Tag Archives: wireless

Top Ten Technologies of 2009

Here are my top ten technologies of 2009. Last year I posted my top ten technologies of 2008, this year I am doing it again.

The technologies that were in last year’s list which didn’t make the grade this year were: The PSP, which though is still a fantastic technology, the original format offered nothing new, the new upgraded version did not cut the mustard as far as I was concerned. Also without the long promised keyboard it is still in the main a content consumption device and therefore dropped out of the top ten. The Asus EeePC which dramtically changed the market for computers is now as a format effectively dead. As I write companies such as Samsung and Lenovo are releasing cheap laptops that they are branding as netbooks, however these are for all intents and purposes just cheap laptops with 10.1′ screens and big keyboards. The small linux based micro-laptop format is no longer wanted by consumers and I didn’t really use mine in 2009, so it also dropped out of the top ten. iMovie ’08 was in my top ten in 2008, iMovie ’09 isn’t in my top ten of 2009. It’s not that I didn’t use it, I did, but like the PSP it didn’t offer anything new. Will be interesting to see what iMovie ’10 has to offer. The Edirol RH-09 was in my top ten last year, I still use it, but newer technologies have replaced it in the top ten. Likewise the iPod touch which was fantastic in 2009 has been replaced this year for me by my iPhone. Similarly the 3G USB Stick/Dongle has been replaced by newer technologies such as the MiFi, built in 3G and JoikuSpot.

Anyway onto the top ten technologies of 2009.

10. Nintendo DSi

Released at the end of March, the Nintendo DSi took the best selling Nintendo DS and added extra functionality. From an e-learning perspective the addition of not one but two cameras made the DSi a tool that learners and practitioners could use to capture evidence; or to review a vocational activity. As the DSi can use standard SD cards, this means it is very simple to move files to and from the DSi to the network, VLE or the internet. It’s not perfect, it’s not that easy to put content on the DSi, the lack of a browser coming as standard and the fact that it is a gaming device first and foremost. However it is in my top ten as it had a real impact in Gloucestershire College on teaching and learning.

9. Sanyo CA9

Though there are cheaper video cameras out there, and there are cameras which have better lenses, the Sanyo CA9 is in my top ten technologies due to the fact that a) it uses SD Cards and b) it is waterproof. Cameras with built in Flash memory are great (as you don’t need an SD Card) however SD Cards allow learners to use the camera and the pass it to another learner, whilst holding onto their content (video and images). The fact that the CA9 is waterproof means as well as taking it out in the rain (or swimming) if it gets dirty in a workshop, salon, kitchen, it can be rinsed under a tap. However the waterproofness gives one main disadvantage in that you have to remove the battery to charge it, making it awkward to charge a class set. Despite that one reservation, the Sanyo CA9 is in my top ten of 2009. Video cameras in general can have a real impact on teaching and learning, and we found by putting over a hundred and fifty of them into the college has had a real positive impact and improved retention and achievement.

8. MiFi

So what’s the MiFi? A battery powered 3G wireless router. Using a 3G SIM it would connect to the internet and then allow  up to five wireless clients to connect and share that 3G connection. With a four hour battery life, could be charged via USB and about the size of a credit card. Using a SIM from a Vodafone 3G USB dongle it was  very simple to set up and configure and I would recommend that you use the details from Ross Barkman’s excellent website on connection settings for GPRS/3G to save having to work out where the information is on your providers’ website. You can configure it wirelessly, and the first things I did was rename the wireless network and add WPA2 security. Once configured it is simply a matter of turning it on, waiting for it to connect and then connect your laptop (or other device) to the wireless network. It works very well and felt faster than using the USB dongle! It’s not perfect, it doesn’t really work on the train, but in a fixed location without wifi it does make life easier. You can now get the MiFi from 3 on a contract or as PAYG. This is much “cheaper” than buying the unlocked MiFi, but of course you get less flexibility as a result

7.  Sony HDR-SR10E HDD Camcorder

Last year in my top ten for 2008 I had in two cameras, the Sony HDR-SR8 and the Panasonic HDC-SD5. This year I have as a result of using the Sony HDR-SR8 camera, bought some more cameras for use by staff and in the main used the new Sony HDR-SR10E HDD Camcorder. This is at the high end of the consumer market, though you do get a lot of features. Key ones for me are, a decent lens, full 1080i resolution, a 250GB on board hard drive, and I also had a selection of microphones as well. I used it a lot for taking video this year and very pleased with the end results. Easy to import the video into iMovie ‘09, edit and export.

6. Tricaster

So you need to shoot video? You need to stream video? You need to record video? You need more then one camera? You want graphics, you want presentation slides, you want to screenshare? Though there are a plethora of tools out there for shooting and recording video, screen captures, presentations; most then require you to edit the footage before sharing. One of the things I wanted to do in 2009 was to do all that, but do it live! You can do that using a TV Studio, but it’s not very portable; the Tricaster is!

The process of creating live, network-style television can be very costly and require massive amounts of expensive equipment and a large crew of people. TriCaster™ changes all of that. In one lightweight, portable system (small enough to fit in a backpack), you have all of the tools, including live virtual sets on select models, required to produce, live stream, broadcast, and project your show.

5. JokiuSpot

A simple idea which just works. Basically it turns my Nokia N95 into a wireless hotspot, allowing me to connect multiple wireless devices to my phone’s 3G internet connection. I start JoikuSpot and once started I can then join the wireless and surf the internet. Usually I am using my iPod touch or my MacBook Pro. The Light version only really does internet, it doesn’t allow e-mail or https for example, whereas the Premium version does; this is the reason I upgraded to the Premium version and very pleased I am with it. The main downside is the impact it has on the battery life on the Nokia N95, down to less than four hours, often less!

4. Elgato Turbo.264 HD

Having shot the video, encoding for the iPod or the web can seen to take an age. I have been using and impressed with the Elgato Turbo.264 HD which is a hardware encoder for encoding MP4 files (with the H.264 Codec). It speeds up the process dramtically, encoding is now faster than real time, often twice as fast; and doesn’t tie up the processor allowing you to continue to do other things on your computer. Elgato make some fantastic hardware, the EyeTV is a great device, the Turbo.264 HD allows you to take those recordings and other movie files and convert them easily and fast.

3. Nokia N95

The N95 was my top technology from 2008, it is still here in the top ten for 2009 as it is a device which I still use on a regular basis. The Nokia N95 for me is much more than a phone, it is a device which allows me to create upload and connect. Like the iPod touch I use it on a daily basis, though to be honest rarely as a phone or for SMS. The 5MP camera has an excellent lens and can be used to take some nice photographs. I use Shozu to automatically upload my photographs to Flickr or Facebook over the phone’s 3G connection or if in the right place over wifi. The phone also takes some nice video as well and I can use Shozu to upload that as well automatically. The Nokia N95 does come with a web browser, which is usable, but nowhere near as nice as Safari on the iPod touch. However all is not lost, using JokiuSpot (see above) I can turn the N95 into a wifi hotspot and use the N95’s 3G connection and the iPod touch for browsing, job done. Video works well on the N95 and simple MP4 files work well, though the screen is small, the phone comes with a composite video cable which allows you to show what is on the phone on a video screen or through a projector. I also use the phone to read QR codes which it does quite well. The N95 also has built in GPS and though routing software is extra, for checking where you are using Nokia Maps the phone works great. I also like how Shozu geo-tags the photographs I upload to Flickr too. It’s not all perfect, the device is very chunky and very thick, if you like thin phones, then you won’t like the N95. I am not a great fan of the keypad, but it’s better than some I have used, and to be honest I don’t like phone keypads anyhow!

2. 27″ i7 iMac

Though I have had this computer for just over a month, it is a fantastic piece of kit and as a result is not only in my top ten for 2009, but also my number two technology. This is one mean fast computer. For the first time I can be recording video, encoding video, using the web, CS4 and other stuff without it impacting on my workflow. It replaced a three year old Intel iMac which was (and still is) fantastically fast, but was starting to feel its age when handling multiple processor intensive tasks. With four cores and 8GB of RAM, this new iMac is the business and has made my life a lot less frustrating.

1. iPhone 3GS

Last year my top technology was a phone, the Nokia N95, this year it is also a phone, the iPhone 3GS. Though the iPhone came to the UK in 2007, I did not buy one, as when it came out it did not meet my needs, no tethering, no 3G, no applications. Even the 3G model has some limitations, in the main the poor quality camera, at the time no videe and lack of tethering. The iPod touch did make my top ten last year as that was certainly the device to use if you wanted to use applications. With its Wifi connection and JoikuSpot and the MiFi  I didn’t need the 3G connection that the iPhone provided. However… in March of this year I got an iPhone 3G through work, partly to support my MoLeNET work and partly as everyone was recommending the iPhone to me (and my work Nokia N73 was getting a little long in the tooth). I have to admit that the iPhone 3G was a great device and changed the way I communicated, collaborated and used the web. I started to use SMS as I did like the iPhone keyboard though I know others don’t like it. With the release of the iPhone 3GS and my home phone contract ended, I decided to switch to O2 and get the iPhone 3GS. I got the 32GB model (you can never have enough storage) and was blown away. This was almost the perfect device. With a great camera that shot good (enough) images and video, a great internet experience, the best on any mobile device I have used. However the biggest impact was the applications, the iPhone was starting to become the computer I travel with, communicate with, collaborate with, share with; and that is the main reason why I have put the iPhone 3GS as my top technology of 2009.

Likewise

Bill Thompson in his BBC column covers a couple of issues I have discussed before on this blog, lack of 3G and conference wifi.

Firstly Bill has been on holiday and has been “suffering” from a lack of connectivity.

I have just endured a week of limited connectivity and it has given me a salutary lesson in what life is like for the digitally dispossessed here in the UK and around the world.

I have been driven to searching for open wireless access points so that I can download my e-mail, sometimes wandering the beach looking for elusive 3G signals just to get my Facebook status updated.

He was on the Norfolk coast and it reminded me of my holiday last November on the Suffolk coast which I blogged about.

Lovely place, however connectivity was seriously lacking. The place we were staying at had no internet which generally isn’t an issue for me as I have a 3G USB stick (or I use my phone as a tethered modem or using JoikuSpot as a wireless hotspot).

However despite the area being very trendy and popular could I get a mobile phone signal? No I could not! No signal from T-Mobile or Vodafone…

As a result I had no connectivity apart from when we travelled to an area with a mobile phone signal or at a place with wifi.

boat

My similar experiences to Bill should remind us that we should never take connectivity for granted and that though 3G is great it still does not cover all of the UK. We when designing websites and e-learning content need to remember that not all our learners will have fast broadband speeds or good 3G connections.Using video and audio is great (you can even now have HD video on the web as seen in this video I put up recently).

As I summarised in my blog post:

It did make me think about those learners who don’t have easy access to the internet, and despite falling costs of both broadband and 3G it can still be sometimes impossible to get online as the area itself does not have broadband or 3G coverage. Rural and coastal areas are often places with minimal 3G coverage and broadband access. Using 3G at 7.2Mbps in the centre of London streaming video and browsing really fast makes you sometimes forget that in some areas this is an impossibility.

As well as having issues with 3G in Norfolk, Bill also had problems with wifi at a conference he was at.

We had wifi access inside the theatre as the conference included tutorials on social networks and online engagement, and the audience were encouraged to contribute questions online so they could be displayed on the screen behind the speakers.

Unfortunately the wifi stopped working about half-way through the first session of the day, and those of us with smartphones and laptop dongles were forced to resort to slower 3G connections.

The reason given was:

It appeared that we had overwhelmed the capacity of the wireless network that the venue had set up for us..I talked to the IT support engineer and he asked me how many of us were trying to connect, and I told him I estimated that thirty to forty people were using laptops and probably the same number had wifi-enabled smartphones. After he had recovered from the shock he explained that the wifi router they had installed could only support twenty simultaneous connections and had crashed when we all tried to log on.

This is now happening too often at events I go to; I blogged about this back in October last year.

One thing I have noticed attending a few events recently is that the wireless networks have been unable to cope with the large number of delegates wanting to use it.

A few years (or even just a year ago) if you attended an event with free wireless, there were probably just a few of you who used it with their laptops. Today if you attend an event, you may find that everyone (virtualy everyone) has a laptop and if not a laptop then a PDA or a phone or an entertainment device with wifi capability.

As a result the wireless networks can not cope… Generally this happens because most wireless routers can only deal with a limited number of wireless clients.

With many more people with laptops, netbooks, wifi enabled phones conference venues need to have a much better infrastructure to cope with the wireless. Likewise if we are to be encouraged to amplify the conference through social media and social networking then we need decent connectivity. If we are also going to live stream video and audio from the conference then we need more than decent connectivity we need excellent connectivity.

I recall an Apple Keynote at WWDC in 2007 when video iChat was demonstrated I believe that due to issues with the entire audience using the 802.11g network, they used 802.11a to ensure that the demo worked.

Sometimes it can work. At the MoleNET Conference at the Emirates stadium which was awash with mobile wireless kit and the LSN had ensured that a robust infrastructure was in place and it worked really well.

Of course it is not just wifi, if everyone has an iPhone at the conference, then there will be issues with 3G connectivity as happened at SXSW in Texas this year. 3G does not work as well inside as it does outside which is one factor, but as happened at SXSW too many people using 3G devices means that there is insufficient bandwidth for everyone. The solution at SXSW was bringing in extra capacity to meet the demand.

Demand is another issue with ADSL and contention ratios. Despite the hype and advertising, for some (me included) it is impossible to get more than 1Mb download speed on ADSL due to not only distance from the exchange but also the contention ratio as more and more consumers sign up for broadband.

What Bill’s column and my blog articles show is that we can’t take (at this time) connectivity for granted, for some it will be restricted because of geography and for others because of excess demand, we need to remember that.

Dell enters the fray

From BBC News

Dell is joining the burgeoning ranks of companies offering cut-down laptops, called netbooks, aimed at the developing world and general consumers.

The laptop was shown by Michael Dell to the editor of website Gizmodo at the All Things Digital Conference.

Read more.

Dell enters the fray...

Dell is the biggest PC maker in the world and the fact that they have entered the market shows how big and how serious this market is to PC makers.

For a lot of consumers this is their second computer, their main computer is a desktop machine which sits at home. The micro-laptop (umpc) format allows them to have a second computer which is very portable. Though similar or slightly more expensive “proper” sized laptops are available, it is the extreme portability of these laptops that are one of the main attractions. The fact it has a proper keyboard is another feature which other UMPCs and portable devices lack and it would seem people like a proper keyboard – even if it is on the small side.

From an e-learning perspective this is a device (format) which I know learners like (from our MoLeNET experiences) and I would suspect that a lot of learners in FE will start buying (or will be bought) these computers. At a price point not much more than a gaming console (or even less) it might be seriously considered as a present for someone attending an FE College.

Also with the growth of student wireless networks in FE, this will allow internet connectivity which turns it from a “dumb” computer to a connected internet device. Even in those institutions without the bandwidth for a student wireless network, those learners may consider getting a 3G USB dongle.

Already I have “caught” a learner in our Library, using an Asus EeePC with a Three 3G USB dongle for learning!

Thanks Gary.

Wireless security

When it comes to wireless security there are lots of myths out there.

Wireless security

Ars Technica has published a nice article on wireless security which covers many of the key issues and importantly debunks some of the myths out there as well.

The SSID (Service Set Identifier) is an identification code (typically a simple name) broadcast by a wireless router. If a wireless device detects multiple SSIDs from multiple access points (APs), it will typically ask the end-user which one it should connect to. Telling a router not to broadcast its SSID may prevent basic wireless access software from displaying the network in question as a connection option, but it does nothing to actually secure the network. Any time a user connects to a router, the SSID is broadcast in plaintext, regardless of whether or not encryption is enabled. SSID information can also be picked up by anyone listening to the network in passive mode.

Read more.

Photo source.

New Apple products announced

Those who know me will know that I am a bit of a fan of Apple products, not exclusively, but I do like good design and stylish kit.

Yesterday in San Francisco at MacWorld Expo, Apple announced some new products and upgrades for the iPod touch and iPhone.

Key new product announced at the keynote was the MacBook Air, a small light MacBook.

New Apple products announced

I do like small computers, great fan of the 10″ Sony VAIO laptops, however this is slightly bigger than I would like, and I can’t see how that would survive travelling by air or train.

Don’t get me wrong I think it’s very stylish, well designed, but doesn’t meet my needs for a small portable computer for use at conferences, on the train and in coffee shops.

No rumoured touchscreen, nor a Blu-ray drive either (actually no optical drive, though cleverly you can use your other Mac’s drive wirelessly, which is a very clever piece of software and something I would like to use with Windows UMPCs).

There was also upgrades for the iPhone and iPod touch announced which provide additional applications, annoyingly free on the iPhone and a £12.99 upgrade for the iPod touch.

Huh!

Probably worth it for the e-mail and notes applications which make the iPod touch a more interactive device.

Also announced was a new Airport Extreme base station which comes with a 500GB or 1TB drive for Time Machine backups.

On the Americans get the opportunity to rent films, here in the UK we don’t.