Author: andylockran

University

So, I’m entering into the final few weeks of University. The next few weeks are going to be a defining moment in my life, or so I am constantly reminded. I will be disappointed with anything less than a 2:1, but I am no way guaranteed such a grade.

I am not claiming to be superior to the people around me, but I do feel frustrated in my current position. In psychology I have been given assignments which have stretched me academically, that have caused me to think outside the box, and challenged the way in which I currently think. I like psychology, but there are only a few areas within it that interest me. Business, on the other hand, has been pretty much the opposite. Instead of being given stimulation in lectures, I have been forced to sit through dull and repetitive lectures. Now, business is not the most exciting subject, but I strongly believe that lectures should be a one-way diffusion of information, and seminars for discussion. Lectures at Uni here have been “activity based” – and with the massive range of abilities present, half of the class are sitting around with nothing to do whilst the lower end of the range are being hand-held by the lecturer through their tasks.

Now, many people have said to be “Come on Andrew, dig in, you’ve only got a few weeks left until the end.” Sure, I know that this degree is going to be very important, it is very important to me. However, should I ever have to turn up to an interview and rely on this degree to get me a job ahead of another graduate, or ahead of anyone, I don’t think I can sit their and hold this degree up as being worth of the paper its written on.

This may not be the case for a number of people for whom the degree has taken three years of hard work, but the sad fact that I face is that the majority of people who are doing ok this year, have been doing ‘ok’ for the last three years. They’ve not particularly raised their game, and have been helped through it constantly by their lecturers. Other people I know, who are capable of getting great grades have become de-motivated by the sheer volume of work; work which lacks any quality or depth.

Warning bells first sounded for me in the first year, when I was in a group with 4 foreign students to do a presentation. They’d asked me to join their group as they were having trouble with English, so I duly obliged. Having written most of the presentation myself (albeit in their presence) the day came round to present it. Whilst we got through the presentation unscathed (they were reading the slides,) when it came to question and answers, their lack of understanding of both English and the subject meant the group was terrible. I had to step in to answer all of the questions put to us, and felt embarrassed on the part of the girls given their obvious inadequacies. The big surprise for me was that we were able to come out of that presentation with a 2:1 – whereas a group made up of 5 of my English friends only just scraped a 2:2.

I don’t want to assume from this that there is prejudice in the University system, but the marks for the presentations weren’t awarded in conjunction with the marking scheme. The same was true of a third year finance project. We were all encouraged to get our data off the FAME site, and to keep data consistent by only getting data off the one site, as ratio and formulae calculations differed between sites. Despite the fact I had completed the project, one of the comments on my paper was “Why does your data only go up to 2005?” The data on the FAME site only went up to 2005, and was not changed until past when I received the assignment back.

Simple misunderstandings have disillusioned me with the university’s system. Business Lecturers are simple affairs, with lecturers spending time with individuals and helping them with simple skills (such as maths in finance) in order to complete activities. However, the assignments are mammoth tasks – involving hours and hours of menial work in order to answer simple speculative questions that often have no sound basis on market conditions (as few people are capable of understanding market growth/dynamics).

It’s incredibly disheartening to be told that the degree is worthless, and I blocked it out before. However, nearing completion of my degree, I am beginning to realise its worthlessness runs deeper than the institution than will grant it. Studying at the institution for the last three years has made me realise just what standard the University abides by. I could not sit down next to a student from another University and be confident that I was better qualified, even if I had a first and they had a pass. What a frame of mind to be in before my final push for my final classification.

The Constant Gardener

I have just finished watching the film for the third or fourth time, and each time I watch it I find it incredibly humbling. In terms of directorship the film is very well put together, with wonderful camera work, clever music and great acting. There is obvious no surprise that it was nominated for so many awards; the surprise lies in the fact it received so few, thanks to the popularity of Brokeback Mountain.

What is the film about?

The film is a fictional investigation into the dealings by large pharmaceuticals in Africa – how they abuse a position of trust and power into getting people to sign up for Medical Trials on drugs which are not yet ready, in order to benefit from the “next wave” of disease. Despite the shortcomings of the drugs Disphraxia (forgive a possible spelling error) the fictional pharmaceutical KHD continue to test the drug, hiding evidence of 62 deaths it has caused. I urge you to watch the film to get a better understanding.

What does it teach us?

Today, millions of people are dying in Africa for diseases that are both preventable and curable by the medication available to us in the West. Without fear of exaggerating, your medical cupboard at home probably has a higher concentration of medication per person in your household than the majority of African clinics – even when you appear to be completely healthy. Now I do not want to pretend that I am not hypocritical, I too am guilty of this gross misuse of fortune. There is a bigger picture:

In order to solve problems in Africa, and in all the other developing countries, we need to have drastic change. The current agenda for climate change is predominantly due to the media attention it has been given, the same was true for many things. What upsets me is that we are led to believe that in one night, we can do enough to solve Africa’s problems for a year. Instead of giving them £40 million a year through projects like Comic Relief, why don’t we set them up for life?

In the West, a culture has been created that believe that everything can be solved by money. Politicians constantly argue over the Health Service, how £6.4 billion can be spent upon upgrading systems. The systems may be perfect, but unless the Doctors are prepared to utilise them, the money has been badly spent. The same is true of Africa: Live Aid, Comic Relief, Live 8. They all make a tremendous difference to the people who received the money – but we can do more than that. If it were the case that retail spending went down for three weeks after we’ve had a big fund-raiser, then I believe we can probably say we’ve done well. I think it would be interesting to see how much people have actually given.

I don’t want to be a doom and gloom merchant, especially as this is my first post of my new blog. I just want to set some sort of agenda for myself. It’s not about the money. I’m not going to post here that I’ve given 40% of my months wages to African people. Through discussion, thought and progress, I want to discover a way that the massive injustice can be solved properly. Too much time has been given to economics and national interest for the West. Where money is needed in Africa, it should be spent – but there are other ways of helping development. I hope that I can be involved in that, even if it takes me years.

An Introduction

I’m a psychology and business student at MMU Cheshire, in Crewe, UK. I’ve been using open source since I was first introduced to it in my first year at the University. I’d always been interested in Computers, but had never had the resources available to me to delve deeper than below the skin of XP. How wrong I was.

After starting to mess with different Linux distributions, I literally spent hours “faffing around” with all sorts of different settings, messing things up, breaking them, fixing them and doing tonnes of re-installs. I truly believe this is the best way of learning how to ge the most out of a computer. Needless to say, I now have lots of backups to prevent me from careless loss of data (the trial and error method educated me to this).

I continued to work with open source, finding as many ways as possible to make it applicable to me. In May 2006, I started the website www.whatisfloss.co.uk after failing to get an internship at Bentley Motors in Crewe. I was hoping to work in their marketing department. At this time I was also lurking on the OpenDocument Fellowship lists, and lots of OpenOffice.org lists. I thought the whatisfloss site would provide a useful resource for people wanting to learn about FLOSS software.

The first incarnation of the site was written in dreamweaver, and I received lots of criticism for not using an open source CMS. I was naive, and hadn’t got a clue what a CMS was! During these floods of emails (which I rightly deserved) I received on congratulating me for my efforts, and an offer of collaboration in the near future to promote FLOSS.

I was taken aback a little – the site had been receiving a little bit of criticism, particularly as I had not yet adequately explained what FLOSS actually was, (rather important I think,) and it had only been up for a couple of weeks. I noticed from the email address of the guy that emailed me that he was from a company in Manchester, 30 minutes from where I was currently living.

At this point, I was rather cheeky, and replied along the lines of “rather than just collaborate on this project, would you like to employ me?” – as they say.. the rest is history.

Over the summer I learnt so much about Linux development, and was the primary developer on the AZ1000 project, which is the companies office server. It was my first outing in Linux development, and my immediate boss was very accommodating of my shortcomings (I personally believe he had far more input than I did with the development) but I managed to get the beta version finished for two weeks before I’d finished my term.

I worked part time for the company up until the start of March 2007, to focus on my finals. I then intend to work for a partner company whence I graduate in June.

So that’s a little background about me, regarding my Open Source experience at least. I don’t think that telling you about my personal history will be particularly exciting, other than to say I am originally from Solihull, have 4 brothers (John, Simon, Richard and Charlie) and 1 lovely sister (Lorna). I broke my femur in a (me on bicycle versus lady in mercedes) accident on 12th May 1999, and also enjoy creativity – Music, Photography and Acting.