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Today was the first day of Autumn quarter 2005 at the University of Washington. My Wednesday schedule included three courses:

  • CSE 444 Introduction to Database Systems
  • CSE 527 Computational Biology
  • CSE 378 Machine Organization and Assembly Language
  • CSE/E E 461 Intro to computer networks
  • EE (SEAL) Research Meeting

My initial impressions are as follows:

CSE 444 - "Class of Death"
Homework: 25%
Project: 30%
Midterm: 15%
Final: 25%
Intangibles: 5%
Person in class "What determines the grade we get for the 'Intangible' category?"
Teacher: "Intangible means you can't touch it."

This class is an example of why monopolies are bad. This teacher's course reviews are horrid. Unfortunately, he is the only one who teaches the course.

Everyone I ask says this class, in combination with this teacher, is less than desireable.

CSE 527 - So, we have all this info about life, how do I make my own E. coli from scratch?

I went into the class and filled out the professor's questionnaire:

#5 - What do you hope to gain in this course? (Paraquote)

I want to learn how to make an organism from scratch.

For the rest of the lecture/discussion, since most of the students had a CS background, the professor guided us through basic genomics - chromosomes, genes, gene interaction, codons, transcription factors, polymerase, , nucleotide length vs. known number of genes, linked traits, TAATA hydrogen bonding and distance to polymerase binding spot, model organisms ... We covered a lot.

For the non-CS people, he put up the same graphic of Moore's Law that everyone in the department uses. He also put up a similar graphic, which I recognized from my freshman lectures on algorithms, describing the growth of Genbank.

I hope he sees my survey answer.

I didn't get everything down since the words were so huge and came so often. I actually just switched to mental note-taking mode after he discussed the small table of different living things with huge Latin names; so, everything above is from memory and could be incomplete.

CSE 378 - how to hack, old-school style.

Amazingly, we covered a lot on the first day:
  • RISC vs CISC (and why we like MIPS)
  • What is Computer Architecture?
  • What is ISA?
  • Von Neumann! Paraquote: Amazingly, Von Neumann was able to recognize that the complicated processing systems of his day were, in fact, implementations of the Von Neumann model! (Haha.)
  • History (the token Moore's Law slide + computers are getting faster/hotter etc.)
  • Memory & Addressing
  • Little vs Big Endian (I was going to ask why we were using LE, but then I realized the obvious advantage.
  • Instructions and Opcodes
  • The Green Card that is included with our textbooks(nostalgia)
The teacher seemed interested in the topic and was decently engaging.

CSE/EE 461 - I expected this class to be awesome, and it was awesome.

This is the first time this professor is teaching this class, and he admitted that up front, which is cool.

Since this is a joint class with EE, I was worrying about having to know signal modulation/demodulation, phase, clock, etc., but when he was explaining the TCP/IP stack, he mentioned that we didn't have to know anything about what's going on physically (go CS staff!).

So, in one hour we covered how these work within each other:


packets:ethernet:ip:tcp:network:internetwork (aka Internet)

It's cool that the internet doesn't seem like a nebulous electronic "being" anymore. Even though the magic of how the internet connects two computers has been, for the most part, dispelled, it has been replaced by the magic surrounding the mechanisms that animate our patchwork giant.

We also talked about Google's fiber purchase. The professor even diagrammed it:
. or `= Google Datacenters
{ = US West Coast
} = US East Coast
_ or | = Fiber


(Except he drew the squigglies a lot bigger.)

See? It's a homogeneous network, they don't have to let their packets be seen by intermediaries. And, it's pretty small, only a few nodes, so it's easy to manage. (Paraquote)

We also discussed how ironic it was for VOIP to emerge using the Internet as a platform since the Internet started out riding across telephone lines.

SEAL Meeting -
When I was talking to to the newcomers in my research group and I mentioned some blogger "dropped off the face of the internet," which elicited some very jovial responses. Someone recognized me from a student/project list released from Google's Summer of Code program.

I haven't decided what to research this quarter... Honestly, I think I need to stop doing EE research and start concentrating on CS.

I should go CS-research hunting...