Monthly Archives: November 2009

Some tech turkeys for Christmas

A (dis)advantage of being constantly busy is that I don’t get as much time as I might like to play with new tech toys. However, this might not be such a bad thing.  Apparently, there were some turkeys released this year.

Linuxinsider has come up with its list of forgettable tech products for the year that is 2009. Some are items that are on my to-be-checked-out list. Perhaps they might now find themselves removed from that list. On the other hand, one negative review hardly makes for a poor product.  The great thing about the internet is that comparison shopping is merely a click away. It’s easy to access multiple reviews and compare for yourself.

First up in the Linux review is Windows 7. The 7 is a turkey due its release date being 3 years later it was supposed to have been and requiring customers to but Vista in the meanwhile.  To add to the injury, 7 is seemingly no better than Vista. Perhaps I’ll stick to XP after all.

Next up is the iphone. Is having a smartphone a good thing?  I work long enough hours as it is. Do I really want to be able to access emails and do mobile work on the little free time I have?  I’ve been putting the smartphone on the long finger. This is just as well given that “people look like jerks using them [the iphone”. The iphone also has the vendor lock-in problem. Marketers love this concept, consumers aren’t so keen.

Number three is a continuation of number 2. Apple are quite good at coming up with useful gadgets like iphones and ipods and ithis and ithat. But these products are so heavily patented that developers are frustrated with the lock-down aspect. Remember this is coming from a site called linuxinsider.

Number 4 is a follow on from number three. Google Chrome OS netbooks comes in for some criticism for not being open enough. It’s not even publicly available yet but the jury has spoken.

For me, Nvidia have a really nice funky edge. Have a look at the cool products.  But, alas, one mistake puts them on the turkey list for a respected blogger with an off-putting name.  This blogger seems to have issues with toolbars too.

Ubuntu comes under fire for its overzealous stand on releases. One buggy release replaces another buggy release in very short spaces of time.  Who’s perfect?  At least they’re trying.

Anyone thinking of purchasing an e-reader should hold off. The Sony / Kindle / Other argument needs to be solved by replacing all of them with a DRM-free device that allows much more freedom. Apparently, e-books won’t take off until the format problem is no longer a problem i.e. all readers will read all formats.

EA Games come under fire for self-sabotage. According to Linuxinsider they buy in perfectly good game developers only to destroy them , the same applies to their products, apparently.

So, there you have it. I’m off to re-write my Christmas shopping list now…



Clearing the browser

Browser tabs are a great idea. You can open various sites at the same time and flick between them. You can save the lot and have them load up next time you browse the net. This is useful until there are so many tabs it takes time to scroll from one to the other.  This is a problem for me these days as I don’t get to surf the net to the extent that I might like.

Here’s a sampling of what’s tabbed at the moment –


Golden Spiders – you decide

The Golden Spider awards are held annually to honour all that is good in the world of the Irish web. The shortlists and winners are a useful class exercise for my ebusiness students. I give them the various category lists and get them to evaluate the sites based on various criteria identified by various gurus as being important. It usually produces much fun and interesting insights.

Like all award ceremonies there is a “you decide” vote where Joe Public gets to have a say in the winner. This allows power to the people on the democratic web. It’s also a way for students to feel they are part of the real world, carrying out activities that have an influence (however small) on actual events. Its lends a spark of reality that class activities don’t always have.

The public vote category in the 2009 Spiders is number 17 “Best Social Networking & Community Website”.  The nominees are –

  • is a relatively new social networking site. You can sign up as an individual (I), a group (G) or an organisation (O). Edward de Bono is a prestigious executive board member. You can ‘connect’ with like (or not-so-like) others or jump straight into conversation with others. It seems to be attracting a number of well known organisations and people conversing about a wide range of issues.
  • is a site aimed Irish expats, descendants and any person wishing to travel to Ireland. They claim to have a whopping 240,000 members. This looks a very practical site with plenty tips for those with a business or leisure interest in the county.  Not a bit of oirish in sight.
  • I don’t know much about this one, it looks like it might be a younger persons Bebo.
  • looks a dating site with a little life-coaching built-in
  • I remember reading about the lauch of this site some time back. At the time I wondered how there could be room for yet another mainstream social networking site. But this one seems to have survived and grown, they claim to have 133,000 members.
  • the Irish flickr. I hear lots of good things about this site, and I get ribbed by certain people for doing the flickr thing and not the pixie thing. The problem is that I’m not a prolific enough photographer nor do I have the time to keep the 2 accounts up to date.
  • is an interesting discussion site with threads for all sorts of political goings on. It seems to be very popular with 9 comments in the last minute that I logged in. So you want to get your twopence worth on “Ireland’s a disaster, get out now while you can”, off you go.
  • is a popular music and entertainment site. If you want to post a review or announce a gig, or just see what’s a fun thing to do on a Friday night, then thumped is the place to go to.

As to which is the best, I think I’ll leave that to the students. The criteria are: website which has maintained your interest, enhanced your knowledge, opened up new communication avenues and had the biggest impact on your life”.  That’s an interesting set.  All are purely subjective which is normally a no-no but is the correct set of criteria for a public vote. Joe Public doesn’t feel the need to be a web expert. Instead they draw on their experience of using the sites. Collectively, the most popular site should stand out.

Having said that, I’m still not sure at all which I might vote for.

Good and bad policies

Every week seems to produce new ideas and thoughts regarding higher education. There’s nothing wrong idea generation and the consequent discussion and analysis per se. After all, the best ideas can come from non-judgemental brain-storming.

But, oh but, there are some strange ones. Here’s a sample from this past week –

  • Uk  “University courses are to be tagged with their drop-out rates, graduates’ future earnings and the number of contact hours students can expect with tutors” becasue this is an “indication of quality” of the courses. Are these really quality indicators of the quality of a course? We all know that drop-out rates have a myriad of reasons which often have little to do with the course itself. Future earnings – so Higher Dips in Education are to be a low quality course? Contact hours – what’s the reasoning here – is more better or worse, from what starting point and in what way might more or less contact time help or hinder.  At what point does more spill over into too much such that students are prevented from acquiring independent-learner skills?  What in all this is the joy of learning a subject matter that appeals to something intrinsic in the student?  Where is the in-depth engagement with a subject matter that allows for enhanced enjoyment and fulfillment?
  • DNA swab for your job”. To take up a job at the University of Akron in the USA the board of trustees require you to submit to not only a criminal background check but you also are required to hand over a sample of your DNA. In my book, that’s just ridiculously invasive. Where is the right to privacy of one’s own person. One lecturer has resigned in protest. An interesting comment asks whether the board of trustees will be submitting their DNA samples.
  • “State needs Catholic University”. The President of Mary “I” College of Education in Limerick is calling for a specifically catholic university in the country. I have never met and I know little about the president of this college so I’ll not say much apart from wondering what exactlya strong religious ethos can do for an educational institution.

Frtunately all is not quite so negative.  There are efforts to highlight the dangers of negative practices –

  • IFUT are highlighting the dangers of market-based funding. Their seminar during the week seems to have many international guests saying lots of meaningful, interesting and important things on the theme. A quote from Mike Jennings (IFUT General Secretary): “Irish universities must not become the pawns of market forces and private speculators, who view education as just another source of profit and their students like customers in a supermarket”.  Last word goes to Jens Vraa-Jensen of Education International (EI): “The basic raison d’être for any private enterprise is to create profit for its owners. The purpose of a university is not profit but to spend money in the most appropriate way on teaching students and conducting research to develop the intellectual capacity of future generations and provide the society with new knowledge for future development and welfare”.   Well said!

And on that note, I’m off to spend the afternoon / evening working on my PhD.