Family History 2.0

Social media helps us extend our family trees. Regardless of location, Facebook or Twitter can connect you with relatives around the world. Web 2.0 and Social Media has given families a powerful tool to extend family lines. For example a Facebook Page could be used to share new discoveries and pool resources. As new relatives are found, distant cousins can be added to the group, and share new information.

Recently the 1940 census was released to the public in digital form and quickly indexed through crowdsourcing. Other records are still not indexed, but available online. For these records opensource tools exist to help sort through these images quickly such as FastFilm.  Instead of ordering a microfilm and waiting two weeks or going to a Family History Library, you can download the records for free.

File Sharing Justified?

Finding an excuse for downloading music or software illegally is too easy. Orson Scott Card points to corporations stealing profits from music writers. Regardless or not of dubious practices of hoarding royalties from artists you still break the law. If you travel to other countries you find piracy rampant. Walking down the open air markets I have seen this first hand in Brazil and Peru. You see computers that run pirated versions of Windows. Whether individual or by corporation you cannot break the commandment “thou shalt not steal,” you can only break yourself against the commandment. As a software developer with a music minor I believe that those who are justifying themselves with that excuse, are still stealing. Obedience brings forth blessings. By requiring labor to earn the money to pay for it. Children and teens who pay for music could spend more time working to earn the money while develop morals, discipline and work ethic.

Open Source – How to Not Build a Cathedral

Creating an piece of software “cathedral” style requires a skilled set of people working independently on different portions, but the success of Linux uses bazaar style development to accelerate development. My personal open source project FastFilm was a cathedral. After reading about principle number ten, “If you treat your beta-testers as if they’re your most valuable resource, they will respond by becoming your most valuable resource,” I realize I must repent. I vow to improve my code through promptly listening to these bug reports rather than waiting until the tester loses interest. This creates a better bazaar as I listen to the user. Fixing flaws for them helps them create ownership in the software by seeing their requests become reality. They will become more valuable as I have released new versions of my software because they will notice I cared and in turn I will e-mail more bugs for me to fix. This iterative development cycle of people reporting bugs, and releasing improved versions, leads to accelerated development and more and more users.

Elder Oaks Trending on Twitter!

Defending the rights of unborn children #ElderOaks trended worldwide on Twitter, if only for a few moments during his talk, Protect the Children. This was the first time I had seriously watched Twitter. I believe that Elder Oaks is an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. In a world which denies many children the opportunity of life, I believe that he is right.Many nations are shrinking, and have lower birth rates that death rates. In the chart above, we see that the purple countries and magenta countries have lower birth rates than replacement rates. Inside of the United States and Canada though we see that there is immigration that continues to raise the growth rate of the country. I am a cornucopian and believe that the human resources is so important that it is more important than food. Malthusians have believed that due to high population growth rates that we would run out of food. I believe that Elder Oaks is referring to this when he says, “Protect the Children.” They are so special, although many on Twitter disagree with his views on abortion, I was also pleased to know that others, including women agreed with his viewpoint that, “Many laws permit or even promote abortion, but to us this is a great evil.” (Elder Oaks)

Boys will be Boys – How to Level the Playing Field

Grace Hopper (1906-1992)
Famous for inventing the compiler

Although Computer Science is taught largely by male professors, I feel that females are left behind because they feel intimidation from their male peers. Every other boy in the class it seems already has developed their own website or programmed a video game. Without a system to help favor those who may not already be familiar with the programming domain as many of their die-hard-gamer computer-nerd classmates, they give up and stop asking for help. Women in computer science need a system to help them succeed along with more role models women to achieve success.

Harvey Mudd College leads in awarding forty percent of their Computer Science Degrees to women. Here women are nurtured early on. For example, the introductory classes are divided into two different sections: black and gold. Those who have no prior experience attend the gold section. This class also focuses on teaching how computer science is not only about programming, but applicable to science as well. The president of Harvey Mudd, Maria Klawe, has a PhD in Computer Science. Her inspiration as a role model becomes infectious to women around her in the major. This leads more women to finish the major and to graduate.

Warning, Ghost in the Wires

Although Kevin Mitnick’s criminal hacking days occurred mostly before the advent of the internet, his tales of computer chicanery and “phone freaking” are still relevant because it is still used today. In his book he explains that his purpose of hacking was never to steal source code and profit–but only for the thrill of it. Social engineering and hacking his way into systems became his addiciation. This hurt his family, especially his mother a great deal. As a teenager, he began by getting free telephone servicefor his mom’s apartment, later to connect to the great tech companies mainframes of the day: Sun Microsystems, Novell, and NetCom. Without going through sophisticated back doors, he used  zero-day exploits that others had reported to the developers but still were not fixed or patched along with social engineering to download the entire source code of their flagship products.

After spending time in jail, Kevin Mitnick now runs an IT Security Firm, and yes, he still hacks–but ethically. His purpose is to gain access to their network and explain to his clients how he was able to breach their security. Through obtaining an education as software developers, we can only prevent so many security holes in our code, like the ones Kevin used, because the users of the software must also update their software, maintain it correctly, and maintain a physically secure environment. Many of these measures are overlooked and can be avoided through training all users about proper secure system maintenance, such as the lectures that given now gives as an ethical hacker.