Monday, August 31, 2009

Don't SPAM Your Faculty

This is one way to deal with students who complain, label complaints as SPAM and punish them. Michigan State University: Serious Student Complaints = Spam
Today, as part of a national ad campaign, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education placed a half-page ad in Michigan State University's student newspaper criticizing the university's absurdly overbroad spam policy:


The ad refers to the case of Kara Spencer, a student who, after sending a respectful and serious e-mail to select members of the faculty about the university's decision to reduce the school year by several days, was brought up on charges of spamming. She was then found guilty of spamming and had a formal 'Warning' placed in her file, potentially hurting her chances of obtaining employment or attending graduate school. After the intervention of FIRE and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with the support of eleven other civil liberties organizations, MSU withdrew the charges against Kara and promised to reform its spam policy. Unfortunately, the university has put in its place a new spam policy that is not much of an improvement. In fact, according to reports, an administrator admitted that Kara Spencer would still have been found guilty under the revised policy!

15 Tips For a Lousy Presentation

Read the article for more detail. How to Give a Lousy Presentation
1. Misspell words.

2. Create distracting color combinations.

3. Use inconsistent fonts.

4. Use a really small font size.

5. Insert improperly sized photos that are stretched to fit the slide.

6. Look completely and totally disinterested.

7. Look disheveled.

8. Read every word of each slide.

9. Don't bother with a backup plan.

10. Don't practice. At all.

11. Call attention to your mistakes.

12. Open with an offensive or off-color joke.

13. Use wild animations.

14. Use cartoon clip art.

15. Use ancient presentation software.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Turn Left You Must

I so want Yoda as my GPS voice.

Office Online: Google versus Microsoft

I got this today from my CIO. Google's push into higher ed is an interesting piece of this strategy. This includes providing an easy transition of student email to Gmail, promoting Google apps in higher ed, and supporting teacher training and professional development. Does Microsoft have anything similar in design and scope to Google's Teacher Academy?

It reminds me a lot of what Autodesk figured out with their now ubiquitous AutoCAD software. If you make the software easily available (e.g. cheap) to colleges and universities, they will use it with students. The students in-turn will become accustomed to using that software and expect to use that same software in industry. In fact, as they enter the workforce, these students will be asked to recommend software the enterprise should adopt and as they become more entrenched these are the employees making the purchasing decisions. There are many K-12 students and educators using Google Apps, giving Google a big lead and maybe the mindshare of future generations.

Google, Microsoft Jockey For Enterprise Dominance
don't count Google out. Young people are using Google Apps at home or at school, and increasing numbers are entering the workforce more familiar with Google Apps than Microsoft. Google Apps is getting enterprise street cred, too, with big deals, such as for 15,000 users with Genentech and 12,000 with Johnson Diversey.

And by the time Office Web comes out, Google will have had a 3.5-year head start in selling online apps to the enterprise. Microsoft will have to play catch up in an area increasingly dominated by Google.

WEP = Fail; WPA+TKIP = Fail

Cracking WPA in a minute - wow! WEP encryption has long been compromised, although I still see a number of networks using WEP. I've been advising individuals concerned about wireless security and my students to enable some sort of WPA encryption on their wireless networks. I really didn't focus on WPA + TKIP versus WPA + AES, although my students knew the difference and studied the evolution of wireless security. While we had briefly discussed the very small crack in WPA last year, we didn't take it much further. In my research, I determined that the conditions under which last years' crack occurred were very controlled and the possibility that this could become a full-blown intrusion was very unlikely. It looks like I'll have to amend my advice and update my lectures - use WPA with AES or WPA2, whichever your devices support.

New Attack Cracks Common Wi-Fi Encryption in a Minute
Computer scientists in Japan say they've developed a way to break the WPA encryption system used in wireless routers in about one minute.

The attack gives hackers a way to read encrypted traffic sent between computers and certain types of routers that use the WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption system. The attack was developed by Toshihiro Ohigashi of Hiroshima University and Masakatu Morii of Kobe University, who plan to discuss further details at a technical conference set for Sept. 25 in Hiroshima.

Last November, security researchers first showed how WPA could be broken, but the Japanese researchers have taken the attack to a new level, according to Dragos Ruiu, organizer of the PacSec security conference where the first WPA hack was demonstrated. 'They took this stuff which was fairly theoretical and they've made it much more practical,' he said.

They Japanese researchers discuss their attack in a paper presented at the Joint Workshop on Information Security, held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan earlier this month.

The earlier attack, developed by researchers Martin Beck and Erik Tews, worked on a smaller range of WPA devices and took between 12 and 15 minutes to work. Both attacks work only on WPA systems that use the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) algorithm. They do not work on newer WPA 2 devices or on WPA systems that use the stronger Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithm.

The encryption systems used by wireless routers have a long history of security problems. The Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) system, introduced in 1997, was cracked just a few years later and is now considered to be completely insecure by security experts.

WPA with TKIP 'was developed as kind of an interim encryption method as Wi-Fi security was evolving several years ago,' said Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director with the Wi-Fi Alliance, the industry group that certifies Wi-Fi devices. People should now use WPA 2, she said.

Great History of Visual Effects

Take Five Minutes to Watch 100 Years of Visual Effects

  • 1900 - The Enchanted Drawing
  • 1903 - The Great Train Robbery
  • 1923 - The Ten Commandments (Silent)
  • 1927 - Sunrise
  • 1933 - King Kong
  • 1939 - The Wizard of Oz
  • 1940 - The Thief of Baghdad
  • 1954 - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • 1956 - Forbidden Planet
  • 1963 - Jason and the Argonauts
  • 1964 - Mary Poppins
  • 1977 - Star Wars
  • 1982 - Tron
  • 1985 - Back to the Future
  • 1988 - Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • 1989 - The Abyss
  • 1991 - Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • 1992 - The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
  • 1993 - Jurassic Park
  • 2004 - Spider-Man 2
  • 2005 - King Kong
  • 2006 - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  • 2007 - Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
  • 2007 - The Golden Compass
  • 2008 - The Spiderwick Chronicles
  • 2008 - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Funny Fake iPhone Video

A Scientists Take on Google Wave

I've posted quite a bit on Google Wave. I think the project has tremendous potential to completely alter they way we communicate. Here's part of an interview Scientific American conducted with Biochemist Cameron Neylon, who was granted early access to Wave.

The science of Google Wave
What is Google Wave, and how might scientists use it?

It is a communication tool that is essentially e-mail crossed with an instant messenger. You can think of each 'wave'  or e-mail thread  as a flexible document, which allows collaborators to chat and edit the same version in real time. You can also easily drop rich media  such as sound files, charts and videos  into the document. So Google Wave could be used for collaborative authoring, to speed up writing papers and grant applications, for example.

However, it is also possible to create automatic programs that buzz around the document, annotating it in ways that are hidden from the human reader. The automated programs, or 'robots', make it possible to link to related scientific documents; mark up text so that, for example, protein names are automatically linked to a protein database; or pull in data from elsewhere and create live graphs that update as the data change.

Might this change the scientific manuscript?

Yes, in several ways. Documents created in Google Wave would be much richer, and one could convert them to the format of a published paper and retain all that annotation.

The real-time authoring and date-stamped recording of contributions also makes for an obvious way to create papers that aren't static, that are updated over time, perhaps in combination with one or many frozen versions of record.

How else can you see Google Wave affecting scientists?

I can imagine that the robots could really come in useful in a laboratory notebook. For example, as data come off a laboratory instrument via a computer, a program could insert them straight into the document. You might have another program that visualises those data for you. These widgets would help you control, monitor and observe an experiment, and even share that wave with someone else as a template for their experiment. Scientists could share their experimental processes in a way that's hard to do at the moment.

What have you actually done with the tool so far?

Relatively few people, perhaps 10,000, have had access to the developer sandbox so far, and perhaps only 100 of those are scientists. It is early days  we're at the playing stage.

I have made a robot that recognizes chemical names when triggered by the right text input, searches for information about them on ChemSpider [an open-access search for chemical information such as molecular structures], and can turn weights into molarities. Euan Adie, a product manager in Nature's web publishing group, has developed a 'references' robot that can search the PubMed archive of journal papers for related terms, and turn that text into correctly formatted citations.

Another Take on Green IT

My understanding of Green IT, to date, has been to gain an awareness of a devices energy consumption and heat output and have that awareness inform decisions in building, maintaining or expanding your IT infrastructure. That could mean choosing a vendor with a more "green" product, consolidating multiple servers onto one physical device, eliminating unnecessary redundancy, or identifying and replacing energy hogs in your infrastructure.

Here's a new approach from researchers at MIT and Carnegie Mellon that takes Green IT a step further - into the the router and into the cloud. Energy-Aware Internet Routing
An Internet-routing algorithm that tracks electricity price fluctuations could save data-hungry companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon millions of dollars each year in electricity costs. A study from researchers at MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, and the networking company Akamai suggests that such Internet businesses could reduce their energy use by as much as 40 percent by rerouting data to locations where electricity prices are lowest on a particular day.

Modern datacenters gobble up huge amounts of electricity and usage is increasing at a rapid pace. Energy consumption has accelerated as applications move from desktop computers to the Internet and as information gets transferred from ordinary computers to distributed 'cloud' computing services. For the world's biggest information-technology firms, this means spending upwards of $30 million on electricity every year, by modest estimates.

Asfandyar Qureshi, a PhD student at MIT, first outlined the idea of a smart routing algorithm that would track electricity prices to reduce costs in a paper presented in October 2008.

The researchers first analyzed 39 months of electricity price data collected for 29 major US cities. Energy prices fluctuate for a variety of reasons, including seasonal changes in supply, fuel price hikes, and changes in consumer demand, and the researchers saw a surprising amount of volatility, even among geographically close locations.
The team then devised a routing scheme designed to take advantage of daily and hourly fluctuations in electricity costs across the country. The resulting algorithm weighs up the physical distance needed to route information--because it's more expensive to move data further--against the likely cost savings from reduced energy use. Data collected from nine Akamai servers, covering 24 days of activity, provided a way to test the routing scheme using real-world data. The team found that, in the best scenario--one in which energy use is proportional to computing--a company could slash its energy consumption by 40 percent.

Drawing a Potentiometer with a Pencil Lead

Great DIY project, creating a poteniometer or variable resister using pencil lead. This is a great way to illustrate variable resistance and how a potentiometer works. I think it's also a great inexpensive way to get kids interest in electronics - gasp!

Make a Pencil's Lead Potentiometer (Experimentations) - More DIY How To Projects

via Make

Media Apps on the iPhone

Some thoughts from Michael Surtees on three iPhone media apps. I have all three installed on my iPhone and I have to agree, these are really well-done apps that create a great user experience.

3 iPhone Apps that Made Me Reconsider Media Consumption of Video, Sound and Text:
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve discovered three new iPhone apps that changed how I use my iPhone. I’m not talking about navigation per say like dragging or enlarging, but how traditional media files are consumed and interacted with. Those media types being video and sound files, along with simple text. While I haven’t had a ton of time to use the TED, Discovery Channel or NPR iPhone apps, they all made me go hmmm in a good way.

Each app packs a lot of info, but because of the limited screen real estate it’s actually quite easy to navigate and explore. When was the last time you went to a normal web site and had a great exploring experience? My favourite feature from TED iPhone app is that they’ve split the sound and video. Just because something is filmed doesn’t mean that the talk can’t be valuable as just a sound file. Plus the file size is a lot smaller. As for the Discover Channel app, I’ve never found myself in front of the TV checking out that channel as a destination. However I was able to quickly explore a lot of what the channel had to offer and watch some cool weather clips. The NPR app is something that all news outlets should study very closely. They’ve made the online experience of both reading and listening to news very easy and fast. They’ve managed to take some complicated issues like finding stations or topics manageable.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

David Pogue's Review of Snow Leopard

State of the Art - A Leap Forward With Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard truly is an optimized version of Leopard. It starts up faster (72 seconds on a MacBook Air, versus 100 seconds in Leopard). It opens programs faster (Web browser, 3 seconds; calendar, 5 seconds; iTunes, 7 seconds), and the second time you open the same program, the time is halved.

‘Optimized’ doesn’t just mean faster; it also means smaller. Incredibly, Snow Leopard is only half the size of its predecessor; following the speedy installation (15 minutes), you wind up with 7 gigabytes more free space on your hard drive. That, ladies and gents, is a first.
A lot of little fixes and features:
The Mac now adjusts its own clock when you travel, just like a cellphone. The menu bar can now show the date, not just the day of the week. The menu of nearby wireless hot spots now shows the signal strength for each. When you’re running Windows on your Mac, you can now open the files on the Macintosh “side” without having to restart. Icons can now be 512 pixels (several inches) square, turning any desktop window into a light table for photos.
Pogue's advice:
if you’re already running Leopard, paying the $30 for Snow Leopard is a no-brainer. You’ll feel the leap forward in speed polish, and you’ll keep experiencing those “oh, that’s nice” moments for weeks to come.

If you’re running something earlier, the decision isn’t as clear cut; you’ll have to pay $170 and get Snow Leopard with Apple’s creative-software suites — whether you want them or not.
and conclusion,
Either way, the big story here isn’t really Snow Leopard. It’s the radical concept of a software update that’s smaller, faster and better — instead of bigger, slower and more bloated. May the rest of the industry take the hint.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

texts from last night

Great blog I've been reading lately texts from last night
(541): my math teacher staples burger king applications to failed tests

Monday, August 24, 2009

Teaching the Digital Student

Great interview with S. Craig Watkins, an associate professor of radio, TV, and film at the University of Texas at Austin. In the interview, Professor Watkins discusses social media and social networking, and the implications for students and the classroom. I touched on similar ideas in Teaching and Learning - The Digital Student. In the two questions I've excerpted below, Watkins shares some great insights regarding todays' students. Can't wait for the book!

How Students, Professors, and Colleges Are, and Should Be, Using Social Media
His soon-to-be-published book, The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future, touches on those ideas.

Q. How has technology made today’s students different from students a decade ago?
They’re really the first generation of teenagers who grew up with the household computer and the Internet as a kind of everyday experience and everyday technology in the household. So they’re used to a much more active way of engaging their environment, a much more active way of gauging the information landscape. Have they developed a set of skills? Have they developed habits that are simply out of step with those more traditional ways of conducting or modeling a classroom? I think they have.

Q. How has today’s student changed how professors prepare their classes?
It’s really forcing university professors to think about their teaching style and the pedagogical techniques that they use in the classroom. In other words, I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with simply delivering a traditional lecture in the classroom. I’m beginning to debate whether or not it’s effective, whether or not it works, whether or not it’s a useful tool or a useful way to engage and create a kind of learning space or a learning environment. They’re active learners, as opposed to passive learners. That one-way flow of content -- I don’t know how effective that is anymore.

Hands-On the Key to Getting Kids in STEM

Great approach to getting kids interested in STEM careers. It's encouraging that they're working to engage kids as early as middle school and even fourth grade. Southern Maryland Schools Boost STEM Programs With Hands-On Experience
To answer the age-old question 'When am I going to use this?,' school systems in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties are working to enrich their science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs by using hands-on teaching, guest speakers and real-world experiments and applications.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

WiMax on Campus

A WiMax network on campus - great idea. Very forward thinking school. With a 30 mile range, more schools should build out WiMax network and offer low-cost access to under-served populations. Great idea for a broadband stimulus project!

Northern Michigan University teams with Motorola for campus-wide WiMAX
Northern Michigan University was fairly early to the game in offering laptops and campus-wide WiFi to its students, and it looks like it's now stepping things up even further with a little help from Motorola, which is providing the backend for NMU's new campus-wide WiMAX network (a first in the US). Better still, the university is also providing some brand new WiMAX-equipped ThinkPads to nearly 3,000 of the school's more than 9,000 students, and it's also making a range of laptop and desktop WiMAX adapters available to students with non WiMAX-enabled computers. With a radius of some 30 miles, the network will also encompass a number of off-campus sites, and be made available to local schools and municipal offices though a licensing arrangement.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Twitter Explained .. Sort of

Ben Stiller explains Twitter to Mickey Rooney. For you kids who've never heard of Mickey Rooney, here's his wikipedia page.

via Mashable

Doing Something Right

Wow, graduating women in engineering at over two-and-a-half times the national average. We need to discover what they're doing replicate their model all over the country!

UC Santa Cruz, 44% female graduates in engineering in 2007
Recruitment 101: In 2007, a survey of master’s degrees awarded by U.S. engineering schools showed that the University of California, Santa Cruz, ranked third in percentage of degrees awarded to women. Of the master’s degrees awarded by UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering in 2004-05, 44.2% went to women. In 2006, women made up 17.2% of engineering students nationally.

The Future of Education

Seth Godin has some really provacative thoughts on the future of education. In a brief post, Godin poses three critical questions that he thinks everyone in higher education is going to have to answer. Education at the crossroads
there are three choices that anyone offering higher education is going to have to make.
  1. Should this be scarce or abundant?
  2. Should this be free or expensive?
  3. Should this be about school or about learning?
According to Seth, there are some rocky times ahead:
The newly easy access to the education marketplace (you used to need a big campus and a spot in the guidance office) means that both the free and expensive options are going to be experimented with, because the number of people in the education business is going to explode (then implode).

If you think the fallout in the newspaper business was dramatic, wait until you see what happens to education.
That last bit comparing what will happen in education to what we're seeing with the newspaper business is particularly scary!

Given three questions with two choice each, Godin considers the possible combinations:
The combinations...

Imagine a school that's built around free, abundant learning. And compare it to one that's focused on scarce, expensive schooling. Or dream up your own combination. My recent MBA program, for example, was scarce (only 9 people got to do it) and it was free and focused on learning.

Just because something is free doesn't mean[sic] there isn't money to be made. Someone could charge, for example, for custom curricula, or focused tutoring, or for a certified (scarce) degree. When a million people are taking your course, you only need 1% to pay you to be happy indeed.

Eight combinations of the three choices are available and my guess is that all eight will be tried. If I were going to wager, I'd say that the free, abundant learning combination is the one that's going to change the world.
When around 50% of your operating budget comes from tuition how do you transition to a free model? Or do you? MIT's OpenWeb provides access to all of their classroom content for free, but you still have to pay to take an MIT course for credit. By freeing their content, MIT has generated more interest in MIT, which has resulted in an increase in applications.

Interesting times ahead...

In Praise of Online Learning

Great post from Don Tapscott at Grown Up Digital. I know many faculty that dipped their toes into online education in its' infancy and were less than impressed, finally giving up on the medium. But online education has come a long way and many people have worked hard to improve the tools, the training, and the quality control. I don't doubt that you'll still find some clunkers out there, but online learning has proven itself in higher ed and when done right is an important part of every schools' offerings.

One aspect of the report that I find particularly interesting is the efficacy of blended learning. I've always been a big believer in providing online content to my students to supplement the face-to-face content. Blended learning is a great way to connect with students with different learning styles, allow over-achievers to delve deeper into a topic, and as the study points out blended learning often includes additional learning time allowing students to proceed at their own pace and lets them repeat material they find difficult. Lastly, I think it's important we not underestimate the value of providing content to students in this digital environment that so many of them have grown up in and are so comfortable in.

Online learning boosts student performance
The U.S. Department of Education has just released a report comparing traditional face-to-face classroom instruction to learning supplemented or completely replaced by online learning. The conclusion: ‘Students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.’

The most effective teaching method blended face-to-face learning with online learning. The study notes that this blended learning often includes additional learning time because students can proceed at their own pace and lets them repeat material they find difficult.

Barbara Means, the study’s lead author and an educational psychologist at SRI International, was quoted on the New York Times’ website that ‘The study’s major significance lies in demonstrating that online learning today is not just better than nothing - it actually tends to be better than conventional instruction.’

There's even some insight into what has changed to make online courses so effective:
The story notes that until fairly recently, online education amounted to little more than electronic versions of the old-line correspondence courses. That has really changed with arrival of Web-based video, instant messaging and collaboration tools.

The real promise of online education is providing learning experiences that are more tailored to individual students than is possible in classrooms. In Grown Up Digital, I describe this as “student-focused” learning as opposed to traditional “teacher-focused” broadcast techniques with the teacher in front of a large class. The story correctly notes that online learning enables more “learning by doing,” which many students find more engaging and useful.

The moral of the story: Students would be better served with much of the curriculum being online. And to repeat what I said in the book, this does not mean a diminished role for teachers. Their time would be freed up to give extremely valuable one-on-one teaching.
[Emphasis added - MQ]

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Social Networking for Education

Many educators are puzzled by all the interest in Facebook and Twitter - questioning their educational uses and value. Here is an interesting web-based app (with mobile version targeted for the iPhone/iPod Touch) that allows students, educators and parents to connect with and learn from peers around the world. Pretty impressive list of schools involved already. If you're looking to bring social networking into your classroom, this may be worth a look.

9thPeriod - Making Education Social is a new and exciting academic based social educational network and academic platform. uses Web 2.0 tools and offers parents, students, teachers, academic experts, as well as institutions our services for the purposes of academic advancement.
Get matched with students taking the same high school and college classes, access to study materials, and get homework help!
via Jane's E-Learnig Pick of the Day

More Positive Signs for E-Books

I've been reading a lot using the Kindle app on my iPhone and have also downloaded the Barnes and Noble app and a few of the free e-book offerings. It's surprisingly a very good user experience on the small device, which I think will accelerate the acceptance and adoption of e-books.

Phones, PCs Put E-Book Within Reach of Kindle-less
A few weeks ago, Pasquale Castaldo was waiting at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport for a delayed flight, when a man sitting across from him pulled out an Amazon Kindle book-reading device.
'Gee, maybe I should think about e-books myself,' Castaldo thought.

He didn't have a Kindle, but he did have a BlackBerry . He pulled it out and looked for available applications. Sure enough, Barnes & Noble Inc. had just put up an e-reading program. Castaldo, 54, downloaded it, and within a minute, began reading Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice.'

As others are also discovering, the North Haven, Conn., banker found e-books quite accessible without a Kindle.

Apple Owns WiFi ...

At least according to network equipment manufacturer Merki. While the results are not unexpected, they would be more convincing from Cisco or Bluesocket - bigger, more well-known names in networking and wireless. This data is consistent with reported web traffic from mobile phones, particularly smartphones.
Apple a third of Wi-Fi use
"The first-ever census from network equipment manufacturer Meraki shows Apple's massive growth in the wireless device market. In the past year, the use of Apple devices on the company's networks has had a 221 percent increase, bolstered by new Wi-Fi devices like the iPod touch and iPhone.

While Apple held just 14 percent of the market share a year ago, the 2009 numbers show the hardware maker with 32 percent of the Wi-Fi capable devices observed. That success is undoubtedly driven by the popularity of the iPhone, which has been said to control most of the market for mobile Web use.

Year over year, the total number of Wi-Fi capable devices accessed grew significantly as well. In 2008, 149,687 total devices were seen, while a year later there were 41 percent more, hitting 211,190.

Compared to a year prior, the share of Intel devices dipped from 24 percent to 19 percent. Other hardware makers, too, lost share to Apple, with all other devices dropping from 62 percent to 49 percent. But Apple handset competitors Research in Motion and Nokia also saw their market share expand during the same frame. The BlackBerry maker controlled 8 percent of the Wi-Fi market in 2009, and Nokia took 2 percent.

'The growth in devices overall is impressive, but the growth for Apple, Nokia and RIM devices is stunning,' said Sanjit Biswas, CEO and co-founder of Meraki. 'It paints a vivid picture about how people now access the Internet, and the trends we can expect for years to come.'

Massive Growth Predicted for Smartphones - Apple, RIM Leading the Way

Scary numbers from analysts at RBC Capital Markets. There are a lot variables in this and the analysis assumes flawless execution from Apple, RIM, Palm, and other smartphone makers, but the trends is clear.
Analyst: Apple to Sell 80+ Million iPhones in 2012, Snag 5.7% of Total Mobile Phone Market
Apple's existing smartphone unit market share of 10.8% is expected to grow to 16.3% in 2012, but that growth would occur alongside expected growth of the smartphone share of the overall mobile market from ~10% to 35% over that time. The result is that Apple's overall mobile market share would grow from 1.1% in 2008 to 5.7% in 2012 on unit growth from 13.7 million in 2008 to 82.1 million in 2012.

Are We Near a Tipping Point for Digital Textbooks?

Interesting piece on the obstacles facing the adoption of digital books in academia. I agree that there are problems that won't be solved in one or two years, but I think five years is a reasonable timeframe. I don't think anyone would disagree that we've seen a paradigm shift in the last couple years, primarily with the launch of the Amazon Kindle. Amazon has not solved all of the issues, but they have proven that there is a viable market for e-books and manufacturers, developers, and content owners have taken note.

The title of the article is interesting as well. I see the biggest hurdles to e-book adoption not from student readiness, but faculty readiness and the willingness of publishers to let go of their aging business model. I think we're seeing movement in those directions, with Google and creative commons, faculty pilots at college and universities, iPhone apps from publishers CourseSmart and Pearson, as well as publishers releasing e-books, and even looking at rental models for their content.

Consider as a model The Pragmatic Programmer, which allows consumers to purchase the paper book bundled multiple format DRM-free e-books (PDF, epub, and mobi). So with one purchase, you have the content on paper, on your laptop, Kindle and iPhone. Unfortunately, not all publishers are as forward-thinking as Pragmatic, the devices are still too expensive and limited and there is not enough academic content available, but I think we're nearing a tipping point.

Digital Textbooks: 3 Reasons Students Aren't Ready
For higher education students who spend an average of $702 per year on course materials, mostly textbooks, the prospect of going digital is an appealing one. Among the theoretical benefits of digital textbooks is the possibility of significant cost savings due to lower overhead costs — bits are cheaper than printed pages, after all. Unfortunately, students shouldn’t chuck their backpacks any time soon; there still exist some major hurdles that digital textbooks must overcome before they widely replace traditional, printed textbooks on college (and high school) campuses.
The reasons cited for lack of student readiness are:

  1. Cost Savings Must be Greater
  2. A Standard Format is Needed
  3. Questions of Ownership
The article concludes:
Digital textbooks are indeed a potential game changer, and they are likely going to be a major part of the future of academia. A year from now, the National Associated of College Stores estimates that digital textbooks could account for 15% of all textbook sales. However, for that to happen, textbook publishers, ebook reader manufacturers, and schools must first address some of the major hurdles that are making students wary of electronic books.

iTunes Continues to Gain Ground

I'm surprised that iTunes is only at 25%. I don't know many people that buy music CDs anymore. Interesting that Walmart's combined digital and bricks-and-motar sales still only account for 14% of sales. In the digital-only market Amazon trails iTunes with only 8% of sales.

A couple of factors this study did not consider would interest me. This study didn't include ringtone downloads, which I think is a significant sector of the digital marketplace. Lastly, I wonder if the illegal file-sharing "market," which is understandably hard to measure, dwarfs iTunes, Walmart, and Amazon combined.
The NPD Group reported Tuesday that Apple's iTunes Store is responsible for selling one in four songs in the United States.

via Macworld

Impact of the iPhone on Photography

flickr iphone1.png
iPhone to Become #1 Camera on Flickr

a reflection of the intense popularity of mobile smartphones and specifically the rise of the iPhone. You always have a camera in your pocket (and with the 3GS, a camcorder too). Just as important is that it’s easy to upload your pictures directly from your mobile phone to your Flickr account. That’s something most digital cameras can’t do, since they aren’t connected to 3G or Wifi connections.
The impact is even more startling when you compare flickr uploads from the iPhone to other camera phones. I'd love to see a timeline on the x-axis to better understand this data. It looks like the was an initial ramp up in iPhone traffic (maybe) the release of the 1st generation iPhone, then a plateau, and finally another spike - the iPhone 3G?
flickr iphone2.png

Monday, August 17, 2009

In Defense of Information Design

Interesting example of information design done wrong. I'm not sure /i completely understand the "after" example, but it's much better than the before.


Political Chart Wars: Health-Care Reform Obfuscated by Infographics - information aesthetics
Recently, Rep. John Boehner, an American politician of the Republican Party who is currently serving as the House Minority Leader in Congress, released an information chart illustrating the organization of the House Democrats' health plan. As some insist, the problem with this chart is that it seems to have been optimized by Republicans to support their contention that this bill is overly complicated and a bureaucratic nightmare. The chart itself [] has touched some nerves, in particular in the field of infographic design, evidenced by a redesigned version and a quite emotional accompanying letter ...
Robert Palmer's redesign and open letter to Rep. Boehner @

From Palmer's letter:
Dear Rep. Boehner,

Recently, you released a chart purportedly describing the organization of the House Democrats' health plan. I think Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree that the problem is very complicated, no matter how you visualize it.

By releasing your chart, instead of meaningfully educating the public, you willfully obfuscated an already complicated proposal. There is no simple proposal to solve this problem. You instead chose to shout "12! 16! 37! 9! 24!" while we were trying to count something.

So, to try and do my duty both to the country and to information design (a profession and skill you have loudly shat upon), I have taken it upon myself to untangle your delightful chart.


iPhone Tricks - NPR News

Great app for NPR News. Gives you access to text-based stories, live streams and archives of programs, and stations from across the country. Great content and a really well-done app. A free download too!

Help Coming for Your OpenWeb Initiative


MIT, Yale and others have been lauded for their Open Web initiatives - making their courses available online for free. Now Carnegie Mellon is going to help community college get on the open web bandwagon.

New Carnegie Mellon U. Project Will Build Online Community-College Courses
Carnegie Mellon University is expanding its open online-learning efforts with a new project focused on community colleges.

The Community College Open Learning Initiative is the second wave of an educational experiment that gained attention recently from the Obama administration. Carnegie Mellon's work has given about 300 classrooms around the world access to software-enhanced, college-level online-course material in subjects like biology and statistics. These digital environments track students’ progress, give them feedback, and tip off professors about where students are struggling so the instructors can make better use of class time.

Now Carnegie Mellon plans to work with a consortium of community colleges to set up four 'high gatekeeper' courses, defined as classes that have poor success rates but are important to getting degrees. The goal is to raise completion rates by 25 percent in those courses. The courses will be team-designed by community-college faculty experts, scientists who study how people learn, human-computer-interaction specialists, and software engineers.

iPhone Tricks: Back-To-School Apps

Great looking back-to-shool app for the iPhone and the iPod touch. Moderately priced at $2.99 with a four-star rating on the app store. Wether you're a student looking for help organizing your studies, or know of a student who could you a little help, this might be a great app to consider. Read the reviews here and features listed below.

iStudiez Pro for iPhone & iPod Touch
A student's life is a dizzying mix of activity and just plain craziness! Take charge of your schedule and put iStudiez Pro to work for you!

Take advantage of iStudiez Pro easy navigation and never miss another course, lecture and lab, track tasks and deadlines, plan homework, arrange assignments and much more!

iStudiez Pro Features:

  • Smart Today view automatically displays summary of current classes and tasks after basic schedule was input
  • Fully-featured and detailed schedule planner
  • Interactive multifunctional calendar including expanded month and week views
  • Color labels to mark each particular course
  • Stylish and comprehensively designed icons to distinguish key class types
  • Support of iPhone/iPod's touch unique features like device rotation and touch gestures
  • Integrated address book
  • English, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), Czech, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Slovak, Spanish and Ukrainian language versions included!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Outsourcing the Drive-Thru

This isn't new - Tom Friedman in The World Is Flat, points to the example of a reservation system for restaurants that is done remotely. Let's assume that, as the article states, this is not a cost-savings move. Instead the goal of this outsourcing is to "improve order accuracy and free up workers." Isn't it troubling that they couldn't find anyone on their current staff - or for that matter - anyone in Sellersburg, Indiana to accurately take orders? Even a stay-at-home mom in Indiana couldn't do the job? Strange ...

McDonald's experiments by using drive through operators who work from home
Instead of getting the usual greeting from a restaurant worker shouting over the din of a noisy kitchen, customers who drive through the McDonald's in Sellersburg, Ind., might have their orders taken by a stay-at-home mom in North Dakota.

That McDonald's is the first in the Louisville area to experiment with off-site order takers. The drive-through speakers are operated mainly by home workers in rural states like North Dakota and Montana. They punch in orders on home computers and transmit them to screens in the Sellersburg restaurant's kitchen.

The store has been running the system since December.

Rather than saving money, the goal is to improve order accuracy and free up workers to fill orders faster, he said. Increased efficiency could lead to more sales, Yelenosky added.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Economy, Community Colleges, and Jobs

Great piece in the New York Times highlighting the important role of community colleges play in workforce development. Congratulations to all my friends and colleagues at Sinclair for being the focus of a great article. There's still time left before our fall semesters begin - everyone grab these quotes (highlighted below) and begin marketing your college and your program!

Sinclair Community College Aims at Jobs, Not Degrees
When Todd Sollar was laid off after 11 years at General Motors, he enrolled at Sinclair Community College in downtown Dayton to study robotics.

‘Hopefully, with a degree I’ll be marketable for a job,’ said Mr. Sollar, 32, who has overcome his nervousness about not fitting in because of his age. In fact, he is thriving, getting A’s and B’s, far better than in high school where he said officials had wrongly pegged him as having a learning disability.

As legions of displaced autoworkers and others face the prospect that their onetime jobs may be gone forever, many like Mr. Sollar will need training for a fresh start.

And perhaps the best place for them will be community colleges, long the workhorses of American higher education, workhorses that get little respect. In an unforgiving economy, these colleges provide lifelines not only for laid-off workers in need of a new career, but for recent high school graduates who find that many types of entry-level jobs now require additional skills.

President Obama has embraced the nation’s community colleges, arguing that they are vital bulwarks against the decline of the middle class — and of America’s competitiveness. [emphasis added - MQ]

Friday, August 14, 2009

Do You Know What Your Teenagers Are Doing Online?

According to the study referenced here, probably not. Maybe this is a good opportunity to share this information with your teens and have a frank discussion of online dos and don'ts. Here's an assignment I give kids in the Student Activity Guide for my Engineering and Technology textbook:
Work with your parents to create a Media Use Contract, which will establish rules and limits appropriate for you and your online activities. You should include in this how your parents intend to monitor you, your expectation of privacy and potential consequences should the contract be broken. 
Maybe it's time to sit down with your kids and write your own Media Use Contract.

Parents underestimate teenagers’ online activity
Common Sense Media has released a national poll of teens and parents on social networking behaviors that confirms teenagers continue to find social media sites compelling and that parents may not be fully aware of what their offspring are doing online.

Highlights of the poll’s key findings include:

  • 22% of teens check social networking sites more than 10 times a day, while only 4% of parents believe kids are checking that much
  • 51% of teens check social networking sites more than once a day, while only 23% of parents say their kids check more than once a day
Not all activities are positive:
  • 28% of teens have shared personal information that they normally wouldn’t have shared in public
  • 25% of teens have shared a profile with a false identity
  • 39% of teens have posted something they regretted
  • 26% of teens have pretended to be someone else online
  • 25% of teens have created a profile with a false identity.
  • 24% of teens have hacked into someone else’s social networking account.
  • 13% of teens have posted nude or seminude pictures or videos of themselves or others online.

Prezi Is Testing an Embed Feature

In my quest to find new ways to present information, I'm always on the lookout for new tools, new ways of presenting, and great examples of visualization. Prezi is a tool I stumbled upon a couple years ago. I haven't done a whole lot with Prezi - other than creating a couple simple presentations.
Earlier this year, I posted a video showing Prezi in action. To share this presentation, I had to open a screen recorder, record the Prezi while narrating, upload to a video hosting site, and finally embed. This got the job done, but not an ideal solution. Fortunately, some updates at Prezi promise to make things a little easier.
Prezi team proudly presents the tech pre-release of our new embed feature. From now on, you can embed any public presentation to your blog or website.
The ability to embed a Prezi will be a really great addition and make Prezi even more useful. Here are two examples of how a Prezi presentation might be embedded.

Embedded Prezi with simple navigation mode

Click play button and wait: Prezi plays automatically

Do I Really Need Office 2010?

Or even Office 2007[PC]/Office 2008 [Mac]? Dan Miller at Macworld doesn't think so. He has some less than kind words in response to the announcement of Office 2010 from Microsoft.

I have to admit I prefer iWork to Office, using Keynote, Word, and Numbers as my three primary "Office" apps. I also use OpenOffice now and again. My presentations have really benefited from Keynote and I've created some really stunning charts and tables using Numbers. I use Pages on occasion, but always fall back on Word, not necessarily because it's better - it's just comfortable, sort of like an old worn sweatshirt.

As for Miller's criticisms, I agree Office is over-priced and I'm still at a loss to explain why it was necessary to upgrade - other than to open those pesky .docx files. Speaking of those files, what benefit does the average user get from saving as a docx versus a doc file? I know I don't particularly care which format I use, so I haven't derived any tangible benefit from docx.

What do you think?

Tear down those Office walls, Microsoft
My first reaction to Microsoft’s Thursday announcement that it will release a new version of its Office suite for the Mac in 2010 can be summed up in one word: Why? The very notion of a software suite like Office seems completely out-of-date.
Miller's reasoning for a new version of Office, because the suite accounts for about 30 percent of Microsoft’s overall revenue.
while you might have plausibly claimed that Office’s individual components were the best in their respective categories a decade ago, that’s not the case today.
Microsoft’s products are aging badly. ... To me, Office’s apps are clunkier than ever.
And the proprietary Office file formats are looking sillier all the time. It used to be that everyone I worked with used Word, and we exchanged everything in .doc format.
The solution?
Rather than committing to one monolithic suite, I want a choice of smaller, interoperable tools.
... There are too many affordable (or free) alternatives for me to rationalize spending $100 or more, particularly when I'm getting tools I don't need.

Google, Books, and Creative Commons

I think this is a great development for the sharing of knowledge. If you're unfamiliar with Creative Commons, read up on it. It's a great way to share your academic content, get a greater audience for that content, and allow other to build on that content. You can do this all while retaining your copyright of the work.

Google Hopes Readers Can Download, Share, and Use Books
Authors who feared the expansion of Google Books' library, or who felt the company was hoarding books and filling its own coffers, now have a little less to worry about.

Google announced today that it will let authors use Google Books to distribute works that they have published under Creative Commons licenses. Readers will be able to download the copyrighted books and share them with other Google Books users as long as they comply with the authors' decisions on how the material can be used. (There are six different Creative Commons licenses, which let authors require, among other things, that their books can be repurposed only with attribution or only for non-commercial use.)

Nine books are already available to download, including Code: Version 2, by Lawrence Lessig, a director of Creative Commons, who is an advocate for open-access for books.

More News on Textbooks

More to add to the news of CourseSmart's iPhone app with access to 7,000 textbooks and Cengage's plan to rent textbooks to students.

Math is a huge obstacle for many (most) students and an app that will help students learn math is a no-brainer. With the skyrocketing cost of textbooks, an app that will let students comparison shop is also a must have.

I'm interested to see how this impact royalties too. I'll take a look at my Cengage contract and see if there's any wording that would cover this sort of distribution.

iPhone Textbook Apps Just Keep Coming
For algebra students who need extra help, Pearson Higher Education has rolled out its AlgebraPrep app, with tutorials and mini-tests you can take at the student union while waiting for class to begin. The first tutorial, on factoring, will set students back $2.99 at the iTunes store. Pearson promises future modules on quadratic equations, rationals, and several other topics.

Students can even use the iPhone to buy paper textbooks online. Bigwords, a book-shopping Web site, now offers its own app that does price comparisons of particular books from various online sellers. It will calculate shipping costs and discount offers, too.
It will be interesting to see what royalties the professor-authors of these books realize through these various new distribution channels.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Talking Tweets

This is more than I can take. I really don't need my tweets read to me.

Twuner for iPhone, iPod touch reads out Twitter posts
Krystronix has launched Twuner...
Twuner reads out Twitter posts—it will even play them while listening to music, with tweets announced then music playback automatically resumed.

Great Idea

If you're having a baby soon (hint Lara) and have a digital camera, this is a really neat little first year project.

Textbook? There's an App for That!

CourseSmart - iPhone App
When you purchase eTextbooks from CourseSmart you will have access from any computer with Internet access as well as the iPhone application. Study the way that fits your schedule, whether that's viewing text in the screen, printing out pages to read, or copy and pasting important passages into study guides.
  • View all your eTextbooks at once
  • Search eTextbooks using keywords
  • Quickly View your Notes
  • Easily Reference Table of Contents
  • Zoom or scroll as you Read Pages
  • View multiple pages. Jump to what you need
On the question of using a small screen for textbooks, The Apple Blog writes:
People might be quick to note that the iPhone’s small screen is hardly ideal for working with text books, most of which have larger than average publishing formats, which is why Amazon went about creating the Kindle DX in the first place. CourseSmart isn’t trying to sell people on the idea of using the pocket device as a straight-up substitute for all other learning aids, though. The app is designed to supplement its existing catalogue of e-textbooks on other platforms, not replace it entirely.

Funny Classroom Stories

It's tough to be a teacher, especially when you're not in on the joke. I think the best teachers have a sense of humor and don't take themselves too seriously.

Recruited by Teach for America, Molly has starting teaching in the Mississippi Delta. Her fifth-period class has 19 13-year-old boys and only a few girls. It’s a high-energy class.

‘Ms. Hildebrand, what’s that state that starts with an I?’ ‘Illinois?’ ‘No’ ‘Indiana?’ ‘No’ ‘Iowa?’ ‘No’ ‘Idaho?’ ‘haha thats right… [insert all class laughing here….]’ Around four oclock this afternoon I got why they were laughing… I da hoe…. wonderful….I really showed my authority to that period…..

I once witnessed a young science teacher trying to lead a discussion about the planets. You’ll guess his ninth graders’ favorite planet.

Renting Your Textbooks

Interesting move by a big name publisher. I have a textbook with Cengage and use many of their books in my classes. I know many of my students would jump at the chance to rent their $100 textbook for $40 - especially in a down economy. While I held on to nearly every textbook I ever used, I find today's students rarely keep their books. I'm not sure why this is the case. Maybe it's the proliferation of the Internet as a source of information, or the fact that many of textbooks are obsolete almost as quickly as they are published - particularly in technology fields.

Textbook Publisher Offers Rental Plan
In the rapidly evolving college textbook market, one of the nation’s largest publishers, Cengage Learning, announced on Thursday that it will start renting books to students later this year, at 40 to 70 percent of the sale price.

Students who choose Cengage’s rental option will get immediate access to the first chapter of the book electronically, in e-book format, and will have a choice of shipping options for the printed book. When the rental term — 60, 90, or 130 days — is over, students can either return the textbook or purchase it.

With the growing competition from online used-book sales, digital texts and new Internet textbook-rental businesses like Chegg and BookRenter, other publishers and college bookstores are also edging toward rentals.

Follett Higher Education Group, which manages more than 850 college bookstores, is starting a pilot rental program this fall at about a dozen stores, including those at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan, and California State University-Sacramento. The stores will offer about 20 percent of their titles for rent, charging 42.5 percent of the purchase price.

John Gruber on Recent Microsoft News

Some good points from John Gruber on Microsoft's impending Zune HD and the announcement of Outlook for Mac in late 2010.

Zune HD Available on September 15:
Clearly, the Zune HD is going to be compared to the iPod Touch. Its biggest shortcoming is that it’s just a media player and web browser; no apps, no games. The Zune HD prices look good compared to today’s iPod Touches, but not so much compared to the new camera-equipped ones Apple is set to announce next month (16/32/64 GB for $199/299/399).

New Outlook for Mac App Replaces Entourage in Next Version of Office, Scheduled for Late 2010
I concur with this tweet from Snell — that they’re pre-announcing this so far in advance to discourage current Entourage users from switching to the new Exchange-compatible versions of Apple Mail and iCal in Snow Leopard.

No More Albums for Radiohead

An artist that gets digital gives up making full-length albums. I think this is a trend that we will see continue.

Radiohead Says No More Albums - Digits - WSJ
Radiohead said in a magazine interview that it wouldn’t release any more full-length albums, instead focusing on downloadable singles like its recently released ‘Harry Patch (In Memory Of)’ and shorter EPs.

‘None of us want to go into that creative hoo-ha of a long-play record again. Not straight off,’ said Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, in an interview with the Believer. ‘I mean, it’s just become a real drag. It worked with ‘In Rainbows’ because we had a real fixed idea about where we were going. But we’ve all said that we can’t possibly dive into that again. It’ll kill us.’

Outlook For Mac Comming Next Year

Interesting ... I run OWA (web-based) on a Mac, so having Outlook on the desktop would be an improvement. Unfortunately, I'm not a big fan of Outlook or exchange server. Microsoft Finally Making Outlook For Mac:
Apple (AAPL) Mac users will no longer be subjected to Microsoft's (MSFT) crappy Entourage email app: The company says it's finally making Outlook for Mac as a part of a new Office bundle, which will be available late next year.

Why now? Perhaps because Apple is offering Microsoft Exchange support in the next version of its OS X operating system, which will ship in August, and Microsoft needs to give companies another reason to keep paying for Office. (And, in this case, upgrade.)

Visualizing Revenues Of The Top Cell Phone Manufacturers

Great visualization showing Apples impact on the cell phone industry.

A Visualized Look At The Estimated Revenues Of The Top Cell Phone Manufacturers:
With the recent announcements of 2nd quarter earnings, some incredible data has been released. The cell phone handset industry has sold over $65B in the last 6 months. Of that, 9.7% was pocketed by the companies. It was recently announced that Apple received 32% of the total handset market's profits, equivalent to a whopping $2,038,000,000, all from selling the iPhone. Prior to paying expenses, the net revenue Apple earned from the iPhone is over 5 billion dollars. These figures astounded us, so we did a little more research. The graphic below visualizes what these numbers actually mean by comparing operating profits, operating margins, and net revenues.
cell phone industry revenue-800wi.png
As you can see, Apple does not have the highest revenue. It is trumped by LG, Samsung, Nokia, and RIMM. However, Apple has the highest profit margin - 40%. The second highest operating margin is RIMM with 20.7%...almost half. It's pretty impressive on Apple's part to be showing these kind of numbers, considering the fact that all the other companies in the race have been in the business for much longer.
via Gizmodo

Map Of The Day: Night and Day in NYC - Gothamist

In an earlier post, Cities Without Subways, I linked to a blog post detailing the equivalent car traffic that would be required to replace the NYC subway. I included a really great visualization that made the case more easily than any word could. Here's a visualization on a similar topic - number of people in NYC during the day and at night. This mapped bar chart approach is a great way to present this data and really makes clear just how many people commute into New York each day.
Map Of The Day: Night and Day in NYC
The city may never sleep, but there are significantly less people in it during the witching hours. This neat illustration shows just how many people commute in for work only to go enjoy their nights in... Jersey? If you look closely you'll also see that Roosevelt Island's population doubles at night; what exactly is going on over there?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Google Wave on the iPhone

This is very cool - can't wait.
Google Wave for iPhone looks awesome – now with realtime text display – The Next Web: "What’s particularly interesting is the iPhone version of Wave. Using the HTML 5 capability of the mobile Safari browser, it allows for almost every feature of the desktop version. Back when the mobile version of Wave was revealed, realtime text display was missing as Google hadn’t worked out how to transmit all that data reliably. A solution has been developed and text now appears on the phone’s screen character-by-character as it’s typed by another user, just as it does on the desktop.

As you’ll see, there’s lots of room for improvement. Still, it’s testament to the power of HTML 5 that an application as complicated as Wave is working on a tiny device such as the iPhone.

Recession? Don't Tell Smartphones

Continued data showing strong growth in the Smartphone sector of Mobile - in spite of a decline in overall mobile sales.Gartner Says Worldwide Mobile Phone Sales Declined 6 Per Cent and Smartphones Grew 27 Per Cent in Second Quarter of 2009
Worldwide mobile phone sales totalled 286.1 million units in the second quarter of 2009, a 6.1 per cent decrease from the second quarter of 2008, according to Gartner, Inc. Smartphone sales surpassed 40 million units, a 27 per cent increase from the same period last year, representing the fastest-growing segment of the mobile-devices market (see Table 2).
gartner smartphones.png
Smartphone sales were strong during the second quarter of 2009, with sales of 40.9 million units in line with Gartner's forecast of 27 per cent year-on-year sales growth for 2009," said Ms Milanesi. "Given the higher margins, smartphones offer the biggest opportunity for manufacturers. It is the fastest-growing market segment and the most resistant to declining ASPs."

Apple's expansion into a larger number of countries in the past year has produced a clear effect on sales volumes, as have the recent price adjustments on the 8GB 3G iPhone. Sales of 5.4 million units in the second quarter of 2009 indicated a 509 per cent growth in shipments and helped Apple maintain the No. 3 position in the smartphone market, where it has stayed since the third quarter of 2008. Apple brought its much-anticipated new device — the iPhone 3G S — to market at the end of the second quarter of 2009, but its full potential will only start to show in the sales figures in the second half of 2009.

230 mpg Chevy Volt = Bad Math

Google software engineer Mark Chu-Carroll on the Chevy Volt's announced 230 mpg.

The Chevy Volt Gets 230 mpg? Only if you use bad math. : Good Math, Bad Math
Chevy has announced that for city driving, the Volt will get gas mileage of 230 miles per gallon.

That's nonsense. Pure, utter rubbish.

The trick is that they're playing with the definition of mileage. In city driving, the Volt is primary an electric car: it's powered by its batteries which you must recharge every night, not by gasoline. On average, you can drive it for about 40 miles on a full charge before it needs to start using any gasoline.

The 'mileage' figure, as it's presented, is really meaningless - because it's being presented for a situation in which the gasoline engine almost never runs at all.

They compute it by basically saying: 'If I fully charge the car battery every night, how far will I drive the car in typical city commuting conditions before it's consumed a gallon of gas'.

What if you drive your volt around the city all day? Your mileage will drop to around 50 miles per gallon once you've driven more than 40 miles. If you drive your car 100 miles in a day, you'll consume a bit over a gallon of gas. That's very impressive. But it's absolutely not what you'd expect after being told that it gets 230 miles per gallon.

The method that GM used to produce that mileage figure is extremely dishonest and completely uninformative. The 'real' effective mileage (excluding the cost of charging the car - which will be significant!) varies depending on the length of your commute.

My wife could commute in a Volt, and never put gas in it: her commute is about 12 miles each way - so she'd effectively have infinite mileage according to GMs method. If I commuted in a volt, I'd get something around 288 miles per gallon. (My commute is 24 miles each direction, leaving me with 8 miles per day running on gas; so about 6 days of my commute would consume a gallon of gas; that's 288 miles.) If one of my friends, who commutes 45 miles each direction per day, were to commute in a Volt, he'd end up burning a gallon of gas per day - getting around 90 miles per gallon.

iPhone Tricks

iPhone app from Weber Grills. A little pricey at $4.99, but making me hungry! Click here to grab the app or read more about it ... hmmm!

More on Android versus iPhone


In response to my post on the Android versus iPhone, an anonymous reader makes some good points and a case for the MyTouch 3G from T-Mobile. I agree Calacanis makes way too much of it in his post - The Case Against Apple-in Five Parts - sounds like a legal brief.
That's all good and fine, but why, literally, make a national case out of it?

As for myself, I too was quite frustrated with the double A's limits put on MY phone so I tried the G1 with Cupcake and found the GUI and OS experience quite refreshing but the hardware was just not for me. So now I finally get exactly what I want - the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G. Its been over a week and it's the Best of both worlds...the FORM factor I like with the OS that I NEED!

Not only the best phone, but my cell bill is 40% lower!!! (AND it fits just right in my pockets, too...and don't believe those rumours about the keypad being too small...remember when my Iphone came out I heard the same things!!!)

Gartner Hype Cycle 2009

I love graphs like this. I don't know how accurate they are or if they can be used for long-term or short-term planning, but I enjoy exploring them. In particular, I like to compare my own estimation of technology versus that of paid technology/trends researchers and pundits.

So here's a quick rundown of my hype zeitgeist. At my college, I'm pushing the adoption of Cloud Computing and E-Book Readers, while nationally I've been advocating for greater adoption of Web 2.0 into education. Web 2.0 is pretty well established (pretty much a no-brainer) at this point. Cloud Computing is a little more cloudy (sorry) with competing definitions, standards, and vendors. The Kindle and E-Books Readers are still an unproven technology - particularly in education, but signs are good, as more publishers go digital and more users demand digital.

I can also point to a number of colleagues and colleges working in many of these fields. For example, Gordon Snyder is leading the push for Microblogging, Internet TV, and WiMax [missing from the list]. Karl Kapp is a national expert in 3D Virtual Worlds and education. Ann Beheler, Pete Brierley, Bill Saichek, Helen Sullivan, and Ann Blackman, from the Convergence Technology Center are the goto source on GreenIT and Telepresence - even linking the two. If you want information on 3D printing, visit Rapidtech at Saddleback College and Mobile Robots the National Robotics Training Center at Florence-Darlington Community College. Or Phil Davis, Vince DiNoto, Ming-Hsiang Tsou, and Kenneth Yanow, working with Location-Aware Devices and Applications as part of GeoTech. I'm sure there's many more of us on the curve.

Gartner Hype Cycle 2009: Web 2.0 Trending Up, Twitter Down

Analyst firm Gartner has just released its latest Hype Cycle white paper, detailing some of the biggest trends in technology this year. According to the report, cloud computing, e-books and Internet TV are at the 'Peak of Inflated Expectations,' while this year's biggest hit Twitter is said to have 'tipped over the peak' and is just about to enter the infamous 'Trough of Disillusionment.' Social software suites and other microblogging services are likewise starting their downward trend. Interestingly, web 2.0 is deemed to be nearly past the Trough and entering the 'Slope of Enlightenment.'


Web 2.0, cloud computing, Internet TV and RFID are all labeled "transformational" by Gartner, meaning that they are predicted to have a big impact on the market. Microblogging is only ranked "moderate," so Gartner doesn't think that Twitter is a very meaningful technology.


Online Banking with a Twist

USAA is an online banking, mutual fund, and insurance provider available to active-duty officers, enlisted personnel, their children, national guard members, officer candidates, and former military personnel. One challenge of running an online bank - with no physical locations - is allowing members to make deposits. USAA's solution to date has been to allow members to scan and fax in checks. With the launch of this new iPhone app (and an upcoming Blackberry app) users can now photograph the front and back of their checks and make deposits without leaving home - or from wherever they are deployed.

Hands on with USAA's iPhone check deposits
USAA has just updated its free iPhone application, adding the ability to deposit checks with just an iPhone camera. The bank had previously allowed members to file deposits with a scanner in a similar manner; you just log in and upload images of the front and back of the check.

I installed the iPhone software and tested out the deposit process. I had to repeat several steps, but everything seemed to work well the second time I tried. Legible handwriting counts again for the first time since grade school.
The software then instructs you to shoot the front of the check on a dark, non-reflective surface. Even lighting seems to help. You’ll snap the photo, approve the layout, and repeat the process on the back of the check.

The software asks you to specifically sign and endorse the check with your account number. (It thoughtfully adds your own number into its example.) I captured that image and then tried to complete the deposit.

It didn’t work. I tried retaking the check images on a black book, and the software still rejected me, saying it couldn’t read the check or my endorsement properly.

I ended up writing a new check, more carefully marking the amount and account numbers, since USAA’s image-recognition software had stumbled. The new check worked the first time I tried the upload. When finished, the program asks you to void the check and file it away, or shred it.

USAA lacks physical bank locations, so this iPhone app could be a perfect match for its customers. The company will also roll out the service for BlackBerry phones this year and other camera-phones in 2010. As long as your writing is clear, the process works well, letting you deposit checks anywhere.

Paying Students to Pass Tests

Interesting concept, pay students to perform. This approach - paying for passed AP tests - is more sensible than a failed attempt I'm familiar with, which payed students to just show up. The early results are promising - a 17% year-to-year increase in the number of tests taken, and a 20% increase in the number of tests passed, but I'm not convinced this is the solution to our education woes. For example, how do you scale this approach? And what happens to these kids next year, and the following year, when the financial incentive goes away.

Schools in Reach Program Report That More Pass A.P. Tests
A program that offers students up to $1,000 for passing Advanced Placement exams has shown some success, with more students at 31 city high schools earning passing scores, according to officials in charge of the effort.

The program, called Reach, or Rewarding Achievement, involves students at 26 public and 5 Catholic schools with large minority enrollments. The number of students passing A.P. exams at those schools rose this year to 1,240 from 1,161.

The number of tests taken at those schools — many students take tests in multiple subjects — increased by more than 800, to 5,436, and the number of passing grades by 302, to 1,774. The passing rate edged up slightly, to 33 percent from 32.


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