Saturday, October 24, 2009

Universal phone charger approved

A new mobile phone charger that will work with any handset has been approved by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations body.

Industry body the GSMA predicts that 51,000 tonnes of redundant chargers are generated each year.

Currently most chargers are product or brand specific, so people tend to change them when they upgrade to a new phone.

However, the new energy-efficient chargers can be kept for much longer.

The GSMA also estimates that they will reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 13.6m tonnes.

"This is a significant step in reducing the environmental impact of mobile charging," said Malcolm Johnson, director of ITU's Telecommunication Standardisation Bureau.

"Universal chargers are a common-sense solution that I look forward to seeing in other areas."

The charger has a micro-USB port at the connecting end, using similar technology to digital cameras.

It is not compulsory for manufacturers to adopt the new chargers but the ITU says that some have already signed up to it.

"We are planning to launch the universal charger internationally during the first half of 2010," Aldo Liguori, spokesperson for Sony Ericsson told the BBC.

"We will roll it out with new products as they launch."

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Amazon will be king of the cloud: Mark Shuttleworth

Canonical chief Mark Shuttleworth has said Amazon will emerge as triumphant in the battle for the cloud.

Shuttleworth told a BT open source event yesterday that Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, or a closely related platform, will become the cloud standard.

If alternative clouds are to compete, he said, they must offer open source implementations and be compatible with the Amazon EC2 platform.

For more, see Shuttleworth: Amazon will win cloud battle on ZDNet UK.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Mobile is the New Mass Medium

Mobile connected devices clearly are the universal screen of choice – and not just because of this week’s big news that Dell will brand its first smart phone, Verizon Wireless will offer customers Google’s Android operating system and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile apps will be loaded into 30 new smart phones by year’s end.

While tech and telecom giants slug it out on the retail front, the real story is consumers’ 24/7 love affair with wireless mobile devices.

Nearly half of all Americans admit to sleeping with their mobile phones and four in ten admit they “can’t live” without them, according to a survey by Synovate, a global marketing and research firm. Worldwide, the June survey of 8,000 mobile phone users in 11 global markets found that smart phones and other mobile devices are becoming consumers’ universal “remote control for life.” For instance:

  • Three-fourths of global survey respondents — including 82 percent of Americans — never leave home without their phone.
  • One fourth of respondents across 11 markets own more than two mobile phones. One third of Americans most likely own at least two mobile phones and at least 20 percent own a smart phone.
  • The most popular activities on mobile devices — aside from ubiquitous voice calls and texting — are the alarm clock, the camera and games. Americans generally concede they don’t know how to use other features on their mobile phones.
  • U.S. and U.K. 3G access is exploding because of increased Internet browsing and social networking.
  • Text messaging, now as important as voice calling, is changing the way people manage their relationships (from flirting to lying to breaking up). In fact a U.S. study by AT&T Wireless earlier this year determined that texting plays a significant role in romance.
The down side of this infatuation is consumers’ insistence on texting and talking on their mobile devices while driving. The problem has become so acute — and lethal — that the Senate is working to pass legislation that would ban texting while driving. President Obama last week signed an executive order prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving.

Although the latest Virginia Tech survey found that texting drivers are 23 percent more likely to be involved in a collision, many consumers admit they just can’t help themselves. Unrelenting texters — most especially teens — are being targeted with a persuasive if not frightening YouTube video as well as a free mobile video game designed to demonstrate the often deadly results.

Evidence of the mobile craze is everywhere. Pew’s Internet & American Life Project reports that 70 percent of Americans use their hand held mobile devices for non-voice data applications and one-third use them to access the Internet.

The number of Americans using mobile devices to access news and other information doubled from 2008 to 22.4 million as enterprise workers perform functions on mobile devices that were formerly reserved for laptops, according to comScore. A survey of 300 Bostonians conducted for Samsung reveals that one-third would rather forgo sex for an entire year than give up their cell phones for that amount of time.

This all adds up to plenty of new opportunities for tech and media companies to join forces to provide more hands-free as well as overall mobile interactive apps and programs for just about anything that tickles a consumer’s fancy. Mobile is the new mass medium.
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Friday, October 2, 2009

Israeli Entrepreneur Plans a Free Global Online Only University

An Israeli entrepreneur with decades of experience in international education plans to start the first global, tuition-free Internet university, a nonprofit venture he has named the University of the People.

“The idea is to take social networking and apply it to academia,” said the entrepreneur, Shai Reshef, founder of several Internet-based educational businesses.

“The open-source courseware is there, from universities that have put their courses online, available to the public, free,” Mr. Reshef said. “We know that online peer-to-peer teaching works. Putting it all together, we can make a free university for students all over the world, anyone who speaks English and has an Internet connection.”

About four million students in the United States took at least one online course in 2007, according to a survey by the Sloan Consortium, a nonprofit group devoted to integrating online learning into mainstream higher education.

Online learning is growing in many different contexts. Through the Open Courseware Consortium, started in 2001 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, universities around the world have posted materials for thousands of courses — as varied as Lambing and Sheep Management at Utah State and Relativistic Quantum Field Theory at M.I.T. — all free to the public. Many universities now post their lectures on iTunes.

For-profit universities like the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University have extensive online offerings. And increasingly, both public and private universities offer at least some classes online.

Outside the United States, too, online learning is booming. Open University in Britain, for example, enrolls about 160,000 undergraduates in distance-learning courses.

The University of the People, like other Internet-based universities, would have online study communities, weekly discussion topics, homework assignments and exams. But in lieu of tuition, students would pay only nominal fees for enrollment ($15 to $50) and exams ($10 to $100), with students from poorer countries paying the lower fees and those from richer countries paying the higher ones.

Experts in online education say the idea raises many questions.

“We’ve chatted about doing something like this over the last decade but decided the time wasn’t yet right,” said John Bourne, executive director of the Sloan Consortium. “It’s true that the open courseware movement is pretty robust, so there are a lot of high-quality course materials out there, but there’s no human backup behind them. I’d be interested to know how you’d find and train faculty and ensure quality without tuition money.”

Other educators question the logistics of such a plan.

“The more you get people around the world talking to each other, great, and the more they talk about what they’re learning, just wonderful,” said Philip G. Altbach, director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College. “But I’m not at all sure, when you start attaching that to credits and degrees and courses, that it translates so well.

“How will they test students? How much will the professors do? How well does the American or British curriculum serve the needs of people in Mali? How do they handle students whose English is not at college level?”

Mr. Reshef said his new university would use active and retired professors — some paid, some volunteers — along with librarians, master-level students and professionals to develop and evaluate curriculums and oversee assessments.

He plans to start small, limiting enrollment at 300 students when the university goes online in the fall and offering only bachelor’s degrees in business administration and computer science. Mr. Reshef said the university would apply for accreditation as soon as possible.

Mr. Reshef hopes to build enrollment to 10,000 over five years, the level at which he said the enterprise should be self-sustaining. Startup costs would be about $5 million, Mr. Reshef said, of which he plans to provide $1 million.

For all the uncertainties, Mr. Reshef is probably as well positioned as anyone for such an enterprise.

Starting in 1989, he served as chairman of the Kidum Group, an Israeli test preparation company, which he sold in 2005 to Kaplan, one of the world’s largest education companies. While chairman of Kidum, he built an online university affiliated with the University of Liverpool, enrolling students from more than 100 countries; that business was sold to Laureate, another large for-profit education company, in 2004.

Mr. Reshef is now chairman of, an online study community offering homework help to college students.

“Cramster has thousands of students helping other students,” said Mr. Reshef, who lives in Pasadena, Calif., where both Cramster and the new university are based. “These become strong social communities. With these new social networks, where young people now like to spend their lives, we can bring college degrees to students all over the world, third-world students who would be unable to study otherwise. I haven’t found even one person who says it’s a bad idea.”

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Don't sell jobs through social networks: Students

About 70 percent of students are not in favor of the companies using social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook to offer them jobs, despite the increasing importance of social networks in corporate hiring process, according to a survey.

As per the survey conducted by hiring solutions provider TMP Worldwide and Targetjobs, 70 percent of surveyed students did not want businesses to use sites like Twitter or Facebook to sell jobs to them as they believe that employers should not exploit social media for their own benefit. However, the survey revealed that 79 percent of the respondents believe social sites were key to employers engaging with them.

In the survey, it came across that students actively use social media to research companies and confirm whether employer brand messages live up to reality and almost half of students use social media sites to chat with peers about recruitment process. In addition, about 30 percent of students chat with current employees to check if their expectations of a particular employer were met, after being taken on.

Neil Harrison, Head of Planning and Research, TMP Worldwide said, "Employers have been saying for some time that they use social networking sites to 'check up' on potential candidates, but they must now be aware that the tables have turned. Today's students use these sites as trusted places to not only communicate with friends but to also investigate potential employers; so businesses simply cannot underestimate the power of social media when it comes to brand building and engaging with undergraduates."

The report, which was based on the study of penultimate and final year students, also revealed that 42 percent of students feel social media is the ideal platform to communicate employer brand and 56 percent agree social networking sites allow candidates to get feel for company's culture.

"Employers must not however, approach social media half heartedly. They must be consistent with their brand and maintain the values they promote online throughout the recruitment, selection and ongoing retention process," said Harrison.
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