Blog of Random Thoughts and Pictures

Edutainment Desktop and the OLPC

May 22nd, 2008

Some times I bring work home with me ……. but when I finish reading those emails, the laptop gets left on the kitchen table for a little while and Kate becomes curious …..

what does the puter do daddy?

With it being a Tablet PC we have found some great online colouring sites, with the Crayola Digi-Color head and shoulders above the rest. The use of the ‘electronic’ pen is great for Kate as she doesn’t get messy at all !
After numerous times running this and a couple of related colouring websites I got more interest (while my daughter got more bored) in finding other sites or even running her own desktop …. but what should I go with?
Well to start with this GPL Edutainment Software article on Slashdot was very timely, and I found it handy. But in running these I wanted a more tightly closed desktop environment.
Then the One Laptop per Child [OLPC] (or $100 Laptop) project appeared on the radar and its Sugar GUI. Well really there isn’t anything else out there (well I know there’s Edubuntu but its not suitable for the age group). I was really curious because there seemed to be tons of activities specially tailored for kids as part of the GUI and so I got a great LiveCD called LiveBackup XO-LiveCD to check it out for myself (and for Kate of course).
Sugar GUI
And sure enough on an old Compaq Presario the LiveCD boots just fine (no networking though) and we can have a look at a number of the Sugar Activities like Turtle Art, Paint(Oficina), TamTam amongst others.
They were good ………. but the overall GUI was for me confusing (Kate didn’t seem to mind so much), especially the ‘STOP’ symbol for closing programs instead of an ‘X’ button or symbol. Now I know the whole environment has a different design philosophy, but it’s just that it doesn’t translate to anything out there, and I’m not so sure its such a good idea !
Anyway since our little experiment there’s been loads of news from the OPLC camp, $100 laptop’ embraces Windows XP, ‘$100 laptop’ platform moves on and finally I find myself back at Slashdot looking at A View From Inside the OLPC Project. This all points to some very interesting times for the OPLC, and for the moment I’ve not re-run the Sugar GUI in a couple of weeks, the original colouring websites will keep us busy for the time being.

Calculating Carbon footprint from Travel

April 27th, 2008

Thanks Eamonn for picking up my question on the calculation of my carbon footprint from recent trips, I’ve had a look at the Dopplr solution in association with AMEE and it is exactly what I was looking for.

CoreLabs, the end of the beginning

April 1st, 2008

With so many things happening recently I haven’t had a chance to tell you about a project that has just successfully finished its research programme.
CoreLabs Logo
CoreLabs started in March 2006 with the stated mission to conduct as broad coordination as possible among European private, public and civic stake-holders and related projects working with systems/environments (Living Labs) for open user-driven innovation of (primarily) new ICT based products and services.
CoreLabs mission also included the establishment a European Network of Living Labs and to propose related supportive policies and governance structures. The long term objective with the Living Lab network is to become a enabling key instrument in a new European innovation infrastructure.
So did CoreLabs manage to do this?
The projects achievements include all planned deliverables and targeted objectives (ref DoW) three of which can be downloaded below:
D2.1a Best Practices
D3.2 Technological & Mass Customisation Aspects, which was edited by Claire and myself here at the TSSG.

D5.1 Methods & Tools Inventory and Taxonomy

There were as quite a few additional deliverables and impacts achieved such as the ;
(Co-)organisation of more than thirty (30!) LL-events across Europe
The election based formation of a Living Lab Portfolio Leadership Group, LLP-LG
Creation of the physical (Rubik’s cube based) Living Lab Harmonization Cube, presented
at the e-Challenges conference 2007 in Den Hague.
A Living Lab Book; European Living Labs. A new approach for human centric regional innovation, in which Chapter 4 on the Technology Platform for the ENoLL is a contribution made by Claire & myself also.

ENoLL Book

To mention but a few.
The project had its final review on February 14th 2008 and the EC have kindly reported that that through these achievements the project has contributed to the understanding of the changing techno-socio-economic paradigm. The report does go on to state that this ongoing transformation requires research on how to optimally embed ICT in all segments of the European society (health, mobility, learning, government, leisure, etc.). ‘Living Labs’ appear as an optimal tool to realise this objective.
There is tons still to do, but CoreLabs has clearly being a guiding light in this initaitve.
And so as the quote from W.Churchill goes:

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. (10 Nov 1942).

Outside innovation to lead user to prosumer

November 4th, 2007

The work of professor Eric von Hippel, in his management of innovation, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been mentioned many times in the Living Labs context, particularly his view on the lead-user process, and his book Democratizing Innovation. (Available from Amazon , but also I like the way the book has been released under a Creative Commons License and is downloadable immediately).
Okay straight off I’m a believer but I still need to see this concept in “the flesh” so to speak and as I was reading a blog entry by Patty Seybold on Lead Users vs. Lead Customers and the Role of Toolkits I came across an interesting comment posting about the BBCs’ new media backstage initiative, and there it is Prof. von Hippel’s process in full effect, with prototypes and idea genreation engaging the lead users.
Which has me a little worried given this futurist video from Davide Casaleggio, and the rise of the Prosumer, as it appears that the BBC are on track to fulfill their part in the future media scene as shown in this video.

Expansion for the European Network of Living Labs & Open Innovation

October 29th, 2007

I’ve been travelling that last couple of weeks and so its time to catch up on a couple of things, and the first item is my recent trip to Brussels for the expansion of the European Network of Living Labs and the Open Innovation workshops.
So this growth of the ENoLL from 19 to 51 members is a remarkable demonstration of how lively European innovators can be” as qutoed from the press release. Let’s hope so!
A big hit at the workshop was the Harmonization Cube. If you’re wondering what’s written on the “Service Creation” side of the cube just give Claire Fahy a buzz as she had a big part to play in getting this side completed.

Social networking through your mobile, but is it ready?

October 7th, 2007

Linked to the previous post on the Mozilla Joey project I joined the private Beta of Nokias’ Mosh social networking site back in August. Although it’s only really worth talking about now as the site is more visable to the outside world.
Looks like there are a number of players in this space and I also came across CellFish but just didn’t have the time (heart) to register yet.
Anyway originally all interaction with Mosh was through the web browser, but I’ve just found a new app to run on the phone which curisously I’m more willing to do than purely use the broswer on the phone. Now I thought, Nokia will the get the mobile client right even if the server side does not look top notch, but in this case on initial impression the app isn’t that great, all links kick you off to the phones browser which I wasn’t too happy with in the first place and now i have the added stoppage as I always authorise my network connections.
Anyway in this case the Mosh community is a little too small to make big impact as the wow factor, as the content is sparse and I get the impression that everyone else on the site is just like me, just having a look in to see briefly what it’s all about. Case in point one document suggested for me was one called test.txt ….. hmmmmm
To me it feels like social networking as we know it today isn’t ready.

Assessment of the feasibility and possible impact of the establishment of a European Institute of Technology

June 22nd, 2007

Completed in March 2007, this report analyses the feasibility of the European Institute of Technology [EIT] (pdf) as proposed by the European Commission and positions it in the context of existing universities, research establishments and institutions and programmes for supporting innovation and technology transfer in Europe.
The main points coming out:-
1) The relative weakness of Europe to convert knowledge into commerce and critical mass or to
reward entrepreneurship and excellence in research and education is not a problem that is the
same for all countries, all regions or all institutions … and that smaller European countries, Finland, France, Spain and Germany perform significantly better than or as good as the US and Japan.
2) Three basic organizational models exist for an EIT. A fully centralized EIT on one location is the first. The Commission proposal opts for the fully decentralized one where research, training and supporting innovation in one Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) is carried out by a large number of teams across Europe.
The report proposes a third option, a cluster model for the EIT. This option consists of multiple institutes or KICs – to derive the terminology of the Commission’s proposal – but each being physically concentrated at one or only a very small number of adjacent locations. The various institutes are knot together only by a funding instrument and a brand name.
3) Knowledge production is ‘joint production’: private and public investments in knowledge have strong complementarities and geographically strong agglomeration features.Under the prevailing conditions, the cluster model has the greatest potential to strengthen the main local/regional agglomeration aspects of joint knowledge production within the research areas turning them into attractor poles for knowledge workers.
4) Europe’s score in university rankings shows that EU universities are underrepresented in the top 40 or 50 ranked universities. Source: The Shanghai JiaotongUniversity ranking 2006.
And for my own reference the Ranking Methodology used.
While Europe has several top tier universities of high quality offering excellence over a broad range of subjects. Where they differ from US equivalents is in their selectivity of admission, share of undergraduate and graduate students (apart from a few exceptions such as ETH Z), size of research budgets, and to a lesser extent, in their level of interdisciplinarity which might be related to the much narrower bachelor curricula in Europe. it is clear that over the past 15 years, many universities have been actively engaged in projects to collaborate with industry and commercialise the knowledge that they developed.
6) Several large-scale co-operative schemes exist at the European level which companies, universities and research centres find attractive and effective for joint technology development underpinning future innovation, such as the EUREKA Clusters, FP6 Integrated Projects FP7 Joint Technology Initiatives, and National Programmes such as those in the UK, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Belgium, and France.
7) Impact: The report points out that there may be significant substitution problems. In several important fields where a KIC would most likely be considered, instruments already exist or are under construction to promote collaborative research, technology development and technology transfer. EUREKA clusters are a case in point, where partners may not see the advantage of being replaced by a KIC. The Joint Technology Initiatives currently being formed under the FP7 would also appear to compete with any potential KIC given the fact that the differences between these two entities are not clear enough. It notes, but do not simply adhere to the views expressed by some companies that a KIC will complement rather than compete with such initiatives.
The limited impact that a KIC, hence the EIT, would have on the quality of graduate training, research and, industry-university-research institute collaboration, coupled with the substitution effects, suggests that the EIT through its KICs cannot easily develop into a reference for the existing top tier universities or research institutes in Europe. Its dispersed nature would not assist the universities and national governments in their quest for reforms leading to for example, increased differentiation, autonomy and better governance, or for more effective technology transfer practices.
Given these points this is not what I read from the headline of a recent IEEE Spectrum article “U.N. EXPERTS DISMISS VIRTUAL EUROPEAN “MIT”“.
And the EU seem to be motoring ahead anyway with a “Call for pilot projects for cooperation between European Institutes of Technology” in which at least three partner organisations must participate to form a KIC, each of which must be established in a different EU member state

FP7 ICT Call 2 is Open

June 13th, 2007

The EU FP7 ICT : Cooperation : Call 2 opened yesterday.
The main Objectives being covered include:
ICT-2007.1.6 New paradigms and experimental facilities
ICT-2007.3.5 Photonic components and subsystems
ICT-2007.3.6 Micro/nanosystems
ICT-2007.3.7 Networked embedded and control systems
ICT-2007.5.3 Virtual physiological human
ICT-2007.6.2 ICT for cooperative systems
ICT-2007.6.3 ICT for environmental management and
energy efficiency

ICT-2007.7.2 Accessible and inclusive ICT
Of most interest to me will be the New paradigms and experimental facilities ” with it looking at advanced networking approaches to the Future Internet coupled with their validation in large scale testing environments and the interconnected test beds.

WIT Physics open day March 2007

March 29th, 2007

In March I was asked to give a brief 10 min presentation to a 100 or so, fifth and sixth year students (secondary education / high school level) from around the South-East of Ireland about Physics with Computing.
What’s that I hear you say …… well my presentation is hosted on Slide Share ….. and hopefuly also embedded below for your viewing pleasure if your interested.

I tried to stick to more visual presentation, and must admit was the right way to go.
One of my follow presenters Gerald Fleming from Met Eireann and RTE took a completely different approach, going with a fully verbal presentations and I must admit both styles have given me a new perspective on presenting, as opposed to those dull & boring text filled powerpoint slide shows, which truely do not work.