Revising for P4EB Exam

I feel revision for the Patterns for e-Business exam is going pretty well. There are some interesting questions to answer, such as describing the difference between the Strategy and State patterns. That one’s absorbed a fair bit of thought to get my ideas to some degree of clarity and conciseness.

My revision schedule has settled down into a pattern now, being the public-spirited chap that I am, I’ll share what works for me with you.

Step 1 – Lecture Notes and Background

Review the lecture notes piece by piece, making sure that every term, statement and nuance is understood. This usually starts as soon as the lectures are done. Often, I’ll work through the notes noting down each important statement as a question so that I can quiz myself.

I haven’t yet had an exam immediately following the lecture series (I think in each case so far, the first five weeks have been lectures, followed by a reading week, a subsequent five week series, a reading week, and then the exam period) which would cut that time down to one week, meaning that revision would need to happen during the course of the exams.

This time involves a fair bit of ‘reading around’ the subject, chasing down those subtleties that I missed during the course of the lectures. Easily done – the pace can be kinda intense. This bit probably averages less than an hour a day – but it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Step 2 – Past Papers

Answer every question on every past exam paper I can find to learn how the questions are asked and how to answer them.

I don’t pay too much attention to past papers until I feel I’ve got a good coverage of the course material. I hope that this helps me avoid just learning how to answer the exam questions. It’s more about the learning than the exams, right?

This step is generally no more than a week or two before the exam.

Step 3 – Exam Day

I like afternoon exams. I follow my usual schedule and get into University before 9am, giving me the whole morning to review the past papers and any troublesome spots one last time and generally take it fairly easy. It’s nice not to have to worry about travelling and delays, too.

This approach has also worked well for me for the Sun Certifications I’ve taken. As far as I can tell, there’s no real short cuts to learning stuff – it takes time and effort (if only I had a USB port for my internal memory!)

First Impressions of Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx)

I got round to trying an installation of Ubuntu 10.04 today from my trusty USB stick. The install went smoothly and quickly (except for a problem with having two HDDs in this machine, with the OS on the second drive – remember to customise the boot options to boot from the right hard disk in this case, d’oh!).

On first boot, the most noticeable thing was the updated loading screens and reduced boot time. It wasn’t a slouch before, maybe taking 45ish seconds, but now taking 25 seconds between finishing the POST and giving me a login screen (I’ll time the laptop before and after when I upgrade that and produce a better comparison). It feels nice and fast.

Next, the wireless – works a treat, as usual. Then the proprietary graphics drivers, and the only essential reboot (having only today had a VPN client upgrade on a Windows system I have the misfortune of using with a total of five reboots necessary in the process).

Next, upgrade everything when prompted – only took a couple or minutes. Then, added in most of the packages I use that I can get out of the standard repo – that took a while, but it is 180 packages (incl. dependencies).

Finally, the other standout feature is the social network integration. The usual user identity graphic in the menu bar is replaced with a widget that looks identical but connects to my Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Yahoo Messenger accounts. So far, I’ve posted up a couple of updates from there, but I’m not sure what else it can do just yet. The other option under this widget, ‘Ubuntu One’, provides the ability to synchronise some of your user settings to the cloud. Nice idea – but as an Android user, I wonder whether I can sync my phone info with my desktops?

A bum note though – the default theme is a little dark, and moves the window maximise/minimise/close buttons to the left hand side of the window, also known as the wrong side! Quick fix – System > Preferences > Appearance: Choose the New Wave theme to brighten things up slightly and put the controls back where they belong.

Anyway, all done in no time at all – it’s hard to see how they could make it any easier!

HP dm3-1020ea Review

I recently bought a new HP Pavilion dm3-1020ea, following the unfortunate demise of my Dell Vostro. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and I’m pretty happy with it, although it’s not perfect. Here’s the pros and cons from where I’m sitting.

The Good Stuff

  • Dispatch and delivery was quick and trouble-free.
  • Ubuntu 9.10 works out of the box. As this thing’s got a shiny new AMD Athlon Neo X2 in it, I was a little concerned that it might not yet be supported but it works a treat.
  • The battery life is respectable rather than great. 3+ hours w/wireless off, less with it on.
  • The LCD is fantastic. Clear, good contrast and the reason I went for this model, high resolution. The 13.3″ panel supports 1366×768 which is standard fare for a 15.6″ panel. That means I can get more on the screen, the tradeoff of course is that everything is that bit smaller.
  • The keyboard responsive and feels good under the fingers. I’ve not really noticed the small size of the chassis, as the keyboard feels quite spacious. The keyboard is more like the kind of thing I’ve envied on friends’ Apple notebooks in the past.
  • There were a few toys I wasn’t expecting – an external CD Rewriter and Bluetooth.
  • HDMI out is a nice treat, letting me plug into my TV with no fuss.
  • I found there was a discount on computer equipment from HP thanks to my employer. Worth checking.

The Bad Stuff

  • The touchpad feels a little weird, it’s very shiny and feels a little sticky as soon as there’s any moisture on your fingertips. A minor irritation sometimes.
  • The touchpad is also very sensitive and I keep catching it when typing – the random-caret-location game is less than fun. There’s a little ‘off’ button for the touchpad just above it but seriously – like I’m going to hit the touchpad-on-touchpad-off button every time I use it?
  • You have to hold the fn-key down to access the function keys. Now that’s much more annoying, I personally use the f-keys much more often than I use the multimedia functions that are the main functions of the f-keys. Hand-yoga galore whenever I want to close a window. You can switch this in the BIOS, but even then it’s tough to see the little blue Fn labels. I have learnt that white padlock means F5, though.
  • The LCD panel doesn’t tilt back very far (goes back to about 120degrees from the keyboard. That’s annoying, possibly because I’m quite tall. The screen is also very shiny, which is bad when there’s light behind me and for smudges.
  • The chassis gets pretty warm – not uncomfortably so, but warmer than I expected.

Sounds like a lot of bad points, but they’re mostly minor and occasional annoyances, certainly nothing to make me regret my purchase. If you want a quick, affordable, small, lightweight laptop with a little more screen real-estate than usual, I think you’d be happy with it.