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CMPT 431

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How to get help

This is an upper-division course, so you are expected to use your research skills to figure most things out for yourself. But getting very stuck and frustrated is a waste of time.

There are several places to get help with this course:

General computing questions

  1. Look at the links and reading pages - they'll develop as the course goes on.
  2. Google. There are a huge number of pages on OS and distributed computing out there, from introductions for absolute beginners to extremely detailed material for experts. Learn to use this resource well.

SFU computer system questions

  1. SFU Computing Science Instructional Labs (CSIL) home page
  2. Consult the TA-at-large in the lab
  3. Send email to csilop@cs.sfu.ca.

Questions about your home computer system

  1. Your home computer support provider
  2. Your friends
  3. Not your CS professor or TAs: they don't know anything about your home computer, and will just tell you to go to the lab instead, where everything is laid on for you. Trouble with your laptop is not an excuse for not making progress on assignments, since everything is available in the lab.

Questions specific to CMPT431

  1. Use the discussion tool on the CMPT Courses system - see instructions below - these messages can be read by all students, the TAs and the instructor.
  2. Discuss the issue with a TA at a lab session.
  3. If this doesn't resolve the issue, email Dr. Vaughan directly or come to the office hours shown on his home page.

Personal academic problems

Email Dr. Vaughan directly or come to the office hours (see class home page).

Course discussion list

You must use the courses discussion system to ask questions about the course, project, etc. Before posting, check the archive in case your question was already answered.

Do not ask questions that can be answered by reading the web site or project instructions, by asking the person sitting next to you, or by a quick Google search and some reading.

The instructor and TAs will read messages sent to the list, but please help out your classmates by answering questions yourselves. Do not post homework solutions: only general advice should be given.

Advice on asking questions by email

Remember that many busy people will get your messages. You are more likely to get helpful responses if you follow the advice below.

This is particularly important when mailing the TAs or instructor directly. Remember, they probably already have an inbox full of questions, and if your mail is rude or doesn't contain enough information it is likely to get very low priority.

  • Send plain text email only.
  • Send questions only once.
  • Be polite and patient.
  • Give all the information that a reader may need to answer your question.
  • Pay attention to your English. Correct spelling and grammar are strongly recommended.
  • SMS-style shorthand is not appropriate. SMS questions will be answered much l8r or nvr.

Suitable mailing list posts

  • "I've been staring at a segfault in this function for 2 hours, and I'm stumped. Can anyone see where I'm going wrong? The problem is on line 74. Here is the code and the gdb output..."
  • "I found a really helpful web page on using GDB: http://....."
  • "The example code for homework 4 doesn't compile on my box. I'm using GCC 3.2 on Fedora Core 2. Anyone else have the same problem, or know a solution? Here's the error..."
  • "It took me ages to figure out that the angles in the dataset are in degrees, while the trig functions expect radians. Don't suffer like I did!"

Unsuitable mailing list posts

  • "What's the answer to question 4?"
  • "URGENT - PLS CAN U HELP TNX!!!!!!!!!!"
  • For sale: bike

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