Haskell Walks Into A Bar…

Well, 2009 is coming to a close, and what a year it has been! I’ve settled into Imperial well and the past 11 weeks have been brilliant! A good friend told me that University is like a massive holiday just with hard work, and I’m inclined to agree. I chose to live in halls despite living fairly close anyway, and the move to South Kensington proved greatly fruitful. I ended up in very luxury halls (en suite, double bed!) inhabited by a multitude of fantastic and awesome people that I could call good friends very quickly.

Being a CompSci person, I’ve been happily kept sharp by requests to solve various problems with laptops, and since many courses at Imperial include some kind of programming (CivEng, Physics, Biology..), I’ve been able to look at other people’s work and advise on some problems such as in MATLAB, Maple etc. My course, however, has been extremely fast paced – there’s no time to stress over the workload, you just get it done and party hard until the next workload!

It all started with a language called Haskell. My course, that is. A pure functional programming language with plenty of recursion causing us to initially cry out for an imperative alternative, like the Visual Basic, Java or .NET stuff we were so used to. It didn’t take much from the amazing programming and logic lecturers (who have their own Facebook appreciation societies!) to start appreciating Haskell for its sheer power in defining elegant solutions to problems. So much so, that once we started learning a version of the imperative language Java with the object oriented side hidden (called Kenya, for its weaker taste in comparison to Java coffee), we began to miss Haskell!

I refused to turn Kenyan (Adj: to code using the in-house language Kenya), since it was basically Java with ”static” keywords everywhere, and did all my assessments and tests in Java. Next term we start Java. It’ll be like nice revision! Oh yes, Haskell walks into a bar? He has one argument. The classic joke I heard referencing currying while at a pub with our lecturers, my tutor group and the PhD student who wrote Kenya (Feature: try CTRL+PG UP – it crashes the IDE ^_^). Indeed, we spend our social time talking about programming. We’re awesome!

Otherwise, it’s been logic and natural deduction in another in-house (means Imperial made it) system called Pandora. Lovely stuff. My current record for work is 6 consecutive A+ grades, and it is to be beaten next year!

I did start the term using my second laptop (HP Pavilion tx1250ea), but I soon realised the lack of wireless (due to a fault with the series) was unacceptable. As a result, I decided to go all out on my third laptop (Gateway something or other) and put Ubuntu Linux on it, which somehow fixed any and all HD problems I was having. The icing on the cake was the MSDNAA subscription Department of Computing members got, allowing me to download and put Windows 7 Professional onto it free of charge. I have since been using my third laptop in lectures whenever needed, leaving my first (HP Pavilion HDX 18) to act like my main terminal in halls. I am in the process of purchasing a wireless USB adaptor for my second such that I can start using it again next term (it’s lighter and has a touch screen).

The first thing I noticed moving into halls though is how the entire building seems to act as some kind of Faraday Cage. Perhaps it’s to keep our wireless in. Whatever it is, it does a good job at keeping TV and mobile phone signals out. There’s a position on my desk where my phone can get one bar. I keep it there, naturally. Although, I am prone to getting texts a few hours after they were sent to me. The networking though, wow. It flies! We have a 5GB limit per day (but innocent as I am, not doing illegal downloads, I most likely won’t ever reach that amount), and the speed is fantastically fast. Furthermore, DoC speed is FASTER since they have a separate network. I remember uploading a file at something like 1.5MB/s (yep, capital B – Bytes not bits), and the file was only about 1MB, so I can’t help but imagine what this would have increased to had it been bigger..

Imperial has a newspaper, self funded and free from our Student’s Union (so they get full freedom of speech – hence the slogan ”Keep the Cat free”). It’s called Felix, and the Editor In Chief lives in the same halls. One of the first things I was sure of before starting was that I wanted to write for them. And well, it’s totally happened! The first week or so I did Copy Editing and Proof Reading, then I did some Photography in addition (don’t you dare call me an arts guy – Scientist forever), and shortly after I was encouraged to write for news as well. I had my own news feature in one of the recent issues and feel like I’ve been accepted quite quickly by Felix staff as one of their own, it’s very rewarding being part of the team, the atmosphere in the Felix office is always warm (it even takes my mind off the fact that there are some Macs in the office! – yeah, I’m a Windows guy) and seeing people read the paper which I helped finish and get to print is always satisfying on a Friday morning.

Anyway yes, I’ve rambled on enough (wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t, eh?) and believe this amount of text more than makes up for not posting for so long.. (but seriously.. You read all that? I’m flattered)

So yes, I shall bid thee a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Bring on term 2!! =D

Alexander Karapetian


About Alexander Karapetian

Software Engineer & Computer Scientist from Imperial College.
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