University application news

Following on from my news on Facebook and Twitter recently that I had not been accepted onto the MSc course I recently applied for I have subsequently received better news. As you know, in November I wrote about applying to do an MSc at the University of Manchester after attending a postgraduate open day. I completed this application and submitted it at the end of January once I had secured the various academic and professional references I required. It was all submitted online and I received a receipt for it and it gave me a link and a login to a website through which I could check the progress of my application.

However, they didn’t indicate how long I should expect to wait for news on my application, whether that news was good or bad. After a couple of weeks I called the postgraduate admissions department and asked them when I should expect a reply either way and they told me to just keep checking the website, any developments, progress or requests for further information would be posted there.

And so I did, for a further four weeks. All the while during this time it was of course impossible to make any long term plans beyond September and I was turning down a number of work opportunities because they would have interfered with the university course was I to be accepted on it. So after six weeks I’d decided that I’d had enough of this and sent the postgraduate admissions department an e-mail asking why it was taking so long for them to reply to my application and explained why this delay was causing me problems.

They wrote back the next day informing me that I had not been successful in my application because the course entry requirements require a 2(i) bachelors  degree and I only have a 2(ii). I was of course fully aware of this requirement before I applied, but you may remember from my previous post on the subject that I was advised by a member of the computer science department’s staff that my industrial experience would be taken into account to compensate for my 2(ii) degree award. Had I not been told this I wouldn’t have bothered applying in the first place.

Naturally, I wasn’t particularly happy about this, and so once I’d calmed down and finished ranting about it on Facebook I composed this balanced and wholly reasonable e-mail back to them:

Many thanks for your prompt reply.

While I expect have no choice but to accept the decision of the admissions department, I would like to draw your attention to a couple of issues and would invite your comments and advice on them.

Firstly, I was of course fully aware of the published entry requirements for the MSc in Advanced Computer Science and IT Management before I submitted my application. The reason why I proceeded with my application was because I attended the Postgraduate Open Day in November, when I had the opportunity of speaking with a member of staff from the Department of Computer Science. She advised that although I only had a 2(ii) bachelors degree my considerable industry experience gained since graduating in 1999 would also be taken into account.

Are you able to confirm whether or not this was taken into account, as advised, or was the decision purely made based on my BSc award? Had I know that what the lady I spoke to said was not true, or had I been told outright that my application would not be considered with a 2(ii) bachelors degree, I would not have submitted an application in the first place and used my time and effort considering other options. In this regard I consider that you have wasted my time and given me false hope.

Furthermore, if it was a simple case of refusing my application based on this one factor, it would have been very useful if you could have informed me of this decision earlier, rather than six weeks after my application was submitted and only after I pressed the issue with you. With respect, it is unreasonable to expect people to wait ad-infinitum for a decision as it is difficult to plan based on unknown factors.

I look forward to hearing from you with any comments you may have on this matter.

It took a couple of days for them to reply, but the reply came and informed me that industrial experience is only taken into account if you want to apply to do the MSc on a part-time basis rather than a full-time basis over just one year and that this should have been made clear to me at the open day (it wasn’t). They then offered to convert my application to a part-time application, to which I agreed.

The good news is that a few days later I was offered a place on part-time course and today the formal offer letter arrived. It’s the same course with the same content, but taught over a period of up to four years rather than just one, so it depends on what sort of time commitment you can make around your other commitments. The more time you can commit the less time it will take to complete the course, so it’s ideal for people like me who work for themselves rather than having a full time job.

When I was initially not accepted onto the full-time version of the course I did look for “plan B” study options at other institutions around the country. Unfortunately it seems that nowhere else in the country does a masters course with management elements such as the MSc from Manchester, so it’s either that course or a straight computer science course elsewhere. In all respects the Manchester course is ideal, so I am very glad to have received this news and very much look forward to starting in September.


New MacBook Pro

Finally, after nearly four years, I have a new laptop, a 15″ MacBook Pro, with all the trimmings. It’s not brand new, I bought it from a friend who, perversely, wanted a smaller laptop after owning this one for six months. I wasn’t going to complain though, as it’s two grand’s worth of kit with two and a half years’ worth of AppleCare left for just over half its original cost.

It’s the 15″ 2.8 Ghz Intel Core Duo model (the fastest processor currently available in a MacBook Pro) with 4Gb of RAM, a 500 Gb hard drive and the second separate NVIDIA graphics controller with the separate 512Mb VRAM, although I don’t see myself using that too much since it absolutely hobbles the battery life and I’m not a big games player. It’s nice to know that it’s there should I need to though.

I’m very pleased with it, it’s a nice bit of kit that’ll last me a fair few years. If a base model original Macbook can last me three and a half years then I should get a fair amount of mileage out of this one before needing to replace it.


New set of wheels

Front view in the car park at home

I’ve got a new set of wheels after not having my own car for two and a half years ever since I gave my BMW 320d back. It’s a 2001 BMW 735i Sport (E38), one lady owner, and it’s lovely. I’ve always wanted an E38 and what with them getting a bit long in the tooth with the introduction of two new 7 series ranges since they stopped making the in 2001 I thought it important to scratch this particular itch before they became unfeasible to own as daily drives.

It’s nine years old (last of line 2001 model) and has 139,000 miles on the clock. It’s in good working order with nothing fundamentally wrong with it, however, due to its age and mileage there are a few things that it needs doing to it, including (but not limited to):

  • It need an inspection service as part of its normal service cycle.
  • The steering judders under heavy braking. This apparently means that the bushes need replacing.
  • The LCD screen on the dashboard is pixelated (about half the pixels don’t work). This is apparently due to a perished ribbon cable and so I’ve ordered a replacement kit off eBay.
  • The boot mat is dirty and horrible and needs replacing.
  • A couple of bits of body trim on the passenger side are either missing or damaged and so need to be replaced.
  • The satellite navigation system needs a software and maps data update (its map data is from 2001). Again this is apparently easily and cheaply achievable using a CD kit from this guy.

It also requires a few minor personal customisations:

  • Debadging.
  • Replacement leather gear selector.
  • Chrome rings for dashboard.
  • Chrome grills replacements.
  • It needs an AUX port for iPhone connection, if the stereo will support it.

At some point down the line I also intend to replace the speaker system and satellite navigation system, but they are large projects requiring a reasonable amount of money so they will have to wait for a while.

There’s a wealth of E38 geeks on the Internet who have become E38 oracles over the years so I won’t be short of help and information as and when I need it. It’s been some years since I owned a car that I can treat as a “project” car, i.e. not a car that to do anything do would invalidate the warranty. The last car I had like this was my old blue Sierra, ever since then I’ve had new cars or cars that were still within their warranty period.

A few pictures (more to come once it’s had a full spit and polish, it’s a little dirty at the moment as the previous owner was still using it up until the day we bought it):

Side view as shown on Autotrader

Interior as shown on Autotrader


IT and AV installation job at Salford property

For the past week or so I’ve been working on an IT and AV installation job at a friend’s house in Salford. It’s a large Victorian house which he bought and is in the process of having it gutted and extended.

As part of this he wanted a fully integrated IT, telecoms, TV and and audio system installation, which he’s asked myself and Chris to do since we’ve some considerable experience with such things. He knows nothing about such things since he’s a GP, and so is trusting our judgement on what to install and buy. I hope he doesn’t regret doing so!

Phase 1 is first fix, so basically the hard work of pulling 80 runs of CAT6 and loudspeaker cable through the house (67 runs of CAT6 and 13 runs of speaker cable, including outdoor cables to the gardens). Once this is complete (on Thursday) we then have to wait for the builders to finish ready for second fix (where the cables are connected to sockets and patch panels). This forms Phase 2.

Phase 3 then becomes the really fun bit where we install all the specified equipment, including a computer network, a 9.1 speaker home cinema system, a distributed satellite TV system, a zoned audio system and other smaller features. After that comes the housewarming party where our friend gets to impress everyone with our work :)

It’s a manual job but it’s a fun job and it’s something I’ve done many times before so I don’t mind doing it. It’s not every day someone asks for a structured cabling system in their house, let alone on the scale of this one. Luckily, since it’s an old house, it has a cellar and lots of voids through which cables can be run. Ironically newer houses are harder to retrofit in this way unless it’s done at initial first fix because they simply don’t have such spaces, usually in the name of cost saving and profit maximisation on the part of the developers.

Here are a few geeky pictures of Phase 1. Apologies for the poor quality, they’re iPhone pictures. I’ll replace them with nicer ones if I remember to take any.

AV cables ready for home cinema installation

Many of the cables run through the cellar

The smallest bedroom is being set up as an office and so has trunking

Plant room in basement, where cables will terminate in a rack (image helpfully rotated by WordPress)