Category: (Ubiquitous) Computing

My 2012 Predictions

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By , December 21, 2011 2:00 pm

Hello?? Is this this on?

Moses, it’s been a while since I posted here, but I thought I’d at least get some thoughts down as how my predictions for 2011 went and to share what might come out in 2012.

So here are my ideas for 2011:

  • More mobile – who really cares what the latest computer is? Everyone is buzzing about phones. Between the fast revisions, portability and dropping price, the promise of capable computing in your pocket (as opposed to the office/den) is appealing to everyone
  • Social everything – we’ve seen how powerful Facebook has become, and it’s not going to weaken anytime in the future. There might be some ripples with Diaspora or other new services, but if they don’t use existing services as a rooting point, they are not going anywhere. To make change, you’ll have to convince a planet wide mob.
  • Bandwidth battles – net neutrality will come to a head again and there is going to be more available, but the providers are going to find more ways to charge for it
  • Text will still rule – even though video and audio will be easier to capture and transmit, people will still post and communicate using letters.
  • Education might actually get the hint that social and mobile compute is something that should be given consideration – well I can hope

So how did I do?

  • More mobile – I think I got this one pretty good. Mobile is eating everyone’s lunch as we go into 2012
  • Social everything – Occupy, Arab Spring and many more history changing events were enabled by our social tools. If people thought that social was only for loners and geeks, they should think again. I got this one.
  • Bandwidth battles – Almost. In Canada, we got a half solution, but we also are offered far more wireline based (including Wifi) than before.
  • Text will still rule – yup, got that one as well. txt messaging has only got bigger.
  • Education might actually get the hint that social and mobile compute is something that should be given consideration – Not being on the ground there, I don’t know how I didn’t but I don’t think any real traction was made there.

So what are my thoughts for 2012?

  • Even more mobile – cheaper and smarter, but not at the same time
  • IP Soap Opera will have some manner of climax – the litigation over IP and patents is embarrassing for everyone involved. I have a hunch though that something is going to wake the litigants up (including Apple) to this fact.
  • Social everything – more than ever before, it will be the glue that knits together separate experiences.
  • Social nothing – our social tools will become old… allowing them to get really useful.
  • Alternative interfaces – Between Siri and Kinect, I’m sure there is going to be some significant traction in the realm of data entry into systems that are increasingly ubiquitous.

So, hopefully I’ll post again next year to see how I did, but in the mean time, I’m still hoping to change this blog into one that is more photography oriented. The problem is of course time. Between work, family, and starting a business, there hasn’t really been time to reflect. I hope that will change, but if not. I’m still sharing all manner of thoughts on edtech, teaching, tech in general and photography on G+, Facebook, and Twitter.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Letters of the Revolution

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By , March 19, 2011 2:50 pm

I know, this is going to be an odd post to fall under change management, but if you think about it… what is going on in the Middle East and North Africa is really an interesting exercise in that… but odd thoughts aside. It occurred to me while chatting with my brother this morning that the most interesting thing about the way that social media, and more to the point, citizen journalism and life-blogging have been used in the current conflicts isn’t the organizing or the reporting of large events and movements. It has been in the way that it has opened up the little things about these conflict areas and allowed the world to see the smaller stories out of which these events emerged. In the past, the letters of soldiers and dissidents would have been found in later years and depending on who came out on top of the conflict, they would be used as proof for the actions that were taken or buried for all time as dirty secrets. Now, social media has put many of those little stories out for the world to see on their own. Not through the filtered lens of the embedded journalist or the official line of the government, but the raw ideas pouring out from those who are able to find a connection to the service of their choice. It will be interesting in a few years time to see what both scholars and laypeople alike say happened for the civilians, the combatants and those forced to be in that middle zone. The governments had their secrets spill out in the open with Wikileaks, it would seem to me that this might be the first time that history might have to acknowledge “secrets” as well as letters and notes from all manner of individuals are released and archived for the world to see and interpret.

C64->Wintel->Mac = BB->Android->iOS

By , January 17, 2011 10:34 am

Well, I finally did what many people thought I would do a couple years ago. I got an iPhone. Why? Well, we’ll get to that, but first, I want to share just how struck I’ve been with my personal progression on the desk/laptop computing arena is mirrored by my mobile progression.

My computing story started in ernest on the C64 after a short time on the Vic20. It was certainly the king of the ring when it came out and for what an elementary kid back then knew or cared about computers, it was certainly doing enough. But it was eclipsed by MSDOS based machines for many reasons that I didn’t understand at the time. All I knew was it wasn’t possible to get the things that I wanted to get done (games) on the C64 and increasingly things were happening on MSDOS computers.

I stayed on MSDOS/Windows for many years, learning all manner of things about how to get things done in spite of limitations and upping my geek cred as I went along. This was the case until my B.Ed., when I had to “get things done” on the computer. These things included multi media projects as well as surf and turf. At the time I was anti-Mac, and had a serious bias against the platform. But then as I started to use it and understand that I didn’t have to work around limitations (only OS9 bombs), MacOS started to grow on me. So when it came time to get my first machine with completely my own money, it was a Mac. That was over 10 years ago and I haven’t looked back since. Now I get my things done and don’t worry about managing my technology, only my work. Though, I am thankful for my time in Win/DOS land as it gave me enough of a background to understand issues when they do pop up on the Mac. The timeline for this adventure… I’d say about 25 years.

So how does this match up to my mobile experience? Well, my first smartphone was a Nokia S60 device that could do some cool things, including use the mobile GMail app to get email (within the then massive 5MB data bucket). I still remember the look that a clerk gave me when I used my screen to show her a confirmation email. That was quickly eclipsed by my Blackberry experience. But after learning the basics of what a smartphone could do, I noticed it just wasn’t keeping up to the upstart iPhone and the mythical Android. RIM, the parent of the Blackberry was also seeming to loose it’s way as it tried to be both a consumer and business device, looking at the hardware more than the experience. I then had an opportunity to jump to Android as I had an opportunity to take advantage of a low entry cost into the system. On Android, I certainly learned lots about mobile computing, understanding all manner of limitations and finding work arounds (sound familiar?). Android is (and was for me) certainly very useable, but with more time spent trying to manage all manner of elements to stay up to date, it began to feel like a chore. All the while through this experience, the mobile Apple platforms have been in my life – iPods and the iPad. As regular readers know, I haven’t been very generous with the iOS plaform for various reasons, but in this year of change, I no longer wanted to have to deal with the little things, but rather focus on the experience and getting things done. This is something that after some testing on the iPad, I was sure that the iPhone would be able to deliver and after only a few days on the iPhone, I can say that I am happy to be here and I don’ think I’ll be jumping ship for quite a while. Apple has focused on the experience, and for the vast majority of people who aren’t so geeky as to have custom setups for XYZ system, the iOS platform makes everyone feel empowered. But for those of us who are a bit geeky, a couple of workarounds are not a big deal. For me, the only workaround that I’ve had to do is for contacts/calendar and mail… sounds like a deal breaker right? Not really.

Since I use Gmail and Google Apps for all my mail/contact/calendars, I could have used the Gmail or Exchange setups to make things work just as Apple believes it should. But I needed, scratch that, I’m addicted to the way that Android was able to use Gmail in the same way that the web interface does, so I needed a fix and it is amazingly easy.

Some quick Googling showed that iOS supports comma separated “From” addresses. While you can’t insert the commas when you setup the account, it is certainly easy enough to edit the account after it has been saved the first time and use copy and paste (now the most elegant solution to the problem I’ve seen) to add the linked accounts with my GMail to the address field. I can now send mail the same way that I was able to on Android. Apparently this works only on IMAP mail accounts, so I’ve lost some of the push elements for mail, but that isn’t a deal breaker now. I use the Exchange setup to pull over my contacts (2 way sync) and I use CalDAV to pull in my calendars (also 2 way sync). With these minor hacks, I’m up and running on my iPhone the same way I was on Android, but with several advantages. The first being true freedom from carrier based updates (with the potential exception of mobile hotspot in iOS 4.3), the second being using the dominant developer platform and finally, not having to worry about the umpteen varieties of hardware and software combinations that are out there. Much like like on the Mac. The interesting part here? This progression has been over barely 5 years.

My 2011 Predictions

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By , December 28, 2010 9:03 pm

Well 2010 was certainly an eye opening ride for me, moving between institutions not of my own will and looking to a future that may or may not include academia. But for all that, it has provided me with yet another way of looking at technology and the way that it is used to educate us and help us tell our stories. So without too much extra reflection, here are my points from last year:

  • Augmented Reality – phones and other GPS enabled devices will add value to the world by being able to overlay data that incorporates real time updates, static content and, of course, social data.
  • Increased power of mobile – From payments (PayPal has apps out there now), to creation and management, increasingly you’ll have to be able to do it all mobile.
  • Privacy erosion – we’ll see just how fleeting privacy is, anything that gets transmitted is public, period. We should see much more this coming year, how and why this is the case. But at the same time, the value of the crowd being able to take a peek at what you do will gain value.
  • Decline of traditional transmission – I think (and hope) that cablecos will realize that PVR is the first step in enabling people to get content the way that they want – and that way is file based. I don’t know if the cablecos are going to make this move or if the content creators are, but it’s certainly coming. Fast pipes, big drives and cheap streamers make it very easy to set up one’s home to be able to download last night’s episode of whatever and watch it at a more reasonable time. Apple has some of this going through iTunes, but the system is overly restrictive and I don’t think people like the idea of paying for things twice.
  • Casual Gaming will explode – games on Facebook, Twitter, phones are going to grow and traditional games are going to stagnate… unless they have some social element.
  • Chrome – a non phone web based OS is going to make ripples, especially for those many billions out there who only really surf and turf on their machines. For those who need to handle media files, traditional machines will still be there, but the appeal of the “global roaming profile” will certainly appeal to many.
  • Short URLs – There is a reason why Google and Facebook have got into the game. I think brands are going to go to these to show approval or ownership.

So how did I do?

  • Augmented reality – we are certainly seeing what the increase in GPS capable devices has provided. The boom of location based services, while not really “augmented”, is certainly an enhancement.
  • Increased power of mobile – well mobile payment is increasing and the sudden rise of the iPad shows that mobile is certainly something people were waiting for, even if they didn’t know it or know where/how it would fit in their digital life
  • Privacy erosion – Facebook anyone? Check this Google News link.
  • Decline of traditional transmission – well TV and terrestrial radio didn’t die out, but YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Boxee and many more certainly went main stream.
  • Casual gaming – Hear about Zynga? I doubt Google would have bought in if it wasn’t going somewhere.
  • Chrome – well I missed on that one, ChromeOS test platforms only now started shipping.
  • Short URLs – and Pro anyone – I think I got this one on the mark.

So what are my thoughts for 2011?

  • More mobile – who really cares what the latest computer is? Everyone is buzzing about phones. Between the fast revisions, portability and dropping price, the promise of capable computing in your pocket (as opposed to the office/den) is appealing to everyone
  • Social everything – we’ve seen how powerful Facebook has become, and it’s not going to weaken anytime in the future. There might be some ripples with Diaspora or other new services, but if they don’t use existing services as a rooting point, they are not going anywhere. To make change, you’ll have to convince a planet wide mob.
  • Bandwidth battles – net neutrality will come to a head again and there is going to be more available, but the providers are going to find more ways to charge for it
  • Text will still rule – even though video and audio will be easier to capture and transmit, people will still post and communicate using letters.
  • Education might actually get the hint that social and mobile compute is something that should be given consideration – well I can hope

So not as many this year as in previous years, but things are moving through a bit of a bottleneck right now and maybe in 2011 something will blow things open, or we see things crystallize in the nxt 8-13 months and then some real changes arrive in 2012.

The iPad and the Internet of Things

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By , December 13, 2010 1:34 pm

I guess I should really start to reconsider my islate tag now, especially in light of all the slates now being unified under iOS. But that is some admin for me and not really the topic of the post today. The idea that I want to get out there is about the iPad and how, over the last few months, it has really changed the way that my family and I look at media within the house, especially since the 4.2 update and the addition of Air Play.

For the last several months, my wife and I have been talking about what we use and don’t use around the house. One of them certainly seems to be all the extra channels on cable. Yeah, maybe once a month we’ll watch hockey or I’ll have the news on in the morning, but outside of that, all we watch is Treehouse (a children’s channel). That combined with the fact that we have the majority of the other content that we watch on some manner of media or another, suggests that we could cut broadcast out and not really notice that it is missing. So that is exactly what we have done for the past few weeks. The result? Nobody has noticed anything different. The biggest enabler for this seamless transition? The iPad. It is the hub for our streaming radio, and last night after finding the Global TV app and finally installing Air Play Server on my old G5, it can now also be the hub for our video consumption as well. It is still one of the things that Bug loves, and now that the sound can be put through the house speakers, I’m sure her Baby Piano melodies are only going to become that much more engaging.

iOS, and the iPad in particular, has connected the data rich environment that was once limited to the den or office to the rest of the home, and done so in a manner that the entire family can access. Granted, this is all still at the consumption side of the spectrum when it comes to working with computers and devices. But what it does do (or at least suggest) for my daughter, is that data and connectivity can be connected to the greater environment. Being 1, she doesn’t appreciate that, but by the time she’s old enough to see how the entire system is working, hopefully she won’t have to as she will have had truly grown up with an Internet of Things with the iPad (or similar device) being the enabling gateway. And before you leap from your desk, or bed or wherever you are, remember that early computing started as a predominantly consumption driven paradigm.

Twitter or Novelty and Engagement (nee encouraging communication)?

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By , November 16, 2010 2:51 pm

The Chronicle, Fast Company and many others have picked up on this article – The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades (Junco R., Heiberger G., Loken E. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00387.x). What struck me wasn’t how many other outlets ignored the fact that it wasn’t actually “Twitter” perse, but rather engagement and novelty that may have created the result. Twitter was merely the vehicle that allowed that to happen. I would think that much of the same results could in all manner of Student Response Systems. From The Chronicle:

“One of the hallmarks of any good college education is to have students engaged, because engagement is crucial in developing critical-thinking skills and increased maturity, as well as promoting overall retention,” said Reynol Junco, an associate professor of academic development and counseling at Lock Haven University, and one of the study’s authors. He suggested that Twitter may be able to improve grades because it incorporates a feature into academic study that many students already use in their everyday lives—the “status update” that’s a part of Facebook. He said this familiarity may make students more comfortable in both continuing class discussions outside the classroom, and responding to class material. At the peak of the experiment, occurring three weeks before the end of the semester, the 70 students produced 612 tweets within a single week.”

Thankfully I’m not alone in thinking that it’s not the tool, but I don’t think entirely the students and the way that they choose to use the tool as Danielle Webb suggests in Macleans.

Whether a student uses a tool like Twitter or not can be indicative of a number of things. But it is not, by itself, indicative of a student’s intelligence, nor is it by itself capable of boosting any single student’s GPA. The possession of a hammer does not make a person a better carpenter, but simply offers them more opportunities.

I would hate to see the effects of a study like this on an impressionable young student, struggling with their course load, thinking that the answer to all of their academic problems lies in a Twitter account. Sure, in some cases, Twitter can bring a new, dynamic and sometimes valuable contribution to class life, but it’s completely naïve to think that the simple addition of this social networking tool to a classroom will turn Cs to As.

It is very much also a requirement that the instructors are part of the equation as well, creating an environment where the tool can be used to as great a range as possible. From the abstract:

This study provides experimental evidence that Twitter can be used as an educational tool to help engage students and to mobilize faculty into a more active and participatory role.

It’s nice to see this sort of research being done.

Fabian Hemmert on grasping digital content

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By , September 23, 2010 10:41 am

Take these ideas (and others like these):

Together with these ones:

I think you will have something that could really send us down the rabbit hole in terms of augmented reality. Haptic feedback systems are nothing new – afterall, phones have been rumbling for a long time as have other controllers. Lights flash different colors to alert people to different events. But if the device can somehow be interacted with and deliver contextual information, then things might get either really cool, or really scary (this is after all the 50th anniversary of the term cyborg).

Students in one St. Albert school finally allowed to “officially” power up

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By , June 1, 2010 9:03 am

Well, if you are an edtecher and haven’t seen the story about Richard S. Fowler Catholic Junior High School, here is your chance. Just some thoughts as the program starts in September so we won’t really know how things are going for at least six months:

  • Good on the school for providing a class set of devices for those who can’t afford to have or bring their device to school (St. Albert is higher SES, but that doesn’t mean that every family can drop $300 for a device)
  • Good on them for taking a look at their population and choosing the most popular devices to support – iSlates – but what about other devices? Are they just not willing to accept that there are other devices that are just as capable? Nah, I think it has more to do with the fact that to get teachers comfortable with one device takes a fair amount of time and effort – to try to get them familiar with Android, Chrome and every other mobile device interface out there will take … well, quite a bit. We just won’t mention anything about jailbroken devices… It likely also helps that they are using PowerSchool and their SIS – a former Apple product.
  • Bad on them for thinking the worst of their students for what they “might” do on the ‘net – the SA Gazette has a bit of a write up as to how the WiFi network will still protect the children from the hazards of FaceBook and the like. One of the interviews that I heard on the radio said that “good teaching is good teaching… and that is enough to keep kids away from extra distractions that come through these devices”

From the Gazette:

In recent years, school officials have struggled to keep a lid on inappropriate classroom use of devices like cellphones, but the Catholic division is trying to flip that thinking on its ear.

“We won’t support the idea that these devices are counterproductive to student learning. It’s learning how to use the tool well,” said division superintendent David Keohane.

There is a growing array of educational applications available for smartphones that can be used to better engage students and improve learning, he said.

“Any technological device can be used irresponsibly. Our challenge is to enable kids to use these responsibly and offset the tendency to text about something else while the teacher is talking,” he said.

If seems to me that they are almost trying to say two things at once – that they will let the students be responsible, but at the same time limit what they can do…

But at the end of the day, I can’t complain, this is a start and it’s something that has moved the mobile learning idea forward in Alberta – riding on the popularity of Apple devices and taking advantage of the fact that schools will not be able to keep up with the technology on their own – realizing that they have to take the lead from the kids.

Are the telcos missing the point?

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By , May 4, 2010 8:22 am

In a story from The Guardian, it looks like UK telcos (and that means others world wide are likely watching) are preparing to launch their own app store. They want in on the cash that seems to be flowing to Apple and Google. But something tells me that they are missing the point – much like they are still concerned about minutes of voice communication – the telcos are a utility, not content creators (at least on this part of the equation). This would be like the water company wanting into the soup business as well as the sippy cup cartel because well; they deliver water for use in those applications don’t they?

I know Apple isn’t going to let it’s store go down without a fight, and Google likely doesn’t care – it will still have it’s stock OS that the power user can install and get access to the Google Market. Google even allows other markets already, so what is the big deal? The deal might be for developers – if they can submit to one clearing house that then feeds the various App Stores, then the telcos might have hit on something. They are still a utility, they don’t really get in the way and in some way, they take a cut… but then what happens to all those free apps?

This should be an interesting development to watch over the next few months.

Rooted my “Telus” Hero

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By , April 28, 2010 12:45 am

Well, after lots of research to make sure I understood what I was getting into, making sure I had enough lingo to ask a good question should I run into trouble and most importantly clearing up time in my schedule to do so, I finally took the plunge and rooted my Telus (130) Hero. Why? Well the 2.1 update to Android had been promised by HTC and by extension Telus since I got the phone at New Years and to date, there is nothing official. What’s worse, the dates for the HTC “unbranded” release keep getting pushed back and that means that the branded releases are certainly not on any fast lane out of the compiler.

So what did it take for me to get root and start seeing what Android is about today rather than when it first came out? Well, Telus uses a very up to date firmware build for 1.5. This means that many of the easier (read – less step intensive) processes are not possible. So that means if you want to root this phone, you need to create a gold card. Now before I go any further, I’ll say what every other guide out there says… do this at your own risk… you could brick your phone and I am not going to be able to do anything for you other than say “it worked for me”.

So what’s a gold card? Well, it’s a card that has had part of its file system modified slightly. The process is rather simple and of everything, outside of setting up Apps2SD (which I’m doing tonight before bed), is what takes the most time. it is also the step where you might have to lay out money. I wanted to get a faster card and so I managed a deal on a 4GB Kingston Class4 and I used this guide and created my gold card on my second attempt. What went wrong on the first try? Well, I didn’t read the instructions – I chose the wrong disk to change – Choose Physical Disks! You’ll notice that the guide is one that tells you how to root the same phone, so why am I spending electrons on typing more out? Well, the guide is good, but only as a high level guide, other than the gold card process, it felt weak to me. It also suggest updating the radio, but I didn’t and it work fine. This process could take 20 minutes depending how long it takes for the gold card server to email your disk image back to you.

After the gold card, you have to downgrade the firmware – don’t worry, the 405 version that is suggested works just fine if you chicken out at this point or want to go back to some thing “official”. This took some fiddling for me as I needed to get a virtual machine that would actually let the sync app see my phone. It seems that XP is your best be here. Install the RUU exe and wait out the 5-10 minutes that it takes. The guys at The Unlockr have written up the guides that will take us the rest off the way – and this stage is outlined here. There is also a decent gold card method here, but you can choose the one that you want.

After you’ve downgraded, you have to install a new recovery image. Not hard – follow along – but if you are like me, you’ll have tried to see what the stock recover is and been met with a caution sign on boot. Don’t worry – I think the carriers are trying to keep their phones “protected”. Be sure you adjust your input to reflect the file names/numbers that you are planning to use. You’ll spend about 2 minutes on this stage and after this you can flash the ROM of your choice – I’m a fan of Villain 5.4. Oh yeah, if you are running an unlocked phone, it’s still unlocked.

Once all this is done – maybe an hour later – you’ll have the bigger job of putting together all your screens and logging into all your services, but that should be just as much fun. Mybackup Pro was a wonder agent to allow me to get most of my data back and FYI – reboot the phone a couple times and make sure Google has done its syncing before you pass judgment on the ROM.

I’m certainly happy I went through with this – I was scared at the outset, but I so dearly wanted to be free of Telus that you can not image how it was hurting to be bound to them again even for this little thing. Can I live with a few extra bug and hiccups that were not there before I started – sure, because the trade off is that so much more of what the system is capable off is open to me and in the end, it’s Android – there are at least two ways around every bug, more if you start looking at them as features or challenges.


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