College Without College Credit

Corporate Angels

Donate Please

Speakers Please

Funds Available For Anti-Terror Business

Nominations Please

Corrections or additions?

This article was prepared for the November 14, 2001 edition of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Computer Networking For Home & Small Business

You have a PC in the home office, one in each child’s

bedroom, and you and your wife each have a laptop. Battles erupt over

Internet time, the scanner was dropped as it was being spirited away

from the home office en route to a bedroom, and each of the teen-agers

is putting forth a case for adding more printers to the family’s

electronic

cache.

Sounds like it’s time to network the machines so that everyone can

access the Internet at once, share the printer and scanner, and even

announce that dinner is served via instant messaging. Networking,

despite its grim reputation for inducing tantrums, is not all that

difficult says Jonathan White, owner of a Plainsboro PC support

company with a comforting name — Yes! Consulting

(www.yes-llc.com).

He provides a detailed road map for every possible computer

configuration

when he speaks on "Home Networking and Network Sharing" on

Monday, November 19, at 7:30 p.m. at the Princeton PC Users Group

at the Lawrence library on Route 1 South. Free. Call 609-292-6219.

Networking computers at home or in the office may be a snap, as White

soothingly insists, but pitfalls await, as his attorney recently

discovered.

"Networking killed his PC," White says. The hapless attorney

decided he wanted to link his machines, and set out to complete the

task himself. Soon his computer crashed, and he called Compaq computer

support. Round about 2 a.m., after he had turned the machine around,

the better to look into its innards, he tripped over a computer cable,

the thing slid onto the floor, and its useful life ended.

White is quite sure he knows how the networking installation went

awry. This, he says, is how such unfortunate outcomes usually start:

"It asks you for a CD you don’t have. It might ask for the

original

CD from Microsoft. You think `Oh, I know what happened. The dog ate

it.’ You decide it is not all that important, and press the `skip’

icon appearing with message."

The computer is looking for a driver on the CD, White says, and you

had better provide it if you don’t want to end up committing computer

mayhem in the early hours of the morning. If the thing is lost, just

go borrow one from a neighbor, White suggests, adding that this is

not even a breach of your Microsoft license because your machine is

already running Windows, and you are just feeding it a driver from

the borrowed CD.

White knows this — and a whole lot more — because he has been

enthralled by computers since he was a teenager. When he was a

15-year-old

student at a prep school in his native United Kingdom, his counselor

told his parents he should not be wasting his time playing with

computers,

but rather should get on with his "real work." His parents

ignored the advice, and bought him a Sinclair ZX 81. Made by Timex,

the computer used a tape player to record and load programs.

White studied chemical engineering at Wales Polytechnic. After failing

the first year twice, he decided chemical engineering was not for

him, and joined a small software firm. He learned that programming

was not for him either in a subsequent job where he was writing

industrial

control software. "My brick press nearly killed someone,"

he says.

The year was 1986, and the company for which he had attempted to

design

brick press software was getting in lots of PCs. He migrated toward

setting the machines up, and showing the firm’s secretaries how to

use them. He had found his niche. His next job was for Lloyd’s of

London, where he provided desktop support for both PCs and Macs. Then

he took a job with Unilever, where, among other things, he provided

tech support at a margarine factory. The entire margarine production

process is done by computer, he says, recalling with great enthusiasm

the sight of great pyramids of margarine boxes being loaded onto

pallets

without human intervention.

From margarine production, White moved to Unilever’s head office,

where he provided PC support for a new breed of computer, the

corporate

desktop. These machines are being adopted by corporations all over

the world, he says, because they are pre-loaded with all the software

employees need, and are "locked down," so that employees with

a yen to install a cool new application can not do so. White says

employees’ installation of software on their machines is first among

the causes of their computers malfunctioning. (Just think back to

the attorney and his attempt to install networking software.)

In adopting these corporate desktops, he says, companies are not only

protecting their machines and files, but they are moving toward a

day when on-site tech support will no longer be needed. These tech

support people command high salaries, he says, and yet add nothing

to a company’s bottom line. Already, many corporations, their

corporate

desktops in place, can get by with remote tech support through which

PC experts diagnose and fix problems by tapping into a computer

electronically

from a site that can be thousands of miles away from the balky PC.

Many PC owners, including home users and small business owners, have

to slog along without this support, upgrading all on their own. For

those among them that are ready to take on the challenge of

networking,

White offers this guidance:

Pull that old PC out of the closet. White has seven

computers.

Among them is an old 486. The thing is no good for surfing the ‘Net,

and has nowhere near the horsepower needed to run a good game, but

White has found a most important use for it. He uses it as his

firewall.

It is networked to all of his other computers, and protects them all.

White is adamant about the necessity of having firewall protection,

especially for users who connect to the Internet via a cable

connection.

"It’s on all the time. Your computer is connected to the Internet

all the time," he says. This means that other Internet users with

mischief on their minds can attach themselves to you, and you won’t

even know it.

Most commercial firewalls cost anywhere from $100 to $50,000 (for

something that will protect thousands of machines). Zone Alarm

(www.zonealarm.com),

however, is free for home users. An alternative White prefers is

SmoothWall

(www.smoothwall.org), a Linux program that asks only a donation. That

is what White uses on his network.

Decide what you want to network. Joining a line of three

PCs — perhaps the machines in the kids’ homework room — is

different from linking the PC in the basement with that in the attic.

Wires are cost effective. If you want to link that line

of PCs, all sitting next to one another on a desk, networking cables

will do the job for a small amount of money. For machines that are

scattered throughout the house, you can use ethernet or coaxial

cables.

The cables run about $1 a yard. Networking cards are $10 apiece, and

a hub can be as little as $10. Of course, using cables could mean

pulling up carpets, or even drilling through walls.

Wireless is easy. Wireless hardware is now available,

and while it is more expensive than wire, it is easier to put in

place.

Networking cards are about $80 and a base station that will connect

up to 255 PCs is about $200. The range of these systems is good enough

that your son can do Internet research in his attic bedroom while

your spouse E-mails friends from an easy chair in the living room.

Combinations can work. In networking, it doesn’t have

to be all or nothing. Look at the location of your machines, count

up your laptops, and see what makes sense. You can network one through

a phone line, a couple of more through cables, and still use wireless

for others.

Do the installation. For anyone sinking into despair at the

thought of accomplishing this, White’s website includes dozens of

links to sites that will walk you through an installation. He says

it’s as easy as slipping network cards into each computer and moving

a few cables from your PC and peripherals to a base station. He

particularly

likes Linksys (www.linksys.com), a site that sells all manner of

networking

essentials, and explains how to use them.

Call in an expert. Anyone who has spent one too many

evenings

installing new software and/or hardware, all the while alternately

weeping and alarming the children with words they rarely hear outside

of the schoolyard, can opt for professional help. White says he would

charge somewhere between $50 and $100 to set up a simple home network.

The attorney with the scrambled PC almost certainly would have

considered this a pittance. Although, says White, he is not all that

upset. He shoved the ruined PC into a closet (Why can’t we throw darn

things away?), and went directly to his nearest computer superstore.

He now has a much spiffier machine, and a flat screen monitor too.

Top Of Page
College Without College Credit

Sitting in the classroom is not the only way to gain

knowledge. That’s what a group of business leaders and governors of

Western states decided when they formed Western Governor’s University,

an online university supported by 19 states and governors as well

as 24 corporations and foundations (www.wgu.edu). It has 500 to 600

active students and a staff of 30, located in Salt Lake City, with

mentors and teachers from all over.

WGU offers competency-based degrees — associate, bachelor, and

masters degrees in information technology, business, and education.

In fact, WGU bills itself as offering the only online competency-based

degrees in the country. It has contracted with the Princeton-based

Chauncey Group International, the non-profit arm of Educational

Testing

Service, to provide these tests. The Chauncey Group provides

certification

and licensing examinations for professionals, business and government,

and has 160 employees located on ETS’s Rosedale Road campus.

(www.chauncey.com).

Competency-based learning is familiar to GIs who for decades have

been getting college credit for taking Dantes tests (also an ETS

product).

It is also familiar to students enrolled at Thomas Edison State

College,

the Trenton-based institution that helps non-traditional students

get college credit for life experience (www.tesc.edu). TESC

awards credits to those who successfully pass Dantes and similar

tests,

and it also gives credits through portfolio assessment. If you have

expertise in your job, you complete a portfolio that displays this

knowledge, and you may be able to earn credit for it.

In contrast, WGU offers no credits. "We offer competency-based,

not credit-based degrees," says Robert Mendenhall, president

of WGU. An alumnus of Brigham Young University, Class of 1977, his

previous job was running IBM’s worldwide business under CEO Lou

Gerstner.

"We bring together a panel of experts and ask them to define what

competencies would be expected in a graduate at any of three

levels,"

says Mendenhall. "We find the courses that relate to those

competencies

and our full-time faculty members, PhDs, map the courses to the

competencies."

Students may have to complete courses that mentors select, "but

we do not count the courses they take nor do we count the

credits,"

says the college president. "The mentor determines the

competencies

they likely have and the competencies they need to gain, and we build

an academic action plan." Mentors are in constant contact with

students by phone or E-mail — and mentors can encourage distance

learning opportunities and assign papers and portfolio work.

Students demonstrate proficiency through such assessments as written

tests, portfolios, projects, and performance tasks. Master’s degree

students do a capstone project and an oral defense. The testing part

of the assessment is administered in a proctored testing center.

WGU has been accredited by Distance Education Training Council and

is a candidate for regional accreditation in four regions. One big

difference between it and the Trenton’s "college without

walls"

is in cost. TESC students who are New Jersey residents or on active

military duty pay an overall fee — including registration,

tuition,

AV fees, portfolio assessment, testing, transfer evaluation, and

advisement

— of $2,825 or about $76 per credit for up to 36 credits for the

first year. For subsequent years it costs $2,320 or $64 for 36

credits.

Out of state residents pay $4,025 or $110 per credit for the first

year, or $3,450 or $96 per credit for succeeding years.

Whereas TESC students taking a lot of courses at once can save money,

WGU charges for the degree. Any two-year degree, whether an associates

degree, master’s degree, or the second half of a bachelor’s degree

costs from $7,000 to $9,000. Of that the tuition is $4,500, and the

courses can cost from $2,500 to $4,500, depending on the competencies

of the student.

Here are other comparisons:

WGU is the new kid on the block. TESC was established

in 1972 but WGU was established five years ago and has been actively

offering degree programs for two years. Only a handful of students

have earned degrees so far. "In some ways it is pioneering, in

other ways it is adapting technologies and putting them together in

a new way," says John Becker, WGU spokesperson.

Both WGU and TESC encourage distance learning , the current

trendy term for courses taken online. But whereas WGU offers none

of its own distance learning courses, TESC offers a wide array of

distance learning opportunities.

TESC students can present portfolio experience for

specific

college credits, but WGU students present the portfolio work as part

of their overall preparation for the degree.

WGU students take WGU tests for their competency-based

degrees. TESC does not have its own proprietary tests.

Many WGU tests are scored electronically whereas none

of TESC’s tests are scored electronically. The Chauncey Group’s latest

project for WGU is on electronic assessments for students seeking

business degrees, for instance, and it is also working in the areas

of quantitative literacy and language and communication.

Using ETS’ E-rater tool, it will develop the objective portions of

both tests and will also create the essay portion of the language

and communication assessment. With this tool a computer scores the

essay, and then a human person scores it. "If there are

discrepancies,

it goes to another human, and it is usually found that the computer

was more accurate," says Bill Cramer, spokesperson for the

Chauncey

Group.

Among the other test developers for WGU are Galton and InterEd.

Thompson

Prometric (formerly Sylvan Learning) delivers the WGU electronic

tests.

Portfolio, essays and projects are scored by faculty.

WGU has one big advantage over the brick and mortar institutions

in Salt Lake City. When the Olympics come to town, the University

of Utah will have to close down, but WGU gets to stay open.

— Barbara Fox

Top Of Page
Corporate Angels

The Nassau Inn is donating 10 percent of net

profits

from all holiday functions from Thanksgiving through Christmas Day

to the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund. The hotel also is donating

10 percent of net profits generated from the Yankee Doodle Tap Room

restaurant and bar from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to the

Sunday

after Thanksgiving.

The Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund provides aid to the families

of victims of the World Trade Center tragedy who worked in the food

service profession throughout the entire complex. Restaurants taking

part in this effort helped initiate a fund that provided immediate

emergency aid, as well as future scholarships and funds for the

families

of victims of the September 11 tragedy. To date, Windows of Hope has

raised over $4 million.

Direct contributions can be sent to Windows of Hope Family Relief

Fund, c/o David Berdon & Co. LLP, 415 Madison Avenue, New York 10017.

Parsons Infrastructure and Technology , the firm that

operates

the state’s motor vehicle inspection stations, has contributed $25,000

to the New Jersey Conference of Mayors Relief Fund. The fund directly

benefits families of New Jersey victims of the September 11 terrorist

attacks.

The Lawrenceville Rotary Club ‘s members donated money

to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund at their September

17 luncheon. The Rotary Club matched its members’ donations.

Top Of Page
Donate Please

Weichert Realtors ‘ Princeton Junction office is holding

a toy drive to benefit the homeless and disadvantaged children served

by Homefront. Sales associates from Weichert will be collecting toys

on Saturday, November 24, and Saturday, December 1 between 10 a.m.

and 2 p.m. at KayBee Toys in the Quaker Bridge Mall.

Top Of Page
Speakers Please

The Trenton Computer Festival is looking for speakers to address

attendees at its annual event on Saturday and Sunday, May 4 and 5,

at the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison.

The Trenton Computer Festival seeks speakers with expertise on a

variety

of topics, including the Internet, multimedia, networking, security,

graphics, photography, video conferencing, database management, music,

robotics, operating systems, and programming.

Anyone who would like to present a talk or lead a forum or user group

session can fill out a speaker application at www.tcf-nj.org. For

more information call Allen Katz, speaker program chairperson,

at 609-771-2666.

Top Of Page
Funds Available For Anti-Terror Business

The New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology

Springboard Fund Technology Investment Program will provide

interest-free

loans of up to $250,000 to small businesses in New Jersey to develop

and market technology-based anti-terrorism and public safety products.

The Springboard Fund, currently funded at $5 million, provides 10-year

interest-free loans of between $50,000 and $250,000 for product and

prototype development, proof of concept or demonstration products,

field and clinical trials, and other projects with a near-term

commercial

outcome. Companies are required to repay only the principal amount

of the loan and the repayment schedule is based upon company revenue.

There is a dollar for dollar matching requirement, which may be

partially

satisfied through company, third party, or in-kind resources.

John Tesoriero, director of the commission, said in a prepared

statement: "We want to make our Springboard Fund technology

investment

program known and available to entrepreneurs and small businesses

that may have new technologies to detect, neutralize, and/or mitigate

terrorist threats and attacks."

Applications are reviewed on a quarterly basis and the review process

takes about three months. The deadline for applications is Tuesday,

January 8. Call 609-984-1671 or visit (www.njcst.com).

The Check Is in the Mail? Consumers telling their credit

card, banks, and other creditors that payments were mailed on time

may just be right, especially if they live in New Jersey. With a major

regional post office closed for nearly a month, and smaller post

offices

closed for shorter periods of time, the mail is slow.

Helping consumers out is Acting Governor Donald DiFrancesco,

who has directed the Division of Consumer Affairs to review the

imposition

of late fees by credit card issuers in cases of delayed mail.

Consumer Affairs notified card issuers that it is seeking forbearance.

Many have responded, assuring the department that customers calling

the customer service number on their cards to report delayed mail

will receive an accommodation for any late fees. Any consumer having

difficulty achieving a successful resolution of a late fee problem

can seek help at www.state.nj.us/lps/ca/home.htm.

Top Of Page
Nominations Please

The Greater Mercer County Chamber of Commerce is seeking

nominations for its 2001 Business Awards. Categories are 2001 Citizen

of the Year (for a lifelong contribution to the area); 2001

Corporation

of the Year (open to companies with more than 100 employees); 2001

Small Business of the Year (for companies of fewer than 100 employees

that have been in business in the area for more than five years).

Mail nominations and justifications to the Greater Mercer Chamber

of Commerce, 2001 Business Awards, 214 West State Street, Trenton

08608. Or send them by fax to 609-393-1032. The deadline for

submissions is December 15.


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