Category Archives: General

What I did on my holidays

I wish my holidays could have been as full of adventure as Twoflower‘s, but I reckon there’s still time!  I’ve been doing an awful lot to keep myself occupied over the academic break though, but with a lot less dragons and swords and sorcery to keep me occupied. Oh no, wait, that’s a lie because I finally finished reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones to the reprobates), but I digress…

So we’re now into August and my summer holiday is almost over.  At the end of the academic year in May I decided to keep myself busy as I didn’t want to spend the summer lazing around eating crisps and watching telly.  Alright, so a large part of my evenings have involved corn based snacks and attempting to make space on the Sky+ box (so much to watch, so little time and HDD space), but I’ve done other things too!

The first thing I wanted to do is keep my brain turning by teaching myself some scripting, C# and SQL in preparation for second year and I’ve spent a lot of enjoyable afternoons working on these via Code Academy, ProgZoo and SQLZoo.  Although I’m not a software engineer at heart, I do think that it’s important to have at least a basic grounding in this area and as a networker I’m going to have to learn scripting at some point.  I know a few people on my course who would disagree with me here, but sys admin isn’t all about typing sudo yum into a terminal and eating pizza, guys.  If only it was though *sighs*.  I’ve also been messing around with the likes of AWS to learn more about cloud services, which has also been a really useful exercise.

I’ve also been doing a lot of work – yes, actual paid work, who’d have thunk it?  Half of my work schedule has seen me working with my husband, who set up a web consultancy business after he graduated last year (he does more than websites, so if you’re looking for a talented developer he’s your man *nudge nudge*).  I’ve also been working with the Scottish Resource Centre on a part time basis, which has been really educational and thoroughly enjoyable.  Having a small child to entertain through the summer months means I can’t really work on a full time basis, so the flexibility of both jobs has been perfect – keeping just one child entertained for seven weeks is hard work!  If she had her way she would spend her entire summer holidays glued to Minecraft; I play too, but when you find yourself demolishing a mountain for the giggles it’s time to put the Xbox controller down…

MATT DAMON!

Speaking of gaming, I found my old PS2 and a box of games while clearing out a wardrobe, hurray!  Luckily the main television has an analogue tuner in it so it was a simple case of plugging in the RF cable, tuning the telly to channel 36 and going on a FFX binge.  Good times.

2013-06-16 21.54.32

The best bit about the holidays though has been the time to work on the home projects.  We turned our Raspberry Pi into a media server using XBMC, making streaming from the network drive a doddle.  However, there comes a time when a household like ours needs better connectivity and so I’ve planned out a proper home network for us, using the old PC as a server.  We desperately need a decent wifi network upstairs too (concrete floors and a bejesusload of cavity wall insulation does not make for a strong wifi signal from the router downstairs), so I’ve made a wishlist of hardware to buy in September (UK based students will know).  Sadly the spare router fell over and died while being used to broadcast a secondary WAP, but I guess you can’t expect a cheap router from your previous ISP to last any longer than three years, never mind six…

XBMC on our telly

So there you have it.  The weather’s been great, work is fun and I’ve been spending lots of time with the wee one.  In preparation for the madness of September I’m going to sit back, enjoy some relaxation time and Film4’s Studio Ghibli season.

End of Part One

That’s my first year of university over and done with!  I can’t believe it’s all over, time really has gone by so fast.

When I walked out of that last exam I had mixed feelings; a lovely sense of achievement at achieving so much over the past seven months, but a teeny wee feeling of sadness as I now have to find something to keep me occupied until September.  It sounds pathetic, but I’m actually going to miss university over the summer.

However, I do have a few bits and bobs to keep me going.  My SQL skills haven’t been touched since 2003 so I’m going to have a SQL for Dummies session in order to hit the ground running in second year.  My husband recently started his own web consultancy business (SHAMELESS PLUG) so I’ll be working with him to build the business up and get his admin sorted, courtesy of my awesome organisational skills.  I’m also going to hit t’interwebs and the university’s resources to gen up on C# and scripting – coding isn’t my strong point but I’m determined to get better at it!

We’ve also decided to finally get round to building that media server and have been inspired by one of our friends to build one with a Raspberry Pi running Ubuntu.  As a huge music fan this is the project I’m most looking forward to and am going to thoroughly enjoy tinkering.  Our daughter has shown an interest in coding so we can use the Pi as a resource for her too – everyone’s a winner.  We do have some work to do though as the pinnacle of her coding career thus far is below, but it’s a start:

10 PRINT "Daddy smells"

20 GOTO 10

Finally, now that I have around four months to myself I can finally get round to watching the hundreds of hours of telly still sitting on the Sky+ box.  Damn you Film4 and your Studio Ghibli season…!

Happy Easter!

 

Yummy Easter cake

 

So it’s finally Easter and the sun has even decided to come out, huzzah!  Our Easter weekend has been great, full of sunshine, homemade Easter cake, chocolate and a hormonal pet rabbit (a real one, not the decoration).

It’s also great to get a breather from uni, although I’ve set myself the task of getting some coursework done and handed in a couple of weeks before the deadline.  I’m using this time to gather my thoughts for the final push towards the end of the semester and my first year so I can go out on a high.  I really can’t believe how fast this year has gone in!

My first year has been fantastic and I’ve learned an awful lot.  The main challenge has been getting used to full time study again whilst learning how to juggle study time with family time, which is pretty difficult but doable once I set myself some rules and boundaries.  It’s been a while since I was first at university (doing journalism – what was I thinking?!) so although I knew what to expect, it still takes some time to get back into the swing of student life.  Luckily I’ve had lots of support from my wonderful family and the teaching and faculty staff, plus all the various groups and events I’ve become involved with to support the 20-odd women in first year.

Although this year wasn’t plain sailing all the way through, I feel really good about my experiences from first year – good and bad – and am all set for second year.  I’m not resting on my laurels yet though as I still have two class tests and my coursework to go, but the way the first year has been planned has been a great way to ease back into full time study.  From the support of the staff to practical tutorials such as report writing, I’ve built a really great foundation in my first year on which to continue forward.

Finally, please wish me luck in the poster competition at the Lovelace Colloquium tomorrow!

 

What International Women’s Day means to me

So yesterday was International Women’s Day, an annual celebration of all things female.  I do see myself as a feminist, but I’m not one of the bra-burny types – I can’t afford to burn bras at £20 a go, I’m a student!  Neither am I a fan of this day of celebration, however.  Do we really need a day to celebrate our womanliness and promote gender equality, when we are struggling against misogynistic prejudice every single day?  I don’t think we do.

The news has been filled recently with stories of courage and triumph in the face of adversity.  From the annual SlutWalks held across the world to the fantastically brave and inspiring Malala Yousafzai being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, women are voicing their opinions and celebrating their femininity on a daily basis.  We are constantly fighting for equal rights in our professional and personal lives.  We fight for equal rights as a whole for the simple reason that both sexes are just that – equal.  The only differences between women and men are biological, nothing else.  Anyway, this isn’t a political blog so I’ll stop there before I get too carried away…

Now, for those of us in the field of computing, we accept that we still have a long way to go but we soldier on and see that things are gradually changing.  When I encounter some old-fashioned man who thinks that computing isn’t “a very girly subject” (yep, someone actually said that to me once), I just smile, say nothing and get on with the job at hand, leaving them to squirm when they realise that yes, I do actually know what to do when presented with a Windows command prompt.  Organisations such as LadyGeek in particularare a breath of fresh air for women; I particularly enjoyed their recent ICT School Takeover, where they visited several schools and showed female pupils the opportunities and empowerment to be had in choosing a career in computing.  We need more events like these to get schoolgirls into computing, not some token day that most women I know don’t know or even care about.

I’m sure you’ll have come across Code.org‘s fantastic video, which has had over 9 million views in just two weeks.  I watched the video when it was first released and wholly support its message, but what I really enjoyed was the inclusion of several women.  Their stories are just what is needed to encourage more women to change their thinking, to show that computing is just as accessible to women as it is to the men.  I recently met a professional who mentioned that although women are still very much in the minority, there is a certain amount of kudos to be had as a lady working in tech; I thought about it afterwards and realised that she’s right and it’s not a bad strength to play to either.  I’m not saying that we should be showing more cleavage or anything when going for a job interview, more that we shouldn’t be afraid to keep our CVs androgynous so that potential employers will be more likely to invite us to interview if they think we’re a bloke.

In short, I think every day is our day.  We need to focus less on token celebrations such as IWD and more on knuckling down and showing those sexist sods that we are just as capable as men.  I spent the day playing Tomb Raider, loving the rebirth of Lara Croft as a normal woman playing on her strengths to get the job done instead of being a pouting pixellated sex symbol and thoroughly enjoying Rhianna Pratchett‘s utterly superb storyline.  That’s what feminism is all about, ladies, and long may it continue!

Class tests and exams

Because I’m so rock and roll I’m spending my Saturday night revising for Monday’s networking class test.  I’ve successfully navigated three weeks of lecture notes and lab exercises so I think a cup of tea is in order before I tackle the rest of my notes.  Tea makes everything better and is good for you, hurray!

I must make a confession though; I don’t like class tests or exams.  I managed to get through my school exams and am proud of my Standard Grade and Higher results, but if there’s one method of assessment I don’t perform well in it’s the old closed book test.  When I am faced with one I tend to suffer from brain freeze; I know the material, I’m confident I’ll answer the questions well, but as soon as I sit down all my knowledge seems to run off and hide as I sit there desperately trying to remember what 2+2 makes or how many bits there are in a byte (the answers are four and eight respectively, ha!) while the clock ticks on.   I had a class test last week and didn’t do as well as I’d hoped (I still passed though, I’m not a total failure), but mind you, popping two co-codamol to soothe my poor back before the test probably wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had…

I wish I knew why my brain does this to me though as I like to think I’m a good student.  I don’t spend my entire student loan on beer and Xbox games, I participate in lectures and lab discussions and revise like a madwoman before tests, but as soon as I sit down and turn that first page over everything I’ve worked hard to memorise and understand just…goes.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s because rote learning doesn’t work for every subject and some modules work better for students when they are asked to submit practical coursework, but then I wonder if it’s just me that suffers from memory wipe.  Is it just me, or does anyone else find themselves in the same predicament?

Ah well, wish me luck for Monday!

First week back

Ah, it’s good to be back at uni after four weeks off!

A lot of my free time has been taken up by sorting out my timetable and reading up on resources and study materials.  I’ve also been busy with my student rep duties and preparing for the Lovelace Colloquium (you don’t want to know how many times I typed that word until I was happy with the spelling) with the lovely Hazel Hall.

This semester sees us moving away from doing the same modules to starting on the core modules for our individual courses.  I miss many of my friends already, but I’m also enjoying getting properly stuck into the (metaphorical) meat of my course (I’m a vegetarian).  Today was spent quite productively mucking around with the likes of ipconfig and tracert and wondering if the website we were all pinging thought it was under a DDoS attack.

On a more personal note, this week also saw us welcoming a new addition to the family:

Betty

Betty is a Lab X Collie from the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home and is absolutely mental, but is also very loving and has settled in really well.  Her owners sadly had to give her up when they moved house so we are fortunate that she came to us with basic training and house manners.  However, Betty does tend to pull on the lead as she’s always desperate to have a good run across the fields, but I daren’t let her loose just yet as I’m not sure she’d come back!  I blame the rabbit warrens dotted all over the place…

Joining the BCS

As of today I’m a proud member of the British Computer Society, hurray!  As I’m a student it only costs £50 for four years of membership and after browsing the benefits of joining I think that it’s definitely money well spent.  It’s made me feel really grown up, joining a chartered institution…

I’m particularly looking forward to my first BCS Women Scotland event in February.  I’m a member of the Connect group at uni and thoroughly enjoy our meetings, so I’m really looking forward to joining a similar group with wider connections.  It also gives me a chance to tell everyone what a lovely university Napier is!

New year, new beginnings

Happy 2013!  Now then, that’s the formalities over and done with so I’ll get cracking with introducing myself 😉

I’m a female computing student (yes, we do exist lads) at Edinburgh Napier University, currently in my first year of a BEng (Hons) Computer Systems and Networks degree.  I’m what is known as a mature student and have a wonderful husband and daughter, so although I don’t spend as much of my student loan on booze as my younger counterparts, I have still fully embraced university life and am thoroughly enjoying myself as an undergrad.

The idea of keeping a blog to accompany my studies was first suggested by a tutor, so in addition to creating a LinkedIn profile I decided that my blog will focus on my personal take of being one of the few female students in the School of Computing, especially those of us not studying design or business related subjects.  However, we are fortunate in that there is actually quite a strong female presence in our school, which is headed by the lovely Sally Smith, and we have the Connect group which invites the female students to regular meetings for coffee, guest speakers and general discussions.

It is strange to be a member of two minority groups.  By being both female and a mature student, I was very curious as to how I would be received by the more ‘traditional’ computing student; I’m sure I don’t need to paint a picture and so I don’t offend anyone, I won’t!  However, I’ve met some lovely folks and although the younger students generally have no idea what the oldies are talking about when we start to wax lyrical about BBC Micros and Spectrums, I like to think I get on well with most in my year.

Although I’m currently on holiday and the new semester doesn’t start for another week or so, I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in again.  The first semester saw most of the year taking the same modules, whereas this semester sees us starting on the more specialised modules relating to our degrees.  Sadly this means I won’t see as much of some of my friends as before, however it does mean that I will be spending more time with those on the same degree as myself.  It means I’ll be in an even smaller minority as I’m the only female on my degree course and that will be strange, but that’s the world of computing for you!