FALL QUARTER 2003 -- Information and Computer Science -- UC Irvine

ICS 10A Course Reference


Instructor: David G. Kay, 406B Computer Science (kay@uci.edu)

Teaching assistant: Shubha Tandon (tandons@ics.uci.edu)

Course goals: This course will introduce you to modern computing, from three perspectives:

* Practical computing skills, including word processing, spreadsheets, and Internet tools like electronic mail and the World-Wide Web. You will learn these techniques primarily in discussion section and through lab assignments. Computer skills, like any skills, are learned mainly through practice and experience; a year of lectures on riding bicycles or playing piano won't bring you much closer to doing it yourself, and the same is true of using a computer productively.

* "Computer literacy"--a broad view of how computers work, what they do, how they have developed, and how they may affect us now and in the future. As you know, technology changes rapidly. By taking a broad perspective and looking at underlying principles (e.g., what an operating system does and how it works rather than just what commands to use in Windows or on a Mac to accomplish some specific task), your understanding will last you beyond next year's new models and versions.

* "Information literacy"--We often hear that we live in an "information age" and suffer from "information overload." You will learn how to find information, what forms it may take, how to evaluate it for accuracy and reliability, and how to present it most effectively to others.

Our overall goal is to give you a basic framework for making intelligent decisions about computers and computing. We don't expect most students in ICS 10A to have careers as computer professionals, but most of you will purchase computing equipment, manage computing professionals, and make political, business, and personal decisions that depend on an understanding of computing.

Meeting place and times: Lecture meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 to 10:50 in Social Ecology II room 1304. You must also enroll in the discussion section, which meets Monday/Wednesday/Friday at 11:00 in Social Science Lab 290, and one of the two lab sections (MWF at 12 or MWF at 1 in Computer Science 183).

Office hours: Starting the second week, I will be in or near my office during these scheduled hours, during which course-related matters will have first priority: Wednesdays from 2:30 to 3:30 and Thursdays from 2:15 to 3:00. Of course emergencies may come up, but I will try to give advance notice of any change. If I'm not immersed in something else, I'll be glad to answer short questions whenever I'm in my office, so feel free to drop by any time. I'll also be happy to make arrangements for other times during the week. The quickest and most effective way to reach me is by electronic mail, as described below.

Questions and announcements: You can usually get a response to your course-related questions within a few hours (perhaps a bit longer on the weekends) by sending electronic mail to the address ics10a@uci.edu. This goes to all of us, and whoever reads it first can respond. If you need to reach one of us individually, our individual addresses are listed above.

We may also send course announcements by Email to the official course mailing list, so you should check your Email regularly. Note that this mailing list goes to the Email address that the registrar has for you (your UCInet ID); if you prefer to read your Email on another account, you should set your UCInet account to forward Email to your preferred account (see http://phwww.cwis.uci.edu/cgi-bin/phupdate). This course has a home page at http://eee.uci.edu/03f/36200 (which you can reach from the instructor's home page, http://www.ics.uci.edu/~kay); official course Email is archived at http://eee.uci.edu/03f/w3m3/36200; and a course Note Board for student-to-student discussions is available when you log on to eee.uci.edu .

Labs and lab hours: As shown above, each student in ICS 10A has three section meetings a week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The first hour of each meeting is in a classroom; the second hour is in the computer lab, CS 183. Although you are perfectly welcome to use your own machine for your lab work in this class, you should take advantage of these scheduled times, when your TA and classmates will be present. For some assignments, we will expect you and a classmate to work as a pair; for any assignment, you should feel free to help your classmates (though of course that stops short of copying someone else's work, and the person receiving the help should be sure to understand how to do the task, not just what the answer is).

The ICS 10A TA will be available in the lab during the scheduled lab sections. TAs won't simply give you answers to your problems, but they will help you find the answers yourself; it's essential that you develop your own independent skills, since you won't always have an expert available to help you.

Other useful addresses: The Engineering Copy Center (ECC), in room 203 of Engineering Tower, is where we may place some supplementary course materials (such as a sample midterm); the ECC is open 8-12 and 1-4:30, Monday through Friday.

Textbooks: Each of these is available, or will be shortly, in the UCI Bookstore.

Fluency with Information Technology, by Lawrence Snyder. This text covers the main content of the course. The text's web page is http://www.aw.com/snyder.

Visual & Statistical Thinking: Displays of Evidence for Decision Making, by Edward R. Tufte. This reprint of Chapter 2 of Tufte's book, Visual Explanations, describes two situations where the way information was presented had life-or-death consequences.

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, by Edward R. Tufte. This short monograph takes a critical look at the use of PowerPoint, a pervasive means of presenting information.

Additional materials: You will need a few diskettes (standard 1.4MB floppy disks) this quarter, starting with the first lab assignment. You can buy them at the ECC, the UCI Computer Store, and off campus.

Course structure:
Approximately eight assignments, some with pencil and paper, some on the computer in the lab, typically due at the start of Wednesday's section (35% of the course grade). All the assignments will be available at the following Web address, where it will be up to you to find and read them:
http://www.ics.uci.edu/~kay/courses/10a/hw/ .
One midterm: Given in class on Tuesday, October 28 (25%)
One final exam: On Thursday, December 11, from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. (40%)

Your TA has primary responsibility for evaluating your work; go to him or her first for any questions about grading or scoring. If that does not resolve your question, then see the instructor. The TAs and instructor will be happy to correct any errors that do occur, but we must ask that you bring us your grading questions within a week after the item is returned; the course moves quickly, and we simply can't deal with assignments long past.

We determine final grades neither on a formal curve (with equal numbers of As and Fs, Bs and Ds, etc.) nor on a fixed, straight scale. Scores on the scale shown below will get the grades indicated, but in the past the actual cutoffs have often been significantly lower; this means that you should not assume your grade will be as low as the scale indicates. If you're concerned, check with your TA or the instructor. The basic scale is: grades in the A range (A-, A, and in exceptional cases, A+), 90% and above; grades in the B range, 80%-90%; grades in the C range, 70%-80%.

We're required to say that in unusual circumstances, these criteria could change, but we do not expect that to happen.

What you must do this week to get started in ICS 10A:
-- If you do not have a UCInet ID (an account on the EA system for reading electronic mail), get one. See
http://www.oac.uci.edu/computing/activate.html .
-- If you prefer to read your electronic mail on an account other than your UCInet account, redirect your mail at
-- On the Web, go to checkmate.ics.uci.edu, log in with your UCInet ID, choose "Course Listing" for "Fall 2003," click "Go" next to ICS 10A, and then click "List me for this course." You'll submit most of your work electronically; this step is necessary to set that up.
-- If you do not have an ICS account for access to the Windows network in ICS, get one. See
http://www.ics.uci.edu/~lab/procedures/activate.html .
-- Get at least one diskette and a lab printing key-card.
-- Be sure to attend your discussion and lab sections this week.
-- If necessary, brush up on your basic skills for browsing the Web, reading and sending Email, preparing simple documents using Word, and finding programs and files on the Windows system in the lab.
-- Give a snapshot of yourself (with your name written on the back) to your TA. This will help us learn your names quickly. (This is not just for fun--it's a course requirement.) Also turn in your signed Questionnaire to your TA in discussion section.

Good advice and helpful hints: Make every effort to attend the lectures; we will make important announcements and often cover material that isn't found in the textbook. It's not fair to ask the TAs simply to repeat lecture material you missed, though of course they will answer questions about it.

Attend your discussion section, too; assignments will be distributed, discussed, and collected there, exams will be reviewed there, and you can ask more questions there than you can in lecture. Discussion section is where you will get advice and information specific to the lab assignments; missing your section is like doing the assignments with both hands tied behind your back. Don't hesitate to ask your TA to cover things that will help you.

If you find yourself having trouble or getting behind, speak with your TA or the instructor. But never take the shortcut of copying someone else's work and turning it in; the consequences can be far worse than just a low score on a lab assignment. ICS takes academic honesty very seriously; for a more complete discussion, see the ICS departmental web page covering academic honesty issues (http://www.ics.uci.edu/~ucounsel/continuing_students/cheat.html).

Check your electronic mail regularly; this is an official channel for course announcements.

Be sure to read each assignment over, and think about how to solve it, before you come to lab. The lab assignments, like all technical specifications, require careful and thorough reading and re-reading. Expect to refer back to the assignment often, and check it first when you have questions about what's required or how to proceed.

Start early doing the lab assignments. Please remember that computing assignments always take longer to complete than you think they will, even if you have previous experience. Pitfalls and stumbling blocks are an inevitable part of computing (surely you've seen dozens of cartoons showing people frustrated with their computers); of course these problems aren't ever foreseeable, so the only effective strategy is to allow more time than you think you will need. By starting early, you'll have time to ask in discussion section about problems you encounter.

Always keep your own copy of each assignment, both on diskette and on paper; if an assignment should get lost in the shuffle (or if a file server in the lab should crash, which has happened), we'll expect you to be able to supply a replacement easily.

Keep up with the reading; you'll need it to do your assignments, and the quarter goes so fast that a few missed pages can quickly become a few chapters if you're not careful. Read the assigned sections early and quickly (for the main ideas, not to memorize every detail); then you can ask your TA in section which parts merit closer attention.

Students usually receive grades of B or better when they follow this advice; nearly everyone who receives lower grades has neglected one or more of these suggestions.

Approximate course outline:


Readings (Chapters in Snyder unless otherwise specified)


30 September
Introduction to the course, computers, information
1, 2

2 October
Internet overview
Web browsing, searching, indexes

3, 5, 6


7 October
Web publishing and HTML
Overview of information concepts


9 October
The processor (CPU): Fundamental machine operations


14 October
More machine-level operations

16 October
Evolution of high-level programming languages and tools


21 October
Data representation in computer systems

23 October
Secondary storage and peripheral devices
Operating systems and networks


28 October
Midterm exam

30 October
Digitizing pictures and sound


4 November
Redundancy and compression

6 November
Probability: Representing (un)certainty


11 November
-- Veterans' Day holiday --

13 November
Advanced web searching; boolean queries


18 November
User interface issues

20 November
Presenting information effectively
Both Tufte reprints


25 November
Models of information organization; representing procedures

27 November
-- Thanksgiving holiday --


2 December
Legal and social issues
12, 17, 23

4 December
Epilogue and review

11 December
Final exam,Thursday, 8:00 to 10:00

It's a good strategy to read any assigned passage quickly for the main ideas first; you won't need every detail of the readings.

David G. Kay, 408E Computer Science
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-3425 -- (949) 824-5072 -- Fax (949) 824-4056 -- Email kay@uci.edu

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 -- 7:09 PM