Saturday, October 31, 2009

Social networking also improving universal charity

The internet is connecting the world for good once again, but this time in a place where its presence is quite unnoticed.

A small town in Iowa called Quad City is responsible for financing 12 new wells in Sierra Leone, Africa. Through blogging sites, Facebook, and Twitter, $59,000 was raised for this cause. Amazingly, only $20 can provide one African a water supply for 20 years.

Jody and Andy Landers are from Quad City. They adopted twins from Sierra Leone and could not believe the water shortages there. This encouraged them to get their community involved. In the northeast, a nightclub promoter traveled to Liberia for spiritual fulfillment, which encouraged him to raise money for wells there. Both parties decided to use the internet as a tool for their own charity. They aren’t celebrities, they’re Facebookers and bloggers.

It is impressive and extraordinary how the internet is working for good causes, even for people who do not have the luxury of computers. Awareness for causes is spread everyday through social networking sites and thousands of dollars can be raised. On Facebook alone, users can donate to many causes such as Darfur, global poverty, animal abuse, suicide, and addiction. Many causes are advertised by an saying that they will donate $1 for every person who joins the group.

This social media of blogging and tweeting is new to society, but just as photographs in newspapers began to do during the Vietnam War, social networking sites are promoting and exposing the public to global issues, which is a great use of the technology and social networks at hand.

Original article from the Huffington Post online, here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bob Rios, a local graphic designer

On Thursday, October 22nd, local graphic designer Bob Rios came to have a conversation with the Digital Communications majors here at LVC.

Bob Rios has been a freelance designer in Lebanon county for six years. Originally from Philadelphia, he graduated from the Philadelphia Art Institute in 1991. He works with local businesses to revamp their advertising publications and schemes through his visual communication and graphic design skills. He has worked for many local companies including The Nieman Group, Laudermilk Meats, and G.F. Bowman.

I asked Bob about what it was like to graduate in 1991 and have to deal with all the changes in technology for his job, which is an issue for all graphic designers due to the ever-changing software that comes out.

In this video, he explains how he watched the computer change into a tool for advertising and design in the 90's and how staying local may allow for a fulfilling career.

Visit BobRios.com to see some of his work.

video

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Real-Time news coming from Twitter and Bing

The Bing search engine is attempting to compete with Google once more by incorporating social media sites into their engine.

The deal is working closely with Twitter, while Facebook should follow suit. Bing will allow searches of live twitter updates in an effort to get in on the "emerging hot area of real-time information".

Brilliant. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, Facebook and Twitter, or real people if you will, are the ones bringing the latest news to the public first. As I mentioned during the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, I was able to hear about what was going on from that snippet of a Facebook post.

Twitter has been supposedly working with both Google and Microsoft (Bing) on this. Google's search results have not been "live" yet, while Bing's have been.

This feature of Bing will allow for more real-time news, communication, and social progress. Although I personally don't like Bing and will always use Google, this is another outlet to find the news I want to, real-time.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Attached to your cell phone?

Crackberry.com has announced that a watch which coincides with your Blackberry phone is coming to the market. Do we really need another watch? Maybe not, but this is not just a watch, and you may find it to be of use to you.

While sitting in meetings, for example, or riding your bike, it is difficult and rude at times to pull out your phone. This is where the watch comes in handy. It is not a “watch phone” as LG tried to create, and cannot send messages. It is all about receiving, not replacing the Blackberry, but allowing you to preview messages and missed calls, then decide if you need to pull out the phone to reply that minute, or maybe wait.

I find this especially good for business people who do not want to be rude in a meeting, but need constant updates from the home office, or even for emergencies. Anyone who does not have their phone with them while exercising or whoever is literally “on-the-go” will definitely find this useful. It may, perhaps, take care of the issue surrounding texting and calling while driving.

It is difficult to speculate as this has not even been released yet, and Crackberry.com did not know of its actual release until yesterday at 2 p.m. According to the photos they were sent, they speculate that it will be called the inPulse.

A third-party Blackberry accessory manufacturer is selling the watch. Although the Blackberry name will not be on it, it is for use exclusively with Blackberry phones as of now. Techies hope that soon after it is available and released, the manufacturers will open it up to other devices and applications such as Facebook.

Read Crackberry.com’s announcement and see an image of the watch here: http://crackberry.com/first-images-blackberry-watch-real

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Videos help out rural practices

Technology is all about communication today. The world is getting smaller and, for some, this fact may save their life.

Doctors practicing in rural hospitals are starting to use video conferencing as a way for their serious patients to see and talk to specialists, who are usually stationed in cities. The regional and local facilities are literally connected to larger medical centers when it is necessary. This involves a large TV, a video camera, and internet-connected medical equipment. Patients can receive the timely care they need and may not have to transfer to specialists.

Of course, the billing and insurance of this video consulting is still up in the air. Because the network is not large enough, and the lines between a true "video consultation" and a regular visit are blurry, insurance providers are not covering practices for the costs of this technology. Trends do show that once a technology is more widely accepted, insurance and other businesses are more willing to pitch in with the efforts.

Hopefully in the future this technology will be covered, so that people can tap into expertise when there are emergencies. For example, many babies who have difficulties after childbirth are transferred while, in many cases, a mother must stay behind to recover. This is difficult for everyone involved, and could be eased with the help of a simple "telemed" conference.

Video conferencing is a somewhat newer technology which has caught on with many corporations that are spread across the country to cut down on business trip expenses. It is great that the field of medicine can catch on.

This idea of bringing together great minds from different areas of one expertise, and combining knowledge is extremely brilliant. There is nothing better than collaborating with colleagues from all over the world who may teach you, guide you, or help you save another person's life.

See the article mentioned by The Wall Street Journal's Ben Worthon here.

This video advertises video conferencing at Kapi'olani Hospital in Honolulu. The conferences save mothers with complicated pregnancies the expense and time of flying to specialists on the on other Hawaiian islands, or to the mainland U.S.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

iPhone vs. Blackberry: the debate

While I'm on the subject, let me relay another personal experience. I've recently been intrigued by the competition which has gradually arisen between Apple and Blackberry because of the iPhone and the Blackberry line of smart phones.

I am in the market to upgrade my cell phone, and after going to several AT&T stores and surfing all over the Web, I am very interested by this competition and what is going for each phone itself.

If you walk into AT&T and give the hint that you're in the market, the iPhone mysteriously lands in your hands. In most cases, the iPhone (especially the new iPhone with 3GS network) is pushed a bit harder than the three to five Blackberry models in the store. It doesn't take a genius to know why: the iPhone price is higher than the Blackberry. They are only being good salesmen.

But, I want to know what the differences between them are. Why do we choose an iPhone over a Blackberry? Is it the touch screen? The app feature? The "fun" of it? The sheer popularity?

If you Google "iphone vs. blackberry" you will get a plethora of results. Many bloggers have debated the differences. Sites like Wired.com and CNet.com, notorious technology sites, have covered the debate as well as the site that is simply "iphonevsblackberry.com", which involves an open forum for debate.

If you, too, are trying to understand the difference between the world's current top leaders in the cell phone industry, I suggest this "experiment" from the Wall Street Journal that had iPhone and Blackberry users swap phones and log their qualms and revelations.

The Joys, Pains of Switching Smart Phones by Walter S. Mossberg of "The Mossberg Solution" from the WSJ.com.

iPhone appears in other brand's TV commercials

I have been noticing recently a trend in TV commercials which relates to my new poll question.

I was watching TV for a bit, and saw in three different commercials how the iPhone was also advertised, as well as the main product being shown.

Pizza Hut commercials air all the time, and at the end there is a picture of an iPhone with the Pizza Hut logo on the screen. As mentioned previously, the iPhone is well-known and loved for its many application abilities. The Pizza Hut application for the iPhone allows you to order pizza on the go. Some may think this is ironic, since you can always just call the nearest Pizza Hut, but this "app" features a game to play while you wait and alerts, as in flying pizza toppings, arise if you order too many toppings. Pizza Hut's rival, Dominoes simply allows iPhone users to go on their Webpage and order as if from a computer.

John Rivera's blog further discusses the marketing trends Pizza Hut and Dominoes are branching out to, and includes many different companies now turning to the iPhone app marketing tool, such as the Starbucks app which now allows customers to "build" their favorite drink and show it to the employee when they get to the counter instead of speaking.

Another one I couldn't believe was a Miller Lite commercial where a man at a table holds up his iPhone with the app "Beer Time" shown and how many beers they need at their table. This app deals with the struggle people have of getting beer refills in a crowded bar. As a waitress, I don't think this would make me very happy, but the fact that there is an app for it is almost ridiculous. Read about this app here.

I'm not sure what app they will think of next, of course. But, I would like to know how our culture will adapt to this new form of communication. We simply show the worker our iPhone and, without a word, get what we want? This seems bizarre to me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Facebook poll results

My poll has closed. Only 11 people voted, so I hope for more votes for the next one!

The results are that four of these 11 people keep Facebook up in the background of their computer constantly. I can only assume these people are students.

I have found myself combatting a "Facebook addiction" since freshman year and it only gets worse as time goes on. Facebook has never been more popular and it is not slowing down. As I've written before, Facebook now spans the globe and includes all generations and cultures. It is incredible. I believe even more so than Myspace, which has suffered much defeat since 2004.

Not only are students distracted by Facebook on their laptops or desktops, while trying to finish a paper or any homework assignment, but we are now able to access Facebook on any new cell phone or iPod touch, almost everywhere.

As many students can probably sympathize, I find myself typing that site into my browser more than any other, possibly more than my Gmail. I know it is ridiculous, but it is a true addiction and very difficult to put my foot down and get to work. I could spend hours jumping from person to person through mutual friends and wall posts, and on and on. It is almost mind numbing, and that is what is needed sometimes for students. "Distractions welcome...oh, hello, Facebook."

I must applaud the three out of 11 people who log onto Facebook 0-1 hours per day. I assume it's just not "your thing". For those of you who actually struggle with the Facebook addiction and absolutely cannot get your work done, Naomi Rockler-Gladen writes an article telling students that we "should not overestimate [our] multi-tasking skills." When you're on Facebook or texing a friend, you really can't listen to that professor or write that paper in a decent fashion.

"To combat Facebook and MySpace addiction, try enforcing some rules on yourself. Limit the amount of time you allow yourself to use your account. Perhaps you can use a Facebook visit as a reward for finishing that long reading assignment. If you really can't resist, consider disabling your account during finals week and other busy times."

Monday, October 12, 2009

The U.S. lags behind the smarter chip

On the ever-changing topic of new technology comes something from the financial sector which has been slow to compete with the personal side. Or is it personal?

How often has your wallet changed in the past five years? Ok, you get a new card every few years from your bank. Does it ever look different? Yes, maybe a new color or design, but ever something revolutionary? No.

The U.S. is completely behind in one realm of technology, and that is the credit card or ATM card. Once again Europe is beating us and it is because of their not-so-new “smart chip technology”.

While studying abroad in London last fall, I realized that cashiers did not know how to handle my card at first, and it definitely scared me. Every time I went to buy something, it was met with a dumbfounded look to which I said, “I’m from the U.S.?” Yes, my magnetic strip is a decades-old technology. Embarrassing.

Fortunately, they were able to complete my purchase overseas because most merchants still have the ability to swipe a card. But, many of these merchants are changing over, and smaller shops and businesses cannot accept a swipe card.

The smart chip credit cards have smart chips instead of magnetic strips which hold the owner’s information. When a purchase is made, the chip side of the card is inserted into the device’s slot. When the person puts their four-digit pin number in, the chip is read, and the transaction is made. It takes a matter of seconds for a receipt to print.

Many of these devices are hand-held and wireless, so waiters may bring them to tables in restaurants. I was intrigued by this in Europe. Not only are they convenient, they prevent fraud better than the strips can. It is difficult to forge a pin, and the device does not require the internet because the terminal itself verifies that the card is authentic and not stolen.

The issue remains for Americans travelling abroad in Europe, Asia, and South America. Canada has recently announced that they will be switching by 2010. American cards are still able to be used abroad, but we are now definitely falling behind in terms of this secure financial technology.

CreditCards.com published a story online on October 1st about the issue of our older technology:

http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/outdated-smart-card-chip-pin-1273.php

Friday, October 9, 2009

Upgrade me

Speaking of technology becoming outdated, Windows is releasing Windows 7 this month. October 22nd is when Windows can finally try to redeem Windows Vista.

But, just think, Windows put XP on the shelves in 2001. They updated to Vista in 2007. Now Windows 7 will be available. The first upgrade took six years, and, although the dissatisfaction with Vista was high, this time the upgrade took two years.

Again, should we even buy new laptops? I will personally need to purchase one after graduation and it will have Windows 7 on it by then, but when will the new Windows be out? True, the price to upgrade is only over a hundred dollars but will this upgrading ever get annoying? Maybe not. People love the craze that an upgrade creates. You must get the newer and better. No excuses.

Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade will cost $119.99 compared to the current Vista price of $129.99. The new package costs $199.99, while Vista costs $239.99 now.

So, that is the good news. Upgrading is not going to cease, but upgrade prices seem to come down in most sectors.

If you go to http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/ you can take a virtual tour of what “7” will look like and how it will make using your computer for everyday things “simpler and easier”. We hope, Microsoft.

To Mac users, I hope you enjoy your $29 upgrade from Mac OS X Leopard to Mac OS X Snow Leopard.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Your phone is old

I was looking at my phone at work the other day and was told alarmingly by a coworker that, “I have an old phone.”

I said, “It’s really not that old. Maybe two years…”

“Is it that one that slides one way and the other way? Yeah, that’s old. I have the iPhone.”

The iPhone craze, as mentioned, is not close to being over. I can’t personally afford one that would have enough gigs to suit me, at the moment. But, I did get an iPod Touch this summer, and can understand what the iPhone and “app” craze is about. It is nice technology.

However, you must all face the fact that the phone you are using is old, even if you just bought it. The lifetime of cell phones, and I don’t mean battery life, is outrageously low. You may buy the “new” Blackberry Storm last year, but the Storm II is coming out on October 14th. That is less than a year to update a particular model of a phone, while you still have the Blackberry Tour, Pearl, Bold, and Curve models to compete with.

You had to know that even Blackberry would have to change its look to keep up with everyone else.

The iPhone threw a huge curve ball into the cell phone market, and immediately touch screens were everywhere. But, I have my bones to pick with touch screens. The Storm has reportedly had many problems with its touch screen technology, where the Storm II is set out to fix these problems. I’m just a fan of being able to use my phone without looking at it, sadly. I don’t want to search for where to touch. I’m just conditioned that way, and maybe I could be conditioned with a touch screen. After all, that is where technology seems to be heading.

But my main issue with buying a “new” phone is that it will be old within a few days, and that is just the way it is going to be. In my humble opinion, why not wait a few more days…see what the world of technology has to offer?

People used to think they couldn’t keep up with technology. “Oh, a cell phone with a camera, what will they think of next?!” They’ll think of something smaller and better, but chances are, they’ve already thought of it.

MSNBC.com ran an article about cell phone market life in February. According to the article, this is just a phase in the U.S. Replacement frequency in places like Japan has since dropped and phones are not changing for periods of a few years.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29258026/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A job opportunity in a niche mobile technology market

Just when we believed we were at the worst stage of being attached to our cell phones, Apple introduced the iPhone. They began with the basics and, once they'd added the necessary applications, thought of the "app". If we have a built-in, default alarm clock, why can’t we create a simple application which can utilize the iPhone’s WiFi and download your choice of an alarm clock? Not just any alarm clock, but one where you can choose your own alarm from a library of "tranquil" sounds such as wind chimes or ocean waves?

Even better, let's charge $.99 per download. Everyone wants a tranquil sounding alarm clock, especially for $.99.

Instead of going "bigger and better", we are simply going "smaller and better". This is a mobile, internet-connected, call and email receiving, hand-held machine. This is also rapidly becoming a successful niche-market business; cell phone sales are down, but smart phone sales are up.

Phone applications, more lovingly known as "apps" is where the newest job boom will occur, announced the September 23, 2009 edition of USA Today.

And, you don’t have to be “tech savvy” to get in on this. Just think of an idea for an app! If you invest a mere $99 fee in order to create, test and distribute an application, you are on your way. It may be worth the chance of hundreds of dollars a day—for life. There are about 66,000 independent developers of iPhone apps who are cashing in on the $343 billion consumers spent on them this year alone. In 2013, this number is expected to rise to $4.2 billion. The average smart phone user downloads about 20 apps per year.

See this story about locals in Bethesda, MD hoping to share in this niche market: http://m.wusa9.com/news.jsp?key=204655