Archive for May, 2008

Importance of open standards

May 18 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

The UN’s Commission on Science and Technology for Development will be looking at the progress on goals later this month set forth by the World Summit on the Information Society, WSIS, which was held in 2003 and 2004. The goal of the WSIS is to outline ways to promote an information society that will be accessible to all people.

Intellectual Property Watch has a piece up about the opportunities that the commission’s meeting will hold for companies and governments relating to IP.

The Importance of open standards was brought up one of the sessions that were held in the lead up to meeting of the UN’s commission. Delegates highlighted the use of free and open source methodologies as a way to accomplish the goals set forth by the WSIS.

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Municipal WiFi folds in Philly

May 14 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

Earthlink has announced that they will turn off the municipal WiFi in Philadelphia in June. The system never ended up being as popular as Earthlink needed it to be. They wanted 100,000 customers, they have a little more than 5000. Earthlink is also planning on shuttering, shelving or selling all of their other WiFi networks throughout the country, in New Orleans, Texas and California.

With no other companies building city-wide wireless networks on WiFi, looks like the whole muni WiFi thing is dead. But people have been saying it for a while. Who ever thought that a technology like WiFi designed for homes and offices would be good choice to cover an entire city?

Meanwhile, Sprint recently inked a deal with wireless broadband company Clearwire to build a high-speed wireless network on a new technology WiMax throughout the U.S.

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Chicago Public Library's digital divide plan

May 12 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

I spoke with Chicago Public Library’s marketing director, Ruth Lednicer, about what they are doing for city residents. I asked her about the Cyber Explorer program, which pays college students to teach library patrons how to use the Internet, and about other ways the library is working on fulfilling communities’ tech needs.

Digital Divisions interview with Ruth Lednicer (transcript after the bump):

Ruth Lednicer – CPL

Continue Reading »

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Technology creating generation of 'nobodies' says scientist

May 11 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

Oxford professor and neuroscientist, Susan Greenfield, said children’s brains are rotting from too much exposure to technology. In an interview for The Sunday Times Life & Style section about her life and work, Greenfield discusses her theory about the effect of video games and Internet Media exposure on the brain chemistry of developing children.

Greenfield theorizes that the structure of modern technology emphasizes method over content and will rob children of imagination, creativity and personality:

If the purpose of a game, for instance, is to free the princess from the tower, it is the thrill of attaining the goal, the process, that counts. What does not count is the content – the personality of the princess and the narrative as to why and how she is there, as in a storybook. Greenfield avers that emphasis on process in isolation becomes addictive and profoundly mind-changing.

-John Cornwell, The Sunday Times

What about games that emphasize content and interpersonal relationships, like the Sims, or massive online multiplayer games, where getting along with other people is critical for success? What about the online masses who would rather participate in social networking than isolated video games, or split time between the two? As someone who has enjoyed video games throughout my life, the things Greenfield says about the addictive nature of games rings true, and yet I think I have personality.

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Comcast mulls overage fees for Internet subscibers

May 08 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

Because broadband isn’t expensive enough already I suppose.

Last month I wrote about a West Coast ISP that began offering high-speed Internet plans with download limits. According to a piece at Broadband Reports, Comcast is considering putting a 250GB download limit on customers and charging fees for exceeding the limit.

Comcast has been doing a bang up job for it’s customers. For the past year, experts and customers have been shaking their fists at Comcast’s attempts to disrupt bandwidth intensive bit-torrent traffic over their network.

However there seems to be growing resistance to Comcast’s and other ISPs’ push to more tightly control the Internet traffic that flows through their networks. Tuesday, Sen. Ron Wyden, a democrat from Oregon, made some strong remarks, warning the ISPs. It sounds like the growing support for customer protection has finally started to reach some of the politicians through their constituency. I wonder if Comcast is scared.

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FCC's payouts to telecom need adjusting

May 05 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

The Universal Service Fund is that extra tax you see at the end of your phone bill. It was originally established to fund the expansion of infrastructure into poor and rural areas. The FCC is in charge of the fund, but because of some weird rules in how the money gets dispursed, the FCC estimated payouts to telecom companies are now out control, doubling over the last 7 years.

So the FCC recently voted on a temporary measure to cap the payments until the rules can be fixed. According to Ars Technica, analysts are calling for the revision on the rules to focus the payouts on building out broadband throughout the country rather that continuing to pay telecoms for the old fashion phone lines.

Great idea. It should be obvious though right? Paying the telecoms to build out the modern Internet infrastructure instead of copper phone lines?

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Pew Internet: Teens are writing more

May 05 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

pew-chart.gifA recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life project reveals that teens are writing more. Through 700 phone surveys and interviews with parents and teens aged 12 to 17, researchers discovered that all teens were writing for school and a vast majority enjoyed writing. Parents agreed that their teenagers were writing more then they did at the same age. Much of their writing occurs through the Internet, on social networking sites, instant message, email, and text messages.

While it’s true that teens are using the written language more, educators and others are worried that the use of the instant methods of communication where brevity is more important than proper use of the language is causing more harm than good.

I think that anything that gets kids to communicate and create is worth it. Teens are taught in school how to write properly and are required to write properly. I think that as long as they are taught the difference between the way they would write to friends and the way they would write to be taken seriously, it’s not a problem.

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Microsoft works on senior market

May 03 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

seniors.jpgPeople 65 years and older are one of the fastest growing online demographics in the U.S. as of a few years ago, and in the U.K. around 16 percent of over-65s are on the Internet.

Microsoft recently announced a new project to offer a ‘senior PCs’ to the older crowd in the U.K. There are no details out there now on much it will cost or when it’ll be available. However Microsoft has ‘SeniorPCs’ available for purchase on its website. It looks like these PCs are just slightly overpriced HP computers with some extra software to make things easier for seniors. I wonder what that means? From the site:

SeniorPCs are HP computers that come equipped with user-friendly software specifically geared to senior living. Think of it as a simplified way to do it all: e-mailing, word processing, plus managing prescriptions, finances, travel planning and photos. There are even word games and number games for keeping the puzzle skills sharp. Each SeniorPC also comes with an HP color printer.

Sounds to me like the same old Windows computer creatively marketed to seniors.

I don’t see how taking a computer and slapping a new name on it is going to make it any less intimidating or financially accessible for the older crowd. I wonder what Microsoft’s U.K. partnership will yield anything different.

Is it intimidation or apathy that keep seniors from adopting technology as quickly as the rest? What might overcome these barriers for seniors?

2 responses so far

U.S. behind on broadband, New Deal like solutions proposed

May 02 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

A report released May 1 by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation shows the U.S. is trailing most other advanced nations in providing high-speed Internet to its people. We’ve known for a while that the U.S. is falling behind, but the report makes the claim that bad policy is only a quarter to blame for this failing.

The report mentions South Korea, where a high population density makes broadband roll out more practical, compared to the U.S. where people live in single-family homes spread out in suburbs.

The report makes 11 policy recommendations based on their findings. Aside from the typical tax incentives to companies and consumers making it cheaper to deploy and adopt broadband, the report recommends extending government programs to help pay for wider deployment.

Some of the more interesting recommendations echo ideas that were discussed in my Digital New Deal post. Directly from the report:

  • Promote the widespread use of a national, user-generated, Internet-based broadband mapping system that would track location, speed, and price of broadband.
  • Fund a revitalized Technology Opportunities Program, with a particular focus on the development of nationally scalable Web-based projects that address particular social needs, including law enforcement, health care, education, and access for persons with disabilities.
  • Support new applications, including putting more public content online, improving e-government, and supporting telework, telemedicine, and online learning programs.

It’s an interesting way to try to drive broadband adoption: force important government and social services online and use it as a reason to push the issue.

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