Thursday, 27 May 2010

Masters year (Semester A and B)

Masters Year

This is going to cover what I've done so far during my Masters year, which should complete my 'trilogy' of posts catching up from when I used to write blogs. 

Semester A

I pretty much finished working on a Friday in September, before having a weekend off and starting my MSc course. Somewhat in a similar manner to how I started work after exams (I had a few days, then a weekend, then I stared work). Luckily the first week was mainly induction and talks on the modules so it wasn't too bad. Had been trying to sort out things for PSiFA at the same time (rooms etc.) for the Freshers Fair that Friday. 

The Freshers Fair was OK, quite loud and busy, and with a small table, but we made do. Managed to run out of leaflets so ended up scribbling down some basic information on Magic: The Gathering cards and handing them out to people. Got a lot of e-mail addresses to start off the mailing list with and handed the pads out among the committee to type them up. 

The first Thursday (i.e. film night) PSiFA of the year was what is becoming a standard start to the year; Red Dwarf. Always good for a laugh, and I brought along some 'warm gazpacho soup' for people to have during the meeting. The next few weeks included a large range of different films and shows, which was fun (particularity watching 'V for Vendetta' on 5th November). We even managed to get a D&D campaign running, something we had tried a few times, but it didn't always get started. It was a fun pirate based one (I brought along my hat especially!). 

The modules I did for Semester A included Measures and Models in Software Engineering (30 credits), Software Development Tools and Methods (15 credits) and Professional Issues (15 credits). MMSE was an interesting module, some on process models which I've briefly covered a few times, and some modelling which was quite interesting. SDTM was mostly UML which I had done in a previous module, but it was the worst grade I got for that year, so wanted to learn more from the subject. We also did some work XML which was interesting. My main reasoning for doing PI was so I could get an understanding of various legal and ethical issues that can come up while working which seemed useful. After selecting modules, I was thinking for a few weeks if I should have done a 30 credit AI module instead of the two 15 credit ones (we didn't have the talk for AI until a few hours before making our choices so I hadn't given it much thought at the time) as it seemed like an interesting module, but I'm happy with what I learnt from the modules I did do, so I don't mind that much. As they were Semester A only modules I finished them and did the exams in January; getting an A1 in all three (A1 being the highest grade possible), which I was very happy about. 

November was my graduation ceremony, had to miss a PSiFA meeting for it (a rare occurrence in my past 5 years...), but the ceremony was fun. Lots of sitting around wearing funny outfits, but I had a good time. Me and Liz were in the same ceremony which was handy so we could see each other graduate. We also had Hannah visit for a day, and she quickly borrowed Liz's outfit for a photo as she was out of the country for her ceremony the previous year. For the official photos we confirmed what we had been told by friends who graduated the year before; the 'certificate' being held in the photos is actually a kitchen roll covered in some paper and wrapped in a ribbon, but it makes for a nice photo. 

Didn't do too much socializing outside of PSiFA, for a number of reasons. Mainly due to being fairly busy with Masters work, but also because more and more people that I knew at Uni have since left, so I had less people to find on nights out (and those who are still around are equally busy with courses!). There's a big new Student Union build, and the only times I've been into the main room is twice for Freshers Fair, for the Drama Society panto, and for Volunteer recognition evening. Seems a nice venue though. The alt night changed its name again to 'F-Alt', which sounds a bit silly. The new Ele House looks a bit posh now, and the old Ele House is now the Volunteer Centre, where I spent a bit of time sorting out PSiFA related things over the year. It's still possible to see some of the old Ele House through the paintwork, the odd shaped brink columns are visible (at the top floor at least). 

For X-Mas, Liz's mum stayed over, and we went to both of my parents families. Went to Simon's for New Years which was fun. After the X-Mas break from Uni there was one week of lectures before the inter-Semester gap (and Semester A exams) which I thought was a little odd. Upon completing my exams, I realised that they were probably the last big official academic exams I would ever take. My next modules were coursework based, and after that was a thesis. The only thing I can do after this would be a PhD which, again, has no exams. It was very strange after over a decade of formalized testing (year 9 SATS, GCSEs, AS and A Levels, first, second and final year BSc exams) to not have any more to do for the foreseeable future. Somewhat sobering[1] that I was that close to finish being a student after so long. 

Semester B

First Monday of PSiFA was a talk by a friend of mine and Liz from Hemel, Tony[2] on board/card game creation which was very interesting. We even got to start making some basic games of our own thanks to some materials Tony had brought along. We split off into about 3 groups in the end, and Tony (and myself once he told me) found it interesting that, of the three groups making games, there were three different types of game being created. One was completely new, one was a variation on another game, and one was an 'expansion' of a game that we currently play. It was an interesting meeting, and one of the first talks we had at PSiFA this year (something that used to happen at PSiFA, then they stopped doing it a bit before I joined, and I started to slowly bring back this year). That week we also started watching 'Trigun', an anime series, which we continued to watch over the next few weeks. Over the semester, we also had a talk from Jaine Fenn[3], a previous President of PSiFA who is now a published SF author. She gave a very interesting talk about her journey to becoming a writer, and even did a Q&A session afterwards. Her PSiFA talk was her first run of doing the talk, as she then did it again as a Guest of Honour at a proper convention that weekend. Dave did two talks, one about Dark Star, and one about Space Stations (both fun talks). Bex did a talk about Born of Hope[4], a LOTR fan film she helped out on (it was also the first time I got to see the film, and it one I would recommend watching). 

The modules I chose for this semester were Software Engineering Practice and Experience, and Human Computer Interaction, both worth 30 credits each. SEPE basically consists of all the interesting things I find in software engineering, and seemed like a fun module (it was!). 60% of the final grade for the module was decided out of the best 6 marks from 8 multiple choice tests. By the end of the 8, my top 6 totalled 55, which meant I had already passed the module before taking the end of module test/practical. Not got the results back from these yet, but I'm hoping to have done well. HCI covered something that I am not overly strong on when it comes to programming; user interfaces. I normally focus on getting the code right and working, and any thought put into an interface is trying to get everything logically represented, so a module on how to design something usable was very helpful in advancing myself in this area. It was graded on two courseworks where we first looked into the design of an e-commerce website before implementing a prototype and thinking about the evaluation of it. From what I've worked out from getting marks back, I got enough to get an A3, although (like with SEPE) the final marks/grades are yet to be released. 

In the weekend before Easter, we held a PSiFA reunion event in the Ele House. There was a large range of people who came along, some who had only left within the last few years, right back to some who were there when the society first started. Having run the 30th Anniversary events the year before, I saw some familiar faces, but also this time there were some new people I hadn't met before. Will be looking to get another one organised some time next academic year. 

Half way through Easter, Liz and I went on a long trip across the country, first to visit Hannah, then to visit Liz's mum. Bringing recently made dinosaur biscuits along the way. 

After Easter, I only had a week or so of lectures before doing the tests and finishing one module, and stopping lectures for the other so we could concentrate on coursework. 

Upon finishing coursework, I was free until I start my Masters Thesis over the summer. This is pretty much where I am now, with some free time until I start, so I started up this blog, firstly to catch up from when I stopped blogging back in 2007, and also as somewhere to write down anything interesting that happens/I think about. 

Although this is a fairly long post in itself, I thought it would be a bit longer. I guess the year has gone faster than I thought...

[1] Hah.