Monday, January 31, 2011

7 Digital Trends for 2011

Loic Le Meur's talk on future trends "digital convergence"
7 digital trends at Davos 2011 [World Economic Forum talk]
1. digital convergence is actually about sharing in more and more places

2. Everything in the Cloud means less privacy

3. The web has a deep impact on our brain

4. Location getting social is a game changer

5. Everything is becoming a platform

6. Even your own body is becoming a platform

7. Social networking + objects = social objects

College Freshmen and the Economy

Less likely to go to their first choice, staying closer to home, and relying on multiple sources to pay for college.
Economy Changed Freshmen's Plans but Didn't Shake Their Confidence:
Freshmen across the country also acknowledge the impact of the recession, with 62.1 percent saying the current economic situation had significantly affected their college choice. Compared with students who reported no effect, those who felt the pinch were almost as likely to have been accepted by their first-choice institutions (78 percent versus 80.3 percent), but notably less likely to have enrolled there (55.2 percent versus 68.8 percent).
Students who said the economy had changed their plans were less likely to be going to a college more than 100 miles away from home (43.8 percent versus 55.3 percent) and more likely to be living with family members (17.6 percent versus 11.4 percent). The unemployment rate of students' fathers, 4.9 percent, rose slightly over last year's mark, to the highest level since the survey began tracking the figure, in 1971. For mothers, the unemployment rate this year was also a record high, 8.6 percent.
Over all, students show reliance on multiple sources to pay for college, according to the report. More than half of freshmen reported using loans, and almost three-quarters said they'd received grants and scholarships, the highest proportion since the survey began asking that question, in 2001.

Mike Cane on Windows 7 Versus the iPad

Windows 7: The Best iPad Seller!:
So today I had to help someone set up some things on a new Windows 7 notebook.
This is a notebook mainly used for casual offline game-playing.
Until today.
When it had to get on the Internet.
And really, the Internet tasks it will do are ordinary things: email and some online game-playing.

Here is some of what I had to go through with this Windows 7 notebook:
29 and a half steps later he concludes with:
What huge step would have been needed to do email and play games on an iPad?
Press the On button and enjoy!
And Steve Ballmer has trouble understanding why people are buying the iPad? Srsly, Ballmer?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Is Microsoft Irrelevant?

I think they are in mobile and online - see the two stories below.

For the First Time in My 20 Year Career, Microsoft is Irrelevant:

for the first time in my career Microsoft is just plain not in the game.  Irrelevant.  No show.

Now, I’ve been at this game awhile.  I wrote my first code in 9th grade in 1979 (on a TRS-80 Model 1) well before Microsoft mattered.  But my first real development came during the period when Microsoft was trying to get Windows to be real.  In those days Digital Research had a great DOS called DRDOS that was the cats meow.  And in my opinion, Microsoft did everything in their power to make sure DRDOS failed.  Fast forward through all the history with Microsoft, the anti-trust cases, the clear outright dominance of the market, the flailing attempt of my beloved Linux to get some kind of toe-hold, the Microsoft funded SCO debacle… for most of my professional life Microsoft has been the bruiser, the 600 pound gorilla, the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Not any more.  When was the last time you heard something about Microsoft that mattered?  Thought so.

The reality is that in the consumer space it’s now Apple and Microsoft.  The shift to mobile-oriented computing is well documented (I won’t elaborate here).  For most people the computer they use most is their mobile phone.  The innovation and the new markets are in mobile.  The interaction with the cloud will be primarily mobile.  In short, the MARKET that MATTERS will be mobile.  And Microsoft has a pathetic attempt with Windows Mobile 7.  It’s late, it’s not as good as what shipped by Apple or Google/Android last year, and it has no compelling EXTRA VALUE.

Microsoft’s Online Efforts Keep Losing Money:

Microsoft reported good results yesterday for the last quarter of 2010. I guess the term good could be an understatement when you post a quarterly profit of $6.63 billion on numbers that beat the street. No one doubts that Microsoft is still a strong company with Windows, Office 2010, Xbox, Kinect and server businesses moving right along.

However, what we are interested in the Internet side of the ledger and it tells a familiar story that makes one wonder if Microsoft will ever make money online.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Google Search and SPAM

This is just one example of a growing chorus of users frustrated by Google search results that are increasingly dominated by ads and SPAM. I think people are gaming the system - taking advantage of keywords and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I'm sure Google's aware of this and trying to fix this.

Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail:
Over the weekend I tried to buy a new dishwasher. Being the fine net-friendly fellow that I am, I  began Google-ing for information. And Google-ing. and Google-ing. As I tweeted frustratedly at the tend of the failed exercise, "To a first approximation, the entire web is spam when it comes to appliance reviews".

This is, of course, merely a personal example of the drive-by damage done by keyword-driven content -- material created to be consumed like info-krill by Google's algorithms. Find some popular keywords that lead to traffic and transactions, wrap some anodyne and regularly-changing content around the keywords so Google doesn't kick you out of search results, and watch the dollars roll in as Google steers you life-support systems connected to wallets, i.e, idiot humans.

Google has become a snake that too readily consumes its own keyword tail. Identify some words that show up in profitable searches -- from appliances, to mesothelioma suits, to kayak lessons -- churn out content cheaply and regularly, and you're done. On the web, no-one knows you're a content-grinder.

The result, however, is awful. Pages and pages of Google results that are just, for practical purposes, advertisements in the loose guise of articles, original or re-purposed. It hearkens back to the dark days of 1999, before Google arrived, when search had become largely useless, with results completely overwhelmed by spam and info-clutter

Here Come the Tablets

Shawn Dubravac has created a table of Tablets announced at CES. The table currently lists 76 Tablets including OEM, Name, New or Previously Released, Tablet or E-Reader, Screen Size, and OS. Each column is sortable - for example 14 Windows Tablets announced, 46 Android, and 1 Android/Windows. It will be interesting to see the market share this time next year. With so many Android Tablets available, how would you decide which one to buy?

2011 CES Tablets

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How Social Media Users Watch Video/TV

Great infographic
Americans & TV: How Social Media Users Watch Video [INFOGRAPHIC]

The iPad Explained in an Infographic

Currently 90% of the worldwide tablet market; if that holds up until 2014, Apple will account for 103 million of the 115 million estimated tablets. I don't expect them to keep that 90% share, but I wouldn't be surprised at 60-75%.
Apple's iPad Revolution, One Year Later [INFOGRAPHIC]


BlackBerry + Android?

No not Android OS on Blackberry devices, but Android apps through virtualization. Interesting rumor that addresses one of the biggest weaknesses of any would be iPad competitor - where are the apps?

The ability to run existing and future Android apps from day one would be a huge competitive advantage for RIM. I'm not sure how well apps would run in a virtual environment, and there could be issues with access to hardware features/APIs, but overall I think this would be a good move for RIM.

What are the odds of this happening? Boy Genius Report (BGR) has a pretty good track record is seems have pretty good sources.

Exclusive: BlackBerry PlayBook and smartphones to run Android apps?:
Here is the big news: we have been told RIM is very much considering the Dalvik virtual machine, and we ultimately expect the company to chose Dalvik. If that sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s the same VM that the Android OS uses, and it would allow RIM’s PlayBook and other QNX devices to run just about any application built for the Android platform.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Walt Mossberg on 2011's Tablet Offerings

What’s on the Table for Tablets This Year:
Lots of consumers are planning to buy tablet computers this year, and lots of companies are hoping to sell them. Apple managed to sell around 15 million of its ground-breaking iPads last year in only nine months, and, for many users, the iPad has replaced the laptop, at least for some uses. So it’s no surprise that consumer appetites for tablets have been growing and tech companies are planning to roll out as many as 80 iPad competitors in 2011, by some estimates.

Give Students the Content They Crave ...

... and here's what happens:

The BP Oil Spill and Windows NT

From F-Secure's 2010 Security Wrapup
The Windows 7 operating system has been lauded as a safer operating system than its predecessor Window Vista. Despite overtaking Vista in terms of market share this year, Windows 7 is still far behind Windows XP, which remains the most popular operating system and the biggest target for malware writers.
"Cybercriminals will always look for the easy targets," says Mikko Hypponen. "It's likely that XP attacks will still be around for a number of years.”
In July 2010, Microsoft stopped issuing updates for Windows XP Service Pack 2. At that time, we estimated that 10% of our customers were still using XP SP2, potentially leaving them open to exploitable vulnerabilities.
The security implications of using outdated operating systems have been demonstrated by reports that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could in part have been caused by the failure of computers that were still using Windows NT 4 from 1996.
Hypponen says, "It is irresponsible that a billion dollar oil drilling operation did not bother to keep its computers up-to-date and as secure as possible."

Great Video Detailing the History of IBM

30 minutes  - worth it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Clever story told using a Möbius strip.

Qwiki - Intelligent, Interactive Search

I've been exploring QWiki - sort of a talking search engine.

Here's how they describe themselves:
We've all seen science fiction films (or read novels) where computers are able to collect data on behalf of humans, and present the most important details. This is our goal at Qwiki- to advance information technology to the point it acts human

Here's a Qwiki on Wireless LANs and another on the Beatles. The voice over is a little buggy, but I see a lot of potential.

Is There an E-Learning Skills Gap?

Interesting presentation from Clive Shepherd. You can read a related blog post here. Shepherd makes a really good case for re-thinking how we teach.

He points to two opposing view of Generation Y:

and the expectations of these students:


What's the Fastest Growing Programming Language?

TIOBE Software published its annual TIOBE Programming Community Index. The ranks are lead by the usual suspects Java, C, C++, and PHP. But the language that grew most in popularity in 2010 was a bit of a surprise: Python. Also surprising: JavaScript’s popularity declined.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, January 24, 2011

Microblogging in Education

Great Slideshare presentation

Digital Media and Social Trends for 2011

Not sure I agree with all of these, but they make a good starting point for discussion. For example, although location-based services became popular in 2010, they are no where near mainstream, so maybe 2011 will see greater penetration of location-based services.

Share your thoughts in the comments!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How Video Cards Work

Great wiki-based resource on how video cards work. This would be great content for a video podcast for an A+ course.

X.Org Wiki - Development/Documentation/HowVideoCardsWork

Friday, January 21, 2011


Hmm ...

ip depletion.png

The IPv4 Depletion site:

Today's IANA depletion date estimate:2011-01-21

Maybe Android Isn't All That 'Open'

Even More Evidence That Google Stole Code For Android From Oracle Appears:

Google endorses open-source activity around Android, but it looks like their developers 'borrowed' a little too much from Sun's Java code. Oracle, Sun's owner, is already suing Google for seven infringed patents, but this adds further weight to their claim.

Florian Mueller from FOSSpatents made the discovery when digging around in Android's code that six files in Android 2.2 and 3.0 were lifted from the Java source code, along with 37 files that had 'proprietary/confidential' on them.

How Much Does Your College Spend on Data Security?

When we transitioned our student e-mail to Gmail, many at my college were concerned about security. That concern has - in part - kept faculty and staff on Exchange Server. When I questioned this policy, one of the questions I asked was: "How much do we spend on security?" and as a followup, "How much do you think Google spends on security? In a day?"

Colleges and Universities need to get more serious about data security! We've been lucky so far ... how long will our luck last?

U. of Maine System to Spend $2.6-Million to Improve Data Security:
The University of Maine system plans to spend about $2.6-million over the next three years to improve data security, reports the Bangor Daily News. The move comes in light of a disclosure last June that personal information for 4,585 students who visited the counseling center between August 2, 2002, and June 12, 2010, might have been compromised when malicious computer hackers attacked two servers at the center. Maine spent $130,000 to fix the initial breach.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Here it Comes

A Working V8 Engine ...

... made out of legos!

via clusterflock

More Momentum for E-Books

Cambridge U. Press to Join the E-Book Distribution Race:
The rush to market scholarly e-books keeps picking up speed. JSTOR, Project MUSE, Oxford U. Press and a consortium of mid-size university presses have all unveiled plans for e-book distribution platforms, hoping to provide scholarly publishers with better access to the library market. Now a fifth contender, Cambridge University Press, will soon announce that it too has struck agreements to distribute e-books for scholarly presses in the United States, Europe, and Asia, according to Frank Smith, the press’s director of digital publishing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Social Networking + Academic Publisher

Academic Publisher Unveils Social-Networking Service for Social Sciences:
A major academic publisher is pushing further into the social-networking business. Sage Publications today unveiled a Facebook-like site for social scientists, called socialsciencespace, with the goal of bringing together academics, agency officials, and policy makers through forums, blogs, and other user-generated content. Sage already runs similar sites for research methods, criminology, and media studies and communication.

Sage is working in partnership with academic societies to provide content and promote events on the site. Its listed partners, which include the Academy of Social Sciences and the British Sociological Association, are all based in Britain, but Sage plans to work with organizations in the United States as well, says Mary Kay Jezzini, a company spokeswoman.

The iPhone's Audio Jack as a Sensors

I was talking with John Reynolds last week about the Square credit card reader. I think we were both amazed that someone could create a device that could be plugged into the audio/mic jack of the iPhone and read credit card data. It looks like the audio jack is even more flexible than that! Very cool!

You can read the original paper from the University of Michigan here.

Project HiJack uses iPhone audio jack to make cheap sensors:
Making accessories that tie into an iOS device's Dock connector is an expensive proposition: it requires getting certain components from Apple and applying for a costly "Made for iPhone" (or iPod or iPad) license. However, it is possible to use the headphone jack for two-way data communication with an iPhone and also to power small electronic circuits. A group of students and faculty from the University of Michigan's Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department have developed a small device it calls the "HiJack" to make sensing peripherals easily accessible to those on a tight budget.

Project HiJack is a hardware and software platform for enabling communication between a small, low-power peripheral and an iDevice. The system uses a 22kHz audio signal, which is converted into 7.4mW of power at 47 percent efficiency. That power runs a TI MSP430 microcontroller as well as any attached electronics, and allows the HiJack to communicate with an iOS application. The components to build a HiJack cost as little as $2.34 in significant quantities.

The team behind Project HiJack envisions users building low-cost sensing and data acquisition systems for student and laboratory use. So far, it has built an EKG interface, soil moisture sensor, an integrated prototype with temperature/humidity sensors, PIR motion sensor, and potentiometer, and a version with a breadboard for prototyping new sensor applications.

Schematics for the HiJack board, as well as source code to enable communication via the audio port, are available on Google Code so that anyone with some soldering skills and the wherewithal can build a HiJack for his or her own use. Currently, software exists to work on iOS, but the hardware design should work with nearly any mobile device that has a combination headphone/microphone jack. The team plans to build APIs to enable the HiJack to work on Android and Windows Phone 7 in the future.

There is a way to get a HiJack for an iOS device without making one yourself, though: the team is putting 20 prebuilt and assembled HiJack boards up for grabs to those who submit a proposal for how they would use it. If your proposal is selected, you have to agree to two conditions: release any code for your project as open source, and let the team document your project on its website.

Secrets of Popular Presentations

From SlideShare Zeitgeist 2010

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

OpenCourseWare 2.0 Aimed at Self-Learners

MIT Tries New Approach for Some OpenCourseWare:
Call it OpenCourseWare 2.0. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced today a new chapter in its popular effort to offer lecture notes and other materials from its courses free online. When the project started more than 10 years ago, leaders thought the main audience would be teachers and professors who wanted to see how the prestigious institution designed its curriculum. A bigger audience, though, has turned out to be students at other institutions and curious nonstudents, and in many cases they have been frustrated to discover that some courses lack all that they’re looking for, says Steve Carson, a spokesman for MIT’s OpenCourseWare project. Today MIT opened a new section of the site, called OCW Scholar, where courses are fleshed out further for what the institute calls “self-learners.” There are five courses in the section now, and MIT plans to increase the number to 20 in three years. The project is supported by a $2-million grant from the Stanton Foundation.

Universities and File-Sharing

Interesting that this scan won't be used to deny or limit network access and can't be used to initiate a copyright infringement case. I'm not sure how long that will last, since the University currently scans for anti-virus and firewall software to allow a computer on the campus network. The stated reason for scanning computers and notifying users of the "dangers" of illegal file sharing is bandwidth. A trial of the system at their school of dentistry bumped throughput from 10 Mb/s to 25 Mb/s. Clearly, the cost of dealing with copyright complaints - about $40,000 per year at UNC - is a factor as well.

Although notification system can't be used to initate a copyright infringement case, the University still "encounter[s] weekly issues with students having copyright complaints filed against them from various media organizations, including the MPAA and the RIAA."

The penalty?
If a student is found illegally sharing files, the first offense leads to a loss of network access until completion of a training course and a meeting with ITS security officials. A second offence leads to a longer loss of network access and a referral to Honor Court.

The Daily Tar Heel :: Scan to notify illegal sharers:
Beginning Tuesday, computers accessing the Internet in residence halls will automatically be scanned for file-sharing programs.

The Network Access Control service will scan for file sharing programs such as BitTorrent and LimeWire. If the service detects a file-sharing program, a pop-up message will notify him of the dangers of illegal sharing and ways to securely use the program.

Network access will not be suspended and no legal action can be taken against the student, as the program cannot be used as criminal evidence.

Great Video Showing How Memory is Made

A Great Presentation on Digital Storytelling

I particularly like the two source one can learn storytelling from: 1) Movie makers, and 2) Game designers.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hmm, Starbucks - Goodbye Venti ...

... hello Trenta. Sadly, not available until May 3rd!

The New Starbucks Trenta Cup Is Bigger Than Your Stomach:
To satisfy the unquenchable gullets of America's brand-name coffee drinkers, Starbucks will introduce a 916ml Trenta cup. That's more than the average capacity of the human stomach, and enough caffeine to stand in for a defibrillator.

Microsoft Mathematics Free To Download

If you are a math (or engineering) student or teach in a related discipline, you should probably grab this free download from Microsoft. Sorry Windows only.


Microsoft Mathematics Now Free, Perfect Tool For Math, Science Buffs:
f you enjoy mathematics or science, or currently have to because you are at school or University, then the free Windows application Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 may be what you have been looking for to make your life just a tad easier.

The description on is short but up to the point: “Microsoft Mathematics provides a graphing calculator that plots in 2D and 3D, step-by-step equation solving, and useful tools to help students with math and science studies.

Microsoft Mathematics includes a full-featured graphing calculator that’s designed to work just like a handheld calculator. Additional math tools help you evaluate triangles, convert from one system of units to another, and solve systems of equations.”.

A Better Way to Evaluate Faculty?

This article - behind the Chronicle's paywall - makes a really interesting point about how to measure the quality of instruction. A student's grade in Calculus I doesn't really demonstrate how much they've learned. If I could instead track their grades in subsequent courses - Physics, Calc II and III, Engineering, etc - I could get a better indication of how much they learned in Calc I.

One Measure of a Professor: Students' Grades in Later Courses:
According to one widely circulated grading template, an A should signify that a student is 'unquestionably prepared for subsequent courses in the field.'

Hofstadter's Law

Hofstadter's law:
Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Blackboard Continues Their Expansion ...

... into new markets. Just off the top of my head, they've purchased WebCT, Angel, Elluminate, Wimba, MobileCentral. They are systematically consolidating and controlling the entire online learning ecosystem (including LMS, mobile, web-conferencing, and now a variety of student support services).

Is anyone else troubled by this?

In Bid to Expand Into Student Services, Blackboard Buys Presidium:
Blackboard, known for its course-management software, is moving into a whole new sector. Today the company announced that it bought Presidium Inc., which provides outsourced call centers and consulting services for admissions, financial aid, and other student services, and also runs IT help desks for many colleges.

Blackboard paid $53-million to acquire the company, in a deal that wrapped up December 30. Blackboard already held about 10 percent of the company, which was founded by former Blackboard employees, said Matthew Maurer, a spokesman for Blackboard. Presidium is based in Reston, Va., and has 160 full-time employees.

iPhone Tricks: Free Kahn Academy App

I love Khan Academy! This is a great way to access - a search of the iOS app store shows 57 individual Khan Academy apps covering topics from Biology and Finance to SAT-prep and Differential Equations.

khan app.png

Free Technology for Teachers: Put the Khan Academy on Your Mobile Device:

If you like the Khan Academy's excellent videos and online lessons then  you're probably going to like the new Khan App. The Khan App is a free app for the iPhone, the iPad, and Android-powered devices. The Khan App provides access to the same videos and lessons you can find on the Khan Academy website.

Friday, January 14, 2011

MDs and Skype - The House Call

Doctor Will Skype You Now: More MDs Use Web for House Calls:
In the winter, a mountainous region of California that the locals call the Grapevine is plagued by severe weather. The highway that winds through it is coated with snow and ice, making travel between central and southern parts of the state difficult and, sometimes, nearly impossible.

During these stormy outbursts, Dr. Gregory Smith, who specializes in treating chronic pain and prescription drug abuse, can't make it from his office in Los Angeles to his Fresno clinic. Two years ago, his only options were to reschedule appointments or cancel altogether.

But now, Smith uses his computer webcam to "see" his patients. He estimates the video technology enabled him to save 350 to 500 appointments this year.

"It's almost as good as being there," said Smith, whose two clinics have more than 1,300 patients.

Web-camera doctor appointments have their benefits and their drawbacks. Free online video-chat services let doctors check in quickly with patients, which can be more convenient for both. They let sick patients keep their germs at home, rather than bring them to an office. And doctors in some specialties, such as plastic surgery, use the technology to extend the reach of their practices by having e-consultations with patients in far-away cities.

iPhone Apps as Study Guides

Great idea, although a little pricey - costs more than the standalone Wolfram Alpha app.
The Ultimate Study Guide: Wolfram Alpha Launches "Course Assistant" Apps:
The computational knowledge engine Wolfram|Alpha is launching the first three of a series of new "course assistant" apps today. These apps, available for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, are designed to take advantage of the Wolfram|Alpha technology in the service of supporting some of the most popular courses in high school and college.

The idea is to be able to quickly access the pertinent capabilities of Wolfram|Alpha relevant for specific subject areas. Currently, these subject areas are Algebra, Calculus, and Music Theory. But the company says it plans to add apps for other subjects - "for every major course, from elementary school to graduate school," - including those fields outside math and science.

The Wolfram Course Assistant apps guide users through coursework in order to help them solve problems - not just provide answers. As with any query you enter via Wolfram|Alpha, a lot of additional information is generated in order to help you understand the answer - and the context of the answer.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What EPUB3 has to Offer for Future E-Books

EPub is the open standard adopted by Apple for use in the iBooks app. Next version of EPub - version 3 - is scheduled for release in May. In my recent presentation, participants asked about accessibility - it's good to see that this upcoming version will have a greater focus on accessibility. Improved multimedia support and support for MathML are great additions. I can't wait to see the next generation of textbooks - this will be a dynamic, exciting space to watch in the next couple of years.

What to expect in EPUB3:
There are three key areas EPUB3 is focused around: language support, greater accessibility, and increased multimedia support.

EPUB3 will also be better at integrating the current DAISY accessibility standards, to help make reading devices of greater usefulness to visually impaired readers.

EPUB3 will be much more adept at supporting multimedia capabilities for both HTML5-based devices and the coming generation of tablets supporting both Flash and HTML5. It is hoped that in doing so, EPUB3 will help develop an enhanced ebook standard that can be used across a variety of media and content.

Other developments include enhanced metadata support for discoverability, better facilitation support for touchscreen devices, and support for MathML, which we hope will open up greater opportunities for textbook publishers.

Is MetroPCS Violating Net Neutrality?

Pay extra for "non-web browsing" services such as Netfilx and Skype.
MetroPCS alleged to be violating net neutrality rules with new LTE plans:
Well, it looks like the fine print in MetroPCS' new LTE pricing plans is causing more than just some confusion among MetroPCS customers -- as CNET reports, it's now also drawn the ire of several public interest groups, who allege that the carrier is violating the FCC's new net neutrality rules. For those not familiar with the new plans, they include a $40 plan for unlimited web browsing plus YouTube, and a $50 plan that adds 1GB of 'additional data access' that covers things not considered to be 'web browsing' by MetoPCS -- Netflix, Skype, etc. That, in effect, creates two different types of 'data,' and leaves MetroPCS as the only voice deciding what gets included in one plan and not the other. For its part, MetroPCS insists that its 'new rate plans comply with the FCC's new rules on mobile open Internet,' and that it is simply offering 'increased consumer choice' by offering different rate plans.

Dealing with Pricey Textbooks and the Digital Divide

A couple of interesting approaches to dealing with expensive textbooks from the Sate of Washington. The first endeavors to develop online materials for the community college system's 81 highest-enrolled courses. Realizing that many students do not have a computer or Internet access, other initiative aims to allow low-income students to rent netbooks for $35 a quarter. The students can download e-textbooks and online materials developed in the first initiative.

With the price of a typical netbook, the students might be better served by a rent-to-own model or by making a computer mandatory, so that financial aid can pay for it. One issue not addressed by these two initiatives is the scarcity of high-speed Internet access in some under-served areas. I'd love to see a more holistic approach that combines low-cost course materials, devices, and, high-speed Internet access.

State of Washington to Offer Online Materials, Instead of Textbooks, for 2-Year Colleges:
It's a question that students, and a growing number of their professors, are asking: Why require students to buy expensive textbooks every year, when the Internet is awash in information, much of it free? After all, the words of Plato have not changed in the past 2,000 years, nor has basic algebra.

Washington State's financially strapped Legislature, which foots much of the textbook bill for community-college students on state financial aid, has wondered the same thing. With nearly half a million students taking classes at the state's 34 two-year colleges, why not assemble very inexpensive resources for the most popular classes and allow access to those materials online? And why not cap the cost of those course materials at $30?

Calculating the savings, when students are paying up to $1,000 for books each year, was an exercise in simple math, says Cable Green, director of e-learning and open education at the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges. "We believe we can change the cost of attending higher education in this country and in the world," he says. "If we are all teaching the same 81 courses, why not?"

So with a $750,000 matching grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the board has started an ambitious program to develop low-cost, online instructional materials for its community and technical colleges. For the Open Course Library, as the materials are known, teams of community-college instructors, librarians, and Web designers from around the state are creating ready-to-use digital course modules for the 81 highest-enrolled courses. The first 43 courses, which are as varied as "General Biology" and "Introduction to Literature 1," will be tested in classrooms beginning this month.

The basic design requirements of the Open Course Library are simple enough. The material must be available online and accessible to anyone, says Mr. Green. Faculty designers, hired for their teaching experience and expertise in the subject, can use material from anywhere and anyone, as long as they abide by licensing agreements. Instructors can then use and revise the material as they see fit, dropping and adding components to customize the course for their own students. And now they have peer-vetted syllabi, lecture notes, and teaching materials, available with a few clicks of the mouse.

Textbooks? So Last Century. Rent a Netbook Instead:
For many students, heading to class without a laptop is a bit like leaving the house without wearing pants. And whether it's registering for classes, meeting with professors, or doing homework, chances are those aspects of college now involve a computer and the Internet.

Yet according to a 2010 survey by the Census Bureau, while Internet use is creeping up, 30 percent of Americans are not online —not at home, not at work. And it's not always by choice.
Low-income students are not just on an uneven playing field, says Kristen Connely, manager of the bookstore at Bellevue College, the largest community college in Washington State. Without technology, they can't even get into the stadium.

In November, with help from a U.S. Department of Education grant, Bellevue bought 500 netbooks—inexpensive laptops used to download and read Internet material—to rent out for $35 per quarter. Negotiations are still continuing with publishers, but the cost of the e-textbooks used on the devices can be half that of traditional books. Students will also be able to download low-cost digital course materials being developed by the state's Open Course Library project.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Video of New Multi-Touch Gestures on iPad iOS 4.3

Some very cool new multi-touch gestures. I can't wait!

Video of New Multi-Touch Gestures on iPad iOS 4.3 - Mac Rumors:

Another iPad-Killer Delayed?

Just in time to face iPad2 - ouch! ASUS tablets already delayed, may not get Android 3.0:
ASUS' Eee Pads and Eee Slates using Android have not only been delayed but might ship without Android 3.0, company marketing specialist John Swatton said Wednesday. The announcements, which mentioned a spring shipping window and the new OS across the board, were a "mistake," he told the Inquirer. They would instead ship in summer and would be limited to Android 2.3, Google's most recent phone OS.

It may also be that the MeMo, Slider and Transformer might have to drop Android Market and use an ASUS-run store.

The End of the Music CD

Not surprising, although unfortunate for the 300 people who will lose their jobs.

Is the DVD next? Sony closing CD plant in face of digital music:
Sony will close one of its biggest CD making factories due to the growth and popularity of digital downloads as well as other economic influences. Based in Pitman, New Jersey, the plant has been operating for 50 years and first produced vinyl records. When its doors close on March 31, nearly 300 people will be out of work.

Smartphone Security: iOS versus Android

An interesting take on smartphone security, which I'm sure will continue the open versus closed debate. The argument for the security of open source software has always been that with more developers looking at the code, weaknesses are more likely to be identified and patched versus the small number of programmers that have access to a closed operating system. I guess it is possible that access to the source code could allow a malicious attacker to more quickly identify and exploit a vulnerability in the OS, but I think the primary weakness in the Android ecosystem is the freedom and minimal oversight afforded to apps.

Android much less secure than iPhone:
Trend Micro chairman Steve Chang warned in an interview published today that Android was significantly more open to attack than iOS. Google's decision to allow some open-sourcing and to have only a light approval touch let malicious coders get more information about how to stage viruses and other malware. Apple's decision to close off much of the iPhone OS, sandbox code and to vet apps more closely may have antagonized some, Chang told Bloomberg, but has also led to a more secure platform.

'We have to give credit to Apple, because they are very careful about it,' he said.

It was virtually 'impossible' for some kinds of rogue code to work on an iOS device, he explained. Viruses that deliberately 'decompose' to avoid being recognized by antivirus scanners and then reassemble afterwards can work on Android but won't succeed on iOS. He didn't explain what made this possible, though Android apps are allowed to extend or modify parts of the main OS where these are usually fenced off on iOS.

iOS was still vulnerable, Chang emphasized, but mostly to social attacks where customers were tricked into voluntarily compromising the security of a device. Most significant security issues in iOS have come from visiting specially crafted websites that take advantage of an unpatched exploit.

Loss of a Great Female Role Model

Gertrude Neumark Rothschild, Columbia Professor Who Won Patent Fights, Dies at 83:
LED screens for televisions and mobile phones are a part of everyday life for many Americans, yet few people know that the work of Gertrude Neumark Rothschild made such technology possible. For Ms. Rothschild, taking on large electronics companies to get that recognition was a question of fairness.

Ms. Rothschild, a professor emerita of materials science and engineering at Columbia University, died of heart failure in Rye, N.Y., in November at the age of 83. Her research into light-emitting and laser diodes, or LED's, was responsible for significant advances in consumer and industrial products. When companies failed to credit her work, she fought successful legal battles for recognition.
Ms. Rothschild was one of only a handful of women in a field dominated by men, and her ideas often failed to get the acknowledgment they deserved, friends say.
Despite studying in a field where, as a woman, she was in the minority, Ms. Rothschild moved quickly through her formal education. She earned a bachelor's degree from Barnard College in 1948, and a master's degree in chemistry from Radcliffe College one year later. Two years later, she earned a doctorate in chemistry from Columbia University.
In 2008 she filed complaints with the U.S. International Trade Commission against some large corporations, including Sony and Nokia, for violating a 1993 patent. The commission agreed to hear the case, and Ms. Rothschild brought complaints against even more companies. Many of those companies settled.

By November 2009, she had secured about $27-million in settlements and licensing agreements from more than 40 companies

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Math is Non-Linear

Here's a great Prezi presentation describing how to motivate students in Math.
Click the forward and back buttons to navigate through the presentation.

Monday, January 10, 2011

E-Books Presentation

Here are the slides from an E-Books presentation I gave at the ICT Educators conference last week in San Francisco.

The original presentation is a Keynote file - if you'd like a copy of a Powerpoint version of the presentation - videos included, send me a request at



Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Debt + Tetris = Debtris

A clever animation from David McCandless Debtris

Visualizing Bloodtests

Great example of visualization can improve data presentation from David McCandless. This example takes something very important and difficult to understand - blood test results - and turns them into a visual easy to understand document.

Visualizing Bloodtests:
We were happy to win a design competition in Wired US this month. 
It was around re-envisioning medical data. Specifically, blood test results. Which suck, design-wise. They still look like secret missives from the CIA circa 1965. Yet their contents are vitally – perhaps mortally – important. 

Our challenge was to approach a cholesterol level test. First it looked like this.
Then we designed it thus:

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Turn Your iPhone into a Medical Device

I'm amazed by the simplicity of the device. No base-station, or unwieldy dongle or cables - just a fairly innocuous looking case that just happens to have a couple electrodes on the surface.

Pretty cool!

iPhone ECG System Does Your ECG & Monitors Heart Rate, Can Stream Reports Wirelessly!:
The ECG Case physically appears like just another iPhone case except that a couple of shiny electrodes are stylishly inscribed on its back. Users can slip in the iPhone into this case and launch the corresponding application to use the iPhone - 

1. For ECG
2. Heart Rate Trend Monitor 

The iPhone ECG app, once launched turns your iPhone into “wireless clinical quality cardiac equipment” that can record your ECG. It allows you to store this data locally on your iPhone or wireless stream it to your doctor or other connected devices.

Personal Finance Curriculum Hits The Books; Offers Personal Finance Curriculum To Students:
Intuit-owned is heading to schools today with the launch of a free, online program designed to educate middle-school students about personal finance and financial management. 

Mint has partnered with educational publisher Scholastic to develop materials that parents and teachers can use to teach children the ins and outs of personal finance management. The materials includes lesson plans as well as an interactive game, to teach children money management, budgeting and goals. 

For example, the program teaches children the concept of compound interest with real-life math problems, and encourages children to set goals and budgets with their own current work opportunities (i.e. babysitting).

The Story of IPv5

From what I can understand, within the field in the IP header that identifies the version (4, 5, 6, ...) 5 has already been used to identify the ST2 or Internet Stream protocol. ST2 could technically be called IPv5, but uses a different header format than IP, so it's not really IPv5.

What ever happened to IPv5?
But, what ever happened to IPv5? 

IPng, Internet Protocol next generation, was conceived in 1994 with a goal for implementations to start flooding out by 1996 (yeah, like that ever happened). IPv6 was supposed to be the “god-send” over the well-used IPv4: it increased the number of bytes used in addressing from 4 bytes to 16 bytes, it introduced anycast routing, it removed the checksum from the IP layer, and lots of other improvements. One of the fields kept, of course, was the version field — these 8 bits identify this IP header as being of version “4″ when there is a 4 in there, and presumably they would use a “5″ to identify this next gen version. Unfortunately, that “5″ was already given to something else. 
In the late 1970’s, a protocol named ST — The Internet Stream Protocol — was created for the experimental transmission of voice, video, and distributed simulation. Two decades later, this protocol was revised to become ST2 and started to get implemented into commercial projects by groups like IBM, NeXT, Apple, and Sun. Wow did it differ a lot. ST and ST+ offered connections, instead of its connection-less IPv4 counterpart. It also guaranteed QoS. ST and ST+, were already given that magical “5″. 
And now as the Internet clock ticks, our PCs don’t use IPv5. So we’re moving onto 6.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Google's Vision for the Mobile Revolution

Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt writing for Harvard Business Review Preparing for the Big Mobile Revolution.

Summing up:
#1 - Fast underlying networks - gotta love that
#2 - Mobile payments using phone - pretty cool, I like it
#3 - A billion people (including the poorest parts of the world) with inexpensive browser-based touchscreen phones - can't argue with that

I guess he forgot #4 - Google's mobile ads

In the end, Schmidt and Google answer to their shareholders. While he says:
Can you imagine how this will change their awareness of local and global information and their notion of education?
I think what he means is: Can you imagine our mobile ads served up to 2 billion eyeballs?

Here's the relevant part of Schmidt's article:
First, we must focus on developing the under­lying fast networks (generally called LTE). These will be 8-to-10- mega­bit networks, roughly 10 times what we have today, which will usher in new and creative applications, mostly entertainment and social, for these phone platforms. 

Second, we must attend to the development of mobile money. Phones, as we know, are used as banks in many poorer parts of the world—and modern technology means that their use as financial tools can go much further than that.

Third, we want to increase the availability of inexpensive smartphones in the poorest parts of the world. We envision literally a billion people getting inexpensive, browser-based touchscreen phones over the next few years.

Mac OS X Running on a CR-48

Some of the users who received demo models of the CR-48 with Chrome OS are experimenting with other OSs on the hardware.

OS X Arrives on the Cr-48:
Lilliputing is also reporting that someone has also been able to run both Windows and OS X on a Cr-48. No, not at the same time, however. You can get more details over at Something Awful

A Couple of Great Data Points for Moore's Law

Computer History Museum to highlight storage, from RAMAC to microdrives:
In the 1950s, storage hardware was measured in feet -- and in tons. Back then, the era's state-of-the-art computer drive was found in IBM's RAMAC 305; it consisted of two refrigerator-size boxes that weighed about a ton each. One box held 40 24-inch dual-sided magnetic disk platters; a carriage with two recording heads suspended by compressed air moved up and down the stack to access the disks. The other cabinet contained the data processing unit, the magnetic process drum, magnetic core register and electronic logical and arithmetic circuits. 

Today, we have flash drives, microdrives, and onboard solid-state drives that weigh almost nothing, hold gigabytes of data and cost -- compared to the 1950s -- very little. How cheap is storage now? A 1TB hard drive that sells for as little as $60 today would have been worth $1 trillion in the 1950s, when computer storage cost $1 per byte
see the entire slideshow here
hard drive evolution.png

Lithium-Ion Battery Prices: Moore's Law After All?:
From Paul Sankey's much-cited update report on his "end of the oil age" thesis, the following graph is his take on a speedy decline in lithium-ion battery prices in the coming decade. Sankey argues that this will make all-electric cars are competitive sans subsidy by ... 2020.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

11-inch MacBook Air Review

Same model/configuration I have. I enthusiastically agree with this glowing review.


MacBook Air 11:

I haven’t felt so thrilled by a new piece of hardware since I bought our first iPad, and the same feeling of experiencing a new class of device is present here too. If you’re tempted by the 11-inch model’s portability but are worried about whether you could get your work done, put your concerns aside – it’s an excellent machine and more than up to the job.

Having owned one for more than a week now, using it every day (including for development work in Xcode) and travelling for most of that time, I can recommend it without hesitation.


Gmail Addons

10 Webapps that Add Great New Features to Gmail:

Two of my favorites!

9. TripIt – The service will scan your email inbox multiple times a day for any travel plans and automatically imports them to your TripIt itineraries without you having to forward any email message to TripIt.

If you already have an existing trip with overlapping dates, TripIt will add the plan to your trip else it will create a new trip.

10. Boomerang – With Boomerang for Gmail, you can compose an email now and schedule it to be sent a later time. Thus you can easily schedule birthday notes when you have time to write them and have Boomerang dispatch them at the right time.


MG Siegler's Take on the Nexus S

A nice companion piece to his Windows Phone review.

An iPhone Lover’s Take On The Nexus S:

First of all, the Nexus S is a great smartphone. I’ve been using it for a little over two weeks now and I think I can safely say that in a world where there was no iPhone, this is the device I would use. While I like a number of fundamental things about Windows Phone more, Android is more mature. And more importantly, the ecosystem is far more built-out. Plus, the Google apps on the device are enough to entice anyone.


Nexus S and Gingerbread continue the trend of Google improving Android as a steady pace, but they are still behind where Apple is with iOS 4.2 and the iPhone 4. This is true in both hardware and software. On paper, the devices line up nicely. In use, they still do not. As I said above, there are still too many small things that the iPhone nails that Android doesn’t even seem to think of at all. Google still seems more focused on getting the larger areas (like the Market) up to speed. Maybe that will change with Android 3.0 before the iPhone 5 hits, maybe it won’t.

Again, the Nexus S is a great device. And I would highly recommend it to any and all people who want an Android phone. One of the most striking things about it to me is just how much better it is than the crappy Android experience on devices like the EVO and Droid 2, compliments of the carriers.


MG Siegler's Take on Windows Phone

A fairly positive review.

An iPhone Lover’s Take On Windows Phone:

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much I’ve liked Windows Phone. Would I recommend buying one? Certainly not on AT&T, but if and when it came to Verizon, I certainly think it’s worthy of consideration. Would I replace my iPhone with it? Well, no. But I do think it’s important to remember that this is Microsoft’s first stab at this. If you were to compare this to the original iPhone, just from a software perspective, clearly this would be right there, if not slightly better (and much better if you consider that this has third-party apps and the original iPhone didn’t at first).


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