Cybersecurity Master’s Programs in Maryland


After *finally* graduating from UMBC with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Information Systems, I really did not want to go back. I still feel more closely associated with UMD, feel that UMD has a better name (for what it matters), and overall felt the caliber of students at UMD was higher. UMBC students seem to lack drive and creativity as compared to UMD students, in my opinion. Virtually everyone I knew, and continue to meet, at UMD had a side project they believed in and tried to bring to fruition. From bands to companies to protests, they showcase their ambitious spirit in their spare time. While UMD students are working on meaningful products, UMBC students are shut in their dorms, gaming. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there is a clear difference between the two campuses. And this doesn’t even mention my single largest beef with UMBC – the administration!

I talked with many, many industry professionals prior to deciding to pursue a Master’s in Cybersecurity. My concern is that it will/would be considered a “trendy” degree that will fall out of favor in the future and stain my resume, an indication that I was caught in the moment. However, I have been unanimously assured that Cybersecurity is a good way to go. With the degree set, I evaluated several Universities – Utica College in New York, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, UMBC, and UMD (UMCP).

Utica offers an online program. I merely requested information, I believe from, and was immediately called at work not five minutes later. Unfortunately, I was not able to pick up the phone at that time and ignored the call. Little did I know, I’d be called on a daily basis! This could be a good sign in terms of the University being responsive to students, but all I wanted was a brochure. Shortly after, I decided I did not want to pursue an online Master’s degree and I did not intend to move to NY, so Utica was out. They trail behind the other’s on my list in terms of industry recognition as well.

Johns Hopkins was my third choice due to cost alone. If you have the money, they appear to be a great choice. Given that they are more than twice as expensive as UMBC or UMD, I did not feel their name could make up the difference in cost. JHU’s program is technical in nature and lacks any management courses. If you attend in person, the program falls under their “Engineering for Professionals” college and is taught in the evenings with some weekend courses offered.

umd-2UMD, like JHU, emphasizes the technical aspects of Cybersecurity with the program belonging to their Engineering College. For those less technically oriented, the Robert Smith business school also offers a Cybersecurity certificate (15 credits) that is more policy based. Afterwards, the business school recommends moving on to an Information Systems Master’s for Policy/Management or a Master’s of Engineering in Cybersecurity for technical staff. UMD is the flagship school in the University of Maryland system, and having attended UMD in the past, I am biased towards them. However, their website for the Cybersecurity program is poor – to the point I was unable to even figure out the cost for an in-state student. Because of their technical emphasis, distance, and cost, I once again turned to UMBC.

umbc_library-2UMBC stands alone with their Cybersecurity offering. Rather than an engineering degree, UMBC offers a “Master’s of Professional Studies” (MPS) degree in Cybersecurity. It is a 30 credit program with a split personality – several management courses are mandatory and several technical courses are mandatory, but a total of four courses are electives that can go either way. UMBC’s program was assembled under the close guidance of industry professionals and all the professors for their Cybersecurity program are adjuncts. I really like UMBC’s Cybersecurity program because it is a higher level program that should stand the test of time better than the competing schools. I also like that it is taught by adjunct professors who are not teaching for the money, but for their love of teaching & to further the industry. In fact, of all the programs I evaluated, UMBC’s professors appear to be the most qualified and the most accomplished in the industry; the director even served as the CSO for InterNIC! Furthermore, many of UMBC’s professors also teach at nearby JHU – effectively offering the same education at a lower cost.

UMBC’s emphasis on policy and management should stand the test of time. One of my largest concerns with the Cybersecurity degree is that it is a “trendy” degree, but UMBC’s goals transcend that of other (lesser) Universities. Even with technical electives, the UMBC degree is still more general, oriented towards people and government, and therefore timeless. Why would I want my Master’s to be technically oriented in a field that reinvents itself so often? And this is the exact reason I steered away from UMD, despite my personal bias. My technical proficiency will be proven through industry experience and certifications – such as the GIAC GSEC that I am currently earning – while my management skills and industry wide understanding will be developed through the industry leading professionals teaching at UMBC’s Cybersecurity Master’s program. There is money to be made where management intersects technology!

Another point worth mentioning with all these programs is their standing with the NSA. JHU and UMBC are both NSA “Center[s] of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research” AND NSA “Center[s] of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education” (CAE/R & CAE/IAE) while UMD is only recognized for research (CAE/R). Utica? I can’t find them on the NSA site at all.

A/C Leak Freeze with Magic Frost Review

LDSC00069ike many, our home is cooled by an aging heat pump originally built in 1993. It’s been a good unit, but last summer the fan on the heat pump gave up the ghost and had to be replaced. Soon after, we noticed it was not cooling as it should and was blowing nearly 70 degree air inside the house with the thermostat set to 82 degrees fahrenheit. Generally, you want to see a 20 degree “split” – that is, the air exiting the air handler should be 20 degrees cooler than the incoming air. In our case, the incoming air was between 76 and 77 degrees with the basement air in the mix, giving a 7 degree split. Not good. Furthermore, we noticed the interior A-coil, called the evaporator, freezing at the bottom which is an indication the system is low on refrigerant.

The HVAC tech only confirmed what we already knew, that we had a refrigerant leak. He said it was a pretty substantial leak on the order of a pound of R-22 refrigerant a month. Service calls are not cheap and neither is the refrigerant, not to mention that refrigerant leaks are not exactly eco friendly! On old units, like ours, repair is seldom an option. The labor costs involved with finding a leak are substantial and, as explained by the tech, even if the leak is found, it often is not repairable. Our suspicion is that the condenser coil, located on the heat pump itself, started leaking after the fan replacement. The fan replacement process involves partially disassembling the heat pump and leaves the condenser coil unsupported and vulnerable to damage. With repair an expensive prospect, there were two options left – total replacement or a stop leak product. Since this nearly 20 year old heat pump would be headed to the scrap heap anyway, we decided to try “A/C Leak Freeze with Magic Frost.

According to the manufacturer, A/C Leak Freeze is “not activated by moisture or oxygen” meaning that it shouldn’t “gum up” the controls inside the air conditioning system like many other products. Our HVAC tech assured us the worst that would happen with A/C Leak Freeze is that it wouldn’t work at all. Before giving the OK, I did some homework online and read reviews on HVAC forums; many techs advised against putting stop leak type products into an air conditioning system, but the ones that had used A/C Leak Freeze had not experienced any compressor failures. Furthermore, many noted that A/C Leak Freeze had successfully stopped small refrigerant leaks on systems deemed “over-the-hill!” This was certainly encouraging and we forged on.

Actually using A/C Leak Freeze is simple; the heat pump or air conditioner must be running, then the syringe is connected to the low side service port on the suction line.  At this point, A/C Leak Freeze is slowly injected into the refrigerant. Due to high pressures, pushing the syringe in by hand can be difficult so the manufacturer recommends placing the syringe in a caulking gun. Once A/C Leak Freeze is in the system, the refrigerant should be topped off and then the heat pump or air conditioner should run continuously for at least 30 minutes to circulate the product. That’s it!

So far our system has been kicking out 58 degree air ever since the refrigerant has been topped off and A/C Leak Freeze with Magic Frost added, with no refrigerant loss noted. We’re hoping this is one for the “success” column! Please note, carefully weigh the pros and cons before adding A/C Leak Freeze to your HVAC system. While it seems to have worked successfully in our case, I still feel it could be damaging and it should only be used as a last resort on systems not worth repairing!

*July 30th Update*

The A/C again measured down to 58 degrees a month later. The compressor is still going strong so it seems like A/C Leak Freeze did the trick!

*August 30th Update*

The A/C continues to work. The last measured temperature was 62 degrees, but given the different environmental conditions I’m not sure how much meaning can be derived. Perhaps some ground has been lost or maybe it’s perfectly fine. Either way, the compressor is still running just fine and the A/C is blowing cold. I think it is clear that the A/C Leak Freeze product helped slow or stop the refrigerant leak.

*June 20th 2014 Update*

It’s still going! See the video here. 

10 Useful Tools Every Mechanic Should Own

  1. Tap and Die Set

Craftsman Standard Tap & Die Set

Craftsman Standard Tap & Die Set

Tap and die sets help keep your projects on track. When a cross threaded or rusty fastener threatens derailment, a die will clean the threads right up! Taps make for tidy and convenient fastener solutions rather than using a through bolt and nut. I even tapped my Holset HX35 turbo so that I could use an off-the-shelf oil feed. This is a tool that is useful to more than just mechanics and can be used for home repairs and other hobbyist projects; I also tapped the custom backplate on the 8mm projector rather than use nuts. (Note: While I linked to a Bosch tap and die set, I personally use a Craftsman set. Craftsman has recently switched to Chinese production and the Bosch set looks to be a quality set.)

  1. Pickle Fork

Modified pickle fork

Modified pickle fork

Pickle forks are generally used to remove spent ball joints & tie rod ends that will not be reused (because the fork often destroys the dust boots). On the BMW side, many people elect to use a ball joint puller instead of the pickle fork, but I find ball joint pullers take longer to perform the same job. Ball joint pullers also deprive you of the stress relieving satisfaction of beating the living tar out of your car :-p In addition to ball joints and tie rods, I have found many other unexpected uses for my heavily modified pickle fork. Combined with the power of the BFH, almost nothing is safe from destruction removal! This often useful at the junkyard where preservation is not a priority. From windshield wipers (who needs a special removal tool now!?) to ECU box lids to master cylinders, I have leveraged the powers of my pickle fork.

  1. B.F.H.

4lb hammer

Four pound hammer

No self-respecting mechanic would ever be caught without their B.F.H. If you don’t already know, BFH is short for “big [expletive] hammer” and they are used to beat things into submission. Exhaust needs “adjustment?” How about that axle that just doesn’t want to seat? Caution must be exercised when using the BFH to prevent unwanted collateral damage.

  1. 72-Tooth 3/8″ Drive Ratchet

kobalt 72 tooth ratchet

72-tooth Kobalt ratchet

For years I used coarse tooth (30-32 tooth) ratchets and worse yet, I often used very cheap ratchets with the exception of an OG ⅜” Snap-On ratchet. Let me tell you – if you have not used a 72-tooth or better fine tooth ratchet, try one immediately. More teeth means the ratchet requires less movement before it “clicks” into the next position making work in tight spaces much, much more tolerable. I’ve been using a Kobalt ratchet that I paid around $30 for and it has been worth EVERY PENNY. Keep in mind that most fine tooth ratchets will break under less torque than their coarse tooth cousins, so keep a breaker bar or cheap ratchet around.

  1. Deep Socket Set

13mm Craftsman Deep Socket

13mm Craftsman Deep Socket

My first experience with deep sockets came when I received my Craftsman toolkit as a gift. Ever since that moment, I have hardly ever put them down – especially the 13mm (pictured) and 10mm sockets. The make short work of nuts on threaded rods and also work pretty well on your standard nuts and bolts. While the slip off a bit easier, they act like a short extension and leave knuckle room. If you don’t already own a deep socket set, I highly recommend you pick them up!

  1. Vise-Grips

Well used Vise Grips

Well used Vise-Grips

Vise-Grips are the ultimate in infinitely useful tools. Buy the Irwin “Vise-Grip” branded vise-grips as they are the best quality on the market and you will use them in ways you won’t believe. You will often see vise-grips being put to use in my DIY articles; one such example is when I used them to hold the Porsche 944 booster rods in place while the rod was being threaded with the tap and die set. They are useful as extremely versatile and strong clamps, pliers, etc and can be used to muscle parts into position and hold them their. I found them extremely useful while installing the swaybar in my e30 – I used them like pliers to pull the brackets together and then locked them in place to clamp the brackets together while I installed the sway bar bracket bolts.

  1. Bench Vise

Wilton "Shop King" Vise

Wilton “Shop King” Vise

A vise is another tool everyone, and I mean everyone, should have. Vise’s are great when you absolutely need to hold a part in place for cutting, filing, sanding, welding, and so forth. Vise’s transcend auto mechanics and are also useful for arts and crafts, home repairs, bicycle work, and more.

  1. Angle Grinder

Cal-Hawk Angle Grinder

Cal-Hawk Angle Grinder

Another destructive tool, I have found the angle grinder to be among my most used power tools. I originally bought my angle grinder to cut and shape exhaust tubing for my 540i, but have hardly put it away since then. When I parted a rusty Oldsmobile Bravada, I used it to cut the transmission crossmember out of the way and gain access to the transfer case. Any time I do exhaust work, I buy new hardware and just cut the old hardware off (it usually breaks anyway from being seized) making the angle grinder a huge time saver. The 944 booster even got in on the angle grinder action when I shorted the threaded rod after extending the threads. Think of it like a hacksaw on steroids, all for the low, low price of $30!

 9. Dremel MultiPro Rotary Tool

Dremel Multipro Model 395

Dremel MultiPro Model 395

Dremel’s are such a quintessential tool that the very name has become a verb not unlike Google or Xerox. As the above illustration clearly shows, my personal dremel has been heavily used through the years and now wears its grime and battle scars with pride. I commonly pair it with the reinforced cut-off wheels [insert link] to make an angle grinder in miniature, but it can also be used to drill, sand, or otherwise shape objects into anything you desire. Dremel’s are nearly indestructible workhorses and make for a worthy addition to your tool chest.

10. Linesman Pliers

BHM Lineman's Pliers

BHM Lineman’s Pliers

A quality set of pliers is a must for any handyman, including automotive enthusiasts. They are used to pull, twist, and cut wires. Lineman use these for heavy electrical work, but these pliers are remarkably well suited for automotive and household work. Whether you use them to wire up sagging exhaust on your beater or to cut new lengths of wire to length, you are sure to find a use for a quality pair of Lineman’s Pliers.