Monday, January 31, 2011

Episode 116 – Do not shutoff my Internet and the Four Horsemen

It’s Monday January 31st, 2011 and welcome to episode 116 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Another month has gone by since the last podcast and the world has changed once again.

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This past month has witnessed protests in Tunisia and Egypt in attempts to oust the current dictatorial governments. Social media has played a huge role in these protests, so much so that the government of Egypt has cut-off cell phone and Internet service in the country in an attempt to disrupt protestors. Organizers of the protests were using Facebook and Twitter prior to the Internet cutoff to coordinate protests, so, the government made the decision to turn off the Internet switch. As of the time of this podcast some cell phone coverage has been restored but there is still no Internet access in Egypt. This is a very fluid situation and it is unclear whether President Mubarak will remain as the leader of Egypt as of the time of this posting. Tunisia was successful in their attempts to depose the Tunisian dictator but it did not come without the loss if life. Current events are always unpredictable but offer educators the opportunity to talk about democracy and what life is like in other countries.

Modern communications technologies have allowed for instant communication on a world-wide scale. It is a bit disconcerting, but not surprising, that any country can just turn off a switch to disrupt communications in the face of a crisis. One reason the Internet has been so successful on a global scale is that it was designed to be very robust with the capability of re-routing information if needed.

The Internet was born in 1969 as part of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as a way to build a communications network that could communicate with other networks through internetwork packet-switching.

The idea was that if one part of the communications network went down for some reason the rest of the network would remain operational and find an alternative path if possible. That works well as long as the network node you want to communicate with is alive but if you cannot access devices on a portion of the network you are out of luck. In essence this is what has happened in Egypt as their Internet has gone dark while the rest of the worlds Internet access remains functional. That is a good thing unless you happen to live in Egypt where you are directly impacted by the blackout.

Network engineers have worked very hard on building a reliable networking infrastructure that is capable of routing around problem areas where congestion occurs or access is unavailable. If the pathway to a specific device is unavailable then there is no communication possible unless a redundant pathway is established.

Egypt finds itself in the midst of protests with no Internet communications possible because the portion that serves Egypt has been shutdown. It is a tragic situation and one that we can only hope will be resolved peacefully.

The Internet has become so successful that we are experiencing growing pains as there is now a coming crisis of not having enough Internet IP addresses to add more computers and devices to the Internet. With the explosion of smart phones that are capable of connecting to the Internet we are nearing the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses. Do not worry as there is a plan to move from IP Version 4 to IP Version 6 that will solve this problem but it does mean that the Internet infrastructure will need some revamping to accommodate the new format. I have provided a link from a PCMag article if you would like to know more about this upcoming change due to growing pains on the Internet:,2817,2376887,00.asp

The Four Horsemen

In other news this month the world of technology witnessed changes for two of the four leaders from what has become known as the four horsemen of the technology industry. Leaders at Apple and Google have had a change in status at their respective companies this month. The so called four horsemen of the tech industry change from time to time but it is not hard to argue that Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Intel have been on this list in recent years.

Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, has taken a leave of absence due to health concerns and Eric Schmidt of Google has stepped down as the CEO of Google as part of a corporate restructuring. Schmidt will remain as part of the management team along with Sergey Brin and Larry Page at Google. It remains to be seen what changes the announcements may have on the future business of these tech titans but both announcements caught the tech world by surprise this month.

Steve Ballmer of Microsoft is also making some executive changes at the top with the replacement of Bob Muglia, head of the Server Business Unit at Microsoft. At Intel, CEO Paul Otellini , is also facing changes with Microsoft possibly porting its next version of Windows to the ARM architecture. The Intel architecture that Microsoft has supported exclusively for years will likely face some competition with the ARM architecture.

With so much of a shakeup at the worlds largest tech companies the world is changing once again.
January also marks the time when these companies announce their quarterly earnings reports and all four of these horsemen recently reported record years and are riding high on the horse. A link is provided in the show notes if you are interested in reading the Press Releases regarding the recent quarterly earnings from these companies. You can really learn a lot about these companies from these press release statements:

Microsoft Reports Record $0.77 Earnings Per Share in Second Quarter

Apple Reports First Quarter Results

Google Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2010 Results and Management Changes

Intel Reports Record Year and Record Fourth Quarter

I scanned the reports for information and if I did my math correctly these four companies had just short of 67 billion in revenue with over 18 billion dollars of that being net income. And this is just for the QUARTERLY results! For the average person that is an almost inconceivable amount of income.

What is net income?

The four horsemen of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Intel have a tremendous impact upon the lives of millions of people every single day.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a free ebook reading program that is cross-platform. Calibre will run on Windows, Macs, and Linux and is an open source ebook reader / management program. I am pronouncing it (Caliber) Calibre as that is the way that Kovid Goyal, the creator of the program, pronounces it. I have heard several people call it “Calibre” but I will honor the creator of the program and call it Calibre here. I have provided links in the shownotes to the Download site as well as an introductory video of its capabilities that is worth a watch if you want to know more about this free ebook reader.

Calibre open source ebook reader

What I like about Calibre is its cross-platform support as well as the support for the majority of ebook formats. The two most popular formats being EPUB that the Barnes and Noble nook uses and the MOBI format the Amazon Kindle uses. The only catch is that Calibre will not work with all ebooks due to Digital Rights Management issues, also known as DRM. DRM is currently used on the Nook, Kindle, and other ebook readers in efforts to keep electronic books from being pirated.

It feels like we have seen this song and dance before as publishers are using proprietary DRM formats to protect content to the detriment of consumers. If you lived through the transition of digital music from CD’s to downloadable MP3’s you can unfortunately expect a similar experience with ebooks. When Apple came out with iTunes the music Apple sold was protected by DRM. DRM uses proprietary software that may lock you into a particular device, in the case of Apple it is the iPod/iPhone. If you want to use another MP3 player you could not if the music was DRMd to a particular device.

The music industry has gradually limited DRM and much music today can now be purchased without DRM. A negative of buying digital copies is that if the service decides to change the format the consumer may be forced to buy the content again in the “new and improved format”. This happened with Apple at one point where consumers were faced with re-buying songs they already purchased if they wanted to buy a higher quality version of songs.

Coming off this history I do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past but I find myself in a similar spot with the current state of ebooks. Having lived through the messy world of DRM music I now find myself in the DRM ebook world. It will be a while, maybe never, but I dream of a day that I could read a book I purchased on Amazon in the Kindle format and read it on a Barnes and Noble Nook, or read it using some open source program such as Calibre or in my Google ebooks folder. Right now the solution is to lock into a particular format or buy the old fashioned paper-based version of the book, currently I am using the Kindle format for purchased ebooks but Google offers the advantage of access from an inclusive gmail account. Then there is the iPad and the slew of Android tablets that support ebooks. Hmmm, choices.

How about you, are you using ebooks? Are you finding any barriers with using ebooks in schools? I would love to hear from you so please send me an email to or better yet record your question or comment in a sound file, keep it brief and to the point and send it to me as an email attachment. Selected comments will be shared on the next episode and played on air if you send in an audio comment. One thing I think we educators need to do more of is to comment on each others blogs, wikis, and podcasts to share more with one another by participating in the content we use. When was the last time you posted a comment or participated on a podcast?

That wraps it up for episode 116 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at To leave a comment or suggestion, please send an email to or leave a comment on the Tech Talk for Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning…