trends

What is USB 3.0?

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011 | technology | 3 Comments

Do you know what USB 3.0 is?  Rashed Khan offered to do a guest blog posting on this topic for those of you who are interested in staying up to date with the latest technologies.  Rashed says:

I think it is safe to say that my dad knows literally nothing about computers (sorry dad) but even he has heard about and knows what USB is, in fact I believe it is quite rare to find someone who has not heard of USB (Universal Serial Bus) as it has quickly become the most commonly used peripheral bus used on computers and laptops today. Just about anything that connects to your computer or laptop connects via a USB port whether it is a digital camera, a Mobile Phone or even a digital photo frame.

The new USB 3.0 adds a number of additional benefits but before we look at this, let’s take a brief look at the history of USB to determine why it has done so well.

How did USB come about?

IBM started off the revolution of implementing removal media into their computers by creating the keyboard which (unlike the previous keyboards) was not attached to the computer itself but was to be connected to it via a port called the AT Keyboard port. The concept of being able to detach Computer hardware (keyboard, mouse etc.) became an instant hit and many computer manufacturers followed the trend by adding their own ports which could do the same job as IBM’s AT Keyboard port. However, during the mid-90’s a problem was arising in the fact that more or less every manufacturer had their own port so if you had a keyboard made by one manufacturer, you would not be able to use it on a computer made by another manufacturer

USB was created during the early 90’s but its success really began to escalate during 1996 when it was marketed as the single Peripheral which would be used universally by all the manufacturers. Many manufacturers jumped on the USB bandwagon by adding USB ports as well as their own ports on their computers and Apple completely dropped their old ADB ports in order to introduce USB ports on all their computers during 1998. By the year 2000, it became rare to find a computer which did not have a USB port. One of the key benefits with USB was that it was able to power small devices requiring up to half an amp at 5 Volts which has introduced a whole host of unusual devices to be powered by USB such as USB Record players, USB podcast studios and even USB rechargeable batteries!

USB 2.0

USB was re-designed in order to optimise its performance during 2006 and was called USB 2.0. The key benefit of USB 2.0 was that it had a much faster transfer rate than the old USB 1.0 as it was 40 times faster. A faster data transfer rate means that the user does not have to wait as long for data to be transferred from their removable device to the computer.

Arguably one of the key factors in the success of the USB 1.0 was that (unlike the other ports) it did not have any compatibility issues, which is why USB 2.0 was made backwards compatible. This meant that USB 1.0 products could be connected to a USB 2.0 port and would still work but would run at the speed of USB 1.0 rather than at the faster speed of USB 2.0.

Enter USB 3.0

The new USB 3.0 boasts a massive transfer rate of a maximum of a huge 5 Gbps! This makes it around 10 times faster than the old USB 2.0 which still has a respectable transfer rate speed of up to 480Mps.

A new feature of USB 3.0 is that it only transmits data to the port that needs the data which means that USB ports that are not currently being used can go into an energy saving state thus helping to reduce power consumption.

Support for USB 3.0 is quickly becoming widespread as a number of the new computer are now supporting it and if you want to get hold of a device with the new USB 3.0 hardware, look out for the SuperSpeed certified logo.

I thank Rashed for this explanation of USB 3.0.

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Bad news for school textbook vendors

Sunday, August 9th, 2009 | resources | 15 Comments

It may still be some time before sufficient technology is available in South African schools to do away with textbooks altogether, but more and more people are thinking in this direction.

The article Moving Into a Digital Future, Where Textbooks Are History explains what is happening in some schools in the United States of America.

If you consider the vast amounts of money being spent on textbooks each year – and I believe printers of textbooks and booksellers are skimming off considerable profits – it seems that it would be the course of wisdom for education departments to invest more in technology facilities in schools.

It may also be prudent for individual schools to think what they can do to do away with textbooks.  Consider a few benefits:

E-texts are easy to update, hence learning resources will always be up to date.

E-books are much, much cheaper than their hard-copy counterparts.

Material presented in electronic format helps to keep the planet green.

We may still have textbooks with us for some time – but just as the abacus made way for the electronic calculator, textbooks will eventually become redundant.

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What do we do with goldbrickers and dead wood?

Monday, April 20th, 2009 | education | 3 Comments

Education is a noble and honorable enterprise — well-meaning, respectable, geared toward progress and success. For all its lofty intentions, though, we have a few glaring problems in education here in America. One of the most pernicious is the dark truth that the profession currently includes too many ineffective, lame, or even neglectful and abusive teachers. They make us all look bad, and, frankly, I’m ready to either clean house and get rid of them or find more assertive methods to remediate their training until they improve.

This is how Sharon Elin starts her blog posting under the heading: The best mirrors.  The article is worth reading in its entirety.  What amazes me is the similarity between America and South Africa on this matter.

The first step to solve the situation is to recognize, and then acknowledge, that we have a problem.  Sharon helps us to do just that. 

The article concludes with the sobering thought that we should “… weed out the goldbrickers“. 

I echo that by saying: “Prune out the dead wood.”

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Paperless classrooms

Friday, April 17th, 2009 | Computer Usage | 6 Comments

You have probably heard about the concept of a paperless office.  Technology makes the use many printed documents redundant – this brings about savings in terms of money and space, and has the added advantage of being good for the ecology.

Have you considered the notion of a paperless classroom?

Perhaps we are still some way from a completely paperless classroom, but the use of technology could elliminate a lot of paperwork for teachers.  This is true with reference to many administative tasks, and teachers would love to get rid of all the paper required for assessment.

How much greener would this planet be if we have paperless classrooms!

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Cloud computing in Africa

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 | Computer Usage, ICT in Africa | 7 Comments

Is cloud computing viable for schools in Africa?

A previous posting explained the concept of cloud computing.  The term refers to the ability to use a very simple computing device – it could be a computer at an internet café, a low specification PC, a cell phone, or similar instrument – to draw required application programmes from the internet, and then store all data back on the internet.

In cloud computing everything, except for the device in your hands, lives in the clouds.

Could this be a solution for schools in Africa?  Simple devices; no complicated networks required; use of free programmes (even educational software); and free data storage – a real bargain for cash-strapped Africa!   In addition, you can compute whatever you like, whenever you like and wherever you are.  This sounds like heaven beyond the clouds.


But before you get excited, just pause for a moment and consider realities:

  • Internet connectivity is still not available in large parts of the continent.
  • Even cheap computing devices would be outside of the grasp of many.
  • Cloud computing is a step up from conventional computing in the paradigm hierarchy – most people on the continent can not even perform the most basic functions.  It will require considerable training efforts to get them to the point where they can come to grips with the concept of cloud computing.

These comments should not be seen as being negative – they are intended as a reality check for those who may be misguided into thinking that the lack of resources is the foremost technology problem on the continent.  Education and training are the greatest challenges.

By all means, reach for the clouds, but keep your feet firmly on the ground.

For updated information on cloud computing, click here.

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Cloud computing

Monday, September 15th, 2008 | Computer Usage | 3 Comments

e-Business.

e-Commerce.

e-Learning.

And now they are talking about cloud computing . What is it? It is difficult to get an exact definition, because, like a cloud in the sky, the concept is rather nebulous.

One definition found on the web is not too bad:

For many, it simply means “something done outside my walls.” What it means in practice is a collection of resources — applications, platforms, raw computing power and storage, and managed services (like antivirus detection) — delivered over the internet.

Let me put this in even more simple terms: All you need is a computing device – a desktop PC, or a laptop, or a PDA; some cell phones may even do. All the application software programmes that you require are living somewhere on the web (free or at a cost); the data that you create is then stored back on the web (free or at a cost).

In theory you really need only two things: a computing device and internet access. And if you play your cards well, it could all be free. For example, Google has all the office products you need and allows you to store your files on their site. Social networking sites allow you to store information, conversations, pictures and video clips at their cost. Bookmarking tools enable you to store your favorites on the web. You can even host a blog at no cost!

The implication of all of this is that you can go wherever you like – you will have your applications and data available. They are in the clouds – always ready to be pulled. You are neither bound to a physical location, nor are you restricted by storage space. A simple, inexpensive device will do the trick for you.

If one goes for the free software and storage options, computing could potentially be within the grasp of all the poor people in Africa – they must just find a device from somewhere and get internet access.

This is perhaps where the silver lining of the computing cloud disappears – the non-availability of equipment and the current exorbitant cost of internet connectivity will keep African feet firmly planted on the ground for the foreseeable future.

For updated information on cloud computing, click here.

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