Software Engineering Class Projects

I’m still debating the best project for this semester’s class project. We’re probably going to have 10-12 people per team, with two competing teams.

Some of my current thoughts:

  • Cross-Platform Synchronizing Chore management system
  • Software Tool/Environment for teaching children to program

The chore management system is needed around our house, and we have a group of external customers (my family). We have used ChoreMonster in the past, but they started charging subscription fees, and I think that’s completely ridiculous for the functionality.

A tool for teaching programming would be more widely used, but is a much harder, less tractable problem. On the other hand, a campus renown for its teaching program might be just the place for such a project (not that the last semester’s class used those resources).

Spring 2014 Courses

This semester’s schedule is going to be interesting:

  • ITEC 325 – System Administration
  • COSC 412 – Software Engineering
  • COSC 485/670 – Reverse Engineering / Malware Analysis

The reverse engineering class is a new one, and I’ll be dusting off some old-school skills to pass along to a new generation. This is either going to be lots of fun, or really painful.

New Job

I’ve been keeping quiet on my job search to prevent this blog from unduly affecting the process. But, now that I’ve signed and delivered the contract, I’m comfortable admitting that I’ve accepted a position at Towson University as an Assistant Professor. The position is part of the Computer Science/Information System/Information Technology department, though my position is specifically targeted towards IT.

I start in August and will be teaching COSC 236 (CS 1 in Java), and CIS 211 (InfoSys 1). I’m looking forward to the new opportunity, and we’re already weighing the possibility of relocating to north Baltimore.

Server Migration, part 1

I just started migrating processes from the old server to the new hosting vendor. First up, The e-mail has already been migrated, and I’m cloning over the web page data now.

As always let me know if any problems are spotted.

Evil is as Evil Does

(logo from Scroogled and TechRepublic’s GeekEnd)

Google’s slogan used to be “Don’t be evil.”, but whether by accident or design Google’s new privacy policy — really a “you have no privacy” policy — is evil. Giving Google information had been acceptable, because they did not aggregate all of the bits of knowledge we entrusted them with into a single profile.

On March 1, 2012 that all ends. Google is modifying their policies to allow them to use every scintilla of information they have on their users for their own purposes. Let’s be clear, Google isn’t promising to make our lives better, they’re promising to make more money. You might not call that “Evil”, but it sure is not “Good”.

So I just went through Google Dashboard, and scrubbed everything I could. I don’t use Android (and won’t start now), so nothing lost there. I changed every privacy setting, cleared histories, removed profile information, etc. You won’t find me on Google+ or Orkut any longer. I’ve removed deleted contacts, profile pictures, and personal information from every product I could stand to give up. Unless a Google product makes my life significantly better, it’s history. I’m somewhat surprised at how much information Google has lying around about me.

Primarily, I have kept Search (with history turned off), Gmail, Google Reader, and Google Groups. I’ve pared down which groups I belong to, and tried to obliterate any identifying information from the profiles. Finally, I’ve logged out of my Google account, and will only log in for specific purposes. Gmail I mostly handle using dedicated mail clients, so that’s partitioned from my web surfing. Reader and Groups are the two products that will leak information about me, but I’m committed to minimizing my use of Reader going forward. Sadly, I don’t know of a way to really ditch Groups since I don’t control the selection of that product, and I really want to stay in touch with the communities that do use it.

Am I being paranoid — probably. But I’d like to try to hang onto the appearance of privacy a bit longer. Besides, if any rogue player manages to obtain Google’s data, I’d rather be safe(r) than sorry. I hear Google has decided to implement these changes to compete more effectively with the growing Facebook juggernaut. Good for them, but in my case, they’ve just lost some of my viewership and become less central to my Internet life.

PS: It’s worth noting that I’m not much of a Facebook user, but I’m likely to take this opportunity to pare back my profile information there as well.

Electronics fun for the Whole Family

I’ve been struggling with how to help our 11-year old develop her attention to detail and critical thinking skills. I spent some time trying to interest her in programming, but it didn’t take. Anyway, I think I’m too close to that topic, and I don’t know that I’m the best person to teach programming to a kid. On the other hand, I have wanted to get back into electronics for a while, and I think it could make for a good geek/geekling activity.

Like any good pack-rat I still have my old Radio Shack electronics kit, which I dutifully handed down to my daughter:

Science Fair Exploring Electronics Lab - 200 Projects

Science Fair Exploring Electronics Lab - 200 Projects

A quick trip to Radio Shack, netted me a newer version to mess with for myself:

Radio Shack Electronics Learning Lab

Radio Shack Electronics Learning Lab

I should point out that the older set is still available, even though Radio Shack no longer carries them. I prefer that set for kids, since it includes lots of fun projects, but only limited explanations of how the projects work. The newer kit comes with manuals by the famous Forest M. Mims III, but the experiments are a bit more limited in scope, but are somewhat better explained. The newer kit is absolutely a great buy for geeks 16 and older, but might have more limited appeal to those younger.

So far she’s built a couple different projects/games from the old kit, including the Quick Draw II game that provided quite a bit of entertainment for the entire household. Hopefully, this is the start of a beautiful friendship…

Updated my TeX install

Just updated my BasicTeX-2008 install to the 2011 edition. Pretty simple really.

I deleted the old installation using:

tlmgr uninstall

then downloaded the latest incarnation from, then installed it.

I had to update the path in my .tcshrc to point to the new bin directory, and voila! Latest and greatest TeX install.

I then went ahead and ran the post installation steps from my previous post.