Athens Tech Blogs

Our office resides in Athens, GA about an hour from Atlanta. A work news post noting Atlanta tech blogs was strange to me. There is plenty HERE. Why ignore all the great local stuff?

And I do not mean my blog. I post too infrequently to really matter and mostly ignore technology of late.

  • Four Athens is a technology incubator here in Athens. They organize networking events and have a good calendar of various tech meetings happening here. (Twitter)
  • Free IT Athens is a local volunteer organization who help re-use computers and free software for the needy. They recently brought Richard Stallman here. (Twitter)
  • Vitamin C makes healthcare software. (Twitter)
  • The Accidental CIO is run by the Chief Information Officer for UGA. Work is related to UGA, but not part of their organizational structure. Tim has a seat on the search committee for our replacement CIO because, well, who we select is critically important to UGA. (Twitter)
  • The Hatch is an Athens makerspace. (Twitter)
  • Mark Fennell is an Athens DBA / web developer. (Twitter)

If there is something IT-related going on in Athens, then these two are probably writing about it.

Blogs are like so 2000s. They are sunsetting as the readers spend more time on Facebook and Twitter. All of you probably noticed I put links to the Twitter feeds for those blogs. That’s because much of the conversations who used to occur on blogs have shifted to Twitter. Actually, most of the blogs listed above I found through Twitter. Some other Athens Tech Tweeters:

Review: Chant of Ages; Cry of Cotton

Chant of Ages; Cry of Cotton: The Biography of a South Georgia Jewish Community's Beginnings 1865-1908Chant of Ages; Cry of Cotton: The Biography of a South Georgia Jewish Community’s Beginnings 1865-1908 by Louis Schmier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

NOTE: I have known the author since I was maybe 5 years old? His son and I were friends in elementary school. We worked in the same building for several years.

Some time last week I heard an interview about the Diaspora becoming uncomfortable and leaving Europe. I think it was with Ari Shavit and his book My Promised Land The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. This was about the Zionists going to restore the nation of Israel. Similar tensions were in effect even decades earlier resulting in people of the same faith coming to the United States and a few of those settling in south Georgia.

Hearing about the people of south Georgia accepting others culturally very different from them restores my faith in humanity.

As a Baha’i, I am empathetic to the challenges of not being a Christian in the rural Southeastern United States. The temptation is to keep the head down low and act just like everyone else so no one can you are obviously different.

View all my reviews

Global Higher Education Trends

According to Trends in Global Higher Education (PDF), we should pay attention to globalization, massification,

Globalization is an interesting trend. As a college student, I enjoyed hanging out with international students and as an employer of student workers, half were international students. Exposure to different cultures, meaning values and perspectives and rituals and (the best) food was a great experience for me. It is harder to hate another culture when one has real friends among them. Such ties often become the basis of international diplomacy. But those students also mostly went home and are doing great things as part of the growing middle class.

Employers looking at post-secondary degrees as signals for middle class jobs drives massification. If this signal were terrible, then perhaps employers would seek an alternative. But I don’t think it means what most expect. The expectation is it means highly educated within the major. Instead, I see the bachelor’s degree as a demonstration of successfully navigating the world’s worst bureaucratic disasters. Having the tenacity, patience, and soft skills to deal with process failures all over the place. Secondarily, the degree means the ability to demonstrate some learning on demand to pass an evaluation.

Turning to look at how we here in Georgia compare to rest of the world, the crises facing least developed countries are constraints on research university budgets, constraints on student financial aid, increases in tuition, more part-time faculty, larger class sizes, a freeze on books & journals, construction, etc. This may not be solely a problem for least developed countries. Most of these are happening here in Georgia.

  • State funding was stagnant before the recession and been dropping since. Per student funding state funding has plummeted from about half to a quarter. The legislature and the governor have to make hard choices about what to fund. Higher education does not rank high enough compared to keeping people safe and healthy. Is there a Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for government funding?
  • A big source of financial aid here, HOPE, used to pay for all tuition for students who maintain a B GPA. It is lottery funded, but revenues were not able to keep up with the 10%+ annual growth of students. So now the awards are reduced for all but the top most students and may continue to drop.
  • My librarian friends lament about their severely reduced budgets for purchasing journals. Combine this with skyrocketing costs for these same journals and maybe by 2030 the research universities should just sell their collections and close the libraries?
  • The one positive is construction has not stopped. Though buildings are not built fast enough. (Some schools schedule class days to happen on the online class system I help run because they lack the classroom space.)

Even when the Georgia economy fully recovers, the lost ground is unlikely to be regained. But there is also increasing pressure to improve graduation rates and the number of graduates. Interesting problems we get to solve.

Name Collisions

Blackboard has a conference they call BbWorld. I noticed there are some odd tweets with the same #bbworld hashtag lately. These appear to be about a Blackberry conference to be held next month.

Collisions on names are common enough. For example, here are a couple names our clients use to brand their sites which other places also use.

My own project, GeorgiaVIEW is not immune. Some time ago I noticed the GeorgiaView Consortium (geological remote sensing) at the University of West Georgia.

I guess it is a good thing one Bbworld is in July and the other is in September.

For now I’ll just drop my RSS feed for the hashtag.

DDoS of Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal and other sites all admitted to suffering from a DDoS attack. It seem to me the purpose of a Denial-of-Service attack (DoS) against a web site is to flood it with so much traffic the site becomes unusable. The DDoS is where multiple other computers are coordinated into launching the attack.

All three of the above mentioned sites have had recent issues keeping up with growing usage. The USA inauguration and Iran demonstrations peaked traffic so much the sites seemed like they suffered from a DoS. Already at the edge, an attack tipped the barely making it social media sites over it. Some users abandon them for less popular (so more stable sites). Those who stick around suffer from learned helplessness.

Causing all this hullabaloo over a single user seems odd to me. I don’t speak Russian, so I don’t know if this guy from Georgia (the country) deserved it. Also, it is almost the one year anniversary since Russia invaded Georgia. During the invasion, DDoS attacks disabled Georgian web sites. So, maybe this is to show Georgia the Russians are still capable of causing problems? This is why security evangelists want us to be able to deal with threats.

Various computer viruses over the years have turned millions of computers into zombies for botnets. So… If you are upset about your favorite social media site getting taken down, then maybe you should act on ensuring your computer and others in your social network were not enlisted into a botnet?

Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk

Playing with trains

Originally uploaded by Ezra F

A while ago, I mentioned the Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk scheduled for Athens Georgia. Several folks from the Athens Flickr Meetups showed up for this yesterday. Others I know from work, photography classes, and even just eating at restaurants also showed. Twice today people have mentioned they saw me and expressed interest.

Steven Skelton did a great job.

After 3 hours of walking and standing my feet hurt. 🙂

tag:

Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 protects people from malicious actions by state and local governments to prevent people from voting. Yes, we have a president of African-American descent. Yes, the United States Supreme Court took no action. However, the majority opinion statement that, “We are a very different nation,” suggests it could be repealed. The argument against maintaining the law seems to be since governments are behaving now no law is needed.

Are they? The DOJ disallowed a Georgia program to cull voters from the databases who might not be citizens. This strikes me as just like the Florida Central Voter File program in 1998-2006 to cull ex-felons from voter lists. Since they just used names, it was highly inaccurate and wrongly disenfranchised thousands in 2000… in Florida… the state which made international headlines as the place unable to count ballots. When Congress renewed it in 2006, “It held extensive hearings and produced voluminous evidence that minority voters continue to face significant obstacles.” [NYT] I may have to go looking for this in the Congressional Record.

With the protests happening in Iran right now about voter irregularities, is this the time to repeal one of the few deterrents against future abuses to erode the significant improvements over the past 40 years?

Georgia Theatre

All over Athens, people have been mourning over the Georgia Theatre fire today.

When I got home, I found a weird voice mail: “Hi, Mr. Greene. My name is <removed name>. I would like to discuss with you the property at 215 North Lumpkin. Call me at <removed number>.” I listened to it a second time. It hit me. Isn’t the Georgia Theatre on Lumpkin? I put the address in Google and found it is indeed the address. Wilmont Greene is the owner.

How weird?

Loving Day 2009

guess_whos_coming_to_dinnerLast year, I blogged about Loving Day. To recap:

Loving Day is an educational community project. The name comes from Loving v. Virginia (1967), the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage in the United States. Loving Day celebrations commemorate the anniversary of the Loving decision every year on or around June 12th.

There is a list of Loving Day celebrations around the world. The Georgia one happened last month? Oh, well.

Do you have any plans? Maybe I can find a copy of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner by then?

GeorgiaVIEW Mascot?

Rat Snake This little snake was found in the hallway at work. I thought the commotion was a continuation over the geyser in a sink until GH asked if I brought my pet to work. Went over the see and snagged this before maintenance took it away. Hope he enjoys life on the other side of the road.

I wish I had brought my dSLR. It really would have broought out the details. This okay I guess for automatic fash.

Here is this one large.

Update: We apparently disagree about what is a little snake. Smaller than six inches in one camp. Smaller than three feet in another camp. Also, this is being used as a good reason to work from home rather than come to the office. 
🙂