Archive for April, 2011

Looking to the future

As co-director of the project that has brought this blog to you this term, I want to express my thanks to everyone who read it and worked on it. I wish you all the best in the future.

If you are an Illinois State student and you find IT interesting, I encourage you to contact me for more information about how you might develop your interest while you are a student at the university.  E-mail:

Kenton Machina


April 26, 2011 at 11:42 am Leave a comment

What is to Come?

The semester is coming to a close fortunately/unfortunately.  It has been a great run and I hope you enjoyed reading these blog posts as much as I enjoyed writing them.  I will be graduating in two weeks and heading to a full time job up in the Chicago area with Discover Card.  My life here at this university for the past four years has been an experience to remember.  I hope that all of you will find something you are passionate about, whether that be technology, or something completely different and find a way to follow that passion.

I cannot stress enough how fulfilling it is to be a female in technology.  When I tell people what I do, the question is almost always, “Really? Wow!”  I’m not your stereotypical nerd by any means.  But the truth is, technology will be around forever and the world needs people who know how to create and use it.  To me, it really feels awesome to be one of those people.  I always tell people it’s not hard as long as you work hard.  So if you have any questions about getting involved in information systems/computer science, feel free to email me at

I hope you all have a great summer!

Cheers 🙂  ~ Megan

April 25, 2011 at 7:12 pm Leave a comment


I have had the same phone since freshmen year in college.  As I look forward to graduation in May, a new phone will hopefully be one of the upgrades in my life.  However, even with my flip-phone phone people always assume I have the newest technology because I am knowledgeable about it.  This blog is a medium to teach, entertain, and also provide practical advice for students.  We encourage you to stay current with technology.  Ultimately, it has helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses, save money and time, and helped me to become a technical resource for friends and family.  Having any sort of technical experience will be beneficial for you and IT courses at ISU provide the means to achieve these skill sets.  Thank you for reading the blog.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask questions.  Enjoy the rest of the semester!


April 24, 2011 at 11:15 pm Leave a comment

Teaching Kids to Walk using Videogames

There is a great need for new technology in the medical field.  The demand for engineers and software developers in medicine is growing.  Below I will talk about a prime example of the type of technology that is being developed for use in the medical field.

Certain medical conditions can prevent individuals from being able to walk, including: cerebral palsy, spinal bifida, and amputations.  These are some of the medical problems that plague children at Shriner’s hospital.  The hospital is always looking for new methods of treatment for their patients.  What they are most interested in are treatments that are engaging for children.  The Motion Analysis Laboratory asked some Rice University undergrads to help them develop a game system that would make physical therapy fun for children with disabilities that affect their balance/ ability to walk.

The recently unveiled project called the Equiliberator uses  uses a series of Wii balance boards that are situated between a pari of pressure sensitive handrails.  The platform uses bluetooth to communicate to a computer the patient’s movements along the path.  The software portion of the system includes a monster-slaying game where the children are asked to step of certain parts of the path in order to destroy their enemies.

The game starts out easy and progresses to harder levels as the balance and coordination of the child increases.  The child gains points while playing the game which helps encourage them to keep doing better.  The hand-rail is there to help the child when they need it, but the overall goal is for the child to walk with as little help as possible.  The game can detect when a child is using these handrails for support.

Please watch the video here to learn more about the project from the designers.

Now don’t forget to go to Blackboard and take the quiz!

Just for reference, I found the original article here.


April 20, 2011 at 8:00 pm Leave a comment

Pay Phones – No more wallets?

Can you remember the last time you left home without your phone? It seems that more and more people are attached to their cell phones and it is one of the biggest things that they can’t live without, especially in the younger generations.  I know that if I left home without my phone I would feel as if I were out in public without pants on.  To capitalize on this insecurity that many of us live with, cell phone companies have made it possible to shop with just a swipe of our phones. With such a smart piece of technology on us at all times it’s no wonder that somebody has come up with a way to pay bills with them.

The new technology that is being incorporated is called Near Field Communication or NFC for short.  Starbucks has been one of the first US companies to deploy a widespread release of the NFC technology.  They have allowed customers to pay by smart phone with an app that they built specifically for paying for their coffee in store.  Customers will now be able to come in and scan a barcode with the app that they have in their phone and process a payment accordingly.  This also works in conjunction with their Starbucks Cards and gift cards as well.  As more people catch on to using this novel new way to pay it seems likely that we will see more companies do this sort of thing in the future.

In addition to Starbuck’s venture, Google recently put out its Nexus S this past December which contained an NFC chip. It is also rumored that the next iPhone will also include an NFC chip of it’s own when released. If all phones already came with a chip, an app could be made so that it would be possible to pay at any sort of terminal by whatever device is associated with it. Could this really be the answer to eliminating wallets?

I’m not sure if we’ll ever get rid of wallets and ‘cash’ all together but it would be nice to have to carry less on you when you go out.  In the future maybe it will be possible to carry your ID and some sort of electronic key as well. All of these new innovations will be fun to see come into play over the next few years and will hopefully make it easier to leave home without forgetting important things.  The only problem then would be if your cell phone failed or ran out of batteries.

The site where I found this article is here if anybody is interested in reading more about the topic: Time

Don’t forget to take the quiz!



April 18, 2011 at 10:26 am Leave a comment

Innovative Interfaces

If stereo types were accurate, the IT world would consist of darkened rooms with a lone programmer working late into the night rapidly typing code.  Or brilliant students developing revolutionary ideas over beers as Facebook entrepreneur, Mark Zuckerberg, is portrayed in The Social Network. Or possibly, entire conferences filled with pocket protectors and a discussion of video games.

If stereo types were accurate, libraries would have rows of dusty encyclopedias leading to uncomfortable wooden chairs.  A stern librarian would be frowning at patrons over spectacles topped off with a low bun.  These stereotypes, while obviously false, shape our perspectives.  So while the combination of libraries and the IT world seem horrifically un-stimulating, their existence in the real world creates a unique sector of IT.

Innovative Interfaces exemplifies this bridge between libraries and IT as Innovative “dedicates its energies to meeting the needs of libraries and the challenges of library automation.”  Simply stated, Innovative Interfaces provides library software.  Developed in 1982 Innovative saw remarkable changes; library catalogs were digitized, research functionality soared, web services expanded, self-check outs were developed, and generally, integrated library systems became increasingly advanced.

Think about our Milner Library homepage at ISU.  While it is simple to use for daily tasks, the complexity in its’ design becomes clear after analysis.  The “Search Anything” option quite literally must, “search anything”.  This “anything” includes electronic resources, federal government resources, ISU archives, Metcalf School Library, Milner learning resources center, Milner library, Milner special collections, teaching materials center, University high school library, scholarly journals, digital collections, and more in an environment requiring interconnectivity.  Every ISU student has a unique VuFind account and a unique Interlibrary Loan account.  All specific class materials, checked out materials, materials requested from off campus locations, and other research and cataloging material must be stored.

This all in one package demonstrates the power of an integrated library system.  While its capabilities are remarkable and certainly make students’ lives easier, the significance is in its design and implementation.  IT has become a necessity in all types of business.  Innovative’s headquarters are located in California and their work spreads worldwide.  Solving problems for the library requires collaboration between two seemingly unassociated fields of library and IT professionals.  This connection to IT is evident in accounting, insurance, history, psychology, biology, music, marketing, journalism, chemistry, nursing, renewable energy, mathematics, and nearly every academic major or career path.

Innovative Interfaces provides software for University of Hong Kong, Virginia Tech, UC Berkeley Boalt Law Library, Yale School of Law, and University of Glasgow.  For 20 years, the highest technical advancements have been reached within libraries.  Innovative works with companies including 3M,, EBSCO, Apple, IBM, and Oracle.  It is possible to combine a specific personal interest with an IT profession.  Take notice of how IT could fit into your major or career choice, or at the very least, admire the advancement Milner has made! Visit Innovative Interfaces for more information.  Don’t forget to take the quiz on Blackboard.


Cheers, Marla


April 13, 2011 at 10:29 pm Leave a comment

Are You Printing in Black and White, Color, or 3D?

The question posed by the title of this post may seem like a caption out of a science fiction magazine, but type of question may become a realization in the near future. The concept of 3D printing has existed for a number of years, but new technological advances have shaped the potential impact it may have. 3D printing applications span over many diverse different industries. Recent advances in technology may create 3D printing stores in every city, much like the FedEx’s Kinkos exists today.


What Is 3D Printing?

3D printing breaks down a common perception many individuals have of a printer. 3D printing involves a machine much more advanced than the standard Xerox machine. The actual cost of the machine varies greatly. Some machine price’s range from $10,000 to $50,000. Prototype 3D printers may cost millions of dollars, while open source models are free. No matter the price of the model, they all tend to do similar operations. A typical small scale print would take an entire day to complete, much longer than printing a 20 page term paper. The reason for this extensive length is the amount of “pages” that machine is actually printing. The 3D printer will print the length and width of an object, and then raise itself as little as one tenth of a  millimeter in vertical space to print the next layer. The process is repeated thousands of times until a print is made that matches length, width, and height specifications. The video below show the creation of a business card holder from a 3D printer.


Who Uses 3D Printing?

With the recent advancements nearly any individual may consider using 3D printing. At first 3D printing was limited only to creation of plastic pieces, but new materials including stainless steel, glass, and even silver can now be printed into nearly any shape or size. With these materials available, individuals could potentially print an entire car or building. Since the object is created entirely in computer aided design software, products could be created with features that once were impossible to create. Currently the manufacturing industry uses 3D printers to create rapid prototypes.

Bioprinting could change the entire medical industry

Generally creating a prototype product make take weeks, with advances in 3D printing this process now takes only a day. Advances are being made to allow 3D printing to use human tissue as “ink.” This new area of medical technology is referred to a bioprinting.  Experts estimate that 3D printers could soon be printing human body parts.


How To Get One For Free

The Free Open Source RepRap

If you are like me, you probably can’t wait to get your hands on this great technology. As mentioned above the prices of 3D printers vary greatly. One particular 3D printer that I wanted to bring up is called the RepRap. Unlike most other 3D models, the RepRap is open source. Open source means that anyone can download the software for free and even edit the software if they have pro0gramming knowledge. Besides the software being free the RepRap also can print itself. The majority of the RepRap parts are plastic which makes self replication fairly simple. Those involved in the RepRap project are working on printing computer circuits because these are the only parts of itself the RepRap cannot create yet. You can learn more about the RepRap by visiting their site.

It seems that new advances are being made every single day in this emerging field. While no one really knows which industries will adopt 3D printing, those that do are sure to experience rapid change.

I hope you enjoyed the article!

– Paul

April 11, 2011 at 4:53 pm Leave a comment

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