17 December 2010

MIT First Semester Notes

Today is the first day of winter break, which means that first semester is over! Here are some notes about classes, etc:


6.172: OMG THIS IS SUCH A GOOD CLASS (even though the workload is ~20hr/week). If I could, I'd love to take it again, but since I can't, hopefully I can TA the class when I'm a senior or M.Eng student. =D Strangely enough, this class did not make me hate coding, even though I encountered a bunch of bugs. The TAs were enthusiastic and responded very quickly to emails.
  • Prereqs: Know C/C++, git, make, algorithms, or else you will suffer! Also, know how to use your favorite text editor!
  • Advice: Be prepared to debug, debug, debug and invest a considerable amount of time right before finals week for the ray tracer. I spent probably 40h that week for this class.
  • Average time spent in class: 3hr/week; average time spent out of class: 20hr/week
14.02: Very unrigorous; it's as if the teacher just pulled everything out of his posterior end. At least Professor Feyrer was an enthusiastic lecturer! The TAs were hard to understand and weren't very enthusiastic.
  • Prereqs: Common sense, know how to take derivatives with a ruler
  • Advice: This is your chance to practice common sense.
  • Average time spent in class: 1.5hr/week; average time spent out of class: 2hr/week
7.012: Eric Lander is such a baller. Weinberg is good too, except he is a rather monotonous lecturer. I did not like how the (really annoying and long) problem sets relied heavily on the lectures and not the book. The flow of material was pretty good and made my lust for computational biology manifest itself a bit more.
  • Prereqs: None
  • Advice: If you want to put in minimal effort into the class, make an effort to learn biology in high school! Also, it's a good class to take on pass/no record.
  • Average time spent in class: 1hr/week; average time spent out of class: 2hr/week.
21W.732: Define a grade function $g(x)$ (where $x$ is effort) such that $g(x) = A$ when $x > 0$ and $g(x) = 0$ when $x = 0$. Yes, that's basically how easy the class was for me. Professor Barrett was enthusiastic and assigned fun projects.
  • Prereq: None
  • Advice: Good writing class. If you have an interest in digital media, this is a great class to practice your skills!
  • Average time spent in class: 3hr/week; average time spent out of class: 1hr/week. 
Life and such

MIT's been a good place; there are amazing facilities for everything!
  • Stata Loading Dock for general hardware collection
  • Reuse for hardware and exercise
  • CSAIL for high performance computing (did I mention that I have access to a 48-core box? =D)
  • Micro Center for random hardware window shopping and exercise
  • MITERS for satisfying my latent EE desire
  • Star Market for cornish hens and exercise
  • Art of Problem Solving grading sessions to supply funds for obscure hardware
I should also mention a subset of the hardware I now have as a result of crufting:
  • 15" iMac G4 (USB 2.0): used to charge my iPhone at night
  • XServe G5 cluster node (unknown): soon to be a compute node
  • Matrox Dual Head2Go: sits in a drawer until I get more displays
  • IOGear DisplayLink adapter (USB to VGA): used to get VGA out from my laptop because I don't have any miniDisplayPort adapters
  • and a bunch of keyboards, mice, and cables that actually come in handy when things break (yes, things do break)
As for people, it's been a mixed bag. People generally are either theoretical or hands-on, but not both. I'm usually at one of three places:
  • 4E, my floor, for a little bit of computer hardware interests (mostly just collecting, not discussing) and some compsci stuff (mostly talking to one of the seniors =D)
  • Clam kitchen for more theoretical compsci stuff (and some gaming kibitzing)
  • 4W (Bayley and Michael Cohen) for…everything else? XD
    • From ray tracing, 
    • to lasers, 
    • to high performance computing, 
    • to CNC machines, 
    • to some really obscure [theoretical] computer science topics (Bayley's computer algebra stuff or Michael's general interest in theoretical compsci), 
    • to Apple =D, 
    • to how Erik Demaine is a beast at life, 
    • to photography (*cough* expensive optics), 
    • to the lameness of mandatory classes in EECS are, 
    • to computer architecture, 
    • to the weekly sale at Micro Center/Newegg and price levels of computer components, 
    • to how Henrik Wann Jensen is the god of photon mapping, 
    • to high-powered electronics, 
    • to how 6.172 is such an awesome class =D, 
    • to economics, 
    • to World War III,
    • to (a little bit of) cars,
    • to next semester's classes, 
    • and somehow the conversation becomes degenerate when the word ``finance'' (or even money) is uttered.
Also apparently I am a good artist even though my drawing skills have been shelved 7 years ago o_O.

So that's life at MIT for now; we're on break until January 2nd. The month of January is devoted to IAP, or independent activities period, a month of no (real) classes! Hopefully I won't be too hosed then to actually be able to work on some cool EE projects.

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