Information in the Personal Cloud (Part 2)

There are a number of plug computing devices on the market, some specifically do this kind of function commercially. These small form factor devices are Linux server computers running on ARM processor architecture, and consequently only draw between 4W and 13W of power. They have an Ethernet socket and from 1 to 4 USB sockets. Once you couple an external USB HDD and plug into an Ethernet socket you have a Network-attached storage (NAS). This can then provide secure cloud backup, remote access and collaboration services, and allow sharing and synchronize of files on your local network.

The options include:

  • Pogoplug v2 Pink
  • Tonido Plug
  • Seagate Dockstar (based on Pogoplug software)
  • Iomega iConnect WDS
  • CTERA CloudPlug

I’ve gone out and got a Pogoplug v2 cos it was the easiest and cheapest route for me at the time. I coupled a Western Digital 1TB HDD to it and plugged it into an ethernet socket. The setup was relatively straight forward, and didn’t take very long at all.

There are three options for access with the Pogoplug:

  1. Web access via the security  https://my.pogoplug.com login
  2. Download a small desktop client for Windows, Mac OS or Linux
  3. Install a mobile app for iPhone, Android, Blackberry or Palm.

You can manage, access, upload and download content from anywhere. You can view your images, even as a slideshow, and stream video (you need to have the videos transcoded first or you’ll only see the first 10 sec by default).

Here’s a video of me streaming a video from the external HDD via Pogoplug simultaneously to a laptop and an Android mobile:

You can backup and synch folder.

You can share your content with other people by allowing access to specific folders and inviting them using the email invite option. Alternatively you can open the content of a folder completely and have a URL allocated. From your logged in access side it might look something like:

Setting up sharing folder on Pogoplug Then from the open web side using the supplied URL you’d see:

Open web side view of folder via Pogoplug(This folder isn’t open any longer, so the URL doesn’t work.)

By default security isn’t set, but you can optionally enable SSL, though this will slow down access.

I must admit that for about the first three days following setup I did experience some difficulties. Uploading files wasn’t working successfully; they would hang or bomb out. I resorted to plugging the HDD directly into my PCs to transfer files across. Then accessing these files was a little slow via the Pogoplug interface. However, following this initial period, things have gone much more smoothly.

Interestingly, the Seagate Dockstar also uses the Pogoplug service.

If you have any worries about the longevity of Pogoplug, they have said that if the company does dissolve then the code will be made available via SourceForge so you’d be able to continue using your Pogoplug.

I think the Tonido Plug runs all open source so that might be an area to consider further.

I intent to write another part in this Personal Cloud series of posts soon.

Additional information:

  1. Tonido – Run your own personal cloud – http://www.tonido.com/
  2. Tonidoplug – TonidoPlug is a tiny, low-power, low-cost personal home server and NAS device powered by Tonido software that allows you to access your files, music and media from anywhere for just $99 – http://www.tonidoplug.com/
  3. Pogoplug – http://www.pogoplug.com/home-en.html?
  4. Seagate Dockstar – http://www.seagate.com/www/en-us/products/network_storage/freeagent_dockstar/
  5. Comparison of hardware specs http://plugapps.com/index.php5?title=Portal:Hardware

British Library Sound Map – Sheffield

The British Library has a project just started where the general public can record short soundscapes to be kept and archived for posterity. The pilot phase is happening right in the gorgeous city of Sheffield.

There was an article about it on BBC Radio 4’s World Tonight yesterday (listen via iPlayer from 39min42sec to 44mins) plus an article in the Sheffield Telegraph.

I spent my lunchtime recording some soundscapes in town, geo tagging and uploading them. By the time I got back to my desk they had already made it onto the British Library Sound Map.

Here’s my tweet about it. Follow the #uksm on Twitter.

Application of this concept has some great potential for education. It also shows what a multi-tool the smart phone has become.

So if you want to be a little part of history, get recording sounds to Audioboo. More details are on my previous blog post about Audioboo.

Data Visualization

For a long time I’ve been interested in infographics. More recently I’m finding myself increasingly interested in data visualization. I don’t currently have the time to study any programming necessary for manipulating data, so I turned my attention to something I do know about – identifying and using freely available online services. So for the last couple of days I’ve been looking at what’s available, and here are some of my findings.

I’ll start with Tableau Public. On the site there’s free software to download, and the video provides an excellent introduction to the capabilities of the software and service. It’s simply a case of importing your data set and using the intuitive and straightforward operations of the software to quickly create visual representations of the data for easy interpretation. But that’s not all. You can now upload the graph, or map, or dashboard to the web onto the Tableau Software server. From there you can access it and embed it into a blog or elsewhere. But the information is served live, so it’s interactive, therefore the readers and other users of the information can manipulate the representation to narrow an area of the data, to target specific information of interest; heck, they can even embed it into their own blog and distribute the information more widely. The fact that the Wall Street Journal and UNESCO have used it to illustrate points from raw data has to speak volumes. I’ll certainly be using it in earnest from now on.

Another service to consider is Widgenie. This is a completely online service that allows you to create five types of graphical output. There is a very useful realtime representation of the graph alongside the creation ‘wizard’. Once you’ve finished creating your ‘widget’ you can then link to the graph for example to give co-workers access, you can publish to your iGoogle desktop, or you can embed it using the supplied code into a blog or webpage. There are some useful instructional video screencasts to help you get started.

Finally, if you are wanting to study some existing data sets, relating to the UK ecomomy for example, I’d suggest having a look at Timetric. Here you can view graphs, and manipulate the data, adding in additional elements from a series to compare the data graphically. Here’s the Retail Price Index, UK: average prices of the basket of goods used as an example.

Link to the best, don’t recreate the same old stuff

I followed a link on a tweet today to Jeff Jarvis’ blog post and I’m so glad I did.

Sometimes you come across some work that strikes a chord with your own work or beliefs. This was one of those moments. In his TEDxNYED video Jeff talks about using the best resources that are available and simply linking to them, instead of reproducing them. It does mean reassessing what education is, what format it takes, after all if you can access some of the best lectures in the world online, for free, (as I wrote about here and here) what is the value of sitting through someone else delivering the same topic without any interaction?

I remember something I wrote in the Social Media Co-Lab forums:

Posted on: Fri, 11/14/2008 – 07:29 Following on from Free

I think we should be tapping into what others are providing without having to repackage the material into the ‘corporate identity’ of an institution. Doing so simple seems a waste of time and effort, and doesn’t necessarily reward (not financially speaking; more citing and recognition) the original author. If we are working towards a vast educational community approach to resources, I feel we should be finding (and passing on) the best examples of material already produced, and not necessarily recreating them.

For example, I was recently passed a link to a site where someone was creating screencasts of how to use various software. The individual had won an award for this site. Fair enough, what he’s created is a good resource now, all very uniform. But it doesn’t really align with my own philosophy. Why not just create a wiki linking to the best you can find of other people’s screencasts of how to use software? It may look more different and dirty but I’d say possibly it gets learners thinking about a few things: they see that not everything useful has to come from a recognised, uniform resource; they as learners can go out and find material and they need to evaluate its credibility; they themselves can produce material to share; they can be part of the bigger community (for example, by editing the wiki linking to all these resources).

Which received a response from Will Richardson (yes that Will Richardson):

Posted on: Fri, 11/14/2008 – 12:49 Rolling Your Own as Opposed to Rolling Others

(Or something like that…)

Just picking up on what Mark said above in terms of choosing between making yet another how to screencast or collecting the best of what’s out there and spending time reading and thinking rather than creating, I agree. I like the effects he cites in terms of

“they see that not everything useful has to come from a recognised, uniform resource; they as learners can go out and find material and they need to evaluate its credibility; they themselves can produce material to share; they can be part of the bigger community (for example, by editing the wiki linking to all these resources).”

Not that it totally relates here, but a while back on my blog I posted about the need to take photos of beautiful places we visit when we can gets tons of photos of those places already on Flickr with a CC license that would let us remix and reuse them. Now I know that I want pictures of my kids while they are actually snorkling in the Barrier Reef, etc. but I wonder sometimes why some have so much trouble with using what is already out there instead of re-creating it in yet another way.

It’s Friday, and I’m tired, so I hope that made some sense. Yes, we want our students to be creators and connectors, but we also don’t want them reinventing the wheel either.

Well, here’s Jeff’s video for you to watch yourself (watchout for the language).

Social Media Co-Lab was created by Howard Rheingold

Kahn Academy – DIY OER to Educate the World

Last Friday was an interesting day. I was tipped off by a colleague, Paul Leman, about the Kahn Academy when he sent me a link to Glen Moody’s blog post. At first sight the Kahn Academy looked like a fantastic resource, with 1000+ videos on various topic for students of all ages. But being one who never takes things on face value, I wanted to check things out and see what others were saying about this resource. That’s when I found David Wiley’s post which explained how there was no Creative Commons license attached to the content. I had a look and he seemed to be right. David had written to Sal Kahn the creator of the Kahn Academy previously, but he decided to drop him a further email. Then, as is evident from the comments David received on his post, everyone was immensely pleased to see that by the end of that day Sal had acted on David’s call and prominently displayed the CC license on the Kahn Academy homepage making it an OER for reuse, remixing, sharing, etc. I immediately embedded this video in my Daily Interests blog under the title Education for the World until I had time to write in more detail.

Now I have to take my hat off to Sal Kahn for a truly immense resource. What he has achieved with the Kahn Academy is nothing short of incredible. Single handedly generating instructional videos covering subjects including:

What a wealth of information. This has to be place in the category alongside Academic Earth and Udemy.

This story excites me on a number of levels. Perhaps one of the most significant is the difference anyone can make by openly publishing knowledge online to freely educate others. It’s an approach I’m trying to take myself to make a difference, however small; it is something that I passionately believe in. More power to anyone and everyone doing the same.

Howard Rheingold – credibility literacy

Yesterday I clicked on a link in one of Howard Rheingold’s (@hrheingold) tweets to his latest video in which he explains about the importance of literacy in determining the quality and credibility of information on the internet mainly accessed via searches.

He draws on some footage from a presentations he has given (which was standing room only) to illuminate some of his points. He makes an interesting distinction between skills, which are an individual attribute, and literacy, which Howard describes as skills + community as it rests in the realms of social so you can participate im the community of literates.

He presents five important literacies as:

  1. Attention
  2. Participation
  3. Co-operation
  4. Critical consumption
  5. Network awareness

All of these literacies need to co-exist.

Howard makes an interesting point about child safety, comparing concerns about online safety with the higher threats that exist offline. I think this ties in to my recent  post about OnGuard Online which really centres on talking to your children holistically about online and offline activity, and your own values. Howard emphasises the important of equipping our children with the ability to think critically, and this reduces any risk in their online activity. This ability is paramount to children being able to assess more generally the quality and accuracy of the information they encounter online, and giving them the tools to filter good information from bad, as we’ve shifted from a world of critically edited material pre-publishing to one where it is the responsibility of the consumer to critically evaluate.

There are two important questions we should continually be asking:

  1. How do I ask/phrase the question; how do I ask that search engine?
  2. How do I know what I’ve found is accurate?

Howard goes on to explain about personal ‘trust’ networks, an extension of the personal learning network in which there is a trust value added. And again this is an extension of the real life scenario, where you trust your doctor more the your mate Trev down the pub to give you health advice, but Trev knows a whole lot more about football, though his financial advice is a little dodgy too.

There’s a whole lot more in this video than I could hope to describe, so I suggest just watching it for yourself.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=3352757&dest=-1]

Keynote: Chris Lehmann

The PETE&C Tuesday Morning Keynote: Chris Lehmann:Chris Lehmann is the Principal at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. http://scienceleadershi…

Vodpod videos no longer available.