Knowledge Concepts  

Knowledge Concepts is Notable Software's Speaker's Bureau and training division. We have a wide range of lectures and workshops on various technology-related topics available for presentation. Our speakers are knowledgeable, highly experienced, dynamic, and engaging. Formats range from executive briefings and after-dinner talks to conference keynotes and multi-day tutorials, and are appropriate for businesses, professional and scientific organizations, schools (teacher in-service, student assemblies, career days), club meetings, and political action groups, among others. The Knowledge Concepts staff will work with you to obtain maximum exposure and attendance at your event. The list below provides a sample of current offerings. If you do not see something that will satisfy your needs, please let us know, as customized events may be available. Noted authorities are also available to provide on-the-spot news commentary on current issues involving computers, security, electronic voting, multimedia, and technology public policy.

Topics Index (click to jump to titles and abstracts):

Links on some of the talk titles below lead to websites containing information from prior presentations.

Computers, Security, and the Internet

Data Security -- Issues & Answers: Protection of a computer system's data is integral to its security. Data can be viewed as any information contained or transmitted by the computer, including programs, text, and numeric values. Many system attacks are directed at modifying, deleting, obtaining, or impeding access to data. This seminar will describe four important criteria of data (integrity, reliability, accessibility and confidentiality), as well as its inherent vulnerabilities due to technical and sociological threats. Relevant legislation (such as HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, etc.) and compliance aspects will be discussed. Real-world examples will be used as illustrations. (This is an important session for anyone who manages or supervises managers of electronic information or writes applications involving it.)

Challenges in Computer Forensics: With the ubiquity of computer-based devices in everyday use, forensic techniques are increasingly being applied to a broad range of digital media and equipment, thus posing many challenges for experts as well as for those who make use of their skills. For example, often the prosecution has virtually unlimited access to the data, increasingly via the use of the FBI's Regional Computer Forensic Laboratories, but the defense team must overcome severely restrictive impounding hurdles that limit their discovery efforts in supporting claims of innocence. This talk will discuss the pros and cons of these issues in criminal and civil matters, and also provide information about forensic toolkits, training, courtroom skills, and tips on improving media "spin" and exposure. Examples will be drawn from the speaker's wealth of experience in this fascinating field. (This talk has high audience appeal with a wide variety of groups, especially law enforcement, Bar Associations, and Chambers of Commerce, but can also be presented for students and technical associations.)

Transparency and Trust in Computational Systems:
Transparency is playing an increasingly important role in the world of computer security. But as with many sociological interactions with technology, an optimal balance is difficult to quantify. The consideration of a trust-centric approach (as opposed to a vulnerability-based one) may help achieve the transparency needed to ensure confidence and reduce perceived (and perhaps even actual) risks in transactional experiences. Counterbalancing transparency and trust is difficult in computer security-related applications, since these are concepts that are inherently intertwined, but whose relationships are not well understood. Some aspects of this problem can not be resolved simultaneously, such as a need for complete anonymity along with full auditability. Solutions are posited through various models, such as those based on cryptographic approaches. (This talk has strong technical content, and is popular with information security audiences.)

Improve your Web Surfing: The Internet and World Wide Web provides access to a vast quantity of data that is now just a keyclick away. This material can be helpful for students in their research and career planning efforts, for shoppers in making purchases, for businesses in gaining an edge on competitors, and for criminals in performing identity thefts and other malicious acts.  This session will improve your information gathering and help you better protect yourself from some forms of technology-based crime. Easy search engine techniques from Google Guide will be introduced. (This material can be presented in lecture form, or hands-on using a networked computer lab or wireless laptops with Internet access. It is of interest to a wide range of attendees, from Jr. High School age through Senior Citizens.)
Design Your Own Web Page (in an hour or less): Using a fast-track approach, participants will be shown how to create and launch a basic Web page. Each attendee will leave with the code for a simple working page along with instructions that can be used to continue to improve it. Topics will include – HTML programming, Web page editing software, links and images. Design and layout tips will help make the page readable and attractive. Uses of Web pages in business, research and job hunting will be explored.  (This session is best if given hands-on for about a dozen people or less. In that format, it requires a small networked computer lab or wireless laptops with Internet access. It has been successfully presented to a wide range of attendees, from Jr. High School age through Senior Citizens.)
Careers in Computer Science and Computer Engineering:  A diverse range of technology-based careers will be discussed, using illustrations from the speaker’s work in the field.  Topics include – digital multimedia (audio, graphics, video), web design, hardware/software engineering, programming, systems analysis, computer security, computers and the law (expert witness testimony, forensic investigation, public policy).  Suggestions will be made regarding training, degree tiers, certifications and ongoing education, practical experience, apprenticeships, grants, fellowships, assistantships. Special challenges pertaining to women in the sciences will be examined. (This is a good talk for a computer science/engineering club meeting or career day.)

Electronic Voting

E-voting in an Untrustworthy World (Alternatively titled – Hack The Vote: 2008): In the rush to solve problems that emerged from Florida's Presidential election dispute in 2000, computerized voting systems have been deployed in unprecedented numbers. During 2006, nearly 30% of the USA voted on fully electronic equipment offering no capability for independent recounts, and another 50% of the country cast ballots that were tabulated by computer-based scanners. Vendors and promoters of these systems have made promises of reliability, accuracy and accessibility. Yet mounting evidence from multiple election cycles has demonstrated malfunctions resulting in irretrievable loss of vote data, usability issues including county-wide denial of service incidents, and fraud allegations due to software substitutions. This talk explores the vulnerabilities of electronic voting systems to insider and outsider attacks; the failure to properly serve the needs of special populations (such as the disabled and illiterate) despite billions of federal dollars spent on accessible voting equipment; along with the possibilities and ramifications of large-scale vote fraud in the 2008 election and beyond. (This is a general audience talk with a broad range of interest to a wide age range.)

Pushing Forward: Voting Systems & Standards (also titled E-voting: Perils and Promises): Electronic voting has dramatically increased in use, in part due to unsubstantiated promises of reliability, accuracy and accessibility made by vendors and other promoters of these systems. Instead of resolving election problems, serious issues involving equipment malfunctions, usability, potential for large-scale fraud, compromises to voter privacy, and the inability to perform an independent recount, have been raised. Numerous studies have revealed flaws that show the computer-based systems to be inferior to, and more costly than, older mechanical and paper-based ballot technologies. Backdoors and loopholes have been exploited in the voting system standards and certification programs, allowing up to 10% of election equipment to fail on election day, and thwarting the adoption and deployment of reasonable verified voting methods. This talk will replace myths and misinformation with hard facts about e-voting, and will offer suggestions for features that could be implemented to better secure cast ballots and ensure the correctness of vote totals. (This material can be presented in various formats, such as for technical groups, election officials, or as an advocacy briefing.)

The Electronic Voting Enigma -- Hard Problems in Computer Science: Although it might appear that modern technology should be able to provide secure, auditable, anonymous elections, this turns out to be a difficult problem for computer scientists. Vote collection and tabulation involves processes for system security, program provability, user authentication, and product reliability, all of which harbor inherent flaws. These matters are further compounded by sociological and legal technicalities -- such as the prevention of vote-selling and protection from denial-of-service attacks. This talk will address these subjects from a computer science standpoint, focusing on those that are considered to be "hard" (the CS word for "presently unsolvable").  Although these computer systems can not achieve all desired election goals, suggestions will be made regarding design enhancements which, if implemented, could improve these devices to the point where they are almost as good as mechanical lever machines and hand-counted paper ballots. (This talk is appropriate for computer science and engineering audiences with intermediate undergraduate backgrounds or beyond in those fields. This talk can be paired as a small classroom chat when a general talk is given as a large audience seminar.)

Voting and Secrecy:
The necessity of providing an independent audit of anonymously cast ballots poses a problem that is currently unsolvable using computer-based equipment. This talk will demonstrate David Chaum’s cryptographic approach for totally transparent but anonymous balloting using a variation of the rock-paper-scissors game. The difficulties of scaling this technique to large numbers of ballots will be examined. Statistical methods used for selecting a random sample for recounts as well as comparisons to exit poll and poll book data will be described. (Although this topic is suitable for a mathematics-oriented class, it is presented in a manner that will be accessible to even the most math-phobic of listeners, high-school age and above. This talk can be paired as a small classroom chat when one of our general interest talks is given as a large audience seminar.)

Film Narration: A number of documentaries have been created on the subject of elections and election technology. We can provide speakers who were featured in these documentaries, to accompany a film showing, with introduction, narration, and audience question-and-answer.  Suggestions for film selection, along with viewing permissions, can be provided upon request. (Appropriate for general audiences, typically with an activist bent.)

Music and Audio

Your Mind and Music: Inherent constructs in the way the mind interprets sensory input influences the way one responds to and understands musical information. Innate differences in the way individuals perceive sounds prove that "pitch" is not necessarily analogous to "frequency." Examples from the fields of psychoacoustics and electronic music synthesis will be used to demonstrate auditory illusions, in order to examine the effects of the brain’s filtering of sound presentations. The use of these techniques in classical and contemporary compositions and performances will be examined. (This is a general-interest talk with special focus for musicians, composers, music therapists and other health providers, as well as engineers and acousticians.)

Multiphonic Recording and Playback: The advent of home studios, high-definition, and digital broadcasting has raised the bar for the audiophile, especially in terms of multi-channel and surround sound presentations. Topics will include microphone techniques, recording styles, standards, playback and broadcast modes. Industry and technology influences on performance customs and listener expectations will be overviewed, along with issues such as phase cancellation and simulated source placements. The talk will feature a mix of historical information and examples, with a smattering of tech-info, such that it should be accessible by (and of interest to) a broad audience (composers, teachers, performers, engineers, and so on), and especially insightful for those artists currently (or planning to be) involved with the recording process.

History and Architecture of the RCA Synthesizer:
On January 31, 1955, RCA chairman David Sarnoff introduced the world's first music synthesizer, the Mark I, designed and developed by Harry F. Olson and Herbert Belar.  Although originally intended for the creation and performance of mood music, its successor model (the Mark II) became the cornerstone of compositional efforts at the electronic music center run jointly by Columbia and Princeton Universities from 1957 through the 1970's. This talk will focus on engineering aspects and will address such questions as: Was the RCA synthesizer a computer? Was its design influenced by or influential to the 12-tone serial compositional practices of that era? Could it produce "any sound you can imagine" as RCA had claimed?  The impact of this early invention on present-day electronic music and musical equipment will be examined. (Although the focus of this talk is on engineering aspects, it is also a good topic for general and performing arts audiences.)

Technology Media and Public Policy

Nerds in the News -- Handling Tech Press:  So the technical work you've been doing for the last decade has become controversial and suddenly you're deluged with phone calls from the press, TV crews are camped out on your doorstep, and your boss is about to have your head in a hand-basket. Your fifteen minutes of fame have arrived, and you have a great message to convey, but you need to know how to present yourself (both physically and verbally) in order to manage the media "spin" to its best advantage. This talk will use video, audio and print examples from the speaker's extensive collection of press quotes to illustrate the do's and don'ts of media handling from a nerd perspective. (Geared toward scientists, but certainly appropriate for general business and public relations settings.)
Computers, Public Policy and You: As technology becomes increasingly intertwined with public policy, many questions are being raised. Should 12-year-olds be arrested for downloading music files from the Internet? Does the copyright holder of a DVD's contents have the right to impose restrictions on the private use of its data by a purchaser? When elections are conducted entirely on electronic media, what is the meaning of a recount? Can government officials be restricted from using Homeland Security initiatives to collect personal information through digital wiretaps? This talk will shed light on the intricacy of these issues, and explain how individuals and groups can influence legislation (and the opinions of political and industry decision-makers) by effectively raising awareness to computer-related matters. (This session is popular with law and public policy groups as well as computer science and engineering attendees. A variation of the talk, that focuses on lobbying for legislative and standards initiatives, is especially appropriate for business groups.)

Fifty Talks in Fifty States Challenge

Rebecca Mercuri
has a personal goal to give a presentation about voting in every U.S. state. (Photos from some of the state events will eventually be linked here.) Currently, the missing states are: Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. If your state is on this list, please ask about cost underwriting, since some assistance may be available to organizations that help Rebecca complete this challenge. Stay tuned for information about her "100 Countries" challenge!

For further information about any of the material on this page, or to schedule an event:  

Contact Notable Software

609/587-1886 or 215/327-7105
Surface mail:  P.O. Box 1166 - Dept. W, Philadelphia, PA  19105
Email:  notable AT notablesoftware DOT com


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