Thursday, April 26, 2012

Coursera's Design and Analysis of Algorithms I — Finally finished!

I just finished the final exam for this class, taught by Tim Roughgarden of Stanford. At the moment I'm bummed out because after spending six or seven intense hours studying and arranging materials for and then taking the final I earned a 24.00 out of 30.00 on what was essentially an open-Internet test with two extra hours to research. (I had almost as many correct at the 0:58 mark as I did at the end, so I should have had better return from the two remaining hours.) Of the three questions I missed, I had no clue about one and misread or made an avoidable error on the other two. Still, I count myself somewhat lucky to get 80% on the final. I accrued technical debt throughout the course, at least until the point that &dayjob; ended and coincidentally the class moved on to graphs. I did not understand a handful of aspects of analysis or related mathematics on early topics (and that's just counting what showed up on the problem sets), but thanks to multiple choice answers and two chances to submit for the problem sets (along with programming assignments which were tedious but not tricky) I had 100% going into the final and ended the class with 94%.

Putting the same amount and kind of effort into the Stanford class, I would have been lucky to get 80% overall, though in effect it would be a different person taking that class at Stanford so all bets are off. The grading aspect isn't really so interesting anyway because there is little if any reputation at stake. (Will anyone try to find a piece of paper taped to my fridge for each MOOC whose forum I show up in?)

Some hundreds of people on the class forum supported the notion that Prof. Roughgarden is a teacher of some talent, and I concur. Thus, some useful artifacts were created -- namely, lecture videos, homework assignments of different types, etc. with matching idiosyncrasies. (For the moment let's ignore the current Stanford/Coursera agreement that puts in question these very artifacts.) What I'd love to see besides the obvious fixes (minus 2 for spelling, Tim!) are layers of crowd-contributed material à la MST, Pop-Up Videos, etc. to provide crowd-vetted context, pointers to remedial materials on the specific topic or terminology, etc. I should be able to pause the lecture and read or reference other materials directly.

Is a CS Education Movie Database with precomputed Norvig Number far behind?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A clear run-through of Dijkstra's algorithm which requires much less caffeine than the one in my class (perhaps a lame consideration, but I studied this and Floyd's 23+ years ago and haven't used them since)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Note to self: Where are my graduate school professors?

I've had computer science education on my brain lately (more thoughts on that later) and just spent a few minutes to track down a few professors I spent a lot of time with in graduate school at the University of Alabama in the late '80s... Two are still in academia, while one left for IBM @ RTP six months before I did...

  • Dr. Yeager, Programming Languages, master's project, probably more

  • Dr. Chung, Compiler Construction, special project to build a Prolog-subset interpreter

  • Dr. Swiniarski, System Programming, Computability

The main thing I remember from System Programming is that Dr. Swiniarski assigned a mammoth project to write a simple language interpreter with macro facility, to be implemented in C, x86 assembler, and S/370 assembler. It has always seemed funny-odd that we were forced to spend so much time on language interpreter issues for this class while Dr. Chung required a lot of attention to buffer management in Compiler Construction.

Back to Applied Cryptology videos...

Monday, April 16, 2012

550 5.1.1 is not an active email address in the system,,, JTRAWIC3 AT UA1VM — a line of personas which goes back to the late 1980's. One more was decommissioned Friday (yes, the 13th).

I'm taking a new direction, at the same time both more and less commercial than before. More commercial? I'll have to go out and find income; it won't appear in my bank account twice a month regardless of what transpired over the last couple of weeks. Less commercial? I'll sacrifice some amount of present enterprise in order to implement a better balance between life and present and future income.