Tag Archives: Internet

ResNet 2008: Final Days

I last left off with resting from my seven mile walk around Fredericton.  Following that, we headed back downtown for dinner because we were on our own that night.  Sean and I met up with Dustin from Stanford who said he was meeting a bunch of people at Brewbakers.  Since we hadn’t eaten there yet and since the bill would be expensed, we joined them.  I ordered a wonderful Maple Curry Chicken Penne dish that was very flavorful, yet not too filling.  It was a little on the pricey side, but the quality was worth it.  I tried Picaroons Irish Red there.  It was the best Irish Red Ale I’ve had.  Following that, we ended up at the Rogue again (which will end up being a theme for the conference).  While there, I tried St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, Gritstone Ale, and more of the Picaroons Best Bitter.  I also decided to try Poutine.  It was different.  I wasn’t all that into the soggy gravy fries, but the cheese curds were good.

The next day I skipped the first session to try to catch up on sleep.  The late nights coupled with a bed that made prison cots look enticing were getting to me.  The thing about New Brunswick is that it’s in the Atlantic timezone, which is an hour later than Eastern Time, but Fredericton is north of the Eastern timezone.  This made for long days (sunrise around 5:30 and sunset around 10), which also aided in the sleep deprivation (the curtains in the room were not very helpful).  The good news about skipping was that I didn’t miss anything I was interested in (which was decided before I decided to sleep in) and I got to sleep an extra hour.  The last session I attended was about Facebook.  I was going to go to another session on hiring/training/managing students, but I figured I’ve gone to enough of those.  So I tried something different.  It was worth it.  I learned a bit about what students think of Facebook versus “real world” communication (it seems that real world communication is still more important).

Following the session, there was a Program Committee BoF, which I attended and volunteered to help out next year.  I like where ResNet is going and want to do whatever I can to help it continue and sustain itself.  Following that I had lunch and an Information Resources Committee meeting, during which we discussed where things are going with the ResNet websites and communication tools.  Following that, I went to the vendor fair, got some information and picked up some documentation from the doc fair.  After that was a break and then the closing reception and raffles and then we headed downtown for our lobster dinner and kitchen party, which was followed by more time at the Rogue (I tried Picaroons Dooryard Ale and Pump House Fire Chief Red Ale, which was good, though I thought it tasted more like a Brown Ale, and Innis and Gunn, an oak aged English Pale Ale) and a long walk up the hill to pack, sleep, and head home the next day.

The trip home was smooth (had a Creemore Springs Premium Lager in Toronto), except that my checked suitcase was left in Canada because the plane was too heavy.  Next time I fly to Canada, it will be out of Boston because I don’t want to deal with the crappity 18 seat plane and the possibility of my bag not coming with me.  I just got word that my bag has arrived in RI and should be delivered to me sometime after 2:00.

I have pictures of it on my gallery or at Flickr.

ResNet 2008: Last 2-3 Days

I’m not good with titles, but that really sums up what this is about.  I wrote about Friday already, now here’s Saturday through today (at least so far).

Saturday was the PDS sessions.  I learned about my DISC profile, which was a very worthwhile session.  It actually gave me some insight into what kind of person I am and what kind of manager I am.  It should help me quite a bit at work, once I go through and read the information more closely of course.  The second session wasn’t quite what I thought it would be and I wish I had signed up for the session on dealing with difficult people (since my job is 90% dealing with difficult people).  It was about balancing your life, which is something I think I do pretty well already.  While I might check my work email quite a bit at home when I’m not on vacation, it never gets in the way of enjoying my time away from the office.  So that session wasn’t really worth my time.  I was thinking it was more about balancing everything at work, which is something I could use some help with.  Maybe next year they’ll have something like that (I should suggest it).

Saturday night began the conference.  There was an opening reception with a lot of appetizers that were all really good.  There were some desserts and some really good juices, a lemonade made with some kind of mint and an iced tea with something in it that I just couldn’t figure out.  There was also a large spider, which I can’t include a pic of because I used my phone to take it and I can’t send picture messages from it up here.  During the reception, they had arranged for an Irish dance school to give us a little show.  The kids were young, but they could dance.  It was like a little Michael Flatley dancing with his people.  It was fun, but I forgot my camera and my phone camera just couldn’t cut it.

Following the reception, I went downtown with a bunch of people to a bar called Dolan’s Pub.  They had a live band called Barnacle and some pretty good local beer from Pump House in Moncton, NB.  The band played all covers, but it was a great mix of everything, including Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Great Big Sea (a Canadian band from Newfoundland), Sublime, Steve Miller, and a bunch of American 80’s music.  People were dancing.  Now there was a bachelorette party there and they wanted the bachelorette to do some crazy things.  I won’t go into details, but let’s just say there was some undergarment removal and a table dance involved… at our table.  I didn’t get back until 1:30 or so.

The next day was the keynote.  Stephen Downes gave the speech.  It was a great speech.  The guy looks just like David Crosby crossed with Arlo Guthrie.  He was a riot… at least for the first half.  He had this neat comment system on his website that he showed us.  It would display comments for 10 seconds and then move to the next one.  We had some fun with it, but some people were a little mean.  The best comment was “Did you play in a band with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash?”  The second portion of his speech was about Web 2.0.  I have already been to 2 or 3 sessions on that alone and this just wasn’t necessary for a bunch of people who are likely intimately familiar with it.  The first portion was about new ways of using the web and what young people expect of the web and internet services nowadays.

There were also 2 presentation sessions.  I attended one which was ultimately about a re-org of the department, but really hit on some good points on how to make the department great, including losing the various groups within a department and getting it to work more as a single entity than as a bunch of smaller groups.  The second one I attended was about making the Helpdesk better, but again was more about a Helpdesk re-org than what I thought it would entail, as the description mentioned a discussion of hiring and training and those were only minor points.

That was followed by the Geek Olympics.  I ended up on a team again this year and our team won (I did it last year and we came in second by just a hair)!  We had people from Stony Brook University on Long Island, Cal State in Chico, and NC State on our team.

This morning was the presentation I was working on with Sean Ward of Bowling Green State University in Ohio.  It was called “The Pros and Cons of Computer Requirements (or lack thereof)”.  It started out as a panel of 4 and ended up just being the 2 of us.  We went through our presentation in about half an hour or so, but there was a lot of discussion, which we hoped would happen.  It ended up being a pretty good presentation if you ask me.  I then went to a presentation about ConPortal, an open source web-based scheduling and time clock system originally created at Pomona College, but added to by Bucknell University.  It’s something I hope to implement, perhaps this year, though maybe next after I start requiring training (unless I require training towards the end of Winter Break).

The rest of today was left to do whatever.  I went for a walk with Sean and other guy from BGSU downtown, over a cool foot bridge that goes over the St. John river (it used to be a railroad bridge), and to a liquor store to buy some beer.  I didn’t find Péché Mortel as I had hoped, but they did have the whole Picaroons lineup.  I bought a bottle of each of the six beers they had from Picaroons and will be taking them back home with me.  The walk totaled about 7 miles, including 1.6 miles carrying the beer (I’m not going to try to put that in kilometers, even though that’s the official measurement here in Canada).

Now is time for rest and relaxation.  As we’re on our own for dinner, I’ll be headed back downtown, but my feet hurt and I need a break.

Wikis, Blogs, and Forums Oh My!

We’ve been working on a new project at work to bring more engagement from our users.  To do this, we’re jumping on the buzzword bandwagon and incorporating some Web 2.0 technologies into our department’s web presence.  Being one of the youngest and least resistant to change, I’ve been taking the lead on this.  I figured I’d post some of my experiences with some of the various tools I’ve been using.  Everything is still a work in progress, but once it’s complete, I’ll post some final thoughts.

The biggest part of the new stuff is the wiki.  If you don’t know what a wiki is, it’s basically a dynamic website editable by anyone (who has an account).  We’re using this to write up all sorts of documentation and make it easy for others to post documentation that they have.  We’re looking to build a huge knowledgebase of all the information people from various departments have.  We’re not currently limiting it to IT-related stuff because people have other questions (and we get calls about pretty much anything from the people on campus).   I started playing with MediaWiki, probably the most popular wiki software available, used by Wikipedia.  It was easy to install and get started, but configuring user accounts and doing any maintenance and configuration required playing around with MySQL commands rather than incorporating it all into a nice web-based GUI.  I gave up on that and tried TWiki.  This just didn’t work well at all and I was never able to get it up and running.  So I gave up and looked into PHPWiki.  This was just ugly and not robust enough for my needs.  I finally decided to give a tool suggested to me by the Frymaster, Deki Wiki from MindTouch.  This was a very user-friendly, easy to configure and maintain wiki.  It’s all PHP/MySQL based, and open source.  It looks nice, it doesn’t use some crazy wiki markup like MediaWiki (imagine that, actual HTML to write for the web), and we have people using it already.  If you’re just setting up a wiki and don’t know what to use, give DekiWiki a try.

The blogging software was a no-brainer.  I’m using WordPress here and it’s so simple, I just set it up for work.  I’m using the latest version with the latest version of K2 (though I edited the CSS to give it the look I want, along with a very awesome header/title image).  Not much else to report about that because I didn’t even have to think.  I’m probably going to turn this into the front page for our department site.  We’ll have news about new technology on campus, new services, security/virus alerts, and weekly random tech tips based on the calls we get.

Finally, the forum… I first played around with PunBB and while it’s nice, there’s not as much along the lines of support for it on the web and it doesn’t do everything I wanted it to (like integrate with Active Directory/LDAP) without add-ons (I like extensible software for my own purposes, but for something like this, native ability trumps extensions and plug-ins).  So I setup PhpBB3.  I found a nice theme (I can’t recall what I’m using) and played with the title and colors and it looks great.  I haven’t played with the AD integration, but it has that ability.  It has a lot more options, such as polling and better user controls.  It’s a bit big and intimidating at first, but once you get used to where everything is, it’s easy.  PunBB had a simpler administrative control panel, but you couldn’t do as much.  We’ll likely use this as a tech support forum where people ask questions and others can help answer or we can or we can point them in the right direction.  And it’ll all be archived for others to search.

So that’s about it for now.  This should all come together towards the end of the summer.  I’m hoping I get to completely replace our current website with the new stuff I’m playing with.  The fun part will be migrating stuff from my test environment to the production server.

MPAA Forced to Comply with GPL

In an awesome bit of irony, the MPAA was forced to comply with the GPL.  The MPAA had created a toolkit for universities to use to spy on their students.  Basically, it was a piece of spyware that the universities could install on their network.  The software allowed them to check to see if the students were illegally sharing or downloading movies.  The toolkit was based off Xubuntu, a port of Ubuntu, a distribution of Linux a free and open source operating system released under the GNU General Public License (GPL).  The GPL requires that any changes made to the source code of GPL’d software be made available along with the compiled software.  The MPAA, obviously not wanting some nosy student to figure out how their toolkit works, decided not to make the source available.

Not being happy with this, Ubuntu developer Matthew Garrett decided to contact the MPAA and ask them to remove the link to the toolkit or make the source code available to be in compliance with the GPL.  After several attempts to contact the MPAA without response, he contacted their ISP, explained the issue, and had the link removed.  The University Toolkit site now no longer displays a link for the toolkit.  Only the links for the usage guides remain.

Discussion at Boing Boing, Slashdot, and Gizmodo

First 100 Dot Coms

While browsing Slashdot this morning, I found a post about the first 100 .com domains ever registered (the site is actually on the longest domain ever registered).  The first .com was symbolics.com and apparently still exists.  Actually, a bunch of them are still in existence today… ibm.com, hp.com, apple.com, att.com (and many others).  Check out the list.  It’s pretty good history of the big companies of the mid-80’s.

New Bill Requires Colleges to Police Copyright Infringement

A new bill (PDF) introduced in the US House of Representatives contains a proposal that would require colleges and universities to demonstrate that they are taking “proper” anti-piracy measures or else they risk losing federal money for financial aid. It comes as no surprise that the MPAA is applauding this measure, though it does comes as a great surprise that the bill was introduced by the Democrats.

As someone who works in higher education IT, I can safely say that this bill would be extremely detrimental to all American colleges and universities. It would prove to be the most harmful to under-privileged students who depend upon that financial aid money and student loans in order to attend college. While colleges should take certain measures to help combat copyright infringement, it is not their job to be the copyright police, nor should it be. That is exactly what this bill would do. Most college IT departments are under heavy financial stress and cannot meet the needs of the students, the faculty, the staff, and in many cases, the research staff as well. This bill would cause unnecessary financial burden on the colleges and universities who are already suffering budgetary issues. The only responsibility colleges and universities have in regards to copyright infringement is education. They should be educating students on the issues surrounding file sharing and peer-to-peer. They should not be spending time actually fighting the copyright infringement. Most colleges already use technology to throttle traffic that goes towards P2P networks (though I do have my own issues with that as well, as I believe all traffic should get the same priority). The only business in which colleges should be is education. Educate the students on what copyright infringement entails. Educate them on the law and the consequences. In the end, however, it is the students’ responsibility to be sure they are not breaking the laws. The colleges should not be punished for something their students are doing. Colleges are not allowing the behavior any more than commercial ISP’s allow it. Colleges simply make for an easy target and that’s all this bill is doing, making a target out of colleges and enabling the MPAA and RIAA. It is their job to protect their copyrights, not the job of colleges or of Congress.

I urge you to contact your representatives and senators in Congress and urge them to fight this bill or at least remove this particular segment of the bill.

Discussion at Slashdot

Update: According to Boing Boing, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is also behind this. You can also contact Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at www.speaker.gov if you do not live in her district.

Gmail “2.0″ made it my way

I noticed some odd differences in my Gmail account the other day.  I couldn’t figure out what it was.  Today I decided to check my Contacts and it’s completely different.  It’s a lot nicer and easier to use than the way it used to be.  I’ll have to play around with it, but I think I like the change.  Nothing else really looks different, though.

Anyone waiting for the new version to make it to them will probably be getting it soon (I tend to get cool new stuff last for some reason).

Jammie Thomas Speaks Out (a big mistake if you ask me)

Jammie Thomas, the first person to lose a trial by jury to the RIAA, wrote a story for P2PNet.  She blames her loss on a few things related to her case.  She starts off by trying to paint herself as a poor victim, not wanting any press and not wanting notoriety.  Well, writing that piece for a website is certainly not going to go unnoticed.  I don’t believe she didn’t want the notoriety for a minute.  She then blames the media for filling in stories with misinformation.  I wonder if she realizes that the transcript of her trial is public record and anyone can read it for themselves… unless, of course, she wasn’t telling the whole truth at the trial or was purposely leaving stuff out.  Now onto the rest of the blaming.

First, of course, she blames the RIAA.  While that’s cute and all, they’re just protecting their copyrights.  I don’t blame them for trying to make a buck (even though their music sucks, there is better ways of hurting them than illegally acquiring or distributing their music, like not bothering with their music to begin with).  Next, she blames the hard drive that was replaced.  Of course, the story gets good here.  While I don’t think she purposely had the hard drive replaced after the infringement occurred, I don’t think it makes her innocent either.  Apparently, the hard drive died two weeks after the infringement occurred because her son, upset that the computer froze up while in the middle of an intense battle in a video game, beat the side of the computer.  I’ve done it… many times.  In fact, my hard drive never died, though the computer has shut off on my for doing that.  But I can see how it can happen.  I’m not doubting that the hard drive died and had to be replaced.  Unfortunately, she got the dates screwed up when she first spoke with her lawyer.  And then she got them screwed up during a deposition.  Not only were the dates off, but they were off by a year.  That makes it sound a little suspicious to me… and of course, since the jury heard it, I’m sure they were thinking the same as me… something’s not right.  She also, while seemingly attempting to sound like she doesn’t know a whole lot about digital music, said that she ripped almost 3000 songs to her computer from her CD collection.  Could it be that the 24 songs in question came from that collection?

She blames her lack of money to pay for her expert witness.  If I was on trial and risked paying up a maximum of over $3,000,000, I’d certainly find a way to pay the expert witness who probably would have only cost me a several hundred dollars.  That’s a better bargain than the $3,000,000.  She talks about her defense and how it was not about spoofing like the media reported, but rather that you can’t turn an IP address into a person.  However, you can turn an IP address into an account holder with an ISP.  That’s exactly what happened.  Since she only has 1 computer and no wireless, I’d have to say based on my knowledge of TCP/IP networking that the IP address in question actually did belong to her computer, assuming her ISP’s logs were correct (which it is possible they were not, though unlikely).

In her long diatribe about this whole thing, she forgot to mention one of the more damaging pieces of evidence… that the KaZaA username in question was an exact match to her email username and the username she uses for various online dating and shopping sites.  There’s really nothing about what she wrote that will change my mind about her.  A jury of her peers, which her attorney had to agree upon, found in favor of the RIAA.  You can’t blame the jury, you can’t blame the RIAA for stacking the jury, and you can’t blame the system.  This was a case where she went through the American justice system and it did its job.  Sure, it didn’t turn out in Ms. Thomas’s favor, but it worked as its supposed to.  Unfortunately, there are still people out there who think she got the raw deal (just check the comments for the original story).  I wholeheartedly disagree.  She tried to fight it and she lost, fair and square.  If I were her, I’d stop writing this stuff and see where this post-trial motion that she filed leads.  My guess is that the judge will not overturn the verdict or rule it unconstitutional because it is written in copyright law and there is no reason to believe any foul play occurred on the part of the RIAA.  I’m sure she’ll appeal, though I’d like to see her explain how she can’t get any of her dates right.

As with many of the stories I write about, I found it on Slashdot.  There’s a nice discussion there as well on this whole thing.

How to Get Music for Free

Wired’s How-to wiki has an article called “Cheat the Music Industry: Never Pay for Music“. The article explains how to get music for free (or close to free) through various websites (some legal, some not so legal). It’s missing some good legal sites, such as Pandora, but it has a nice listing, including Lala.com, which sets up CD trading (not trading of live concert recordings, but actual CD’s), and Amie Street, a Providence-based company that sells tracks on a scaled price structure, starting at free and going up to $0.98 depending on how many downloads the song gets (the more downloads, the higher the price, capping at 98 cents).

There are some comments on the article with other sites, and LifeHacker has an article about it as well with some other sites in their comments. While I don’t listen to a whole lot of music on my computer (mainly because I’m at work and can’t really have it playing all the time), I am completely in support of internet radio and ways of getting music for free (or close to free) legally and ways of discovering new (to me) artists.

I do not suggest or support using any of the illegal or legally questionable methods of acquiring music for free.