Category Archives: Internet

Hello? Is anyone there?

OMG, is anyone still here? I have been gone so long that I wouldn’t be surprised if y’all took off. What can I say? Earning a living is just taking more time than ever. (I’d like a higher pay rate, shorter workweek employment, please. (-:  ). Must confess that there is some volunteer activity in that busyness too.

  

Anyway, I have got a couple of interesting websites for you to look at.

 

http://voicethread.com/  allows adding voice comments to documents and videos.

 

http://www.scribd.com/ allows you to store and share documents via the Web.

 

I haven’t used these sites yet (see busy above) but they show potential. Let me know how well they work if you try them out.

  

What else? Here is an excerpt from a piece by Heidi Storl that I really enjoyed in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

 http://chronicle.com/weekly/v54/i25/25b02001.htm “I think now that I might have met Mephistopheles in college, though at the time I thought only that I was encountering my first philosopher. I was a biochemistry major, looking forward to a career in genetics. I still needed to fulfill a number of those basic-education requirements that students seem either to get out of the way early or put off until the bitter end. As I stood in the registration line, memorizing the molecular structures of proteins, fate intervened. The easy history course that I had planned to take was full. Determined not to lose my spot in line, I scrambled to come up with another course and chose philosophy.The professor was a little late for the first philosophy class. He was a short, bearded man with a limp, and my first thought was that if he wore the right kind of hat, he’d make a perfect elf. But then he looked at each of the 10 students in turn, and spoke: “Does God command an action because it is good, or is an action good because God commands it?”Whoa! I sat up, put my chemistry notes away, and started thinking. Fifty minutes later, I was exhausted. As I walked to my next class, two thoughts jumped about in my head. First, I liked — really liked — the way I had felt in philosophy: out of breath, struggling to keep up with the argument, my mind on fire. Second, what was this course going to do to my GPA?”

I should have majored in philosophy though I suspect that the pay rate would have been even lower in that case, assuming one found employment as a philosopher in the first place.

 

Anyway, I have been listening to lectures on the philosophy of science on a set of tapes published by the Teaching Company. Quite informative and enjoyable. Listening to material from the Teaching Company (http://www.teach12.com/) is a good way of catching up on the liberal education one may have missed in college. BTW, I bought some of the material as a download rather than ordering it as CDs or tapes. Guess what? I haven’t got around to downloading it yet even though it has been a couple of months! (See busy above!!) Just goes to show that if it involves extra steps or equipment, one isn’t going to get around to it. There is a lesson in there for all you marketers and product managers.

 

So what is new with you? Tell me about it?

 

Before we end, given that this is election season, here is a column that you may enjoy.

 

Scientists’ Political Dream World

Completely separately, you may want to scan this little tidbit from me here.

 

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Top 100 Software Tools for Learning and Productivity

Oh, hey. I have been meaning to post this link for while. Here is a list of the top 100 software tools selected by learning professionals (i.e. people in the education community). Lots of free tools are listed here. Some will be quite familiar to you but others may be new.

The list is here.

I have tried out some of the less commonly known tools (i.e. tools other than WordPress, Skype, GoogleMaps, etc.).  Of these:

Audacity– the digital sound editing tool provides tremendous functionality and is also easy to use.

diigo– is a “social annotation” tool i.e. it lets you mark up web pages and share those marked-up pages with your friends and colleagues. Pretty useful for discussions about design and content though I really haven’t had a chance to use it (is that because I don’t have any friends )-:  ).

Tiddlywiki– is personal wiki tool i.e. you can download a wiki template and use it for creating hyperlinked documents. It is basically an html file with some Java Script and the template file size is only 269 kB. In essence you can do pretty much the same kind of stuff with Microsoft Word and its hyperlinking capability but Tiddlywiki is a bit easier to use in this manner, is free, and you only need a browser to use it.

You do know that there are MS Office-compatible free suites available, right? Some are listed in this Top 100 list; have a look.

Second Life meets MySpace

I assume you know what are Second Life, MySpace, and Facebook. Well there is new site that provides social networking in a virtual world environment. It is called Kaneva. Basically, you create a network of friends, as in a social network, and then meet them in a virtual world. Of course you also can make friends directly in the virtual world.

The Kaneva virtual world looks similar to the one in Second Life but I found that it ran a little bit more smoothly on the machine that I am using; though it seemed to take forever to load.

The reason I compared Kaneva to MySpace rather than Facebook is that its social environment seems closer to the one found in MySpace than the one found in Facebook i.e. a little more broadly distributed. Not too long ago I had read a piece about social research that compared the environments of these two sites and suggested that the sites had some partitioning along social and economic class lines. (Sadly, I cannot locate that piece right now). However, why not go and see it for yourself?

In both Second Life and Kaneva conversations can be quite dull and there is little to do till you make some friends. You can watch the videos and listen to the songs posted by other people but you can do that on YouTube and other similar sites too. However doing those things in a virtual world may add a certain pizzaz to it. I do find that the visual element added to conversations by the use of avatars increases the social feel of the interactions.

So visit Kaneva (or Second Life) and look around. If you leave your user name here I’ll look you up.

Cheers!

 (Also cross-posted to Qiyas)

Science websites with Web 2.0 technology

I would like to bring two interesting websites to your notice.

 SciVee

The first one is called SciVee and is a joint offering of the the Public Liborary of Science (PLoS), the National Science Foundation, and the San Diego Supercomputing center. It allows scientists to publish papers and also to upload presentation videos that provide a guide to their work. It has been called a YouTube for scientists.

Explore SciVee here.

 nanoHUB

The second website called, nanoHUB, is devoted to nanotechnology and provides many resources to help people learn about it. It uses Web 2.0 technlogy to provide online presentations, animations, simulation tools that you can use (after free regsitration), and much more.

nanoHUB can be accessed here.

2007 TR35 Awards

Technology Review magazine from MIT has announced its 2007 Young Innovators awards given to 35 people under 35 years of age whose inventions and research are having or are likely to have a significant impact on the world.

You can view the full list here: http://www.technologyreview.com/TR35/

Two of the award winners are further recognized:

2007 Innovator of the Year: David Berry (for work on renewable petroleum from microbes)
2007 Humanitarian of the Year: Tapan Parikh (for building mobile phone-based software tools for developing economies)

I also liked the work by Tariq Krim on building personal, dynamic Web pages,

by Sanjit Biswas on mesh networks-based, cheap Internet access,

by Jeff LaPorteon Internet-based (Skype-like) calling from mobile phones,

and by Garrett Camp on the web discovery toolbar.

Of course there is much other interesting work not related to the Internet; check out the list.

Broadcast on Pakistani Politics

I usually don’t post material directly concerned with politics but this announcement refers to an upcoming radio and Internet broadcast and so more for that reason than anything else I decided to bring it to your attention. The announcement is from a note sent to a distribution list by Murtaza Solangi of the Urdu service of the Voice of America (VOA).

The broadcast will take place on Monday, April 23, 2007, at 1:00 pm (US) Eastern Standard Time, 10:00 pm Pakistan Standard Time, 1700 UTC.

From: Murtaza Solangi, VOA

 “It is about the deal and no deal [between Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto] and its impact on the Pakistani people’s quest for democracy. Yes, I will have both Ayesha [Siddiqa] and [Hussain] Haqqani LIVE but, I also have short clips of Najam Sethi, Rashid Rehman (Editor The Post),  Ahsan Iqbal (from Nawaz Sharif’s party) and PPP spokesperson as pointers to carry the debate. It is an hour long program. And yes, no commercials.

It will be broadcast LIVE on VOA’s Urdu web as well as the radio. In Pakistan it will be carried over medium wave on 972 KHz and 1539 KHz at 10:00 PM Pakistan and 1:00 PM eastern time.

Here is the link to listen LIVE. http://www.voanews.com/wm/live/live-urdu-a.asx
If somebody wants to listen to it after it is aired, one can access it in our archives. It will stay on our website for a week on the following link. http://www.voanews.com/urdu/radio/aapkidunyaa/roundtable .cfm For this link, one would need to click on Monday after the program is aired.”

Slap the Block

In case you have wondered what the green and white icon in the sidebar to the right is all about, here is its story. About a year ago A Danish newspaper published some cartoons about the Prophet. (Only one of the prophets is frequently referred to simply as The Prophet – as a bright and culturally-sensitive individual you can already identify him so I shall continue without adding further detail). This led to much furor and froth in many Muslim communities.

The cartoons were also posted on many websites. In Pakistan a couple of highly incensed individuals filed petitions, one to block these websites and another one to register cases of blasphemy. The Supreme Court of Pakistan heard these petitions and directed the government to block websites displaying the cartoons. After this point the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) issued a letter to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) instructing them to block 12 particular websites (a barely-legible image of the letter is available on this BBC site). One of these sites was hosted on the blogspot.com domain. Why these specific websites, and only 12, were selected is not quite clear; surely there must have been many more sites than twelve displaying the cartoons.

Whatever the case, in implementing PTA’s directive the ISPs managed to block out the entire blogspot domain instead of the one specific blog listed in the directive. I do not know whether the domains carrying the other websites noted in PTA’s directive were blocked in their entirety or not. However since Blogger (blogspot.com) hosts a very large number of blogs and all of those became inaccessible in Pakistan, that blockage achieved considerable notoriety. Of course bloggers and blog readers have found workarounds such as the re-directing service provided by pkblogs.com, which is accessed via the green and white icon in the sidebar.

Based on what I have read it seems that the Government of Pakistan did not really initiate the blockage of blogs. A member of the Pakistani public petitioned the court which directed the Government to block websites displaying the offending cartoons. The responsible government agency (PTA) picked twelve sites and asked ISPs to block those. Then through laziness, technical incompetence, overzealousness, or fear, the ISPs blocked an entire domain instead of a specific blog hosted in that domain.

Movements protesting the blockage want to pressure the Government of Pakistan to lift the blockage. But if the Government is complying with a Supreme Court order, can it unilaterally lift the blockage in defiance of that court? I suspect not. Either the court would have to overturn its own order or Parliament would have to pass some law to enable the blockage to be lifted.

Additionally, it is not clear why ISPs are blocking the entire Blogger domain (and possibly other domains) instead of just the twelve sites required by PTA’s directive. I am sure that there are enough technically savvy people in Pakistan that some would volunteer to isolate just the twelve sites instead of entire domains if the ISPs found it difficult to do that on their own. Could it be that the ISPs fear being targeted by extremist groups? If such is not the case, perhaps blockage protestors could succeed in having the domain blockage lifted by applying commercial pressure to the ISPs.

Then there is the entire issue of free speech. Is the concept of freedom of expression even recognized in the constitution of Pakistan or its legal system (originally inherited from the British)?

These are all serious questions that need to be researched and discussed. Perhaps some approach other than protesting to the Government of Pakistan is needed to bring about change. In the meantime, if you are located in Pakistan, slap the block on blogspot.com blogs by clicking on the green and white icon in the sidebar to access those blogs.