Category: Teaching

Siðfræðistofnun HÍ -- The Centre for Ethics that is above the rules

Helmut Neukirchen, 25. January 2023

At University of Iceland, all are equal, but some are more equal. So much more equal that they think rules do not apply for them. Last week, Siðfræðistofnun HÍ, the Centre for Ethics at the University of Iceland, was using for some event the teaching room GR-321 Ada (named after Ada Lovelace) at the Computer Science department in the Gróska building. The rules for using teaching rooms are common-sense and pretty simple (English translations added by me):

  • 1. gr. Almennt

    Skylt er að ganga vel um húsakynni Háskóla Íslands, umhverfi hans, tæki og búnað á hverjum stað. Enginn má skilja eftir sig rusl, hvorki innan dyra né utan. Notum ruslafötur!

    Deal well with the premises and equipment. No one may leave trash behind. We use trash cans!

  • 2. gr. Tillitssemi

    Hverjum og einum ber að sýna tillitssemi og valda ekki öðrum truflun eða óþægindum.

    Everyone is responsible to show consideration and does not disturb others or cause inconvenience.

  • 5. gr. Neysla matar

    Neysla matar er óheimil í kennslustofum og tölvuverum.

    Consuming food is forbidden in teaching rooms and computer rooms.

  • 8. gr. Brot á húsreglum

    Brot á húsreglum, tjón og hvers konar spjöll geta leitt til bótaskyldu og/eða brottvísunar.

    Breaking rules, damage or any kind of harm can lead to liability and/or expulsion.

How the Centre of Ethics left the teaching room behind: tables re-arranged, nothing cleaned up

Coffee stains left behind by the Centre of Ethics become visible after I started to clean up

I was the first one to teach in Ada on Monday morning and was quite surprised that I cannot use the room for teaching as intended. To put the room into a state usable for teaching, it would have been necessary to:

  1. put the tables and chairs again in the position needed for teaching -- the Centre for Ethics re-arranged the tables without reverting that.
  2. collect the trash (single-use coffee cups distributed over the room, including where the teacher's computer is) and throw them into the trash can -- the Centre for Ethics had left behind coffee cups that they did not throw away (and single-use coffee cups do not contribute to implementing the Sustainability and Environment policies of the university).
  3. collect water glasses from the tables and put them into our dish washer -- the Centre for Ethics had taken water glasses from our kitchen, but did not put them back to the kitchen from where they had taken them.
  4. wipe away huge coffee stains -- the Centre for Ethics never took a course in how to operate a coffee dispenser, so they messed around on the tables of the teaching room.
  5. move all kind of stuff (coffee dispenser, napkins, tea) into a tray and move the tray outside the teaching room -- the Centre for Ethics had ordered this stuff but did not consider it necessary to move them out of the teaching room after the meeting so that teaching would not be disturbed when the stuff is fetched.

I therefore wrote emails to four persons of the Centre for Ethics asking them to clean up there mess before my teaching starts in that room: first, no one replied, but then, the head of the board replied that this is not their fault, but that this is fault of the service from where they ordered the coffee as that service was supposed to tidy the room (How can that coffee service re-arrange the tables if they do not know how they were before? How can that coffee service find all the single-use coffee cups that were partly well hidden behind the teacher's computer screen? How can that coffee service put the water glasses back into the kitchen if they do not know how from where they have been taken? How can that coffee service clean all the coffee stains if a coffee service was ordered and not a cleaning service?)

Because the board members of the Centre of Ethics refused to clean up their mess, I had to do that on my own in the time that I had planned for preparation of the class. This all was then crowned with my teaching was later being disturbed by a coffee service employee trying to get back the coffee dispensers because the Centre of Ethics had told them to fetch it from the teaching room (instead from the kitchen that is just next to the teaching room).

I do not know why they do not follow my request to clean up their mess, but some hypotheses come into my mind:

  • Hopefully, this was not the usual discrimination that probably every foreigner experiences in Iceland. (While I am -- as a professor from Germany -- privileged in comparison to other foreigners, even I experience discrimination.) -- so far, I experienced the university as a foreigner-friendly space (except that some scholars are maniac about enforcing a language policy of requiring to use the Icelandic language, because the university tries to solve the dilemma of being an Icelandic-speaking university and an international university at the same time).
  • Cultural issues: If you have a look at the names of the members of the board of Centre for Ethics, then these are all patronymic: Elínborg Sturludóttir, Henrý Alexander Henrýsson, Kolbrún Pálsdóttir, Páll Rafnar Þorsteinsson, Sólveig Anna Bóasdóttir, Vilhjálmur Árnason. While the gender diversity is balanced at the board, the university committed to diversity in all fields. And in fact, cultural diversity is non-existing at the board of Centre for Ethics: they all have very likely a socialisation in an Icelandic culture: I once was told about a survey among Icelanders that showed that a huge majority thinks that rules are important for the Icelandic society, but that rules do not apply to yourself, because you consider yourself as so important that exceptions are justified for you (unfortunately, I do not have the source -- a social scientist reported about this at an introductory event on the Icelandic society for foreign staff at the University of Iceland).
  • Maybe, this is not a cultural issue, but just personality of the head of the board of the Centre of Ethics -- but: I wrote to four members of the board and the other board members even preferred to remain silent.
  • If you are in the board of the Centre of Ethics, there is the danger of developing the attitude that you are the authority on concepts of what is right and wrong behaviour. And if you are then convinced that your behaviour is right (and the head of the board of the Centre of Ethics obviously is convinced), then you make your own rules and therefore behave like as you are above the rules.

I also tried to build the head of the board of the Centre for Ethics a bridge by offering him to apologise, but the head of the board answered that he will not, because leaving the teaching room in that state was not their fault, but rather the fault of the coffee service not cleaning up. So, even saying sorry seems not to be part of the culture of the Centre for Ethics.

While I am not a lawyer, I would be surprised if their arguing would hold the Icelandic law system: they rented the teaching room, so they have to adhere to the rules of using the teaching room. Just the fact that they outsourced some service, does not mean that they themselves do not need to adhere to the rules anymore and are not liable anymore (even if they would have ordered a service to clean up the room who then failed to do that).

Does the Centre for Ethics think, they are above the law? (And what does it means for ethics in Iceland if such people run the Centre for Ethics?)

In fact, they did break all of the above rules, even the above 8th rule: they refused to take liability for their mess -- après moi, le déluge!

O tempora, o mores!

P.S.: I have no problem with holding an event with food and drinks, but for that, the computer science department has a kitchen/coffee room just next to the teaching room: just serve the food and drinks there, instead of using a teaching room for that. (When, e.g., the rector holds a meeting in the aula, the food is simply served after the meeting and outside of the aula.) Or a pragmatic approach: if you think you need to break the rules: do it in a way that no one notices it, i.e. clean up your mess.

Masters programme in Cybersecurity will get funded with 90 m.kr. by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation

Helmut Neukirchen, 12. January 2023

The list of proposals that got funded. We are on place 4.

University of Iceland and Reykjavik University applied together for funding in order to start a joint study Masters's programme in Cybersecurity. Today, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation announced (including video recording) that the two universities will together get for the project Nytt meistaranám í netöryggi 90 million ISK funding over 2 years from the university collaboration fund (Samstarf háskóla). This is a great collaboration between the professors of computer science interested in cybersecurity at both universities, facilitated by EDIH-IS, the European Digital Innovation Hub in Iceland, where both universities are as well involved in digital innovation, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) or High-Performance Computing (HPC).

The new cybersecurity programme funding is announced (ignore the HA and Bifröst -- that's a typo)

While the schedule is tight, the plan is to offer as a start a Cybersecurity specialisation of the Computer Science Master's programme at each university already this autumn, i.e. 2023. Students can then apply at their preferred university, but take as well courses at the other university. (There is another project that got 35 m.kr. funding to enable technically, i.e. on the IT and learning management system side, but also administratively, i.e. collaboration contracts, taking master's courses at other universities. But I doubt that this is ready when we would need it already in autumn 2023.)

The project to make taking MSc courses everywhere come true

Later, this Computer Science specialisation is supposed to become a study programme on its own.

The funding will be used to hire professors, but also to import distance teaching courses from abroad.

Hvernig á að vera öruggur á netinu fyrir börn

Helmut Neukirchen, 16. November 2022
  • Farðu aðeins inn á netspjall með leyfi fullorðinna/foreldris!
  • Ekki spjalla við ókunnuga á netinu!
  • Ekki hitta fólk sem þú kynnist á netinu!
  • Ekki gefa upp persónulegar upplýsingar eins og nafn, heimilisfang, nafn skólans eða lykilorð!
  • Mundu að þú þarft ekki að tala við neinn á netinu ef þér líkar það ekki!
  • Spyrðu foreldra þína eða aðra fullorðna ef þú skilur ekki eitthvað á netinu!
  • Lokaðu strax öllu grunsamlegu á netinu og tilkynntu það til fullorðins sem þú treystir!
  • Ekki setja myndir á netið án leyfis foreldra þinna!
  • Internetið gleymir aldrei: það sem þú birtir þar getur verið sýnilegt þar að eilífu!
  • Ekki setja upp neitt á tölvuna þína án samþykkis foreldra!

Icelandic National Coordination Centre (NCC-IS) for Cybersecurity established

Helmut Neukirchen, 15. November 2022

We just established the Icelandic National Coordination Centre (NCC-IS) for Cybersecurity. It is is a common platform for cooperation in cybersecurity issues, composed of the following public entities: the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, the Icelandic Centre for Research (Rannis), the Electronic Communications Office (ECOI/Fjarskiptastofa), the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IS), the University of Iceland (UoI), Reykjavík University (RU), and the Technology Transfer Office (TTO/Auðna tæknitorg) Iceland.

NCC-IS operates in the context of Regulation (EU) 2021/887 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 2021 that establishes the European Cybersecurity Industrial, Technology and Research Competence Centre (ECCC) and the Network of National Coordination Centres (NCCs).

The core tasks of NCC-IS are:

  • Monitor and support actions: Monitoring and contributing to progress on national cybersecurity strategy activities regarding education, research, and development.
  • Provide expertise and link to ECCC and NCC-Network: Ensuring contribution to and coordination with the ECCC and the Network and supporting their strategic tasks.
  • Manage and coordinate funding: Managing and coordinating funding from the Digital Europe Programme and Horizon Europe for cybersecurity-related projects. Encouraging and assisting civil society, industry, SMEs, and academia in participating in cybersecurity actions (e.g., cascade funding, national funding contributions, etc.).
  • Raise awareness and build a cybersecurity Community: Acting as a central point for the national and European cybersecurity community, disseminating relevant outcomes of the work of the NCC-IS and NCC-Network, the Community, and the ECCC at the national level.
  • Develop and disseminate educational programmes: Coordinating, implementing and sharing educational activities and fostering cybersecurity skill building and training (e.g. gap analysis, competence mapping).
  • Support research and innovation: Identifying relevant research partners, promoting and strengthening dialogue in cybersecurity research and innovation fields.

Later, the NCC-IS will apply for European funding within the TOPIC ID: DIGITAL-ECCC-2022-CYBER-03-NAT-COORDINATION addressing the corresponding call for proposals call text.

To prevent any misunderstandings: NCC-IS will not take over the job of CERT-IS (or any other party) nor is NCC-IS a Security Operation Center (SOC). NCC-IS is rather an add-on to existing activities in order to raise awareness, co-ordinate actions, and improve education and research related to Cybersecurity on national and European level.

University of Iceland is in charge of developing and disseminate educational programmes, i.e. coordinating, implementing and sharing educational activities and fostering cybersecurity skill building and training. You are welcome to contact me if you are offering, e.g., training course or are interesting in getting updates on available training.

Cybersecurity is now more in the focus of politics and has now an own government web page.

Distributed Systems reading resources

Helmut Neukirchen, 18. October 2022

As the CDK5 book starts to get outdated (and there is no update: the main authors all retired), we need to think about some replacement.

Some reading resources can be found at https://github.com/theanalyst/awesome-distributed-systems.

New LaTeX templates for theses at University of Iceland / LaTeX sniðmát ritgerðar/lokaverkefna Háskóla Íslands

Helmut Neukirchen, 25. March 2022

Finally, the new (2021 and later) thesis title page examples are available at the HÍ Corporate Design web page and I just finished creating a LaTeX template based on it.

You should find the most recent templates at https://gitlab.com/uice.

But you can also download it: UniversityOfIcelandMScThesisV2.0.1. (I have submitted it to Overleaf as a template.)

The PhD thesis template has also been updated: uiphdthesis_V2.1.0.zip. If you started already your PhD thesis, it is in principle enough to

  1. replace the old ui-phdthesis.cls by the new one and
  2. replace the two files HIlogo.pdf and UIblueribbon.pdf by banner.png
  3. add \thesislicense{All rights reserved} to your .tex file (or update to the license you want to make your thesis available).
  4. Also check the comments at the start of file uiphd_template.tex for possible further additions (\numberwithin and \UrlBreaks).
  5. In contrast to Version 2.0.0. version 2.1.0 moved the bibliography management out of the cls file into the tex file where BibLaTeX is now used

While the old template used the school-specific colors (e.g. VoN had orange), the new color scheme suggests to use these school-specific colors only internally, but work targeting people outside the university (such as a thesis) use always blue independent from the school (this was by the way already always the case with PhD theses).

The PDF version is used by a print shop when printing and binding the thesis: the normal M.Sc. thesis pages are printed using A4, but the cover page (with the blue) will be printed in A3, with the front page on one side and the back page on the other and the spine (bókarkjölur) in the middle (so in fact, that page is even bigger than A3 to accommodate the extra space for the spine). All the A4 pages are then glued into this A3 sheet. The inner side of the A3 remains blank: to simulate this in the PDF, the second page is simply empty (BTW: that empty page is missing in the official Microsoft Word template) and it is then followed by a page that serves as some inner title page, i.e. it repeats all the information from the title page, just with a slightly different layout and without the blue graphical elements. After that follows a page with copyright information, and only after that, your real contents starts.

This means, when you go to a print shop, the title page generated by you gets anyway ignored (and therefore, the LaTeX template does not even bother about generating a back page -- the print shops use the back page to add their name there).

But as the thesis is also electronically archived using the PDF that you submit, your self-generated PDF with the title page matters for that version.

The fact the Word template (to be used by students) looks less professional than the PDF (to be used by print shops), hints at the PDF version is the serious one (and I can only recommend to use not that Word template. If you use it, try match the PDF generated from my LaTeX template).

See my older post for further information.

Software Engineering versus Programming

Helmut Neukirchen, 24. February 2022

The book “Software Engineering at Google” (curated by Titus Winters, Tom Manshreck and Hyrum Wright, O’Reilly, 2020) is officially available for free online at https://abseil.io/resources/swe-book and I can only recommend reading it to get an idea of how Google delivers high-quality software. Of course, their solutions that fit a company as big as Google do not necessarily fit smaller companies.

As I did already in my post Why you should study Software Engineering cover the difference between Software Engineering and programming, I found it interesting that the above book covers it as well:

We believe it is important to differentiate between the related-but-distinct terms “programming” and “software engineering.” Much of that difference stems from the management of code over time, the impact of time on scale, and decision making in the face of those ideas. Programming is the immediate act of producing code. Software engineering is the set of policies, practices, and tools that are necessary to make that code useful for as long as it needs to be used and allowing collaboration across a team.
(“Software Engineering at Google” curated by Titus Winters, Tom Manshreck and Hyrum Wright, O’Reilly, 2020, p. 23)

For my taste, that quote does not cover enough human aspects (the nice thing about Software Engineering is that it does not only include the hard skills, but also soft skills), but that was in fact discussed already earlier in that book:

Another way to look at software engineering is to consider scale. How many people are involved? What part do they play in the development and maintenance over time? A programming task is often an act of individual creation, but a software engineering task is a team effort. An early attempt to define software engineering produced a good definition for this viewpoint: “The multiperson development of multiversion programs.” (There is some question as to the original attribution of this quote; consensus seems to be that it was originally phrased by Brian Randell or Margaret Hamilton, but it might have been wholly made up by Dave Parnas. The common citation for it is “Software Engineering Techniques: Report of a conference sponsored by the NATO Science Committee,” Rome, Italy, 27–31 Oct. 1969, Brussels, Scientific Affairs Division, NATO.) This suggests the difference between software engineering and programming is one of both time and people. Team collaboration presents new problems, but also provides more potential to produce valuable systems than any single programmer could.
(“Software Engineering at Google” curated by Titus Winters, Tom Manshreck and Hyrum Wright, O’Reilly, 2020, p. 4)

Want to study Computer Science, Software Engineering or Computational Engineering / Nám í tölvunarfræði, Hugbúnaðarverkfræði, Reikniverkfræði

If you want more information on our programmes:

Bachelor (B.Sc.)

Computer Science (Tölvunarfræði) -- we added recently the specialisation in Data Science

Software Engineering (Hugbúnaðarverkfræði)

Master (M.Sc.)

Computer Science (Tölvunarfræði)

Software Engineering (Hugbúnaðarverkfræði)

Computational Engineering (Reikniverkfræði)

Ph.D.

And of course, you can also do a PhD in any of these programmes. Before you apply, contact a professor: either by a personal visit or -- if you are located abroad -- by writing an old school paper letter (professors get hundreds of email with PhD applications where it is obvious that the same email was written to many professors and thus, these email are considered as spam -- but a paper mail makes an impress)!

Zoom Panopto integration

Helmut Neukirchen, 9. November 2021

Panopto can tell Zoom to copy Zoom meeting cloud recordings to Panopto. You can configure this automatic import/export by clicking in the very upper right corner of https://rec.hi.is/ on your user name and then select "User Settings".

University of Iceland is running Panopto with at least two different storage spaces: the old storage space used when logged-in to Panopto via UGLA (for Panopto videos accessible via UGLA) and the new storage space when logged-in to Panopto via Canvas (for Panopto videos accessible via Canvas).

On https://rec.hi.is/, you can in the upper right corner log out and log in to change between these two spaces. But you cannot copy videos between these two spaces -- but UTS help desk can do so.

For the Zoom integration, the problem is that recordings may end up in the wrong space: whatever the last log-in to Panopto was, sets the integration, i.e. tells Zoom where to store the video for all future Zoom session recordings. So take care that your last log-in was into the intended storage space before a Zoom cloud recording starts. (Or ask UTS help desk to fix it afterwards.)

PhD Defense Federated Access to Collaborative Compute and Data Infrastructures

Helmut Neukirchen, 29. June 2021

Shiraz Memon successfully defended his PhD thesis in Computer Science on Federated Access to Collaborative Compute and Data Infrastructures. The thesis covers how researchers can perform eScience by discovering services (such as accessing data and processing data) on remote research and e-infrastructures and authenticate (such as logging in order to use the service) and how authorization can be done (i.e. deciding which services are allowed to be used).

The thesis was streamed, Wed, 30. June 2021 starting from 09:30 (UTC), and the recording is available via: https://livestream.com/hi/doktorsvornshmedshirazmemon

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).

Members of the PhD commitee were Morris Riedel, Helmut Neukirchen, and Matthias Book, opponents were David Wallom and Shukor Abd Razak. The head of faculty, Rúnar Unnþórsson, was steering the defense.

Why you should study Software Engineering / Af hverju hugbúnaðarverkfræði

Helmut Neukirchen, 7. June 2021

Studying Software Engineering is important because Software is the future and future is starting right now. And someone needs to create all this software that is shaping our future.

Software Engineering is more than just programming, it rather looks at big picture , namely the whole life of the software: from the start where you need to talk to customers to find out what software they actually need over to the actual programming, user interface and user experience, quality assurance and this is all guided by project management where you need to make people work together.

Software Engineering covers so many different aspects that students need to come from all kinds of different backgrounds:
female and male, those who are good at math, those who are good at communicating with other people, those who are picky about details, those who are creative. Essentially everyone!

When you start studying Software Engineering, you do not need to be able to program: you will learn that in our courses. But you need to be able to talk to other people and at the same time do not fear thinking like an engineer, such as doing math and applying systematic processes!

The nice thing about developing software is that only your imagination is the limit: you can create everything just by turning your mind into code and then it runs and you can see it immediately working. This is so rewarding!

Studying Software Engineering at the University of Iceland is very practical: you do not only learn the theory, but also apply it in the courses. For example, in our Bachelors program, there is a Software Engineering project that spans a whole full year.

Those who graduate from here, will find easily a job at a good salary and can work in fact in all kinds of different fields: be it banking, insurance, health, industry, administration, tourism, gaming, even arts:
simply everywhere, Software is nowadays needed!

Further information

If you want more information on our Software Engineering programmes:

Bachelor (B.Sc.)

Software Engineering (Hugbúnaðarverkfræði)

Master (M.Sc.)

Software Engineering (Hugbúnaðarverkfræði)

Ph.D.

And of course, you can also do a PhD in any of these programmes. Before you apply, contact a professor: either by a personal visit or -- if you are located abroad -- by writing an old school paper letter (professors get hundreds of email with PhD applications where it is obvious that the same email was written to many professors and thus, these email are considered as spam -- but a paper mail makes an impress)!

If you rather want to study Computer Science or Computational Engineering

While the above text was intended to convince you studying Software Engineering, you might still be interested in our other programmes:

Bachelor (B.Sc.)

Computer Science (Tölvunarfræði) -- we added recently the specialisation in Data Science

Master (M.Sc.)

Computer Science (Tölvunarfræði)

Computational Engineering (Reikniverkfræði)

Salary

For a salary (typically distinguished: base salary and overall salary with the typical amount of paid overtime – overtime is not always paid, though) outlook, you can find surveys on Icelandic salaries at unions (stéttarfélag), e.g.:

  • VR (starfsheiti “Tölvunuarfræðingur”)

and at professional associations, e.g.:

In addition there is also on interesting blog post on the different companies and their salaries (Netherlands -- Iceland might be different).

But be aware that salary alone is not everything, but work-life balance counts or that big and old companies are typically less chaotic (i.e. have well defined procedures) which may give you as a beginner more guidance, but you might at the same time fell more restricted.