Teach Your Children the Most Important Language: Code

Parent’s always want the best for their children; whether it is private school, language immersion or special extracurricular activities. In Canada, for example, French immersion is very common to ensure that children grow up to be bilingual.

Being bilingual has many advantages, particularly for countries with multiple primary languages like Canada, but these advantages pale in comparison to the advantages of learning the global language of code.

Essays and literature are not translated internationally easily, unlike code. A well-written program or application can be used globally with only small modifications to the interface. More importantly, however, because of the increased prevalence of technology, those that know how to code will find success more readily in today’s world than those that do not.

Learning to code should become a priority, and education should begin at a very young age. According to J. Paul Gibson, a computer scientist at the University of Ireland, “Children aged from 5-11 have so much potential for learning about algorithms and computation that it would be a shame to wait until they are teenagers before we teach them the foundations”. Gibson found that older students (18 or 19 years old) struggled to learn the concepts of programming compared to much younger students. This applies to technology-use in general, not just programming.

Teach your children how to code and use technology!

Gibson’s insights may seem obvious to some  — that people learn things easier, and more wholly, as children — but to many it is still frowned upon to introduce children to technology at a young age. There is a delicate balance between allowing your children to learn technology, and allowing them to get lost in it, but you absolutely have to try. I would argue that it is better to have your children “get lost” in technology then for them to never “find it”.

The argument is simple:

  • Technology is becoming a very big part of everyday life, globally
  • Knowing how to interact with technology, including learning to code, is important to play a role in the new world economy as a result of this global transformation
  • Coding is much easier to learn as children
  • Therefore, teach your children how to code and use technology!

North America is already falling behind when it comes to producing strong programmers, mathematicians and scientists. Programming, like education in general, is still viewed as “nerdy”, so many students avoid the subject. The reality is that, nerdy or not, the technology sector produces some of the most lucrative careers — much better than flipping burgers for the rest of your life.

Of course, parents always have to balance their children’s interaction with technology with other activities like sports, social activities and outdoor fun, but introducing technology and coding to children early is vital to their success in the ever-changing world of technology.

Learn Something New Subscribe

Advertisements

Vegetarians, Get Excited: Fake Chicken That Tastes Like Real Chicken

Though I am not a proponent of vegetarianism, I find technological advances of any kind to be very interesting. The latest advancement in food tech brings us a mixture of soy, pea and protein isolates (among other ingredients) that tastes like Chicken.

What makes the product particularly amazing, however, is not that it tastes like chicken, rather that it feels like chicken. 

Meat substitutes have long suffered from a lack of appetizing texture. Substitutes made out of tofu, for example, come nowhere close to the mouth-feel of a good ol’ fashioned piece of meat. Beyond Meat is now making the texture problem a thing of the past.

Though I cannot personally vouch for the fake meat, according to Alton Brown, a chef and host on the Food Network, the new product is pretty impressive. Alton Brown has this to say about it:

I tear it and watch the break, the way the material separates. It’s more like meat than anything I’ve ever seen that wasn’t meat. Looking closely I can see a repeating pattern, like a subtle honeycomb, that reminds me a bit of tripe. I close my eyes and smell, but since the strip hasn’t received any flavoring at this point, I detect only subtle hints of soy.

I take a bite. While the unflavored product tastes distinctly vegetal and still has a bit of what I’d call tofu-bounce, a hint of the spongy, the tear is … meaty.

Read his full experience here

The new food product comes to us from Beyond Meat, based out of Missouri, where they utilize specialized machinery to fold vegetarian ingredients in a unique way to produce the meat-like texture and given the rise in vegetarianism, particularly in California, the product will be a sure-hit (assuming they can keep the price within reason, though vegetarians are probably used to paying a premium for good meat substitutes).

A call out to meat-eaters and vegetarians: what do you think about this new fake chicken?

Learn Something New Subscribe

What is AC Wi-Fi? How fast is 802.11ac Wi-Fi?

What is AC (802.11ac) Wi-Fi?

802.11ac is a new standard of Wi-Fi that is quickly becoming available with new devices. The previous standard, that most new devices are currently using, is 802.11n. Wireless “N” has a typical transfer rate of about 100 Mbps, while 802.11ac increases the current rate by more than 4X to 450 Mbps (practical, single antenna limit).

AC Wi-Fi also introduces several amazing new features:

  • It operates on the 5 GHz frequency instead of the 2.4 GHz frequency. Since many other devices and appliances operate on 2.4 GHz, operating in the 5 GHz band will reduce interference with these other devices. I relay music from my phone to my Bluetooth sound system (Bluetooth operates on 2.4 GHz) and I have N Wi-Fi, so I get significant interference whenever I am downloading something. 802.11ac Wi-Fi will prevent this interference.
  • Beamforming — allows the router to identify the locations of devices and intensify the wireless signals in those directions (see image below). With beamforming, AC Wi-Fi can maintain a good range — otherwise lost due to the nature of the 5 GHz frequency (it doesn’t penetrate walls as easily).
  • It will accommodate more devices connected to the same router.

AC Wi-Fi Beamforming

So how fast is 802.11ac?

450 Mbps is not the theoretical maximum transfer rate for ac, but rather a practical rate that users can actually expect outside of a laboratory. This works out to over 50 MB per second, or the rough equivalent of downloading 16 songs every second (assuming a 3MB mp3 song size).

Non-techies need not worry about specific transfer speeds, just understand that your internet downloads can finish up to 4 times faster with AC Wi-Fi. Of course, users will always be restricted by the speed of the internet actually reaching their house. My internet package, for example, only grants me speeds up to 10 Mbps, or 1.25 MB per second (yes, I know, that’s terrible but faster packages quickly get much more expensive!). That means that AC Wi-Fi is technically overkill for any downloads over the internet for me, and likely many others. However, users without blisteringly fast home internet can still benefit from AC Wi-Fi if they transfer or stream large files over their home network.

Should I worry about AC Wi-Fi right now?

No, probably not. For the most part, AC Wi-Fi may still be overkill. With a fast home internet connection and a good Wireless N router and compatible devices, you probably aren’t really in need of it. However, there are several scenarios where AC is useful today:

  • If you are like me and use Bluetooth devices around your home while simultaneously downloading heavily, AC should eliminate any interference you are currently experiencing.
  • If you are buying new devices that you plan to keep around for a long time (i.e. a desktop or laptop), it may be a good idea to pick up an AC-compatible device so you don’t get left behind, since AC will become the new standard — though this is not likely to happen for another year or two at least.

Are you looking forward to AC Wi-Fi? Do you find your current wireless setup to be sufficient? Leave your responses in the comments below. Continue on to learn more about wireless standards.

Learn More About Wireless Standards

802.11 is the name of the first Wi-Fi standard that was created back in 1997 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Since that time, each new iteration has added a letter to denote the change to the standard (speed, features etc.).  The order is as follows: 801.11, a/b, g, n and now, ac.

Below is a summary of the major advancements made with the 802.11 standard:

  • 802.11 — up to 2 Mbps, 2.4 GHz, can interfere with other appliances
  • 802.11b — up to 11 Mbps, 2.4 GHz, can interfere with other appliances
  • 802.11a — up to 54 Mbps, 5 GHz, less interference, reduced range, lower penetration
  • 802.11g — up to 54 Mbps, 2.4 GHz, can interfere with other appliances
  • 802.11n — up to 100 Mbps, 2.4 or 5 GHz, can interfere with other appliances
  • 802.11ac — up to 450 Mbps, 5 GHz, less interference, beamforming, reduced range, lower penetration

Learn more about 802.11 Wi-Fi  standards.

Learn Something New Subscribe

Best RSS Reader / News Feed: Feedly Review

There was a time, eons ago, when people got all of their news from two primary sources: newspapers and television. Although I remember that time, the world had already moved on by the time I was an adult and I do not miss it.

These days, there are interesting articles spread out across thousands of blogs and sites across the internet.

The question is: how do you consolidate your favourite news sources for daily consumption?

The answer is: Feedly!

Feedly is an RSS-reader, a type of news aggregator, that uses the RSS web feed standard. Don’t be scared by the tech-speak, Feedly is very easy to use. Simply install the addon and search for your favourite sites and blogs that support RSS (most do) and Feedly will automatically check those sites for new content and present them to you in a visually appealing way.

You can think of it as your own personal newspaper / magazine for the web and since you don’t need to visit those sites manually anymore, it can help you clean up that pile of bookmarks you have in your browser.

You don’t have to follow strictly news sources, of course. I follow a variety of content such as:

  • Blogs (Science, Technology, Business, Sports etc.)
  • Web Comics (Perfect for lunch breaks)
  • News (Science, Technology, Business etc.)

Feedly is available across devices (desktop, Android, iOS) and automatically keeps everything in sync. It’s perfect for reading up during lunch or digesting articles on your phone whenever you have some downtime. I swear by it.

I have been using Feedly for several years now and, although I have tried other RSS-readers, I have always stuck with Feedly because it is simple, convenient and it just works. Feedly allows you to search for sources directly from their search bar — for example, typing in “Wired” to automatically pull up any Wired magazine site and blog feeds  — as well as allowing you to manually add RSS feeds.

For those new to RSS, adding feeds manually, while not necessary in most cases, is very easy. Simply visit your favourite site or blog, look for an RSS icon or text, and copy and paste the feed URL that typically looks something like:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/smbc-comics/PvLb?format=xml

RSS feed button

You may have to click through a secondary FeedBurner page if the feed was setup that way and click “View feed XML”. To keep it simple, however, just search using Feedly’s search box and you should be able to immediately add all but the most obscure feeds.

If you aren’t already a devoted Feedly fan like me, give it a shout and let me know what you think!

____________

Learn Something New Subscribe

Facebook Messenger vs. BBM — Why BBM Sucks

BBM was just released for iOS and Android and a number of people are quickly jumping onto the new-old messaging platform. Before you hop on the bangwagon and add to the messaging fragmentation problem, let me explain why Facebook Messenger is better than BBM.

First off, BBM sucks is a bit harsh. BBM is actually great, it’s just unnecessary and worse than messaging from within Facebook.

1. Everyone* already uses Facebook.

This first point should be obvious but many people still miss just how amazing Facebook is. Until Facebook came along, there was no platform that could single-handedly connect you with everyone you would ever want to speak with (and even some you probably never will want to speak with, but that’s okay).

Facebook Messaging allows you to instantly connect with anyone on your Facebook, no PIN required (more on that later). You can message your closest friends, or reach out to an acquaintance for a very random and specific conversation.

* there aren’t many people left unreachable via Facebook, especially for younger generations.

2. Choice

You can use Facebook Messenger, the dedicated app, or you can message people right from within Facebook. Since many people are already on Facebook throughout the day, it just makes sense to pull up the message box and start typing away!

3. No need for PINs.

Tired of updating people’s phone numbers? Adding PINs? Dealing with phone changes? No worries! With Facebook Messenger you don’t have to worry about any of that. Simply log into to Facebook on any connected device on the planet and you can pick up where you left off in conversations, instantly!

4. Facebook Messenger can be used on a plethora of devices including the desktop.

Apparently BBM will eventually be releasing a desktop application, but as it stands Facebook Messenger has an enormous advantage since the platform remains exactly the same whether you are on desktop or mobile. This is a huge benefit to Facebook. When you’re on the go, use your phone. When you are at home, however, you have the option of typing much faster at your desktop, should you choose to do so.

5. BBM will lead to more fragmentation.

The biggest problem with BBM, the thing that truly does suck, is that it will lead to more fragmentation. Facebook was slowly starting to take over as the default communication platform for many people. Sure, people still text and use iMessage, but Facebook Messenger was always a reliable backup used for connecting you to anyone — especially good for conversations that contain close friends and acquaintances.

6. Facebook Messenger has all of the features of BBM.

Read receipts? Check. Send pictures? Check. Send emoticons? Check. Facebook Messenger has all of the desired features of BBM and none of the undesired ones (like requiring PINs, gross).

7. BBM is unnecessary.

By now, you have probably figured out a fantastic way to keep in touch with your friends. Maybe it’s WhatsApp, texting or iMessage, or even better, you’re messaging through Facebook. Either way, BBM will only complicate the communication with your friends.

Please stop this fragmentation nightmare. Don’t jump on the bangwagon!
__________

Learn Something New Subscribe

Google X Project Loon — Wireless Internet via Balloon!

Google Loon BalloonHave you ever wondered what Google does with its abundance of cash? The answer: incredible moonshot projects.

As of Jun 30th, 2013, Google had over $54 billion in cash and short term investments. With that kind of moolah, there is very little you can’t do and, unlike Apple that likes to horde its cash, Google likes to put that money to good use, investing in moonshot projects.

So what is Project Loon?

Project Loon is the latest extreme project to come out of Google X, Google’s secret facility for futuristic (sci-fi-like) development. Loon is Google’s attempt to bring internet access to everyone on the planet via a series of special balloons that will create a wireless network from up in the stratosphere.

Other notable Google X projects: self-driving cars and Google Glass,

Google makes money from people using the internet, so it makes sense that they would try to bring more people online. Nonetheless, there are few companies out there that are willing to spend as much money as Google on these “extreme” projects. Loon even gets its name from the fact that the idea was initially seen as “loony”.

The idea behind Loon is very simple: many people around the world lack internet access because they live in remote areas where it is difficult to run traditional networks. Loon aims to solve this issue by floating high in the stratosphere and providing 3G-like internet speeds over a wide area from far above.

The best part of projects like this is that even if they fail, they push the envelope and drive radical change. Google’s self-driving cars, for example, have stimulated competition from a number of companies including Mercedes-Benz, GM, Toyota and Nissan, among many others. They took an idea that seemed downright loony, and turned it into a major innovation that has the auto industry struggling to keep up.

Apple may have redefined the mobile phone space with the iPhone, but Google is silently revolutionizing several industries with innovation previously thought of as sci-fi. This, while simultaneously dominating search and becoming the front-runner in the mobile OS space. What can’t Google do?

__________

Learn Something New Subscribe

Freemium Apps Suck | Candy Crush and Other Abominations

Candy Crush sucks - Freemium apps suck
Candy Crush Sucks

Sometime within the last year or so, freemium has taken a dramatic turn for the worse; app designers are now beginning to ditch the “free” and focus on the “premium”.

The best example is the abomination that is Candy Crush; a game that has taken freemium to a frustrating extreme. The idea is simple: instead of offering the game for free with a reasonably-priced premium version (read, full version), they make a small portion of the game available for free with many purchases required in-game to proceed. You never buy the full game, you know have to continually pay-to-play.

Freemium apps suck

From a business perspective, it is brilliant, but the users are the ones that lose out — financially. Previously, you could try out a game or app for a while, and if you liked it, you could opt for the premium version — usually priced between $0.99-4.99. Many new apps, however, are now forcing you to cough-up money at regular intervals to progress through the game and charging a dollar or two each time.

The result of this nonsense, is that many users are spending much more than before on their apps, many without realizing it. Other users, like myself, become extremely frustrated with the game, never to play it again. There’s no option to purchase the app in its entirety anymore, so you either have to commit to a continual stream of purchases or stop using the app altogether.

The real problem is this: users are spending much more money with this new freemium model, but unfortunately, there are too many users that do not realize this and add to the problem by lining these businesses’ pockets. The market needs to wake up and start boycotting these apps to prevent a deluge of new freemium apps that will drain user’s pockets.

I am personally boycotting apps like Candy Crush and looking for alternatives so I don’t contribute to this problem. Will you join me in helping to fix this before it gets out of control?

Learn Something New Subscribe