Tag Archives: internet technology

Does the Internet impair our ability to concentrate?

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ARGUMENT: The Internet impairs our ability to contemplate and concentrate for long, sustained periods of time

AN ex-colleague of mine (Ryan Calder) started an interesting debate about the Internet on Facebook. He was asking whether or not people thought that the Internet (and cyber culture in general) impairs our ability to concentrate. Some of the comments were quite interesting.

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Farcical extremes

GREEN DAM: Latest Internet screening programme takes
its duties to farcical extremes – but China is adopting it

Green Dam uses colour and form recognition to zoom in on potential expanses of naked flesh.

BEIJING — What do Johnny Depp, Garfield, Paris Hilton and roast pork have in common? In China, the answer is that a new government-mandated Internet filter rates some pictures of all four of them as bad for your moral health.

Beijing has ordered all personal computers sold in China since the beginning of July to be preinstalled with the Green Dam software, which it says is designed to block pornographic and violent images, and which critics fear will be used to extend censorship in the country.

But a trial of the programme, which is available online for free download at www.skycn.com/soft/46657.html, suggested its filters may be of limited use to worried parents.

When the software is installed, and an image scanner activated, it blocks even harmless images of a film poster for cartoon cat Garfield, dishes of flesh-coloured cooked pork and, on one search engine, a close-up of Johnny Depp’s face.

With the image filter off, while searches with words like “nude” are blocked, a hunt for adult websites throws up links to soft- and hardcore pornography sites, including one with a video of full penetrative sex on its front page.

Green Dam has not detailed how it scans images for obscene content, but computer experts have said it likely uses colour and form recognition to zoom in on potential expanses of naked flesh.

Programme settings allow users to choose how tightly they want images scanned. When too much skin is detected, Green Dam closes all Internet browsers with no warning, sometimes flashing up a notice that the viewer is looking at “harmful” content.

But the interpretation of obscene is apparently generous enough to include the orange hue of Garfield’s fur and, on the highest security settings, prevent viewers clicking through to any illustrated story on one English news site.

The software also allows users to choose what they want to filter for, and besides adult websites and violence, categories include “gay” and “illegal activities”.

Another setting allows Green Dam to take regular snapshots of a user’s screen and store them for up to two weeks — ostensibly so parents can monitor computer use by minors.

But it could also potentially leave security officials a track of computer use by a suspected dissident, or be a gift to fraudsters who are on the hunt for online bank details and private information.

Western governments and trade groups have asked China to reconsi­der implementing Green Dam software based on concerns ranging from cyber-security and performance of the software to Internet freedoms.

— Sapa-AP

Related post: Porn to be a teen

Google sounds the bugle!

GOOGLE WAVE: The clash of the computer titans is on. Google has taken on Microsoft by announcing that it’s launching its own operating system — free of charge. The war between the two software giants is likely to change the world of the Internet forever

Alistair Fairweather

IF business is war then two of the world’s biggest companies have finally stopped skirmishing on their borders and brought out the heavy artillery. On July 7, Google fired the first shell by announcing that they will begin offering their own operating system in mid 2010.

Bling bling babyThe warhead — called Chrome OS  — is aimed straight at the heart of Microsoft who have built their entire business around operating systems since the 70s, first with MS DOS and then the globally-dominating Windows series.

But while Microsoft have always charged for their software, Google plan to give theirs away free of charge. What’s more, Google are starting from a completely fresh perspective — one with the potential to undermine Microsoft’s entire business model and loosen their foothold on the software market.

If the name “Chrome” sounds familiar, that’s because it’s also the name of Google’s web browser. And this isn’t just a case of lazy naming. By evolving Chrome into an operating system, Google are planning to turn the entire software world on its head and make browsing the centre of computing.

An Introduction to Google Wave
There is a full 1 hour 20min presentation on YouTube which Philc7753 has kindly and painstakingly edited down for our short attention spans  

Hang on, isn’t an operating system a lot more complicated that a browser? Doesn’t a browser need an operating system to, well, operate? That’s the whole genius of the plan. Google are betting that the centre of influence in computing is moving out of personal computers and into the massive computing power of the Internet, known as the “cloud”.

That means that in future, computers will be dumber and cheaper. They will rely on the enormous banks of computers that power the Internet to do much of their thinking for them.

This is already happening. One of the fastest growing sectors in computing is netbooks — smaller, cheaper, less powerful portable computers with speedy connections to the Internet that focus on tasks like e-mail and browsing the net.

The wave is coming...Currently, Microsoft is tussling with free operating systems such as Linux for ownership of this market, and Google wants its own share of the pie. So what? There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about a free operating system. They have been around for longer than Microsoft have been in existence, let alone Google. And some of them are backed by huge companies such as IBM and SAP.

Yet none of those other companies is as heavily invested in cloud computing as Google. And it’s cloud computing that poses the greatest risk to Microsoft’s dominance.

Microsoft’s bread and butter has always been its desktop applications —  programs such as Word, Outlook and PowerPoint. Operating systems are like plumbing — expensive but necessary — and Microsoft have lost money on them for years. This was justified because they knew that by owning the platform they would be able earn it all back on desktop applications.

Google Docs, on the other hand, is nearly as good as Microsoft’s Office but is free and requires no hard-drive space and much less power (and therefore can run on a cheaper computer). It’s a true “cloud” application  — its platform is the Internet.

So Google have, in effect, pulled Microsoft’s own trick on them but in reverse, and for free. And given how quickly Microsoft are losing market share in the browser market (it’s now just above 50%), they have real cause for concern. If Chrome OS takes off, Google will start to hurt more than Microsoft’s pride.

That’s still a big “if” though. For all their mistakes Microsoft are still the top dog of software. Despite the current media hyperbole about Chrome OS, Windows still commands 90% of the market share in operating systems. Even if Chrome lives up to the hype, it will still take years to get a foothold. Only one thing is certain about this battle — peace talks are unlikely to begin anytime soon.

We’re in for a long slog and I don’t think anyone can accurately predict a winner. What we can be sure of is that the conflict will change software (and the Internet) forever.

– Alistair Fairweather writes for The Witness
newspaper in Kwa-Zula Natal, South Africa

Condensed twitterature takes off

NEW YORK — Arjun Basu writes short stories. Very short stories.

“The marriage didn’t survive the honeymoon. They acknowledged the majesty of their mistake. But they remained together. Because of the gifts.” – Twister story by Arjun Basu (@arjunbsau)

“I’m doing 140-character stories on Twitter,” said Basu, one of scores of authors and poets downsizing their literary talents to the limited format of the hot micro-blogging service.

“I call them Twisters because everything on Twitter has a stupid name,” the 42-year-old Basu told AFP at the 140 Characters Conference – a two-day talkfest devoted to all things Twitter held in New York.

“Each story has a beginning, a middle and an end,” said Basu. “I started with one story. I had an image in my head and I just did it, and I slowly built-up a following.” Basu began writing his Twisters last year.

“They went out hunting. They killed some large mammals. Later they saw the animals butchered. And one by one they ordered salads that evening,” reads the tale in one of Basu’s Twisters.

Haiku, which lends itself to the 140-character format, is another popular literary form on Twitter and the search term #haiku occasionally rises into Twitter’s list of “Trending Topics” – the 10 most popular topics on the site.

“And in the middle / of the rising city heat / the fountain is dry,” reads a Haiku from a Twitter user and poet with more than 3 800 followers who goes by the handle of @LadyParadis.

Websites have also popped up collecting the best of Twitter Haiku — known variously as Twaiku or TwiHaiku — and many users take part weekly in what is called Haiku Thursday.

Basu, who works in the magazine industry, said he has been surprised at the reception his byte-sized stories have received. “Things that I couldn’t have imagined,” he said.

“Some people have been using my stories in classes — English as a second language, creative writing,” he said.

— Sapa-AFP.

The world at your finger tips

REVIEW: The Vodafone Mobile Connect USB Stick

Monique Tyrer

ALTHOUGH I missed my monthly phone fix from Vodashop Midlands this month, the outlet provided something different to satisfy my techno cravings that was just as fun to review — the Vodafone Mobile Connect USB Stick.

Slightly longer than your average USB flash drive, this handy Internet stick gives you a mobile Internet connection via your phone’s sim-card for either your laptop or desktop computer, allowing you to work from anywhere through a speedy Internet connection.

The “plug and play” capabilities of this nifty device work on both Windows and Mac computers through three different network connections — HSDPA, 3G and GPRS. The light on the stick also flashes a different colour to let you know which signal you are connected to, although all the connections are faster on average than a normal dial-up.

The Vodafone Mobile Connect USB StickThe installation data is stored on the actual USB stick itself, so there is no need to worry about installing the software with a CD, which means you can take your Vodafone Mobile Connect USB Stick with you anywhere and install it on a number of computers — a truly mobile solution for business and pleasure on the go.

The installation process was painless, and within a few minutes, the stick was ready for use. The stick also doubles as a flash drive to store information, with an additional microSD card slot available that can hold cards of up to 4GB.

Once the programme was installed, Internet browsing was quick and painless, and viewing websites such as YouTube was no problem for this small, but powerful, device. Downloading information was also really fast, and I was impressed with how this broadband USB stick had no problem handling the data.

With the programmes that come with the device, I was able to send and receive smses from my laptop, as well as view information such as signal strength, length of connectivity and the volume of data being received or sent.

This is really handy to monitor your usage, as you are charged according to how much data you use.

Monique Tyrer writes for the Natal Witness newspaper and other publications in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Article supplied by Mall Talk.

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