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How to smash your laptop and get away from it

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Finding such flyers common? But with that $1000, you could easily get a new notebook right? No, the money is really meant for getting the data in the notebook, rather then the notebook itself. But if this person adapted cloud computing, he could just get a new notebook and start working immediately instead of wasting time posting such flyers!

When I talk about internet tools these days, I could not separate from talking about web-based application – specifically applications that runs off the web with no installation required.

So what’s the big deal about doing your word processing online, or say doing photo editing online? We’ve been doing our word processing on Microsoft Word or cropping photos using Adobe Photoshop for so long, why the change?

Well, the idea of using web based applications is about making use of the “cloud” to get things done. Cloud, as in a really big and powerful computer at some data center far away, not the white fluff you see on sunny days.

When we run such applications off the “cloud”, we effectively shift the responsibilities of the computer we’re working on, onto a really large, powerful and reliable (well, sort of at least, more on this in a bit) mega computer. The processing power, the storage of both the application and the data you’re working on – all at the server’s end. On our end, we’re just using a web browser to accomplish these tasks.

With applications like Google Docs (for word processing) and Picnik (for photo editing), we no longer need to install any additional software other then a web browser. Just log into the respective sites and start working.

With web based applications, there is no fuss about losing your documents, forgetting to copy into your thumb drive, or even a computer crash. Simply because these applications save regularly as you work, and saves a copy of these documents on their mega computers – not on your PC. So even if your computer crashes at the end of your million word thesis, it won’t be too painful for you, because you can always move to another computer (in the library if you really need) and continue to work from there.

What’s more, with web based applications, it really opens the door for collaboration. When a Google Docs word document is shared among a group of people, members of the group could easily edit and give inputs without sending files to each other and manually updating whatever that have been edited. The possibilities are only limited to your imagination!

 

Google’s promotional video on their latest CR-48 notebook, highlighting the advantages of using Chrome OS

Recently, Google upped the ante by introducing the Google CR-48 notebook, running their Chrome OS. Chrome OS is basically a very light operating system that connects you to the whole suit of Google’s web based applications. From Google’s very own launch video, it is clear that with web based application, reliability and ease of use is the key focus. Never mind if your notebook is smashed over a thousand times in the course of working on a word document, because you can simply move to a new notebook and you could continue working at the point you left it.

But well, computers are far from being perfect. Google’s Gmail email service just suffered a blow over the weekend, with almost 40,000 accounts wiped out and unresolved…. Hope you’re not one of them. 🙂

Written by garygoh

March 2, 2011 at 1:47 pm

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Using e-learning right

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When you get a bunch of text on a computer scene, it is known as a wall of text. And when you post a wall of text on internet forums, this will probably be the end result of anyone trying to read…

As far as e-learning is concerned, it is a concept that many people have heard of. Learning with a computer is something that have been done since a long time ago, since the early days where computers were first adapted as a luxurious machine at people’s homes.

I personally remember playing educational games at my very technologically savvy aunt’s place, ranging from word puzzles to solving mathematical equations to save the world – all of these in the days where a dial up modem was considered razor cutting edge.

But in the last 2 decades, e-learning have not caught up with the likes of e-commerce, where computers and internet have totally reinvented the way people do business these days. It is only very recently that schools and educators began their baby steps in embracing this new field of learning with a connected computer.

It was not too long ago that, sci-fi geeks would have portrayed the future of learning to be one where students could flick buttery smooth user interface (UI) and get running lines of information at the blink of an eye.

But that haven’t really materialized. In fact, the current state of learning is so far away from what we imagined it to be, that students today still lug heavy textbooks to school, take notes on pencil and paper.

Now picture this; an educator is forced to use e-learning as part of her lesson, hence, she uploads chucks of text only word documents and some quiz online, to some content management system (CMS).

This educator would be quickly and sorely disappointed that not only her online classes have totally fallen through; students would not get to learn anything at all.

Once bitten twice shy, this educator would swear he/she would never use this gimmicky way to conduct her lesson, and be reluctant to use it again even when asked to.

In my opinion, the problem of slow adaptation of technology in the fields of education, lies with the way e-learning is built – the attention span of a student in front of a computer is way shorter then he/she sitting in a classroom.

Any standalone computer could run simple games that are more interesting then the boring text he/she is supposed to read. Internet connected computers are in magnitudes more interesting then a standalone computer, and the rest is history.

Online learning materials have to be concise, interactive, complimented with interesting media like videos, pictures or audio, and especially, be easy to read.

These are the very same elements why younger people can actually get addicted to internet, so why not embrace these same elements in e-learning?

Well, a few schools here in Singapore have finally made baby steps, by issuing their students with the Apple iPad – in hopes that the interactivity these tablets offer could actually help students in ways a teacher could not.

Girls from Nanyang Girls High were issued with iPads as part of a pilot project to embrace technology for better learning in classrooms.

Students from Nanyang Girls High were issued with iPads, where they could use these tablets as a compliment to classes. As a measurement of success, a Secondary 3 girl was quoted saying such a device actually helped in hard subjects like math, where she could better visualize trigonometry and geometry – a field where visual animation would work a lot better then static pictures.

While e-learning haven’t caught on the success of e-commerce, it is making baby steps towards the right direction, and hopefully, the scenes that wow-ed us in sci-fi flicks could come true one day.

PS: I was half alive during Tuesday’s class, and was on MC on Friday’s class. Have been nursing a flu that doesn’t seem to go away, so if this post isn’t very related to class, pardon me. 🙂

Written by garygoh

February 27, 2011 at 2:59 am

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Change or die, you decide

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Classical motivational book, Who Moved My Cheese by Dr Johnson Spencer.

In the classical motivational book by Dr Spencer Johnson, “Who Moved My Cheese”, Dr Spencer portraits 4 different characters – of which, 2 miniature humans and 2 mice. The book touches on how the mice were able to stay in advantage by being a little forward looking, while the human duo was being contented with what they had.

As the plots develops, Dr Spencer describes how the humans ultimately lost to mice, of which the latter foreseen the stash of cheese they shared with the humans would ultimately dwindle and deplete. Hence, before the original supply of cheese depletes, the mice went exploring the unknown to discover other cheese stashes, while the humans stood by their original supply until it was depleted.

While this fictitious story was entertaining to read, it demonstrated the importance of staying ahead of the changing times by constantly innovating and predicting change to stay ahead of the game.

Borders, a multi-national chain retailer specializing in books, have just announced for bankruptcy.

A case in point would be the recent Borders collapse. Such an iconic name in the book selling industry, filing for bankruptcy protection a few days ago, was big news. But it didn’t come as a surprise for many in the tech industry. The reason was simple – Borders just did not have any proper online presence. They didn’t sell books online, didn’t embrace e-books soon enough, didn’t have any e-book reader early, didn’t have e-book store online that took off. That is what nailed Borders in the coffin.

Turn back the clocks a little; when Amazon started its business of selling books online in 1995, they were the pioneer in the tech world doing e-commerce. For a long while, Amazon was one of the few sites that you can actually buy something online. This relatively lack of competition, can be put towards the high barrier of entry into the e-commerce market in the earlier days of internet.

Slowly, while internet became a common place, barriers of entry were lowered, making technology for doing e-commerce a lot cheaper then before. Many other jumped, but none of them quite as established and known as Amazon. So in a way, the high barriers of entry could be credited for Amazon’s stronghold, because in the technology industry, being first is crucial.

The Amazon Kindle 3 e-book reader

They’ve also pioneered the Kindle e-book reader, which is very well known in Singapore, despite the lack of any brick-and-mortar retailer carrying such a product. Perhaps one of the reasons why the Kindle was such an overnight success was its idea of carrying a single device that could hold many books. This is not to mention the possibility of purchasing a book over the air (OTA) and reading it instantly, anywhere.

With that said, today there’s a myriad of e-books readers around, most notably the Apple iPad. But non of these products around could claim the stronghold of Amazon’s Kindle in the e-book industry, simply because the Kindle is almost synonymous to e-books – the payoff of being first, thus associating your product, to a new, more convenient way of doing something.

Borders’s lack of innovation and foresight is pretty much the human characters as portrayed by Dr Spencer. Amazon did the Kindle in 2007, and later Barns & Nobel, another bookstore came into the game with its Nook e-book reader in 2009. Apple then took the world by storm with the iPad in April 2010, which aims to be a tablet computer with e-book reading capabilities. Borders came in last with its Kobo reader a month later. With already 3 prior choices ahead, there was simply no more market left for Borders’s Kobo.

Moral of story: Be first, be innovative, and predict change. If change is happening, embrace it fully, because if you don’t you’ll be out of the game.

Written by garygoh

February 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The flock to online advertising, not a coincidence

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As inter-connectivity increases everywhere around, people are increasingly more connected online, and inevitably more disconnected offline…

Due to this phenomenon, it is not surprising that online advertisements are attracting more eyeballs then traditional forms of media.

Well, the whole point of doing advertisement is to gain more exposure, to have more people to know about your business – be it product or service. And since it’s business, the scales of economy applies, so the cheapest way to get exposure wins.

The numbers don’t lie, online advertising is ALOT more cost effective, while getting more eyeballs to you.

The StandChart Bank blog post, inviting young persons who are highly connected in the online social networking scene. In their own words, this position is the “world’s coolnest internship. (Click on picture for the actual blogpost)

Just not too long ago, Standard Chartered Bank waved S$60,000 online, looking for someone (a social media intern, to be exact) to act as bridge into their foray onto social networking. That’s SIXTY THOUSAND SINGAPORE DOLLARS for a young person, to do what the younger generation enjoy these days – connecting to people socially online.

That astronomical sum, just for six months worth. Does this deal sound a little too good to be true?

The Straits Times “rate card” where prices of advertisements are listed. No joke, almost 20,000 Singapore dollars to advertise on ST on Saturdays. Click on picture for the actual PDF listing.

Apparently, no if you look at how much traditional media is charging today. Our local Singaporean newspaper, The Straits Times, charges S$18,000 to S$20,000 dollars for a page of black & white advertisement.  1/3 of what Standard Chartered Bank pays for A SINGLE DAY on The Straits Times.

But how about the potential exposure you’ll be getting?

About 1.5 million people read Straits Times daily, far lower the internet users in Singapore. (Click on picture for PDF)

The Straits Times lists about 1.5 million readership in Singapore, while there are more then 4 million connected users online today. So for 1/3 of the price, getting double the potential, for 180 times longer in terms of advertising duration.

No wonder business advertisers are all flocking towards the online crowd. Because It’s cheap, has a way larger potential then any other forms of media today.

Written by garygoh

February 11, 2011 at 1:25 pm

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Power shifting from politics to Youtube

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A screenshot from President Obama’s State of the Union Address webcast via Youtube. A telephone button there allows viewers to ask him a question during the webcast, to which, the President will actually answer them on another webcast.

In the recently concluded State of the Union Address by United States President President Obama touched on various topics that that summed up USA’s situation over the past year, and his plans for USA in the coming years.

Since the State of the Union Address isn’t broadcasted here in Singapore, I have to catch it over Youtube – which actually offered live webcasting as the President speaks.

What really caught my eye immediately was the small cute telephone icon beside the Youtube header. Curiously, I moved my cursor over and a small tool tip (the small label that pops up) that says “Ask President Obama a question”.

Wow!

Clicking on the telephone icon brought me to a Youtube micro-site, dedicated for Americans to ask a question directly to their president. According to The New York Times, such a platform is “intended to add a more personal touch to the usual discussion of health care, war and unemployment”.

A screenshot from President Obama’s webcast that answers questions from audiences who had submitted questions via Youtube’s platform during the State of the Union Address.

The use of social media has been a growing trend these days, with many countries’ politicians jumping on the bandwagon.

Singapore

Social media platforms like facebook and blogs, boost politicians’ connectivity with the commoners. Just like our foreign minister Mr George Yeo stated in a recent The New Paper (TNP) report, he views such platforms as a form of cyber-walkabout. Instead of the usual visits to his constituencies to understand what’s going on, he sees facebook as a 2 way connection to keep in touch with citizens. While the minister shares his work activities with Singaporeans, he too read about the various posts on facebook to understand the ground.

Foreign Minister George Yeo talks about using social media as a platform to better understand younger citizens, and he sees social media similar in importance as his usual MP walkabouts in his constituency. (The New Paper, 16 Jan 2011. *Click for larger picture)

Stepping back 10 years ago, trying to “connect” to the common folk on the hourly basis isn’t possible for any politician, let alone trying to “connect” while cooped up in office. But today, ministers like Mr Yeo could do so in a constant fashion simply because of the widespread adaptation of social media.

I personally believe it is that ease and non work invasive nature that really made such connections possible. Anyone with a smartphone can connect to anyone, and could actually do so while multitasking with other activities.

Students today are embracing this avidly, by surfing facebook profiles while in lectures….. You get the idea. 🙂

 

©

Written by garygoh

January 31, 2011 at 1:36 am

Posted in Uncategorized

How the web tries and sometimes fail to be telepathic

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The web had evolved a lot, over its short lifespan starting as a military network meant for the US. Since then, the web have been the de facto way to share and exchange information. It was not before long, some genius came along the way and thought; why not make the web more interactive and bring people together socially via the web?

Then we have the smart people like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame who, in my opinion, brought Web 2.0 truly acceptable to the masses. With interactivity as the cornerstone for Web 2.0, Facebook is a pretty good example of popularizing social networking online. By means of introducing a highly interactive platform for groups of people to share thoughts as “status updates”, and tag faces in photos to names, Facebook is indeed highly addictive and insanely popular. Even my 50 year old mom who can’t grasp operation of a computer mouse knows what Facebook is!

However, we are currently at the dawn of the next evolution of the internet. Known as the “Semantic Web” or “Web 3.0”, the next iteration of internet aims to have telepathic powers in predicting behaviors of web users, and then serving them with the relevant and related information in one fell swoop.

One of the earliest attempt to read user’s mind, in my opinion, was the Google’s search algorithm – the engine that powers Google’s search. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders and creators of Google attempted to produce an engine that produces search results that is ranked according to the relevancy of the user’s search.

Larry Page & Sergey Brin, founders of Google, and creators of Google’s search engine. (Click for Bloomberg’s Game Changers documentary, profiling the duo)

Back in days, competing search engines would only return search results with search terms on it. Ranking searches were as rudimentary as the frequency the searched term would appear in that page. These methods of returning search results were not efficient, often returning results that contained the searched terms, but were completely out of context. As described by Bloomberg’s documentary series Game Changers; users, who for example, search about buying used cars, would get results of newspaper articles about used car sales people.

What Google did as compared to older breed of search engines, was to consider the amount of hyperlinks that linked to particular pages. Also known as back links, the higher amount of links pointing to a page, the more relevant other users considered the page to be, hence higher in importance.

Although this concept might sound common sense to users today, it was considered revolutionary, because this is the basics of trying to understand the psyche search engine users.

With this much said, Google’s search engine must be a marksman of sorts, hitting the bullseye every time you search?

No!

The key advantage of Google’s offering versus competitors at that time was it’s ability to anticipate search user’s intent, by exploiting the principal of counting the amount of back links to rank page relevancy.

 

New York Times article titled “A Bully finds a pulpit on the web”. (Click for the NYTimes link to this article)

A recent New York Times article describes a disgruntled internet shopper who began her hunt for a pair of spectacles with Google ended up being conned, threatened, and unable to recover her money from the soured deal.

How can that be possible, one might ask, if she were to purchase her spectacles from a page ranked high up when she searches for spectacles retailers on Google? Given that the higher ranked the page is, the more chatter there is on this retailer on the internet.

It appears that DecorMyEyes.com, the frivolous retailer, exploited Google’s way of ranking searches by intentionally souring deals and intentionally providing bad customer service.

Mr Stanley Bolds, the person running DecorMyEyes.com, explained in the article that he occasionally incite bad customer experience to his advantage. Working on the principle that bad news travels faster and further then good news, he sour deals, anticipating his customers to do mass postings of their soured deals on many bulletin boards and on customer advocacy sites like GetSatisfaction.com.

He explained that when customers complain en masses, customers are actually helping to raise DecorMyEyes.com’s profile. Google, for one, will rank DecorMyEyes.com higher in this case, because of the many customer postings on many sites to vent their anger and to warn others of their plight.

The fallacy of Google’s page ranking system can be seen clearly here, given the fact that Google does not take in account if these postings on various bulletin boards and/or consumer rights advocacy sites are positive or negative. It simply counts the number of back links and rank page relevancy as accordingly.

Although Google’s search system of trying to anticipate search user’s needs when performing a search, it is not perfect.

But, that very initiative of developing a smarter search engine, is the first step towards “Semantic Web”. However, a lot more polishing work is required for a mature Web 3.0 experience, because it is never easy to predict the psyche of people.

Written by garygoh

January 23, 2011 at 6:17 pm

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Learning Journal, v2.0

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As part of the requirements for a new communications module; COM125 (Introduction to Internet) we were told to keep a learning journal of sorts, pretty similar to what we’ve got for COM101. So here it is, where I’ll be penning some pieces about the current situation developing online, in relation to what we’ve learnt in class. 🙂

Written by garygoh

January 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm

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