Friday, November 30, 2007

Vocabulary = Rice

How good is your vocabulary? Here's a little way to find out -- and help others. is a vocabulary test with a difference. Every time you get an answer right, 20 grains of rice will be donated to programs to help end hunger around the world. That may no seem like much, but the website is donating over 300 million grains each day -- and the number is increasing.

Rice is donated by various advertisers. You will see an ad after you answer each question, but that's not a big price to pay.

It's easy and a good way to improve your vocabulary while helping others.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is "Swordfish" good enough?

How good is your password?

That's an important question. More and more things are on the Internet and depend on passwords to prevent identity theft. But if you have sensitive data online, an easily crackable password means that anyone with time and interest can get into your data.

There are many general rules:
  • Use upper and lower case, numbers, and punctuation.
  • Don't use words in the dictionary.
  • Change your password frequently, especially if it protects financial information.
  • Use a sentence for a long password. The first letters in "How I need a drink, alcoholic in nature, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics!" (for you math majors*) can be changed to "h!nada1nathl1qm" and be very hard to break.

Microsoft has a nice Password Checker web page that lets you test the strength of passwords. Try yours out. For instance the default Siena password is only medium strength, and "Swordfish" or "Password" are easy to crack.

The better the password, the safer you are.

* A famous mnemonic for the digits of pi -- count the number of letters in each word.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Who do you trust?

Internet Explorer 7 added some good security features to browsing. But, as is typical of security, the more secure something is, the less convenient.

One way to avoid some of the issues is to designate websites as trusted sites. If they're trusted, you can go to them and avoid some of the issues -- once a site is trusted, then IE won't check on some of the security issues. You're telling it in advance the site is OK, and that's good enough for IE.

It's simple to make a site trusted.
  • Click on "Tools"
  • Click on "Internet Options."
  • Click on "Security."
  • Click on "Trusted Sites" (see picture)

  • Click on "Sites."
  • Enter the web address of the site you want to make trusted.
  • Click on "Add."
  • Generally, leave "Require server verification" unchecked.
  • Click "Close."

Now that site is trusted.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Talking to your classmates

Here's a little-known fact: you can send e-mail to people in your class using the Siena system. This allows you to collaborate on projects easily.

Each class has its own mailing list. The simplest way to access yours (through Outlook Web Access) is this:
  • Open up a new mail message.
  • Type your instructor's last name in the To: box.
  • Click on the "Check Names" Button
  • The names of your instructor's class sections are listed. Find the one you're in and select it.

You can now send e-mail to the group (including the instructor).

Blackboard also has methods for sending a group e-mail. Contact for information.

Friday, November 9, 2007

If 24 was set in 1994.

Some of you old timers may get a kick out of this.

Yes, computing worked that way back then. We haven't had an information revolution; we had a communications revolution, making it easier to get in touch and to move data.

Let's talk about Citrix II -- Library CDs

The simplest applications on Citrix are the ones listed as "Library CDs." These reference books that have been put on CD, which gives you the ability to search through the text for terms of interest. Instead of pulling out a book (a thick book) of data and trying to find things in the index, you can use the CD, and Citrix lets you use it from anywhere, on or off campus.

The CDs currently available are:
  • Anchor Bible Dictionary. A searchable full-text CD of the bible, both the King James and New Revised Standard editions.
  • Civil War. All official Army documents (both Confederate and Union). Battle reports, marching orders, and much more.
  • Civil War Naval. Official reports on Civil War Naval Battles.
  • Encyclopedia of Religion. Reference work on religions and religious figures from around the world.
  • Old Testament Abstracts. A listing of abstracts of articles in Old Testament studies.
  • Past Masters. Works of philosophy, including the complete works of Aristotle, Plato, and various political philosophers.

Obviously, these are not designed for casual browsing; it's quite technical. But if you are doing research in these areas, it's a good way to find information you need from anywhere.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Let's talk about Citrix I

I've mentioned Citrix here before, but realized I never have discribed some of the things it does.

On the basic level, Citrix is a way to serve out software to desktops. You can run software without having to install it on your computer. You can also run PC software on a Macintosh, since Citrix creates its own program environment.

There are two ways to access it, depending on whether you're on the Siena network or not. From the network, you can access Citrix applications from the Start Menu; they show up as programs on the "All programs" list. There's also the Program Neighborhood Agent, an icon on the System Tray that's even more convenient (make sure you're set up for Pass-through authentication).

If you're not on Siena's network (this includes the School of Science and the residence halls), you can access Citrix via Citrix Access Gateway ( One trick, though: you need to install software to get it to work on your computer. You'll see a yellow bar on Internet Explorer, and you must click on this and install the client (if not, you'll get a nasty little warning message). Once it's installed, shut down Internet Explorer and log on again.

Note that sometimes you get the warning even if you've installed the software. If you see it again, wait. If the programs are displayed on the left, then you're set and don't need to install it again.

You should see something like this (it varies):

Macintosh users need to take further steps to get things to work, of course. See our web page for details.

What programs are available to you? Well, that's a topic for tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Success is a wonderful thing

Sometimes it takes months to solve a problem, but when you're done, it's a great feeling.

Back in July, we bought a site license for some software. And to deploy it, we wanted to be able to push it out -- not going from computer to computer. The problem is that it's more than just running the software; we needed to put in the license key and everything, plus make sure it installed without any intervention. I tried using some packaging software, but it never worked right.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I got a demo version of Macrovision's AdminStudio. What a difference.

But it's not easy. Packaging is complicated, and the software assumes a much greater technical knowledge than I have. However, after a lot of trial and error and messing around, I managed to get a package created, and to test an installation.

Of course, the first thing was a notice that there had been an upgrade. :(

More practice, but now I think we're set. Next will be a real bear: iTunes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Strange Problems

You win some, you lose some. Just yesterday, I dealt with a computer issue: a flash drive was not letting its user save to it. But once I talked with the user, I recognized the problem: that particular mode (which someone in that department has owned) had a little switch to write-protect the files. I just had her find the switch and all was fine.

Today, however, I got a strange one: someone couldn't use Internet Explorer on our network. I poked around a discovered that it was set up to use a Proxy serverm "itgproxy." OK -- normally not a problem. You just change the setting. But the setting kept resetting itself. You'd turn it of, and check a second later and it was back again.

A Google search showed where it might have come from (a mistake by Microsoft), but no one mentioned that it would come back, and the talk about it referenced IE6, not IE7. So I'm stuck.

It certainly behaves like spyware -- you can't get rid of it -- but I can't find why it reinstalls. Deleting BHOs doesn't help. Also, it's specific to a user's profile, not to the computer.

So it's research time. Sigh. Always fun.