NDS at NCSU

This note captured an oft-expressed opinion, and I am posting here because it may be of some interest to a larger community.

Date: Mon, 18 Apr 2005 17:40:14 -0400From: Jason YoungTo: ndstech@lists.ncsu.eduSubject: DS, schemas, etc.    Novell's beta announcement of yet another DS version prompts me again towrite, just briefly, something that I've felt was a blinding glimpse of theobvious for some time, and just offer again the observation that Novell'sdevelopment model does not fit with the way this campus works with NovellDirectory Services.  I'm not sure that Novell's development model fits withany organization's way of working with NDS, but it seems a lot closer toshops that have a lot more control over the entire NDS Tree and can movefaster or at least less "fitfully" than we are able to.    We have been over-paranoid about the "schema" for quite some time.  And wehave the very real threat of DS problems in one section of the treecascading into serious issues in other parts of the tree.    Novell does release fixes, in odd ways only eclipsed in their oddity by theLinux community (which is still better than Microsoft, and at least oneknows about them beforehand compared to Apple), but it's not like you cantake advantage of them, because you can't make changes to our shared treewithout (rightfully) sending 10 or so emails, and taking it to committee,and at least a few meetings, only to inevitably get thrown out the windowsome percentage of the time due to human error, be it ours or Novell's.    The Novell tree has been embroiled in politics - some quite serious - foryears now.  All surrounding this shared management issue that it seems wecling to in the interest of - well I don't know why we cling to it otherthan the "Accounts" that exist in one part of the tree or the other (it'sreally "Resources" - but the basis of access to those Resources is theAccounts).    I'd offer, again, in a way that's probably going to be taken wrong (again),that it seems for this observer that we'd really be better off withindependently managed shrubbery.  And the collective brainpower that existsin NDSTech, which is formidable, would seem to me to be far better usedtrying to collectively find ways to make account synchronization workacross the shrubs (you know, I think CHASS has already done this a fewtimes over).  It seems that has the greatest potential of freeing up eachorganization to pursue fixes and patches and updates and innovation totheir heart's content, all the while leaning on the experiences of theirpeers across campus.  It does feel like that would be more like fighting to"do something" - "for" something - rather than against the inevitablebreakage that Novell's development model seems to cause for for the NDSTree.    Take it or leave it, that's my annual $1.02, having been part of ndstechsince its inception, its first chair, and interested, hopefully objective,if not unbiased, observer for several years hence.    Jason    --~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Jason Young                        NC STATE UNIVERSITYITECS Systems Group Manager         COLLEGE OF ENGINEERINGhttp://people.engr.ncsu.edu/jayoung ____________________________________________________________

Educating the Net Generation

I wrote this email last Friday, and wanted to record it in the blog, because it may find its way to others that would be interested in the information:

Date: Fri, 15 Apr 2005 15:24:20 -0400From: Jason YoungTo: Ben McNeely, packmug@lists.ncsu.edu, tltr@lists.ncsu.eduSubject: Re: [packmug] e-book on e-learningX-Mailer: Mulberry/4.0.0b1 (Mac OS X)    Ben et al., I'm cc'ing the tltr (with Ben's permission), because I believethey'd be interested in this.  I have some comments below Ben's note on apart of it, not meaning to take away anything at all from the the focus ofBen's note and his mention of this e-book.    --On April 15, 2005 2:00:20 PM -0400 Ben wrote:    > Our new chancellor and his wife recently released a new e-book about using> technology as a learning tool in the classroom. I was fortunate enough to> contribute a chapter to this book, explaining the student side of> learning.>> Check it out at the EDUCAUSE Web site:>> [http://www.educause.edu/educatingthenetgen/][1]>> It is a free download, if you are brave enough to download the full book> -- it is a 300-page document. Or you can read each chapter on the Web.>> I sympathize with Ilian, but I am not quite sure we are ready to have full> integration of technology in the classroom. As Hal and Dr. Robarge have> said, faculty must know how to use it before they can implement it. That> is a slow and time-consuming process. Also, students need to know how to> use technology. Right now, I don't believe students are as techno-savvy as> everyone thinks they are. Sure, we can check e-mail and surf the Web, but> how many can do routine maintainence on their computer -- i.e., set up a> firewall, check and repair for virues, know which software updates they> are installing, etc. How many can switch from the Windows platform to the> Mac platform? How many K-12 students have computer or Internet access at> home or at school?>> Technology is great, but in order to implement it on the massive scale, we> must first look at who will be using it, what sort of exposure they will> have and what resources are necessary in order to make it feasible and> accessible to all people.>> As an institution, N.C. State is a great platform in which to study this> problem and turn out practical, real-world solutions -- if we are willing> to invest the time and money into it.>> Just my humanities spin on an obvious engineering problem.>> okay,>> Ben    My comments, as I want to focus on this part of Ben's note.    > Right now, I don't believe students are as techno-savvy as> everyone thinks they are. Sure, we can check e-mail and surf the Web, but> how many can do routine maintenance on their computer -- i.e., set up a> firewall, check and repair for virues, know which software updates they> are installing, etc. How many can switch from the Windows platform to the> Mac platform? How many K-12 students have computer or Internet access at> home or at school?    my first reaction to this was a somewhat overzealous "Yes! Yes! Yes!"comment, which thankfully was quiet enough that I didn't cause too much ofa stir in the basement of Page Hall.    Our "next-generation of Eos" initiative[1] considers this kind of educationas *fundamental* to the success of the computing environment within theCollege of Engineering.  Without a strong computing education program, ourother efforts with student owned computing, labs, and remote access(including VCL) will not be anywhere near as successful as they couldotherwise be.    In partnership with the Department of Computer Science, we formed animplementation team made up of individuals passionate about changing how wedo computing instruction, the curriculum for the "pilot" course for E115(Introduction to Computing Environments) was revamped last year.  The pilotcourse was offered to students in the College of Engineering that signed upfor our student owned computing initiative[2].  The new curriculum[3]focused on teaching "modern computing concepts" teaching the students abouttheir own computer, viruses/spyware/other security issues, a little aboutnetworks and remote access to NC State resources, and concepts common toWindows/Macintosh/Linux, whatever platform the students have.    What I think was *revolutionary* was that we brought 300 students in thissemester and did *not* provide them an NC State-customized "image" - whichis what many IT people will tell you has to be done to be able to "support"something. We have a few Macs, and a number of Windows machines, installedas they were from the vendor.    We put a lot of IT staff in the first classes to assist the students ingetting their laptop operational (consisting mostly of cleaning up a lot ofWindows spyware and viruses).    And with the revamped curriculum, we had no observable increase in thesupport required from our helpdesk. Initial assessment is that the studentsalso got a lot out of E115 and were excited about it. (it also had reallygood TA's, and like anything, good people make the best projects). Ourassessment director conducted an assessment, and I have only seen some ofthe initial results - but the initial feedback was very positive.    However, getting people really excited about this has been quite achallenge.  It has seemed that most of the people, faculty included, thatwe talk about "Eos2" with - become a lot more interested about thetechnology aspects of the effort (things like our Virtual Computing Lab[4]project that's a part of an overall Remote Access strategy) - than they dothe education part of the initiative.  Perhaps it's because the curriculummight be somewhat unique to Engineering and not relevant to the campus, orbecause it's only a 1 hour course, I don't know.  But it certainly seems tobe the most exciting part to me at least, and that's coming from atechnologist, not an educator.    For now we are staying the course, 97% of our Engineering students arebringing computers, 70% this past year brought laptop computers, and wewant to incorporate those computers in our classrooms, and most importantlyhelp our students (and our faculty) help themselves with their owntechnology - helping them do the things that Ben touched on, and we arelooking forward to an ongoing evolution of this course for our incomingstudents.    Referenced URLs:    [1] [http://www.eos.ncsu.edu/eos2/][2][2] [http://www.eos.ncsu.edu/soc/][3][3] [http://courses.ncsu.edu/e115/common/laptop/course/syllabus.html][4][4] [http://vcl.ncsu.edu/][5]    Jason    --~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Jason Young                        NC STATE UNIVERSITYITECS Systems Group Manager         COLLEGE OF ENGINEERINGhttp://people.engr.ncsu.edu/jayoung ____________________________________________________________

Harvard, Webapps, and Common sense

Phillip Greenspun followed up on the Harvard Business School applicant [non]-“hacking” incident yesterday.

His description helped underscore this incident as something that is a priority practices for my group. I don’t want a screwup on our part creating a situation where one of our students is accused of “hacking” (unless they willfully and maliciously attempt to exploit that screwup).

At some point there has to be a modicum of common sense. I’m not sure why in computing security “common sense” seems to fly out of the window.

See also a somewhat related Slashdot thread about network security scans and lack of common sense.

Think Different

If you are reading this, you undoubtedly know that a fellow going by the alias ‘The Pirate Captain’ won the NC State Student Body President this week.

I’m a staff member at NCSU, in computing, and I have nothing to do with Student Development, Student Government, or really any student organization at all (I interact with the PackMUG and provide a webserver for Engineering student groups – but that’s it), so I have no influence or role or anything else in student elections. And besides, the election is said and done. I also don’t know Whil at all.

But I think what he did was great. I’m sure those that know me at NC State would not be surprised. I’m a big fan of those that epitomize the words from Apple Computer’s late 90’s “Think Different” marketing campaign:

Here’s to the crazy ones,
the misfits,
the rebels,
the troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules
and they have no respect for the status quo.

You can quote them,
disagree with them,
glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do
is ignore them,
because they change things.
They push the human race forward.

And while some may see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to
think they can change the world
are the ones who do.

Think Different.

He energized the student population, creating a student voter turnout that was higher (26-27%) than it has been in years. He created a ongoing debate and discussion about the role of student government. And he showed that one guy, even with a merry band of followers, can change things. I think NC State is much the better for students (and faculty/staff) like Whil.

I’m excited to see how he’ll work through what undoubtedly will be a tough road in some places ahead. An awful lot of people don’t like to see the status quo messed with. But I think he’ll do great.

Good Luck Captain.

On this date in…

I spent a fair amount of time catching up on email and archiving old emails tonight. I have kept all my email for years, but I only have email going back until 2002. The first two years of email at my current job were lost because they were on a laptop that was stolen in January of 2002. Even system administrators fail to have backups sometimes. It was interesting to go back to 2002, 2003, and 2004 and see what was going on.

Selected items on this date (4/14 – 4/15) in:

2002

  • One of our Alumni had suggested to the Dean of Engineering that we should be putting out a email newsletter like Stanford was doing – and we were asked about what it took technically to do it
  • I found a bug in the emailed notices from our (then) Steltor Calendar Server that had a TZ setting of -23852 – causing really wacky time displays in email clients. ITD knew about and was working to get it fixed
  • There were wrong addresses in the NCSU Leave application (a web-based leave tracking system) – the developers assumed that everyone used first_last@ncsu.edu as an email address which was not true for most of my staff
  • ITD was pursuing a cost-sharing arrangement to license the ‘XV’ application for campus, and I was trying to find out why (it was a lot of money, and there were plenty of alternatives)
  • I sent a note to a departmental system admin that were not (yet) shutting off telnet, but new installs didn’t include it
  • We still had two netware servers and had updated them to eDirectory version 85.20c (Novell’s version numbers still are horrible)
  • A student and faculty member in CALS were trying to get the media for TecPlot and I had contacted a CALS IT staff member to work through them to get it distributed to them

2003

  • We were trying to coordinate a golf outing with NCS and ComTech
  • I reported a problem with Javascript and the new ACS authentication for Leave and other web applications
  • We were reviewing our web services documentation that was in draft form (and later become http://www.eos.ncsu.edu/web/
  • Lin had mostly completed our Eos locker request forms and was getting feedback
  • Billy had replaced our lab image the previous – and we were getting complaints about updating it mid-semester, and had sent the fixes/differences in the changes to me – part of Arena had to be broken in order to allow Solidworks, Autocad, Office, and even the main Arena to work properly, and ArcGIS had to be blocked from distribution to our labs

2004

  • I sent a late night email to Bill and Charles proposing that we offer 1GB of storage and web space to grad students – we still haven’t been able to get to the point we can implement that
  • I had sent out the 2004 rest-of-the-year meeting schedule to engr-sysadm
  • the CERT had released a whole set of Windows Security warnings the day before
  • We had been asked for an account number to get charged for our portion of Red Hat Enterprise Linux
  • I was trying to figure out a #%!@#$&*% problem with Eudora not being able to read text/enriched mail that Mulberry was producing if it didn’t have a newline after the closing tag – in the process finding a bug in the Windows version of Mulberry
  • A CSC-managed computer was hitting our Webservers an awful lot – and I sent a bunch of mail complaining about it. Turns out it was the CSC webserver doing a reverse proxy to republish information that our webservers were publishing
  • The eventual solution to the problem in 2002 with the Newsletter was an outside vendor, our Engineering Foundation folks were having a problem with the software that the outside vendor gave us to help manage the list
  • We apparently lost one of webservers for about 15 minutes – resulting in a lot of Pager notifications

On Blogs and Publication

Our Campus Teaching and Learning with Technology Roundtable group has had an ongoing “On Blogs and Publication” thread on their mailing that has been of particular interest to me, as I have invested a fair amount of time in the last few years following the technical developments surrounding syndication formats (RSS, RDF, ATOM, et al.), the tools that produce them, and the various communities that have formed around the tools (and community sites) used to “blog”

It’s been an ongoing interest because I’m oriented to tracking a vast amount of information in the computing technology spaces, and most of the “blogging” activity has grown within the political and technology communities. I’m also rather biased towards publishing a lot of information and trying to capture all the little bits and pieces of information we produce in a knowledge-base like manner and have been seeking for years to find easier ways of doing that. The “blogging” tools have been hinting at for some time features and functionality that provide some convergence with the desire to produce information in the same/similar ways that we consume it.

A few years ago – about as long as I’ve been interested in the blogging/syndication developments. I began working on project to do that. Mostly has an on-again, off-again (mostly off) outside-of-work hobbyist activity to help teach myself PHP. and later SQL, in ways that were big enough that I could understand how folks were using and would use our web infrastructure in the College of Engineering (for close to 4 years we have been providing a web service that includes the ability to use PHP in every directory that our webservers access, with restrictions).

We use that tool to publish out information from:

The reason that I use my own tool is that by the time we got to publishing those sites, I had enough work done on it that finishing the work would take less time than adapting one of the “off-the-shelf” systems to work within our restrictions and to replace the authentication model the off-the-shelf systems use with WRAP (our campus-wide web authentication service). Also, as mentioned earlier, it helps maintain web application knowledge that we use for other tools and in support of our web users. Internally it’s as good as the open-source off-the-shelf packages. From a user’s point of view, not nearly quite as polished, there are aspects to it that only a computer geek would like.

Results are mixed. Most IT staffs don’t have or don’t make the time to document and write very much.

  • We haven’t had much participation at the Engineering System Administrator’s site, except to get a few pieces of documentation up.
  • At the VCL site, I had hoped to use the tool to facilitate documentation publication (a good result, both internal docs and help documentation) – and have a project journal, where project participants and project leaders could use the site to publish both “vision” and “maintenance” information useful for all comers (on the “vision” part that hasn’t worked as well – IT managers talk a fair amount more than they write). I’m still hoping that at some point the various project leadership (pot/kettle/black) will use it as a platform for publishing information about aspects of VCL in a very transparent kind of fashion, especially the vision parts that they often will speak at length about in other venues. As the VCL project grows, we could also have places for students and faculty using the service to publish and share information about how they use the service, or how to best use the software. I still have hope there.
  • Where I think we have succeeded with the VCL site, besides the help documentation, is the ongoing status reports. This is also the success of the ITECS/Systems site – where VCL and ITECS/Systems tech staff are publishing activity and status reports every week, raw and transparent, what we are doing week in and week out. I am really happy about that, and I think it’s a transparency that is rare to get out of IT groups (mostly because we spend a lot of time in fear of people second-guessing every move we make, which often does come with telling folks what you do). I know that when peer IT groups at other Universities and even within NCSU have provided glimpses in what they do, there’s been a lot less reinvention of the wheel on our part. I’m hoping the information base we are building there will end up helping our peers.
  • And finally I have more than a slight bias, but the two people.engr.ncsu.edu sites that are publishing information provide a glimpse into the personal-professional workings of what we do, in a very open and honest way.

Now whether any of this is useful for education – or other related activities. I don’t know yet. Faculty talking on our TLTR list have mentioned their take on the potential of blogs as a publishing and information sharing tool within the campus – and I don’t have a feel for the actual interest. I don’t know if that potential is only with the realm of those that are information junkies or that have a very strong bias to openly and often publishing and updating information.

I certainly feel that RSS is important as a technology and that our websites, “blogs” or not – should be publishing RSS feeds for recently updated pages. I’ve written at length about that.

So hopefully with help from those that are interested, we’ll be trying out a larger experiment with blogging, using ewe to do that and bringing up a community blogging/wiki site.

Miscellaneous

I was browsing this evening and came across this article: Fewer Permissions Are Key to Longhorn Security, to which I had an almost audible exclamation of “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Our number one IT problem is poorly-written Engineering software applications on Windows that require administrator access to install and/or execute. To quote the article:

Application developers who log on to their development machines as administrators when they write code create programs that assume that level of privilege but have trouble when run by a user with reduced permissions, according to Brown’s work, which estimated that 90 percent of Windows software can’t be installed without administrator access to Windows, and that 70 percent won’t run properly unless the user is an administrator.

This has been kicking our collective tails for some time.

The only problem with fixing it is that the software vendors are going to be slow to adopt a Least-Privileged User Account model – which means years of broken software and patchwork-duct tape mixed XP/Longhorn lab platforms because the faculty are going to demand access to the crappy software packages because they (rightfully and understandably) don’t get the IT problems and don’t want to tell the vendors to stick their software where the compiler doesn’t parse.

Hey, sounds like the status quo.


I decided to read this Linux Kernel thread this evening – after reading the news reports (okay Slashdot) that BitKeeper + the Linux Kernel are to be no more. I thought I might glean some glimmer of understanding about the state of source code management, because Josh Thompson and I need to sit down and get a sane source code repository and workflow setup for our group, and I am thinking about using Subversion instead of CVS.

And you know what – I understood nothing of what the LKML discussion was talking about. I haven’t the faintest clue about distributed patch management and development trees and that whole world of doing source management on something of any significant size.

I think that any computing person should have to read LKML or a Windows development list or something similar every so often just to sit down and be humbled about what they don’t know. This is why I usually audibly laugh every time I hear someone on campus say they “know” an operating system or far worse, call themselves a “guru” at something in computing. I’ve refused to hire people that have said that in interviews that I’ve been in.


In more light-hearted news, I have said it before and I’ll say it again. Crazy Apple Rumors has the best articles

Brooks was here

I went for a walk across campus yesterday from Page Hall to the Subway on Hillsborough Street. I’ll do that a few times a month in nice weather. It’s a nice North Campus walk. Fringing the Court of North Carolina, past the Strolling Professor, through the brickyard, and along Hillsborough Street to the other side of campus.

It’s usually a reflective time for me. I probably could pass dozens of people I know and I wouldn’t notice because I would be so lost in thought. Yesterday was no different. I kept “hearing” the voice of the character Red, from the movie The Shawshank Redemption. On campus folks have probably heard me relate some campus event to Shawshank a time or two or three. And with reason, there’s a lot of shared experience that the movie evokes.

The quote I kept hearing in my head was when Red uses the word institutionalized:

These walls are kind of funny. First you hate ‘em, then you get used to ‘em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized. They send you here for life, that’s exactly what they take. The part that counts, anyways.

There are days that I don’t wonder if I haven’t become institutionalized.

The University may be a unique place. Large sections of the administrative staffing is very much like a traditional Government operation, with many of the stereotypes that are attributed to Government. Other parts operate like a fly-by-the-seat of the pants startup. Others like a for-profit business. Still others like a charitable service organization, Some parts even like the recipients of the services of many charities. And oh yeah, our largest constituency comes through and gets out in 4 (okay, 5 or 6) years.

But there’s still an almost borg-like institutional effect. We caught up in “committees” and “processes” and throwing around buzzword bingo winners that sound good, but don’t say much and mean even less. A culture that fails to look inside itself, ask questions, examining our own Wolfpack Red Colored Glasses, and worse, discourages the questions of others – and I’m not talking about some “Academic Ivory Tower” myopia that the afternoon talk-radio pundits that I often listen to would ignorantly blast. We aren’t alone. It’s not unique to my University. It’s not unique to Government organizations, regardless of what the stereotypes would lead one to believe. I read enough corporate weblogs that I see echoes of the same “institutionalized” behaviors. I can name two Microsoft examples – I can read the overt frustration in the voice of the writer of the Mini-Microsoft weblog. I can even read (less overtly) the frustrations of someone like Robert Scoble

I’m not picking on Microsoft – quite the contrary in fact, with as many people as they have communicating about Life at Microsoft, they are leading on the openness and transparency front, and I’d wager that they are and will continue to be much the better for it. Their overt and between-the-lines frustrations are underscored by a passionate desire – a hope to follow with the Shawshank theme – to make their organizations better.

In a meeting earlier this week, I quoted a portion of an article by a Google employee named Joe Beda that wrote something in the midst of talking about something Google employees are granted called “20%” time – that has Joe’s industry peers all agog (and because he’s a former Microsoft employee – causing a bit of back and forth with a Microsoft vs. Google argument – which might well be an example of “Blogosphere Institutionalism” – because it misses a lot of the point). The point that struck home for me was this:

The intranet in Google is super transparent. Teams are actively encouraged to share the most intimate details of their projects with the rest of the company. This happens through tech talks, design docs, lunch table conversations, etc. When two teams are doing similar things, people start with the assumption that they must have their reasons and that the situation will be worked out in time. There isn’t a huge push to over optimize and have only one solution for each problem. This means that there isn’t an adversarial relationship between teams that can lead to long standing animosities and information hiding.

I called this the antithesis of University IT organizations. Pot. Kettle. Gray.

The quote came during a discussion of yet another proposed process being undertaken by yet another committee. And don’t get me wrong, the process sounds great, and the committee has great people. It all sounds agreeable. But something is still missing. Agreeable really isn’t enough. I think what’s missing is the “believe-able.” [sic.]

What passionate, underlying belief, what mission, what hope gives the stakeholders in all of this a common foundation – a common experience? Something to rally around?

For the record, I’m not talking specifically about this committee itself that came up in the meeting, an investigation into campus-wide email and calendaring. It’s chaired by a very good, very engaged University staff member and is made up of other staff members that believe whole-heartedly in doing the right thing. What I’m talking about is that the managers of IT organizations, myself included can talk and talk and talk about communication and chart an outline of a decision-making process and “transparency” – but there is still no guiding, underlying principle – no core belief that permeates through the IT groups, and therefore transparency is just a word, bound up in a lot of other words.

I wrote two years ago, in an essay that recalled Andy Dufresne, the protagonist from Shawshank – and I’ve quoted it in this blog before:

There’s something extraordinary though, about Andy’s time that he spent at Shawshank. It says more than the words “Get busy livin’ or Get busy dyin’” He turns tar into bohemian-style beer. He plays arias that uplift a prison. I think I am fascinated, not so much by the tunnel, but maybe just the carving of the chess pieces as much as anything . He builds a library. He makes a difference. Andy never finds his place there, but in his time, he makes one.

I’m not sure we are ever going to change the culture until enough people have some idea of what kind of place we want to see us be at. Where we want the equivalent of Andy’s Zihuatanejo to be for us? And how do we make a place along the way? What are our arias, our chess pieces, our prison libraries? Even more fundamental – both Zihuatenejo, the arias, the bohemian-style beer, the chess pieces, the library – they were all outward manifestations of an inward passionate belief in something. Enough belief for Andy – and the seemingly-institutionalized Red also.

What do we believe in?

Having rambled my way to this point, I know that these are just words too. As much – or actually more – talk just adding to overall chatter. These words are as much for me to read and contemplate as anyone else – perhaps more so. My own public pep talk to myself. I just know that somehow, someway, I need to find a way to transcend (there’s another word) that institutionalization that Red’s words echo. I need to find those ways, that common foundation, that makes the Google transparency to be the de facto culture of my own group, and that of those we interact with. To find that:

I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.

I hope.

Wait Til Next Year

Well, following up from my speech to Engineering Open House on Saturday, I think it went… well it went.

I made the speechgiver’s fatal mistake – writing out the speech (which needs some serious copy editing), bucking all conventional wisdom. Of course, I’ve never been one for conventional wisdom. I wanted a bit better put together pep talk and I thought I could get away with it. My short-term memory is decent – and I thought that writing down some key highlights would trigger things. Unfortunately, as I remarked to one of the sessions in a self-deprecating moment, that “I now remember why I never took notes in College, because I soon as I write something down, I forget it” – well I did.

The first session was a trainwreck. Hopefully I gave them some feeling of excitement, but I don’t know.

Interestingly enough though, after the trainwreck, they asked Kathy a number of good questions. Later, as I started reading more of my speech, and just becoming comfortable by the third or fourth session, they stopped asking questions.

Kathy did great though. Real numbers, real specifics – real information the parents and students needed to know.

I’ve always felt that powerpoint for speaker’s notes was a crutch. Next year I’ll be on crutches (but maybe that will give me some screenshots and graphs or something).

In other impressions:

  • Always know where the building’s bathrooms are – you will get asked
  • An awful lot of people want to buy Dell. Sadly, our support experiences with Dell laptops in the Student Owned Computing program have been terrible. At best.
  • I really wish I knew how much of the campus (percentage wise) is covered by a wireless signal. We have these maps – but I don’t really have a percentage. I was saying 25% – but I think that’s tremendously generous
  • I’m either speaking in complete generalities (read the speech) or so impossibly detailed it’s not funny. I wonder if that’s the hallmark of a scientific bent. How do I come up for air from the details of what I do and make it accessible without being generic? That’s my holy grail
  • I always come away from those things with a sense of awe at the fact that these parents and students are about to add a $2000-$2500 device that you carry in a bookbag – to a cost of attending NCSU that’s marked at $12,000-$13,000 per year. I put myself through NC State when the cost was much lower, and I would have struggled to buy a laptop. What in the world can my group do to make it worth their while? Maybe that’s my Holy Grail
  • I made the mistake of saying that NCSU MAE had a stock car. This isn’t true. We do however have a Legends car. Which is actually cooler if you think about it

Well, in true Charlie Brown fashion. “Wait until next year”

Of course, that’s what I said last year.

Announcements

A Campus By Any Other Name…

RALEIGH, NC – NC State University Officials announced today that they would officially change the name of Centennial Campus to “That Other Campus”

“After pulling together a blue ribbon panel that created a exploratory subcommittee that hired an outside consultant that specializes in the names of people, places, and things, we have the utmost of confidence that we can successfully work together on the new name” said George Worsley, former Vice Chancellor for Finance and Business at NC State and director of the commission, “the new name reflects the historicity of our main campus, which houses the complex named after me, and our consultants felt that a name like ‘Centennial’ reflected only unique events, that only occur every so often. We want That Other Campus to reflect a vibrant, constantly eventing location.”

“Besides, no one can spell ‘Centennial’”

The announcement took some by surprise. An unnamed Centennial, er, That Other Campus, official told someone that told this writer: “I really don’t understand this, I wasn’t consulted, my office wasn’t consulted, and now I have to change my business cards, this is such a mess. I can spell Centennial just fine – look it’s in my spell check – right beside centimeter”

Costs of the conversion were not available. But NCSU Central Stores has reportedly ordered a lot of Sharpies.

In unrelated news, NC State University officials announced that Chancellor James L. Oblinger was officially changing his name to his oft-referred moniker: “J-LO”

In completely unrelated news, University of California – San Diego officials announced that Chancellor Marye Anne Fox was changing her name to “Pookie”


University to Be Removed From Internet

RALEIGH NC – NC State University announced today that they were cutting the cable to the Internet

In a press release, completed in crayon, officials complained vehemently that “the Internet kept touching them” and “Nyah-Nyah Boo-boo, I’m rubber and the Internet is Glue.” This writer was unable to determine the signatory of the press release.

“I don’t understand. No one told us anything. I keep writing and writing and writing about communication. You would think that someone would have told us. No one tells us anything.”, Jason Young, systems manager for the College of Engineering, “I think I have to write a long email about this” When asked if he had actually asked anyone about this, Mr. Young replied “What?!? Are you kidding?!? They are supposed to read my mind.”

Campus networking officials would neither confirm or deny the report. Campus mail officials did comment that they were taking down the email list server for “emergency maintenance – and before that Jason Young fellow gets a chance to write anything”


They Are Cows. And They Talk

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Bessie and Maude, SpokesCows

RALEIGH NC – NC State University announced today that Bessie and Maude, two exceptional stock heifers, will be the keynote speakers at this year’s first annual Mr. Ed Tech 2005.

While similarly named to NC State University’s annual showcase of Learning and Technology, EDTECH – show organizers insist that they are totally different beasts.

“While we have made tremendous strides in the last 50 years with computing and technology – truly transformational technologies in how we humans communicate – how far have we really gotten with our mammalian friends?”, Dr. Wilbur Wood, conference co-chair, says, “Have we progressed any since Mr. Ed? I think we’ll find that a barnyard divide still looms over us all. Besides, there’s no EDTECH this year, and we were able to reserve McKimmon Center cheaply”

Bessie gave this writer an exclusive peek inside the theme of her keynote. “Mr. Ed opened a lot of doors for us. No one thought that you could talk to a horse, but of course Mr. Ed changed that. There are still many stereotypes to address, even our langauage needs to be examined – ‘bullmalarkey?’ – ‘bullheaded?’ I say MANPOO! We have to work on these words that hold an entire domestic large animal population back. And those Chic-Fil-A commercials? Please! We can spell just fine – but it’s not all negative, and we are here to prove that.” Maude added “And Mr. Ed did so many great things for our kind – and he was only one horse. What about two cows? What about when those two cows tell two more cows. Why it’s a movement and it’s a hoof, er, a foot”

Mr. Ed Tech 2005 is set for September 1 at the NC State McKimmon Center. Reception to follow at Aunt Ethel’s Farm.


Campus Linux Services Reorganized

RALEIGH NC – NC State Linux Administrators today announced that they were changing their focus from Linux to Windows

“We have really had a tough time with this whole RedHat Enterprise Linux License” said one Campus Linux Services official, “When UNC-GA didn’t pay the bill, and we couldn’t get updates to the Realm Linux and other RHEL boxen – it really through us for a loop. I was all ready for some Gnome widget update goodness – and it just broke. I think I need a new GLIBC or something.”

“I don’t understand. No one told us anything. I keep writing and writing and writing about communication. You would think that someone would have told us. No one tells us anything. Not that I’m really affected, because I’m running Mac OS X”, Jason Young, systems manager for the College of Engineering, “I think I have to write a long email about this. Did I say I was running Mac OS X”

Campus Linux officials said that they were shifting to Windows, because “It’s not like the Windows Updates do anything.”