Monday, April 21, 2008

  • Constable warns of Internet dangers
  • Software spinoff marks its 20th
  • Network improvements; other notes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Constable warns of Internet dangers

The dangers of physical assault and “serial daters” are scary enough, but one thing really got an audience of staff members galvanized during Thursday’s safety presentation by constable Michele Dunsford of the UW police.

“Go and check your credit!” she urged her listeners, giving them the phone numbers for Equifax and TransUnion. She also told a sobering story about someone whose credit record was sabotaged after he was involved in exposing an online “Nigerian scam”. The rustle of paper sounded as though all two dozen people in the audience, at a noontime event sponsored by the Employee Assistance Program, were making note of those credit-checking agencies.

Identity theft is a growing problem because criminals can sound very plausible when they send e-mail to unsuspecting users in schemes that the experts call by such names as “phishing” and “pharming”. Whatever the details, the idea is to inspire confidence and get users to divulge personal information, including birthdates, account numbers and passwords, that can then be used dishonestly.

“A lot of people fall for it,” said Dunsford, who joined UW’s police last summer after a career in undercover and fraud-related work for the Peel Regional Police.

“A lot of Nigerian fraud scams happen to our students,” she added, observing that students can be “young and naïve” or at least without experience in the financial world. (The Nigerian scam, which is by no means limited to crooks in that one west African country, involves huge sums of money that are dangled in front of an unsuspecting user if he or she will just pay a modest amount — and then another less modest amount, and so on — in up-front costs. The promised millions never materialize.)

Other parts of Dunsford’s presentation on Thursday dealt with online stalkers and similar unpleasant people, and how easy it sometimes is for them to find their victims and learn the details of their lives.

“Parts of my life are out there on the net for people to find,” said Dunsford, revealing that she googled herself not long ago and discovered that anyone interested in her could have learned, among other things, her unlisted phone number. “There’s some deep, deep information on the net,” she said, “things that there’s no way you would tell somebody!”

A stalker “refuses to accept rejection”, she said, and is “relentless — will not give up, no matter what.” Popular networking web sites, including Facebook and MySpace, give such people new tools and opportunities to get close to a victim by pretending, for instance, to be a friend-of-a-friend.

“Don’t put anything anywhere on the electronic highway that you would not want people to know,” she repeated, mentioning Facebook profiles in particular, and revealing that “I’ve used it as an investigative tool, to find out what some of our students are up to!”

Other sites to be aware of, she said, include Zabasearch, Pipl (“searches the deep or invisible web”), Wink and Zoominfo. Some advice: “Develop a gender-neutral e-mail address . . . remove personal information.” And if an e-mail message claims to be from a legitimate business organization, “really read the links,” in case it’s a fake.

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Software spinoff marks its 20th

a news release from Waterloo Maple Inc. (Maplesoft)

Maplesoft, one of the leading technology companies in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, today (April 17) celebrates 20 years of being a corporation. This year also marks a significant growth period, with revenues from the commercial sector, a focus area for the last five years, rising by 95%.

Maplesoft’s roots come from the vibrant academic and research environment for which Waterloo is well-known. Its core intellectual property was developed as an advanced research project at the University of Waterloo in the early 1980s. Keith Geddes, the co-creator of the now famous Maple software and co-founder of Maplesoft, is known to be among the first of a breed of entrepreneurs who form the backbone of Waterloo’s knowledge-based economy.

Today, Maplesoft is the leading provider of high-performance software tools for engineering, science, and mathematics. It is the core of a vibrant and devoted community that spans and connects the commercial engineering research and development community with academia worldwide. Maplesoft enjoys worldwide strategic partnerships with leading research universities that provide its product with unequalled depth and capabilities.

Over the years, Maple, Maplesoft’s flagship product, has grown to be the most powerful and intuitive tool for solving complex mathematical problems and creating rich, executable technical documents. Maple introduced a radical change in the industry with its superior technical document and knowledge sharing capabilities, and it changed the way people worked with mathematics. After starting as an academic software package used in instruction and research, it is now prominently used by engineers and scientists to streamline and increase the quality of analytical work.

“Maplesoft has had an amazing journey in the last 20 years,” said Jim Cooper, president and CEO, Maplesoft. “It now stands at a significant point, where a combination of technology, marketing, creativity, and people is poised to propel it to the next wave of growth and expansion. All of us at Maplesoft are excited about the days ahead.”

With its philosophy — given great tools, people can do great things — Maplesoft has transformed the way engineers, scientists, and mathematicians use math, enabling them to work better, faster, and smarter. Organizations across the world have applied Maple in nearly every technical field, including engineering design, operations research, scientific research, and financial analysis. Maplesoft's commercial customer base includes Toyota, BMW, Boeing, DreamWorks, Ford, General Electric, Lucent Technologies, and Motorola.

Over 90% of advanced research institutions and universities worldwide, including MIT, Stanford, Oxford, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the U.S. Department of Energy, have adopted Maplesoft solutions to enhance their education and research activities.

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Network improvements; other notes

A brief shutdown of UW’s Internet service on April 30 — in the gap between winter term exams and the beginning of spring term classes — will be a big step towards making sure that unplanned interruptions to the computer networks become a thing of the past. The interruption next week, from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. on the Wednesday, is planned “so that we can replace our existing border router with new hardware”, says a memo from the information systems and technology department. “This is the first phase in an ongoing series of service upgrades that will include a second border router with a backup Internet service provider, to provide better redundancy.” IST promised this sort of improvement last fall after a series of network interruptions, including one in August that lasted almost a full night and day. “The campus network still includes single points of failure and a dependence on a single internet service provider,” Bruce Campbell, director of network services in IST, said at that time, but that’s going to be changing.

There’s progress in IST on other fronts as well. Friday morning’s professional development seminar there provided updates on a couple of them, including the so-called Identity Management Project: “UW purchased the Sun Identity Management suite to evolve and extend functions currently provided by UWdir. This presentation will give an overview of the project, a project status update and will provide insights on how the product implements some of the current UWdir functions.” Also at Friday’s seminar: “One of the smart projects initiated at the 2007 Executive Retreat was a study of Institutional Data Management at UW. Its purpose was to create an inventory of significant databases maintained across campus, look for areas of overlap or duplication, and make recommendations on efficiencies and improvements. This presentation will provide an overview of the survey that was performed, its findings and some possible next steps.”

News from another direction: “The Centre for Teaching Excellence is pleased to announce that Jane Holbrook has joined the Senior Instructional Developer team as our Blended Learning specialist. This new role completes the CTE Senior Instructional Developer group that includes Nicola Simmons, SID-Consulting, Trevor Holmes, SID-Programming, and Mark Morton, SID-Emerging Technology. Blended learning involves the combination of face-to-face instruction and online activities in on-campus courses and has gained recognition as an effective instructional strategy in the last few years. Jane has been engaged in designing activities for blended learning in on-campus courses for instructors in Science and for her own courses since 2002. A former CTE Liaison to the Faculty of Science, Jane will lead the CTE Liaison group and work closely with Distance and Continuing Education and Instructional Technologies and Multimedia Services to promote the effective use of the online environment in our on-campus courses.”

Cam McIntyre of the men’s basketball Warriors was named to the provincial “all-rookie team” by Ontario University Athletics at season’s end. • Renison College has named Courtney Smith, formerly of the accounting firm KPMG in Waterloo, to be its director of finance, and she’ll start work May 5. • FASS 2009, scheduled to hit the stage at the end of next January, is already being developed, as would-be writers and executives of the FASS Theatre Company held their first brainstorming session on April 13.

Marilyn Perdue of UW’s counselling services department sends word of a new group, aimed at staff members, that will start operation in a few days: “The name of the group is ‘Mindfulness @ University of Waterloo: A Stress Reduction Program for Staff’. This six-week program in intended for staff experiencing life and work stressors and their consequences and is designed to maximize personal, interpersonal and work coping skills; optimize well being; develop effective strategies for emotional balance. Learn and practice mind-body techniques including walking and sitting meditation, awareness of thoughts and feelings, gentle stretching, body scanning and breathing exercises. (no previous experience required).” Group meetings begin Tuesday, April 29, from 5 to 7 p.m., for six weekly sessions, held in the great hall of Village I. “The cost,” says Perdue, “is $15 and includes a CD, workbook, and book. Sign up by calling Counselling Services, extension 32655.”

Results from the April 9 sitting of the English Language Proficiency Exam are now available — posted in departmental undergraduate offices across campus, and at the Writing Centre, room 2082 of the PAS (Psychology) building. “Congratulations to those who passed,” writes director Ann Barrett, “and students who were not successful can explore their options by visiting our web site.”

Finally . . . well, I think we’re safe in saying that winter’s over. One certain sign of the season’s change is that the weather station has a winner in its annual contest, inviting people to predict when the temperature will hit 20 Celsius for the first time. “With a forecast high of 21 degrees, we were pretty sure that the contest would end today,” station coordinator Frank Seglenieks was able to write on Thursday evening, “and it did just that at 4:00 p.m. But unlike some years where the 20-degree day is followed by much colder temperatures, it looks like the warmer weather is going to stick with us at least until next week. Although it seemed to take forever to get to this day, it is not the latest date we have ever had to win the contest. In the past 10 years the first 20-degree day has ranged between March 8 to April 19. This year's winner is Kimi Noguchi, whose guessed the exact time of 4:00 p.m. Stephen Drew was in second place, while in third place we have Carrie Warner. At 1,084 entries, it was the highest number of people to enter the contest. We look forward to holding the contest again next year and as always hope for an earlier winning date.”


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[White bust; sprinkler holes with mist emerging]

When a viewer approaches "Maid of the Mist", Lois Andison of UW's fine arts department explains, "a sensor activates and mist is forced through the holes by miniature fans. . . . Her fixed visage is a counterpoint to the temporal halo that billows around her." Andison's "kinetic" sculptures — some of which will appear in a solo exhibition next year at Toronto's Olga Korper Gallery — are featured in the new issue of the Arts Research Update newsletter.

Link of the day

The Queen's birthday

When and where

Graduate Student Research Conference April 21-24, details online. Seminar for students preparing postdoctoral applications, today 10:00, Davis Centre room 1351. Keynote talk by Thomas Homer-Dixon (energy and climate change, “the ingenuity gap”, social change) 3:00 p.m., Humanities Theatre, tickets $2 at Humanities box office.

Staff Appreciation Week lunch available at University Club, Monday-Friday 11:30 to 2:00, $18.00 per person, reservations ext. 33801.

UW Senate 4:30 p.m., Needles Hall room 3001.

Beethoven Lecture Series: Cecile Monique Michniewicz, third-year music student, on “The Psychology of Beethoven”, Tuesday 1:00 to 3:00, and “The Philosophy of Beethoven”, Wednesday 1:00 to 3:00, Conrad Grebel University College room 1302, all welcome, refreshments.

School of Pharmacy presents Robert S. Langer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Advances in Drug Delivery and Tissue Engineering”, Tuesday 1:30, Math and Computer room 2065, all welcome, reception follows.

Staff salary system and settlement information session (repeated from last week), Wednesday 12:30 p.m., Arts Lecture Hall room 113.

Spiritual Heritage Education Network presents documentary video, “Doing Time, Doing Vipassana” on how meditation affected the Tihar prison, Wednesday 7:30 p.m., CEIT room 1015.

Permanent residence in Canada: speaker from Canada’s Consulate-General in Buffalo, sponsored by new faculty recruitment office and Waterloo International, Thursday 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., Arts Lecture Hall room 116, register online.

Guelph-Waterloo Centre for Graduate Work in Chemistry and Biochemistry annual general meeting Friday 1:00 p.m., CEIT room 1015, followed by seminar, “Small Contributions to the Emerging Field of Sulfenic Acid Anion Chemistry”, by Adrian Schwan, University of Guelph, 3:00, then graduate student poster session and awards presentations.

Engineering alumni Rick Matzeg Memorial Event, Saturday 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., Luther Village, details online.

Fee payment deadline for the spring term is April 28 (cheque, money order, promissory note) or May 1 (bank payment or international wire transfer), details online.

Fire drills on main campus Tuesday, April 29, schedule to be announced.

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Friday's Daily Bulletin