Category Archives: Google

What is in an URL?

I changed my primary Uniform Resource Locator, URL, to a name more fitting for the next phase of my life. Of course I am also trying to move past my Higher Education Technology focus. This change is not really worthy of a post, however, the experience surrounding the purchase and implementation of a new URL did capture my interest. I have wanted to switch for a while but I had not been struck by a name that seemed appropriate. But I have been referring to my blog in the sub title as “The Adventure Continues” and I have drifted around that theme with a number of posts. So I took the next step, checked WHOIS and voila, the name I wanted was available and affordable. I have always gravitated to the .org top level domain because I equate .org with non-commercial and I have no interest in monetizing my blog. For the most part, my blog is my archive of my adventures, so the Adventure Continues with a new blog name and URL.

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Image Credit Computerworld

Do you remember when the URL was everything. URL squatters tried to grab up all potentially lucrative names that at that time would typically precede .com or maybe .net. Of course today you can create about any top level domain but us old timers still feel a connection to the early pioneers. The other day I was in a meeting with students reviewing a proposal which had an URL printed in the documentation as a reference. I told the students that they could paste the url into their browser to review the site. One student giggled and said that she could not remember ever hearing someone refer to a web address as an URL. OK, that surprised me a bit. But really that was validation that the URL does not carry that much weight anymore. Content is king because search engines are all powerful.

I reflect upon this because of the emphasis my domain name provider tried to place on the importance of privacy for my domain name registration. They wanted to charge me $8 per year to make my whois registration private. If you have no idea what I am talking about open a terminal session and type “whois adventurecontinues.org”. I have owned URLs from the very early Internet days, back when the URL dictated whether anyone would find your site or not. Public whois registration information was important to validate the integrity of the site and of course let people know who they might need to buy the URL from in case it was highly desired. Unfortunately this is valuable identity information which today is considered an invitation to sell you something, primarily all sorts of help with monetizing your website. Since purchasing my new URL I have received 100+ emails offering me every conceivable service I might ever need to optimize my website. Luckily all of those emails end up in my Spam folder (thank you Google). I suppose I could have avoided those emails ending up in my Spam folder if I had paid GoDaddy an extra $8 per year. Maybe I should pay Google the $8 for making it easy to delete them all “Delete all spam messages now (messages that have been in Spam more than 30 days will be automatically deleted)”.

I can rationalize this decision to brave the dangerous world of public notification but then again, it will create further issues. I have always been good at protecting the distribution of my phone number and to a certain extent my home address, but this information is readily available via the WHOIS lookup. Oh well, I think I will take the risk. After all Life is just one Big Adventure.

The New PC Revolution

I was intrigued by my own response to the Apple product announcements yesterday. How does that work? Well, I allowed my own technical interest to play out. I watched the product announcement video, I critiqued the Jobs-less Apple presentation as any Apple fan might do. But then I stepped back and evaluated what I had seen and what my gut reactions had been. And I believe I sensed a turning point similar to what I witnessed when the PC finally emerged as the option for the masses back in the early eighties.

Apple’s new products are beautiful and carry an even higher “cool factor”, but I think the difference now is the status difference that emphasizes affluence over practicality. I caught myself asking “why do we really need such a thin iMAC with a retina display that will cost approximately $2000. Sure some power users can justify the specifications, but I sensed a new arrogance from Apple, one that says we only care or cater to the affluent buyer and if you have concerns about being locked into our platform then tough, we don’t need you. Why haven’t I felt that before.

  • Was it because the Apple products were so superior that cost was not a factor.
  • Was it the fact that I don’t really see a difference with the retina display.
  • Was it the lack of attention to even offer low cost options.
  • Was it the $329 entry price for the iPad Mini.

Yes, probably so.

If I wear my Higher Education hat, I start to question whether the recent trend of students preferring Apple laptops is still healthy in these turbulent financial times. I see the student with a white macbook as the Kmart shopper and the those with aluminum models the Neiman Marcus shopper. I see our entitled students as being concerned about this. Nothing wrong, this is who we are, but I sense that the split in the road is now pronounced. Apple only wants the high road and the profit margins that come from that market segment. Do we in Higher Education need to shift our focus to the affordable consumer market that appears to be dominated by Google based platforms?

I think the door is still slightly open for Microsoft to hold onto the corporate workplace, but it won’t be because of an Office Suite but can be about professional applications. Let’s accept the fact that a Pad computing device is more then adequate for working with today’s cloud based information. I believe we will see affordable smart computing devices appear in the hands of the consumer masses worldwide. This is a movement that redefines the Personal Computer, “PC”.  And with it, we will have an even greater need for techies to maintain computing sanity.

Life without Cable TV

Have you looked at your cable TV bill and asked yourself why is this so expensive? Then you tell yourself that you are going to eliminate all the waste and get the bill back to reality. Then you get off the phone with the cable provider and realize it is as low as it can be assuming you want a DVR, HD and the Golf Channel. So about 4 months ago I went through this process and decided to explore if there was another way. I eliminated my cable TV option and kept my Internet which immediately increased in price by $20 because I no longer had the TV bundle. OK fine, I was determined to give this experiment a chance and so far it has been a worthwhile adventure.

I have learned just how much of a monopolistic control cable TV has on our entertainment choices. And guess why, Money$. Bundling cable TV channels is the only way the existing cable TV industry can survive. Hopefully “existing cable TV industry” is the key here. Will Apple be the change agent again? My guess is that breaking up the cable TV industry will be a whole lot more difficult then it was to breakup the music industry.

There have been positives come from my research. The most obvious was that we really don’t need to watch as much TV as we do. When you don’t have it you do something else. Now of course I devoted my TV quota to trying out alternative sources of video via the Internet. Netflix is good, I’ve watched a lot of great documentaries along with new and old movies. I am more then willing to buy a movie via my iTV from Apple for $5, in fact I am more then willing to spend as much if not more on entertainment if I had a choice. We watch nightly news and CBS Sunday Morning via podcasts. And you can watch most of the current TV series via the various online networks NBC, ABC, CBS, unfortunately I don’t have antenna access.  A recent major success was the opportunity to buy access to the Tour de France via the NBC Sports iPad app. But once you venture into cable TV land, access ends especially when an iPad app is involved. I can watch a lot of good ESPN sports on ESPN3 but only on my laptop. If I want to watch the same content on my iPad I need a cable TV subscription. And that is the norm for TNT, History Channel, etc. The upcoming Olympics would have been the real test since online options require a cable subscription, but my upcoming 2 week vacation will wipe out that frustration. The real problem is the lack of a online Golf Channel.

The bottom line is that we are still slaves to the cable industry but there is light at the end of the cable. But wait, there is hope, Google is willing to take on CableTV in KC.

Google Drive is Good

Google Drive has been out for a week so those who had been waiting for it should have it running by now. If you did not grab it early then you typically waited at least a day to be provisioned to load it. We have intentionally kept the announcement quiet at our university so that we could evaluate and formulate a plan for how we might transition our employee/student web storage to Google. So far it is all that I had hoped it would be. If you have jumped on the Google Collaboration bandwagon you are aware of the strategic advantages and that the “Drive” component was the missing link.

We have used Xythos (now Blackboard) web storage solution for 7 years and it provided the web storage flexibility that we desired but it never reached that ease of use level that would have commanded our loyalty. So now it does appear that we will formulate a plan to migrate from Xythos to Google Drive. And for this move I want to be proactive. We allowed our users to adopt Google Apps as they desired and for the most part we are happy with their usage. When we replaced our university email with gmail there was a major uptick in the strategic use of the Google Collaboration suite and again we were pleased with the overall usage patterns. This has driven new IT coaching initiatives to promote the most effective ways to utilize Google Docs.

Google Drive is the completion to the overall cloud based solution. With the increasing use of Google Docs, management of those app files was starting to be a problem, especially with all of the sharing relationships. Google Drive’s initial task migrated all of your Google Docs into a folder based organization that returned control to you for of those original Cloud files. Now with the option to move or co-locate our traditional drive based files to G-Drive with collaboration flexibility, and providing access for all of our computing devices (IOS version coming soon), we are happy.

Of course we can’t adopt another Google tool without dealing with the privacy question. Google’s Terms of Service are clear. Google does not own your files. By accepting Google’s Terms, you authorize Google to provide the services you have requested. They may learn more about us from the file names we use, but they are not mining our files for secrets. Doesn’t mean we should have secrets in our files, because the real security issue is still maintaining our own account security.

Now we begin to strategize how best to leverage this completed collaboration tool kit. And what is great is that we have the Summer to prepare for a university rollout. It does not look like we have any concerns about early adopters for our .edu domain accounts. I am optimistic that the pricing model for education will allow us to easily provision additional storage quotas for our power users and management of our domain with Google has never been a problem. So we just focus on the Google Drive features and encourage migration from our Xythos, but we are not looking at any hard transition milestones. Life does get better for Higher Education IT.

So let the dreams continue. It is encouraging to know that Google already has API’s addressing some of the Web based access options. I’ll be looking for Moodle LMS plugins. Maybe the next gift from Google will be an expanded Video distribution system complete with sharing controls and streaming options.

Culture Change seems to be Buffering our Technology Change

I have been observing IT listserv comments about what concerns they have for this year’s returning class. Seems like the traditional problems of software provisioning and student computing standards are more complicated this year as we deal with mobile devices and radical changes like software being sold via personal App Store accounts. Of course Apple is the real reason for all of this uncertainty.  Whether you like it or not mobile computing blending into traditional computing is not designed for IT management. But do we need to manage it?

I am intrigued this year by institutions that dictate or distribute computers to their students. Of course that is because this is the first year in 20 that we will not be doing that. So of course we are a bit apprehensive about what the start of classes might bring in the way of computing problems. But we just aren’t sensing any concerns yet. And I think that is because at the root of computing issues is software not the computer and our culture here appears to be far more tolerant to software options. We seem to have our major computer application issues under control via the provisioning of specialized labs, typically for engineering, music and graphic arts. The only area where I have a specific software concern is for School of Business students to have MS Excel. I can still load MS Office on a student computer but I doubt that we see more then half the new students take us up on that.

Why are we not seeing more concern about how we will satisfy the computing demands of our new students?  The overriding reason has to be based on a culture change. Isn’t it really habit and fear that cause us to be so concerned about controlling our computing environment. So a major culture influence has to be our moving so heavily to Apple over the last 4 or 5 years. This has caused many to accept alternatives approaches to computing tasks, meaning acceptance of a wider array of software. Hence we have reduced the fear component. Then I think our moving to Google Apps a few years ago for faculty and students without any real initiative laid the groundwork for acceptance of alternatives. Alternatives that were driven by convenience especially when we moved everyone to gmail last year. But we never pushed anything we just enabled it. Yes there has been a huge adoption of Google Services which must be contributing to this culture change. And now that we have eliminated the laptop program I think my community has remained calm because of this culture change.

George Saltsman, Ex. Dir. of the Adams Center for Teaching and Learning at ACU, and I have done some presentations lately along these lines and I like his observation of IT over the last few decades.  In the beginning IT evangelized for more computer use. Then as everyone adopted our tools we focused on controlling that use. Now we are learning to embrace their computer use. I’m not sure if this will continue to play out but the stage is set. Something we always say over at GeoAid, “Change is inevitable, Growth is a choice”. 

Mobile Computing’s real influence

How are you interpreting all of the mobile computing craze that is influencing technology today. There is plenty of attention required for the cellular market where the phone is almost a computing alternative. Of course the pad market is creating the most action especially with new competition for the iPad. Is the app market the critical piece of the equation? I think the most significant influence from mobile computing will be the operating system. iOS, WebOS, Android and Chrome capture my attention.

This became clear when HP released their WebOS based Touchpad and complimentary phones. How will they compete against the incredible Apple lineup. How can they compete against the most profitable retail distribution network ever devised? As they showed off the Touch lineup I was sufficiently impressed with their confidence and some bold moves like the real multitasking, the Touchstone, Flash support and phone pairing. But I didn’t get it just yet. I actually asked why didn’t they give us options for a USB thumb drive. Dah, I was still thinking file exchange, but there is no file system. The Internet is the file system, and that is finally starting to make sense.

There is a significant change taking place here. As the tech industry stretches to adapt to our mobile world they are helping us to break out of the classic computing model dependent upon direct access to a file system. Apple showed us an alternative to Microsoft Windows, but their strategy leveraged entertainment and control. Brilliant as it has been I now think the door is open for mainstream computing to explore these simplified internet based operating systems to satisfy all of our computing needs. HP just may be a winner with WebOS across phone, pad and laptop. Combine that with their own manufacturing and they may be able to offset Apple’s app empire. iOS apps are wonderful, but an efficient mobile computing platform with the critical apps and a rich Web platform will be more then adequate.

Google is in the game as well assuming Android blends effectively with Chrome. BTW, the Chrome laptop is impressive and more then adequate as a business computer. Unfortunately this trend of the internet file system does not play well for Microsoft’s old integrated Office Suite strategy. Who would have thought that their greater challenge would be to separate and simplify their office programs. But they will live on as the huge installed base slowly transitions and those who fear the loss of internet connectivity believe tradition is the way. Microsoft should design Windows to become the base station or server for all of these mobile platforms. Every home may still need that at least for backup.

Google’s App Marketplace Requires some Attention

Today I realized that I needed to better understand the concept behind Google Apps Marketplace. This occurred because I needed a simple app and after some basic searching I realized that the emerging products are now built upon the Cloud and offer added advantages if integrated with your Google Apps. I have also just received requests that we authorize access to certain Apps in the Google Marketplace. Authorize as in make certain apps available to our university’s google domain. This is good and bad. Good in that we still have control over what apps are allowed to play in our sandbox, but bad in that I can see the growing responsibility for us to manage these apps.

It is truly amazing how powerful the Google suite of integrated apps has become for us. So much so that I believe Google has accomplished their goal to influence our work and buying habits. So naturally I pay attention to this new Google App Marketplace which brings back memories of Microsoft strategies whereby my program selection was influenced by interaction options with MS Office. But the concept is good, integration with your primary collaboration suite with a communication and scheduling foundation has serious advantages. So what is there to worry about? How about support questions, I am still responsible for computing tools influenced by our domain. So the more hooks on the line the more difficult it may be to find where it hangs up. Or how about trying to promote app standardization, it will be tough to prevent the next better similar app to be restricted from our domain. And I don’t even want to think about more data mining issues.

I think I may just be fearful of this new generation of Cloud control. The strategy is still the same, lock you into a platform that dictates your buying decisions. And a strategy based on ease of purchase and installation has come a long way since the old Microsoft strategy of proprietary format disallowing backward compatibility. I was content to move on from Microsoft to Apple’s similar but more acceptable strategy. However, the Mac App Store will soon be competing with Google Marketplace. I don’t really have a choice, I think we are about to see software acquisition and management dramatically change. No complaints about the value that will be realized, but oh my, what a different digital world we will be working in.

Higher Education’s Influence is a Changin

It is obvious that Apple has not been catering to Higher Education with their shift to the new iPad consumer line. And it is also clear that Microsoft must try to hold on to the markets they still control; Business and Government, hence, not a lot of concern for Higher Ed. Of course we have always known that there is no money in Higher Ed, but we always had influence. What is now apparent is that Higher Education has lost its influence. The influence born from the student computing experience that would shape their technology buying habits as they moved into the work force. Why exactly has this happened and what might the long term effect be?

There is no business, marketing or economic reason for this change. I think the change is driven the fact that students no longer consider the computer an advantage. Early on it was critical for the tech industry to gain academic influence. School was the first exposure to the wonders and power of computing. Apple chose to control K-12 which may now be an influence fueling their success. Microsoft chose to control business which required influence from Higher Education, valid reason for their current control of the MS Office, now SharePoint, dependent business world. Some tried to gain influence solely by hardware opportunity such as IBM and Sun, unfortunately their strategy had no way to maintain contact after graduation.

So is it that the student no longer considers the computer as an advantage or is it that they no longer consider the computer cool. Either way it translates to a vanishing concern by the main tech companies. The computer does not really have that much influence on learning. Trying to tie it to the optimal path to the Internet isn’t really about enhanced learning, that is about access to information which may assist learning. So what does this next period have in store for Higher Education? If Higher Ed has no influence then are we just consumers. Yes, we are just consumers of devices, however, Higher Ed does influence the flow of information. And that is why Google cares the most about us now.

iPad’s Filling System

I have been meaning to write this Post for a few days now. There are enough people around here with iPads that it has become obvious that the iPad is the desired note taking device for meetings. I also believe it is a great use for the iPad. My previous note taking strategy has revolved around various paper notebooks that allowed me to maintain a certain level of archiving. I do realize that managing all of the meeting notes is about to get out of control. Of course I could just let the list grow and use the Search option to hopefully find a meeting or scroll through them all. But why mess with that when the iPad has a perfectly adequate filling system thanks to their primary email export option. Of course email the notes to myself and file them. Makes even more sense now that we are about to migrate to Google to realize 7 gig of email storage. The brilliance of simplicity or is it a partnership with Google?

Clash of the Tech Titans

I have not been in the blog posting mood for the last week which is mostly due to my recovery from getting a new hip. The new hip is fine, but the rest of the body has not gotten back to a good equilibrium until recently. So just some quick thoughts related to Apple’s Quarterly Report to get me back into the flow.

It just amazes me how quickly Apple has not just turned things around but have generated and grown new revenue streams. 8.75 million in iPhone sales for the last quarter is just flat out impressive for any consumer item. So I was reviewing the Business Insider article Microsoft’s Desperate Search for a New Market to Dominate, which did a good job of laying out what Microsoft’s revenue generating opportunities are. But then I took a look at Apple’s Product Revenue Chart compared to Microsoft’s and you realize how important market domination is, it should be an emerging market. And then look at Google’s Revenue Chart and you realize how Google will be competing for those same markets all fueled by their advertising revenue. It will be an interesting time for the tech industry’s Clash of the Titans.

Initial Thoughts on iPhone 4.0

Initial thoughts after viewing the sneak peek at the iPhone 4.0 feature set. Again, major confirmation that Apple is foremost a savvy business always focused on maximizing revenue. Yes, some good stuff coming. Multitasking is important but we need it more on the iPad and of course we will have to wait until the iPhone is allowed to leverage the advantage. The improvements to email are again a tremendous boost to one of the finest mobile emails services available. Not as critical a wait for the iPad since iPad’s email client is already better then anything else Apple has. On that note, how about putting the iPad email client on the Macs. Of course all that the email client needs is multitasking, and yes that would be the killer service that would make me feel better about preferring my iPad over my MacBook which is a no no. But the game changer is iAds. This is a blue ocean opportunity for Apple to make even more money and developers to have a much needed profit stream. But above all it allows Apple to effectively compete against Google.

Apple to Bing

Apple considering using Microsoft’s Bing search engine as the default for the iPhone is a fairly straightforward business move. Apple cannot overlook the importance of mobile advertising, which is a main business process of their new Smartphone competitor Google. The actual mechanics for how the iPhone would use Bing for advertising kickbacks will be interesting.

Most of the discussion on this switch has to do with the unfortunate parting of ways for Apple and Google who have carried the flag of innovation in recent years. But I think we are also seeing a transition of players. Microsoft is still a very powerful market share asset that both Apple and Google can find valuable partnering opportunities. I think Microsoft is starting to realize the importance of these new stars. It will be very interesting to watch Microsoft court new business partnerships with Apple and Google. It may mean that Microsoft gives up on any hope for being a player in the mobile market, but it could ensure their continuing success in the laptop and desktop market.

Writing, Printing & Publishing has Changed

Document format has always been a key to control of software selection and retention. That dominance not only guaranteed Microsoft’s control of the Office Suite market but also allowed them to create a renewable market with manipulation of their format. We in tech support were forced to upgrade our MS Office Suite in order to eliminate the user hassles with their inability to open the new formats. But what about all of those great new features in MS Word that allowed us to be so much more effective writers.

The point of my post – communication has changed. Those impressive writing features in programs like MS Word are more in the way now. 20 years ago we communicated by means of a printed document, 10 years ago printed format was still important. But how many printed documents do you create today? We write for electronic distribution today and that medium handles the format for us. Benefits of MS Word have allowed for more elegant authoring in Outlook, but again, the trend is obvious. It reminds me of the advice offered in Paul McDougall’s InformationWeek article: “7 Things Microsoft Must Do in 2010”. Cut the price of Windows and free Office. I actually thought of this post while reading about competition between Apple and Google. Competition based on the relevant tech business market that Microsoft is not a part of. And I realized that Apple’s publishing tools such as iLife and iWork and even Google Apps are so much more relevant to this electronic publishing era, price is right as well.

Microsoft Office Forced to Go Free

Who would have thought that Microsoft would one day be the pawn that they once played when they took out Borland by undercutting all of their software. Microsoft is not only being forced to offer their software for free but they are being forced to adopt Google’s business strategy. That is not necessarily bad, it is just that Microsoft will be at a great disadvantage while they try to learn the advertising based software revenue market. Great potential though with their huge installed based dabbling with this free online version with the potential to generate a healthy advertising profit. Let’s hope Microsoft does well enough to at least create a stalemate for competition. That is how we will all come out the winners.

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