Technology not an equalizer

Tom Friedman has written some of the books I have found most influential. He claimed that technology was one of the major forces in his model of a “flat world”. Others, however, take just the opposite position:

“The real problem is that technology ultimately amplifies whatever underlying human capacities are already there. So, technology is great for people with a solid education, with great social ties, with influential political power. But, for exactly the people who don’t have it, exactly the people who in theory some of these efforts are trying to address, they’re the ones who can’t make use of the technology in productive ways that many of us enjoy.”

While I have high hopes for technology in education, I am concerned that the data support this second position.

Prompted by a post from PRI.

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Wikipedia is still there

60 minutes just provided a segment on Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia. Wikipedia is one of those online resources that continues to become more valuable, but has faded from constant discussion. It is great to have a reminder.

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ITunes “family plan”

The new Apple streaming plan offers options for individuals and for families. I found the terms of the family plan ($10 vs. $15) for five family members appealing until I read the details.

The plan would require me as “organizer” to take responsibility not only for the iTunes streaming service, but also for all app and iBook purchases. What is the purpose of combining ALL Apple content options rather than separating out the music service? I suppose there are ways to address this issue. I could put my family members on a plan that requires I approve each purchase, but I am guessing my wife would object to this approach. This seems such a kludgy way to provide a “family” option.




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Feds Launch Connect Home

Connect Home is a federal program just launched to improve the Internet connectivity of those living in HUD housing. The launch information contents 47% of those families with income <$25,000 have no or low speed access contrasted with 92% of those with family incomes >$100,000. There are obvious implications for education.

The pilot program is launching in twenty-seven cities and one tribal nation and will initially reach over 275,000 low-income households – and nearly 200,000 children – with the support they need to access the Internet at home.


Albany, GA; Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Baton Rouge, LA; Boston, MA; Camden, NJ; Choctaw Nation, OK; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Durham, NC; Fresno, CA; Kansas City, MO; Little Rock, AR; Los Angeles, CA; Macon, GA; Memphis, TN; Meriden, CT; Nashville, TN; New Orleans, LA; New York, NY; Newark, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Rockford, IL; San Antonio, TX; Seattle, WA; Springfield, MA; Tampa, FL; and Washington, DC.

White House Fact Sheet

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Screen time

Our grandkids and their parents visit the lake frequently and we get to observe the parenting skills and priorities of our own kids. Interesting! I notice that drinking water is a much bigger deal than I remember. In general, health-related concerns seem to receive a lot of attention.

Screen time comes up. The kids have iPads (our fault) and do like some television programs. Whatever happened to programs like Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow? The parents do seem to take note of how much time the kids are spending. They are reluctant to complain when I watch a three-hour ball game while using my own iPad before watching some CNN. Seniority does have some advantages.

I happen to notice this NYTimes post about screen time. The article mentions a documentary about web addiction in China (Web Junkie), cites the typical data about media exposure (you can listen and watch multiple devices at once), and offers some links to medical commentary. I have read some literature on this issue including the possible link between media violence and video gaming. It is complicated and applied research often involves methodological challenges that make cause and effect difficult to tease apart.

Note: The full version of Web Junkie will be aired on Monday evening (July 13) on PBS.

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Photos backup vs synch

A high proportion of posts to Google+ I encounter seem related to issues with Google Photos. I have not invested a great deal of time in figuring out Photos beyond uploading several thousand picks. I do think the Google documentation needs to be improved.

Aside from concerns related to partial uploads, it seems to me many of the questions could be described as uncertainty regarding whether Google is providing customers a backup or synch service. Customers are concerned that they want a backup and are worried Google may be providing synch. In other words, customers are concerned that if they delete photos on the local device, the photos will then be deleted in their Google account leaving them with no copy anywhere.

Google provides a help comment on synch vs. backup, but this distinction appears to only apply with mobile devices. I would guess most folks with really large photo collections are trying to figure out what applies to their desktop machines.





So Google, if you encounter this post, you might cut down on the frustration and confusion if you would clarify the differences between your mobile and desktop services.

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Blog Backups

I have made a huge time investment in my blogs. I started blogging in 2002 and have added a couple specialized blogs since that time. This work means a lot to me and like any digital work we generate it is worth developing a backup plan.

Backing up a blog is quite different from backing up most forms of content you might generate. Blog content is stored in a database with the exception of media files which are stored separately. In addition, most of us now use a remote server to host our work so a backup involves more than making a copy of a local folder and copying that folder to a second storage device.

Here is what I recommend and how I use the recommended tool. I have three WordPress blogs hosted on leased server space (not WordPress.Com). I use the plugin BackUpWordPress. What I consider the key feature of this plugin is that it both creates a copy of the database data associated with the site and saves a copy of all blog files. Other backup systems I have used only generate the database backup file. You can often generate your own copy of the other folders and files, but the general issue with backups is that most of use never seem to get this done. Automatic is good.

The plugin stores backups as part of the WordPress folder on the server (not really a backup), but sends me an email each time a backup is generated. From the email, I can download the backup and put it where I want. I store my backups in a Box account.


The plugin is quite flexible with settings for the content to be backed up, the frequency of backups, the number of backups to be retained on the server, and an email address for the purpose of verifying the backup has been performed. A paid version of this product offers methods for storing the backups with multiple services, but as I have described you can download and store the backups yourself.

I work against limits imposed by the company I lease space from so I back up once a month and store only two backups on the server. This is for each of three blogs. So, once a month I download three zipped files and store them elsewhere.

Restoring a blog backup takes a little experience. I have done it a couple of times when I ran blog software on a personal server. This, by the way, is why some of my earliest blog posts (from 2002-2003) have text, but not images. You do learn things from your struggles.

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Return of Bowtie

I listen to a lot of music and thought some capabilities of the new Apple service sounded interesting. However, I soon discovered that streamed songs did not scrobble. This is bad.

Since 2006 I have been using a music service called Last.Fm. What I find interesting about LastFM is scrobbling. I have no idea where this term comes from. Scrobbling means that whenever I listen to a song on a device I own LastFM keeps track. The summary data are interesting. Since 2006, I have listened to 230,965 songs. The song I have played most frequently is Bullet and a Target by Citizen Cope – 147 times. My favorite artist has been Miles Davis – 3748 plays. I find the data on my tastes and how my interests change over time fascinating. Big data offers some other interesting social features. I am able to compare my interests to those of other LastFM users and the service tells me how compatible our interests seem to be. The idea is that I can follow what others with similar interests listen to and find new songs and artists to try out.

I probably spent two hours last night trying to figure out if there was anything that could be done. Many searches turned up complaints, but no solutions. Finally, someone recommended BowTie. I remembered this product and knew that the developer had stopped working on it, but I found a source that still had it available (FileHorse). I would not normally download files from an unknown source, but I looked for complaints first and then gave it a true. Sure enough I can scrobble from the new Apple streaming service.

This post will likely make little sense to many. But, if you are a scrobbler and cannot give it up, BowTie will keep you going until something else emerges.

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Fireworks Photography


IMG_2323Photographing fireworks is a great photo challenge and one way to consider shutter speed, aperture, etc. (one of a couple personal successes above).

Here is a tutorial from B&H photo.

A set of photos from 2010.

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Drone Video

My brother has become a quadcopter hobbyist. Once you learn the ropes (on smaller, less expensive machines), the major application is probably aerial photography. We have a lake home in Wisconsin and here is a tour around our lake. The video ends with the quadcopter coming into our beach.

I must admit that I would be intimidated flying anything as expensive as a quadcopter and camera over water, but I guess you get to the point that is what you do. The GoPro will record video in 1080p. I downsized to 720 to reduce the file size. Still, the quality of the video is pretty impressive.

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