Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Some Good Broadband News for the U.S.

Last July I wrote about a couple of bills that were before Congress - S. 1492, the Broadband Data Improvement Act and H.R. 3919, the Broadband Census of America Act of 2007. These bills would improve information-gathering about current broadband deployment and assist in targeting resources to areas in need of such services.

A few days ago on September 26, S.1492 passed in the Senate by unanimous consent. Today (September 29), S.1492 passed in the House of Representatives without objection.

S. 1492 was introduced by Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye in May of 2007. The bill would require the FCC to provide users with more accurate information about the cost and capability of their broadband connection, and to better compare the deployment and penetration of broadband in the United States with other countries. It would also encourage private and public partnership efforts that identify barriers to broadband adoption on the state level. Senator Inouye is quoted on the Speed Matters blog:

If the United States is to remain a world leader in technology, we need a national broadband network that is second-to-none. The federal government has a responsibility to ensure the continued roll-out of broadband access, as well as the successful deployment of the next generation of broadband technology. But as I have said before, we cannot manage what we do not measure. This bill will give us the baseline statistics we need in order to eventually achieve the successful deployment of broadband access and services to all Americans.

S.1492 will now move to a joint conference committee to work out the differences between the Senate and House versions.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

McCain and Obama on Broadband in the United States

Before I start...... and if anyone wants to know - I will not endorse a specific candidate here and will keep my final choice to myself.

That said...... I've been picking apart the candidates technology policies - specifically in the area of broadband. I've written frequently here about the broadband divide - basically the bandwidth have and have-nots. Our track record over the Bush presidency period has not been good - in 2001 the U.S. was rated number 5 in the world for broadband penetration by the OEDC, today we rank 22nd. What happened over the past 8 years? What have other countries done that we have not been able to do? How come someone in Japan can get a 1Gbps Internet Connection in Japan for $51 / month while all I can get in South Hadley, MA is around 5Mbps for right around the same price?

Lawrence Lessig (an Obama supporter) claims our nosedive is because of changes in government policy. Lessig says we began the Bush administration with literally thousands of ISPs, both narrowband and broadband ISPs. We will end the administration with essentially two, if you are lucky, in any particular district.

From my perspective, Lessig is right - in 2001 I had one choice for broadband (cable modem) and
I had probably 20 choices of narrowband (dial-up) service. Today I've got two choices for broadband - ADSL from Verizon and cable modem from Comcast. I'm not sure how many dial-up choices I have and don't really care! I do find myself asking why there is not more DSL competition where I live. Providers can legally co-locate in Verizon facilities and offer service over Verizon lines - what's up here? Why didn't the dial-up ISPs move to offering ADSL service? Many of them tried but most of them failed. Has policy driven these providers out of the market? Have the markets consolidated to the point where we do not effectively have competition any more?

Speaking of competition - I'm jealous of those who live in Verizon FiOS territory - we're just starting to see the cable companies and Verizon starting to leapfrog each other in bandwidth and price offerrings. Am I seeing this kind of response where I live - no. Why? I only have the two broadband options - cable modem from Comcast and ADSL from Verizon. Sources at Verizon tell me it will be years before I'll see FiOS in my neighborhood. Am I seeing any competition? Minimal - the two companies compete on price in my region, not bandwidth.

In his policy, McCain describes his “People Connect Program
that rewards companies that offer high-speed Internet access services to low income customers by allowing these companies offset their tax liability for the cost of this service. Former FCC Chair Reed Hundt (another Obama supporter) estimates this would cost us over $8 billion for just the top two U.S. broadband providers. If Hundt is right and not playing politics, the People Connect Program will end up driving most of the money to the largest providers and further burying smaller competing companies.

Obama's policy says: As a country, we have ensured that every American has access to telephone service and electricity, regardless of economic status, and Obama will do likewise for broadband Internet access. Obama's policy continues saying: we can get true broadband to every community in America through a combination of reform of the Universal Service Fund, better use of the nation’s wireless spectrum, promotion of next-generation facilities, technologies and applications, and new tax and loan incentives.

The Universal Service Fund (USF) Obama's policy references is one fund with four programs. The four programs listed on the USF website are:

High Cost - This support ensures that consumers in all regions of the nation have access to and pay rates for telecommunications services that are reasonably comparable to those in urban areas.

Low Income -This support, commonly known as Lifeline and Link Up, provides discounts that make basic, local telephone service affordable for more than 7 million low-income consumers.

Rural Health Care - This support provides reduced rates to rural health care providers for telecommunications and Internet services so they pay no more than their urban counterparts for the same or similar telecommunications services.

Schools & Libraries - This support, commonly referred to as E-rate support, provides affordable telecommunications and Internet access services to connect schools and libraries to the Internet. This support goes to service providers that provide discounts on eligible services to eligible schools, school districts, libraries, and consortia of these entities.

Here's more from the USF website:

Currently, all telecommunications companies that provide service between states, including long distance companies, local telephone companies, wireless telephone companies, paging companies, and payphone providers, are required to contribute to the federal Universal Service Fund. Carriers providing international services also must contribute to the Universal Service Fund. Telecommunications companies pay contributions into one central fund. USAC makes payments from this central fund to support the four Universal Service Fund programs.

McCain's policy does not mention the USF but does say ......he supports private/public partnerships to devise creative solutions and help rural area and towns and cities in their efforts to build-out broadband infrastructure through government-backed loans or low-interest bonds.

So, Obama says he'll reform the USF fund and use it to give new tax and loan incentives. McCain says he'll build out the infrastructure using government-backed loans and low-interest bonds...... I like Obama's idea of appointing the nation's first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO will ensure the safety of our networks and will lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.

Both lack enough detail to really get down to specifics. For example, neither policy includes what I consider one of the biggest broadband roadblocks in this country - a modern definition of broadband bandwidth. Obama's policy uses the term true broadband (whatever that is) and I did hear Obama use the word broadband in the debate last week. I did not hear McCain use it in the debate. I wonder if we'll ever see the 1Gbps they are getting today in parts of Japan for $51 / month in South Hadley, MA.

I teach so I suppose I should give them each some sort of a grade for the broadband sections of their policy papers:

McCain: C-
Obama: C

If McCain updated his policy, saying he would also appoint a CTO, I would probably change his grade to a C .........

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tracking the Palin Email Hacker

Yesterday I wrote about how the alleged hacker got into Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo email account on Tuesday, September 16. Today, let's take a look at how the hacker's IP address was traced starting with part of a message the hacker (username Rubico) had put up on the 4chan forum:

yes I was behind a proxy, only one, if this s*** ever got to the FBI I was f*****, I panicked, i still wanted the stuff out there but I didn’t know how to rapids*** all that stuff, so I posted the pass on /b/, and then promptly deleted everything, and unplugged my internet and just sat there in a comatose state.

Rubico had used a proxy service to try and hide his identity but quickly realized how vulnerable his identity was. Proxy services are commonly used to access sites that are sometimes blocked by IT departments. Typical blocked sites include YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, etc. Proxy services are also used to play web based on-line games on sites that are blocked. Here's a good definition of what a proxy server does from Wikipedia:

A proxy server is a server (a computer system or an application program) which services the requests of its clients by forwarding requests to other servers. A client connects to the proxy server, requesting some service, such as a file, connection, web page, or other resource, available from a different server. The proxy server provides the resource by connecting to the specified server and requesting the service on behalf of the client.

Here's a simplified diagram (modified from Wikipedia with some made up IP addresses) we can use to show how a proxy server/service works.

Let's describe what happened referring to the diagram:

Rubico made his attack by accessing yahoo.com from the client computer (IP address and going to yahoo.com through the proxy server (IP address As a result, yahoo.com saw the proxy IP address of only - yahoo.com did not see the client address Rubico was using. So.... using the proxy service masked his IP address from yahoo.com - yahoo.com servers logged the IP address accessing the account as Sounds good so far - right? Yahoo logs the proxy address and Rubico is "hidden" from yahoo.com - at least for a little while.

This kind of setup works great for accessing sites that are commonly blocked by businesses but it does not really hide client IP addresses from law enforcement people. Rubico used a proxy service offered by Ctunnel.com. Ctunnel is a CGI Proxy service and it is simple to use - it does not require any special browser configurations and can be used to access most sites on the web. According to the Ctunnel website, the proxy service is administrated by Gabriel Ramuglia, owner of the Overnight PC computer repair shop located in Fairbanks, AK. Ramuglia setup the proxy so users could access a browser based game he runs called Oil Fight. Because Oil Fight is a game, it could potentially be blocked by schools or corporations.

Here's more from the Ctunnel website:

Why should I trust Ctunnel?
By going through any proxy, you trust any data you send or receive to the proxy owner. To earn your trust I will be as open and honest with you as possible....... Open proxies may be honeypots to steal your information, or may be left open accidentally and be down tomorrow, or be otherwise unreliable. Ctunnel however, operates solely off money derived from advertising shown during the proxy session, and therefore will not be down tomorrow. Because our visitors value their privacy, it is not in our interests to spy on you, lest we lose traffic and advertising revenue. Because government subpoena could require us to hand over our server access logs, access logs are regularly deleted to protect your privacy. In short, we value your browsing experience as well as your anonymity, and would not do anything to break your trust in us.

Less that 24 hours after the hack the U.S. Secret Service was knocking on Ramuglia's door with a subpoena. The proxy server log files had exposed Rubico - each Ctunnel user's IP address, the time and destination were logged and they had not been flushed yet. By Sunday morning the FBI was knocking on the door of accused University of Tennessee student David Kernell with a search warrant.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How Sarah Palin Got Hacked

You've probably heard by now that Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo account got hacked. According to Wired Magazine the story was briefly posted Wednesday to the 4chan forum where the hack first surfaced. Bloggers have connected the handle of the poster, "Rubico," to an e-mail address, and tentatively identified the owner as a college student in Tennessee. You've probably also heard that FBI agents served a federal search warrant to 20-year-old University of Tennessee student David Kernell on Sunday. David is the son of Democratic Tennessee State Representative Mike Kernell.

According to an MTV post, a Department of Justice spokesperson confirmed some "investigatory activity" in the Knoxville area related to the Palin case, but said no charges have been filed.

What I find most interesting is the ease at which the hacker got access to her account. I think most of us have forgotten a password or two and have had to click on "Forgot my password" to answer a few questions to reset it. This is exactly what the hacker did. The questions were pretty easy to research and answer on the web and, according to the hacker, it only took about 45 minutes. Here's how the hacker (referred to as Rubico) did it:

Rubico had made an attempt to hide behind a proxy service to anonymize his IP address but.... that was not enough. According to Wired he realized how vulnerable he was to being caught since he only used a single proxy service. Here's part of the message he posted Wednesday to the 4chan forum:

yes I was behind a proxy, only one, if this s*** ever got to the FBI I was f*****, I panicked, i still wanted the stuff out there but I didn’t know how to rapids*** all that stuff, so I posted the pass on /b/, and then promptly deleted everything, and unplugged my internet and just sat there in a comatose state

After Rubico posted the information on the 4chan forum, a white hat hacker tried to protect Palin by resetting the password and sending an email to Palin aide Ivy Frye. The white hat then posted a screen shot of the Frye email on the 4chan forum - that screen shot included the new password. Other 4chan readers (referred to as b/tards) jumped in and tried to access Palin's account with the frenzy causing the account to be locked for 24 hours.

How Much An Old Penny Is Worth [Update]

Back in August 2007 I wrote a blog titled Stealing Copper Wire and How Much an Old Penny is Worth. Watching my blog stats I see this is one of my most popular posts - there are lots of people searching on the price of scrap copper. In the blog I calculated the value of a pre-1982 penny using scrap copper prices.

I thought it would be interesting to see what an old penny is worth a little over a year later. Watching Kitco Metals (see 1 year spot chart ), the price of scrap copper has been bouncing around a bit over the past year, peaking at over $4.00 a pound in June 2008. At the moment I'm writing this, scrap copper is at $3.2391 per pound.

Let's use this to work the same calculations I made back in August 2007.

A new US penny has a mass of 2.5 grams but.... new pennies minted after 1982 are 97.5% zinc core with 2.5% copper plating..... not much copper. However, before 1982, their mass was 3.0 grams and they were 95% copper.

Let's take a look at the value of a pre-1982 penny based on the $3.2391 per lb copper scrap cost.

1 lb = 453.59237 grams - we can use this to calculate the value of 1 gram of copper:

Value of 1 gram of Copper = ($3.2391/lb)/(453.59237 grams/lb) = $0.00714099/gram = .714099 cents/gram

A pre-1982 penny weighs 3 grams and is 95% copper:

Amount of copper in a pre-1982 penny = (.95)(3 grams) = 2.85 grams

Based on .714099 cents per gram for scrap copper:

Value of a pre-1982 penny as scrap = (2.85 grams copper/penny)(..714099 cents/gram copper) = 2.035 cents/penny

So, a pre-1982 penny is worth .1 cents less today as scrap when compared to its value on August 27, 2007.

Last year I questioned whether it was legal to sell pennies as scrap and referenced a U.S. Treasury FAQ:

Question: Is it illegal to damage or deface coins?

Answer: Section 331 of Title 18 of the United States code provides criminal penalties for anyone who “fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the Mints of the United States.” This statute means that you may be violating the law if you change the appearance of the coin and fraudulently represent it to be other than the altered coin that it is. As a matter of policy, the U.S. Mint does not promote coloring, plating or altering U.S. coinage: however, there are no sanctions against such activity absent fraudulent intent.

If melting down pennies is considered to be mutilation - I would say it is illegal!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Scoobas and Roombas in the Classroom

A few weeks ago while clicking the channels on a rainy Saturday afternoon I stumbled upon the Home Shoppers Network demo'ing the iRobot Roomba and Scooba. There was a guy from iRobot doing a great demo. I'm not usually an impulsive buyer but after doing some quick checking on the web I realized $400 for a Roomba 535/Scooba 340 combo was a pretty good deal. About 10 days later when the package arrived I had almost forgotten we ordered the two. My wife and I went back and forth on whether we should return them without even opening the box. I finally talked her into trying them out - they came with a 30 day money back guarantee - so why not?

We opened the Scooba first. The Scooba is a robotic floor washer that you add a cleaning solution to - it dispenses the solution, scrubs the floor and vacumes up the dirty solution. Basically you fill it up with cleaning solution and let it go. When it is done it stops and you empty out the dirty solution for a container on the Scooba.

I was happy to see that we were actually sent a Scooba model 380 instead of the 340 - the 380 has a better motor and can clean up to 850 square feet at a time which is just about the size of our kitchen, half bath and mudroom - perfect. The Scooba also came with two virtual walls that you setup - they send out an
infrared beam to create a barrier, preventing the Scooba from going where you do not want it to go. It cruises around going back and forth, bouncing off walls and getting under chairs and other places that are hard to reach with a mop.

The Roomba is a vacuum that works similarly - it also cruises around back and forth, going over rugs and not falling down stairs. Both are amzing to watch and both do an incredible job cleaning - there is no way we are sending either one back for a refund!

Poking around on the web I learned iRobots are not just for living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens - it turns out they have a pretty nice educational robot called the iRobot Create. The Create is an affordable programmable robot pre-assembled to facilitate the development of new robots. According to the iRobot website the iRobot Create enables advanced high school students, college students, and serious robot developers to program behaviors, sounds, and movements, and even add additional electronics to create the robot of their dreams. There's even a Create Challenge with a $5,000 first prize. Here's a short iRobot Create video from Gizmodo:

There's lots of good information and content from iRobot linked here including down-loadable manuals, classroom exercises, discussion forums and curriculum.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Conversation with David Hata - The Godfather of SAME-TEC

Earlier this month I wrote about how the National Center for Telecommunications Technologies
(NCTT, focusing on information and communications technologies) collaborated with sister NSF Advanced Technology Education Centers of Excellence
Maricopa Advanced Technology Education Center (MATEC, focusing on semi-conductor, automated manufacturing and electronics) and OP-TEC (focusing on optics and photonics) to sponsor the SAME-TEC 2008 Conference in Austin, Texas.

SAME-TEC has a long history, starting in 1994 with the vision of David Hata at
Portland Community College and continuing to grow and evolve under the leadership and direction of Mike Lesiecki and his team at MATEC. This year the conference had over 350 attendees.

At the conference we did a number of video interviews and John Reynolds, our multimedia specialist, has been hard at work editing them. We've now got another one posted - an interview with David Hata - the Godfather of SAME-TEC
. David discusses the original grant he wrote to the National Science Foundation to launch SAME-TEC and the evolution of the conference.

We have several interviews from SAME-TEC posted and you can get them different ways:

YouTube: Watch our YouTube Channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/NatCtrTelecomTech

and Downloading: View streaming videos and download content using your web browser at: http://nctt.org/podcast

If you have iTunes installed you can watch and listen to this one, watch and listen to others, and subscribe to our video and audio podcasts by following this link.

We're planning and looking forward to next years conference. Watch here, our center websites and SAME-TEC.ORG for 2009 Conference information and updates.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Summer 2008 "See How Paperless I Can Become" Project Update

Back in May I wrote a post titled My Summer 2008 "See How Paperless I Can Become" Project. The Amazon Kindle was the device that I felt had the most potential in reducing my "paper addiction". I saved a lot of gas and donut money subscribing to the electronic version of the Boston Globe when I was out on Cape Cod. Over the summer I wrote more posts about my experiences with the Kindle - I've got all of those posts linked here.

So.... how did I do? A picture probably explains it best - here's a shot of the paper currently in my bag along with my Kindle that has replaced most of the paper.

Two file folders, a copy of Business Week, a composition book I use to write notes and my Kindle - that's it...... less than a pound of paper. Shifting gears from paper to the Kindle took some getting used to and the conversions are not perfect.

Here's a few things that I believe still need some work:

The Kindle uses locations instead of page numbers which can be confusing. Here's an example, In May I attended an OP-TEC NSF National Visiting Committee meeting at Indian River State College in Florida. Prior to the meeting a 200 plus page Word document had been distributed to attendees. Instead of printing out the 200 pages I converted the word document to a Kindle friendly azw file and loaded the document on the Kindle. Now - the Kindle screen is not an 8.5 x 11 inch screen so it does not display a full Word document page at a time. What is displayed is smaller than a page. The amount of text displayed also varies based on the font size the Kindle is set to. So..... page numbers don't make much sense to the Kindle - for this reason the Kindle uses location numbers that do not map to page numbers.
Back to the meeting in Florida - everyone else had hard copy and I had electronic copy - as we were flipping through pages I found it difficult to keep track of page numbers others were referring to. In the end I cheated and started using a hard copy I had been given when I got to the meeting.

I've also had rare problems with PDF file conversions - I heard Jeff Bezos say once somewhere (I cannot remember where) that PDF conversions work perfectly around 80% of the time. Bezos calls the conversion "re-flowing". I would put it at 95+% based on my experience. I find myself pdf'ing anything that can't be directly converted to an azw file. That includes PowerPoint presentations, flight itineraries, web pages, google maps, etc. I write the PDF in my desktop application to disk and then send the PDF document to Amazon for azw conversion. It works great!

The Kindle is great for reading finished documents but not very functional when tracking changes in draft documents being passed back and forth. In these cases I find myself converting the Word document to azw format and placing it on my Kindle. I then read the document on the Kindle and use my notebook computer to make the edits.

I can't organize a folder structure on my Kindle. All documents I convert to azw display on the main screen and sometimes I have to scroll through lots of documents to find the one I want. I can organize the files in folders on the SD card in the Kindle - I just can't bundle them together in one folder on the main screen.

With regards to textbooks - it is getting close. Things like charts, graphs and color pictures are tricky - the Kindle only has 4 shades of gray. I believe textbook support would be much better if all figures, tables, graphs and pictures were designed to work with the Kindle. I'm confident Amazon and publishers are working on these issues and we will see Kindle ready classroom versions soon.

In summary - am I paperless? I would say pretty darn close.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Conversation With OP-TEC NSF Center Director Dan Hull

The OP-TEC Advanced Technological Education Center was launched in August 2006 with funding from the National Science Foundation. Under the direction of Dan Hull, the Center engages a consortium of two-year colleges, high schools, universities, national laboratories, industry partners, and professional societies. The participating entities have committed to join forces in creating a secondary-to-postsecondary “pipeline” of highly qualified and strongly motivated students and empowering community colleges to meet the urgent need for technicians in optics and photonics.

OP-TEC serves two types of one- and two-year postsecondary programs:

  1. Those devoted to lasers, optics, and photonics technology; and
  2. Those devoted to technologies that are enabled by optics and photonics.
OP-TEC is building support through curriculum, instructional materials, assessment, faculty development, recruiting, and support for institutional reform. OP-TEC will serve as a national clearinghouse for teaching materials; encourage more schools and colleges to offer programs, courses, and career information; and help high school teachers and community and technical college faculty members develop programs and labs to teach technical content.

The project has four goals:
  1. Serve as a national resource center for optics and photonics education and training.
  2. Create, assemble, align, and distribute coordinated curriculum materials designed to support optics, laser, and photonics education in high schools, two-year colleges, and retraining of adult workers.
  3. Support established and new photonics education programs in high schools, community and technical colleges, universities, and professional societies.
  4. Provide education and training for administrators, counselors, high school teachers, and community college faculty members to prepare them to:
  • design new photonics technology programs that meet their local needs;
  • infuse photonics into programs in photonics-enabled technologies; and
  • teach optics, photonics, and lasers using curriculum materials distributed by OP-TEC.
OP-TEC is establishing a national infrastructure for developing and supporting widely disseminated educational programs in cutting-edge, high-demand technologies that require photonics. That infrastructure encompasses both the secondary and postsecondary levels and will involve collaboration between educators and industry personnel.

Dan and his team are doing excellent work. In July I had the chance to interview him (on his birthday!) at the SAME-TEC 2008 Conference in Austin, TX.

You can get more information on the OP-TEC National Center located in Waco, TX here.

This is one of many interviews we did at SAME-TEC 2008 and you can watch them different ways:

YouTube: Watch our YouTube Channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/NatCtrTelecomTech

and Downloading: View streaming videos and download content using your web browser at: http://nctt.org/podcast

If you have iTunes installed you can watch and listen to this one, watch and listen to others, and subscribe to our video and audio podcasts by following this link.

We're planning and looking forward to the SAME-TEC conference next year. Watch this blog and SAME-TEC.ORG for 2009 Conference information and updates.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering Seven Years Ago

I was walking into the office when our technician told me a plane had hit one of the towers - he said "they think it was a small plane" and I did not think too much about it. 20 minutes or so later I was in a meeting and the same tech came in saying it was an airliner. We all left the meeting and turned on a small television in our lab. I also made sure I had a computer close by so I could watch email.......

At the time we were running a national listserv for a large group of faculty and administrators involved in a Working Connections grant with Microsoft and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). I've pulled out a few emails that came to the list. Here's one of the first from Mete at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC):

11:50 AM, 9/11/01
It is chaos here, but everybody at BMCC is OK. We are closed for the day and the roads/subways to in/out of Manhattan are blocked. I am in Brooklyn (home) now and the sky is dark from smoke/ash/soot. I have a feeling it is going to take a long time to recover from this one.
Hope all is well with everyone around the country,


BMCC is on Chambers Street, next to ground zero and a college building was damaged from the attack. Mete was on the subway on his way in when the attack started and I believe he walked home to Brooklyn.

Here's a reply message from Lynn at the AACC in Washington, DC::

12:05AM, 9/11/01
We are ok here, but our office is closing so people can try to get home. The smoke from the Pentagon is visible from our 4th floor conference room. Most of the federal offices have now closed, a couple of subway stations near the Pentagon are closed, the streets are crowded with people driving and walking home from downtown offices, and cars with sirens go by every 5 minutes or so. Folks who live near Capitol Hill are sticking around the office until things calm down in that part of town.


A flurry of emails went back and forth during the day from people all around the coutry. We were all worried, frustrated and upset about the attacks and our friends in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Here's a sample of the response from Paula at Richland College in Dallas:

11:50AM, 9/11/01
Thank you both for taking the time to provide us with an update of your safety. Our prayers are with you and all Americans during this tragedy. As in other states, thousands are donating blood. A major sports arena in Dallas has been setup as a blood donation facility. Churches are conducting special services. Please assist us to remain informed as to organizations/drives that are established that will provide direct support.


This came from Chris at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City a few days later:

10:50AM, 9/14/01
FIT is safe and sound and open for business but few classes are running normally. It is hard to describe the experience of walking south on Manhattan's avenues and seeing a column of smoke where the World Trade Towers should be. When the wind shifts, the smell of the fire comes to Chelsea with a light dusting of the cement that is ankle deep a few blocks away.

We are glad to hear that all are well at BMCC and in Washington.


Here's a followup from Mete that was also sent on September 14:

12:36AM, 9/14/01
The building that we (CIS) dept was suppose to move this Sept., (but did not because of delays) is quite damaged. They are using our main building as command/triage/morgue center. We will be closed until the end of next week. The cleanup is going very slowly and there is very limited access to downtown Manhattan.

The subways are not running and all the outer borough are choked with traffic with people bringing their cars and parking them as close to Manhattan as possible. The air quality is bad, there is possibility that some more buildings (including our own that was next to a collapsed building) may come down aggravating the situation.

There are a number people that I know, with families, that perished in the bombings (we were going go to a 10th bday party this weekend, but the mother is missing - what do we do now ??) from my daughter's school and our neighborhood. But they are defiant, and most of the businesses try to operate as usual with a backdrop of surrealism...

Thanks for all of your e-mails and good wishes. We appreciate it and find comfort in them.


Hundreds of emails went back and forth over the next few weeks and things slowly went back to as close to normal as they could get.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Another Day After in New England

Last February 4th I wrote about the day after the Super Bowl in a post titled New England the Day After. The New England Patriots had just lost to the Giants and most of the people I ran into looked like zombies - eyes glazed over in looks of disbelief. Today is not much better for Patriots fans. Quarterback Tom Brady took a hit to the leg in the first quarter of yesterdays game with the Chiefs and blew out his knee. Most reports right now are saying it is a torn ACL and he will be out for the season.

Matt Cassel came in for Brady and played well enough for the Patriots to win the game yesterday. It looks like they are bringing in Chris Simms who will likely be picked up as third string quarterback behind Kevin O'Connell.

In the February post I described an interview I had listened to with Patriots owner Robert Kraft on WEEI radio. One particular quote from Kraft stuck in my head and it is still there "With every crisis comes opportunity if it is managed right".

There's 52 other players on the team besides Brady - we'll see how they handle this one.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Conversation with Computer Forensics Professor Paula Velluto

Bunker Hill Community College Professor Paula Velluto has received National Science Foundation funding to create a model computer forensics program. The project is a regional collaboration Middlesex Community College, Bristol Community College, Bunker Hill Community College, Northern Essex Community College and the University of Massachusetts Boston to meet the regional need of law enforcement for trained computer forensics (CF) technicians. The programs uniquely combine the disciplines of Information Technology (IT) and Criminal Justice (CJ) and are tailored to the needs of each institution.

The CFATE NSF project focuses on achieving three goals:

1. To create computer forensics programs that align with law enforcement, public safety, private industry and homeland security needs to ensure consistent, current and flexible training. CFATE works with local/regional law enforcement agencies and industries to determine the needed skill set. Faculty workshops are being conducted to facilitate integration of CJ and IT into courses and expedite curriculum development on a consortium wide basis. CF experts work with the colleges to ensure that materials are rich in real world content. UMass Boston is developing baccalaureate programs that accept community college graduates and provide them with career pathways. In addition, CFATE is developing stand-alone courses and programs for IT professionals and CJ practitioners.

To offer regional professional development opportunities for educators to develop expertise needed for teaching these programs. In addition to workshops on CJ and IT integration, extensive workshops on CF and the use of state-of-the-art software are being offered. Curriculum development workshops emphasize learner-centered pedagogy that give students needed skills. CF experts work individually with faculty and mentor them as they deliver CF courses.

To expand the capacity in the region to attract students from diverse backgrounds to CF programs at each institution and support them in gaining employment in related positions. CFATE is creating recruitment materials such as CDs, brochures, and interactive websites to reach local schools and local and regional community organizations. This is combined with targeted personal outreach to schools and organizations.

I've know Paula for many years and have always been so impressed with her technical knowledge, experience, vision and (especially) the way she works with her students. Paula is one of the best and last month I had the opportunity to interview her at the SAME-TEC 2008 Conference in Austin, TX.

You can get more information on the CFATE rogram at Bunker Hill Community College here. The project website at CFATE.ORG will also be up shortly.

This is one of many interviews we did at SAME-TEC 2008 - there will be many more posted and you can get them different ways:

YouTube: Watch our YouTube Channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/NatCtrTelecomTech

and Downloading: View streaming videos and download content using your web browser at: http://nctt.org/podcast

iTunes: If you have iTunes installed you can watch and listen to this one, watch and listen to others, and subscribe to our video and audio podcasts by following this link.

We're planning and looking forward to the SAME-TEC conference next year. Watch this blog and SAME-TEC.ORG for 2009 Conference information and updates.

Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) Project

We're starting an interesting project with Hofstra University - Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) is a five-year project that develops and researches the academic potential of a hybrid instructional model that infuses computer simulations, modeling, and educational gaming into middle school technology education programs. These prototypical materials use 3D simulations and educational gaming to support students learning STEM content and skills through developing solutions to design challenges.

The virtual environment allows students to analyze and improve their designs by changing variables and observing how their changes affect design performance. Once the designs are optimized on-screen, students will construct physical models and compare their functionality and effectiveness to the simulated virtual models. A uniqueness of the project is the development of an enterprise architecture that enables instructors to modify the context of the design problems to fit different instructional and geographic settings.

The research investigates the transferability of the model and its potential to improve STEM teaching and learning. The project incorporates a virtual engineering design approach that integrates science and mathematics and uses contemporary technological tools and pedagogical strategies. The content is driven by the concepts and skills identified in the K-12 Standards for Technological Literacy (STL). The partners are Hofstra University’s Center for Technological Literacy, the State University of New York at Buffalo, the NSF National Center for Telecommunications Technologies, Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, and the City University of New York. The research design includes a test of three conditions: the experimental (hybrid) condition; the gaming and simulation only condition that involves students in the virtual tasks only; and students doing physical modeling task. Testing will involve 12 teachers and 240 students with data collected in six assessment domains. Data will be analyzed using a variety of multivariate statistical analyses.

I'll be posting about the progress here. You can also follow along via the project website at http://gaming2learn.org/