I’m taking two (rumored to be extremely time consuming, hence only two) courses this semester, and in keeping with the before and after impressions from last semester, I’m going to state my impressions and expectations after the first meeting of each, so I have it stored for comparison at the end of the semester. It is interesting to think that I have taken the undergraduate versions of these courses (EE480 and CS450 respectively), so it should be interesting to see how much the graduate versions are enriched (or not).
EE685: Digital Computer Structure/Heath
This is rumored to be the most time consuming class offered by the ECE department at UK, and 1/3 of the grade is derived from a single project. I’ve only had one class with the instructor, and didn’t have a terribly positive experience with him. The biggest day-to-day issue is he has a number of mannerisms that drive me slowly insane (”favorite” example: “In this case” is NOT a flavoring particle). There are few enough English-speaking instructors in this field it would be really wonderful if the native English speakers actually did so. I also find some of his grading policies grating, I once had a concrete example where more points were awarded for syntactically correct, algorithmically incorrect solutions than algorithmically correct syntactically flawed solutions on an exam. This is what highlighting editors are for. The other snag is that the tools we will be using for the big project (Xilinx’s ISE and MentorGraphic’s ModelSim) are both big, hateful pieces of software, which are incredibly ponderous to use, and will do all manner of unpredictable things with your input, sometimes changing behavior after simply restarting the program. I am not looking forward to spending more time with them. Gripes aside, it IS a topic I really, really love, and the opportunity to play with it in depth is highly desirable, and further instruction on the underlying theory should be useful for my research.
CS655: Programming Languages/ Finkel
I took CS450 (same basic course) from the same instructor (who is a VERY interesting person and a fairly notable figure in computing) a few years ago. It was quite a bit of work(program in a new language every 2 weeks on top of the theory!), but it was the CS prefixed class I feel I gained the most from as an undergraduate, so I have very high hopes that this will prove invaluable as well. It appears to be structured the same way: language theory supplanted by rudimentary forays into various examples, which should be fascinating, I just hope the theory is a little more in depth and implementation-focused for the graduate version.