Archive for November, 2012

One More Chance

OK, so it’s getting close to the end of the semester, and you’re busy thinking about how to get everything done. Here’s another chance to earn a little extra credit if you’re an ISU MAT 120 student. But, more importantly, here’s one more chance for ISU students to think about their future plans.

How do you plan to distinguish yourself from this friendly fellow? Smiley chimp
Remember: The path of least resistance leads slowly downhill.

I’ve been pitching the idea that there are a great many more opportunities open to people who have significant IT knowledge and skill, in almost any field, simply because IT is becoming more and more embedded in every field. Want to be a detective? Learn as much as you can about IT. Want to be a health care professional? Learn as much as you can about IT. Maybe you hope to be an entrepreneur? Most start-ups these days center on IT. … You get my point.

But, you ask, what specifically should you do about all this? Some possible answers:

1) Take some IT courses that relate to your fields of interest. Fit them in somewhere. JUST DO IT. (Pun intended.)

For a list of some ISU courses that might just do the trick for you, click here.

2) Add an IT-related minor to your existing major. Several are available at ISU. (See below for details.)

3) Try out an IT-related major. Or jump right in, and declare one if you don’t already have one.

For a brief description of ISU majors and minors related to IT, click here.

Want more advice? Send me an e-mail.

If you want to keep reading this blog next semester, you’re certainly welcome! Access is open to anyone. (But no more quizzes for you next term.)

Kenton Machina

(ISU MAT 120 students: don’t forget to take the quiz on this post.)

November 30, 2012 at 12:21 pm Leave a comment

Fare Thee Well, Fall 2012 MAT 120 Students

Woah, is it just me or did this semester go by really fast?! I can’t believe I’m just about halfway through with my senior year in undergrad here at ISU, it’s really surreal. I remember when I first took this MAT 120 class with Dr. Mersch my freshman year, it was the first class I took here and wow it seems like time has really gone by fast since then. Cherish your time here, it’ll be gone before you realize it!

It was a pleasure writing for you guys this semester, and I hope you all enjoyed what I had to say. It was great seeing the feedback you guys left through comments and quizzes! Hopefully you guys liked some of my more humorous quiz answer choices, haha! It was also a great pleasure to meet a few of you guys that came up to me out in the wild and expressed how much you liked the postings, it meant a lot to me. Hopefully I’ll run into some more of you in the future, don’t be afraid to come up and start a conversation with me, I’d love to talk!

The goal with this project is to get you guys more interested in the field of information technology, and I hope that through the postings we were able to do just that. I’m hugely interested in developing, tinkering, and IT security, and I wanted to get you guys interested in that as well. Hopefully I did a good job! Shameless plug, if you like IT security come check out ISU’s own IT security club, ISUSec! We meet every Wednesday at 8pm, usually in Old Union 133, hopefully we’ll see a few of you there!

Well, here’s where I bid thee adieu, fellow peers. It was great writing for you this semester, good luck on finals, and happy holidays! Oh, and as a present, no quiz this week!

November 28, 2012 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Art, Technology, and Design

Welcome back students! Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving break!

There have been many posts about coding and the intricate workings of technology. This week I decided to look at a different side of technology; the design side. In this video, John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design, demonstrates the difference art and design can make in technology. ISU currently offers a Web Design sequence in the School of IT and a Graphic Design sequence in the School of Art, in case you are interested.

The video is a little long, so my quiz questions will focus on the first half of the video. I HIGHLY recommend watching the whole thing though!

November 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm Leave a comment

MOOChing Some Knowledge

This post sort of takes off on my last in that we are usually under the impression that things like government and education have to come from some external, validated, institutional, etc., source. I have believed for a little while now that technology and the endless resource that is the World Wide Web have the ability to eventually supplant formal education systems. Little did I know that this evolution has already begun to a degree.

What is regarded as the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), Shimon Schocken and Noam Nisan created a curriculum called From NAND to Tetris, which basically takes you from an understanding of Boolean logic gates all the way to building your own full-fledged computer system.

The following TED talk video (I’ve been pretty big on these lately) features Schocken overviewing the development of his MOOC, and if there was ever a video to encompass the topics of education, math, and technology, while promoting the practice of autodidacticism, or self-directed learning, this is the one. He also shares a couple of his views on grading and the traditional college education which I especially enjoyed. I highly encourage you to look into the From NAND to Tetris course, and be sure to watch this video and take the quiz. Have a great fall break!

November 14, 2012 at 4:17 pm Leave a comment

Did you know? (Follow-up)

Today I was reading about a psychologist who works with soldiers and veterans, trying to help them overcome the psychological damage that often results from war. But he doesn’t provide them with counseling. Instead, he is working on modifying gaming technology and artificial intelligence to help them. I don’t know if it will work. But I do know one thing about this: he would not be trying this idea out if he didn’t know something about psychology and something about IT.

There’s a moral to this little story. More and more, people who know about some aspect of IT are in a position to come up with creative new ideas that might turn out to be really useful in their field. This psychologist is not a computer programmer, or even some other sort of computer expert. His main education is in psychology. But he knows enough about IT to see a possible new application, and he can work as a member of a team to create that new application.

My own personal experience fits this model. While I was in graduate school studying Philosophy, I was employed by an IT firm working on trying to program a computer to be able to translate publications from Russian into English. I was not an IT expert, or a linguistics expert; I knew nothing about Russian. My job was to serve as a bridge between the programmers and the linguists on this project, because they could not understand each other. I knew enough about programming and about linguistics to be able to communicate with each side of the table.

This is the sort of thing that goes on all the time in today’s world, in many different fields, from business, to education, to government, to agriculture. If you know something more about IT than just how to use common software packages, you may very well find yourself being able to contribute in a creative and helpful way to whatever enterprise you are associated with. At a minimum you will know more about what questions to ask if someone else proposes an IT project.

So, my suggestion is to take some IT coursework, or else pursue IT knowledge seriously and systematically on your own. Presumably, the coursework is more likely to bring results unless you are really self-motivated. If you don’t do this in college, you may well find yourself having to scramble later on in order to stand out and be successful.

ISU offers a half-dozen different IT majors, some with multiple “flavors”, so if that’s your thing, go for it (get the pun?). But maybe for many, it’s a more a matter of trying out some IT courses in order to pick up a little background knowledge. There’s even a new one-credit course in easy programming for people who want to find out what that is like.

I’ll be writing again soon to give more details about actual majors and courses. In the meantime, as always, if you want to pop me an e-mail with your own questions, that’s fine: Kenton.Machina@ilstu.edu.

November 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm Leave a comment

New Transportation Technology

Hello all,

By now i’m sure you know the worlds growing need for oil will soon be tremendous, and in no time this precious fossil fuel will soon run out.  This is exactly why large investment have been going towards alternative fuels, such as wind, and solar energy.  This week I stumbled upon a really innovative technology that could completely revolutionize the way we travel.  ET3 is essentially two long hollowed out tubes that can fit a small car (ET3 car) of people (1-6).  This hollow tube has all of the air removed from it so the car is weightless.  An electric motor quickly accelerates the car to speeds of 300 mph, and then shuts off allowing the car to glide through the weightless space at the speed accelerated to.

It’s not a train, it’s not a car, it’s ET3, and in my opinion we should stop investing in train technology and start moving towards a future where travel time for consumers and costs build are substantially reduced.

Please read the short article about ET3 by clicking the first link or watch the video by clicking the second link.  After, don’t forget take your quiz.

http://www.et3.com/

http://et3.com/youtube-video-playlist-et3

November 11, 2012 at 6:53 pm 3 comments

New Direction of the Windows Operating System, with Windows 8

I’m sure by now that all of you have seen some soft of advertisement for the next generation of operating systems, Windows 8. I know I’ve seen at least a thousand ads between just the operating system and Microsoft’s flagship tablet, the Surface. If you’ve yet to see one of these ads, take a look at the following video:

As you can see, Windows 8 is quite different from your traditional Windows operating system. The biggest change you’ll notice is that there is no Start button, and the start menu has been totally revamped and changed to the “Modern UI” style paradigm that Microsoft has been pushing. Flashy colors, tiles, fancy animations; it’s all something different, it’s all a lot of change. Windows 8 also also been designed to be used through a touch interface, such as a touchscreen monitor or tablet, along with your regular keyboard and mouse. This might be concerning to people since it is such a drastic change than the Windows operating system that they’re used to, and might turn some consumers away from wanting to use it.

Over the past few months, I’ve been using Windows 8 on both my touchscreen laptop and my custom made desktop. It has all the power of Windows 7 behind it, plus more shortcuts, administrative menus, a more improved copy dialog and task manager, and of course the performance tweaks in the backend to make it a speedy operating system. Then of course, it has the Modern UI start menu, Microsoft’s version of an app store, the new “Charm Menu” (pull out menu from the right side), built in apps like weather, news, messaging, people, and just a slew of other apps. I wish I could have had an actual table to test Window 8 with, because even though I did like it on my machines, I bet it would a feel a lot more natural in a table.

Now, I want to ask a question: would you want to make the move to Windows 8, where it would be your main operating system? If you were a system administrator for ISU, would you want to deploy it out to the lab computers, or your staff computers? Don’t get me wrong, I think that Windows 8 is fantastic, but for a consumer. I can’t really see 8 really being introduced into the enterprise environment, at least anytime soon. The operating system is really mean to be used on mobile tablets. These are the kind of things that you have to think about as a systems administrator, would you want to push this next generation of operating system out to all of yours user? Do you think 8 fits in an enterprise environment?

Windows 8 really is the next generation of consumer computing, in my opinion. I feel that it is very attractive to your regular every day user who is going to just browse the internet, watch movies, listen to music, and just use it for fun. Although 8 supports a number of new features, power users like myself won’t be using a number of them, mainly the Modern UI, the new Start menu, and the apps. But, your opinion is based on how you’d use it. If you’re an IT student here, you can sign up for the MSDNAA and receive free (and legal!) copies of various Microsoft products, including Windows 8. So check it out, form your own opinions, and of course don’t forget to take the quiz!

November 7, 2012 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

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