Monthly Archives: August 2009

First Week as a Teaching Assistant

This week (Monday), I started my position as a teaching assistant for the Computer Science department at Central Michigan University.  As this was my first time as a TA, they thought it would be prudent to give me lab sections of CPS 100 (“Computers and Society”).

I have 5 sections of CPS 100, with roughly 45 people in each section.  I thought that my lab sections have gone well so far.  In fact, I even learned some things.

  • No matter how many times you explain it, some students will still staple the papers in the wrong order.
  • Stapling papers in the correct order doesn’t matter.
  • Students are generally very surprised when I walk in and stand up by the podium.  Apparently I look young.
  • The students are generally very cordial and nice when dealing with me.  Most don’t want to be there, so it’s all I could ask for I guess.
  • The technology required for Lab WILL fail.  This is not the end of the world, just kind of roll with it and there won’t be any problems.
  • I am old.  Someone called me “Mr. Slingerland”.
  • It feels nice when someone approaches you, apologizing profusely for not bringing a flash drive, because the course syllabus said that they would need one.  If everyone was this dedicated, my job would be way too easy.
  • There is a strong camaraderie between the grad assistants in the department.  We all can relate to each other, so what seems like instant friendships have formed.

That’s all I’ve really learned by teaching so far.  The first lab excercise was really simple, and having done it before class helped a lot with being prepared.

Besides that, I have 3 courses this semester.

  • CPS 650 – Compiler Construction
  • CPS 670 – Operating Systems
  • CPS 685 – Pattern Recognition and Data Mining

All these courses interest me, so I feel that I’ll do well this semester.  Between that and having an office (that I share with 4 other people) on campus, it’ll make getting homework done very easy.

Slight Teaching Dissapointment

This fall semester will be my first semester as a graduate teaching assistant.  In my department, the course nobody wants but everybody gets is CPS 100.  There are probably 30 lab sections for this course, so every GA will get one or two.  However, there are a few other classes available for GA’s to teach.  One of them is “Modern Web Site Design”. I was personally hoping to teach this course, as I have loads of web design experience.  I’ve been doing it regularly since 6th grade, but that doesn’t matter.  I failed to market myself to the department chair, who makes the decisions.  Perhaps next semester I’ll actually request the course once I’ve been proven as a GA.

On another note, my next project is coming to completion.  This one has the potential to change the way college students do things.  Be ready for it.

WinRAR: The file compression/de-compression tool of choice for Linux!

Every time that i try and extract a large file using the built in file archiving utility in Ubuntu, it crashes.  Every time.  By large file, I mean anything >= 1gb.  I know that this is no fault of my machine, as this happens on every machine I use.  To solve the problem, I run trusty WinRAR under Wine on my Linux box.  It’s honestly faster than anything I’ve used yet on linux (aside from command line stuff).

If you have any suggestions, I welcome them.

VPN Success!

Since 2005, I’ve been a user of Ubuntu.  Ubuntu came out about a year earlier, but I caught on with version 5.10.  Since that point, I’ve never looked back.  I may have side-stepped a bit, but that’s it (I had a 6 month diversion in to Fedora 10).

One issue I’ve always had with Ubuntu is virtual private networking (VPN).  For those of you outside the know, you basically make a secure tunnel between two networks.  In my case, I’ve always wanted to connect to the Cisco VPN at CMU for work, but since I’m using Ubuntu I never had any luck… until recently.

Just today, August 4 2009, I have finally made a vpn connection between my laptop running Ubuntu 9.04 and CMU’s cisco VPN.

Working from home just became much easier.