Sunday, August 31, 2008

Back to School!

So it's about that time again!

I'm very excited, personally. I am at 17 credits (which is low for me, but considered a lot of credits to be teaching). I will be teaching 6 different courses:
CIS 101 (section A1)
CIS 125 (A1)
CIS 126 (E1)
CIS 152 (E1)
CIS 290 (01)
CIS 294 (01)

Along with that, we're moving to Office 2007, and our school is opening the long awaited Passaic Academic Center, our fourth location in the county. At this point, there aren't a ton of courses being offered, but it is nonetheless exciting.

One other thing that is big for me personally is that I have been granted tenure. I know I rarely discuss personal matters here, but what the heck. Tenure is a difficult process - there is a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that students don't see on a day to day basis that we're required to do. I believe I started with 10 other faculty members. Of the 11 of us, only four of us received tenure, and of them, I am the youngest.

According to Wikipedia, tenure is " tenure in a job and specifically to a senior academic's contractual right not to have their position terminated without just cause." For me, this means that I can really work to be a positive force and do what's right for the students as much as possible, and put aside some of the worries about the politics of the job.

For those of you who are former students, I always appreciate the positive and constructive comments on the teacher evaluation forms (SRI's), and I still have every one I've ever received. They've helped me to focus in on what you as a student think I could do better, and really, that's what the job is all about.

Classes start this Thursday, and I'm excited to see my classes for the first time this semester. It should be a fun semester, as always!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Free online faxing

Up until a few years ago, if I had to fax something, I'd bring it in to work with me (shhhh!). I am sure many of you do the same, if you can. The primary reason in my case was that I didn't have a fax machine at home, so places (such as my insurance company) who didn't want email would require me to print something, find a device I didn't have at home, send it to them, and hope it got picked up and delivered on the other end to the right person.

My solution? A multifunction device (fax, print scan, copy). Not this model, mind you, but it's a visual aid, and pictures are pretty after all.

Anyway, if you have a small fax to send, one alternative to this is to use - this Web site will allow you to send up to two documents a day, each with up to three pages in it. You can upload an existing document from your PC, or if you only need text, you can just type that in to their text box. The first page you send will have some sort of ad on it, but hey, for free, what the heck? It's better than paying to have it done at Kinko's or Staples...and better than waiting until Monday if you're not going to work for a few days. Plus, if you already have it electronically, it saves you printing pages you are going to turn around and throw out anyway. Thumbs up on this one, a good little site to bookmark.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Internet filtering and the Olympics

We take a lot of things for granted in the United States.

You can say just about anything on the Internet and get away with it. You can call the President a moron, complain about the government, anything that isn't a direct threat basically, and get away with it in this country.

However, other countries, including China, don't have the same freedoms. Internet usage is filtered and monitored in that country. I did wonder how this was going to affect the tourists and news media who would be descending upon Beijing for the Olympics.

LeBron James and the "Redeem Team"
won the gold medal in basketball!

It turns out someone else thought of this. The Chinese government apparently opened up the country's site blocking to certain locations. For example, hotels that foreigners were staying at would be filtered less than people's homes. Very clever - this puts a lot of people in the position to go back to their home nations and say "well, they didn't block anything I tried to view..." and makes China look good. Brilliant.

There is an article from the Atlantic that talks about this - it's a little long and a bit technical at points, but extremely well written.

Link to article

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hello, Microsoft

So, Microsoft is apparently a little bothered by the Macintosh ads (perhaps you've seen them, with Justin Long as the "Mac" and a generic Bill Gates-looking guy going over the top portraying Microsoft).

So how does Microsoft react? They decide it would be a great idea to pay $10 million to bring in Jerry Seinfeld to headline a $300 million ad campaign to try to one-up Macintosh.

Buy Microsoft, they paid me $10 million bucks!

If they are trying to appear "hip" I honestly don't see how Jerry Seinfeld helps them here. Wasn't this guy a big Macintosh user in his show? And what has he done since his show ended 10 years ago?***

So these ads are supposed to debut on September 4th, with a new slogan "Windows, not Walls" - whatever that means. We'll see if $300 million will fix Microsoft's public relations issues.

Link to story

**Correct answer: the Bee Movie and that's it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Staples Teacher Appreciation Day 2008

For any and all teachers out there, Staples does a teacher appreciation day every year, filled to the brim with free coffee, doughnuts, and a bag full of free school supplies. Last year, I remember getting binder clips, pens, pencils, a bag, erasers...for free, it was great.

The two nearest me list tomorrow (8/23/08) as the 2008 Teacher Appreciation Day.

Check the date for your local Staples

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You've got voicemail

There is a free service called Slydial that allows someone to connect directly to your voicemail on a cell phone without the phone ringing. That's pretty neat.

If you're listening to voicemail on one of these, it may be time to upgrade

So, let's say you want to leave a message for someone but don't want to talk to them. You can call Slydial's phone number (267-SLYDIAL, or (267-759-3425)), wait for it to connect, enter the phone number you want to leave voicemail for, and they'll connect you (after you listen to an ad).

Nice to have in your bag of tricks.

Slydial Web site

Link to article

Friday, August 15, 2008

Netflix Down

Netflix (one of the two companies that provide DVD rentals through the mail, along with Blockbuster), has been hit by huge technical problems.

If it were only one site (they have 55 shipping centers), it would be one thing - sometimes problems happen locally. However, for it to happen company wide indicates some sort of failure somewhere.

Rumors suggest that the problem may have been caused by database administrators updating a program called Oracle (a very large database management software package) and blowing things up. However, there's always the possibility that they were hacked too. We'll see.

The service has apparently been down since Tuesday and only a few movies have managed to be shipped in the last three days.

For the record, I haven't heard anyone suggest hacking, but I always have this idea in the back of my mind when I hear stories like this.

For the record, I've used Netflix in the past and was always pretty happy with their service.

Link to article

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Good bye analog TV

I remember growing up that we had the analog TV (the old "rabbit ears" on top of the TV). As of February of 2009, the analog TV broadcasts are being shut down, in theory to clear up those frequencies for emergency responders and the like.

Yeah, those things

Anyway, the government is giving out coupons for $40 off a digital converter box (which should give you the "basic" channels for free). The converter boxes are typically around $40, so this should get you one for free. It's nice that they are making this available, so I would recommend going on the Web site and getting a coupon and a free box, even if you're not using the rabbit ears at this point. For free, why not, right?

Thanks to Victor for the heads up!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Transparent Post-its

School time again, huh?

As a student I always hated writing in books - especially since it would lead to books being sold back to the bookstore for less money.

Post-it came up with a product that you can use that allows you to write in books, yet at the end of the semester still sell the books back as new. They are called "Sheer Colors Post-It Notes" - they are basically see through Post-It notes that you can use to write on the post-it and reference the stuff underneath.

I personally still use regular post-it notes at the moment, but I totally would move towards this when I get rid of the supply of post-its that I have.

Link to an article about this

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mobile Browsing

For those of you have a cell phone, you may have noticed the little microbrowser on it, or a Web browser designed for a cell phone. You may have also noticed that there is a lack of standardization, because different phones use different microbrowsers, even in the same company. It's nearly impossible to choose one that does everything well. This is where Mozilla Firefox plans to come in and TAKE OVER THE MOBILE BROWSING WORLD. Or something.

I suppose the main problem is that we currently don't have a standard, and that hurts people who are not savvy with technology and chases them away from the idea of mobile browsing. Some sort of standard is in everyone's best interests.

Link to article

Thanks to Sue for the heads up!

Monday, August 04, 2008

So what do I do with that old hard drive??

To follow up last week's entry about information found on hard drives...

I used to work at a defense contractor in Clifton. I worked on a project that put radar jamming equipment and software on helicopters and other crafts. Some of the data we worked with was considered classified, so I know how that company handled it - they actually would burn all the materials, including opening up hard drives and melting the insides, burning floppy disks and USB drives, etc.

If you're not that paranoid, there is also a free software solution for home users, called DBAN (Darik's Boot and Nuke). This software program will allow you to boot up your computer, delete the contents of the drive securely, and be able to throw it out and trust that you'll be okay. According to Wikipedia, "DBAN prevents or thoroughly hinders all known techniques of hard disk forensic analysis."

It can be used not only for hard drives, but also USB drives and floppy disks as well. It also supports Windows, Linux, and Macintosh, according to the documentation, though I've only used the Windows version.

If you're a little nervous about a program like this, don't worry - I've used it before, and it has been reviewed by companies such as CNN.

The program can be found for free at