Thursday, December 2, 2010

Freak Shows via Technology

Before the current age of technology, the only way a person could gawk at the so-called "freaks" - the bearded lady, half-ape/half-man, world's shortest man - was when the travelling circus came to town. The interested person would pay their 25 cents, pass through a high-guarded turnstile and ooo and ahhh at the spectacular. The sad thing about this system is that most of these "freaks" were outcasts from society and the only way they could making a living is to degrade themselves by appearing in these types of shows. John Merrick, the Elephant Man, was probably the most famous of these types of people.

Modern morals and technology has changed the nature of these freak shows. On one hand, people is today's society who have such anomalies are treated with much more compassion and we would not think of putting them on public display. Yet, on the other hand - there is reality television. Reality television allows modern-day freaks to be put on public display and allow those interested to view them as they are, coping with every day life - and either, glad to be witness to a situation that is so much worse then more - or on the flip side, watching freaks living a envious lifestyle. And the titles of the show beckon those curiosity seeks to their TV's just as the barkers outside the tent urge the passer-by's to pay their quarter. For example:

Sister Wives
Little People, Big World
The Little Couple
Katie plus Eight
Keeping up with the Kardashians
The Real Housewives of OC (DC, NJ)
Jersey Shore
The Bachelor
The Bachelorette
Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List
Kirstie Alley's Big Life
Sarah Palin's Alaska

And the rumour was that Octo-Mom and the ex-JetBlue flight attendant was talking about a reality show.

These people are different from the average person and are capitalizing on it.  I'm sure they are getting more than a quarter per person. Jon and Katie, and others I'm sure, have become very wealthy because of their notoriety. The sad thing about it is because of technology, these people's 15 minutes of fame is hitting us from multiple media sources and lasting far too many seasons.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Battle of the Giants

Image representing Gmail as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBaseThroughout the development of modern technology, there have been products and services that have come and gone. Some have transformed into other products and some companies have gone in a completely different direction. Companies like IBM, Borland, Lotus, WordPerfect, WordStar and Netscape are have played a part in software and hardware development over the course of the past few decades. There have also been some memorable battles, with companies vying for supremacy and copyright. Lotus sued Borland claiming that the Quartto Pro had the same "look and feel" of 1-2-3. And then there was the browser wars. Microsoft's dominance in PC operating system software settled many battles by introducing MS Office. I was a committed WordPerfect user but when over to the dark side by sheer force (I still look for the Reveal Code screen).

It look as if a modern battle is brewing. Facebook is set to release an email service. Some are saying that this would be the death of other Web-based email services like Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail. As Facebook has 500,000 users across the world, a Facebook email could take a bite out of the market. Not being a Facebook user, I hope that loyal Google followers support Gmail as Google is known to abandon under-utilized applications. I do not see this happening as many thousands, including myself, have chosen Gmail as my primary email provider. Google, on the other hand, has tried to get some social networking into their suite of products and has failed. They claim not to be completing to Facebook.
I think that the result of this battle would be that Facebook users will have access to an email program and that Google will lose some of this Gmail users, but provide other services to tempt users to stay. Gmail is one of Google's primary services and I don't see it going away or there will be some very angry people and lost credibility in Internet services.

No matter how it works out, I think that the clear winners will be the users of FaceBook and Gmail.
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Textbooks' Coming of Age

TextbookImage via WikipediaI have been teaching for over 25 years and one of my biggest frustrations is textbooks. Not only are they costly for the student but they are almost out of date by the time they are printed and not a valuable reference to the student after graduation. New academic textbooks are a $4.5 billion industry and the used textbook market is pegged at $4 billion.

A new company called is trying to capture some of that market by making books available to students who send them back after they are done. Not a bad idea but there is still the problem of the currency of the materials. The only way to go is digital. With digital books, students will be able to read materials that is more relevant, the prof can select part of one text and part of another, and there is no paper to waste which should keep the tree-huggers happy. It's a win-win all around.

Digital book, newspaper and textbooks have been slowly making their way into our lives. Currently you can get a digital copy of your daily newspaper, your favorite best seller and an e-copy of an academic textbook usually accompanies the physical copy. I think that print media is slowly disappearing and evolving into digital content. Steven Ballmer said that he believe print media will disappear in 10 years. Futurist Ross Dawson said that newspapers will cease to exist in the US within seven years followed by Britain and Iceland in 2019, and Canada and Norway a year later.

I think we have an obligation to teach students how to read digital content. It involves a different set of skills than reading printed text. Modern kids are considered digital natives because they are in tune with FaceBook and Twitter but that does not mean that they know how to use digital technologies to educate themselves.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What is the Sony Walkman like NASA's Space Shuttle?

Early 1980s Sony Walkman WM-2 with its plastic...Image via WikipediaI love technology! One of the reasons I love technology is that it is constantly changing, improving and generally make life better and certainly more interesting. I've been lucky enough to witness some of the great technological advancement in history. Cool thing about technology is that every generation can say the same thing. From the invention of fire and the wheel to microcomputers and space travel, technology is a wonder to its generation. Some technologies stay around for a short time while other linger for decades
Space Shuttle Atlantis takes flight on the STS...Image via Wikipedia
Two technologies that have been around for 30 years are being retired in the next few weeks. The Sony Cassette Walkman, first introduced in Japan in 1979 and sold 3,000 units in the first month. It is amazing to me that this product is still around given the popularity of MP3 players. Even though the iPod has been around for 9 years, the cassette technology was still being manufactured by Sony. The other technology that is retiring is the space shuttle Discovery, set for its 39th and last flight on November 1st. Discovery, the oldest shuttle in NASA's fleet, and first launched in 1981. Not only is this the end of Discovery but also marks the second to last flight of the entire space shuttle program. The last flight will be made by Atlantis in late February of 2011.

Both technologies were introduced three decades ago, have changed the way we work, play and opened up our world to new adventures either by allowing us to carry music with us or by seeing the world from a different perspective. We have moved so far forward since the 80's to embrace new technologies but the Sony Walkman and the space shuttle will forever be pop culture items of technology just as the "brick" cell phone. I think it would be fitting if the Walkman was taken on board Discovery's last flight and released into space. A fitting end to two great technological icons of our time.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Microsoft Does Not Have its Head in the Clouds

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...Image via CrunchBaseJust the other day, I posted my thoughts about Microsoft's second entry into the cell phone market, and how its impending failure will cost CEO Steve Balmer his job. I also wrote that I felt MS was not an innovator. Today, I read a couple of news reports to further my beliefs about MS.

The first report was a press release from MS about the "retirement" of Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie. (Chief Software Architect was actually Bill Gates title before he stepped away from MS). Ray Ozzie, one of the developers of Lotus Notes (and don't hold that against him) was responsible for MS development of cloud computing. The other news item related to this story was one I came across in Businessweek. "According to some of the technology portfolio managers whose mutual funds drew the highest scores from Bloomberg Rankings as of September 2010, the hot theme in technology is cloud computing

So here we have MS "retiring" his CSA who is responsible for cloud computing developmental, and not replacing him, and, on the other hand, cloud computing becoming a hot commodity. Once again, MS is falling behind in technology, not being an innovator and become more of a distance follower. 

Ozzie's departure is the latest in a long list of executive house clearing. Microsoft announced the resignation of entertainment chief Robbie Bach in May, and Office division head Stephen Elop in September to become CEO of Nokia. In 1999 and 2000, it lost Paul Maritz, who had been a top executive, Brad Silverberg, who led development of Windows 95 and Internet Explorer; as well as Nathan Myhrvold, the company’s chief technology officer. 

en: Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. Camera: N...Image via Wikipedia
With all those brainiacs gone, who's left to take the blame, Mr. Balmer?
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Sunday, October 17, 2010

From DOS 1.0 to Windows 7 - Nothing's Changed

There is very little doubt that Microsoft has played a big part in the computer revolution. While Apple software and hardware has always been proprietary, MS was willing to sell its operating system to any manufacturer making an IBM-compatible computers thus attaining a huge market share. The market share lead to users naturally adapting software products that interfaced very well with DOS and then Windows which lead to MS Office becoming the de facto standard office productivity tool.

The problem with MS is that they are not innovators. From their beginning, DOS 1.0 was not a Bill Gates creation. He bought the rights to an operating systems called QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) from Seattle Computer Products and adapted it to IBM's specifications. MS Office products have been dominant but other office tools pre-date them. The word processing program WordPrect was available in 1980 (MS Word in 1983) and the spreadsheet Lotus 1-2-3 was released in 1983 while MS Excel first surfaced in 1987. Just the power and reach of Microsoft's operating systems has caused these other tools to virtually disappear. The early  Windows products were thought of by many to have a similar look and feel as the Apple operating system of the same time.

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 11: A person holds a new Wi...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeThis lack of innovation is now evident in MS attempt to enter the cell phone market. After Blackberry and Apple has taken over the market, here comes MS trying to do for cell phone what they did for microcomputers. It was not surprising that there first attempt failed. They are not the only player in the market and they do not know how to deal in an area where they do not have a virtual monopoly. After the failure of Vista and the success of Windows 7, they are trying to carry that success to the cell phone market. With Blackberry and the iPhone deeply entrenched, I believe that their second attempt to produce a cell phone will fail again.

They are in a market place where they do not know how to play the game - a market place that calls for innovation and that is crowded with non-MS products. The failure of the first cell phone caused MS CEO to lose his bonus - the failure of the Windows 7 cell phone will cause him to lose his job.
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

The End of the Light Bulb

Transparentised version of Image:Gluehlampe 01...Image via WikipediaTechnology evolves. The abacus evolved to the super computer and the Wright Brothers flyer in to the jumbo carrier and the space shuttle. Technology reaches another ones of those important evolution milestones today. This one was comes after 140 years of very little change. In 1870, Thomas Edison found a way to make a long lasting filament within a glass encasement glow with light. Since that time, the light bulb has changed very little. Today's light bulb shape is about the same as it was in Edison's day but the filament last much longer. This week, the GE company closed the last of its plants making incandescent light bulbs.  Although the incandescent bulb was the reigning electric bulb across the world for close to century and a half, it is no longer the best technology in terms of energy consumption. To save energy, the incandescent bulb will be virtually outlawed within 4 years and will be replaced by compact fluorescents which consumes 75% less power. 

If Edison were alive today, he would not be able to identity a CD as the evolution of his phonograph but he would still be able to recognize the light bulb. I cannot think of another technology that lasted so long in its almost original form.
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Is is a Phone? Is it a Tablet? No, it's Both!!

It is interesting to watch the cell phone and Internet tablet market. Cell phone have been around for many years and it has been fun to watch how the technology has improved, how the phone have gotten smaller and how the features have evolved. From the original Motorla "brick" released in 1973 to today's smart phone has been quite the evolution. And it seems that the evolution is reaching a point where these hand-held devices are so packed with features that the phone capabilities is a small component of the actual device. The ads often lists the features and you need to read the fine print to see any specs about the phone capabilities. Apple suffered the consequences of not focusing on the phone when they released the iPhone 4. Great toy but the phone was hard to use due to the antenna design.

Now with the introduction of the Internet tablets, the line between phone and computer is becoming narrower. Apple, once again, found that out the hard way when they did not have phone capbilities in their iPad. Of course people still bought them but were dissappointed with the lack of a phone and camera which seems to be the defacto standard for hand-held devices.
One player noticably missing from the mix is Microsoft. Bill Gates and company has been given much of the credit for the computer revolution but does not seem to embrace the cell phone market potential. Microsoft has never been innovators. Even their original software product, DOS, was a copy of CPM. They have tried serveral time to enter the market with dismal failure and a new attempt is on the horizon. MS is so far behind the leader, they will never catch up.

By the end of this year, the smart phone / Internet tablet market will be heating up. With iPad competitors on the horizon, MS in the market, RIM fighting to maintaining its smart phone lead, Apple releasing new devices and Nokia trying to maintain its cell phone market lead, it going to be a very interesting time for hand-held technologies.
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Friday, September 10, 2010

The Dangers of Social Networking

There has been much talk in the media lately about privacy issues with regards to social media but there are many other risks associated with this Internet phenomenon. There is no doubt that social media sites can be fun and are a great marketing tool but just as in real life, these sites attach those who would like to illegally profit or hurt users for their own gain or for misguided motives.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBaseWhat also seems to be emerging is a couple of stigma's associated with being a Facebook user. Two recent studies have found that students who use Facebook have lower grades than non-users. One study was performed by a psychologist at the Open University of the Netherlands found that Facebook users have 20% lower graders as compared to non-users. Another study at Ohio State University found similar results claiming that Facebook users have significantly lower grade then non-users. As with all research, I'm sure that there was some confounding variables in these studies and both make the statement that Facebook was probably not the direct cause of lower grades but the distraction of playing games, chatting with users and reading updates could have distracted students from their studies.

And then there's a study from the University of Toronto that found Facebook users to be narcissistic. The study examined 100 students and found a direct correlation between the amount of time someone spends on Facebook and how narcissistic he or she is. What the study was  unclear on is whether narcissistic people are more likely to use Facebook or if Facebook plants narcissism into their personalities. The study also found that many Facebook users have low self-esteem. What this indicated that Facebook users are not getting the attention they want in the real world so they turn to Facebook for acceptance. I hope some one does a similar study on Twitter and I'm sure that the narcissism scale would be through the roof for most Twitters.
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Location! Location! Location!

Location! Location! Location! So has been the cry of realtors when buying a house. It's all about the location. Now it seems that some people are using Internet technologies to identify their personal location. Location services have been around for a while with online services like FourSquare, Yelp, and Gbanga. Now with the addition of Facebook's Places, use of location-based social networking will escalate.  Therefore, not only will you be able to tell everyone on the Net everything about you, but now you will be able to indicate where you are, minute by minute. Some stores and other organization have used location-based services as a marketing tool. For example, go to your favourite coffee shop, register that you are having a coffee, repeat 4 more times and get a free beverage on your next visit. Sounds fun?

Here's my problems with location-based services. Now Internet dwellers will not only have a place to post stupid and insignificant 140 character thoughts online but they will also be able to tell us exactly where they are - like I care! The other problem fuels the privacy debate. Have you been watching the news lately? There is more stuff about social networkers available to the public than they may be aware of and now they are going to be telling everyone where they are going, hanging out and vacationing - in real time! Beside coffee shops taking advantage of knowing this, how about other less reputable organizations that would love to know how you spend your day and where you are - spammers and house thieves come to mind.

Big Brother 2000 (UK)George Orwell created Big Brother to watch and rule over the people of Oceania in his novel, 1984. In the society that Orwell describes, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase "Big Brother is watching you". Sounds to me that Big Brother, (aka location services / social networking), is not forcing himself on netizens, rather netizens are voluntarily giving themselves into the folds of Facebookia.
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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hi Tech Conspiracy Theory?

Did you hear the one about the young computer expert / hacker who comes across some damaging information about a mega-corporation and before you know it the hacker is being sought by the police for a crime the person is suppose to have committed? Of course the crime is not real. It was set in motion by the mega-corporation using computer technology to change and/or delete part of the hacker's computerized records. This type of conspiracy theory was made popular by the 1995 movie called The Net with Sandra Bullock. Do you think this could happen in real life?

Case in point is is the story of Julian Assange. You may know him better as the founder and editor of WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing Web site that published tens of thousands of pages of Pentagon paper regarding the Afghanistan war. He was being sought on a arrest warrant in Sweden for rape and molestation charges. The spokesperson for the Swedish prosecutor's office said that they and, I quote from the CNN article, "didn't have more detail about when the alleged crimes occurred or who the alleged victims are". Assange denied the charges on the WikeLeaks Twitter page. Strangely, within a few hours of the story breaking, Swedish authorities dropped the rape accusations. 

Could Assnage be living Sandra Bullock's nightmare? We will have to wait and see how this story unfolds but I do find it curious how all this transpired. It would be interesting to hear on what evidence the charges were first laid and the circumstances on why they were dropped. Any chance the US government is involved? Makes you want to go .... mmmmmmmm???
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

iPads vs eReaders

A Picture of a eBookImage via WikipediaIn a past blog post, I was critical of iPad, not knowing how they fit in the marketplace. I have borrowed an iPad and have been trying to decide how it could possibly fit in my work or leisure activities. What I am discovering is that the iPad is a great eReader but I'm not going to be shelling out a minimum of $500 for an iPad and use it as an eReader.  That would be like buying an computer and use it as a paperweight.

I enjoy reading and have considered buying an eReader. As I see it, there are three problems with eReaders. Firstly, they are only black and white. That is not a problem for most people as eReaders are replacements for novels which are usually black text on white paper. But here's my next problem with eReaders - they do not provide a way to read Web pages. I would like a way to be able to read e-stuff (digital journals, e-newpapers, news feeds, my email) as well as novels and eReaders do not have this facility. Lastly, each book seller has it's own version of an eReader. Chapters/Indigo in Canada and Borders in the US  has the Kobo, Amazon has Kindle, Barnes and Noble has the nook. And to complicate things further, there are over two dozen other eReaders with many different file formats. I'm sure they will be standardized soon, just as VHS won over BetaMax.

So here's my message to the eReader developers - standardize your formats, upgrade to colour and Web browsing capabilities, keep it moderately priced, and I'll be first on the list to buy one
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Two Faces of Google

Image via WikipediaThere are two interesting developments over that past few days that shows the two sides of Google. The first is the lawsuit brought on Google by Oracle. Oracle recently purchased Sun Microsystems that developed Java. Oracle is suing Google because the Android mobile operating system is based on Java and Google has not paid any royalties. Oracle is saying that Google is using the Java Micro Edition which is not part of the open source licensing agreement. Google is saying it has developed its own Java virtual micro environment and that the lawsuit is an attack on the open-source community.

Sun MicrosystemsThe other story relates to Google and Verizon Communications putting forward a joint proposal to the Federal Communications Commission on net neutrality. Net neutrality is the concept that implies all users of the Internet have equal access and bandwidth to all part of the Internet. This means that large corporation will not have priority over personal communications online. Your online bill comes to you as fast as an email from a friend. What Goggle and Verizon is suggesting in its proposal is that net neutrality is applicable only to part of the Internet but suggest blocking content and application on wireless platform.
So on one hand, we have Google claiming the rights and privileges of the open-source community but on the other hand, they are saying that they want to limit access to part of the Internet. These actions clearly show the two faces of Google and how they spin the facts and the technology to suit there influence on the Internet. I do not know enough details about the Oracle lawsuit to make judgement on whether Google infringes on Java's licensing agreements but I do know that limiting the Internet by giving special treatment to a group of users is wrong.

In the early days of the Internet, I used to give talks to novices about how to use this emerging technology. At the beginning of my talk, I would lead a discussion on who owns the Internet. The most popular response was Bill Gates. I would assure the group that no ones owns the Internet but now it appears that Google is trying to take it over. Let's hope that they do not succeed!
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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Blackberry in Trouble

Image representing Research In Motion as depic...Image via CrunchBase
In the past few weeks, Blackberry has been very dominant in the news. Rumors about a tablet PC started when RIM purchased the domain name. RIM also introduced their latest Blackberry model to be known as the Torch. This model and their latest operating system is RIM's answer to the iPhone and the up an coming Android phones. But things are not looking good for the Canadian cell phone company. A recent statistic claims that half of all current Blackberry users are either considering switching to will be switching to different hardware.

An additional  nail in the Blackberry coffin is the problems RIM has been having with the United Arab Emirates. Because of the strong security on the phone, the UAE feel that the phone can be used by spies and circumvent security. Apparently RIM has come up with a solution to this problem or they could possibly lose 500,000 customers.

Blackberry are great phones (I use one but I'm in the 50% above). Cell phones have become more than just devices for carrying on conversations and organizing personal data. They have become Web surfing tools and social media organizers. These is something Blackberry did not keep up on and iPhone as well as other competitor has surpassed them on. Now, Rim is trying to get caught up and I think its too late. They should focus on being the choice for the business client with enterprise wide services. That is there niche and they have been very good at doing that. The personal Blackberry is fading and soon will be gone.

RIM made the Blackberry one of the first predominately used smart phones and because of that, they have huge market share. Unfortunately, they sat back on their laurels for too long without seeing the potential of the single-user. These single-users need a different set of tools than used by the business client and thus, will be switching to a phone that can provide that need.
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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Catch the Google Wave but Bring a Life Jacket

Here today, gone tomorrow. Google Wave, much touted as the next great real-time collaboration platform is gone. Introduced with great fanfare in May of 2009, it never caught on for a variety of reasons. Too much competition, too complicated and too narrow a scope, this latest jewel in the Google crown fell off earlier this week. Once again, Google releases a much hyped-product and then, for lack of use, pulls it off the shelf. Only one million user implemented the Wave which is considered low adoption in the world of cloud application. Compare this number to the tens of million who are using Google Buzz - a much less complicated product.

My beef with Google is, again, why are we the extreme beta tester for its products? Sure one million may not be a big  number in the realm of the Internet but what are those users going to do with their Wave-based collaboration projects? Google, in its attempt to organize the world's data, releases products in a hurry to see who will climb on board. If the wagon is not full - the users are sunk. Because their products are free, Google feels that it hold no responsibility to support affected users. Compare this to a recall on other types of consumer-products. Just ask Toyota.

In closing, I am at a distance learning conference in Madison, Wisconsin. When I received the program a few weeks ago, I was particularity interested in attending a session that discussed the academic uses of Google Wave. The session was scheduled for today. When I arrived at the room where the session is to be held, there was a sign posted on the door - "Session Canceled"

Before getting on a Google boat, be sure you are wearing a life jacket.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Google is After your Health Records

Image via Wikipedia
Google knows where you live and where you surf online. If you own an Android phone, they probably know who you speak to and who's in your directory. Now they are after your health records. Does that scare you as much as it scares me?

Google WaveTwo Google engineers are presenting a paper at USNEX HealthSec 2010, part of the 19th USENIX Security Symposium, which runs from August 11-13, 2010 arguing that current health records are static and they have a way to change that - of course they do. Their mission is to organize the world's information and your health records are part of that information. They plan to do this by using the Google Wave federation protocolThis  protocol is based on open source code that permits Wave servers from different organizations to cooperate and is designed to present updates from many sources in a format that is compatible for medical record keeping in a distributed environment.

If there protocol is generally accepted by the medical community, watch for ads in your mailbox for Viagra and Lipitor.

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Google is After your Health Records

Image via Wikipedia
Google knows where you live and where you surf online. If you own an Android phone, they probably know who you speak to and who's in your directory. Now they are after your health records. Does that scare you as much as it scares me?

Google WaveTwo Google engineers are presenting a paper at USNEX HealthSec 2010, part of the 19th USENIX Security Symposium, which runs from August 11-13, 2010 arguing that current health records are static and they have a way to change that - of course they do. Their mission is to organize the world's information and your health records are part of that information. They plan to do this by using the Google Wave federation protocolThis  protocol is based on open source code that permits Wave servers from different organizations to cooperate and is designed to present updates from many sources in a format that is compatible for medical record keeping in a distributed environment.

If there protocol is generally accepted by the medical community, watch for ads in your mailbox for Viagra and Lipitor.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill was not Caused by Technology

Image via Wikipedia
The oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is a huge environmental disaster that will take decades to clean up. Thousands have lost their livelihood, vacationers will be staying away and dozen of specifies of wildlife will be toxic or gone for many years. Good news is that it appears the leak has been stopped and soon, the relief well will be able to permanently plug the leak. Of course, we cannot forget the 11 men who died and those who were injured when the well exploded on April 20th

BsodSince the explosion, all efforts have been directed to stop the leak, and so should they. As it appears that an end is in sight for the leak, the press is going to shift to the cause of the explosion that started this mess. I'm sure it will take many months to determine the exact cause and the insurance companies will be watching very carefully. Some of this press has begun. I came across an article that quoted Mike Williams, the rig's chief electronics technician, saying that there were many problems and red flags on the rig but the most puzzling is that he computer screens on the rig would turn blue with no data coming through. What they may have been seeing is known, in the tech world, as the Blue Screen of Death - BSOD. 

In my opinion, the Gulf oil spill was not caused by the BSOD or any other technology. It was human error. People love to blame technology when things go wrong but it is not often the technology that went wrong - it was how it was used or how it was implemented or how it was designed. If they were getting BSOD on the rig, they should have questioned it and got it fixed. That is a human failing. Considering what was at stake, any usual technology malfunction should have been addressed. 

Computers are often used for mission-critical applications that can caused deathly consequences if they fail. It is up to use human to monitor technology carefully to ensure that it is operating as necessary so that the Blue Screen of (virtual) Death does not lead to real deaths.
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Google Gets an 'F' on the Nexus One

Image representing Nexus One as depicted in Cr...Image via CrunchBase
Not everything Google touches turns to gold. As a matter of fact, Google has had many products launches that have not been successful. They like to beta test product by the public and then if they do not succeed, they are  quietly pulled or minimized and not supported as well as their main applications. Such is the case with Google's Nexus One cell phone. Lots of hype with the announcement but little notice of its demise. As a matter of fact, Google choose to inform the public of its pulling the plug on this product on the same day that Apple's Steve Jobs held a press conference to discuss  antenna-gate!

Google has some very good Web-based products but it clearly had no idea about how to get into the cell business, making several mistakes. One of the mistakes was to align itself with a single service provider, T-Mobile, the weakest carrier in the US. It also confused the issue by branding the phone, made by HTC, and serviced by T-Mobile. With this companies involved, there was lots of finger-pointing when it came to service requests. slowing down the process with a unprepared support infrastructure. The final nail in the coffin was to offer the phone only through a Net purchase.

I'm sure that Google is licking its wounds, learn from its mistakes and try again after the Nexus One is a distance memory. After all, they already know what you are doing online but they also want to know what you are talking about.
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Leading Edge vs Bleeding Edge

I heard part of the press conference given my Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, this morning about the iPhone 4 problem of dropping calls. A few things stuck out for me. Firstly, Jobs admitted that the iPhone 4was not perfect. Good for him for admitted that. Secondly, he minimized the problem by saying that the iPhone 4 dropped just one more call, on average than its predecessor. Granted one more call is not a lot but on a phone that is supposed to be an improvements, it is not acceptable. Thirdly, that the fix is so simple and the problem so obvious, why was not not found and fixed before it was released?

Hold phone like this ...  
not like this ....

But the thing I was most surprised to see was Jobs' attitude about the problem. He definitely did not think it was a big thing which certainly did not deserve the media hype. He certainly did not have the "I feel your pain" attitude. It was more like he was pacifying his whining clients. Watch it and decide for yourself.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Mother of All Patches

Bought an iPhone 4? If you are in Canada, they are supposed to be available later this month. By the sounds of the problem the iPhone is having may delay the Canadian launch or even begin a recall. The redesigned iPhone has its antenna wrapped around its perimeter. Good idea in theory, but I guess that the test engineers have very small hands as this design mean that when the user holds the phone in a normal manner, the signal is interrupted and calls may be dropped. Apple is playing down the issue, saying its a software problem and has instructions on their Web site on how to properly hold an iPhone as to not block the antenna. Consumer Reports feels that the issue is so detrimental to its use, it cannot recommend the phone. Apple's stock has also dipped below its 50 days average.

Thankfully, there's a fix! It requires a patch! Not a software patch but a real patch. There are many reports that say if you put a small piece of duct tape over the lower left-hand side of the phone, the problem is fixed. Won't Red Green be proud!! (For those not familiar with this piece of Canadiana, Red Green was a character in a TV that fixed everything with duct tape). You can find an video of the procedure on the CNN tech site.

This is not the first time duct tape was used to fix technology. A very famous patch occurred in 1970, when the failing square carbon dioxide filters from Apollo 13's command module had to be modified to fit round receptacles in the lunar module. A workaround was made using duct tape to hold together other items found on board. The lunar module carbon dioxide filters started working again, saving the lives of the three astronauts on board.

If the iPhone is released in Canada as is, I would strongly urge you to visit your local hardware store on the way home from the Apple store. In that way, you will be able to hold the phone the way you want to without dropping any calls. You might also want to drop into your stock broker to invest some money in 3M stock.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Computer Protection

Your computer is a gateway to a vast amount of your personal information. It contain Web site you have visited, passwords (possibly saved by your browser), financial information and thanks to the boom in digital photography, many of your photographs. Just like all your personal belonging that you secure when you lock your doors when you leave your house, you should take some effort to secure your computer and its contents.

The good news is that you do not have to be a computer expert to secure your computer. There are some basic things that everyone can do, and should do, to put there mind at ease with regards to the way they manage the information stored on their computer. I think of computer security as protecting and insurance. Insurance is a bet that we take and hope to lose but you must ask yourself - "what data would I lose if disaster struck?" - fire, flood, theft, failure.

Here is a list of some security measure you can take:
  1. Firewall - this is software that essentially makes your computer invisible to the uninvited. You probably have a firewall installed if you have a router either supplied by your ISP or of you purchased one to provide Internet services to two or more computers. If you are unsure if your router contains a firewall, contact your ISP or the router manufacturer.
  2. Secure your wireless network - The only good thing to come out of Google's collection of unsecured wireless network data is that it brought this issue to the forefront. You may thing you are doing the neighbourhood a service by providing free Internet to your neighbourer and passer-bys but they are individuals who literally drive up and down street looking for unsecured wireless network for illegal purposes. For example, using your wireless network, they can download copyrighted materials and you would be responsible. Your wireless network is also a way into your computer. They can follow the signal back to your computer and access files. The technique to secure your wireless is different and dependent on the manufacturer of your router. Call their technique support line and they should help you. One more thing - the password required is 10 characters long, consisting of the characters 0-9 and A-E. Do not use your phone number for the password! That is way too easy to figure out. If your router was installed by the ISP installer, that is what they usually set it at - be sure to use something else.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tech Sector on the Rise

Coming through one of the worse recessions in history, we all look for those signs that would lead us to believe that it is over. Some look at the sale of large ticket items such as cars and houses while other look at the job market. There is one indicator that is often overlooked and that is the amount of money spend on technology by businesses.

In rough times, technology is often one of the first areas to be cut and therefore, a resurgence in this area is a sure sign that businesses are starting to rebound. Looking at the recent and project sales of of some of the large technology giants, you will see a turn around in the numbers. Here are a 10 examples:
  1. after falling by 4.2% in 2009, tech spending is up 3.8% this year to $1.5 trillion
  2. Microsoft has sold over 150 million of Win 7 - fastest OS sale in their history
  3. hardware sales are expect to rise by 6.4%
  4. Dell is expecting a 19% rise in revenue as oppose to the 13.4 drop they experienced in 2009
  5. SAP sales is expect to rise by 7% this year - dropped 8% in 2009
  6. according to a Nightly Business Report / BridgeNews poll, 40 percent of 300 executives polled expect to increase their IT spending this year and plan to invest, an average of 21% of their capital investments to technology this year
  7. Cisco Systems recorded a 23% jump in quarterly profit and 8% gain in revenue
  8. Intel said that revenue for microprocessor division for corporate server systems rose 42%.
  9. Sybase reported a 34% jump in profit
  10. Forrester Research, Inc is reporting that tech spending will rise by 11.2%  in Europe, Canada by 9.9%, Asia Pacific by 7.8%, and Latin America by 7.7%.
This recession hit everyone very hard but if the increasing profits by tech companies and IT spending by businesses is an indicator, there's light at the end of the recession tunnel.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Google Me

Have you Googled yourself lately? Most people have but the Google Me in this context is the much-rumoured and anticipated social networking community powered by Google. Google's attempt at social media in the past has not been successful. How many of you have used or even heard of Orkut, Buzz or Friend Connect? All these are examples of Google products that have attempted to crack the social media market and have not.

The rumour of Google Me started when Digg founder Kevin Rose tweeted that that Google is working on a Facebook competitor. It was seconded by former Facebook CTO Adam D'Angelo on the question and answer Web site Quora "This is not a rumor. This is a real project. There are a large number of people working on it. I am completely confident about this." This would be an opportune time for Google to come up with a competitor to Facebook that has been having problems of late with their security setting.

I left Facebook because of the weak security and the lack of control I felt I had with my privacy settings. I'm sure that the developers of Google Me will learn from the privacy mistakes committed by Facebook and release a more secure social networking site.

After all, it is in Google's best interest to get to know more about you. What better way to find out then to create a platform where you voluntarily spell is all out for them. Then try Googing yourself and see the information that comes up. How did they find out all that information about you? Beats me! - No .... Google Me!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Google on the Move

Google is at it again. They recently announced that they plan to buy ITA Software for $US700 million.  ITA Software is a major provider of airline travel software and has among its clients virtually all of the major Web travel information and booking providers including airlines as American and Continental and online travel services such as HotwireKayakOrbitz and Microsoft's Bing

Now what does Google want with this company? Well, over 10 percent of searches on Google are travel related and the online travel business is big business. Put the two together and Google is going to try to corner another Internet market. I'm sure you will shortly see a list of airlines schedules and fares when you enter departing and destination cities into the Google search box. And then a link to the new Google Travel Service that will gladly sell you a ticket.

Another convenient service brought to you by your friendly neighbourhood Google Web services. Or another attempt to learn more about you and where you travel and where you are at all times - perish the thought.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

XXX for Porn

ICANN, the organization that oversees domain names and registrations for the Internet, plans to approve the .xxx top-level domain (TLD) for adult Web sites. This is good news. Although optional, sexually explicit and pornographic Web sites can now use this .xxx for their domain names. I hope that these site become responsible and use this naming convention. 

Of course there is objection to using this naming convention. Some say it will not do any good because .xxx is just as accessible as .com. True enough but by using this convention it would make screening such sites much easier for parents and businesses that want to take inquiring eyes elsewhere. I know that porn distributors do not want young kids stumbling across their sites. Many porn sites already have a statement on their home page warning surfers under the age of eighteen not to enter. If they really mean to keep young people away, they can take the extra step to rename their site so it would be easier to avoid. 

Porn is big business on the Internet. It is thought to be the first business to make money in the online environment. Porn sites sell $3,000 of materials PER SECOND. If all 375 million porn sites were to switch to the .xxx name, it would be instantly bigger than the .com domain.  Until recently, "sex" was the most often searched term online.I'm sure it will not lose any market share by switching to the .xxx domain. 

I would urge all online porn businesses to take on this challenge and adopt the .xxx domain. Help make the Internet a safe place to have fun and find information without accidentally running into the stuff you want to sell. Those who want to buy some will find your services no matter what you call yourself.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Google / Apple Controlling your Cell Phone

I was surprised, and maybe I should not have been, to learn that Google can remove applications from Android-based phones. They removed an application recently because it apparently misrepresented its purpose thus wrongly encouraging user downloads (see Google Uses Kill Switch to Remove Android App) . One one hand, Google can take take of buggy and potentially dangerous apps but on the other hand, it is very scary that they have that much control of your personal device. I have read many app descriptions that have oversold themselves. If I downloaded a app that was wrongly misrepresented, I'm sure that I can figure that out fairly quickly and delete it myself. Maybe Google should be more like Apple in this regard and vet the app before they hit the Android marketplace.

The bigger question is really - what can Google do to your phone and how much information can they extract? I thought that Google was just trying to take over the Internet and now it has become obvious that they also have control over mobile devices.

I'm going to be in the market for a new cell in about a year. I was leaning to an Android-based devices but now I'm not sure. I did some digging and found out that Apple can kill iPhone apps as well. We are told to be careful with our personal information but it seems like Google and Apple have access to it whether we want them to or not.

Big Brother ... move over!!