Sunday, December 28, 2008

School la la la ...

I just finished off my classes for the semester and I only have 4 more classes before I get my Bachelor of Science (BS) degree, yeah!. That's two more semesters, so I should be done by September if outside factors (a story for another day) don't interfere. Already I'm investigating getting a master's degree (I must be nuts). I have to figure out finances, reviewing and taking the GRE, what I want in a master's degree program and, finally, where to apply. I am certain that I will take a year off from my studies and try to get a few more things done around my home. So far I have some 192 credits (don't ask) but I probably need some more for my interests. Of course they may not necessarily align with any graduate degree program. I wish they had a program where I could make up the curriculum and I would learn on my own. This is what I'm doing with my BS degree. In my psychology course this is a guided self-discovery type of learning. This is something I've pretty much done all my life. I think I'm very interested in computer science, information science and electrical engineering. These are the majority of the fields that come into play with smart home technology (at least the ones that come to my mind). Add artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the home as a robot (domotica) except you live in it instead of it living with you. The only reason I want to continue with school is that it would further my smart home hobby. :-) I certainly doubt it will further my career. For now I haven't spent any extra money to further my degree goal but I'm giving it a serious investigation. I don't know, maybe a masters degree isn't the correct path to my goals of smart homes. The one thing I need most is someone to talk to about the degree programs, some one who can advise me. So I sent an email to my adviser to see if they can help. :-) I hope they'll be able to help. I'll also ask my coworkers in the Labs. A great many of them have already gone through this, a few recently. They won't be able to help me select things but they can fill me in on the processes.


At 12/28/2008 1:51 PM, Blogger Jon Smirl said...

I have a couple of masters degrees and they are pretty much worthless. The main thing they are good for is keeping new graduates out of the job market when they graduate into a recession. I didn't pay for either of my masters. In both cases I was able to get the school to waive tuition in exchange for being a teacher's assistant and grading about a million homework assignments. Grading a million assignments is a very education experience, you learn a lot about how not to do things.

Also, from what I know of your background, an electrical engineering masters might be more relevant than more software work. The powerline and radio OFDM signaling used in home automation is complex.

Another solution is to get hired by someone big like Google, IBM, etc. Big companies will reimburse your tution from night classes.

You could also get a job at a CEDIA installer and install systems in a couple of hundred homes. That will give you important perspective on what consumers like and dislike about smart homes.

At 12/28/2008 2:56 PM, Blogger Neil Cherry said...

Jon thanks for the response, it will give me something more to consider. :-)

Where I work (full time) a masters degree is almost a requirement for advancement. I've been 'grandfathered' because I've been doing the work for the last 20 years without it (actually with only an AS). Work will pay for a portion of my degree (it's complex) but I still end up paying for part of it.

Having said that, I want the degree for my own personal use (otherwise, as you said it's worthless since it won't bring in any more money). I enjoy learning and I'm reaching the limit of what I can learn from books in the book store. The internet as an information source is too vast and broad. I need some help with direction (which is why I've been putting my thoughts in the blog, so I can see them). One thing I enjoy about class is that it's a place for discussion. Also I need to know a lot more to fully grasp what's needed in a smart home. I'm certain that project management techniques will be useful as will machine learning. Just at the moment I have an idea but not enough knowledge and experience to properly put it into words (or code). I can see it and almost grasp it yet it remains beyond my reach, very frustrating.

The one thing about smart home technology at this point in time is that it isn't taking advantage of what is available. I can see the possibilities but not the road to get there. I'm fairly certain that I can't do it myself. :-) Right now I'm letting others work the EE part (such as One-net and ZigBee). I'll just be an 'end user' of the technology. I'm also working with the OpenRemote folks as that may lead to a software solution (I can't write the entire project code on my own, too big a project).

I'm also lucky that a local installer has offered to give me a tour of their large and expensive installation and talk to me about their concerns.

The one thing I'm pretty comfortable with right now is that the large companies will not be the innovators of the smart home. They'll end up purchasing someone else who has done the innovation. It is my opinion that large companies are too big for this kind of innovation. My hopes lay with the OpenRemote team to accomplish this.

Oh, AFAIK, most 'smart homes' in my area are high end entertainment systems with the exception of the real integrate smart homes (i.e. $$$). While that might be my ultimate goal I'd like to see them do a lot more than change the channel and turn on the lights. I do that with Misterhouse and Tivo. I want a lot more intelligence and a lot lower pricing. Something more for the average user. That's a very tough order to fill (such are the things that make up dreams).

At 12/28/2008 4:11 PM, Blogger Jon Smirl said...

There is far more knowledge floating around the Internet than you will ever get from university classes. Try some of the open courseware classes from MIT and Stanford. They put all of the content from the classes on the Internet- videos of the lectures, homework assignments, reading lists, etc.

Search for videos of major computer conferences. These are thousands available. You'll be getting a lecture directly from an expert in the field. Check out this Ruby conference.

I also find the Internet a better place to discuss things than a classroom. On the Internet I can email the inventor of a concept and the respond most of the time. The Internet lets something that has never happen before in history happen, small groups of experts can meet electronically even though they are physically scatter around the globe.

At 12/29/2008 12:38 AM, Blogger Neil Cherry said...

Jon, thanks for the links, I'm now looking at the Open Courseware and I'm taking one of the EE/CS classes. I'm just finishing a set of Java lectures (not MIT). The Java lectures were useful as review. :-) I'm looking forward to the math and science courses to also use them as a review.

You're correct about the internet (oddly enough I prefer online classes). But I miss the face to face interaction (talk about opposite goals). There's just something about a white board and warm arguements/discussions. when it comes to brain storming. What we need to is a good white board app and touch screen. Used with VoIP and a world wide brain storming session could be interesting!

Just remember one thing about the internet, you can't always trust what you're reading so read with a distrustful eye. I think I can trust MIT. :-)


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