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Well, I’m currently applying to the Information Technology and Informatics (ITI) major at Rutgers. I’m in my third year of college (transferred in from RIT after a trimester there freshman year. This will also be my fourth prospective major - hopefully this one will stick. If you’re interested in the list, it was a trimester (10 weeks) at RIT for Fine Art Photography (probably the most fun I ever had in “school”), followed by the Rutgers list - a semester of general ed requirements while thinking about Biological Sciences/Pre-Med, then a realization and a CS major, a year of that and here I am at ITI. CS was interesting, but it quickly became apparent that the curriculum was far too low-level to hold my interest - my CS 102 (Intro to OOP / Java) and 103 (Data Structures) classes were interesting, but I kept wanting to ask my profs why they wanted to fail me for saying that not every program needs OOP (What? A 20-line shell script is bad because it’s a procedural language?), and couldn’t cope with spending weeks on coding a class to do X when I know that it;s already been done, been GPL’d, and I could study the code in a night and move on to a program that does something. The list of higher-level courses didn’t look much better. ITI, on the other hand, has courses in Linux, e-Commerce, and Information Security, not to mention management-related courses covering legal aspects, HR, and IS management.

More to the point, we were given an assignment for a research project - a paper that’s supposed to convince the management of an organization whether or not to adopt a “new” technology. Having a last name between A-G (I love how professors randomly pick criteria) my assignment is supposed to be directed towards an online university. We were given a list of topics to choose from, including social networking sites such as Second Life, My Space, etc., PIMs, search results visualization (i.e. Grokker), and a few others. While I guess these are new technologies, the topic that I chose (obviously not on the list) was “The use of self-healing technologies in service-oriented organizations”. (Yes, I was hoping that she grades by buzzword count, or at least number of hyphenated words). I still have almost a week to write the paper, but I’m hoping to come up with some interesting stuff, including a whole list of good research references, and lots of talk about LCFG and cfengine. Stay tuned, maybe I’ll end up finding something interesting. The plus to this whole project is that I realized that as a Rutgers student, I have access to the entire ACM and IEEE online archives, among other cool resources.

The Sun Campus Ambassador year is starting to kick into gear. There’s a lot of hype about the new Sun developments such as the unification of the Storage and Systems groups, the Microsoft deal (grimace), the upcoming NetBeans 6.0 IDE release, the J2EE and J2ME programming languages, etc. There’s also a lot of boring administrative details, like remembering to use the names of Sun technologies as adjectives not nouns (something to do with trademarks that makes no sense to me). This weekend will be full of organization and Sun training… and hopefully, plans to take Sun up on the employee discount for Solaris operating system certification (SCSA/SCNA). Also of interest, I was asked to complete a survey on the use of Sun technology on campus. I know that a lot of the programming courses are Java-based, and I’m sure that NetBeans has a strong following. However, I’m very interested in finding out how well Solaris has penetrated the University environment (beyond the fact that every student uses it for Email, Web, Portal, etc. without knowing it).

Now, something I wrote yesterday at work:

After having a Microsoft discussion with someone, I wanted to clear up a few things related to my views on Microsoft. Mainly, that I don’t have an issue with Microsoft per se. I have issues with Microsoft’s policies, and Microsoft happens to be the most publicly visible company with such policies. Some of these Include:

  1. The lack of software openness. Both the ethical implications of software that isn’t Free Software, and functional issues with software that I can’t modify to do what I want, distribute to others, or (if I were a large corporation) have an independent company audit the source of for security risks. I want control of my software. Microsoft doesn’t allow that. Moreover, I think that non-technical end users should have the option of having control over their software as well.
  2. Software that is designed to a specific intended user, and can’t be modified otherwise. Specifically, I’m a technical person. I want software that’s designed to be run on a network and an operating system that’s designed to be administered from a graphical terminal in the next room, or over a text-based SSH session from hundreds of miles away. If I want to use the command line, I want to have that option. Basically, I want options. I don’t want someone deciding that I’m too stupid to use those options. Other users don’t even need to know that a command-line is there, but I want to. And, more importantly, I don’t believe that these options (such as *good* remote administration) should require expensive server versions.
  3. I want an operating system that recognizes Free Software and doesn’t attempt to cripple it.
  4. I’m a programmer. I like standards. Things work because of standards. We can send e-mail and view web sites because of standards. I think that standards are good. And I like *one* set of standards which are accepted as best. All web browsers let you view web pages via HTTP. I think that document formats should have one standard. I think that standard should include, for anyone to use however they wish, all of the information needed to implement it. I don’t want software that goes beyond a standard in undocumented ways. Almost all non-Microsoft browsers render HTML in pretty much the same way. Web designers that I know have two test systems - IE and not IE. They test their web page under Windows in IE to find out how it looks on IE. They test it on anything else to see how it looks in everything else.
  5. I don’t want a vendor telling me that I have to use their software. I don’t want someone to tell me that their browser is *part* of my operating system. I want to be able to add and remove whatever software I want. And I want to be able to make it work. If need be, I want to be able to replace software with my own, or with something that I think is better. I want to be able to choose what gets installed on my computer, in a fine-grained level of accuracy, if I want.
  6. I want proven security. And more importantly, I want to have control over the security. I want to be able to add third-party patches from organizations like the NSA to harden my security. And I want them to pervade every level of the system, not just userspace. I want to be able to add security fixes from anyone I want, and have anyone I want audit the code.
  7. I want an operating system that’s time-tested. I like seeing copyright notices that go back to the 1980s. The fact that an operating system has had multiple major redesigns in the past 10 years does not speak well for your code. Furthermore, I don’t want to buy a product that comes in five versions, or however many there are of Windows now. I’d be happy with Desktop and Server versions. Maybe even a third Development version. Anything more than that sends me the message that you’re just trying to tax features and keep them out of the hands of users.
  8. I don’t want to be locked in to a vendor. Yes, this is a direct reference towards Free/Open Source Software. If your company goes bottom-up, or just decides that you don’t care about what I want, I should be able to hire an independent programmer to maintain what you gave me, or make the changes that I want. More importantly, if you decide to stop supporting a product that I like, I want to be able to have someone else support it, possibly better than you did.
  9. I don’t want to buy from a company that actively engages in campaigns of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt). I want to buy from a company that respects their customers/users and their choices. I don’t want a vendor that engages in scare tactics or buying up competitors and killing them off. I want a company that is nice to people. I don’t want a company that threatens the the customers of their competitors with lawsuits.
  10. I want to buy from a company that understands compatibility and strives for it. I don’t want a company that tries to bury all mention of competing products. I want a vendor that can honestly admit that in certain cases their product X isn’t as good as a competitor’s product Y, but in many other cases it’s better. I want a vendor that understands that I want to run operating systems W, X, Y, and Z and have them all work together, even if this vendor only sells X.
  11. A vendor that I buy from will NOT, EVER, tell me tell me that I need a state-of-the-art system to run a desktop computer or a server. There is no reason at all why my mail server needs to run a GUI. More importantly, in 2007, there is absolutely no reason why my PHP development web server should have 1 Gb of RAM just to run the operating system. I’m only coding some HTML form-based apps for a personal web site - there’s no reason why I need more than 512 Mb to run a simple web server. Finally, and this is just a personal thing, but I like a vendor that understands students. I’m in college. I want an operating system that will install, if not out-of-the-box then with some simple customization, on the type of computer that I’d find at the curb.

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