Review: edX Microsoft: DAT263x Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (AI)

August 7, 2018

As i have said before: I have had an interest in Artificial Intelligence for a long time, and over the years I have used bits of it in projects, but never really studied it.

At the moment I and some others are toying with project  ideas that use Artificial Intelligence. I borrowed a book “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” by Ertel  to brush up on my understanding

Tharindu pointed to an edX course Introduction to Artificial Intelligence and I decided to give that a go.

I hadn’t taken an edX course before so I had to go through the rigmarole of setting up an account.

The course was divided into four topics:

  • Machine Learning
  • Language and Communication
  • Computer Vision
  • Conversation as a Platform

With the suggestion of  studying one per week and an effort of 3-4 hours per week.

Machine Learning was divided into:

  • Regression
  • Classification
  • Clustering

For this topic I watched each of the Fundamentals videos (at 1.25 speed as that is clear for me) and I followed the 26 page lab. This took about 5 hours elapsed time, and I feel it would be difficult to do it any quicker. The videos were straightforward as I knew of the techniques, the lab was very much a step by step guide, and I only once went wrong and quickly found what I had done mis-copied. I have now realised there were a set of videos on how to use the Azure Machine Learning Studio, I have only watched the first of these – not sure how I missed the others – watching them would have taken another 50 minutes or so and I doubt it would have helped me do the lab quicker.

Language and Communication was divided into:

  • Getting started with text processing
  • Introduction to Natural language Processing
  • Language Understanding Intelligent Services

For this topic I watched all the videos and attempted the lab .

Again I already knew something about the topics so I guess it was easier for me but the whole thing took longer than suggested. I was finding the lab straight forward until I got an error message:

Error: nonnumeric port: ‘//’

After copying a url from one browser window to another, my debugging skills could not help me get this problem solved, and so I had to abandon the lab – I tried the discussion boards and Google but no clue as to what is astray. With more time I would restart and use a different browser, but I think for now the lab has served its purpose.

Having written the above I decided to revisit and determined that I was only suppose to use the base ‘’ not the whole url the interface offered to copy for me.

Computer Vision demonstrated lots of things that the apps available from Microsoft can do. It is amazing how this field has advanced since I first knew of work in this area. I watched all the videos and did the lab, I was a little cheesed off with the review questions as two of the three asked:

“Which Microsoft Cognitive Services API should you use?”

which seemed closer to understanding their name choices than AI (maybe that is because I got both those questions wrong having got everything else right!).

Conversation as a Platform was an interesting topic, introducing the concept of Bots (Chatbots) and Intelligent Bots. The lab followed the videos and were designed to enable learners to make and deploy bots.  I was enjoying this and thinking how straightforward it was to use until I hit a problem. The step included instruction to set and App ID and password automatically:

  • Microsoft App ID and password: Auto create App ID and password.

When I attempted to create the App I kept getting back:

  • Authorization_RequestDenied

Which the help suggests is because I have insufficient privileges, and that I could set one up manually – but that route also says I have insufficient privileges – since  I have no idea how to make my Free Trial account more privileged so I am stuck here! I have posted on the course discussion board a query re this – but the discussion board seems to have very few posts so I am not optimistic I will get a response.

Having written the above I thought I should retry the steps in the hope that it would work – but it didn’t – I am still getting the same error message.

So moving on: the review question were again very Microsoft centric – asking which service to choose – not testing my understanding of AI – but I had paid attention and this time got them right!

The course finished off with a what to do next.

I enjoyed the course and it gave me a taste of modern AI, I enjoyed the use of the Microsoft tools, the final authorisation problem will stop me with some experiments I have in mind to try.

Would I recommend the course to a friend? Well it would very much depend on who that friend was and what their background is.


Book #32 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence by Wolfgang Ertel

August 6, 2018

I have had an interest in Artificial Intelligence for a long time, and over the years I have used bits of it in projects, but never really studied it.  At the moment, along with others, I am toying with project  ideas that use Artificial Intelligence. I borrowed this book from Richard to brush up my understanding.

This book is too much of a text book (aimed at Computer Science undergraduates) to be very readable, but skimming through helped remind me of topics.  The book was originally written in German, and the translation to English left examples with German roots. The individual chapters can be approached with limited dependence on earlier material.

The topics covered include: Propositional Logic, Predicate Logic, PROLOG, Problem Solving, Uncertainty, Machine Learning, Data Mining, Neural Networks.

I think this book is VERY niche, it is unsuitable for anyone who wants a general introduction to AI. It is ok as a text book, it is has a lot of details that would be covered in an undergraduate course, and would be good to supplement  lectures.

Book #31 Slade House by David Mitchell

July 11, 2018

Having recently read The Reason I Jump that was translated by David Mitchell, I was reminded I have enjoyed his writing. I found “Slade House” on the library shelf and decided to read it. Like all David Mitchell’s works it is a bit weird. Part of it where somewhat scary and I felt I should read it with my eyes shut!

One of the characters that appeared later in the book seemed familiar, and it was a while before I realised this was a character from Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, which I had read a few years ago (probably at a time I wasn’t recording what I read).

Definitely a good read.

Book #30 Sophie’s Universe by Dedri Uys

June 29, 2018

I wouldn’t normally consider a crochet pattern a book, but at 216 beautiful pages this most certainly is a book, and while making the blanket I read every page in detail.

The author introduces lots of new crochet stitches and accompanies each with lots of photographs and text – so it is easy to learn how to do something complex. I enjoyed the book and making the blanket, and I would recommend the book and making the blanket to anyone who wants to improve their crochet.


My only complaint about the book is the text layout/formatting, I think if the editor had experience of producing programming books the layout would be more to my taste. As it is the pattern instructions and explanations are run together and sometimes I managed to overlook a stitch, and then had to frog (undo my work), I would have preferred a two column approach with the pattern instructions on the left, and the explanation on the right, much as in a  computing book with the code on the left and the comments on the right.

For more about the blanket see my other blog.

Book #29 The shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

June 29, 2018

I took “The shadow of the wind” out of the library because I saw a friend recommending it. But when I started to read it I remembered the plot and realised I had read it before. It is a complex book, with a twisting plot, and needs time to read, as a second read I must admit skimming this time.

Book #28 English Grammar…

June 29, 2018

I picked up “The McGraw-Hill handbook of English grammar and usage” by Mark Lester and Larry Beason, because I thought it would be good to better understand the subject!

When I was at school I don’t think we were taught about English Grammar. Indeed when we started learning French and I found to about grammar I remember asking why English didn’t have grammar.

The book was fun of information with lots of examples, but it is really a text book and not readable like  In a manner of speaking so I just picked bits and read those.

Book #27 My grandmother sends her regards & apologises by Fredrik Backman

June 12, 2018

I’ve read another couple of books by Fredrik Backman (A man called Ove, and Britt-Marie was here) and I expected “My grandmother sends her regards & apologises” to be equally good. Britt-Marie plays a minor role in the book, but the main character is seven years old (nearly 8). The story unfolds in an engaging manner, and my only complaint can be I finished it too quickly.

Backman has another couple of books that I shall add to my reading list.

Book #26 Folly by Alan Titchmarsh

June 12, 2018

Folly by Alan Titchmarsh provided a good holiday read. The style of writing made for easy reading, even though it flicked backwards and forwards in time. The plot had a few twists, which kept my interest, even though one major twist seemed obvious from the start.

Book #25 In a manner of speaking : the story of the English language by Charlie Haylock & Barrie Appleby

June 11, 2018

I picked this book off the shelf in the library because it looked fun, it also looked brand new – although on examining it the label showed it was several months since it joined the library collection.

Charlie Haylock is a language academic and he writes amusingly, telling how our language developed. Barrie Appleby provides cartoons that illustrates the points of the text.

I really enjoyed the book and it taught me things that I didn’t know, Particularly that it was only recently our language reached its current state of so many rues and strange spellings!

Personally I wish the pedants who held sway over the language had settled for phonetic spelling, and a simple grammar.

Book #24 Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

May 29, 2018
This is a strange book and I couldn’t decide if I liked it. The book won the Man Booker prize, and the author is a professor of creative writing. The story unfolds as single sentences or short paragraphs in the voices of ghosts. Supplemented by what appears to be quotes from contemporary writers.
The story is heart wrenching telling of the death of President Lincoln’s son Willie and his ghost’s reluctance to move on. The different voices present different perspectives, and add details of the times, including: poverty, slavery and war. There is probably more depth than I recognised because I ended up skim reading it, as after a while I found the multiple voices repetitive.