Category Archives: news

NHK World TV iPod App

Like millions of others, I’ve been glued to news sources to get as much current information as I can about the ongoing disasters in Japan following the massive earthquake, tsunami and ongoing nuclear plant disasters. This has to be the biggest natural disaster that has occurred in my lifetime.

In pre-Internet days, we had to rely on newspapers and television for news. Those forms of information have their problems. This is the Internet age. I want current information directly from the source NOW, not later. I want current information of my choice, not what news agencies that aren’t directly on the scene think is or is not important for me to know. If I want 24/7 disaster coverage, in the Internet age that becomes possible, allowing me to completely bypass limited conventional coverage.

It took a while for me to find, but there’s an iPhone/iPod/iPad/iOS app from Japan’s NHK called NHK World TV Live. The app is free. Once the app is installed, it operates very simply. You simply open the app and the live video directly from Japan’s NHK World news service immediately begins streaming. Search iTunes for NHK World TV Live.

The service has an English translator that talks over the lowered volume of the original Japanese broadcasts. The English translators aren’t slick and you can hear them become a bit confused from time to time.

There’s also an app from the Al jazeera TV English news network that operates live out of Doha, Qatar. Al jazeera TV English is highly produced from a beautiful state-of-the-art studio. The on-air newsreaders seem to be British nationals. Though Al jazeera gives more news from the Arab world than the typical American is used to, they do a pretty good job of covering international news, including the situation in Japan. Search iTunes for Al jazeera English Live.

Savvy TV news agencies in today’s world have to make themselves available if they want to continue to be relevant. News agencies such as the BBC, CBC, CNN, Fox, etc. seem to be dragging their feet regarding available-to-anyone-anywhere 24/7 Internet TV broadcasting. I believe they are already losing world market share.


Interactive New Zealand Earthquake Map

An interactive map, called the Canterbury Incident Map, is online providing information for victims of the recent Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake.  The clickable map gives information on what bridges are open, water distribution centers, road closures, aftershock locations, supermarket locations, and more.

The map also provides some insight for the rest of the world by displaying geotagged Flickr photos and YouTube videos.  It’s another example of a great use of modern technology.  It is providing crucial information for local residents as well as showing all of us exactly what the situation on the ground there is.  The latter is also helpful for those looking to provide aid to the area.

Shuttle Adds Blu-ray To XS35 Series

If you haven’t seen how small Shuttle’s XS35 series of ultra small PCs are, then you need to look more closely at the picture on the left.  The PC is the unit stuck to the back of the monitor.

The XS3510M is now available with a Blu-ray player making this a full hi-def media device.  Powered by Intel’s dual-core Atom D510 coupled with Nvidia’s Ion graphics, it’s capable of 1080p playback via HDMI.

At only 38mm thick, it’s just a little bit bigger than an external USB 3.5″ HDD unit and yet there’s both the Blu-ray / DVD writer combo drive and a 500GB disk drive (I assume that it’s of the 2.5″ variety) crammed in there, along with a 4-in-1 card reader on the front.  Round the back, there are four USB ports for your mice and keyboards.  11n Wi-fi is built in too.

Shuttle also touts the low power credentials, claiming a maximum of 29W, which would hardly get my standard desktop PC started.  Power is supplied via an external power brick, much like a laptop.

There are no fans in the XS35 series and all cooling comes from air circulating through the many holes in the case.  Consequently, the PC has to be stood upright, not on its side, but it makes the system totally quiet apart from the gentle whirr of the Blu-ray drive.

Windows 7 comes pre-installed with the XS3510M but the range has also been tested with Novell’s OpenSuSE Linux.

Prices start at £171 for barebones systems and around £650 for the unit featured above (depending on options, exchange rate, etc.)  Brochure (.pdf) available here.

All pictures courtesy of Shuttle.

All Of Your News In One Spot

A lot of people are saying RSS Readers are dead – or on life-support, but I certainly don’t think so.  In fact I use one more now than I ever did.  Sure, breaking news may be easier to find on Twitter, but that does not cover most of what we are all interested in.  You won’t find, at least not easily, basic news headlines there.  Twitter is great, but it’s more for the sensational as opposed to the non-headliners.  But, it’s those non-headliner stories that we so often care about – the one about Adobe issuing a security update for Flash, or that your team pulled out a last minute win, or even the latest spectacular photo from Hubble.

Some of you who read this site probably also listen to the associated podcast (and those who don’t should).  If you are among those who do, then you probably are aware that Todd uses Google Reader to bring you the latest news stories from the tech world in each episode.  There’s a reason he’s using this technology and that’s because it still works better that anything else to bring you the news you want in a timely fashion.

But what you may not know is that Google Reader is not just a program for tech headlines.  Everyone can use it and for all kinds of news.  If you want tech news or sports or science or headline, it doesn’t matter.  You can add any site that has an RSS feed.  Then you can divide them into categories, move them around by drag-and-drop and organize however you want.

This is how I get my news everyday.  I rarely visit sites for this information.  When I find a site that has something of interest to me then I add it to Reader.  If I want to expand on an article I can click on it and it will open in a new tab.  Generally, I will go through all of my feeds and click on the articles that interest me, which opens them in a new tab, that I can click later to read the details.

I can edit the feeds as well.  This means that they can me added into groups (folders) that I create (such as Science), moved around, or removed altogether.

Google Reader is included in Google Mobile Apps, which can be loaded on almost any smartphone – Windows Mobile, iPhone, Android, etc.

Feedreaders are nothing new, and Google Reader, itself, has been around a while.  But, if those I know are any indication, many PC users are not using them.  And, I think the main reason for that is a simple lack of knowing about them and understanding how much convenience and efficiency they can add.

Digital Newspapers

PDA-247 logoFollowing on from some of early articles this week on news and newspapers, Shaun at PDA-247 has written a blog post Digital Newspapers: Stuck at Page One? which covers his experience of The Times Online on the iPad.

In the post, he thinks that he’s getting value for money for his £2 a week as the content and presentation are good.  Although some people are still reluctant to pay for news content, he’s done the maths and even with the (assumed) 90% reduction in subscribers, the website will still pull in £1 million every year.  Not huge money, but it’s early days.

Shaun says that people are used to getting something physical for their money.  People like the physicality of books and DVDs though I think it’s as much about having the item to show off your good taste rather than the item itself.   Anyway, the physical nature of books and DVDs hardly counts when it comes to newspapers as most people throw them away once the paper is read.

He closes by suggesting that newspaper reading is dwindling because of competing pressure on our free time.  This is the era of satellite TV, the internet, the social network and the poor old newspaper has fallen by the wayside.

All good points and worth giving the orginal article a quick read.

The Changing Face of News and Journalism

Andrew Marr, formerly the BBC’s Political Editor, has written a series of articles on the changing face of news and journalism in an era of technological change.

In the first, End of the News Romantics, he comments how he always thought he’d be a true newspaper and newscast kind of guy but in fact he’s embracing the new technology of tablets and phones.  He says, “A few years ago, I was shaking my head and saying I thought I’d had the best of times for journalism, and wouldn’t want my children to join the trade. No longer. I’d like to be 20 and starting out again right now.

In the second, A New Journalism on the Horizon, he talks in a little bit more detail about the media revolution, where he discusses the future of journalism in the age of new media.  He starts out from the recent revelations that (a) the estimated readership of the The Times Online has dropped by 90% since the introduction of the paywall and (b) e-books are outstripping hardbacks on Amazon, and how these facts seem to be contra-indications.

He puts forwards two points, the first being that the notion of not paying for news seems to be somewhat strange.  People pay for DVDs, magazines, TV channels, mobile apps, e-books, so why not news?  Although he’d be happy to pay, he wants to be able to pick and choose – politics but not fashion, business but not crime – so he feels the proposition will need to be refined.

The second point is that there will undoubtedly be consolidation in the market for general news or the news of the day.  But he believes that underneath this will be specialist news organisations that deal in particular sectors of the market, such as automotive, enviromental, foreign countries.  This will be where the real knowledge and understanding will be.

As ever, it’s hard to gaze into the crystal ball and predict the future.  From my previous posts, you’ll know that I think we have to start paying for news if we want quality journalism to continue.  As to the second point, of  specialised news organisations, I think he’s right.  Imagine CNN or the BBC no longer having a technology correspondent and outsourcing that to Engadget or Gizmodo.  Or business news provided by the Economist. It’s not a hard stretch of the imagination to see that coming.

What do you think?  Will the news organisations of today simply become aggregators?

Broadband Basic Right In Finland

From the beginning of July, a 1 Mbit/s Internet connection will become a universal service in Finland.  Simply, this means that anyone who wants an Internet connection must be provided with one at a reasonable price by one of the 26 telecom operators.

This makes Finland the first country in the world to make Internet access a basic right and it’s interesting to compare this with the UK and France which have both threatened to cut-off the connections of persistent copyright infringers.

From a technical perspective, it’s not a big deal.  There’s already about 96% connection penetration in the country already and this means that there are only about 4000 properties that would need to be connected to achieve full penetration.

Personally, I think this is great step forwards.  1 Mbit/s isn’t super fast but it’s adequate and over time technology and commercial pressure will up the data rate.  However, the key point is that it’s a universal service or basic right enshrined in law, which means that it can’t easily be taken away.

There’s additional coverage over at the BBC.

The Dark Side of eReaders

Part of my daily job is to be sure that the disabled students on my campus have access to the same resources that any student has access to, regardless of their disability.  Most of us think “big” when we think about disabled people; those with mobility issues, blindness, or deafness.  In reality, there’s a whole host of disabilities, some visible, and some not so visible.  My students range from debilitating disabilities to those that are virtually invisible, but all students receive the same considerations for their disabilities, and are awarded the accommodations they need to bring them on level with non-disabled students.

In my little microcosm, this often involves creating and providing text in an alternative format.  It might be in audio, or tagged xml files (more commonly known as DAISY files), or simple text files that can be manipulated in multiple ways by the user.  Out of hundreds of disabled students I serve on a regular basis, there are dozens of solutions we may use for various disabilities.

You would think eReaders might be a really good solution to some of our accommodation needs.  And you would be wrong.  One of the most inaccessible devices on the planet is the much-hailed and much-loved eBook reader.  Even with some features like enlargement of text and the ability to have the book read in audio, this is not provided in enough depth nor breadth to offer true accessibility.  As one example, while some books on the Kindle can be played using the text-to-speech function, the menus are not in an audible format, so how is a visually impaired person supposed to even get to the book in the first place?  And this is just one issue, and does not cover all of the potential problems with eReaders when it comes to disabled readers.

And to make matters worse, some colleges and universities have bought into the hype and are forcing eBooks onto their student populations, under the assumption that it will save money for students (this is debatable all on its own) and that students will like it better because it’s electronic (this has also been debunked, for the most part).  But in their rush to embrace the new, they didn’t take a good, hard look at what was at stake.

Now the Department of Justice is doing it for them. In a statement released yesterday jointly by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education, with an endorsement from the Office of Civil Rights, schools are cautioned against recommending, forcing, or prescribing eBook readers for their students.  “It is unacceptable for universities to use emerging technology without insisting that this technology be accessible to all students,” the statement said in part.

Most users of eReaders don’t care that their eReaders are accessible.  But up to 10% of the market share may belong to readers who need such features available to them.  In the world of eReaders, which are now selling like hotcakes, that market share could be significant.

As an educator, I am glad to see the DOJ and DOE taking a stance on this issue, which up until this point was only being addressed in the civil courts.  That’s a huge waste of money, when a simple statement from these two agencies could have put a stop to it long ago.  Disabled students on my campus are happy to know that they will not be forced, anytime soon, to jump on the eReader bandwagon.  Someday, those readers may reach accessibility levels that are appropriate, but until then, my students won’t be forced onto the devices, and that’s good news all around.

Media Distribution via Boxee and Roku!

Geek News Central Podcast via the Tech Podcast Network is now available on Boxee through a custom application, and in the coming weeks through the Roku Set Top Box. Which is very exciting, but it gets much better than that.

My Team at RawVoice is focusing this year on distribution and making it easier for audience members like mine to consume content on devices that you have hooked up to your television.

We all love our mobile devices and like to take the content with us, but sometimes it is nice to have it available via your television on the Xbox, Wii, PS3, Popbox, Nuu, Vudu etc..

With the release of the App on the Boxee and the pending release of the Blubrry Channel on the Roku this is the first step in building out new distribution channels for all of the shows that work with RawVoice.

To see more about our vision and how we will be able to build custom channels for our content creators, check out the press release we put out today.

Make sure you order a Roku or try Boxee today!

Albert Gonzalez Gets 20 Years for Hacking, and Then Some

Just an update from my story of a few days ago. Hacker Albert Gonzalez got a sentence of 20 years on the first guilty plea, entered in Massachusetts, to unauthorized computer access. Two more cases (and guilty please) in New York and New Jersey will be finalized next week in Boston, when additional sentences will be pronounced.

It’s probably not enough, but it sends a really strong message, that’s for sure. Keep your hands of what isn’t yours.