Thursday, December 17, 2009

What next?

A number of people have been asking what I will do next, and to be honest I am not to sure at present.

Some students and tutors have suggested teaching.  Although this is something I have looked at in the past I am have decided not to go down this avenue because from what I have seen secondary schools at present do not teach computing, they just teach pupils how to use computers / software.

Several other tutors having suggested tutoring for the OU and this is something I might well look at doing.

Or I could continue studying by doing an Msc.  Having taken a brief look at the OU website I have estimated it would take 5-6 years at a cost of about £9,000.

What every I end up doing I am taking a year off.  Even though I have a few jobs to do around the house, a year of no TMA’s, revision or exams will be so relaxing.

Thank you

Having completed my degree I would like to extend a big thank you to the following:

  • The “Open University” for giving people the opportunity to better themselves;
  • The tutors who have helped me through my courses;
  • My fellow students whose messages of help and congratulations have been a great motivator.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Degree Confirmed

The OU, via my “student home page”, has confirmed this morning that I have my degree.  It is a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Computing, Upper Second-class Honours (2.1).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

M366: Result!

The final results for M366 have been released (3 days earlier than stated) and I got a Grade 3 (OCAS 92 & OES 54).  I felt that the exam didn’t go well for me and I have been worrying since then that I had failed the exam (thus the course) and would have to do a re-sit.  So I am mightily pleased.

This means that I have got my degree and if my calculations are correct it is a 2:1.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

M366: Finished (well hopefully)

Yesterday afternoon I took what I' am hoping was my last exam for my degree.  To say that it was a joyous experience would be an extreme exaggeration as I found it concentrated to much on the minor aspects of the course, i.e. those areas that you think want crop up in the exam or if they do it would be the odd one or two questions.  Plus they changed the way formulae were presented making them look partially different to how they were in the course text.  Exams are a stressful experience and with the time constraints I for one did not need the challenge of having to decipher a formula before using it.

I now just have to wait until December to see if I scrapped enough marks together for a pass and not have to worry about doing a re-sit in April 2010.

Friday, September 18, 2009

M366: Revision starts today

Having attended the M366 strand at the M500 Revision Weekend and submitted my last TMA (Tuesday evening) I can now concentrate on revising for the exam on the 14.Oct.

To aid in my revision I have created a plan:

Day Date Block Unit Description
1 Fri 18.Sep 1 1 Learning outcomes
2 Sat 19.Sep 2 1 Learning outcomes
3 Sun 20.Sep 2 2 Learning outcomes
4 Mon 21.Sep 2 3 Learning outcomes
5 Tue 22.Sep 2 4 Learning outcomes
6 Wed 23.Sep 3 1 Learning outcomes
7 Thur 24.Sep 3 2 Learning outcomes
8 Fri 25.Sep 3 3 Learning outcomes
9 Sat 26.Sep Tutorial   10:30 – 15:00 Croydon
10 Sun 27.Sep Turotial   10:30 – 15:00 UoW
11 Mon 28.Sep 3 4 Learning outcomes
12 Tue 29.Sep 4 1 Learning outcomes
13 Wed 30.Sep 4 2 Learning outcomes
14 Thur 01.Oct 4 3 Learning outcomes
15 Fri 02.Oct 4 4 Learning outcomes
16 Sat 03.Oct 5 1 Learning outcomes
17 Sun 04.Oct 5 2 Learning outcomes
18 Mon 05.Oct 5 3 Learning outcomes
19 Tue 06.Oct 6 1 Learning outcomes
20 Wed 07.Oct 2 All Recap
21 Thur 08.Oct 3 All Recap
22 Fri 09.Oct 4 All Recap
23 Sat 10.Oct 1 All Recap
24 Sun 11.Oct 6 All Recap
25 Mon 12.Oct 5 All Recap
26 Tue 13.Oct Study exam papers
27 Wed 14.Oct Exam   14:30 – 17:30

and constructed a revision pack:

1. Learning outcomes;
2. M500 slides;
3. TMA's & marked answers;
4. 08 exam & specimen papers;
5. Glossary;
6. Maths guide;
7. Course text index.

Using the course text and my revision pack I plan to answer, on a postcard, each of the Learning Outcomes for course.  I will then carry the postcards around with me all the time and use them (i.e. whilst commuting to work) to aid in an attempt in retaining all the necessary information.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Painless Upgrade

In the past upgrading the firmware on my iPod Touch has been a painful experience (unless I have been doing something wrong), in that the upgrade has reset my Touch and removed all my music and videos.  As I don’t retain copies of my CD’s in iTunes this has meant that after the upgrade I have had to go through the lengthy process of re-importing my CD collection.  Thus for along time I have been on the hunt for a program that will allow me to copy my media files back onto my PC so that it makes the re-importing a lot quicker and less tedious.

Although there are a number of commercial programs available, I have been using a program called iPhoneBrowser (  This program looks a bit like Windows Explorer, allowing me to see the whole of the folder structure of the Touch and backing up selected files to a PC.

Even though it is a powerful program it has a couple of draw backs.

  1. You have to be familiar with Unix / Linux folder structures making the hunting down of where you music is stored frustrating;
  2. The music (and videos) files do not have user friendly names (i.e. IHAX.m4a) and there is no knowing what track is what until you import them in to iTunes.

So my hunt has continued, until the beginning of the week when I discovered SharePod (, a free standalone application that when copying your media files gives them recognisable filenames.

After several tests of copying music from the Touch to a PC using SharePod I decided to take the plunge and upgrade the firmware to the latest version (3.0/7A341).  The first step was to backup all my media on the Touch.  SharePod was very impressive, copying 1,300 audio tracks to the PC in half an hour.  The next step was to perform the upgrade itself.  This went very smoothly and after the upgrade I discovered that this time the Touch had not been wiped clean with all my media still there.  Initially I was a bit annoyed at having gone to all the trouble of backing up my Touch but then when I thought about it if I hadn’t I would not have discovered the brilliant SharePod.

Aside:  Anyone interested in jailbreaking their iPod Touch (or iPhone) should take a look at this instructional video

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

M366: TMA03 Result

Last night I got the result back for TMA03, 93%.  Still on course for a Distinction if only I can find a way of nailing the exam.  One of the problems with M366 is that it covers so much information and I am struggling to remember any of it.  Hopefully the M500 weekend and revision tutorials will help.  If anyone has got any revision tips and tricks they are most welcome.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

M500 Revision Weekend

I have just booked a place at the M500 Revision Weekend.

The M500 Society began in 1973 as a self-help group for Open University maths students in Southampton.  Now there are members throughout Britain and in many other countries across the world.

Every year they hold a revision weekend at the Aston University, Birmingham.  The Weekend, 11th - 13th September 2009, is designed to help with exam revision, is open to all OU students and this year includes M366.

There are five teaching sessions for each course, which are Friday 19.30 - 21.30, Saturday 9.30 - 12.30 and 14.00 -17.30, and Sunday 9.30 - 12.30 and 14.00 - 17.00. Total teaching time, excluding the tea breaks, is about 13.5 hours.

If you are doing more than one course, you are free to go to any of your courses for any session. Most tutors will produce a timetable to help you decide which course to go to for any particular session.

I have previously attended these weekends for both M301 and M359, and found them to be invaluable in assisting with my revision.

For further information goto

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

TMA03 finally submitted

Finally got around to submitting TMA03 this afternoon, and as some tutors have commented, it took a mighty long time to complete.  This is primarily due to the number of neural networks (and variations) we had to create and the number of training sessions needed for each one.

Now on to Block 5.  No peace for the wicked.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Online Tutorials

M366 is the first course I have done where there are a number of online tutorials using a system called Elluminate (  This does present a problem though in that the tutor taking the online tutorial can have the tendency to post messages about the tutorial only to their tutor group, as is the case I experienced on Tuesday 23.Jun.09.

Although I reside in region 13 I tend to participate in region 1 tutorials as I work in London and it is often easier for me to attend these tutorials rather than my official ones.  One of the region 1 tutors’ has been very helpful in supplying me with dates and times of the online tutorials so that I could participate.  So on Tuesday I logged on at 8pm only to discover that there was no one else around.  I hung on till 8:30 but with no one else coming online I assumed that perhaps the tutorial had been cancelled.  Yesterday I discovered that in fact the tutor (a different tutor to the one previously mentioned) who took the tutorial had actually started it at 7pm and only her students were aware of this.  I have e-mailed this tutor in the hope that she will keep me informed of the start times of future online tutorials she is taking.

M366: TMA02 Result

Yesterday I got the result back for my TMA02, and am very chuffed as I got 90%.  Like TMA01 this TMA had a number of questions that were word limited, plus some of the questions were not to clear on what was required.  Overall I did not screw up any single question but lost the odd mark here or there for missing out a particular point.

Now onto Block 4 and TMA03, which is all about Neural Networks.  The opinion of one tutor is to leave plenty of time for the TMA as it is very time consuming.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

M366: TMA02 Submitted

Last night I managed to finally finish TMA02 and submit it 4 hours before the deadline.  Initially this TMA looked as though it was going to be easy, but appearances can be deceptive as it got harder and harder the further I progressed into it.  Still it’s done and dusted, and I am going to chill out for a couple of days before starting block 4.

The one thing the TMA has shown and greatly concerns me is how quickly I am forgetting things that I have studied in the course text.  For example I had to totally re-read the section on Ant Colony Optimization as I could not remember any of the details.  This means that revision is going to be a real slog.  The way I feel about this course at present I will be happy just to get a pass come exam time.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Congratulations Bradley !!!

Congratulations to Bradley Smith for winning his first 125GP race on Sunday at Jerez.  He is now 1 point behind the championship leader Andrea Iannone.


Monday, April 27, 2009

M366: TMA01 Result

I have just got the result back for my TMA01, and am rather pleased as I managed to get 93%.  This was not the easiest of TMA’s especially where questions specified a word limit.  I have always had trouble with trying to provide short concise answers.

For TMA02 I am endeavouring to answer each question after finishing the relevant unit.  This way I hope to be able to give myself more time and improve how I answer word limited questions.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

M366: An update

It has been sometime since my last entry so I thought I would give an update on how my M366 studies are going.

  • Block 1 and 2 have been completed;
  • TMA 01 was submitted yesterday (13.Apr.09);
  • Attended 4 tutorials (1 official one at Croydon College and 3 region 1 tutorials at the University of Westminster).

4 tutorials might seem a bit excessive but I have found them (except for 1) to be of great benefit, and for this course any additional help is certainly needed.

TMA 01 has been a nightmare.  I have probably spent double the amount of time of this TMA than I have previously spent on any other level 3 TMA.  One of the major problems was that a number of the questions required us to document our understanding of a particular subject but with a set word count.  For me this proved very time consuming especially when trying to fit an answer in to say 150 words without plagiarising the course text.

AI is a subject that has interested me for a long time, and the course material is both extensive and interesting, but the course text itself is dire.  The authors of the course have tried to cram to a broad range materials into a limited space, with some subjects only being briefly covered.  For example Block 2 has a section about logic and “rules of inference”, yet without having previously studied these subjects in M263 I wouldn’t have stood a hope in hell of understanding them from the course text alone.  This is not being an isolated example.  Block 2 also covers “developing good heuristics” in a page and a half, yet the subject was a major part of TMA 01 question 4.  And don’t talk to me about “alpha-beta pruning”, without a flash based app developed by one of last years student’s I would not have stood a chance of fully understanding this particular concept.

At present my opinion of this course is DON’T DO IT, unless AI really does interest you and then make it your very last course.

Monday, March 30, 2009

M366: Yet another tutorial

On Saturday I attended my 3rd tutorial for M366.  The previous 2 tutorials have been at the University of Westminster, but this one was at Croydon College and held by my actual tutor.

Even though it was a 2.5 hour round trip for a 2 hour tutorial, it was worth it as the tutorial was both informative and enjoyable, as well as being well attended (10 students if memory serves correctly).

After the general intro’s, we had an overview of all the blocks and the TMA’s (i.e. weighting, no substitution), plus general discussions about AI and the course so far.  A number of students thought that the course text made a lot of assumptions (i.e. the logic section) in that we have previous experience in specific areas, and I made the observation that perhaps M263 should be a required course for taking M366, as M263 covers in depth a number of topics in Block 2 of M366.

One very useful piece of information given is that we should allow plenty of time for TMA03 as it will be rather time consuming due to the practical's involved.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

M366: AI on YouTube

Whilst wondering the ether yesterday I came across a couple of lecture series on Artificial Intelligence, on YouTube.  Both come from the “National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning” in India (NPTEL).  Their objective is:

The main objective of NPTEL program is to enhance the quality of engineering education in the country by developing curriculum based video and web courses.

Links to the lecture series:

I also came across another site, AITopics,that is a massive portal to all things AI.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

M366: First Tutorial

Last night I attended my first tutorial for M366. Not being one of my official tutorials it was one run by Region 1 at the University of Westminster. This is one of the many positive aspects of the OU in that you are not restricted only to your official tutorials as you can go along to any of the tutorials being run for the course you are taking.

The tutor was a Dr. Dorothy Monekosso ( and 9 students (including myself) attended. The evening started off with the general introductions were I discovered that for a number of us this was our last course for our respective degrees. This was followed by a crossword to assist in identifying and understand key terms from Block 1. I really hate crosswords, I find them so frustrating. The evening finished off with a discussion about the Turing Test.

As Dorothy travels a lot a number of her tutorials will be online using an application called Ellimuate ( with the first one being on 24th March. And my first official tutorial is on the 28th March at Croydon College (a long way to travel for just a 2 hour tutorial).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

M450: Result!

Last night I got home to find a letter from the OU giving my result for M450.  To my surprise (after all the heart ache and worry) I got a DISTINCTION.

The letter was the standard OU result letter also showing my OCAS (83) and OES (87).  There was no explanation as to why there had been a delay in releasing my result.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

MotoGP: BBC Coverage – A Possible Solution

Those of you in the UK who follow MotoGP will no doubt be aware that British Eurosport has lost the rights to broadcast MotoGP, with the BBC now being the sole broadcaster of the event.

This means that we are no longer able to watch practice, qualifying, or the 125 and 250 races unless we use the BBC’s interactive service or have access to the Internet.

UK fans are outraged by what Dorna has done by limiting MotoGP coverage in the UK, yet I believe I have a possible solution.

Back in October 2008 it was announced:

The AB Groupe and Eurosport France have agreed a three-year deal with commercial rights holders, Dorna Sports, for the television rights for MotoGP across France, until 2011. 

Under the deal, digital-terrestrial channel NT1 will broadcast all 18 MotoGP races live throughout the season, including a pre-show for each race whilst cable-satellite channel Eurosport France will offer practice and qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday, followed by all three races live on Sunday. Each channel will create its own individual programme for the events.


Therefore why don’t we petition BSkyB to get them to broadcast Eurosport France to UK Sky TV subscribers?  Ok the commentary will be in French but at least we will get back the coverage we were used to, and we might even learn a foreign language at the same time.

Go on e-mail Sky today.

Monday, January 19, 2009

M366: Open For Business

Both the course website and FirstClass conferences are now available.


There are 8 conference areas, of which 7 are sub-conference areas of the main area , M366 09BStudents.  The sub-conferences comprise of an area for each of the blocks (except for blocks 1 and 2 which have a combined area), an FAQ area and a revision area.  At present it looks as though we can post messages to any of the areas except for main area which I find a bit strange.  Still we might found out the reason why at some point.

Course website

The course website is tightly integrated into the students home page under the Courses menu option, as opposed to previous courses where their respective website has been a separate site.  I think that this might be to do with the OU restructuring their websites and how they present information to students.

The main page displays a 3 week view of the course calendar and a number of menus to go to other areas.  For example under Resources you can access the course materials for Assessment, Course resources, Library resources and Errata, with a majority of these materials downloadable.


I have downloaded all the course materials that are currently available, including TMA 01 (due 14.Apr.09), so that I have access to them whilst travelling to and from work.

As yet my course record is still not showing who my tutor will be for the course or when / where the tutorials will be held.  I am waiting with anticipation.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

M366: Assessment Information

Having just read the “M366 Course Guide” here are some of the details concerning the course assessment:


  • Four TMAs
  • No substitution
  • TMA Block coverage
    01 1 and 2
    02 3
    03 4
    04 5 and 6
  • Some TMA questions will involve practical computer work


  • Three-hour unseen paper
  • A specimen examination paper and solutions will be made available on the course website

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

M366: Course Material

Last night I received the course materials for M366.  The package contained:

  • Block 1 – Intelligent machines
  • Block 2 – Symbolic intelligence
  • Block 3 – Natural intelligence
  • Block 4 – Neural networks
  • Block 5 – Evolutionary computation
  • Block 6 - Reflections
  • Course Guide
  • Software Guide
  • Using the Electronic TMA System – A Student Guide
  • Course News
  • Course Software (DVD)
  • Online Applications (CD-ROM)

The course software disc contains:

  • multimedia material, such as videos, audio presentations and animations
  • case studies and other supporting printed texts
  • activities
  • computer exercises
  • web links to various topics and advice on further research
  • proprietary software packages (NetLogo, JavaNNS, SB-MASE)

NetLogo:  An implementation of the Logo programming language, written in Java.
JavaNNS:  Java Neural Network Simulator, a package for producing computer models of neural networks.
SB-MASE:  No description given in the software guide.  A search of the web described SB-MASE as being aimed at students and researchers in AI, for simulation and control of agents and robots (