Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Open University course has started

I am now underway on the actual Open University TM470 course - The Computing and IT Project. The idea of this course is to prove that I can define and deliver a complex IT/Computing based project to a timescale set by the OU. I don't have to produce the software to prove that I have done the work. The main deliverable is a 10,000 word essay that describes theproject in detail.

A lot of the students have been searching around for a project theme and many ideas have been rejected as either not Computing/IT or not deep enough to warrant the work. However, my project was accepted immediately and without change.  The project is called (snappy title this)

Freight Car Routing On US. Outline Model Railroads

I have outlined the project before so there is no need to do that again. However, I now have to organise myself and get myself together for doing this properly such that I can finish my B.Sc (Hons) with a flourish. I have managed to get myself a few little assistants. One is a web app called Wrike! This is an only project planner. They do a free student version but were only clued up for .edu e-mail addresses. In the UK our student bodies issue accounts so a couple of e-mails bounced around until I got access to their professional version. That works very well. I also signed up for a thing called Toggi which lets you monitor the time that you spend on anything. However, I stopped using this when I let it run overnight on one task. I also started using Evernote for my notes but that didn't last either.

I decided that I could treat myself to a special item to do both of these tasks. I am a great user of Moleskine notebooks. I always have a few of the little A6 ones to hand and have three of the A5 ones for various purposes. I have always wanted to have a reason to acquire an A4 notebook and this was my chance. I now have a time record in the back of the book and a blow by blow account of my work, thinking and planning in the front.

I have to say that I am enjoying this greatly. This is the first time that I have had to detail my ideas, etc. on paper before going ahead and it is working very well. Not to say that my previous efforts were not so easy - I have always managed to write good software with few bugs. Mostly because I write tests at each stage and carry these tests out often to make sure that everything is going the way I want it. 

The project is spilt into three iterations. These are designed to fit in with the last two Tutor Marked Assignments TMAs) and the final End ofModule Assessment (EMA). I have the main part of the first iteration working, in that I can now deliver a full day's timetable with indicative trains created. For the time being there is no proper allocation of freight cars. This happens in the next round. What I am building at the moment ids the basic infrastructure of the system - there is a diagram at the end of this blog entry that shows the first iteration targets.

There are two ways to follow what is happening with the project - follow this blog or go to my project web site where I put all of the "techie" stuff.

The following diagram shows the "logical" setup of the system. Currently, I have the Data Controller working along with the Riak KV NoSQL database. I now have the main decision engine within the Web Controller working. before the next TMA is due on 11th April I have to have the Web Server in place and talking to the Web Controller. I then have to complete a 4,000 word report on my activities!