Thursday, October 31, 2013
This is an area of technology that is hotly debated: Internet Learning. Not just internet learning, but learning with technology as well. As school systems experiment with what to implement and what not to implement, the educational authorizes, parents, and other groups are fighting a war. The question, is it good or harmful to allow technology into the classroom? Here I'll give some of my extremely biased opinion. I'll lay straight up right now that I use the internet to tech myself 4 different courses in and out of school, and I love it. Here's why I do:
1. It gives you freedom
When I am doing learning over the internet, I get to go at whatever pace I want, typically faster than I would go in a classroom. I love this aspect because the majority of my school day is fluff that I don't really gain anything from. No more reviewing what I already know, I can just skip it is I don't need it. I can also study a wider array of topics. For example, I take online courses on investing, 3 web-design languages, and 1 programming language. None of these courses are offered at my school. Now I see where the argument can be introduced in this topic. Many people think that if they give unmotivated students this much freedom that they will abuse it. My response to this is that these types of students will not apply themselves whether they are looking at a computer screen of listening to a teacher. If they aren't motivated, it doesn't matter what they are learning from.
2. It is native to students
This is a part of the issue that has been at the forefront of the argument for a long time. In my opinion students can learn better using things that attentive to them: technology. If you compare the amount of time it takes to look a word up in the dictionary compared to the time it takes you to look it up on a phone, the phone will win every single time. If you look at how fast a person can write a paper by hand compared to on a computer, the computer will write it faster every time. The fact is, although many think that we spend too much time on useless stuff on technology, that is because we've accomplished everything we need to do faster than with traditional methods. At least in most occasions, I get distracted sometimes just because. But only sometimes of course!
3. Its already happening
The bitter truth is that technology will become integrated into the classroom regardless of anyone who tries to stop it. In an increasingly internet-based age people will need the internet to engage in efficient and beneficial teaching. There will be fights, but one way or another there will be a lot more technology in classrooms over the next 5 years.
First I'll start out with a brief overview of Google's products, since I have either written about them before or will write about them soon. They're software is mainly enveloped in their Android and Chrome operating systems that are avaiable on computers and mobile devices. Then there's obviously the web-based services such as their world-renowned search engine, cloud service (Drive), navigation (Maps), etc. not to mention YouTube that they now own. Then there's the hardware. Google owns Motorola, so the Razr, Moto X, Droid, etc. are all theirs. They've also got a few little pieces of hardware out right now such as Chromecast, which turns your TV into a Smart TV.
Now for the more varied and odd parts of Google. First off is an interesting project they have right now called Project Loon. Project Loon is attempting to provide third world countries with wireless internet by setting up balloons that give access. This is pretty wild and pretty useful since internet can often solve questions, make money, and otherwise help people out. For a more odd project, Google has engaged in Project Calico which was initiated by one of its founders, Larry Page. Project Calico's short term goal is attempting to cure the world's major diseases and the ultimate goal is to eliminate death by natural causes from the world. Of course, that raises a bunch of issues about morals, but who cares, if we live forever, we've got time to argue that!
Google is an amazing company that has defied the capitalist rationale to engage in products that don't promise them any capital. Don't mistake me though, they're racking up money from many of their different ventures. I always look with anticipation towards anything Google comes out with, and I hope you'll pursue a more varied education of the company and share my passion
Android has had a long run of softwares for their mobile technologies. All of these are also named after a good food, Gingerbread, Jelly Bean, and Froyo to name a few. Now Google has a new operating system on the horizon, 4.4 Kit Kat. I'm excited because I am getting a new Android within the next two weeks and I'll be able to fully experience it. This new software promises a set of great features that will help Android users and create a more easy to use and advanced user experience. Here I will outline a few of the key features of Kit Kat and what that could mean for Android users who upgrade.
To start off, just a fun fact: Neither company is actually getting any money from the other. The partnership between Google and Kit Kat was made in the hope that the collective publicity campaigns of both companies would bring in revenue for each partner equally. Anyway, the features in Kit Kat promise to be pretty cool. For one, they are attempting to create a more unified Android. Phones now often have slightly different operating systems based on the company, provider, and how much you pay for the phone. Like Apple's iOS, Android is attempting to make every Android model have the same basic software. This change will also encompass older mobile devices, a problem that Android users have experienced. Often times, a mobile device would be obsolete pretty quickly because of the rigid requirements for a software upgrade.
The "prettiness" of the software will also be improved. For example, the motions of changing screens, opening apps, opening your apps list, etc. will be done more seamlessly. Kit Kat is also making a more efficient software that will help battery life increase. This combined with better processors are supposed to lead to battery life that will last for multiple days. That would be pretty cool, because you could essentially charge your phone overnight one night and use it for the next few days. Not to mention the time saved that you would have spent charging it at an airport, or being antisocial because you're standing by a wall charging your phone during a social event.
Of course you also have the continual improvements of less bugs and greater security features and more customization options and all that good stuff. Android 4.4 Kit Kat is a pretty big step for Android, both in the actual software and with the partnership it has with Kit Kat, which is sure to spread Google's influence even more throughout the technology market. Especially when you compare it to the early softwares (1.5 Cupcake for example) 4.4 is a huge marker of the success Google has encountered while they've had their operating system out. I think this is just one more step of a company that continues to surprise and amaze me, and I look forward to seeing the future of Google.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Recently I've been hearing a lot in tech headlines about a man named Elon Musk. I first heard his name in an article about him driving a Tesla Motors Model S across the United States. After his name appeared in headlines a couple other times my interest was peaked about him, and I decided to do some research. Overall, I found Elon Musk to be a very interesting and important man, especially because his name doesn't produce a spelling error as I am writing this, and he is called the real life Iron Man. Today I will explain a little bit about this man and what he is involved in that makes him, in my opinion, one of the most interesting and successful men in the world.
To start off, Musk was born in South Africa and is now 42. Basically, the man is a complete winner in business. He was a cofounder of Zip2, PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors. If you haven't heard about any of these companies, let me tell you right now they are extremely valuable companies, the smallest on, Zip2, he sold for a total of $341 million. From that "small" project he moved onto what was to become PayPal. This company started out as X.com that was a financial services and e-mail payment company, and in an extremely smart business move they acquired PayPal and changed the name of the company to PayPal. This guy was acquired by eBay for a grand total of $1.5 billion.
Now to the big dogs. SpaceX was his next project, a company that focused on space exploration technology that was given a $1.6 billion contract by NASA, that's right, not even a buyout. SpaceX has gone on to create rockets on a partially private basis which makes it an extremely unique company and one which hopes to reach Mars faster than NASA probably will. And finally the most recent company, Tesla Motors. Tesla Motors makes luxury sports cars with a special feature, they're fully electric. That means no pollution and amazing gas mileage. Tesla Motors' Model S sports sedan goes for the nifty price of $100,000 per car and the company is proving to be extremely profitable despite the price tag for a car. So I hope that by now you've realized that Musk is either a genius in business, or the luckiest man in the world.
Now for an interesting part to wrap it up. Even though he is valued at $8.8 billion, Elon Musk is actually a very interesting man beyond the strict business world. For example, he recently spent over $80,000 tricking out a watch and a pair of boots to do awesome things such as shoot fire. He also bought the original James Bond underwater car and plans to make it fully functional. His personality is interesting as well, as he just commented on a Tesla Motors subject, saying fuel cells are "so bulls**t". As I hope I laid out for you, this little known but very rich man is a person to look up to and to look at to see just what he'll to next to impress the world.
Musk with a Tesla Model S
Musk by a SpaceX Project
In my last post on processors, I mentioned the company called AMD. AMD first of all stands for Advanced Micro Devices and their primary product is processors. AMD is also a leader in graphics cards, so the beauty of this sales system is that they have two components that every computer needs. Due to their dual market I can almost garuntee you've used a computer with something AMD in it within the last month if not shorter than that.
I won't bore you again with explaining the processors that AMD puts out, and you can just read my other blog here to find out about that if you're curious. What I will outline is their graphics cards. The most popular and also the cheapest are the basic Radeon cards. These cards provide good graphics for computer users who just need a little bit of graphics support and are found in a good amount of relatively low-cost computers. Where AMD really gets involved is with their higher-end graphics cards. For instance, many people are familiar with consoles for gaming, the PS4, Xbox One, etc. Well, every single one of them runs AMD graphics. The highest-priced pre-built computer in the world, the Mac Pro, comes with AMD graphics inside them as well. You can also install AMD graphics cards in your own computer, and let me tell you, it gets pretty intense there. They produce the best graphics card in the world, and it comes with a price tag of $550, the AMD Radeon R9 290x (not to be confused of course with the other Radeon models which can cost as low as $20). AMD is producing the most graphically superior hardware that has ever existed right now, and even though you have to pay an arm and a leg for it, its pretty dang sweet.
AMD takes an interesting approach to their market, producing two vital parts of a computer really well so that they've become a very powerful and fascinating company. Only time will tell what products they can come out with in the future to blow computers beyond anything anyone could ever have imagined. That's one thing that blows my mind about technology, is that it is often a conglomeration of different companies coming together to create products that continue to advance the rational knowledge of the computer world.
The AMD Radeon R9 290x for $550
AMD's FX Black Edition 8 core processor for about $350
The purpose of this post is to help people out if you are making a decision about a computer to buy. One of the biggest parts of computers is the processor. The processor is basically the component of the computer that determines the speed of the machine, so for example if you were playing a graphically intensive game of doing high quality video editing you'd want a fast processor. Seems simple enough, right? Well where that gets a little jumbled up is with the plethora of processors available in computers out there. I hope that by the end of this post I will have given you at least some guidance on what to get.
First of all there are two companies you'll notice that are selling processors in computers. These two companies are the well-known Intel, and the lesser known AMD. Although you can compare the two companies and you can find processors with the same stats, the Intel one will invariably cost more. Many wonder why that is, are AMD processors pieces of crap? The answer is not exactly. First of all you've got to think of the two companies in terms of cars. Intel is like a European sports car company, it makes a product that functions the same as any other car, but has a few more functional features so you pay more than it. AMD is like a domestic car company, it does the same exact thing as the foreign car, with a little less shine so you pay less. Basically Intel is a little more reliable and functions a little better, so like a foreign sports car, you pay more. All in all though I would recommend going with an AMD as the difference is not huge, but the prices definitely are.
Next I'll go into the speed a little. Basically there are three tiers of speed that you will fall in to. The below 2 GHz, 2-3.5 GHz, and above 3.5GHZ. To put it simply, the less GHZ you see the slower the computer. Below 2 GHz would be fine if you are looking just at the basic functions of a computer such as low-level internet surfing, word processing, etc. The 2-3.5 GHz is more likely to be where you would fall into. Tis category is for those who use basic functions and watch YouTube videos, edit low-quality video perhaps, do presentations, etc. Finally the above 3.5 GHz is for those who edit high-quality video, program, game, anything like that. This category comes into trouble when you ask, how far over 3.5? The simple question for this post is that if you need that, you probably know exactly what you need as you are computer-literate enough and know enough about this already.
Processors are an extremely important part of the computer, and many people often mis-buy for what they are using their computer for. I hope that through reading this post, you are able to make a smarter decision on which processor to buy, and not to say I'll give you the exact recommendation, but comment if you need help deciding the exact speed. Hope you enjoyed the post!
A couple pictures only nerds will probably understand, so feel good if you don't get them
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Have you ever downloaded something off the internet that was really big, like a program or TV show? Usually downloads like these take huge amounts of time at regular internet speeds, which if you haven't noticed, are incredibly slow. This is where you might want to know about a little piece of the internet community called BitTorrent.
BitTorrent is an interesting idea that allows you to download things really quickly off of the internet. In a basic sense, it works like this: say there is a file you want to download and a million people have it on their computers and are also using BitTorrent. Then you find the Torrent, basically the file that establishes what you want to download, and open it in what is called a BitTorrent Client. Then you download a small piece from multiple sources, which tales very little time, and piece them together into one file. The thing about BitTorrent is that its designed to be really against people just leeching off the system, so when you download a file you also put up your own little piece that others can use to download. All in all BitTorrent is very handy.
The downside of BitTorrent is some of its uses. Unfortunately, as the internet is often prone to bad uses, BitTorent downloads a lot of illegal movies and pornography, leading to the shutdown of many Torrent provider sites that harbor illegal Torrents. Obviously, you can also get into trouble for opening these Torrents although it is harder to catch a person as compared to traditional piracy.
Thus, even though in many cases BitTorrent is an extremely useful tool for downloading, it is often abused. Unfortunately many of the good ideas of the internet have been tainted by the bad people of the internet. But there is still hope, used correctly, many internet tools including BitTorrent greatly increase the productivity of the world, and that's something we can console in.
Example of a BitTorrent client called uTorrent
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Many people nowadays have smartphones... or tablets... or computers... or iPods.... or whatever else that can play games. If you've ever owned any of the above stated devices, or even if you haven't, you've almost undoubtedly heard of Angry Birds.Angry Birds, to explain it really briefly, is a game where you fling birds at pigs. Weird concept, right? Well that weird concept that seems like it takes just a tired and oddball mind to think of has been transformed into an app that has made over a billion dollars, and in this post I am going to tell you how.
First of all I would like to go on a bit of a rant about the nature of the world. The initial game of Angry Birds stayed the top or one of the top apps for years. That's right, multiple years this one game has dominated the mobile gaming charts with tons of downloads. Second, there are other Angry Birds games released, such as a Rio theme, or a Star Wars theme, and those have sold almost as much!! They're the same exact game with a few minor changes!! Does nobody get that they continue to fund a company that is just releasing different versions of the same game!!
Anyway after that I'll go into a more professional discussion of Angry Birds. The game was created brilliantly in an addictive format that hoked people into a relatively simple game, and then charged most of them a dollar for it. The successive games were met with much the same success as the first allowing he company to alter very few things and make even more money, Then Rovio (the company that makes the game) moved into different kinds of games based off of it such as a game called Bad Piggies. Once again Rovio found a way to make more money off of the Angry Birds franchise! Then they introduced in-app purchases that could help you beat levels easier, nd guess what that did? That's right, made Rovio more money. Not to mention, of course, the plush dolls, pencils,and other merchandise sold.
So basically the money that Rovio has made in the last few years all has been based on the hype placed around a singlegame, and I'd say if there was ever a company that was hitting top marks in life, it would be them. Everybody in the tech world and outside can only dream of having a franchise multiply from a single game like this one did, and make it profitable beyond what many would have guessed possible.
Just a fraction of Angry Birds merchandise
With social networking becoming a huge part of daily life, almost everybody in the world is now familiar with the popular social media site called Twitter. With over 500 million users, Twitter boasts one of the largest user bases of any other social network, with only Facebook that has a more users. As some may know who invest, Twitter is going public, and it has been rumored that its IPO (Initial Public Offering) will be on November 15th.
Twitter up until this point has seen enormous growth since its beginning, the number one factor as to why I think that this will be the stock to watch when it is finally publicly traded. The company has grown from zero dollars coming in when they started to racking in $500 million a year, roughly a dollar per user. There is only one problem with this: that $500 million isn't profit. In fact, the company is losing money despite its rapidly growing user base. This is the one problem I really see in the transition to public, because believe it or not, investors like to make money. To give Twitter a hand, they really have stepped up their adds around the site, putting a few subtle "promoted" tweets on your feed everyday. The hard thing for profitability is that Twitter might have to risk inconvenience, like a pop-up when the site opens, to really make money, something that has the potential to avert users. Obviously, profitability in a company is not a quick fix, and it will be very interesting to see how Twitter fares going public and what they will do to change their business model if that doesn't go too well or them.
One thing Twitter does have going for their stock price is their huge amount of users. This is sure to attract investors who hope to have some influence in a company that has a ton of people. Once investors get an in by buying shares the more influential ones (who now own a part of the company) have a say in investor's conferences and such to give a profit to Twitter. Just the sale of the stocks themselves will also bring in capital to Twitter. Unfortunately, at the cost of this help from investors Twitter's stock will likely lose some money initially until they can get heir profits turned around, and the might go up before that, as a company doesn't necessarily need to be profitable to increase their stock price.
Overall it will be interesting to see what happens to Twitter as it is publicly traded. In my opinion, this could be one of the smartest moves for the company. Although they give up some of the autonomy of a private company, they have the potential to make a lot more money if everything goes right for them. In the end, only time will tell, and my prediction will either be right or wrong in just a couple of months, lets hope for my ego's sake that I'm right.
Saturday, October 12, 2013
A little bit ago I posted about Google Glass, the first real widespread form of wearable technology that's gained any significant buzz. Today I'm going to cover a new form of wearable technology, a piece that many already own. Smart watches may seem a bit funny to think about, having a smartphone equivalent on your wrist, but there are some huge strides being made in the market that will one day make smart watches a pretty hot product.
I'll start out with the current smart watches. In the category right now, Samsung is the leader (who would've guessed?). They have two smart watches out called the Pebble and the Gear. Both of these watches connect to the Samsung Note phone but the Pebble also connects to Apple and other Android devices. These watches basically link to your phone and will receive much the same information. For example, if you get a text these watches will notify you of it and let you read it. The Gear even allows you to respond through voice command but its not very good. Once again with the Gear you can also make calls and can operate apps, such as Snapchat Micro, which uses its tiny built in camera. Overall the Gear, though newer and somewhat more improved than the Pebble, has a ways to go before it would become a viable commodity to technology users. The second smart watch that's out and working well is the Sony Smart Watch II, obviously a very creative name. This watch performs in a mash-up of the Pebble and the Gear using a touch display but no real microphone or camera or anything.
After reviewing what's out there its time to go to the possibilities. The world's most valuable company, Apple, is rumored to be creating a smart watch as reported by patent watchers. This is an interesting concept because historically Apple has released the right product at the right time in the right way, meaning that this could be the beginning of the era of smart watches. Other companies such as Google will invariably develop smart watches in the future as well, and they offer to be pretty cool.
Smart watches also have the potential to replace phones. If the watch has all the features of a phone and is more durable and easier to access, why not just drop the bulky piece of metal and plastic that you carry in your pocket or hand everyday? Smart watches are, in my opinion, a technology on the horizon of mass use, and I have already promised (on video) that I will be one of the first buyers of Apple's smart watch when it comes out.
The Galaxy Gear
One of the Rumored Designs of the iWatch
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
For starters, the processors (controlling speed) are the same clocking in at 1.7 GHz (if that means anything to you). The two phones also have the same RAM, battery life, screen size... blah blah blah. So this comparison may have led people to believe that teh phone are the same, and to be completely honest, they're extremely similar. The main difference just from looking at it is the composition of the body. The HTC One has an aluminum body that is very durable and very lightweight while the Moto X is a soft plastic. If you were to throw both, the HTC One would hold up better, but not by much. Another difference is that the screen resolution is slightly better on the HTC One. Now its not huge at all, we're talking 1080p vs 720p, and most who have reviewed the Moto X testify that it doesn't look like a 720.
Even as I write the differences, many may be thinking that these are basically the same phone once again, and here is where I'm going to prove you wrong. See, the real difference between the two phones is the manufacturer: HTC vs Motorola. This matters because Motorla is owned by Google, aka the maker of Android. This allows the Moto X to have a different software design than any other smartphone. Its the first phone that you can experience what is called "full Android". For one, it has an enhanced lock screen for times when you shouldn't be looking at your phone continuously. It just looks black and displays what you need to know: texts, e-mails, notifications, etc. Another really cool feature is that the phone is always listening, for example if you say "Okay Google Now..." Google Now springs up ready to take input for a reminder, date, etc. Finally for majorly cool features, the phone can actually sense when you're driving to make navigation and reading texts more road-friendly. You can have text messages spoken out loud for example so you don't have to take your eyes off the road and potentially end up in an accident.
Overall I'd say just from the software alone and considering the fact that both phones have mostly the same hardware, that the Moto X is the phone to choose. I personally am switching in about a month and I may just write up a review after I get it.
Monday, October 7, 2013
Many people around the world have bad eyesight and need glasses for it. The only problems with the glasses of today are that the only thing that it helps with is your eyesight. Google Glass is changing that with a pretty cool piece of technology they've built. Google Glass is basically just a set of glasses with some processing power built into a small compartment on the side. This compartment then projects its operations onto the glass and what the user sees. The basic ideas that Glass started out with is using it for a GPS. Why plug in an address when you can speak "I want to go to San Francisco" and it can give you a route there. Another intended use was to be synced with a person's phone such as with smart watches. For example, say you get a text while you're at a meeting, instead of pulling out your phone and being disruptive you can just look in the corner of your glasses and look at it. This could work the same way with tweets, e-mail, and news. Those are some of its basic intended uses, but as always the people have thought of more. What Google has done is allowed developers (talented ones) to write software for apps on Glass. Some apps that have been proposed are the familiar Snapchat, which would use the built-in camera to take a picture easier than with a phone. There has also been an app that was developed that you can take any given building and redesigns the outer design with what you see. There are some pretty cool ideas out there for Glass, and unfortunately at the stage that Glass is in in development, it just can't handle a lot of things. Not to mention it’s only available by getting it especially provided to you by Google, and if it does get released publicly, it will be over $1000. Google Glass has brought up some ethical arguments as well about how integrated humans are with technology, an argument doubtlessly brought up with every new gadget, but actually a lot more relevant here. One argument is asking if anyone would be able to stay focused. If you've constantly got updates that you're looking at while driving or while at work will people ever be productive? That focus question also brings safety into it. Although apps have the potential to make the roads safer by making drivers more aware of their surroundings, it also has the potential to distract them. All in all Google Glass is a very interesting idea that with some work and some good old American ingenuity could be a very viable and useful tool for society.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
I’m sure that everyone who will read this has probably heard about Samsung. Over the last 10 years Samsung has grown exponentially in their market share of the electronics industry. Many are familiar with their Galaxy smartphone line and their Smart TV’s, but what you may not know is where did they come from, and what has enabled them to get as far as they did. If you guessed that Samsung started out in electronics, you are dead wrong. Samsung started out in the 1930s as a fish company, and in the 50s grew into textiles and life insurance. The Samsung we now know was the product of a decision to switch to electronics. Samsung started out with TVs, then moved to refrigerators, computers, computer parts, smartphones, cameras… long story short there are almost nothing that uses electricity that Samsung doesn’t make. But how did they get this good at what they do? The first one is that Samsung products are very reliable. This is what drives many consumers in their direction. The reason for this reliability and also another reason why they sell so much is that they make most of their own parts. This both drives cost down and helps the computer work well. Having parts from the same company is like having a bike with parts that are made from the same company. If you have a bike and the wheels, frame, and cables are all made from a different company they might not have the exact measurements for your particular bike, making it work just a little worse. Samsung has also been smart by incorporating products they’ve already built into their new products. For example, next time you look at a Samsung product look at the screen and compare it to another. Samsung generally has very good screens due to their manufacturing of TVs, an advantage that companies like Asus or Lenovo don’t have. All in all if you are looking at buying any electronics, Samsung is a good option. Although they’re relatively new to markets such as personal computers or cameras, Samsung tends to go all-out in a new product. Just about everything they make is a reliable, cheap, and high performance product. And to think, this top-level computer company started out as a fish company, who would’ve thought of that?
Samsung's Smart TV
The new internet-connected Samsung Camera
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
The Internet: Where you can find these pictures....
...or a full account of the French Revolution