Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Google Apps & Chromebooks in Malaysia

Google's I'm feeling lucky (black) (back)I’m surprised not a single local media site in Malaysia covered the fact that Google Apps & Chromebooks are coming to Malaysian classrooms. That’s 10 million students, teachers & parents getting Google Apps accounts. Primary & secondary schools get Chromebooks. This, I guess has something to do with the fact that there will be a laptop provided for every student if BN wins again.

It looks like the only cost to us is the Chromebooks. The Google Apps for Education accounts are free, implying a significant investment into Malaysia by Google.

Read more about large deployments of Chromebook. It seems that the deal is between YTL, Frog, Samsung, Acer & Google. YTL provides the Internet connectivity via YES4G/1BestariNet. frogasia is a YTL subsidiary, and it looks like they’re providing learning apps.

I worried about generations being tied to Microsoft Office. Is it time to worry that the next generation gets tied to Google Apps? I continue to worry overall that the focus is doing everything in-browser, and while I’m a big proponent of the idea that the browser is the OS, I still do a lot of things outside the browser.

It seems like Chromebooks can be provided by either Samsung or Acer. There must be something custom being built for YTL’s WiMAX chips to be popped in. Nonetheless, I doubt that there are many Malaysians experienced with Chromebooks or accomplishing everything within a browser.

Further reading: Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2015, Classrooms, Chromebooks & The Web: Lessons from Miami to Malaysia.

I’m buying a Chromebook (not the Pixel) to take a deep-dive. There are virtual machines too.

Election promises: laptop for every student – well thought out?

One laptop per child (2006) now at SFMOMAThe year 1995 was when I got my first laptop. It was made by Acer, came with a whopping 8MB of RAM (yes, megabyte, not gigabyte), and a 400MB hard disk (read more at an interview conducted in 2004). It shipped with Windows 3.1, but I shortly moved over to Linux when Windows 95 was announced – the laptop just didn’t cut it for the requirements of Windows 95.

The laptop cost an arm and a leg for those features. With PCMCIA cards, external CDROM drive, SCSI scanner, etc. I’m sure the total cost of ownership exceeded RM10,000. I was eleven years old then, but had been computing for over six years already (386 SX2, 286, 8086 – all desktops). I had really supportive parents, so I will always be thankful to them.

Fast-forward almost two decades later and a laptop for a student is used as an election promise for victory! Many view this offer suspiciously. Some wonder if it will cost the government RM40,000 per laptop (has happened before). Some wonder what learning software will be used? Which suppliers & contractors are getting it going?

What about the idea of a smart school, mooted sometime in 1998? I remember going to a school called Victoria Institution sometime in 2004 and installing Linux in a lab and ensuring that (Writer, Calc, Impress, Base) could be taught in schools. Later on it was understood that the syllabus (under the Official Secrets Act) was way too Microsoft-centric, which meant that generics of using a word processor, spreadsheet or presentation suite or even front-end database meant that you couldn’t use equivalents but had to mostly use Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access). What a shame.

I’m all for children getting laptops or tablets to improve their education. Children of today are very, very lucky. I’m just not sure that the government is right in doling out a laptop.

This wouldn’t be the first time… they’ve already doled out many 1Malaysia laptops (some to the tune of 800,000) to students. Is our education system improving and making use of the new technology?

Many failed items in the past: EPF Computer Purchase Withdrawal Scheme (2000-2002 discontinued) and PC Gemilang / PC Mesti Beli (yes, I was part of the PC Gemilang project getting Linux on them) (2004-~2005). 

From a commercial standpoint, have we forgotten about the 1Malaysia laptops (link)? Or the 1Malaysia Tablet/Pad?

Remember a laptop isn’t the be all and the end all. The laptop goes outdated before the term of the government. Warranties at most expire at 3 years. Software tends to be obsoleted a lot quicker.

Ideas are all fine & dandy, but is there any long term thinking to this? 

Year end tab sweep 2012 edition

Here are some things I think are well worth reading (also, I’m starting the year fresh with nothing in my tabs :P)

  • Wired has a great interview by Steven Levy on Tim O’Reilly’s Key to Creating the Next Big Thing. Tim taught me to work on stuff that matters (fond memories of an O’Reilly Moleskine Christmas gift), and now continues teaching everyone to create more value than they capture.
  • Blood Sugar or how the diabetes market is waiting to be disrupted. More needs to be done in terms of controlling this disease. We already have sensible trackers like Fitbit, etc. what more can we do to manage this?
  • Why Samsung’s Man in Silicon Valley uses Apple Devices – interesting take in the MIT Technology Review on Yong Sohn, President & Chief Strategy Officer for Samsung based in Silicon Valley. 
  • Another from MIT Technology Review is Installable Web Apps WIll Be the Next Tech Battleground. I see web apps as being important, and I’ve been thinking about this space a lot more lately.
  • Paul Buchheit wrote an amazing essay titled The Gift. It is a must read on unconditional love & living life to the fullest.
  • MIT Technology Review again, this time on disrupting college textbooks. Free Textbooks Spell Disruption for College Publishers profiling Ariel Diaz and his site Boundless Learning. I remember a time buying really expensive textbooks and realized that you only use them for a term, with very few that you plan to keep on your bookshelf forever. The second-hand market naturally thrives but they go out-of-date usually within a year. I know many in Malaysia that love to photocopy textbooks (which I abhor and would never encourage). Imagine free e-book textbooks that you can read on your tablet? Highlight? Have all your notes in one place based on the highlights? This will revolutionize education.
  • Marten Mickos asks: What is Innovation?
  • I’m always interested in new & innovation publishing mediums, and this summary post leaves a lot to think about: Frankfurt Book Fair 2012: Self-publishing, cell phones & startups.
  • Back to a nugget from Tim O’Reilly, a must read is It’s Not About You: The Truth about Social Media Marketing. There’s a money quote there:
  • Activism has been the core of our marketing ever since.  We tell big stories that matter to a community of users, and together we use those stories to amplify a message that we all care about. Framing ideas in such a way that they include and reinforce the identity of a group of people who might not previously have seen themselves as part of the same community allows everyone to tell their own story in a way that adds up to something bigger than any one of them might tell alone. And once they start telling their story as part of the bigger story, it suddenly looks like a parade. 
  • Keep it Real by Nalden. Branding is everything & it comes with good work.
  • Laptop/netbook for a university student and a HP Mini 311 quick review

    I recently asked on Twitter:

    For a college/university student, would you get ’em a laptop or a netbook? Need opinions ASAP. Thanks!

    HP MiniThe Twitterverse was quick to respond. Thank you all for responding! A little summary:

    1. @sniffit suggested that netbooks are underpowered, but might change with Linux being on them.
    2. @redsheep went for a laptop, unless I planned on being a mean uncle that didn’t want them to play games/do graphics/etc. Why, I can’t be a mean uncle ;-)
    3. @spinzer said go with a laptop because students have diverse working nature, and a netbook wouldn’t cut it.
    4. Both @alphaque and @brianritchie suggested to watch for the coursework: Computer Science, Graphics, Statistics deserve a laptop, otherwise, go for a netbook.
    5. @saimatkong suggested a 12″ notebook, but those tend to be quite expensive, to the best of my knowledge.
    6. @sureshdr, @tjunkie, @thechannelc, @liewcf, @bleongcw, @r0kawa all suggested a laptop would be better. In fact, @liewcf suggested a MacBook.
    7. @jerng brought up a good point: it should depend on the preferences of the user as speed tends to be a secondary issue.
    8. @biatch0r was the only one that outright said go for a netbook, lugging around a 10KG laptop is so 20th century :) I tend to agree.

    So a bit from where I’m coming from, which I didn’t say in the original tweet. This laptop/netbook is for a complete stranger, whom I’ve never met. We do however, know her father. His daughter had just been accepted into a university somewhere up north in Malaysia, and she clearly needs a laptop/netbook for her coursework.

    Anyway, all that aside, and with much thanks to the Twitterverse, I set out to pick up a machine quickly (think, 0.5hr). I had to be near MidValley for another reason, so hopped in. Checked out the Asus, and Acer stores, and found laptops and netbooks to exist, and you’d average around RM2,100 or so. Dell had a laptop for RM1,999, but it was a 14″ clunker, and it seemed really heavy. This seemed to be the large problem with a laptop: they came with everything (including a DVD-RW drive), but would come with a 13″ or 14″ screen – and they were all mighty heavy. Acer seemed to offer OS-less laptops, but I didn’t want to spend more time than need be, so wanted an operating system.

    I went over to the HP store, my last stop, thinking in my head, I’d pick up the Dell. But I was taken aback when I saw the HP Mini 311. The specifications were amazing: 1.66GHz N280 Atom processor, 2GB RAM, 250GB hard disk, an external 8x DVD-RW drive (!), 11.6″ screen boasting a resolution of 1366×768, 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11b/g WLAN, 92% full-size keyboard (with great tactile feedback – I spent a lot of time in the store trying it). But that’s not all, it comes with 3 USB ports, HDMI output (why?), VGA output (and no need for any silly cable like their previous items), a multimedia card slot (for SD’s, etc.) and a built-in webcam.

    The exact model is the HP Mini 311-1002TU. It seems like its an edition only available in Asia, and it comes with Windows 7 Starter Edition. Did I mention that it cost a mere RM1,799?

    More goodness about it. It doesn’t come with an Intel graphics chipset, but an nVidia ION. Video performance is pretty darned good, in comparison to what Intel doles out, even on the netbook that I own (an Asus 1000HE). In my quick experiments, I was getting a good 5 hours of battery life running Windows 7.

    First thing I did was install: Mozilla Firefox (and set it to be the default web browser), avast! anti-virus (to protect the PC), and with the JRE. It comes with a 60 day trial version of Microsoft Office, but who needs that when is free and should suffice. The system is quite snappy, and while the guy at the store told me that Windows 7 Starter Edition will not allow me to run more than 3 applications at a time, it works fine for me. In fact, the only thing that seems annoying is that you can’t change the desktop background – Microsoft is intentionally crippling their software for netbooks. From what I understand, a dual monitor setup will not work either (useful to have an external monitor on a netbook), but I did not try this.

    I can confirm that Ubuntu works pretty well on this machine – I tested it when I got home, using the LiveCD and it seemed to “just work”. More information available at the laptop testing team HP Mini 311 on the Ubuntu wiki. A forum post to help with suspend/resume magic.

    In conclusion, I didn’t get a laptop, but a netbook. But a netbook with an amazing screen size, a resolution that exceeds my expectations, a good graphics card, and an external DVD writer. Windows 7 Starter does not come with Aero, and I wrote a little README file informing the new owner that it might be better to just install Linux and she’ll be better for it at the end of her three year university course :-)

    Tab roundup for December 2008

    Om Malik’s blog design, and themes as a business
    I stumbled upon Om.Is.Me…, Om Malik’s private blog, and was taken away by the design. For one, its hosted at (something I’m thinking I might do at some stage, if it was less rigid). But more importantly, what I noticed was the design – I was really taken away by the blog theme. Its designed by GNV & Partners, and it looks snazzy.

    Is there big business in WordPress themes? If their website was in English, I’d be a little more interested… Largely because I have to theme at least two WordPress sites in the near future, and I’m not looking forward to mastering CSS, etc.

    What do custom WordPress themes go for? How many folk pay for themes?

    Found this via Twitter (thanks @achitnis), and it Hackerspaces reminded me a lot of coworking. When in Melbourne, I always pined of a co-working space (I believe, Joe’s Garage came close to it – upstairs, anyway). Now that I’m in Kuala Lumpur a lot more, I am wondering if a warehouse somewhere, might make sense…

    Cybercafes in Japan, offering physical addresses to the homeless
    Read Cyber cafe offers address to homeless. I didn’t know that cybercafe’s in Tokyo gave away a free email address (maybe they don’t, but they might give you access to one), but I was impressed that comic books and unlimited beverages were a norm. Kudos to Cyber @ Cafe offering long-term lodging and an official registered address (important, when PO BOXes aren’t acceptable or you’re homeless).

    Takemitsu Karitachi, used to sleep on park benches, but he doesn’t have to anymore:

    This simple service is vital for the 50 semi-permanent residents of the cafe, many of whom have taken refuge here after being laid off abruptly during the current recession.

    Takemitsu Karitachi, a contract worker at a nearby factory, is one of the many people who have been sleeping at the cafe every night for the past two months since he lost his office job and his apartment.

    Karitachi, who used to roam the streets and hopped between various Internet cafes for months, says he is now relieved to have found a more permanent home — even if it’s a cubicle just slightly bigger than the back seat of a car.

    BMW India sales records
    It stunned me when I found out that in 2007, BMW only sold 1,338 cars, and in 2008, plans to sell 2,800 units. The sales ratio between the BMW 5 and 3 series is 55:45 (so the one’s buying a BMW, actually have a lot more disposable income than one would think).

    I don’t know the cost of a BMW in India, but if its prohibitively expensive as it is in Malaysia (what is it, up to 300% excise duty?), I’m surprised the numbers are a lot lower. Seeing a BMW (or a Mercedes) on the road in Malaysia is very common – yuppies are driving 3-series cars (BMW 320), straight into their first management job, willing to fork out RM220,000+, and paying it off over seven or nine years.

    Lucky for me, I don’t think of a car as a status symbol (and think that people that do, are rather daft).

    After Credentials
    Read Paul Graham’s After Credentials. It is probably his best essay in recent time, and its very pertinent to those living in Asia.

    Not only in South Korea, but in most parts of Asia, education is touted as being very important. Quotes like “In our country, college entrance exams determine 70 to 80 percent of a person’s future,” don’t surprise me. Paul thinks its old fashioned – I tend to agree. Today’s universities are not more than cram universities.

    The problem comes when parents use direct methods: when they are able to use their own wealth or power as a substitute for their children’s qualities.

    Let’s think about what credentials are for. What they are, functionally, is a way of predicting performance. If you could measure actual performance, you wouldn’t need them.

    This doesn’t work in small companies. Even if your colleagues were impressed by your credentials, they’d soon be parted from you if your performance didn’t match, because the company would go out of business and the people would be dispersed.

    In a world of small companies, performance is all anyone cares about. People hiring for a startup don’t care whether you’ve even graduated from college, let alone which one. All they care about is what you can do. Which is in fact all that should matter, even in a large organization.

    The whole article is interesting. There is a good analysis of the big company versus small company paradigm, as well as the fact that people want instant (and not deferred) rewards.

    I predict that within Asia, in the next two decades, hiring based on your after credentials (first bachelors, then masters, possibly doctorate eventually), are going to be a thing of the past.

    Lawyers use Facebook to serve notices
    Via The Age:

    Canberra lawyers have won the right to serve legally binding court documents by posting them on defendants’ Facebook sites.

    In a ruling that could make legal and internet history, a Supreme Court judge ruled last week lawyers could use the social networking site to serve court notices.

    Email and even mobile phone text messages have been used before to serve court notices, but the Canberra lawyers who secured the ruling are claiming service by Facebook as a world first.

    “The Facebook profiles showed the defendants’ dates of birth, email addresses and friend lists and the co-defendants were friends with one another,” a spokesman for the firm said.

    On perfumes, and smell
    This is interesting, The scent of a man. Very captivating, here are a few select quotes:

    They already knew that appropriate scents can improve the mood of those who wear them. What they discovered, though, as they will describe in a forthcoming edition of the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, is that when a man changes his natural body odour it can alter his self-confidence to such an extent that it also changes how attractive women find him.

    They found that those who had been given the commercial fragrance showed an increase in self-confidence. … What was surprising was that their self-confidence improved to such an extent that women who could watch them but not smell them noticed. They were, however, unable to distinguish between the groups when shown only still photographs of the men, suggesting it was the men’s movement and bearing, rather than their physical appearance, that was making the difference.

    Perhaps the greatest takeaway was: “The sexes themselves smell different, too, and women can glean information about a man’s social status from his smell alone.””

    Women can smell success?