Life University

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014

2013 was another year that simply flew past.

It’s strange to think that it was almost 3 years ago that I first made the journey from Dunstable to Hull and started my degree in Computer Science.

Last year was an important year, and this one will be even more so — here’s a roundup of what happened, and a plan for what is to come.


What happened in 2013:

  • I passed my second year with an average grade of 85%
  • I had my first experience of commercial development as part of a business over the summer
  • I co-developed QuickSync — a platform for syndicating stock levels between different systems
  • I chose and started developing my Final Year Project, an Integrated Development Environment for PHP
  • I started considering alternative choices for my masters (and hopefully future PhD) and received some offers (more on that later in the year)
  • I had a lot of fun with my awesome friends at uni, and some students who spent a semester here from America.
  • I started arranging and saving for a month-long holiday to America with my housemate Rob (including meeting up with aforementioned Americans!)
  • I did loads of cool events with Microsoft, including going to Campus Party
  • I had blue hair for most of it!


What I expect (and hope!) will happen in the new year:

  • More sensible hair
  • Graduating from The University of Hull with a first class Bachelors of Science Degree in Computer Science
  • The release of my final year project as an open source initiative
  • Lots of preparation for my masters degree, including lots of maths revision and learning Java (it seems like every other university mainly teaches using Java as opposed to C#)
  • Moving from The University of Hull to another university for my Masters Degree
  • An awesome road-trip around Arizona, Nevada and California from Phoenix to San Francisco

I think that will take most of my time!

I hope you all had a great time in 2013 and wish you a fantastic 2014. Thanks to everyone who made 2013 such a special year for me, of whom there are too many to list — you know who you are. ūüôā



Course Rep Training

Yesterday I went for my course representative training in which we learnt about how the Hull University Union works, what we are expected to do to fit in to that and how to be a great, approachable course representative who gets things done for their coursemates.

We also learnt more about the university as a whole, our moral obligations to both the union and our fellow students. In addition to that we met a whole bunch of new people ūüėÄ

Part of the training was creating the¬†monstrosity¬†of a picture you can see above. It’s supposed to be the idealization of the perfect lecturer, each feature he has contains an alternate meaning:

  • He has a big head and a brain¬†protruding¬†from it showing intelligence
  • He has a captains hat & mustache to show he’s in authority and gets things done
  • He has big ears to show he listens to his students problems
  • The monocle shows he is classy
  • He has a big smile to show he is easily approachable
  • Under his suit, which shows hes professional, he has a superman outfit because hes great!
  • He has a penguin on his shoulder, which was initially meant to be a parrot but im rubbish at drawing ūüėõ So it become the first and only penguin ever able to fly because of how inspirational the lecturer is
  • He has a thumb up to show he actually solves problems
  • And most importantly he has jet engines for feet to show how he quickly deals with issues

Course rep training was a fun¬†experience¬†and I can’t wait to start making a difference to the Department of Computer Science and the University as a whole, for the better ūüôā



BCS Accreditation

I’ve become a tad forgetful recently and forgot to post about the meeting that took place between¬†University¬†of Hull Computer Scientists and the BCS a few weeks ago.

For those who don’t know, The British Computer Society are the Chartered Institute for IT and according to their website they:

promote wider social and economic progress through the advancement of information technology science and practice.

In addition to this they also accredit degree courses in subjects such as Computer Science, Information Technology and Information Systems. According to the Department of Computing Science at Imperial College London:

If you are studying a degree that is “accredited” it means that it contributes either fully or partially to the academic requirements required for you to register for “Chartered” status. In other words you will be exempted from some or all the professional exams required to achieve this title.

Unfortunately you wont get “Chartered” status straight away as usually you will need to become a member of the BCS or IET and do at least two years relevant work experience before you can be considered. You may also need to provide evidence that you have sufficient competences to justify this status and could have to sit a peer review panel before it is granted.

To become a full member of these institutions you have to meet their professional requirements and pay an annual fee but once enrolled you are entitled to use the initials MBCS or MIET behind your name. It is possible to get student and associate membership of these institutions.

Having these initials after your name is a good way to show to potential employers or customers that you are a trustworthy, competent and capable computer scientist and know more than just how to code: i.e. you know how to behave in a professional and socially responsible manner. Coming from an accredited degree is much better than coming from a non accredited one.

In order to validate how good the Computer Sciences courses are at UoH they wanted to meet a few students from each year on each course (e.g. A few people from MEng Computer Science, a few from BSc Computer Science with Games Development etc.) I was chosen to be one of these people based on lecturer feedback, so 9am on the Wednesday morning I went to the Robert Blackburn building to meet with the BCS Secretariat as well as two board memebers, one from Birmingham University and one from Manchester Metropolitan, all three of which seemed impressed with the department.

After asking us questions about how the courses and department are run for about 30 minutes the BCS were happy with the information they had retrieved, their final question was “Is there anything you would change about your department or course?” Everyone went silent. After what felt like a few minutes of silence I jokingly replied “I’d put the computer science books somewhere other than the top floor of the library”, which got a laugh. But in all seriousness it was great to see that everyone felt that everything was going great in the department.

The next day Warren Viant, head of department, emailed everyone involved thanking them for their help and telling us that every course had been accredited at the level the university was aiming for. Well done Warren and team! ūüôā



Danny Brown – Course Representative

A few weeks ago I applied to be a course representative for Diploma Stage (Second Year) students within the Computer Science department at the University of Hull. Yesterday I received an email congratulating me on having been accepted as a Course Rep for the year :).

The role of a course rep is to interface with both their fellow students and the department/faculty in order to make sure the quality of life and education is as good as possible for each student. Therefore if you have any issues with anything on the course you shouldn’t¬†hesitate¬†to contact me or one of my fellow course reps through our university emails, or in person — this can be done confidentially.

My fellow student reps include my housemate James Czerwik-Hampshire as well as Scott Sanderson, Ryan Mitchell and Marty Hoyle

I look forward to trying to improve the department, starting with training next week!


Programming University

Second Year Starts

Yesterday I officially started back at The University of Hull for my second year in my Masters of Engineering Degree in Computer Science. This came as a bit of a shock to the system after a very long summer without education and a fantastic freshers week, but I’ve been enjoying every second ūüôā

Advanced Programming

The first lecture I had on Monday afternoon was for the Advanced Programming module and was very interesting, C++ looks similar to C# on the surface but there’s a lot of differences.

The lecturer for the module and head of Department, Warren Viant, even said that a year was long enough only to make us “OK C++ programmers, not great ones” because its a hard language to learn with lots of intricacies.

Right from the offset there was a totally different attitude than last years Programming lectures in which we focused on getting things working well with very readable code even if it wasn’t the most¬†efficient¬†way of doing things — this year Warren wants us to focus on optimization and getting code to run as fast as possible because the requirement for real-time programs is the main reason for using C++.

Artificial Intelligence

Next up was artificial intelligence, a module I’m not actually enrolled on and therefore a module I won’t get a grade for but one I’m attending because I find it interesting and want to further my knowledge as much as possible whilst at university.

We started off by discussing what exactly intelligence is and weather or not it would be wrong to turn off (i.e. Kill) a computer which asked you not to because it was intelligent. We then went on to talk about Prolog and how AI programming is a totally different paradigm to any other programming we’ve done before.

The only transferable skill you have from any other form of programming is the ability to touch type

I’m looking forward to learning a totally different way of thinking ūüôā

System Analysis, Design and Process

System Analysis, Design and Process is about the business approach behind creating software. We started off the module by talking about how we would work out how long a project would take us to do, how much it would cost us and how much we would charge the custom based on a certain specification. It’s actually quite a difficult thing to do.

We also spoke about how and why so many software projects fail and only 37% were successful last year.

Although this module seems very similar to last years Software Engineering module I’m looking forward to learning more of the skills required to make a business out of building software ūüôā

Electronics and Interfacing

Electronics and Interfacing is all about how we connect software to the actual hardware, and how better to start off a module like that then to learn about how¬†electricity¬†works? ūüôā We spent most of the lecture doing that but we started off with a brief overview of what is to come: Infrared Wirelessly Controlled Robots. I can’t wait to get started properly!

2D Graphics and User Interface Design

Finally in 2D graphics and user interface design we had an introduction to the history of computer graphics, which started with a great video about the cold war and nuclear bombs, and then thought about all the use cases for 2D graphics — ranging from CAD and Data Modelling to Games and CGI for Movies.

I’ve said it a lot in this post but I’m really looking forward to learning more about each module this year and am having a great time so far ūüėÄ


Life University

Computer Science Welcome Party

Scalextric is cool! Especially when you mix it up with Computers! Thanks to Rob Miles for all the images in this post

After our presentation on Thursday morning we were conscripted to help out at the Freshers welcome party, not being one to turn down an afternoon of computer games and free¬†alcohol the rest of the Hull CS Blogs team and I turned up early to help set things up ūüôā

Our first job was to move some tables around to make a play area for the Skalextrics set that was going to be the¬†centerpiece¬†of the party, we then wen’t apart fitting the pieces of track — including a bridge — together and doing so was just as much fun as I remember from when I was a kid.

What isn’t the same as I remember things is pretty much everything else about the car racing game, now your cars are partially controlled by a computer — you can set up proper races rather than arguing over who won,¬†interdependently¬†change the acceleration speed and max speed of each car, and even assign virtual fuel limits forcing your cars to take pit stops every few laps or run out of gas and stop working!¬†It’s more like a computer game than a real game!

Exciting Racing Action
Exciting Racing Action
Race Control Software Showing Race Leaderboard
Race Control Software Showing Race Leaderboard

I spent a lot of the party by the Rob’s laptop which was controlling the cars as well as meeting new freshers and talking about the Hull CS Blogs platform. There were however lots of other things to do such as playing rock band with computer science lecturers, or wii tennis with freshers! ūüėõ

After a while I claimed my two free kopparbergs and a few¬†sandwiches. At the end of the evening there was a quiz, which we took part in but were not allowed to win ūüėõ It was good fun anyway and featured classic Rob Miles questions such as:

Q: Which cheese is made backwards?

A: Edam

Turns out we actually got the high score of 41, shame I wasn’t allowed to win 2 years in a row ūüėČ It was great fun to go to the party and as always it was brilliant to meet more people passionate about the course and hopefully some future bloggers!


Microsoft Student Partner

Danny Brown – Microsoft Student Partner (MSP)

Yesterday I received an email from Phil Cross, Academic Audience Manager at Microsoft, welcoming me to the Microsoft Student Partner scheme Рwhich I applied to be part of a few weeks ago. But what is a Microsoft Student partner?

Blake Pender from the Microsoft UK Students Group explained it well:

The main responsibilities of an MSP are to act as a liaison between the University and Microsoft and to evangelise technology (specifically, Microsoft technologies) and to encourage and inspire students from a technological background, by method of technical demonstrations and presentations.

Essentially I’m supposed to get people in the University more interested in Technology, especially those from Microsoft. I’ll also be expected to keep up to date with the latest Microsoft technologies myself , be an active part of the online community — including monthly VoIP calls on Microsoft Lync with other MSPs and The Academic Audience Team — and liaise between Microsoft and Hull’s¬†Department of Computer Science if need be. ūüôā

In return I get access to a full MSDN subscription giving me access to over £2000 of Microsoft Products for free, as well as a chance to network with my fellow MVPs and of course attend Microsoft sponsored events. It will also look good on my CV. I look forward to joining the other 45 MVPs around the country and getting as involved with the community as possible.



Hull Computer Science on the ‘Net

Writing has become a bit of a UoH Computer Scientist past time recently with many more people joining the ranks of bloggers.

We’re frequently reminded how important it is to be “building the brand”, a phrase which refers to making yourself an attractive employee to potential future employers, because at the end of the day the outcome of higher education should be a better job.

A blog is a good way to show people that you’re passionate and¬†knowledgeable¬†about your subject and allows for feedback in the way of comments, allowing you to improve your¬†communications.

Setting up a blog is pretty simple and can be cheap or free depending on how advanced your needs are. You can use a free blog on, or you can install and set your own up for free on Freeside, the universities open source server rack, this gives you more customizability and options but will require you to buy your own domain name to make it easy to get to.

Due to the sudden influx of bloggers it could have become a bit difficult to keep track of all the updates. In an effort to solve this problem my friend John¬†set up¬†which aggregates all of the blogs of University of Hull Computer Science Students into one place, including updates from my friends Nick, James, Charlotte, Christophe¬†and John¬†Himself as well as my flatmate and good friend¬†Rob. You can of course also see my posts ūüôā

So, head on over to HCSB and read some cool stuff!


Mobile Application Development University

Three Thing Game Sign-Up

Today I signed up for Three Thing Game in a team with Rob, Nick and Sean under the name “Uncle Mikes Recursive Prolog Party”, a bit of a University of Hull computer science in-joke and a nod to one of our lecturers who simply loves to mention recursion and the programming language prolog as much as possible.

Three thing game is a week long game development competition for University of Hull Computer Science Students ending in a 24 hour stay-up-all-night development event, based around three themes given to teams at random.

Next Monday is the “thing auction”, an event at which we “buy” the “things” (essentially themes) around which are game will be based using “Thing Money”. From then on we will be devloping the game until the¬†preceding¬†Saturday¬†at which point we will all assemble in the Fenner Computer¬†Laboratory¬†for a 24-Hour continuous development session with Pizza!

It’ll be fun to get together with my fellow programmers on the¬†Saturday¬†through to¬†Sunday, work in a team, and hopefully make an awesome game. Theres also an oppertunity to win some prizes.

On the judging panel this year is¬†Stuart Lovegrove,¬†an executive from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, who works at their Liverpool Studios, it’ll be exciting to meet someone who has done so well in the game development industry.

Expect to see whatever we make over the Three Thing Week in the Windows Phone Marketplace soon!

If you want you can read more about the competition at Rob Miles’ blog.


Life University

First Fragfest of Semester 2

Today was the first Hull ComSoc Fragfest of the semester that I’ve been to, and I must say it was great fun as normal. Nick popped along for the first time (and took this funny screenshot of a spy he had “dealt with”) and I rediscovered my love of Team Fortress 2!

Particularly¬†amusement¬†was had with Steams “change profile name” feature which meant I ended up playing TF2 with some of the worlds most notorious criminals, dictators and celebrity¬†personalities, sometimes all mixed into one…

I look forward to some more ComSoc fun as the semester progresses.