Monthly Archives: October 2008

The Skinny on Windows 7

At the Professional Developers Conference last week, Microsoft released details on its new Operating System. Although the name isn’t very exciting, Windows 7 looks like it is going to be the champion that Microsoft hoped Vista would be. Below is a list of the details on the new system that I’ve found scattered across the internet.

  1. Windows 7 will run effectively on 1 GB of RAM (eschewing the recommended 2GB RAM that Vista really needs). This also means Windows 7 can be implemented on Netbook computers (basically laptops with smaller screens and limited resources).
  2. The new OS will support AAC, H.264, DivX and Xvid media files natively.
  3. An updated Windows Media Player is implemented into the taskbar which allows for easy access to common controls. The Media Player is also lighter on system resources and is optimized to keep track of media all over a given network. It even can play nice with systems like Sonos and other extender technology.
  4. Multitouch and touch technology will be much better than Vista. Menus and other items frequently used enlarge slightly when you touch your finger to them.
  5. The taskbar has seen a major redesign in functionality. Now when you click on an application, you get the option to open recent documents. Another feature lets you preview windows by showing the user a floating version of hidden windows. Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by on October 30, 2008 in Emerging Technology, Upcoming Technology


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Penn State Wireless 2.0 Upgrade

A friend told me recently that Penn State has expanded it’s efforts to upgrade their wireless infrastructure. Currently, students and faculty have to suffer through the arduous process of using a Cisco VPN Client to connect securely to Wi-Fi around the campus. This new system, dubbed Wireless 2.0 merely requires your Penn State User ID and password. The next generation of Penn State Wireless infrastructure now offers access points in the following locations (taken directly from the ITS information page):

  1. Willard Building (Entire Building and outside area between Schwab and Carnegie Bldgs.)
  2. Life Sciences Building (Ground Floor-available in six General Purpose Classrooms, #9 through #14 only)
  3. Telecommunications Building (Entire Building)
  4. Thomas Building (1st and 2nd Floors, and outside plaza area between Thomas and Ritenour Bldgs.)
  5. Business Building (Entire Building and adjacent outdoor areas)
  6. Ag. Science and Industries (General Purpose Classrooms and Portions of the Ground Floor, 1st, 2nd and 4th Floors)
  7. Food Science Building (Entire Building and Creamery Outdoor Seating area)
  8. Forest Resources Building (Entire Building and adjacent outdoor areas)

Before being expanded to these new locations, the Wireless 2.0 system was being tested over on Services Road by the Blue Band Building and IM Fields. By shedding the VPN client in the new wireless infrastructure, users can expect to see far less connection issues. The time that it takes to connect to the networks has decreased dramatically- from about a minute (with the VPN) to nearly instantaneous. Even better, coverage of Wi-Fi between buildings has been improved.

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Tech To Get Excited About- WiMax

On October 8, 2008 Sprint debuted it’s first consumer WiMax network, dubbed “Xohm”.  WiMax is a wireless standard that is usually described as a mix of Wi-Fi and cellular networks.  Many people can attest to the limitations of Wi-Fi: limited range, poor security and the general unavailability of a seamless network. Additionally, the speed of a standard 3G cellular network is as slow as molasses compared to cable and broadband lines that you find in homes and business.  Sprint advertises their new WiMax network as a “city-sized hotspot” allowing you to connect to the same network all over a given area.   The intention is to eventually cover the entire United States just as cellular networks run by Verizon and AT&T cover the country now.  Sprint Nextel is teaming up with partners like Intel, Motorola, Nokia and others to achieve this enticing plan.  Currently offering coverage officially only in Baltimore, Sprint plans on rolling out their network to D.C. and Chicago next.  An article on Gizmodo reveals that Sprint has their Xohm running unofficially in Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Philadelphia, D.C., and Northern Virginia.

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Posted by on October 10, 2008 in Emerging Technology, Upcoming Technology


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How to Sync Google Calendars To Your iPod Touch/iPhone

While searching the seemingly infinite expanse of Google for directions for syncing my iPod Touch with my Google Calendar, I finally found a solution. The traditional solution is to sync you Google Calendar with or Microsoft Outlook and then sync it with iTunes. I had been using OggSync for a while, but it never seemed to actually sync the Outlook calendar and my Google Calendar correctly, 100% of the time. The only way I can stay organized with with Google’s products including Gmail and Gcal, so proper and functional syncing are a necessity.

Alas, my Google searching yielded acceptable results. I found a service called Nueva Sync which uses Microsoft Exchange servers to sync your Google Calendar with your iPhone or iPod Touch calendar. The instructions are simple (taken directly from Nueva Sync’s website):

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Posted by on October 9, 2008 in General, Product/Service Review


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The Future Of Textbooks is Less Back and Bank Breaking

An article on Ars Technica, features the future of college textbooks.  A pilot program at the University of Texas at Austin will begin a 1,000 student trial in the 2009-2010 school year.  Students participating in this trial will receive their textbooks for free via a direct to hard drive download.  Most college students can tell you what a wonderful thing these e-textbooks would be.  They are worth their in both weight and money.  A brash realization that seems to be a key talking point among students is that traditional textbooks cost far too much.  Personally, the most expensive book I’ve ever had to buy was $175.  The Ars article reports that the textbooks will sell for between $25 and $40- a substantial price difference.  A savings of up to 75% from traditional textbooks could mean that I would have saved around $250 last semester if Penn State implemented such a program.

What most people don’t realize is that presenting copyrighted information digitally generally required Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection.  The DRM for the University of Texas pilot program is not mentioned, but printing and time restrictions seem likely.  The DRM issue is something that needs to be ironed out before e-textbooks become mainstream, but I’m confident it can be worked out.  I’m also confident that student innovators will be able to break these restrictions and freely distribute the e-textbooks (but that’s a whole other story).

In the past, we’ve heard about e-book readers such as the Amazon Kindle and various Sony products.  It is likely that these e-book readers will become the medium for which these e-textbooks gain exponential success.  Why lug around a whole stack of books when you can carry around a device that is light, flexible and digital.  The Generation Y population is likely to run with this idea- we’re responsible for the popularity of social media, the iPod and countless other innovations.  If you think about it, the mp3 and the iPod have basically killed CD and other physical media.  It is merely a matter of time before the e-book meets the e-textbook and expensive textbook costs are the relic of our past.

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Posted by on October 7, 2008 in Upcoming Technology


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A Look at Penn State Safety and Security- Interesting Facts

A few days ago I (and all Penn State Students) received an email from the University:

Dear Penn Stater:

This information is being provided to you in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, the College and University Security Information Act and the Drug Free Schools and Campuses Act.  In addition to providing you with some useful information concerning safety, security and health issues, it also describes some of the programs that Penn State has developed to provide a safe and supportive learning environment.

The attached documents contain the annual security report for your campus.  This report includes statistics for the previous three years concerning reported crimes that occurred on campus, and in certain off-campus buildings owned or controlled by Penn State, as well as on public property within, or immediately adjacent to and accessible from the campus.  The report also includes institutional policies concerning campus security, such as policies about alcohol and drug use, crime prevention, the reporting of crimes, sexual assault, and other matters.

You may also review this report or the report for any of Penn State’s twenty-three campuses on the Internet at Click on “Clery Crime Stats” on the left side.

I’m fairly confident this email went straight to the trash cans of many students after they read the body of the message.  What this post aims to do is to relay some information from the official safety and security report that I found interesting.  All information is taken directly from the document, which can be found here.

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Posted by on October 6, 2008 in General, Security


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