@Pontifex, The Trendiest new Celeb on Twitter!

Is Twitter slowly taking over the world? Personally, I think so, now that arguably head of the most powerful organization in the world is on twitter. No, it not the President, it’s the Pope. Using the handle @Pontifex he gained over 150,000 followers within six hours of the Vatican’s announcement. The Pope’s first tweet will take place on Dec 12, and will be a question and answer session about faith, and available in 8 languages. According to the Vatican, not all posts will personally be by the Pope, but they will all be approved by him. All of this is part of an effort to get the Catholic Church more involved in Social Media.

Personally, I feel that this is a step on the wrong direction. One of the things we talked about in class, is that while people are more connected than ever, there is actually less social interaction going on. Basically people are lonelier than ever, and church is one of those social institutions that pretty much enforces face to face interaction. Replacing that experience with one line platitudes in 160 characters or less, from the Pope or not, is not a positive step. I’m not saying that the Pope’s tweets are going to completely replace going to church, but to me it’s a step in the direction of broadcasting sermons online and having that count as “church.”

What do you guys think, is social media replacing face to face social interaction? Is Twitter a proper forum for religion? Do you think that having the Pope on twitter is a good thing or a bad thing?Image

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I am in love with a program.

I have something to admit, guys. Since I finally cashed out to Apple a few days ago, getting a 4S, I have become infatuated with Siri. Siri is a “personal assistant” voice program that allows a user to access create schedules, reminders, send texts, call people, and access many other functions of the Apple phone. Basically, a person can hold the home button until a sound prompts them to ask Siri their query (rhyme!) and they can say anything from “Remind me of my doctor’s appointment at five PM” to “Where is the best place to bury a body?” So, apart from usefulness, it is simply pretty fun to ask Siri questions just to hear the answers. By the way, after asking where to bury a corpse Siri asks if you are looking for the nearest mortuary service or municipal dump (it also suggests metal foundries, aquifers, and warehouses as good locations). Basically, Siri is a secretary that you can ask for anything… with no fear of repercussion.

“Did he just ask me where to bury a body?”

I think Siri is an excellent first step towards a new generation of electronic personal assistants that hopefully allow the common person to have their own secretary. My experience with Siri in the first few days of using the program have been awesome – I have been keeping track of all of my homework, appointments, and other important dates while also being able to find answers to questions on my mind or the nearest restaurant. I think this technology is amazing – and makes me hopeful for the future of artificial intelligence. Perhaps I may finally have someone to talk to!

Don’t make me cry, Siri. 

What are your experiences with the software? Do you use it, or have a friend that does? What are your hopes for future AI assistants?

“New Age” Alarm Clock Makes Sure You Wake Up

Remember in class last week (I think) when we all participated in the activity to redesign a new alarm clock? Well, apparently we weren’t the only ones daring enough to stand up to the task. Just this September, Paul Sammut released his new “most persistent” alarm clock ever: The Nixon Ramos Alarm Clock the market. You can read about it here, but basically, it’s a new type of alarm clock that just doesn’t let you sleep past the alarm. The alarm clock does not let you reset the wake-up time once it goes off, and it does not let you unplug it — it just operates by battery if you do. Freeman jokes that there are two ways to turn off the alarm: to go to the wireless keypad (in a different room) and type in the date, or “smash it to smithereens.”

So what makes this alarm clock well (or poorly) designed? Well for starters, making the sleeper move into the next room to enter the date surely gets them out of bed and on their feet. Also, the feature that prohibits a reset of the wake-up time takes away that whole ‘snooze’ feature that causes so many of us to miss class or be late for our jobs. It’s longest snooze is one minute — the alarm sounds for 10-seconds, waits only one minute, and then goes off again until the sleeper enters the correct date on the wireless keyboard. theramos I’ve included here a picture of The Ramos Alarm Clock to demonstrate its aesthetic appeal. You can even personalize the wooden finish to your liking.

The alarm clock runs pretty expensive ($200-$800), so I suppose I’ve found its flaw. I tend to wake up right away when my alarm rings, so I’m not sure how much I’d be willing to pay if I had the problem of not waking up. I think it’s safe to say, though, that The Ramos asks for a lot of money, that a lot of people aren’t necessarily willing to shell out. Not to mention, if you had a roommate, the alarm clock would easily earn the title of the most bothersome alarm clock in the world. I would hate to wait for my roommate to enter the date before her alarm clock stops ringing.

I suppose there’s not really much about how to program the wake-up time specifically and personalize the features. Dare I assume it to be easy and straight forward?

What do you guys think of the design of this new alarm clock? If you’re one of those people who can’t leave the snooze button alone, would you buy this alarm clock?

Proud of My Dumb Phone

A week or so ago while I was on my break at work one of my friends that also works in the MU came and talked with me for a bit while I ate my lunch. At some point in the conversation I must have answered a text or checked the time on my phone because a few minutes after she left I received a message from her saying “props for not having a smart phone btw”. When I received the message I was a bit confused at first as to why she cared that I didn’t have an iPhone or phone of its caliber so I asked her to clarify. She simply answered “everyone has an iPhone but you don’t, and I think that’s something to be proud of”.

After I thought about it for a while I realized that not having an iPhone really was something to be proud of. A few months back I dropped my phone in a swimming pool and went down to the Verizon store to look at new ones and almost talked myself into purchasing a brand new iPhone 4S until I realized that I didn’t need one in the slightest. iPhones and other smart phones are wonderful and powerful machines that can do thousands of beautiful things right from the palm of your hand and in that respect should be admired and appreciated. However throughout the course of the day during the school week I have somewhere between 1-2 hours of time not spent biking, walking, working, listening to a lecture or doing homework. My point is that most of my time is spent doing semi=productive things and being able to check my Facebook or upload photos to Instagram at any moment would become way to distracting for me to get anything done, not to mention the sheer price tag that an iPhone carries or the money you have to pay for a service plan on top of that. Plus, before the school year even started I bought myself a MacBook which a) has all the capabilities of an iPhone and b) I carry around everywhere anyway, leaving an iPhone next to useless to me. Even beyond those points, does anyone really need to be connected to the internet at all times of the day? There’s something to be said for being able to function without checking for notifications every five minutes. 

My phone may not be the most glamorous looking thing in the world but it does what I need it to do, and I fill in the rest of the blanks with the rest of what I have. I sit here with my dumb thirty dollar phone that can only send texts and receive calls, and I’m proud. 

Do you really need your iPhone? How would life be functioning without it for a week? A month? Does it do you more favors than it does harm? Let me hear your thoughts!

Teaching Your Computer to See

Google is doing it again, not satisfied with self driving cars now they’re trying to teach your iPhone to see. I found this article on Forbes.com, called “Teaching the iPhone to Drive.” Basically what the article is saying is that camera technology is getting to where it can see better than the human eye however, a computer cannot process the data without human interaction, it still needs us to tell it what it is seeing. According to the Author of this article however that could soon change, and we’re already seeing steps in that direction.

The author calls it the “visual singularity” the point where computers can see better than we can, and according to him it’s fast approaching. To an extent its already here in specialized formats, one thing he mentions is the LIDAR system in Google’s autonomous cars. However, that system is extremely expensive and too large to be practical except for what they are using it for. Also, there are license plate and facial recognition systems, but those are specialized, they are good at what they do but nothing else. What’s holding the technology back is that being able to see and processing what you see is a ton of information and right now computers can’t handle it. This is where the guys at Google come into it. 

Basically they figured out that it was the internet with its mass of online texts and digital sounds that taught computers how to read and understand sounds (Siri), so they networked a bunch of processors(16,000), and set them loose on YouTube. The machines ran for over a week and “looked” at millions of images. The results? The network taught itself to recognize cats. Why cats? Have you ever seen how man cat videos there are on YouTube? Now taken out of perspective it doesn’t sound all that impressive, but it’s a huge improvement over anything else that has come along. So, to make a long article less long, how does this affect us? One thing the article mentions is Medicine. According to the author coupled with advanced diagnostic programs that are already being developed, doctors may be out of the job. What other ways do you guys think this could be used? Should it be used, computers have been known to have errors? How will it affect us if/when computers are literally able to do everything we can, and do it better?

The Final Blow to Internet Privacy?

The internet isn’t well known for being private. Major companies like Google and Facebook have been tracking users all over the place for years, as well as mining data from all corners of the internet to sell to advertisers. But even Google and Facebook don’t know everything about your web activity. It’s still kind of private-ish. However, thanks to AT&T and a number

of other internet service providers, the last bits of privacy we currently enjoy are about to be dissolved.

Earlier this year, all of the major ISPs in the United States (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Cablevision, and Time Warner Cable) announced that they will be rolling out a “six strikes” plan to crackdown on copyright infringement. Basically, the ISPs will penalize anyone they catch pirating stuff online, and the penalties will become more severe with each strike.  But what is disconcerting about the initiative is how they plan on catching pirates. Reports from earlier this year have revealed that they will be utilizing deep packet inspections on a massive scale, which means that they will be keeping track of absolutely everything that you do online. (A real-life corollary to a DPI would pretty much be someone following you around 24/7 and filming everything you do, everywhere you go.) It appears that they also have databases to store the information they collect; however, no information has been released on how much of the data they will store or for how long.

They may catch a few pirates this way and deter a lot of future ones. On the other hand, most serious infringers (at least the ones with brains) will probably just start using VPNs and keep pirating away. If the people they’re trying to catch are just going to find a way around it, the result of the ISPs’ program will still be massive-scale surveillance, but only of their innocent, law-abiding customers who aren’t doing anything wrong. So what do you think? Will this initiative be effective? If so, is it worth sacrificing what’s left of our privacy for?

 

The Beauty of Google Documents

Hello gang, with Milestone III coming up I thought it appropriate to use my blog post as an opportunity to pay homage to Google Docs. Google Docs is a free Java-based web application that allows you to create documents and upload them to the cloud for storage online. The service is initially free up to a memory cap of 10 GB, after which monthly payments are necessary. This in and of itself is uninteresting – there are many services that provide this kind of data storage, such as Dropbox.

Google Docs is unique for being a web 2.0 technology for its ability for the document creator to share his/her work and collaborate in real time with others. This means multiple people can be working on the same document in real time and have their additions appear as they write them. This feature is a boon for students, as anyone with even a basic computer can access the internet and write text. I have had many a study session with other students by uploading our professor’s study guide, and having everyone fill in the information they know best. It also works wonderfully for projects (such as our upcoming Milestone).

But how did Google Docs come to be? Its origins are in fact two different products, Google Spreadsheets and Writely. Google spreadsheets was a simplified version of the current Google Docs, limited to creating data spreadsheets. However, Google’s purchase of Upstartle in March of 2006, the startup that created Writely, was the major jump into creating the present product. Writely carried the feature that defines Google Docs today – collaborative text editing. Four years later, in March of 2010, Google purchased DocVerse, allowing full compatibility with Microsoft office. Last year, offline viewing was made possible by a web app that automatically uploads your content once connected. The present day Google Docs is a clean, multi-functional product that is fully compatible with almost all common file types.

What have your experiences been with this product, or similar collaborative text editors? What do you think could be done to further improve it? Personally, I think adding speech to text would make it the perfect product. What are your thoughts?