Archive for December, 2010

ISU School of Information Technology: Raising the Bar

Throughout my brief time at ISU, I’ve seen the School of Information Technology working to make big changes within the department.  Considering that information technology is one of the most dynamic and constantly evolving fields, it makes sense that the department supporting future professionals in that field would have the same attitude.  I’ve seen curriculum revisions, discussions of additional Masters programs, increased recruitment and other efforts to help showcase what the school has to offer.  Overall, the work of everyone in the department has really paid off.  We’re seeing students win statewide and national awards.  We’re also seeing students getting jobs at very competitive companies like IBM and Google.

During the last month, another event helped to show just how high the ISU School of Information Technology has raised the bar.  Each year, several teams of Computer Science students, led by Professor Mary Goodwin, compete in the Association of Computing Machinery Intercollegiate Programming Competition (ACM ICPC).  This year, five ISU teams competed at the regional level on November 6 at the University of Illinois Springfield campus.  Our teams were very successful overall.  Out of 140 teams competing in our region, our teams placed 4th, 30th, 31st, 38th and 49th.  The fourth place team, named “Onward and Upward,” has been invited to compete in the World Finals event, which will be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in March 2011.

So, why is this a big deal?  Worldwide, there were 7,820 teams that competed at the regional level this year.  Based on the current teams listing on the ACM ICPC website, there are 69 teams out of 7,820 that have been invited to compete at the World Finals event.   21 of those teams are from North America.  The best part of all is that one of those teams is from ISU!  You might have heard of some of the other schools that were invited also…MIT, Carnegie Mellon, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Princeton.

What exactly is a programming competition?  The ACM ICPC is a team competition.  Teams are composed of three students, undergraduate or first year graduate students.  Each team has one computer and is given a packet of roughly 7-10 problems.  The competition lasts for five hours and the goal is to solve as many of the problems as possible in as little time as possible.  Problems range in difficulty, but the general idea is that a generic computer program is written that can solve any test problem that corresponds to the overall problem concept.  One example problem is based on the childhood game of Chutes and Ladders.  In the programming problem, the goal is to find the minimum number of turns it would take to win the game.  While this may sound relatively easy to some, it is further complicated by the facts that the maximum distance that can be moved per turn varies by game board and each game board may have 1,000,000,000 spaces.  With these expanded characteristics, someone cannot figure out the answer by sight only.  This is where the computer program comes in handy.  After coding the programming solution, it would be able to compute the answer to at least 20 different test game boards in under one minute.  While this is one of the more challenging problems that teams may see, the idea is similar for all problems.

The ACM ICPC is recognized in the Computer Science field as the most prestigious programming competition for college students.  The success of ISU in sending a team to World Finals indicates that the department is becoming increasingly competitive with schools currently recognized as being at the top in the field.

If you would like to read more about ISU’s success at the ACM ICPC, check out the ISU Report at http://mediarelations.illinoisstate.edu/report/1011/dec7/itk.asp.  For more information of the ACM ICPC in general, feel free to visit their website, http://cm.baylor.edu/welcome.icpc.

On a more personal note, it’s been fun writing these blogs for you this semester, giving you a peek at what Information Technology is all about!  I hope that you have found some topics helpful, inspiring or thought-provoking.

If you’d like to discuss more about IT and perhaps how it might relate to you personally in the future, please feel free to contact Dr. Kenton Machina.  You can drop by to see him at his office in Stevenson 341 or reach him by email at Kenton.Machina@ilstu.edu.

Don’t forget to head over to Blackboard and take your quiz!  Good luck on your finals and try to stay warm!

Sarah

December 9, 2010 at 10:13 am Leave a comment

Up in the Clouds again

Once again another blog entry has lead to talks about the “Cloud”. The concept of cloud computing really isn’t that new but the way in how it has recently been advertised is. Cloud computing has always existed in one form or another and many of us use cloud tools on a daily basis. If any of you have used almost any sort of email system with an extension such as .ilstu, .gmail, .yahoo, or .aol (along with many others) you’ve experienced a type of cloud computing. The basic concept of cloud computing is storing and accessing information on the internet rather than on your physical desktop. In other words, for you to use a certain tool or access certain information you must have an internet connection.

Many of you may have recently seen advertisements for Microsoft and their new cloud computing services that they offer. In one commercial there are a few different business partners who are able to share documents from all parts of the world and change, edit, and update the same document all within the same time periods and then access it again from the same online location. This is the way that the technology industry sees businesses headed towards in the near future. With internet access becoming more and more available wherever people are traveling to and with 3g networks available on cell phones it seems to make a lot of sense.

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing conceptual diagram

Microsoft has come up with ways for companies to have their own private clouds where it is now much easier to have a lot of storage for all file types to be shared amongst a large amount of users. If any of your are familiar with the Google tools that are out there (Google Groups, Docs, Calendar) you’ve probably experienced a lower scale version of what Microsoft is trying to offer. In fact Google has made a lot of these things possible over the last few years that have probably laid out many of the free, basic groundwork solutions for many of these new products to come. Microsoft has been trying to push its products on bigger companies so that this new concept of having lots of data within a private cloud will catch on faster to the general public.

With so many of these new ideas coming out it is hard to keep up with what all of these products are and how they will be helpful to every day users like you and I. Some of these topics can be interesting to keep up with while other parts of this information are pretty essential to what will be taking over within the next few years…

In fact we have invited a speaker come to teach us a bit more about cloud computing this week. The Business Information Systems club would like to invite you to come hear Jamie Mathy from Mavidea come speak about his work, the technology industry, and how businesses all over the world will utilize Cloud Computing. Please join us this Wednesday, December 8th at 7:00PM in the College of Business room 366 to come hear Jamie speak! For more information about the Mavidea Technology Group where Jamie works please visit www.mavidea.com

The article I found was from ABC (http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=12326754). Don’t forget to take the quiz on Blackboard! Good luck with finals!

–JP

December 6, 2010 at 5:22 pm Leave a comment

12/2/2010 Top 100

The weather has gotten cold.  Thanksgiving is long gone.  However, with the New Year just around the corner brings one of my favorite ways to reflect with “Top 100” lists.  Thankfully, PCWorld.com agrees with me and has already posted “Best Tech Products 2010: Full List, 1-100”.  Looking at all different types of technology, they chose and ranked their top picks for 2010.  They ranged from HDTV’s, phones, tablets, PCs, e-book readers, storage, software, services, apps, digital cameras, camcorders, printers, and more. Look at the list by clicking below! best_tech_products_2010_full_list_1100.html

As I admired their list I could not help but envy their job.  I want to try these things! I want to critique the work of people much smarter than me! I want to judge Apple and Google!  Give me these things! But since there is no chance of my dreams coming true, I will analyze the lists of others (and usually take their word for it).

First off, some highlights immediately caught my eye.  Number 4 on the list went to Netflix, which I am a loyal user.  Using my roommate’s huge monitor or my boyfriend’s XBOX Netflix has designed an easy, user-friendly format to immediately receive movies and shows.  Google Chrome received number 14 on the list.  I immediately loved Chrome, but once I realized it does not behavior appropriately with Blackboard all the time I lost my enthusiasm.  Grooveshark for Android, which came in at number 85, was also a pleasant surprise.  A surprise because I love Grooveshark online and a surprise because I did not know you could stream songs directly to your phone for only $3.00 a month.

When looking through the list some other specific ones caught my eye including Genieo, Jabra Extreme, Bitalpha Taska, Flipboard, XMind, instapaper, and more.  As it may or may not be obvious, these are items I have never heard of.  It turns out instapaper is a free mobile app that condenses articles and sends them to your phone to read later and XMind is a productivity software to to “record your great ideas” on your computer.  As the year wraps all the new technology is exciting.  Take a look at the list and enjoy!  If you have the funding or someone is very, very deserving it might even help with holiday shopping!

Take the quiz. Cheers!

December 1, 2010 at 8:31 pm 2 comments


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