Welcome to another edition of the Prompt Newsletter.
This week we examine how CERN was targeted by hackers, new hi-tech desks for schools, why video games don't make you a social outcast and the secret origin of the iPod.
Plus: We take a look at a new super-thin eReader and a new book that argues that text speak isn't dumbing down our language. Which is gr8, I think you'll agree.
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By Dave Wilby
Last week the LHC,
or Large Hadron Collider, experiment kicked off at the European Organization for Nuclear
Research (CERN) in Geneva. The experiment's ultimate objective is to
split elementary particles in beams of protons to prove the existence of Higgs boson, but observers
around the world are undecided whether it's all rather exciting or really
dangerous. One thing’s for sure, if the planet is in danger of being sucked
into a tiny black hole on the banks of the Rhône, poking it with a stick isn’t
going to help.
This week it was revealed that a hacking group going by the name of 'The Greek Security Team' had broken into networks at CERN and uploaded a new web page describing the facilities' IT security staff as "schoolkids" (while also stating they had no intention of disrupting the experiment). According to The Times, the hackers "targeted the computer system of the Compact Muon Solenoid Experiment, one of the four detectors that will be analysing the progress of the experiment."
James Gillies, a spokesman for CERN, said: "We don't know who they were but there seems to be no harm done. It appears to be people who want to make a point that CERN was hackable."
By Ellie Turner
It’s time to wave goodbye to the blackboard, chalk, the whiteboard and those funny smelling pens. According to Metro, in the future children may have Apple iPhone-style desks in the classroom.
The clever people at Technology-Enhanced Learning Research Group (TEL), based at Durham University, observed how students were working in lessons and thought about how sophisticated ICT equipment could improve and enhance teaching. The team has designed interactive multi-touch desks, known as ‘SynergyNet’. Several pupils will be able to work around each ‘sci-fi desk’, which allow multiple hands and fingers to be used simultaneously. This will also help disabled students and those with special needs, revolutionising how they will be able to interact with fellow classmates.
The Durham researchers have been awarded £1.5 million to design the system and software used and will be testing it in primary and secondary schools, as well as some universities, over the next four years.
By Dave Wilby
The dated image of video gamers cloistered away in dank bedrooms, shunning the rest of society for as long as it takes to complete their latest on-screen adventure, is now fragged and pwned, according to latest research.
The Pew Internet study of American teenagers actually revealed that kids rarely play alone and most socialise while gaming. "Three quarters of teens actually play these games with other people, whether online or in person," said Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at Pew."People who game on a daily basis are just as likely to talk on the phone, to email, to spend time with a friend face to face outside of school as kids who play games less."
According to the BBC, the survey of 1,102 teenagers aged 12 to 17 revealed that 99 percent of boys and 94 percent of girls play some sort of video game, most commonly Guitar Hero, Halo 3, Madden NFL, Solitaire and Dance Dance Revolution.
The report goes even further, suggesting that games actually help disenfranchised teenagers engage with friends and community. Surprisingly, the study revealed that 52 percent played games concerned with moral and ethical issues, 43 percent played games in which they made decisions about how a community, city or nation should be run, and 40 percent played games in which they learned social issues. Will MTV’s ‘Darfur is Dying’ ever make that top five list, we wonder?
By Kathryn Cave
Two thousand years ago the Romans were obsessed with the decline in standards of Latin. Antiquated patriarchs droned throughout the classical world about the debasement of linguistic standards. Unfortunately, in the intervening years nothing much has changed. This week the Guardian’s John Crace interviewed David Crystal, author of this year’s controversial book “Txtng: the gr8db8”.
Refreshingly, linguistics expert Crystal doesn't think there’s anything wrong with language developing. "The reality is that people have always had a tremendous fear about the impact of new technology on language. When the printing press was first invented, people thought it was an instrument of the devil that would spawn unauthorised versions of the Bible. The telephone created fears of a breakdown in family life. And radio and television raised concerns about brain-washing. Text messaging is just the most recent focus of people's anxiety; what people are really worried about is a new generation gaining control of what they see as their language."
He goes on to add: "Almost every basic principle that people hold about texting turns out to be misconceived. Misspelling isn't universal: analysis shows that only 10% of words used in texts are misspelt. Nor are most texts sent by kids: 80% are sent by businesses and adults. Likewise, there is no evidence that texting teaches people to spell badly: rather, research shows that kids who text frequently are more likely to be the most literate and the best spellers."
There’s no question: the hullabaloo surrounding technology and language will always exist. But there’s also no doubt that language is organic and will continue to evolve, no matter how many old fuddy duddies bellyache about moral decline.
It seems as though the futuristic paperless office is just around the corner, thanks to a prototype e-reader that won the People’s Choice Award at DEMOfall 08.
Plastic Logic’s e-reader, which has not been officially named yet, is reminiscent of Amazon’s Kindle, in that they both use a form of electronic ink for increased readability, but that’s where the similarities end. Plastic Logic’s creation is a little more like the lovechild of a laptop and a piece of paper.
Aimed at busy professionals, the flexible plastic reader has a screen the size of an 8.5 by 11-inch piece of paper, which makes it ideal for reading business documents, periodicals, books and newspapers. The device is thinner than the average paper notepad and weighs less than many magazine and newspapers, making it as portable as a laptop, if not more so.
Users will be able to access and store a variety of business document formats on the e-reader, including Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and Adobe PDFs. The device has a gesture-based user interface, which will make handling documents on it somewhat intuitive, and it will be able to be used in wired and wireless environments.
The e-reader is scheduled for release during the first half of next year, although no price or distribution date has been announced as yet. Until then, you’ll just have to put up with that pulped wood stuff and actual ink for a while longer.
By Sally Forge
Last week, in the same week Apple revealed its latest iPod, it emerged that the original inventor of a pocket-sized, solid-state mobile music device was a Briton, who came up with the idea in 1979.
Wired magazine explains how the concepts for not only an iPod-like device, but also DRM, instant chart updates, telephone-line downloads, security issues, central cataloguing, digital marketing and costs risk-mitigation on launching new artists and online music were detailed by inventor Kane Kramer in a confidential proposal (complete with ink-ribbon typewriter typos) to investors in the late seventies. Along with friend James Campbell, Kramer developed a prototype MP3 player that went on sale at the APRS exhibition in Earls Court.
19 September 2008
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Ramon McLeod has resigned from his role as website editor at PC World. McLeod has spent 25 years in the industry and has written for several newspapers, including the Cincinnati Post, the Orange County Register and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Steve Fox is returning to PC World on 6 October as vice president and editorial director. He will also serve in the capacity of editor in chief. Fox held several positions at PC World from 1990 to 1996, including managing editor, senior editor and executive editor. Fox most recently served as editor in chief for The Web magazine, editorial director for CNET.com and editor in chief for InfoWorld.
Tony Yang has been appointed reporter at the Silicon Valley/San Jose (Calif.) Business Journal. He most recently served as an intern and reporter for the San Francisco Business Times. In his new role, Yang will cover clean and emerging technologies.
As of next week the New York Times will run a daily business opinion column provided by Breakingviews.com, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal until it was dropped last week in favour of the WSJ’s own Heard on the Street column. The column will also run in the International Herald Tribune and the Daily Telegraph in the UK.
Blocks & Files, a website edited by Chris Mellor covering IT storage, is being absorbed by Situation Publishing's The Register. Mellor will now serve as storage and hardware editor at the Register. The Register provides irreverent opinion and news coverage of the technology industry.
The Economist will be sold on streets in London alongside the Evening Standard as part of an attempt to boost circulation of the weekly magazine. Street vendors will sell copies of the weekly magazine every Friday in targeted locations throughout the City.
The magazine experienced a 6 percent year on year increase in sales for the first half of 2008 in the UK and around the world. This growth is set to continue with the announcement this week of the opening of the magazine's new Middle East headquarters in Dubai Media City under the leadership of Susan Clark, who has been appointed managing director of Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA).
Meg de Jong has joined B2B Marketing magazine as a reporter. Prior to joining the magazine, de Jong worked as a freelance journalist in Canada and South Africa. She has also served as a copy editor for the Calgary Herald in Canada.
1 out of 7
Americans still don't own a cell phone
US adoption rate for mobile
3.6% (9.2 million)
US mobile phone subscribers that have paid for goods or services using their mobile phones
US mobile subscribers that plan to do mobile commerce in future
Source: PC Today, September 2008, page 6
With Kathryn Cave
There’s something addictive about this site, which offers 20
grains of rice to the United Nations World Food
Programme for every answer you get right. The format is very simple: you’re
given a word of English vocabulary and a multiple choice of four potential
meanings. If you select correctly, 20 grains of rice are donated to help end
world hunger. It doesn’t take long to donate a lot of rice!
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