Friday, December 30, 2011

GoodBye Diggnation and Thank You

Right now as I write this blog, and I know this since I'm following the twitter feed, the final show of Diggnation is about ready to start. Yes after over 360 episodes, over six years of a weekly program, one of the pioneering shows on the Internet is coming to an end. It's hard to think about it, the finale of the premier video podcast of this era is soon to be over.

I have been a fan since episode one. I would never say I'm the biggest fan, but I do own a tee-shirt.

It has one of the strangest premise, two guys sitting around on a couch with their laptops open, reading stories from a website and drinking beer. Sometimes they drank a little too much beer. It should not have been compelling yet it was.

From some of the early arguments that centred around Alex calling Kevin out as a total Apple fanboy, to the various friends and pets that have entered the show.

Both were the showmen, both held my interest. Their take on the news items that appeared on Digg was always a good time. I'm hard pressed to think of an episode that was boring or uninteresting. None of them ever was.

So tonight, it's the last episode and i say with so many fans:

thanks Kevin, thanks Alex it has simply been great.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Keeping Our Schools Safe

Living where I do, there are times when things happen that totally escape the local news. It takes a visit back home to get a taste of what is really happening out there. Of course it helps when you hear from sources to close to what is happening. What I'm talking about is the L'affair Burge that seemed to have become quite a tempest in a teapot in the city of Windsor. I was pointed to the article in the Windsor Star regarding a certain student of Kennedy Collegiate and some of her musings on Facebook.

I'm not going to get involved in a discussion what she said and whether or not everything done to her was appropriate. Enough has been said already and I can't add anything new. However, what did get my interest was the comment regarding the Ontario Safe School Act, this is the piece of legislation that was used to justify her suspension. In fact a lot said in the Windsor Star article got me looking up that interesting act.

The purpose of this act is:
A safe school enables learning and teaching within an environment that fosters responsibility, respect and academic excellence.

Now this is a sound and great ideal. Seriously it is, a student who feels safe in their school will be relaxed and will enjoy learning. As we read more and more about bullying, it makes sense.

The broad purpose of the Act is to establish guidelines and policies for school and school boards. The Act opens with this:
The Minister may establish a code
of conduct governing the behaviour of all persons in schools.
(2) The following are the purposes of the
code of conduct:
1. To ensure that all members of the
school community, especially people in
positions of authority, are treated with
respect and dignity.
2. To promote responsible citizenship by
encouraging appropriate participation in
the civic life of the school community.
3. To maintain an environment where conflict and difference can be addressed in
a manner characterized by respect and civility.
4. To encourage the use of non-violent means to resolve conflict.
5. To promote the safety of people in the schools.
6. To discourage the use of alcohol and
illegal drugs.

No one could disagree with such an act and it is good the Ministry recognizes and encourages local boards and school to articulate this Act for the local purpose and keep within the guidelines of the Act. There is also a great deal given to the purpose of discipline and suspension.

Then I came across this part of the article:
Public school board spokesman Scott Scantlebury said any actions by pupils, including “inappropriate” Facebook posts, that are deemed to negatively affect “the moral tone of a school” can, under Ontario’s Safe Schools Act, be dealt with by a suspension.

When it comes to a school’s code of conduct, Scantlebury said that, “as with the law, ignorance is not an excuse.”

Now it becomes interesting, perhaps someone should share a copy of the act with Mr. Scantlebury, because it says this about ignorance of the law:
Every board shall take such steps as the Minister directs to bring the code of conduct to the attention of pupils, parents and guardians of pupils and others who may be present in schools under the jurisdiction of the board

So Mr. Scantlebury seems not to be aware of the fact that it is his duty to help the students understand what is expected of them while in school. It appears the 'moral tone of a school', is one of those catchphrases that can mean whatever the administration wants it to mean. One of those policies that make everyone guilty and its only a matter of time before the trigger gets pulled on any student. I'm going to try to avoid the original issue, but I have to ask the question where students made aware of the fact that what they publish on social media sites such as Facebook may come back and bite them big time.

I went to the policy of the GECDSB website and look up some articles. In the article listed POLICY: Safe Schools, it has this in one paragraph:
In order to promote safe and inclusive environments, all schools, schoolsponsored activities, Board properties and Board-sponsored activities must be free from conduct which infringes upon the rights of others or endangers people or property. All pupils, parents, teachers, staff, volunteers and community members have the right to be and feel safe. With this right comes the responsibility to be law-abiding citizens, to be accountable for one’s actions, and to protect the rights of others. These responsibilities also include appropriate use of technology and responsible behaviour in other activities both on and off the school property which may affect the school climate. Such activities shall not negatively impact the climate of the school or members of the school community

I realize the comment on technology could cover the issue, but there is nothing said more about it. I understand that we need to be aware of what we do publish online may have negative consequences, it is something that should be stressed. As an aside one person has observed as more people use social media, the more likely our society may become more forgiving of the peccadilloes of personal life. Right now we have stories of people being refused jobs because what people are finding on Facebook and no doubt the people making that decision are thinking to themselves how fortunate they are to have lived in a time when photographs of them downing a kegger simply don't exist.

So when the vice principal showed her a print-out of her article and suspended her, he or she was acting in accordance of the Act and Policy. However she was told she had 'brought' her work into the schoolyard. Had she decided to become the Thomas Paine of KCI? Did she become a pamphleteer, passing out copies of her missive to students?

Understand this, tolerance and acceptance of diversity is good, however what is the message coming to the students? Does the GECDSB want to develop law-abiding citizens who would feel right at home in the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea?

The Act does allow for a review of the decision of suspension:
The following persons may request a review of a decision to suspend a
pupil, other than a decision to suspend a pupil
for one day or less:
1. If the pupil is a minor, his or her parent
or guardian.
2. If the pupil is not a minor, the pupil.
3. Such other persons as may be specified
in a policy of the board.

Did this happen?

Schools are different, the challenges are now huge and certainly resources that allow schools to operate in a proper way that protects both students and staff is important. I will never disagree with that ideal. However I have to wonder if the zeal for protection rights are trampled on. There is a difference between dignity and diversity and indoctrination and intimidation.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Is RIM truly in Trouble?

I have to admit, I don't really understand the stock market. I suspect it's like every other aspect of human nature, it can be irrational, prone to the latest fad or even a product of the 'just cuz' way of looking at things.

We have been inundated with doom and gloom from RIM. From riots in Indonesia when a new Blackberry went on sale, to drunk executives getting arrested on planes. Oh yes, the lack of sales for the Playbook. You would almost think the heavens had decided to turn against RIM. Or, is there an active case of Apple's reality distortion field is being directed at every business and tech writer in North America.

The number one answer is to fire the CEO's much like sports teams fire the coach when the team does poorly. Easier to fire one or two people then 17,500 people. Although those numbers may not be all that good.

However, there is also reality. If one examines RIM there are a few things that come to the eyes; it is a profitable company and it makes a lot of money. Also sales have been increasing, even this year it's up. If you look at the headlines, you might think otherwise, but the numbers don't lie. I suspect it is a company that has solid but not spectacular growth. Also it has a product that people have grown to expect and therefore its not lighting any fires or rocking the world with its latest release. Could it be the main problem. We are living in the age when everyone has the attention span of that dog in the movie "Up" "SQUIRREL!!!". Yeah, that dog. If it isn't shiny and bright and if it doesn't have an Apple logos on it, not good at all. Of course.

I will admit some of the complaint are probably justified; too many phones- which confuses the consumer, a tablet that seems to have been rushed out the door and the fact it was the primary leader and company that once set the standard of what we now call smartphones. In that case it probably suffers the fate of all front-runners, they believe their best is their best and will continue to be that way. It happens.

I don't believe the company will disappear. It produces a product that is popular around the world and its still making inroads. It is big in those small markets such as India, it is truly an international company. Let's face it, the North American market is just changing chairs. Today I want a Blackberry, tomorrow it will be an iPhone and then next week an Android until Windows 8 phone comes out. It's the fickleness of the consumer that is probably driving the headlines.

The question is, what should RIM do?

Again, not an expert but here's a few:

1) do the research and marketing- the Blackberry is now popular in school, everyone loves BBM- push that for all its worth. Texting is the way people communicate- not the phone necessarily but texting.

2) Simplify the product. One complaint is that RIM produces too many Blackberry's. I don't know how many models there are but it seems a lot of them. Too many choice confuses people. If we look at Apple, there are really only three products- the iPad, the iPhone and the iPod Touch. If I look at the commercials, that's all. the ipod, with the exception of the Touch, is no where to be seen. This holiday season there are no commercials. I have seen the Touch commercial- this is simplifying things, if you want a tablet, you get the iPad, you want a phone, the iPhone and if you want a media device, you get the Touch. That's it. Also all their products basically now look alike, the only difference is size. You do the same thing on all three products, yeah one's a phone and the other two are not, but seriously what is the difference. Even the capacity is the same; 16.32 or 64 Gig- yes I know the Touch has a 8Gig model. Notice the huge difference. Even design doesn't change- of course this year they added a white one of everything. Now that's innovation. Now I know the iOS is spectacular- but still what huge leaps forward is there? I came across one comment that suggest RIM should have three basic models; touch, keyboard and hybrid. Three works well.

3) Improve the Playbook. This device is turning me into a RIM fanboy. It is a great product. The multimedia work of it is stunning. Let me add a video I shot today:

It does need email, BBM and more apps. I hate to sound like one of those app junkies, but I actually am one. Let's get the apps out- for tablets and small devices they do make life easier. I am looking forward to the Playbook OS 2.0 software. It should be exciting. When it does come out, the company should push the Playbook as the new improved, without being totally dorked about it. I know it's easy to compare it to the iPad, which is the gold standard, but let people know it's blackberry bringing that knowledge to the tablet. As well, make sure there are the native apps, I know the push is android apps- which is going to be very good, but make sure there are Playbook only apps. This will help.

4) remind yourself of the original vision. Now take that vision and discover new ways to articulate it.

5) Ignore all the negative press. It's all nonsense.

Just a few of my thoughts.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Instagram coming to Android!

Two things have brought Instagram into the news over the last few days: just it was announced as being the iTunes app of the Year. When you consider how many apps there are in the iOS universe, that's an impressive act, especially when one considers that Instagram is something like a year old. The growth has been phenomenal over the course of the year. I was reading one news report that put the number of Instagram users as 10 million with something like 10 photographs posted every second. That's an impressive count and speaks of quite a impact the app has had. Further to this, I read an article at the Huffington Post from September in which famed photograph Annie Leibowitz described the iPhone as the greatest snapshot camera. I am going to assume, and you get this from the tone, this was not an insult. While not thought in the same way, its a great app to have with the iPod Touch. I use mine a great deal, perhaps not as many as a large number of instagrammers, but I do my best. That is the first bit of news, the second has to with an announcement from a few days ago, many outlets are reporting that Instagram will soon release a app for the Android platform. This interests me because of the fact that the promise is with the next OS upgrade in February, we Playbook owners can install Android apps to our devise. This will end all that nonsense of not having enough apps to put on our devises. To me, with the fantastic 5meg camera on the back, the possibility of posting amazing shots through Instagram has increased. I have one photo-editor on my playbook right now, I compare this to the four or five I have on the ipod Touch as of right now. This tells me there needs to be a lot of work when it comes to using the multi-media capabilities of the Playbook to its fullest. I mean those filters are quite good and you can do a lot with them. I have been reading that right now I could access the Android Market if I download the beta to Playbook 2.0, but I think I will wait. Still this is very exciting news and I am so looking forward to all those android apps.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Death Knell of the Playbook?

I subscribe to PCWorld. It's one of the few computer magazines that are out there. I know PCMag is still around, but its completely digital. Perhaps if they would put out a Playbook version I would go ahead and subscribe, but until that comes, I'll just go to the website and read what's out there. Going back to PCWorld, which also is part of the publishing house that produces MacWorld. I think that's an important little point. I believe every so often, a few of the writers from MacWorld make their way over to PCWorld and write their propaganda. This must be the case otherwise how can you comprehend the article entitled: "Is RIM Throwing in the Towel on the PlayBook?". The basis of the article is the recent move by RIM to admit it's got a huge inventory of Playbooks and they are writing it down, or off. I'm not big on business, nevertheless it doesn't sound good. So the inventory is being written down, probably at a loss and this is effecting the bottom line, which effects the value of the stock and if you believe some commentators, RIM is in huge trouble and will likely 'go out of business or be bought out'. Some are saying RIM may simply kill off the Playbook and forget about this whole tablet market and leave it to Apple and its iPad. This is music to the ears of Apple. Let's consider a thing or two, Apple is now suing Samsung in every court on the planet because its Galaxy looks too much and acts too much like the iPhone. It is black, it's a rectangle and it has a touchscreen. So if I understand this correctly, Apple wants to own the patent to a colour, a shape and a way to interact. Apple does not like competition it seems. Wait a second, this is about the Playbook, not the ways Apple is the new personification of evil. I'll save that for another blog. Another article states that RIM was 'blindsided' by Amazon taking a loss on its Kindle Fire, which by the way, is not available in Canada. So don't even bother attempting to get it. Seems Amazon decided to take a loss right out of the gate and undercut its competition. Of course, Amazon can do it, because the Fire ties a person to Amazon marketplace where all sorts of wonderful things can happen. I do mean that sincerely by the way, I am a big fan of Amazon. It's not that RIM can't catch a break, its that all its problems are magnified and can't do anything right, in the eyes of the media. Consider the blindsided article, which is found here. So when Amazon sells its devise at a loss, its a strategic business move, when RIM does the same, it's losing money and bringing the company closer to insolvency. Makes perfect sense I suppose. Obviously there are a lot of RIM haters out there. If not haters, then a lot of people who feel RIM deserves some sort of comeuppance and views its recent troubles as just that. What is being missed in all this is a few things, one the Playbook is a very nice product. Alright, let me say it, it's a cool product. I was planning to write about its multimedia ability. Just watch a high def video on it. Amazing. As well, the sound from the speakers is great. I would say they are better then my laptop speakers. Just the quality of sound is something else. The camera works good and yes I will admit it needs a few more killer photo-editing apps to really bring it to the fore. In other words, what's not to love. Yes I know, a lack of apps. That is almost the only thing you hear about, and the lack of email and calendar. I will acknowledge that is a bit of a question, you don't put a calendar on the Playbook, a bit silly. Perhaps it is true the Playbook was rushed out the door because RIM needed to get a tablet out there for the consumer. The good news is RIM sent out a press release which speaks favorably of the Playbook. The company is committed to the tablet. As a part of the committment, all owners will be able to upgrade Playbook 2.0 for free when it comes out in February. What is being said of that upgrade is the fact there will be email, a calendar and the ability to load and run Android Apps. This is going to be good. It should quiet the complaints of the critics who complain and point out how many million of apps there are for the iPad, of which 93% are farting and other rude noises. I`m just making that number up. One commentator made the point:
I've had my Playbook for a month now, and thus far it seems to be able to do everything the Ipad2 can do, with the added bonus of having an integrated 1080p digital camera, and supporting flash as well as HTML5 - all within a smaller, sexier package. Sure the Ipad boasts are massive library of apps, but anyone who has ever owned an iPhone (myself included), is well aware that the vast majority of those apps are garbage and have artificially inflated ratings (3rd party companies are hired to write phony reports on Apps to improve their sales)
The press release gives us a promise of improvement to a great product, what`s there not to love when its come down to that.
RIM is committed to the BlackBerry PlayBook and believes the tablet market is still in its infancy. Although a number of factors have led to the need for an inventory provision in the third quarter, we believe the PlayBook, which will be further enhanced with the upcoming PlayBook OS 2.0 software, is a compelling tablet for consumers that also offers unique security and manageability features for the enterprise,
RIM is committed and I know it will only get better.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Playbook Apps. My Wishlist

As you may have guessed from the previous blog, I am quickly becoming a fan of the Playbook. As I write this, I'm syncing some files from my Dell Axim, so I can learn to use the productivity apps. As much as I am a fan of the Axim, I'm realizing its an older device and I would hate to have it suddenly stop on me. I do know the day is coming, after all, I've had it for at least 4 years and it was used when I purchased it. So it's going to stop working one day. I'm not hoping for that day to come soon, but I am being realistic. So I might as well figure out the various productivity apps now, rather then later. So I've been thinking of the apps I have and if I would like to see them on the Playbook. For the most part, yes. I am glad to see that both "The Score" and The Globe and Mail both have apps that are now installed on my Playbook. I noticed the Toronto Star isn't there, but then again why am I not surprised. For all its alleged nationalism, it's still the newspaper of Toronto and Toronto doesn't care much about the rest of Canada. Enough of my anti-TorStar screed. What about the apps, I was reading a review in the Globe about Tablets and they do rank the Playbook very high. The caveat is the lack of apps. I was chatting with an employee of RIM, hi Sheldon and he told me, the more Playbooks out there the more apps that will be developed. He also challenged me to make mine own. I'm thinking about it. What apps would I like, that is the question. What I would like to see is, more photo editing apps. The Playbook has a 5megapixel camera in it, that's quite an impressive piece of hardware, why not give some good photo editing apps to take full advantage of this fact. I have on my ipod Touch a BeFunky app and FX PhotoStudio. Both offer photo editing as well as the ability to add enhancements through effects and filters. Now likely apps with different effects are available and its a matter of me finding them, but I know from personal experience the two I've mentioned are quite good. I think they would both add a lot of good photo editing ability to the Playbook. Along with those, I'm thinking of the various apps that have to do with posting pictures to the various social networks: Twitrpix, Twitpic, Pikchur and so on and so forth, even Brightkite would be great. Again, they have apps and they have filters that can be used to enhance the photographs. They also make it easier to post to Twitter and Facebook, which is a good thing. This can be a great social device and I truly believe its potential has not been met yet.