Thursday, November 24, 2022

UPLB Student Registration Systems: 1996-2022

(Please note that this post is just based on my recollection of events. Here's my 2012 post about UPLB student registration.)

I have been part of UPLB for more than 20 years already, both as a student and as a faculty member. I have witnessed two main modes of the student enrollment (aka registration), manual and automated. In this post I'll try to discuss the different systems I observed and experienced. I will not be specific about dates since I am not good with it. Let's get started.

Simply put, the registration process enables students to select the subjects they will take for the incoming semester. The official document that contains this is the Form 5. One interesting aspect of the registration process in UPLB is that there is no guarantee that a student will be able to get all the subjects he/she needs for the incoming semester. This is due to a lot of factors, e.g. limited number of slots per section, schedule conflict with other subjects, and seasonal subjects.  

When I was a student in the mid '90s, there was a hybrid enrollment process. Students submit a Write-In paper form that contains the subjects and sections they want to enroll for the upcoming semester. The Write-In form will be encoded to the computer and used as input to a FORTRAN program called REGIST, which was developed by Dr. Ricolindo L. Carino of the Institute of Computer Science (ICS).  To my knowledge, this process was in place until I graduated in 2002.

After graduation, I became an instructor in ICS where my colleague Rodolfo N. Duldulao Jr. (Duldz) started developing an in-house system to track enlistment to Computer Science subjects. The system used the Apache-MySQL-PHP tech stack for web apps. This in-house system became popular and was extended to provide an online mechanism for the Write-In process in the entire UPLB. This online system became SystemOne (S1). More features were eventually added to S1 which was deployed during registration period. Note that the initial course assignments in S1 were still generated by REGIST. 

REGIST attempts to "solve"  course/student assignment (or student sectioning problem as I formulated it in my MS thesis). It became an academic research topic for a few MSCS students. Approaches such as Tabu Search, Ant Colony Optimzation, Simulated Annealing, Genetic Algorithms, and Multiagent Systems (my study) were tried but they never really replaced REGIST.

S1 evolved to become the main system for online Write-In and eventually for enlistment of courses to serve the entire UPLB students. After Duldz left UPLB, another colleague, Rommel V. Bulalacao (Bulacs), took over the development and operations of S1. Bulacs was a volunteer developer of S1 while he was still a student. REGIST however remained to be the main system for automagically assigning students to classes. Several improvements were also made by Bulacs for S1v2. Dr. Carino still provided support, though limited, for REGIST through the Registrar's office. I also coauthored a short paper which identified the performance bottleneck in S1v2 prompting its rewrite to a more modern tech stack, Node.js. This rewritten version (S1v3) however was short-lived. 

When Alfredo E. Pascual became UP president, he initiated the e-UP program. There was a strong push to deploy a unified enterprise system to support all university operations, including registration. This led to the deployment of the Student Academic Information System (SAIS) in UPLB. Key persons in SAIS deployment in UPLB were Dr. Jaime L. Caro(ITDC) and Dr. Myrna Carandang(UPLB Registrar). SAIS is still the current system being managed and operated by ITDC with a local team in UPLB housed in the Registrar's Office. SAIS is more of a "shopping cart" application where students "add to cart" the subjects they want to enlist. There is no global course demand prediction as with the case of REGIST. This resulted to a lot of problems. One of which is that regular students were unable to enlist in subjects because there is no "hard constraint" to prioritize them. Another is that departments were not able to properly predict course demand to adjust their course offerings. 

I also recall a system being deployed in Graduate School by a team led by Mr. Li Bolanos. I don't have the details  about the system though but I think it was written using PHP and MySQL. 

More recently, under UPLB Chancellor Dr. Jose Camacho Jr., an ad hoc committee was formed to oversee the development and implementation of the UPLB DX Academic Management Information System to replace SAIS. The committee is chaired by my colleague who is also the University Registrar, Prof. Margarita Carmen S. Paterno (Marge). Other colleagues involved are Prof. Danilo J. Mercado (ITC Director), Prof. Reginald Neil Recario, and Prof. Monina Carandang. Mr. Li Bolanos is also a part of this team. A version of DX AMIS for Teacher's Prerogative (using PHP-Postgres on VPS) was deployed during the First Semester AY 2022-2023. However, SAIS is still the main app for registration.

All deployed systems, from S1 to DX AMIS, encountered availability problems during peak hours of the registration period due to large amount of network requests.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Thoughts on Learning and My Teaching Philosophy

I've been teaching in UPLB since 2002 (that's >20 years already!). I haven't really put into writing my thoughts about learning and my teaching philosophy.  Here are some items (which will be updated from time to time because things happen and change): 

  • Since this is UPLB, I assume that my students are really smart (but some will be "slow"). Of course, some students will be smarter than me. This is one reason I like teaching here.
  • Since I teach Systems subjects, I want my students to work on hands-on activities and experiment (build, break, and rebuild stuff).
  • I don't believe in "learning styles". I believe that students can learn any topic (no matter what their learning styles are) if they really give time and effort to learn the topic. They can always ask for help on difficult topics. Even if I am a boring lecturer, for sure they will learn something.
  • My role is just a facilitator of learning (and possibly a source of inspiration), not the source of knowledge. Students are free to explore other knowledge sources outside the syllabus and the classroom. Using AI Tools is welcome in my classes.
  • I don't tolerate academic dishonesty. It is better for students to fail (then retake the subject) than to cheat in graded activities such as exams. However, I don't police students on this matter. For me policing is a waste of my time. I have  high respect for students who fail because they did not resort to academic dishonesty. Also, a student can just drop the course if he/she is failing rather than resort to academic dishonesty. 
  • High grades matter only if students will apply to grad school or apply for a teaching position after they graduate. Students should aim for the "learning" and "mastery" as well as skills development. High grades will just be an end result in the pursuit of "learning" and "mastery". 
  • Some students are "grade conscious" (or GC) which means they want/beg for a grade of 1.0! If they want high grades, sure I can give it to them as long as they turn in excellent work. This is the reason I give bonus points, though some students don't avail of these bonus points. 
  • Feedback is not just the score students get from graded activities (wrongly termed as "learning assessment"). If students code worked on the given test cases, that is already feedback. If a student wants feedback, he/she needs to talk to me directly during class and consultation hours. The only way I can help "slow" students is if they intentionally ask for my help. Otherwise they are on their own. 
  • Not all students currently taking BSCS are really interested in computing(or a Nerd) . I am biased towards students who are passionate about computing. Thus course materials, difficulty, and delivery are more geared towards challenging these passionate students to the best of my abilities.
  • I want my classes to be "world class", thus I try to adhere to the ACM curriculum recommendations when creating and delivering course content. I also consult course websites of other top universities and incorporate topics and approaches in my syllabus.
  • I try to focus on teaching the fundamentals. However, computing is a rapidly evolving field so I try to teach the state of the art given the resource constraints and bureaucracy.
  • Textbooks are important in my classes. I prefer to use free or open source textbooks. I give paper readings from time to time to encourage students to do research.
  • I encourage students to ask questions, even the simplest or 'stupidest' questions. 
  • I prefer to create videos that are more than 15 minutes. TL;DR/TL;DW is not for me and should not be for my students. I don't want my students to take 'shortcuts'.
  • I want my students to do great work without desiring for my validation. 

Saturday, August 27, 2022

DevStack on Ubuntu 20.04

I need a small IaaS cloud infra for my CMSC291: Modern Distributed Systems class this semester so I decided to set up an OpenStack instance on one of SRG's servers running Ubuntu 20.04. I have used OpenStack in the past so I'm quite comfortable using it.

What is DevStack?

"DevStack is a series of extensible scripts used to quickly bring up a complete OpenStack environment based on the latest versions of everything from git master. It is used interactively as a development environment and as the basis for much of the OpenStack project’s functional testing."


[1] I thought the process will be straightforward but unfortunately minor tweaks were needed. Below is the configuration of the host.  

[2] This is the commit hash that worked for me, make sure to checkout this particular commit : d9e2d10d28ebc70129ed90ac9afe11591e7bb7d3

[3] Get the IP address of the host (using ifconfig) and export it as HOST_IP environment variable. Let's say the IP address is

        $export HOST_IP=

[4] Prepare the local.conf file as described in the doc.

[5] Edit lib/neutron_plugins/ovn_agent

Change OVS_RUNDIR=$OVS_PREFIX/var/run/openvswitch 
to OVS_RUNDIR=$OVS_PREFIX/var/run/ovn

[6] Unstack and Clean.

        $sudo apt install neutron-metadata-agent
    $sudo apt install neutron-openvswitch-agent
    $sudo pip install uwsgi
[7] A few directories need to be removed as well as do some other stuff:

    $sudo rm /var/run/ovn/openvswitch
   $sudo /usr/share/openvswitch/scripts/ovs-ctl restart
    edit tools/dbcounter/

[8] Stack. This may take a while so grab a cup of coffee.

    $sudo rm -fr /var/run/ovn
A successful installation after ~12 minutes!

[9] Launch an instance.

[10] TODO: Configure Floating IP addresses and add glance images.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Git Commit Messages

I've been using GitHub to host my codes for a long time already. However, I often get lazy and  just put "edits" in my commit messages. This is obviously a bad practice!

I decided to look around to learn more about how to write good commit messages. I came across these resources [1] [2] [3]. 

The following format looks good:

Commit Type(Scope): Subject Line


Commit Types

  1. Feature
  2. Fix
  3. Style
  4. Refactor
  5. Test
  6. Docs
  7. Chores

Subject Line

Short text (less than 50 characters) that summarizes the commit. 


This is an optional detailed description of the commit. Wrap at 72 characters.