Thursday, April 30, 2009

How readable is your Word document

Most programs have features that people don't use. As a matter of fact, I read a few years back that Microsoft estimates that people use less than 20% of the features in their tools. For example, in Word, things like file comparison, commenting and change tracking, mail merge, tables of contents, and many more go unused as people do things in a much slower and much less efficient way. As someone who uses these programs to a very high level, I rarely run across something I didn't know.

Earlier this semester, our internship coordinator was showing me a tool that will check how readable a document is. There is apparently something called the Flesch-Kincaid model, which analyzes word usage and will figure out what grade level and how easy to read your document is.

Out of curiosity, I just ran this on a recent assignment I gave in the class, and here are the grade levels:
  • 14.6 (like a college sophomore level)
  • 14.2 (same)
  • 12.1 (just above a high school senior)
  • 10.0 (high school junior)
  • 8.0 (eighth grade)
You can do this yourself. Basically, you enable this option, and after you run a spelling and grammar check, it will show you the statistics. This is a pretty cool option, and if you find your paper is at a lower level, you can always improve it by doing a little editing. Try it out on your papers today!

Link to instructions

Monday, April 27, 2009

License plates for computer geeks

A friend sent this along and I had to click on it. These are some computer people-type license plates that folks have found pictures of.

I think my favorite has to be "su root". If you understand that, I wouldn't let you near my Linux box (that is, if I still had one).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Logic Puzzles

I always find logic puzzles interesting. For example, I will sometimes give my classes logic problems, just to get them thinking (depending on the class and how ahead or behind we are, of course).

For example, there is an old problem involving a wolf, goat, and some cabbage:
  • A farmer needs to bring a wolf, a goat, and a cabbage across the river.
  • The boat is tiny and can only carry one passenger at a time.
  • If he leaves the wolf and the goat alone together, the wolf will eat the goat.
  • If he leaves the goat and the cabbage alone together, the goat will eat the cabbage.
  • How can he bring all three safely across the river?
(I'll leave this to your imagination, but no, it doesn't involve swimming).

Anyway, one day, a student of mine named Chris showed me a similar problem, except about 10 times harder. I always loved this one. Basically, you have a bunch of people to bring across a river, and a bunch of rules related to it. It's not easy, even for me, even having solved it (I just went back to it and it took me a few minutes, and this is after having done it before). If you take computer programming classes, you've learned that it is important to really plan before you work - and that should be the point, you're not taking programming classes just to learn a programming language, you are also doing it to expand your mind and learn how to problem solve.

My favorite logic problem can be found here. It's actually in Japanese, but the site below explains the rules in English and lets you click on the puzzle after that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Just because security is an illusion doesn't mean you can't be safer

I had a discussion with my CIS 101 course yesterday regarding protecting their computers. Even though security is an illusion, it doesn't mean you can't protect yourself somewhat. Basically, your goal is not to be airtight and perfect - if someone is motivated enough to hack YOU, they probably will be able to. However, if they are just looking to hack SOMEONE, you want to present enough challenge that they move on to someone else.

One of the problems is that the Windows operating system includes no virus protection and only the latest versions came with a firewall (which is rather basic). Another problem is that many computers may come with anti-virus software installed, but only for a trial period. The problem is that you are protected against any viruses that were released up to your last patch date, but that is all. Any new viruses can slip through and infect you.

There are ways that you can upgrade this protection for free.

First of all, many of our local students don't realize that if they have Optimum or Comcast, they are entitled to free security software. Both of the high speed Internet service providers give out security suites. Optimum gives you CA's Internet Security Suite for free, while Comcast gives you the free McAfee suite.

For anti-virus software, there is a free tool called AVG anti-virus that I always recommend to students. You can get the AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition on their Web site:

In terms of a firewall, you can always upgrade from the Microsoft one. I used a free version of the ZoneAlarm software package for many years, until I got the free McAfee suite. You can download this from the following site:

Are any of these programs 100% foolproof? No. However, if you have nothing, this will make you a harder target, and really, that's all you can ask for. Remember, in a herd of animals, the predators go after the easiest targets. Don't be that easy target.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

US Power Grid hacked

Apparently, China and Russia "cyberspies" have both hacked in to the US electrical grid. This does not shock me. It also may be possible that programs have been left behind that, in the event of war, could be activated and used to shut down power in the country. If this sounds a lot like "Live Free or Die Hard"...well, yeah.

Yet another example of how security is a mirage.

Free Career Expo @ PCCC - 4/11/2009

The school is hosting a Career Expo this weekend in preparation for the job fair. This is on Saturday 4/11/2009. There are two sessions - 10 am to 12 pm and then 12 pm to 2 pm.

There will be a series of workshops (30 minutes, I am assuming) on the following topics.
Might be worth checking out, especially for free.

(Edit: location is in the Theater on the Paterson campus)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

2009-2010 PCCC Scholarships - deadline extended to May 1

PCCC has made a bunch of scholarships available again this year. The deadline to apply is April 2nd MAY 1, 2009 at 4:30 PM. You can get applications in the Center for Student Success (Paterson) or the main offices in Wanaque or Passaic. You will likely need a letter of recommendation for this, so if you know of any faculty members who would recommend you, reach out soon.

As I've stated before, scholarships are a great thing to apply for. At worst, they say no, and at best, you pick up a little extra cash to help pay for school. I personally came from a family where I was the first person to go to college, and I didn't have a lot of money to pay for school. I did get two scholarships that helped a lot - without them, I don't know what I would have done. I received thousands of dollars a year in free money, because some groups wanted to provide opportunities for people like me.

Here are the general descriptions they sent us over the email. You will see some say "see additional requirements" - these are in the packets that they have in the offices.

ScholarshipGeneral information
Academic AchievementCollege level student, minimum of 24 college level credits, minimum 3.5 GPA, major in Humanities and/or Human Services, Business, Allied Health, Science or Technology.
Albert Payson TerhunePart-time student, minimum 3.0 GPA, see additional requirements.
Eileen Thompson Academic AchievementCollege level student, minimum 3.5 GPA, see additional requirements.
Professor Elaine C. HarringtonFull-time student, minimum of 12 college credits, minimum 3.0 GPA, NJ resident, see additional requirements.
Elizabeth Steinberg MemorialMust have completed ESL or developmental courses, minimum 2.0 GPA, accumulated less than 24 credits, have unmet financial need.
Emmett & Evelyn JonesMay be part-time (minimum 6 credits); preference to GPA over 2.5, see additional requirements.
ESL AchievementCurrent ESL student, minimum of 18 credits, minimum of 3.0 GPA.
Helyn and Larry Doby MemorialGood academic standing, taking a minimum of 6 credits, demonstrates personal integrity, see additional requirements.
Manuel V. LagosFull-time student, involvement in PCCC activities or community service, minimum of 24 college level credits, see additional requirements.
Nursing ScholarshipsStudents accepted into the nursing program may also apply for scholarship aid through the department (office PAC 223).
Richard Pirozzi MemorialGood academic standing with financial need, see additional requirements.
Rosalie Hojegian MemorialMay be part-time (minimum 9 credits), min. 3.0 G.P.A., see additional requirements.
VerizonMatriculated student, minimum of 3.0 GPA, New Jersey resident, ineligible for other financial aid.

Good luck!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

My blog on Facebook

For those of you who have added me on Facebook, I updated my account so that my blog posts will publish there. There is also a link back to blogger, if you want to comment, etc.

Nissan vs. Nissan

Back in the mid-1990's, there were a lot of prime Internet domain names that were available. Eventually laws were put in place regarding "cybersquatting" - buying domain names that contained someone else's trademarked name with the purpose of reselling.

For example, if I had purchased before they did, and I had no legitimate use for it, I couldn't simply "hold it hostage" from a company that needed it.

However, there are many companies that happen to have the same name. Let's say, instead of registering to hold it hostage, I bought it because my last name is McDonald and I had a computer repair shop, do I have the right to that domain name?

I'd say yes. However, this being America, you can sue anyone for anything, and they could sue me. Since they have many lawyers, I'd be more likely just to give up because I couldn't afford to fight.

Would this happen? Well, it did to

You may notice is not the Web site for the car manufacturer. Instead, their Web site is The reason? A small computer corporation in North Carolina, run by a man named Uzi Nissan, bought the domain in the early 1990's.

Of course, once Nissan (the car people) figured out that this was the case, they wanted the domain name, and have been dragging Nissan (the computer person) through courts for ten years. Uzi Nissan's story claims that he's spent around 3 million dollars defending his Web site addresses.

Personally, my opinion is that Nissan (the car people) should be out of luck, but of course, they have millions to spend on lawyers, so they may eventually beat Uzi Nissan in to submission, and that's a shame.

Here's his story:

Saturday, April 04, 2009

PCCC Career Fair: April 16th

On April 16th on the Paterson campus, PCCC is having the annual Spring Career Fair.

Employers looking for employees will be there. Whether you are a technology major or a liberal arts major, there are companies that you might be able to find work with. It's a great opportunity to get to interact a little bit with potential employers, learn what questions to ask, etc. If you are going, you should definitely bring some copies of your resume so they can contact you!

Again, that's April 16, from 11 AM to 3 PM, in the gymnasium in Paterson, and of course, it's free to attend.