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Category Archives: Technology

“Bock Bock Bock”

NOTE: I have to add that I have really struggled with this article more than any other article on this site.  This file to this article has sat on my desktop, mocking me, asking when I would finish.  This article may not seem like much, but was pieced together over the period of the last month as my hectic schedule allowed.

I talk a lot of revolution on this blog, on how things are going to change, and I have hope, for the better.  It seems, sometimes, when I get talking about a subject the ball seems to roll in that direction for me.  Stories will pop up about the subject I was writing about and new thoughts will come to mind.  When I set down my thoughts on a CNN article, more articles about said subject came up.  This trend did not change when I wrote about 3D Printing.  Shortly after an article about the bigger implications, this new technology would have on the world.

Every time new technology comes along that streamlines work, there are certain people who resist because of job securities…and yet, how many construction workers today would be willing to work without power tools or vehicles? If the goal were to employ more people, why not just take these things away? Technology always comes…and this is exciting technology indeed.

–       Mikeanglo

Home building ‘will come back’. This is a wonderful idea, 100% agree however, as the video states, this ONE machine takes away at least 10 specialized professions if not more, eventually this wonderful technology will result in ONE THING (surplus population). What to do with the MASSIVE inequallity that would/will result. Everyone can’t be a ‘programmer’ or ‘business owner’ – wouldn’t ppl have 2 DIE eventually? Does basic things like FOOD become free or something? Ppl need Jobs dont they?

–       year2044

Hmm… Great idea but not convinced that replacing construction workers with a single machine is really the way to help a local community. “Give someone a fish and they’ll feed themselves for a day. Give someone a net and teach them how to fish and they’ll feed their family for a lifetime.” Rapid prototyping on an epic scale is interesting though.

–       pashley26

Where is humanity in that? We can genetically modify almost everything, we can even Google babies (blue eyes, blond, athletically built). Is this where we end, A Robot? You can’t CNC/3D print Happiness of a craftsman. The pleasure of making that joy that liveliness of being human using our hands our heart and brain. Why don’t we just jack ourselves to a machine and have our surrogates do the living.

Why don’t we look for the cause of poverty and try to attack the roots of this problem.

–       mamalijoon

It seems we have this when any disruption comes to life.  Throughout history, the things that improve life are met with resistance because it will mean a negative for someone.  We have all the “Safety First” and “For the kids” type scream and scream for change, but when change is made that they want, impacts that are negatives for those who yell “For the children” all of a sudden becomes secondary.  Blind leading the blind, may sound cliché, but the truth is stranger than fiction.  We live in a world where people will demand something without ever thinking of what that change will means in cost.  Moreover, by cost I just do not mean monetarily, I mean the affects that change will truly bring in terms of community and the bigger picture of humanity.

I saw this first hand driving a truck.  Even though a few short years ago, I was caught in the crossfire of driving a big thing of environmental destruction.  This led to laws that limited the times I could run the engine, because every minute the engine runs that is a minute the earth’s protection layer (ozone) is depleted.  Never mind the data that had been collected and provided that says letting a diesel engine run is better for the environment, then constantly stopping and starting it.  Now that could be debated, as it was, what always got me was the argument of safety.  It was deemed over many years of arguing that a driver needed set hours, because tired drivers were killing people.  Yet in certain states and certain cities, I was not allowed to run my engine to supply myself heat during the hours I was required to rest.  This included nights when it was 40 degrees out, when lack of sleep is the cost of freezing temperatures.

That period of my working career taught me one thing; sometimes little thought of consequence goes into things that are supposed to help us.  Good or bad, it seems change comes without much thought towards what the outcome will be.  As long as someone’s complaint is satisfied, as long as the squeaky wheel is silenced then the change is justified.  This kind of recklessness de-legitimizes real complaints and shows little thought goes into the process.

Yes, it is harsh to say that but history bares this to be true.  Technology and innovation always disrupt first.  Technology in many forms is invented to solve problems, but some will not like the problems they solve because it always encompasses more.  We always have calls for safer work environments, shorter workdays; what is coming will bring that reality.  However, because we think short term the change will be met with apprehension and possibly violence.   If a machine can simply print a building, layer by layer in less time then labor, less cost and with near 100% safety the effects on humanity are immeasurable.  Overnight the world changes…

But of course who foots the bill?

And that is always the question someone always asks.  A decade ago that question would have been more legitimate.  But now we are heading towards a reality where scarcity is becoming solely artificial.  In the world of entertainment (Books, TV, Music, etc.) this reality is shown, there is no longer a need for a physical format that limits those realities.  I can simply transfer a file to someone and never lose the original.   The entertainment industries are in freefall because the walls they setup to create scarcity no longer exist.  Moreover, there lies the ultimate question; What happens when you remove those constraints on the necessities of life.  What happens when food and shelter is no longer a commodity that is tangible and controllable?  What happens when energy is abundant and not constrained by the realities we place on it now?  What happens when cars drive themselves?  What happens when education is not bound by a building and teachers in the sense we know it to be?

Every day I am confronted by stories of new breakthroughs.  One day it is printing organs, the next its printing food.  Whether we like what is about to come or not, change is unavoidable.   Where as in the past people may have huddled together to make sure the benefit was mutual, we are entering a time where the disruptive have no alliances and no cares towards others.  They want to disrupt and they want to change the world.  And I would dare venture that this rare breed, does not care about monetary gain or power but instead freedom.  They want a freedom that allows them to play with their toys and discover new things without the hindrances of the past.

But what confronts me over and over again is the naysayers, the “Chicken Littles” who deride change as not their kind of change.  We always hear about the “good old days,” from age, but how many of us ever think about what those days were truly like?  Yes, my grandfather walked 200 miles to school and fought a grizzly bear for his notebook, both of which will mean some unborn child will never know the value of the strong man balancing the moon on his pinky.

On a side note: I think He-Man is the greatest cartoon ever because I grew up with it.

I do not write this to say that change is automatically good, but change should be weighed and balanced with careful thought.  What we cannot outrun, or escape, is that disruptive change is coming.  It is going to force us to answer questions we rather not answer.    It is going to cause knee-jerk reactions.  Many of the ways we think about day-to-day life will be forever changed.  Change is not new, but the kind of rapid-fire change we are seeing now is not going to allow for breathing room.  That lack of oxygen is going to be gasoline for many to remain the status quo.

As they say change never comes easy…

Look up to the sky, tis a falling sky I see said one poultry to the other…

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Technology

 

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Authors hate soldiers who lend books to cats and other tales from the twilight zone

A couple years ago Ubisoft, a video game publisher, under the claims of rampant piracy turned to an always-online form of DRM.  For those who do not understand, Digital Rights Management (DRM) can be thought of as an electronic lock that is “supposed” to keep “pirates” from copying and distributing things they did not “buy.”  The problem is most times most times when a company thinks of some brilliant way to stop piracy, it usually backfires in some horrible way and has to be removed at a later date.  The history of DRM could fill a couple articles for me, but for now I want to stick to this one instance of it.  Ubisoft thought they had the solution to stop pirates, their games would only work when an end user was connected to the Internet.  The only problem was that Ubisoft (a French company) would be accused of something else.

More on that later.

This past week a history lesson was about to be sprung upon my eyes.   Out of the blue a small story about people not understanding technology was seen in the wilds of my RSS feed.  I do not know why, but I chose to read the story and the cyclical nature of humanity was before me.  Much to my surprise those words from my days in public education came back: Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”
Thus this week a new word was born, ladies and gentleman, children of all ages, I present you the dawn of the: TWITMOB!

twitmob

[twitmob] Show IPA noun, adjective, verb, twitmobbed, twit-mob·bing.

1. a disorderly or riotous crowd of online twitter people.

2. an online twitter crowd bent on or engaged in lawless electronic violence.

3. any group or collection of twitter persons or things.

4. the common twitter people; the twitter masses; twitter populace or multitude.

Last week a group of authors took to twitter to express outrage over a website they claimed was pirating their material.  While details are sketchy at the moment, two authors started a modern day rolling ball of witch hunting.  As the nature of the quickness and real time of online sites like Twitter, the ball got rolling very quickly.  Within a few hours, a web site was shut down without as much as a whimper from the site owner.  Turns out he was blindsided by the deluge of hate e-mails he was received.  The web hosting company that hosted the site was also deluged with hate e-mails, but these were of the legal kind.  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA,) Cease and Desist (C&D) notice kind that demanded the site be taken down for illegal activity.

After the dust was cleared it was proven that the site in question did nothing wrong and was ambushed all over authors who could not take the time to read contracts they had signed.

LendInk (the web site in question,) provided a simple service to users, lending E-Books.  E-Readers like Kindle and Nook have the ability for the user to lend their books to another user for a period of time (usually 14 days.)  The book is lent similar to how it works in real life; you lend the E-Book and lose access to the book until the lending period is over.  This is the electronic form of the library.   Lendlnk provided a way of letting users on the internet meet up virtually and swap books through Amazon and Barnes & Nobles respective services.  Another interesting note to make is that authors having a choice of making their books lendable or not through contract.

Amazons terms state that “Kindle books can be loaned to another reader for a period of 14 days. The borrower does not need to own a Kindle—Kindle books can also be read using our free Kindle reading applications for PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android devices. Not all books are lendable—it is up to the publisher or rights holder to determine which titles are eligible for lending. The lender will not be able to read the book during the loan period. Books can only be loaned once, and subscription content is not currently available for lending.”
http://goodereader.com/blog/commentary/how-uninformed-digital-authors-destroyed-lendink/

That is the major take away from this lesson: Read contracts you sign.

Instead of reading their contracts a few authors took to Twitter in outrage with legal guns blazing.  The truth did not matter, they were going to right the imaginary wrong they had created.  Even after the twitmob had dissolved, some are still defending what they had done.

But once a few hair-on-fire, sky-is-falling types of indie authors got wind of LendInk and found their books listed there, they jumped right to the WRONG conclusion that this was some kind of illegal Napster for ebooks and went on the warpath. Rather than take a few moments to read the site’s FAQ, where the specifics of the site and the legality of it were addressed clearly and in detail, these authors immediately started posting warnings to all their author friends about this new ebook pirating site, LendInk. It became an online game of ‘telephone’, with well-meaning people re-posting incorrect claims about LendInk, and the claims about LendInk getting more distorted as they were passed around and new posters added their take on the situation. In a matter of just THREE DAYS, it went from an online campaign of spreading hysterical misinformation to LendInk being shut down.
http://www.publetariat.com/think/congratulations-you-killed-lendink-and-denied-your-fellow-authors-their-lend-royalties

It is not surprising but this whole episode brought to my attention how humanity, still, remains the same.  We jump to conclusions without thought, we rather point fingers then take a moment to ponder.  It made me also realize the damage how much a few moments of rage can cause.  I am not infallible, neither is anyone who reads this article, we can all give into blind casuistryThat one moment of lost clarity is going to cost the authors in the end.  All because they could not take the time to question, what they thought was wrong.  Instead, they came guns blazing, shooting first and asking questions later, with the assumption that collateral damage was okay.

I think we all can forgive other human beings for making mistakes.  The problem here is we still have those who do not understand the damage their actions have done to their own careers and also one of the LendInk owner, who is a disabled Army Veteran.

Going back to Ubisoft, that great DRM plan they had led to them hitting a snag they never saw.  Or in the eyes of one commentator:

Ubisoft’s PC DRM is decidedly anti-soldier

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Technology

 

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I want that…

As a follow up to last week’s post on the printed gun, I wanted to share this video I found this past week.  I think it is easy for people to say technology is destroying culture without fully looking at both sides of the coin.

When you seek to disparage technology, just think of those words: “I want that”

As an interim to the next section, here are some Jedi Squirrels!

A while back, I share my thoughts on the current Bullying trend and this week a new study came out.

“These results suggest that the new electronic media have actually created few ‘new’ victims and bullies,” Olweus said in a release. “To be cyberbullied or to cyberbully other students seems to a large extent to be part of a general pattern of bullying where use of electronic media is only one possible form, and, in addition, a form with low prevalence.”
http://techcrunch.com/2012/08/06/study-cyberbullying-is-less-popular-than-the/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29

One of the thoughts I have had about bullying was the fact that the “new found world” of the Internet was not really giving birth to new bullies, but just becoming an extension.  Years ago, there was an outcry that pedophilia was abounding because of the Internet.  That the number of people engaging in child porn was increasing.  The truth was that the instead of increasing numbers, they were staying the same, simply put people were moving their activities online and in some cases discontinuing real life methods.

Now again this is not to say bullying is right, but to point out that those who are in the business of pushing agendas are wrong.  I do not know if we can ever get rid of bullying, but I have to wonder which is worst being bullied in real life or online where I can choose to turn off the device.  Yes, again someone will be quick to say any kind of bullying is wrong.  As I asked before is this just another crusade?

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Technology

 

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Here is the cat, and here is the bag…

When I was High School, I had the fun of going to Vo-Tech to study computers.  My teacher decided it was my time to learn some problem-solving skills.  He presented me with a computer that would not work.  It could be software, it could be hardware, and it could be the outlet.  Simply put he told me to fix it and I was given a short time period to give him a report.  I tried turning it on, to no avail, I looked at the outlet and saw the power to the monitor and computer was plugged in.  The monitor worked so the outlet was getting power.  After staring at the computer, I shrugged my shoulders and returned to him to express my enigma.  We walked over and turned the computer around to show me the power cord was unplugged.  I was embarrassed, but he took that opportunity to teach me a valuable lesson.  When you are trying to solve a problem, always start at the root and work your way out.

When the Aurora shootings happened, I had thought about writing about the incoherent rantings of some experts about social media and video games.  Because we all know, inanimate objects tell their users what to do with their lives.

Actually, I do contend if video games had that power over users, this world we be a better place.  Because I cannot tell you how many times I have saved the world, helped others and saved more money then I knew what to do with, in most video games I play.

Oh well…

Of course with Aurora came the call for more gun laws and as usual I tried to ignore the coverage.  For me I find most of the coverage grating, filled with experts who provide more FUD then good insight and knowledge.  And it is not that the experts are not qualified to talk about the subjects they are called upon to give insight, it is the fact that a fresh incident cannot be commented on that quick.  And it is not that much fun to watch people conjecture about what laws we should make, and what thing we should ban when an incident like Aurora happens.

There are certain issues in the country I may have opinions about, but talking about those issues are futile.  One such is the laws governing guns.  Not that this is something that may or may not affect us all, but because I find the arguments ground in the middle of the sun.  Both sides are so far away from reality that I cannot find myself supporting either side, because of lack of reality.  It’s when I read something like this:

So, can you print a gun? Yep, you can and that’s exactly what somebody with the alias “HaveBlue” did.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/markgibbs/2012/07/28/the-end-of-gun-control/?commentPage=2

I have to pause and see if people will accept reality, or simply still argue their points.

Sadly, they are still arguing their points…

3D Printers are starting to gain traction in the mainstream.  3D Printers are a technology that allows you, in the convenience of your own home, produce items with all sorts of materials (mainly plastic) right now.  The technology is not exactly new but it is now picking up steam.  3D Printers are very tantalizing to my passion, game design, as it allows me to create board games for lower prices and from the comfort of my own home, versus outsourcing that side of production.

What 3D Printers represent is the idea Star Trek presented with Replicators.

“No more shipping huge amount of products around the world,” according to the blog post. “No more shipping broken products back. No more child labor. We’ll be able to print food for hungry people. We’ll be able to share not only a recipe, but the full meal.”
http://mashable.com/2012/01/24/pirate-bay-download-physical-object-physibles/

This technology is going to change our world in the near future.  Revolution here we come.

Getting back to guns, the reality is the cat has been out of the bag for a long time, if you want to make a gun, you can, albeit a slow or long process depending on what you want to make.  Now with 3D Printers people are experimenting and succeeding at making low cost guns.  Now the catch right now is they are not able to make certain parts of the gun yet.  However, eventually this technology will allow anyone to print any type of object they want to, with the right materials at a cheap price.  The reality is passing a new law or hoping for people to change is wishful thinking.  People will find ways to do what they want, regardless of laws.

As has been shown over and over again, there will be calls for regulations and bans.  In addition, the business this type of technology disrupts will be forefront in calling for its ban and regulation.  And such is life.

The real question is there a solution to problems such as Aurora.  That answer is not as simple.  However, with problems like Aurora we seem to want to place blame on everything but the root cause.   Sure plenty of things could have contributed to why someone decides to commit crimes but still the root lies at them choosing to do such a thing.  And blaming the shoe maker, will not do much to stem nor solve similar crimes from happening.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Technology

 

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Twofer (yeah I made that up)

Another day another 2 for 1 article.  The past week brought up two interesting articles.  And for the second straight week CNN is in my radar.

In the words of Charlie Brown: “Ugh”

As another, in what is probably going to be an ongoing, update to my article on Julie Amero, comes the story of a new ransomware virus.   Ransomware viruses are the type that lock your computer down and usually pop up messages that you are infected by a virus or some other malware with the intent of getting you pay to remove it.  The problem is once you pay the virus remains still taunting you by asking for payment for removal.

This variation, called Reveton, lures the victim to a drive-by download website, at which time the ransomware is installed on the user’s computer, says the U.S. Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Once installed, the computer freezes and a screen is displayed warning the user they have violated United States Federal Law. The crimeware declares the user’s IP address was identified by the Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section as visiting child pornography and other illegal content.
http://www.networkworld.com/news/2012/053112-citadel-259739.html?hpg1=bn

Scammers are now using threat of child pornography to steal money.  As I pointed out in the Julie Amar article, there needs to be protections for people in public from this type of scam and virus, but I also believe we need to extend that to the general public.

One thing I contemplated with the Julie story was how we have placed child pornography at the level of the Red Scare.  No one will argue that child pornography is not a serious crime, but it seems that one is guilty before trial with a simple accusation.  Too many times do I read a news story of someone accused of a crime towards children and see comments that from the public that have convicted the person from the start.  As was shown with Julie Aero it is easy to judge the story based on the cover, but very few were quick to read the pages.  It makes me wonder if crowds with pitchforks and torches still go around looking for witches.

And speaking of crowds with pitchforks, I was made aware of CNNs Andrew Keen article on Facebook.

Luddites are people who are “any opponent of industrial change or innovation” and I keep seeing these types of people pop up more and more.  Now I have to say if you want to be a luddite, it is your choice, don’t own a telephone or computer, to me it does not matter.  But when you want to take your tech-luddicity to the masses you first better understand your subject before you speak in an expert fashion.

I am in complete agreement that some in society have no clue what they are giving up when they give out personal details like they do on Facebook.  I agree that the cost of free online is putting us as a consumer but I can’t agree with a statement like this:

The social network is taking something much more important than money from its nearly one billion members. By sabotaging what it really means to be human, Facebook is stealing the innocence of our inner lives.

It may even be Zucking us up as a species.
http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/30/tech/keen-technology-facebook-privacy/index.html

The problem with an over the top statement like this is that it ignores the reality of a world where we give up freedoms every day.  Most people don’t think about when they go to a grocery store and sign up for the cards we are giving up data to be used for marketing.  There are many places in the “real” world where we are asked to trade our information for some benefit.  Moreover, if we choose the risk (and it always is a risk) we should know what we are giving up.  We will never live in a world where people think about every decision they make.  This in itself is good and bad.  But the worst is those that tell others how to live.

The issue with an article like this is that it only covers the negatives and not the positives.  And it also brands everyone as a person with lack of brain power to choose whether the information they give up is smart enough to make that choice.  The article for all its talk of narcissism the author likes to point out that he “smart” enough to choose to give up Facebook to save humanity.

But what it leaves out is how this type of phenomenon has existed throughout history and the type of people it can create never changes.  Again, we have an article that says this new form is wrong and the old is better.  The problem is not the mechanism that creates it is bad, but the root cause, the person who chooses to become narcissistic.  The mechanism can be music, books, movies, politics and schools.  Many things in life present us with opportunities to become what Andrew Keen points out, but for him it is easiest to eliminate that which has no bearing on his life.  One could make the argument that his writing a series of articles for a website is the same as what he describes Facebook to be, therefore according to his logic websites should be given up in this age.

Logic like this always makes me go bang my head.

This is not to say that I am the biggest fan of Facebook.  As with all platforms it is how you use the platform.  To simple brush the positives under the rug to prove the negatives is dishonest and unprofessional at best.  Most importantly, what is seen on Facebook is not unique to Facebook.  The Guinness Book of World Records proves that.

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2012 in Technology

 

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Rant: I don’t want your app…

The other night I picked up my phone and clicked on Pulse.  Pulse is a web reader designed for mobile that lets you pick your favorite sites and get their content.  You can separate your news sources by topic and tab and for the most part has replaced the newspaper for news in my life.   I get to peruse through stories from all over the web and world in a nice convenient format.  Most of the time, the stories will be teasers on the major newspaper sites and I have to click on a “Read More…” link.  Some sites are nice enough to allow me to read the whole story in Pulse app.  Lately though I have been noticing some rather bothersome behavior from clicking the “Read More…” links.

Usually when a story gets my attention and I choose to read the story I get taken to the site’s website and with my phone’s generous screen size, even sites that don’t have mobile counterparts are very readable.  Nevertheless, for some reason I have noticed more and more sites have cut me off from even that choice, instead offering me a 404 unreachable page.  And if they let me reach the main site, some news sites have gone as far as giving a teaser on the website itself, choosing to cut main content off by a paywall.  For those who do not know what a paywall is, it is a website that does not allow you to view content without paying first for access.

For a geek like me these paywalls are usually no problem.  First a well known story will be available at other places and when it becomes necessary I have my ways to bypass the wall.  To be honest though, the paywall doesn’t bother me as much as the newest behavior that has become prevalent , the pushing of the app.  I am probably late to this game, but I am noticing more and more newspapers pushing their custom app to deliver their news.

To this, I say No Thank You.

There is one thing I liked about technology and that is making it work to my needs.  When I want to do my daily reading I rely on software and apps like FeedDemon and Pulse.  It allows me to go to start one piece of software to get more done and thus saving me a lot of time.  The reason I use these apps because they work brilliantly for my life, and as far as I can tell do for many other people.

This is not even a rant against paying for content, but for being able to use said content the way I want to.  If I found one of my favorite sites for information decided to go behind a paywall, I might gladly pay for said content but I want it delivered my way.  To me installing an app for each site I read would be insanity.  For those who still do not understand it would be like having to buy a TV for each channel you want to watch.

Imagine the fun of having a specifically branded TV that only allowed you to watch one channel!

That also brings up the other issue I have, that is the old does not want to work with the new.  Many times, sometimes on a daily basis I am reminded how the established does not want to change or work with the new.  We have seen this is music, movies, books and more established industries.  People now have choices where before they did not.  Moreover, the response to this loss of control has been clamping down to the detriment of the buying public.  While this might seem to be a solution, it just cuts off the old from the new and eventually will be their undoing.

It is truly ironic when you think about it, the only way the public can consume something is for said products to made and displayed to be chosen.  Locking down, and forcing people to make choices you want to them to make is not usually met with favorable opinion.  Consumers have so many choices that one less choice is not going to harm them, and the market is already filling the gaps of those who refuse to change and adapt.

And by the way, I still don’t want their app.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2012 in Technology

 

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Grouse with the Sky

On Sunday, I was playing a game of Innovation.  Innovation is a unique card game where player’s quest for achievements, the person who score five achievements wins.  This was the first time I was playing the game and as usual in a new game, it took me a while to figure out what I was doing.  As I proceeded through man’s history of innovations, represented by cards separated by ages, I found myself doing better as later age cards came my way.  An opponent, who had done well in earlier ages, found himself reeling from the cards I found myself with in later rounds of the game.  As he stayed in the past, using his older technology, my newer technology found a way to catch up and help me win the game.

One of the things I love about games is how they take something in real life and simplify it.  Laying it bare before you and sometimes letting you see the hidden truth of life.  In Innovation it was about how technology, man’s innovations changed society, how those who stayed behind and did not change were left behind.  Moreover, no one died, but not all opponents fared as well as others.  There were winners and losers.

Some people who read my articles will think I just side with technology, always seeing the positives and never seeing the disadvantages.  I will take that assessment and live with it, I do like to see the positives in the possibilities, because of the negatives of the realities.   That is to say, what could be done for the benefit of the whole is often ignored for the benefit of the few.  We have so many leaders who say they are looking out of the best for all, when reality is they are looking to the benefit of themselves.  This selfishness becomes a detriment to them in the end.  In addition, so many times in my life I have seen those who put selfishness to the side, ultimately prosper more.  Moreover, because we are a society that values a good cover, we sometimes never see the truth.

Every week, sometimes every day, I am reminded of how things are changing because of the current revolution we are going through.  Technology is once again changing us and it amazes me those who complain or use fear to dissuade the change.  Especially those who complain the loudest from their air-conditioned house, while using a phone or using a pencil and piece of paper to complain about the future.  Never once considering the things they are using to complain are the result of technology and change.  What is even sadder is the realization that those who are older or in power are using fear to prop up that which is obsolete and must go.

One such recent example of this is the Post Office.  The Post Office is becoming endangered and soon will no longer serve a good purpose.  One of the reasons the Post Office still exists is because of the slow growth of reliable broadband access in the country.  People just do not have the need for paper form of communication like they did before, when more direct and quicker options such as Texting, IM and E-Mail exist today.  And when you the reason for saving the institution is that senior citizens need junk mail to keep them company is a never a good sign.

Someone will be quick to point out that you cannot send a package any other way.  And while that is true, I will be quick to point out other companies who do that job also.

Another thing I am noticing is the fact that corporations and institutions (I am starting to think this is a very bad word) who have had a lock on certain sectors are starting to watch their grip fall away.   We have seen news agencies lose some of their grip to the rise of the blogger and man on the street reporting.  We are also seeing delivery of things like entertainment (music, movies) completely change power structures.  The traditional is becoming the old, and the ancient before our eyes.  Moreover, those who are not careful to watch the changes are going to swept up and left behind.

It is ironic to see the complaint about unfairness of current power structures towards those not in power, when the system that is so unfair is being made fair on its own.   It is almost as if the system finds a way of balancing itself out.  We are seeing the Horse and Buggy makers laughing at the Automobile makers in modern day.  Moreover, in the end those that put themselves ahead of others, ultimately find themselves the real losers.  In a world of “dog eat dog”, everyone loses.

In experiments at six public universities, students assigned randomly to statistics courses that relied heavily on “machine-guided learning” software — with reduced face time with instructors — did just as well, in less time, as their counterparts in traditional, instructor-centric versions of the courses. This largely held true regardless of the race, gender, age, enrollment status and family background of the students.
http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/05/22/report-robots-stack-human-professors-teaching-intro-stats

This past week I found this story among my daily reads.  The article is about how machine guided instruction can be cheaper and more beneficial students then traditional forms of education.  Moreover, as with anything that disrupts the current, the shore of dissent arises.  Reading the comments to the article it is clear that those in power and those that have a vested interest are going to be resistive to change.

Now I will be quick to point out that:

The robotic software did have disadvantages, the researchers found. For one, students found it duller than listening to a live instructor. Some felt as though they had learned less, even if they scored just as well on tests. Engaging students, such as professors might by sprinkling their lectures with personal anecdotes and entertaining asides, remains one area where humans have the upper hand.

Change is not going to happen overnight and testing will need to happen to balance the two out.  Machine Guided Learning (also known as Online Learning) has a lot of bugs to iron out, but it is the a solution to a problem traditional learning cannot solve.  That is, those students that do not fit the averages of learning, and want to move forward on their own.  In the last five years there has been a movement towards Open Source Learning, that is higher education allowing anyone access to their educational materials to learn on their own.

I almost (sadly not) enrolled in Stanford’s free Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.  This was a free Online Course.

One thing that I ponder is why this is such a bad future for society as a whole.  The traditional would say that you get what you pay for, but is it not in our best interest to do what we can to pass on the next generation better opportunities in areas such as education, even if that costs society more.  Now when I talk about bigger costs I am not talking just about money, but about jobs.  Just as the Industrial Revolution cost jobs, I see the same happening now.  The traditional is becoming obsolete and that is not always a bad thing, as people will make it out to be.  In addition, looking at the situation as a whole the benefit to the whole of society outweighs the benefit of the few.

A few years ago, I was reading a book about how people romanticize about the past.  The never look back on the past with the proper light of truth.  People fantasize the past, looking at it through rose-colored stained glass windows never letting the truth come to light.  Because as we know fantasy is always better then reality…

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2012 in Technology

 

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Oh NOES The ____ beat me up…

Not only is the internet hurting children, it is also leaving the lights on when it leaves the room, and forgetting to put down fresh water for the cat. And I’m pretty sure it was the internet that keyed my car in a parking lot last month.
– John Titor

On Monday Chelsea Clinton and James Steyer, decided to write on the (QUOTE) “very real” (QUOTE) threat the Internet poses our children and teens.  Of course don’t forget the teens; you know they can’t think for themselves.  The great “truth” they want you know is this:

We need legislation, educational efforts and norms that reflect 21st-century realities to maximize the opportunities and minimize the risks for our kids. Only then will we be able to give them the safe, healthy childhood and adolescence they deserve.
http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/21/opinion/clinton-steyer-internet-kids/index.html

I tried my best to read the article with all seriousness but just could not.  Again we have the cry of “for the children” by people who want to see the best for our children.  As an aside the group they are a part of (Common Sense Media) was a big supporter of the recently struck down violent video game law in California.  This was the law that would have banned the sale of “violent” video games to minors.  I think this is part of the reason I could not look at the article with any seriousness.

Another part of the article is that it is so data driven with little argument towards reasoning for law.  One thing to remember when someone pulls out a slew of data is to ask yourself what the controls were.  Number data can be good but only when you know how the numbers were generated.  Then there is the problem of averages, sure 7 out of 10 people like this soda, but what about 8, 9 and 10?  See the problem with numbers is that those who don’t fit those averages are a world of data unto themselves.  In simple terms: 50% of 8s enjoy this soda, while 35% of the time enjoying this soda…

Now mind you that I am not against Government laws and regulations when called for.  However, the laws need to be based on solutions and not just quick fixes to problems.  Calling for some law to take care of a present day problem on the Internet is narrow minded and will become obsolete shortly.  Another problem with the article was while it was great in pointing out the negatives, it never pointed at the root cause.  Moreover, that is my problems with articles, it goes at great lengths to explain the problem, but never explains why it happens.  A problem, like a tree, always has a root that caused the problem to show itself.  If you want to kill the “problem,” attacking the root is the only way to take care of the “problem.”  It is funny how such an important issue like this one cannot take a few words to say the real issue: Parents are the problem.

That is what the article does not want to say, but does.  If children are spending so much time in fruitless pursuits, where are the parents?  But of course if it did that how many would listen?  Easier to blame the big ____ as the ultimate enemy, because it cannot defend itself, an inanimate object really has no voice to argue back.  Easy to beat up the scarecrow when you know he does not fight back.  Now mind you, if you find yourself in Oz I would think twice, he might punch back.

The other issue I have is the “urgency” for a conversation on an issue that has existed before the public knew it did.  The social part of the Internet did not just pop up overnight, and it did not start with Facebook.  Looking past adults, children have been on computers and technology since their invention.  If you do not want to buy into that, then I can assure you that since I was in elementary school I have been exposed to computers almost every day of my life.  Computers and the new technology, which is in constant flux, is now the normality of life and will not change barring complete collapse of society.

Moreover, this “conversation” is always urgent with those who no longer have control, nor should have control.  I again am not saying that the conversation is not needed if there were legitimate concerns.  But when the concerns seem to be geared towards “I don’t like how children act today” is not a good reason to stop the world so you can have your say.

In addition, that is not to say that all the arguments brought up within the article are bad.  For example, children understanding privacy, and the understanding of what they share is important.  But does that go to the extent of stopping them before failure and mistake?  When did it become necessary to stop children from making mistakes and sometimes failing?  I for one understand not giving a four year old the keys to the car and say go, boundaries are good no argument there.  Nevertheless, if steps are in place to keep children from bad things and they still go to those places, where do we put blame and what do we do to solve it?  Moreover, does that mean we always need Government to answer that problem?  As I pointed out before, if sexting crimes were allowed to continue the way they were, we would face a future were the majority of future adults would be sex offenders.

This whole issue comes down to this: Have you ever played the game of: Good or Evil?  Simple take an item, any item, and ask yourself this question: “Is it good or evil?”  Start with a knife and see where it takes you.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Technology

 

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Julia: A new note

This is going to be short but it seems a very interesting aside to my story on Julie, came out:

Meanwhile, the federal government has made scant effort to enforce the requirement that companies give the preferential rate to schools. The Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the program, has yet to bring an enforcement action against any carrier for violating the low-price rule, according to interviews and documents, some obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. And the FCC, acting through the private company that administers the program, has provided little if any guidance to companies on how to apply the best-price rule. Indeed, in 2010, companies such as AT&T and Verizon sought clarification on the rule.

“Time and again, we find that schools are rarely advised by the telephone companies of their best available rates,” said Howard Rotto, whose New York consulting firm has represented dozens of schools in the Northeast for four decades. “When representatives of the carrier do not even know of the existence of their best pricing,” Rotto asked, “how can such a rate ever be offered or known?”
http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/05/att-feds-neglect-low-price-mandate-designed-to-help-schools/

I would recommend to read the article in it’s entirety.  It seems the E-Rate program, which requires CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act,) that provides school low rate telecommunications is not being followed by providers.

So the question I am left to wonder if the program is not being used properly, nor enforced, why are we as parents being forced to agree to terms and conditions apart of a program that is not being enforced?

More on this later after some more thought and reading.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Technology

 

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Julie continued…

This is a continuation of the topic I started on Wednesday that can be found here.

Acceptable Use…
As I said before what happened to Julie can happen to anyone in a public position.  Shortly after I discovered Julie’s story, I was presented with the Acceptable Use Policy for my children’s school district.  This document was the contract that I was to sign, acknowledging I understood what the school’s policy was on technology and Internet use in the school.  My first thought was to ponder why elementary school aged children would not be supervised, thus providing the need for signing of such a document.  Then I went through the process of reading the document thoroughly.

Now mind you, as tech savvy as I am, EULAs and licensing agreements on software are something I barely put thought to.  Nevertheless, this document had me curious, what did it contain and why did it need my signature as a parent?  So I went through the document to see what it contained.  In great detail it listed what would be provided, what would be the responsibility of the user and even tried to curtail my criticism of the school district.  It was troubling to say the least.

Moreover, protection for my children when they did wrong doing, was the shortest part of the document.  This was the most troubling aspect of the document for me.

I decided I needed to speak with someone at the school.

Bumbling, fumbling, mumbling…
Right up front, I must admit I am not the most elegant speaker.  My meeting with a school official did not go well.  I was passed on to the school’s IT Administrator.  This time I prepared myself much better and was able to communicate my concerns much clearer.  I was assured repeatedly that my children were in no danger from Internet threats like porn and malware.  Nevertheless, I pressed forth and expressed my call was not about the school offering these protections, but what would happen if my children were caught doing something wrong, what investigation would be done to make sure.  I was assured things would be investigated thoroughly and only if they did something then they would be in trouble.  It was then that I asked for that to be put into the writing of the document.  It was at this point that the conversation ended and I was told I would receive a call back to further discuss the matter.

I never received a call back, and I never called back.  I chose not to sign the agreement from that point on.

CIPA
I stepped back from the conversation realizing what situation I was stepping into fully.  First, I do not put blame on an IT Administrator reacting the way he did.  Understand first that as with any job, there is only so far anyone wants to take the job.  My asking for change of policy was something of monumental change and disruption to a system that was probably running smoothly for those in charge of it.  Secondly, and sadly, schools are running scared of parents and lawsuits.

This does not excuse their non-response, nor does it excuse my lack of follow up.  At the time I did not feel putting this issue out there was worth the fight and what it could mean for my family.  At the same time I was discovering and dealing with this issue, was the same time the Lower Merion Web Cam lawsuit was going on.  That was the lawsuit where Lower Merion School District was accused of spying on children through web cams on Laptops they provided to students.  In turn some local news outlets decided to drag the parents involved in the lawsuits through the mud, so to say.

I since then have learned why Acceptable Use Policies are distributed to parents to sign.  It is because of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA.)  CIPA required schools and libraries who received E-Rate discounts on telecommunication services and Internet, must in turn use Internet filters and other measures to protection children from harmful online content.  If memory serves me this was one of the hot button issues right before 9/11 attacks.  Libraries had been arguing filtering the Internet was un-constitutional; a lawsuit was brought and argued all the way to the Supreme Court where CIPA was upheld.

Acceptable Use Policies are fulfillment of CIPA.

Now that the cause is out of the way…
The main problem with the Acceptable Use Policies is that they do not go into much detail as far as protection goes.  As far I see it they do everything to protect the school itself, to a) ensure funding and b) protect from lawsuits, but little concern has gone into situation like Julie Ameros that can still happen.

What has to be understood, that anyone can be wrongly accused on accessing something illegal on the Internet, and right now, we do not have legal understanding of our current technology in relation to current society.  There is still argument as we speak about whether an IP (Internet Protocol) Address can lawfully identify an end user.  Judges are finding it difficult to understand the complexities this new age is bringing.   Just a few years back we were looking at the prospect of minors being charged with sex crimes for Sexting (Sex Texting.)  The problem with such prosecution was the rampant spread of such crimes, leading to a majority of future society being sexual predators as defined by current law.

Going forward…
One thing I do not understand is why elementary aged children cannot be introduced to technology in a controlled environment.  Intranets (that is an internal network) could serve controlled web pages that would be school controlled, thus forgoing the necessity of such Acceptable Use Policies for elementary children.

One thing that is apparent to me is that with CIPA we have another example of a law passed without proper research or thought.  CIPA does nothing to offer protection for neither children nor adults from unfounded accusations.  One thing I am finding in my research in multiple districts is this:

Due Process
a.  The School District will cooperate with the School District’s ISP rules, local, state, and federal officials to the extent legally required in investigations concerning or relating to any illegal activities conducted through the School District’s CIS systems.

b.  If students or employees possess due process rights for discipline resulting from the violation of this policy, they will be provided such rights.

c.  The School District may terminate the account privileges by providing notice to the user.

The problem is this is not strong enough language as it does not define what legal responsibility they are speaking of.  While the Acceptable Use Policy goes into great detail on other subjects about exactly what can be done and how it is done on their network, these are the words of protection being offered to the end user.  There is no word of what kind of investigation will be carried out and how it will be done.  Who covers the cost and what protections exactly will be offered during the investigation.

What needs to happen is for all concerned to have Due Process fully explained and exactly what legal protections are there for the end user.  How the investigation will be handled and carried out.

Final Thoughts
I save this for last because I feel it is most important. I have not named officials I have spoken with, or districts because their names and persecution of them is not needed.  My bringing to light this subject is out of concern for innocent people, such as Julie Amero, being prosecuted for crimes they are not guilty of.

One of the scenarios, I know is possible, is for a child in school at a library computer to walk away from their computer for a second and have another student go on their computer and do something illegal.  Now this is all logged under the login of the innocent child who made a mistake of walking away for a moment.  I know because this sort of thing happened while I was in college.  Someone would forget to log out of their computer and as a prank, other students would change the wallpaper to potentially offensive images.

Some might argue that children should know better than to leave a computer unattended.  But don’t we live in a society where we allow children to learn and grow from their mistakes?  As it is, we do not send minors to adult jail when they commit crimes, but choose to try to rehabilitate first in most cases through the Juvenile Court System.  We as adults should do our best to protect children and that means having laws that not only protect what they are viewing, but what happens when they are caught doing something illegal.  CIPA just does not go far enough in protection and our schools are doing no better.

Furthermore, we need to offer protections to all in public positions in society such as teaching.

A Final Lesson

The stigma of possessing child porn means that such allegations, even if later proven untrue, can be damning. And the allegation can indeed turn out to be untrue. In 2002, UK police accused over 7,000 people of purchasing child porn from a website, but it later turned out that hundreds of them were merely victims of credit card fraud. Their credit cards had been stolen and used to purchase child porn, so they ended up getting caught in the police dragnet. One of those victims was Simon Bunce, a UK resident whose identity was stolen by a pedophile. Bunce was caught up in the aforementioned pedophile sting, dubbed Operation Ore. Before being fully cleared by the police, Bunce lost his high-paying job, and his family members disowned him. He may never be able to repair the damage to his reputation.
http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2010/08/disgruntled-brit-plants-child-porn-on-bosss-computer-calls-cops/

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2012 in Technology

 

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