Happy 100th Birthday Alan Turing!

Another Self Portrait Alan Turing was born today one hundred years ago. WIRED UK has a couple pretty good post on his legacy and timeline.

I wonder what he would think about computers today? Especially the idea that his Turing machine lets us play Words With Friends or chat with someone near instantly on the opposite side of the planet.

I’m blogging this.

Elizabeth For about eight months I have participated in a group called the Brunch Bunch here in Athens. We get together to eat and talk. Many conversations drift into the nerdy (my forté?). The locations vary so I have gotten to try new (to me) restaurants. Elizabeth (pictured right) vouched that I am a great guy. Well, these are great people.
🙂

Elizabeth also brought a friend of hers from out of town, Claudia. Claudia, smartly has a newer version of my Canon Rebel. I have the XT. She has the XSi (two models newer). The newest is the T1i.

Downtown Athens is a great place to shoot photos. So, we walked around for an hour or so looking in stores to get out of the heat. This is the hat Elizabeth bought from Helix who also had some cool stone candle holders. Native American Gallery had some interesting petroglyph jewelry and gray flower pottery. I’ve got some ideas for gifts to give for upcoming birthdays, holidays, etc.

One of the employees at Helix and Claudia both asked if I had a blog. I’m sure it was because of my shirt! I only admitted to this one and blogging about Blackboard. Though, I guess I have diversified somewhat here. I probably should blog more about local stuff as well. That would mean getting out more as well.

I'm blogging this.For years, I have been collecting teeshirts from thinkgeek.com. At present the collection consists of:

Some others are on my wishlist. I do have some shirts from other places. By far the most popular is the xkcd sudo comic. I’ve added a few others from xkcd to my wishlist as well.

LMS Security

This morning there was a flurry of effort to locate an article called “Hacking WebCT.” My coworker was able to locate it. We were disappointed. 

The main points of the article were:

  1. Lazy administrators make compromising user accounts easy.
  2. Lazy instructors make getting questions for assessments easy.

These apply to any LMS. So, here is some advice to counter the issues raised in this article.

 

Accounts

Default passwords are the bane of any system. Make users change them. (Yes, this increases support tickets.) This usually comes about because the administrators did not integrate the LMS authentication with LDAP, Kerberos, or CAS  which allows for central management of accounts. Central management of accounts means fewer accounts are likely to sit around with easily guessed intially imposed credentials. 

Linking many services together also raises the exposure should one account account me compromised. Enforce decently strong passwords. Too strong and frequently changed password will encourage users to employ means of remembering passwords which defeat the point. Passwords probably should not ever be just birthdays.

Not sure what advice to provide about the potential of a student installing a keylogger on a computer in a classroom?

 

Assessment Cheating

A long availability period (like a week) provides opportunities for enterprising students to exploit the issues with passwords to see and research questions in advance. Instead, a quiz with a short availability period like an hour means less time to go look at the other account, record the questions, research them, then go back into the proper account and take the assessment.

Instructors should use custome questions. Students can obtain questionss provided by publishers in ePacks or with textbooks from previous students, the same textbooks the instructor received, or even web sites online which sell the information. 

High stakes testing ensures students are looking to cheat. When the value of questions is high, these easier methods than knowing the material ensures a war between students and instructors over cheating. Of course, lowering the value of the questions increases the workload of the instructor. 
🙁

Being Judgemental

Mom sent me The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child for my birthday a while back. This is the latest book I have been reading while eating. So last night, I put Chelsea on the spot by asking her, “Which would you rather be judged by: what you do or who you are?” Yes, it was a trick question. More on that later.

Her first choice was what she does, but she quickly flipped to who she is. I smiled my most evil smile. The longer I smiled, the more she thought about it and was torn about which was the right answer.

The trick was, according to Thom Hartmann, our culture judges boys by a standard of what they do and girls by a standard of who they are. This dual standard ends up in boys getting overly recommended for ADHD testing. However, I see this kind of difference in evaluating people as one of the reasons for glass ceilings. People have a hard time achieving unless measured on the same scale.

So, that Chelsea could not pick prior to even hearing what it actually meant was funny to me.

Suck It Up And Pay the Price

Doesn’t it always look like this?

  1. User runs script against service.
  2. Script operates so quickly and sucks so much traffic its obvious its a script.
  3. Service’s automates systems detects the abuse.
  4. User gets automated notice about violation of Terms of Use and prevention from accessing the site.
  5. User pitches a fit because he is “famous”.

Services lock out abusive users because people conducting this kind of activity cause slowness. I’ve personally caught people doing this. How I got them to stop usually depended on my ability to contact them. People I knew or others directly knew, a phone call was enough to resolve it.

People outside of my social circle usually got an email and found their account locked. Doing so prevented their scripts from working. At Valdosta State, I would leave instructions at the Helpdesk for the offender to have to contact me in order to regain access to the account. Tyrrannical, I know.

UPDATE: So, it turns out Scoble was using an alpha of Plaxo Pulse. The ideas was to download ~5,000 images of Scoble’s contacts’ email addresses, text names, and text birthdays. Then the software would match them against people in Plaxo. He could then sync Plaxo with his Outlook address book for a good contact list.

He accuses Facebook of singling him out as others have not been caught. (Were the others trying to download and push 5,000 in a few seconds?) He also accuses Facebook of being hypocritical… They import contact information from other sources, but they do not allow anyone to export the same information.

I still think a user hitting 5,000 images for email addresses look like a spammer. Of course, I think Scoble is a spammer … Maybe its confirmation bias? 😀

Important Birthdays

Call me crazy. I’m not that huge a fan of decimal. We use it, I accept it. Any time the leading tens or hundreds changes, we feel the need to celebrate it over the others. So, 20th, 30th, 40th… 100th are more important birthdays.

Oddly 16, 18, and 21 are also important. Well, 16 is 24 and the base of hexidecimal. 18 is 2*32. 21 is 3*7.

So I would like to celebrate the positive integer exponents of two… 25 (32), 26 (64), and maybe 27 (128 could be possible soon?) … as important birthdays. We could throw in some others such as 32 (9), 33 (27), 34 (81), 52 (25), 62 (36), 72 (49), (82 is 26 and 92 is 34), and of course 102 (100).

Nevermind… I’ll just call myself crazy…

International Talk Like A Pirate Day

This is someting my friends have been into for years.

International Talk Like A Pirate Day:

International Talk Like a Pirate Day isn’t one o’ those governmentally sanctioned holidays that shifts around to create a convenient three-day weekend. No, the date is ALWAYS Sept. 19 (Cap’n Slappy’s ex-wife’s birthday.)

Though apparently the inventors were on Wife Swap (Chumbucket and Sally bio).