New year’s resolution: stronger passwords

I’ve liked to think my password is pretty strong. It has a good mix of symbols, lowercase letters, capital letters, and numbers. However, you’ve probably already picked up on the biggest problem: like most, I have one password I use for everything. XKCD has a great explanation of why this is a problem. For example, If I’d had an account with Gawker when its servers were compromised last month, I might have been in trouble. For all I know, I already am in trouble from a different site I use having been hacked.

For the new year, no more! My new year’s resolution is to use only unique passwords for all my different accounts online. Continue reading

Many high schools offering “Computer Science” really aren’t

The following post is an excerpt from a research paper I wrote this semester examining the use of high school computer science classes to increase the number of women in computer science. Yes, the high school I reference is the one I attended.

A major issue in teaching computer science in high schools is that not only do the students not understand what computer science is, but frequently neither do the teachers and administrators. High schools frequently offer classes under the heading “computer science,” that are actually courses on keyboarding or using applications. Continue reading

Should colleges ban laptops in class?

A debate has sprung up on my campus lately about whether it is acceptable to use a laptop in class, with a technology panel and two school paper articles on the subject. I wrote last January about my decision not to use a laptop in class based on my inability to keep up with typed notes, but rather than actual note taking, the current debate is largely over the way that students slack off with their laptops in class. While many students do use their laptops to take notes, it is my impression that even more use them to check their social networks instead of paying attention to the lecture. Continue reading

Raise my hand and risk being “that girl”?

One aspect of a class that is sure to frustrate me if it’s even a little off is its speed. When the pace of classroom instruction is slow, I start wondering why I took the class in the first place. I go to a pretty selective school, so I expect classes to progress at a good clip, because we’re pretty smart students and can keep up. It is the habit of one or two of my professors, however, to teach too slowly for my taste.

To be fair to my professors, the only reason their class goes slowly is because half the time they are waiting for a response to a question posed to the students when none of the students want to raise their hand to answer. Continue reading

Giving an overview improves your presentation

My housemate Jackie writes the blog Agent Plus Environment about her life as a Cognitive Science student. She and I attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women In Computing this October, and she recently posted some presentation tips based on her impressions at the conference. Full details can be found on her entry, but the highlights are:
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Diversity of perspective and interview breakfasts

I had the pleasure of attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Atlanta a couple weeks ago, and I left excited for job-searching for the coming year. I submitted my resume to the conference’s resume database and received quite a few responses, several of which resulted in interviews at the conference. One company in particular invited me not only to interview with them, but also to attend their company breakfast for candidates to learn more about the company. I joined them for breakfast, and as expected I enjoyed myself thoroughly and learned more about the company.

As I left the breakfast with another candidate, I asked her what she thought of the event. She said that she enjoyed the food and conversation, but was worried that the hiring department was biased because all the people we’d spoken to had been “strong women.” When I asked her what she meant by that and why she would worry, she explained that because all the company representatives we met were charismatic, forceful women, it implied that meeker women did not make it through the hiring process, so that due to biased hiring a women had to be “strong” in order to be hired. Continue reading

The difference between college and professional projects

In my summer internship, one of my tasks was designing a customer survey form. My supervisor gave me about two dozen questions that needed to be answered in various ways. A few were fill-in-the-blank, but of the rest half needed to be ranked on a scale of 1 to 10, and the other half had to be ranked on a scale of 1 to 5. This would have been pretty simple if I were able to write the html myself, but I needed to use an existing form assembly tool so that we could import the responses directly into our database. The form tool was not very sophisticated: I had control over the CSS, but not the HTML, so any changes I made were applied to all questions. I tried to find styling that would look good on both scales, which was nearly impossible with the HTML I was stuck with.

So rather than pull back and say, “To design this form well, I need more consistency. All the ranking questions should be 1 to 5,” I kept editing the CSS, trying to find a way to make the two styles look the way I wanted. I was so stuck on how to make different ranking scales look nice that I couldn’t step back and see that using the same scale would be much simpler. It took a review from a coworker in marketing to point this out, and when he did, all I could think was, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Continue reading

My favorite travel protip

Welcome to liveblogging from SFO, which has recently announced it will provide free wifi over the whole airport!

Well, sort of. Upon logging on, I found that Tmobile is providing 45 minutes of free wifi, and after that you have to pay their daily pass fees. Oh well. 45 minutes is enough to get a blog post off.

Now, I’d like to share my best tip for long days of travel, airline or otherwise: bring a loaf of bread. On the international terminal around gate A7 in SFO is a store with a rack of Boudin sourdough bread. Whenever I fly from San Francisco to New York, I make sure to buy a half pound round loaf for $2.99. When traveling all day, a loaf of bread is the best insurance against $15 sandwiches.

This tip has saved me more than once. When I was stuck on the train between New York City and my college for two hours with no dinner last year, that loaf kept me from going crazy. The same thing happened when my friends and I were stuck waiting for customs for hours on our train to Montreal. They had teased me about the bag of mini bagels I’d been shlepping around, but they sure were thankful for it later.

How to predict a successful Google product (Hint: it’s the name)

Google announced last week that it will discontinue support for Wave, and I’m not surprised. At launch, the hype was huge and everyone was excited to bother their friends for Wave invites. But when I finally got mine, I opened Wave and thought, “What’s this? What am I supposed to do with this?”

The Wave interface is not as intuitive as what I had hoped for in a Google product. When I’m conversing in a wave, I’m never sure where I’m supposed to click or what I’m supposed to select. Judging by popularity, I don’t think I was the only one who thought so.
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Practical advice on shopping for freshman year

It’s really easy to overbuy for freshmen year. When I was a freshman, I made a lot of mistakes in my dorm shopping. There are obvious things you need, like clothes and laundry detergent, but I wish I’d known some of these subtleties before I went shopping.

Textbooks and chocolate are essential.

Obviously, before you start buying anything, consult with your roommate(s) and school website. Don’t bring anything that the school provides in the rooms already.

General tips:

  • I go to school on the opposite coast from where I live, so I had special concerns in terms of getting all my stuff there. Whenever I purchased something the summer before freshman year, I tried to buy it online and have it shipped directly to the school. I saved a lot on shipping costs that way. Consider whether shipping an item you already own will cost more than buying it near campus. It was cheaper to buy my fan on campus than to buy one at home at ship it there, even though the fan I bought was more expensive than one I would have bought at home.
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