Saturday, December 05, 2009

Cambridge University Online Courses

After suggesting to my colleagues at the Australian National University School of Computer Science (SoCS) we use an e-Oxbridge educational model, I thought I should check to see how Oxford andr Cambridge apply e-learning. A quick web search found the Cambridge University Institute of Continuing Education, which offers online courses specialising in adult and non-traditional learners. The Institute clims: "unparalleled level of online support and direction from experienced and enthusiastic tutors", whichfits with the Oxbridge model of education. However, these are short general interest and proessional devlopment courses, not full degree programs.

An example is "The global climate challenge: policy technology and the future" (COV007), an 11 week course costing £165.00 and offering 10 credits at level 4 of the Framework for higher education qualifications. The award requires participation in online discussions, a Personal Statement of Learning (e-Portfolio) and assignments. Six such courses would be required for an undergraduate "Certificate of Continuing Education" (Postgraduate courses are at FHEQ Level 7).

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cambridgeshire Guided Busway

The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway (UK), when completed in late 2009, will be the longest guided bus system in the world. It will use similar technology to the Adelaide O-Bahn Busway, which is currently the world's longest. The guided busways combines the features of a bus and tram. A concrete track is being laid, mostly along the right of way of the disused Cambridge and Huntingdon railway. Small wheels on new buses will allow them to be guided on the track, but also run on ordinary roads between sections of track. This has advantages over a tram, which can only run on track, not ordinary roads. The use of the guideway allows for two tracks (one in each direction) to be laid in a smaller space than a roaidway. However, the system has disadvantages: busses have internal combustion engines (not electrically powered as with most trams) and so create local pollution and then have a lower carrying capacity than multi unit trams.

I have attempted to map the route of the bussway. Note that the route is only approximate and the timings are incorrect (these are based on Google maps estimate of walking speed). Also I attempted to use Googles "my maps" feature, but could not work out how to import the directions.:

View Larger Map

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

What to see in Cambridge

The University of Cambridge (England) has invited graduates of the Australian National Unviersity to visit Cambridge in July to help celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the university. There is a week's program of talks and events organised at Madingley Hall, home of the Institute of Continuing Education, which has a garden by 'Capability' Brown), but I thought I would suggest a few of my own, based on a couple of visits to the Unviersity and its environs.

The first tip is to take with you, borrow or hire a bicycle (the basement of Kings College has some bicycles which look like they were forgotten a hundred years ago). I took my own folding bicycle on one visit and found it a very practical way to get around the city centre. There are bicycle paths by the river and some of the one way streets have a bicycle lane in the reverse direction.

There is an excellent double-decker tour which covers the inner city and also gets out to the countryside around Cambridge. The locals frown on this sort of tourism, so best to quietly go off and do it by yourself. One place the tour stops is the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial at Madingley.

A walk along the banks of the River Cam at dusk is a must. Time it right and you can see the choir crossing the bridge to King's College Chapel for evensong at dusk (also worth attending). A punt on the river is entertaining, but the river gets crowded with tourists, so if possible get an invitation to use a college punt from their own private lawns instead of the tourist punts.

The Cambridge University Press Bookshop is worth an half hour browse. There are numerous research organisations and companies clustered around the university facilitates. Do some research before you go and get an invitation to visit. Microsoft's research institute was interesting, but you need and invitation.

Lunch or dinner at "high table" is entertaining (skip breakfast it is not very good in the average college). The high table is where the college elite and guests sit, a few cm above everyone else. Just be careful to sit where you are told and be ready to explain what you do and be able to drop some names. Trinity College puts on a good lunch and King's College was good for dinner.

The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway has not yet opened (so Adelaide's O-Bahn Busway is still the world's longest) but you can take a ride on the test buses.

By the way if you aren't an ANU alumni, but have some academic connections, you may be able to talk your way into the colleges. Just look for someone you know, who knows someone at Cambridge. I found that with a Linked in search there were 111 people I was connected with, who were Cambridge graduates, 12 of whom live within 40 km of the university and 3 who work or research at it. Also keep in mind that the university is just a loose consortium of colleges, who are always looking for guest speakers from faraway places. Even if one will not let you in the door, another may well. Once I had one introduction, I found that opened other doors.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Microsoft Research on Energy-Efficient Computing

Microsoft is supporting research into Energy-Efficient Computing. I came accross this recently when a collogigue mentioned they had attedned a attended a symposium on Sustainable Design-Make-Serve at Microsoft Research Cambridge.

REDMOND, Wash. — April 28, 2008 — As part of its Sustainable Computing Program, Microsoft Corp. today announced it will support four academic research projects focused on energy efficiency in computing in the areas of datacenter power efficiency, power management and the creation of parallel computing architecture with decreased power demands. ...

The Sustainable Computing Program explores two main areas of research that can have a major impact. The first is the principle of “pay for play,” which is the idea that the power consumed by a computing device should be proportional to the demand placed upon it, lowering the amount of energy consumed at low load and idle. Secondly, energy efficiency, even at peak loads, is equally important in reducing the overall consumption of electricity and should be managed as a first-class resource. The program encourages researchers to use novel approaches in hardware design, software, networking, benchmarking, analysis, virtualization and any other avenue that might provide improvements in the field.

Under the program, a total of $500,000 will be awarded among the four winners. A summary of the winners and descriptions of their projects follows:

“Control-Theoretic Power and Performance Management for Green Data Centers”; University of Tennessee; aimed at developing frameworks for integrating power and performance improvements in virtualized datacenters

“Building a Building-scale Power Analysis Infrastructure”; Stanford University; for the design and deployment of a dense sensor network for power analysis, producing data for future research on power-aware computing

“A Synergistic Approach to Adaptive Power Management”; Harvard University; for the development of a dynamic runtime environment that ensures that power consumption is proportional to the computational demands made on the system

“Simulating Low Power x86 Architectures with Sooner, a Phoenix-based Simulation Framework”; University of Oklahoma; for the development of a simulation framework that supports the study of low-power microarchitectures for innovative multicore systems

Microsoft Research is committed to delivering breakthrough innovations in research in the areas of energy efficiency and conservation, weather study and prediction, air pollution and quality, climate change, and hydrology. Other efforts range from sensor networks to assist scientists in understanding global ecological issues by tracking animals, to Web-enabled sensors that could be used in businesses and homes to monitor energy consumption. For example, research with the Berkeley Water Center, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and National Marine Fisheries Service will use these technologies to help form a “digital” picture of watershed health. ...

From: Microsoft Research Supports Exploration Into Energy-Efficient Computing, April 28, 2008

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Information Retrieval at Microsoft Research Labs

Recommended: Nick Craswell is speaking on Information Retrieval (Web IR) in Canberra Wednesday (I visited Nick at Microsoft Research Labs Cambridge, on a bicycle tour of Europe):
The Australian National University

Nick Craswell Challenges in Web Information Retrieval (Web IR)
Nick Craswell (Microsoft Research Labs, Cambridge, UK)

DATE: 2007-04-18 TIME: 16:00:00 - 17:00:00 LOCATION: CSIRO Seminar Room S206 (come to reception on Level 2, CS&IT Bldg)

ABSTRACT: When building a Web search engine, we can benefit from core IR techniques, such as probabilistic ranking models and evaluation methods. But we also face problems that are not yet so well-studied in the field of IR. This talk explores several of these. For efficiency reasons, we need to crawl the web selectively. This raises an interesting query-independent ranking problem. We have large-scale logs of user behavior. I will present a novel approach for dealing with sparsity of this data. We may also have relevance judgments for a large number of queries, as in the new TREC "million query" track, which allows for large-scale parameter tuning experiments. Each of these problems lends itself to data-driven solutions. The talk should thus give a favour of the work that goes on in the area of commercial Web IR.

BIO: Nick is a PhD graduate from ANU Computer Science who worked in CSIRO's Enterprise Search group before joining Microsoft Research in Cambridge. Nick is now employed as a researcher in the team behind Microsoft's search engine. He is a coordinator of the TREC Enterprise Track and the INEX Entities Track. He is also a Senior Reviewer for the ACM SIGIR Conference and is author of many influential and highly cited papers in the Information Retrieval area.

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