Word of the Day: Tech Definitions from WhatIs.com

May 13, 2009  2:33 PM

Open textbook and open content — two names for low-hanging fruit

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has an ambitious plan to reduce the cost of education in California. He intends for the state to develop digital open source textbooks for high school math and science classes. The books will be available for free and will be used at public schools across the state.  Schwarzenegger has tasked California Secretary of Education Glen Thomas with making sure that the new textbooks are ready for deployment in fall 2009.”

Ryan Paul, California open source digital textbook plan faces barriers

There’s a fair amount of buzz about how California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is leading a state-wide initiative to put open content in classrooms by providing students with free digital open source textbooks for high school math and science.

I’ve read through the California Open Source Textbook Project (COSTP) website and have learned that open source digital textbooks are intended to supplement printed textbooks (not replace them, cough cough) and that sometime down the road, the open source textbooks could provide a revenue stream because the state could license the textbooks to educational organizations outside the state.

According to COSTP, the benefits of open source textbooks are:

1) The complete elimination of the current $400M+ line item for California’s K-12 textbooks
2) A significant increase in the range of content afforded to California’s K-12 textbooks
3) A permanent end to California’s textbook shortages
4) Creation of fully portable content holdings database that scales with classroom technologies as they are introduced.

The COSTP website says that they have begun a pilot program — in cooperation with Wikipedia — for a World History textbook for 9th graders.  The book will be tied to California State Curriculum Standards.

This is brilliant — the state of California is tired of paying out money to textbook publishers, tired of quibbling over whether or not publisher textbooks meet state standards, so the state of California has decided to publish the books they need themselves!

When it comes to cutting something out of the budget, textbooks are low-hanging fruit. They are expensive and they need to be replaced fairly often.  It’d be much cheaper to appoint a state “Board of Textbooks” and pay teachers and administrators already in the educational system to build the books digitally.  (They should pick another name though; I just realized it sounds a lot like “bored of textbooks.”)

The idea of having a closed community use a wiki or some other type of collaborative software to create a textbook isn’t even new.  What’s new is the idea that a state-level Department of Education is trying this out!

It makes perfect sense. The state has the resources to gather the right people from around the state together (in person or virtually) and pay them for their contributions.  The state has the resources  to be able to publish and distribute the textbooks digitally and if need be, in printed form.  The state has the clout to set standards for the content and for the formatting (maybe this will end the format wars) AND the state has powerful motivation to make an initiative like this happen.  Money.

But as Ryan Paul points out, there are a lot of ways State Ed could mess this up.

I think the first way is by not taking the time to educate taxpayers about how the books are being built.  If people start thinking that an open source textbook means that every teacher — or heaven forbid  — every student — has the power to edit his or her textbooks, they’ll be a lot of push back.  But if the state stops and takes time over the next three months to teach the public about how the books will be built and everyone knows which parts can be edited or annotated and which parts can’t, what’s not to love about the idea?

P.S.  I keep wondering if we should call this type of textbook build “open source.”  Maybe going back to David Wiley’s idea of “open content” might be a better fit.  Or maybe we should just drop the “open” altogether and replace it with collaborative or just plain old “digital.”  That way the focus is taken off how the books are built.

May 13, 2009  12:56 PM

Open source – When free is really not free

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“It might look cheaper on paper, but if you look at what you want to do with it and it requires a substantial engineering effort rather than a commercial product, then it’s not necessarily the most effective solution.”

Adam Honoré,  as quoted in Wall Street Opens Doors to Open Source Technologies

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is open source.  Open source describes a software program whose source code is made freely available for use or modification.

The poor economic climate has given the open source movement a boost as budget cuts force IT departments to look around for the most cost-effective way to get projects done.  You might think that “freely available” is the same thing as “free” — but most of us don’t know how to use that free code.  We’d either end up paying a distributor like Red Hat to help us out — or we’d need to keep people in house that can work with the source code.  Either way,  we’d be shelling out money.

May 12, 2009  1:42 PM

Voice dialing – coming to an iPhone near you

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
Sources speaking to Ars have discovered evidence of new voice control features coming to iPhone OS 3.0. Apparently going by the code name “Jibbler,” it looks like it will provide not just voice synthesis, but also voice recognition for the upcoming iPhone OS 3.0.

Chris Foresman, iPhone OS 3.0 to feature voice control and feedback

I can’t wait for the 3.0 upgrade!!!

May 7, 2009  8:22 PM

Neuromarketing – Voodoo, 2009-style

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
The neuromarketing research Lindstrom conducted also debunked some popular advertising myths. Perhaps the most surprising insight was that, contrary to popular opinion, sex does not sell.

Nancy Pekala, Why Buy? The Role of Neuromarketing in Understanding Consumer Behavior

May 6, 2009  2:06 PM

Shareware – a demonstration of faith

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
My wife said I was “a foolish old man” if I thought even one person would voluntarily send me money for the program. I was more optimistic. I suspected that enough voluntary payments would come to help pay for expansions to my personal computer hobby – perhaps several hundred dollars. Maybe even a thousand dollars (in my wildest dreams!) But my tiny post office box was too small to receive the responses from a wildly enthusiastic public.

Jim Knopf, The Origin of Shareware

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is shareware. Jim Knopf, a man who’s widely recognized as “the father of shareware” is retired now.  Lucky for us, he’s posted his story.

Is shareware dead? No. You might know it by other names though — crippleware, demo-ware, trialware.  They all describe a distribution model where the software is given out for free with the understanding that if the user likes the software, he will eventually pay the developer for it.

Shareware’s in the news again because of Microsoft’s Windows 7 Release Candidate.  From now until July 2010, you can get a pretty-close-to-final version of Windows 7 for free. The  understanding is that if you like it, you’ll pay for the upgrade when the trial period runs out.

May 5, 2009  6:53 PM

Location-based service – SMS text ads coming to a cell phone near you

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
Google has been teaming up with hardware makers to build cellphones with the Mountain View, Calif., company’s Android software, part of its strategy to accelerate mobile Internet access and generate more revenue by selling mobile ads.

Scott Morrison, Mobile Ads Seen Picking Up As New Google Phones Hit Market

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is location-based service (LBS).  Imagine going shopping at your local big-box grocery chain and as the electronic doors whoosh open, your cell phone dings. Who is it? It’s an SMS text message from the grocery store letting you know what’s on sale (forget those old-timey flyers). Or maybe it’s a text coupon, letting you know that your favorite snack food has a two-for-one offer today.

Even as I speak, one of our local New York chains is working to make this happen.  What’s it going to take?  They’re not sure yet, but one thing’s for sure — it’ll take my co-operation.  You see, location-based services are permission based. I’ll either have to download their new iPhone app or register my GPS-enabled cell phone with their loyalty card program.

Interpublic is one of the world’s largest advertising companies — so like E.F. Hutton of years gone by —  when Interpublic speaks, the publishing industry listens.  And according to a new report released by Magna, (the unit of Interpublic that – among other things – provides research and market intelligence to all of Interpublic’s buying operations) mobile ad spends are expected to grow to $229 million in 2009.  That’s down from their original forecast before the economy tanked, but it’s a number that’s still impressive.

Most interesting to me is what kind of ad Magna says will pay off best:

Text messaging platforms represents the best near-term potential for advertisers who want to use mobile devices to support broad-reaching marketing campaigns.   This contrasts with slower growth rates for other more narrow-reaching types of mobile media (such as mobile search, in-call media, mobile video, mobile coupons and mobile gaming).

Tie that in with what Nick Brien’s been recommending about traditional vs. emerging media and one thing’s pretty clear — if you haven’t already been asked to opt-in for SMS ads on your mobile device, you will be soon.  The grocery store is just the tip of the ice berg — and location-based services have definitely reached their tipping point. Nick Brien, a senior executive at Interpublic, says:

In other words, if companies are cutting advertising budgets, they would be well-advised to take money out of traditional TV commercials, while maintaining funding for web search ads; or they should abandon a newspaper campaign, but keep spending to zip-targeted  text ads to cellphones.

May 5, 2009  5:03 PM

Video – The pros and cons of LBS marketing

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

CNN reporter Susan Candiotti explains how LBS marketing will work.  (LBS stands for location-based services.)

Segment Title: Somebody’s watching me (approx 5 mins.)

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/NwuW5BCaj-I" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

May 4, 2009  2:46 PM

Windows 7 – Get your free ‘release candidate’ tomorrow

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“The promise of Windows 7 is that laptops may be transported to work, become ‘business PCs,’ and be enrolled with all their enterprise-level Active Directory privileges; then be taken home, become ‘home PCs,’ and be open to all the family’s shared files, aggregate libraries, and other conveniences; and ne’er the twain shall meet.”

Scott M. Fulton, III, Top 10 Windows 7 Features #10: Homegroup networking

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is Windows 7.  Microsoft is making the Windows 7 “release candidate” available to the general public tomorrow.  That’s about five months earlier than expected!

A release candidate is a ‘tween’ version  — it’s between the first Beta and the final release — and it’ll probably be the last version of Windows 7 that we’ll see before the final product ships in October.

The reviews for Windows 7 seem to be pretty good. Two features we’ll be adding definitions for in the near future: Windows 7 Homegroup and Windows 7 XP mode.

The Windows 7 RC license will only be available until July. The license will expire in June 2010, so that means you can have a pretty-close-to-final-version of Windows 7 free for a year.   Here’s a link to the official Microsoft 7 homepage.  And Ed Bott’s put together a great QnA for those of us who want to learn whether we have the right stuff to try it out.

May 1, 2009  12:54 PM

Spoliation – how virtualization can complicate e-discovery

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“Regarding virtual machines specifically, there are many possibilities for inadvertent or malicious destruction of electronically-stored information (ESI).”

Jason Briody, How Virtualization Affects EDD Collection

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is spoliation. It’s legaleze for “destroying evidence.”  Jason Briody’s written an EXCELLENT post about how virtualization has mucked the e-discovery waters. He says:

Virtualization can affect your case in three main ways:

1. Increase costs and collections: Virtualization means the end of the “one computer per box” generation. If you get a rough estimate of an electronically stored information collection by merely counting the physical computers or servers, virtualization can throw your estimates way off. It is now commonplace for multiple computers to run on the same hardware that used to be reserved for one.

2. Cause you to overlook evidence: If certain forms of virtualization have been implemented, and an examiner is not made aware of it, they might miss crucial evidence. When searching a user’s hard drive, for instance, certain files contained within encapsulated virtual machines may not respond to keyword searches. The virtual machine files may have to be “opened” prior to the search to ensure accurate results.

3. Increase the risk of collection issues and/or spoliation: Virtualization involves separating computers and data storage from its physical hardware. This new technology brings with it new features that may increase the possibility of losing or destroying ESI. Examples include the ability to:

  • “roll back” a computer to a previous “snapshot” and inadvertently lose newer data;
  • move computers and data from one piece of physical hardware to another and accidentally misplace or compromise data; and
  • delete entire machines with a single click and completely erase data.

April 29, 2009  3:55 PM

VM escape – using the hypervisor as an attack vector

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
posey Granted, no virtual machine escape hacks exist today, but if the IT security experts are right and this type of attack is eventually developed, then virtualized servers in the DMZ are basically sitting ducks.

Brien M. Posey, Virtual servers no escape from IT security management concerns

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is virtual machine escape.  In theory, an attacker could get access to the hypervisor (if it was mis-configured or had some other vulnerability) and use it to control all the other virtual machines on the host.

Bob Plankers explains more in What is VM Escape?:

Since the hypervisor controls the execution of all of the virtual machines, an attacker that can gain access to the hypervisor can then gain control over every other virtual machine running on the host. Because the hypervisor is between the physical hardware and the guest operating system, an attacker will then be able to circumvent security controls in place on the virtual machine.

Can you image the power of a zombie army that included an almost infinite number of virtual machines?  An army that once established, had the power to create new soldiers (VMs) which one click?  Holy moly.  Big money there.

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