Friday, June 15, 2007

Data Visualization Tools

Steve Gibson of and Security Now guided me to SpaceMonger - a disk / file visualization tool. Think in terms of size, age, and other file attributes - then map multiple variables of a hierarchy in a map with size and color to differentiate. The results are stunning visuals that let you immediately hone in on relevant criteria. Over the last few years similar maps of the stock market with industry and company information have become popular.

But now the best part! All of this technology is based on research conducted at the University of Maryland. Documentation and flash video tutorials are online and available!
Treemap is a space-constrained visualization of hierarchical structures. It is very effective in showing attributes of leaf nodes using size and color coding. Treemap enables users to compare nodes and sub-trees even at varying depth in the tree, and help them spot patterns and exceptions.

The research team has also developed tools (free for academic use) to create treemap. The current version is 4.1.1 and is available at .

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Microsoft Vists, Longhorn, and evolution of operating systems

Microsoft recently released Beta 3 of Longhorn, the Windows Server replacement for the Windows Server 2003 operating system. In digging through some of the historical details, I discovered that operating system evolution is still of major importance.

For example, the Vista code base was reset to Windows Server 2003 in early 2004. With Vista released in Jan 2007 and Longhorn continuing development there is synergy in the common code base between the "client" (Vista) and the "server" (Windows Server). Of course it makes perfect sense to operate in this coordinated fashion, but I think that it escapes the typical media reporting of Microsoft events. Where it goes from here is the expected release of Longhorn in the last half of 2007 and an expected release of Vista Service Pack 1 without a date, but obviously with some linkage to Longhorn development.

ComputerWorld reviewed the Beta 3 Longhorn release in early May. The review was positive and highlighted several significant enhancements including:
  • Windows Server Virtualization
  • Server Manager
  • Terminal Services
  • Server Core
  • Internet Information Services 7.0
  • Branch office scenario enablement - incorporating security issues
  • ... and a laundry list of security enhancements, tool enhancements, and availability improvements
  • (I've seen other references to Active Directory changes as a key improvement)

The conclusion by Jonathan Hassell:

"My impressions of this release: Windows Server Longhorn is a major upgrade, one that promises benefits and advantages for a wide swath of shops across the world. Depending on where your heavy technology investments are, or how your company and its IT infrastructure are laid out, you'll find a lot to like -- and little to dislike."

Friday, May 04, 2007

APress - computer book publisher with the right approach

Ok - computer application books are a dime a dozen and even though they look good in the bookstore - by the time you crack the cover, the reality is the first few chapters cover the basics, the middle of the book covers some good info ... but not in enough detail to get you past the first roadblock (back to Google for answers!), and the final "advanced topics" chapters aren't (advanced ... of course they are "final").

Apress caught my eye in the bookstore today with a couple of uniquely titled Excel books (pivot tables and database functions). The books cut right to the chase and into the meat of the topic. No generic how to find the power button Chapter 1! Their website has the tagline "books for professionals by professionals". The website also contains sample chapters, table of contents, and source code files. Great way to check out the details.

Books that caught my eye:
A Complete Guide to PivotTables: A Visual Approach
Excel 2007: Beyond the Manual
and Beginning Python: From Novice to Professional which has potential application for writing data analysis detectlets in Picalo.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Presentations ... and PowerPoint of course

Presentations are a fact of life. A comedy video on what not to do with PowerPoint caught my eye. Don McMillian is an engineer turned stand up comic .... working in PowerPoint!

PowerPoint as a comedy routine!

A somewhat more serious take on PowerPoint and presentation tips in general is nicely illustrated by Garr Reynolds. His insight is to step back and
  1. begin with the end in mind - what do you want the audience to walk away with
  2. simple is good - how about 3 take aways
  3. simple is also good for slides - sometimes communicate only with a number. Or a picture. Or a word.
  4. high quaility graphics are necessary. Dump the ppt templates (yes!!)
  5. use color and fonts effectively
  6. audio and video are multimedia tools that may enhance. I think in terms of clips and break the flow, i.e. get your audiences attention.

Also some commen sense (which isn't always so common) delivery tips.

Garr Reynolds also links to several other videos about presentation skills on his blog: PresentationZen . Also goes back to that old reliable resource: a flip chart in "Flip charts as visual enhancers"! Great stuff!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A security course in 12 slides!

Sometimes a simple visual message, even with tongue firmly in your cheek, can powerfully convey a multi-faceted message. Information security has many important messages and lessons for good security. Jim Rapoza's 12 Ways to Be A Security Idiot is a clever on-screen slide show with important messages about:

  1. Firewalls

  2. Laptop security and data encryption

  3. Internet access from "anywhere"

  4. Anti-virus protection

  5. Phishing sites

  6. Too good to be true schemes

  7. Danger in email attachments

  8. Passwords

  9. Operating system and application patches

  10. The Web as playground

  11. Open wireless networks

  12. Trusting soul in social engineering
"Jim Rapoza ranted about how most viruses and computer security problems are made possible by stupid people doing stupid things with their computers. Unfortunately, things haven't changed much since then. So if you're feeling left out, read Jim's list of 12 ways to join the ranks of the attachment-opening, virus-downloading masses. "

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Transferring the Registrar of a Domain Name (Yahoo Hosting)

Seems pretty straightforward right? Possibly a little security to ensure that a rival registrar can not poach new customers (how about the "bills" that come in the mail from rogue registrar's with a "pay your renewal" to us message?). But no - it isn't nearly as easy or straightforward as that.

I registered a .org site for my church about 6 years ago and used Yahoo as the registrar/host. Quick and easy - painless billing to my existing Yahoo wallet. Now for the transfer ... Yahoo doesn't have the necessary info available online, only a cryptic message regarding "contact Customer Care". I've sent two form based messages already ... 1st a generic request for tell me what I need to do to transfer this .org domain and registrar out of Yahoo. 2nd a specific request for the authorization code for my domain. I'm waiting for responses! I'll update with the timing and relevance of the response.

Why the lack of confidence? Check the recent posting and comments at ! I understand why businesses don't want customer revenue to leave - but not providing information IN my web account console is poor service.

4/8/2007 UPDATE: 3 requests to Yahoo Customer Care via a web form from my account = 0 responses, 1 request via email to the address in the Yahoo help system with specific details to make domain changes = 1 rejected email from Yahoo!

But 1 phone call (actually the 2nd but I was hung up on within 3 minutes so I won't even count it!) and about 30 on the phone and I had an authorization code from Yahoo to transfer my domain name. Yahoo phone number 866-800-8092 (option 0 for tech support), alternative number to Yahoo customer service is 866-562-7219 ... fairly quick at transferring you to a specific resource.

Is it moved yet? No but the process at my web host 1&1 seems to be moving fairly quickly. I'll update again with the final resolution.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

How Students Develop Online Learning Skills

Interesting article in a current issue of EduCause about online learning. No great surprises in the practical steps!!

Roper, Alan R. How Students Develop Online Learning Skills, EDUCAUSE Quarterly 30(1)(2007)

''Successful online students share their secrets for getting the most from online classes, focusing on time management, active participation, and practice''

Students that are successful in online courses identified 7 practical steps / practices that helped them (based on survey responses)

  1. Develop a time-management strategy.

  2. Make the most of online discussions.

  3. Use it or lose it. Apply the concepts

  4. Make questions useful to your learning. Dig and research deeper into the subject.

  5. Stay motivated. Personal goal setting is the key!

  6. Communicate the instruction techniques that work.

  7. Make connections with fellow students.