Pete & C 2013!

Here is my presentation (well poster) for Pete & C 2013. This year it is on developing apps for the K-16 classroom. I start by discussing the most difficult ways then get into how to do it using simple and free methods


AI might be a reality sooner than we think: mapping the human brain

Artificial intelligence seems like it is far off but there are efforts to understand how humans think and apply that to technology. Here is a cool project called the Human Brain Project. The project involves over 200 researchers and will take 10 years to map and simulate the human brain. With 1.6 billion in funding I would hope it is successful. If this does work I can only imagine what we can do with it. Here is a video on it from mashable

Do you want to clean up your facebook page?

There is a cool free service called facewash that does just that. It cleans up your facebook page so that it is ‘interview’ ready. It can also search for keywords and delete posts containing them. This might be easier than going through years of posts to determine what is professional or not. This free service is a must for all college students applying to jobs.

Link to Facewash

phpBB forum security: How do I keep out spam?

This is a problem most of us who run any kind of database run into. How do I keep out spam? Of course there is an easy solution which is that you as a moderator approve each user request that comes in to determine if its a real person or bot but who has time for that? I know I do not. That is a full time job when you are running several applications requiring user registration – especially when 1000s of bots would try to register each day. So here are the things you can do, and these are specifically for phpBB forums but can be used for any software that requires registration and I am going to say whether these things are effective or not:

Non effective ways to prevent spam (bots just tear right through these but they still might help a little bit. Just do NOT rely on these):

– Email activation
– Captchas (the images where you write the numbers/letters that you see in the box)
– Asking for special characters on username/password
– Confirming email address

Effective ways to prevent spam

– Few registration attempts – this gives the bot less times to guess
– Questions – this will pretty much stop all spam. You need to ask questions that the computer will not know. Please not that bots have lists of 1000s of questions so you need to ask questions that are specific to your site only but is easy enough for your user base to answer. 2+2 is not good. But the last name of the author of this blog is ____, would be a good question. I have found these block nearly 100% of my spam. If you do start getting spam that means your questions are too easy.
– Using a service like akismet, which is awesome but doesnt currently have a plugin for phpBB. This works great for wordpress though.

So how do you add those questions in phpBB to prevent spam? There are two way and I encourage you to do both:

Method 1:

in the Admin control panel go to->spambot countermeasures->available plugins->Q&A->configure. From here you would create your questions.

Method 2:

In the admin control panel go to->users and groups->custom profile fields->then you would create a new field. From here make sure you require the question at registration.

For an example of a forum using these methods, check out my surfing forum and try to register:

Unlocking your phone is now illegal!?!?

I am not happy about this. They are just making is harder for the consumer and this whole who owns which phone is ridiculous when the user is the one who pays for it. Hey thanks for ruling in favor of the phone carriers though. From Mashable:

Starting this Saturday, January 26th, 2013, it will become illegal for users to unlock their mobile phones for use on carriers other than who it was originally intended for. That means buying a Samsung Galaxy S3 on AT&T and performing a carrier unlock on it to use on T-Mobile will technically be breaking the law.

I should clear one very important thing up — the process of unlocking your phone refers to the act in which you apply a code or a software process to allow your phone to run on like-minded networks, a thing only professionals like Mili Unlocks should try. This does not prohibit us from doing things like rooting our Android phones and unlocking our bootloaders.

Related image

This doesn’t mean we’re nearing the death of unlocked phones, of course. Carriers can still unlock or grant users permission to unlock mobile phones, users can still buy phones which come unlocked out of the box, and if all else fails — well, chances are there won’t be task forces of active police and military bodies looking to enforce these things like they would drugs and weapons.

Despite all that, though, we’re still just as bummed about this news as we were when the additions were first added to the DMCA. Users feel their independence from the control of their wireless carriers slipping away from them in many forms, and being told that you could be prosecuted or sued for unlocking your own phone is about as extreme as it’s going to get.

unlocking phone

Setting up a web forum on your website

So you have a website and want to set up a place where people can chat with each other. One of the best ways to do this is with a web forum as can be seen on my surfing website here. These forums can be very easy to set up but can become very difficult depending on how many modifications you want done to them. In order to run a web forum on your website you need a few things.

Those include your web domain of course, a database (usually provided by your web hosting company), and the information from your database like the master username and password. Once you have all of that information you need to pick your forum. There are two forums that I recommend, one is vBulletin and is the best paid forum software. It costs $250 and does quite a bit. It requires very little technical skill to set up or to use the advanced features. The second I recommend and use myself is called phpBB. This is opensource so it is 100% free. Just like vBulletin it is very easy to use and set up. phpBB get complicated when you start doing advanced things. But it does do everything that vBulletin does it just requires more technical skill to do all of it. But setting each up and getting them up and running is no different. Those are the main differences between these two software packages (very high level differences).

At you will find a company that provides innovative and secure solutions specialized for hosting all popular open source applications such as Joomla, WordPress, Magento, Drupal and many more.

Once you have decided which forum you want, you install it on your database. Once installed you will log in as an administrator and set up your forums and take special time to set up security measures like a captcha and such. Now that you are there your community is ready to communicate. You may notice that no one jumps the gun and begins to use it. Many forums go unused. People like to talk on a forum that is active because usually they lurk at first and just read posts before feeling comfortable enough to speak. So a little trick that is not fun but IS necessary – talk to yourself for a while on the forum using several different usernames to make the community seem alive. Even better if a few people can do this to get it going. It really helps and is needed even if it feels like you are scamming people. Trust me no one will post if there are zero posts unless you have a huge community or something.

Well I hope that helps you get started!

How to get a movie off of a DVD?

I just was asked by a colleague how to do this so I thought it would make a great blog post:

Assuming you have the rights to the DVD to do this, otherwise this is illegal, here is how to do it:

Download and install handbrake:

Handbrake allows you to rip the dvd onto your computer so that you can burn the dvd, play the dvd,, put it on your ipad, etc. without the disk. It is just now simple movie file on your computer.

If you want to then put that dvd back onto a dvd disk to be played on a dvd player you will use a program called burn ( to burn the dvd on a blank dvd.

You can do this with any dvd, even netflix and redbox movies, however, it is illegal unless you have the rights to the disk.

Which video conferencing tools are you using?

There are many free and paid tools on the market now. So which do you use and why? I am going to review some of the more popular ones here:

Skype – Offers both free and paid service. Works on all computers, cell phones, and tablets. You can put up to 25 people on the same conference call for free and share a desktop. With the video feature you can only video conference with one person before you have to pay.

Google Hangout – Works on all computers through a google account, such as gmail and is also available as an app via apple/android. Can share desktop. Can call and video chat with up to 10 people for free.

Facetime – An apple product only. Allows 1 to 1 video conferencing. Is nice but only works with apple.

There are more but these seem to be the ones most people are using. I personally use Skype for everything. Having said that if a user is on another system I have accounts for most of them.