Saturday, December 26, 2009

CNN Tech: The Top 10 Technology Fails of 2009

It has been an interesting year for technology failures, and part of the reason (I believe, anyway) is that technology is now considered important enough to get the media coverage to make it news.  Five years ago, it was not something that was noticed, and now it is.

It's always interesting for me to go back and see what sort of things happened this year, and see what sort of stories were big.  For example, you may have heard a lot of hype about a virus called Conficker (around April Fool's Day 2009).  This was supposed to be a big virus, but no major destruction and doom ever materialized.

Also, who can forget the Sidekick crash in October, where many users lost personal data - ALL of it.  Some users were able to recover it, but many were not.  This was one of those things that I don't understand.  This is why backups are so important, and I don't see how companies lose data these days.

Anyway, here's the article from CNN:
Link to Article

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Facebook group hacking

I always love it when the words "hacking" and "protest" show up in the same article.

Recently, people on Facebook were annoyed with a feature of the Facebook "groups".  Basically, this feature said that if someone who had created a group left it, and there was no longer an administrator, ANYONE in the group could take the group over.  You can see why this was put in place - you wouldn't want someone to abandon a group and have it just disappear, after all.  However, you can also see the potential problem.  Anyone can take over a group!

In protest, a group of people "hijacked" administrator privileges in around 300 groups in November, just to show that Facebook has a major issue with security.

Link to article

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Photoshop Trickery

Image editing is not something new.  The Soviet Union did this back in the 1920's and 1930's, famously editing people out of photos who had become enemies of the government.

This has been made a lot easier nowadays with the invention of tools like Photoshop, and has been used in a lot of situations.  For example, Time Magazine darkened a picture of O.J. Simpson in 1994, which Newsweek ran without changes.  Many people felt that Time Magazine's portrayal was in poor taste, if not racist.

In a more amusing twist, the Buffalo Bills recently fired their head coach, Dick Jauron.  They gave out team photos to fans at a recent game, and edited the former coach out, even as they left players there who had been cut from the team.  Viewing the high-resolution version of the picture, you can see a lot of things that aren't quite right, for example, look at the size of #31 Jairus Byrd's right arm.  There is a complete discussion of this on a Bills message board, and this also appeared on ESPN's Web site.

From Trotsy to O.J. to Jauron, image editing has many forms, and you can see why a simple photograph isn't evidence enough nowadays.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Time Saving Google Tips

There are many ways that you can save yourself some time on Google.  I always am amazed at how they update the search engine and add features as time goes on.

Some of the features have also been there for years, and there are a number of them that are documented on the site below.

Link to Site

Friday, November 27, 2009

Magical Jelly Bean Product Key Finder

I am preparing to upgrade to Windows 7 at home, and I am a little leery of it, because if the upgrade doesn't go well, I may end up reinstalling certain software, such as Office 2007.  There is a free program called Magical Jelly Bean Key Finder which will find the product keys for many of the Microsoft tools.  For example, if I needed to reinstall Vista or Office, I wouldn't have to go find my original product keys.  I could just use this program to get that information now.  It will also allow me to save or print them automatically.  It's a random little tool, but definitely something that I am going to use before I do my upgrade, and it's a free piece of software, which is nice.

Link to download

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Really NSFW Situation

NSFW stands for "not safe for work".  It is an abbreviation someone might use when sending an email with questionable content to a friend, as in "check this out, but it is NSFW, so make sure you read it at home".

A few weeks ago, something that takes NSFW to a new level showed up in the news.  Two people who work at Cornell University were having an affair, and somehow, the guy just happened to copy the entire business school.

Now, leaving aside issues of whether this person was being self destructive and actually wanted to get caught or not, this is just awful.  Lesson learned here?  If you are going to have an affair, use your home email, not your work one.  Just remember, when you get a work email account, most companies reserve the right to read your email if they want to, because you are using their systems.  Also remember, they typically reserve the right to monitor your Internet, because after all, their computers and their Internet.

The site below has the entire email exchange, and I warn you now, it is NSFW.
(and yes, this was also reported on sites like Business Week, so it is legit...but on BW's site you need an account to read their full story)

Monday, November 16, 2009

MMORPGs and Disney's Toontown

MMORPGs (Massively multiplayer online role-playing games) are typically thought of as games that are for adults. For example, I play one called World of Warcraft. However, there are definitely adult themes there that I wouldn't want a child exposed to. Aside from violence, there are plenty of people in the public chat channels that say inappropriate things.

However, a friend of mine pointed out one that is geared towards children. This is a MMORPG created by Disney, and it is called Toontown. Like most MMORPGs, this does include a monthly fee...but it's interesting to see Disney targeting a younger audience with this.

Monday, November 09, 2009

My Spring 2010 Schedule

Here is my current schedule for the 10/SP semester. I will be teaching the following courses:

CIS-101-M10 COMPUTER CONCEPTS/APPLIC (Paterson - Intensive Writing)
Tuesday, Thursday 11:45AM - 01:00PM

Monday, Wednesday 11:45AM - 01:00PM

Tuesday, Thursday 10:20AM - 11:35AM

CIS-273-ME1 WEB GRAPHICS (Paterson)
Thursday 07:05PM - 09:35PM, HAMILTON HALL, Room H307

CIS-294-M01 CIS INTERNSHIP (Paterson)
To be Announced

I will also be coordinating the Web Technology capstone course.  There seems to be an issue with the section numbers at the moment, so I didn't want to post the incorrect section number.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Free RAM Analysis Tool

I always seem to walk out of other people's classrooms learning something.

I observed one of our part-time faculty a few weeks ago (this is part of my responsibility as a faculty member), and she gave an example that I plan on using in the future.

One thing I always have trouble explaining to students is what type of RAM they need.  The best answer I've been able to give is to consult the manufacturer's Web site, which is admittedly a pain in the rear end.

Crucial (a company that makes RAM) has made available for free a memory scanner.  This program will tell you how much RAM you have, along with how many slots you have available.  If you were considering a RAM upgrade, this is vital information, and this tool saves you having to open up the PC.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Windows 7 and the "Hi, I'm a Mac" ads

Last week, Microsoft released the new version of the Windows operating system, simply known as "Windows 7".  This replaces Windows Vista as the most updated version of the operating system.  Windows Vista just never gained acceptance in the way Windows XP did.  Think of it this way.  Windows XP was released in 2001, and Windows Vista was released in 2007.  XP was the primary client operating system for six years.  Windows 7 was released in 2009, two years after Vista.    This says to me that Vista did not accomplish what it needed to.  I bought a new machine a few months ago, and most recently purchased machines came with a free upgrade option.  Mine did, and I ordered the upgrade kit.  I'm going to install it and see what happens.  For those of you who are a little more tech savvy, we're planning on installing it in a few machines in our public lab (H310) so that students interested can try it out.  For what it is worth, reviews so far seem cautiously positive overall.

Either way, Mac has been putting together a set of advertisements since 2006, and Macintosh is clever enough to put ads together putting together already, playing off of the fears.  I went back to the 2007 Vista release ads, and it's funny to see how quickly the annoying issues (like the security warnings you kept getting in Vista, or the fact that Microsoft had six versions of Vista) were almost immediately turned in to ads.  If there is something wrong with 7, we'll see it in the Mac ads soon enough! 

I still don't know if these ads are enough to get the average user to switch to Mac, but they are interesting.

The ads can be seen here:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spring 2010 Registration

The school has posted the Spring 2010 semester on the school Web site.  You can go to and click on the "Course Schedule" link.  Click on "Credit Course Schedule", and then you can select "Spring 2010" as the term.  Registration starts next week, and I would highly recommend getting in as soon as possible to do your schedule - this way, you get the best possible schedule.

The first step in this process, if you have chosen a major, really should be to see a faculty advisor in your major, rather than someone from the Center for Student Success.  The reason is that the counselors in the Center are really typically generalists - that is, they have a general knowledge of all the programs at the school, but typically aren't experts in them.  With all the programs available at the College, who can blame them!

Instead, you should see a faculty advisor.  For example, in the Business major, there are three choices for the math elective.   Some transfer to certain schools better than other schools, and realistically, the faculty in the major (in this case, Professors Cox or Gheorghiu) will know these details because they are the ones who typically do the transfer agreements with the four-year colleges and universities.  In addition, the faculty are typically more in tune with what courses are offered in what semesters, and how pre-requisites may hold you back.  Plus, on a personal note, it's really a great chance for me as a faculty member to work directly with students.

You can see any faculty member in your major, and I would recommend seeing a faculty member for advising now, even if you don't plan on registering yet.  This way, if you do end up registering late, you don't have to worry about getting bad advising during late registration.

For the Information Technology, Computer Science, or Graphic Design majors, you can typically see me, and as always, my office hours are linked near the top left hand side of my blog.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Random paper generators

In what started as a joke, some people at MIT put together a "random abstract generator". It's a tool that will generate a random Computer Science abstract. The funny part is that the papers, though grammatically correct, just really don't make a ton of sense. For example, I just generated this one:

Evaluating Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games Using Amphibious Theory
Knowledge-based communication and RPCs have garnered great interest from both scholars and cyberinformaticians in the last several years. After years of technical research into sensor networks, we prove the investigation of flip-flop gates. Our focus here is not on whether model checking can be made amphibious, embedded, and robust, but rather on proposing new symbiotic modalities (Soder).

It's giving me a headache to try to interpret all that.

Basically, there are some conferences that will basically accept anyone's paper, regardless of if it makes sense or not.  So, using this random program generator, the authors of this tool were actually accepted to present at conferences, even if what the abstract said was complete gibberish.

Edit: Here's the link to the generator:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stumbling upon new sites

In my CIS 101 class today, we discussed (among other things) add-ons, and I demonstrated one called StumbleUpon.

As a computer person, I love this.

Basically, StumbleUpon allows you to download an add-on for your Web browser. You select some of your interests, and you can "stumble" upon sites that you like. You can select whether you like a site or dislike it, and based on what your interests are and what sites you like, you will be able to stumble to sites that other people with similar interests like. The more sites you rank, the more accurate it becomes.

This is fascinating to me because on some level this makes use of a technique called "data mining" - basically, how we can use a computer and some data to make predictions better than any person can do by hand. This is similar in some ways to "wisdom of the crowd" - where if you ask a hundred people who are going to win a football game, the collective opinion of the crowd would tend to be correct.

As with many things I mention here, this is a free Add-on!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Amazon Associates Program and interstate commerce

In my CIS 152 course, we recently discussed some of the ways a Web site can make money. We discussed "affiliate marketing", where one site can advertise products on another person's site. The example we discussed was Amazon Associates.

Amazon's program is relatively successful, as far as these things go. For example, I as a person with a Web site, can advertise their products like this:

...and if you were to click on that link and buy something I'd get a (small) percentage of the proceeds.

We also talked about the oddities of interstate commerce, such as the legal mess that is's shipping policies. There are many different laws in different states, and it's tough to keep track of. When New York changed laws to require all residents to pay sales tax, though traditionally you only had to pay sales tax to companies that had a presence in your state. I knew other states would follow suit. North Carolina decided to do something similar, and it's affected the Amazon Associates program.

Any people living in North Carolina are not eligible for this program now, as of June 2009. The laws read that you couldn't tax any company that doesn't have a physical presence in your state. North Carolina decided that if there are Amazon Associates in North Carolina, that qualifies as a "physical presence", so they wanted Amazon to start collecting sales tax on all purchases.

Amazon was not interested in collecting sales tax on all purchases in North Carolina, so they decided not even to bother with North Carolina. Now, since there are no Amazon Associates in North Carolina, there is no physical presence, so there is no reason to collect sales tax on purchases made in North Carolina.

Obviously, Amazon hopes people are outraged enough to run to their Congressmen and have the law changed...but at the moment, North Carolina is out.

Following this, Amazon also made this program unavailable to residents of Rhode Island, also in June 2009, for the same reasons.

I think eventually laws will be amended to tax all Internet sales, but as we've discussed in my course, the laws are almost always behind the technology. The interstate commerce law was first passed in the 1960's, and this is what happens when you try to apply a law written 50 years ago to technology.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

15 ways to be a leader

Trent, who publishes one of my favorite blogs, The Simple Dollar, recently had an article listing "15 ways to be a leader". It is a very interesting topic, because like anything else in life, I think leadership can be developed with the right energies. We rarely see as part of a general education curriculum a course that teaches these topics.

I think that, many times, people end up in jobs they dislike and never move up because they don't show any leadership skills. If you don't show leadership skills, why would a company promote you?

I even see this in co-workers. There are times when difficult tasks arise, and it's always the same few people who seem to be the ones who step in to those roles, and a bunch of others who don't take the initiative. I see negativity...there is a difference between venting to a friend who is a co-worker, and venting to a group of people how much things suck. I've tried to remain positive around people, even the ones who are negative. One of the other things Trent discusses is what to do when one is asked for their opinion. It's important to develop the skill of telling the truth when something is bad without hurting people's feelings.

Workplace morale is an overlooked thing sometimes, but I think anyone who has worked can tell you, a bad boss makes a good job horrible, and a great boss makes a bad job bearable.

Link to article

Monday, October 05, 2009

Keywords and Internet placement

When designing a Web page, Web developers have the chance to add what are called keywords to the Web page source code to help search engines such as Google to drive users to your Web page. There is always a debate on how many keywords to include, because if you have 5 keywords, search engines typically view them as more important than if you had 100.

Complicating things is that Google and most other search engines also include things like "how many other sites have a link to your Web site" and other such things to rank your Web site.

There are some things you don't have a ton of control over, but you can choose effective keywords that help drive visitors to your site. One of the ways to do that is to use a keyword suggestion tool. For example, the free site listed below will show you related keywords you can use that might get you better placement on search engines.

Again, there are many sites that do this, the one below is an example. However, it can tell you words related to your keywords that you can use to attract more customers.

Keep in mind that this is also a technique less reputable Web sites can use. For example, let's say you have a Web site about the Sopranos TV show. The first thing that shows up on the list above when you look for sopranos is not "Tony Soprano" or "The Sopranos", but "Isabella Soprano" - an American pornographic actress, according to Wikipedia.

If you were really looking to drive people to your Sopranos TV site, you could throw in a reference to the actress and when people Google that actress, they may come across that site. Who knows, in the future, perhaps people looking for this porn star will end up here by accident!

I'd recommend using this for the purpose it was intended - to find popular keywords to help drive traffic to your Web site.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Twitter and the NFL

...Twitter strikes again!

Jets wide receiver David Clowney (and come on, that's an awesome name for a football player) was benched after tweeting ("Twittering") something about being unhappy with his playing time.

It's a fascinating thing to see this develop. In the past we've seen a soccer player fined for Twitter comments, a NBA player benched for it, and the NFL create rules to try and proactively prevent problems (my past thoughts appear here). It is certainly a change in the way we communicate. Now we can post our thoughts and have hundreds or thousands of people see the thoughts immediately. There are consequences to this, as people are learning, and you will likely see problems like this continue to arise as these social networks evolve. There is no filter if you are just upset, or drunk, or whatever, and that's going to lead to some issues in the next few years for some celebrities, I imagine.

Link to story

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Ride the Wave

Yesterday (9/30/2009), Google released a new product, Google Wave, to 100,000 testers. Basically, this is Google's way of trying to bring together word processing, instant messaging, social networking, blogs, and directions. For example, in a video, they allow you to have a conversation with someone through chat, and have it autopublish to a Web site. (I can see this being extremely useful in technical support, for example - you could have chats published, and then when people search for that problem, it shows up.

It is a technologically interesting tool, but I am not 100% sure of whether this is really going to take off. Time will tell, as will the 100,000 beta testers (not counting the ones who sold their invite on eBay!)

Google Video on Wave
CNN Story

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall 2009 Transfer Events

One of the things you should be thinking about NOW as a PCCC student is transfer. You don't want to wait until the last moment. The Center for Student Success brings in representatives from four-year colleges and universities, and has other events designed to help you with transfer. As Paterson is our main campus, most of the events will be held there.

Here is the email I just received about this. For our IT majors graduating this semester, I would highly recommend the NJIT Immediate Decision Days. You sit with a representative and get an answer on the spot about whether you are accepted or not. You need to make an appointment beforehand, however.

Transfer Advising Groups
Would you like to know more about the transfer process? Attend a Transfer Advising Group session! The Transfer Advising Groups are held in the Center for Student Success, A-230. No need to sign up in advance. For more information, call Liz Harrison, Student Development and Transfer Specialist at 973-684-5664.

Monday, October 5, 12:00pm
Tuesday, October 13, 5:00pm
Wednesday, October 21, 12:00pm
Thursday, October 29, 5:00pm
Just have a quick question about your transfer application? Stop by the Center for Student Success on Wednesdays from 3:30-6:30pm, or Thursdays from 10:30-11:30am, ask to see the Transfer Specialist. If appropriate, you may be asked to schedule an appointment to discuss more detailed questions.

University Transfer Admission Information Sessions
Get the facts directly from the source. These sessions are led by admissions representatives who are experts on the transfer admission requirements for their institutions. Everyone is welcome and advance sign-up is not necessary.

Caldwell College
September 22, 11:00am-2:00pm, Broadway Lobby
November 2, 11:00am-2:00pm, Broadway Lobby

College of Saint Elizabeth
September 29, 4:00-7:00pm, Broadway Lobby
October 20, 4:00-7:00pm, Broadway Lobby

New Jersey Institute of Technology
November 3, 11:00am-3:00pm, Broadway Lobby

Historically Black Colleges and Universities College Fair!
November 17, 2009
PCCC Gymnasium
Paterson Campus

Gather admission and scholarship information from over 40 Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Many colleges will be waiving their admission application fees if you apply at the fair. This is a very special opportunity to learn more about these prestigious institutions. See Liz Harrison, Transfer Specialist in the Center for Student Success, if you have questions about the fair.

Transfer Admission Immediate Decision Programs
For students with 40 or more completed college level credits, Spring 2010 admission only. Students with scheduled appointments will meet with a university admissions representative, have their application reviewed, and receive an admission decision on the spot. The programs are held in the Center for Student Success at the main campus in Paterson.

University Interview Date Time
Montclair State University November 4, 2009 11:00am-2:00pm and 4:00-6:00pm

NJIT November 9, 2009 11:00am-2:00pm
November 19, 2009 3:00-6:00pm

NJCU October 14, 2009 11:00am-1:00pm
November 18, 2009 11:00am-1:00pm

Rutgers-Newark November 10, 2009 12:00-6:00pm

William Paterson University November 2, 2009 2:00-6:15pm

Friday, September 25, 2009

Test Taking Strategies

I am in the process of grading some tests and I was struck by how many people are having problems not only with the material (this always happens), but also how many are just not answering questions.

Here are some things that I can offer as suggestions:
  • Read the instructions! For example, if I am giving short answer type questions, I always include the words "using complete sentences" in the instructions. Many professors will take off points if they ask for sentences and get fragments. Likewise, for true/false questions, I always ask for people to write out "true" or "false". This way I don't get a letter that is a combination of a T and an F.
  • Answer the questions as asked. When a question asks "Discuss xxxxxxx", what the professor is looking for is NOT a list. For example, if I asked "Discuss three sandwiches", I wouldn't expect the answer would be "peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, eggplant". If I simply wanted three answers, I would likely say something like "List three sandwiches" or "Name three sandwiches". When a professor asks a student to "discuss" or "describe", they are looking for more information.When a professor asks "compare and contrast X and Y", this is going to require two separate parts to your answer. First should be a comparison of X and Y (how they are similar) and second should be contrasting of X and Y (how they are different). If I asked you to compare and contrast baseball and football, the correct answer would not be a definition of baseball, followed by a definition of football. Instead, a correct answer would include a comparison (for example, baseball and football are both team sports, both are played in stadiums, etc), followed by contrasting (while baseball has nine players on the field at a time from one team, football has eleven, baseball uses a circular ball that is struck with a bat while football uses an oblong ball that is thrown and kicked).

  • Be on time and ready to go! If you get there on time, you will get your choice of seat and have the chance to relax before the test starts. I remember I was 45 minutes late for a final once, and I was overly stressed for that reason. I personally also schedule tests to have a set time frame, for example, one hour. If a student shows up 30 minutes late, they now have only 30 minutes to complete the test. Also, take care of any bathroom-type business before the test starts. Many professors do not allow bathroom breaks during tests, because there is potential for cheating.
Going to head back to do some more grading, but I wanted to put this information out there.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

PCCC's CWE and you

PCCC has a requirement that, before you graduate, you successfully pass the College Writing Exam, or CWE (formerly GWE). I am about to mention this in my classes, so I wanted to type up what I am going to say here to share.

First of all, you don't need to wait until your last semester. As a matter of fact, it is advisable that you do not. Why? If you do not pass the CWE, you don't graduate. You will notice it is listed as a requirement on your degree audit.

Secondly, they give you two hours. Many students assume that two hours is there in case they need it, but the expectation is that you are using that time not only to write, but also to plan and revise your work! There is no harm in taking 15 minutes to outline, then writing, and then re-reading it and editing, and since you can take it on the computer, you can cut and paste bits and pieces, delete, etc.

The school has set up some free CWE preparation workshops that are free, and you can find information on them here:
CWE Workshops

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Shut down telemarketers!

I recently wrote about the telemarketing laws that have changed. However, I realized I never mentioned the National Do Not Call registry.

A number of years back, a law was passed requiring most telemarketers to not call people if they asked not to be called. The problem is that I as a telemarketer could get your phone number and distribute your phone number to 100 other telemarketing companies. Even if you told my company to remove it, the other people still have your phone number.

The government stepped in and set up a free service - the National Do Not Call registry. You put your phone number in the system, and most telemarketers are required to not call you. If they do, you can report them and they face heavy fines. Most telemarketers will be required to stop calling you 31 days from your registration date, so if you put it in the system today, you should be safe by the end of next month at worst.

Of course, there are exceptions. First of all, any company that you have a business relationship with is exempt (though you can still ask them to remove you if they call). So, your phone company, cable company, etc. can do so. In addition, if you order from a Web site and give them your phone number, you may also be opening yourself to legal telemarketing calls.

Other exceptions include charities, political organizations (of course, because guess who passed the law - politicians!), and surveys that don't include any sales pitch.

The Federal Communications Commission does seem to pursue complaints. I was able to find a list with a hundred citations of companies that have been complained about and been fined as a result. The biggest so far was a Florida based company named Dynasty Mortgage, which got a warning and apparently kept calling people, leading to two sets of fines totaling around $1.5 million dollars.

No harm in signing up, because once again, it's free!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Skype and eBay divorce

In what I can only describe is "it's about time", eBay decided that Skype didn't fit in their business plan and sold it off. Skype is an online phone system, basically allowing people to make free calls to other people on Skype through their Internet connection. It can also be used to call from your PC to a telephone, at lower rates than most standard phone services have. For example, it's 10.3 cents a minute to the Dominican Republic, and 10.6 cents per minute to India. Compare this to Verizon charging 17 cents a minute to DR and 33 cents a minute to India. What's kind of nice is that the other person won't even know you are using a computer to call them. Nice idea!

The question I had when eBay bought it a few years back was "what are they going to do with it? How does this fit in eBay's business model?". I suppose the answer has been found.

The sale (which does allow eBay to keep a share of Skype) allows eBay to focus on what they know (online auctions). I always wonder if it is better to focus on one thing and do that really well, or to spread your business out. In this case, there was very little integration between the two applications, so it was an odd fit from the start. Meg Whitman, a former CEO of eBay, was approving of the purchase, but now that she is gone, the company found itself free to rid itself of an asset that was not helping the bottom line.

Part of me wonders if eBay is being smart, since pending legal issues have led experts to question whether Skype will need to be shut down eventually. The question is this - Skype doesn't sell advertising, and though it has 405 million users, how do you turn that in to real revenue? I don't know how many people use it for anything aside from free calling, so I couldn't tell you.

Web Link:

Saturday, September 05, 2009

NFL bans use of Twitter on Game Days

The NFL has become the first league to really take a stand on social networking. News has broken today that the NFL is banning players from Twittering (and Facebooking, etc) for communications purposes on game days. This ban starts 90 minutes before the first game, and ends after the post-game interviews. This idea makes sense. This way, you avoid people getting upset and saying something they later regret. The league will likely back this up with fines or something like that.

It's rather amusing to me that we literally JUST talked about Twitter and sports two days ago in my Internet/E-Commerce Technologies class, and our discussion already is somewhat out of date.

Link to Article

Monday, August 31, 2009

Telemarketing Laws Changing Tomorrow

Tomorrow (9/1/09) marks the change in telemarketing laws, again. Starting tomorrow, most for-profit companies that you don't have a relationship with will not be allowed to call you using pre-recorded messages. I personally don't receive a lot of calls, mainly because I registered myself for the national "Do Not Call" registry.

I was going to link here to a blog post I wrote on the national "Do Not Call" registry (, but in searching for it, it appears that I never got around to writing about that. Coming soon!

In some of my classes, we talk about how the laws are behind the technology, and this is one of those examples. Phones get invented, people decide to start using them to market things, people invent technology to automate marketing of things, laws come in to place 20 years later restricting this practice.

Better late than never, though, and this should cut down on some of the more annoying calls you get at home.

Link to Story

Friday, August 28, 2009

In Local News...

One thing that is great about the Internet is the availability of information. For example, it was near impossible twenty years ago to follow local news outside of your area. Now, if you want to see what is going on locally in any area, you can find resources.

For example, as of today, Paterson is mulling an adult curfew and the Paterson schools have a new round of educational reform. How do I know this? Paterson is large enough that it warrants a Web site devoted to local Paterson news.

I am especially impressed with the business model. You'll notice that the people running the site have done an excellent job with ad placement and ad relevancy. Since this is a site devoted to a very specific group, local printing companies, realtors, lawyers, and insurance agents can be confident that they are getting their money's worth. It's also nice to see local opinions on national matters, because there are only so many times you can read the same national opinions on issues.

Web Link:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Video Games and the Scientific Method

I think sometimes students wonder why they have to take science courses as part of any major. Part of the reason is to teach the scientific method. No matter whether you are taking biology, chemistry, physics, or some of the other sciences, you should be learning to form hypotheses and conduct experiments to see your ideas hold true ("the scientific method").

What amazes me is that this skill doesn't seem to stick. Politicians and other people toss out ideas that just don't hold up when investigated. For example, video games are for kids (wrong: statistics show that the average age of gamers is 35). Another example, video gamers are men (true, but not as extreme as portrayed: 40% of gamers are women). If you go with the false belief that teenage boys are the only people playing video games, you can draw many poor conclusions. For example, IF most people playing video games were male teenagers, you can draw conclusions about the content that should be available on these systems.

I ran across the article linked below and it just made me think how sometimes it's easier to go with anecdotal knowledge rather than do any research. For example "every time I go in to Game Stop, it's filled with teenagers". Well, this may be true, but this is not the only place that people buy video games. Evidence can be disputed with research. Research may indicate that adults buy their video games online rather than in stores like Game Stop, for the convenience or price or whatever. However, you could draw an incorrect conclusion just by walking in to a few stores and making a generalization.

Anyway, this article is a little bit biased for gamers, but an interesting read nonetheless.

Link to article

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Textbook tax credit

This just came across the email at school and I thought it was worth sharing. Here is the email we received from our bookstore manager:

Recently, the Obama administration launched economic stimulus package includes a new Textbook Tax Credit for which many PCCC students are eligible. This new government program will now reimburse students for up to 100% of the cost of required textbooks and other course materials. For example, if your student has out-of-pocket course material expenses or tuition and fees during 2009 or 2010 and no other financial grant aid covers those expenses, they would be able to claim the expenses as a credit. For each student the credit is limited to $2,500.

In the past, the Hope and Lifetime Learning credits did not cover textbooks. This exclusion disadvantaged many students for which textbooks are a high proportion of their total costs of higher education. This stimulus bill creates the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which will credit 100% of a student’s first $2000 in tuition, fees, and course materials, and 25% of the next $2000. The credit is also 40% refundable, so even if a student doesn’t owe taxes, he or she can effectively get a 40% rebate from the federal government for all tuition, fees and course materials.

At the bookstore, we are very excited about this new government program and want to ensure that our students are aware of this new opportunity. We are spreading the word here in the Bookstore, but it would make a huge difference if you could help us raise awareness by mentioning this tax credit in class to ensure that all students hear about it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Registry Cleaning

In my CIS 101 class, there is usually some sort of discussion of how programs get installed. Many times, whether in class or after class, I get a question that goes along these lines:

"Can I just copy the folder where Microsoft Office is to another computer?"

Now, back in the Microsoft DOS days, that would typically work, but Windows made it a little more complicated. There are a few things that are done during the installation process that you don't see. For example, some files are put in other folders on the hard drive, typically a subfolder under your Windows folder. In addition, some "services" are installed, and some information is written to a location called "the registry". So, with all that in mind, the operating system was designed to include an installation process, in part to make software piracy more difficult. Not all programs take advantage of this, but many do.

The problem with this is that when stuff is written to the registry, it doesn't always get cleaned out well when programs are uninstalled, etc. This leads to your registry being slower, as it is filled with junk that slows down your machine. A lot of people wonder why they can just reinstall the Windows operating system and see substantial improvements in speed. Part of the reason is the registry.

However, there are ways to fix this, and there is one program that does this for free, Eusing Free Registry Cleaner. This program will go through and clean up the mess left behind by sloppy uninstall programs. Definitely worth a download and a run. This is something I typically run every few months or so, and it always finds a bunch of errors it can fix. This is a program that I would recommend, especially with it being free and all.  The one concern I have is the limited support for Vista and Windows 7.

Link to Download

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fat Fingers

Late last year, I got a PS3 for myself, and I was looking to pick up a few games for it. One game I wanted was Guitar Hero, and I wasn't finding very good prices. I went to eBay, and same thing, there weren't a ton of great prices. I decided to try a site that I've used called fat fingers.

When an eBay seller lists an item for sale, they specify the keywords that go in the listing title, etc. People make mistakes, and if they make typographical errors, the end result is sometimes that they just don't get people to see their item. If no one sees it, no one buys it.

Anyway, fat fingers is a free site that will find auctions that are spelled wrong. For example, I was able to find an auction for "Gutar Hero" when I searched, and it was an auction starting at $5. I bid $5, and no one else bid on the item (because they didn't find it due to the spelling error), and I got a brand new copy of Guitar Hero for $5 plus shipping. When I bought this, this was an excellent price for it.

Note that this works well especially with eBay auctions. If it is a "fixed price" auction, you probably aren't getting a deal, but if it is an auction, you have a great chance of putting in a low bid and winning something.

I am still shocked that eBay hasn't found some way to fix this, because when their sellers lose money, they also lose money on commission.

Anyway, here's the site:

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Physics for Free!

As an undergraduate in Computer Science, I was required to take a two semester lab science sequence. In addition, I was required to take Calculus I, Calculus II, and Linear Algebra from the math area. With proper manipulation of my free electives, I was able to take a few extra courses and end up with both math and physics minors. Where an ex-girlfriend of mine was taking classes like "Rock and Rap as Cultural Phenomena" (no kidding), I was taking four-credit lab sciences like Electricity and Magnetism and higher level math classes like Linear Algebra to complete requirements. I finished my degree with 130 credits - two more than the minimum - with those two minors.

Physics, in particular, always used to fascinate me. It was always complicated, but very interesting to solve problems using the theories provided. It's an incredibly interesting subject, but it does involve a lot of higher level math, and that usually seems to be a deterrent for people. I think people would get more out of that type of science than, say, Meteorology, but that's just me. Not that there is anything wrong with Meteorology, but I think Physics really was a class that taught me how to think and apply math and science to real world problems, and I am glad I ended up going that route.

If you ever did want to learn a little about it, a professor of Physics has actually taken the time to write a free textbook, and has made it available on the Web. You can find it at the address below:

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Fall schedule updates

I had a minor change to my Fall 2009 schedule. I will be teaching a regular CIS 101 course CIS 101 M09 instead of the CIS 101 learning community course. If you have friends in CIS 101 M09 you can feel free to warn them to get out now.

Original Post with my Fall schedule

Monday, August 03, 2009

My experience with the legal system

I believe I mentioned that I was on jury duty for the county I live in a few weeks ago. It was certainly an interesting experience. I ended up getting selected for a trial and serving on a jury for a criminal case. The case involved a defendant who had been pulled over and found with drugs in his car. While the arrest was happening, an officer sustained an injury.

(For the record, the judge did say that we can discuss these things, for anyone wondering. I am going to avoid specifics and stick with my impressions of the whole experience)

First of all, it amazed me that it took two full days to pick a jury. The first two days I served were not anything to do with the trial; instead, I was waiting in a jury box watching people get selected and then struck by the attorneys. What amazed me was that they interviewed each prospective juror individually. The problem I have with the situation is that so much of this could be improved with technology. You had 75 people come in a room Tuesday with me, and most of them ended up dismissed because of the ways they answered the juror questionnaire. In order to be dismissed, they first had to go and sit with the judge and lawyers for a few minutes. I immediately thought of little touch screen devices, asking the same questions they were asking people on paper, and based on people's responses, automatically filtering people out if necessary. There are certain reasons that people can be dismissed, and that I won't talk about, but if those reasons showed up during the survey, why did the person need to wait the entire day sitting on the benches waiting? People literally waited 6 hours to walk up to the judge, give him their juror survey, and be sent out of the room immediately. Some of the questions saw the judge ask a follow up question. The mobile devices I am imagining could be programmed to do the same - if someone says "yes" to this question, ask this follow up yes/no question.

I'm going to make up a silly example here, just so I am not specific about the questions on the actual survey. Let's pretend the case has something to do with cats, and they are going to bring in 10 cats. Your jury questionnaire would probably ask each juror if they are allergic to cats, because you then would not be able to be around so many cats. If we had this device, anyone who was allergic to cats would be able to be dismissed back in to the jury pool and either put on another case or send home (because you CAN be called as a prospective juror for multiple trials in the same day). Heck, the survey could even be done before you go in to any courtroom, and anyone allergic to cats could be routed to another trial that does not involve cats.

Now, why not do this survey from home, which did cross my mind? You can not yet assume everyone has access to the technology and the ability to use it, and you also don't want to worry about people's forms being stolen and used by a stranger, so an in-person verification at the courthouse may be necessary.

One the jury was selected, the judge asked for our cell phone and home phone numbers, in case there was an emergency. We reported to a jury room for 9 am and proceeded to wait each of the three days the trial was going on. It would be very labor intensive to expect someone to call all 14 of us (12 jurors, two alternates), but why not use an alert system? Much like PCCC's Emergency Alert System - the "Panther Alert" - the courts could have said "the judge is busy, be here for 10:30 am instead of 9 am today". That would have allowed me and the other jurors a little time to run a few errands.

At the end of the trial, if you want to see the transcripts (for example, let's say we wanted to see exactly what one witness said, word for word). In order to do so, they print things out and you have to look through pages and pages to find it. Why not put this on a very simple device that would let you view the document and use "Find"? You save paper waste, you also save on having to pay to shred these documents, and you make your jury more efficient. You don't need a cutting edge laptop to do this - you could do this on a very basic machine that needs only the operating system and Adobe Acrobat on it.

It was an interesting experience, but the only thing that really bothered me was the fact that so much of my time was wasted just sitting there. Technology can alleviate these issues and I am sure it will in the future.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Job Seeking Techniques

I am serving on a few search committees for positions at my college and it got me thinking about mistakes people make in the job search process. I also have a Web link later. Let me present the following hypothetical situations that could be reality.
  • Imagine a person applying for a faculty position sending in a 15 page resume. Do you think anyone is going to read it? (Resumes are typically much much shorter, and I doubt Barack Obama's resume is 15 pages)
  • Imagine someone sending a cover letter saying they were looking forward to interviewing...except it lists the name of another college. What does that say about an applicant?
  • Imagine reading a resume for a non-labor position and seeing someone listing their height and weight...why would I care if I were an interviewer?
  • Imagine a resume or cover letter with typographical errors that are so mangled that they are near unreadable at points. Guess what happens to that resume?
  • Imagine a resume arriving for a position that requires a certain degree, and the person doesn't make their degree clear on their resume. Guess what happens to that resume?
  • Imagine showing up for an interview for a highly paid jeans and a t-shirt. What message does that send?
  • Imagine not being on time for an interview...what message does that send interviewers?
  • Imagine being asked about your current job and talking bad about them. Even if it is true, that sends a poor message!
These are all situations that could and do happen. You obviously don't want to be "that person" if you can avoid it.

I saw an article on the Web at some point that details some of the common interviewing mistakes people make, and I thought it might be a decent thing to link.

Link to article

Saturday, July 25, 2009

How to Avoid Me in the Fall 2009 Semester

I've received a few student emails lately asking which courses I am teaching in the Fall. Oddly enough, some of these have come from students I do not know, which I always take as a high compliment.

As far as I know, here is my Fall schedule. The reason I say "as far as I know" is because any of the other full-time faculty members in my department always have the right to bump me from a class if they want to.

CIS-101-M09 Comp Concepts/Applic (this is updated as of 8/6/09)
Tuesday, Thursday 11:45AM - 01:00PM
Monday, Wednesday 11:45AM - 01:00PM
Tuesday, Thursday 05:40PM - 06:55PM
Tuesday, Thursday 10:20AM - 11:35AM
To Be Scheduled
CIS-295-M03 CAPSTONE PROJECT (Web Technology)
To Be Scheduled
CIS-295-M04 CAPSTONE PROJECT (Business Technology)
To Be Scheduled

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Goodbye, Geocities

Ah, Geocities. Back in 1995 when I started really getting involved with the Internet as we currently know it, I had a set of Web pages on my school's server. I had a site devoted to music, and my friend Jeff had a site devoted to Beavis and Butthead, and that was okay back in those days. However, there was some stuff we made available that we didn't want associated with us - for example, in 1997 or so, myself and a few of my friends put up a teacher ratings page for our college (pre-dating, because there used to be a printed list that went around, and we wanted to make it more accessible. In order to do so, we went with one of the free hosts out there, Geocities.

At that time, Geocities was not owned by Yahoo! - they were a separate entity that Yahoo! purchased in 1999 or so. They, along with Tripod and Angelfire, were some of the largest free hosting sites on the Internet.

Yahoo! went through a few stages with Geocities - limiting traffic, adding advertising, and now they've announced they are closing it as of October 2009. I've had a small personal Web site on Geocities for about 10 years now, and I am sad to take it down, but perhaps it is time. All people with Geocities sites were, in the email I received, welcome to move their pages over to the Yahoo! Small Business and "take advantage of terrific features like a personalized domain name and email, even redirect your GeoCities web address to your new site — all for only $4.99 a month for a full year." Blah blah blah.

My other options were to manually download every single page I had, or just let everything disappear and not be recoverable. I cursed Yahoo! as I saved the 40 or so Web pages and files I had up on Geocities. I mean, come on, you can't give me a "download all" option? Really? (And no, it was not an option, the email even told me "To quickly download your published files, visit your GeoCities web site, right-click on each page, and choose Save Page As... from the menu that appears. Choose a location on your computer to save your files, then click OK or Save.")

Yahoo! is obviously hoping to get people to convert over to Yahoo! Small Business, but I've got no real interest in doing so. Between Facebook and this blog, I have enough outlets for my personal and professional lives. Goodbye Geocities, and thanks for a good 15 years.

Link to CNET article

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Site Navigation and other Goodies

(If you are viewing this from Facebook, you'll need to visit to see the things referenced in this post)

I notice some interesting Google searches that end up on my little blog, for example, in the last week, I've had some of the following:

"email hoaxes personality types"
"i am an employee i want free resumes database of employes jobs of biometrist in newzealand"
"how to attract professor"
"she-goat, wolf and cabbage download"

I am not even sure what some of those folks were looking for, but they put those terms in to Google and found my site.

Anyway, just for reference, I wanted to mention some of the things I have set up through Blogger:

1) Email updates: Google's Feedburner service allows you to get my posts via email. It's free, and if you enter your email address in the box over on the left hand side, you can add (or remove) your email subscription. I've copied it here. If you enter your email and then click "subscribe" you will get my posts via email. Feedburner is spam-free, and I don't even see your email addresses without looking really hard to find them.

2) Site search: Up at the top left corner, there should be a text box from Blogger that says "Search" next to it. If you are looking for a keyword from a prior post, you can use that to search.

3) Labels: At the end of each post, you will see an area that says "labels" - these are little keywords I attach to each post. For example, I will label this post with keywords like "Google". If you want to search all things related to one of MY labels, there is a list of labels along the left hand side of the screen, typically about a screen down from the top of the page. Clicking on a label shows you all posts I gave that label to.

4) Facebook updates: I created a Facebook account, and set it up so my blog shows up there as a "news" item. Posts from my blog show up on my wall in Facebook, so you don't need to even remember my Web site address of to get here. You can add me at any time.

I'll be posting my Fall 2009 schedule next week, and also discussing jury duty (I got selected for jury duty for the first time, and it's been an interesting experience - but I am not supposed to really discuss much until the trial is over - better safe than sorry).

Friday, July 17, 2009

MLS fines player for Twitter comments

We all have a lot of thoughts throughout the day - some good, some bad. I am sure we wouldn't want everyone seeing every one of them (...or is that just me?).

After a tough loss, a Major League Soccer forward for the Houston Dynamo, Brian Ching, posted a reaction to a referee's call on his Twitter account:

"Ref in seattle just cheated the dynamo, What a joke. Not even close. Ref is a cheat."

Facebook and Myspace and Twitter and all the social networking apps and blogs have broken down barriers to some professional athletes. It used to be that you didn't really get to see much of a player's personality unless they got a job as a commentator or wrote a book. Now, athletes Twitter (and get themselves in trouble for doing it) during games sometimes.

The interesting part is that Major League Soccer actually FINED Ching for this. Fairly or unfairly, we've certainly seen people lose jobs over actions described on sites like this (a few). This is the first person that I've heard of actually fined over this. Of course, I am sure his contract with MLS says something about not being able to comment publically in a way that damages the league, but it's still an interesting decision, and something I am sure we will see more of in the future.

Link to CNNSI article

Brian Ching on Twitter

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

L Millz and Corporate America

Lastings Milledge is a baseball player who is currently a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also is someone who can teach people a valuable lesson.

Milledge was drafted in the first round of the major league baseball draft a few years ago - twelveth overall This basically means he was judged as one of the top 12 amateur players in the country in 2003. That is talent!

I remember when he was a top prospect with the Mets ... Someone they envisioned being a superstar.

Milledge made it to the major leagues quickly, and was the youngest player in Major League Baseball for a while in 2006. Just for reference, some players drafted in the same year as him haven't made the majors yet. He played decently for the Mets, but despite that, they traded him to the Washington Nationals, in exchange for two decent but not as talented players.

The Nationals are the worst team in baseball today. One would safely assume they would be doing everything in their power to acquire talented players. However, they just traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a less talented player.

Welcome to baseball purgatory, Lastings!

Basically, despite being super-talented, two organizations have given up on him - one of them being the worst team in the league. Why does that happen?

Here are Milledge's comments, as told to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:
"Maybe I get too comfortable sometimes around veterans, and I think that maybe might rub some people the wrong way," Milledge said. "I'm just not the typical rookie guy who comes in the clubhouse and sits there quietly. I joke around. If you've been in the game 15 years or one year, I'll mess around and joke with you. That's just the kind of person I am. I like to communicate with everybody, Latins or whites or blacks, whatever. [...]
I think that rubbed people in New York the wrong way. I know I rubbed Billy Wagner the wrong way. But that's who I am."

Now, it's entirely possible that he was stuck with a bunch of jerks on both teams...though unlikely. For two teams to give up on a talented player, it's likely that he rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, to the point where both teams gave up on him and got rid of him, and got less talent in exchange for him in the trades.

This is in stark contrast to guys like Derek Jeter, Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols...they are extremely talented ballplayers as well, but the difference is, they have never been traded. Why not? Because they not only are talented, but they also have gone out of their way to adapt to the culture around them. It's very egocentric to expect a company, or a team, to adapt to you. Companies won't waste their time.

There is a lesson in corporate America here. I see a lot of students who are really good (both in the IT major and outside of it), and some of them are almost arrogant about it. If multi-million/billion dollar corporations are dumping talented baseball players over concerns they have with attitude, what makes you think a company won't get rid of a talented network administrator (for example) because they are annoying...or late...or rude?

With all the things we teach in our classes, this is one thing you can't teach. Be nice. Smile. Avoid "yeah, but...". Take a little crap at first, even if it means staying late or doing something a little outside your job description. Hold your criticism, or give it out in small bits, spun in a positive fashion. If you are going to be at a company for a while, remember, you can't change anything overnight. If all you do is complain that things can be done better, remember that by doing so you are saying that the job everyone else is doing at the company is not as good as your idea. People think that's presumptuous. Eventually, you can start to make changes, but if you come in the door as a pain in the ass, you'll be out the door pretty quickly. It's a delicate balance, to be sure.

I was one of 13 full-time faculty members hired by PCCC in 2003. I was one of 4 that didn't leave or get let go in the first five years. Did I do things I didn't want to do? Yes. Did I do things I wasn't hired for? Yes. Did I teach two nights? Yes. Did I go out and pick up dessert for meetings? Yeah, a few times. If I had given "no" answers a lot, I'd be back at my old company, making a lot more money, but enjoying it a lot less.

Self-righteous is easy. Putting ego aside is hard, and if you can do that, you can help yourself keep a job. Sometimes, when you rub other people the wrong way, and you know why, it's an opportunity. "Hey, maybe I should work on that character defect" is much better than simply saying that "corporate America sucks".

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Are the Koreans behind the latest hack, or was it Jack Bauer?

So...South Korea and the United States are under cyberattack today. Of course everyone is rushing to blame North Korea. However...if I have learned anything from watching 24...this is exactly how to set North Korea up if you want the US to go to war with them (thanks Jack Bauer!).

This is a developing story...more details coming soon I am sure. Was it done by the government of North Korea or another country, or just citizens? How much damage was really done? It looks like the FTC web site was shut down, as well as the site for the US Treasury. Could be much worse.

This is the wave of the future, folks. As we depend more on technology, it will cripple us to lose it. If all cell phones went down, how many people even know where the nearest pay phone is?

AP Article

Okay, I understand now, I really never understood exactly why people in the medical field couldn't just watch TV shows like House, M.D. and just enjoy it. Even if there were minor issues, who cares?

(I love the House, M.D. reviews done by Scott @ Polite Dissent, by the way)

I suppose I got a taste of it yesterday. I was flying back from a mini-vacation on JetBlue, and they have DirectTV. I was watching Judge Mathis (I do like the real-life court shows), and one kid was suing another over a laptop. The way the accuser presented his case made me want to punch the television. He told the judge how his friend had downloaded pornography, which caused the computer to crash. (Does that happen? Sure, but he presented it as if that is the only thing that can happen if you download pornography). Okay, minor issue. The guy then told us how his friend had spilled his beer on the keyboard which "caused the operating system to break".

For the more computer savvy of you, I am sure there are at least two issues in that sentence. The part that concerned me is that the Judge just agreed with him. Come on, bring on someone who knows how to use a computer or something. If I were the Judge, I would have figured this guy was just as likely to have caused the computer to fail with his lack of knowledge about computers. Next thing you know, he'll accuse the guy of breaking his Interweb too.

So, medical people who get irked with House, M.D., I can now relate.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

"World Changing Inventions"

There are many things that people think will "change the world" that don't end up doing much or even happening. Sometimes we think "this would be a cool idea", but there are reasons that they don't succeed, or even happen.

I think it's instructive to look back on things and see why.

For example, let's take the idea of videophones. It seemed like a logical progression from phones, right? We started with radio - voice only - and moved to TV - voice with video. Why not start with telephones and move to videophones?

Well, because people don't want to get dressed, or shower, to talk on the phone.

Seems like a great, logical response, but people invested millions of dollars in this technology anyway. Now, though we have cell phones that take video, and we have Web based videoconferencing. Will video phones ever happen? It's kind of doubtful at this point.

Warning: Language as always on is a little, um, raw. article

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Become a Gmail Ninja

Google's Gmail is a nice little email program, ignoring questions about privacy, of course. For example, there are ways to set it up so you can automatically filter things. If your email address is, you can create "disposable email addresses". I could send email to an it would still get to you. You could then give out one version of your email to your friends - the easy one - and use another one for Web sites you trust - and a third version for Web sites that you don't really want to have your email address, but you have to give them one for something.

The cool part is that you can then use Gmail's filtering system to automatically ignore anything sent to the junk version of your email address - so if someone emails, you could have that automatically put in to a garbage folder, or you can have it deleted automatically!

Obviously this is not something everyone can do easily. What Google decided to do is create the aforementioned Gmail Ninja site. They've divided things up in to four categories - basically, easy, medium, hard, and really complex - and this way, based on the skill level you select, it will show you tips.

I like this idea because there are plenty of Gmail help sites out there...and Google has taken ownership of it and organized it in a logical way.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Goodbye, Fly Clear

A few years after the 2001 WTC attacks, there was a program started called Fly Clear. The basic idea was to give people (read: people who are too important to wait in line with the rest of us - and yes I just made a snarky comment) the chance to skip the long lines at the standard security check-in. The sad part is that many people paid ahead of time, and as I mentioned at some point, when you pay ahead of time, companies now owe you something. Whether this is a gift card or a service, it doesn't matter. As soon as the company bankrupt, they owe you something, but you don't necessarily get it back. Accounting students may recognize the concept of journal entries embedded in there somewhere.

The other question in situations like this is what happens to your private information. SOMEONE is going to buy this company. In this case, there is important information about their customers - passport numbers and driver's license numbers (needed to fly), THUMBPRINTS (FlyClear used biometric identification) and SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS (they did background checks on all people using the service). What happens to the privacy practices that you agreed to when a company is sold? You would hope that they abide by the privacy practices you agreed to, but this isn't necessarily something they HAVE to do. Even worse, what if a less honorable corporation buys out this company? They could cause a lot of trouble with the information they have. Think like a hacker for a moment. If you had the money, you could purchase this company's assets, and now you have their database of thumbprints, document numbers, and other things. And the people involved? Rich people, who don't want to wait in line like everyone else.

Yeah, there could be some problems if an unethical corporation buys FlyClear, but hey, maybe I am just the type that thinks the worst in a situation like this.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Free Web tutorials

One thing I love about the Internet is that is offers free learning in a lot of ways. Back in 1999, I taught myself Perl basically overnight using Web-based tutorials (training). Of course, I already had been programming in school for years, so it was learning the language syntax rather than learning how to program. I already understood loops and if statements and classes and all that, so it just became learning a new set of words. With Perl, however, there was the wonderful word of "regular expressions"that I had never seen, so that took a while to master. Instead of having to do a lot of complicated searching, for example, you can replace one set of characters inside a string with another using commands like this:

That would take you a few lines of C++ code, for example. I was always taught that you want to choose the right programming language based on the task you wanted to do, and for string manipulation or interacting with the operating system, Perl is much better than C++.

Anyway, point being, once you have a foundation, you can always update your skills. I've had to do that this summer - I went to a four-day PHP training. If you don't have a job paying for it, you can always find things online that will help you. For example, a friend recommended a site called W3Schools to me a while ago, and they seem to have some nice free content.

Just remember, especially for those of you in the Information Technology field...learning is not a product - you don't just learn and that's it. You will need to keep learning over time, especially in this field.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Youtube Annotations

Technology changes all the time, even in the short time that I've been involved in it. One of the things I remember is how difficult image editing was in 1995. It's become easy to do, not only using application software, but now even using Web based applications, such as Youtube. Youtube has even added the ability to add annotations - stories, notes, and even links. This is not brand new - it was added last June - but it is a neat little feature, and of course, Youtube will certainly keep adding features. Now, maintaining the site has certainly cost Google money (estimates are as high as $500 million dollars), but they can afford it. Amazing, when you think about it, huh?

Security Sense Summer 2009

My colleague David Csuha has posted his latest "Security Sense" newsletter. His newsletter promotes some good security habits, among other things.

I particularly love the section this month about peer to peer file sharing (Limewire, etc) put people's security at risk. This doesn't require any hacking skills. ANYONE with Limewire can do this. David shows a few things, including a bank vice president who is sharing her personal photos and credit reports, and a model sharing her resume and some, er, risque pictures.

He also discusses how Twitter is being used by places such as the New Jersey State Police to disseminate information in ways that Web sites or emails don't accomplish.

Read more...Summer 2009 Security Sense

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Old Data Never Dies

In 1997, I was working for a department at Montclair State University. The woman in charge had a lot of large files, and a need to be portable, so she used Zip disks (this is before the days of USB flash drives). At one point, one disk stopped working, and she hadn't backed it up, and was very upset that her data was gone forever.

Except that it wasn't. Many people don't realize that just because you delete something doesn't mean it is gone forever. The malfunctioning disk was sent to data recovery specialists, who recovered about 99% of what was originally on the disk. I looked like a genius for knowing that this type of company existed.

Whether a disk fails, things CAN be recovered. The key is, how important is the data? There is usually a price associated with this.

Another thing - if you delete something from your hard drive, it's not gone. Going back to the Microsoft DOS days, there used to be ways to undelete files. When you delete a file, it's not shredded; the hard drive simply says "oh, okay, I can use that space to save stuff now" - which means the original file is still there, just not being recognized by your operating system.

The next step up is computer forensics. There are more advanced ways to pull information off of a hard drive, which means that if you plan on being investigated by the FBI, deleting is NOT enough.

Anyway, some students in our Cyber Security and Computer Forensics certificate decided to put the skills learned in to use and open up a data recovery consulting firm called Old Data Never Dies. I've had most of the students in at least one class, and it's great to see the growth they've all undergone since the "Introduction to Windows" class days to the point where they are now.

The company's Web site can be found below.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Bada Bing

Microsoft has had a search engine for a while, and it just doesn't compete with Google - not that much does these days. They've decided to repackage their existing MSN and Live search tools in to a new tool with a new name: Microsoft Bing.

They feel like they'll be able to compete with Google for ad revenue with this change.

I took a quick look - it has a nice look, and they stole the "simple" approach from Google. Instead of a hugely cluttered page, it's much simpler than before, and I like the "Popular Now" feature. I did a few searches, and Google still came out ahead in terms of finding what I want. However, this might be something that gets them some attention. I'd encourage you to check it out, if nothing else!

Story about Bing

Saturday, June 06, 2009

How to attract Web site visitors

One of the things we don't spend a lot of time on in our curriculum is how people can attract people to their Web site. You can have the best looking Web site, one that does a ton of cool stuff, but if no one visits it, you've got a problem. As a Web developer, customers will look to you for some expertise in this area.

Of course, one of the best things that can be done is for a person to start advertising themselves - print new business cards with the Web site address, add the address to existing publications (menus, newsletters, whatever), etc. Making information available is definitely one of the goals of a Web site, and if putting prices or directions on the Internet helps someone find you without calling your employees, you've saved time, and therefore money.

However, this does not address how to attract new customers, which should also be part of a Web presence goal. Let's say you did a Web site for a small pizza place in Paterson. Someone new to the area says "I want a pizza" and puts pizza paterson nj in to Google...will your site show up? Will it show up high on Google's rankings?

(Those are two VERY different questions, by the way)

You can submit your Web site to just about any search engine for free. For example, you can add it to Google here:

The only problem is, you're not going to show up at the top of the rankings.

You could also pay to have this done, and it's typically around $50-$100 to submit your site to over 100 search engines, big and small. It sounds like a lot of money, perhaps, but if you're being paid $30 an hour to do Web site design, it would take you more than 3 hours to submit to that many search engines. It might be worth charging the customer for that and letting the service do the work for you. (an example of how this service works)

There are also ways you can optimize your placement. There is no one solution that is perfect - no one knows the exact formula Google uses to rank pages, though we have guesses. There are times where you can re-order words, change HTML code, etc. to improve your ranking on Google. The META tag keyword choice is important - what words to choose? How many to use? Use too many and your keywords seem less important to Google, too few and you may not be found.

Though it is an expense, sometimes it pays off to pay to advertise the Web site. There are many services, including Google AdSense, that will allow you to advertise. There are also more targeted Web sites. For example, you can advertise locally on, or on local sites like or This way, you are relatively sure you are getting people who are local to you. If you are dealing with a client base who speak another language, knowing local publications in that language can help as well (for example, for Spanish speakers).

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Inbox Zero

One of the problems in this electronic age is that there are so many emails that need to be answered. Personally, I have a hard time keeping up at times; I have around 100-150 students a semester. Add to that vendors, colleagues, students interested in our CIS department programs or Graphic Design programs, adjunct faculty, and prospective students, and I have a lot of people who send me email messages.

One of the first things that has to go on my work email is forwards. Sometimes, students (and colleagues) decide to send me forwards, and I have to be firm about that not being okay. For example, I recently received a forward about how teaching math has changed. It's cute and all, but I've seen it about four times already, plus, it's not appropriate use of my work email. (Most companies have formal policies on email like this one specifically requiring email use be restricted to work purposes only).

Secondly, the use of templates has helped me a lot. I've got some templates set up for students who email with questions regarding the Graphic Design program, as well as potential adjuncts who send resumes in (my department chair, Professor Siegel, has had me overseeing this lately). Instead of having to think I can copy and paste from my Flash drive. For example, if I get a resume from a potential adjunct, I have this template handy:


My name is Eric Cameron. I am a member of the CIS faculty at PCCC. Your resume was forwarded to me.

The school typically requires a Master's Degree from teaching applicants, but we will keep your resume on file.

The school typically requires prior teaching experience from teaching applicants, but we will keep your resume on file.

At the moment, our department is in the process of reviewing resumes for the Fall 2009 semester. We are specifically looking for someone who can teach daytime courses. Please let me know if you would have any availability for teaching day courses.

We will keep your resume on file as we look to fill courses.


Eric Cameron
Assistant Professor, CIS/Engineering Department
Coordinator, Graphic Design Certificate
Passaic County Community College

Now, notice there are three parts in there that I've highlighted in red. The reason is that most resumes will not see the first two lines (about the Master's degree and about the teaching experience). Those are there because at times I saw people sending in resumes with no Master's degree or no teaching experience. Our department rarely hires someone with no teaching experience, and even more rarely hires someone without the Master's degree. So, basically, when I get a resume, I open it up, check the experience and education, and reply. I paste the template in to an email and just cut out the parts that don't apply.

This has saved me a ton of time, and it helps the department. If someone sends a resume, and doesn't hear anything for six months, they are less likely to respond if we do call them eventually. Some of these folks ended up getting called in January this year when a class opened up. At least they knew that we had previously looked at their resume.

Tips like this, tips that I have implemented, have come from a site that had a series of articles called "Inbox Zero" - a free set of articles that discuss strategies to be more effective. This includes things like filters, etiquette (do you send a "thank you" email, or no?), and other tips.

Definitely worth a read if you deal with large amounts of email messages and feel overwhelmed.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Stalking tips and tricks

One of the things I bring out from time to time is how easy it is for companies to find information about you given your email address.

For example, if you have an uncommon email address, people can Google that. (That's easy).

Another, more advanced way is to use Facebook or Myspace. You can put in an email address, and it's easy to find people.

Okay, so many people are smart enough to hide themselves. However, there is always a more advanced way to find people. One of those ways is I find that people use the same username everywhere. So, for example, if your email address is, you are likely to use abc123 as your username everywhere.

You can take that username and put it in to and it searches all over the Web for that username. Let's say you have a blog on an account on flickr...this site will find all sorts of accounts associated with that username.

Be it a potential employer...or a private investigator...a lot of this information can be found for free, if you know where to look.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Google Voice

Coming soon...Google Voice.

Basically, Google purchased a company called GrandCentral a while back. GrandCentral provided a service that allowed people to have one phone number associated with a bunch of phone lines. There are many neat applications to this technology.

So, for example, let's say I have both a cell phone and a home phone. Using this service, I could set it up so if someone called my cell phone, both my home and cell phone would ring.

Looking at this another way, if I had a small company and wanted to have a few people doing technical support, I could set it up so that between midnight and 6 am, all calls get routed to one person, from 6 am to noon all the calls get routed to another, etc.

Or, let's say I have a small company, and I want to provide customers one phone number. I could create one number for the company, and then set it up so that it rings all of my customer service representatives, and whoever picks it up, gets it.

This is basically the way telemarketing companies work, except now you can use that for your own purposes, be they personal or professional.

Google saw how cool this is and purchased the company, and they've been working on this for the last few years. They announced in March that coming "soon", this service will be available to the public for FREE.

There are other features as well, including blocking numbers and personalizing what happens when certain people call.

There's a lot of potential here. I personally have three phone numbers (land line, cell phone, work phone), and I get no cell phone reception in my apartment. When people call my cell phone at the moment, I have to call them back from my land line while in my apartment. It would be so nice just to pick up the house phone rather than the cell phone.

Google Voice information
New York Times article

Friday, May 22, 2009


Graduation, each year, is a very important time for me.

Unfortunately, for the first time, my batteries died in my camera so I couldn't take pictures!

However, I want to congratulate all of the Passaic County Community College graduates for 2009. To all of you I saw (Luis, Juan, Fady, Cindy, Tina, Roy, Christian, David, Andrew, Gayatri, Samantha, and everyone else I am surely forgetting) and those of you who couldn't attend, congratulations. PCCC's President, Dr. Rose, quotes a statistic that less than 33% of Americans have a college degree, so to all the graduates, congratulations on joining the top 33% in terms of education in the country.

I think the thing that really drew me to PCCC was that I personally grew up in a family where neither of my parents had gone to college. I was the first Cameron to even go to college, let alone complete a Bachelor's and then a Master's degree. I filled out college applications and financial aid paperwork myself, since my parents didn't really understand all the paperwork. I didn't "come from money", as they say, and without scholarships and loans I would not have even made it to college, let alone made it to the point where I am teaching at one.

While some of you may move on, I am sure some of you are already planning on using the alumni program to get reduced-price classes. If you are transferring, remember that some schools (FDU and NJIT, for example) will let you transfer up to 96 credits towards a degree, so if there is a way you can cut costs using this program, I encourage that!

Congratulations to all the graduates of the PCCC class of 2009!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Microsoft Morro

Coming later this year, Microsoft plans to release their own security suite, currently called "Morro". They claim that they won't compete with McAfee and Symantec, but we'll see what happens. When Microsoft says "second half of 2009" - I assume "December" and not "July".

In my CIS 152 course I've had students do a paper discussing who is responsible for protecting consumers on the Internet - is it the operating system manufacturer, the PC manufacturer, the Internet service provider, or the consumer?

I didn't really trust Microsoft to do the right thing here - I was wondering if it was going to be available for Vista only to drive people away from Windows XP - but they're doing the right thing and making it available for XP and Vista (as well as "7"). I also have my suspicions that this is vaporware, but that's just me not trusting Microsoft.

If this happens and it is done right, it could be one of the most important things to happen in computer security in a long time - instead of requiring people to do work, you integrate it in to the operating system and make it passive. Will it be something hackers try to exploit? Of course, because it will be the security suite for "noobs". However, it would be better to have a locked door rather than an unlocked one, even if the lock is easy to pick.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The End

So, it's the end of another semester. I hope, for any of you who are graduating, that you come to graduation. Faculty actually do come to this event, and I personally am always excited to congratulate anyone I know when they graduate. Whether you are not planning on continuing on, or whether this is just the first stop on your way to a Ph.D., you should take the time to celebrate your accomplishments.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Can you be arrested for exploiting yourself?

How can someone exploit themselves?

This is a question I asked myself when I read about the article linked below. In late March, a 14 year old girl decided to post some 30 "explicit" pictures of herself on her Myspace page. This is already a bad idea, but there is a twist. Since she is distributing what is legally child pornography, the girl is now subject to child pornography charges, and may have to register herself as a sex offender.

This is just another one of those cases of the laws being behind the technology. These laws were put in place before technology could change these things - typically, it was a lot harder to distribute these things, because you would need to actually produce the pictures, and how many kids know how to do that?

Now, it's just click and upload.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

How Zip Codes work

There are so many little pieces of information in this world that prove to be puzzles to me at times, and I am sure that there are many for you as well.

For example, I knew underneath it all there was some sort of pattern to Zip codes - ones starting with 07 seemed to be in the New Jersey area, and I remember seeing Zip codes starting with 10 belonging to New York City.

Apparently, I am not the only crazy person who wonders about these things. Someone actually combined that curiosity with a Java applet that allows you to put in parts of a Zip code, and have it zoom in on where the Zip codes are associated with. It's fun to check out, or at least it was for me!

(This was on my mind because stamps are going up two cents on Monday of next week, 5/11/09: - get "forever stamps" now!)