Community college has big-time tech

Richard F. Andersen doesn’t believe technology-laden campuses should be exclusive to the bigwigs of higher education.

For expansive universities with nine-digit budgets, lectures via webcast, state-of-the-art simulators, and wired classrooms have become the norm. But Andersen—vice president for information systems at Tidewater Community College in Virginia—has helped beef up his own campus’s technology infrastructure to give students a major university education on a community college campus.

"We’re aware that there probably aren’t a lot of community colleges that are getting into these things in a big way," said Andersen, a former naval officer and a Tidewater information systems official for 12 years.…Read More

Microsoft plans ‘cloud’ operating system

Looking for growth in new markets where it is increasingly being bypassed, Microsoft said Oct. 27 that late next year it would begin offering a new "cloud" operating system that would manage the relationship between software inside the computer and on the web, where data and services are becoming increasingly centralized, reports the New York Times. The company needs a new kind of operating system for a new computing world populated not by a single style of desktop computer, but by dozens of different kinds of internet-connected appliances ranging from smart phones to mini-laptops. More of those devices use programs that reside on a remote server rather than on the device itself. The servers, in the so-called cloud, deliver what are called web services, which can be anything from customer relationship software or a Facebook game. Microsoft is a late entrant into a market that is crowded by a range of players offering every flavor of cloud computing, including Sun Microsystems and IBM, as well as Amazon and Google. Although Microsoft has continued to have strong sales of its operating system software to corporate customers, growth of its Windows Vista operating system appears stalled. Moreover, the company has significantly delayed its next generation of software for mobile smart phones at a time when competitors like Apple and Research in Motion are using their own software to sell more cell phones to corporate customers. The new Microsoft "cloud OS"–called Azure–gives Microsoft an opening. But many of the giant software company’s competitors believe it is unlikely that Microsoft will be able to maintain its advantage either in market share or profitability in the future…

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‘Digital dark age’ might doom some data

What stands a better chance of surviving 50 years from now, a framed photograph or a 10-megabyte digital photo file on your computer’s hard drive? The framed photograph will inevitably fade and yellow over time, but the digital photo file may be unreadable to future computers–an unintended consequence of our rapidly digitizing world that might ultimately lead to a "digital dark age," reports Science Daily. According to Jerome P. McDonough, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the issue of a looming digital dark age originates from the mass of data spawned by our ever-growing information economy–at last count, 369 exabytes worth of data, including electronic records, tax files, eMail, music, and photos, for starters. (An exabyte is 1 quintillion bytes; a quintillion is the number 1 followed by 18 zeroes.) The concern for archivists and information scientists like McDonough is that, with ever-shifting platforms and file formats, much of the data we produce today could eventually fall into a black hole of inaccessibility. "If we can’t keep today’s information alive for future generations," McDonough said, "we will lose a lot of our culture." Contrary to popular belief, electronic data has proven to be much more ephemeral than books, journals or pieces of plastic art. After all, when was the last time you opened a WordPerfect file or tried to read an 8-inch floppy disk? "Even over the course of 10 years, you can have a rapid enough evolution in the ways people store digital information and the programs they use to access it that file formats can fall out of date," McDonough said. To avoid a digital dark age, McDonough says we need to figure out the best way to keep valuable data alive and accessible by using a multi-prong approach of migrating data to new formats, devising methods of getting old software to work on existing platforms, using open-source file formats and software, and creating data that’s "media-independent"…

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UIUC’s tech chief explains her school’s success

Technology and student support are cornerstones of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), so when the school was named America’s "top wired college" earlier this year, Chief Information Officer Sally Jackson knew the institution’s investments had paid dividends.

"You like the attention when people recognize one of your own greatest strengths," said Jackson, who has been CIO for more than a year and is a graduate of the university. "It’s our goal to remain No. 1, and we want to provide the best, richest, highest-tech environment that we can to support the programs that make this university what it is."

PC Magazine ranked UIUC—which placed sixth in 2006’s "top wired" list—above some of the best-known universities with some of the largest budgets in the United States, such as Stanford and MIT. Villanova University dropped from No. 1 in 2006 to No. 15 in 2007. Kansas State University ranked second behind UIUC in this year’s list, and the University of Utah rounded out the top three.…Read More

FCC chairman backs use of ‘white space’ spectrum

Companies lobbying the Federal Communications Commission to access unused spectrum known as "white spaces" won a big victory on Oct. 15 when Chairman Kevin Martin threw his weight behind the proposal, citing findings in an FCC report that was issued the same day, CNET reports. Martin held a press conference with reporters early in the day in which he pledged his support for the use of the white space spectrum and announced that the issue would be up for vote at the FCC’s next open meeting on November 4. Martin has long been in favor of opening up additional spectrum that can be used to offer wireless broadband services. The FCC finished testing several proof-of-concept devices in real-world tests this summer to see if companies can develop products that use buffer spectrum between licensed broadcast channels. This spectrum, known as "white space," sits between broadcast TV channels in the 150 MHz to 700 MHz spectrum bands. The commission’s newly released report states that devices with geo-location and sensing technologies could be used with some conditions. But the report said devices with sensing-only technology would have to undergo another round of testing within the FCC labs. Several technology companies, including Motorola, Microsoft, and Google, have been lobbying the FCC for more than a year to open up these channels, which would provide between 300 MHz and 400 MHz of unlicensed spectral capacity throughout the country that could be used by anyone. But incumbent spectrum license holders, such as TV broadcasters and cell phone operators, say wireless devices that access this unlicensed spectrum will cause interference in the neighboring spectrum bands…

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Technology makes cheating ‘far more tempting’

For many young Americans, technology has not only become an integral part of their everyday lives, but it is also changing the way they cheat on tests, plagiarize papers, and then share the how-to details, reports ABC News. And educators are struggling to keep up with the latest tools and trends and reverse blase attitudes toward cheating that have spread like a viral video on YouTube. For Kiki Kho, a 19-year-old Texas college freshman, the moment of weakness came on the eve of a French exam. There were just so many words to memorize, and so little time to learn them. So Kho did what many students do at some point in their academic careers: She cheated on the high school test. Kho found a see-through plastic pen, opened up the back, and slipped in a strip of paper with vocabulary words written on it. Piece of cake; she passed the test. But unlike previous generations of students who pulled off similar exploits, when Kho shared her trick, she didn’t just whisper the details to a friend or classmate. She told the world. Kho posted a video on YouTube detailing how she’d pulled off her cheat, joining thousands of other high school and college students who’d done the same: fused technology with cheating. Kho’s clip, with more than 120,000 views, hits those points home: "I know, it’s not a good thing to cheat–it’s like academic dishonesty and blah, blah, blah. But you know, everyone, I think, everyone has done it at least once," she says. She ends the video with another observation: "I don’t think any of my teachers go to YouTube." "The prevalence of technology has given cheaters even more tools at their disposal, and also made the act far more tempting," she told ABC News…

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