CSCI E-131b Week 4 Update

We are already in week four of the semester, yikes! And I am sorry that I have not been able to blog as often as I liked.

Instead of a detail summary of the material that I am going over, I will talk about the class in general and how I feel about the program. I would really like to make this blog more technical, but the courses are actually kicking my butt! That might help me actually get around to writing and inform those curious about taking certain classes.

Harvard Extension
CSCI E-131b: Computer Networks and Internet Protocols

The first homework assignment was pretty difficult. I probably wrote five pages at size eleven Arial font. However, after going to section the other day I realized that I made the assignment much hard than it should have been.

Basically the homework asked for, so it seemed, detailed responses to fairly technical questions. For instance, draw a sliding window diagram for XYZ protocol. Although I knew what a sliding window looked like, I didn't quite know how to show it in depth with the XYZ protocol. Fortunately, our section leader told us that the responses did not have to be that technical at all but show that we understood the general idea.

Attending class still seems to be entertaining. I think that our professor, Len, is still an excellent presenter and I am happy to be there in person every week. I have a habit of sitting in the front row but I suspect everyone in the back will have no problem listening to his lecture. Unfortunately, I haven't tried listening to the stream of the class so I can't really judge how the recorded sessions are.

In general, the class correlates strongly to the reading assignments and the homework.

So far we have only had two sections so far. They happen to be on Thursdays around 6:30 PM in a cozy, old-school (ha!) room near Harvard Yard. The section leader, Joe, is an amazing guy himself and could probably easily teach the class. What I like about him is that he really tries to help us out, no matter how idiotic the questions may sound.

The amount of students that show up has been pretty small so far. About 10 students the first section and maybe 5 the next. I recently decided to speak up more often in section because I really want to do well and no one seemed to mind. Unfortunately, I probably asked about 9 of the 10 questions that were asked during the hour. Cool-guy-Joe didn't seem to mind because it keep him busy scribbling on the blackboard. I really enjoy the section and I find that it adds value to the overall course.

Right now we're learning about the Ethernet and LANs. A few questions that I asked were:

  • Q: Does it ever make sense to use a hub over a switch if they were the same price?
    A: No, in fact you it would be difficult to buy a hub these days.
  • Q: Does the switch-table keep track of other switches on the network?
    A: No, switches do not have Mac Addresses! But routers do.
  • Q: I find the IETF mailing list very intimidating and I do not see how I could ever contribute. Is this normal?
    A: YUP! Those guys are geniuses.


Networking... It's just one of those love/hate relationships.