Gordon And Mike's ICT Podcast
Perspectives on Technology and Education from Gordon F. Snyder, Jr. & Mike Qaissaunee

In this show we take a look at some previous blog postings.

NCTT 10th Annual Summer Worskshop discussion.

Thanks to all that attended and special thanks to our presenters and Juniper Networks and Apple as sponsors.

Thursday, July 12, 2007 Blog

Skype Everywhere

There have been a couple of interesting Skype product upgrades/releases over the past few days.

The first is SoonR Talk, an AJAX enabled application that allows Skype to run on the iPhone and other mobile devices.

The second is the release of Skype on the Nokia N800 Internet tablet. The small hand-held device connects to available Wi-Fi networks that we're all finding just about everywhere these days.

Here's a Yahoo News quote from Gartner analyst Elroy Jopling:

"We will see more Skype and similar free Wi-Fi phone services moving into mobile devices in the U.S. and Europe, he said, although Europe could adopt it more quickly. However, he said he expects to see "mobile operators put up as many roadblocks as they can" in both places".

Both of these products allow free Skype voice calls from anywhere to anywhere with Wi-Fi access.

Saturday, July 14, 2007 Blog

Some Interesting Skype Alternatives

Network Computing recently published a piece evaluating 6 Skype Alternatives here. Each alternative adds enhanced features that Skype currelty does not offer. Here's the list:

Grand Central - This product allows you to select one phone number and link up to six phone numbers you enter into your user profile. For example, you can set your Grand Central account to ring both your office phone and your cell phone. The one you pick up is the one that connects the call.
Grand Central was acquired by Google a few days ago (Mike Q was the first to tip me off) and is currently taking number reservations on their website.

TalkPlus - TalkPlus is sort of the opposite of Grand Central - it allows you to have several phone numbers that all ring to one phone. TalkPlus is inexpensive but not free. They currently offer number in 32 different countries and especially looks like a great product if someone has relatives in other parts of the world.

Jajah - I've blogged on Jajah in the past - see link here. Jajah provides a paid service that allows calls to be routed to landline/cell to landline/cell in many parts of the world without long distance fees. Here's how it works: Let's say I'm a Jajah customer and I want to call my brother who is living in London. I log into my Jajah account at jajah.com, enter my brother's landline or cell number and my landline or cell number. Jajah makes the connection and rings my phone and then my brothers phone over connections that are local to each of us.

Talkster - Talkster's paid service provides calls from phones to to voice-enabled instant-messaging services like GoogleTalk and Yahoo IM. One of the neat things about Talkster is that it allows you to see your friends presence (whether or not they are on IM) using you mobile phone browser.

Jangl - Jangl is a currently free service (even for international calls) that works similar to Jajah - it connects phone network end-points. The difference is Jangl does not require that you know the number you want to call. Jangl uses semi-permanent phone numbers and allows people to call you that don't know your permanent number.

Jaxtr - Jaxtr is similar to Jangl with a flashier user interface. It is also currently a free service for domestic and international calls. Both Jangl and Jaxtr's anonymity features cater to the "social networker" market.

Each of these products offer features and functionality beyond current Skype offerings - it will be very interesting to see what Google does with Grand Central.

Now Skype is not without competion, right?

T-Mobile HotSpot @Home service   For $10 a month, on top of your regular plan, you can eliminate the problem of poor wireless coverage in your home and make unlimited calls without using voice-plan minutes. All it takes is a broadband connection, a Wi-Fi network, and one of two Wi-Fi-ready handsets sold by T-Mobile. T-Mobile's product is based on  Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) - we'll have to do a separate podcast on this technology.

Thursday, July 19, 2007 Blog

Goodbye Copper?

There’s been some recent press about Verizon and their FIOS product installation. FIOS is a fiber optic network service that delivers voice, video and data services. You may also see it referred to as a Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) or Fiber to the Home (FTTH) service that Verizon is selling and installing in select markets in 16 different states.

Most who have the service installed are extremely happy with the bandwidth and cost when compared to lower bandwidth DSL and Cable Modem services. The product has become so popular that it is even being used as a selling point by real estate agents when marketing homes.

A few are complaining though. It appears Verizon, when installing the FIOS service, is cutting out the existing copper lines leaving the customer with only one option – fiber and FIOS. There are a couple of good reasons from a business perspective for Verizon to do this. The first is the existing copper wiring is old and requires a significant amount of maintenance – Verizon spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year just maintaining the existing “copper plant? and it makes sense to remove it when it is replaced. The second reason is the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which requires the telephone companies (like Verizon) share their existing copper lines with competitors. There is no current legal requirement for Verizon to share new fiber optic lines with anyone.

In fairness to Verizon, there is a three step notification process for people who sign up for the FIOS service. According to the International Herald Tribune, customers are told by the Verizon sales person, it is indicated in the sales contract and the customer is told by the technician that the copper will be cut out. Currently, Verizon is publicly stating they will replace removed copper if a FIOS customer wished to revert back to copper service.

Also according to the International Herald Tribune, Verizon has filed more than 100 notices with the Federal Communications Commission to retire portions of copper throughout its network.

I can understand the customer concerns about lack of choice and some technical issues like battery back-up and also Verizon’s concerns about having to maintain two separate networks.

Friday, July 20, 2007 Blog

Casual Gaming = Big Business

The Hollywood Reporter has reported that Nickelodeon will make an investment of $100 million in the development of casual games. Casual games are games that are typically played for a few minutes at a time - examples include puzzle and card games. This announcement was made by Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group President Cyma Zarghami at the Casual Connect Gaming Conference yesterday in Seattle. Zarghami is quoted:

"Particularly in the kids' space, with more than 86% of kids 8 to 14 gaming online, we see great momentum for online casual gaming,"

Also, according to The Reporter:

"Included in the Nickelodeon initiative is myNoggin, a preschool educational game in the form of a subscription service; an expansion of the Nicktropolis multiplayer games franchise; Nick Gaming Club, Nickelodeon's first subscription offering featuring multiplayer games with 3-D avatars; the-NGames.com, a casual gaming site geared toward female teens; and the transformation of the site Neopets.com to NeoStudios, a property centering on the creation of new online virtual world experiences".

In addition, the Casual Game Association (CGA) has released some preliminary data from their Casual Games 2007 Report. Here's a few preliminary data highlights from a MCV press release:

The number of games being submitted to major online portals has doubled over the past two years, suggesting an increase in new publishers developing more titles.

In 2006 the most popular casual games were Mystery Case Files, Diner Dash, Cake Mania, Bejeweled and Slingo.

Women still make up the majority (74%) of all paying players online with men now represent about half of the much-larger non-paying player universe.

The number of games being submitted to major online portals has doubled over the past two years, suggesting an increase in new publishers developing more titles.

The rapid growth of the casual games market has prompted companies to create games for more audiences and also for more platforms, including the Internet, PC and Macintosh computers, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo DS, Wii and even mobile phones and PDAs.

The full CGA report will be released in the fall - if you are interested in receiving a copy watch the CGA website at http://www.casualgamesassociation.org or send an email to datastudy@casualgamesassociation.org

Direct download: July_21_FINAL.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:23pm EDT

Intro: On Friday, June 29, Apple started selling the new iPhone, a device that combines the functions of a cell phone, ipod and computer. In this podcast we take a look at the iPhone from a users perspective - Mike Q got in line the first day and purchased one!

Here's an outline of the interview:
- waiting in line + the purchase
- activation
- first impressions
- hardware
- screen
- software
- camera
- keyboard
- email
- web browser
- voice quality
- phone
- data network (edge + wifi)
- ear buds
- iPod

AT&T (Cingular) has the exclusive rights for the phone for the next two years with current phones running on AT&T�s EDGE network when there is not a Wi-Fi connection available. Current pricing plans, with unlimited data, start at $59.99 and run up to $219.99 per month.

There are a few things that some are concerned about, here's a list:

The cost - it is expensive!

The AT&T EDGE network is slow when compared to Verizon's 3G  network.  This is a concern for some but I could deal with that. Most places I go now I find Wi-Fi available.

There is currently no Java or Flash support which will cause a problem when viewing websites that incorporate these technologies.

One of the  biggest concerns is the small storage capacity. Later versions will likely have some sort of removable storage device like the SD cards used in digital cameras.

Lack of a physical keyboard � the iPhone uses a technology Apple calls �multitouch� to display a keyboard on the screen. Once people get used to, seems to be working just fine.

At this time you can only use Apple's Safari web browser and not other browsers like Firefox.

These issues are minor for most users and overall this looks like a great first generation product for Apple.

Direct download: iphone_7_5_07_FINAL.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:16pm EDT

Introduction: We are here today with Springfield business owner Erica Walch. Erica has recently started Speak Easy Accent Modification in Springfield. Speak Easy teaches people how to change their accent so that clients, colleagues, strangers and even friends can better understand them.

1. What is Speakeasy?
The Speak Easy program teaches fluent English speakers how to recognize and produce the sounds of standard spoken American English. As people feel more confident in their spoken English, their business, professional, and social interactions become easier and more successful.
The Speak Easy program teaches fluent English speakers how to recognize and produce the sounds of standard spoken American English. As people feel more confident in their spoken English, their business, professional, and social interactions become easier and more successful.

2. How did you get started - what made you decide you wanted to do this?

3. How does this program work?
A: Speak Easy accent modification training teaches you how to recognize and produce the sounds of American English. You practice with an instructor in an individual or group setting once per week, and you practice at home for an hour a day.  At the end of the course, most people see at least a 50 percent change in their speech. Visit the method page for more detailed information about the program.

4. Will I lose my accent?
A: Everyone speaks with some sort of an accent, and there is no such thing as the ideal speaker of any language. Accent modification training teaches you how to change your speech. Your accent will change, and people will be better able to understand you.

5. Will I sound American?
A: Probably not. If this is your goal, it is something that you can work on, but it will take more than one 13-session course. However, most people who speak a second language have some traces of an accent even after lengthy study and practice.

6. I am 72 years old; will this really work for me?
A: Absolutely. Only people who have a hearing loss or a speech impediment would have difficulty retraining their accent. Any person who is a fluent speaker of English can learn to speak differently. If you have learned English, you can definitely learn a new way to speak it.

7. How much does the program cost?
A: The fee for the initial speech analysis is $150. The cost for the lessons ranges from $500 - $1650, depending on which course best fits your needs. Materials cost between $100 and $195, depending on the package you choose (cassettes or CDs).

8. Why did you choose Springfield as a location for your business?

9. I also wanted to congratulate you in you selection on the "Forty Under 40" that was recently announced by BusinessWest Magazine, the business journal for western Massachusetts.  The list recognizes the professional, civic, and community-oriented success of 40 young professionals working in the four counties of Western Mass. (Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire). Nearly 100 nominations were received, with names submitted by fellow business owners, managers, and other professionals living or working in the BusinessWest readership area. Winners will be feted at a ceremony at the Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House, in Holyoke on Thursday, June 21.

10. Links:
Linguists Weigh Costs and Benefits of Accents: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10554046 

New York Times, Accents on the Wrong Syl-LA-ble: http://speakeasyenglish.com/_Media/nytimes_june2007_article.pdf  

11. How can people contact you?
Erica Walsh
Speak Easy Accent Modification
Springfield, MA
(413) 747-1700

Direct download: Erica_Walch_Interview_FINAL.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:09pm EDT