Master in Computer Science, Software Engineering, or Computational Engineering

Helmut Neukirchen, 24. April 2020

We have some overview videos for students who are in interested to enroll in our Master (M.Sc,) programmes in Computer Science (Tölvunarfræði), Software Engineering (Hugbúnaðarverkfræði), or Computational Engineering (Reikniverkfræði):

Master in Computer Science (Meistaranám Tölvunarfræði)

Master in Software Engineering (Meistaranám Hugbúnaðarverkfræði)

Master in Computational Engineering (Meistaranám Computational Engineering)

From Exascale Supercomputing to FAIR data

Helmut Neukirchen, 17. April 2020

I am giving a talk on the H2020 projects DEEP-EST and EOSC-Nordic (including EUDAT's B2FIND and B2SHARE) at the University of Iceland's Engineering Research Institute seminar: From Exascale Supercomputing to FAIR data -- or: Why (almost) everyone uses GPUs and how to get a DOI for your dataset.

For zoom link, have a look at the official announcement.

The slide are available via DOI:10.23728/b2share.a6a4682fe1f74b32b8b67948f7ce6965
and a video recording of the presentation is available as well.

Protected: Connection from home to Heilsugæslan

Helmut Neukirchen, 23. March 2020

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Other means of remote communication with students

Helmut Neukirchen, 15. March 2020

Discussion forum: Piazza

Most Computer Science teachers uses since years the discussion forum Piazza.com that is tailored for university courses. Students can ask there, e.g. anonymously to lower the bar, questions concerning lectures, assignments, organisational issues, etc..

Instant messenger: Riot

For your PhD students, you may want to have a means of remote communication between email and phone: a chat/instant messenger.

  • If you are fine with awkward to use software and have money (or your institution used tax money to pay), you can use Microsoft teams,
    • Caveat: Microsoft, one of the biggest cloud computing providers on Earth, cannot deal with increased load due to COVID: check status
    • If you just need the chat and all your team members have anyway access, it is fastest to use Microsoft Team for this.
  • if you sold your soul (and data) to, e.g. Facebook, you can of course use their messengers.
  • if you like easy to use software and have money, you can use Slack,
  • if you like easy to use software and are convinced that free and open-source software is better, you use Riot: https://riot.im. Riot runs in the browser and has mobile apps.

As with all instant messengers: disable instant notifications -- they distract too much. Instead look only after messages when you do a break/switch between tasks. If your PhD students have something really urgent (the lab is on fire), they can still call you.

Using video conferencing tools for remote teaching

Helmut Neukirchen, 15. March 2020

Note: re-visit this page from time to time as experience from teaching in the Computer Science department is added.

Students seem to be satisfied with our Zoom approach (feedback, paraphrased for legal reasons):

The teachers in the department of Computer Science handled the shift
to remote teaching very well. Every teacher did her/his best and the
Zoom lectures are going well. Teachers have a positive attitude concerning
the new teaching style which is very encouraging that we will be able to tackle the coming weeks.

I attended different classes: both Teams and Zoom were tried and Zoom is
better. In some classes it is even better than showing up.

Note concerning Microsoft Teams

It is irresponsible that university teachers are told (by people who never delivered remote lectures for university courses in practise) to use Microsoft Teams for remote lecturing: Teams was never intended for remote lecturing (Microsoft Word is called Word, because it is a word processor -- does Microsoft Teams sound like a synonym for remote teaching?) and is therefore simply the wrong tool (and in addition awkward to use: you need a 3 h course to learn it) -- rather use Zoom! Teams is as well also the wrong tool for ad-hoc meetings with people who are not part of your team! There are better tools for small, but easy to use ad-hoc video meetings.

Whatever tool you choose, remember to make it accessible to everyone. If it does not use standards such as HTML (=runs in browser on whatever system which typically even makes it usable by visually impared), take care that your tool can be used via Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows and also mobile platforms, i.e. Android and iOS. (The advantage of the mobile platform is that audio always works there, whereas Linux, Mac OS X, or Microsoft Windows sometimes cause trouble with audio devices, e.g. students do not have a microphone for their desktop computer to ask questions, but their mobile phone has for sure a microphone.)

Zoom

Our premier tool for giving whole interactive remote lectures is via Zoom. Request a full license from our UTS IT department to get rid of the 40 minute limit of the free version (and e.g. be able to record to automatically upload to Panopto).

  • Highly recommended reading: detailed slides on using Zoom for lecturing (updated: V2) by my colleague Matthias Book.
    • The setup is as follows: you do screen sharing to share your computer screen that shows, e.g. slides, and you use your webcam to record you, e.g. in front of a whiteboard (use a good, thick black pen). If you have a separate webcam you can also let it point to a sheet of paper on which you write. Instead of a separate webcam, there is also software to connect your mobile phone to your computer and is it as webcam.
      If you record to the Zoom cloud (non-free license only), you get these as two separate videos that you can then combine via Panopto (Create, then Build a session).
    • If you record only one stream (e.g. recording not the cloud but via the Zoom client itself), then take care to disable screen sharing while you want to show something with the camera, e.g. the whiteboard. (Otherwise, the single created video will contain only the screensharing.)
    • An example, where only one stream is recorded can be found here. Note that this has been recorded as a single stream only -- while watching life via Zoom, studentw can choose whether to see the webcam or the screenshare in full form. But in the recording, when recording localy, the webcam view will only be a small thumbnail in the recorded video while screen sharing is active. So deactive screensharing for those parts where you want to have the webcam view recorded in full size.
    • Matthias is currently working on a tutorial video (check this page later again).
  • Some practises of using Zoom for lecturing (time will tell whether these are best practises)

Jitsi Meet and Whereby running completely in the browser for easy-to-use smaller meetings

While Zoom is great for many attendants, you need to download, install, and start a client (Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows) or app (Android, iOS). While you can enable to run in the browser (e.g. set a checkmark when scheduling), it crashed in my browser after a view minutes.

For smaller meetings, e.g. meet ad-hoc with a single student, consultation times, or a teaching assistant meeting with only a handful of student, you may want to avoid the hassle of Zoom to create/schedule a videoconference session and downloading a client or app.

In this case, you can use video conferencing tools that simply run in a browser and do not need any pre-scheduling of videoconference sessions. There are mainly two alternatives that each have there strengths and weaknesses: Whereby and Jitsi Meet.

Please recommend these tools also to students in order to still talk to each other daily in learning groups or just to have fun.

Jitsi Meet for easiest and somewhat bigger meetings that run in Chrome browser or special mobile apps

  • Pro: no account needed, no artifical limit to 4 users, open-source (=possible to install your own server), has some extra features (recording, blurring background, etc.)
  • Con: other browsers than Chrome not well supported (they work, but sometimes video freezes), mobile browsers not supported at all, but apps are available, open-source (=if you use the free server provided by the open-source project, it may not handle a lot of load and might be limited to 1.5 h sessions)

Jitsi Meet meet runs in the desktop browser (apps on mobile platforms) and you need no account, i.e. you can immediately start by just agreeing on a URL and typing it in!

To give it a try, the base URL is https://meet.jit.si/
just agree on a room name, append the room name to the base URL and enter it into your browser, e.g https://meet.jit.si/MySuperDuperMeetingRoom

There is no easier way to do a videoconference then with Jitsi Meet! (At least if all use Chrome as browser/have the mobile app installed.)

ensemble.scaleway.com French Jitsi meet installation

Should the above Jitsi meet server be overloaded (and you are OK with a French as default for the changeable language user interface), you can use https://ensemble.scaleway.com/.

There, click on Lancer une réunion to get a random server and room name. If you like, you can change that room name and even use always the same randomly assigned server name to end up with a fixed URL, e.g.: https://v-4110.ensemble.scaleway.com/MySuperDuperMeetingRoom

Once running, you can switch the language: click on the three vertical dots (bottom right corner), then on the gear wheel for the settings, then on the Plus tab, at Langue, choose Anglais.

Whereby for easy small meetings that run in any browser

  • Pro: works with almost all browsers, possible to lock a room and require students to knock to make you let them enter the room or put them on hold if you are still busy with other students (e.g. consultation time queue)
  • no account needed, no artifical limit to 4 users, open-source (=possible to install your own server)

  • Con: account needed for host, free version artificially limited to 4 users.

If you do not have more than 4 participants (including you), whereby.com runs completely in the browser (all common desktop browsers, on mobile platforms the standard browsers)

The one who hosts the conference room needs an account, everyone who joins using the URL does not need an account.

Panopto / Recording for Panopto with a (Linux) screen recorder

  • HÍ has info on Panopto
  • While Panopto allows a live webcast, it has a delay which prevents interaction with students. So we do not use this feature, but use Zoom for live interaction and record that with Zoom and upload the Zoom video to Panopto.
  • Linux users can use a screen recorder and upload the created file to Panopto (Note: Panopto even does optical character recognition of every pixel that is recorded, so you video becomes searchable). If you anyway use Zoom (the client works nicely on Linux), you can also let Zoom record to a file and upload that to Panopto.
  • If you recorded already in the past and want to re-use recordings now:
    • be aware that Panapto orders by default by recording date. But you can re-order them and asks students not to order by recording date, but by "order". (Unfortunately, UGLA shows videos always ordered by recordings date -- so make students aware of that.)
    • Note that Panopto sometimes forgets the encoding of old videos (black screen, only audio), but by re-processing it you can get it back: see this video for problem and solution description (audio is distorted: audio recording level was set too high).

Some Best Practises

We have a daily short videoconference to exchange experience in remote teaching (these videoconferences are via Zoom, so at the same time it is a practise in using Zoom; furthermore, instead of being home alone with family, it is good to see colleagues) and after one week of remote teaching we had a separate videoconference with students to get feedback from them and to let them know that our department is with them.

Using Gradescope for transforming easily your paper-based homework into online assignments

Helmut Neukirchen, 15. March 2020

The Computer Science department of the Iðnaðarverkfræði-, vélaverkfræði- og tölvunarfræðideild (IVT) of Verkfræði- og náttúruvísindasvið (VON) uses already since 2015 Gradescope for an easy online assignment submission by students and for extremely convenient and time-saving online grading and feedback by teachers.

Both students and teachers love it (e.g. in the 2019 IVT self-evaluation, the students explicitly requested more usage of Gradescope and independent from that the teachers requested IVT deild to spend money to get a full license). IVT deild has paid for a full-feature institutional license that everyone who registers with hi.is email can use for free in 2020. (Update: due to COVID-2019, Gradescape just made all features anyway available for free.)

The approach of Gradescope is that you can keep your traditional approach (so changing to Gradescope is really easy):

  • For assignments/homework during the semester, students upload on their own their solutions: either taking a photo of their paper solution or (as anyway most students typeset their solution electronically) upload a PDF of their solution, and mark on their own where on the uploaded pages the solution can be found.
  • Final exams are done as usual on paper, but the teacher defines boxes where to fill in the answers so that Gradescope knows where to look for the answers and the teacher scans later in and uploads the exam solutions to be able to use the convenient online grading features.
  • In addition, pure online assignments/exams are supported, i.e. instead of uploading a solution, students answer some web form.

Image copied from https://www.gradescope.com/

If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact Helmut Neukirchen. But first have a look at the info below:

Demo videos (each 2-3 minutes):

Teacher creating assignment

Student submitting assignment

Teacher grading submission

Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based image recognition to group solutions that look similar and should thus all get the same grading

E.g, in a course with 40 students, grade the 20 completely correct assignments with one click, the 10 assignments that make all the same mistake with one click, and the 5 empty assignments with one click, so that only the remaining 5 assignments need your attention.

Gradescope is easy

As you see, this is all very easy and a natural (but faster) extension of your paper-based assignment workflow.

(Note that my experience is based on Computer Science assignments and exams, where answers typically fit on one page, but grading is even fun for programming assignments where source code submissions are long. But if you scroll one page down on https://www.gradescope.com, you see also Gradescope being applied to other disciplines than Computer Science.)

As long as not every course uses Canvas, students need to be manually added to their Gradescope course (I hope to be able to convince UTS deild to support the automatic Gradescope-Canvas LMS integration starting from fall 2020):

  • Either let students enroll themselves, by letting the students know about an entry code (Gradescope generates it: everyone can register with this code for your course)
  • or you as teacher manually upload the list of students as comma-separated values (CSV) format: just export in UGLA your student list in Microsoft Excel format, open in a spreadshet, export there as CSV and upload to Gradescope (double check that names containing special Icelandic characters are correct, i.e. try different CSV exports such as Unicode characterset).

Teacher adds students to course roster

Entry code for students to self-enroll (no video, screenshot only)

You can also add dæmakennarar/teaching assistants (TAs) to a course to let them grade using Gradescope: you just need to clarify who grades what or create separate courses for each TA. (While Gradescope supports the notion of sections=dæmatími groups, sections can currently only be set when populating the roster via CSV, but not web-based using entry code or a teacher later adding single students.)

Getting started

If you want give Gradescope a try, just go to https://www.gradescope.com, sign up (select University of Iceland and use your hi.is email address), create a dummy course and assignment. If you like, you can also add a dummy student using your private email address and play around.

The above features are only the most basic features of Gradescope, for more check:

For your info: IVT deild has paid for the Institution license, i.e. you have all features. (Except for the integration with Canvas that we can only do next semester when all course use Canvas.)

While we paid for 1500 students only, we are allowed to have as many students as we need in 2020 (in 2021, we might then have to pay for the number of students of 2020, so either HÍ as a whole adopts Gradescope or IVT deild convinces Gradescope that 2020 was exceptional -- they anyway started to give out free licenses because of COVID-19).

Computer Science department and DEEP-EST project at UTmessan 2020, Icelands biggest IT fair

Helmut Neukirchen, 10. February 2020

Our new colleague Morris Riedel gave on 7. February 2020 a presentation on Quantum Computing (slides / video) at UTmessan 2020, Icelands biggest IT fair. In addition, the Computer Science Department ran on the public visitor day (8. February 2020) a booth: beside student projects, we showcased research projects, e.g. DEEP-EST.

The DEEP-EST project

For showcasing the machine learning that we do in the DEEP-EST project, we offer a web page that allows you to use the camera of your smartphone (or laptop) to detect objects in real-time. While neural networks are still best trained on a supercomputer, such as DEEP-EST with its Data Analysis Module, the trained neural network even runs in the browser of a smartphone.

https://nvndr.csb.app/

Just open the following web page and allow your browser to use the camera: https://nvndr.csb.app/.

(Allow a few seconds for loading the trained model and initialisation.)

The used approach is Single Shot Detector (SSD) (the percentage shows how sure the neural network is about the classification) using the MobileNet neural network architecture. The dataset used for training is COCO (Common Objects in Context), i.e. only objects of the labeled object classes contained in COCO will get detected. The Javascript code that is running in your browser uses Tensorflow Lite and its Object Detection API and model zoo.

If you want learn more about DEEP-EST, have a look at the poster below (click on the picture below for PDF version):

PDF of DEEP-EST poster

Ranking Journals and conferences in Supercomputing and Data Science

Helmut Neukirchen, 22. November 2019

Many academics insist on that journals are better than conferences, e.g. some PhD programmes have unwritten rules that a PhD thesis needs to involve at least one journal publication (which can be really a problem, because some journals have 1.5 year time span from submission to publication; add this to another 1.5 year for a PhD student to produce the first results being worth published in a journal/top conference, then this is almost impossible in 3 years of PhD study).

For Computer Science, some conference are as hard (or even harder) as journals, e.g. in terms of acceptance rates (which however depends also a lot, e.g. having a lot of crap submissions automatically leads to a low acceptance rate). Also Computer Science is a very fast developing field, so results would be often outdated after 1.5 years, so the far shorter publication cycles make conferences far more attractive.

As an example, below are two rankings (based on impact, i.e. citations such as h-index) that show that Computer Science conference are as high-quality (or even higher) as journals. Of course, you can always find conferences (but also journals) that have a low impact: therefore, instead of claiming that in general journals are better than conferences, you always need to look at each particular conference, but also at each particular journal (acceptance rates are missing in these lists -- they would be nice to compare, but this data is tedious to collect):

Experiment on Google search results for Tölvunarfræði, Hugbúnaðarverkfræði, Reikniverkfræði, Computer Science, Software Engineering, Computational Engineering

Helmut Neukirchen, 11. November 2019

As the Department of Computer Science is hidden within the Faculty of Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science, the visibility of the Department of Computer Science is somewhat hindered, in particular when navigating from the University of Iceland's home page.

The University of Iceland has some Icelandic and English web pages specific to our study programmes. The question to be investigated is whether at least a Google search for the Icelandic terms Tölvunarfræði, Hugbúnaðarverkfræði, Reikniverkfræði, and English terms Computer Science, Software Engineering, Computational Engineering yield the study programmes of the Department of Computer Science at University of Iceland.

Therefore, you find below the Google search results for these search words, using Google search (from an Icelandic client IP address which heavily influences the search results) on 11.11.2019. According to Google's page cache, https://uni.hi.is/helmut was last visited 8 Nov 2019 16:33:03 GMT, so the search results documented by screenshots below are most likely based on the that date, i.e. before this blog post was created.

If you read this page later, you are welcome to compare (assuming you browse with an Icelandic IP address as this influences Google's search results) whether the search results changed (to some extent this might then be due the links contained in this blog post and you might call this search engine optimisation).

Update 13.11.2019: According to Google's page cache, Google has visited on 12.11.2019 this blog entry and on 13.11.2019, the order of search results did not really change (except that for the search term Computer Science, the first hit that used to be a Wikipedia page disappeared and instead, a Feature Snippet appeared and thus, all other hits got one place better; for Software Engineering, the first two hits pointing to Wikipedia's entries for Software Engineer and Software Engineering swapped places). As the search results did not change significantly, I added therefore on 13.11.2019 a few more links pointing to University of Iceland study programme web pages.

Update 14.11.2019: According to Google's page cache, Google has visited this page again on 13.11.2019 (Google's crawling adapted to the frequency of updates of my page) and on 14.11.2019, however this seems to have been before the 13.11.2019 update. Still, the ordering for some search results has changed: For the search term Hugbúnaðarverkfræði, the University of Iceland's page on Hugbúnaðarverkfræði climbed up from 2nd to 1st place. Also for the search term Software Engineering, the University of Iceland PhD programme page got a push (even though it is not linked at all in this blog post).
One explanation might be that this blog seems to have a small influence Google's search results (the order for search term Hugbúnaðarverkfræði changed, but not for search term Computer Science). A single page having such an influence could be explained by the small number of web pages referring to the University of Icelandic web pages for the study programmes Tölvunarfræði/Computer Science, Hugbúnaðarverkfræði/Software Engineering, Reikniverkfræði/Computational Engineering.
Another explanation would be that the Google page ranking algorithm was changed at the same time. Future work would be to repeat this experiment with links to the respective PhD programme pages that are currently not linked at all in this blog post.

Search result for Tölvunarfræði

On 11.11.2019, the Google search for Tölvunarfræði gives as first hit the University of Iceland page for Tölvunarfræði that is linked in this blog post:


Search result for Hugbúnaðarverkfræði

On 11.11.2019, the Google search for Hugbúnaðarverkfræði gives as second hit the University of Iceland page for Hugbúnaðarverkfræði that is linked in this blog post:


Search result for Reikniverkfræði

On 11.11.2019, the Google search for Reikniverkfræði gives as second hit the University of Iceland page for Reikniverkfræði that is linked in this blog post:


Search result for Computer Science

(Note: scrolled beyond a Featured Snippet box.)

On 11.11.2019, the Google search for Computer Science gives as fourth hit (after scrolling) the University of Iceland page for Computer Science that is linked in this blog post:


Search result for Software Engineering

(Note: scrolled beyond a Featured Snippet, People also ask, and a Video box.)

On 11.11.2019, the Google search for Software Engineering gives as fourth hit (after scrolling) the University of Iceland page for Software Engineering that is linked in this blog post:


Search result for Computational Engineering

(Note: scrolled beyond a Featured Snippet and a Video box.)

On 11.11.2019, the Google search for Computational Engineering gives as second hit (after scrolling) the University of Iceland page for Computational Engineering that is linked in this blog post:

PhD Defense Standards-based Models and Architectures to Automate Scalable and Distributed Data Processing and Analysis

Helmut Neukirchen, 7. October 2019

Shahbaz Memon successfully defended his PhD thesis in Computer Science on Standards-based Models and Architectures to Automate Scalable and Distributed Data Processing and Analysis. The thesis covers Scientific Workflows and middlewares for High-Performance Computing and High-Throughput Computing.

PhD defense announcement

This PhD is an example of the collaboration between the Faculty of Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science and Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC).

PhD candidate, opponents, dean, and PhD committee

Members of the PhD commitee were Morris Riedel, Helmut Neukirchen, and Matthias Book, opponents were Ramin Yahyapour and Robert Lovas. The head of faculty, Rúnar Unnþórsson, was steering the defense. While we have some on cultural diversity involved, we need to improve on gender diversity! More photos can be found on flickr.