Archive for October, 2008

10/30/2008: Padma Warrior

Recently the BBC interviewed Padma Warrior, the head of Cisco’s technology department. In the interview, Padma shared her own story and the future she sees for jobs in technology. She has described herself as a woman and a business person. After arriving in this country with only a hundred dollars to her name, Padma has rose high in a male dominated field. Originally she worked for Motorola where she rose through the ranks eventually leading a team of 26,000. Under her influence, Motorola won the US National Medal of Technology. After her success at Motorola, Padma took at job with Cisco where she still works.

Padma has been very successful leading Cisco. Focusing on what she calls precursors, Padma studies trends to develop the most useful technology for the future. Examples include systems to monitor a buildings greenhouse gas emissions and a unified communication system. Part of her success is due to her fun and creative work environment. “I push my team and myself very hard and I also have fun on the way. I play practical jokes on my staff and kid around. Ultimately you have got to enjoy life.” Padma stresses the importance of technology. Technology isn’t cold an sterile it’s a dynamic field with a deep connection to popular culture. As Padma puts it herself, “what is interesting is what can you do with that technology and how can you change what we as human beings are interested in.”

For more on Padma Warrior please read the interview at
Don’t forget to take the quiz on blackboard!


October 30, 2008 at 1:13 am 1 comment

High-Tech Halloween

Saturday night I was driving at night by Linden st and Vernon Av here in Normal, when I saw a lot of people of all ages walking towards the path by the Normal City Hall, then I remember reading that the Haunted Trial was taking place sponsored by the Normal Parks and Recreation Department, so I decided to pick up some friends and see what the event was all about.

I must say that I was really impressed, those guys put together quiet a show, it was an about 15 minute walk at the Constitution Trail where monsters, ghosts, zombies, etc would jump from both sides of the path yelling and screaming; the darkness of that place and the amazing costumes made the show actually frighting. After that, I got into the Halloween mood and started looking for technologies used during this time of the year to scare people. I found this news report from CBS news with some high tech haunted houses. The special effects shown in this video are truly impressive when you think about the behind the scenes of putting all this cool technology into action.

Note: Try to pay special attention to some of the names of the technologies used so that you don’t have to watch it twice specially if you get scared easily. If the video below doesn’t work, please try this link to the youtube page. –>  High-Tech haunted houses link.

If you liked the Animatronics shown in the video maybe you should know that ISU does offer some robotic related classes and Turner Hall has a robotics lab (TUR 115).

Math 120 students, remember to go back to blackboard and take the quiz for extra credit.



October 27, 2008 at 12:12 am Leave a comment

10/23/2008: Google Introduces Energy Calculator!

Everyone’s favorite internet-giant, Google, has introduced a new calculator to their website. Accessable at, users can see estimates on how the electronics they own can affect both the enviornment, and their bank accounts! For example, from the Google website, users can things as simple as “turning down the brightness on your TV and computer monitor” The experts also reccommend switching to high-efficiancy lightbulbs. Now, not only will you save $30 bucks a year, you’ll prevent around 500 pounds of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.

The calculator can also save you quite a bit of money over the course of a year! For example, if you have a cable box and a video game console, keeping them turned off can save an average of $200 per year and prevent 3400 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere. If you have 3 room-mates and you all turn your computers off when they’re not in use, you can save $160 per year and stop 2600 pounds of CO2 from being released.

Going “Green” has been a popular fad for companies these days. Cynics say it’s simply a public relations stunt, but even if that’s true, any excuse to help the enviornment is a good one! Responsible energy consumption from companies like Google is a great step in the right direction towards reducing the carbon footprint of our industries!

Math students: You know the drill! Link to blackboard is on the right!



October 22, 2008 at 11:02 pm Leave a comment

10/20/08: Bold Visions – Part 3

Hi Everybody,

Have you ever wondered what is out there in outer space? The speaker in this brief video got to find out for herself. If you like math, science, and/or technology maybe you too could help explore the final frontier. After viewing, don’t forget to take the corresponding Blackboard Assessment for extra credit!



Here is a link to blackboard:

October 20, 2008 at 8:41 am Leave a comment

10/16/2008 E-Voting Doesn’t Get Computer Scientist’s Vote

Just in time for Halloween and Election Night Fever, a professor at Rice is scaring the crap out of us … well, kind of.  Dan Wallach, an associate professor and Director of Rice’s Computer Security Lab, is an e-voting expert who specializes in what-could-go-wrong scenarios.

He’s headed to Austin Wednesday to tell the state senate about all the risky business associated with the computers Texas uses to count its votes. (As in, the ones we’ll be using Tuesday, November 4 to pick the next president.) Back in June, Wallach testified before the Texas House Committee on Elections about the dangers of ES&S, the e-voting computers used by Texas.

“All of these voting machines were vulnerable to what we call ‘viral attacks,’” Wallach tells Hair Balls.

“If you have enough access to [one computer] to be able to get out a screwdriver and monkey around without anybody looking then what you could do is you could replace the software inside the one voting machine,” he says. (So, if you hear any clanking in the booth next you, please notify an official.) Wallach says it’s more likely it would be a poll worker after or before the election who would get the type of access needed, but once one computer is corrupt, it doesn’t take long for all of them to be.

“I compromise one voting machine and then all the voting machines get brought back to the election warehouse,” he says. “Then my evil voting machine talks to the [main] machine that’s tabulating and getting all that stuff and then it hijacks that machine and now it’s evil.” And from there it’s a bad-apple-bunch scenario.

Wallach says there are ways of detecting these types of problems, but they’re not always successful. For one of his Rice classes, Wallach uses Hack-A-Vote, a fake voting computer similar to the ones used in Texas, and tells a group of students to wreak havoc on the system. Then another group of students inspects the machine for possible viruses.

“Many of the subtle hacks escape detection,” he says. These subtle hacks could result in anything from votes being deleted, added or not counted at all. To date, Wallach says there have been no reports of these kinds of problems in real elections.

“There is also no evidence to suggest the absence of an attack like this having been attempted, because if somebody was successful, you’d never know,” he says. “That’s not the sort of thing that gives you warm fuzzies.”

But hacking vulnerabilities aren’t Wallach’s only beef with voting computers. “In terms of technologies we have available today, the best technologies we have involve paper,” he says. “These electronic machines we use in the state, they generate no paper record so if they misbehave you have no way of either detecting it or correcting it.”

So, um, don’t forget to vote and once you voted, don’t forget who you voted for because this one isn’t going to remember.

Article Courtesy of Dusti Rhodes at

Here is a link to Blackboard:

October 16, 2008 at 1:59 am Leave a comment

10/13/08 Health and Technology

Diseases such as diabetes or heart related problems often require for patients to maintain a strict daily routine in which they are to perform a series of exercises or take different pills at different hours throughout the day. For people with busy lives and older patients it is not always easy to remember such routines, what pills to take or how to take them, consequently compromising their own health.

Companies such as Zume Life in San Jose, California are dedicated to create innovative technological systems to help patients take better care of their own health. A device called Zuri for example is being developed that works as an automatic reminder that “prompts users to take their pills on schedule and to keep track of health-related matters like diet and exercise”.

This system also automatically updates patients’ information to a web site that shows graphs and tables of health activities.

Other companies such as Microsoft ( are also developing similar tools that allow for patients to upload information to web site databases about their health routines directly from devices such as blood pressure monitors, heart rate monitors and even weight scales. This information can then be retrieved by doctors or nurses from the web sites facilitating interaction between the patient and the care-givers.

The only main concern about these new technologies is the fact that some people might not be interested in sharing their health information online however according to David Lansky, president and chief executive of the Pacific Business Group on Health, “people will use the new sites being developed by Google, Microsoft and others as they now use online tools to manage their finances, travel and shopping”



Math 120 students, remember to go back to blackboard and take the quiz for extra credit.

October 13, 2008 at 1:20 am Leave a comment

10/09/2008: Google implements preventative “drunk emailing” feature!

Google aims to prevent this!

Google aims to prevent this!

Today an engineer named Jon Perlow at Google Labs unveiled a new feature to Google’s email service called “Gmail.” This innovative feature is something that I’m sure everyone wishes they would’ve had at some point in their lives. Perlow wrote the feature because:

“Sometimes I send messages I shouldn’t send. Like the time I told that girl I had a crush on her over text message. Or the time I sent that late night email to my ex-girlfriend that we should get back together. Gmail can’t always prevent you from sending messages you might later regret.”

Now, one could argue that such a feature is unnecessary but it’s great that the coders over at Google are allowed to have a sense of humor and can express themselves creatively at work. The feature is pretty simple and works like this:

“When you enable Mail Goggles, it will check that you’re really sure you want to send that late night Friday email. And what better way to check than by making you solve a few simple math problems after you click send to verify you’re in the right state of mind?”

So, assuming that the user is intoxicated to the point where he or she is unable to perform basic math, the feature will not allow the email to be sent. “By default, Mail Goggles is only active late night on the weekend as that is the time you’re most likely to need it. Once enabled, you can adjust when it’s active in the General settings.” Of course this feature is just for fun and is completely optional to use at all, but it’s great knowing it’s there if I need it!



Math 120 Students: Please return to Blackboard to take a short quiz on this article for extra credit! There is a shortcut to Blackboard on the right side of this page in the “Links” box.

October 8, 2008 at 8:39 pm Leave a comment

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