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We are in the midst of massive change. We are using ever smaller devices to do increasingly more things, the applications are often running in some unknown location and hackers are finding ever more creative ways to get around our increasingly inadequate security.

When this kind of thing happens the vendors that survive the needed change are those that anticipate it.  Let’s talk about that this week.

With the amount of change going on it is hard to blame any technology vendor or IT shop for living tactically, basically operating by resourcing whatever the most painful problem of the moment is.  This is like treading water. Yes you stay alive, but if that big storm comes in and you aren’t prepared you’re still dead and a big storm is coming.

As you anticipate your future you want to start adjusting your strategic relationships to vendors who are either anticipating a similar future or in the strongest position for the next most likely future, so you have a hedge in case you’ve guessed wrong.   For instance it currently looks like we are moving to a future where devices are increasingly able to anticipate your needs, where robots take over menial tasks both inside and outside companies, and most of your decisions come from fact-based analysis of customer and market data.

If that future comes about, the company with relationships with firms driving that future – as opposed to struggling not to be killed by it – will be far better positioned to weather the coming storm.  This means you should be favoring companies that are sharing an aggressive move to next generation technology that dovetails with the future your firm is anticipating.

And you should have your own strategic people meeting with them regularly to understand their view of the future and make sure your view is as right as it can be – and theirs remains in line with your view.

In a storm you and your vendors have to work together as a well-oiled team. The technology storm that we can see coming is likely to be one of the biggest, actually the biggest, the market has ever experienced.

We are not only anticipating redesigning data centers, we are beginning to ask, particularly in the mid-market, whether companies even need data centers. And because of the increasing level and frequency of threats we are moving away from perimeter and client side solutions to SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) technologies aggressively. We’re doing this because we now have to assume our perimeters will be compromised and focus on rapid response.

We have MU-MIMO coming out in wireless, which will obsolete all of our Wi-Fi access points and optical switching, obsoleting our routers and switches over the next few years. And even how we access our systems is finally undergoing change, because passwords simply aren’t secure at all anymore.

This means you likely should be spending as much time talking about the future with your vendors as you do talking about what they want to sell you right now.   You don’t want to invest in another Sun, Digital, Netscape, or Palm. You want the vendor that is core to your mission critical strategy to be around when you need that strategy to weather the coming storm. If there has ever been a time to anticipate the future it is now, because we are facing the mother of all technical changes and she is coming in more like a hurricane this time.

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It Takes Partnerships To Make Changes: Working Together Works

I’m always surprised when I speak with people who expect schools to innovate without support from the outside. Every innovative program I have been involved with has included strong partnerships with businesses, nonprofit organizations, and other community-based organizations. With a shared vision and purpose, partnerships between schools and the community have resulted in some powerful programs and practices.

My personal interests have led me to partnerships with many organizations in the following ways.

Task: Engage teachers, students, and their families in geographic-information systems (GIS) to enhance their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills and develop a global awareness of the relationships among human health, the environment, community-planning efforts, entrepreneurship, and their own ability to become involved in community development and renewal.

I received funding to develop a GIS curriculum for middle school students. Using Garmin eTrex global-positioning-system receivers, we conducted a workshop led by a GIS expert in which middle school teachers were given the GPS devices and directed to use them on a scavenger hunt. The photos of the hunt show everyone totally engaged; the positive feedback was almost overwhelming.

I’ll be happy to email the GIS curriculum I have developed to anyone who is interested.

Task: Improve the design and implementation of virtual courses that educate students about how to recognize their own cognitive-processing styles through experiential learning, demonstrations, and experimentation to master subject matter.

I designed projects around three styles of learning: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. I then color coded these projects and had students choose the one that would best help them demonstrate the skill of mastery. At least once during the year, each student would have to do a project from one of the other two colors, forcing them out of their comfort zone and thereby allowing them to grow in these areas, too.

Task: To support innovative brain-research curriculum that teaches students the effects brain problems have on behavior and the important role nutrition plays in the health of their brains, which subsequently influences their ability to think and make intelligent choices.

Psychiatrist and brain-imaging specialist Daniel G. Amen worked with thirty-eight ninth graders at an alternative school in Orange County, California, to teach them about their brains. He held twelve student-information sessions (one hour each) with a hands-on activity (forty-five minutes each) and digitized his experiences in the classroom.

As the project director on a grant, I sponsored workshops after the curriculum had been tested for preservice and master teachers to learn about the science of the brain and how children integrate knowledge from their environment. Amen now offers this curriculum with videos of his classroom instruction and presentations of the research material.

Task: To model earth science and natural science curricula that highlight the global importance, impact, and urgency of preserving the fragile ocean, land, and space ecosystems of the Hawaiian Islands; one curriculum will use GIS handheld technology and Internet software to help Hawaiian students identify sacred sites and preserve them in their communities.

I have written several grants in this area that, because of government budget cuts, were not funded; however, I am going to implement this program on Oahu this year with a set of archaeologists who will work pro bono with teenagers.

I look forward to reading about your experiences in any of these areas. As an educator, I like to hear of new ideas, and I love to share them. Tag! You’re it — it’s your turn to talk.

How To Choose The Right Voip Provider

Businesses have increasingly turned to reliable VoIP providers for the last few years, letting go of traditional phone systems.

Through VoIP telephony, every business may now run operations across the globe without setting up a physical office.

Strong and scalable VoIP service providers are the best to keep businesses’ communication up to and running these days. So to help you choose the right VoIP provider, the following are tips to consider:

1. Narrow Down Providers That Fit the Bill

Check the current telephone bills and other expenses associated with communication software. Take note of every feature you pay for, and remember to compare the VoIP services you require.

2. Check the VoIP Pricing and Plans

Like other commodities in the world, price should be the first factor to look at, especially when looking for high-quality services.

There can be lower-priced services, but their security and reliability are questionable. Plus, there is a reason many top providers charge more cash for their services.

The development and research they invest in to present the best services and providers are part of what you pay for. Only consider the price after streamlining your list.

Also read:

How to Calculate Your Body Temperature with an iPhone Using Smart Thermometer

3. Look at the Customer Support

A vital colleague and customer communications usually go through VoIP tools. So if anything goes wrong, you would want to ensure it is well taken care of immediately.

Some VoIP providers offer good quality support 24 hours every day and seven days a week by outsourcing customer support during certain days or hours.

4. Go Through Online Reviews

It is also wise to look at and read online reviews on different sites to ensure you have an accurate picture of what all VoIP providers offer.

5. Ensure Redundancy

Business continuity is vital to maintain earning customer confidence and productivity. In order to avoid outages, your VoIP service needs to provide redundancy. A voice packet needs to be a priority over the day to ensure you are available at all your clients’ convenience.

The Bottom Line

Many VoIP providers are vying for your business globally. To quantify how many providers there are out there can be almost impossible.

Rather than concentrating on hundreds of VoIP providers who can’t fit the bill, focus on customer service, online reviews, reputation, and experience.

How To Choose A Cloud Hosting Service

Not sure what cloud computing is, or how it can benefit your business? In this article, I’ll introduce you to the cloud, help you interpret the buzzwords, and explain how your business might save time and money using a cloud hosting service such as Windows Azure, Amazon EC2, or Rackspace.

Discovering the Cloud and Cloud Computing

People use “cloud” as a buzzword when describing either the Internet or an intranet in association with some type of service or application offering. When you hear the term “public cloud,” think of the Internet; when you hear “private cloud,” think of your company’s intranet. Usually, “cloud” by itself refers to the public cloud.

The phrase “cloud computing” refers to Internet or intranet applications and services that you typically access, run, or manage via a Web browser. Such services often don’t require you to install software on your computer.

Here’s another way to look at it: Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than as a product. Instead of purchasing, installing, and running a program on your local computers, the program runs on the provider’s computers, and you pay a monthly or yearly fee for access.

You can find three main types of cloud computing service providers.

Software as a Service (SaaS) providers, such as Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365, and Salesforce, are services designed for end users. As such, they represent the end result of cloud computing.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings, such as Windows Azure, are services that IT personnel use in application development and for providing applications (SaaS) and Web hosting to end users. Basically, your IT staff gets remote access to virtual computers hosted at the provider’s data centers. PaaS providers typically offer a managed Windows or Linux operating system, which means that your business can dedicate more resources to development and fewer to configuring and maintaining the OS. The trade-off is that your IT personnel will have less control over the underlying OS.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers, such as Amazon EC2 and Rackspace Cloud Hosting, are similar to PaaS providers, but they usually offer your IT personnel more control over the OS. Although they typically don’t provide automatic OS updates, your business can use the raw infrastructure to develop and deploy applications on pretty much any platform or OS.

PaaS and IaaS Providers

I’ll focus on PaaS and IaaS providers here. If you’re familiar with the concept of virtual computing, you might think of these services as providing virtual machines (like VMware or VirtualBox) via the Internet.

PaaS and IaaS providers supply access to their shared data centers, giving you the reliability, redundancy, and security of a global enterprise data center network. This saves you time and money, because you don’t need to purchase and set up servers from scratch, and you pay only for the resources you consume. These services are particularly cost-effective for short-term projects, but they also deliver scalable, on-demand resources. For instance, within minutes you can double the amount of memory that your website might need to respond to a surge of end users.

One of the drawbacks of using a cloud computing host is that your data resides on another party’s servers. This arrangement might raise privacy and security issues for companies dealing with sensitive data, but you can mitigate the risk by employing data encryption and choosing a cloud host with security certifications and accreditations.

Most PaaS and IaaS providers offer per-hour pricing for each instance, role, or server. Each of these is, in essence, a separate virtual computer on which you can run one, a few, or even hundreds of applications.

Windows Azure

The PaaS platform Windows Azure can supply and manage the operating system, which is great if your applications don’t require a specialized OS. You can concentrate on building, deploying, and managing cloud applications without worrying about OS updates and patches.

Windows Azure offers three main roles, or OS choices.

Web role: This Windows Azure-supplied OS, preloaded with Internet Information Services 7, permits the development of applications using Web technologies such as chúng tôi PHP, and Node.js.

Worker role: This Windows Azure-supplied OS can run arbitrary code or host any type of application (including Apache Tomcat and Java Virtual Machines), and you can use it in conjunction with a Web role.

Virtual Machine role: You, the customer, supply the OS by uploading a Windows Server 2008 R2 (Enterprise or Standard) VHD image. Unlike with the Web and Worker roles, with this role (currently in beta) you’re responsible for keeping the OS up-to-date.

You can use any language, framework, or tool to build applications on Windows Azure. Features and services are exposed through REST (Representational State Transfer) protocols. The Windows Azure client libraries are available for multiple programming languages, and are released under an open-source license. They are hosted on GitHub.

Microsoft offers a three-month free trial of Windows Azure that includes the company’s Small Compute instance and other resources sufficient for IT personnel to test and become familiar with Windows Azure. Like other cloud hosts, Microsoft has a pay-as-you-go pricing scheme, a per-hour cost for each role when deployed. You can estimate your monthly bill using the company’s calculator.

Microsoft’s service level agreement guarantees 99.95 percent uptime for its compute services when you have at least two instances of a role running.

SQL Azure provides a scalable relational cloud database service built on SQL Server technologies that Windows Azure applications or your on-premises applications can use. It supports exporting and ongoing synchronization with your on-premises databases. You can pay as you go, or make a six-month commitment for reduced pricing; in either case, you can purchase this feature independently or along with other Windows Azure platform products.

Microsoft’s cloud storage lets you store structured or unstructured data for use with your Windows Azure applications or other applications via REST and managed APIs. You can also mount storage as virtual hard drives inside your Windows Azure applications by using the Windows Azure Drive feature, and you can move your virtual hard drives between private and public clouds. Microsoft offers pay-as-you-go pricing for Windows Azure Storage and Windows Azure Drive.

Next Page: Amazon Services, Rackspace, and How to Choose a Host

How To Choose A Computer For Older People: Laptop, Pc Or Tablet

Chances are, you’re reading this because your parents, in-laws or someone else in the family needs a new computer and it has fallen to you to sort it out.

You could opt for a laptop or PC, but even if they’re familiar with Windows, they still need to be savvy enough to keep it up to date, including its anti-virus protection.

The good news is that there are more options than ever these days, and here we’ll explain all of them so you spend your money wisely.

First, though, consider what your parents, friend or relative actually wants to do on their computer. The temptation is to replace their old / broken computer like for like. But that may not be the best approach.

If it’s relatively undemanding tasks such as web browsing, shopping, email, Facebook, photos, videos (YouTube) and music, you might find a tablet is a better option. However, if they’re keen to use Word and print documents, an iPad, Android or Amazon tablet may not be ideal. If you also need to choose a phone, check out our list of the best phones for the elderly.

Is Windows the best choice of older computer users? Pros

Familiar interface

Widest choice of apps

Works with all printers


Biggest target for viruses and ransomware

Still requires up-to-date anti-virus

Little to no protection from phishing attacks

Windows 10 is the latest version, but the interface has changed a fair bit since the days of Windows XP and Windows 7. It should still be familiar enough, and it comes with built-in anti-virus protection these days, though this isn’t an all-encompassing solution for the myriad of threats that users face today.

Now that operating systems are harder to hack, criminals are increasingly going after the easier target: the user.

How is this relevant to buying a computer for a pensioner? Well, some will say the best choice is a Chromebook (see below) but in order to avoid getting caught out by phishing emails and other scams, it’s vital to explain to whoever will use the computer what to look out for and to be aware of what can go wrong.

Ultimately, then, Windows is still a decent choice – especially if they’re already familiar with it.

Here are the best laptops to buy.

Is a Chromebook better than a Windows laptop? Pros


Always up to date

Little to no risk of viruses or ransomware

Works seamlessly with all Google services


Most are laptops with small screens and keyboards

Can be tricky to print from

Not compatible with all software, such as iTunes

Chromebooks don’t require anti-virus software either, and they’re safer than Windows from ransomware but users still need to avoid scams which might trick them into handing over their bank details or other information.

Some people prefer the bigger screen and keyboard of a desktop PC, but Chromebooks are laptops and even the largest has a much smaller screen than most PCs.

You can get Chrome OS on the desktop, however. Asus produces two products, the £100/US$100 Chromebit and £240/US$250 Chromebox, which are both relatively affordable and allow you to use a big screen and a PC mouse and keyboard.

Here are the best Chromebooks to buy.

Should I buy my parents an iPad instead? Pros

Portable, lightweight

Little to no risk of viruses or ransomware

Easy sharing / communication if you too have an iPad


Learning curve if first tablet / touchscreen

Can be tricky to print from

12.9-inch model is expensive

As we mentioned, a tablet can be an ideal PC replacement these days. Tablets tend to be very easy to use, so long as the person using it can adapt from exclusively using a keyboard and mouse to operating a touchscreen.

Some people love them instantly, while others simply cannot cope with a touchscreen, or having to hold the tablet in one hand and operating it with the other. That’s why we recommend you do a trial first with a borrowed tablet to see whether they like it.

If they do and if you already have an iPad, buying your parents one can make your life easier as well. You can use FaceTime to video chat, share photos, have text conversations in iMessage and more. Tech support also tends to be easier than with Windows.

If you want a bigger screen and a bigger keyboard, there’s always the iPad Pro 12.9. But this is expensive and the keyboard isn’t included (and is also expensive).

You don’t have to buy a tablet from Apple, of course. Android tablets can be cheaper, but the apps aren’t universally polished, and there aren’t too many models with specific keyboards, so you’d have to go down the universal Bluetooth route.

Amazon tablets are the cheapest option, but are really only for entertainment.

Here are the best tablets to buy.

How Massive Open Online Courses Are Trying To Change Education

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, have grown fast. In less than ten years they’ve gone from not existing to having almost ten-thousand courses available. They have always been the subject of some controversy and have had their fair share of technical challenges, but the ever-increasing number of prestigious universities creating paths to actual degrees through MOOCs is a clear signal that the way the world learns is changing. There’s a lot of demand for more affordable, open, flexible education, and as online classroom technology improves, getting an online degree will increasingly be seen as a realistic alternative.

Where did they come from and where are they now?

Though the very first MOOCs started in 2008, the platforms that we know today (edX, Coursera, Udacity, FutureLearn, etc.) only came on the scene in 2012. Harvard and MIT were the driving forces behind edX, and Coursera came from two Stanford professors.

There was some initial pessimism because of high dropout rates, the ease of cheating, an uncertain business model, a lack of accreditation, and other perennial issues in online education, but it was outweighed by the number of students who were willing to give free online courses a shot. As of 2023, the MOOC platforms combined have:

Eighty-one million students

Over 800 universities

9,400 courses

500 MOOC-based credentials

And it’s gone way beyond the Ivy League. The Chinese-language XuetangX is the third-largest by enrollment, and there are other locally-organized MOOCs appearing from Thailand to Spain. Employers like Microsoft and IBM have started their own programs, and you can get anything from course credit to a master’s degree if you want to. What’s behind all this?


In the U.S, university costs have risen by 161% (adjusted for inflation) since 1987 and often require going into debt. That makes low-cost online education an attractive proposition for a generation of digital natives with uncertain employment prospects. Low-cost, high-volume MOOC-based degrees are popping up everywhere, especially in tech-heavy fields like computer science, analytics, and cybersecurity.

Open Access

The vast majority of MOOCs don’t have any application process at all. You sign up for the course, pay for a certificate if you want to (it’s free just to audit), and if you do well in the course, you pass.

This means that people from all over the world, regardless of background, don’t have to jump through many formal hoops to get a credential. It also means that it’s easier to do things like explore career changes, learn recreationally, or just have access to some of the world’s smartest people.

Some universities are even using this as part of their admissions process: get good grades in their MicroMasters program, and you’ll have a much better chance of getting into their traditional program.


One reason that good universities are expensive and difficult to get into is that there’s a fairly large imbalance between demand and supply. Stanford only admits five percent of applicants out of the hundreds of thousands that apply each year, and Harvard and MIT have similar numbers, but their MOOC courses have reached millions. Stuffing more people into a finite amount of classroom space is difficult, but as the technology improves and the system is refined, there is no hard upper limit on the number of people who can have a productive experience in a MOOC.


MOOCs don’t require you to drop everything and start studying; you can be as part time or full time as you wish. Many of the courses are self-paced or have frequent start dates, allowing students to take breaks when they need to and customize their course load based on what they can handle. Providers also benefit from the platform’s flexibility in a different way: they can adjust their courses on the fly and improve it over multiple iterations or even update it as new ideas hit the market.

The bad stuff

Of course, like all technologies, MOOCs have a dark side. They’re impersonal, don’t foster bonds between students and teachers, lend themselves better to multiple-choice and mathematical answers than to projects and papers, have high dropout rates, and depending on the courses you take, your credentials may be more or less attractive to employers or future educators. It’s easy to learn and practice skills using MOOCs, but it’s harder to dive deep into difficult social issues and participate in a cohesive learning experience. That’s probably why the vast majority of credentials currently offered are oriented towards technical skills.

The Future of MOOCs

In 2012 MOOCs were a nice idea that mostly caught on with people who enjoyed learning things. In 2023 MOOCs can realistically help you get an education or change careers, though they’re still best for highly technical fields. In 2024 it would be surprising if MOOCs weren’t an even larger part of the educational landscape.

Will they kill the traditional university? Probably not. There’s still a noticeable benefit to in-person instruction and social learning that MOOCs haven’t been able to replicate yet. They are far better-positioned to experiment with new technologies and processes, though. AI could be used to create personalized learning tracks, virtual reality could help improve the social learning experience, blockchains could store educational credentials, et cetera. Regardless of how exactly they turn out, they will certainly be a much-needed injection of innovation into the relatively conservative education industry.

Image credit: MOOC Poster

Andrew Braun

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