Friday, September 11, 2009

tt4t_097 Working with a net on the Internet

It’s Friday, September 11th, 2009 and welcome to episode 97 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. On the last episode of TechTalk4Teachers I discussed how we are increasingly seeing stories in the news related to the warning signs regarding Web 2.0 services. Over the past couple of weeks there have been a couple more high-profile cases that give some credence to the dangers of relying solely upon Web 2.0 services in the cloud.

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Cloud computing is the general term used where companies host their services on servers connected to the Internet and customers use the Internet to gain access to them. Many Web 2.0 services are free and therefore appeal to educators. As long as the servers are in good working condition and as long as customers have a good connection to the Internet everything works fine. The problems typically come when you do not have access to the Internet and therefore cannot use any Web 2.0 service. Another common problem for schools is that many schools filter and block these Web 2.0 services and therefore cannot be used at school.

This past week Google’s gmail web services experienced an outage lasting approximately 100 minutes. An outage on any of Googles servers is extremely rare so when an outage occurs it is big news. For those relying soley upon gmail for their email services users could not access their accounts through web access. If you were one of these users I suspect you may have panicked to find out that you could not log into gmail to check your email during this brief outage period.

I have provided links in the show notes to a couple of articles related to the Google gmail outage if you would like to learn more including a link to Google’s official blog with an explanation of what happened.

CNN Article on gmail outage

Google’s Official Blog

There was another Web 2.0 incident that recently occurred involving well known technology blogger Robert Scoble who had his WordPress blog hacked and the hackers deleted some of his content along with some other nefarious activities. Hackers also broke into Scoble’s blog back in May of this year and he thought he had the issue resolved until the incident last week.

I have provided links to a couple of articles related to this incident in the show notes.

Scoble – I don’t feel safe with WordPress

Here is a quote from Robert Scoble from a Venture Beat article regarding the recent hacker attack.

“They broke back in, but this time they did a lot more damage. They deleted about two months of my blog. Yes, I didn’t have a backup. I should learn to do backups (we’re doing them now). Life has a way of beating you if you don’t have backups.”

Venture Beat Article

This is very sad knowing that someone deleted files from your account and is even worse when you know you did not backup your files.

Web 2.0 services in this regard are becoming their own worst enemy because they have been so reliable in the past that we begin to take them for granted. We get lazy and do not routinely backup files because we rarely have a need to use backup files. However when we do need them we REALLY need them and kick ourselves for not taking a few minutes to protect hundreds of hours of work by simply copying important files to a backup device.

It really is RULE #1 of computing, ALWAYS have a backup of your important data files.

How do you know what’s important? I use the pain theory, if it would be painful for me to re-create something I have done using a computer then it is time for a backup. The seconds and minutes that it takes to make a backup is my insurance policy against disaster.

As Director of the ITC I occasionally get a student that comes to me with a flash drive that contains their 25 page report (that is usually due in the next hour) and says that their flash drive will not open their report, somehow the files have become corrupted. Maybe it was that trip through the washing machine. The first thing I ask them is, “Do you have a backup?” You can guess what the answer is most of the time.

Now this can happen to the best of us as illustrated by Robert Scoble’s case. The Scobleizer Blog ranks among the top 500 most popular blogs on Technorati and even a person with his knowledge and abilities has been burned by not adhering to Rule #1. He has paid the price and has lost about two months worth of content.

So the moral of this story is to always have a backup. For Web 2.0 services I call this working with a net on the Internet. When I post an Episode of TechTalk4Teachers to my blog site I also keep a local copy on my computer. That way in the unlikely event that my Google blog account gets deleted or hacked in to I have the original source files in a different location and I can recover if necessary.

It is also why I have a skydrive account where I save selected files to the Internet so I have access to them from anywhere there is an Internet connection. If you would like to learn more about skydrive checkout episode 67 of TechTalk4Teachers, a link is in the show notes.

Episode 67 Crunch Time (Skydrive)

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is from fellow listener Dr. Jake Emmett from our Kinesiology and Sports Studies department here at EIU. Dr. Emmett submitted Evernote to be considered for this weeks tech pick.

Evernote is a great Web 2.0 service especially for people who need a little help with finding things over time. Evernote’s slogan is “Remember Everything”

A link to the Evernote service is also provided in the show notes along with a link to learn more about this innovative service, as usual the basic Evernote account is free.


Evernote - Learn More

Evernote is great service for teachers and students and if you use this service you can place notes, documents, and pictures into your account and they all become searchable. If you need to find something and it is in your Evernote account you just type a search term and Evernote will find everything related to your search. Pretty handy for remembering everything for you.

One of the neatest technologies built into Evernote is the ability to read information stored in picture format (JPG). For example you can take a picture of someones business card and Evernote will recognize the text on the card and the text becomes searchable. Pretty Cool!

Thanks Dr. Emmett for the recommendation. I also invite other listeners of TechTalk4Teachers to submit your favorite tech tools to be considered as a future Tech Pick of the Week. This podcast is all about sharing so let’s share our favorites so we can all become better teachers.

That wraps it up for episode 97 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

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