Ok so an entire month has already passed here in Barcelona! That was quick!
As I told you on my previous post, classes have already started. Fortunately, it was a slow start, with a lot of introductory material so that the teachers could cater to different teaching backgrounds that are bound to exist in an international course like the one I'm in. So in terms of subjects I have:
- Distributed and Networked Operating Systems - Study the main problems and algorithms to do with time synchronization, reaching a consensus in a distributed system, name services, interprocess communication, etc. and programming in Erlang.
- Algorithms and Models of Parallel Programming - Introduction to parallel architecture and programming models, development with OpenMP (shared memory), MPI (distributed memory) and CUDA (GPU programming).
- Evaluation and Configuration of the Performance of Systems - Learn how to model, predict and categorize the performance of complex systems using a wide set of tools and mathematical knowledge.
- Security in Information Systems - A typical security course with simetric and assimetric key cryptography, study of web (SQL injection, XSS, Cookie injection and modification) exploits, operating systems security (access control, virus and malware), network security (firewalls, IDS and VPNs) and forensic analysis.
- Concurrent and Distributed Programming - Study modelling techniques of distributed systems along with strategies to ensure their liveness (that is, avoid deadlocks) and safety (that is, avoid unrecoverable error states and fair choice). Programming is done in Java for shared memory and Erlang for distributed memory.
Having just had 2 weeks of classes, it is not possible for me to form a complete opinion of these subjects but up until now they all seem really interesting, specially the Algorithms and Models of Parallel Programming, since the teacher is quite enthusiastic and it has a less rigid structure with the teacher being open to discussing a wide myriad of topics that are of interest to us on the second half of the semester (while we work on the project). I have also enjoyed learning how to program in Erlang. Having some experience with Prolog and LISP, the language didn't seem that exotic to me but seeing the concepts of logical matching applied to network communication is truly beautiful.
I'm also quite surprised at the English proficiency of (most) of the teachers. I was expecting a lot worse but it turns out that, overall, they speak a clear and understandable English.
For the next two weeks I'll have to write a bunch of reports and do a practical exam at the end of a Security lab but I'm sure it won't be too difficult (or so I hope ah ah).
Now that I've told almost everything there was to say about the University, let's talk about everything but the University shall we? To start, the transportation network in Barcelona seems to be intent on killing me. It's not that it's badly organized or always late (far from it really, it's one of the best transportation networks I've ever seen). The problem is the A/Cs: when you're at a blazing hot metro station @ 30-40ºC and then enter a freezing cold metro train @20-23ºC, you're bound to get ill eventually. Some sudden rains and temperature changes on the surface don't really help either. Alas, during these two weeks I've had a terrible throat inflamation that has now evolved into non-stop coughing. Went to the doctor yesterday (still waiting for some feedback from the insurance company regarding how to ask for compensation from them) and he prescribed me some Amoxicilina (antibiotics) and Flumil (anti-coughing or something). I'll be taking them for a week but I wouldn't mind if they worked faster!
Besides some crazy nights partying out we've also been doing some sightseeing! On the 15th September (Saturday), some of us went to Vilanova to spend a nice day (or rather afternoon, since the party the previous day lasted until 7AM) in the beach. Vilanova is an hour away from Barcelona by train but if you like beach it's worth it as it is way less crowded and a lot cleaner (and nicer) than the beaches in Barcelona.
The next day, we went to Montserrat and I have to say I really loved it there! For those of you who might not know, Montserrat is a mountain located near Barcelona (approx. 40 minutes by train) wildly known as the site of the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat. We took the cable car up from the train station and reached the abbey in no time. Now while the abbey is really beautiful, to me, the greatest thing about Montserrat were the hiking trails. There were about 6 different hiking trails around the abbey and our group mixed 3 different trails which led to us starting on the abbey, going to the highest point in the mountain and then back in a not-so-short hike of approximately 6 hours. The wide supply of cookies, water and fruit we brought with us certainly helped survive the adventure. In fact, I liked it so much, that I intend to go back there on the second semester.
Back in Barcelona, I went to visit Parc Güel on Friday morning and then on the afternoon went to see the light show at Sagrada Família in the context of the festivities of 'La Merce' that started that day and lasted until last Monday. During those days there were a lot of events all over Barcelona, ranging from music concerts (tried to go to the Kooks one but it was too crowded to hear, let alone see anything) to traditional dances, pyro and light shows and human towers. Unfortunately, my cough also became worse during the weekend so I had to stay most of Sunday at home. But on Monday I made sure to go to the pyromusical show that marked the end of the festivities: 30 minutes of fireworks accompanied with music and a light show at the fountain in from of the 'Museu Nacional d' Art de Catalunya'. It was really amazing!!
Oh and last Saturday I also went to the Barcelona Zoo! It was quite cool but unfortunately, the coolest animals (like the Cheetas, Panthers and Leopards) were hiding so it wasn't as good as it could have been
Now with university starting to become more demanding, time for sightseeing and partying will decrease considerably but, in any case, I'll keep ou updated with the latest news!