Category Archives: Upcoming Technology

Twitter & Penn State

What are you doing?  One million-plus Twitter users certainly want to know.  I discovered the increasingly popular social network after I noticed a few coworkers at my summer internship using the service.  Initially, I used the service to keep in touch with them after I came back to school.  Then things got a lot more interesting.  I began to discover people from all across the Penn State community.  It turns out that fellow students, professors, alumni and even Penn State services all have Twitter accounts.

The best way to describe Twitter is that it is like Facebook status updates- but better.  Messages are limited to 140 characters at a time, which gives just enough space for short and easily digestible information.  You can use the service from your cellphone, through a web browser and through any number of mobile devices.  To further explain the simple social network, I’ll test your SAT skills with a nice analogy: Followers are to Twitter what Friends are to Facebook.  Followers are people that have elected to see your updates in real time.  The “Following” category of your account lists the Twitter users that you follow, and therefore receive their updates.  Below you will find a list containing some of my favorite Twitter users around Penn State, as well as some other members of the Twitterverse.

Penn State People

Naturally, you should all follow me.  Like the name suggests, I am in the Penn State Marching Blue Band and my name is most certainly Steve.  During football games, I’ll post updates via cellphone about the score/conditions of the game.  During the Rose Bowl on Jan 1, I gave updates about the pep rallies before the game, the Parade of Roses and the Rose Bowl game.  Outside of football season, I tweet links to new blogs posts and cool stories around the internet.

@shcdean and @targuman
The Dean of the Honors College here at PSU has a Twitter account.  Although the @shcdean account isn’t really active, he does post more actively on the @targuman account.

Penn State Clubs/Services/Things

This Twitter account is great to keep up with Penn State News.  Penn State Live is the official online news outlet for Penn State.  Everything from research to events are covered on this website.  Following Penn State Live on Twitter is a great way to keep up to date on all your official Penn State News.

The museum you always pass on the way to class (but have never been in) has a Twitter account to keep followers updated on new exhibits and events.  Sidenote: It is definitely worth it to take a trip to the museum.  It is free and pretty cool.

The SRA Club (Security & Risk Analysis Club) keep followers abreast about the next cool event that they are hosting.

The Onward State Twitter account updates you with the latest and greatest news and events around the Penn State community.

The official news source for the College of IST.

Other Great Twitter People To Follow

The official Twitter account of President Obama.  This account remains the most followed Twitter account to date.  Though the account was most active during the campaign, I hope the President uses Twitter in the future as an avenue of news and conversation.

CNN Breaking News posts on this Twitter account when something groundbreaking happens somewhere in the world.

To keep up with NASA missions, follow this Twitter account.  They post pictures, videos and other info from the space program.  If you every wanted to be an astronaut (or a space shuttle), follow NASA.

This account represents the mission to mars in 2011.  They were scheduled to launch a few months ago, but technical difficulties prevented a launch.  As this mission explores Mars, they will update the Twitter account on the fly.  Check out @MarsPhoenix for comparison.  When they found evidence of ice/water on Mars, the people following @MarsPhoenix heard first!  Pretty cool stuff.

A Final Note

I encourage you to sign up for a Twitter account.  To sign up, click here.  It is free and really simple to do.  Start following some of the above Twitter accounts to start your experience, and before long you will have a following of your own.  Be especially sure to follow @BlueBandSteve and @OnwardState.  If you have suggestions for cool Twitter users to follow, leave a comment below and I will update this post.  If you have questions, let me know in the comments.

This post originally aired on the blog Onward State on 2-3-09.


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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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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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