Monday, February 28, 2011

International Space Station (ISS) Assembly diagram, piece by piece

Well, its not the wheel space station from 2001: A Space Odyssey but it's close.

IT graduates not 'well-trained, ready-to-go'

IT graduates not 'well-trained, ready-to-go'

Study lays out IT skills gap challenges, but all hiring news not bad

By Michael Cooney,

There is a disconnect between students getting high-tech degrees and what employers are looking for in those graduates.
Employers agree that colleges and universities need to provide their students with the essential skills required to run IT departments, yet only 8% of hiring managers would rate IT graduates hired as "well-trained, ready-to-go," according to a survey of 376 organizations that are members of the IBM user group Share and Database Trends and Applications subscribers.
The study found nearly 4 out of 10 respondents report that their IT hires are not sufficiently prepared to perform jobs within their companies, and another 44% say, at a minimum, that there are noticeable gaps in their skills.

The report indicates that organizations are ready to hire, with employers reporting they are seeking the following skills from higher-education institutions:
- 77% want schools to provide programming skills
- 82% seek database skills
- 76% would like schools to provide analysis and architectural skills
- 80% seek problem solving and technical skills

This skills gap apparently doesn't doesn't stop organizations from hiring professionals with little, if any previous experience. The survey found that nearly half of companies responding to the survey hire new IT employees straight out of school. Two-thirds of organizations do require at least some college internship experience among their hires, according to the study.
The study went on to note that 59% of respondents indicate that they are either currently hiring or planning to hire programmers and developers in the coming months; 43% are hiring systems programmers and systems analysts; 50% are hiring database professionals; 36% are hiring analysts and architects, and 27% seek supplication management talent.
A Network World story last year cited a survey that said Java development supplanted IT security as the most difficult skill set for hiring managers to locate. Virtualization jobs, meanwhile, have become easier to fill, but hiring managers are increasingly having trouble finding talented software developers and C# programmers, according to the survey.

The top 10 list of most difficult positions to fill is as follows:
1. Java/J2EE
2. Security
3. Software Developer
4. SAP
5. Database Administrator
6. .NET
7. Oracle
8. SharePoint
9. C#
10. Active Federal Government Security Clearance

The last item on the list refers to tech professionals with the necessary federal security clearance to work for government agencies and government contractors, such as Lockheed Martin.

Motivational Monday

Napoleon Hill's Thought for the Day (graphic)

Control your own mind, and you may never be controlled by the mind of another.

The mind is the most powerful weapon known to man. It simply cannot be controlled or contained by an outside force, however formidable that force may at first appear. Throughout history, tyrants have tried to control those who opposed them, but eventually these rulers discovered the power of the imagination was far greater than the threat of the sword. As Victor Hugo said, "An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come."

Permanent link to this post: Control your own mind, and you may never be controlled by the mind of another.
This positive message is brought to you by the Napoleon Hill Foundation. We encourage you to forward this to friends and family.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

10 Tech Skills That Are Heading the Way of the Dinosaur

10 Tech Skills That Are Heading the Way of the Dinosaur

Randy Muller, MCT, MCSE, MCSA, MCDST

Feb 2011
One interesting facet of the IT industry is the need to learn new skills on a continual basis. New technologies are released all the time, and new operating systems seem to roll off the factory floor every 18 months or so. What this means for us IT professionals is that we must continuously update our skills or end up becoming redundant. What are out-dated skills? Some skills have been in continuous use for over 50 years (COBOL programmers) and will still be in demand for the short term, but their days are numbered. Other skills are hard to think of as just a pure IT skill (typing) - but does have a dramatic impact overall (texting or IM)

1. Software Installation and Support

"How can this be?" you say? Simple! The Cloud. Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) are rapidly growing in use. It makes sense for many firms to adopt these services - reduced cost and technical support. No longer must a small company spend the money on high-end servers and consultants - they can "rent" the same service from a provider. From a technical perspective, this means that many level-1 support staff will need to expand their skill set. The companies providing SaaS are happy as they have a guaranteed revenue stream as consumers and businesses no longer purchase their software once - rather we "rent" the usage of the software packages.

2. Email

"What?" you say. Email being an outdated skill set - perish the thought! While not becoming passé immediately, the number of people using email is declining according to TechCrunch. The number of people using email in several age groups has declined. What does this mean for the business environment? Other communication modalities are on the rise such as texting/IM and web conferencing. The average business person might not see an impact as of yet, but the adoption and use of email by younger workers is slowing (use of IM and social media outlets are on the rise, especially the social media outlets).

3. Telephony

PBX systems are becoming somewhat akin to mainframes - people have been predicting their demise for sometime, but they still persist. The underlying principles of telephony haven't changed (good old Erlang will be around for some time), it is how they are implemented that has changed. Many businesses are interested in a comprehensive communications package - one that does more than just provide a phone on a desktop. Microsoft's Lync Server is changing how we look at presence, voice, IM, and conferencing. The days of having a physical phone and the techs to support that physical phone are numbered. The PSTN (public switched telephone network or, as some refer to it POTS - plain old telephone service) networks will gradually be replaced. A growing number of individuals and households are getting rid of land lines and are instead using their cell phones.

4. IPv4 Subnetting

On 3 February, 2011, the last top-level block of public Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses was assigned. Now it is onwards to IPv6. Well, not quite that fast, but soon. This also means that the art of subnetting IPv4 addresses will soon be a skill of the past as we move to IPv6. For all of us who have spent hours understanding the significance of /22 (how many subnets and hosts per subnet and what the subnet mask derived for this notation), I am sorry to say this will be a skill set that will go away in the not so distant future (of course they said that about Morse code, but we still use that as well).

5. Typing (or the rise of IM speech)

This may seem like a strange IT skill that is on the decline but think of the rise of "text or IM Speech". First it was the decline of the hand-written letter due to the rise of email, now it is the decline of proper typing in-lieu of texting/IM. A new generation of IT users are coming into the workforce who do not use email as much as the previous generation and who are also using texting as their means of communication vs. typical emails.

6. Non-TCP/IP Networks

When one thinks of the internet and communication protocols, you most likely think of TCP/IP as the default protocol. This is true now, and was true when the "Internet" was still under the control of DARPA and was mainly used between government installations and institutions of higher education. But, there was a time in the mid-1980s to the mid 1990s that another protocol was used heavily: IPX/SPX. Novell's NetWare was mainly responsible for the rise and acceptance of IPX/SPX during this period. IPX/SPX was originally derived from Xerox Network Systems' IDP and SPP protocol. With the release of NetWare 5.x, IPX/SPX fell from use as TCP/IP became the favored protocol used.

7. Hardware

There was a time, not so long ago, where we performed our own component-level repair. That is repairing or replacing components on the computer components (think ROM chips). When is the last time you used that chip replacement tool that used to come with all computer tool kits? Now we simply get a new card, or in the case of tablets and other such systems, we send it in. Along these same lines, how about printer maintenance? In many cases, it is cheaper to buy a low-end ink-jet type printer and sell it once the cartridge is empty than it is to buy a replacement ink-jet cartridge. Impact printers anyone? They are used in some areas extensively (think airline passenger lists), but have pretty much disappeared in most office and home scenarios.

8. HTML - Web Developer

Why the differentiation? The HTML developer is writing the code that will run the website. As opposed to a web designer who typically uses a graphics program to create the website layout and then uses a second program to make the design for viewing on the web. So which one is on the decline? That would be the Web Developer. This is due primarily to the rise of web design programs. The skills of the web developer will be in less demand, but does not mean their imminent demise in 2011.

9. Older Server Operating Systems and Server-based applications

Here is another older skill set that must be clearly defined. If you have been in the IT field for more than 5 years or so, you have probably migrated to a new server technology. This is applicable for server technology such as operating system (Windows 200 or even NT4) or to the applications that are running on the servers such as email systems, database programs, or even networking technologies. We have all run across somebody who refuses to learn a new server operating system (given my druthers, I would gladly take Windows Server 2008 R2 over NT4 or Windows 2000). You cannot continue to market yourself as an NT4.0 guru and expect to remain employed for much longer. There just aren't that many systems remaining in use.


COBOL was been around for over 50 years; in fact, it is one of the oldest programming languages. The demise of COBOL has been proclaimed for 20 years and yet it still remains. There was a resurgence of use and interest in COBOL just prior to Y2K, but has been dwindling since then. There are few places to learn COBOL but there is still a need to support the business applications that were written and need to be supported by COBOL programmers - for now. As new applications are written in other languages, the programs that were written in COBOL and the people who support these older apps will find themselves needing a new skill set.

Android Leapfrogs iPhone on Gesture UI

    Android Leapfrogs iPhone on Gesture UI
  • Gesture user-interface features were included in Google's recently unveiled Gingerbread release of the Android operating system. As a result, Android smartphones have an opportunity to one-up Apple's iPhone with advanced gesture recognition, such as the "lift-to-answer" feature in LG's Optimus Black smartphone just announced at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
  • Gesture user-interface features were included in Google's recently unveiled Gingerbread release of the Android operating system. As a result, Android smartphones have an opportunity to one-up Apple's iPhone with advanced gesture recognition, such as the "lift-to-answer" feature in LG's Optimus Black smartphone just announced at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.Android programmers can now leverage the new motion processing application programmers interface (API) in Gingerbread (version 2.3) to create natural acting algorithms that leapfrog Apple’s iPhone. OEMs can use any gesture to activate any feature on their phones--for instance, LG's Optimus Black uses "shake" to evoke camera mode and a "tap" to evoke its music player.
    In its official pronouncements, Google has focused on the improved performance enhancements in Android Gingerbread--such as its concurrent garbage collector, faster event distribution and updated video drivers. But deep in the code was also new native support for micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) sensors. Support was added for gyroscopes and barometers to complement existing support for accelerometers and magnetometers (eCompass).


    The world’s slimmest smartphone, at 9.2 millimeters, is also the first based on a gesture user interface. 

    Using these MEMS sensors together allows apps to precisely locate users' longitude and latitude as well as their location in the third dimension--height from the ground or floor in a building. But besides location-based services (LBSs), the real-time tracking of motion and orientation in 3D space also enables complex gestures to be recognized, including ones that Apple's iPhone does not yet support--such as answering the phone by merely lifting it to your ear.
    Apple's iPhone pioneered the use of MEMS sensors in smartphones when it started automatically switching from portrait to landscape orientation with an accelerometer. But once the API was available to access the data from the MEMS accelerometer, developers started using it to control everything, such as steering cars in video games.
    For Android programmers, a whole new array of MEMS sensor APIs in Gingerbread will enable Android 2.3 smartphones to leapfrog the iPhone with user-friendly gesture recognition, such as hanging-up the phone by merely placing it face down. APIs now cover rotation vectors, linear acceleration, gravity, barometric pressure and magnetic-heading.
    By performing sensor fusion on these multiple MEMS sensor data streams, apps can translate 3D location and orientation with enough accuracy and precision to recognize gestures as complex as a unique signature. For security, such as to unlock your phone, an air-signature is nearly impossible to duplicate, even if you perform in it front of other people. Android 2.3 Gingerbread can recognize a wide variety of such gestures, limited only on the creativity of the programmer. Google cites examples in its documentation of tilt, spin, thrust and slice.
    Mimicking gaming controllers like Nintendo's Wii and Sony's Move (which use light to locate users) the 2.3 release of Android also offers a new camera API. By accessing the attached camera and microphone, gesture recognition can be enhanced further, such as turning off the ringer if you snap your fingers over a ringing phone.

Motivational Moment

The keenest minds are the ones that have been whetted by practical experience.

Theoretical knowledge without practical experience might be compared to a large mass of undirected energy. Until it is focused, it is difficult to direct the energy to a useful end. Practical experience is the lens through which the energy of knowledge may be focused and directed toward activities that will provide the greatest benefit. When you learn new concepts or have an idea that has not yet been tested, make it a practice to think through its application carefully before implementation. When you have considered the possibilities, and it still seems to be a good idea -- get into action. The only way to get practical experience is to get to work executing your idea.

Permanent link to this post: The keenest minds are the ones that have been whetted by practical experience.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The BDPA Insider - February 13, 2011

The BDPA Insider - February 13, 2011

The BDPA Insider - February 13, 2011

What better way to start the day than with your weekly message from BDPA!

In this issue:
Can You Make a Facebook Birthday Wish for BDPA?
Grant Award: CIGNA Foundation ($2,500)
BDPA | Decade in Review (2001-2010)
Message from New York Chapter President
SharePoint Workflow for Cowboys: my slide deck from DaySPUG
Newman Networks News February 7th, 2011
10 Ways to Get More Out of LinkedIn

Click here for the latest issue of "The BDPA Insider":
Click here for "The BDPA Insider" Archives:

BDPA Education and Technology Foundation (BETF) encourages you to use your birthday to change the world! We all get things we don’t need for our birthdays, why not use this special occasion to raise money for a cause you really care about? This feature allows any Facebook user to create a Birthday Wish and ask their friends to donate to the cause of their choice as a birthday present.

Click here for more:

We are pleased to announce that CIGNA Foundation recently awarded a $2,500 grant to the BDPA Education and Technology Foundation (BETF). The grant funds will be used for the Student Information Technology Education & Scholarship (SITES) program in Philadelphia, PA. BDPA Philadelphia will train 24 students in this program. Many of these students will be taken to the 2011 BDPA Youth Technology Camp in Chicago, IL. In the end, the top five students are selected to represent Philadelphia in the 26th annual National BDPA High School Computer Competition (HSCC) to be held August 3-6, 2011.

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Perry Carter and the folks at bdpatoday are to be commended for taking time to create this slideshow commemorating the efforts of BDPA over the past decade. The slideshow features photos taken at local, regional and national events over the past decade. It pays tribute to BDPA corporate sponsors and shows the impact that the organization is having in a wide range of information technology industry niches.

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Dear Members,

I cannot believe that it is already February and we are celebrating Black History Month. This is the month that BDPA New York will host our annual Black Family Technology Awareness Event, in recognition of Black Family Technology Awareness Week. I am so excited and looking forward to seeing you on Feb 26th at the Abundant Life Christian Center in Brooklyn, NY, as we share the importance of Education, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Careers with the community.

Last month, we had a very successful Meet and Greet on January 19th at the Empire Hotel Rooftop in New York. Members and guests had the opportunity to meet and mingle with myself, and the rest of our 2011 Executive Board, and learn more about what our chapter has planned for 2011.

Click here for more:

by Ricardo Wilkins
I had a great time hanging with the members of the Dayton SharePoint User Group this past Tuesday.  We discussed “Business Process Automation with SharePoint and Workflow – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”.  I talked about how the tools and development experience of automating process using SharePoint have improved in SharePoint 2010 (the Good) versus SharePoint 2007 (the Bad, the Ugly).  [I gave them the disclaimer that the “Bad” and “Ugly” bit was just for effect – MOSS 2007 is still awesome] :)

I then showed the demo of designing workflow using one of my favorite workflow products, Nintex.  Kudos to Nintex for providing the virtual demonstration environment to its partners like ICC – I was able to access a fully-loaded SharePoint environment and do a hands-on demo of Nintex for the folks at DaySPUG.

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Marketing Tips: The Business Directory

How do you measure the ROI (return on investment) on a business network? ROI comes in many shapes and sizes but the most common measurement techniques are time and money. These techniques work in any relationship. How you spend your time and money determines the value. If you join a network but dedicate no time - then you have thrown your money out the window. Invest in your network - that is the only way it can pay dividends! Just attend a couple of events and refer a few clients to your network. Thank you David Simms who referred Beckett Concepts and Philadelphia Diamond Company . Thank you Ken Black who then referred Omega Optical. That is how WE GROW!

Click here for more:

by Kristin Burnham, CIO Magazine
With more than 80 million users worldwide, LinkedIn has established itself as the premier social networking site for professionals. If you're job searching, looking to broaden your network or hunting for new partnerships, these 10 tips and tricks will propel you toward success.

Click here for more:

Please accept our invitation to join us in the City of the Big Shoulders by registering for the 33rd Annual National BDPA Conference, August 3-6, 2011 at the Hilton Chicago.

Early bird registration for $350 now open!

Click here to register for the 2011 National BDPA Conference today!

Hilton Chicago
720 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603

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PS: Please share this information with your friends, co-workers, church members, etc so that they can help us pass the word. The key is that we must share what we know with others so we can all grow and prosper.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hackers use hidden device to manipulate news at Wi-Fi hotspots

Hackers use hidden device to manipulate news at Wi-Fi hotspots

By Darlene Storm

What if you are reading the news and some startling and almost unbelievable headline caught your eye such as "U.S. wants Assange as head of Defense Department"? That would surely be something worth sharing on Facebook or tweeting about? But after you share it, people quickly reply to let you know the headline says no such thing. Yet you can clearly see that it does, so what gives? If you happened to be reading the news at a Wi-Fi hotspot, chances are that you've been had by Newstweek.
If a device called Newstweek is plugged in at a wireless hotspot, then people connected to that Wi-Fi can have all media content modified, changed or otherwise edited by a hacker who is operating from a remote location.
Tech savvy Berlin-based artists Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev came up with the Newstweek project to address the potential of how "trustworthy" news can be manipulated and controlled by the "gatekeepers." Newstweek is a fascinating yet terrifying reminder of how our trusted media content can easily be censored or modified to manipulate public perception of what is happening in the world. The creators point out "Data from Reporters Without Borders" as an illustration of "a world increasingly seen through a filter of government-issued data surveillance."
Here's a short video of Newstweek in action, but you can also check out the longer and more detailed video.
I found Newstweek to be so intriguing, I interviewed the creators, Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev.
Interview with Newtweek creators:
If Newstweek was conceptualization in December 2010 at the 27TH Chaos Communication Congress held in Berlin, Germany, when did you make it a real working device?
Julian & Danja: In the first week of January, 2011.

Can you change anything on webpage, not just the title?
Julian & Danja: Indeed! For instance an URL to an image, encountered in the clear text of the HTML itself, can easily be substituted for another URL to another image resource.
The entire concept is scary, but if a person was like OMG and tweeted it -- for example -- the person on the other end would see the real headline or article, correct?
Julian & Danja: Correct. The manipulation is entirely local to the user associated with the hotspot under attack.
I realize it is covered on Newstweek, but is Newstweek your site?

Julian & Danja: Yes. It's a spoof-website that demonstrates the ultimate power of Newstweek; we can potentially take any website (like and replace its contents entirely. It also served well to brand the project and as such caught a lot of attention. It was somewhat telling just how many people took it as a real site with real journalistic intent.
I also read about it here, so did security researchers from Critical Engineering describe and figure it out correctly?
Julian & Danja: That was us, using a journalistic style to explain the underpinnings of the project. It worked! That same text was cited all over the place, people simply taking what they read as a given.
Do you have future plans for the device?
Julian & Danja: A 'do it yourself' manual will be released soon, enabling anyone with a little patience to put together a Newstweek device. The price for the parts comes to under 50 euro at the time of writing.
The same functionality can be easily reproduced on any PC running GNU/Linux, however the ability of a Newstweek device to blend into its surroundings and remain engaged for a continuous period of time is important. This is why we opted for a 'pass-through' electrical socket - it looks like part of the infrastructure.
Do you suppose anyone is using such a device to manipulate the news?

Julian & Danja: With the broad penetration of wireless networks we are sure there will be many cases where news and other content has been manipulated for strategic and/or merely playful reasons.
This works only at Wi-Fi hotspots. Does it grab the password per computer in order for the device to be used in changing the news?
Julian & Danja: The beauty of this attack is that it's entirely password free. In fact, there's no real 'break in' at all.
With the exception of Solaris systems, all operating systems are vulnerable to this form of network attack due to a basic flaw in the way modern networks are implemented. By design, all devices on a network respond to Address Resolution Protocol requests by other members asking them to report their hardware (MAC)address and their network (IP) address. By responding to these requests with false mapping, the ARP table on both client and router can be re-written to position the attacking device as a virtual router on the network. The center of all network traffic, it effectively owns the network.
Do have any advice on how to best secure a computer against such an attack?

Julian & Danja: Using a Virtual Private Network for connecting to the Internet would eliminate the chance of being 'newstweeked' entirely. Users can also (mostly) rely on SSL to protect their traffic from manipulation. Naturally the server has to provide that SSL connection. To our knowledge no news sites do this.
If you're lucky enough to be served SSL (with a trusted certificate) vigilance is still important. Using techniques such as SSL stripping, encrypted traffic can be 'proxied' through a standard HTTP connection fooling less astute users they are receiving encrypted traffic as usual. Users should always be sure to watch out for the absence of that little padlock and other visual cues provided by the application brokering the supposed secure transaction. If they are not there it is likely their secure connection has been stripped and they are vulnerable to manipulation, data theft, snooping and general nastiness.
On the network level itself, administrators can install utilities like arpwatch to keep a close eye on traffic going over the router and signal when someone is manipulating the ARP table. This requires a relatively high level of knowledge however, far more than the average cafe owner would have at their disposal.
If watchdogs against ARP spoofing are in place the attacker can still fall back on other strategies like DHCP spoofing - handing out leases to clients that point all traffic back to the attacking device. The attacker can also just simply install a rogue AP with exactly the same ESSID as the hotspot clients expect to connect to. With the addition of an antenna amplifier, the device will appear as the best candidate for association; many clients (smartphones, laptops) will then default to your rogue AP rather than the weaker off-the-shelf router normally found at their cafe or library.
In short, there are many ways to exploit a wireless network and manipulate the data going over it.
Do you see this rogue device or one like it being able to hijack an entire news website?
Julian & Danja: For sure, in fact it would be possible just to perform a simple DNS spoof and redirect an unwitting user to an entirely fabricated news site. Naturally however most new sites are very complex, with plenty of javascript and server side code responsible for what the user actually reads on their computer. This is not easy to duplicate at all and so 'tweeks' to individual bodies of content delivered by the the actual server are much easier to perform.
That article says it is causing havoc in hotspots throughout Europe - is that correct?
Julian & Danja: It is and it seems to be going global. Since publishing the project and outlining the hardware and software used we have heard of multiple Newstweek interventions in Germany, Netherlands and more recently in Brazil. This is an unintended consequence of our research.

Is the point behind this to raise awareness or to mess with people or -- what is the point behind Newstweek?
Julian & Danja: News journalism has long been the target of manipulation by propagandists, lobbyists and governments. Newstweek represents a fresh dimension to news manipulation in an era where such content is increasingly distributed wirelessly; a tactic that is 'on the ground', civilian and without need of a lobbyist's budget.
This form of attack could indeed be used to mass effect - in a location such as an airport, convention, hotel or university library - by those wishing to 'fix back' news they believe is not correct and or biased. If performed with care and timing, those exposed to that modified news would literally leave that access point with altered world views. It could be used to mass detriment, mass gain or just for 'fun'.

More broadly however we created this project to raise awareness as to the increasingly network-dependent reality of modern times; that far too much trust is placed in all the hardware and minds that deliver the content that eventuates in the browser. Even without devices like Newstweek there are a vast number of people along the chain of delivery - from people working at ISPs, to those working at large infrastructural switches and even at the origin of the data itself - that have a tremendous amount of power to manipulate the browser-delivered reality widely accepted by readers.
Where WiFi itself is concerned, we also wish to expose a basic contradiction in the way people feel about security relating to the technology. We generally accept that a part of public life is overhearing the conversations of others; their audible emmissions are easily read. Why then not for wireless communication? If the air we breathe is considered public, why not that which passes through it?
802.11 devices like those in smartphones, tablets and laptops are, by definition, radio devices. Just as with AM/FM, all one needs to do is tune in.

Any other information that you have, or would like the public to know about this, please let me know.
Julian & Danja: Newstweek is made entirely using free, open source software components and tools available online. We tie it all together with shell scripts and build it into an embedded GNU/Linux distribution. 
People were naturally disturbed by the idea of Newstweek, that such a thing as seamless content manipulation on wireless networks is so feasible. For this reason we've had to work hard to make videos to prove it actually works! Even now there are less educated naysayers out there that haven't studied our longer video in the company of someone more knowledgeable and have decided it simply isn't possible.
Our HOWTO, coming in the next days, will change all that. "Stay tuned"!

Now think again about the headline "U.S. wants Assange as head of Defense Department" and realize that it is entirely possible for your trusted news site to be censored, manipulated and modified to report whatever the "gatekeeper" wants you to believe is true. As Oliver and Vasiliev said, "A strictly media-informed reality is a vulnerable reality."

The Khan Academy, online learning that is good.

A great learning resource for all students.

Kinect Gesture Recognition Empowers Surgical Robots

    Kinect Gesture Recognition Empowers Surgical Robots
  • Purdue University is adapting Microsoft's Kinect gesture-recognition engine to a robotic nurse that can recognize hand gestures and offer assistance to surgeons during operations. The robotic nurse is expected to reduce the time it takes to perform operations.
  • Purdue University is adapting Microsoft's Kinect gesture-recognition engine to a robotic nurse that can recognize hand gestures and offer assistance to surgeons during operations. The robotic nurse is expected to reduce the time it takes to perform operations.
    By adapting Microsoft's Kinect gesture-recognition hardware (originally designed for gaming) with a software development kit (SDK) from PrimeSense Ltd., Purdue University is developing a robotic scrub nurse to assist surgeons and other professionals.
    Human scrub-nurse assistants today hand surgeons the proper surgical instrument when they gesture hand-out palms-up. Purdue's robotic scrub nurse performs the same operation while watching the surgeon through a video camera, offering a hemostat in response to the open-hand gesture. And soon the team plans to add voice recognition, in case the surgeon wants a scalpel, clamp or forceps instead.
    Robots at Purdue University are being trained to respond to gestures when assisting surgeons and other professionals (source: Purdue University photo).

    "Voice recognition gives good performance today, but recognizing gestures has been the weak link for robotic assistants," said Purdue professor Juan Pablo Wachs. "In order to advance the state-of-the-art we added gesture recognition, which we found works much better when using the Kinect."
    The researchers' first-generation scrub-nurse assistant prototype used a standard video camera to recognize gestures. That model worked with simple instructions, such as the hand-out palms-up gesture. However, to indicate different instruments without voice recognition the team had to train the prototype to identify gestures like cutting with index  and middle finger to indicate scissors. These types of complex gestures, however, could be mistaken for normal conversational gestures without Kinect, according to Wachs.
    "Kinect gives us a three-dimensional map of the surgeon's gestures, which allows us to disambiguate between symbolic gestures intended for the robot and those just used during conversation," said Wachs.

    Gesture recognition also allows the surgeon to direct a nearby computer to display images relevant to the current procedure that would otherwise require tapping on the keys of a laptop, thus slowing down the operation and introducing the possibility of infections from bacteria on the keyboard. With gesture recognition, assisted by voice recognition, a surgeon could ask for the "interior view," then flip between X-ray images of the patient with "brush" gestures similar to those used on touch screens to turn pages.
    Beyond surgical assistance, the research team, which includes Purdue doctoral candidates Mithun Jacob and Yu-Ting Li, plans to adapt the system to several other application areas, including coordination of emergency response activities during crisis management and disaster relief, human-robot communications, and entertainment.
    The Purdue University prototype robotic scrub nurse was developed at the School of Veterinary Medicine using anthropometry algorithms that model the physiology of hands, resulting in highly accurate gesture recognition even under difficult lighting conditions, according to the team.
    Funding was provided by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The Future of E-Paper: Automatic Labels, Better Billboards

    The Future of E-Paper: Automatic Labels, Better Billboards
  • In the first critical examination of the present and future of e-paper, researchers have outlined the prospects for applications like flexible displays, color e-readers and electronic labels.
  • In the first critical examination of the present and future of e-paper, researchers have outlined the prospects for applications like flexible displays, color e-readers and electronic labels.E-readers—like Amazon's Kindle or Barnes & Noble's Nook—are now being used nearly everywhere, from your local subway to outer space. In June, reported that ebook sales had topped the sales of hardcover books in its online store. And technological innovations—like foldable electronic paper—are promising to make e-readers more advanced than ever.'s Kindle is just the beginning for e-paper.
    This month, the Journal of the Society for Information Display published the first-ever paper to critically examine current and future possibilities for electronic paper. The paper addresses many exciting applications for e-paper, including flexible displays and electronic labels. Here are some key topics addressed by the paper.
    Electronic shelf labels (ESLs) allow businesses such as grocery stores to quickly and efficiently update product pricing and information. Such labels are already being used experimentally in Europe and on the West Coast, but the researchers feel that this technology could soon become widespread.
    Not only would ESLs save businesses the time of manually changing labels, but they could also help save power. "The electronic labels basically only consume significant power when they are changed," the paper's lead author Jason Heikenfeld, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Cincinnati, said in a statement. "When it's a set, static message and price, the e-shelf label is consuming such minimal power—thanks to reflective display technology—that it's highly economical and effective."
    In addition to e-labels, e-paper could also allow for better business signs, since it uses much less power than traditional LCD displays.

    Grocery stores and other businesses could save money and energy using electronic labels (source: RFID Journal). 
    E-Reading in Color
    Color e-readers are already expected to hit the market sometime this year, but consumers should be cautious about buying the first generation. In the paper, Heikenfeld warns that these displays will be less vibrant than on other electronics, like tablet computers.
    "The pursuit of bright and saturated color," write the researchers, "presents the largest R&D challenge for e-paper." Still, the paper argues that future research will likely give way to brightly colored displays with high-speed functions, such as video and web browsing.

    Lower Power, Higher Function
    Unlike other electronics, such as the iPad, e-paper displays require much less energy to run. Within the next two years, researchers hope to create a device with similar functionality as tablet computers, but which uses less power. A video demo of this kind of device can be seen here.
    "The color on this first-generation low-power, high-function e-device won't be as bright as what you get today from LCD (liquid crystal display) devices (like the iPad) that consume a lot of power," said Heikenfeld. "The color on the new low-power, high-function e-device will be about one third as bright as the color you commonly see on printed materials. Researchers, like those of us at UC, will continue to work to produce the Holy Grail of an e-device: bright color, high function (video and web browsing) with low power usage."
    Better Billboards
    Today's digital billboards—which are LCD displays—consume massive amounts of energy, rendering them expensive and environmentally unfriendly. E-paper could dramatically improve these roadside advertisements.
    "We have the technology that would allow these digital billboards to operate by simply reflecting ambient light, just like conventional printed billboards do," said Heikenfeld. "That means low power usage and good visibility for the displays even in bright sunlight. However, the color doesn't really sizzle yet, and many advertisers using billboards will not tolerate a washed-out color."
    Roll-Up E-Newspapers
    Within three to five years, the first foldable e-displays could hit the market, most likely from Polymer Vision in the Netherlands. The researchers say that monochrome displays will come first, but that color could quickly follow. The "flexible/rollable [display] presents an opportunity that some e-paper technologies are well-positioned to serve," they write.
    Other promising advancements and future applications are discussed in the full paper, which can be read on the Journal's Website. Others authors of the paper were Paul Drzaic of Drzaic Consulting Services, Jong-Souk (John) Yeo of Hewlett-Packard's Imaging and Printing Group, and Tim Koch of Hewlett-Packard.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ultimate hoarding: Study finds mankind could store 295 exabytes of data

Ultimate hoarding: Study finds mankind could store 295 exabytes of data

USC study puts a number on how much information there is in the world

By Bob Brown

University of Southern California researchers have put a number on how much information humans can store, communicate and compute: 295 exabytes, give or a take a zettabyte.
The research, published in an online version of the journal Science, puts that amount of data in some perspective, figuring that storage capacity would amount to a stack of CDs from here to the moon and a quarter of that distance beyond.  Yes, that would be a lot of USB flash drives

The study covered the period between 1986 and 2007, which includes what the researchers say was the start of the digital age, the year 2002. That's when the amount of digital storage capacity overtook analog storage capacity.
Now, the study says, 94% of our memory is in digital form. And over that period of 1986 to 2007, worldwide computing capacity grew 58% a year.
Communications technology has naturally led to an explosion in data. Cisco recently showed in a study that global mobile data traffic increased over 159% during the past year.  USC's numbers are even more daunting, showing that humans shared 65 exabytes (20 zeroes) of information in 2007 via telecommunications devices such as cell phones. Yeah, that's before cell phones even took over the world.

Interesting from a journalist's perspective, USC puts a lot of its numbers into context by boiling down exabytes into the number of newspapers that would add up to a person reading per day. The 1.9 zettabytes of information exchanged through broadcast technologies like television and GPS equals every person in the world reading 174 newspapers a day (we in the news business wish!). The lead researcher, Martin Hilbert (seen in attached video), is a Provost's Fellow at USC's Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism.
Just so that we humans don't get too impressed with its storage capacities, Hilbert notes that "compared to the information processing capacity of nature they are still very small." If we wanted to give a name to every star, we'd only be able to do it for every 1000th one using all of our storage capacity.
How much information can the world store, communicate, and compute? from SCVideos on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Motivational Moment

"The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make
ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy.
The amount of work is the same."

Carlos Castaneda

Monday, February 07, 2011

The BDPA Insider - February 6, 2011

The BDPA Insider - February 6, 2011

What better way to start the day than with your weekly message from BDPA!

In this issue:
BDPA Corporate Opportunities Portfolio (2011)
American Honda Foundation Supports STEM-Based High School Computer Camps Around the Nation
BDPA NY Black Family Technology Awareness Week Event‏
BDPA | Decade in Review (2001-2010)
Zack Sharing 411 about Computers!
HSCC Testimonial: Gregory Chambers (Hartford, 2001, 2004-2005)
Message from Richmond Chapter HSCC Coordinator Candace Hamlin
Business Process Automation Tips
Techie Camp: Can We Expand STEM-Based Training for Elementary and Middle School Students?
Android Is Now the Most Popular Smartphone Platform

3 Tips for Aspiring IT Professionals
100 Excellent Open Course Links for the Ultimate DIY Geek

Click here for the latest issue of "The BDPA Insider":

Click here for "The BDPA Insider" Archives:/span>

This document provides menu of opportunities for any corporation that wishes to invest in BDPA at local, national or conference levels.

This is ideal information for corporations of ANY size ... from a sole proprietorship to a Fortune 100 company!

For more info on creating a corporate relationship with BDPA you can contact its Corporate Sales Department director Robert Gavin by email or phone (301.584-3135).

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BDPA Education and Technology Foundation (BETF) is very proud to be administering a $25,000 grant from the American Honda Foundation (AHF). One of the objectives of the grant funding is to have a greater impact around the nation with the BDPA Student Information Technology Education & Scholarship (SITES) program.

BDPA chapters are encouraged to implement high school computer camps for students that are interested in gaining knowledge of a variety of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) topics. There were at least five BDPA computer camps operational last Saturday, January 29. These five camps were hosted by BDPA chapters in Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Rhode Island. There were 74 students who braved the inclement weather conditions to attend these computer camps.

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Black Family Technology Awareness Week, also known as BFTAW, is a national public awareness campaign designed to encourage more African Americans to incorporate technology into their daily lives. BFTAW occurs annually during the month of February, to coincide with Black History Month. Our event is scheduled for Saturday, February 26, 2011, from 10:30 am – 3:30pm at the Abundant Life Christian Center, located at 32 East 98th Street between East New York and Sutter Avenues, in Brooklyn, NY. Our day of workshops will focus on helping bridge the gap between black families and technology. By showcasing science and technology in a fun and interactive way, we endeavor to motivate more minority students to pursue careers in these fields. It’s also an exciting time for students and families as they spend a full day immersed in a variety of fun and interactive workshops.

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The following is the link to the BDPA New York's 2011 Black History/ BFTAW Newsletter

Perry Carter and the folks at bdpatoday are to be commended for taking time to create this slideshow commemorating the efforts of BDPA over the past decade. The slideshow features photos taken at local, regional and national events over the past decade. It pays tribute to BDPA corporate sponsors and shows the impact that the organization is having in a wide range of information technology industry niches.

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We told you earlier about the success of Zack Garbow as the High School Computer Competition (HSCC) coordinator for BDPA Southern Minnesota chapter.  The HSCC students trained by Zack have won the national championship in 5 of the past 6 years.  Whatever Zack is doing in Rochester, Minnesota is working ... and perhaps it's time for the other 44 chapters to look to him for some 'best practice' advice.

Zack has begun to document the lessons that he provides to his BDPA students via YouTube.  Prior lessons were provided on the basics of HTMLand  uploading files to CPanel.

Today, the lesson for BDPA Students focuses on the basics of cascading style sheets.

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BDPA Education and Technology Foundation (BETF) has given out over $344,000 in scholarships since 1999. The vast majority of these scholarships go to young people who compete in the BDPA High School Computer Competition (HSCC) championships each year. These high-performing students earn Jesse Bemley Scholarships.

Gregory Chambers is a Bemley Scholar. He was a member of the HSCC team trained by BDPA Hartford chapter that earned the silver medal in the 2005 HSCC championships held in Detroit. Gregory used his scholarship to defray the cost of his education at Tufts University. He is currently a web and database developer.

Here are his thoughts about his HSCC experience.

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BDPA Education and Technology Foundation (BETF) seeks to find the funding to support the BDPA IT Corps. BDPA IT Corps aims to broaden the experience and professional preparation of its student and member participants through technology-based problem solving and cultural exchange between communities in the United States and other developing nations.

This is truly a global initiative for BDPA -- think of it as a 'Peace Corps' opportunity for the information technology (IT) professional.

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BDPA Richmond chapter is pleased to announce the start of its Annual High School Computer Competition (HSCC) Program! The goal of this exciting training and competition is to increase our youth's interest in information technology.

BDPA Richmond is now recruiting rising 9th to 12th grade students to enroll in the HSCC Program. The program provides an environment where high school students have an opportunity to compete on an academic level and showcase their technical skills and creativity. Selected students receive several weeks of introductory and advanced training in computer technologies such as HTML, ASP.NET, and relational databases. Participating students also gain essential skills such as presentation delivery and teamwork.

Click here for more:

by Ricardo Wilkins
On Tuesday, I’ll be the guest speaker at the Dayton SharePoint User Group (  I’ll be speaking on Business Process Management/Automation using SharePoint and Workflow.

As I consider this topic, I thought I might share some guidance on the process of automating your organization’s business processes, regardless of whether you use SharePoint or any other automation technology.  Anyone who has endured the fun of auditing, documenting, and ultimately automating the way in which their company does things will tell you that the planning side of it is just as significant, if not more so, than the technical implementation.
Here are some tips that could help you and your team have a smoother and less frustrating experience. 

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BDPA Education and Technology Foundation (BETF) continues to work with Tech Corps Ohio andTech Corps Texas to create a national pilot program for Techie Camps that would take place in June-July 2011.   
Our vision is to have 10 classes -- 2 each in 5 cities - one class for elementary school students, the other class for middle school students.    20 students in each class -- the student is responsible for $350 tuition to attend Techie Camp.   Two BDPA instructors for each class who would be paid a stipend for their week in these 40-hour (M-F) Techie Camps.   There are four existing curriculum for BDPA to choose from -- programmingweb developmentrobotics or android mobile applications, however, we are going to limit the 2011 summer pilot program to only programming or web development.

We have targeted five cities for the pilot programChicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Philadelphia (or No. Delaware) and Washington DC.     We have heard back from the chapter presidents in Cincinnati, Dallas and Washington DC.  These 3 chapters are on-board and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is being drafted to share with these 3 chapters.    We have not heard back yet from Philadelphia (or No. Delware) or Chicago chapter as of the typing of this update.

Click here for more:

Posted by Kai Ajala DupĂ© 
Android Is Now the Most Popular Smartphone Platform.  Global sales of Android phones in the fourth quarter of 2010 was 33.3 million...

The Web Academy is Teaching Google Android App Inventor

Course Description: An introduction Google Android App Inventor allows you to create simple applications for the Android smart phone. You do not have to have a programming background because App Inventor uses "drag and drop" module blocks for application development. An Android phone is not necessary because you can build applications in the Google Android App Inventor Emulator.

Enroll Now:

from V_LAN Technologies
Maybe you’ve seen the recent back and forth discussions about Google’s search quality from the A-list. It has created enough buzz Google even responded. Perhaps you are wondering why everyone seems so upset? Or maybe you have no clue what I’m talking about and have been enjoying a high quality search experience, ignoring the early adopter pontification.
Either way, the truth is most people think search engines do a good job.
survey reported by Search Engine Land shows this nicely – 89% of users are satisfied with their search results (and a big 0% say poor):

Click here for more:

by Cathy Thomas
There are some jobs that don’t hold as much appeal today as they did a few years ago, and unfortunately, the IT industry is home to most of them. It’s a pity that this is the state of affairs, but the fact is that the dotcom crash and the economic crisis that followed soon after did nothing to boost the reputation of the IT industry. However, the fact is that the world thrives on technology, and without it, life as we know it would come to a screeching standstill. So as long as technology exists and continues to advance, there will always be a demand for skilled IT professionals. However, if you’re planning to make a career for yourself in this industry, here’s what you should know./p>

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by Larry Dignan 
If you like to create and explore, open courses online are a great way to improve your DIY skills. Whether you’re interested in computers, science, art, or other creative subjects, there’s something for you to find. Check out these online college courses to learn about advanced topics in DIY.

Click here for more:

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