April 2012 Archives
April 30, 2012
Article first published as Keeping Autism Awareness Alive on Technorati.Today marks the end of April, and the end of Autism Awareness Month. All month businesses have had special promotions to raise funds for research about this very prominent condition, while also focusing on providing events for families who deal with the condition every day. But, like Breast Cancer Awareness Month or Black History Month, it seems the public mindset feels they have done what they needed to do when they were assigned to do it, and will move on without another thought. African Americans don't stop contributing to our Country just beacuse it's not February. People don't stop getting breast cancer just because it's not October. And parents, siblings, and children don't stop working with those on the Spectrum just because it's no longer April.So what can you do every day to help someone with who deals with Autism on a daily basis? Here are a few pointers:
- Don't Judge: Don't be judgemental of someone who is struggling with their child. Chances are that child may have Autism, even if he doesn't "look" it. Autism doesn't really have a visual cue or physical "look" that identifies it. Children with Autism look just as beautiful as neurotypical children. Parents of children on the Spectrum are acutely aware of their child's behavior, and don't need your reminder. Sometimes a reassuring smile is all you need to give in order to help a parent feel more comfortable.
- Don't Stare: Children on the Spectrum are completely aware of their surroundings. They know when you are staring, and they know what proper behavior is supposed to be. They just can't control themselves in their own behavior. Don't stare, because that makes them feel uncomfortable (just as you would feel uncomfortable when someone stares are you). They are real people, and want to be treated as such.
- Don't Talk As If They Are Not There: Again, children with Autism are acutely aware of their surroundings (often too aware), and can hear you. Just because they don't speak or don't look at you when you are talking doesn't mean they can't hear you. Let me give you an example. Early in our oldest's diagnosis, we went to IHOP. It was loud, and the service was very slow. Our son became agitated and needed a walk to help calm him down, so I walked him around the unoccupied areas of the restaurant. A patron, talking to her friend, said "I'm glad MY children are all well behaved". This set my son off into another bout of fits. Needless to say, we have never returned to that IHOP again.
- Try to Understand: Children with Autism are puzzles. They think differently, have unique perspectives, and want to know all about their world, or at least specific aspects of it. If you take time to watch them, you can gain insights into their world. Just minor glimpses, but it's often enough to hook you in. You will want to learn more, and it becomes an exciting endeavor to become part of their world.
Autism has increased in diagnosis to 1 in 88 children in the US, and 1 in 47 children in Utah (though there are some questions as to those numbers). It's becoming a more common diagnosis in our lives, and is most likely impacting you, the reader, in some form. You may have a child, neice, nephew, cousin, brother, sister, or have a friend that lives with a person on the Spectrum. Instead of writing them off as "stupid", "dumb", or any other adjective that could be applied, start looking at the way they learn, interact, and explore. I can guarantee that your life will change, and definitely for the better.
April 29, 2012
April 24, 2012
Recently my wife and I have hit a crossroads. We are looking for ways to maximize our funds and simplify our lives. Having decluttered quite a bit, we are now looking at our bills to find a way to trim them to manageable levels. And our eyes fell on our Cable bill. We have the Xfinity Triple Play, with Cable TV, Voice, and Internet. The Internet is necessary as it's the most reliable Internet connection available to our older neighborhood (which isn't really saying much). But as we both have mobile phones, the phone bill didn't seem to be bringing us a lot of benefit. We then looked at our cable TV. When we got it, we had grand visions of watching great channels like the Discovery Channel, History Channel, and BBC America for all our favorite British Comedies. And yet, since we started using Netflix on our Apple TV, we haven't been using Cable at all, other than for local channels which we could get for free over the air with the right equipment. The other problem is that Cable does provide television signals to two TV's, so we would need quite the antenna to replace it. We have discussed the possibility of getting rid of it before, but it seemed like too much hassle. And in the mean time, our bill continued to siphon a lot of funds for unused channels. Finally, the push came. A pending purchase was in need of those funds. It was time to pear down. Doing a little research I found a good indoor/outdoor antenna for sale on Amazon for a decent price, and then I called my cable provider. Once I got to the right selection in their phone tree (not a big fan of phone trees), the representative was helpful and willing to try and lower our bill without discontinuing service. Unfortunately, he couldn't lower it to the amount I wanted, until he offered to put us on a special one year promotion for Voice and Internet that cost less than Internet itself. It was a good deal, and it was one less thing I had to return, so I went with it. The Cable Box will be returned today, and we will no longer be paying for unused channels. But what about entertainment, you ask? Well, aside from reading books with the kids, we will still have our local channels using our antenna, and that covers all the major shows we watch. Other than that, we still have Netflix, and less signal being eaten by the unused cable box which will (hopefully) increase Internet performance. But in the end, it feels good to no longer be throwing money away on something we don't use, and instead spend it on something we will need.
April 22, 2012
Article first published as The Simple Pleasures of Autism on Technorati.Today, as I sit out here in my back yard for the first really nice day in months and watch my sons play, I'm reminded of what family life is all about. I have my youngest son playing in the dirt, a common sensory activity in our family. My oldest is running back and forth from the swings to the dirt, trying to get as much sensory in as he can.Having good sensory activities has been the goal, and it's. Even working. I'm sitting on a bench that oversees the entire yard to be sure they are completely safe, and all I can hear is the happy squealing of my sons.The yard isn't anything special, having. Even torn apart so many times by digging, trampling, and general playing by the boys and their cousins. The only plants that have survived our family has been the grape vines, the roses, spearmint (great mosquito repellent, by the way), and some wild snap dragons who refuse to die. But it's a great place for the boys to play when they need to get out of the house.So when I think about Autism, I think about the fun things in our back yard, and how much our boys enjoy them. I think about the fun squeals, the joy of exploration, and the fun they have while playing. It's times like these that I wonder if there truly a difference between children with Autism, and those without.And that's the thing about children with Autism: they are just children who happen to have a brain wired different than other children. But they have the same desires, same needs, and same pleasures. Treating them differently doesn't help them, and often frustrates them.So as I sit in my backyard and enjoy the evening with laughing children, I think of them as children. My children, who just want to be kids.
April 17, 2012
Recently I have been looking for a learning management system for my personal domain to practice deploying come classes as eLearning modules. I've used the University's Canvas system, which I do like, along with both WebCT and Blackboard in the past. But due to funding constraints on my private domain, I needed an Open Source LMS. But not just any LMS, because I wanted something that would cater to the mobile environment.
Then I came across Dokeos. It's a learning management system that was developed in Europe, and has an open source release and a paid content release. The difference is a few features (like video conferencing) is removed from the open source release, though the core functionality is all there. The thing that struck me the most about Dokeos was that it was built from the ground up to be mobile friendly! Instructors could use Dokeos from a Tablet computer, like the iPad, as well as students. With the future moving rapidly to mobile devices, it was very important to me.
The installation was pretty straightforward, though I had some minor setbacks with the MySQL database settings that took a few minutes to resolve. Once done, I had a fully functioning LMS that looked great from the outset on my domain. I installed it at http://learn.robbclan.com as a test bed, and I've been pretty impressed.
So what's the most impressive thing about it? It natively supports "Hotspot" exams, though it requires Flash 7 to run the test. Hotspot exams allow the instructor to mark certain locations of an image as "hotspots", and then have the tester select that section for points. For software training it means selecting a "button" or "tool" that will perform a function. It's as close to being hands on as instant testing can do, and it's very impressive in how it works. All the other standard exam types are there as well, but that one is my favorite. Unfortunately, it's not very iPad friendly because it requires Flash.
So that's my initial review of Dokeos! If you haven't already checked it out, I would recommend a quick browse. It's simple to set up, very powerful, and very easy to manage. And very Mobile friendly.
April 11, 2012
Article first published as Light It Up Blue for Those with Autism on Technorati.April is Autism Awareness Month, a month to think about the causes of Autism, the impact it has on our lives, and the opportunities we can take to help those with Autism apply their unique gifts for us all. Municipalities and private homes are using blue lights to draw awareness to Autism.The media seems to have used this time to focus on research into the causes of Autism, the recent CDC announcement of 1 in 88 kids in the US having Autism, and the various results of surveys that have been used to identify areas in need of research. But instead of focusing on the progress, they seem to be more concerned with the "scare tactics" to boost interest. In particular, they are focusing on the results of a survey that identified a trend between older fathers and obese mothers as being at increased risk of having a child with Autism.The survey is very useful, as it identifies some common issues and tries to narrow the field of research. It's been used in the past for every medical condition from AIDS to cancer. And in the past the media has been right with them, reporting "causes" of cancer to be eggs, cranberries, cell phones, etc. Instead of taking the survey data at face value, the media seems to have taken it upon themselves to draw the conclusion of a link.With Autism, it started with vaccines. One "doctor" (who has since been exposed as a fraud) had research data linking the MMR vaccine to Autism. It's since been disproved, but the media jumped on it with a thirst for ratings, readership, and advertising funds. Now, for the first time in decades, several large populations are at risk for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. These are potentially deadly "childhood" diseases that had all but been stamped out in this country, and they are coming back with a vengeance. Why? Because of the scare of Autism.Autism isn't scary. It can be frustrating when your child doesn't want to look you in the eye, or doesn't seem to want to talk at all. Or embarrassing when your child is screaming bloody murder in the supermarket because of the lights, starts head-butting everything out of frustration or takes all their clothes off in the back yard (or front yard, for that matter), because they don't like the feel of the fabric on their skin. It can cause panic when your child runs off and you can't find them, knowing they will not find their way home on their own (or think to).But Autism can be amazing. The amazing abilities of these kids provide such a feeling of awe as they accomplish things their neurotypical peers wouldn't even dream of doing, such as tearing down a vacuum cleaner and putting it back together again (and it works!). These special children have the ability to create such a feeling of compassion in so many people, it's inspiring, because it's not pity, but rather a feeling of love for children who are so close to their feelings and very honest about their thoughts.For Autism Awareness month, we are lighting our front yard light in blue. It's for all the kids who are in need of a voice, those who can't defend themselves against thoughtless comments, bullies, judgmental neighbors or family members. It's for my two boys who astound me every day with their progress toward mainstream education, and the smiles they bring to me and each other when we play. It's for the sleepless nights when dealing with night terrors that turn into full fledged meltdowns.
April 9, 2012
#!/bin/sh# ================================================================================# check-for-osx-flashback.K.sh## Script to check system for any signs of OSX/Flashback.K trojan# Checks are based on information from F-Secure's website:# http://www.f-secure.com/v-descs/trojan-downloader_osx_flashback_k.shtml## Hannes Juutilainen, firstname.lastname@example.org## History:# - 2012-04-03, Hannes Juutilainen, first version# ================================================================================# Check for rootif [[ $EUID -ne 0 ]]; thenecho "This script must be run as root" 2>&1exit 1fi# ================================================================================echo "Checking /Applications/Safari.app/Contents/Info.plist for LSEnvironment key"# ================================================================================defaults read /Applications/Safari.app/Contents/Info LSEnvironment > /dev/null 2>&1if [[ $? -eq 0 ]]; thenprintf "%b\n\n" "===> WARNING: Found LSEnvironment in Safari Info.plist"elseprintf "%b\n\n" "---> Not found"fi# ================================================================================echo "Checking if /Users/Shared/.libgmalloc.dylib exists"# ================================================================================if [[ -f /Users/Shared/.libgmalloc.dylib ]]; thenprintf "%b\n\n" "===> WARNING: Found /Users/Shared/.libgmalloc.dylib"elseprintf "%b\n\n" "---> Not found"fi# ================================================================================echo "Checking /Users/*/.MacOSX/environment"# ================================================================================shopt -s nullglobUSER_HOMES=/Users/*for f in $USER_HOMESdoecho "---> Checking $f/.MacOSX/environment.plist"if [[ -f $f/.MacOSX/environment.plist ]]; thendefaults read $f/.MacOSX/environment DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES > /dev/null 2>&1if [[ $? -eq 0 ]]; thenprintf "%b\n" "===> WARNING: Found DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES key in $f/.MacOSX/environment"fifidoneshopt -u nullglobprintf "%b\n\n" "---> Done"exit 0But the best way to take care of your computer is to download and install the free Sophos Home version of their anti-virus software for the Mac, which will eliminate the malware from your computer once it finishes it's sweep.And if you haven't already, download the new update to Java for the Mac. It's free if you use your Software Update (Apple menu -> Software Update). That patches the hole and takes care of the issue. Then change your password for your login.So what lesson should we take from this? Well, Macs, now that they are taking a more prominent view in the computer market, are becoming a target for software hackers. Make sure you take appropriate measures to secure your computer.