboard/wall/bag) ? (oh, that’s similar to the 13 things in the room you’re in which was suggested. Hmm)
  • 13 decisions that changed your life?
  • If money was no object, 13 places you would rather live.
  • 13 things that keep you going when the world’s against you.
  • 13 (bad) things that the world always seems to throw at you.
  • 13 truths you’ve learned.
  • 13 secrets you’ve not told.
  • 13 of the best gifts ever given or received by you.
  • 13 people you would bring back from the dead and meet if that was something that could be done.
  • 13 food or drink items we might not expect you to like, but you do.
  • 13 hours in one day.
  • 13 mistakes you regret and
  • 13 mistakes you do not (regret)

Better get started then…

13 things I love about my house:

  1. The people who live there.  My house is just a place to live.  It’s my family that make it my home. 
  2. My bedroom.  My favourite room in the house.  It’s usually piled up with ironing or stuff that needs fixing but it has a big bed which is ideal for snuggling.
  3. The value of it.  I know it’s greedy but I’m making money just by living there.  Think of it as an investment for the future when the country can’t support me in my old age.
  4. The spiffing laminate flooring that I laid throughout each bedroom and the downstairs.
  5. My book cases.  I have stacks of books despite regular donations to the local library and I have to store them somewhere.  Fortunately we’ve got these really old oak bookcases that are very useful for holding books up.
  6. Having two loos.  Don’t laugh.  There are six people who live in my house and queuing for the loo isn’t fun.  Neither is having my “reading” interrupted by the plaintive wails of an eight year old announcing that they’re “desperate”.
  7. The elephants that live under my stairs.  I have these ancient wooden elephants from Africa that live on a chest in the hall, under the stairs.  The Hildy has added an elephant tapestry to the wall for added effect and, when we don’t pile junk up near it, it looks rathy good.
  8. The back garden is small but it’s good just to sit out there and relax sometimes.
  9. The bounceoline is an 8 foot diameter blue trampoline that gets regular use by the kids and their friends and one or two “adults” who fancy a quick bounce.  Little Al christened it the bounceoline.
  10. My L shaped living room is really treated as three rooms.  One for the computer and music, one for sitting and watching TV, and one for eating food and doing homework.
  11. My two seater sofa is soft and warm and fits two full sized people, usually me and The Hildy, with one kid able to squeeze in between us for a huggle.
  12. The clutter.  I know that clutter really bugs some people but it makes my house feel “lived in”.  It’s dynamic and you can usually find something interesting near the bottom of a pile of clutter when you tidy up.
  13. The communal green that the back garden leads on to was placed there for everyone to make use of.  Only my kids make use of it so I’ve essentially got a giant lawn that someone else mows once a month.  I’ve even got a tree to climb.

Next week (if I remember) is Michelle’s “13 things in the room that you are in right now”.


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I’ve been allocated a tutor for MT262.

*does a froggy dance of joy*

Sadly Dr P lives 100 miles away in Oxford and my tutorials (both of them) are 50 miles away in Reading.  And there’s me with no car and a pathological hatred of Reading.  It all stems from two and a half years of living there as a kid.


I suppose I should just get used to working alone and talking to the tutor online.

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MT262 Block 1 Unit 1 – Beginnings

Unit 1 is fairly straightforward,  There’s an introduction to the course that gives an overview as to what’s involved in the course.  There’s some handy objectives:

  • develop a systematic approach to designing computer-based solutions to problems;
  • translate designs for solutions into computer programs;
  • acquire basic skills in the use of C++ for writing programs;
  • understand these concepts in C++ that are common to all similar programming languages;
  • acquire experience of using a modern programming environment;
  • acquire skills in ensuring that programs actually perform as they are intended to perform

Thee are broader aims that include:

  • developing an understanding of the problems involved in getting a computer system to carry out useful tasks;
  • developing an awareness of some of the difficult areas to which computer programming is applied;
  • developing an awareness of the different environments in which computer programs run, and the consequences or the programmer;
  • appreciating the relationships between the computer, its software, you as a computer programmer, and the person who uses the programs that you write.

There is a whole section of unit one that deals with installation of the course software.  It is well worth spending time looking at this even if you’re an experienced programmer.  All future units refer to the methods laid down in this unit so skipping it will leave you at a disadvantage.   There really isn’t anything that you can skip.

Section 4 looks at embedded systems and non-embedded systems and it is vital that you understand, not only the differences between the two, bu the limitations of each.

This leads directy on to TMA00 aka Question 1 of TMA01…


Filed under Your starter for 10


  • I was tired and grumpy from a hard day at work
  • The magic dinner fairy had failed utterly to prepare a delicious evening repast for me
  • The house was a mess from my son and daughters who clutter the place up with “things”. 
  • I had been sent a very abrupt text message informing me that certain items were required from the shops and could I please collect them on the way home. 
  • My train home was late
  • My hair had been blown about so much that I looked like a particularly scruffy scarecrow
  • My working day had been interesting but not fun.

These things all made me yearn for the comforts of my sofa and the snuggles of my lady love.

However, The Hildy, decided to discuss important issues with me last night.  She’s on a contract with the council to provide local schools with parental support so that certain pupils have the help they need to attend school….basically she gets to kick crappy parents up the arse and help them with their problems so that they actually act like parents and take their kids to school.  Anyway, the contract ends in 18 months or so so she is planning her next move.

She’s a smart cookie, my Hildy, not one who is prone to just going with the flow like yours truly.  She announced that she would be volunteering to help youths and teens in a local crisis centre for 6 hours a week.

Obviously I support her in her path of do goodery but I really don’t understand how she can bare to be around people that much.  I can barely tolerate myself for most of the day.

Could you give up your free time to help others? Or, like me, do you just stare, slack jawed, at those who have this much charity in their hearts.


Filed under Keen Scimitar +2

Just saying “Why?”

Righty oh, I’m a former 20sixer who hated the change of platform and the loss of such goodies as comment tracking, team blogs and fun.  I went over the the excellent but dinky Platform 27 which is my more or less permanent home now.  I mean I know everyone and it’s comfy.  It’s just a bit quiet at the moment.

So, along comes my old chum Chloe, the greatest head girl of Slytherin House ever to grace the hallowed halls of Hogwarts, former work pal and winner of the “Best Coffee in the World” award 2002.  She also ditched 20six in favour of a better home for her words of wisdom and decided to try on the spiffy wordpress. 

Then there’s that adorable PinkJellyBaby (another 20sixer) who’s been running around trying on blogs and making a general kerfuffle with all the decoration.

There’s a few others lurking around but I’ve really lost track.  Must do better.  Isn’t that always the case.

Well, obviously I want to comment on their blogs so I really have no choice but to join in the fun.

Anyway I intend to use this blog to record some of my keen observations regarding the nature of human interactions plus some notes on my OU course (MT262) which starts in a week.


Filed under Eerie