Nov 28, 2015

Spending a rainy day in Texarkana, USA

We had a fun, rainy day today! 

Went to Texarkana to get Emily some new specs. 

Went to Target so I could get a rain jacket, then to the mall so Shan could get make-up. 

Had lunch at Roadhouse then went on a "culinary" shopping spree: 

Pop Pop Shop for some white chocolate-covered popcorn,

Smallcakes for some cupcakes (that we ate later in a 'cupcake wars' style tasting),

and then to Orange Leaf for ice cream.

Oh yeah, stopped at Walmart for wipers to put on Tyler's car Sunday and for the stuff to to do the shower doors. It rained the whole time. 

There was an accident on I-30 that was still blocking traffic after more than 2 hours, so we ditched the road at Emmet and still managed to get to Sonic for Happy Hour! Wahoo!! Hahaha, what a rainy day! 

Why am I telling you all this? Because it popped in my head.

Oct 13, 2015

#jnuc - Novel Solutions with JAMF IT

I chose this to learn various ways the software is being used. Because the room is smaller and much more crowded, I am not able to get out my laptop in order to compose my notes. So, I will just let you know this is what I'm doing, and later I will post thoughts ideas etc.

#jnuc - Software Security and Vulnerability

#jnuc - Software Security and Vulnerability

Why I chose this:
I am always looking for different perspectives of support and this one stuck out as something I really don't often take into consideration. I'm hoping to learn a thing or two.

What we covered:


  • Understand App
    • Traffic interception
    • Source code review
  • Send unexpected input
    • manual or automated
    • unusual or unexpected actions
  • Look for unusual results
  • Authentication identifies a user
  • Authorization grants permissions
Injection Flaws
  • User input generally not trustable
  • Injected in HTML
  • Inject in SQL
  • Others
Cryptographic flaws
  • randomization
  • keys
  • identifying servers/clients
  • don't do it yourself
Dependency Flaws
  • Open source
  • 3rd party components
  • Different dev styles
  • Different release cycles/security fixes
  • Different validations
Overview of Select Findings
  • Script download privilege escalation - script executed as root, could execute script, lock it, and run new script. Was fixed by changing location/permissions.
  • Insufficient Authorization Controls - JSS was able to execute as incorrect user privs
  • XML external entity vulnerability - could read file(password) and pass as plain text, cause DOS, etc. Fixed by changing XML parsing to prevent DTDs
  • DES-ECB mode for password - flaw = DES small key size, ECB is weak cipher, Prone to attacks. Fix = select stronger algorithm; more sophisticated cipher mode (AES-CBC); migrate old passwords to new scheme
Out of date software
  • System dependencies that have known, patched issues that you have not updated. Fix = sub to 3rd party release notices; incorporate dep updates
Secure Config Recommendations
  • Message verification = enable message signing using host key/cert
  • Software Install = various protocols could be used. fix = use securable protocols https/smb3
  • Filevault recovery key handling = filevault 2 keys can be intercepted. fix = use institutional recovery key instead of individual key

#jnuc - Adobe in Enterprise

#jnuc - Adobe in Enterprise

Why I chose this:
We have a couple users that require more than what is offered by various other software companies in terms of creative applications. Adobe is one of the large sponsors of the conference, so I thought I would see what they have to say.

What was covered:

Karl Gibson, Product Manager

The purpose is to communicate with IT personnel in order to get the word out as to changes in rollouts, etc. This allows IT folks to get a jump on what's coming - good, bad or ugly.

Creative Cloud Overview

  • Download every app as soon as released
  • Use on mobile devices and sync projects across platforms
  • Deploy apps, services updates from central console - add/reassign seats.
  • Two plans
    • Teams
      • Smaller teams/deploys
    • Enterprise
      • Large deploys

Cloud Packager

  • Create packages for you when you sign in based on your enrollment, download the packages for deployment


  • Remote Updater - Casper can invoke the updater.
  • Download, cache updates then install later
  • Verbose logging - success, fails, why fail

New Installer Technology

  • Optimized installer, still proprietary to Adobe (not flat installer nor industry standard)

Enterprise Dashboard

  • Beefed up system because enterprise requires more robust requirements.
    • SSO/Federated Identity
    • User roles allow for different permissions in terms of rollout
    • User Management SDK - directory in sync with dashboard
    • Managed Services - behind firewall
    • Document Cloud integrated as well
    • Cloud Packager included
    • Self-Service - Experimenting with running the apps with elevated privileges (if needed)

Identity Overview

  • Adobe ID, Enterprise ID, Federated ID
  • Different types based on requirements for various types of users.
  • Can also use serialized deployment, eliminating need for usernames, etc.

There was a demo of the cloud mgmt console.

There was a Q&A session after demo.

Sep 7, 2015

Labor Day and Religious Beliefs

It occurred to me today, this Labor Day, that we are seeing more and more stories of people refusing to do certain aspects of their jobs in the name of their religious beliefs. I figured I'd toss my two cents into the Interwebs for no good reason other than I feel like doing it. I think my take on it can be summarized in two sections, so I'll start with that and we'll see where things go.

First: Doing your job. You know, the funny thing about most jobs is that they change over time. If you are a seasoned worked (or are retired and looking back), think back to when you first started your job. Are you doing EXACTLY the same thing(s) you were doing when you first hired? Sure, the core of what you're doing may be the same (and, perhaps maybe not), but other duties have come and gone during your career(s). I would venture that some of those things have been great additions to what you had been doing, while some things have been added that you absolutely loathe. Jobs change. Jobs evolve (or devolve) over time. There are new rules, regulations, technologies, etc. All of these combine to make the job you were hired to do different than the job you may be doing now. For that matter, if you have been promoted over time, the nature of what you do has also changed. Change is a part of how the world works. Like it or not, sometimes, those changes mean you will be doing things you hate doing. At that point, it becomes an issue of personal choice: You choose to keep working there in that position or you choose to find another job, start your own business, move, whatever.

Oh, I know, people say all the time, "I can't just up and move my family!" Actually, with the advancement of today's transportation technology, you can do that precisely. Heck, my in-laws used to up and move from Arkansas to Oregon and back every so many years, depending on the logging industry (if memory serves, it was logging). They did it before our modern conveniences, but really, it wasn't all that long ago - my mother-in-law was a kid when her family did this. Today, one can up and move with truly little effort.

"But, I don't want to uproot my family or what if the cost of living is higher or .. or .. " Yeap. That's all part of the choices we make. We must weigh what is important.

Now, there is a slight difference in taking a job where you KNOW what you are required to do as part of the job (say, serve alcohol on a plane). You know going in that is part of the job. If that goes against your religious beliefs, then you don't take that job. Yeah, it's that easy. It's called foreknowledge. Look it up.

When the rules change after you are already working somewhere, that's a little different, but not really. Why not really? Because the fact is you were hired to do a job. Jobs evolve, as mentioned before. If you don't like your new roles and responsibilities, your duties and your requirements, then you leave the job - for whatever reason. They may be religious, they may not be. But, you leave if you feel that strongly about the changes.

Second: Your religious beliefs and where your God wants you. I did not "grow up" Christian or any religion for that matter. In fact, for a long time, I didn't believe in any kind of spiritual beings. Over time, I examined various religions. What I found was that many religions tout their "god" or "God" placing people right where they needed to be for particular reasons and/or for particular seasons of life, certain events, etc.

If the rules and roles of your job change that go against your own religious beliefs, is it possible that your God has put you in that spot at that time for a particular reason - a purpose, if you will? Maybe you are supposed to be there to serve as a witness to those you encounter. Let's take that one further.

So, you are there to be a witness, and example, to others. How are you reacting to the changes in your duties? Are you accepting them graciously, praying that your God give you the wisdom and insight as to how to handle things? Are you reaching out to serve as model version of what you believe your religion says believers should be? Are you raising a raucous and condemning? Are you refusing to perform your new duties as an outward protest as a means to show just how loving and accepting your religion is (if, in fact you belong to one that is - I know not all are devised in such a manner)?

Perhaps, if you stay in the position (see the section above about moving), you are there for a reason. Maybe your God wants you right there, right then to show what it means to be a member/believer in your religion. So, what example are you setting? Would YOU want to be a part of your own religion if you saw someone acting "ugly' (as they say)? Would that make you want to draw closer to their God?

Just some food for thought.

Aug 16, 2015

Playing in Tar

When I was very young, perhaps not even in kindergarten or maybe a little older, my brother and I went to visit my cousin for a sleepover. At least, I think it was a sleepover - we may have just been spending the day. In any case, we were very young and the city was resurfacing roads in and around their house. So, the three of us decided to go down to the curb and play in the puddle. The puddle was, of course, tar from the roadwork.

I remember very little of the incident, other than being covered in the black stuff basically from head to toe. I am sure we had it in our hair, all over our bodies, and who knows where else. What I also remember is taking a bath (or what seemed like a bath) in Turpentine to get it off.

I'm not sure what prompted that memory just now, but there it is. Of course, in this day and age, child services would have been called long before we even had an ounce of tar on us just for being that close to the road. I am sure, however, the entire adventure had a lesson in it that I've carried the rest of my life. I suppose, if anything, I learned not to play in a pool of tar.

Jul 27, 2015

#Math - It's All In Our Heads - or maybe not

To be clear: I have not yet read/listened to the book which sparked the idea for the article that sparked the idea for this post.

So, basically, this author rewrites "The Matrix" with a focus on mathematics as the basis for the simulation. Though the article raises certain questions, it doesn't really address the "So What" part of the discussion. That is, if we are actually part of some computer/mathematical simulation, so what? What changes?

Let's assume we are part of some simulation. Now we know. Or think we know. Eventually, someone decides they've seen enough to believe it and they do what? Suppose we are each a bit of AI running inside this simulation. We are each our own "The Sims" character. Could we break out of character? If so, what does that look like?

In a weird sort of way, it makes sense to think of our world, our universe, as some kind of simulation on several different levels. Scientifically, through mathematics, it makes sense as described in the article because we accept that certain aspects of life (again, concentrating on math) would be discovered regardless of WHO made the discovery. The article uses Pythagoras as an example: we'd still have the formula/theory even if it were "discovered" (invented is more accurate, as all math is an invention of the human mind... or is it?) by Harmonias.

Many religions view our universe as a simulation-esque model as well. How so? There is on overseer (or multiple overseers) who know everything about every human on every planet. Granted, most religions center on Earth. Think about games like "The Sims" and compare the user's role to that of a deity in religion: for the most part, you let your little people do what they want. Every now and then, you intervene for one reason or another: You want to start the game over, so you wipe them all out; Your characters are sick, so you help them "learn" ways to get better; You provide tools to help your characters "learn" how to improve their simulated lives.

We have other simulations as well: How about the whole "Civilization" series of games? In those, the role of deity is even more pronounced. In those games, the player provides means by which their simulated populations learn how to move from wayward nomads to townsfolk to city-dwellers, all the while building armies to defend/attack other simulated communities.

What if this whole world is nothing but a simulation? Well, now we get into the whole "Matrix" concept, but instead of there being a pill to swallow that helps one escape from it, there is no escape. It's all simulation. Perhaps that explains why AI scares so many people: If we are AI and we are creating AI, where does it stop?  How do the rules change?

What if we are in a simulation, but we happen to know some of the instructions from the manual because those instructions govern the rules by which we operate? For example, The Bible has long warned folks of impending destruction. The book of Revelation talks of the end of things and of a new Heaven and New Earth. If all of this were to be simulated, then a New Heaven and New Earth make perfect sense in terms of a mathematical/computer simulation. How? It's the reset.

When playing a game or running a simulation, the player always has the option to restart the game/simulation. The Bible talks of the end times in which people do not die, but are simply "caught up" to Heaven. In a simulation, characters die. But, if the player resets the game, the characters who were still "alive" in the game simply cease to exist. They don't die in the game. In fact, when the game is restarted, certain set characters would simply be "reborn" to appear in the next version of the game.

It's an interesting proposition. Again, though, so what? What are the possibilities, and perhaps consequences, of using the knowledge that we are but a simulation in a program? What does one do with that? There are still the rules of the game - if a being stops paying bills, the simulation rules dictate what happens to said being. If there is no escape, if there is no exit, then to what end is it any good to know one is simply part of a simulation? As they used to say on the cartoon "GI Joe," 'Knowing is half the battle.' So, then, what is the other half in this scenario?

(Snarky Content Ahead) Until we figure out what to do with that knowledge, here is my request: If all of this is a simulation, and the being(s) in charge of the simulation are aware of my typing this, then how about a cheat code or two given in my general direction? I'm not asking for much, either: How about a full health restore that would make me feel like I've started over and maybe a cashflow injection to my simulated bank account. Again, not infinite money, but enough that I could go around using it for good to help offset the bad. That'd be great, thanks. (End of Snarkiness)

Relative related content:

May 13, 2015

Participants #edsymposium - Harry Dickens

(Not sure why this was in drafts, but I am releasing it now!)

Participants creating their own Kahoots - can use for bellringer, etc. Competition/game in a set time limit as well. - make your own Kahoots

Can create questions, adding video or images. Can also create video questions: play a video and then ask questions based on the video, etc.

Can have students create quizzes for their peers!

Use Reflector to show ipad/iphone through a computer already attached to projector, monitor, etc

Touchcast - Record video, built-in teleprompter, chromakey, whiteboarding, titling, sound effects, filters, embed external content (google forms, etc) for quizzes, etc.
Learning to use green screen with TouchCast

iBooks for iPad - Create your own iBooks. Students can publish online and have other students comment on their books.

Book Widgets for iPad - surveys, spreadsheets, image carousel, crossword, switch between images (before/after, compare/contrast); label parts, etc.

iTunesU - Apps for the Classroom, Harry's iTunesU course with handouts, info, etc.

Who Influenced you most?

My friend, musician Shane Howard, posts questions every day.

One day, he asked, "Who in your life has influenced you the most? How did they do it?"

I posted my answer and shared it with my Facebook friends. But, I wanted to get into things a little deeper as I sat thinking of things...
Influenced? That would be my father. He taught me how to find humor in almost everything. He taught me it was okay to cry when my grandfather died. He taught me to take chances, even if you had no idea what the outcome might bring (good, bad or ugly). He taught me "not to spit in the ocean" and to "not take wooden nickels." He also taught me that alcoholism can destroy families and hurt childhoods. He taught me that if you want to break yourself of such habits, you can. He taught me that it was okay to be VERY different from the most of the world. He taught me to enjoy ALL kinds of music and all types of movies. In word, he taught me how to be a man. He died in 2007, and not a day goes by that I don't think of something I wish I could show him or tell him or share with him.
So, who influenced YOU most?

May 12, 2015

#fetc Reflections on the FETC Conference

Notes: This is not a play-by-play, but rather I will provide various thoughts and reflections of certain aspects of FETC overall. I will certainly provide focal details along the way. (This was written in January 2015 and never posted for some reason.)

Attending FETC wasn't exactly a "bucket list" item, but it wasn't NOT one, either. I have long heard about the Florida Educational Technology Conference. I've been in edutech for more than 20 years now, and in recent years, the conference remains a hot topic among my peers in Arkansas.

So, this past Fall, I presented an idea to our board in which I would help take a group of folks from the member districts in our area to FETC. Though the original core group of folks I planned to take was changed, we ended up with a group of seven educators with varying backgrounds, experience, and responsibilities.

As a group, we developed a Google Form in which to collect information about any/all sessions we attended. We chose this format because it allowed us to have uniform format for collection, ensuring everyone was providing the information we needed. I took a slightly different approach to the format because I blogged live during my sessions. Afterward, I entered info into the form with a link to my blog posts. I did this for each session. For me, it's a way to keep session write-ups in the format I prefer, but also forced me to think about those sessions in slightly different ways (because of the questions we had to answer).

Three people in our group (all from one district) attended paid pre-conference sessions. These were day-long or half-day sessions, focused on areas their district approved. The rest of us came a day later since we were attending the main conference only.

Wednesday, for me, started things off. I checked in for registration between 8:30a and 9am. I anticipated long lines, but was surprised to find the lines moving along smoothly. The folks who went the day before told me they had a MUCH longer wait, as a lot of folks had gone early to check-in and staffing seemed short-handed.

When I checked in, I was told to check out the banner table. The table had a variety of ribbons (or banners or badges, depending on what folks called them) that you could attach to your name badge. Initially, I thought the concept was a bit silly. Well, I am a bit silly. So, before long, I was seeking out the ribbons throughout the conference. By the end of the conference, I ended up with a pretty decent collection:

After checking in, I took part in the FETC PhotoWalk. We were SUPPOSED to learn about photography in the classroom, learn a little about the conference area and Orlando, and stop to take pics along the way. Instead, after the group photo of all those taking part, we were led on a 2+ mile hike in and through and around various venues, only stopping as each individual wished to stop. For me, taking photos became secondary to trying to understand what we were doing. Many of those around me were very disappointed in the execution of the PhotoWalk. If I am ever in charge of such a thing, I will be sure to provide the kind of walk where people can take pics, learn a little, and have fun along the way.

FETC certainly offers plenty to see and do. I wish the vendor area had opened earlier than 5pm on Wednesday (for folks attending pre-conference workshops, that is three full days into things). The conference offers limited-seating tickets events, open concurrent sessions, poster sessions, and other sessions. It is a bit overwhelming as a first-timer. The printed schedule was much easier to follow than the online system. My one wish: an actual app for FETC. Instead, we were directed to a website on which we could choose sessions/events and add them to our schedule. While this sounds good in theory, searching for events was cumbersome. Sessions in various formats, presented at various (often overlapping) times, made reading the online schedule a bit of a nightmare. So far as I could tell, there was no way to search for sessions other than to use the boxed-in limitations of the website.

That aside, I cannot imagine anyone going to FETC without finding something to attend. The sessions covered a variety of topics, mostly presented by classroom teachers or administrators. There were plenty of sessions that were superficially led by school personnel but were really thinly veiled vendor presentations. I just wish that was made clearer somehow - one could not glean that info from the title/presenter list.

The vendor area was one of the largest I've seen at an education conference, especially for one that is a "regional" conference. I found the vendors to be friendly and easy-going. I don't recall any of them forcing themselves on me as I walked up and down the various aisles. I know it much be hard to be a vendor at conferences these days. I stopped by many booths just to visit and talk about the programs and/or products they were sharing. What surprised me the most? The sheer number of start-ups. EduTech is a growing market, as evident by several "incubator" areas that featured dozens of companies. In fact, one company seemed to have created itself during the conference. It's a robotics kit company (forgive me that I do not recall the name). The young man at the table had bits and pieces scattered around, assembled quickly into programmable robots. He had a difficult time speaking in and understanding English. He was Asian, and I wondered if he had been hired specifically for the conference. I saw him taking pictures of other robotics kits and maker products as he roamed the venue.

The keynotes were informative and entertaining. I was disappointed that the CEO from Makerbot had to cancel at the last minute due to an "emergency meeting." Kathy Schrock, Leslie Fisher, and others took part in a panel presentation of various apps, software packages, gizmos and gadgets.  We also learned how creating, making, and marketing are affecting children around the country.

Our girls are playing on the "Big Girl" field today! Em walked first at-bat.

via Instagram