Thursday, February 28, 2008


This one is coming a little early, because I'm heading out to California in the morning. I'm attending a program committee meeting at Stanford University over the weekend. This is my first trip out there, so I'm pretty excited. I'll be touring the Googleplex and the Internet Archive on Monday.
  1. Abilene Christian University, one of our sister schools, has decided to give all incoming freshmen next year an iPod. Is this a gimmick or the future of secondary education? Let's hope the move helps boost their enrollment and shrink their $3 million dollar budget deficit.

  2. Google Sites has just launched as part of Google Apps. Essentially it allows you to create a web page or website via wiki tools that anyone in your group or organization can modify. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks promising.

  3. Matt Cutts always has some interesting items to read: Subscribed links, how search engines should deal with NOINDEX, and Blogger Play.

  4. Good news for those of us that work in IT: salaries are expected to grow in 2008. Will more money start getting freshmen to major in CS?

  5. Java or .NET? According to the Tiobe Programming Community Index, Java is still ranked number 1. But in a recent survey by Info-Tech of 1,900 companies, 12% of enterprises focus exclusively on .NET , and 49% center primarily on .NET. This compares to 3% and 20% of companies that are focused exclusively or primarily on Java.

MLK will be observed at Harding

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Harding faculty was considering a student body proposal to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the Spring and a holiday sometime in the Fall. Last week the proposal passed overwhelmingly in a faculty vote, but I didn't say anything about it due to Dr. Burks' request that we not discuss the issue publicly yet.

Well last night the faculty voted to keep the academic calendar the same next semester in addition to the two holidays, so MLK will be observed (the students and faculty will have the day off), and we will also have off some day in the Fall. I suggested in a faculty forum that we celebrate Columbus Day which is always held the second Monday in October. This would be a good day to let out since it is near the middle of the fall semester, but I think the Friday of the 8th week is being considered instead.

Anywho, it is good to see that Harding will dismiss classes for MLK in respect to the black community. I'm not sure if this is necessarily the best way to pay respects to the civil rights movement, but it's a start. Perhaps Harding students will make this day a day of service around the Searcy community; this would be a much better way to honor what MLK stood for rather than playing XBox all day.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Burt on Oprah

My wife called me this afternoon from home saying I would never believe who was on the Oprah Winfrey Show: my old friend Daniel Burt. Daniel lived in Searcy several years ago, and we were members of Fight Club together until he moved to Nashville (I could tell you what Fight Club was, but then I'd have to kill you).

Last I had heard, Daniel and his wife Amanda were blogging about their faith and their very cheap lifestyle. Looks like he got Oprah's attention. Below is a screen-shot of Oprah's website with Daniel in the preview video. Congrats, Daniel!

Friday, February 22, 2008


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. This is why I'm not an early adopter: HD DVD will be joining Betamax as another technology that lost a format war. Sorry, Microsoft, but this time Sony is on the winning side. Anyone want a $50 HD DVD player? Cheer up... maybe the Micro-hoo thing will still work out...

  2. Building and deploying a 5000 pound spy satellite: $100 million. Destroying the same satellite because it never worked: $60 million. Watching all that tax payer money explode in space: priceless.

  3. An interesting study has been done by Peter Gloor at MIT. He mines Google for the web graph associated with the name of a political candidate or a company and uses it to predict election results and stock prices. I wonder about the effectiveness of this technique though since it can easily be corrupted by individuals creating frivolous links and because Google does not report all the backlinks it is aware of.

  4. Microsoft has just made a brilliant move: they are now giving away development tools like Visual Studio and SQL Server to college students. This is an excellent way to get universities to adopt MS tools since the financial considerations are now a mute point.

  5. It seems that my students aren't the only ones tempted to copy-and-paste from the Web. The Wall Street Journal reports that plagiarism on social networking sites is on the rise:
    In a recent survey of more than 400 online daters commissioned by, 9% of respondents said they copied from another person's profile; 15% suspect their own words were stolen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Harding in 1988

Mark Elrod has uncovered a jewel: a Harding recruiting video from 1988. Take a spin back in time when the fashion was, well, different. Bill Clinton, the governor of Arkansas, kicks things off:
If you're looking for a college which stresses academic excellence and personal growth, one with an outstanding reputation, one that can help you to live in a very competitive world... I think you'll like what you find at Harding University.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Facebook identity theft

The other day I was at dinner with some friends, several of which were Harding faculty, when we somehow got on the topic of Facebook. I remarked that it was easy for someone to create a Facebook account and impersonate someone else. Several years ago at Harding, someone did just that, creating an online persona for the student body president. It was one of those practical jokes that everyone still remembers.

One of my friends who was sitting at the table is well-known for being a Luddite. He refuses to get a cell phone, and he's the last guy in the world who will ever get a Facebook account.

Until now.

I thought it would be fun to set him up with a Facebook account and see how long it takes for him to find out about it. I won't mention this individual's name just yet, but I'll give you a hint: he regularly writes a humor article for The Bison.

So how did I pull off the prank? First, I had to get an email address that looked genuine. So I signed up for a Yahoo account that uses his name. Next I created a Facebook profile using the new email address and beefed up his personal information with some favorite music, books, and activities. His favorite quote?
"Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(This individual really likes magic, so I thought it would be appropriate.)

Then I added a bunch of friends, including myself, and joined a few groups, just to get his name out there. Unfortunately, I couldn't join him to the Harding network since that would require having a email address for him.

Just today a few Harding faculty have added him as a friend. He's only had a Facebook account for less than a week, and he's already got 11 friends.

I'm going to see how long it takes for this individual to realize he's got a Facebook account. I assume someone is going to pat him on the back and say, "Wow! I thought I'd never see you on Facebook!" If he doesn't figure it out in a few weeks, I'll tell him myself by sending him an invite to become a friend with himself. Hopefully I haven't broken too many laws and terms of service in pulling this little prank. wink

Friday, February 15, 2008


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. Bill Gates has given up using Facebook. Apparently he was getting over 8000 friend requests per day. And I thought my wife was popular...

  2. New word for the day: bacn - Email that you've subscribed to that isn't spam because it's not totally unwanted, but it isn't really wanted either. Examples: Facebook friend requests and Amazon recommendations.

  3. Bennett Haselton writes his thoughts on Google's new Knol project and how it is likely that many people will copy over content from Wikipedia into Knols (creating a Wikipedia fork) because of the potential to make some money. Haselton also raises some interesting ideas on how Knols will be incorporated into Google web search.

  4. Every time I get stopped at a traffic light and there are no cars waiting at the intersection, I get furious. Why can't we figure this problem out? I'm happy to see that researchers from Romania and the US are trying to solve this problem. Of course their solution requires wireless communication between cars and traffic lights, something that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

  5. All Your iFRAMEs Point to Us - an interesting paper from researchers at Google and John Hopkins Univ. From the abstract:
    In this paper, we provide a detailed study of the pervasiveness of so-called drive-by downloads on the Internet. Drive-by downloads are caused by URLs that attempt to exploit their visitors and cause malware to be installed and run automatically. Our analysis of billions of URLs over a 10 month period shows that a non-trivial amount, of over 3 million malicious URLs, initiate drive-by downloads. An even more troubling finding is that approximately 1.3% of the incoming search queries to Google’s search engine returned at least one URL labeled as malicious in the results page.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

GUI blooper: Adobe Reader print dialog

This GUI blooper has been annoying me for quite some time. If you want to print something from Adobe Reader 8, you are presented with a print dialog box shown below:

Notice that I selected to print 3 copies of the current page.

Now if I later decide to print something else, the print dialog box has reset the print range selection to All. This is a good thing since I typically want to print the entire document, and this is the standard behavior of other applications.

But there's something on the dialog box that was not reset back to its default... can you tell what it is?

That's right, the number of copies is still set to 3. In fact, every item in the Page Handling area is "sticky", but items under Print Range are not. I did a similar experiment with several applications, and they all reset the number of copies to 1.

This mistake may not seem like a big deal, but it is. If the document is a large one, say a 150 page dissertation, and you are not very careful to reset the number of copies to 1, you will get 300 pages of stuff you don't want. That can be very expensive when printing to 100% cotton paper.

Adobe: Either make all the items remember their state (something I don't recommend), or none of them. Using a hybrid and inconsistent approach is a GUI blooper.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Becky's Office Party

Last night a few friends and family gathered at Chili's to celebrate Becky's 30th birthday. The theme was The Office, hence the location.

Michael: Chili's is the new golf course. It's where business happens. Small Businessman Magazine.
Jan: It said that?
Michael: It will. I sent it in. Letter to the Editor.

Stacy Schoen made some fantastic decorations, and I came up with some Office trivia. Becky knew every answer except the last. Can you do better?

  1. The Office is based on a BBC comedy with the same name. In the BBC version, what was the Boss’ name?

    A. Robert B. David C. Gareth D. Tim

  2. In order to get away from Pam, Jim transfers to the Stanton branch. What game does the Stanton branch play under the guise of “team building”?

    A. Halo B. Call of Duty C. World War II D. Ghost Recon

  3. During the health care episode, Dwight forced the office workers to anonymously write down their diseases. Which of these diseases was not listed by any of the workers?

    Count Choculitis, Ebola, Spontaneous dentohydroplosion, Mad Cow Disease, Hotdog Fingers, inverted brain, anal fissures, Government Created Killer Nano Robot Infection, flesh eating bacteria, hepatitis, and Leprosy

  4. The Dundies is an annual award show held at the local Chili’s. Who was awarded the 2006 Dundie: Spicy Curry Award?

    A. Kelly B. Stanley C. Phyllis D. Angela

  5. At the Christmas party, Dwight ends up with the most coveted gift at the end of the Yankee Swap after Pam trades him for a tea pot. What gift does Dwight take home?

    A. Chili’s gift card B. Razor phone C. Paintball lessons D. iPod

  6. The top prize during Casino Night was $500 to the charity of your choice and a mini refrigerator, compliments of who?

    A. Best Buy B. Sears C. Vance Refrigeration D. Scranton Surplus

  7. Michael wants to boost moral for coworkers by throwing a birthday party, even though the earliest birthday is a month away (Meredith’s). What type of cake does Michael order for the party?

    A. chocolate B. ice cream C. red velvet D. cookie cake

  8. Tie breaker: How many days has the Warehouse Department worked without an accident before Michael causes one in the Boys and Girls episode?

Answers: 1. B, 2. B, 3. inverted brain, 4. A, 5. D, 6. C, 7. B, 8. 936

Friday, February 08, 2008

Erik Luchauer, a former CS Harding student, just emailed me about a new website he has launched. I told him I'd help get the word out. This is from the email Erik sent me: is officially live. Well, its actually in a live beta state, but who's being critical! What is RootClip, you ask? Think choose-your-own adventure meets YouTube. Its a video collaboration website in which we start a story, and the users get to decide where it goes by shooting their own follow-up, one-minute videos and voting on all of the submissions. Pretty cool, huh?!

Oh, and the best part, the creators of the video with the highest number of "thumbs up" votes at the end of each 2-week voting period will win $250. They'll also be eligible to compete against the other winners to create the final scene in the film for a chance to win a $2,500 VISA gift card. Think about all of the ramen you could get with that?!

So, this is our official invite to you, our family and friends, to visit If you feel so inspired, go and shoot some video to advance the story, then get all of your friends to vote on it. Who knows, you could end up with over $2,500!

Go to Watch the video. Create and submit the next minute. Vote for your favorites. Its really that simple!

My Grandfather

I was grading search engine assignments yesterday when I came across a genealogical website for the McCown family. I came across my grandfather's record: Frank Edward McCown, 1902-1965. They even had a photo of his headstone in Stockdale, Texas. The last time I saw this headstone I was probably 10.

Although I'm named after him, my grandfather never knew me. He passed away a few weeks before my father, an only child, graduated from college. The only things I know about him are what my dad shares from time to time. It was neat to find him on this website.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Happy Birthday, Becky!

Today is my wife's 30th birthday. Unfortunately, this has turned out to be a pretty cruddy week. Becky is starting to feel really worn out, Ethan has some very persistent diarrhea, our house sustained more damage during the high winds on Tues, and we've had to move Becky's party to Monday because of my sickness.

With all this junk going on, I am very thankful for such a wonderful woman who has looked after me this week. I know things will be much better soon. Here's to another 30 wonderful years!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sick as a dog

It really stinks when you take the precaution of having a flu shot and still get the flu. I've been sick since Fri, and I'm still not getting any better. Looks like I'm not alone. I've had to cancel all my classes this week, and that is really going to set us back.

The only positive thing about this weekend was getting to see the Giants defeat the overly confident Patriots... I remember thinking earlier in the season that going for it on forth and long when you could kick a field goal was going to eventually bite them back. Sure enough. Well, that Super Bowl was one of the best I've seen, and it will always be remembered as a David-slaying-the-giant fight.

Becky's birthday is Thursday, so I pray I'm well enough by then. Only problem is I may still be contagious at that point.

Friday, February 01, 2008


It's been a few weeks since I posted a Fav5, but it's back. My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. Google has just released the Social Graph API. The API will potentially make it much easier to port social graphs from one social network to another.

  2. Here's a quote I like to see:
    "Technology workers remain among the highest paid employees, especially those with management experience and hard-to-find skills."
    - Dice Holdings CEO Scot Melland
    Now if we can just narrow that gender gap a little in the IT field.

  3. Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo for $31 a share. I don't think this is going to pass muster, but if such a deal did take place, Google would seriously need to watch out.

  4. In an interview with VentureBeat, Marissa Mayer (Google’s leading VP in search) discussed the possibility of using social networks for searching the Web.

  5. A few weeks ago I was talking about Googlebombing in my search engine class. Philipp Lenssen writes that although Google has supposedly figured out a way to diffuse the bomb, a search for dangerous cult shows the Scientology website first. I don't think this is technically a googlebomb since a large number of people didn't jointly conspire to create such a link; I think intent is an important criteria in creating a googlebomb.