The Chronicle's Wired Campus Newsletter 10/2 10/3 10/4 2006

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  • Date: Thu, 05 Oct 2006 12:47:05 -0400

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"What Makes Open Source Tick?" Every software company worth its salt has a stable of bright, young computer scientists at its disposal. So why is it that open-source projects often produce clean code more quickly than the giants of the software world? Armed with a $750,000 grant, researchers from the University of California at Davis intend to find out. The scholars plan to study several open-source endeavors -- including the collaborations that produced a Web server called Apache and a scripting language called Python -- for insight into how to avoid the pitfalls that slow down proprietary software development. "In traditional products, bits of code tend to be owned or controlled by specific individuals, and thus each bit of code can be on a single-threaded critical path," said Premkuma Devanbu, a professor of computer science at Davis, to LinuxInsider. "In open source, anyone can read and comment on a file." --Brock Read Open Source Tools and Resources for the classroom

"Two Laptops Per Child?" After Nicholas Negroponte unveiled a prototype of his One Laptop Per Child project's $100 computer (The Chronicle, November 25, 2005), officials with Intel were quick to dismiss the device as a none-too-useful novelty item. Mr. Negroponte played down the criticism as a case of sour grapes: He had, after all, chosen to line his laptops with processors from Advanced Micro Devices, one of Intel's competitors. But now Intel has stepped forward with the Classmate PC, its own challenge to the One Laptop Per Child model. Like the OLPC laptop, the Classmate PC has flash memory instead of a hard drive. But while Mr. Negroponte's machine runs Linux and comes with batteries that are recharged by a crank, Intel's computer runs Windows XP and has a standard lithium ion battery. The Classmate PC, which will be marketed to developing nations, will cost between $220 and $300 -- making it a great choice for "the poor and destitute with more discriminating tastes," according to Gizmodo. --Brock Read Hackers invited to break the security on $100 laptops

"E-Mail is for Old People" College officials around the country find that a growing number of students are missing important messages about deadlines, class cancellations, and events sent to them by e-mail because, well, the messages are sent to them by e-mail. In response, some institutions require that students check their college e-mail accounts so they do not miss announcements, holding students responsible for official information that comes through that medium. Other institutions are attempting to figure out what technology students are using to try to reach them there. A 2005 report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project called "Teens and Technology" found that teenagers preferred new technology, like instant messaging or text messaging, for talking to friends and use e-mail to communicate with "old people." Along the same lines, students interviewed by The Chronicle say they still depend on e-mail to communicate with their professors. But many of the students say they would rather send text messages to friends, to reach them wherever they are, than send e-mail messages that might not be seen until hours later. See The Chronicle's full story.

Protect Children's Privacy

Social Networking Rules For Children

10/3/ "Podcasting, Without the Pod" Professors who podcast love to talk up the convenience of the technology: Any student with an iPod (or a less widely used digital music player) can listen to course lectures as he or she walks to class or works out at the gym. But if a number of nascent companies get their way, podcasts will soon become even easier to tune in to: All it will take is a cellphone. Wired News, reporting from the 2006 Podcast and Portable Media Expo, notes that companies like Liquid Air Lab and Melodeo are offering services that let users download podcasts directly to their mobile phones, and while those services aren't entirely practical just yet, they are improving fast. Since cellphones are even more ubiquitous on college campuses than iPods, the technology may be worth keeping an eye on. --Brock Read

Just In Time - Learn Everything about Podcasting

"Universities Unveil New Supercomputing Projects" A pair of universities have announced ambitious new supercomputing projects that could be a major boon to campus scientists and engineers. Princeton University has acquired three supercomputers -- two traditional models and a cluster of Dell machines -- and grouped them in a research center that, campus officials say, is among the most potent such facilities in the country. Research that has typically taken place in Princeton's chemistry and genetics labs will now be conducted at the new center. Meanwhile, the University of Texas at Austin's Texas Advanced Computing Center will use a $59-million grant from the National Science Foundation to purchase and operate a new high-speed machine. The supercomputer, which will be designed by Sun Microsystems, is expected to be completed in 2007. --Brock Read

"Facebook Introduces Ads to Its News Feed" Facebook officials will give the site's much-debated News Feed (The Chronicle, September 22) one more chance to ruffle a few feathers: The feature, whose introduction caused something of a firestorm last month, will now play host to corporate advertisements. The ads will appear alongside the feed's typical messages, which tell users when friends have updated their own Facebook profiles. Mike Murphy, Facebook's chief revenue officer, told Adweek that the ads will help companies start "an ongoing dialogue with the user," but it remains to be seen whether college students -- who tend to treasure the site for its insularity -- will welcome that dialogue. --Brock Read


"A Pro-Literacy Web Portal"
A new Web site, created by Google, the Frankfurt Book Fair
Literacy Campaign, and Unesco, offers a variety of tools for
promoting literacy. The Literacy Project, unveiled this week at
the annual Frankfurt Book Fair, lets users search through a
database of books and academic papers about education and
reading promotion. It also includes links to blogs on literacy
and related topics, and maps that point to literacy
organizations around the world.  --Brock Read

Try This: National Children's Folksong Repository Project

"Keeping Tabs on the Foreign Press" These days, the foreign press is hardly wanting for sharp criticism of the United States: Open up The Guardian, and you'll likely find Tony Blair coming under fire for his relationship with George W. Bush. Turn on Al-Jazeera, and odds are you'll see a rebuke of American policy in the Middle East. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to keep tabs on what it considers anti-American sentiment, and it's turning to a consortium of colleges for help. Researchers at institutions including Cornell University and the Universities of Pittsburgh and Utah are collaborating to develop "sentiment analysis" software that combs through overseas publications and gauges their opinions on American policy decisions. Since computers must be trained to interpret opinions and biases, the technology is a few years away from seeing the light of day. Officials with the Homeland Security department -- which is devoting $2.4-million to the research project -- say the software could help identify potential threats to the nation, according to The New York Times. But should federal officials -- or, for that matter, campus researchers -- spend their time trawling for negative press clippings? Some reporters and privacy advocates think not. Critics of the project say it has little to do with national security, and some skeptics fear that "sentiment analysis" will be used to stifle criticism from the foreign press, not just to gauge it. The entire endeavor is "just creepy and Orwellian," says Lucy Dalgish, a lawyer who is executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. --Brock Read

"Turnitin Comes Back to Kansas" When the University of Kansas decided to drop its subscription to Turnitin, the widely used plagiarism-detection service, professors fretted that the institution was taking away a valuable tool (The Chronicle, September 20). But campus officials said the service, which cost them $22,000 a year, was too pricey. That seems no longer to be the case. The university announced yesterday that it would change course and renew its subscription to Turnitin, according to the Lawrence Journal-World. Financial details of the deal were not released, but Turnitin officials say they assuaged Kansas officials' concerns about intellectual-property rights by agreeing to withhold some student papers from the huge database against which all essays are checked. --Brock Read

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