Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas Special: Free Stuff From Microsoft - TechNet UK - Site Home - TechNet Blogs #yam

Christmas comes but once a year, which is similar to the frequency in which I blog.  I thought as it’s the season of good will, I would write a blog that details some of the free stuff we have to offer.  

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Why Averages Are Inadequate, and Percentiles Are Great | Cloud Computing Journal #yam

Anyone who ever monitored or analyzed an application uses or has used averages. They are simple to understand and calculate. We tend to ignore just how wrong the picture is that averages paint of the world. To emphasis the point let me give you a real-world example outside of the performance space that I read recently in a newspaper.

The article was explaining that the average salary in a certain region in Europe was 1900 Euro's (to be clear this would be quite good in that region!). However when looking closer they found out that the majority, namely 9 out of 10 people, only earned around 1000 Euros and one would earn 10.000 (I over simplified this of course, but you get the idea). If you do the math you will see that the average of this is indeed 1900, but we can all agree that this does not represent the "average" salary as we would use the word in day to day live. So now let's apply this thinking to application performance.

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Thursday, 6 December 2012

Computational Fairy Tales: Book: Proper CompSci concepts in improper contexts. #yam

Have you ever thought that computer science should include more dragons and wizards? Computational Fairy Tales introduces principles of computational thinking, illustrating high-level computer science concepts, the motivation behind them, and their application in a non-computer—fairy tale—domain. It’s a quest that will take you from learning the basics of programming in a blacksmith’s forge to fighting curses with recursion.

 Fifteen seers delivered the same prophecy, without so much as a single minstrel to lighten the mood: an unknown darkness threatens the kingdom. Suddenly, Princess Ann finds herself sent forth alone to save the kingdom. Leaving behind her home, family, and pet turtle Fido, Princess Ann must face goblin attacks, magical curses, arrogant scholars, an unpleasant oracle, and rude Boolean waiters. Along the way she must build a war chest of computational knowledge to survive the coming challenge.

The Computational Fairy Tales book includes ~30 rewritten or revised stories from the online collection and 15 all new chapters.  Each story serves to illustrate a computational concept, supplementing official instruction or motivating computer science concepts.  The stories have also be set up to provide a natural progression both within the computer science concepts and within the fairy tale quest.

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How four Microsoft engineers proved copy protection would fail | Ars Technica

Can digital rights management technology stop the unauthorized spread of copyrighted content? Ten years ago this month, four engineers argued that it can't, forever changing how the world thinks about piracy. Their paper, "The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution" (available as a .doc here) was presented at a security conference in Washington, DC, on November 18, 2002.

By itself, the paper's clever and provocative argument likely would have earned it a broad readership. But the really remarkable thing about the paper is who wrote it: four engineers at Microsoft whose work many expected to be at the foundation of Microsoft's future DRM schemes. The paper's lead author told Ars that the paper's pessimistic view of Hollywood's beloved copy protection schemes almost got him fired. But ten years later, its predictions have proved impressively accurate.

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Monday, 3 December 2012

25 Ways Software Startups can use BizSpark, Day 3: Upgrade your PC (or macbook using bootcamp) to Windows 8 | Taylor Cowan (Online)

BizSpark, via MSDN, comes with a generous supply of Windows operating system licenses, including the recently released Windows 8 OS.  Upgrading from Windows 7 is easy and will allow you to keep your files and settings.  If you or your teammates have MacBooks you may use the preinstalled “bootcamp” software to run Windows 8 on a partition.  Here’s are the steps I used to get Windows 8 up and running on my MacBook:

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25 Ways Software Startups can use BizSpark, Day 2: Run your blog, a wiki, and a marketing site | Taylor Cowan (Online)

Most startup companies will want to run at least one, and often several websites.  A wiki for technical documentation, a blog for the team to keep customers informed, and a marketing site can be had free for three years using the benefits provided by BizSpark.  How so?  All BizSparks are eligible for up to $3700 in free Azure utilization each year they are in the program.  Under that program your startup could run 3 custom websites, with ample storage and bandwidth included.  Azure’s web site product makes it easy to run custom, php, or node.js sites.  Code and content can be updated using TFS, FTP, or GIT publishing.  You may also quickly create sites from a gallery of blog, wiki, and CMS engines.

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How Writers Use Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox and CloudHQ - cloudHQ Blog #yam

There are many individuals and companies that use the cloud to help improve their business activities. We were curious how writers use cloud services in their line of work so we contacted a few of our customers that are freelance writers and asked them how they use the cloud.

Based on these interviews, we found that the majority of writers use multiple cloud services- Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox and cloudHQ. Google Drive, Evernote and Dropbox are not instantly compatible with each other so the writers use cloudHQ to sync them all together for the ultimate writing package.

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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Play Any YouTube Playlist with VLC Media Player for Ad-Free Listening

Listening to playlists on YouTube is a great way to check out new music for free, but you have to keep your browser open and you have to watch a bunch of ads. If you'd like a cleaner experience, tech blog Digital Inspiration shows how to play playlists in the VLC media player.

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Google Type uses image search to generate fonts | Crave - CNET

Despite the name, Google Type isn't a real Google product. The site generates fonts based on Google image search, hence the name. You type in words, the site digs through image search and regenerates your text using image versions of each letter.

This is all based on an interesting quirk of Google's image search. If you type in a single letter and search images, Google gives you a lovely collection of image representations for that letter. For example, plug in "Y," and you may see the "Y" from "Yahoo," an illustration of a guy with his arms up in a "Y" shape, and a hand making the hang-loose sign. Any of these could pop up in Google Type.

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Monday, 26 November 2012

9 Tools to Create E-magazines and Newspapers for Your Class #yam

So you want to create a digital magazine for your students but still did not find the right web tools to do so. Well now you can .  we have just finished reviewing some great web services that you can use with your students to create and publish highly customizable magazines and newspapers  for  your class.

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Minecraft In Education: How Video Games Are Teaching Kids - #yam

If we're to believe much of the mainstream press, then video games are little more than a plague upon our youth, a disease that turns delightful, law-abiding young citizens into diabetes-ridden, sociopathic adolescents without a firm grip on reality. That's not to make light of such issues, but to lay the blame solely on games is to be as ignorant as those who claimed rock-and-roll would be the downfall of society, or that TV would result in a generation of brain dead morons; the Stones are still rocking, and Jersey Shore is classed as entertainment, but we've not reached Ayn Rand levels of dystopia just yet.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Top 10 Google Docs Annoyances (and How to Fix Them) | PCWorld #yam

Google Docs is convenient, cheap, and compatible with just about any platform, making collaboration incredibly simple. It’s also infuriating, incomplete, and limited. Google Docs wafts in the cloud, just beyond your tinkering fingertips, and you’re at the whim of the Google engineers who control the tweaks, fixes, and enhancements.

Since launching Google Spreadsheets in 2006, Google has steadily improved Docs to support complex text documents, worksheets, tables, forms, and presentations. You might have to wait for its software wizards to make the big changes, but you can still apply a few workarounds and hidden features. Want to trim the number of Google Docs browser tabs? Compensate for the lack of a guided spelling checker? Create shortcuts for frequently used text? To make your overall editing experience a bit better, read on; we also offer some tips that you can use with Google’s spreadsheet and presentation applications.

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21 Proofreading and Editing Tips for Writers :Writing Forward #yam

The human mind is a funny thing; it likes to play tricks on us.

For example, when we proofread and edit our own writing, we tend to read it as we think it should be, which means we misread our own typos and other spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes as well as problems with word choice and sentence structure, context, and overall readability.

If you have a friend or family member who has good grammar skills, maybe they can help you out by proofreading and editing your work before you send it out or publish it.

For special submissions and publications, hiring a professional proofreader or editor is the best way to make sure your writing is free of errors.

But for most of us, it’s not likely that anyone’s going to proofread and edit every single piece of writing that we create. That’s especially true for writers who put out a lot of material — like bloggers, copywriters, and freelancers. Proofreading and editing services can get expensive and friends and family probably don’t want to spend all their evenings checking your work.

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Monday, 19 November 2012

Who does higher education work for? | Higher Education Network | Guardian Professional #yam

Recent education headlines express the dilemma currently facing UK higher education. The Council for the Defence of British Universities launched last week promoting a vision of education for education's sake, with universities as centres of learning in danger of being shackled by short-term performance measures and funding models. On the same day, the Engineers Employers' Federation (EEF) called for a closer alignment of the education and training system – including higher education – with the needs of the labour market and employers.

Are universities a key pipeline in the nation's skills supply route? Should they be pursuing academic excellence and scholarly enquiry, or fulfilling more prosaic but economically valuable goals? Could they do both? These questions will be at the heart of next week's Institute for Employment Studies (IES) conference as part of a discussion of the wider role of higher education and the ways it might meet employer demand for high-level skills.

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5 Useful iPad Apps For Any Classroom - Edudemic #yam

Tablets are poised to become one of the most revolutionary education tools in a generation. They have streamlined various aspects of education in such a way that we couldn’t imagine just ten years ago, causing many parents and educators to reevaluate the old textbook and notepad standards.

Children and college students alike respond to the interactivity of learning material on tablets in the form of free and modestly priced educational apps. The iPad in particular has many engaging and informative apps for those who want to incorporate tablet usage into their lesson plan. Here are 5 of my favorites.

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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

BBC News - Viewpoint: What dangers may lie ahead for libellous tweeters #yam

On 2 November, Newsnight broadcast what are now known to be mistaken claims by former care home resident Steve Messham that he had been sexually abused by a prominent 1980s Conservative politician.

Following the broadcast, there was much speculation as to who that politician was. Some of this discussion was via Twitter, with individuals linking Lord McAlpine to the Newsnight report - causing his name to appear as a "trending topic".

Media reports suggest that Lord McAlpine may be considering suing at least some of those thousands of people for libel.

The legal position of an individual who posts content online, be it on Facebook, Twitter, or on comment sections of online news pages, is clear: He or she is responsible for that content. Ignorance of the law is not a defence.

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Monday, 12 November 2012 Social Media in Education [Free eBook] - supported by #Bloxx #yam

So much is written in the press about the negative use of technology (in particular social media) and young people. Yet technology and social media has become such an integrated and important part of our lives. We see ‘tweets’ on the television, read facts on Facebook and gather information on Google+.

In the past 24 months social media has toppled governments, helped us rescue flood victims and delivered us both localised and international news in almost real-time.

Social media is both powerful and purposeful yet its full potential is still to be realised in education. How can it be used to transform our classrooms in the same ways that it has transformed many other aspects of our lives?

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Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Want a Security Pro? For Starters, Get Politically Incorrect and Understand Geek Culture

While complaints can be heard far and wide that it's hard to find the right IT security experts to defend the nation's cyberspace, the real problem in hiring security professionals is the roadblocks put up by lawyers and human resources personnel and a complete lack of understanding of geek culture, says security consultant Winn Schwartau.

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Monday, 5 November 2012

Thanks to 'Truth Goggles', internet lies are about to get busted (Wired UK) #yam

The internet is peppered with factually incorrect news stories. To help sort through it, Dan Schultz, a masters student at the MIT Media Lab's Information Ecology Group, has built Truth Goggles. The web software runs on your browser like a bookmark, scanning internet content and highlighting fact-based sentences. These lines are sourced from PolitiFact, a fact-checking database that evaluates public statements by US Congress members, the White House, lobbyists and political interest groups.

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Friday, 2 November 2012

100 Simple Ways To Effectively Use Twitter - Edudemic #yam

Twitter is too big to ignore. You see hashtags in commercials, sponsored tweets, posts, news broken on Twitter, etc. It’s quickly become an indispensable tool for teachers, admins, parents, and students too. Right now, there are still many (MANY) in education not using Twitter. They may think it’s tough to start using, difficult to monitor, and even a waste of time.

But what if they had a categorized list of the top tips to help you use Twitter? Our content partners at Online College have shared an incredibly useful set of tips that are too good to not share.

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Thursday, 1 November 2012

IBM - Colleges Help Improve Student Performance with IBM Smarter Education Solution #yam

IBM (NYSE:IBM) today announced Smarter Education projects with the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) and Gwinnett County Public Schools to apply predictive analytics and Web-based software technologies to help improve student performance and achievement.

All schools, from K-12 to colleges and universities, are under increased pressure to ensure that students not only graduate, but possess the workforce skills to succeed in a globally competitive world. Both CCRI and Gwinnett County are digitally transforming their learning environments to help improve student achievement.

Now in its 48th year, CCRI is the largest community college in New England, offering nearly 90 degree and certificate programs to its approximately 18,000 students. ConnectEDU is working with CCRI on their Connect to College (C2C) project, designed to centralize critical student services and offer a unique way for students to manage their academic life. By adding IBM’s predictive analytics software, they gain the ability to see data patterns to determine where intervention might be needed.

With the combined solution, CCRI will be able to both capture and convey student data, gaining real-time perspective into how a student or school is doing and where intervention is needed. They will have the tools to determine which students are at risk of not completing the steps to achieve their intended goals and implement the interventions to get them back on track.

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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Mainframe Watch Belgium: IBM Linux on System z Cloud Test Drive #yam

I could tell you a lot about Cloud on System z. When I walk through some IBM presentations, they tell me that a U.S. Bank reduced provisioning time from 45 days to 20 minutes or that there's 79% less TCA vs. leading public cloud or that IBM System z represents both the lowest TCO coupled with industry leading Qualities of Service for deploying private and/or hybrid clouds. Conclusion : "with solutions from Tivoli to automate provisioning and provide broad spectrum of key cloud capabilities, the time is now to start deploying your cloud on System z".

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Updated - Free Windows 8 programming ebook - Education - MSDN Blogs #yam

Those nice people at Microsoft Press released an update in August to their free ebook – it’s a preview version of “Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS and JavaScript”. And it seems perfect timing to highlight it (being absolutely transparent, I didn't read it when it came out, but I've started to read it this week, as I'm spending more time talking to people about building Windows 8 apps for education)

It’s the perfect guide to Windows 8 applications programming, and gives you the whole story for creating Windows 8 apps. As it’s only a second preview version, the whole thing isn’t yet there – so far there's 12 of a planned 17 chapters, along with a download of companion content (code samples etc)

If you’re interested in getting started, or you’ve got students that you know will want to have a go, then this is a great book to download and to share.

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Monday, 29 October 2012

Windows 8 in Education eBook - Now Available - Microsoft UK Schools blog #yam

Our new Windows 8 in Education eBook is hot off the press. Written by leading practitioners, the eBook can get you started and inspire you about many of the great features of Windows 8 from an education perspective.

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Wednesday, 24 October 2012

50 Little-Known Ways Google Docs Can Help In Education | Edudemic #yam

Google Docs is such an incredible tool for college students, offering collaboration, portability, ease of use, and widespread acceptance. But there are so many options, both hidden and obvious, that there’s a good chance you’re not using Google Docs to its fullest capability.

We’ve discovered 50+ great tips for getting the most out of Google Docs as a student, with awesome ideas and tricks for collaboration, sharing, and staying productive.

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Games programming resources - MSDN Blogs #yam

Thought I’d pull together a few resources for people interested in gaming….its not a definitive list but its a great place to start

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Pay-what-you-want eBook bundle makes $1.1m in two weeks |

An experiment which allows readers to pay what they like for a collection of eBooks has unexpectedly reached sales of more than $1.1 million (£700,000) in under two weeks, it was revealed today.

The Humble eBook Bundle went live on 9 October, offering customers a selection of novels and comics by award-winning science fiction and fantasy writers including Neil Gaiman and Cory Doctorow.

Since then, it has sold more than 80 thousand bundles of eBook receiving an average price of $14 (£9). The promotion is due to close later today and has so far pulled in more than $1.1 million (£700,000) with one user paying a whopping $1,238 (£773) for the 13 books.

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Thursday, 18 October 2012

Guest Post: 5 Fun Ways to Get Your Students to Cooperate « The Creative Education Blog #yam

Not enough effort is spent truly promoting teamwork in school, considering the amount of time all of us will spend working with others once we graduate. Finding ways to get your students to work together to accomplish a goal is one of the best ways to encourage critical thinking, raise their self esteem, involve them actively in learning, and improve camaraderie. Try any one of these fun activities with students of all ages.

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35 Ways To Build Your Personal Learning Network Online | Edudemic #yam

Personal learning networks are a great way for educators to get connected with learning opportunities, access professional development resources, and to build camaraderie with other education professionals.

Although PLNs have been around for years, in recent years social media has made it possible for these networks to grow exponentially.

Now, it’s possible to expand and connect your network around the world anytime, anywhere. But how exactly do you go about doing that?

Check out our guide to growing your personal learning network with social media, full of more than 30 different tips, ideas, useful resources, and social media tools that can make it all possible.

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How Education Technology Is Like Betamax | Edudemic #yam

Are you a Betamax?



Now that we are all excited about integrating iPads into the classroom, what’s next? What are we all going to do in 18.. 24.. 36.. months when the next great device comes along? Are we all going to just start over? How do we, as educators, avoid being the next Betamax: that flash in the pan that couldn’t scale up and adjust to a rapidly changing market?

While Betamax may be gone, the idea behind it – that people wanted to easily access videos and then store them to watch later –  lives on in every DVD player, and mobile device, that exists today. If you were someone who looked and saw the big picture idea of Beta as the sharing and storing of videos (or of information, images, video,  and data), you may not have been upset by its demise and would probably not be surprised by the popularity of today’s technologies that perform the same functions. Similarly, you would neither be shocked by the popularity of the Blu-Ray format that delivers an ever higher quality product, nor by web sites such as YouTube or Vimeo.

However, the person who found comfort in the familiarity of the small cassettes and argued against VHS on principle, as well as out of loyalty, would have seen the demise of Betamax as a tragedy and their investment in it as a useless waste of time. So how does this apply to education?

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The War For the Web - O'Reilly Radar #yam

On Friday, my latest tweet was automatically posted to my Facebook news feed, as always. But this time, Tom Scoville noticed a difference: the link in the posting was no longer active.

It turns out that a lot of other people had noticed this too. Mashable wrote about the problem on Saturday morning: Facebook Unlinks Your Twitter Links.

if you’re posting web links (, TinyURL) to your Twitter feed and using the Twitter Facebook app to share those updates on Facebook too, none of those links are hyperlinked. Your friends will need to copy and paste the links into a browser to make them work.

If this is a design decision on Facebook’s part, it’s an extremely odd one: we’d like to think it’s an inconvenient bug, and we have a mail in to Facebook to check. Suffice to say, the issue is site-wide: it’s not just you.

As it turns out, it wasn’t just links imported from Twitter. All outbound links were temporarily disabled, unless users explicitly added them as links via an “attach” dialogue. I went to Facebook, and tried posting a link to this blog directly in my status feed, and saw the same behavior: links were no longer automatically made clickable. You can see that in the image that is the destination of the first link in this piece.

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Monday, 15 October 2012

In Technology Wars, Using the Patent as a Sword - #yam

When Apple announced last year that all iPhones would come with a voice-activated assistant named Siri, capable of answering spoken questions, Michael Phillips’s heart sank.


A series examining challenges posed by increasingly globalized high-tech industries.

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Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

For three decades, Mr. Phillips had focused on writing software to allow computers to understand human speech. In 2006, he had co-founded a voice recognition company, and eventually executives at Apple, Google and elsewhere proposed partnerships. Mr. Phillips’s technology was even integrated into Siri itself before the digital assistant was absorbed into the iPhone.

But in 2008, Mr. Phillips’s company, Vlingo, had been contacted by a much larger voice recognition firm called Nuance. “I have patents that can prevent you from practicing in this market,” Nuance’s chief executive, Paul Ricci, told Mr. Phillips, according to executives involved in that conversation.

Mr. Ricci issued an ultimatum: Mr. Phillips could sell his firm to Mr. Ricci or be sued for patent infringements. When Mr. Phillips refused to sell, Mr. Ricci’s company filed the first of six lawsuits.

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Monday, 8 October 2012

Commission urges Member States to recognise skills gained outside school and university

Commission urges Member States to recognise skills gained outside school and university

As part of its strategy for creating jobs and growth, the European Commission has launched an initiative to boost the recognition of skills and competences gained outside school or university. The Commission's proposal aims to increase job opportunities in particular for the young unemployed and those with few formal qualifications such as older and low-skilled workers. It also seeks to increase access to higher education, especially among mature students.

Through this recommendation, the Commission is urging Member States to establish national systems for the validation of non-formal and informal learning (see background for definitions) by 2015. This would allow citizens to obtain a full or partial qualification on the basis of skills and competences acquired outside formal education. Only Finland, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands currently have comprehensive systems in place for validation of non-formal and informal learning.

"Our aim is for all citizens to make full use of the learning opportunities which are available to enhance their skills and employability, whether at the work place, through civil society groups or via the internet," said Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. "In a time of high unemployment and low economic growth, it is essential that Europe develops the right mix of skills and competences to boost competitiveness, prosperity and social inclusion."

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Friday, 5 October 2012

Are your passwords as secure as you think? - IBM Software Blog #yam

Several high profile breaches so far this year have brought some much needed attention back around to the topic of password security. Odd that in the years since the World Wide Web was first founded, the username password paradigm remains relatively unchanged. Technologies, browsers, design and usability have all evolved exponentially, and yet the same authentication methodologies have persisted for nearly two decades.

In some ways, we are almost regressing in our ability to protect our private information online. Security questions based on public data, linked accounts which can be recovered through basic social engineering tricks, and password reuse have all served to further destabilize an already flawed system.

Attempts at educating users on proper password policy has been limited to a fuzzy stream of seemingly over complicated policies, oversimplified "rules", and increasing characters, symbols and numbers, without much consideration for the implications of a poor password choice.

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How To Keep Students Focused On A Single iPad App #yam

We talk every day about how iPads and other technology can be implemented in the classroom. But many devices *cough* iPad *cough* are designed to do a myriad of different things. Sure, they’re terrific learning tools but they’re also great distraction tools. Just ask any student able to quickly check their Facebook account while they’re supposed to be using an iPad for research.

But Apple has you covered. The new iOS 6 has a very simple and powerful tool called Guided Access that lets you keep students focused on a single app of your choosing. It lets you disable the home button, restrict parts of the screen so they can’t be touched, and even stop responding to being turned over and upside down. It’s easy to implement and a great tool in the teacher’s toolkit.

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50 Interesting Ways To Use Skype In Your Classroom | Edudemic #yam

I’m a so-so fan of Skype. I’ve used it on an infrequent basis and have had more than a few dropped calls. Audio and video alike.

However, it’s a cheap way to make long distance calls and seems to work better over wi-fi and the video quality is improving on a regular basis.

So therefore it’s probably a great tool for the classroom. But how can you use Skype to do more than just make calls? Well, there’s a pantload of interesting ways! Check out these fun ideas:

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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Teacher's Toolkit For Creating A Supportive Classroom

Creating a supportive and bully-free classroom takes time, energy, and determination. It can’t be done overnight and certainly can’t be done without a ton of effort on the teacher’s part. That’s exactly why a team at the Department of Education created a series of toolkits to help you build a safe and supportive classroom.

It focuses on working to solve the bully problem and then moving onto crafting a long-term plan for a safer school experience for everyone. These modules were designed to work together.

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Will the Internet Replace Traditional Education? #yam

I recently met a principal at the world’s largest school. It was a chance meeting at a community event, so you can imagine my surprise when I asked this warm, humble Indian man what he did, and he proceeded to tell me he was a principal at a school founded by his father, Jagdish Gandhi, that had just completed enrollment of 45,000 students for a single year.

As a web guy, I’m used to big numbers. But in this case, we’re talking not about virtual users on a website, but thousands upon thousands of loud, excitable school kids. The City Montessori School in the town of Lucknow, India was very much a bootstrapped startup of its time. Some fifty years ago, a newly married couple set out with just 300 rupees (the equivalent of less than $10) looking to serve humanity through education.

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Preparing for our future – the need for critical thinking #yam

We live in incredible times.  Today, many of us walk around with more computing power in our pockets than used to sit on our desks just a few short years ago. We are more connected, more engaged and more in control of our lives than ever before and yet, incredible though it is to believe, we are still right at the very beginning of our society’s journey with technology.

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Valve Adds Non-Gaming Titles to Steam #yam

Valve today officially expanded Steam beyond games, adding non-gaming software to the online marketplace.

Valve first unveiled plans for a non-gaming section of Steam back in August, saying at the time that the titles would be available starting Sept. 5.

"The 40 million gamers frequenting Steam are interested in more than playing games," Valve's Mark Richardson said in August. "They have told us they would like to have more of their software on Steam, so this expansion is in response to those customer requests."

Two months later, a slow rollout has started, with just seven apps currently available, including GameMaker: Studio, 3D-Coat, ArtRage Studio Pro, 3DMark Vantage, 3DMark 11, CameraBag 2, and Source Filmmaker.

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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Skype Launches New Free Skype WiFi UK Service #yam

Microsoft has today announced that their Skype service will soon be offering free Skype WiFi throughout the UK, via a partnership with wireless broadband provider Wicoms.

The new Free Skype WiFi UK service is being offered to business who will be provided with routers to offer the Free Skype WiFi to its customers.

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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Google Launches Free Tool To Let You Run Your Own Online Courses | Edudemic #yam

Topics: , , , ,

Sensing the excitement from online education tools like edX, Google has just unveiled a (very beta) version of its own course building software. If you’ve ever wanted to run your own online courses, this might be worth your time.

Google’s new Course Builder software comes on the heels of a massively popular online Google class ‘Power Searching With Google‘ hosted by Google’s Director of Research, Peter Norvig.

Click here to get started with Google’s new Course Builder

Why They Did It

Norvig shared a bit more information about the impetus for creating the online course and the power searching course, saying it “was a strong success and also generated some technology that we thought would be useful to share with the world,” says Norvig. “We feel that by sharing the code that we’ve generated, we can impact more people in the education space. There is a lot of experimentation going on in the industry at this point, and we felt that contributing an open source project would be a beneficial starting point that could help everyone.”

It’s interesting that Google is trying to do something completely new rather than help build edX or an already established tool. That being said, the more the merrier as we all benefit when the mega-tech-giants like Google get involved.

Google+ Hangouts Coming Soon

Join Peter Norvig and special guests for two Hangouts on Air. Peter will answer your questions about MOOC design and the technical aspects of using Course Builder. Click here for details.

  • 19 Sept 10:00am – 10:45am PDT (5:00pm UTC)
  • 26 Sept 10:00am – 10:45am PDT (5:00pm UTC)

The Details From Google

From Peter Norvig, Director of Research

In July, Research at Google ran a large open online course, Power Searching with Google, taught by search expert, Dan Russell. The course was successful, with 155,000 registered students. Through this experiment, we learned that Google technologies can help bring education to a global audience. So we packaged up the technology we used to build Power Searching and are providing it as an open source project called Course Builder. We want to make this technology available so that others can experiment with online learning.

The Course Builder open source project is an experimental early step for us in the world of online education. It is a snapshot of an approach we found useful and an indication of our future direction. We hope to continue development along these lines, but we wanted to make this limited code base available now, to see what early adopters will do with it, and to explore the future of learning technology. We will be hosting a community building event in the upcoming months to help more people get started using this software. edX shares in the open source vision for online learning platforms, and Google and the edX team are in discussions about open standards and technology sharing for course platforms.

We are excited that Stanford University, Indiana University, UC San Diego,,, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), and a group of universities in Spain led by Universia, CRUE, and Banco Santander-Universidades are considering how this experimental technology might work for some of their online courses. Sebastian Thrun at Udacity welcomes this new option for instructors who would like to create an online class, while Daphne Koller at Coursera notes that the educational landscape is changing and it is exciting to see new avenues for teaching and learning emerge. We believe Google’s preliminary efforts here may be useful to those looking to scale online education through the cloud.

Along with releasing the experimental open source code, we’ve provided documentation and forums for anyone to learn how to develop and deploy an online course like Power Searching. In addition, over the next two weeks we will provide educators the opportunity to connect with the Google team working on the code via Google Hangouts. For access to the code, documentation, user forum, and information about the Hangouts, visit the Course Builder Open Source Project Page. To see what is possible with the Course Builder technology register for Google’s next version of Power Searching. We invite you to explore this brave new world of online learning with us.

Great Reads From Edudemic Partners:

Posted via email from Tony Gurney's Pre-posterous

How to Opt Out of Facebook's Newest Attempts to Track Everything You Do, Even Offline #yam

How to Opt Out of Facebook's Newest Attempts to Track Everything You Do, Even OfflineFacebook has started working with a data mining service to pair together your email address and other information stored on Facebook with advertising products to see what (and if) you're clicking on ads. Privacy advocates aren't too fond of this, but thankfully you can keep it from happening.

We've known that Facebook is already tracking your every move online, but the data Facebook is using now isn't just about browser cookies. Facebook is pairing what you buy offline with what you see online.

The Data Facebook is Collecting (and What They're Using it For)

According to the Financial Times, Facebook is now working with the data collection company Datalogix. Facebook's reasoning is that they need a system to provide marketers with more concrete data, and Datalogix has data from about 70 million households drawn from loyalty cards and similar programs.

On its end, Facebook matches the email addresses in Datalogix's systems, and compares that to an email address on Facebook. This effectively makes it so they can track if you see an ad on Facebook and then purchase it in a store.

Your data is automatically included in the advertising studies without your consent, and because of that, privacy groups are concerned. Talking with CNET, Jeff Chester, executive director of The Center for Digital Democracy expresses his concern:

I believe the FTC should be investigating all this as part of its review under the consent decree... Ad exchanges allow them to take this data and apply it in real-time and sell it to the highest bidder including Facebook. They are using reams of additional data, including from online, to target Facebook users

For its part, Facebook released this statement to The Verge:

We are working with Datalogix to help advertisers understand how well their Facebook ads are working. We also do this through our partnerships with companies like Nielsen and comScore and through our own advertising tool. We know that people share a lot of information on Facebook, and we have taken great care to make sure that we measure the effectiveness of Facebook ads without compromising the commitments we have made on privacy. We don't sell people's personal information, and individual user data is not shared between Facebook, Datalogix or advertisers.

Regardless of whether your personal data is making it across the tubes, you might want to keep your offline activity separate from your online activity. Thankfully, it's easy to opt out of Datalogix's collection.

How to Opt-Out from the Datalogix Collection

To opt-out of everything (including the Facebook comparison data) Datalogix is collecting, head to their Privacy page, scroll down to the "Choice" heading, click the last "click here" link in the paragraph, and fill in your information. This will opt you out of any and all data collection done by Datalogix.

You can also easily to opt out of Datalogix's cookie-based tracking by clicking this link. Like any cookie based advertising, you will have to opt-out on every computer and browser you use.

Keep Your Online and Offline Data Separate

As we mentioned, the way this data collection works is that it compares your online data with offline shopping habits. So, the easiest solution to keep it from happening? Don't use the same phone number or email address on your Facebook account as you do when you sign up for loyalty or discount cards.

Stores rarely (if ever) follow up on making sure your loyalty card data is correct, so not using your real information isn't an issue. Otherwise, you can almost always use Jenny's number (867-5309) to get club discounts instead of handing over any personal information.

As for your online data, be sure to follow our guide to blocking Facebook cookies from distributing data to third party sites. Photo by Lisa Brewster.

Title image remixed from Joe Loong.

Posted via email from Tony Gurney's Pre-posterous

The opportunities in mobile gaming are in {asynchronous social multiplayer games} « EVIL27 Games #yam

It should be clear to anyone that is interested in computer games that the mobile gaming market is growing very fast and, with smartphone penetration still accounting for only 40% in even major markets, that there is room for a lot more growth and for several years still.

It is also clear, to anyone who is actually making mobile games, that creating a game that people want to play en masse, let alone pay for (or in) en masse, is extremely hard. There are already over 130,000 games already submitted to the Apple App Store. Games like CSR Racing may be pulling in US$12million in their first month, but there is a very long tail in action here and the average revenue for a mobile game is reportedly less than US$4,000. Whilst it is still theoretically feasible to develop a mobile game for a few thousand dollars (working unpaid still has an opportunity cost even if there is not an actual monetary expenditure) most games from professional studios will have development budgets ranging from US50,000 to as much as US$1million.

The costs do not stop at simply making a game; far from it, next comes the marketing cost. Developers that base their plans/hopes/dreams around some form of free, natural virality are most likely going to fail. This is especially true of iOS games where (a) getting discovered requires being at the top of the charts, and (b) getting to and staying at the top of the charts costs lots of money. Putting that even more succinctly; getting visibility for your app WILL cost money….and no small amount of it.

Developers frequently drop a pot of money into user acquisition services such as Tapjoy (players are incentivised to download your game) or FreeAppADay (where players go to find normally paid-for apps being offered for free temporarily). These, and other methods, invariably cost from $10,000 and upwards on ‘day 1’. For a game to be profitable it needs to:

(1)    generate revenue per user (ARPU) at a rate that exceeds the average cost per user (ACPU)

(2)    reach a critical mass of users to ensure that the ‘net’ profit covers the initial development cost.

We must also consider that ‘net’ revenue is the gross sales revenue minus a whole host of direct costs starting with Apple (30%) but possibly also including any sales taxes, licensing costs, publisher’s cut, partner revenue share and ongoing infrastructure (e.g. server) costs.

It is also very rare for a game to be created then launched then left unattended. We are in a ‘games as a service’ era and games are usually hooked up to some form of user behaviour data collection and analytics tool nowadays, meaning that developers can see what is working and what is not. That means not just technical bug fixes but user interface improvements, tutorial re-working, revisiting game variable to achieve better balancing, editing narrative, creating new content and new features. A game that does at all well will invariably be ported to other platforms (Android, Windows mobile/8, Amazon Kindle) and/or be localised for different territories. That’s more cost folks.

So, making games, marketing them and maintaining them costs a lot of money. It is a crowded market and one where customer loyalty is low and where new/different games are foisted at players from all angles. If, therefore you want to make games for the mobile phone and tablet market, you had better be clear about what kind of games you are going to make if you want to have a chance of achieving breakeven let alone amassing huge profits. What are the options? I boil these down into four (broad but distinctly different) game types. These are:

[1] Casual games (that work on mobile devices) – ‘play by yourself on the move’

Conceivably this can includes games that involve more than one player –  e.g. two players, one finger each on same screen – but is invariably about single player games. If done right then the games are designed for the specific hardware capabilities (some might say ‘limitations’) of mobile devices but many are copies of web, PC or console games which are simply ported to mobile because it is feasible to do so not because it is sensible to do so. Cut The Rope, Plants vz Zombies and Fruit Ninja are exemplars of this category of game but for each of these there are a hundred (make that ten thousand) Tic Tac Toe clones and shoddy platformers. If you make this class of game then you need to be highly aware that the only benefit you have over console, PC and browser games is that your game can be played on the move. Design for that modality of use not for what is technically achievable.

[2] Casual social games – games that have a (vaguely) social layer where you ‘play by yourself….then see if your friends can beat your score’. Put another way; ‘games that are given another dimension because your friends are involved to some degree’.

These games are usually characterised by being a fundamentally single player experience on top of which is bolted a ‘challenge friends’ and/or leaderboard functionality. This is rapidly becoming the de facto design pattern for mobile games. I regard this as a somewhat lazy and possibly an commercially finite approach. It is often achieved with basic functionality provided by third party services such as OpenFeint or GameCentre that very much looks and feels ‘bolted on’ rather than having been crafted to enhance the player experience. This also leads to several frequent interruptions to the playing experience in the form of registration, login and pop-up leaderboard or achievement screens that look completely different to the game art and UI. If this is done well, e.g. where the playing experience is genuinely enhanced by the ability to try to perform better than people you know, then there is quantifiable end user value. This doesn’t disguise the fact, however, that the product is essentially still a single player game. These services also all exit to ultimately build a userbase for the service itself (e.g. to engage the user with advertising or cross-promotion interstitial ads) and that commercial goal conflicts with the game developer’s goal of engaging and retaining their player as long as is possible.

There is a secondary type of game in this class that closely resembles the Facebook/browser-based ‘social game’ type. Numerous social games have made their way to mobile devices (e.g. Farmville, CityVille and Ravenwood Fair) however the gameplay remains fundamentally of a single player nature which is augmented with the social mechanics of, for example, gifting, sharing and visiting and where such behaviour is rewarded with free virtual goods, in-game currency or other utility value. Despite seemingly interacting with friend’s in-game on a frequent basis, the nature of those interactions exist solely to bring about free user acquisition for the developer rather than to deliver intrinsic fun from playing. You interact with your friends because you have to not because it makes the game more fun in of itself.

[3] Synchronous multiplayer games – ‘play with or against other (probably quite hardcore) players in real time….on a mobile device’.

These kinds of games are rare and for two good reasons: firstly, they require a level of technical infrastructure and service provision that is typically very expensive to put in place and to maintain, and, secondly, because it is statistically unlikely that any one player has many friends that likes (an downs) the same game they do and whom are able to play that game at exactly the same time on a regular basis as they do. There is also the factor that in order to do so they may also require the same device/platform as you. ‘Android on a Samsung? Sorry you need an iPhone 4 or higher to play this game”.

Synchronous collaborative or competitive play is major aspect of the PC and console gaming experience where play sessions are much longer, happen at more regular (often coordinated) times and in environments conducive to that activity e.g. where you can strap on a headset and swear a lot. The very nature of synchronous gameplay tends to lend itself to more traditional, or ‘hardcore’, games genres which is not mass market (when expressed as a subset of the mobile phone gaming market overall). Mobile game play typically happens at unplanned opportunistic times, for very much shorter sessions spread throughout the day at a wide variety of locations many of which do not offer a reliable cellular or wifi network connectivity. I see synchronous (‘real time’) multiplayer gaming as a small niche that offers creatively interesting but commercial limited opportunities.

[4] Asynchronous multiplayer games – games where ‘the entirety of the fun is derived because you are playing with (or against) friends but which do not require an immediate data exchange’.

This is the class of mobile game that I think truly fit the ‘social mobile game’ definition. Whilst a real time (type 3) game is clearly about a genuine interaction with other (real) people and fundamental to gameplay, the very fact that this will be practical to only a very minor subset of mobile gamers make it, IMHO, by definition ‘antisocial’. Asynchronous mobile games, when done well, deliver playing experiences that are very much enhanced by the involvement of others but which do not fail to cater for the very real modality of mobile device usage (‘anytime, anywhere’).  Indeed, these games deliver an experience that is intrinsically fun because they are using a device that exists to enable communication and interaction between people who are not physically together in the same location and which does not require cumbersome peripherals or – at least not all of the time – power supply or data connectivity. Asynchronous games can be somewhat ‘lossy’ in that the exchange of data isn’t overly time-sensitive.

My archetypal example of this kind of game is Draw Something (OMGPOP). It’s success may have been over a fairly short time frame (approx. 6 months) but it reached 90million downloads and delivered outstanding revenues (reportedly $50-75million).

The title of this ’blog is about where I believe the (greatest) opportunities lie for mobile gaming. Given that commercial success is highly dependent upon successfully acquiring users and at a cost that is less than the revenue that they generate, how then do the different types of game (as defined above) contribute, or not, towards this goal?

Casual mobile games – no direct user acquisition benefit. These games lack both the instruments for users to spread the word to other users and the intrinsic motivation for them to do so. You are playing a single player game on your mobile device. Your progress in game and enjoyment of it are totally unrelated to whether or not your friends may be playing it. Score 0/10

Social casual mobile games – some benefit if the developer owns the user data, however that is rarely the case when using third party APIs such as OpenFeint. Zynga have a whole raft of ‘X with friends’ games in this category and have built an eco-system aimed at capturing that user data and then cross-promoting their games (thus avoiding the $2/user cost of acquiring users through other channels). Most developers are unlikely to be able to afford to replicate that ecosystem too any degree. Equally, as these game can be played as a single player experience, the user’s motivation to connect social network accounts and to enable ‘sharing’ etc is not necessarily high. Visibility of the game name and link on Facebook is a positive factor but one that is limited by the fact that the game isn’t immediately playable on that platform if you are not using Facebook on the same mobile device. Score 5/10

Synchronous multiplayer mobile games – whilst there is the logical argument that players must have other players with whom to interact with in this case, (a) the potential user reach is fairly insignificant, and (b) the likelihood is that you will be paired with/against strangers by the system (in order to ensure there are enough people to take part) rather than being required/motivated to bring new players that you actually know into the game. Score 2/10.

Asynchronous multiplayer mobile games – these are the very definition of what makes the foundation for a genuine virally-promoted game as you have to have friends to play with or against or you can’t play yourself. There is not alternative state. These games – such as OMGPOPs Draw Something – invariable involve a very early screen asking you to connect Facebook or Twitter accounts or to send out email invitations. There is certainly a trust barrier here and having a genuinely stellar game offering is unquestionably of fundamental importance, but get that right and your entire userbase is acting to expand itself. Make a great game that is unquestionably fun and which delivers that fun over a sustained time period (e.g. has longevity to the play experience) and you have a hit on your hands that should only need seeding with an initial paid-for userbase. Score 10/10.

So, asynchronous multiplayer games it is then…..but what makes for a good asynchronous game?

Mobile gameplay needs to be designed not simply just to work on mobile devices but also to be designed for the mobile device user. These are quite different things that are often overlooked. Just because the iPhone 4/iPad2 could deliver highly impressive raw computational and graphical power capable of delivering ‘near console’ game experiences doesn’t make it appropriate to do so. Who has 20+ hours to play a game on their iPhone where each level takes 20minutes or more?

An inelegant but essentially accurate term to describe the prevalent modality of use is ‘dip in and dip out’ gameplay. Contextual scenarios involving stops at traffic lights or being in the queue in Starbucks typically get used to illustrate this and these resonate with casual geeks and professional analysts alike. They also ignore the fact that something like 50% of mobile game play time actually happens in bed or on the sofa where the user sessions are not measured in seconds but dozens of minutes. ‘Dip in and dip out’ gaming is certainly very important but it is not the only factor.

We are only just beginning to understand the specialist craft of effective mobile game design but a crude rule of thumb of revaluating any game concept’s appropriateness for mobile deployment (versus PC, Facebook etc) could simply be:

[1] Is this game fundamentally fun because I can play it anytime and anywhere?

[2] Can I start playing, stop playing and re-start playing with minimal ease?

To those questions we can then assess the level of genuine organic user acquisition by asking:

[3] Is this game made fun because people being able to play with or against their friends is central to it’s design?

If you can answer ‘yes, yes and yes’ then go build that game!

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Monday, 24 September 2012

Supercomputer Genius Watson Is Headed for the Cloud #yam

Watson, the Jeopardy-winning supercomputer developed by IBM, could become a cloud-based service that people can consult on a wide range of issues, the company announced last week. "Watson is going to be an advisor and an assistant to all kinds of professional decision-makers, starting in healthcare and then moving beyond. We're already looking at a role for Watson in financial services and in other applications," says John Gordon, Watson Solutions Marketing Manager at IBM in New York.

Posted via email from Tony Gurney's Pre-posterous

NeuroDojo: Why I published a paper on my blog instead of a journal #yam

TL;DR: I had a research project that has been sitting for more than a decade without finding a home in a scientific journal, so I decided to post it on my blog instead as an experiment.

Yesterday, I posted an original scientific paper here on my blog. The obvious question is, “Why is it on the blog instead of in a peer-reviewed journal?”

Posted via email from Tony Gurney's Pre-posterous

Why aren’t universities creating engaging mobile platforms for students? — #yam

Universities are in a great position to deliver a mobile platform to their students, but too many are doing it all wrong (if they’re doing anything at all). Mehdi Maghsoodnia, CEO of education technology company Rafter, looks at the roadblocks and the advantages to embracing mobile technology on campus.

Posted via email from Tony Gurney's Pre-posterous

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Joseph Hill: iOS 6, A Leap Forward in the Special Needs Community #yaw

Yesterday Apple announced their new operating system iOS 6, and I immediately began to cheer. Not for the normal fanboy reasons, although I am an Apple fanboy, and an Apple developer, but because what I saw was a company that not only is pushing the limits of mobile technology, but one that is thinking about persons who can use technology to aid them in their everyday lives.

Apple yesterday introduced "Guided Access" a feature aimed at children to keep them from exiting out of the program assigned to them. It is sort of a fail safe built into the iPhone and iPad to keep the child focused on the task at hand, whether it be a book or a test administered by a teacher.

That's extremely cool, but what was even more impressive was that Apple is proud that feature can help children with Autism. They even went out of their way to mention in the keynote that they know that children with Autism are using the iPad, and that this feature can keep them focused on apps that can help them. How awesome is that? What company do you know that mentions they are proud of options that can help children with Autism?

I stood up out of my chair at my day job and yelled "YES! A company finally gets it!" I immediately went and downloaded the developer version of iOS 6 and the first feature I explored was the Guided Access. Those of you who are parents of normally developing children and children with special needs hear me, it is rad. If you want your child to learn and you are spending money on apps that can teach them, this feature is a giant leap forward. Even I, as an ADHD adult, loved it. It keeps me focused and keeps me from wandering to and fro on my little iPhone.

I say all of this because I am proud and happy that a tech company that takes pride in its accessibility options for disabled individuals. That it cares enough to make extra features to help people who wouldn't normally be able to use this fun technology. They don't have to do that, yet they choose to and it helps people.

Does Apple make a profit because they sell more devices? Absolutely. I don't care about that. They aren't exploiting our loved ones with these devices. Rather, they are enabling everyone, no matter their developmental circumstance, to be able to enjoy and learn from new technology, and that's a company in the tech world that I will happily endorse. The future is bright, and yes, even a mobile operating system is a sign of that.

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Posted via email from Tony Gurney's Pre-posterous