Thursday, December 17, 2009

Your Own Wealth - With a 3D Printer?

I ended up using Skype with Call Burner as an add-on to record my first innovation podcast. The idea of this exercise being the discovery that, any old phone can be used to dial in and record your thoughts. Very Cool Indeed! Thanks Lyr Lobo!

My first few tests using Gabcast turned out to be quite disastrous. One minute went by much too fast. All to render a mediocre recording at best. Clearly, the 5 minutes available as part of the introductory membership to Gabcast would never be sufficient to play around and test a few things, let alone be happy with the delivery. You'd quickly run out of free minutes!

In the true spirit of discovery, I decided to venture onto a different tool to do my recording. Gabcast would ultimately be the 3rd party delivery tool. Expanding on my favorite long distance calling program, I investigated the possibilities with Skype. There are so many extras you can add to the Skype installation, I got lost for a while, meandering among the possibilities. With the help of a 30-day trial period afforded by Call Burner, I was able to record both sides of a phone call made via Skype if I wanted. The recording quite conveniently began once the call was initiated. It allowed for much more creative juices to flow, not to mention the numerous retakes made possible to get a remotely enjoyable final product.

I ended up with a homemade studio in a matter of minutes! It was quite entertaining! Aside from taking 2 days to figure out the sampling rate was crucial for flash to work properly via the Gabcast application, generating your MP3 ahead of time gives you much more flexibility and freedom of expression. It also gives you much more latitude with Gabcast!

As if I needed reminded, the lesson learned with Animoto stood true here as well. It quickly became evident that, outside of the cool Replicating Rapid-Prototyper I would soon build for myself, copious hard work is necessary to produce a memorable sound bite.
I remember witnessing a professional recording long ago. A stout lady was invited to sit in a sound-proof room where she would be directed to, either stop and do over, or asked to read again with a particular intonation. Another striking impression I vividly remember was the softness and richness in her voice. My first impression of her had not been so flattering, in my own mind of course. Never judge a book by its cover, I told myself. Some lessons are harder to admit. This would be one of them. *grin* So much work goes into multimedia production! Thanks Karl, I learned a lot from watching you!

Here's my first rendition of a podcast, as I introduce the next project on my to-do list, via Gabcast. This one will have to wait until I finish building Karl’s FTP server and a new custom PC for myself! *smile*

Introducing RepRap:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Is it Ok to Click Here?

Introducing Animoto as a Web 2.0 tool from a personal perspective. It is very easy and quick to create a video. The web interface is really intuitive. Congrats to the Animoto team! I really enjoyed it. It is a simple, 10-minute process but !

Did you ever wonder about the effort put into those amazing documentaries? Lucky for me, I know a very talented individual who works multimedia for a living. He will spend countless hours removing the sound made when someone inhales each time a new bite of narration is read. It’s one of those things where the absence of evidence is not noticed until someone inhales very loudly.

There are times I wished I was the one collecting the images. A good final product requires hours of research for rich image contents, sometimes exposing you to very interesting or, even dangerous environments. That very difficult part hinges on the creativity of the individual. Music selection also has a great part to play in the effectiveness of media delivery.

For me, this exercise reminded me of the TED video introduced by a classmate regarding "Optical illusions show how we see" In his presentation, Beau Lotto demonstrates that even at this very fundamental level, the brain's capacity to detect differences in light heavily depends on context. This Animoto project certainly has emphasized the reality of his assertion. Thanks for the experience Lyr Lobo. I think I found a new passion.

Here's my rendition of the "Good and Evil" of technology and the Wild WWW. Images are courtesy of Communications of the ACM via screen scraping. Got your membership yet? *grin*

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Consensus Methods - Who To Believe? And Why?

While studying various consensus methods as part of our curriculum, a classmate departed from main stream discourses looking at the recently controversial news about breast cancer screening. In my opinion, her analysis merits a post on this blog.

While the full version of the US Preventive Services Task Force is quite comprehensive, it gives no indication as to the type of deliberation and consensus method used. The contents of the article I am referring to can be found here: "Screening for Breast Cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. "

As a scientist, I think of myself as one of them too *smile*, I find that tit-bit somewhat disturbing. Why? Because while there is no way for all to know everything about every thing, there are definitely many reasons to validate or, invalidate such reports. Should we trust such a panel of experts? My personal verdict is still out.

Interestingly, I found out about the "Screening Policies won’t change - US Officials say" article shortly after the initial debate on this question. When I saw the title of the article, my mind put a "case closed" stamp on this rather quickly but, it probably shouldn’t be so in hind sight.

Whether the data is scientifically valid or not, a physician worth his/her salt will find time to review such reports to make informed decisions about recommending what and, to whom. So many factors will influence a decision for or, against mammograms in this case. It heavily depends on the patient. As an example, the DELPHI method, modified or not, will likely never bring any one group to consensus on this item, not yet anyway. This is in fact, one of the biggest challenges that face the migration to EMR - Electronic Medical Records. You can read more about those problems here: "Implementing Electronic Medical Records ". I have first hand testimony on this effort. I attempted to help an Internal medicine friend with her small-practice EMR project. It was already a disaster by the time I was asked to contribute. Reading the article above from my hard copy, I ripped it out and gave it to her. I recommended she held off for a bit longer. The frustrations she experiences just aren’t worth the trouble at this time.

There is great merit to moving to such a platform nationwide, even world wide! It could become a very meaningful source of data, like in the case of the breast cancer debate. There would be some source of data to analyze. However, there are also significant draw backs.

It’s evident that the importance of breast cancer screening remains high since it is the number TWO leading cause of CANCER deaths among women. I read that lung cancer is the number one but, I'm told ovarian has the highest mortality rate. This is because its discovery is nearly always in stage three, the point of no return, usually. Ovarian gets no press because it affects a very small community of women in spite of its close-to-no-mercy status. Another fact to remember is that there are also instances of cancer in patients whose family history shows no trace of cancer at all. I know this first hand as well, unfortunately. Would there not have been reason to find this out sooner? Maybe some day, enough well-analyzed data will lead to such conclusions. For now, those relatively few cases will remain victims of unknown circumstances.

To me, this is a case scenario where a process like
"Christakis's SDP" could truly make a difference. It would remove emotions and, hopefully politics, allowing for factual contributions from various sources of experts, and non-experts alike, to prevail.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holographic Technology, Cell Phones and Holo-sexTing?

Being a Star Wars fan, I was pleasantly amused by the novel graphic montage I found on a classmate's blog. He posted comments about Infosys's prediction on holographic cell phones. You can see for yourself by clicking on the image.

I actually witnessed a live holographic imaging demo in the late 1980s, while visiting the Epcot center in Florida. I don't know how many people were lucky enough to see this but, at the time, they provided a behind-glass tour of the computer room which supported Disney’s entire inventory of attractions. The host was herself a holographic image who could jump from console to console while talking to us. VERY cool. I knew then I would forever be attached to technology at the hip. I wonder, now that security is such a big deal, if they still have that tour.

I don't fancy myself as a philosopher but, some news from MSNBC this morning has me believing that holographic imaging on cell phones is a bad idea anyway, never mind the extra boosting such devices would need to accomplish this task.

My heart goes out to a Florida family who lost their 13 years old daughter to suicide. The reason? Sexting.

If you don’t know the term, don’t feel bad. Until I read the news this morning, I had not registered what that was either. However, it has me asking myself what the breaking point will be. Kids are inherently born without wisdom. It's one of those primitive things we humans still do. We "Must Grow Up". How wise a person becomes has a lot to do with how one is raised. I’m finding this is not a proportionally direct mathematical relationship to the parents' life story. That topic in itself could be a very interesting notion to explore in Futuring. Could we/Should we genetically implant good morals into newborns? But that's for another blog, some other time.

When do we, as a society, take responsibility for the collateral damage caused by technology? The morals of society are clearly not evolving as quickly as cool toys. Technology is not only about augmented capabilities to find a lost child. It also translates to better tools for the criminals and increased impact from "Oups" moments. How responsible are we if we let kids use "Big people" tools? Traditionally, we directly supervise such usage, following gruesome coaching. How is this possible with devices such as cell phones?

Call me old school, but to me, there is No room for cell phones in the life of a teen ager. Not unless those kids begin to drive cars and are out in the evening, with a curfew I might add. Even then, carrying such a phone would be something occasional, not a day-to-day distraction in their lives. The issues with that are permeating schools as it is. There are just too many responsibilities attached to owning such a device, as demonstrated by this up-standing young student.

Remembering that laptop theft is one of the most common ways sensitive data is stolen, I am terrified by the prospects of such powerful and tiny devices, capable of storing intimate life details. Most people can't even choose a decent password. Can we conceivably and realistically expect teenagers to know how to be responsible with such technology? I don't believe so. I don't even want to extrapolate what this would translate to with holographic cell phones. Holo-sexTing?

OK, maybe I'm a border-line philosopher. The Elf has spoken.
I would like to thank my classmate for the opportunity to muse my thoughts on this.

You may find the article and video interview to this tragic story here:

‘Sexting’ bullying cited in teen’s suicide

A Famous Elf Delivers Web 2.0 Presents?

I was scouring the web to find something a bit different than what we, as a class, had seen so far. I guess you could say I hit the jackpot. I was going to verify if this site listed what my classmates had contributed thus far but, I can’t afford to do so seeing that I’m so far behind the 8-ball as it is.

In a collaborative effort to see if has a close-to-comprehensive list, I therefore invited them all to play a game. I asked that they visit the site and see if they could find their contributions there. Time will tell if anyone wants to play! An initial estimate suggests there are approximately 3000 Web 2.0 tools listed on this site.

At first glance, there are a lot of similar tools. There are a few I thought I’d share. I’m copying and pasting the write-ups, which includes direct links to the original sites. Some of my own comments are intertwined on this blog as well.

Web 2.0 for Wee-Ones

I was particularly impressed by this one, strictly designed for kids. Just don’t forget to send your kids outside to play too!

Game Platform for Kids
“Game Classroom is a one-stop web destination for accessing high-quality educational games, and homework help for K-6 students. Game Classroom offers math games, homework help, worksheets and more. It is a great site for kids, parents and teachers.”

Tired of the Same Old Fonts?
I do a significant amount of graphics and imaging. Photoshop is a great tool but it comes with a limited set of fonts. For a fee, you can augment your library of fonts significantly but why? This Web 2.0 tool offers a variety of fonts to be used for FREE on redundant servers. The subscription-based service is an added value to me.

An easy way to use Real Fonts
“Typekit is a subscription-based service for linking to high-quality open type fonts from some of the world’s best type foundries. Fonts are served from a global network on redundant servers, offering bulletproof service and incredible speed. And it couldn’t be easier to use.”

Luel Musings . . .
One ever-present question in my mind when discussing new technology is, what have we done to protect the unsuspecting web-based communities from the bad guys? I mean, here we are, enabling social networking with all sorts of cool tools, to a mass who is already at a disadvantage in terms of security and protection knowledge. Here's food for thought. How many times have you bumped into someone who had out-dated virus software? Did those same people even know what a PC firewall was? What about clicking on email embedded links?

While I whole heartedly embrace technological evolution, I'm all about doing so cautiously. I remember the days when no login was required to browse anyone's profile. Yesterday, CNN told us that Facebook is bringing about big changes in order to protect their users' social networks. Regional networks have become so big, they say, there is no longer sufficient privacy protection. Very proactive on Facebook's part. Great!

Here’s the link to the article: Facebook to lose geography networks, add privacy features

Why do I bring this up? Read on. . .

Turn bugs into Opportunity
“An online service to which you can delegate serving error pages and collecting user feedback on errors. You can customize your error pages in the browser and be friendlier to your users in case of errors.”

Sounds good right? Anybody who is anybody in IT security is probably already grimacing at this idea. Collecting error information from a web site is a traditional and sure way to find vulnerabilities. Still today, SQL injections plague us. Recent usage of combined XSRF and XSS has shown that we can now worm browser exploits. I'm not saying that bugsVoice would do such a thing, not at all. What I am saying is that it won't be long before someone phishes for such errors with malicious intents. It wouldn't take too much work for a savvy internet-bandit to build a Web 2.0 front to offer such a service. For me, anytime you open up a port for someone to execute code on your machine, you're asking for trouble. How much trouble? I suppose that depends.

But there's hope. . . with some limits. I'm not sure how this would help the lay-user at this point.

An article in Computerworld, October release, discusses a means to "Forging a Web 2.0 Shield". In 2006, instead of forbidding their employees to visit social web sites, BT Global Services saw an enablement opportunity. It became a business tool to help build new business relationships. Security, however, wasn't only about company property. I was also about employee privacy and safety. Some criminal mind might use the information to find out where someone lived or, if they would be out to a concert for example. BT's Ray Stanton and team devised a set of URL filtering and security technologies to afford a shield of sorts. The appliances they use give them flexibility to manage their users at a very granular level via policies. So far, Stanton's team seems to be staying ahead of the problems in spite of the high risks universally associated with social networking tools. I would be curious to find out about the cost analysis for such an investment. It seems hardware alone is expensive. I cringe at the additional man-hours needed to stay on top of configurations and management. This would definitely be interesting. I imagine BT finds enough value in it. Good of them to forage a new IT trend in the corporate world!

Incidentally, bugsVoice is in beta stage so, we’ll have to be a "bit" patient and see what snazzy methods they might devise to protect the innocent.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Case Study Review - Wisdom of the People Forum

It is my understanding that the average number of generated observations during a one-day SDP session is sixty-four. This is why I picked the “Wisdom of the People Forum” as my choice review of the Christakis case studies.

Anything exceeding that average in any significant way, tells us that the complexity of the problem being solved is extremely high, says Christakis. This suggests that the chances of failure are high as well, especially outside of the SDP model presented in his book.

I would be remised if I didn’t mention what I pointed out from chapter 3 at this point. The likelihood of success past the storming stage for a problem of this magnitude is next to nil, according to Tuckman’s 1965 study.

The “Wisdom of the People Forum” held in 2002 generated 79 barriers making the complexity of their proposed project hugely significant. The goal was to prepare the initial foundation to facilitate integration of traditional core cultures into the modern world. What better way to handle such intangibles but with a tool that removes social-emotions out of decision making?

In effort to identify barriers to globalization, Indigenous Leaders began their collaborative work in their well-known traditional style, sitting in a circle, sharing their medicine. At this point my mind ventured back to Second Life. I could just see a bunch of Indigenous Avatars Leaders, sitting about a 3D fire pit. They might have been sharing Lyr Lobo’s witch brew even. Just kidding! But this is the spirit of globalization, is it not?

Using Christakis' SDP, it took this group of forty Indigenous participants and non-indigenous experts, originating from the Americas and New Zealand, three days to narrow a list of 79 barriers down to 8 Consensus Action Scenarios. Nothing short of amazing in my opinion.

This first “Wisdom of the People” forum gave way to an even larger one in 2003, and yet an even larger one in Japan, in 2005. The Advancement of Global Indigeneity (AGI) continues to make progress on their list of actions to this day.