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Computer giveaway is Saturday

A group is giving away refurbished computers to those in need.

The computers may be used, but they sure don’t look old.

They are brightly decorated with sports logos and cartoon characters that lend a cheery touch. And best of all, they work.

Saturday at the West Regional Cumberland County Public Library, the computers will be given to some children and families who need them. The organizers are just asking for a little help in return.

The Fayetteville Free Christmas Computer Giveaway is scheduled from noon to 3 p.m. at the library at 7469 Century Circle. The approximately 22 laptops and desktops have already been claimed.

As part of the giveaway, the organizers are holding a canned food drive for the Alms House and a pet food drive for Rags 2 Royalty Rescue, said organizer Michael Elliott. Also, a drawing for refurbished netbooks and a Wii will be held, and pictures with Santa will be available.

It’s the 13th year the giveaway has been held, Elliott said. He started it when he and his wife ran a home computer business.

“I had a customer who said, ‘If you can rebuild this computer for a friend of mine, you can have the other two,’ ” Elliott said. “The cover was kind of shabby so I said to my wife, ‘Why don’t we paint it, make it something really cool.’ ”

In the years since, Elliott estimates they have refurbished, painted and given away around 500 computers. This year, the designs include sports team logos and a special, military-themed computer.

Elliott said the military-themed computer is in honor of his nephew, who was killed in Iraq. It will go to a military family, he said.

The recipients of the computers were selected at random through the group’s Facebook page, Elliott said.

Elliott said there seems to be a real need for the computers from people who can’t afford a new one. And Christmas is a time when the need is greater than ever.

“It’s when times are tough and they need something to give to their kids for Christmas,” Elliott said. “We had one lady we picked and she said, ‘You don’t know how glad I am, because I didn’t have anything to give to my kid this year.’ “

Staff writer Rodger Mullen can be reached at rmullen@fayobserver.com or 486-3561.

Wireless smart key auto locks a computer when the user walks away

Computer Collaboration = $600000 Savings

They said they would save UC Davis a half-million dollars on computer purchases in a year. They were wrong. They did it in six months.

They are the team that masterfully brought together units around campus, facilitated agreement on a set of administrative computer standards, then negotiated a bulk discount with Dell. The deal is for five models — two desktops and three laptops — priced about 34 percent less than previous contracts allowed.

Another advantage: We are not buying in bulk, literally — so there is no need to purchase a supply of computers in advance, then store them. Instead, units buy computers as needed, one or more at a time, and receive them directly from Dell.

Today, six months into the program, we have purchased 1,412 computers and saved approximately $595,000. This money is retained by the buyers, to spend elsewhere in their programs — thus directly supporting the overall mission of our university.

“This program is truly a win-win, where the campus not only enjoys a reduced cost for the equipment but also an increase in efficiency by not having to support multiple platforms across the campus,” said Tim Maguire, who leads Supply Chain Management, which includes Procurement and Contracting Services, and Strategic Sourcing — all part of Finance, Operations and Administration, or FOA,

“The Administrative Computer Standards program is an excellent example of our Strategic Sourcing teams’ working in collaboration with the campus to maximize value,” Maguire said. “It’s also a great example of the campus’s willingness to engage and come together and agree on a common approach that allows the university to leverage its purchasing power with a key supplier.”

Hampton Sublett, director of the Office of Strategic Solutions, another FOA unit, said the Administrative Computer Standards initiative: “exemplifies the impact we can have deep within departments across our campus when we come together to solve common problems.”

He specifically acknowledged the campus IT community for its flexibility in coming up with standards, and Britany Duyanovich of Strategic Sourcing IT for driving such a good deal with Dell.

The impact has been felt off campus, too, recently earning a Focus on Efficiency Award from the California Higher Education Collaborative (UC system, California State University and California Community Colleges), which promotes improved administrative performance, service and outcomes.

Sublett emphasized the cross-campus collaboration that went into the Administrative Computer Standards program — collaboration not only involving the project leads but also the units that agreed to the standards and to buying computers from Dell, assuring the company that it would make enough sales to justify the discounted pricing.

The project leads came from the business and academic sides of the university:  

  • Supply Chain Management, which takes in Procurement and Contracting Services, and Strategic Sourcing, both in Accounting and Financial Services — Tim Maguire, chief procurement officer; Mike Morgan, associate director of procurement; and Britany Duyanovich, Strategic Sourcing IT (project manager).
  • Strategic Solutions, in Finance, Operations and Administration — Hampton Sublett, director.
  • Information and Educational Technology — Carolyn Nordstrom, executive advisor on strategy and planning; and Quico Gonzalez, IT manager.
  • College of Engineering — Steve Pigg, IT executive director.

The Dell deal

The Administrative Computer Bulk Purchase program offers two desktops …

  • Dell Optiplex 3050 Micro (standard) – $568.38
  • Dell Optiplex 5050 SFF (advanced) – $908.10

… and three laptops:

  • Dell Latitude 7480 (standard) – $997.08
  • Dell Latitude 7480 (advanced) – $1,274.49
  • Dell Latitude 7280 (lightweight) – $1,041.55

These discounts are effective through May 24, 2018. To take advantage of the program, log in to AggieBuy and access Dell’s punch-out catalog. The discounted prices automatically display for the five Dell models. Departments will still receive the savings even if only one unit is purchased. (Note: Some of the prices have been adjusted since this program was first announced.)

Follow Dateline UC Davis on Twitter.

Women at UF choose life sciences over computer engineering

Valeria Clark was first exposed to computer engineering when she met friends through online video games who would create different gaming programs.

“I didn’t really know what ‘engineering’ was until I got to college,” the 21-year-old said. “I wasn’t introduced to it at all in school growing up, aside from learning what it was through guy friends who I played video games with.”

Clark, a microbiology senior in the University of Florida’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, attributes the initial interest in her career to watching her father be a physician’s assistant.

Enrollment data from fall 2015 shows overwhelming differences between men and women majors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, compared with women in STEM majors considered life sciences.

“Unfortunately, I feel like people consider engineering and tech as more masculine; when you think of an engineer, the first gender someone probably thinks of is a male,” Clark said. “I believe many men follow that career path because it’s what they think society expects from them.”

In fall 2015, men accounted for approximately 72 percent of undergraduates studying STEM majors in the College of Engineering, while women accounted for 28 percent. For fall 2015 in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, women made up 69 percent of undergraduate STEM majors, while men accounted for 31 percent.

UF computer engineering major Lexie Krehbiel said the difference is something you notice, like how women are easier to spot in these classes.

“My professor will know my name a lot sooner that my male counterparts simply because I am unique in being a female,” the 22-year-old said. “There is less anonymity in being a female.”

Krehbiel said although it’s something to get used to at the beginning, she sees it as an advantage when it comes to getting to know her professors. She says she has had a positive experience despite being in mostly male-dominated classes.

“I haven’t felt that people underestimate me simply for being a female,” she said.

Krehbiel said she thinks the big gap between men and women is tied into the way women are raised in general.

“We are more likely to say to girls, ‘you’re pretty and you’re nice,’ where we are more likely to say to boys, ‘you’re athletic and you’re smart,” Krehbiel said. “We’re not really teaching boys to be nice and altruistic in the way we teach girls.”

Krehbiel said she believes most women are taught to be more altruistic than men, which is why she believes a lot more women go into life sciences with the intent to work as medical professionals rather than fields like computer engineering. They don’t see those opportunities available with engineering and technology majors.

Ana Jelacic, a 22-year-old UF computer science senior, is the president of Women in Computer Science. She said the club’s purpose is to promote much-needed diversity in some academic areas.

The club also allows women to connect with other women creating a support system, but the organization also has men as members.

“I wanted to show you can be a guy and work towards diversity,” Jelacic said.

Christina Gardner-McCune, an assistant professor for the Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering in UF’s College of Engineering, said her interest in science and math from a young age fostered her passion for computer science.

Gardner-McCune said women would likely be more interested in male-dominated STEM fields, such as computer science and technology, if they were given opportunities to study it earlier in their academic careers.

“One of the main factors is that women aren’t exposed to it earlier in their K-12 education, so when they get to undergrad, they feel behind,” Gardner-McCune said. “Right now, computer science is not taught K-12, whereas I took science, math, language arts and history every year from the time I was in first grade, all the way up to the point I was in high school.”

Gardner-McCune said students don’t usually take a computer science course until high school, and agrees that early exposure can make a big difference.

“I think that’s one of the major things, it’s a comfort zone,” Gardner-McCune said. “I was always good at math and science all throughout school, so I think not having that exposure early on makes a big difference; I think it makes a huge difference.”

Atlanta Hawks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers odds: NBA picks from computer model on 34-18 run

The Cleveland Cavaliers go for their second straight win when they host the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday. Cleveland had its 13-game winning streak snapped last week by Indiana, but started a new one with Saturday’s 105-98 victory over Philadelphia. The Hawks, led by Dennis Schroder, will have their hands full in a 7 p.m. ET matchup.

The Cavaliers are 11.5-point favorites, up sightly from an 11-point open. The over-under, or total number of points Vegas thinks will be scored, is 217, down from the open of 218.5.

Before picking either side, you need to read what the SportsLine Projection Model has come up with. This model would have won over 96 percent of CBS Sports NFL office pools last season and has put together a blistering 34-18 run on its top-rated point-spread picks this season, returning over $1,400 to $100 bettors.

Now, the model has simulated Hawks-Cavaliers 10,000 times and locked in against-the-spread, over-under and money-line picks.

We can tell you that the computer has the under hitting in 68 percent of simulations. It also has a very strong pick for one side of this game against the spread.

Cleveland, with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 19-8, has rebounded after a slow start. The Cavaliers have won 14 of their past 15.

Big man Tristan Thompson is expected to be back in uniform for the Cavs. He has been out since Nov. 1 with a strained calf. Forward Kevin Love is also questionable with a sore hip and did not play against the Sixers.

The Hawks are coming off a 111-107 loss at the Knicks on Sunday. Atlanta is 6-20 on the season and 3-11 on the road. Schroder leads the team in scoring at 20.4 points per game and dishes out 6.4 assists.

Forward Taurean Prince is averaging 12.6 ppg and 5.3 rpg and Kent Bazemore averages 12.1 points and 3.6 assists.

LeBron James leads the Cavaliers in scoring (28.3 points) and is shooting an impressive 42 percent from beyond the arc. He’s also averaging 8.3 rebounds and is tops on the team with 8.7 assists.

Long-range sniper Kyle Korver remains a valuable bench asset who’s shooting 43 percent on 3-pointers.

Does Cleveland make it two in a row led by MVP candidate James or will Atlanta pull off the monster upset, or at least keep it within the spread? The SportsLine Projection Model’s picks are in.

So what side of Hawks-Cavaliers do you need to be all over? Visit SportsLine now to see the strong point-spread pick for Hawks-Cavaliers, all from the model that has absolutely crushed the NBA, and find out.

Dear Abby: Man’s computer illiteracy puts heavy burden on wife

 

  • 0ab53_920x920 Dear Abby: Man's computer illiteracy puts heavy burden on wife

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Dear Abby: My husband and I have been together for 40 years. Like most people, we’ve had our good times and bad, but we’ve both been committed to the marriage, and so we’ve made it work.

Now I’m faced with a problem for which I see no solution. My husband refuses to learn to use a computer. He knows nothing about computers, not even how to turn one on! As you know, computers are now key to even the most fundamental tasks. That means, as the only computer user in the house, all tasks are my responsibility. Banking, bill paying, communication with family, friends, lawyers, financial advisers, arrangements for social events, business meetings, medical appointments, travel and other activities are totally up to me. He does none of it!

He washes the dishes and takes out the trash, but any function that requires brains and technology are totally left to me. I’m tired!

Is this fair? I’ve asked many times for him to go to our public library and take lessons on computer use, but he adamantly refuses. How do I handle this?

It’s All on Me in New York

Dear All on You: After 40 years you are not going to change your husband, so appreciate the things he does do. I know you’re tired and it may not seem fair, but grit your teeth and forge ahead. You have no idea how lucky you really are. Many wives know little or nothing about the family finances. If something unforeseen happens to their husbands, they are left scrambling to learn about realities for which they are not equipped.

P.S. Consider asking your husband what he would do in the case of your sudden death. He, too, would be left completely adrift. It couldn’t hurt to warn him.

MORE ADVICE? Carolyn Hax: Two parents, two sets of rules

Dear Abby: I am a widow, and I often dine out with my youngest son. Invariably, because I have a 25-year-old man with me and no husband, we are shown to an undesirable table in the restaurant. Usually, I say nothing.

This evening, we were escorted to a room way in the back of a large restaurant (two-thirds full). The only other occupants were a couple with two small children who looked to be about 2 or 3. When I requested a different table, my son was furious. He said what I had done was rude.

We were moved to another table. It was between the hostess station and the kitchen door. I sat there and said nothing. This was an expensive restaurant, and our bill was more than $100.

Was I rude? I would appreciate your opinion.

New Seat in Florida

Dear New Seat: Your son was mistaken. To ask to be seated at a table in a different part of the restaurant was not rude; it was your prerogative.

If you preferred a location in the front of the place rather than near the kitchen or a family with small children, you should have repeated your request. And if the host or hostess had a problem with it, you should have left and enjoyed dinner at a restaurant more accommodating than that one.

To my Jewish readers: The eight days of Hanukkah begin at sundown. Happy Hanukkah, everyone! May we all enjoy a joyous festival of lights.

NFL odds and picks, Week 15: Advanced computer model loving Eagles, 49ers

Week 15 in the NFL will attract bets from average Joes to professional bettors. The Seattle Seahawks are 1.5-point favorites over the L.A. Rams, the Carolina Panthers are favored by three over the Green Bay Packers, and the New England Patriots are 2.5-point favorites over the Pittsburgh Steelers in a huge AFC showdown that has already seen plenty of line movement.

With so many eye-popping games and so many NFL odds on the move, you need to know what SportsLine’s advanced computer model is picking. 

SportsLine’s Projection Model went 174-80-2 on straight-up NFL picks last season, better than all 98 experts tracked by NFLPickWatch — every single one. It’s again threatening to be one of the top models in 2017.

SportsLine computer picks also would have won more than 96 percent of CBS Sports Office Pool Manager leagues that made straight-up NFL picks last season and would be leading many pools again this year.

It’s fresh off a week in which it nailed Arizona’s upset over Tennessee, predicting the Cardinals‘ margin of victory within a single point. It also nailed Carolina’s huge win over the Vikings and Jacksonville’s statement win over the Seahawks. Those NFL picks helped run its straight-up record to a stunning 37-11 over the past three weeks. Anyone who has followed its picks is up big.

With Week 15 here, the computer simulated every game 10,000 times and came up with some surprising results.

One team the model loves in Week 15: the Philadelphia Eagles, who are 7.5-point road favorites against the New York Giants. Even with Carson Wentz on the shelf for the season and Nick Foles now under center, the model likes the Eagles to win and cover in a 22-14 final.

Philadelphia is winning outright in 71 percent of simulations and covering the spread over 50 percent of the time. With Foles likely needing time to get back in rhythm, the model likes Under 40 in this matchup 64 percent of the time.

One surprise: the San Francisco 49ers, slight favorites over Tennessee, will not only win, they’ll triple the two-point spread in a 26-20 decision.

At just 3-10, it’d be easy to glance at the record and assume the 49ers are a disaster. But looking closer, they’ve won three of their last four. And the emergence of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who threw for 334 yards and a touchdown in a 26-16 victory at Houston last week, has the young 49ers inspired as they build for the future.

The Titans, meanwhile, are 8-5 and in the hunt in the AFC South, but they suffered a tough loss to underdog Arizona last week and have been highly inconsistent on offense. Quarterback Marcus Mariota (knee) will play, but might not be 100 percent.

The 49ers win this one straight-up 59 percent of the time and cover the spread in 56 percent of simulations, according to the model. Don’t let the records deceive you in this one and roll with the 49ers.

The model also has a strong pick you need to see for the huge AFC showdown between the Steelers and Patriots — two legitimate Super Bowl contenders — and it’s also calling for a contender to go down hard. You can only get those picks at SportsLine.

What NFL picks can you make with confidence in Week 15? Check out the NFL odds below and then visit SportsLine to see which NFL teams are winning more than 50 percent of simulations, plus see which side of the big Steelers-Patriots game you need to be all over and find out which NFC contender goes down hard, all from the model that would have won 96 percent of football pools last season and is on a blistering 37-11 run this year, and get NFL picks from 20 experts.

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts (+2.5, 40.5)
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (-5.5, 44)
L.A. Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (+2, 46.5)
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (+7, 40)
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (+7.5, 40)
Cincinnati Bengals at Minnesota Vikings (-11, 42)
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (N/A)
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-11.5, 39)
Arizona Cardinals at Washington Redskins (-4.5, 43.5)
Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers (-3, 45)
New York Jets at New Orleans Saints (-16, 47)
L.A. Rams at Seattle Seahawks (-1.5, 48)
New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5, 53.5)
Tennessee Titans at San Francisco 49ers (-2, 44)
Dallas Cowboys at Oakland Raiders (+3, 46)
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Bucs (+6, 47.5)

Old Salem closed due to computer problem after winter weather …

WINSTON-SALEM, NC — A popular tourist destination in Winston-Salem that prides itself on showing visitors what like was like in the 18th century is closed because of a 21st century problem.

Old Salem has been closed since Friday night when the power went off in that part of town during the height of the winter weather.

But even with the nice weather in the following days it still can’t reopen after the weather-related power failure put the popular destination in an unexpected predicament.

“A little snow would have made it really, really special and we wanted that, we wanted just enough snow to make it nice but not too much snow,” said Franklin Vagnone, the Old Salem president and CEO.

It wasn’t the snow but the effect of a blown transformer during the storm and a subsequent power surge that fried Old Salem’s computer system and the server that contained all of its retail and membership information; a 21st century malfunction that puts the 18th century destination out of business until it’s fixed.

“We have all of this behind the scenes activity and much of it is technologically driven and it makes them feel a kind of domesticity, a kind of nostalgia, but in order to maintain that nostalgia takes a lot of behind the scenes effort,” Vagnone said.

As a result, Old Salem canceled several scheduled events over the weekend and a meet and greet with Santa Monday for kids with special needs. And people who didn’t get the word of the closing showed up to buy the sweets, only to be turned away.

“People are really disappointed, they’re coming here specifically for Winkler baked goods or to buy Christmas presents in the store or they have out of town guests and they want to come and show them Old Salem,” Vagnone said.

Old Salem hopes to reopen to the public by Wednesday.

Computer scientists develop a simple tool to tell if websites suffered a data breach

Computer scientists have built and successfully tested a tool designed to detect when websites are hacked by monitoring the activity of email accounts associated with them. The researchers were surprised to find that almost 1 percent of the websites they tested had suffered a data breach during their 18-month study period, regardless of how big the companies’ reach and audience are.

“No one is above this–companies or nation states– it’s going to happen; it’s just a question of when,” said Alex C. Snoeren, the paper’s senior author and a professor of computer science at the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego.

One percent might not seem like much. But given that there are over a billion sites on the Internet, this means tens of millions of websites could be breached every year, said Joe DeBlasio, one of Snoeren’s Ph.D. students and the paper’s first author.

Even scarier, the researchers found that popular sites were just as likely to be hacked as unpopular ones. This means that out of the top-1000 most visited sites on the Internet, ten are likely to be hacked every year.

“One percent of the really big shops getting owned is terrifying,” DeBlasio said.

The team of researchers at UC San Diego presented the tool in November at ACM Internet Measurement Conference in London.

The concept behind the tool, called Tripwire, is relatively simple. DeBlasio created a bot that registers and creates accounts on a large number of websites–around 2,300 were included in their study. Each account is associated with a unique email address. The tool was designed to use the same password for the email account and the website account associated with that email. Researchers then waited to see if an outside party used the password to access the email account. This would indicate that the website’s account information had been leaked.

To make sure that the breach was related to hacked websites and not the email provider or their own infrastructure, researchers set up a control group. It consisted of more than 100,000 email accounts they created with the same email provider used in the study. But computer scientists did not use the addresses to register on websites. None of these email accounts were accessed by hackers.

In the end, researchers determined 19 websites had been hacked, including a well-known American startup with more than 45 million active customers.

Once the accounts were breached, researchers got in touch with the sites’ security teams to warn them of the breaches. They exchanged emails and phone calls. “I was heartened that the big sites we interacted with took us seriously,” Snoeren said.

Yet none of the websites chose to disclose to their customers the breach the researchers had uncovered. “I was somewhat surprised no one acted on our results,” Snoeren said.

The researchers decided not to name the companies in their study.

“The reality is that these companies didn’t volunteer to be part of this study,” Snoeren said. “By doing this, we’ve opened them up to huge financial and legal exposure. So we decided to put the onus on them to disclose.”

Interestingly, very few of the breached accounts were used to send spam once they became vulnerable. Instead, the hackers usually just monitored email traffic. DeBlasio speculates that the hackers were monitoring emails to harvest valuable information, such as bank and credit card accounts.

Researchers went a step further. They created at least two accounts per website. One account had an “easy” password–strings of seven-character words with their first letter capitalized and followed by a single digit. These kinds of passwords are usually the first passwords that hackers will guess. The other account had a “hard” password–random 10-character strings of numbers and letters, both in lower and upper case, without special characters.

Seeing which of the two accounts got breached allowed researchers to make a good guess about how websites store passwords. If both the easy and hard passwords were hacked, the website likely just stores passwords in plain text, contrary to typically-followed best practice. If only the account using the easy password was breached, the sites likely used a more sophisticated method for password storage: an algorithm that turns passwords into a random string of data–with random information added to those strings.

The computer scientists had a few pieces of advice for Internet users: don’t reuse passwords; use a password manager; and ask yourself how much you really need to disclose online.

“Websites ask for a lot of information,” Snoeren said. “Why do they need to know your mother’s real maiden name and the name of your dog?”

DeBlasio was less optimistic that these precautions would work.

“The truth of the matter is that your information is going to get out; and you’re not going to know that it got out,” he said.

Snoeren and colleagues are not planning to pursue further research on Tripwire.

“We hope to have impact through companies picking it up and using it themselves,” he said. “Any major email provider can provide this service.”

###

Four from MIT named 2017 Association for Computer Machinery Fellows

Today four MIT faculty were named among the Association for Computing Machinery’s 2017 Fellows for making “landmark contributions to computing.”

Honorees included School of Science Dean Michael Sipser and three researchers affiliated with MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL): Shafi Goldwasser, Tomás Lozano-Pérez, and Silvio Micali.

The professors were among fewer than 1 percent of Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) members to receive the distinction. Fellows are named for contributions spanning such disciplines as graphics, vision, software design, algorithms, and theory.

“Shafi, Tomás, Silvio, and Michael are very esteemed colleagues and friends, and I’m so happy to see that their contributions have recognized with ACM’s most prestigious member grade,” said CSAIL Director Daniela Rus, who herself was named an ACM Fellow in 2014. “All of us at MIT are very proud of them for receiving this distinguished honor.”

Goldwasser was selected for “transformative work that laid the complexity-theoretic foundations for the science of cryptography.” This work has helped spur entire subfields of computer science, including zero-knowledge proofs, cryptographic theory, and probabilistically checkable proofs. In 2012 she received ACM’s Turing Award, often referred to as “the Nobel Prize of computing.”

Lozano-Pérez was recognized for “contributions to robotics, and motion planning, geometric algorithms, and their applications.” His current work focuses on integrating task, motion, and decision planning for robotic manipulation. He was a recipient of the 2011 IEEE Robotics Pioneer Award, and is also a 2014 MacVicar Fellow and a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) and of the IEEE.

Like Goldwasser, Micali was also honored for his work in cryptography and complexity theory, including his pioneering of new methods for the efficient verification of mathematical proofs. His work has had a major impact on how computer scientists understand concepts like randomness and privacy. Current interests include zero-knowledge proofs, secure protocols, and pseudorandom generation. He has also received the Turing Award, the Goedel prize in theoretical computer science, and the RSA prize in cryptography.

Sipser, the Donner Professor of Mathematics, was recognized for “contributions to computational complexity, particularly randomized computation and circuit complexity.” With collaborators at Carnegie Mellon University, Sipser introduced the method of probabilistic restriction for proving super-polynomial lower bounds on circuit complexity, and this result was later improved by others to be an exponential lower bound. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Mathematical Society, and a 2016 MacVicar Fellow. He is also the author of the widely used textbook, “Introduction to the Theory of Computation.”

ACM will formally recognize the fellows at its annual awards banquet on Saturday, June 23, 2018 in San Francisco, California.

Texas powers rising in Super 25 Computer football rankings

Three Texas teams made jumps in the latest Super 25 Computer football rankings.

MORE: See the full Super 25 Computer rankings | Expert rankings

Katy (Texas) made the biggest move, jumping 14 spots to No. 5 on the strength of a 31-3 win against Galena North Shore. Allen, which took down Euless Trinity 41-20, moved up six spots to No. 7. Midway (Waco) was the rankings’ biggest mover, rising 35 spots to No. 15 following a 42-28 win against Southlake Carroll.

Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) remains the No. 1 team. The Monarchs will face No. 22 De La Salle (Concord) in Saturday’s CIF State title game.

Miami Northwestern, who defeated Armwood (Seffner) last weekend to win the state title, moved 14 spots to No. 17.

Apple’s most expensive computer goes on sale this week

Apple’s new iMac Pro, first announced this summer, will go on sale Thursday (Dec. 14), the company said today.

The computer features the same design as the existing iMac line, except that it comes in a fetching shade of “space gray.” It can also be configured with up to an 18-core Intel Xeon processor, 128 GB of memory, and 4 TB of flash storage. It’s a monster of a machine, and it will set you back accordingly: The Verge reports that the price will start at $4,999, before all the possible upgrades.

Apple’s current most-expensive model, the trash can-shaped Mac Pro, starts at $2,999, and is customizable with upgrades that can take the price to over $7,000 before you even add on a monitor.

Unlike Apple’s forthcoming HomePod smart speaker, which was announced and promised at the same event as the iMac Pro, this computer will be shipping on time. Apple said last month that the HomePod would be delayed until “early 2018.”

In case you weren’t sure whether you needed a massively expensive professional computer, here’s one thing that could put you over the top: The iMac Pro will come with an exclusive black (or dare we say, “space gray”) Lightning cable. So if you’re sick of all of Apple’s white cables, there’s that.

Pa.’s map is so gerrymandered that random computer maps are fairer, expert says

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s congressional map is so skewed toward Republicans that computer software tasked with randomly drawing maps produced hundreds of drawings that were more politically neutral, according to testimony Monday on the opening day of a state gerrymandering trial.

“Partisan intent predominated the drawing” of the current congressional map, said University of Michigan political science professor Jowei Chen, an expert witness testifying for the group of Pennsylvania voters bringing the challenge.

Republicans have won 13 of the state’s 18 seats in the House of Representatives since the map was adopted in 2011, even as votes in statewide and national elections have been roughly split between Democrats and Republicans.

Chen said his software had generated 500 maps on what he called “traditional redistricting principles,” which included keeping populations equal across districts and avoiding splitting up counties and towns. The majority of the maps drawn had nine Republican districts and nine Democratic districts, he said, calling the 13-5 GOP margin under the current mapping an “extreme statistical outlier.”

Republicans credit other factors for their successes, including the fact that Democratic voters tend to cluster in the state’s urban areas.

Chen’s testimony will continue Tuesday; the defense has not yet cross-examined him.

Suing under the Pennsylvania Constitution, the 18 voters — one for each of the state’s congressional districts — accuse Republican lawmakers of discriminating against Democratic voters by intentionally drawing the congressional map to maximize the number of Republican U.S. representatives elected.

c118d_dixon-287377-e-wp-content-uploads-2017-11-local-cong-districts-01 Pa.'s map is so gerrymandered that random computer maps are fairer, expert says
Staff Graphic

The lawsuit is one of several that have popped up around the country challenging the mapping of congressional and legislative districts. This case, League of Women Voters v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was filed in June and the trial comes the week after a separate federal gerrymandering trial was heard in Philadelphia. A decision in that case is pending. A third case has been filed in federal court and is currently stayed until early January.

If this challenge — fast-tracked by the state Supreme Court — is successful, it could force a redrawing of Pennsylvania’s congressional map in time for the 2018 elections.

The case is in some ways similar to Gill v. Whitford, a gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin that is before the U.S. Supreme Court, in that much of the argument rests on the use of new ways of calculating how skewed a map is in one party’s favor.

Those new tests that have been developed in recent years generally agree with experts’ consensus: Pennsylvania’s congressional map is among the most gerrymandered.

“The map falls on the wrong side of the constitutional line — it intentionally, severely, durably, and unjustifiably discriminates against Democratic candidates and voters,” wrote Nick Stephanopoulos, a University of Chicago professor who developed the “efficiency gap” measure at the heart of Whitford and that will be used in this case. “The political scientists’ tools make the legal analysis easy and reliable.”

In this trial, he wrote, the state lawmakers are “trying to defend the indefensible.”

Showing that the map is skewed is the first part of the argument brought by the Philadelphia-based Public Interest Law Center, which is representing the group of voters bringing the state challenge.

They also hope to show that the skewing is intentional, relying in part on evidence that was turned over by House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati in last week’s separate federal trial, Agre v. Wolf.

Commonwealth Court Judge P. Kevin Brobson had blocked attempts by the Public Interest Law Center to force Turzai and Scarnati to turn over the documents, but a three-judge panel ordered them produced for the federal case. Plaintiff lawyers then shared the documents with the Public Interest Law Center.

Both sides sparred Monday morning over that evidence, which includes files that Turzai turned over showing that mapmakers used detailed partisanship data in drawing the congressional districts.

c118d_dixon-287377-e-wp-content-uploads-2017-11-local-cong-districts-01 Pa.'s map is so gerrymandered that random computer maps are fairer, expert says
Jared Whalen

Attorneys for Republican lawmakers said that admission of those documents would be a breach of legislative privilege, which is intended to shield lawmakers’ deliberations in their work.

“We’re sort of in uncharted territory here,” Brobson said. “This is difficult and I am struggling with it.”

After a recess, he issued a ruling allowing some of the documents to be admitted.

The trial is expected to last through the week, and Brobson has been tasked with issuing conclusions by the end of the year, which the state Supreme Court will then use to make its decision.

That decision is expected early in January. A successful challenge could reshape the 2018 elections; lawyers for the state said in the federal trial that to maintain the current primary schedule they would need to know by Jan. 23 whether a new map would be used.







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Etowah, Gadsden kids learn computer coding

Burn enough time playing “Flappy Bird” on a smartphone and the realization creeps in: There’s not much to it.

Tap the screen and a little bird flaps his wings. Dodge pipes for points. Crash the bird, try again. Simple, right? So how hard could it be to make a game like “Flappy Bird?”

Kids throughout Etowah County spent last week finding out, during Computer Science Education Week with the “Hour of Code,” a one-hour introductory course in computer science meant to “demystify” coding and programming, according to hourofcode.com.

Students from both Etowah County and Gadsden City schools visited the website to undertake hour-long exercises ranging from drag-and-drop coding games — using pre-written commands to make programs execute operations — and some direct code writing — baking programs from scratch in a word processor.

Kevin Peterson, media specialist and lead teacher for the after-school program at Gadsden Middle School, said his after-school students enjoyed Hour of Code so much that it will be a regular part of his program.

“This is something I’ve found they really like, anything game-based,” said Peterson. “They did a ‘Star Wars’ one because the movie is coming out, where they move BB8 up and down and gather different things on the screen.”

Many of the coding exercises take the form of games, with pre-made characters moving around on the screen, but only when commanded through code, not by joystick. Children have to figure out how to make the character — in reality, the computer — do what they want.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Computers are complex, but not inherently smart. They’ll do what they’re told, to the letter, even if it’s not quite right. That means mistakes might make a character spin around in circles or wander off from their task altogether.

Difficulty gradually increases to the point where students type their own code, should their teachers keep them coming back to the website for more hour-long lessons.

According to Peterson, the program teaches kids that STEM courses can be useful not only for physics and math, but for things that fall in line with their favorite activities.

“A computer engineer makes the games they play every day,” he said. “Knowing that, they know where to go when they get into high school and what they can do when they get into college.”

Activities on hourofcode.com are free and work with most computers, tablets and smartphones, without registration.

Einstein’s telescope, personal computer memorabilia and an exploding rat

BBB says scammers posing as computer technical support are stealing millions from Americans

Scammers are successfully using phone calls, emails and pop-up messages on computer screens to convince American consumers that their computers are infected with phony viruses or malware, warns a new report by the Better Business Bureau.

Scams involving computer technical support aren’t new, but they continue to be widespread. Americans forked over more than $21 million to such schemes in the first nine months of this year, according to the FBI.

The scammers often claim to be with Microsoft, and they catch consumers by surprise, said Michelle Corey, president of the St. Louis BBB.

“It looks real. It looks like it’s coming from Microsoft,’’ she said. “There’s a pop-up. There’s a siren that goes off. And you’re immediate reaction is, ‘Oh my goodness. I’m going to lose everything in my computer system if I don’t respond to what they’re telling me to do.’ ’’

Her best advice to consumers is to stop and take a breath before you do anything.

Chances are, the pop-up window that just froze your computer screen with a dire warning about malware, is a scam. And you can often get rid of the message by rebooting your computer, she said.

“Bob” the tech guy who claims to be with Microsoft but sounds like he’s calling from an offshore call center, probably is. Nearly 85 percent of the fraudsters are calling from India, according to the report.

And whatever you do, don’t let someone have access to your computer to “fix” it, unless you have verified that they are who they say are.

Five Better Business Bureau offices, including St. Louis, teamed with the Federal Trade Commission and federal prosecutors to produce the report, which documents a variety of tech support schemes.

 

Sherry Thomas of St. Louis told her story at a news conference Monday morning.

She said a warning message popped up on the screen of her new laptop this year, and an automated warning sounded. Her computer froze, so she called the phone number on the pop-up message. A “technician” charged her $179 to fix her computer.

“It scared me to death because the computer was brand new — and I panicked,’’ she said. “Had I known that all you had to do was shut down the computer. But I didn’t know.’’

Thomas discovered that she had been scammed when she took her laptop to the computer store where she had purchased it and was told there was nothing wrong with it.

The scammers contacted her a second time, promising to refund the fee. The representative then claimed to have accidentally deposited $2,000 into her bank account instead of $179, and asked Thomas to buy iTunes gift cards to return the overpayment. This time, Thomas contacted the St. Louis BBB.

Thomas said she hopes her case will serve as a lesson to others.

“I wanted to let the people know what is going on out there,’’ she said. “I mean some people may say, ‘How did she let that happen?’ It happens. It can happen to the best of us.’’

Here’s more from the BBB report on how the fraud works:

* The scammers charge an average of $290 for their bogus services.

* They use four techniques: pop-up ads that might freeze your computer screen; phone calls from so-called “technicians” who claim to have detected problems with your computer; emails that include ransom-ware attachments; sponsored links that show up when you search for “technical support” on the internet.

* Although the tech scam targets Americans, less than 10 percent of the fraudsters operate in the United States. The scam is also prevalent in Australia and Singapore.

* The Microsoft Corporation reports that it receives more than 12,000 complaints every month about the scams.

* The study found that millennials fall victim to the scam more frequently than older Americans, but older Americans are more likely to report it.

What to do:

* Don’t trust or buy services from unsolicited phone calls, emails or pop-up ads.

* Never give control of your computer to a third party, unless you have confirmed that the person does work with a legitimate computer support team.

* Be careful when typing the address for a company website. Incorrect web addresses can trigger bogus pop-up ads. Anything that comes from “Micorsoft,” for example, is probably a scam.

* Don’t panic. Scammers want you to make a hasty decision. If your computer has been compromised, contact a trusted tech support company.

* If a caller claims to work for a reputable company, ask them to tell you their name or their employee ID, and in which department they work. Then look up and call that company’s official customer service line and ask to be directed to that employee. Do not use a phone number provided to you by the caller.

* Use quality antivirus software. Make sure you are running the latest version of the software.

* If you have been scammed, report it to the FTC or BBB.

* Read the entire report “Pop-ups and imposters: A Better Business Bureau Study of the Growing Worldwide Problem of Computer Tech Support Scams.

Follow Mary Delach Leonard on Twitter: @marydleonard

Dear Abby: By avoiding computer, man evades the work – Chicago Sun

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been together for 40 years. Like most people, we’ve had our good times and bad, but we’ve both been committed to the marriage, and so we’ve made it work.

Now I’m faced with a problem for which I see no solution. My husband refuses to learn to use a computer. He knows nothing about computers, not even how to turn one on!

As you know, computers are now key to even the most fundamental tasks. That means, as the only computer user in the house, all tasks are MY responsibility. Banking, bill paying, communication with family, friends, lawyers, financial advisers, arrangements for social events, business meetings, medical appointments, travel and other activities are totally up to me. He does NONE of it!

He washes the dishes and takes out the trash, but any function that requires brains and technology are totally left to me. I’m tired!

Is this fair? I’ve asked many times for him to go to our public library and take lessons on computer use, but he adamantly refuses. How do I handle this? — IT’S ALL ON ME IN NEW YORK

DEAR ALL ON YOU: After 40 years you are not going to change your husband, so appreciate the things he does do. I know you’re tired and it may not seem fair, but grit your teeth and forge ahead.

You have no idea how lucky you really are. Many wives know little or nothing about the family finances. If something unforeseen happens to their husbands, they are left scrambling to learn about realities for which they are not equipped.

P.S. Consider asking your husband what he would do in the case of YOUR sudden death. He, too, would be left completely adrift. It couldn’t hurt to warn him.

DEAR ABBY: I am a widow, and I often dine out with my youngest son. Invariably, because I have a 25-year-old man with me and no husband, we are shown to an undesirable table in the restaurant.

Usually, I say nothing. This evening, we were escorted to a room way in the back of a large restaurant (two-thirds full). The only other occupants were a couple with two small children who looked to be about 2 or 3.

When I requested a different table, my son was furious. He said what I had done was rude.

We were moved to another table. It was between the hostess station and the kitchen door. I sat there and said nothing.

This was an expensive restaurant, and our bill was more than $100. Was I rude? — NEW SEAT IN FLORIDA

DEAR NEW SEAT: Your son was mistaken. To ask to be seated at a table in a different part of the restaurant was not rude; it was your prerogative.

If you preferred a location in the front of the place rather than near the kitchen or a family with small children, you should have repeated your request. And if the host or hostess had a problem with it, you should have left and enjoyed dinner at a restaurant more accommodating than that one.

TO MY JEWISH READERS: The eight days of Hanukkah begin at sundown. Happy Hanukkah, everyone! May we all enjoy a joyous festival of lights.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at http://www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Good advice for everyone — teens to seniors — is in “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It.” To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

Student club to hold computer clinic

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Old Salem closed due to computer problem after winter weather power outage

WINSTON-SALEM, NC — A popular tourist destination in Winston-Salem that prides itself on showing visitors what like was like in the 18th century is closed because of a 21st century problem.

Old Salem has been closed since Friday night when the power went off in that part of town during the height of the winter weather.

But even with the nice weather in the following days it still can’t reopen after the weather-related power failure put the popular destination in an unexpected predicament.

“A little snow would have made it really, really special and we wanted that, we wanted just enough snow to make it nice but not too much snow,” said Franklin Vagnone, the Old Salem president and CEO.

It wasn’t the snow but the effect of a blown transformer during the storm and a subsequent power surge that fried Old Salem’s computer system and the server that contained all of its retail and membership information; a 21st century malfunction that puts the 18th century destination out of business until it’s fixed.

“We have all of this behind the scenes activity and much of it is technologically driven and it makes them feel a kind of domesticity, a kind of nostalgia, but in order to maintain that nostalgia takes a lot of behind the scenes effort,” Vagnone said.

As a result, Old Salem canceled several scheduled events over the weekend and a meet and greet with Santa Monday for kids with special needs. And people who didn’t get the word of the closing showed up to buy the sweets, only to be turned away.

“People are really disappointed, they’re coming here specifically for Winkler baked goods or to buy Christmas presents in the store or they have out of town guests and they want to come and show them Old Salem,” Vagnone said.

Old Salem hopes to reopen to the public by Wednesday.

Lake Land to offer computer coding certificate program – Journal Gazette and Times

Regarding the new levy, Lake Land will seek $12.4 million in property tax revenue. Bryan Gleckler, vice president for business services, said this is an increase of 4.99 percent from the revenue brought in by the previous levy. He said this is a general increase to meet rising operational cots. He has estimated that the new levy will result in the tax bill for a $100,000 house, for example, increasing by $9 per year.




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