Wednesday, September 28, 2005

How to make engineering more attractive?

There was a heated discussion on slashdot "Why Students Are Leaving Engineering", relating to an article "Confessions of an Engineering Washout." The discussion is mainly from (engineering) students' point of views.

One of the issue they touched is that their professors and TAs are incompetent teachers. They may be good at research, but they cannot teach (or even communicate). This may be true in American setting, where research is more important than teaching, but the reverse is true in Indonesia (and perhaps other Asian countries). Here, professors, lectureres, and TAs are more focused on teaching. That does not mean that they are better at teaching than their counterparts in America, though.

Here's a lecturer's point of view. (I cannot call myself a professor because here it is a formal thing, which I don't really care. If I were to teach in North America, which I did in Canada, I would be called a professor :-))

I enjoy teaching. That's why I am still staying at the university. One of my goals in teaching is to make complex things easier to understand. I want to make engineering fun. But, most people do not appreciate this. When things look trivial, people take them for granted. Anyway, we (teachers) do make extra effort in preparing our classes.

If less than 50% of the class passed the exam, then there must be something wrong with the teachers, or the exam, or the material, or ... the students. But if all the students got "A"s, it may not be right either. (Some professors felt guilty that they did not do a good job in teaching and gave all the students As. That's not right!)

The thing is, I want my students to be better than me! Otherwise, we as a society is declining, don't you think? I think there's something wrong with education in America. Please, fix it!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Google vs Microsoft: Why I still use Microsoft?

There have been news, discussions, and analysis on "Google vs. Microsoft" war. I don't want to iterate them. Here's my take on this.

I am a Linux user (since back in the 0.12 days) and a Google user (I prefer Google's services [blogger, search engine, gmail, googlegroups] over others). Don't ask me why. It just clicks. I love Google. My main email reader is mutt, which runs on my Linux Debian box. And yet, I still use Microsoft product, specifically Power Point. I prefer to use OpenOffice Write to write documents. Why do I use Power Point and how this relates to the "Google vs. Microsoft" debate?

One feature that I love and cannot be part of Power Point is its ability to get clip arts from Microsoft through the Internet. When I need a picture, I can just use the "Insert > Picture > Clipart" menu and use Microsoft's Clipart on Office online. It will open a browser and take me to Office online web site. I can then search cliparts or pictures through its search engine. (Forget about generic search engine, Microsoft! You should focus on this.) The web site is easy to use and has a huge collection of free high-quality cliparts. This is, trully, a rare gem.

I do many (and I have to emphasize the word many) talks and presentations. I like to add pictures to my presentation. Microsoft makes it easier for me to make beautiful presentations. That's why I am sticking with Power Point. Nowadays I am looking at Apple's Keynote on my iBook. But Keynote is still missing Power Point's clipart integration feature.

Other than Power Point, I can do away without Microsoft.

Integration of Office applications with Intenet is what I think Microsoft should focus on. Microsoft can still attract people like me (a heavy Linux-OpenOffice-Google [LOG] user). Google doesn't have office application (yet!). They don't have to. All Google has to do is fund OpenOffice to make sure it is better and better and better. But for now, Microsoft still dominates office applications. Microsoft should focus on this, not on a generic search engine.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

How big is your IT security department?

Recently, I've been asked by some people about the "right size" for an IT department. Here is a list of those questions:

  • Is there a rule of thumb (or best practice) regarding the number of persons in the IT departement?
  • Is there a ratio? (eg. 1 IT support for every 100 users)
  • Is it industry-dependent? (eg. banking, telecommunication, manufactuing, retail, government)
  • Is there a common (organization) structure? eg. help desk, technical support, planning, development, QA, security.

My current interest is finding the right structure for an IT security unit (departement, team).

  • Should security be part of the IT departement? or Audit? or directly under CEO (which means there should be a Chief Security Officer)? or ad hoc?
  • What is the best structure of a security unit? help desk, support, incident handling, etc.?
  • How many people and what are the requirements?
  • Is security certification important?

I need pointers, references, reading materials, and examples.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Where does intelligence come from?

Where does intelligence come from? Is it from education? or experience? or you are born with it? My notes (questions, actually) in Bahasa Indonesia.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Masa Depan Perguruan Tinggi?

IBM membuat sebuah dokumen yang diberi judul "Global Innovation Outlook (GIO) 2004." Buku ini berisi hasil diskusi senior technical and business experts dari IBM dengan 100 perusahaan dan institusi dari 24 negara / daerah. Ada banyak hal yang menarik dari buku tersebut. Kali ini saya akan mencuplik hal yang terkait dengan perguruan tinggi.

Ada satu bagian dari buku tersebut yang berjudul "For The Knowledge Worker, Work Becomes Academic." Saya kutipkan sebagian saja:

If Innovation will continue to occur more rapidly in the 21st century, it follows that knowledge, expertise and skills will change just as rapidly. The majority of this knowledge will likely be generated with innovative companies.

Waduh! IBM mengatakan bahwa ada dua implikasi dari pernyataan di atas. Yang pertama, para pekerja tidak dapat lagi mengandalkan kepada keahlian (termasuk gelar di perguruan tinggi) yang mereka kuasai di awal hidup mereka untuk tetap menjadi terdepan. Yang kedua, kecil kemungkinan bagi perguruan tinggi dan institusi pendidikan lainnya untuk mampu menangkap (mengikuti?) dinamika pekerjaan yang dinamis.

Lebih lanjut lagi, inovasi membutuhkan kerjasama lintas bidang sehingga pekerja harus memahami berbagai bidang ilmu (cross disciplinary degree). Sejarah membuktikan bahwa perguruan tinggi tidak mampu membuat program studi lintas bidang yang dibutuhkan tersebut.

Lantas bagaimana solusinya?

Para peserta GIO menganjurkan pendekatan lain. Mungkin perusahaanlah yang harus mendefinisikan (codify) pengetahuan baru. Pendekatan ini mendorong perusahaan untuk mengajukan diri untuk diakreditasi juga sebagai institusi pemberi gelar (degree). Mengapa tidak? Bahkan mungkin gelar dari perusahaan ini lebih banyak diminati! Buktinya saat ini sertifikasi IT dari perusahaan atau vendor (seperti Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, dan sejenisnys) juga lebih banyak dihargai ketimbang gelar di perguruan tinggi.

Bagaimana dengan nasib perguruan tinggi? Apakah perguruan tinggi lebih memfokuskan kepada dasar-dasar (foundation) yang sifatnya umum sehingga tetap dibutuhkan, sementara perusahaan memfokuskan kepada spesialisasi sebagai lanjutan dari proses pendidikan? Ataukah perguruan tinggi mencoba mendidik keduanya; generalis dan spesialis sekaligus? Memangnya perguruan tinggi mampu?