Tuesday, July 2, 2019

“Returning” to Western Massachusetts

It’s been a bit of a roadtrip back but…… it is official…… I’m back! In 2014 I took an early retirement from Springfield Technical CommunityCollege and signed on as a part-time consulting Co Director for NationalScience Foundation Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) funded NationalCenter for Optics and Photonics Education (OP-TEC). OP-TEC with a main office in Waco, Texas and funded via University of Central Florida, had five years left before sunsetting. I ended up staying with OP-TEC as a consultant for about 3.5 years. Most of my work was done out of my home office in Massachusetts with monthly trips to Waco and the occasional trip to UCF in Orlando. The work was interesting and I enjoyed it but the Center was in the last year of funding - something referred to as "sunsetting" in the grant world and my time there was to be ending soon. I knew I needed to find a replacement, with a preference for something a little closer to home....

In November 2017 I applied for and was offered a visiting professor position at the University of Hartford College of Engineering, Technology and Architecture. I spent the last three amazing semesters there teaching a variety of electronics, electrical engineering and engineering design courses. The admins, faculty and especially the students were incredible and it felt so good being back in the classroom – teaching. So much fun to connect with students again after almost 20 years of academic and NSF grant administrative work. I am so impressed with the University of Hartford community – the way everyone pulls together to help each other out - respectful, hard working committed….. amazing. I had left teaching traditional age college students in 1998 and was not sure what to expect in 2018 – to say I was pleasantly surprised at Hartford is a huge understatement!

But those visiting professor gigs are temporary and don’t last long. This past spring I sadly realized my time at Hartford was coming to an end and I needed to start looking around again. So…. I applied for an Engineering Professor position at Holyoke Community College, interviewed and….. was offered the position. I start in September…. a little closer to home and also a lot closer to my parents home.

Leaving Hartford is breaking my heart - I’m really going to miss everyone there, especially the incredible students I had the opportunity to work with in my classes. No names because I’m sure I would end up leaving some out. Thanks to all of you who worked so hard in my classes – I’m jealous of you all with your work ethic and commitment to excellence along with the internship, career and academic opportunities you have already had or will have. If any of you are reading this please keep working hard and stay in touch. I look forward to following your careers.

Took the long way back to Western Mass via Waco, Orlando and Hartford but I’m back. Looking forward to reestablishing some of those past regional business and industry connections and working with the admins, faculty and especially students at HCC. And yes - you bet I’m hoping to establish some sort of a formal transfer/articulation agreement between HCC and Hartford.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

FCC Proposed New 6 GHz Wifi Spectrum

On October 2, the FCC proposed WiFi access to the 6 GHz region (5.925-7.125 GHz) in addition to the currently accessible 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands of frequencies. 
Currently most WiFi access points operate at either one of those 2.4 GHz of 5 GHz bands. Problems arise as more and more devices are connecting via WiFi. Due to longer wavelengths, 2.4 GHz band signals travel further but with the growing plethora of wireless devices, often suffer from congestion and interference. The 5 GHz band typically operates at higher speeds but does not travel as far due to the shorter wavelengths. 
Opening up the 6 GHz region will provide close to three times what is available in the 2.4 and 5 GHz regions - great for locations where lots of people are connecting at the same time (think college campuses, airport terminals, etc). 
The 6 Ghz frequency region is currently used for point-to-point microwave links and earth-to-space communications along with other data links and there will likely be some opposition. There is a current FCC public commenting period and there will be another vote once the commenting period is over. For details you can read the full FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for ET Docket No. 18-295; GN Docket No. 17-183 linked here.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Successful Academic Program Secret Sauces

I’ve had the recent opportunity to get back in the classroom with traditional students (18-22 years old) after a 20 year semi-administrative hiatus. The experience has been more than an eye opener for me. Students today are connected 24/7 with mobile the communications method of choice. Instant access to information, family, friends and peers has made students much more aware of options and opportunities. As a result, they are often not afraid to walk away and try something else if a program does not feel right. 

How does this relate to our academic programs? We are working hard to recruit students into our programs and continue to work hard to get them through our courses and graduate but…. we all end up losing some. Can we do a better job retaining students in our classes? Can we better help students that are motivated but struggling? Can we learn from our faculty peers at other institutions? Why are some programs more successful than others? 

Here’s a short successful program secret sauce list based on my observations: 

  • They have faculty that have strong professional relationships with students. 
  •  They have faculty that make students aware of services that are available on their campuses. 
  • They have faculty that identify students early who may be at-risk and help them get the support they need. 
  • They have faculty that assess students early and often in every course to help identify and advise students that may need a little extra support. Ideally this includes weekly quizzes and homework assignments that are promptly graded and returned to students the following class. 
  • They have faculty that refer students to the proper service for larger issues as appropriate. 
Some things never change - the most successful programs and courses are likely the ones where faculty are most professionally engaged with their students.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

What Information Can Be Pulled Off A Mobile Device SIM Card?

I recently taught a mobile forensics course and asked my students to identify what kind of information that can be retrieved from a mobile device SIM card.  Here’s a list of some of the retrievable information students listed:

 Integrated Circuit Card Identifier (ICCID) – this is the number that is printed on the SIM card itself.  It is nineteen or twenty digits long.

International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) – this is the number that identifies a SIM card user on a GSM network.  It is stored in the EF(IMSI).  It is a fifteen-digit number.  Three components that make up the IMSI are:
  • Mobile Country Code (MCC) – the first three digits identify the country.
  • Mobile Network Code (MNC) – the next two digits identifies the cell provider mobile unit in a GSM network.
  • Mobile Subscriber Identity Number (MSIN) – the next nine digits identifies the mobile unit in a GSM network.
Service Provider Name (SPN) – the mobile provider’s name.  This can be found from the ICCID.

Mobile Station International Subscriber Directory Number (MSISDN) – basically, the SIM card’s telephone number.  This number can vary from fifteen to sixteen digits long.  The MSISDN is stored in EF(MSISDN).  It is made up of three components:
  • Country Code (CC) – up to three digits
  • National Destination Code (NDC) – two or three digits
  • Subscriber Number (SN) – up to a max. of ten digits
Abbreviated Dialing Numbers (AND) – These numbers are shortcuts on the phone of the most frequently dialed phone numbers.  These are generated by the subscriber.  They are stored in the EF(AND) file.

Last Number Dialed (LND) – This is a listing of the most recent calls and can be found in the EF(LND).

Short Message Service (SMS) – Short messages sent to other phones with a maximum length of either 160 or 70 characters.  These messages can be found in the EF(SMS) file.  These messages show not only the message but also the time the message was sent, the sender and receiver’s phone number, etc.

Language Preference (LP) – the preferred language of the subscriber.

Card Holder Verification (CHV1 and CHV2) – allows access to files after the user’s verification of PIN 1(CHV1) or PIN 2(CHV2).

Ciphering Key (Kc) – a 64-bit ciphering key used for encryption and decryption of data on an over-the-air channel.  It is generated by the Mobile Station from a random challenge by the GSM network.

Fixed Dialing Numbers (FDN) – phone numbers added to a list and the SIM restricts outgoing calls only to those numbers listed.

Location Area Identity (LAI) – The LAI will be stored on the SIM card so that a phone knows what location it is in and able to receive service.  If a phone changes areas, then the new LAI is stored in the SIM.  This is great for investigators to be able to read a list of where the SIM card has been geographically.

Temporary Mobile Subscriber Identity (TMSI) – the SIM is assigned a TMSI by the Mobile Switching Center (MSC) whenever a phone is in the vicinity of a new MSC.  Information about the phone is stored in the Visitor Location Register (VLR) and the phone is given a TMSI which allows the subscriber to be uniquely identified.

Service Dialing Numbers (SDN) – Numbers that are installed by the service provider which cannot be changed or deleted by the user.  The SDNs are usually hidden.

Thanks to my Mobile Forensics class students!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Online Ladder Logic Simulations

Some of you know how much I’m loving being back in the classroom as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Hartford College of Engineering, Technology and Architecture (CETA). I started in January for the spring semester and am fortunate to have been invited back for the fall semester. CETA offers both BS Engineering Technology and BS Engineering degrees with students having the following options:

  • Engineering, with its emphasis on theory, analysis, and design, 
  • Technology, which teaches engineering technology, with an emphasis on hands-on application of theory; or
  • Architecture, with its emphasis on a combination of design and application of theory.
I’ve had the opportunity to teach both Engineering Technology and Engineering courses. In the spring I taught the second half of a digital electronics course. In that course we spent considerable time working with Quartus, an Intel CAD system used to design digital circuits. 

Over the summer I had some time and experimented a bit with PLC Fiddle - a really nice
online ladder logic simulator for testing, training, and code sharing. Using PLC Fiddle I’ve put together a set of logic gate simulations linked hereUsing the simulations the user can turn inputs on and off for various logic gates (AND, OR, NAND, NOR, EXOR and NEXOR) and observe the outputs. Here’s a screen shot of the simulations. 

If you follow the link below the screen shot you'll go to the simluation website where you can turn Input 1 and Input 2 ON and OFF (OFF = Logic 0, ON = Logic 1) by clicking the boxes next to Input 1 and Input 2 in the left hand column. As you change the Inputs, watch how the Output changes for each gate type. 

I’m not teaching a digital course this semester but if you are - feel free to share and use the simulations in your classes. And - if you are a faculty person, current student, former student, already have your AS or AAS degree and want to continue, etc, etc and are interested in an excellent Engineering, Engineering Technology or Architecture BS degree program - I can help connect you with the right people at the University of Hartford. My Hartford email address is gosnyder@hartford.edu You can contact me any time!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Effective Decision Making

Brian Armstrong, Co-Founder and CEO at Coinbase has a really good post over on Medium titled How we make decisions at Coinbase

In the post, Brian shares a framework developed at Coinbase to make decisions more effectively. I'm impressed with how the organization and operationalization of decisions are built around the company's core values - these include clear communication and efficient execution. I'm not going to lift Brian's entire post but found this chart very interesting.

He then gets into the framework details including setting the parameters, deliberation, and making the decision. His post finishes with a list of failure modes. 

A bad "big" decision will always have long lasting impact on any organization. Letting things fester and trying to cover up makes things even worse - just look at Michigan State as an example. Following the Coinbase framework is one way to try and avoid making them. Be sure to read Brian's full post here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Will Java Survive?

We've been hearing for years about Java's pending demise but...... it lives on. That may be changing though. A couple weeks ago Oracle announced the upcoming end of Java 8 updates. Details:
  • After January 19 public updates for Java SE 8 will not be available for business, commercial, or production use without a commercial license. 
  • However, public updates for Java SE 8 will be available for individual, personal use through at least the end of 2020. 
Previously, Oracle had extended public updates for JDK 8, the development kit for Java SE 8, until at least January 2019, after having originally planned to end them in September. 2018. 

Confused? Here's a little more timeline info:
What does this mean? Software Developer Marc van Woerkom has some interesting questions in a post over on Quora titled Is Java dying soon or not?
  • Will this lead to the end of corporate freeloading and speed up of Java development under the guide of Oracle?
  • Will companies band together and fund development for some free to use for all Java versions?
  • Will the open source crowd pick up development stronger than it does now?
  • Or will some other language benefit? (C#? JavaScript? Elixir? ..)
How about the classroom? In the academic world we've seen growing introductory Computer Science and Computer Engineering course use of high-level scripting languages. These include Python (my favorite right now), JavaScript (different than Java) and RubyArguably, JavaScript probably makes the greatest sense of the three when it comes to employment. Most developers are using JavaScript  along with other languages in their day-to-day work. JavaScript is pretty versatile and works well for front-end web development and is increasingly used for back-end development. It is also being used for game development and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. 

According to a Philip Guo survey taken way back in 2014, Python has overtaken Java as the most popular introductory language of instruction at top US Computer Science programs. That said - Java remains an excellent first year/introductory language for Computer Science and Computer Engineering students. I've always believed that first course depends more on the quality of instruction and not the language de jour...... not going any further there though - that's for another post!

You can download Java SE from the Oracle Technology network.