Saturday, October 29, 2011

Microsoft SyncToy

Moving between machines is always difficult. If you keep files on your hard drive, problems arise with forgetting files. So, if you copy them to a USB drive, you can end up with two copies to a file, which can be even worse.

One way to combat this is to use an online storage solution, such as Microsoft's SkyDrive. SkyDrive is basically an online USB drive, with access to Microsoft's Office Web Apps. Google has a similar functionality through Google Docs.

However, if you are looking for something that doesn't require an online account, you can also download a tool such as Microsoft SyncToy. This application is free for Windows users, but for whatever reason not installed with Windows when you first install it. If you are someone who has some issues with keeping track of files, this is a highly customizable tool. As opposed to a program like backup, a synchronization program can be set up to work both ways. In other words, if I change a file on my hard drive, it can be synchronized to my USB drive, and if I change a file on my USB drive, it can be synchronized to my hard drive.

For free, it's a great little tool, and a good alternative to accidentally overwriting a file with an older version.

Download SyncToy here

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Computer Security Education

Whether I am teaching a Computer Concepts course or a course in the Information Technology major, the topic of computer security will usually come up. At some point during the discussion, someone will usually ask "should you really be showing us this?" or something of that nature. I suppose that sort of issue exists in many areas. If you teach someone karate, who is to say they won't use those skills to hurt someone? If you teach someone how to shoot a gun, how do you know they won't shoot a person? Of course, causing physical damage is a little different than computer security. How about this: if you teach someone computer programming, how do you know they won't use it to create a virus? The short answer is that you don't.

We have a few courses that involve computer security at PCCC. I know Bergen also has a course that involves computer security. As a matter of fact, ABET (an accrediting board) includes data security and privacy as a "core" topic in Information Technology. In other words, it is a critical piece of any IT program. You can't send entry-level computer professionals out without some sort of background in this area. Even someone who is going to be employed in a career that involves computers (most college students, I would assume) need some background. Often, the weakest link in computer security is not your firewall, or your antivirus, or your VPN software, it is your users. I think we have a responsibility as educators to raise the awareness level of all students.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

PCCC Surplus Sale

Every few years, PCCC does a surplus sale, where they get rid of all their old equipment. Outdated computers, desks, and other stuff are made available for very low prices. Last time they did this, one of my friends bought 10 older computers for his mosque for $6 each, with the intention of putting Linux on them. If you can get here early for it, it is a nice opportunity. Students are given priority, so if you get here between 10 am and noon the first day, you will only be competing with other students.

They have the surplus sale in the parking lot of the Community Technology Center (218 Memorial Drive, Paterson), right by the intersection of Memorial and Market.

Even if you are not a PCCC student, it is open to the public noon to 3 on Wednesday, and 10 to 3 on Thursday. Here's the info:

DATES: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 and Thursday, October 13, 2011
TIME:  10:00 A.M. TO 3:00 P.M.

On Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon it will be open to students with a valid ID only. Open to the public after 12:00 noon on Wednesday and all day on Thursday.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Facebook Freebies

I am a fan of getting things for free. There are a few companies I follow on Facebook that give me free stuff.

Two companies that make free stuff available are Quick Chek and McDonalds.

For example, if you Like Quick Chek on Facebook (link here), they give you access to a weekly freebie. Right now, the freebie is a Dr. Pepper 10, a new flavor of soft drink.

McDonald's Local (link here) has been giving out free stuff as well, though they haven't done so recently.

I know people have this tendency to assume if something is free, there is something wrong with it. For example, I mentioned the Quick Chek site and showed it to my students, and I asked why they would give it away. A few students came back with the answer "because no one is buying it". Companies sometimes create promotions like this for new products to encourage stores to buy a new product. In the case of a restaurant like McDonald's, giving out a product (like the new smoothie) can encourage people to visit the store and try something they may not otherwise try.

The other advantage to either of these scenarios is that, if you are in the store or restaurant, you want to get people to come to your location, and this is certainly a way to do that!