Exams, website hacks and updates
Student experience 11th January 2019
Computer Science undergraduate Todd discusses website hacks – and exams.
“I had planned to write a blog post at the start of January, but as usual exam time came around I was too busy! Thankfully, my exams have gone well (though I only had two!) and now I do have time to write again.
Over exam time, interest in my course notes usually goes up as people start their revision. This year, both the first and second years were looking at them (as opposed to last year when there was only one year ‘younger’ than me at uni), which meant roughly double the attention! From the traffic to my website, it looks like Manchester students start revision at the start of January (new year new me mindset?):
While it’s fab people are using my notes, I wish they would contribute more too; I’m sure there are lots of mistakes in there, and while I regularly get feedback on them, they’re all open source for people to improve on (first year, second year, third year).
Of course, hosting a website used by procrastinating CS students has its risks. Each notes .pdf file has a separate link to download along a path such as:
There was one time when somebody tried to have some fun with my server by attempting to download some sensitive stuff:
Thankfully, my server didn’t hand over the `/etc/password’ file since although it looks like my notes are stored on my server, they really just redirect to Github (so I can save on bandwidth). It was certainly a wake up call for me to harden by server though!
While thinking about updates to by website, I remembered a cool section on my friend Brandon Wang’s website, where he lists what he’s currently reading. I decided that incorporating a similar section into my site would be fun, and a good opportunity to try out microservices.
I set about developing LiteraryLog, a simple API written in Java that collates information from Goodreads and my reading lists to show what I’m reading at the moment. It’s nice and extensible so that I can add more feeds in the future (I think connecting it to my browser history and having it determine what articles I’ve recently read would be fun).
The idea is that LiteraryLog runs on a separate port to my normal website, and all that the website process (a Django application) has to do is grab the data and format it as a webpage. This way, the logic is nicely decoupled from the interface. While the Java app is pretty fully featured (despite a few small missing features and bugs), the front end is pretty basic as you can probably tell, but I can evolve it over time.
Outside of computer related things, I’ve been exploring Manchester’s Northern Quarter recently and have found even more super cool places than I realised were there. In particular, I visited Takk the other day which is a Nordic inspired coffee shop.”