Friday, September 30, 2011

Is Google Plus a benefit to Teachers?

If you’re a teacher or in the US parliance, an 'educator' and you haven’t yet started experimenting with Google+ you may be missing out on a useful tool.

Google+ is being promoted as the next best and the most amazing, awesome collaboration tool. To be more moderate, it may help you promote your classes in a better way.

There are some good ways to think about this and how you get started. Possibly the best function of Google+ is it's availability and the savings on promotional overheads. The tool is open to anyone with a Google Gmail account and is free to users.

Setup an Account

First connect to Google+ at and establish an account using your existing Gmail account or follow the online instructions to make a new account.

Making a Class Circle

Let's look at one of the basic functions that may assist teachers i.e. building a class environment and populating this with like minded and motivated students /people.

After you’ve set up your account and published your profile, go to your Circles page and start adding people in your class to the circle.


When you have it all populated, share it with the people in that circle, so they can all add each other to the same circle.

Do this by clicking “share this circle” in the upper right hand side of your screen. (If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section and Google+ promise to sort you out.)

Sharing your Lesson Plans

You can post your lesson plans to your circle without sharing them to the outside world. Simply click the X on other circles and sharing options like “public” and “extended circles” until your special class circle is all that’s remaining, and you have your privacy.

Post your lesson plans to your circle.
Now, post lesson plans, share YouTube videos, photos, and more via links. You can even do location-related homework by having people post location check-ins to the circle as a response to your plans.

I hope this posting has been of some assistance to you and wish you and your students great success for the future.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

4 Good reasons you do NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

Before you rush out and spend your hard-earned cash, here are 4 good reasons why caution would be a good thing.

Reason 1: It's an Out-of-date Android
The single biggest reason you might not want to buy a new Kindle Fire is because it’s most likely going to be running the old 2.1 Eclair version of Android. For those keeping track, that’s actually ten revs behind the current tablet Android release, 3.2 Honeycomb. There was 2.2 Froyo, 2.3 Gingerbread, 2.3.3, 2.3.4, 2.3.5, 2.3.6, 2.3.7, 3.0 Honeycomb, 3.1, and, finally, 3.2.

All indications are that Amazon has customized their version of Android, but still, that means you’re essentially running something almost two years out of date.

Reason 2: It’s not really Android
If you’re interested in the Kindle Fire because it’s an Android tablet made by Amazon, think again. Because Amazon is likely to be hacking it up and making it their own, anything you want to run from the real Android world may or may not run on the Fire.

Plus, from a more geopolitical point of view, Amazon is adding one more fork in the already twisted road of Android distributions.

On one hand, they’re taking advantage of an open environment, which is what open is all about. On the other hand, they’re specifically not working and playing well with others, to the harm of the entire ecosystem.

Reason 3: It’s a BlackBerry PlayBook hand-me-down

The “new” Kindle Fire is really just a BlackBerry PlayBook with some new software. The Fire was apparently designed opportunistically by the same company, Quanta, that did the PlayBook — and it’s essentially the same hardware.

Now, I have to say I like the form-factor of the PlayBook, but we know the device hasn’t really resonated with consumers.

Do you really want to buy hand-me-down hardware that’s already failed in the marketplace once?

Reason 4: No Access to the Android App store
While you’ll probably be able to get all the apps you want from Amazon’s Appstore, you will not be able to get apps from the canonical Google Android App store that should be available to all Android users.

That also means you’re going to be getting special or custom or possibly nerfed versions of apps, because they’re specifically meant for the Fire and not for the wider Android ecosystem.


There are many many more reasons you should not be in a hurry to buy this device but the bottom-line is, if you like the Amazon services and pretty much want to be tied down to just that suite of services, you’re fine with the Fire.

Otherwise, you might want to 'wait and see' how other users in the market like or dislike the device.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kindle Tablet is coming, what it means to consumers

The Amazon tablet has been the topic of rumours for months. Amazon is expected to release the Kindle Tablet into the world this week at a press event to be held on Wednesday.

The tech world is understandably buzzing about how this tablet from Amazon will compete with the top selling iPad, but the reality is Amazon doesn’t care about competing with any tablet on the market.

What we think we know about the Kindle Tablet
It will be a 7-inch multitouch tablet, running a special Amazon-produced interface that sits on an Android kernel. This interface will not look like Android, nor will it run like Android tablets. It will be an Amazon effort through and through, with the kernel the only thing in common with Android.

The Kindle Tablet will be deeply integrated with Amazon’s content sales, with ebooks, music, and videos easily purchased and consumed on the tablet. It will be focused on this objective, not on becoming yet another Android tablet. Techies may not like this locked-down system, but they are not the intended audience.

The Kindle Tablet will sell for $250, much cheaper than competing tablets. It will come with an Amazon Prime membership which provides free shipping on some Amazon purchases, a $79 value. Amazon will likely tie other purchase incentives to the Tablet, and will likely integrate Amazon’s Kindle library book service.

What this means
While those of us involved in the tech space understandably look to the Kindle Tablet to compete with Android tablets and the iPad, Amazon has no intention to do so. The Kindle Tablet is designed by Amazon to appeal to mainstream consumers, the Kindle market, and to facilitate selling that market goods from the Amazon store.

While the initial objective of the Kindle Tablet will be to sell consumers digital goods from the Amazon store, it will quickly branch out from that to include all retail goods. Incentives will make this easy for Amazon, with discounts offered for purchases made from the Kindle Tablet, to free shipping on such purchases.

Make no mistake, Amazon doesn’t want to sell you a tablet, it wants to sell you more stuff. The Kindle Tablet will make this easy to do, and easy to enjoy the digital goods purchased on the tablet. Competing with Apple and Android tablets will be a natural side effect of the Kindle Tablet, but it’s not Amazon’s objective.

It wants to expose millions of buyers to the benefits of buying stuff from the Amazon store. Don’t overlook the fact that the bulk of Amazon’s digital content for sale can already be used on both the iPad and Android tablets. They are in fact vehicles driving Amazon sales, not strictly tablet competitors.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thieves Used 3D Printer for ATM Skimmers

3D printing in action from i.materialise on Vimeo.

Most ATM skimmers are carefully hand-made and crafted to blend in with the targeted cash machine in both form and paint color. Some skimmer makers even ask customers for a photo of the targeted cash machine before beginning their work.

The skimmer components typically include a card skimmer that fits over the card acceptance slot and steals the data stored on the card’s magnetic stripe, and a pinhole camera built into a false panel that thieves can fit above or beside the PIN pad.

If these components don’t match just-so, they’re more likely to be discovered and removed by customers or bank personnel, leaving the thieves without their stolen card data.

Enter the 3D printer. This fascinating technology, explained succinctly in the video below from 3D printing company i.materialise, takes two dimensional computer images and builds them into three dimensional models by laying down successive layers of powder that are heated, shaped and hardened (see video).

The word is spreading in the cybercrime underworld that 3D printers produce flawless skimmer devices with exacting precision. Last year, i-materialise blogged about receiving client’s order for building a card skimmer.

The company said it denied the request when it became clear the ordered product was a fraud device.

A convicted skimmer in the US is alleged to have used the counterfeit cards to withdraw funds at different ATMs around Texas. Prosecutors allege the group stole more than $400,000 between Aug. 2009 and June 2011.

Prior to their arrest this summer, the gang started making decent money but they split the profits between them. Federal prosecutors say the men stole $57.808.14 in month of April 2011 alone.

Read more on this article here

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why we reject creative ideas

Most people view creativity as an asset. So why do we reject creative ideas so often in real life?
Researchers sought to understand this phenomenon and found that the uncertainty of creativity often led to the rejection of such ideas — even when creativity itself is a stated goal.

To find out, Cornell University professor Jack Goncalo, University of Pennsylvania professor Jennifer Mueller and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s Shimul Melwani put participants through a series of mental association tests that revealed their reactions to certain words and situations, such as winning a lottery.

They found that study participants associated creative ideas with negative words — such as “vomit,” “poison” and “agony” — even when they said outright that they favoured creativity.

Simply, there was a subtle bias against creativity that favored practicality. And it was motivated by a need to achieve certainty, even in the face of novel new products, such as a nanotechnology-infused running shoe (said to better cool the foot and reduce blisters) used during the study.

The researchers write:
Uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most. Revealing the existence and nature of a bias against creativity can help explain why people might reject creative ideas and stifle scientific advancements, even in the face of strong intentions to the contrary. …
The field of creativity may need to shift its current focus from identifying how to generate more creative ideas to identify how to help innovative institutions recognize and accept creativity.
Their results will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, but you can read the entire paper here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gary Lauder says: Take Turns!

Gary Lauder is the managing partner of Lauder Partners, a VC firm, and the co-creator of the Socrates Society at the Aspen Institute. Full bio and more links

Compared to traffic signals that force you to stop your car and then bring it back up to speed again, traffic controls like roundabouts save energy and money, and reduce pollution.

The trouble is that roundabouts don't work in all situations. So what can you do instead? In this shorter-than-normal TED talk, Gary Lauder presents a possible solution.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What's the best mobile anti-virus app?

Anti-virus App Options

The first step in choosing the best mobile anti-virus is to discover what compatible products offer the features you want. This brief primer will give you an idea of some of the major players in the mobile anti-virus protection market.

Typically, anti-virus programs are available for purchase with an annual subscription charge that includes regular updates, for free (which may have limited functionality) or free to try for a limited time:

Norton Mobile Security -- One of the big names in PC anti-virus protection, Norton offers mobile device security, too. In addition to anti-virus and malware protection, Norton Mobile Security has a lock-out option for unwanted calls and messages, remote find and remote locking if your device is stolen.

There's also a wipe feature to remove all your data from a stolen device. It works with Android 2 or later and requires 1.8 MB of storage. It's also available in a free LITE version [source: Norton Symantec].

Kaspersky Mobile Security -- Provides real time virus protection, spam protection, data encryption, anti-theft features, firewall protection and parental controls. Kaspersky Mobile Security 9 works with BlackBerry: 4.5 through 6.0, Symbian^3 (or Series 60 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.4), Android: 1.6 -2.2 and Windows Mobile 5.0 - 6.5.

This one isn't free, though. If Kaspersky is running a promotion, their mobile package can cost as little as $15. Otherwise, you'll pay around $30 for protection [source: Kaspersky Lab].

BitDefender Mobile Security -- With install and on-demand scanning, an event viewer, anti-theft protection and an application audit function that will alert you to potential software charges, BitDefender Mobil Security is a useful and easy to use mobile security app that's gentle on your battery. It's free in BETA and works with Android devices.

ESET Mobile Security -- ESET offers a comprehensive mobile package with principal and portable memory scanning and evaluation of files loaded via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or infrared. It includes firewall, remote wipe and spam guard features. It also has a neat set of general tools like file quarantine and a disk space and battery level checker.

ESET Mobile Security requires 1 MB of free memory and supports Windows Mobile 5.0, 6.0, 6.1 and 6.5; Symbian S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 or 2; Symbian S60 5th Edition and Symbian^3. It's a little pricy at $59.99, but you can check out all the useful features for 30 days before you buy [source: ESET].

BullGuard Mobile Security 10 -- Provides virus and spyware protection and monitors your calendar and contact list for suspicious activity. This one also includes a phone tracking and wiping function, spam guard, firewall and parental controls. It supports BlackBerry, Motorola Nokia, Sony Ericsson, HTC, Samsung and others.

Firewall and spam filter options are only available on Symbian and Windows Mobile platforms. You can try BullGuard Mobile Security 10 free for 15 days. After that, a yearly subscription will cost $30 [source: BullGuard].

AVG Mobile Anti-Virus -- This one is a free Android app that will check for and clean out viruses, schedule automatic scans and use GPS to locate a lost or stolen phone and remotely lock or wipe its content.

It's an AVG anti-virus product, so if you've been using AVG on your desktop or notebook, you'll feel right at home. For under $10, you can upgrade to their AntivirusPro, which contains anti-spam and anti-phishing functions, too. Droid Security is compatible with Android devices [source: AVG Mobilation].

AhnLab Mobile Security -- From AhnLab, this mobile security software offers protection from worms and viruses. It provides real time anti-virus monitoring, anti-spam and URL filtering. Currently, AhnLab does not provide a free version or trial version of this product. AhnLab Mobile Security is compatible with Symbian, Windows Mobile, and Palm OS platforms [source: AhnLab].

This list isn't exhaustive. If you don't see something you like, you might also want to check out: Antivirus Free (by Creative Apps for Android), GuardX Free Antivirus (by QStar for Android), Lookout Mobile Security Free (for Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile) and NetQin Mobile Antivirus (for Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian).

The best mobile anti-virus app on the market can still leave you vulnerable to new threats if you don't develop safe practices when using your mobile devices. Like locking your car door or engaging the emergency brake on a hill, some precautions should become habits you don't have to stop to think about.

Consider developing these safe practices:
  • Avoid installing pirated software.
  • Update your anti-virus software regularly.
  • Be on the lookout for anti-virus patches and upgrades.
  • Be careful of any app, app update, email attachment or other download that comes from an unknown source.
Now that you understand a little about the mobile anti-virus products on the market, check your mobile device to clear up any potential compatibility issues and compose your wish list. There are quite a few free options, and even if you have to pay a nominal fee for protection, this is one bargain you can't afford to pass up.