Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Catching up with the courses

I generally take a break from the studying on Saturdays so with the bad weather today it was a bit of a catch-up day or rather more of a getting ahead day in practice.

As I’ve been spacing out the Infectious Disease assignment over the last couple of weeks, there’s only a tiny bit of that still to do. Well, in principle it’s a tiny bit but as it’s a research question it’s hard to say how long it will actually take. It’s to be in later this week so I’m going to try and get that completed this evening.

I’m well through the computer marked assignment for the course too. It’s a bit of a pain as they’ve several free format answers and, going by the forum, it’s marking many correct answers wrong so they may have to zero weight the affected questions.

I’m miles ahead with the history of maths course and got even further ahead today. It’s a peculiar mix of history and maths with the maths largely being in the books whilst the history bit is mainly in the videos. The computer marked questions are almost all based on the maths and cover a wide range from Egyptian counting through Newton and on to late 20th century maths. As it’s only a 10 point level 1 course everything is naturally at a fairly low level but I’m finding that working through such a vast time span is surprisingly interesting. The videos (the Story of Maths TV series) are a bit peculiar towards the end with the presenter turning up at the childhood homes of various mathematicians for no particularly good reason and skating over the maths along the way. That said, the combination of the videos for the story and the books for the maths works quite well and it’s a shame that they hadn’t applied a similar combination in other subjects.




Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

More and more tutorials in chemistry

It would appear that the tutors are getting a whole bunch of enquiries about retrosynthetic analysis as the number and length of the tutorials on that is mounting up at a time in the course when you’d expect fewer of them.

So, last week another two hour marathon followed by a (relatively) short 90 minute one on Monday though my own tutor is doing yet another one this Wednesday (at 9pm!!) and there’s another next week on the day that the final TMA is due so I suspect that numbers attending that will be rather small.

Funnily enough, I’m now into a section of the course which feels relatively easy after the slog that the last few months have been. That’s largely down to it being stuff that was covered very well in the residential in 2012 which not so many people doing the course now had the opportunity to go on. It just goes to show that the residentials really were worthwhile and it’s a shame that 2012 was their final year.

On other fronts, I’ve been I’ve been considering what to do over the coming year. At the moment, the best option seems to be to do Empires (A326) which would bring my points total up to around 280 and take me over 60 points at level 3 i.e. I would be able to claim an open degree that would use up all the points from my “miscellaneous interesting courses” degree. To make it all unique points, I’d likely add Planetary Science & the Search for Life (S283) in the following year or maybe the next depending on what I do after the Life Science degree.

For 2015/15 I’d really like to get going on the biology masters and I’ve been looking around for options on that front. So far, my favourite is the Molecular Biology degree at Queen’s but I’ve not worked out a way of fitting that in with work yet. Second choice is the Molecular Biology degree at Staffordshire which is distance learning but with two residentials. In third place is the Structural Molecular Biology degree at Birkbeck which is online only and that’s really putting me off it but otherwise it looks quite good.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Re-opening horizons

Once I achieve the points for an open degree (all being well, late next year), it opens up the possibility of carrying on allocating interesting courses to it as I go along.

Sadly, the 10 pointer is a dying breed in the Open University these days but there are some interesting ones still around. Of those TM190, The Story of Maths, has been on my list for years but as I thought I was going to lose my 10 pointers I hadn’t thought about it for a while. Now that they’ll be safe within the open degree, I hope to do it on its final run this May.

I’m still not decided about the course for October though it’ll likely be either S276 Geology (on its final run) or S283 Planetary Science & the Search for Life (which would complete my Certificate in Astronomy & Planetary Science). I quite like S283 but S276 becomes a 60 pointer as from the following year which is more than I really want to do.

I’m planning on going to the postgrad open day at Queen’s later in the month which might throw everything up in the air again.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Getting your Open University software running on Linux, Mac and Windows 64bit

The Open University is generally quite far ahead of the game when it comes to producing software to go along with its courses. Snag is, that those courses generally run for around 10 years and that’s a very long time indeed in software. The net effect of that is that it’s not quite so easy to just plonk in the DVDs and CDs that come with your course. However, it is possible, so here’s how….

Method one: for Linux and Mac

Almost all older OU software assumes that you have a Windows computer and generally speaking a Windows XP computer. However, you don’t need to have one.

1. Browse the CD/DVD and check if there is a setup.exe file or an index.html file.

2. If it’s an index.html file then you can probably just open it and carry on. If it’s a setup file, then you should install Wine (either from, or from the Linux repositories); there’s no charge for the software.

3. Once you’ve installed Wine, double-click on the setup.exe file (for Linux, you will need to set the file permissions to allow execution).

If that doesn’t work, see method two.

Method two: for Linux, Mac and Windows 64 bit

This usually applies to older OU software and affects Windows 64bit systems in some cases too.

1. Install VirtualBox (from or the Linux repositories); there’s no charge for the software.

2. Register at and then download Windows 2003 (you could download Windows 2008, but that’s too modern for some OU software). This gets you two files: en_win_srv_2003_r2_standard_with_sp2_cd1_X13-04790.iso and one with “cd2” in place of “cd1”.

3. Start VirtualBox and set it up for Windows. This will bring up a screen titled “Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager”. Click on “New” (top left icon on my screen), click on next and it should ask you for a machine name: it’s best to name it something like Windows2003. Also select the operating system (ie Microsoft Windows) and version (Windows 2003). Click next and it asked for the base memory size. For Windows 2003, 1mb is more than enough. Note: the size set here can’t be more than half of the memory in your computer. Next takes you to the question about the hard disk. This is the hard disk of your new VirtualBox/Windows machine, not your own computer! The default size of 20gb is more than enough for OU stuff – don’t worry too much about that size as it only expands to 20gb as you use it. Couple more nexts and you should get back to the original VirtualBox screen as at step one, with “Windows2003 powered off” or “Windows2008 powered off” listed.

4. Install Windows… Select Windows2003 then click on “Settings”. Click on Storage and you’ll see a CD icon saying “empty” beside it. Over to the right of that there is a CD icon underneath the heading “attributes”, click on that then “choose virtual CD/DVD drive” and browse to the first “.iso” file as per step one. Click on OK and you’re back to the first VirtualBox screen. Double click on your Windows2003 and it will start to install the software. For Windows2003 then you’ll need to select the second .iso file when prompted to insert the second CD. You’ve the various Windows settings to go through along the way but they’re just things like the time, date, and keyboard.

5. In parallel with step 4, you can copy the various course CDs/DVDs onto your computer as .iso files. On Linux, Brasero works well, for Mac you can use Burn ( but in both cases there are loads of alternatives.

6. Once all that’s done (and it’s not nearly so complicated in practice as it might sound!), you just double-click on Windows2003 to start up the windows machine. You’ll need to attach the .iso files as required, which you do by clicking Devices, CD/DVD Devices, Choose a virtual CD/DVD disk file when you’re running Windows.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Be careful of what you wish for…

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing the Open University’s main chemistry course for a while now but it’s one of those courses with widely varying opinions which put me off. Basically there were those who rated it pretty much as A-level and at the other end of the extreme those who rated it as pretty much impossible.

The reason for such wide variations is generally down to the differing backgrounds that people have. Come to a course with just the minimum entry requirements met and you’ll find it at the very difficult end of the range, come to it with quite a lot of preparation and it can be very easy indeed to do. The snag is that you generally won’t know what the “right” preparation is until you find yourself in the midst of the course. For instance, the “right” preparation for the Exploring English course isn’t a whole bunch of English courses and is instead a couple of their foreign language courses.

Anyway, S205 has been on my October short-list but generally getting pushed out by courses which were widely held to be doable.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.