Productive Weekend

by Berck

I’m rather proud of myself. This weekend alone, I’ve managed to do my Discrete Math proofs, write some documentation relating to my C++ project, do my C++ programming homework, do my assembly language programming homework, brew a batch of beer, and put new brake pads and rotors on Jonah’s car.

That leaves a lot of Calculus homework to do during the week, but it’s not due until Thursday. Not to mention all the stuff I’m sure I’ll have to work on for the next week. I’m not sure why I thought 18 semester-hours would be easier than it’s turning out to be. Somehow, with 14 hours, I had plenty of free time, but with 18 hours I’m not quite, but nearly overwhelmed.

I had a terribly frustrating ordeal with Amazon Marketplace sellers over the book for the Assembly Language class. I ordered the book by ISBN from an Amazon seller who listed it as being in “Like New” condition. It arrived damaged in shipping, but the seller was willing to refund 25% of the purchase price, so I soldiered on with it.

Until the third homework assignment, when I discovered that nothing in the book was giving me any useful information about the MIPS programming language, which is what this course focuses on. There was almost no MIPS information in the book at all!

I finally managed to determine that I had some third-world country edition of the book, which did not have the same ISBN number, but otherwise appears to be identical. Only, instead of focusing on the MIPS language, it focuses on ARM, which effectively made the book worthless to me.

The seller was clearly aware of what they were doing, as there was a section of the book’s cover cut out and carefully taped over. I suspect that’s the part that says, “Not for sale in the United States of America.” It’s a cute market segmentation scheme–sell your book for an insane price in the U.S., but sell the same book overseas for far cheaper. One of my classmates has the same calculus book I do, only his is in black-and-white and says “For sale in India only”. Since the marginal cost of production of a text book is very low, it makes sense.

Until, of course, someone re-imports your book. This author is clever and effectively made the book worthless for U.S. students, but didn’t actually damage the book by switching to ARM. There’s nothing wrong with learning ARM assembly instead of MIPS, but you need to focus on one or the other.

Lesson learned: when buying textbooks used on Amazon, check the ISBN and return it if it’s not what you ordered.

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