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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Coming this fall? (Most likely.)

Once again, it’s been far too long since I’ve posted so I want to begin with an excuse. I, for one, rarely believe someone who tells me they’ve been too busy to do something. I’m sure that some people are actually that busy but it’s a relatively small group. I’ve not had a lack of time, I’ve had a lack of thoughts. I think that’s probably what those too-busy folks mean. When they do have free time, their brains need a rest so my excuse is that my brain has been tired.

Now that I’ve dispensed an excuse, I did attend a really interesting meeting this week. For the past few years, UIS has been developing a student portal. This is one of those times that being part of a university system works against you since UIS could have done this much quicker if it would have just been us and not a system wide project. While I’ve heard this before, it seems to be true now – we will see the portal beginning this fall!

So what is a portal? If you don’t know, you might actually use portals already and not realize it. If you are a Yahoo user, for example, you may use the My Yahoo feature which allows you to customize your Yahoo page so that you have access to exactly the sort of content and services you want. The same will be true of the UIS portal – it might even be called MyUIS when it launches.

I’ve seen the demo environment and it looks really great. It is a tabbed environment (think of your tabbed browser window) in which some tabs are locked in place and others will be open to customization. The development team has been creating modules that users may select for their customizable space. Some of these are university specific and some are not – I noticed a module for CNN headlines and for top ESPN stories.

So how will this change your experience as a student?

In a significant way, the portal will act as a front door to UIS. You will log-in to the portal and everything else will be open to you – BlackBoard, the student registration system, financial information, DARS, email, etc. In addition, all of the services will be portal modules so you’ll have them all available to you in one place.

I think you’ll see an end to campus announcements clogging up your UIS email account (I’m not sure how many exclamation points this deserves so I’ll just use one!) We will have an RSS feed for announcements so you’ll get this information in a dedicated portal module. While it hasn’t been done yet, I intend to start a Liberal Studies feed as well so that I can continue to provide program specific data without relying upon email.

We are still waiting for complete details but we are expecting a fee increase next year some of which will go to funding this project. One planned idea for this funding will be to provide access to software. So, just as you might have a portal module with the name MyEmail you might also have a portal module named MySoftware. It would be as if any computer you might use is a part of our campus computer labs. Rather than trying to describe this, since it’s over my head, here’s a video explanation. (I’ve seen a demonstration of this technology and it was a jaw-dropper.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Brother, can you spare a dime (or 100,000,000,000,000 of them.)

I’ve not been a very good blogger lately but I suppose works does come first. Sorry.

When I was a kid, I watched The Beverly Hillbillies. As you may recall, Jed went out hunting and struck oil. Jed and family were able to move into an opulent Beverly Hills mansion because they were millionaires. This is one of my childhood understandings of the world: millionaires were rich beyond my wildest dreams.

Now I’m all grown up and my wife and I make a nice living and maintain a nice lifestyle but nothing like the Clampets. We live in a pretty normal house, we have modest cars etc - the American dream. But, as odd as it seems to me, we will make as much money in our lives as Jed Clampet made from his oil well. A millionaire? Sure, I’d take a million if you offered it to me but I wouldn’t even quit my job for that kind of money. I’d just feel like I had a comfortable retirement nest egg.

About ten years ago, Dr. Evil came into the future and tried to hold the Earth ransom for a million dollars and the governments of the world laughed at him. Billionaires were the new millionaires. A billion dollars. I could live the Clampet life with that kind of money.

Then we went to war in Iraq. If you recall, the initiate budget request was in the neighborhood of $80 billion. That seemed like a flabbergasting amount of money. Did that sort of money even exist? Maybe that’s the point that we started losing track of how big these dollar amounts were getting. I don’t mean that to be a political statement about the war. It’s just that we argued about this staggering amount of money and then just kept coming back for more money time and time again: $54.4 billion, $70.6 billion, $21.5 billion, $58 billion, $40 billion, $60 billion, $70 billion, $100 billion. These are the actual estimates I’m finding online for the appropriations between 2003 and 2007.

Now, just a few years after we’ve come to terms with a billion being a lot of money its beginning to seem like little more than a down payment - hello trillions.
In an attempt to understand a trillion, I offer this website I found on Twitter.

That’s some Texas T.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Interesting ways to waste time

Okay, I’ve come clean, I’m a blogger. The unanswered question is whether I’m a blog reader.

As I developed my addiction over the past year, I was, for the most part, a blogger who did not read anyone else’s blog (with the exception of the student blogs listed here.) In time, I began to consider what this meant and I came to two conclusions. First, since I was not reading anyone else’s blog, they were not reading mine, and second, writing a blog without reading other blogs sort of means that you’re a jerk.

I was nothing more than some guy roaming around the Internet mumbling to myself. I was the guy at the party who gives you the stink eye and walks away when you introduce yourself. I was that neighbor who is always asking you to help him move a dresser but never answers the door when you knock.

I don’t want to be a jerk, although I can’t always help it, so I made a point of looking for blogs that I would read regularly. This is easier said than done. Let’s be frank. Most blogs are simply not worth reading. I’m not really interested in reading someone’s personal journal since most interesting people don’t have time to blog. I’m also not interested in someone’s creative writing since it’s rare to find much creativity in their efforts. Still, if you look hard enough, you will find blogs with which you can make a connection so if you are interested in blogging it’s really important that you read blogs as well – don’t be a jerk like me.

Here are some recommendations. I’m choosing mostly popular blogs and I’m avoiding those that might be the most offensive. Do you have any suggestions for the rest of us?

This Is Why You’re Fat This blog makes me hungry although I can’t eat these things at my advanced age (meaning I want my age to continue advancing so these things are off limits.) This is one to review regularly since it is frequently updated.

Stuff White People Like If you’re easily offended, this is one to avoid. If you’re not easily offended this is a really funny blog that lampoons pretentiousness like no other blog. The comments are MUCH more offensive and often the best part of the posts. You never really know if the comments are angry or satirical.

FailBlog I’m linking you to the G-rated version of this site since you never know what you’ll find here (if you prefer the full blog, just click on the logo.) This is a collection of pictures and videos of things that have failed at something. You will find an occasional win thrown in for good measure. There are 4 or 5 posts a day so this is one you can check regularly.

Strongly Worded I stumbled across this blog as I was looking for something interesting to read and I am glad that I did. Strongly worded letters to things like snow, chickens, and the Nabisco Corp.is a really good idea and John Strongly will surely get a book deal if he keeps it up. Based upon the fact that he has only a few followers and no ads on his site he is new to blogging so if you start reading him now you will eventually be able to say that you followed him before he was famous.