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