Bill Gates

Bill Gates at SXSWedu: The future of education is data

If there was a single nerdy subtext that Bill Gates brought to his closing keynote at the SXSWedu conference in Austin, it was the importance of data. Useful data. Education data. Gates, as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was the headliner to a standing-room only crowd of roughly 2,500 at SXSWedu, the… Read More

Public Information Kiosk's book vending machine.

Paper trumps tech at national library conference

I went looking for the digital future of libraries at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting this week. Conveniently, the conference was held in Seattle, near a couple of very forward-looking library systems that make eBooks, mobile apps and digital downloads expected, almost routine. But if the exhibit hall represented the near future for libraries,… Read More

FurtherPeterRabbit

3 ways digital media is turning us into 2nd graders

We are all regressing. And I have proof from an authoritative source: the state of children’s books. The underlying reasons lie in the digital means by which we communicate, forcing increased — and often unreasonable — expectations of speed and brevity, no matter how complicated the concept. My evidence for declaring this probable cause and… Read More

Flickr photo via Justin D. Miller

Here comes another tech bubble — in education

I’m the kind of guy who worries when something gets too popular. I looked askance at novels (especially science fiction) that made it to mainstream bestseller lists when written by otherwise mediocre authors. I avoided buying any footwear or polo shirt that was named for, or sported images of, long-jawed fast-crawling reptiles. When anything rapidly… Read More

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Banks behaving badly: Dealing with a divisive digital divide

When a company providing financial services emphasizes digital convenience, you’d think that also applies to its customer service. After all, nearly every major bank and credit union pushes online banking, mobile banking, text and email alerts and electronic bill payment. But there seems to be a digital divide between financial institutions promoting digital and thinking… Read More

David Brin

10 questions: ‘Existence’ author David Brin on science fiction, science and geeks

One could successfully argue that modern geek culture wouldn’t exist in its current form without 20th century science fiction and its fan culture, the true Ancient Geeks. Tech’s unconferences have their roots in PowerPoint-free, volunteer-organized, fan-driven science-fiction conventions run by organizations such as the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS), which go back nearly eight… Read More

geeksguideairtravel

The Geek’s Guide to Air Travel

You say you know what it’s like to live like a geek. But do you know how to fly like one? I do. And not like the annoyingly self-important “look at these cool-expensive-huge headphones that I just bought with the red light that make me look like a Star Wars Cloud City administrative aide“ road warriors…. Read More

geekwiretumbles

Two GeekWire weeks, three entrepreneurial lessons

Twice in the span of one month I did something I hadn’t done for a decade — worked in a newsroom. Those two partial weeks that I spent enfolded, tauntaun like, in the guts of GeekWire taught me more about the current state of journalism and entrepreneurship than a year of reading armchair opinions ever… Read More

eonbook

Science fiction writers inspired as asteroid miners make fiction fact

It was the very last question at the news conference announcing Planetary Resources’ plans to find mineral-rich asteroids, pull them into near-Earth orbit, and mine them. Did science fiction play a role? The response was an accurate, but unsatisfyingly vague, “Science fiction is fiction right up to the point that it’s science fact.” The Seattle area, which hosted… Read More

kindlefire1-small

Will a $199 Google tablet hurt or help the Kindle Fire?

Next to politics, perhaps no industry loves speculation more than tech. We may couch it as “analysis” or — if we’re being especially honest with ourselves — as “commentary” or “opinion.” But at its best, even when fact-based, it’s informed guesswork. Which leads me to the latest rumor of a Google Nexus tablet. Digitimes was… Read More

Photo via Bigstock

7 steps to raise a geek child

It’s inevitable. New babies are coming into the world. I began to notice this when former colleagues were no longer available for a chat, coffee or Words with Friends. Instead, I heard them use long-forgotten phrases, terms such as “t-ball practice” or “play date.” And I suddenly realized my geek acquaintances were producing little geeklets…. Read More

prius200

How car dealers embrace, and erode, the web

We may finally be seeing how business, when faced with a technological threat, adapts. Not by changing practices. But by waiting until it can develop antibodies to overwhelm the intruder. Twelve years ago, I bought my first car online. Routine as it might sound now, it was a Big Deal back then. The web (still… Read More

playfullearningsmall

Microsoft and education: lead or cheerlead?

In the Seattle area there is a powerhouse co-founded by Bill Gates, dedicated to using advances in technology to change education. And then there is Microsoft. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has, over the past several years, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into education reform in the U.S. With grants to, and through,… Read More

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When eBooks attack, mass paperbacks die

The mass market paperback is dead. It just doesn’t know it yet. Ailing for months, its demise is now all but assured by Amazon’s recent bold announcement. Not the over-analyzed, over-iPad-compared Kindle Fire announcement. Rather, by the far less interesting news – to the gadgetphiles – that the least expensive, wonderfully readable and portable Kindle… Read More

ActiMatesTVPak

Practical Nerd: Microsoft toys with itself, again

A favorite tech industry truism is that Microsoft got where it is today by copying others. Now, it’s finally copying itself. With the type of fanfare usually reserved for the announcement of each holiday season’s must-have Elmo toy, Microsoft last week launched its “playful learning” initiative, fully propelling Kinect for Xbox 360 into the children’s… Read More

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Practical Nerd: Survival tips for Startup Weekend EDU

I was a first-time mentor at a Startup Weekend recently and, appropriate to my day job, it was focused on education technology. This Startup Weekend Seattle EDU was only the third time a Startup Weekend was dedicated to turning entrepreneurs loose for an entire 54 hours to innovate in education (the first two were in… Read More

frankmontage

Practical Nerd: When Amazon can’t be trusted

Recently, I bought a new Android phone. It didn’t come with everything I wanted, so I turned to my default shopping resource, Amazon.com. I did a search, set the options to only show “Prime Eligible” shipping, found the accessory I wanted … And stopped dead. Instead, after reading several buyer reviews, I purchased from a… Read More

SWSEAedu_Logos

Practical Nerd: Irresistible startups, immovable education

I’ve advised a number of startups over the years and have been directly part of at least two. I discovered what many entrepreneurs know: it’s a maddening, exhausting, adrenaline-filled, glorious existence in which there’s never enough time, resources, sleep or toilet paper (when I was at iCopyright we brought our own). So when I heard there… Read More

A shirt promoting Microsoft Bob.

Practical Nerd: The hidden price of “free”

In tech, nothing quite equals the siren lure of “free.” I still recall a friend of mine from Microsoft being amazed at the continued appeal of the lowly t-shirt. She described, in an awestruck-yet-cautionary tone, trade show attendees who happily applied Microsoft tattoos to their faces in the hope of being spotted on the show… Read More

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The Practical Nerd manifesto

What does it mean to be a Practical Nerd? I mean, being a standard-issue nerd is no longer a challenge. Not like when I grew up, when “nerd” was a term of derision, a reason for even the art and drama geeks to shun you, and a near-guarantee that someone at junior high school graduation… Read More

HP-Mini-1151-nrs

Practical Nerd: A plea for independence from bad accessory support

Editor’s Note: “Practical Nerd” columnist Frank Catalano spent three hours this Independence Day weekend struggling under the oppression of one technology company’s failed accessory support. The only positive result: This open letter to Léo Apotheker, president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard. In August 2009, I purchased an HP Mini 1151NR through Verizon Wireless. This was a… Read More