Flash Flushed

This past weekend I finally removed Flash. Adobe has declared that Flash will die this year or next, so I decided to get it done now. It's somewhat sad, as I liked the Flash panoramas, and I had some hope of playing with a Flash to do what could be done with QuickTime in LiveStage Pro. However, it died a long time ago, too,

Portuguese Verb and Vocabulary Drills

Recently I happened across the website Conjuguemos, which offers a variety of graded quizzes and drills in multiple languages: French, German, Korean, Latin, Portuguese, and Spanish. Some languages have far more learning materials than others, but I find the Portuguese ones rather handy. Since a few of the Portuguese words are still written with ü, I assume the focus is not on Brazilian Portuguese. Since my ability is quite low, I am satisfied with any version of Portuguese.

For graded activities, you must register with the site. Give it a try!

Taking a Course through Udemy

Toward the end of the past semester and through Christmas and New Year's, I purchased a couple of Udemy courses in response to some discount price campaigns. Everything I purchased is of a technical bent, such as VHDL or digital signal processing, with the possible exception of one on Excel 2013. At $10~12 for each course, I felt there was little to lose, but the direct out-of-pocket cost would add incentive. Most of the courses I chose were not offered at IUPUI or Ivy Tech Community College, at least not when I wanted to take them.

Udemy was not my first experience with online learning. I have used YouTube lectures, industrial firms' lectures and training videos, and Khan Academy. As an IUPUI student, I have unlimited access to Lynda.com courses, a few of which I have registered, one or two of which I have begun, and none of which I have completed. YouTube lessons have been good for specific topics, not for sustained study. With Lynda, I forget I have it once engineering classes start. When engineering courses get rolling, I lose the time for Lynda courses.

After logging into Udemy, I choose my course, which is currently Digital Signal Processing with MATLAB. This opens the Course Dashboard window with two functional columns. The course name is at the top left, beneath which is a column with, from top to bottom:

  1. A clickable area for the current lecture's video, which includes its name and the time remaining for the lecture.
  2. An overall course progress bar with a trophy at the end to dignify completion.
  3. A list of course section, inside each of which are the lectures. Each lecture is shown with its title (e.g., "Lecture 3: Convolution"), completion status, lecture length, and icons for whether you have taken notes or asked questions.

Exactly where you are in the course--what percentage you have completed--is very clear.

On the right are three options: Discussions, Announcements, and the number of students (currently 373). The Discussions are questions asked by students; replies are links to be clicked to read. To date, I have asked just two questions. The first, on a weekday, was answered by the next day, and was polite and clear. The second question, asked on a weekend, will perhaps take a bit longer. The Announcements come from the course author(s). Clicking on the number of students reveals a roster, and students can be clicked on to see what they choose to reveal about themselves.

When you choose a particular lecture, you get a window similar to that below, which shows the video lecture screen and the right column, which I will discuss below. At the top left of the video is the Course Dashboard button, which returns you there. In addition to the video's progress bar below it, moving the cursor over the screen brings up the three grey buttons that let you back up 15 seconds, play (or pause), and move ahead 15 seconds. I have found the 15 second repeat to be quite handy for taking notes. At the bottom left, you can opt, as I have, not to immediately load and play the next lecture when you complete the current one. The checkmark at the bottom right turns white on a green background when you complete a lecture.


The right column has four tabs at the top. The leftmost tab lists the course sections and their lectures. The next tab allows the download of relevant lecture material, if any is provided. There is a comment tab, although posting a comment apparently does not automatically provide the section and lecture information, so provide it yourself. The rightmost tab is for notes, which are timestamped by section in the video. The notes can be downloaded, though I have yet to do so. Notes can be edited and deleted, but they cannot be moved around; for example, if you back up in the video to 1:01 to make a note after a note made at 2:13, the notes' times will be out of sequence. Clicking on a note's time takes you to that point in the video lecture.

The Complete Smith Chart

For my last homework assignment of my electromagnetism course, I must work with Smith charts, which can be useful for working with transmission line impedance and other related values. With a compass to draw circles, a straight edge, a pencil, and a bit of practice, you can make some interesting calculations.

To get me started, I found the three Smith chart videos by Carl Oliver to be helpful. I plotted my homework on the Smith chart PDF by Black Magic Design that is available here (and elsewhere).

Working with WebAssign

My calculus II course requires students purchase a code (I paid $30.76, Indiana state tax included) to enable a term's worth of access to WebAccess. The site has many exercises for the chapters being covered in my course. Each exercise has links to the textbook, Stewart's Calculus, 7th edition; the entire textbook is readable through the site, although it is probably awkward to try to use it in lieu of purchasing the textbook outright.
So far I have yet to use the Help buttons, but my classmates have been dismissive of them.

It is early days for my use of WebAssign, but it looks like it will be a good method for reinforcing the content. Regardless, I will work many of the odd exercises in the textbook for additional practice.