PowerPoint and the MBA, a required combination

Hot off the wire, Chicago GSB became the first school to require a PowerPoint component to their application. The interesting part? There are only three general guidelines:

  • Four slides
  • No video
  • No hyperlinks
  • No flash

Other than that, go nuts.

Reminds me of Stanford’s up-to-7 page application essay #1 (“What matters to you most, and why?”), or NYU Stern’s Personal Expression essay (“Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use any method to convey your message”). This seems to be a good middle ground – fun and open, yet not so unstructured that you would need to struggle with logistics and choice of medium.

My guess is that the school is going to let in more consultants and fewer engineers with this requirement. The idea is interesting and I think it will be fun to watch. Perhaps more interesting will be the MBA applicant community’s response to this.

Get 25% off promotional materials for your business

We’ve used VistaPrint now more than once for our business’s promotional products, and we have been very happy with the result. Great business and referral cards, free rubber stamps, and fantastic prices.

If you need to print your own promotional products, or want to try out their free business cards or free rubber stamps (you pay for shipping/handling, which is reasonable), click here. You will get 25% off of your order if you use this program.

(Note: they may call you to try to cross sell you, and I found the salesperson to be rather pushy, but a firm response took care of that.)

Preventing unauthorized iPhone users

Apple has patented a new method of stopping a thief from using your iPhone. Each time the device is plugged into the computer, a code buried deep within the iPhone is compared to a code downloaded from Apple via iTunes. If the codes don’t match up, (i.e. you called in a lost iPhone and Apple/AT&T changes the code), the iPhone then prevents itself from being charged again.

It is a fascinating idea for mobile device theft deterrence. Most devices use a password system to attempt to accomplish the same thing. For example, my Blackberry requires me to enter a password each time I use it. Not only is this horribly annoying, it results in me setting the easiest password I can to minimize my pain.

(Granted, the Blackberry is not trying to only prevent someone from using it as a phone long-term, they are trying to deter someone from looking at sensitive information immediately.)

However, I see a few problems with this security method.

  1. It requires the use of iTunes. Hackers have already managed to change the iPhone into a web server that can serve web pages (yes, for the hell of it, this is what most hackers do with new devices). I am certain they can bypass the use of iTunes on the iPhone, as many hackers I know of hate iTunes.
  2. It requires me to plug the phone into a computer. What if I just plug it into a wall outlet and never into a computer? Unless the code can be sent wirelessly, you have just circumvented the security system.
  3. Sensitive documents can still be accessed at the time of theft.
  4. Eventually, someone will figure out how to bypass the circuitry that prevents the phone from being charged and find a workaround. This may take weeks or years, but it will be done – “hiding” security in a system almost never works to prevent unauthorized access.

(Are there other problems that I have forgotten?)

As we depend more on mobile devices, theft will affect us in more substantial ways. While this solution may have issues, at least Apple is thinking of ways to solve the problem.

Stay Tuned for more The Office

I have been watching a lot of television these days. A lot more than I like, at any rate. My favorite show these days is The Office.
One of the hooks that the show uses to keep you through the last commercial break is putting a short 5-10 second clip after the break. To alert you that they are doing this, a woman’s voice comes up saying “stay tuned for more of The Office”.

A few months ago, the original phrase used to be “stay tuned for more, The Office”.

Try saying these two versions out loud. Notice how much harder it is to say the original phrase?

PubPat overturns Monsanto’s patents

PUBPAT (site down at time of posting), a not-for-profit legal services organization that works to “protect the public from the harms caused by the patent system”, helped overturn four patents owned by Monsanto that had been used to “harass, intimidate, sue – and in some cases literally bankrupt – American farmers”.

The USPTO held that evidence submitted by PUBPAT, in addition to other prior art located by the Patent Office’s Examiners, showed that Monsanto was not entitled to any of the patents.

While Monsanto can appeal the decision, in 2/3 of past cases the overturn holds.

What strikes me is how noble PUBPAT’s cause is. By taking on overbroad patents owned by IP-focused “companies” that turn feral and demand licensing fees from anyone and everyone, they are providing a secondary policing mechanism to the overworked USPTO and providing a huge public good.

Other notable events for PUBPAT include:

The New Nobel Prize

Ron May of The May Report, a startup journalist in Chicago, indicates that there will be a new Nobel Prize announced on October 2, 2007. This will be the Dr. Michael Nobel Energy Medal. This category does not exist (although past Physics awards have been given to Energy-related topics). This prize may be created to offset the growing popularity of the Global Energy International Prize, created in 2003 and funded by three Russian oil companies, which bills itself as the “Nobel prize of the energy field”.

Scooped a full 70 days ahead of the announcement, or a bunch of fluff? Only time will tell. If he’s right on, very well done Ron!

Executive Order 13422

Executive Order 13422 goes into effect today. This EO mandates that science-based federal agency regulations must be reviewed by political appointees prior to approval. This allows the President to override conclusions derived from federal scientists, to push his political agenda.

From the EO (noting that OIRA is a political appointee):

Each agency shall submit to OIRA a program… under which the agency will periodically review its existing significant regulations to determine whether any such regulations should be modified or eliminated so as to make the agency’s regulatory program more effective in achieving the regulatory objectives, less burdensome, or in greater alignment with the President’s priorities and the principles…

This formalizes a tool that Bush has been using, despite a loud scientific and media outcry, since the start of his presidency, as denoted in this AP article:

Michael Halpern, a member of the influential Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group, said scientists believe the Bush administration is the “worst” ever in terms of political interference and censure.

Where else has he or his appointees stifled scientific publication or regulation?

  • In 2006, Dr. James Hansen, NASA’s top climate expert, accused the administration via the New York Times of pressuring him to censure his global warming research. Fallout: George Deutsch, a Texas A&M dropout appointed by Bush as NASA’s PR director, resigned, presumably for claiming he had a journalism degree. Among other pressure, Deutsch had enforced a revision to scientific copy on NASA’s website to include the word “theory” after every occurrence of “Big Bang”.
  • In early July, Dr. Richard Carmona, Surgeon General from 2002 to 2006, told a House committee of the rampant censure he endured during his tenure. “Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried.” He was prevented from speaking publicly about embryonic stem cells, contraceptives, and his misgivings about the administration’s “abstinence only” policy during his years as Surgeon General.

Latest Harry Potter Book Hits BitTorrent

For those of you haven’t heard yet, the latest Harry Potter book can be found on BitTorrent. Sure, the quality may be crappy, (looks like someone has industrial carpet from the 80’s) but you can be the first to know how it all ends (unless you want to check out the predictive markets, which believe that the two characters to kick the bucket are Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort). Thanks to TechCrunch for thinking outside the book.

A shout-out to…

… Avi of CaptainU fame for his three generous Singlehop Greenbacks, that let me scam The Office: Seasons One and Two. Look for him in a minor celebrity role coming up on The May Report.

… Doug of wicksite fame for his general awesomeness. (Hopefully this link will get you to the top of the Google search for wicksite!). By the way, Doug (and everyone else), check out this post from April… goes back to your obsession with your Feedburner stats.

Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature

I found this article in Psychology Today to be a really interesting set of conclusions from specific behavioral studies. The ten truths listed are:

  1. Men like blond bombshells (and women want to look like them)
  2. Humans are naturally polygamous
  3. Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy
  4. Most suicide bombers are Muslim
  5. Having sons reduces the likelihood of divorce
  6. Beautiful people have more daughters
  7. What Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have in common with criminals
  8. The midlife crisis is a myth – sort of
  9. It’s natural for politicians to risk everything for an affair (but only if they’re male)
  10. Men sexually harass women because they are not sexist

If you are pressed for time, read #1, #3 and #4 (they are related), and #8.
If you are really pressed for time, just read #1.