ED209 – Week 19 (Honest)

After the slog that was TMA04, I’m now no longer ahead of the course schedule, but actually working to it. So, this really is week 19!

I’ve managed to read chapter 2 this weekend and I’ve a couple of long train journeys during the week, so I’m hoping to get my notes written up during them. It’s Derby -> Cardiff -> Derby tomorrow and then a return trip to London on Wednesday/Thursday for the Gartner SOA & Application Development and integration summit.

Much of what’s in this week’s text seems pretty much like common sense – children learn the meaning of a number of words before they start speaking, at first, they understand more than they can say, they listen to the shape and rhythm of the sounds that others make as a way to achieving their initial understanding … that sort of stuff. I guess the trick will be learning what the individual studies are that back these common sense ideas up.

I got quite interested in the idea of the vocabulary spurt and in particular the finding that neural networks (connectionist models) trained to recognise words show a similar development trajectory. If I get a chance this week I’m going to look up some of the research on this in the OU library. A quick internet search has shown up quite a number of interesting looking papers, that may have some relevance to the day job as well.

I’m also going to be having a look at the options for TMA05 this week. I’m going to be on holiday when the assignment is due, so it’s one of two choices: get it sorted before going away or asking my tutor for an extension. I’d prefer to complete it before my holiday if I can, so I may have to do some of the coming weeks out of order to make that possible.

There’s been lots of talk on the OU forums as to whether or not people like the course we’re studying; I haven’t really made my mind up yet. I think I’m enjoying it, but it’s certainly a lot of work compared to DSE212 and I really don’t like the idea of the seen question for the exam. Somehow, that seems to heap a bit more pressure on as surely more is going to be expected than for the unseen questions. It’s almost like having a seventh TMA to do, which you then have to memorise and then regurgitate.

TMAs should be TMAs, and exams should be exams in my view. This strange combination of the two for one of the examination questions is just, well, strange.

New toy

I have a new toy that’s arrived for me today. It’s a 1982 Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer that I got off eBay for a few pounds. Needless to say, TMA03 is probably going to take a back seat for a few evenings until I’ve had a chance to play with it.

I’ve definitely decided to go with option 2 for TMA03 and spent some time on the train back from London this evening working out how to answer it. I think I’ll be brave and try to argue that the evidence for sibling and peer relationships influencing development is very limited; sitting as I am over 3 weeks away from the submission deadline I feel quite confident I can do it!

Given the amount of work ED209 is turning into, and on the basis that the two level 3 courses I’ve yet to do will have a far bigger impact on my overall diploma grade, then why shouldn’t I have a bit of fun? There’s still 3 more TMAs to go after this one and even if 3 goes horribly wrong there’s still plenty of marks to be had from 4,5 and 6.

See, I’ve just talked myself into it!

So farewell then, Sun Microsystems?

I was intrigued to hear the news today that IBM is rumoured to be in talks to take over Sun Microsystems. In one form or another, culminating in working for them for a short time last year, Sun has been a constant presence throughout my professional career. One of my very first tasks at PAFEC was to upgrade the port of our DOGS CAD system on SunOS 1.6 running on a Sun2 workstation(*). I also remember getting our first SparcStation 1, which ultimately signalled victory in the war between Sun and Apollo, with Apollo falling into the arms of Hewlett Packard in 1989. More recently of course, the Sun Software AG DIS has been remarkably successful for both Software AG and Sun in helping us to win business around the Government Gateway.

Regardless of whether the takeover happens, I wish all of my former colleagues at Sun all the best for the future. Sun has played, and continues to play a unique role with respect to innovation in the computer industry and it’s vital for the health of the sector that this continues, regardless of the ultimate owner.

(*) The Sun2 workstation in this picture is on the left. The right hand workstation is an ICL PERQ and, if I’m not very much mistaken, the black workstation in the middle is the ill-fated British designed and built Whitechapel MG-1. Getting a pen plotter driver to work on the MG-1 was the very first task I did for PAFEC after graduating from University in 1985!

Clearing out the attic

A couple of years ago, before I got embroiled in the madness that is OU study, I rescued a Compukit UK101 off ebay for about £60 and painstakingly found the parts and re-learnt soldering to make it work properly again. I came across it in the attic again a couple of days ago and when I get a few moments, I’m going to see if it still works.

Three photographs of mine (taken after it had been restored) are below:

My UK 101, complete with 1970's Black and White Television
My UK 101, complete with 1970’s Black and White Television
Inside my UK 101 - the TV modulator and smoothing capacitor in the top right hand corner are 2007 replacements, along with some of the 2114 RAM chips below them
Inside my UK 101 – the TV modulator and smoothing capacitor in the top right hand corner are 2007 replacements, along with some of the 2114 RAM chips below them
The UK101 Character Set
The UK101 Character Set