Win7 – MS’s toe back into the door

Well on May 5th, it might just be the one day that ISPs around the world wished that would never come. Torrents or not, geeks by the millions are going to hammer servers at Microsoft, it’s mirrors and torrent hosts like never before. Even MS haters and ex users might be getting into the action, and for just over one year, they will all get to use Win7 for free until June 10th 2010 (GN). This might be a good thing as I don’t think that everyone who wants to get the iso on the first day (or who doesn’t already have it) will likely have to try for a few weeks to get it down. By giving away Win7, MS will effectively play the Linux game for a year and allow everyone legitimately use the OS without paying for it, taking the one thing that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of MS haters out of the equation. This year will also allow a massive amount of public beta testing to be done on MS’s behalf.

If MS plays it’s cards right, it will release the official version of 7 Ultimate for around the same price as OS 10.6 (or 7) – and not through OEM (which is already cheap), but as legit new version/upgrades. This strategy might also have the impact of killing off the Hackintosh market. These hacks are the people that MS wants back in thier camp, because these are the people who are telling average consumers what to get. And now that there are equivalent apps on all OSes, getting these users back into the fold is going to be more important than ever.

So what does that mean for me?  Was my experience in one day so Earth shatteringly amazing that it’s got me thinking about using Windows of my own accord? Well not really, but if I build my Hackintosh in early 2010 and it fails to “bless” properly (bonus points for those who remember about blessed folders on OS9), I will have a machine that I can use Adobe’s Lightroom and Premier Elements on without having to deal with the issues associated with RYO production apps (though I’m pretty sure Lightzone and FilmGIMP -aka Cine Paint – on Ubuntu 9.04) are going to be pretty brainless to support). I will, if I build it in the right case, have a machine that I can stick into my component stack  and use as a Home Theater PC – for sure an over build, but certainly future resistant. And in an odd turn, if that comes to pass… I will be using a Mac to get “real” work done and Windows will be my toy OS.

Google’s unsocial social network

Google has likely been building this up internally for a while, as reported by the tech media:

The problem with Google Profiles as a social network is that it’s not social.

Google Profiles lacks the equivalent of Facebook’s “Wall Posts” and “Status Updates.” (Profiles has a status message, but only people on your Gmail Chat buddy list can see it.)

And this is why Google should buy Twitter.

I tweeted last night that this is a “data portable” network for geeks, but on further reflection, it is not even that. This is simply a portal that brings together Google services in addition to RSS feeds. So this is no different than a “homepage” of old with an easy way to integrate RSS from other services. It is also not really that different from Facebook’s public profile either.

But, like Orkut, I don’t think this is really going to fly. Why? Well, status updates, which are the core of Twitter and the “central feature” of Facebook are missing (as noted) and to add other content – videos, photos and the like, the user has to go to another service and then come back to the profile to add it. This is something that the casual users of Facebook are not going to be doing anytime soon.

The other thing that I noticed – is that there is no “Friend Connect” widget to be seen. I had added one of those to my site, so it would have been really cool to see my blog show on my profile somehow, but all I could do is link it. So without a way to find and browse to friends, Profiles is likely going to sputter as well, because as annoying as the “suggested friends” “feature” is in Facebook, it does help keep people in the system. The other part that is missing is some way to asynchronously see what content your friends have added recently. So while I might see the tweets stream by from my friends, I would have to actively go to their profile to see what they have done/added. This is something that finally slipped into the new Facebook design as “Highlights” – sitting right under the ads.

Google Profiles does have one thing going for it, for those who are rather geeky and want to dump content into services scattered around the web and have a single profile (or portfolio – nee eportfolio – ) that grows without much attention, this is something that might be useful.

What else might be useful? Well when people search for people using Google… guess what will/might come up first? Not the Facebook public profile, not the Twitter feed… yup… Google’s profile.

My first trip on my 4th Safari

Arg! This seems to sum up my first run tests for Apple’s latest Chrome motivated kick at the browser can. Now, with IE8 out (and Gazelle on the way), Chrome 2 coming, FF3.1 almost there (depending on what day you catch the developers), Safari 4 beta rounds out the crowd of popular browsers that are in the “just out of the wrapper” phase of use. Speaking of the wrapper, it took a few tries to get Safari for me in the first place – hence the first part of the arg.

safari-failSo trying to get the download file through this works how? So after hammering reload a few times, clearing cache and trying all the browsers I have, nothing. So I turn to Twitter… a quick search there reveals a tinyurl link that works and shows me this:

safari-run

Ok, so now I can get things going. Not quite, after the cool startup sound, Safari proceeds to crash out of the gates. But a quick relaunce later and things are working. Plowing through the typical surf and turf sites that I visit, and checking banking and other logins (WebCT et al), Safari just bombed along – hit enter and the page just about explodes on the page. So ready to share my initial experiences with everyone else… and to log this experience into my online brain, I get into my WP Admin, hit new post and notice something is missing… I can’t upload any images! This post needs images! This won’t do!

dashboard-fail

I know this is beta, and for a first out of the box public release, I like it. If I need to put up images, I can grab FF and work from there, as I think it might start using Safari 4 most things and hopefully the media gallery bug can be worked out by Apple or WP as needed. One thing that I will miss from FF is the ability to save open tabs. The coverflow history makes up for some of this – ensuring that you don’t need to be opening tabs that you are not going to use in a session, but the option would certainly be nice. Now I just have to get Cooliris to work.

Giving Google Some Latitude

Google has been called Big Brother so many times, you’d think that the Big G would be synonymous with another “big g”. So now that Google has a way of not only knowing if you are thinking naughty or nice things, but where you are as well, people are starting to invest in even more tin foil garments. Some of those people are getting their fuel from Privacy International who released a statement about what the can of worms that it believes that Google has opened up given these 5 scenarios:

  • An employer provides staff with Latitude-enabled phones on which a reciprocal sharing agreement has been enabled, but does not inform staff of this action or that their movements will be tracked.
  • A parent gifts a mobile phone to a child without disclosing that the phone has been Latitude-enabled.
  • A partner, friend or other person gains access to an unattended phone (left on a bar on in the house) and enables Latitude without the other person’s knowledge.
  • A Latitude-enabled phone is given as a gift.
  • A phone left unattended, for example with security personnel or a repair shop, is covertly enabled.

To me, at first blush, this seems to be to be one of those things that are really silly… these are the same things that can happen to any computing device that the user “leaves wide open” or gets as a preconfigured gift. The “no-good-nicks” that they identify are just as likely going to be breaking laws as misusing a tool. But they do raise a good point, there should be some manner of notification on the device that the service is operating. On smart phones, this might be done really easily – another notifation icon like BlueTooth/Wifi/New Messages. But for those people who don’t have the phone out of their personal space for more time than it takes to shower, this might be a good thing as well – just a reminder that the service is indeed working. I seem not to be the only one thinking along these lines – Micheal Zimmer has a similar post.

I think it would be cool that if Google is using the data for anything, it would be for charting traffic flow in cities or during events. If they could have an “opt in” for a project like that, I’m sure they would suddenly see many more users who would then be able to Google things like – wait time on “route X”, time in line at NE WC on 2nd level ZXC Stadium, and the list goes on.

Google Latitude… Big Brother or Bother?

There is a slight chance that some of you might have missed the news over the last 24h from Google – they are now tracking you! Using the new version of their mobile map client, Google has given users (and itself) the ability to track, using GPS or manual location entry, one’s location via its Latitude feature. It really amuses me that this has started to raise the uproar that it has.

It is my guess that the people who are going to make the most use of this feature are those microblogging junkies who update their location in Twitter or Facebook or whatever. Not the masses of mobile users out there who have the new version of Google Maps available (iPhone users still have to wait). Since they are already disclosing this information, this only makes the process easier for them and more accessible to the no so savy. And maybe that is where the “rub” is. Is this a gateway to another level of privacy compromise? I don’t know and I don’t really want to waste brain power thinking about the ills, I’d rather see how this could be useful.

And off the top of my head, the greatest use could be for groups who are dipersed over a wide area to be able to find each other – think about going to conference and being able to find your colleagues in the convention location, or going to a new city and being able to find where everyone is if you get lost. Even more mundane, you can see that your friend is at the store and ask them to grab something for you. And if you are worried about being caught where you are not supposed to be, you can always stop telling your location (manually set it somewhere else). For these situations, the only thing that I can see being an issue is if one GL user is trying to surprise another GL user with a party and the person throwing the party forgets to stop sharing their location… I can see it now… “Quiet! He’s coming! Hide yourselves and your locations!”. Good times.

And for those who are worried about privacy – here is Google’s advice:

2009 Predictions

Whoa… 2008 saw me put up almost a thousand posts, not to shabby. But I think that would have been higher if I wasn’t able to tweet at least a few of the things that would have otherwise been given a one liner post. And as I see the calendar is almost ready to show 2009, it’s time to look forward to 2009 and look back at what I predicted at the start of 2008 (ok, late 2007) to see what I got right in my predictions. So first, the looking forward:

  • Rise of mobile data/3G in Canada – we see mobile data as being very important everywhere else on the planet and come 2009, we’ll be less than a year away from Vancouver 2010. This means that we’ll have all manner of international handsets roaming around on the various networks starting in 2009. To make them happy, Canada’s mobile data network and rates will have to improve. But at least our data speeds are not that bad right now. Having more players in the wireless market will certainly help as well. It also seems that the telcos are pricing SMS rates way too high and this is going to lead to people using generic data instead – IM or other means of chat.
  • A change in form factor preference – Everything seemed to be getting smaller and smaller all the time, hence the rise of the netbook. But it doesn’t look like netbooks are doing so well (especially with smartphones rising and pico projectors not far behind). I’m thinking that the iPhone is going to get some pretty cool accessories that will allow it to connect to all manner of additional devices.
  • Mobile UIs – Part of this change in form factor preference is going to be a marked improvement in the way that mobile UIs are constructed and the way that data is presented on a mobile screen. This is key to getting people away from thinking that they need to see everything on the small screen the same way that they do on the desktop. If this doesn’t happen and netbooks manage to get 3G modems and long battery life, this point might be mute. We might see an early example of this idea looking at how various SNS have “just enough info for the road” via their mobile portals, the trick is to do the same thing for the office/classroom.
  • Technology abandonment – I think we are going to see a drift away from little tech gadgets (aided by the economic situation) and a move toward more “appliance like” technologies – TVs that handle downloads, photos etc. With so many gadgets and UIs, people are only barely scratching the abilities that are available – though this is likely as not a reflection of just how many “features” get tacked onto a gadget. To go with this, there will likely be a trend in gadgets to better fit the broad spectrum of users as opposed to the early adopters. We saw a bit of this already with things like the Selphy printers.
  • Photo/Video convergence – With the Nikon D90 and the Canon 5DMkII there is even less to compromise between systems to create quality images, moving or not. Of course this does not mean that the average level of content produced is going to be any better, just that there are now fewer compromises. This new breed of devices is going to make broadband sharing even more important as people will find value in their relationships as opposed to their material wealth as a result of the economy (who am I joking?? It just sounded noble). As these files are also increasingly “ready to go” and disc is cheap and sharing easy, there will be an increase in personal story archiving.
  • Rise of mLearning and mobile linked services – Services like Evernote allow mobile devices to become sensors for less mobile or desktop devices, this setup allows people to capture their world and then bring it back for further reflection and processing. We already see quite a bit of this with the mobile versions of SNS. This will get rid of the “edit on small device” problem and as many of these services are already web based, they are likely to be cross platform. This will certainly help people get used to the idea and as acceptance spreads generally, it might find it’s way into classrooms as teachers start to think of mobile devices as collection and communication tools as opposed to annoying toys.
  • Net neutrality and Copyright – boring topics that will come to the floor as changes here will impact the “utility like” perception that many people have of their broadband connection as well as the feeling that they should be able to do within the walls of their home what they want with that which they pay for (EULA be damned!).
  • Microblogging going more mainstream and perhaps becoming the search jump point – I’m starting to think that the Semantic Web might turn out to be Web4.0 and not 3.0. I think the “realtime web” is going to be an important step between the semisolid web that we currently have in Web2.0 to the fully fluid, intelligent (knows before you do) web that some might argue that a semantic web might be. Some might call this Web2.5 as it is leveraging 2.0 technologies… but I think this is a definition that will only be seen years down the road. I can certainly see Google and others putting twitter or, more likely, identi.ca updates (tweets are not “creative commons” where as dents are) right underneath the sponsored results so that a searcher will be able to see just how relevant the results are to their original query. This will also make advertisers much more responsive to what the consumer needs are, maybe allowing Google to charge more for that slot.
  • “This is me” – hopefully via OpenID, but more likely under one of either Google Facebook’s systems, a single account system will become more widespread. You choose which provider you trust the most and keep all your account info there. I don’t mind having accounts scatterred everywhere, but every now and again, I feel that nagging… why do I have to create another account! I just want to see what there is here! If I’m feeling this, I’m sure there are many more folk… and a great number of them who are less tech savy/patient who are not using some of the really cool tools out there because they can’t be bothered with yet another account. I’m thinking the way to get this to abolutely boom is if a bank would start using this system. Granted you’ll then have a very vulnerable point of failure, but then again, if not the banks, who else out there is motivated to create some manner of “next to iron-clad” system to protect credentials. With this, I can see there being better ways to update the various SNS out there and to interact with them at the most basic level. The walled garden model of the SNS is fine as a means to contain specialized tools to manipulate information, but the inputting of the raw info (thinking status updates) should be much easier to do from a single point. Socialthing, Ping.fm and hellotxt are certainly a start along this path. This might end up being really important if there is a new “cooler” SNS that emerges and people are wanting to transition from one to another. Otherwise this will be a tools for those of us who have more than one place where we play.
  • The depression/recession/retrenchment – This is going to likely change things around as to how people think about upgrades  and on how fast companies update models – just look at what is happening to the auto industry. I think we might see the lowest replaceable unit return to something less than the entire machine for computer systems if the troubles continue. I know this is already the case – your Win/*nixtel box looses a power suppy and you can get another – but finding one that will fit a Dell/HP what have you might be a chore at your local computer shop. This is one idea… the other is that we might not see the same number of new models this year as the old models get blown out at bargin prices (ever dropping if deflation takes hold).

So lets see how I did from last year:

  • SNS (Ads, Buyout, search) – I kinda was right here. There were no buy outs (though there was certainly value given to Facebook and others)kinda, buyouts didn’t really happen, but Facebook was given a value. Social search, which I’m again thinking about didn’t really find a popular vector, but they may have now.
  • LMS changes – Blackboard did integrate a building block for Facebook, and with BB Connect, there has been some appreciation for the social element of student life online. Other systems likely have similar modules. BB has also started to look into a mobile friendly version for BB NextGen.
  • Technology literacy continuing to lag – I can’t really tell this as much any more, not being in the Faculty of Ed. But I can tell anecdotally that based on one course that has a representative sample of all Science disciplines that literacy is serviceable for most web services and for the creation of basic content, it actually is not too bad. But I wonder what the skills of those that didn’t make it to university are like. I’m betting it’s not as high. It also doesn’t help as schools (I’m looking your way Edmonton Public) are wasting money on SmartBoards rather than PD and projectors… model for students!
  • Technology fractionation – this seems to have happened as more niches to “drop in a gadget” have opened up. But at the same time, there are many more gadgets that have  been abandoned because they are “too hard” or they got set the first time and then forgotten (think about how many times one updates the photos on thier picture frame… and how often they even get turned on). The interesting example here seems to be the phone (which now refers to the cell and not the land line – those still exist!) where people seem to be looking for new features as they find a need for it. Some people grow into their phones, others find the basic talking stick and are happy.
  • HD media wars – Bluray won… what can I say? But what is really shocking is how fast prices for players have fallen below the PS3 and/or $200. Now, at least in my house, the only reason to buy the DVD is if it is going to be used at school. But even there, DVD players, disposable as they are will likely start to get replaced by BD players.
  • Net neutrality – Got this one, both Canada and the US saw this come up in the news as the “management of the network” vs the “management of the content” debate rages.
  • Blogging – Almost got this one. Not everyone started writing, but people certainly all started to dump all manner of bloggable content into  SNSs and microblogging via status update seems to have exploded quite nicely.
  • Canadian data rates – Well, it took most of the year, but they did come down and look to keep falling as new entrants come online. The only rates that didn’t fall are those for SMS (think twitter stopping SMS updates to Canada – I really hope Google doesn’t get stung by the rates such that they stop the service here as well).
  • Casual gaming – yup Wii was on top all year. Interesting games and an accessible interface makes up for technical specs as people happily bowl, golf and get fit with the little white box.

So for education… what does this mean? Maybe the Wii will see it’s way into more schools as other institutions bring it online for therapy, personal archiving will help the push for more digital storytelling as the tools to create these stories become far easier to use (though we are still saddled with the problem of assessment). The stories around net neutrality and copyright will find their way into schools – who are very controlling of their networks (rightly or wrongly) and where copyright is already a muddied topic. People will also become annoyed when their children have timelines imposed by “the law” on content that they download from school… this is likely going to deter more teachers and instructors from doing anything online as it won’t be worth the legal hassle and depending on the content/service level/what-have-you might disadvantage students trying to access material from home/off campus. This was the reason why teachers didn’t use the ‘net back when I was going through my B.Ed. but back then it was a dialup/broadband debate, not traffic shaping.

Turning to microblogging, if teachers/instructors turn their students loose there before sending them off to Google for research, they will very quickly find a community that is interested, at least peripherally, in that topic. And they might find that there are resources that are linked there that are far more useful than what the search engines pull up because there are “experts” (accredited/pro-ams/geeks) who are sorting the information as opposed to algorithms.

So this is one of my last posts for the year (expect a couple of POW). If you read all this and I don’t hit your eyeballs until the new year – all the best to you and yours and if you only read me on RSS – drop into the site in the new year, there might be a new look.

Apple and Anti-Virus

This weekend, I got quite a kick out of the local radio annoucer doing her best to protect Edmonton listeners against the Koob worm that is moving through Facebook and is baiting users to install an update to their machines. While I think it was certainly an admirable thing for the announcer to do, I think it is telling as to how common Facebook and virus proctection has come in common parlance that this advice could be handed out over the radio and people would actually be able to understand it – or stand a chance to.

But where my part in this story comes in is that I tell all the Mac users that I’ve converted that you are safe (and attacks are dropping) from just about everything out there as long as you don’t install something that you are not sure about (unless you were paying attention the the hay that the press made last week about Apple’s KB update that was later pulled) – and this is exactly how Koob is moving, by getting people to install it, banking on the transfer of saftey from Facebook, creating a vector that might allow for Mac/Linux machines to be attacked.

Thankfully the Koob is probably dropping an exe file that won’t run, so we are safe for a while… So in addition to the “don’t install anything that you don’t understand”, I’ll add to my 1-2 saftey rant/appeal for common (computing?) sense – install updates only from the original vendor… if you are prompted to install something from Adobe, go to adobe.com and search for it – or google for the update that you are being prompted for to see if it is legit.

Intel’s Classmate PC/Laptop/Netbook is almost here

It’s been almost a year since there was any big news in the kinderlappy/UMPC front. But now Intel has released a pre-production model – and while small, it seems like it is going to be a real geek pleaser. Schools might be willing to pay the slight premium for it’s ruggedized body:

The 2go tablet is also one of the most durable netbooks we have come across (even though it doesn’t come with an SSD right now). Beyond the spill-resistant keyboard, the bottom edge has a rubber bump for falls. The hard drive is shock mounted. For extra care, the system comes with an attached handle but it can be removed by taking off the battery and unscrewing it.

Google on Mobile

I found this post through the RSS pipes this morning – Google is thinking about the cell phone as the connection between the individual and all the information “out there”. The ubergadget is a sensor that knows where it is and can record the sights and sounds of a given location. This is no more than what humans can do. But with this device, systems can be made to collect the information of millions and process that information to provide a valuable resource to everyone who is connected, and becuase there is a personal investment, a great added value to those who contribute.

This mass connectedness is, to me, what mLearning will be about. Just enough information delivered in a situationally aware manner as a response to a user directed query. While this may not be the way to learn everything – and I don’t think it is – it is certainly something that can be leveraged for lifelong learning – paidea as it were. If you want an example about how this might look, check out Carbon Diem (developer) and PIER2. Or take a listen to Nathan Eagle on what is happening in the hotbed of mobile innovation, Africa (Spark).

This might also be perverted into the ad system that we see in Minority Report, but with any luck, we’ll have ways to avoid the ads if we want – as well as maintain our individual privacy against the system so we are not being monitored – unless we want to – or maybe need to.