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jOSiAh's ^_~ Haven

School of Computing, University of Leeds

I was thinking about what to blog (I was really running out of things to talk about...) and I thought: why not talk about school? (^o^)

The School of Computing is officially under the Faculty of Engineering, but it almost has nothing to do with the faculty. As a matter of fact, the School of Computing is situated a long long way from the Engineering buildings. It's located at the E.C.Stoner Building, which is the administrative building where most students go to for administrative and money matters. The School of Computing comprises of different floors: Level 7 is made up of meeting rooms and offices with full glass doors & walls (!), some labs, research students also work here I think; part of Level 8 consists of offices, meeting rooms etc. (the other part belongs to the Physics Department); Level 9 comprises offices, the "active learning lab" (just a seminar room), students' working area (a.k.a the Long room), the School of Computing administrative offices. I think part of Level 6 also belongs to the Visualisation group. Oh I almost forgot the lab at Level 10. I might have missed some, but you get the idea (^^;)

Anyway, I think I'll just highlight some interesting facts about the School of Computing (SoC):

(1) SoC students have 2 labs (named DEC-10 and Eniac Lab respectively) dedicated for their use. One of them has mostly Linux machines, the other has mostly Windows machines. This means that SoC students do not need to use the University labs (known as "clusters" over here), which are slower than the ones here! Before you start saying that my beloved Faculty of Information Technology (MMU Cyberjaya) has more than 10 labs, here's a note: SoC has only about 400 students this year. And unlike in MMU, students only have lab sessions once in a while: it's more like "try your exercises at home, and get help during the lab sessions if you need any" I think. I was looking at one of their "Introduction to Programming" module website (sorry, no world-class MMLS here! (^o^)): there have only been 7 (Java) lab sessions since last September! In fact, the timetable pasted outside the labs show that the labs are free most of the time! SoC students are therefore free to use them most of the time, even at night! (Oh did I mention that all SoC PCs must never ever be shut down because they constantly do networked updating?). We have access passwords and key fobs - much easier to carry than the bulky and fragile Cyberia Smarthomes access card! - for out of office hours access. Even then, I am rarely in these labs, because...

(2) We MSc students have a lab exclusively to ourselves! \(^______^)/ It is currently called the MSc Study, but I've heard that it has had different names like MSc Lab, MSc Room and even MSc Lounge! There are about 15 machines (mix of Linux and Windows) in here. I prefer this place over the other labs because there are sofas, a coffee table, a sink, mugs, a fridge, a whiteboard to scribble on (^_^). Best of all, no undergraduates! Hahaha.. it feels good to be "exclusive" (^o^) Also notice the flat panel monitors in the picture: they are a norm over here. The other two labs and all lecturers use flat panels. In fact, I have barely seen big fat CRT monitors over here, except in the Tech Support rooms and I think they were using CRT monitors in one of the library clusters: those PCs were quite slow too. But as comfortable as this place look, I only hang out here sometimes between lectures, because....

(3) I do my work remotely from the comfort of my home. Using SoC resources. All SoC students are given a Windows user account AND a Unix user account. This means each student will have a home directory for both Windows and Unix. I can't remember the disk quota though. Therefore, only SoC users can use SoC PCs, since we have to log in using our SoC account to access our personal desktop and space from any SoC PCs. So whichever PCs we use, we can always access our own file storage, preferences, cookies etc. Soft of like a Networked user. Okay, here's where the remote access part comes in. I use PuTTY and WinSCP to access my Unix account. I also frequently access my Windows account using Citrix, something like a remote desktop, except that you log into your own windows account as a user (so no fighting over who has control over the mouse!). So I have been using MATLAB (remotely) for a computer vision assignment for weeks without needing to install an illegal copy of a copy on my (desparately-in-need-of-disk-space) laptop. The speed? Well, it's so responsive that I kept forgetting I'm working remotely most of the time, but then again my accommodation is connected to the university network (^^;) The best - albeit scary - part is that I can access my local (laptop) drives (including DVD drive) from the SoC machine using Citrix! They just appear as different drives. Nowadays I am starting to get lazy to bring my pen drive around that I just drag and drop documents from my local drive (mapped as a drive on the remote machine) to my SoC Windows store (another drive). Then I'll just run off to the lovely MSc lab to print the document, which brings me to my next point...

(4) Printing. The University uses a printer credit system for printing. So it's something like prepaid access. Fortunately (and exclusively) for us Computing people, we get FREE printer credits for use with SoC printers!! Woohoo!! Although they do have a quota of 200 pages (laser printer) and 50 pages (dot matrix printer) for us, they automatically give free refills every week! So I have not paid to print stuff over here so far. And yes, paper is included, unlike some universities where you have to pay to print AND provide your own paper! (O.o) In fact, I have just specifically requested for 20 free printer credits for colour printing (they are usually limited to staff and research students) this morning to print my colourful Computer Vision report on texture segmentation! Oh and speaking of assignments...

(5) One of the things which I found interesting when I first came was the system of submitting courseworks (assignments). Depending on the requirements, you might submit it electronically using the online submission system (which works great... has anybody ever tried the one in MMLS? Not me...). But most of the time, you hand in hard copies by attaching a "Coursework Header Sheet" to the report, and sliding the whole thing through a "Coursework Letterbox" (well, it's actually just a hole. Just think of mailboxes on doors in TV shows...). And I assume that the admin people will record it and pass it on to the lecturer (who will then pass it on to their research students to mark most of the time I presume). This means no incessant stream of knocking on lecturers' office doors a few hours before a deadline, no sliding of reports under office doors or leaving reports in pigeonholes... Makes life easier for the lecturer, doesn't it? There is one weird rule in SoC though: report deadlines MUST be set at 9am. One of my lecturers have mentioned that it used to be at 5pm until some wise guy suggested it to be changed to 9am because students are skipping lectures before the 5pm deadline. Well, guess what? Now students burn the midnight oil, submit reports at 9am and go back to sleep (and skipping lectures of course)! I found the 9am rule annoying because this means that I have to get reports done and submit it the day before because I do not want to wake up so early just for the sake of submitting assignments! (>.<)

Well, I think I've rambled long enough, but I thought that it'll be interesting to share how things are done here. I'll stop right here. (^_^)

Postscript: Oh yes, SoC has wireless access too throughout the building.

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