• Love the License

    By the end of April, I seemed to be stymied in my quest for an affordable copy of MATLAB that I could run on my local laptop. The university maintains a license pool for the base software plus toolkits. I do have access to run a copy from the license server when I’m on campus. It actually worked off of campus too, when I’d been told it shouldn’t, but that turned out to be a mistake. When I reported it, the firewall was closed to the outside world for requests for the license server. That’s where honesty gets you: no MATLAB accessibility from anywhere with an Internet connection.
    I was hoping to snag one of the concurrent licenses for my permanent use and offered even to buy an additional one for that purpose as that would be cheaper. I was told that I couldn’t have one and I should investigate the student version of the software. Unfortunately, the student version is only available to students in taught courses, not Ph.D. research students, so that wasn’t any good. I mentioned to Thufir that I’d been turned down, reportedly by the head of software/hardware procurement within our department. Thufir promised to see what he could do. Then, last week, I received an e-mail last week from the lab manager, the person in charge of the procurement. He offered, if somebody would pay for it, to install an academic version of the software on my university-owned equipment for only £525 (~930 US/780 €). That was just for the base software and not also for the toolkit I need.

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  • Poster Power

    Today was the Open Day for the Human-Centred Technology group at the University of Sussex. IDEAs , my research lab, is part of the overall HCT group and a major participatant in the organization and presentation of the Open Day event, the first of which was held last year. I was unable to attend or to help out much with the organization as the event fell outside my scheduled university days. It was decided that we needed copious quantities of posters and every Ph.D. student was expected to make a poster about their project. Apparently this was timely as second- and third-year students were also expected to produce a poster for the department.
    I spent oodles of time in April designing the look of the poster and then populating it with text. The finished version of the poster looked pretty good in its A1 size (~90cm by 60cm). Designing the poster in the absence of any input and with lots of nice-looking graphics to possibly incorporate led to a poster that was quite dense and text-heavy, although it had a fair bit of white space, too. A week before the event, the Lab decided that we should also have colour handouts to go along with every poster. Just shrinking down my poster from its large A1 size to A4 (regular paper size) resulted in a page that was legible (but not for readers with poor vision) with tiny graphics. The EinSweetie, who had more time, took the original poster and produced a handout version with not quite so much of the text and graphics on it. As a lot of the crucial detail had been cut, we also decided to make a short multi-page PDF version of the original poster text which could be downloaded. The URL was included on the handout sheet.
    Doing the poster was very interesting, especially after my longish absence from working on my Ph.D., as it helped remind me of some of the major issues arising out of my research. A look at the big picture is often very helpful in clarifying your position and your journey. My examination or generation of the big picture led to me to realize that I was developing the fingerprints and the methodology for producing them, but then I wasn’t using the notion of the fingerprint itself anywhere after that point — something I’d completely overlooked, being caught up in the minutia of analysis for ages. I was so struck by this and other revelations that I had them make up a second laminated full-page version of my poster to hang in my office to remind me of the big picture. Life is so much improved when you can see where you’re going.
    Downloadable Resources:
    - A4 (regular page) handout sheet
    - 3-page PDF version

  • Fame & Fortune

    From this week’s Bulletin, newsletter of the University of Sussex.

    A part-time DPhil student in the Informatics department has won a national Associate Lecturer Teaching Award from the Open University (OU). Michelle Hoyle started teaching in the OU’s Faculty of Technology in May 2000 and delivers internet technology courses, primarily online. The award will be presented on 20 April at a ceremony in Milton Keynes and comes with £1,000 to be used for personal and/or professional development.

    It’s also on the front page of the Informatics web site at the university. It’s my 15 minutes of fame this year. (-:


    I need some help in using MATLAB and MDS, so I looked to Google to find resources. There seem to be more MDS resources than when I last looked quite some time ago. I found a useful page with links and pointers to MDS-related resources at http://www.granular.com/MDS/. From there, I obtained most of the resources for a pyschology course organized around MDS taught by one of the MDS’s primary researchers Forrest Young. I downloaded all the notes in PDF format and stored them away to browse through. Young is the same researcher responsible for developing the ViSta software (Visual Statistics System), which looks a lot like that Canadian object-oriented, icon-based programming language. I remember looking at ViSta before, but I don’t think it supported doing things like MDS and it hasn’t been recently updated for anything other than Windows.

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  • Meeting with Supervisor

    I had a short meeting with Thufir today to check on how much progress I have made at reintegrating myself back into the flow of university life. The number of things I managed to check-off from my last to-do list was woefully short, but still progress of a sort. For example, retroactive intermission was granted. I now have until September 30th, 2006 to finish my DPhil. That required very little work on my part or my supervisor’s to put through. It was the fastest resolved intermission request ever. I also wrote up my 30 words and scrounged up a picture for the next HCT brochure. The only other completed task off my list was sending an e-mail to the Bulletin mentioning my Open University teaching award, about which I have yet to hear anything. As I only submitted that late last week, he figured it was still early days.

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  • Bulletin Bravada

    I spent part of today working on a 100-word statement that the Open University wants to put on their web site closer to the time of the award presentation ceremony. I find it ironic that, after writing two pages about myself in order to apply for the award, I have to write another 100. I find it even more ironic that I also had to suggest a sentence to put on the certificate. For the certificate, Stephen and I eventually settled on “for outstanding dedication and excellence in on-line teaching.”

    That still left the hundred words to be written. I reviewed my original award application material and put together the following:

    Michelle focuses on Internet technology courses delivered primarily on-line. In TT280/TT281 (Design, Development, and Management/Client-Side Scripting), she provides extensive guidance through the development of supplementary course materials, in-depth FAQs, and a strong breadth of knowledge. She is a passionate communicator about technology, believing technology is sometimes only as difficult as people make it. Therefore, demonstrating a belief that students can achieve is a key to student success. In computing and technology, where women are scarce, she is a visible role model that women can succeed well in these traditionally male-dominated fields even if they have tangible weaknesses to overcome.

    Once I had that out of the way, I decided I might as well go whole hog and e-mail the The Bulletin as suggested by Thufir. Not being familiar with the publication and what information they might require, I probably went overboard.

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  • Brochure Bravada

    Suitable facial shot of Michelle

    As part of my tasks, I need to acquire a suitable image of myself plus put 30 words of copy together for the annual Human-Centred Technologies brochure. 30 words isn’t very much, and I wasn’t quite sure whether those should be about me or about my project or about both. In the meantime, I set the EinSweetie to sorting out possible pictures. I dislike having my picture taken, so our collection isn’t vast and many of the pictures were taken outside where I’m wearing my sunglasses.

    Here’s the picture I chose for myself. Even though it’s several years old, it was the best we could find on short notice and spending several hours trawling through iPhoto.

    That still left the 30 words. I settled on the following 31 words:

    Michelle concentrates on Internet information retrieval: improving the indexing and return of search engine results using semantic relations. She is an award-winning Open University lecturer, incorporating IT into distance education.

    Not quite 30 words, but close enough.

  • Of iPods, Infrastructure, and Intermission

    Today was my first day back at the University after an extended absence. I filled it in by doing mostly administrative things. Let there be iPods, bibliography software, and printing everywhere!

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