Sunday, October 28, 2007

Today's Student

I want to share this thought-provoking video posted recently by Paul Stamatiou. It's from Professor Michael Wesch from Kansas State University, and is called "A Vision of Students Today". I'd like to say that a lot of the points this video brings to the table are very true, while some are questionable. I'll post the video first, and then say what I think. If you're going to read the rest of the entry, please watch the short video first. Otherwise you'll just ruin it, and this is worth looking at.

First of all, the whole "boo hoo I only get 7 hours of sleep a night" is completely ludicrous. Seven hours of sleep for me and everyone I know is a very good night. In reality, most students hit the hay somewhere between 2 and 3am, and start the day somewhere between 7 and 8. Also, in the point about being $20 000 in debt post-graduation, it's very important to note the following point, which was, "I'm one of the lucky ones". That is to say, you'd be lucky to finish owing only that much. Most people will be stuck with quite a bit more.

Most importantly, the attention they bring to to abusing laptops in the classroom seems to point a blaming finger at the technology itself. There's no doubt that there are lots of people Facebooking in class or doing other unrelated things. (On some campuses I know it's common to see people playing WoW in class.) But there's an equal number of people, at least in my classes, who are earnestly taking notes, following along with PDFs, using Wikipedia to quickly look up an unfamiliar term, etc. I use my laptop for all of these things in class on a daily basis, in addition to keeping my schedule straight and up to date using applications like iCal. I wish more people at Guelph were savvy enough to use Google docs to create collaborative notes like we saw at the start of that movie. Maybe I should get on my high horse and encourage this.

The point is, you're the one to blame if you don't have the self-discipline to pay attention and take notes instead of throwing a sheep at somebody on Facebook. I've made a concerted effort this year in a bunch of my classes to sit closer to the front, where the hard workers are most prominent and distractions from chattering bozos are at a minimum. And yes, you might end up sitting next to that annoying guy who puts his hand up in lecture every week to share an anecdote about his cat which he thinks is somehow relevant, but hey, it's not like you're going to (most) lectures to make friends.

One more comment - on the multitasking point - how true it is. While perusing the WoW forums the other day, I read an amusing story about a Hunter, (big surprise there!) that made their group wipe during a menial dungeon encounter. (For the uninitiated, that means the group all "died" and lost real time and game money.) Their reason? "Sorry guys, I'm trying to do a little studying for my exam in the morning and I stopped paying attention for a moment." Classic.

Now I want to segue to something else. In that video, we saw a fair number of Macs, which, culturally speaking, is a noteworthy part of the "vision of students today". I think it's a fair assessment that probably about a third of the laptops I see around campus nowadays are MacBooks, (or MBPs). To tell the truth, I'm a little irked that they're gaining popularity so quickly. And I can't honestly say if that's more because of the materialistic desire to stand out, or the sense of deflowered elitism I get when I meet more and more new Mac converts who don't know who "the Woz" is, but are happy to be looking hip. Windows Vista is the new Paris Hilton - the thing everyone loves to hate. And, honestly, I don't think there's that much to hate about it. Yet even if there is, it bothers me when people are all over the Hate-Vista-Love-Mac bandwagon but can't tell you a thing about either one of them, aside from "Macs are just so cool."

Am I far too elitist for my own good? Probably.

The other, more legitimate reason to be concerned with Mac Mania is the realization that the popularization of Macs will compromise the sweet, easy, Norton-less world we've come to know and love. By the way, it's not just me giving my unprofessional opinion - I'm getting this straight from Tech otaku Leo Lapporte's mouth. It's not as if Apple products have strong-like-bull security features built in. (Just look at Apple TV and the iPhone.) The reason Macs don't have virus problems is because - who uses a Mac? Yeah, nobody. Oh wait, no. Scratch that. It's all changing now. If everyone and their mother starts running OS X, you can be sure people will start writing viruses and other malware for it, and the next thing I know I'll have some abomination of software called iNorton going, "IM IN UR MENU BAR, HOGGIN UR RESOURCES"

Oh, and congratulations to Kat on her new MacBook. I won't pretend I'm not jealous of its Core 2 Duo-ness and the fact that she's running Leopard, but goodness knows she's probably the most deserving new Mac convert I know. May the Force be with you, may the RAM behoove you. Namaste!

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Acquisition of Facebook Good for Upstart Networks?

So, as I said, the midterm season's kept me extremely busy, and now that that's over I've got a fair bit of catching up to do with reading, assignments, and so on. But probably the biggest news of the day (or the week) is Microsoft's deal with Facebook to purchase 1.6 percent of the company for 240 milllion dollars, which gives Facebook as a whole a valuation of like 15 billion. Whoah. For those of you who are unaware or forgot, this is the same Facebook that was invented by Harvard undergrad Mark Zuckerberg, in his dorm room, when he was my age. That's pretty good.

But hold the phone, sister. This article from the Associated Press hints that this whole arrangement could spell trouble for the social networking site down the road. If Facebook becomes too burdened with advertising, social networking addicts, (ie. every 14 to 23 year-old North American), may begin seeking more open alternatives such as the likes of Ning. This kind of jump doesn't seem unreasonable at this point either, especially now that Facebookers are used to higher levels of of customization thanks to the Applications platform. One way or another, what goes up must come down. Just like ol' Faceberg probably stayed down the day after this kegger at Facebook HQ celebrating the $15 billion valuation. Yeah, that's him doing the kegstand. (Photo courtesy of FSJ.)

Random: That new Radiohead album is fantabulous! My favourite In Rainbows track, currently, is "House of Cards". If you haven't checked this album out yet, do it. It's good for you.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Midterms Ahoy

Hence the lack in posting.

In the meantime, why not check out this funny clip from Family Guy that gives a little background on the timeless flaw of the Death Star. Found on Gizmodo.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Project Blank Page

One of my friends here at school has just shared a project with me that she's starting work on. It's called Project Blank Page. Before you visit the site, the hope is that people see this promotional video. Visit the website here.

The idea of Project Blank Page is to combat the accusation that the young generation is "the apathetic generation". It challenges university-aged people to create a small project, (video, photographic, or otherwise) that sends a message about how you plan to better yourself and the world. All the work will be showcased at a "Project Blank Page" film festival in January.

Although this is mainly directed at U of G students, any and all students are encouraged to participate. I am officially encouraging everyone to submit something because my friend Sarah's worked hard at this and the project will flop if no one contributes. I believe a Facebook group is coming soon.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Vote - College Scholarship Blogs

I voted for Paul Stamatiou, one of my favourite bloggers, in favor of him winning the 2007 Blogging Scholarship from I'm not going to ask that you vote for Paul if you don't read his blog, but I'll at least encourage you to support a young person's hard work and further education by voting for someone from this list. Their blogs are definitely worth checking out.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Radiohead Gets It Right

Radiohead's new album, In Rainbows, is coming out this Wednesday October 10th. Since Radiohead is no longer affiliated with any record label, they've got the freedom to try something very interesting. The In Rainbows website gives you the option to pre-order the album in digital downloadable format, or as a discbox which contains the album on CDs and vinyl records. Here's the interesting part: pre-ordering the download presents you with a blank field where you can type in any amount of pounds you'd like to donate for the mp3s - you decide the value yourself. If you want to, leave the field blank, and you'll get the tracks - straight from the band - for free. It's really nice to see something like this that doesn't involve the RIAA and normal folks getting slammed for downloading music, like the single mom from Minnesota who's now up to half a million dollars in the hole.

This is a battle that's been raging for a long time, and I must say I'm glad it's not such an issue in Canada. Maybe it's because I've grown up with it and become a pseudo-audiophile, but I'm a big supporter of digital distribution of music. I think Apple's got the right idea making people pay a minimal charge for a track or an album, and I think Radiohead's free will donation idea is even better. If I had that MasterCard I'd probably donate a good 10 pounds for the mp3s and I'd feel good about it, because I love Radiohead, especially for taking this approach. I predict it will bring them success, and you'll see other artists start using the same or a similar strategy for their releases.

Here's a fun music video for Weird Al's "Don't Download This Song". Gotta love satire.

Note: The In Rainbows discbox will put you out 40 pounds, and a standard in-store CD release is scheduled for early 2008, according to Wikipedia.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

"Surrounded", Draft 1

I spent painstaking hours today creating this one-minute sound file in GarageBand. (Started around 8pm, finished at 4am. Wish I'd started earlier.) It's basically just background noise for a specific part of a climatic scene, which I won't describe, because you should come and see the play! I'll post dates and stuff when I know.

There may or may not be further drafts - it all depends on the group consensus. This may not even be used in the final show, but I suspect it will be, or at least parts of it. Subsequent drafts might be created by other people working on Sound who go in on different days than me.

I decided to use YouTube to host it and just throw a static picture up there, because it actually proved to be much less of a hassle than uploading to Fandalism and other audio sharing sites. So, the picture was a fairly random choice, don't sit there wondering what the deep meaning behind it is. I know I haven't explained what this audio track is a backdrop to, but feedback is appreciated all the same.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Botnets and the Attack on Estonia

This video from Wired Science is super interesting.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ignorant with Our Hearts in the Right Place

A poll conducted by Canadian research firm Leger Marketing found that a vast majority of Canadians don't know what Net Neutrality is - but they agree with the principle once it is explained. There are some interesting statistics in that first link, although I must admit that the survey seems to have a bit of a bias. Poll neutrality anyone?

A good discussion on this poll can be found on Dr. Michael Geist's blog, here.

Absolutely no disrespect to George. He's a good guy.


< Refactor:my="code" >

Ok don't ask what that ugly monstrosity in the title is supposed to be. The point is, I found a promising site for sharing & discussing/evaluating your code-creations in a (small but growing) coding community. It's called Refactor my Code. Posting this mainly for Rockwell, (although I haven't seen much discussion there about ActionScript), and also for anyone else who's interested.

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To Be Too Honest

I recently applied for a MasterCard with my bank, (you can do it all online), and got brutally shot down for being too honest. Let's take a step back. As soon as people hear that a young person wants a credit card, they start shaking their heads as they envision the kid lining up at a checkout counter, armed with their magic plastic, to put themselves in debt and make their parents' hair fall out. And I say to you: Please. Haven't you more faith in me than that?

The reason I'd like a credit card has nothing to do with wanting more money, and has everything to do with wanting more access to the money I already have. Why? Because the internet doesn't do debit. That's right, the internet. I'm sick and tired of not being able to shop or do anything online because I don't have a magic number to feed those little white input fields. I'd like to be able to conveniently buy tickets to a local show, or a birthday gift for a friend, or order a pizza.

((BY THE WAY: This will seem very random right now but it'll become clear in a moment why I brought this up now. Something kind of big that happened in my life that I totally forgot to mention on this blog is that I quit my job at Sears last month. The only real reason is that it was going to be way too inconvenient and expensive to commute every weekend, and it also conflicted with my Technical Theatre course which requires my presence on Saturdays. I left on good terms though, so it's all good.))

Now, if I ever want internet liberty, I guess I'll have to try a different angle. Here's a little synopsis of the digital dialogue with my bank. I guess I can see why they'd be concerned.

What is your occupation?

If Student, are you studying something practical?
No, B.A.

Are you currently employed?


What is your current living situation? (Own/Rent/Live with parents?)

If renting, what is the monthly rate?

What is your current yearly income?, nothing.


Response: Thanks but no thanks!


Yes I fabricated the bit about what I'm studying, but I'm pretty sure there might have been some question to that effect.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Hail the Brilliance of Dan Lyons

Daniel Lyons, the senior editor at Forbes magazine, was uncovered last August to be the true identity of popular blogger "Fake Steve Jobs". I've been reading The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs for several weeks now, but only today did I venture backward in time to look at some postings in Fake Steve's archive. I absolutely love Lyons' writing style, and this post in particular kills me every time I read it. The best thing? You don't even have to be well read on the Silicon Valley technocracy to get it. This post is actually about a fake conversation with Stephen Spielberg. Priceless.

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