Archive for the 'Cyberculture' Category

Another Brick in the Wall

May 31, 2012

In ancient Greek city-states the agora bustled with activity and people gathered to discuss sport, art, religion, politics, and philosophy… then along came the classroom where youth assembled to hear learned-men lecture, notes were taken with graphite, and knowledge was transmitted orally and recorded in books.

Enter the World Wide Web – accumulated knowledge at our fingertips!

Professor Frink from the SimpsonsI recall Alvin Toffler’s doom and gloom predictions of widespread stress and disorientation resulting from information overload as the super-accelerated technological age wreaked havoc on our collective psychology.   But the age of information with the advent of the Internet has, for the most part, made life (…and I speak for myself) less stressful, especially for students.  Don’t you remember the stress of missing the library, or not having the right notes the night before a test?

In the 1980’s I can remember being too shy to ask for help in maths and subsequently falling behind only to be euphemistically labeled “right-brained” later by my step-dad.   Nowadays this binary way of thinking that divides the population into right- and left-brained types is being challenged (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15619393).  With myriad web-resources at our fingertips, the students of today can afford to be globally-brained.

In fact, the future of academia may be just a right-click away.  Stanford University offers an introductory course in Artificial Intelligence entirely online and entirely open to anyone with access to the web.  The online class is practically identical to the one offered on-campus for paying-registered students except for one thing:  instead of receiving course credit, non-registered global students are awarded an official statement of accomplishment.  Otherwise, lectures, assignments, midterms and finals are the same.   In 2011, only 200 Stanford students enrolled in the on-campus course compared to 160,000 students from 190 different countries that took the course online!  The implication this has for the future of education is astounding.  Imagine if higher education was made available to everyone for free; they’re calling it University 2.0.

New virtual learning environments are cropping up everywhere in a new global access approach to education.  Some names to keep an eye out for are Udacity.com, Codeacademy.com, Open.edu/openlearn, Education.ted.com and my absolute favorite Khanacademy.org.

Salman Khan launched Khan Academy in 2006 so he could distance-tutor his 13-year old cousin in maths.  The Khan Academy website offers over 3,200 You Tube videos on everything from arithmetics, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, economics, art history… and the list goes on.  He breaks it down into short easy-to-understand videos that sketch out example after example from the very basic fundamentals to complex problems.  Bill Gates has referred to Khan Academy as “the future of education”.  If university 2.0 represents the first fledgling steps on the path towards the democratization of education then the future looks bright.

Now I leave you with Pink Floyd:

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The Holy Trinity of Online Video Watching

April 18, 2012

In this post I am going to breakdown how Torrents work and introduce you to three sites that will revolutionise your online entertainment experience. Theoretically I use Torrentz, Project Free TV, and Veetle to access the shows and movies I want to watch.

Torrents or BitTorrents are files shared with the BitTorrent  p2p (peer-to-peer) network, or a file-sharing protocol.  In simpler terms, BitTorrents are files shared by a group of individual computers on the network rather than stored on one central server.  BitTorrent p2p sharing breaks the download into chunks ranging in size between 64KB and 4MB and distributes it across several different computers as opposed to just one. The person who first creates a torrent for any file is called an initial seeder.  People who have all the chunks are seeders, the more seeds the quicker the download will be. Once you finish downloading the file then you become a seed. People who do not have the whole file yet are called peers.  Peers are not seeders but the more peers the faster the download because peers can share the chunks of the file that has so-far been downloaded.  This is especially important if the number of seeds is low or decreasing because peers can piece together the file with the chunks they have between them.

In order to download a movie you first need to search for the file on a BitTorrent search engine, theoretically I use Torrentz.  One simply enters the title of the movie they want and a list of BitTorrents will appear.  There are two columns of numerical values to pay attention to: the green numbers represent the seeders and the blue represent the number of peers. High numbers of each are best for download speed.

 

Once the torrent file has been downloaded it must be run using a BitTorrent client.  You cannot download BitTorrents without a BitTorrent client; for example: uTorrent for Windows, Vuze formerly (Azureus) for Mac, and BitTorrent for Linux.  BitTorrent Clients keep track of what chunks of the file you have and which parts you still need to download.

*It should be noted that using BitTorrent is legal but downloading copyrighted material is not.

BitTorrents are not the only way to watch films and TV shows.  You can stream TV on a great site called Project Free TV. I love this site however it takes some getting used to because of the buffering and advertising.  If you don’t have a strong internet-connection it can take ages to buffer.  The other drawback is the ads.  Sometimes you click on a link for a program and you inadvertently trigger two or three pop-ups.  Some of the ads are over-laid and you need to close them before the play button becomes accessible.  Also, if you are streaming a film you may have to close a pop-up every 20 mins or so.  In any case, project Free TV is a great option because it streams quite fast and they have an extensive selection of programs and films.

Watching live streaming channels in high resolution is also an option which brings me to Veetle.  You just need to download the plugin (65 MB) and then you can watch live streamed TV in HD, high-definition.  They use the latest codecs for the best video quality and there is no buffering required.  Obviously it’s live so you can’t pause or fast-forward but it’s free and not frequently interrupted by ads.

Veetle has a few extra features worth mentioning: you can download the app and live stream TV on your iPad, iPhone & Android phones, and you can broadcast live video in HD.   Veetle has over 10 million viewers a month, which is not bad for the little Sillicon Vally start-up.

Now here’s an impressive UFO video:

Nyan Cat Game Contest

June 8, 2011

You remember Nyan Cat right? Well now there’s a video game!  You can fly through space eating nibbles and getting points. The high score is 1,272 but if you think you can beat it then email robert_Irvine@Dennis.co.UK and you will get mentioned in issue 269 of UK’s favorite internet magazine: WebUser. To give the game a shot for fun, go to: www.nyancatfly.com

#Winning in Corporate Real-Time Communications

March 29, 2011

Whether in a large corporation or a small organisation, internal communications in the work place tends to get locked into predefined information silos. The sheer quantity of data within a company makes it nearly impossible to share information, knowledge and experience with everyone. But innovation is the lovechild of collaboration therefore, it’s crucially important that information and exchange happen not only in small pockets within a company but all over.


Companies generally rely on email, face-2-face meetings and lunches when it comes to knowledge sharing but imagine adding a new dynamic social layer to the existing infrastructure! According to Tim Young, CEO of SocialCast, the solution for the information overflow problem is activity streams. activity streams unite people, data, and applications in real-time in a central, accessible, virtual interface. Think of a company social network where employees can exchange real-time information about their activities using a software system that unifies all company data and knowledge. Each employee can find data that he or she never knew existed, collaborate around this information and access it in a variety of ways (email, mobile applications etc).
SocialCast Features
The SocialCast interface makes it simple to share documents, presentations, photos and links with your network. You can post updates, questions or ideas for people to discuss and comment on. It has also incorporated the ‘like’ feature from Facebook as well as the @tag feature from Twitter. Another added feature is the flag option: flagging helps you keep track of your favourite posts so you can return to them easily. Other features include social media integration so you can see Facebook and Twitter updates within your activity stream. Its mobile applications enable you to access it from your BlackBerry or iphone (or Android phone) and the desktop application option allows for network updates without even opening a browser.


The premium Town Hall feature enables you to schedule company-wide, moderator-optional virtual sessions in an open real-time forum. Another premium feature worth mentioning is private messaging. You can also create a personal profile that highlights your particular skills and expertise including contact information. Additional features like photo galleries add a personal touch to browsing company profiles. SocialCast also incorporates features from LinkedIn by allowing you to form and join groups with the option of designating them public or by invitation. Network search options allow you to build custom streams that filter network messages by keywords and topics, with email notifications that alert you to updates.
SocialCast can be integrated with Microsoft Outlook, SharePoint, CRM and ERP systems, wikis, blogs and any HTML/Javascript compatible business system and it ensures the highest standards in privacy, security, data-retention, and also in terms of meeting IT regulations. It will even sync with LDAP and automatically provisions user accounts, removing former employees and importing employee contact information, job roles, and profile details into the network whilst keeping one set of login credentials across all of your applications. It also has a suite of analytics to measure ROI collaboration based on user activity patterns.
Tim Young and his team continue to innovate and create new and improved extensions for an already great product. I highly recommend SocialCast for any company looking to enhance internal communications, innovation and engagement.

Now here’s Charlie Sheen:

 

“I Accept Plactic” – The Future of Marketplace Social Networking

March 19, 2011

It’s no big suprise if the name Jack Dorsey (@Jack on Twitter) rings a bell.  He is the founder and CEO of a US based company called Square.  He is better known however for his brainchild Twitter. 

Twitter is the king of social networking platforms boasting over 200 million users and counting.  While working at Odeo, a San Fransisco podcast publishing and aggregation site, Dorsey came up with the idea of Twitter which he launched in July of 2006 issuing the first tweet in history: “Inviting co-workers“.  Dorsey went on to conceptualise  Square, a service that allows any person or small business to accept credit or debit payments anytime anywhere (in the US) simply by downloading  the app and attaching the small plastic credit-card reader to a mobile phone or ipad.  A single swipe of a card through the reader is all it takes, there is no contract, monthly fee, extra equipment or merchant account required and it’s simple to sign up, all you need is a US bank account, physical mailing address, social security number and Bob’s your uncle!  Dorsey invisions ipads and Square card readers in the backs of taxi cabs replacing the video advertising screens.  Dorsey predicts that just as Twitter is the future of communication, “Square will be the future of payment”.

Now check out this funny video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFwgblszf6s

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