How a computer works – Security Now

sn1400I’ve spent most of my lifetime fascinated by the fact that my computers work at all.  I have often told the story of the day I was able to get my first program to run and how that day competes for the title of the “greatest day of my life.”  Certainly, the wedding and the birth of the children win, but it’s a close follow-up.

I’m a subscriber to several podcasts from the Twit network (Leo Laporte), but my favorite is the geekiest of that network, Steve Gibson’s Security Now.  I’m not a security expert, but a wanna-be.  I’ve listened to the podcast since its earliest days (started in its first couple years but not first episode).  I’m not a die-hard fan who’s listened to every one of them, but probably half or so over the last 12 years.

During this weeks episode, Steve answered a listener’s question about what which episodes should a new listener go back and listen to since there’s almost no conceivable way to go back a listen to all of them.  Steve recommended a series he did back in 2010 over how a computer works.  I’ve started listening and he’s a done a great job taking me through the very basics up through the core components of a modern computer.  Even though he starts with resistors and transistors and how they are used to make basic logic gates, the core concepts are actually still very much the same.

It’s a nice follow-up to the book I read earlier this year by Stephen Levy called Hackers which documented much of the early history of the modern computer era.  I would actually recommend both.  Here’s where you’ll find the complete archive of Steve Gibson’s Security Now podcast, and here are the specific episodes he recommended.  Be aware that he spends roughly the first half of each episode reviewing security news.  I enjoyed the walk down memory lane.  It was also fun to recall where I was and what I was doing back when these episodes were first recorded (e.g., associate dean, pre-VC director phase of my career, planning first ever Spring Research Day at Wayland, kids were 9-6-4, Lori was at the VC as an instructional designer)

Security Now Episode Archive

Episode 233: Let’s Design a Computer (mp3)
Episode 235: Machine Language (mp3)
Episode 237: Indirection: The Power of Pointers (mp3)
Episode 239: Stacks, Registers, and Recursion
Episode 241: Hardware Interrupts
Episode 247: The “Multi”-verse
Episode 250: Operating Systems
Episode 252: RISC-y Business
Episode 254: What We’ll Do for Speed

And here’s a bonus episode from that time frame that ranks as one of my favorites of all time: Episode 248 – The Portable Dog Killer

Mathematics and 3D Printing

From the upcoming Fall 2017 School of Mathematics and Sciences Newsletter:

The Dean has a new hobby and, as a result, a whole lot of new toys.


The School of Math and Sciences has entered the world of 3D printing by acquiring a new Cartesian-model 3D printer.  The Monoprice Maker Select V2 is a hobbyist’s dream, but it also has great potential for classroom use as well as in our research programs.  Thanks to a large online community of “makers,” and a particularly large user base for this particular model, the Maker Select is ideal for small projects at low cost.


The original goals of having a 3D printer in the school centered on being able to create manipulatives to visualize concepts in three dimensions. Examples include conic sections in Algebra, the disc and shell methods in Calculus, nets in Geometry, or even more advanced topics in Computer Aided Geometric Design.

However, since acquiring the equipment, some NEW projects are now being considered.  We now have plans to begin printing scale replicas of outcroppings for use in our Geology courses and research.  We are also exploring the use of the printer to develop molds for our micro-fluidics research in Chemistry.

We can almost guarantee the next time you visit us on campus, we’ll be printing something so stop by the Dean’s Corner and see what new creation is on the print bed.



How to Print to PDF on your iPhone or iPad

This how-to is based on iOS 10 and I only just discovered this feature, in spite of having looked for it many times over.

Whether from a website or from a word processing app or just about anywhere, I’ve always wanted to be able to print to PDF on my iOS devices. It seemed only natural that Apple would make something like this available when you print from your device. When you go to the share icon and choose to print, shouldn’t one of your options be to select a PDF printer? But, alas, you can only select an AirPrint enabled printer on your network.

Well, I have GOOD NEWS! The capability is there and has been there all along.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Go to any app that is print-enabled and select to print. Usually, that means finding the share icon.
  2. In the extensions menu, tap Print:
  3. Now, for the secret sauce. In the print preview window, use two fingers to expand the page (opposite of “pinch”). In other words, touch the screen with two fingers and spread them apart. VOILA!!
  4. You now have a preview of the PDF that you can send to any other app, including cloud storage such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, or OneDrive. You can even send it to apps that allow annotations on PDFs for marking up.

Some other helpful related tips:

  • Some apps like the Microsoft office suite of apps have the print functionality embedded somewhere besides the share icon, so you may have to look for it.
  • The Word app, at the time of this writing, does not have an export-to-pdf feature so this is extremely useful if you want to produce a pdf of your word documents.
  • Occasionally, the print preview is blank and I cannot expand the preview window. In that case, I just cancel out and try again. It usually works the second time.
  • Articles in Safari work best if you first switch to reading mode before you select print. To do this, tap the reading mode icon at the left end of the address bar:

Hope this was helpful!

Is it a core requirement or just an elective?

This week of Creation Care emphasis has coincided with a very busy time of the semester on the Plainview campus.  We are in the first week of early registration for the Spring term which means faculty and students alike are pouring over course schedules and degree plans.  As a result, my mind has unavoidably conflated the two.  As I listened to Rachel Lamb’s message in chapel on Wednesday, I was challenged in a new way regarding the role of Creation Care in my daily walk with Christ.

It was several years ago when we first began our Creation Care emphasis week at Wayland that I first made the connection between caring for the environment and my duty as a Christian to be a steward of God’s creation.  Prior to that moment, I knew I was responsible to God for managing my own resources in a way that honors Him, but I had not recognized God’s creation, the physical world, as my responsibility.  It became obvious to me through meditating on the Psalms that God’s handiwork is all around, and how I live my life not only has an impact on the people around me but on the physical world as well. So, I have taken small steps to lessen that impact and even engage in creation care as worship of the Creator.

And yet, I have not been as persistent or committed as I ought. That’s what struck me in chapel on Wednesday. Rachel presented a three pronged approach to serving our Lord by serving his Church, serving people, and serving creation.  From what I heard, she went one step further and claimed that all three were necessary.  You cannot eliminate any one of those.

It dawned on me that I often treat my responsibilities to God, including service, worship, study, even stewardship of his creation, as if they were “electives” instead of “core requirements” in my daily walk.  As we schedule our classes for next semester, we make sure to first include the ones that are required and then pick and choose our electives based on what fits our schedule and interests.

My challenge to you (and especially to me) is to “enroll” in the core requirements of our relationship with God. Time with God is not an elective.  The study of his Word is not an elective.  The stewardship of his creation is not an elective, especially when neglecting and even wasting his gifts has a demonstrably harmful effect on the “least of these.”  Consider for yourself what are the core requirements of your faith and bring them back into focus in your daily walk.

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
Psalm 8:3-8

Why I do what I do

As I glance back over the previous post where I listed out those questions I intend to tackle here, openly on my blog, I noticed a somewhat glaring omission.  There are no “Why?” questions, not even the most important one: Why do I do what I do?

My life has taking only a small number of twists and turns. In fact, it almost seems as though I have been on track for this current career path ever since I decided to add a mathematics major my second year of college.   Continue reading Why I do what I do

Summer Blog Project

5951683773I’m about to ramble so take this as fair warning.  My blog has been around for a long time and has meandered through many identity crises.  Sometimes, it’s a puzzle blog posting interesting mind-benders that need a keen intellect and occasionally, some mathematics.  That’s all still here, by the way, which you can find with a not-so-difficult search tool in the sidebar.  It’s also been a devotional through my efforts to better understand our responsibilities as stewards of God’s creation.  It’s been a log of classroom activities.  At one time, I was posting periodically about what I had accomplished in each of my classes.  For the last few years, it has been only a repository for sparse events and thoughts in my professional life.

So what is it now?  In an effort towards both professional and personal development, it is going to serve this summer as a kind of diary or journal where I attempt to solidify my mission and calling in life.  Periodically, there have been times in my life where I doubt my chosen path, I wonder about what might have been, or I simply lack the drive to keep heading down the road I am currently on in life. While I have no doubts about the path I’m on now, I am certainly in a dry spell finding the springs of motivation often running dry, both professionally and spiritually.  So, I’m going to write it out and clarify in possibly painful detail what it is I really care about and what I hope to carry out in the coming weeks, months, and years.

If you happen to read this and you’re either one of my faculty, my students, my colleagues, or even my supervisors, should you be concerned about my commitment to my current job responsibilities? Or to say it another way, if I were in your place, would I be worried about someone in my position laying bare their soul about their calling in life? Absolutely not.  In spite of all the challenges that have come along with my first year as an academic dean, I am more committed than ever to affecting positive change through our programs.  I am more committed than ever to the personal and professional fulfillment of students.  I am more committed than ever to fulfilling God’s call on my life.  The problem is the that it too often feels like a drudgery than the passion it once was. This is intended to be a rejuvenating exercise that will renew my spirit and strengthen my resolve to see God do his will through me.

Here are just some of the questions I intend to reflect upon:

  • What strengths do I have that particularly equip me for this position and what are areas where I need to grow?
  • What are specific actions I can take to strengthen those weaknesses or to partner with people who can complement my weaknesses with their strengths?
  • What am I afraid to do because I’m afraid we might fail?
  • What can I learn from the mistakes I made in my first year as dean?
  • How can I keep up and build upon the successes in my first year as dean?
  • If I were to squeeze all of my current job responsibilities into 80% of my current time spent on them, what would I do with the other 20% of my time to make a lasting mark on the world?
  • Revisit my Personal Mission Statement
  • How do I work? How do I make sure I “get things done”? How do I follow through?
  • Who are my colleagues, my friends, my mentors/mentees?  Where do I go for help?
  • How do I balance work and family and faith?
  • What can I do to continue to improve?
  • The bucket list and the reverse bucket list.
  • How did I get here?  How do I get to where I am going?
  • What do I value most? Prove it.

Here’s hoping I can follow through…

Creation Care is Worship in Action

I was honored to be asked to write one of the devotionals for our Creation Care emphasis at WBU this week.  I thought I’d share what I wrote.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

“I should take better care of my things.”

Those words, as they came out of my daughter’s mouth were eerily reminiscent of my own childhood mistakes. She had destroyed another pair of earbuds and took full responsibility for their neglect. As for myself, it was me leaving a toy outside to be chewed up my beloved beagle. Later, it was neglecting to put my allowance in a safe place only to be lost amidst the clutter of my room. Even later on, it was carelessly neglecting to properly maintain my own car, wearing down tires without rotating them and waiting far too long to change the oil. In each and every case, when we neglect our gifts, we end up losing them prematurely. 

Taking care of your things honors the provider even more than the provision itself. 

I know for a fact that I did not realize this as a kid, but there is far more at stake than the privilege of USING those gifts. Sure, we lose them and are less likely to be entrusted with them again, but more importantly, the gift itself bears the mark of the giver. When we disrespect our gifts, we are disrespecting the one who gave.

Creation care is worship in action. 

The motivation for tending and keeping the creation is not simply to preserve it for future generations or even to satisfy a moral obligation to the creation itself but to honor the God who created it and gave us the responsibility for it. Just like we can easily get swept up in the music in a worship service and focus on the song or the band losing sight of the object of our worship, we should avoid creation care as worship OF God’s creation. Instead, it is an effort to honor our God who created this world as our temporary home.

Make the little changes to acknowledge God’s provision.

Already this week, Dr. Kasner has shared in these devotionals how little efforts are multiplied when we all work together. Taking the extra few steps to drop your refuse in the recycling bin, turning off the tap water while you brush your teeth, turning off the light when you leave a room, all reduce your impact on the environment and reduce wastefulness of the resources God has blessed us with. This week, I’m trying to remember that I’m not doing it for the creation, I am “working as for the Lord.”

Let me also encourage you this week to see your creation care efforts as a holy act of worship of the Creator, Himself. If you will, say a prayer of thanksgiving when you make these little changes. 

God bless you in your efforts this week.




Moving OneNote Notebook to OneDrive

I was asked a great question in class today. Someone had a friend whose computer crashed and the student was worried about what would happen if that wiped out an important OneNote Notebook. That would be a catastrophe for me, if I were to completely lose either my Wayland or even Personal Notebook from OneNote.

Fortunately, that’s not going to happen since I actually have both those notebooks in the cloud and are thus, synced across several devices. Even if an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) knocked out all of Plainview, my notebooks are stored safely on servers in Microsoft’s data farm. I should be careful to say it’s not impossible, just extremely improbable.

So, how do you move your notebook to OneDrive? Assuming you have an Office365 account, which all faculty and students at WBU have access to, you first need to log into your Office365 account. To do this click on the File Tab, then click on the Account Panel. From there, click Sign In and log into your account.

Next, open the Info panel File tab in OneNote, click the Settings dropdown next to your notebook (in the Info panel) and click “Share or Move”


Then, make sure you’re using the correct Office365 account, click Continue, and voila!

You can also share your notebooks using the Share panel and send links or invite people to edit your notebooks.