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Andrew Pollock


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Tuesday, 23 August 2005

Dropping out

Well, taking leave from the program is the official term.

I had a shit of a Monday yesterday, and that just threw me over the edge, so I decided to withdraw from this semester. Apparently I can take 12 months leave without any dramas. The only downside is that it starts from the start of this semester, so I need to resume study or reapply for another 12 months at the start of second semester next year. We'll see what happens.

I feel a bit hollow at the moment about doing it. I feel particularly bad about letting down my two assignment partners for COMP2110. I'm going to miss hanging out with my friend Tiane as well.


[05:32] [uni] [permalink]

Thursday, 18 August 2005

To withdraw or not to withdraw?

That is the question.

Never before has a University census date been something I have been eyeballing so closely. I am in two minds about whether or not to persist with this semester's study.


Well there is a reasonable chance that I won't be in the country come exam time. The conundrum becomes: do I risk that I will, persist with my study, blow my fees, and hope I'm here (and pass my exams)? Or do I want to spend my final days in the country relaxing a bit more? That option is starting to appeal to me. Especially given that I really don't feel like I've engaged terribly well this semester with all the other distractions in my life lately (potential changes in employment, marriage, overseas trips, excessive trips to Brisbane).

That and the two courses I'm doing are a combination of damn hard and damn boring: Software Design is boring, and Concurrent and Distributed Systems is extremely hard, with a track record in failing students (quite a few are repeating it). To cap it off, the boring one is actually more important as far as prerequisites for third year go.

I already feel behind. I have two assignments on the boil right now (one of them a group one), and I'm going to Brisbane for the weekend, so this weekend is a write-off.

So I can spend every night next week at Uni, as well as all of next weekend, and flog myself silly, and I might just get somewhere remotely close to back on track again, just to find out that I have to withdraw further down the track anyway (possibly with academic as well as financial consequences) or I can just withdraw now, presumably get my money back, and not get a blight on my record.

The one downside to doing this is it fucks up my original (and future) plans for returning full-time and knocking over 3rd year in one hit. I'd still be two courses shy of graduating.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever going to get this degree. Sometimes I wonder if it really matters. Then I remember how close I came to probably not being able to get a US work visa at all because of my lack of a degree, and I remember...

Sigh. Waiting sucks.

[23:46] [uni] [permalink]

Monday, 18 July 2005

Back to school

In keeping with the hectic theme that is my life these days, uni restarted today. It really crept up and caught me unawares.

I have a dreadful timetable this semester, because I'm doing two Computer Science subjects, and they like doing three one hour lectures a week. To cap it off, one of the subjects isn't doing a 5pm laboratory, so I have to do a two hour lab during work hours.

Software Design, I'm told is fairly easy, compared to Software Construction, but this was told to me by someone who didn't consider themselves a code monkey, so I'll just have to see for myself what it's like. It's got an open-book exam, which is always a double-edged sword.

Distributed and Concurrent Systems is a course that has a bad rep from everyone I've spoken to. With a final exam worth 70%, it certainly sounds intimidating. I need to make very sure I stay on top of this one. Apparently we're going to learn Ada. I always relish the opportunity to be forced to learn a new language, so this course should be interesting.

Just to round things off, parking has become even more difficult, with the open-air, non-permit-requiring casual carpark in City West being closed for some new building the ANU is going to whack up. The parking for non-permit holding people is absolutely deplorable, as I have ranted about in the past.

[05:38] [uni] [permalink]

Sunday, 03 July 2005

Relief again

Got my Semester 1 results today. Scraped through yet another finance subject and got a Distinction for Software Construction. I think it's time to bid the Faculty of Economics and Commerce adieu, as much as I like them and all.

I think Semester 2 is going to really hurt, with two Computer Science subjects. The department's love of multiple lectures per course per week really sucks for people working full-time. I can see myself having to come and go from campus up to three times a day on at least two days a week.

[21:35] [uni] [permalink]


It troubles me that our country's supposed peak academic institution can't get its processes in order to ensure that an SSL certificate is renewed within a reasonable time before its expiry:

        Version: 3 (0x2)
        Serial Number: 4088675 (0x3e6363)
        Signature Algorithm: md5WithRSAEncryption
        Issuer: C=ZA, ST=Western Cape, L=Cape Town, O=Thawte Consulting cc, OU=Certification Services Division, CN=Thawte Server CA/emailAddress=server-certs@thawte.com
            Not Before: Jun 29 07:20:17 2004 GMT
            Not After : Jul  2 00:22:40 2005 GMT
        Subject: C=AU, ST=Australian Capital Territory, L=Canberra, O=Australian National University, OU=Division of Information, CN=anubis.anu.edu.au
        Subject Public Key Info:
            Public Key Algorithm: rsaEncryption
            RSA Public Key: (512 bit)
                Modulus (512 bit):
                Exponent: 65537 (0x10001)
        X509v3 extensions:
            X509v3 Extended Key Usage: 
                TLS Web Server Authentication, TLS Web Client Authentication
            X509v3 CRL Distribution Points: 

            Authority Information Access: 
                OCSP - URI:http://ocsp.thawte.com

            X509v3 Basic Constraints: critical
    Signature Algorithm: md5WithRSAEncryption

[15:57] [uni] [permalink]

Monday, 06 June 2005

You know you've been doing too much Java

when you start writing object-oriented PHP...

That said, it is kinda cool... I've written a class that tells you how many days or how many weeks until a specified date (no prize for guessing what I'm using it for).

[05:25] [uni] [permalink]

Friday, 27 May 2005

Calm before the storm?

Well, with one week of teaching remaining, I have passed through Assignment Hell moderately unscathed. Poor Sarah has hardly seen me for the last three weeks though.

Neither assignment that was due yesterday is spectacularly good, but hopefully I will pass both of them.

Now for exams. Luckily I have managed to get some time off for the week of them so I can do some mad cramming the whole time.

[15:17] [uni] [permalink]

Wednesday, 04 May 2005

Drowning, not waving

To quote Mikal

It's just hit me this week that I'm not going to be able to just sail blithely through this semester and pop out the other end passing everything. It's just not going to happen. Steve's right, full-time work, part-time study is hard. (I mean, it's not like I haven't done it before, and I wasn't terribly successful back then).

I'm off to bury myself in a textbook. If you're looking for me most weeknights and weekends, try the University.

[02:30] [uni] [permalink]

Sunday, 10 April 2005

I am Andrew The Blogger

I went to see one of my lecturers this morning, as I have this week as well as next week off for linux.conf.au preparations.

Thanks to Steve forwarding one of my previous blog posts to the entire Department, the first thing he asked me was "Are you Andrew the blogger?".

[20:48] [uni] [permalink]

Sunday, 03 April 2005

One assignment down

Whilst I don't necessarily agree with the motive for this particular assignment being one done in pairs, I have had a pretty fun time doing the actual work. It was nice to be able to openly collaborate on an assignment for a change.

I worked quite will with my partner, Tiane. We both have half a clue about Java, and we both seemed to be on a similiar wavelength. We were able to elaborate on our ideas really badly to each other, yet understand what we were trying to say and do, which was rather convenient.

In terms of efficiency, it probably wasn't all that good. I think we spent 3 sessions in the labs at uni for about 7 hours at a time, but the time seemed fairly productive. Doing the work in three sessions seemed to help us take a fresh approach to problems. We would solve something in 15 minutes that we'd previously been bashing our heads against in the previous session.

So I'm kind of hoping the next assignment will be a partner one as well, because it's more fun.

[04:48] [uni] [permalink]

Tuesday, 15 March 2005

Poverty stricken?

I just learned yesterday, that the reason the assignment for COMP2100 is to be done in pairs is more because they can only afford to pay for marking of half as many assignments as there are students in COMP2100, than because they want to encourage us to be able to work in groups.

It's pretty tragic that the Department is so strapped for cash that they've had to cut back on the continuous assessment in this manner. They've also cut back the laboratory sessions this year by one half as well.

It's a bit of a fudge, the ANU jumping up and down about how they haven't raised fees, if students enrolled in COMP2100 this year are paying the same amount as students who were previously enrolled in COMP2100, and receiving a vastly inferior teaching experience. I think I'd rather pay more to maintain the same level of education.

[01:45] [uni] [permalink]

Monday, 21 February 2005

Here we go again...

Considering I wasn't planning on continuing my studies this year, I seem to be doing a remarkably good job of being enrolled.

So work was magnanimous enough to give me 2 hours a week of paid time to attend classes, which leaves me with another 3 hours (plus travelling time) to make up myself (so no lunchbreaks and lots of early starts for me).

I'm doing COMP2100 (which actually looks quite interesting) and FINM2001.

I wasn't intending to do another Finance elective, however the only other Computer Science subject I was eligible for is taken by a lecturer who I have taken a strong disliking to, so I figured I'd rather do Corporate Finance with one 2 hour lecture a week than the Computer Science alternative with three 1 hour lectures a week.

It'll be very interesting to see how I go, doing full-time work and part-time study. I really hope I can pull it off, at least for one semester.

[03:23] [uni] [permalink]

Thursday, 20 January 2005

ANU's parking policy is stoopid

As I'm only intending to study part-time this year, I'm not eligible for a carpark. This is a PITA because as a part-time student, working full-time, the one thing I don't want to be spending more time than necessary is finding a carpark. I just want to get in, park, attend my classes and get out again.

I was going to try and get creative and enrol as a full-time student and then drop half the subjects before the census date, but it's just not worth the hassle. I'm still dubious about how I'm going to go doing this full-time work/part-time study thing anyway.

[04:30] [uni] [permalink]

Sunday, 28 November 2004


The results for Semester 2 finally came out today. I passed everything.

I managed a distinction for COMP2400, the Relational Database subject I was really slack about, and it turns out I was 1% off getting a distinction for COMP1110 as well, the Java programming subject I had issues with recursion with. I managed an even 50% (so a pass) for the maths and finance subjects (I was particularly concerned about the finance one, I really felt bad about the final exam).

So I've got mixed emotions about the results. I'm happy with the distinction, disappointed I missed out on a distinction by 1%, relieved I got a pass for finance, and surprised I only mustered 50% for maths. But it's all good. I'm sitting on a credit grade point average.

I think that leaves me with another semester of second year, and all of third year. I'll try and go and see the Associate Dean this week and confirm that, and if that is the case, I'll see if work will allow me to do two subjects a semester for next year...

[23:17] [uni] [permalink]

Thursday, 18 November 2004


Well I had my last exam on Wednesday. Two exams in one day really sucks. My brain felt like mush by the end of the day, and I think I might be starting to come down with something (it's always the way, as soon as you can take a bit of a break, your body just goes to pieces).

I'm a bit worried I might have screwed up my Finance subject, but I only have to wait anxiously for a couple of weeks.

At this stage, I don't intend to go back next year, but I'll see how I'm feeling once I'm settled into my job, and I've got my results, and I know how many subjects I've got left. I'm entertaining the idea (assuming I have four subjects left to get to third year) of studying part-time next year, just so I can get to third year. Then I'll probably throw the degree back on the shelf until such time that I'm feeling rich enough (or game enough) to take another year off and try and get over the line.

[14:24] [uni] [permalink]

Thursday, 14 October 2004


Well this is a new concept. A programming assignment that I just can't do. It's due tomorrow afternoon, I can't get it to produce what the assignment specification says is the correct result, and I can't see what's wrong with my algorithm, so I don't see the point in losing sleep over it...

[05:22] [uni] [permalink]

Saturday, 09 October 2004

Programming by accident sux

Recursion is obviously one of those things you either get, or you don't get. The lecturer said it's one of the hardest things to get if you've got programming experience and haven't been using it.

I went around to Rick's to get some help with the current COMP1110 assignment, and we ended up scribbling on a whiteboard from about 7pm till after 4am. I think if either of us got recursion, it would have been trivial, but because neither of us seemed to have that enlightenment, we had to resort to what Rick calls "programming by accident" - having a stab until it works, which for a recursive algorithm is all the harder. Having a whiteboard helped, but I still think we managed to make a meal of the problem.

So now I can annotate my tree, with an implementation that is questionable in my opinion, compared to what Google had to about the algorithm.

Next stop, pruning the tree. I'm hoping (and thinking) that that is going to be a rather trivial exercise in wandering around the tree lopping off branches.

[23:03] [uni] [permalink]

Wednesday, 15 September 2004

I don't think so, Tim

I've decided to cave in and buy the COMP2400 textbook, because the copy I borrowed from my flat mate is one edition behind, and I'm concerned the chapters don't line up with the lecture notes. Here goes another $89...

I checked on the bookshop's website to make sure that there were some in stock, and got this record back:

Course Code: COMP2400

Department of archaeology and anthropology, eh?

[17:10] [uni] [permalink]

Wednesday, 08 September 2004

Tee hee

The lab am I in is full of people frantically trying to finish that COMP1110 assignment. If I had a dollar for every time I heard "pointer mutation", "first fit" or "next fit", I wouldn't be an impoverished university student :-)

[22:32] [uni] [permalink]

Monday, 06 September 2004

What a crap day

I had such a crap day today.

It started with a lousy night's sleep. Then I actually managed to extract myself from bed at 6am (for a change) and go to the gym. This left me in a totally shagged state for the rest of the day.

I got the results for the first assignment for COMP2400 back. I got 37 out of 60, after losing 10 marks because I put exit at the end of each SQL file. I'm rather pissed off about this, because the assignment specification didn't state how the assignment would be run for marking purposes. I did my testing by going sqlplus / @filename.sql and I wanted to be returned to a shell prompt after running the query. Of course, the bulk marking tried to run them all in batch, and mine exited after the first query, requiring the marker to edit all 10 files to comment out the exit, hence the mark deduction.

I'm also annoyed at myself because some of the queries weren't logically correct. I should have known better. I know SQL. I've been doing it for years. Granted, I don't usually join a table on itself 6 times to answer a question, but hey, I had higher expectations for my results.

Moving right along to Maths, the results were back (already) for the mid-semester. I wasn't expecting to do anything spectacular, but I also wasn't expecting to pass by 1 mark either. At least it was a pass I guess...

The one highlight of the day was the result for the Finance mid-semester: 21 out of 26, or 78%. Given I was contemplating not sitting the exam, I'm pleased with the outcome, and I'm pleased that I did.

So now I just have the COMP1110 mid-semester on Wednesday evening, and the COMP1110 assignment due on Friday as immediate concerns. I dare say the third COMP1110 assignment is going to be released before the break, and so that'll leave me with three assignments to work on over the mid-semester break. Oh joy, oh glee.

[01:59] [uni] [permalink]

Saturday, 04 September 2004


I think I've finally got the second part of my all time current favourite assignment working. This is great, because I want to spend the rest of the weekend and up to Wednesday studying for the COMP1110 mid-semester exam, and then use the extension to polish it a bit. Having the algorithm working what looks like correctly takes a load off...

[01:52] [uni] [permalink]

Friday, 03 September 2004

Two down, one to go...

Sat the mid-semester for MATH1005 today.

I don't think I'll do anything too spectacular - pass or fail. Hopefully a mediocre pass. Given that I really didn't get much of an opportunity to put in a lot of study, that's all I can expect.

[02:11] [uni] [permalink]

Thursday, 02 September 2004


Got this email to my personal address from one of my COMP1110 lecturers tonight...

Subject: CVS archive too public

Uh, nice web site.

I was surprised to find this:


It would be nice if you could keep your assignments to yourself.
So much for security by obscurity. I'd be surprised if a student found it. Or I would have been until this.

[04:53] [uni] [permalink]

Tuesday, 31 August 2004

Assignment extension

Out of the blue, we got given an extension for that assignment. It's now due next Friday instead of next Monday. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, as the COMP1110 mid-semester is on the Wednesday in the middle. One chick that I spoke to after the lecture said she was going to just put the assignment on the backburner and do some study for the exam. I'm wondering if I should do that too, or just aim to have it done by Monday as per the original deadline. I think I'll go for a combination. I'll aim to have it functionally complete by Monday, study for the mid-semester on Monday night and Tuesday, and then polish the assignment from Wednesday night till Friday...

[04:14] [uni] [permalink]

Monday, 30 August 2004

Rain, mid-semester exams and dodgey umbrellas

It's been pissing down rain most of the day, which is nice for a change. I got to Uni, got out of the car and flicked my compact umbrella, like I usually do, to extend it and the business end of the umbrella promptly flew off, and I was left holding the handle and half the stem.

Note to self: don't flick the umbrella to extend it.

After reassembling the umbrella, it then wouldn't (for what seemed to be unrelated reasons) actually stay up, so I was forced the commence the long walk forcibly keeping the umbrella from folding up. Got a few funny looks and a rather tired arm. I caved in a bought a new cheap and nasty umbrella rather identical to the current one from the University newsagent.

Today was the dreaded Financial Instruments and Risk Management (a.k.a. FINM2002) optional mid-semester exam. I pondered whether or not to opt to sit it a fair bit. It was worth 20% if you sat it, and made the final exam worth 50% instead of 70%. Since the subject is all about risk management and diversification, I figured it was better to diversify by chances of failing by distributing it across as much assessment as possible, so I sat the test.

I was quite apprehensive about the exam, because overall, I haven't felt that I've been understanding the material terribly well. I spent most of the morning in the library doing some last minute cramming. I think it paid off, and I think the exam was reasonably easy. Time will tell. I was totally stumped on three related questions regarding swaps, but I knew I'd have issue with swaps before I went into the exam, because I was having problems when I revised them. I think I should be able to muster a pass.

So that leaves me with a maths exam on Friday and that assignment due next Monday, a COMP1110 mid-semester next week, and then a small breathing space (i.e. the mid-semester break) in which to do at least two more assignments (possibly three). Man, I don't remember the workload being like this last semester. Mind you, I only have one mid-semester exam last semester, so that'll have a lot to do with it.

[00:33] [uni] [permalink]

Wednesday, 25 August 2004

COMP1110 quote of the day

Lecturer: "Who doesn't like multiple returns?"

Show of hands.

Lecturer: "Get over it".

Fair enough too. Screw this "a function must have a single point of entry and exit" crap. Entry is fair enough, but exit can be a royal PITA.

[20:01] [uni] [permalink]

Friday, 20 August 2004


Holy crap!!!!!!!!!!!!

This assignment is driving me NUTS! I'm not having any issues writing Java, quite enjoying that aspect in fact. The part that is making my brain bleed is interpretting the freaking algorithms.

Sometimes I feel like I'm totally incompetent or something. Some stuff I just don't get... If you believe the discussion forum, there's a few smart cookies who have already got most of the thing finished... Here I am limping through the allocation algorithm, after spending about 4.5 hours headbutting my keyboard...


[23:28] [uni] [permalink]

Tuesday, 17 August 2004

Good deed for the day

In my maths lecture today, my usual mature-age-student-second-from-the-front-row seat was occupied by a female Chinese student that I hadn't seen before. I plonked myself down a couple of seats adjacent to her, and she started talking me to straight away.

Turns out she's a late enrollee, and she wanted to know where things were at with respect to the course. Her English was pretty good, so I didn't mind being my usual helpful self. I figure it'll be good forced revision for me to go through what we've covered so far, so we're going to hook up tomorrow and do some revision together.

For some reason, I really enjoy playing the tour-guide and generally being helpful towards international students, even though I have a resentment for them taking up our University places. I think it's probably because deep down, I'd like them to go back home with a good impression of Australia and Australians...

[18:42] [uni] [permalink]

Thursday, 05 August 2004

(carpark == white_elephant)

Sigh. Methinks buying a car space in the new Dickson Precinct multi-storey secure carpark was a mistake. I should have checked where the heck it was, or more importantly, how long it took to walk there. It takes a good 10-15 minutes at a brisk pace to get from the carpark to the Union Court, which is about one third of the time it takes to get to Uni from home. So it's of limited benefit when it rains, and it doesn't give me that much more mobility, as I discovered today, you need at least 40 minutes to do a uni/home/uni round trip via the Ainslie shops. But since I'm about to start working, it is better than walking home to retrieve the car and drive to work, I guess...

[00:33] [uni] [permalink]

Thursday, 29 July 2004

One down...

Phew. After much procrastination, and fiddling with blosxom instead, I've finished the essay I had to write for COMP1110. I really hate it how some of these hard core IT subjects insist on setting essays as assignments. I'd rather write code.

[19:56] [uni] [permalink]

No school today

It's Bush Week, and for some reason the Student Association has convinced the University to cancel lectures today. One less rivotting maths lecture to endure. Gives me more time to tinker with Blosxom. Loving the plugins...

[16:12] [uni] [permalink]