mm361: Gin, television, Web 2.0

April 27, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Ever have one of those moments? You know, the ones where you read or see something that just simply closes a loop in your mind that you didn’t know was open? Where you (one hopes, figuratively) slap yourself on the face and say (one fervently hopes, subvocally): Wow, I wish I thought of that?

Had one of those today.

I’m a history of technology guy; I even alluded very briefly to that a couple of posts ago (featuring one of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite headlines, if I may be so unhumble to say so!).

So, I enjoy taking a global, macro view of technology, and how it shaped the story of civilization (technology = civilization — can’t have the latter without the former). And I also enjoy making connections.

So, my attention was captured today by the first paragraph of this post, found during typical stream-of-consciousness blogging today.

So, I read on, and the connections and insights about technology and where it’s taking us, and why it’s taking us there, were jaw-dropping.

See, I’ve often said (once, here) that one of the things I really like about this blogging mania obsession habit of mine is that after more than 15 years of consuming the Internet, now, in my infinitesimal, nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© way, I’m now contributing.

And, that’s the point:

herecomeseverybody

Gin, Television, and Social Surplus

By Clay Shirky on April 26, 2008 10:48 AM

I was recently reminded of some reading I did in college, way back in the last century, by a British historian arguing that the critical technology, for the early phase of the industrial revolution, was gin.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm299: More than the economy, we’re in intellectual trouble

February 27, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Susan Jacoby has just released a book, “The Age of American Unreason“, and contributed to the Opinion page of the Washington Post a couple of Sundays ago.

washingtonpost

The Dumbing Of America

Call Me a Snob, but Really, We’re a Nation of Dunces

By Susan Jacoby | Sunday, February 17, 2008; B01

“The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson offered that observation in 1837, but his words echo with painful prescience in today’s very different United States. Americans are in serious intellectual trouble — in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm162: Laptop With a Mission Widens Its Audience

October 5, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

olpc7926

As the November launch date for the XO approaches, the news, save for the price, keeps getting better.

The XO, as regular reader of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© no doubt recalls (and such links as this, this and this will help jog the memory), is the long-awaited One Laptop Per Child initiative of Nicholas Negroponte come to fruition.

And now, the respected David Pogue of the NYTimes weighs in with his advance report.

And here’s the essence:

The truth is, the XO laptop, now in final testing, is absolutely amazing, and in my limited tests, a total kid magnet. Both the hardware and the software exhibit breakthrough after breakthrough — some of them not available on any other laptop, for $400 or $4,000.

It’s a rave review.

nytimes

By DAVID POGUE

Published: October 4, 2007

In November, you’ll be able to buy a new laptop that’s spillproof, rainproof, dustproof and drop-proof. It’s fanless, it’s silent and it weighs 3.2 pounds. One battery charge will power six hours of heavy activity, or 24 hours of reading. The laptop has a built-in video camera, microphone, memory-card slot, graphics tablet, game-pad controllers and a screen that rotates into a tablet configuration.

And this laptop will cost $200.

The computer, if you hadn’t already guessed, is the fabled “$100 laptop” that’s been igniting hype and controversy for three years. It’s an effort by One Laptop Per Child (laptop.org) to develop a very low-cost, high-potential, extremely rugged computer for the two billion educationally underserved children in poor countries.

The concept: if a machine is designed smartly enough, without the bloat of standard laptops, and sold in large enough quantities, the price can be brought way, way down. Maybe not down to $100, as O.L.P.C. originally hoped, but low enough for developing countries to afford millions of them — one per child.

XO is a technological tour de force.

The truth is, the XO laptop, now in final testing, is absolutely amazing, and in my limited tests, a total kid magnet. Both the hardware and the software exhibit breakthrough after breakthrough — some of them not available on any other laptop, for $400 or $4,000.

Of course, XO has its detractors. Gearheads complain that it’s underpowered and fully functioning laptops can be purchased for $400 today. As Pogue points out, missing the point entirely. It’s not for you, guys.

And, ministers of education (and their superiors, I’m betting) in many developing nations apparently feel threatened by the implications of such an interconnected, and Internet-connected, resource in so many millions of hands.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Laptop With a Mission Widens Its Audience – New York Times

I hope that every child in the developing world get’s a chance to use the XO — and as I’ve stated here before, a lot of U.S. kids live in developing world conditions as far as housing and education are concerned.

And, based on what we’ve all seen of the value of the dollar lately, $188 is the new $100. So, don’t beat up OLPC on price — ramp up production and watch what happens. And if it doesn’t, based on Pogue’s evaluation, it’s a dazzler even at today’s price.

And imagine some of the older children tuning into UC Berkeley’s YouTube courses. This all can’t happen soon enough. And, you can help!

It’s real people. And I’ll repeat my proposal from last time we discussed this initiative:

This is a wonderful cause, and I would think that people who would find a $399 purchase with a 50% charitable component affordable might also wish, as the story suggests, to donate the PC they’re entitled to a (not third world, but certainly third rate) school in this country.

God knows that there are pockets of the third world within these preciously regarded borders of ours, many within our biggest cities. Then it becomes a $399 charitable contribution, serving to further education among the deserving needy in our own country as well as beyond….

As the giving season looms (the pumpkins are out, after all!), why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1” to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

And we’ll give the eloquent David Pogue the last word:

… Despite all the obstacles and doubters, O.L.P.C. has come up with a laptop that’s tough and simple enough for hot, humid, dusty locales; cool enough to keep young minds engaged, both at school and at home; and open, flexible and collaborative enough to support a million different teaching and learning styles.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm160: UC Berkeley first to post full lectures to YouTube

October 3, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Lots of children have been left behind, in this country where that Bush administration typical Potemkin Village of an initiative has dashed more hopes than fulfilled them; and around the world, where surviving to age 18 is a challenge, much less becoming minimally educated.

But when every child does get that laptop, UC Berkeley will be ready for them (at least when they get a little more learning under their belts!).

cnet

YouTube is now an important teaching tool at UC Berkeley.

The school announced on Wednesday that it has begun posting entire course lectures on the Web’s No.1 video-sharing site.

Berkeley officials claimed in a statement that the university is the first to make full course lectures available on YouTube. The school said that over 300 hours of videotaped courses will be available at youtube.com/ucberkeley.

Berkeley said it will continue to expand the offering. The topics of study found on YouTube included chemistry, physics, biology and even a lecture on search-engine technology given in 2005 by Google cofounder Sergey Brin.

And, all YouTube content is free to the viewer, right?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

UC Berkeley first to post full lectures to YouTube | Tech news blog – CNET News.com

Click one of the links, and enjoy some higher ed.

In the dark, dark ages of MUDGE‘s youth, the gold standard of information for the home was Encyclopaedia Britannica. In the ’50s, owning such a set was as aspirational as the filled two car garage, and represented a considerable expense for many families.

Now, Wikipedia and its like has democratized the encyclopedia, perhaps to the detriment of nano-accuracy, but it’s brilliant and self correcting in the main, and it’s free to all. All with PC and Internet access, of course, where OLPC comes in.

Today, UC Berkeley is showing the way toward liberating higher education.

Some days even a curmudgeon can’t help but smile.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE