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Tech Classes Can Help You In Nearly Any Job

When I graduated from ISU in 2010 and got a job with a large company, one of the first things I noticed when I got there was how much people use Excel; nearly everyone uses it in some capacity. The second thing I noticed was that the overwhelming majority of people have an extremely limited view of what the software can do, and how they can use it to make their jobs easier. Despite everyone having different responsibilities and educational backgrounds, we all need to use the same tools to do our jobs.

While many companies offer training opportunities to better learn these tools, few will be as comprehensive as a formal class. Furthermore, having an advanced knowledge of these tools before entering the work force puts you at an advantage right from the start. A portion of my job requires me to pull information from a computer-generated spreadsheet and convert the information in to a more easily readable format.  Usually there are a few hundred entries in the spreadsheet I am working on. Another part of this is that I have to go through a list and figure out which department is responsible for the items on that list.

If I hadn’t taken any tech classes during my time at ISU, that task would have taken me forever to do manually. Fortunately, in those classes we went over Excel, and there were units which worked out how to automate this sort of thing. Rather than have to go through each data field one at a time and format everything the way it needs to be, I can simply copy and paste the data in to a spreadsheet that is set up with a few formulas and scripts which allow the new spreadsheet to automatically interpret the data from the old one. The new spreadsheet will then pretty much fill itself out and be ready to go in just a few seconds. The beauty of Excel is that it can interpret information from databases. Because Excel is such a powerful tool for interpreting data, you’re able to tell each cell exactly what to do. One of the awesome time-saving ways I use this feature is that I have a list of tasks that need to be done, and I have a list of departments who have to do them. Some departments have 3 of the tasks, some have 50. Doing this manually is very tedious.

I set up my spreadsheet to look through the entire list of tasks, and output which department is responsible for the task in the list. Doing this required me to have over 100 nested If/Or statements in each cell of the output column. Setting up the spreadsheet the first time did take a bit of time, but now the process is super fast.

Having taken advantage of the opportunity to better learn how to use this software, I was able to save a lot of time doing this task and it gave me time to gain other responsibilities at work. Having a solid understanding of the tools you will need to use in most jobs will set you apart from your peers. I absolutely recommend taking a few tech classes during your time here at ISU. Even if you don’t end up in a tech related job, you’ll still be able to use what you learned in most other jobs, or even in your personal life for finances, etc.

Nick

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September 26, 2013 at 7:34 am Leave a comment

How Tech Classes Can Help You In Nearly Any Job

When I graduated from ISU in 2010 and got a job with a large company, one of the first things I noticed when I got there was how much people use Excel; nearly everyone uses it in some capacity. The second thing I noticed was that the overwhelming majority of people have an extremely limited view of what the software can do, and how they can use it to make their jobs easier. Despite everyone having different responsibilities and educational backgrounds, we all need to use the same tools to do our jobs.

While many companies offer training opportunities to better learn these tools, few will be as comprehensive as a formal class. Furthermore, having an advanced knowledge of these tools before entering the work force puts you at an advantage right from the start. A portion of my job requires me to pull information from a computer-generated spreadsheet and convert the information in to a more easily readable format.  Usually there are a few hundred entries in the spreadsheet I am working on. Another part of this is that I have to go through a list and figure out which department is responsible for the items on that list.

If I hadn’t taken any tech classes during my time at ISU, that task would have taken me forever to do manually. Fortunately, in those classes we went over Excel, and there were units which worked out how to automate this sort of thing. Rather than have to go through each data field one at a time and format everything the way it needs to be, I can simply copy and paste the data in to a spreadsheet that is set up with a few formulas and scripts which allow the new spreadsheet to automatically interpret the data from the old one. The new spreadsheet will then pretty much fill itself out and be ready to go in just a few seconds. The beauty of Excel is that it can interpret information from databases. Because Excel is such a powerful tool for interpreting data, you’re able to tell each cell exactly what to do. One of the awesome time-saving ways I use this feature is that I have a list of tasks that need to be done, and I have a list of departments who have to do them. Some departments have 3 of the tasks, some have 50. Doing this manually is very tedious.

I set up my spreadsheet to look through the entire list of tasks, and output which department is responsible for the task in the list. Doing this required me to have over 100 nested If/Or statements in each cell of the output column. Setting up the spreadsheet the first time did take a bit of time, but now the process is super fast.

Having taken advantage of the opportunity to better learn how to use this software, I was able to save a lot of time doing this task and it gave me time to gain other responsibilities at work. Having a solid understanding of the tools you will need to use in most jobs will set you apart from your peers. I absolutely recommend taking a few tech classes during your time here at ISU. Even if you don’t end up in a tech related job, you’ll still be able to use what you learned in most other jobs, or even in your personal life for finances, etc.

 

There won’t be a quiz for this article, so I hope everyone had a great weekend!

 

Nick

April 21, 2013 at 12:23 pm Leave a comment

Have a great summer, everyone!

Hey everyone,

On behalf of the isuTech team, we hope you all enjoyed reading our blog over the course of the semester! Hopefully you’re more interested in technology than you were before and we really think that you should sign up for a technology class or two. Even if your major is unrelated to technology, you’ll find that the information you learn in the tech classes at ISU will help you with whatever your major is. From teaching to agriculture, an understanding of the fundamentals of the technology that drives these fields will help you to remain competitive when job hunting.

Just because you’re done with the semester doesn’t mean you have to stop reading the blog, though! isuTech will be back in the fall, so we encourage you to keep reading!

Hope everyone has a great summer!

Nick

April 27, 2010 at 4:29 pm 1 comment

Library of Congress to archive ‘Tweets’.

So, most of you guys reading this probably don’t use twitter…yet. The social networking site is undeniably becoming a cultural phenomenon. It even provided the means for Iranians to organize protests and almost led to a revolution, all in 140 characters or less. The social implications of twitter are pretty profound, actually. The site can show cultural reactions to major events in a way that was impossible previously. Here is what the Library of Congress official blog had to say about the matter:

“Have you ever sent out a “tweet” on the popular Twitter social media service?  Congratulations: Your 140 characters or less will now be housed in the Library of Congress.That’s right.  Every public tweet, ever, since Twitter’s inception in March 2006, will be archived digitally at the Library of Congress. That’s a LOT of tweets, by the way: Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets every day, with the total numbering in the billions.

We thought it fitting to give the initial heads-up to the Twitter community itself via our own feed @librarycongress.  (By the way, out of sheer coincidence, the announcement comes on the same day our own number of feed-followers has surpassed 50,000. I love serendipity!)

We will also be putting out a press release later with even more details and quotes.  Expect to see an emphasis on the scholarly and research implications of the acquisition.  I’m no Ph.D., but it boggles my mind to think what we might be able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from this wealth of data.  And I’m certain we’ll learn things that none of us now can even possibly conceive.

Just a few examples of important tweets in the past few years include the first-ever tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey (http://twitter.com/jack/status/20), President Obama’s tweet about winning the 2008 election (http://twitter.com/barackobama/status/992176676), and a set of two tweets from a photojournalist who was arrested in Egypt and then freed because of a series of events set into motion by his use of Twitter (http://twitter.com/jamesbuck/status/786571964) and (http://twitter.com/jamesbuck/status/787167620).

Twitter plans to make its own announcement today on its blog from “Chirp,” the Official Twitter Developer Conference, in San Francisco.  (UPDATE: Here’s their post.)

So if you think the Library of Congress is “just books,” think of this: The Library has been collecting materials from the web since it began harvesting congressional and presidential campaign websites in 2000.  Today we hold more than 167 terabytes of web-based information, including legal blogs, websites of candidates for national office, and websites of Members of Congress.

We also operate the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program www.digitalpreservation.gov, which is pursuing a national strategy to collect, preserve and make available significant digital content, especially information that is created in digital form only, for current and future generations.

In other words, if you’re looking for a place where important historical and other information in digital form should be preserved for the long haul, we’re it!

(Thanks to my co-blogger, Jennifer, for the headline.  She always does a much better job of that than I do!)”

So, what do you guys think? Every tweet we’ve made at @isuTech will be backed up forever in the Library of Congress! I think that’s pretty cool, but I’m sure many would disagree. Could this be useful for researchers in the future? Or is this a big waste of time? Feel free to leave a comment but don’t forget your quiz!

Nick

April 19, 2010 at 7:57 am Leave a comment

Google Stops Censoring Search Results In China!

In keeping with their ‘don’t be evil’ mantra, Google has stopped censoring the search results of users in China. Here’s the release announcing the decision from Google’s Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond.

On January 12, we announced on this blog that Google and more than twenty other U.S. companies had been the victims of a sophisticated cyber attack originating from China, and that during our investigation into these attacks we had uncovered evidence to suggest that the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights activists connected with China were being routinely accessed by third parties, most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on their computers. We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered—combined with attempts over the last year to further limit free speech on the web in China including the persistent blocking of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs and Blogger—had led us to conclude that we could no longer continue censoring our results on Google.cn.

So earlier today we stopped censoring our search services—Google Search, Google News, and Google Images—on Google.cn. Users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong. Users in Hong Kong will continue to receive their existing uncensored, traditional Chinese service, also from Google.com.hk. Due to the increased load on our Hong Kong servers and the complicated nature of these changes, users may see some slowdown in service or find some products temporarily inaccessible as we switch everything over.

Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard. We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement. We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we’ve faced—it’s entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China. We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services. We will therefore be carefully monitoring access issues, and have created this new web page, which we will update regularly each day, so that everyone can see which Google services are available in China.

In terms of Google’s wider business operations, we intend to continue R&D work in China and also to maintain a sales presence there, though the size of the sales team will obviously be partially dependent on the ability of mainland Chinese users to access Google.com.hk. Finally, we would like to make clear that all these decisions have been driven and implemented by our executives in the United States, and that none of our employees in China can, or should, be held responsible for them. Despite all the uncertainty and difficulties they have faced since we made our announcement in January, they have continued to focus on serving our Chinese users and customers. We are immensely proud of them.

This decision should have a profound affect on the way Chinese people access information. For example, prior to this decision, if a Chinese user were to search for “Tiananmen Square”, they would not see any results that have to do with the famous image of the Chinese student standing in front of a row of tanks during the famous student protests of 1989. All results that depicted the Government in a negative light were censored. Now, however, Chinese searchers will be able to have full access to the information on the internet. There still remains the possibility that the Chinese government will block Google all together, though.

March 23, 2010 at 7:41 am Leave a comment

Password Strength And You: Are You Secure?

For my article this week, rather than finding something cool to write about, I decided to write about something that I feel is really important that most people don’t really consider. So, with that said, I hope you guys find this interesting and I would really appreciate any feedback in the form of comments!

If you’re anything like me, you probably use the exact same password for nearly everything. This isn’t the best idea because if someone obtains your password for one site, they can use it for all the other places too. However, I don’t even use a different password for every website I go to because that would be completely impractical. So, instead of having separate passwords for your personal email, work email, school email, AIM, etc. you can make sure you use one very strong password.

But, what makes a password strong? Well, to understand that, you’ll first have to understand how hackers break passwords. There are a few ways to do it. By far, the most common way to break passwords is with a technique known as “Social Engineering.” loginboxThere are several ways that hackers try to “Socially Engineer” passwords. With the amount of information people publicly post on the internet, it is easy for hackers to guess passwords. An example of this would be the “secret question” that many websites will use to help you re-obtain your password if you lose/forget it. An example of a secret question would be “where did you go to high school?” or “what is your pet’s name?” Both of these questions and others like them can be answered fairly easily if your Facebook profile is publicly accessible. So, make sure you lock down your Facebook profile to make it harder for hackers to find out this sort of information!

A common method is through deception. A hacker may send an email where they claim to be an administrator from the site that you use that password for. A common name for this technique is called “Phishing.” In a Phishing scam, the hacker will send an email that appears to be legitimate, and often times it will ask the recipient to reply to the email with their username and password under the pretense that they need to verify the account. It is for this reason that you will see “we will never ask you for your username or password” in official emails from websites. The real administrators do not need to get this information from you through email so if you ever receive an email that asks for your password to anything, be suspicious because it’s probably fake.

Another common technique for hackers is actually just a form of guessing. Called “Brute Forcing“, the hacker will use a program that just starts guessing passwords in the hope that it will get it right. Many websites offer a safeguard against Brute Forcing in the form of a maximum attempts limit. If you’ve ever been locked out of a website for a certain amount of time due to guessing your password wrong too many times, you’ve experienced a maximum attempts limit. However, if the website does not use any sort of Brute Force protection, the hacker can set up the program to simply go through the dictionary, because many users will use single words for their passwords. A dictionary-based attack can obtain your password in a matter of minutes, which is why it is important to have a strong password! According to PC Magazine, the most common passwords are:

  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. qwerty
  4. abc123
  5. letmein
  6. monkey
  7. myspace 1
  8. password 1
  9. blink182
  10. [user’s first name]

All of these passwords are incredibly weak. Most websites will have some minimum requirements for password strength. This is why you generally have to have a minimum of 6 characters for your password. The longer a password is, the tougher it is to break. However, did you know that passwords are usually case-sensitive?

Let’s pretend that your password is “guitar”. “guitar” would be a very weak password because, as you learned earlier, a dictionary-based Brute Force attack could crack that password in a matter of a few minutes. To improve that password without having to remember anything extra, you could simply capitalize the first letter. By replacing “guitar” with “Guitar”, you’ve improved the strength of your password tremendously. That’s not the only thing you can do though. Let’s say your birthday is March 21st, 1987. A good password then could be “Guitar32187”. The combination here of a capital first letter and numbers makes it nearly impossible for a hacker to crack using the Brute Force method. However, for one last added bit of security, I recommend you add some sort of punctuation mark to the end of the password. An easy one to remember is “!”. It’s like you’re shouting your password at the computer. So, then your password would be “Guitar32187!”

So, are you using a weak password? If you are, you should really consider making a few small modifications to the password to make it stronger. If you click here you will find a password strength tester. It will give a rather complicated break-down of why your password is secure or insecure and provide a score for the password. It’s a good way to measure if what you are using is adequate. Our first example, “guitar” only gets an 8% for security. By changing it to “Guitar” the score is upped to %22. By changing it to “Guitar32187”, the score is changed to 93% and by adding that final punctuation mark (!) to the password, its strength is improved to 100%.

So, how secure are you? If you found any of this helpful, I appreciate any feedback! Don’t forget to take your quiz, either!

March 1, 2010 at 1:15 pm 1 comment

Augmented Reality: The Future of Online Maps

I’m sure you’ve all used Mapquest or Google Maps at some point. They’re generally very simple and do not allow you to virtually wander around. In the case of Google Maps, they offer something called “street view” which, to an extent, allows you to virtually travel down the street. The problem with Google’s ‘street view’ is that it is not very fluid, and it does not offer much freedom to explore. For your quiz today, check out this video below. At 8 minutes, it’s a little bit longer than most of the stuff we’ll have you watch or read, but I promise it’s worth it. This new technology is really awesome and I can’t wait until it gains popularity!

After watching the video, what do you guys think? Is this unnecessary, or is it a cool feature that would be fun to virtually explore other cities? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. Don’t forget about your quiz, though!

Nick

February 15, 2010 at 12:04 pm 1 comment

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