Monthly Archives: February 2011

What life is like ‘Off Net’

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Is the kind of fitting intro to a roll-up, or crawl, for this F2MKE blog. For I have moved home – from rurality to city heights – and in theory far more and better connectivity! Well you’d think!? Mental note – quick mention of how to switch on Caps Lock on the iPhone later… However, despite being in a dead centre postcode I struggle to get a full Vodafone GPRS signal, let alone 3G. So bang goes my plans to use my Vodafone dongle, or tether to my iPhone. So instead I have to wait nearly a full month for Virgin to activate my line and send me whatever kit comes with the bundle. Why??

So, my only option seems to be the iPhone for the next few weeks… That and much time spent at Starbucks, or McDonalds. The latter options could wind up expensive and defeat any plus points gained from lots more walking and on the doorstep convenient swimming?

Having never read the iPhone 4 manual – or any tech manual probably – And with even more use and necessity of said device, I stumbled across activating Caps Lock yesterday. A simple double-tap of the Shift key turns it blue and voila, your in capitals! How did I cope before?

Netbooks are still on top…

Districts in the States are looking more and more at the cost savings of purchasing Netbooks, but are still buying full-featured laptops and Desktops. Here are the results of a recent survey in order of popularity.

Netbooks – 43%
Laptops – 31%
Desktops -14%
Tablet PCs – 11%

There are significant potential savings to be had by combining the value of Netbooks with the Software as a Service (SaaS) subscription model. My pretty extensive research so far concludes that most traditional education and productivity focussed client / server installed applications have web-based alternatives – usually as engaging and more akin to what the kids – and teachers – are used to outside of the classroom. Netbooks – its all in the name – are perfectly designed for this type of use. Mix this with the massive time savings currently incurred by having to keep client installed apps running – patches, new versions, etc., etc., and the savings go further whilst classroom confidence can only increase!

Suddenly the traditional look of a school’s network with file and directory servers, backup solutions and so on is questionable.

The savings go further too… The resources typically required to run web apps are far less than what’s needed to run that latest version of your preferred office suite, or graphics package. The Netbook (or any other device) now has a longer useful lifespan.

“But I’ll still need to refresh my kit to support the latest version of Windows!”

Probably. Or you could switch to an Operating System with the clouds in its sights. Jolicloud and Google’s Chrome OS maybe?

If your interested, I’ve written a bit more on this at http://www.f2mke.co.uk/2010/09/21/how-much-ict-infrastructure-does-a-school-really-need-to-manage/

I’ve focussed upon savings – well I guess that’s de rigueur? But the above approach lends itself neatly to the nirvana that was the 80s marketing strategy for Braun’s Independent – “anytime, anyplace, anywhere.”. Or, the less favourable “Martini Learning” cliché?

Touchy, feely tablets are definitely up and coming… Since making the extremely nervous and shoulder perched gadget angel encouraged, over sensible angel, switch from my trusty, nothing can beat this, Blackberry Bold to the shiny iPhone 4… I am completely sold! Ever since I have found myself occasionally staring longingly at the long row of silvery numbers that adorn my credit card dreaming of that iPad that could so easily be excused to be mine 🙂 But that’s just it… Even with Android on the scene and getting better and better, tablets are currently just too expensive. My nearly 3 year old Samsung NC10 Netbook just keeps on powering up, lasting on battery all day and keeping my ICT life relatively pain free…

If you’re still interested, I’ve rambled a little on the practicalities of Smart Phones at http://www.f2mke.co.uk/2010/09/01/smart-phones-a-serious-contender-for-everyday-productivity-learning/ and general Cloud stuff at http://www.f2mke.co.uk/category/education/cloud/

This article was first published as a reply at http://www.ictineducation.org/home-page/2011/2/7/what-are-school-districts-buying.html

Sprinting forward to the Kyocera Echo

The Smart Phone market just got smarter! We all know it and we all want it. That innovative and ground-breaking truly portable device giving us the freedom to leave home with light pockets, hand and man bags, yet remain connected, productive, powered-up and cool – of course. Sprint and Kyocera have pushed through the next boundary to introduce that welcome blur between the Smart Phone and Tablet with the Sprint Kyocera Echo. Two touch-screens literally merge when the device is opened to deliver a 4.7″ tablet. The liquid metal hinge alone has six patents pending.

Sprint Kyocera Echo OpenWhat we know so far….

It’s well connected with Bluetooth and WiFi. It should be capable with a 1GHz Snapdragon QSD 8650 processor. It does other Smart Phone stuff like take pictures and video with a 5 megapixel camera and flash. And it is another device taking advantage of the Android OS. Launch is rumoured to be in Spring for the US at an anticipated $199.

Sprint Kyocera Echo Closed

Sprint_Kyocera_Echo_Closed

There’s more on Smart Phones at http://www.f2mke.co.uk/2010/09/01/smart-phones-a-serious-contender-for-everyday-productivity-learning/

Let’s see what happens…

Searching Lazily

Lies, damned lies, and statistics. Lazy, or efficient? Whilst waiting for the hot water tank to fill ready for a lazy Sunday afternoon bath, I got sidetracked by some web statistics surfing. What has struck me is that the reliable Hitwise website’s stats for the top 10 UK searches consists of websites that we simply must have ingrained into our finger tapping memories!  Okay, with the exception of Argos maybe?  But hey, an obvious guess at www.argos.co.uk can’t be beyond the overwhelming majority of us?  So why are we seemingly Googling the websites that we visit so (probably far too) often?

Hitwise Top 10 UK Searches for January 2011

So… I considered my own surfing habits.  And with the exception of our British love for all that appeals and encapsulates our many shopping needs – through catalogue, outlet store and online – Argos, I acknowledged that my preference for Google’s Chrome browser with its combined search or enter the proper web address feature could explain a few things..?  I’ve certainly become lazier as I just whack in the rough name of the website I want to visit – “bbc” instead of “www.bbc.co.uk”, or “fb” and not “www.facebook.com”. Hey! I even shorthand f2mke 😉 Look a bit further and The Register http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/02/google_chrome_browser_10_per_cent_share/ reports this month that Google’s Chrome browser has a 10% UK market share.  So, is what’s trending in the non-Twitter sense of the expectation no longer quite what it seems?

SIF Association UK Video

A great video release that clearly explains what the Systems Interoperability Framework is, how it works and what benefits can be achieved.

Help me with part 4 of “Every cloud has a silicon lining”

Hello!  You may have already read parts 1 to 3 of Every cloud has a silicon lining?  If not check it out at http://bit.ly/f5o3eF.

For part 4 I need your help!  Help needed!  Does Cloud Computing make sense in these times of austerity?  Is it a real green alternative?  And any other thoughts and ideas that you may have – just use the reply option below.

Every cloud has a silicon lining | Part 3

In this F2MKE.co.uk blog series I explore cloud computing.  What is it?  What are the advantages versus risks?  What must businesses and schools check before putting their heads in the Cloud?  Does Cloud make sense in these times of austerity?

To read parts 1, 2a and 2b of Every cloud has a silicon lining head for:

http://www.f2mke.co.uk/2011/01/18/every-cloud-has-a-silicon-lining-part-1/

And

http://www.f2mke.co.uk/2011/01/20/every-cloud-has-a-silicon-lining-part-2a/

And

http://www.f2mke.co.uk/2011/01/20/every-cloud-has-a-silicon-lining-part-2b/

Cloud Computing : Top 5 checks

1)   Does your cloud provider offer security appropriate to the service?  For example, ISO/IEC 27001 Information Security and CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks where access to data about children is concerned. Where does the service operate from and is it covered by Data Protection Act (DPA)?  This is crucial where personal data is sent outside of the European Economic Area (EEA)!  Safe Harbor is an alternative safeguard http://www.export.gov/safeharbor/.

Remember the 8 key DPA principles are:

  1. Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and, in particular, shall not be processed unless –
    (a) at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 is met, and
    (b) in the case of sensitive personal data, at least one of the conditions in Schedule 3 is also met.
  2. Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes.
  3. Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed.
  4. Personal data shall be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.
  5. Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes.
  6. Personal data shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under this Act.
  7. Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.
  8. Personal data shall not be transferred to a country or territory outside the European Economic Area unless that country or territory ensures an adequate level of protection for the rights and freedoms of data subjects in relation to the processing of personal data.

2)   What are the stated availability targets for the service and against what timeframes are these measured?  How quickly will the service be recovered in the event of a major incident, or even disaster?  What penalties, or credits, are in place if Service Level Agreement (SLA) targets are not met?

3)   Do you have enough bandwidth capacity?  Remember, you, your colleagues and your customers may be accessing multiple services from differing bandwidths with varying contention ratios.  Whilst most web traffic is efficient over HTTP and HTTPS (ports 80 and 443), other methods for accessing services such as Citrix, or Terminal Services, can be less efficient – even when encapsulated within HTTP/S.

4)   What options are available for offline productivity?  Gears is Google’s way of offering access to some online files offline by adding additional features to your web browser.  However, Google’s strategy is shifting from Gears to online storage and development ceased in February 2010.

Features available in HTML5 offer equivalent alternatives to Gears and can clearly be taken advantage of by all web service providers.  Unfortunately, HTML5 as a ratified World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard is some way off!  However, parts of HTML5 are already implemented in browsers including Web Storage and DOM Storage (Document Object Model) – web application software methods and protocols used for storing data in a web browser.

5)   And finally portability!  How easy will it be to move, or share, your data?  Look for open standards for data migration and interoperability.  In the education marketplace the Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF) is your best bet!  You may also consider options to improve your customer experience through standards for Single Sign-on such as OpenID or Shibboleth (SAML 2.0). This will allow you to provide many cloud services from many different providers, whilst maintaining a single set of access credentials with one-time login and increased security.

Crime Maps

Like many others, I was intrigued to find out about crime on my doorstep with the help of the new Home Office crime maps website at www.police.uk. 15 different searches over a 2 hour period output the same results each time; “Sorry, we couldn’t find a policing area that matched your search.”.
Crime Maps
Have the “coalition cuts” so dramatically slashed policing coverage!!? Or are the touted 75,000 hits per minute hampering the website’s performance..?