September 12, 2008, 12:46 pm
A student at Carleton University, in Ottawa, faces up to 20 years in prison for allegedly hacking into the institution’s computer system to prove that it needed stronger security, The Ottawa Citizen reports.
The security breach came to light last week when campus officials received a pseudonymous, 16-page letter listing the network-account names and passwords of 32 students. The note went on to describe how the passwords were pilfered with the aid of a program that captures computer keystrokes, and the author urged the university to do more to secure its network.
The writer may have seen himself as a good Samaritan, but Carleton officials and local police were far from convinced. The target of their investigation, a 20-year-old student named Mansour Moufid, has now been charged with mischief to data and unauthorized use of a computer, and he will appear in court in October. —Brock Read
September 11, 2008, 1:23 pm
Over the past several years, you’ve probably heard plenty of tales — and read plenty of stories, on Wired Campus and elsewhere — about the dwindling enrollment in computer-science courses. So here’s a nice change of pace. At California State University at Sacramento, computer-science enrollment is on the uptick.
In fact, the number of freshmen taking computer-science classes rose by 20 percent this year, a university official told The Sacramento Bee. That’s not cause for celebration quite yet. After all, the university’s computer-science enrollment shriveled from 1,600 students in 2000 to just 565 last year. But the growth spurt has officials hoping that the steady, nearly decade-long decline in the department is finally leveling off.
If computer science really is mounting a comeback, it’s not coming completely out of the blue. Fears of IT jobs moving offshore seem to have diminished, and …
September 4, 2008, 2:55 pm
IBM provides plenty of tech training — in the form of text presentations, animated teaching guides, and “serious” video games — to the companies with which it works. Now the computing giant is offering its courses not just to business partners, but to business schools as well.
In an announcement this week, IBM officials said they have opened their training materials up to colleges that have signed up with the company’s Academic Initiative, a program that offers hardware and software discounts along with instructional tools. According to IBM, more than 3,000 institutions — mostly business schools and information-science programs — are now eligible to use the newly released training programs.
The company has also unveiled a tool, available on the Academic Initiative Web site, that helps professors match IBM’s technology and resources to courses recommended by the Association for Computing…
September 2, 2008, 4:05 pm
Sick of finding your e-mail inbox filled to the brim with spam? Well, here’s a thought: You could always change your name to Quincy or Xavier.
It’s an extreme strategy, to be sure, but it’ll probably work — as long as your first name determines the first letter in your e-mail address, that is. So says Richard Clayton, a security researcher at the University of Cambridge who analyzed e-mail traffic logs.
According to Mr. Clayton’s study, e-mail accounts that begin with common letters — like, say, S, P, A, and M — generally receive much more spam than accounts that start with W, X, or Y. The Peters and Patricias of the world can expect that more than 40 percent of their e-mail messages will be junk, but a Yancey using the same Internet provider may find only one in 10 messages to be spam.
The findings come as something of a surprise: According to PC World, conventional wisdom has held that it’…
August 26, 2008, 3:44 pm
If ever there were a time to follow the best practices for document digitization, this is it: Researchers in Israel are working to put fragile fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls on the Internet, according to The New York Times.
The famed scrolls, which contain the first known versions of books from the Hebrew Bible, represent a unique conservation challenge. They comprise about 900 documents, pieced together from a grand total of 15,000 smaller fragments. And the writing on the scrolls has already deteriorated — because 2,000-year-old ink is far from fade-resistant, and because the Scotch tape added by scholars in the 1950s didn’t exactly help matters.
The digitization project should help the Israel Antiquities Authority, which oversees the scrolls, improve access to the documents without exposing them to light, heat, and other threats. But it will take one or two years to get the scrolls…
August 25, 2008, 4:08 pm
Allison Routman, a senior at Ohio University, seemed to have a pretty good plan for the summer: She had earned a spot in the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea program, so she would tour the Mediterranean Sea on a boat, studying social justice. But then a Wikipedia entry, and some sloppy research, brought her idyllic summer to an abrupt halt, according to U-Wire.
For a report on the film Europa Europa, Ms. Routman consulted the open-source encyclopedia’s entry on the movie, copying three phrases — “when the Germans attacked the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa,” “German speaking minority outside of Germany,” and “who had just been released from a concentration camp.” The student says she thought she’d done nothing wrong by cutting and pasting the material.
But officials with the study-abroad program begged to differ. A panel of professors found Ms. Routman guilty of academic …
August 19, 2008, 1:22 pm
Last year when the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board substantially hiked the royalty fees for songs that are Webcast, online broadcasters sounded an alarm. At the very least, they said, the raised fees would force some online radio stations to cap their audiences. At worst, the broadcasters warned, the royalty board could end up writing Internet radio’s swan song.
Now it looks like those grim predictions may come to pass. The founder of one of Internet radio’s leading lights, Pandora, tells The Washington Post that Web royalties may soon force his station out of business. The fees now soak up 70 percent of Pandora’s $25-million annual revenue, according to Tim Westergren. “We’re approaching a pull-the-plug kind of decision,” he says.
What’s striking is that Pandora is no fly-by-night operation: The Web-radio service, which lets users build radio stations to match their own tastes, reaches about…
August 12, 2008, 3:04 pm
Java is the most popular computer-programming language in the world, according to analysts who tracks such matters. So it should be a staple of every college computer-science program, right?
Not so fast, says Robert Dewar, an emeritus professor of computer science at New York University. In an interview with InternetNews, Mr. Dewar lays out the case against Java: Students can rely heavily on the language’s libraries of pre-written code, he argues, so they’re not necessarily developing advanced programming skills.
In fact, Mr. Dewar paints a fairly grim view of computer-science programs. Department heads are worried by dropping enrollments, he says, so they have simplified their courses in an attempt to win students back. The problem, Mr. Dewar goes on to say, is that a computer-science degree facilitated with Java shortcuts isn’t as valuable as one achieved through more intensive training….
August 8, 2008, 3:42 pm
Having a hard time choosing which antivirus program to use? Researchers at the University of Michigan have a suggestion: Don’t settle on just one.
Computer scientists at the institution have developed a new service, called CloudAV, that lets computer users send questionable software off to a separate server—where a dozen antivirus programs and behavioral-detection tools decide whether the material is safe or corrupted. CloudAV takes its name from “cloud computing,” a term used loosely to describe technology services conducted through an online network, not through software native to a particular user’s machine.
Why rely on the cloud if you’ve already got an antivirus tool sitting on your own computer? Well, as Ars Technica points out, virus-blockers use different methods to pick up on new malware, so “the best software on one day may not hold the title on the next.” A typical antivirus…
August 6, 2008, 2:01 pm
Plenty of computer-science whizzes spend their summers plugging away on code for companies like Google and Microsoft. But about a dozen students at Connecticut institutions put their coding skills to a humanitarian use this summer, and the fruits of their labor are now on display.
The students worked for the Humanitarian-FOSS Project, an enterprise that aims to develop free, open-source software for global-aid and community-building efforts. The project was created by open-source enthusiasts at Trinity College, Wesleyan University, and Connecticut College—who were inspired by the success of Sahana, an open-source disaster-management system created in 2004 after tsunamis wracked Asia’s coast.
Students from Trinity, Wesleyan, and Connecticut College participated this summer, along with programmers from the Universities of Connecticut and Hartford. They worked in groups on a broad range of…