Saturday, March 2, 2013

Coursera quick hit

In between marathon sessions of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, I managed to spend some time in February working on several classes at Coursera:

  • Professor Don Johnson's Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering is just superb. I came to computer science from pure mathematics, and never studied electrical engineering. Although I've done just fine without the hardware background, I've always been interested in learning more about the fundamentals of computer hardware, and Professor Johnson's class is just the ticket. His lectures are clear, enjoyable, and well-paced. However, the material in the video lectures is too hard to grasp from the videos alone; you really need to spend some serious time reading the textbook material. Happily, Professor Johnson has arranged to place his entire textbook online as well: Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering I. The only thing missing here is time, something I can never find enough of.
  • Professor Robert Sedgewick's Analytic Combinatorics, Part I is exactly as described in the syllabus. Sedgewick's precise and sophisticated approach to analyzing algorithm complexity is unique; he developed it over the years with his colleague Phillipe Flajolet. Working together, they managed to develop a complete technique shortly before Flajolet's death at the relatively young age of 62. The presentation of Analytic Combinatorics that Professor Sedgewick provides is well-described and complete, and I'm happy to have had the chance to watch his lectures. However, I must warn you in advance that this course is dry, dry, dry. If I wasn't extremely motivated by the relevance of Flajolet & Sedgewick's techniques to my professional career, I doubt I'd spend much time with these videos. There is nothing to complain about here, it's just not one of those course you'll take for the fun of it.

There's no rest for the weary, fortunately, as Professor Doug Schmidt's Pattern-Oriented Software Architectures for Concurrent and Networked Software class begins on Monday, and Professor Dan Boneh's Cryptography II course is looming just a month away.

Oh, and today is my daughter's 32nd birthday, and the dog needs a walk, and I'm going to the Cal basketball game this afternoon, and my son will be over for the birthday dinner tonight, and there's more Kingdoms of Amalur to play, and we just started receiving season 2 of Game of Thrones from Netflix even though we haven't finished House of Cards yet and I just got two new Kindle books.

Oh, fickle time, how you tease me!

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