Technology Thread

Nov 10, 2002
Educators hope Apple's textbook foray will begin a "learning revolution"

On Thursday morning, Apple announced a series of related initiatives designed to modernize learning based around its iPad tablet. Apple is hoping to "reinvent textbooks" and change the way we learn with an updated iBooks 2 app, which works with interactive textbooks built with the iBooks Author desktop app, and an expansion of iTunes U that offers course materials and K-12 access. And according to several experts we spoke to, Apple's announcement today could do just that.

Several educators were particularly bullish on the impact that Apple's move into the digital textbook market will have on both teaching and learning. Assistant Professor of Arts, Media, and Design at Boston's Northeastern University Matthew Gray told Ars that iBooks 2 and iBooks Author will be a "fantastic" improvement over what's commonly used in universities now.
"A pivotal year for students"

"Personally, I love this development" Gray said. "What was funny to me was the continuous emphasis on the word 'book.' But what Apple's new technology says to me, however, is 'syllabus.' This new kind of ebook acknowledges that we all can Google things, and therefore education needs something to bridge 'fixed' knowledge and 'fluid' delivery systems for knowledge. An e-book can use its unique referencing ability to link a far wider resource library to students."

Abilene Christian Univeristy's director of educational innovation, Dr. William Rankin, also believes Apple's digital textbooks and iTunes U expansion will have a major transformative effect. "Teachers no longer have to have an IT department, digital infrastructure, or really even buy-in from their school," Rankin told Ars. "Apps, notes, syllabi, textbooks—they all integrate. As long as I can get iPads for my students, I can do it all."

(A seemingly easy feat for Rankin, whose institution has been active in putting iPads in students' hands. Other universities, however, may not have it as easy.)

Rankin further explained that iBooks Author and iTunes U could "disrupt the relationship" between teachers and schools. "This will democratize the relationship between content producers and consumers. A teacher will be able to do anything they need for their class, and not be as dependent on textbook publishers or school administrations."

He described the potential for a revolution in learning comparable to Gutenberg's introduction of the printing press. Interactive digital texts like those demonstrated by Apple will allow learning to "transgress walls," and the iPad's mobility will allow learning to happen "in situ," in whatever context is most appropriate.

"It used to be about location, location, location. Now it's all about connection, connection, connection," Rankin told Ars. "It will take people a long time to realize the implications of that."

That feeling is shared by Brad Wheeler, vice president of information technology at Indiana University, who has been running a very successful e-text program at IU. That program, along with help from IU, is being expanded on a pilot basis to five new universities in Spring 2012, including UC-Berkeley, Cornell, Minnesota, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Wheeler believes that Apple's announcements will be a shot in the arm for the kind of digital text programs he supports. "The economics of college textbooks are structurally flawed and are failing students, authors, professors and publishers," Wheeler told Ars. "Different approaches, including free resources and companies trying to restructure the industry—as Apple did for music—are in play."

But the change can't come soon enough, Wheeler explained. "2012 is looking to be a pivotal year for students, authors, and publishers, as we finally reform entrenched textbook practices that fail everyone, but especially fail our students. Billions are being allocated to author Open Educational Resources, Apple is credibly seeking to apply its platform and transform the textbook business starting with K-12, and universities are taking the lead in cutting money-saving deals directly with publishers."

"We need more of all of this, and faster," Wheeler said.
The iPad requirement

Still, adopting iPads for every student gives rise to cost concerns. Schools may negotiate bulk deals with Apple to provide iPads to every student, though tight budgets often rule out the iPad, even with an education discount as low as $420. Those costs may shift to parents as students may be expected to bring their own device.

"If you are a very small school and you can afford to offer your students an iPad, great," Mehdi Maghsoodnia, CEO of BookRenter, told Ars. "If you are a large school district, then you are probably not going to be able to do this. That means that a small percentage of students who can afford iPads will purchase the digital versions of their textbooks."

While an iPad can represent an expensive up-front cost, however, the ability to have the most up-to-date information and Apple's downward pressure on textbook prices may more than make up for the difference.

"Traditional textbooks start at $90," one K-12 teacher told Ars. "$15 texts can now actually make the iPad a cost savings for districts.

Wes Molyneaux, a science teacher a technology expert for New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, agrees that lower text costs will actually make an iPad more attractive.

"Right now the Pearson Biology text is selling for $75.00 on Amazon," Molyneaux told Ars. "In the iBookstore it is selling for $14.99."

iBooks Author also offers important advantages for both teachers and students. "Teacher-created content that aligns with their own curriculum just became easier to author," Molyneaux said. "We can now create our own content that matches what we want to cover. And a high school student could create a project using the new iBooks Author app and be able to put it out there for other students to read. This creates real-world learning opportunities that were not there yesterday."
Let's talk about rights

But costs aren't the only concern. Apple's closed platform still presents challenges for publishers, authors, and students. Oman Rashid, CEO of digital textbook company Kno, told Ars that supporting multiple platforms will be an important part of changing the landscape of education. "Public schools and universities aren't likely to say, 'Forever I'm going to choose one platform,'" Rashid told Ars. "We're on multiple platforms, not just the iPad."

"I'm really excited by Apple's entry into the market," Rashid said. "It will boost the entire industry. I want to see how publishers respond, because publishers will have to be able to build content for platforms other than the iPad."

And though students will have permanent access to a text once purchased, including free updates to content and unlimited re-downloads, what will student be able to do with the content? Intellectual property lawyer Nazli Saka, who also holds a masters degree in education from Harvard, thinks this question will need answers, and soon.

"There's no denying that this new textbook experience will revolutionize learning and education," Saka told Ars. "But will Apple be willing to let users interact with the textbooks on multiple digital platforms and not just the iPad?" So far, according to the EULA for iBooks Author, that answer seems to be "no."

"How about ownership of content?" Saka asked. "If Apple owns it, then it could presumably withdraw it anytime it wants, thus leaving students without textbooks at the time of need. How will end user license agreements be constructed so that students can print portions of the books and use them for class work without infringing any copyrights? As an IP lawyer, I'm cautious," she said
Nov 10, 2002
7 People Charged in Connection to Megaupload Site

The federal authorities on Thursday announced that they had charged seven people connected to the Web site Megaupload, including its founder, with running an international criminal enterprise centered on copyright infringement on the Internet.

According to a grand jury indictment, Megaupload — one of the most popular “locker” services on the Internet, which lets users anonymously transfer large files — generated $175 million in income for its operators through subscription fees and advertising, while causing $500 million in damages to copyright holders.

Four of the seven people, including the site’s founder Kim Dotcom, born Kim Schmitz, have been arrested in New Zealand, the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Thursday; the three others remain at large. The seven — who a grand jury indictment calls part of a “Mega Conspiracy” — have been charged with five counts of copyright infringement and conspiracy, the authorities said.

The charges, which the government agencies said represented “among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States,” come at a charged time, a day after online protests against a pair of antipiracy bills being considered by Congress — the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, in the House, and the Protect I.P. Act, or PIPA, in the Senate.

The indictment was handed down by a grand jury in Virginia two weeks ago, but was unsealed on Thursday, and stems from a federal investigation that began two years ago.

The Megaupload case touches on many of the most controversial aspects of the antipiracy debate.

Megaupload and similar locker sites, like Rapidshare and Mediafire, are often promoted as being convenient ways to legitimately transfer large files — a recent promotional video had major stars like of the Black Eyed Peas singing Megaupload’s praises. But they have become notorious among media companies, who see them as abetting copyright infringement on a large scale by giving people easy, but unauthorized, access to movies, music and other content.

Megaupload is currently engaged in a lawsuit with Universal over the promotional video and Universal’s efforts to have it removed from YouTube.

As part of the crackdown on Megaupload, 20 search warrants were executed in nine countries, including the United States. About $50 million in assets were also seized, as well as a number of servers and 18 domain names, the authorities said.

Ira P. Rothken, a lawyer for Megaupload, said in a phone interview on Thursday afternoon that he had not yet seen the indictment, but he added: “Clearly we have due process concerns. This was done without a hearing.”


IPL Player
Oct 30, 2002
In the market for two new phone? I've using blackberry bold for the past two years for mostly email. Any suggestion? Should I wait for the next version Iphone?
Nov 10, 2002
RIM's CEOs Step Down, Thorsten Heins Appointed as New CEO

That's what you get for not delivering. As had been anticipated for a while now, the two co-CEOs of Research In Motion, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, will step down from their posts. Chief operating officer Thorsten Heins will take over the role of CEO, while the two former co-CEOs will move to other functions within the company.

RIM held a fairly good market position in especially North America, but after the arrival of the iPhone, and later Android, the company plunged into an unguided freefall. RIM is one of the two victims of the iPhone/Android one-two punch (the other is Nokia) who didn't manage to re-invent itself in any significant way. Heads were bound to roll at some point.

"Mike and Jim took a bold step 18 months ago when RIM purchased QNX to shepherd the transformation of the BlackBerry platform for the next decade," Heins said, "We are more confident than ever that was the right path. It is Mike and Jim's continued unwillingness to sacrifice long-term value for short-term gain which has made RIM the great company that it is today. I share that philosophy and am very excited about the company's future."

"As with any company that has grown as fast as we have, there have been inevitable growing pains. We have learned from those challenges and, I believe, we have and will become a stronger company as a result," he added, "Going forward, we will continue to focus both on short-term and long-term growth, strategic planning, a customer and market-based product approach, and flawless execution. We are in the process of recruiting a new chief marketing officer to work closely with our product and sales teams to deliver the most compelling products and services."

Even though it's no guarantee, I do believe RIM has all the right pieces of the puzzle from a technology standpoint. They make good and reliable hardware, have the corporate backing, and own a software stack, QNX, that has been designed from day one to run on extremely constrained hardware. All they need now is someone with the vision to tie it all together to create a compelling package.

I don't know the good man, but after watching this introductory video, I just don't think he's the right man to do so. Of course, judging someone by watching a video is a bit silly, but when I listen to, say, Microsoft's Sinofsky or Apple's Ive, they clearly come across as people that have an idea of where they want their products to go. Heins, on the other hand, sounds like he's ticking off the company PR talk checklist.

We'll see where it all goes, but I'm not exactly bringing with confidence. At this point, I just hope QNX will be properly open sourced before RIM goes belly-up or is acquired by Microsoft or whatever.
Nov 10, 2002
Apple reported its quarterly results, and thanks to the iPhone 4S and the iPad, Apple is putting out bizarre figures - 37 million iPhones, 15.5 million iPads. "The Company sold 37.04 million iPhones in the quarter, representing 128 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter. Apple sold 15.43 million iPads during the quarter, a 111 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter. The Company sold 5.2 million Macs during the quarter, a 26 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter. Apple sold 15.4 million iPods, a 21 percent unit decline from the year-ago quarter."


IPL Player
Oct 18, 2002
IBM's 'atomic memory' makes storage 100 times denser

My X's father was one of the inventors behind STM (Scanning Tunneling Microscope) and he was telling me few years back that they are able to represent data @ atomic levels and they are working on the speed.
Nov 10, 2002
Android's share of tablet market jumps

The Android operating system's share of the global tablet computer market has risen sharply at the expense of Apple's iOS, research suggests.

Android accounted for 39% of the market in the final three months of last year, up from 29% a year earlier, Strategy Analytics said. Apple's share fell to 58% from 68%.

Microsoft's share stood at 1.5%.

Shipments of tablets reached 26.8 million in the quarter, up from 10.7 million a year ago.

"Demand for tablets among consumer, business and education users remains strong," said Strategy Analytics' Peter King.

Apple shipped 15.4 million iPads between October and December. That compares with shipments of 10.5 million tablets using Android.

For 2011 as a whole, shipments hit 66.9 million, up from 18.6 million in 2010.

Android is used by a number of tablet manufacturers, including Amazon and Samsung.

It is also one of the most-used operating systems in the global smartphone market, although the latest figures suggest Apple has overtaken Android in the US.

According to figures from Kantar Worldpanel, Apple took 44.9% of market share in the US in the 12 weeks to 25 December, compared with 44.8% for Android.

Last month, the 10 billionth app was downloaded from the Android Market, and some analysts expect the operating system to overtake Apple in terms of app downloads in the coming months.
Nov 10, 2002
The next iteration of Microsoft's Xbox could hit retailer shelves as early as fall 2013.

The new Xbox will be in production by the end of this year and arrive in late October or early November 2013, sources close to the project tell IGN. The new game console--often referred to as Xbox 720--will be based on Advanced Micro Devices' 6000 series graphics processor, with support for DirectX11, 1080p HD, multi-display output, and 3D.
The new processor, which was unveiled late last year, will give the new Xbox six times the processing power of Xbox 360 and 20 percent greater performance than Nintendo's forthcoming console, the Wii U, sources said.
In October, the game developer Web site Develop pegged the launch of the next console for 2013, something a source on the Xbox team confirmed.
Microsoft released the Xbox 360 in late 2005, and rumors about when a new console would arrive--and what capabilities it would feature--have been rampant in recent months. Xbox fans' appetites were whetted by word last month that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had granted the software giant a patent for an "integrated gaming and media experience," in which content could be recorded on a game console.


Oct 28, 2004
The next iteration of Microsoft's Xbox could hit retailer shelves as early as fall 2013.

The new Xbox will be in production by the end of this year and arrive in late October or early November 2013, sources close to the project tell IGN. The new game console--often referred to as Xbox 720--will be based on Advanced Micro Devices' 6000 series graphics processor, with support for DirectX11, 1080p HD, multi-display output, and 3D.
The new processor, which was unveiled late last year, will give the new Xbox six times the processing power of Xbox 360 and 20 percent greater performance than Nintendo's forthcoming console, the Wii U, sources said.
In October, the game developer Web site Develop pegged the launch of the next console for 2013, something a source on the Xbox team confirmed.
Microsoft released the Xbox 360 in late 2005, and rumors about when a new console would arrive--and what capabilities it would feature--have been rampant in recent months. Xbox fans' appetites were whetted by word last month that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had granted the software giant a patent for an "integrated gaming and media experience," in which content could be recorded on a game console.
Just an FYI, almost all of this information is incorrect :)
Nov 10, 2002
New KDE tablet for Linux fans:
The company is
The tablet is not out yet

Senior KDE developer Aaron J. Seigo has announced the forthcoming release of a 7-inch tablet that will use Plasma Active as its default user interface – developed for tablets, media centres, smartphones and similar devices, this UI is based on many of the same components that are also used for KDE Plasma Workspaces.

Seigo says that the tablet will include a 1 GHz AMLogic ARM processor with Mali 400 GPU, coupled with 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage; an SD card slot will allow users to add further storage to the device that also offers Wi-Fi connectivity and a capacitive multi-touch screen. According to the developer, a "content store" will offer additional apps, as well as free content such as books from Project Gutenberg. The plan is to release the tablet "unlocked", so that there will be no obstacles for users who wish to install other operating systems.

Seigo said that the tablet, called "Spark", will cost "a mere €200", and added that he will soon share more about where to order and when the tablet will start to ship.

At the end of his blog post, the developer says that, in a few months, he will no longer be sponsored by the Qt Development Frameworks to work on KDE full time. However, he added that he plans to continue working in the KDE and Plasma environments: "this is an exciting doorway through which I am stepping. I can not see with perfect clarity what lies on the other side, but it looks bright."

Nov 10, 2002
Kindle Fire dwarfs other Android tablets in market share after just three months

The Kindle Fire is crushing standard Android tablets in market share after only three months, according to data collected by Flurry Analytics. Measured in application sessions on Android from November 2011 to January 2012, the Kindle Fire went from a 3 percent market share to 36 percent, while the Samsung Galaxy Tab, a brand that has been on sale for over two years, dropped from 64 percent market share to 36 percent.

According to Amazon, over 4 million Kindle Fires were sold in the month of December despite its lukewarm reception. These sales were enough to give the device close to a third of the Android tablet market, as the shares of the Motorola Xoom, Asus Transformer, and Acer Iconia Tab dropped to a collective 18 percent. The Kindle Fire made an even better showing in paid app downloads, representing 2.53 app downloads from a 5-app sample of top sellers for every one downloaded on a Galaxy Tab.

Granted, flipping the numbers in the Android tablet space doesn't take an astronomical number of sales: for instance, Motorola shipped only 200,000 Xoom tablets in the fourth quarter. The Kindle Fire also likely owes much of its success to its $199 price, hundreds of dollars below the rest (the other tablets listed here have starting prices of $350 and higher). Flurry also attributes the Kindle Fire's growth to Amazon's focus on an ecosystem and content for users, an approach closer what Apple uses for the iPad, rather than focusing on hardware specs.
Nov 10, 2002
Purdue University creates 'bass' powered medical implant, knows where it hertz

We've seen all kinds of medical implants over the years, but none that had a musical preference -- until now. Researchers at Purdue University have created a pressure sensitive microelectromechanical system (MEMS) that uses sound waves as an energy source. The proof-of-concept has a vibrating cantilever that's receptive to sound -- or music -- in the 200 - 500Hz frequency spectrum, which is towards the bottom end of the audible range. The subcutaneous implant converts the low-frequency vibrations into energy, and then stores it in a capacitor. Once the cantilever stops vibrating, it sends an electrical charge to a sensor and takes a pressure reading, the result is then transmitted out via radio waves for monitoring purposes. The immediate real world applications include diagnosing and treating incontinence, but we're already wondering if that self-powering mp3 player implant could finally become a reality?

Nov 10, 2002
As expected, Facebook just filed its initial public offering paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission, marking the beginning of its process to become a publicly traded company. It'll trade under the stock symbol "FB" (although it didn't specify on what exchange) and says that it seeks to raise some $5 billion in the process. When the stock hits the open market, the company will be valued somewhere around $100 billion after you take into account the shares that existing investors already own.
Mark Zuckerberg himself has been revealed to own an astounding 28.4 percent of the company, which — if the $100 billion valuation is correct — would put his net worth near $30 billion. The filing notes that Zuck controls "a majority" of voting stock, which means he wields an extraordinary amount of power inside the company (not to say there was ever any doubt of that). He's got a base salary of $500,000, peanuts for a man who ranks as one of the wealthiest on the planet; COO Sheryl Sandberg clocks in at $300,000. As you can imagine, those figures don't tell the full story once you factor in stock benefits: Sandberg had total compensation last year of $30 million, Zuckerberg (a surprisingly low) $1.5 million. As of January of next year, Zuckerberg's annual salary will drop to just $1, a common practice among wealthy chief executives with a lot of skin in the game.
Now that these guys are going public, that means their earnings are public, too: the filing points to net income of $1 billion in 2011 on $3.7 billion revenue, up from $606 million in 2010. They're claiming some 845 million active monthly users, 483 million daily active users, and 100 billion friend connections — over 14 times the number of humans on the face of the planet. In the last quarter of 2011, the site averaged 250 million photo uploads per day; in December, it recorded 360 million people who logged in at least six out of seven days. Amazingly, a whopping 12 percent of Facebook's revenue presently comes from social gaming company Zynga alone, while mobile has yet to turn into a cash-making opportunity: "We currently do not show ads or directly generate any meaningful revenue from users accessing Facebook through our mobile products, but we believe that we may have potential future monetization opportunities such as the inclusion of sponsored stories in users' mobile News Feeds," the filing says.