1. Critically think about and argue the topic of using data mining by corporations such as grocery and department stores to find patterns in the way people buy goods. In doing this, stores hope to influence what shoppers buy and when. Consider this issue from as many different perspectives as possible (consumer and store owners may not be the only one’s here) and provide some evidence backing up your observations.

Data mining, or the drawing out of hidden predictive information from large databases, is a powerful new technology with great potential to help companies focus on the most important information in their data warehouses. Data mining tools predict future trends and behaviors, allowing businesses to make proactive, knowledge-driven decisions or discovering new patterns from large data sets involving methods at the intersection of artificial intelligence, machine learning, statistics and database systems.

The data companies or people usually have is often vast, and noisy, meaning that it’s imprecise and the data structure is complex and all over the place. This is where a statistical technique would not succeed, so data mining is the solution. Of course when the actual mining occurs, you have issues such as relevance, algorithm efficiency, size, and complexity. In the end, this should produce valid, useful, and understandable results.

The advantages of data mining of course, are pretty apparent. This helps companies succeed in projecting things like sales, losses, and customer trends. And with a dwindling economy, this technique can keep businesses on their feet.

And of course, with data mining disadvantages come as well. Social networking sites like Facebook are specific targets to marketing companies nowadays. This can be a nuisance because of personal information, privacy, friends, family… The list goes on.

The main concern with data mining would be that companies need to realize the lines in which some cross, and that because of this, can be potentially hurting their customer base. Personally, I believe there should be some sort of regulatory terms that some of these companies should abide by, but until then, keep an eye out and be smart with who you share your personal information.

Attached is a short video describing data mining.

 

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-The “Blio” e-reader application is a bit different than most e-readers or most e-reading software. The software developed by Ray Kurzweil, also creator of the KNBF reader in my next paragraph, is intended more than just for e-reading, but for handicapped people as well. The software is designed to show books exactly the way they look if you were to have them in your hand, and in full color. It is designed for touch screens in mind as well and can be used on Apple products and Windows products, including desktops, laptops, and phones. The main difference between the Blio and other e-readers is that it can speak all the books in its large 1.3 million+ book library for people with handicaps on top of being a pleasant looking e-reader.

Included below is a video of the Blio software in action.

 

*Ganapati, Priya, and Charlie Sorrel. “Singularity Proponent Ray Kurzweil Reinvents the Book, Again | Gadget Lab | Wired.com.” Wired.com. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/12/blio-ray-kurzweil-book/&gt;.

-Similar to the above software, also created by Ray Kurzweil, is the KNBF Reader. The KNFB is a joint venture of the National Federation of the Blind and Kurzweil Technologies. Originally introduced in a large device comparable to the size of a large digital camera, the reading software is now being shipped installed in the new Nokia N82 cell phones. The most interesting part of the technology is that it can take a picture of anything ranging from menus, currency, books, signs, business cards, really anything with text, and turn it into a readable on-screen display and automatically read it aloud for people with sight disabilities.

Also included below, is a video of the original reader in action.

 

*Baig, Edward C. “Cellphone Can Read to You from Pictures It Takes – USATODAY.com.” News, Travel, Weather, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, U.S. & World – USATODAY.com. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/edwardbaig/2008-02-13-nokia-n82-blind_N.htm&gt;.

1. How has abstraction made computing more accessible to a wider audience of users? Give two examples of how abstraction makes computing easier for you as a user.

The definition of abstraction by wiki states, In computer science, abstraction is the process by which data and programs are defined with a representation similar to its meaning (semantics), while hiding away the implementation details. Abstraction tries to reduce and factor out details so that the programmer can focus on a few concepts at a time. A system can have several abstraction layers whereby different meanings and amounts of detail are exposed to the programmer. For example, low-level abstraction layers expose details of the hardware where the program is run, while high-level layers deal with the business logic of the program.

In easier terms this could be understood as the process of picking out common features of objects  and procedures. Someone like a programmer, for example, would use abstraction to pick out two functions from similar programs and combine them into one single program. Or another example would be that using abstraction us to view a hardware component like a processor as a single indivisible high-level entity without having to be aware or realize all of the many electronic devices that go into creating and constructing it.

Examples of myself using abstraction could be when I built the desktop that I own. I did research and looked for part of the computer that I needed or wanted, but really didn’t go too far beyond the parts that I needed. By this, I didn’t go i depth about how many transistors or diodes were in each piece, or how the circuit diagrams were laid out in each part. Of course I had to look at which parts worked with others such as which processor would fit into the socket I had in the motherboard I chose to use in the build I was ordering. Another example of this, almost within the previous example, would be when I use my computer, whatever the case it is, I don’t really realize what parts are communicating with each other or how they are communicating, because I am focused on what task I’m using it for. In the case of when I try and tweak a certain piece of hardware. say the processor to overclock or speed it up, this requires you to be a little more knowledgeable and wary of what processes are required for these devices to do their job and what it requires to do said tweaking.

Of course abstraction is used in every day activities, especially ones that require you to create or imagine objects. Maybe even a conversation you are having with someone. For example, lets say you’re having a conversation with someone about a car. When you think about a car, what instantly comes to mind? Maybe a four-door? Maybe a green SUV? Maybe you picture the first car you ever owned? This is abstraction at its finest, and you may or may not realize it, but you use it every day.

 

Last week were assigned our groups for the final project of the semester. Our group the “Samurai Predators”, consists of Micah Cantrell, Jordan Gilland, and myself. We were originally put together because we were asked to write down something we were interested in doing the project on, and based on that, we were paired together.My choice was something in and around emerging computer hardware, Micahs was based around voice recognition software and I’m pretty sure Jordan is just rolling with whatever we could come up with.

Eventually after about 15-20 minutes of talking to each other, we came up with the idea of current and emerging voice recognition technology. Really anything from smartphones, voice controlled homes, to technology to aid people who are handicapped. Some of the main points we’ll be touching on is current voice activated technology and applications and how most don’t seem to work as well as some would like. This of course has a lot of reason in itself because of programming issues, pronunciation and dialects of the language, and how well the hardware can handle the application its being used for. This then brings us to the point of emerging hardware and software that’s being researched and brought to the market for consumer use.

Hopefully we can show some videos and examples in our slide show and presentation of some of these mentioned issues. We’ll also go over some of the specific new hardware and software of these new and improved applications. Micah also mentioned that his sister is computer science tech working on some projects at IU Bloomington specifically focused on voice activated robotics, too. Hopefully he can get some extra information from her and possibly be able to even get permission to borrow or show one of the current robot/projects they’re working on currently!

Beyond that, we have everything pretty much squared away and ready to roll. Micah said he’s going to be doing some research and focusing on applications related to voice activation technology considering he has access to it with his sister at IU Bloomington. Jordan said he’s going to focus on software related to it; things like current and emerging programs and what they can be used for through voice activation. And myself, I will be focusing on hardware related topics and what problems they might be facing in the ability of functioning and handling either the software and/or applications of it.

And for kicks I’ve added a youtube video I found a bit amusing. It’s of a guy from the UK reviewing a newer lexus model that has a voice activation system used for different tasks in the vehicle and some of the problems he has with using it.

I chose to do my subject on SSD drives or Solid State Drives.

Solid State Drives are These are a fairly new idea, or at least newer to the consumer market in the ability to use them in your personal computer. SSD’s are a new type of hard drive for your computer, or according to Wikipedia are…

A solid-state drive (SSD) or an electronic disk is a data storage device that uses solid-state memory to store persistent data with the intention of providing access in the same manner of a traditional block i/o hard disk drive. SSDs are distinguished from traditional magnetic disks such as hard disk drives (HDDs) or floppy disk, which are electromechanical devices containing spinning disks and movable read/write heads. In contrast, SSDs use microchips which retain data in non-volatile memory chips[1] and contain no moving parts.[1] Compared to electromechanical HDDs, SSDs are typically less susceptible to physical shock, are silent, have lower access time and latency, but are more expensive per gigabyte (GB) and typically support a limited number of writes over the life of the device. SSDs use the same interface as hard disk drives, thus easily replacing them in most applications.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid-state_drive)

Considering SSD’s are such a newer technology to the consumer market, you can assume that, of course, they will be more expensive in comparison to older style HDD’s. Average pricing for SSD’s, or at least quality SSD’s, will range from cheapest (and slowest) SSD’s costing 2.5$ per GB, the fastest consumer HDDs cost less than 20 cents a GB, while standard versions cost < 10cents/GB). This is an insanely high price for most users. Because of this, you can gather that SSD’s are very mainstream quite yet, but are expected to reach or more standard and mainstream price-point in 2012.

For a real and genuine comparison between SSD’s and HDD’s I’ve attached a youtube video below which includes; weight measurements, boot-up times, read speeds, shutdown times and vibration testing.

The Colloquia entry that I enjoyed the most was Serious Fun and Games at IU by Lee Sheldon (http://disted.informatics.iupui.edu/4088_Lecture/Colloquia/Sheldon.html).

Lee Sheldon is a game designer, book author, and television producer and scriptwriter. He is the author of the mystery novel Impossible Bliss, a non-fiction book Character Development and Storytelling for Games. Sheldon has a bachelor of fine arts degree in stage directing from Boston University, and an MFA in film direction from California Institute of the Arts. During his time as a student at CalArts, he was mentored under Alexander Mackendrick. In addition, he had two pairs of mentors while he was a writer and producer in television — Ron Austin and Jim Buchanan, as well as William Link and Richard Levinson.

This piece interested me the most because some of the work Lee Sheldon is doing is what I’m actually interested in looking into myself. I’ve already read a few articles about his class located in IU Bloomington. This article here (http://hastac.org/blogs/slgrant/fighting-monsters-taking-tests) was probably the most interesting in a classroom perspective. The article focuses on different ways to teach the class and how to engage otherwise non participating students to participate in the classroom with others. He describes how this is a good way to combat social loafing. Some examples of what he used in his Multiplayer Game Design class were that he assigned “guilds” or groups of students located in that area to certain areas of the classroom and were moved to different zones throughout the semester. Another article (http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/at-indiana-u-a-class-on-game-design-has-students-playing-to-win/21981) reads “Class time is spent completing quests (such as presentations of games or research), fighting monsters (taking tests or quizzes), and “crafting” (writing game-analysis papers and a video-game concept document). It may sound a bit nerdy, but hey, who isn’t it for a bit of spicing up compared to a regular lecture or syllabus now and again?

Another interesting concept that Sheldon has included with his different approach in the classroom is the way he grades his students. As an alternative to receiving traditional grades, students earn “experience points” for completing curriculum. Sheldon says that the points system not only feels more like a video game, but also lets students feel like they’re earning points for getting things right instead of losing them for incorrect answers. Again, this may sound a bit nerdy, but this is something that I think gamers and non-gamers alike can appreciate.

Sheldon says he has seen so much of an interest in the way he’s teaching his courses that other professors and colleagues have contacted him in an attempt to ask him help for tweaking an existing course that they are teaching, or starting an whole new course based on these ideas completely. The link for his blog (http://gamingtheclassroom.wordpress.com/) called “Gaming the Classroom” is a collection of information regarding topics on game design and curriculum related to the topic from Sheldon and others.

TERRIBLE web design

Above we have an example of bad web design. This fine gem, aptly named for its fine characteristics of web design, showcase what one should not do in creating a webpage.

For this assignment I’ll be showing some examples of bad and good web design and explain why these websites show examples of bad or good web design.

First of all, before we start with the examples, I’ll give some reasons and characteristics that showcase either bad or good web design. We’ll begin with the bad stuff…

BAD:

Hit counters:

Whats more annoying than a hit counter for a website? This is a dodgy little odometer looking thing usually found at the bottom of amateur web pages. COOL! Lets make my webpage look like a used car! Granted, these are useful for pages like Ebay or other auction sites, but outside of that, don’t bother.

Broken Links:

Also one of the more annoying characteristics of an unprofessional website. Not only is it a turn-off for your readers, but is also crucial for search engine optimization. In turn, working links can boost your search engine rankings to help others find ways to your website easier. This is especially useful for blogging and other similar webpages.

Text Size:

Another important aspect of good webpage design is text size. This is important to your readers because this can help point out sections, more important areas of your website and help the viewer navigate it. Just like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it should be like baby bear’s porridge, “just right”.

PAGES THAT SHOUT AT YOU IN BLOCK CAPITALS!:

This is a given. What can possibly be more annoying, not to mention unprofessional, than someone who has an infatuation with the caps lock button? It’s not only an eye sore, but very unattractive for potential viewers. Now  we can understand if your caps lock button is broken, but for the love of god, please buy a new keyboard before you insist on yelling at us through your webpage.

Long, pompous and irrelevant Flash intros:

The popular use of flash intros to corporate webpages has never made a whole lot of sense to most. Largely, they’re painful to sit through, and even for the few people who would actually want to watch them, after seeing it once, why should they ever want to put themselves through this form of pain oddly characteristic of medieval torture again? Yet, for some odd reason, unbeknownst to 95% of the population, web designers love them, and somehow keep convincing companies to use them.

GOOD:


Navigation:

This is probably the most important aspect of a website. Text should be unobtrusive and easy to read. The page should flow and be easy to steer through. Links should NOT be broken. Navigation buttons and bars provide the visitor with a clue as to where they are, what page of the site they are currently on and frames, if used, are not obtrusive to other parts of the page. Should also be search engine friendly to provide a higher hit count, in turn, providing your website to viewers with said words/phrases/information when searching. Content that is relevant and up to date. This includes links and other information like contact info. For larger sites, an up to date index or site map should be made available. 

Properly resized and optimized images:

This example is pretty self explanatory. You wouldn’t want to view a webpage with an image the entire size of the page would you? This also goes with navigation. Picture/products should be able to fit an expected size of the page, whether it be a link to a specific product or another page entirely.

Text:

Most importantly the background should not interrupt. This means that text should not be ridiculously hard to read against a background. The text should also be big enough to read, but not too big. This goes with statement number three in “BAD”.Of course this is just a few of the bad and good examples of bad and good web design. If the webpage is intrusive, difficult to read, or poorly designated your visitors will usually go elsewhere for their information. People will be impatient with website because there is such a plethora of information available about a multitude of subjects on the internet. Make your website stand out by following the most basic of web designs tips and you should be well on your way to making a well-read webpage.