Gadgets & Hacks

We are Media

If you are not working on your skills in communication—or mentoring others like your kids, staff, spouse and colleagues so their skills improve—you should probably quit now and get a job with zero human interaction.

Why? Because right now being media literate is not just the skill to critically thinking about the media you’re consuming, but today (and going forward) media literacy will be primarily how good you are at discovering great content from others; aggregating it in a way for you to keep it handy; and curating that content so you’ll be able to deliver the essence of your pitch, argument, point of view, opinion, set of facts, or whatever needs to be communicated to one or more human beings.

I’ve always loved an audience, starting from the time I was a little kid. The photo above is of my older sister Nancy and I hamming it up for my Mom so that she could have a photo with us incredibly enthused by this magnificent gift (cool…but not magnificent). I remember charging other kids admission for shows, being the emcee, and loving it.

In fact, I began blogging in 2004 and podcasting in 2005 to scratch that itch. I had A LOT to learn about being an effective writer, all about microphone technique, and how to pull together a show others would find interesting and worth their time to give it a listen. Having done some on-camera work I was comfortable with that, though never felt compelled to do much of that other than inside the occasional screencast with me introducing the content with a brief talking head introduction.

Though I was teased good-naturedly by other executives when I ran strategic alliances at Lawson Software about my podcast specifically (and one exec played mine before a big meeting started and got lots of chuckles from others in attendance), I’ve since coached and mentored several of them on how to effectively leverage video, podcasting, blogging and social media in general.

What I find is those who cannot effectively communicate with media are already at a distinct disadvantage in the marketplace, especially if one is in a leadership position or aspires to become a leader. One woman I know was so nervous about “being seen” that she would dig her fingernails in to her palms so that the pain would keep her focused on the interview and not how she felt! Kudos to her for sticking with it as she’s incredibly comfortable now being interviewed on TV, via webcasts and on podcasts. These skills she honed in a year and is still surprised today how her communicating with new media has become such an imperative in her job in marketing and her focus on social media.

NOT becoming media literate with creating content will be (and maybe already is) as important a skill as knowing how to use a computer is for most jobs today. If you’re not literate, people will automatically assume that “you don’t get it” and are somehow a bit of a dolt, not savvy and clearly behind the times.

Quit Whining About The iPad Interface

There has been a fair amount of iPad bashing going on with the lack of multitasking, limited ability to create content (or at least as flexibly as when using a mouse-driven computer) and the constraints put on developers by Apple.

Man….does this ever bring up memories and an analogy that you might find interesting!

When Apple introduced the Macintosh in 1984, they simultaneously published Apple Human Interface Guidelines which specifically outlined how to build an application that leveraged the supplied interface “toolkit” in ROM so that there would be a consistent user experience across applications (e.g., people would always know where “Quit” was under the “File” menu). There were howls of protests from developers over “the constraints Apple is imposing on us” and “command-line driven applications are so much more flexible than ones that have to fit in to the “File>Edit” metaphor” as well as “who does Apple think they are telling us how to build and deliver great applications?

Sound familiar to today’s whining about the iPad? Look at the original Microsoft MS-DOS driven personal computers and the graphical user interface (GUI) on the Macintosh (and its predecessor, the Lisa). Which would you rather use?

Yes, all of us have become pretty adept at the GUI and all the applications we use today are optimized for that human interface paradigm. Will a transition to any other form of human interface be painful? Absolutely, especially since we’ve all been using GUIs since the mid-1980s! You know that it’s easy to look back and see that a GUI-driven computer world was a much better one to live in than a command-line one, but it’s more difficult to look in to the future to see what a touch-driven computing world will look like.

Apple has published iPad Human Interface Guidelines and it’s pretty clear that the time has come for the computer to take the next leap. Many are discussing it and this post by Keith Kleiner at the Singularity Hub is a good overview of some of the thought leading technologies being explored with this next generation touch paradigm.

The iPad is the first mass market product to embrace this paradigm and make it palatable to everyone, with the possible exception of the whining developers, tech geeks and others who see it as too limiting, closed or different. Is the iPad without warts? Nope and it’s certain to improve and competition will abound. But every time I look at the landscape of human-created products, services, religions or any other endeavor, absolute perfection seems to be missing so get over it.

Your Perfect Social Media Input Device?

If you haven’t been paying attention to the continued improvements in handheld cameras, let’s just say that what’s being released in the handheld space is pretty amazing and you should pay attention if you’re involved in the ‘internets’ as a participant in any way and especially if you’re a social media user.

Back in April of 2007, I shot this SD video of the incredible ‘maker’, author, showman, and good guy, Bill Gurstelle, as he wow’ed the geeks at Minnebar with his potato bazooka. It was recorded with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 handheld camera which I’d purchased in the Fall of 2006 and, as you can see, it’s pretty good quality video, the sound is decent, and it does take great photos:

But now Nikon has announced their Coolpix S8000, a 14.2 megapixel, 10x optical zoom, 720p HD video, very low light (down to 3200 ISO), 4-way image stabilization, all for the great price of $299.95! That’s $100 less than I paid for that Panasonic over three years ago (which, I’m well aware, is ancient history in technology).

Though I’d always prefer to have my single device that can do everything (in my case, a 3GS iPhone) there are too many compromises with mobile devices and the low video and image quality disturbs me. The lack of “glass” on a mobile device lets in a lot less light and having the iPhone default to compressing both videos and photos before uploading means that most of the stuff sent to blogs, websites and social media spots look like crap.

So I’ve been thinking… Read More

Apple A4 Chip is the “Magic” & is “Revolutionary”

Couldn’t agree more with Jay Yarow at Silicon Alley Insider that The Real iPad Revolution is the A4 Chip That’s Running It. That is where the “magic” is and will set Apple apart for a very, very long time.

Many people seemed to wonder about Apple’s 2008 acquisition of PASemi, a small chip designer for $278M. Ever since I devoured former Apple CEO, John Sculley’s book “Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple : A Journey of Adventure, Ideas, and the Future“, where Sculley outlined the future of computers (in 1987, I might add) where chip designers would shrink functionality on to custom chips cranked out by fabrication plants for those designers, I’ve been a believer in this concept and wondered what has taken so long for a company to jump on this and do it.

Though it’s highly unlikely that Jobs would even acknowledge this vision from the guy that got him ousted from Apple and took the helm to the company’s detriment, it’s nice to see Apple driving forward on this concept that will give it competitive advantage no other company will be able to match.

Watching the keynote video I can only imagine what an A4, or its derivative, will mean for the nextgen iPhone certain to ship this summer!

Exclusive: Apple iSlate photo?

Yep…this has about as much of a chance of being the “iSlate”, “iPad”, “iTablet”, or “iMiracleDevice” as any of the artist renderings I’ve seen. I must admit being intrigued by all the buzz and fun people are having with speculation about this rumored device — and yes, I do think there will be one and it will stun the world like the iPhone/iPod Touch has — but the “scoop du jour” frenzy will provide lots of misleading clues and pointers to stuff you should probably just ignore over the next few weeks.

By the way, this slate tablet is described here at National Geographic and is, “…a rare inscribed slate tablet dating back some 400 years, to the early days of America’s first permanent English settlement.

Both sides of the slate are covered with words, numbers, and etchings of people, plants, and birds that its owner likely encountered in the New World in the early 1600s.

The tablet was found a few feet down in what may be the first well at James Fort, dug in early 1609 by Capt. John Smith, Jamestown’s best known leader, said Bill Kelso, director of archaeology at the site.”

Learning from “Little Brother”

littlebrotherEvery year my son and I go on a “Dad & Son Adventure” and this year was no exception. Though past ones have been in such places as the north shore of Lake Superior; Rapid City, SD; and New York City; for our 9th Annual Dad & Son Adventure this year we headed to Chicago to goof off and see a play.

See a play? What kind of adventure is THAT!?! As it turned out, a fun one.

Science fiction author, BoingBoing contributor and thought leader, Cory Doctorow ( wrote a book called “Little Brother” which explored what happened to a boy named Marcus and a group of his friends seen as terrorists after an attack in San Francisco. The School Library Journal writes, “…he and his friends are swept up in the extralegal world of the Department of Homeland Security. After questioning that includes physical torture and psychological stress, Marcus is released, a marked man in a much darker San Francisco: a city of constant surveillance and civil-liberty forfeiture. Encouraging hackers from around the city, Marcus fights against the system while falling for one hacker in particular.

During a discussion with my son, Alex, where we talked about internet surveillance and within which I happened to mention public key cryptography — knowing I was about to embark upon a very lengthy explanation of what that was — Alex casually said, “Oh, I know what that is…” and he went on to explain it to me! “How the heck did you learn about that?” I asked. “In Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother,” was his answer (a book which, by the way, he’s now read seven times!).

I found this so fascinating and amusing that I emailed Cory (whom I met casually at O’Reilly’s ETech a couple of years ago) to tell me the story and he emailed back, letting me know what a hoot he and his wife had as he shared the story with her. After Alex found out about our email exchange, he stated he’d email Cory too and did…and Cory emailed him back. More on that in a moment.  Read More

Why isn’t Dean Kamen on a Wheaties box?

Why do we pay so much attention to sports heroes and celebrities, when the people doing the work to advance humankind are virtually invisible?

Over four years ago I wrote a similar post to this one about scientist and inventor Ray Kurzweil. My son was 10 years old and had to choose a “hero” and write about what made them one. When I saw the list I was appalled and emailed his teacher to ask why current and contemporary inventors, scientists and visionaries were excluded?

60 Minutes had a piece last night about the US military working on something akin to a “Manhattan Project” for prosthetics. This is certainly a response to the huge numbers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan maimed from war in unprecedented numbers.

The firm they worked with was none other than Segway inventor, Dean Kamen and his DEKA group. Many of us have already seen the video about the prosthetic arm developed under a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Amazing doesn’t do it justice.

From a wheelchair that can climb stairs and allow the user to ‘stand up’ to talk at eye level with others to the Segway and a Stirling engine water purification system for small villages, Kamen and crew are taking big ideas and manifesting them in to a reality that is changing the world. 

Yes, I realize that not every kid can be an Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison or Ada Lovelace, but reaching for a dream allows a kid to accomplish much more than if they don’t, and though sports achievement can impact many other areas of someone’s life, an inventor mindset means that a kid learns to look at every process, method, possibility or vision they have, and to figure out how to make it more efficient or to leap forward in a revolutionary way.

Compare that to the ability to slam dunk a basketball and answer this question, “Do you want your child to aspire and emulate some NBA star, or instead become an inventor like Kamen and make a difference in the world?

Before the Web arrived, CD-ROM was hot!

Early on a weekend morning, I enjoy trolling the Internet Archive and other sites often slow during other parts of the day and during the week. Today I came across the one below and I was struck by the shifts that occurred in the 90’s, and any look back is always clearer to us than when we’re living in that time.

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, “multimedia” was the buzzword on the tips of everyone’s tongue mainly due to the advent of the CD-ROM and increasingly cheaper CD drives that could burn CD-Recordable discs. It still was a create assemble publish replicate model that — similar to magazine, book, newspaper and most traditional media at the time — required long lead times before a replicated CD ended up in the hands of the consumer.

As you watch this video, you’ll undoubtedly chuckle at the cheesy and rudimentary games, educational software, and hardware shown. But then realize how quickly things shifted and put this into context as you contemplate today’s development of social networks, video, messaging systems like Twitter, and what we’re doing with mobile devices and networks.

Some day we’ll look back at this time and chuckle.

Minnov8: Showcasing Minnesota Innovation in Internet & Web Technology

If you’re out in the Bay area or on the other coast in New York or Boston, it’s pretty easy to be smug about your culture of risk-taking, pool of top talent, and strings of successful, world-changing innovations. But as the world continues its acceleration to one that’s increasingly connected and ways of collaborating make distance irrelevant, smart people will pop up everywhere and I’m convinced we’ll see a flattening of the geographic advantages these pockets of innovation represent.

Six of us were bugged that there was so much going on in Internet and Web technology innovation right here in Minnesota, that when I suggested we start our own blog to showcase that innovation, there were nods of agreement and a willingness to dive in and make it real.

The biggest reason we were all interested in this blog is that these showcases and interviews are what we wanted to read and there wasn’t anything like it out there.

The result is Minnov8: Minnesota Innovation in Internet & Web Technology. This past weekend was the biggest Barcamp yet, Minnebar, and over 400 people showed up to present, learn and participate. Rather than recreate everything on this blog, why not take a peek at Minnov8? This and this post are ones that will recap what took place.

Wherever you live and whatever space you care about (e.g., technology, education, greentech, etc.) and where there are a critical mass of people willing to leap in and work together as multiple authors, I’d encourage you to start one of these…it’s pretty simple to do and fun to boot.

You’re not naked…but what about your computer?

In January of 2005 I wrote Are You Naked? and again in July of 2007 Are you *still* naked in a coffee shop?. My objective was to try and elevate the discussion about the fact the overwhelming majority of us who use free wireless internet access in public hotspots are completely “naked” since it’s trivial to capture your wireless packets as they fly through the air.

There are certain things I never do in a coffee shop: use File Transfer Protocol (FTP) but instead the Secure FTP; never access my banking or stock sites; set my firewall and more (for best practices, see that second post on the subject here).

Managing eight email addresses through the Google Gmail interface, I’ve always made certain that I access Gmail through Secure Socket Layer (SSL) which is the encrypted security protocol used by banks, stock sites, ecommerce and any other transactional site with security (you know you’re using SSL when you see the little padlock in your browser and an “s” after “http” in your browsers address bar). Felt pretty good about it too and I’ve trusted the big brains at Google to be 110% on top of security issues.

Now comes word that there is a security hole in Google’s Gmail javascript (used in Gmail for the fancy-shmancy Ajax interface framework and elements):

When Robert Graham demonstrated how Web 2.0 wasnt safe at last years Blackhat, it was thought that at least the SSL mode (HTTPS) of Google Gmail would be spared from sidejacking. That presumption now appears to be false according to this updated blog posting from Graham. Even with SSL enabled, Gmail sessions can still be hijacked by Grahams Hamster and Ferret (or less easily with Wireshark and Mozillas cookie editor).

This is just great. If me, Mr. Security and Web Application Awareness, has an opening for his laptop and Gmail session to be compromised, what about everyone else?

My daughter logs on to any wifi hotspot with her iPhone or Macbook and sees zero harm — though I’m trying to educate her on how to be safe (which feels to me like havng a safe sex discussion and we know how effective THAT has been globally…but I digress). This means, for example, a “packet thief” could sit in a coffee shop, log in to the free wifi and setup a rogue hotspot (it’s simple to set up your own laptop to pretend it’s a wifi access point and lure in the unsuspecting) and then fire up the tools on their laptop and capture my daughter’s packets that come through the packet thief’s own laptop. Voila! The packet thief now has her username, password — or in the case of Gmail’s cookie security hole — the cookies with temporary credentials in them.

With a temporary cookie session initiated, the packet thief can now change her password and have complete control over her email (and, God forbid, her banking, stock trading, or any ecommerce transactions executed while accidentally logged on to a thief’s laptop).

Fix this Google…now.