What is Web 2.0?

•May 15, 2008 • 5 Comments

Web 2.0 is approaching being passe but it is still interesting to me that the term has varying meanings depending on who you ask.  I found this today on the new Microsoft World Wide Telescope website:

“Web 2.0 is the next generation of the World Wide Web wherein technologies and social practices use metadata or tags to enable communication and resource sharing in a variety of forms (text, audio, video, links, etc.) through the Web without a centralized authority’s intervention or approval. Rich visualization software provides a graphical visualization of large structured data sets. The software’s interactive graphical user interface provides users with a more data-rich presentation of the data and enables them to explore, filter, analyze, and interact with the data, resulting in a better understanding of that data.”

From this page: http://www.worldwidetelescope.org/whatIs/whatIsWWT.aspx

Thank you Microsoft.

Others of course claim that Web 2.0 does not really exist and still others claim that it has to do with the social web rather than the commercial web that pre-dated the dot-com bust.

For me Web 2.0 is all about data driven websites.  Interactive sites that allow you, as the user, to log in and customize your interaction with the site in some way, or give and receive data with the site.  Social networks, blogs and wikis are all examples of this kind of interactive web.  I distinguish Web 2.0 sites from the old HTML sites that gave info and left it at that.  Looking back in time, using the Wayback Machine for example, it is interesting to see web sites from the 90’s that have static front pages providing info on a company or brand and that offer no way to join or get more info beyond what the webmaster chose to put there. Hard to imagine now.

Web 3.0, if there ever is such a thing, will likely be an extension of the web 2.0 data model where data from diverse sites will begin to come together using tags across sites or by linking user profiles across sites.  Somehow the various stores of data will be connected and manipulated by users in ways that the data can not right now because it is tied to one domain or one company.

We’ll see.

Google Spreadsheets now as a Wiki!

•May 15, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Google Spreadsheets, the online spreadsheet program that is part of Google Docs, has just added a new feature by which you can make a spreadsheet open for editing to anyone and everyone.  Before, you could invite collaborators but you had to provide them with a link that included a secret code so only invited people could participate.  Now you can have it open for anyone to click a link from a web page or blog and edit in real-time with many others.  See a full explanation at http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2008/05/google-spreadsheets-become-wikis.html

Cool.

Asus EEE PC 900 review

•May 15, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Wired’s Gadget Lab has a preliminary look at the Asus EEE 900.  It looks awesome but the price is getting a little high to be an ultra-affordable ultra-portable.  I would say $400 is a max for a machine like this as you can get a full-fledged Dell laptop for around $600.  The new EEE 900 is priced at $550 according to Wired.

Wired Review

I suppose you could get three of these instead of one MacBook.  I really like the EEE, but the iLife suite is a great set of tools for students and I am not sure if the EEE, without a CD drive, would be as suitable for young kids, software-wise.

Carry Documents Around in Your iPhone

•May 5, 2008 • 1 Comment

Here’s a simple way to add documents to your iPhone.  This applies to OSX Leopard but I am sure you can do the same thing somehow in Tiger or even on a PC 😉

1) Open your document in its native app.  I wanted to put some Word documents on my phone so I open them in Word.

2) Go to File…Print and choose the PDF button at the bottom.  Save the doc as a PDF.

3) Open the PDF in Preview.  Save as… and save it as a PNG or other image format.

4) Import it into iPhoto.   I created an event called iPhone Documents and then a smart album to hold anything that has the word iPhone (thus the entire event).  You could also just create an album and add documents to it whenever you add them to iPhoto.

5) In iTunes set your iPhone to sync that smart album to your iPhone.  (I already only sync selected albums as I have too many photos to fit on my phone.  One other thing I find useful is syncing the “Last Import” album.  When I connect my iPhone it opens iPhoto and I import any photos I have taken.  I add them to an existing event if applicable or create a new event.  Then I delete the originals from the iPhone.  Then iTunes syncs that last import back to the phone using the event name I chose, and if I added them to an existing event, it syncs that entire event back to the phone.  Seems like a waste, but I find it very handy.  I then have three albums on my phone, the photos I am taking on the phone, the last import and my documents.  Nicely organized.)

Done.  Now you can view your docs in the photo gallery on the iPhone.  The quality is not superb, and text size of 10 will be unreadable, but I think it is cool that you can take docs along if you want.  No editing, mind you, at least not ’till this summer when Documents to Go or something like that comes out through the app store, but handy for now.

Google Shows Mac Users Some Love

•May 3, 2008 • 1 Comment

Thanks to LifeHacker for this heads-up:

Google Adds Mac-Specific Search

“If you run into a problem on a Windows computer, all you have to do is type a little description of the problem and Google takes care of the rest; Mac users, on the other hand, often need to include a little context in their search—instead of typing a query like text editor, you type text editor mac. Google’s Mac-specific portal, found at http://google.com/mac/, now includes a Mac-specific search box. It’s not groundbreaking, but the guaranteed Mac-specific results could come in handy next time you’re looking for a specific application or you’re troubleshooting your Mac.”

Ultra Mobile PC’s Abound

•May 2, 2008 • 3 Comments

In one of my first blog posts, following the release of the MacBook Air, I lamented the fact that no company had created what I thought was an appropriate portable learning device for students.  The device I envisioned was small, cheap, portable and had the necessary tools built-in (word processing, digital imaging and video, editing, network connectivity, etc.).

Apparently I need to eat my hat, because a flood of inexpensive Ultra-Mobile PC’s have cropped up lately.  Now this could be a case of the everyone-drives-the-same-car-as-me syndrome, in which, when you get a new car you begin noticing how many of those same cars are one the road.  More than you ever noticed before.  So once I started keeping a lookout for the perfect student computer, I started noticing them.  It could be that.

But I do think there are other things at play which allowed Apple to create the MacBook Air.  One is that hardware is coming of age in this area.  Flash memory is dropping in price so it is now cost-effective to put a 20 GB solid-state drive in a laptop.  Small screens are cheap, and clearly processors are too.  I also think companies are jumping on a bit of a bandwagon.  With the OLPC rpoject getting so much press and at least one manufacturer (ASUS) having success with its own UMPC (the EEE PC), this is the market to get into right now.  Consumers, I think, are also realising that they don’t need a $2000 computer just to check their email and surf the web (sales of the Air are not stellar as far as I know).

I came across two good sites recently, one highlights the new HP ultra-portable (a bit of a high-end device) and the other covers the range of UMPC’s available.

HP launches The Linux Powered Mini Note Micro Notebook
Liliputing: A comprehensive List of Low-Cost Ultra Portables

This is a very exciting development.  I will say, I don’t think any of the big players here have made the perfect one for very young children.  I would add touch-screen, tablet-like behavior to make it truly friendly to younger children.  Some of those listed at Liliputing have tablet abilities, but I would still like to see HP, Asus or Apple try their hand at this.  Apple, interestingly, has a patent on a dual-screen laptop that might be very interesting.  Instead of a keybaord on the lower half of the laptop, it has another screen, with the ability to do all teh things the iPhone does in terms of virtual keyboard, multi-touch interface and even, potentially, more screen real-estate.  That would be cool!

As for me, I am pining after the new Asus EEE 900.

And thinking of moving my next school to linux-based portables for students.  Any thoughts?  Leave a comment.

Some Predictions

•April 22, 2008 • 3 Comments

I have not posted anything in a while as I have been busy working with a group of students on an iMovie project.  Now that it is over we are looking at the end of term and some final tech projects.  One teacher has asked her students to create a memory using some kind of digital format, movie, podcast, or whatever.  Hmmm, just thinking, VoiceThread might be a good idea.

Anyway, while discussing this with students today we started a discussion of memories and keeping things to share with their children.  Someone suggested a blog would be a good memory.  I quipped that the blog server (we host the students’ blogs locally) will not be around in 20 years and they were shocked.  What did that mean?

So I had to break the news to them that the Internet is not permanent.  Indeed, I told them, the Internet will likely not exist as we know it in 20 years.  I stand by that prediction.

Even now the Net Neutrality issue threatens to change the nature of the democratic web.  If companies and countries can control access to sites and give more bandwidth or more access to certain sites and kill others if they disagree with them or if they can’t pay enough, the web as we know it will change irrevocably.

And I think, soon is my guess, that the need to upload things, to use WordPress or a hosting company, will go away.  A computer, on the network, has an IP address and a unique hardware address.  That can and will likely be accessible from the Internet or the wider network.  Why should I have to post my photos on a photo sharing site?  I have my photos in iPhoto and I can chose to share them on the network.  Anyone should be able to find me and see them.

And I will not really need my computer much anymore.  Perhaps if I am doing some work of a particularly complex nature, or that visually requires a big screen, I might need a computer, but otherwise, my iPhone is pretty good right now at most things I like to do.  I can browse the Net, send and receive messages, cal people, watch videos, etc.  Soon devices like that will also take video, allow simple editing and uploading or sharing and then, I won;t really need my computer to create content and share it.  I can type alright on the iPhone, update my blog, connect to FaceBook, etc. right now and these kind of small portable devices wil only get better and more powerful.  The Network they exist on will become more and more ubiquitous and soon I will be on-line all the time.  Connected all the time.  So then I can be sharing content and viewing content anytime anywhere.  So why would I need a hosting company?  Why would I need a computer?

I don’t know if something like the iPhone will be able to do all the things I do with a computer, but my prediction is that we will change what we want to do with the computer based on the devices we have and the services and software that wil be created to harness their abilities and size.

So, no Internet (as we know it) in 20 years (likely sooner) and no bulky computers (for personal use).  Mark my words, becasue this blog won’t be here in 20 years to come back and check.