Keep You and Yours Cyber Secure

Video by Nathan Lu

Story by Pete Ramirez

The prominent role the internet plays in our world has highlighted an issue we’ve been dealing with since the creation of the internet: cybersecurity.

Every few months there is a new headline in the news about a prominent company or government organization that has been hacked such as the large-scale Solarwinds breach or the massive Twitch data dump.

Understanding that our ever-connected lives won’t be unplugging from the internet anytime soon, a few Austin Community College students and faculty are doing what they can to educate those around them about the many threats that are lurking online.

“More of our learning has moved onto the internet,” Austin Community College student and Phi Theta Kappa honors society officer, Arden Silva said. “Children are being exposed to the internet at a much younger age.”

Alya Mansoor, another ACC student and PTK officer, said that she works with young kids and has often witnessed them unknowingly download malware and ruin whatever technology they are using.

“A lot of what I see is kids being impacted and easily influenced by the technology, entertainment, and media out there,” Mansoor said. 

In order to educate people about the dangers of the web and promote healthy cybersecurity habits, PTK’s Honors in Action committee created a convenient, accessible website that contains eye-catching PDFs filled with tips and guides to keep you safe online.

“I hope that we can at least bring some awareness to these kids and help them in navigating their own lives through the technology that is available to them.”

Alya Mansoor, Austin Community College student and Phi Theta Kappa officer

“We researched in the spring and we found out that kids are being taught cyber security in school but that is not really being enforced at home,” ACC student and PTK officer Isabella Santos said.

The PTK members believe their new website will be a reinforcement tool that parents can utilize to help their families stay protected in the ever-expanding digital world.

“I hope that we can at least bring some awareness to these kids and help them in navigating their own lives through the technology that is available to them,” Mansoor said.

All of the recommendations that are found on PTK’s cybersecurity website are not only for children. Adolescents and adults can benefit from adopting the practices as well.

An ACC faculty member that is doing his part to spread the gospel of safe online practices to all ages is Dr. Michael MacLeod.

MacLeod is a professor working in the computer science department who has a background in cybersecurity.

“I was in information technology for 35 years,” MacLeod said. “I built the fourth-largest state-owned network in the state of Texas.”

Having seen how digital threats have evolved and increased frequency over the years, MacLeod said that most people don’t understand that we’ve been in serious cyber warfare since the early 2000s.

“Every day [hackers] get better,” MacLeod said. “So every day, our people have to get better.”

For those that are interested in entering the world of cybersecurity, MacLeod encourages learning as much as you can and exposing yourself to groups that work in this field.

When it comes to the average internet user who may not know the ins and outs of cyber security, MacLeod recommends purchasing a full suite internet security tool like Kaspersky, Norton, or Bitdefender to protect your devices.

“You’ve got to have something in place to protect yourself,” MacLeod said. 

The ACC professor also said that everyone should use caution with the apps that are downloaded onto their devices.

“Every one of those free software apps tracks every single thing you do,” MacLeod said.

Improving cybersecurity habits may seem overwhelming but there are many trusted tools and resources available to the average consumer to use to defend themselves from threats on the web.

“It’s so easy to get caught up in the quickness of the internet but investing in cybersecurity knowledge and skills is beneficial not only to you but others around you,” Mansoor said.

The Rise of Vaping

The JUUL: Is it the cause for the rise in nicotine addiction across young adults?

Written & Photos by Sheridan Smith
Video by Ruben Hernandez

Juul Smoke GirlThe 1988 Surgeon General’s Report discovered that cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are addicting, the pharmacologic and behavioral processes that determine nicotine addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Cigarettes were finally deemed

harmful as many began fighting nicotine addiction. In 2006, electronic cigarettes were introduced to the U.S. to wean people off combustible ones.

“I smoked cigarettes at first, and then I went to vaping,” says student, Axel Anderson.

“Since it was so portable and so easy to change the cartridge, I decided I’d just go to [the Juul].”

A Juul is a specific kind of e-cigarette released in 2015. However, on Nov. 13, 2018 Juul CEO, Kevin Burns, released a statement about stopping flavored Juul pod sales to all 90,000 + retailers, as well as ceasing their social media presence.

The Truth Initiative states Juul accounts for 71.2 percent of e-cigarette sales since Aug. 2018. In Sept. 2018, the Federal Drug Administration stated that e-cigarette use among youths has hit record highs. This called for the largest enforcement effort in the FDA’s history to issue warnings and fines to retailers – online and brick and mortar – illegally selling JUUL and other e-cigarette products to minors.

“I would say [I switched to the Juul] honestly because more people had the Juul,” says student, Kelsey Cantu. “It was like a thing, so I was like why not? It was more expensive, but it hits better.”

Juul versus a pack of cigarettes

The difference between the Juul and other vapes is the use of pods instead of a refillable tank. One Juul pod consists of about 5% nicotine, equivalent to a pack of cigarettes. But in vapes, the person may choose how much nicotine they would like in their refill juice.

Like other e-cigarettes, Juul’s intention is to help people who struggle with nicotine addiction – which it can – but it mainly attracts young adults and teenagers. The device has definitely made appearances on several school campuses, where it’s illegal to use. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, in 2017 over 2.1 million high school and middle school students used e-cigarettes. Another study from last year found that one-fifth of students have seen Juuls in their schools.

“At my [high] school, a good amount of people in my grade used them,” says Cantu. “We would all go in the bathrooms during class and hit them. Especially if we had study hall and out [of class], we would all go in the bathroom and stay there for like a good hour or two and just Juul in the stalls,” says Cantu.

Teenagers and young adults seem to be attracted to the JUUL because of its design, easy access, fruity flavors and lack of scent. These assets allow the device to be easy to hide when in plain sight – such as in a classroom setting.

“It’s definitely easy to hide because you just keep the smoke in, and they don’t smell. It’s discreet, and you can hide it easily like I always had it on me at school,” says Cantu.

The Juul’s accessibility and design is a concern of numerous health associations, including Truth Initiative. The effect nicotine has on an adolescent’s mind is also a concern of theirs. People are aware of the effects of cigarettes, but the effects of Juuls and vaping have never really been unmasked to the consumer.Juul pack of cigarettes

“I’m a coach for a living, so I run a lot and stuff. Because I vape so much, [the vape] would kind of affect me after a while because I was inhaling so much vapor. I [would feel it physically], and I don’t want to vape anymore, at least not as much, so I went to a different mod that I can actually regulate the [nicotine],” says Anderson.

Since so many people are attracted to the Juul, it’s also causing an increase in nicotine addiction across a generation that was supposed to be nicotine-free.

Cantu says, “Yes [I would say I’m addicted] because if I run out of pods, I always have to go get more because I feel the need to hit it more if I run out. I’ve tried to stop for like short periods of time, but then I’ll be like whatever and just do it again and buy more.”

Anderson says he switched from a Juul after three months after noticing he was going through a pod every few weeks.

“You can almost feel it because you’re inhaling all that juice, which is just vapor, and you can kind of feel it weigh you down for a little bit,” says Anderson. “It makes you take a break for a while, but then it’s super hard because of all the nicotine.”

There has been no concrete evidence as to the long-term effects e-cigarettes have on the human body. Individuals should be more educated on what they’re inhaling, to understand how it affects their body.


MBPT Calls For SXSW Volunteers

Written by Tracy Fuller

Now that the spring semester is in full swing, Spring Break is looming on some minds. Whether traveling out of town or doing a staycation, Spring Break is typically the time for decompressing.

Conveniently, Spring Break falls during the live music capital of the world’s most famous festival, SXSW.  As many know, SXSW’s Festivals are divided into Interactive, Film, Music, Comedy and Gaming.

Typically SXSW’s Interactive covers a wide array of technology related panels with the potential to form connections for networking.

SXSW’s Film Festival is a mecca for global and national cinema releases. This year has an incredible 132 film features. This would be a good time for film lovers to get in and check out what is premiering. In fact, for any enrolled student, there is a substantial discount that you should probably take advantage of by going here.

ACC’s Music, Business, Performance + Technology (MBPT) department is calling for volunteers to assist in SXSW’s Music Festival. Many times, these volunteers have the opportunity to assist in stage operations throughout the festival. In fact, some previous ACC MBPT students have become Stage Managers due to their experiences as a volunteer. The volunteer call is general, so there are plenty of options for MBPT and other students

For more information please reach out to [email protected].

Honda PACT

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Written by Nate Torres
Video by Amanda Lanclos

There is no shortage of people considering going back to school. The associated, and often deterring, question is often, “is it worth it?” Many weigh this by considering if the time and money invested will lead to better job opportunities. The determining factor is often the area of study.

Despite the bumps in the road that the auto industry has been going through, there is no shortage of cars on the road. Vehicles, eventually need repairs. To service those repairs, automotive technicians will be in demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for auto technicians will grow at a steady rate of 6 percent over the next ten years, averaging 2,300 new positions a year in Texas, alone.

In response, ACC has been training students to help meet the demand for technicians. Many students are finding work even before they complete the program.

“All of our students get jobs,” says department chair Mike Schoebroek. “Employers are calling all the time looking for employees. Typically it’s one of three different types of employers. Of course the dealerships, then independent repair shops, and then franchises like Firestone, Jiffy Lube, and Christian Brothers.”

ACC is certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). The department offers four certificates and an associate degree in automotive. With the certification, the school makes sure to keep the instruction evolving as the quickly as vehicles.

“I went to trade school in the seventies,” says adjunct professor Kevin McNeil. “These kids have to learn a lot more in the same amount of time that I did. [Cars] are getting more technical… it ain’t the seventies. You have to hook with a lab scope and a DBOM, read a schematic and do pin checks.”

For soon to be graduate Mike Lopez, the more instruction ACC can get him on the automotive industry the better. “I plan to further my career and come back to get the advanced certificate; which I advise everybody do. They have automatic transmissions II, alternative fuels, and diesel classes which they don’t teach for the regular certificate or degree so you come back and finish that while you’re working.”  

Advanced degrees or specialization is a great advantage for those who are already in the industry. According to the Bureau of Labor, specialization is a wise commitment reporting an increase from the average wage of $18 per hour to upwards of $30 an hour ($60000 per year) for those who specialize.

Honda has shown great interest in students looking to specialize with their PACT program through their partnership with ACC. This semester PACT is investing in ACC with a fleet of cars and specialty tools, so students are learning and working on Honda/Acura vehicles specifically. This program’s intentions are to provide students with many opportunities, especially those looking to find work at a dealership.

Howdy Honda’s shop foreman, says, “[Students] who come out of school with a PACT certificate are more likely to be hired here than the guy with the associate degree, because they’ve been working on our products.”

That’s not to say a generic automotive associate degree isn’t valued but as a former TSTC student, Bone says,  “… when I came out I was ASE certified in all 8 areas and I didn’t have a clue how to work on a Honda. I had an idea how to work on a GM transmission or a Ford transmission but a Honda transmission is completely different.”

PACT will offer a 16-week certificate course as well as a two year associate degree similar to ACC’s generic program. Either way, time spent in ACC’s automotive programs seems to be a sure way to open doors to an automotive career. Bone says, “I like word of mouth but education, you can’t beat it.”

Pick this story up in the Spring 2018 Life4U magazine on campus

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‘New Super Mario Bros 2’ game takes a 3-D trip down memory lane

Story by Joey Galvan • Staff Reporter

Familiar characters and breathtaking environments provide gamers with a fun twist to a beloved classic

Nintendo fanboys can rejoice as “New Super Mario Bros. 2” is released for the Nintendo 3-DS. Nintendo is hoping to attract loyal customers of the Mario franchise and catch the eye of new gamers as well.

Mario, as a character, evokes powerful memories in anyone who grew up with a Nintendo system in their household.

He is a welcoming icon used by Nintendo whenever they release a new console or game title the company believes in. In the sequel to “Super Mario 3-D Land” they continue to avoid tarnishing his image by putting out a product worthy of the iconic plumber.

The game’s objective beautiful in its simplicity: get as many freakin’ coins as possible and defeat some familiar enemies in the process. Attain large amounts of coins to acquire more lives and special Yoshi coins to unlock special items to aid your quest. The amount of gold coins thrown at you is ridiculous as it is not uncommon for a player to rack up over a hundred lives with a little persistence. The environments in “New Super Mario Bros. 2” are breathtaking much like those in its predecessor with levels bearing a strong resemblance to previous Mario titles spanning almost every Nintendo console.

You don’t have to go far to find familiar territory. The current desert levels look strikingly similar to the game’s older incarnations in the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) system and are rampant with angry cactus littered upon quicksand.

Most of the levels look like they have appeared in some previous fashion of a Mario release which is an important nostalgia factor for players. The biggest letdown after beating the eight worlds is that it can be done so quickly.

It’s not that the levels are too easy per se, but rather that the title ends abruptly and could use some additional content to provide a higher factor for replay.

The controls in this release are of A+ caliber. Often, controls in the game can severely limit the player’s experience by proving too difficult for average players to learn, which may result in them abandoning the game in frustration. If you have played the first few Mario releases for the Nintendo Entertainment System, the control scheme should seem ideal.

It adapts the controls from previous games like “Super Mario World” for the Super Nintendo and is so simple a novice could quickly pick it up. The simple joy of being able to achieve maximum speed and attain flight through use of your raccoon tail is not a hard feat, nor should it be.

The 3-D in this game is incredible. Nintendo pushes the envelope of what the 3-DS is capable of and at times the immersion can become intense. I recommend breaks be taken to avoid motion sickness. The action takes on a completely new dimension and plays one of the most intricate roles in making this release worth purchasing.

Two players can play together and basically trade use of the console between levels. Not many gamers have a 3-DS, so finding someone with the handheld console in addition to this game can prove rather daunting, but it is ultimately worth it.

The same problem exists with the Streetpass function of the console. Streetpass works when the 3-DS is in regular or standby mode with the two consoles trading in game items depending on which games you have set up to participate in this function.

It is recommended that this function be tried in crowded areas like shopping malls in hopes of the consoles recognizing the signal of another player which would then trade off the items automatically.

Not only is standby mode an extreme waste of battery power, the notion of hooking up with another player outside of a Nintendo related event seems highly unlikely.

Coin Rush is a playable mode with three random levels from each world with an objective of acquiring as many coins as possible under a lowered time limit.

If you die or run out of time, you cannot move on to the next of the three levels which contain more coins than regular in-game levels.

You get to keep the coins you get in this mode and use them in the normal game mode. Coin Rush is a lot of fun, but I recommend playing after beating the game and looking for more content.

As expected from Nintendo, “New Super Mario Bros. 2” is a solid release. It is loaded with nostalgia from characters, enemies and decadent levels from previous Mario games in vibrant colors upon a wonderful control scheme.

This game is recommended to anyone that is a fan of 3-D gaming or loves Mario based releases.


Tech 101: Samsung Galaxy Note

Story by Nathan Bustillos • Campus Reporter

ou have a major pa- per due for class, you can’t remember the due date and you have lost your syllabus. You frantically try to contact the professor, classmates — anybody, but no one answers their email or phone. What can you do?

The Samsung Galaxy Note can be a big help as it combines the ease and convenience of a smartphone with the functionality of a tablet PC.

The recently released Galaxy Note includes a task scheduler, which incorporates a calendar and spreadsheet program to keep track of important dates and schedules. Students can use it to take notes as well. With the included S Memo app and the stylus, it is easy to write directly into the device. Its 5.3-inch screen provides ample space to write on.

One of the benefits for many Austin Community College art students is that there is an app that is very similar to Adobe Photoshop, which allows users to edit photos and other images to create high quality design elements that can be used for print or other media.

The photoshop equivalent for the Galaxy Note 10.1 can achieve the same high quality imagery as the original Photoshop.

In terms of the Galaxy Note’s technical aspects, users can enjoy a 4G LTE network which allows Internet browsing at speeds as quick as any smartphone or laptop computer. With the 1.4-gigahertz dual core processor, websites, images and video load very quickly and smoothly, giving the user seamless interaction with all of the Galaxy Note’s features. Images, notes, and other files can be exported into a desk- top or laptop computer with USB 2.0 support.

As with any mobile device, price point can be a downside for college students.

However, the Samsung Galaxy Note is available from T-Mobile and AT&T with a two-year extension of a current mobile phone contract. In the alternative, the Galaxy Note is available on Amazon and by other online vendors ranging from $300 and $500 without a mobile phone network.

This is where the price point may come into play. Some users may not want to be tied down to a new contract with their mobile provider and would then be subject to the purchase price. Unfortunately, with a $500 price tag at most, it may be out of reach for many college students, especially if they are on a budget.

Another factor that some users may not like is the size of the device. The Galaxy Note was designed to be similar to a smartphone in terms of size and convenience, but is slightly bigger than an iPhone or some other large screen device.

The Galaxy Note faces competition for the student market from many other tablet PC equivalents with much larger screens without having the bulk and thickness of some laptop computers, but it could be a good investment for many college students.