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By Dr. Philip Baczewski, Director of  Academic Computing and User Services

News from the Online World

The news never stops about the online world. Just off the virtual presses is the fact that PC World Magazine has named myspace.com as its #1 worst web site. They state, "Graphically, many MySpace pages look like a teenager's bedroom after a tornado--a swirl of clashing backgrounds, boxes stacked inside other boxes, massive photos, and sonic disturbance." That statement comes packed within a swirl of animated online ads, related links, more ads, site navigation, and more ads. Very perceptive are those PC World folks.

Staying on the MySpace theme, someone has claimed to have analyzed 20,000 MySpace passwords that were retrieved from a phishing site targeting MySpace users. According to the analysis, most passwords were about 7 characters, single case, and included at least one number. It turns out that many passwords included or simply were the word, "password." So, MySpace users may keep their pages messy, but the keep their passwords simple.

Not to be outdone by MySpace, NPR's On the Media reported on the YouTube phenomenon of lonelygirl15 who, after posting a video blog of her lonely teenage existence that elicited a multitude of video responses and commentary by concerned and interested YouTube watchers, turns out to be an aspiring 19-year-old actress impersonating a 15-year-old girl. (For the whole story, listen here.) This may be the first time in Internet history that a 15-year-old girl wasn't impersonated by a 40-year-old vice cop named Vinny.

In the world of online academia, The Concerned Professor laments the decline of academic honesty and blames it on the Internet. In particular, he sites the usual suspects like Wikipedia and also singles out a site named Student of Fortune, where students can post questions and offer a set fee to get a satisfactory answer. If you do that face-to-face that's called a tutor, but online, I guess that's cheating. Still, when I see that help on a passage from Plato's republic goes for $4.00 when a mechanical physics question only gets you $1.25, I realize that the online world may be the only place where it pays to be a philosophy major.

Professor Robert Schrag has a different view of the Internet. He received attention recently when he began selling his in-class lectures as downloadable audio files. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, however, Schrag has suspended that practice at the request of his Dean at North Carolina State University. Schrag only charged $2.50 per download, of which only $1.00 came back to him, an amount he justified by the extra work he was doing to record and prepare the lectures for download. An editorial in the NCSU student newspaper states, "These online lectures are supposedly aimed at students who are afraid they are not good note-takers, have missed classes or are international students who may have trouble understanding an English-speaking professor. It makes sense that these types of students could utilize an online lecture resource, but should they be financially penalized for it?" Well, there's always Student of Fortune.

Finally, the Hard Drive turned 50 last week. When asked to comment on the gigabyte hard drives that fit within the space of an inch, the hard drive purportedly stated, "when I was born, it took two cabinets the size of refrigerators to hold my 5 megabytes. These new drives today almost seem like cheating." The Concerned Professor could not be reached for comment.

That's the news from the online world. We now return you to your regular news web site.

 

 


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