Saturday, September 25, 2010

Free Classes from the Khan Academy

For years America's largest academic institutions have been contributing to a social project called Open Courseware. The idea is simple: provide anyone who wants to learn with free classes including lectures, materials, etc. from hundreds if not thousands of higher learning institutions. The idea is that by lowering the barrier to high quality education more people would want to learn.

I've browsed the course selection over the years and currently I find myself watching a lecture series from Yale on an Introduction to the New Testament History. I found it through Open Yale courses here and then downloaded the video files through iTunes University for free.

Despite Open Courseware's growth of content over the years I don't think it has caught on nearly as well as many would have liked. Now comes a new entrant into free, high quality education online called Khan Academy.


The founder, Salman Khan, has been creating videos on a wide range of subjects including algebra, history, investing, banking, etc. in simple and easy to understand format that can break down even the most complex topics into several 10 minute YouTube videos. He's also been doing this full time as a not-for-profit institution to help people learn more. (You can find a number of video's about him and his background online).

The Khan Academy has been generating a lot of buzz including getting funding from a number of silicon valley big wigs. It appears his types of classes has taken off far more than those offered by Open Courseware and with good reason - they deal with far simpler subjects.

I just finished a video lecture on the Paulson Bailout. Check out the Khan Academy at http://www.khanacademy.org/.

For More Information on Open Courseware:
MIT's Open Courseware
The Open Courseware Consortium

Friday, September 24, 2010

1st Google AdSense Check

It's official. About three weeks ago I got my first check from Google AdSense for $102.27 for ads here on My Technology Fetish and my old site Ultimate Ultra Mobile PC blog.

Honestly there is no reason for this posting other than to say 1. Thank you - if not for all the visitors clicking on the ads, I wouldn't be able to almost afford a new Wifi only Kindle. 2. Damn that long time! I've had one blog or another up since 2008 on various topics and it took at least two years before I reached the threshold for Google to send me a check. (AdSense limits check payments to $100).

I really see this as an experiment. Does advertising make a difference to you as a reader? One of my blogs (the young and growing Search N Recovery scuba site) doesn't have ads yet and I'm not sure if it will. Introducing ads down the line may happen for experimental purposes to see if bounce rates or average time on site drops. For a site owner its quite easy place advertisements thanks to Google. If it doesn't affect traffic, what do you have to loose?

As a web surfer, I believe as long as the ads aren't obtrusive to the site visitor and they don't ruin the site (in terms of layout, functionality, etc.) then they don't bother me. I guess only time will tell.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

James Whittaker MSDN Blogs

After reading James Whittaker's book Exploratory Software Testing, the last 40 or so pages are dedicated to his Microsoft blog "JW on Test". The good news is the blog is still up and running for anyone that want's to view his posts.

If you want to catch James Whittaker's latest blog from his work at Google check out the Google Testing Blog.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

MacBook Air Part 3 - 128GB AD SSD Benchmarks


This is the third article in a three part series on MacBook Air Solid State Drive Benchmarks.

In the previous two articles I gave some specific application launch times in order to give you an idea of how the MacBook Air's SSD performance is affected long term. At the time I wrote the original article (back in 2009) I couldn't find (didn't try hard enough?) a SSD benchmarking tool; at least not one that would work for both Mac OS X and Windows.

I found a benchmarking tool for Windows called AD SSD Benchmark tool and I ran it on my "formatted" MacBook Air SSD Drive.

Here are the results:



As you can see the Sequential Read time is 90.98 MB/s and the Sequential Write time is 29.00 MB/s. This MacBook Air's SSD model is Apple SSD SM128 with revision VAM0BA1Q. A quick Google Search didn't turn up any of the original Samsung SSD HD specifications. It would be great to see the original SSD specifications for read and write times to see how they've decreased over time but that doesn't seem likely.


Related Articles:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Make a book of your blog

This was kind of random but I just came across a Google Ad for a company called Blog2Print. The idea is really simple, you can get a nice printed copy of your blog posts for sharing with friends / family / whoever. I guess that makes a lot of sense if you have a great photo journalism blog or for an field export or maybe even a blog following your baby's first few years. For most of us it's just a little self indulgent. (No wonder why I like it!).

It kind of remind's me of a book my coworker recently read called Rework in which he said was mostly just blog posts (some unpublished) tied into a book. Imagine that? You could use Blog2Print to combine a bunch of your most popular / interesting posts into a digital book (they offer PDF formats) and then use Amazon's Vanity Press label to publish your book to the growing e-Book market.

I can see it now, an entire book shelf covered in books "authored" by me!

Monday, September 20, 2010

MacBook Air Part 2 - 128GB Used SSD Benchmarks


This is the second article in a three part series on MacBook Air Solid State Drive Benchmarks.

At this point I've been using my MacBook Air (MBA) for many months and I can accurately attest that my MBA's Samsung SSD drive has seen a performance decrease from "actual use". I've formatted the drive, reinstalled Snow Leopard and used boot camp to install Windows 7 (which I use as my primary operating system). Each of these tests have been performed a few times so the numbers are averages. Also, I use the term "formatted" drive instead of "used" drive to differentiate between my prior tests.

To recap here was the outline for benchmarking:

  1. New Drive – running OS X 10.5.6
    1. Cold Boot Times, Shutdown Times, and Time Launching Apps including iTunes, Safari and Firefox.
  2. New Drive – running OS X 10.6
    1. Cold Boot Times, Shutdown Times, Time Launching Apps including iTunes, Safari and Firefox.
  3. Used Drive – running OS X 10.6 (elapsed time: 1 week)
    1. Same as above
  4. Formatted Drive – Dual boot with OS X 10.6 and Windows 7 (elapsed time: > 4 months)
    1. Same as above minus the Benchmark Apps, Windows 7 Performance Index
Here are the initial results:

  1. Brand New Drive - running OS X 10.5.6
    1. Cold Boot Time was about 27.3 seconds
    2. Shutdown Time was about 4.1 seconds
    3. Time Launching Apps
      1. iTunes was about 4 seconds
      2. Safari was about 1 second
      3. Firefox was about 1 second
  2. Brand New Drive - running Snow Leopard - OS X 10.6
    1. Boot Time was about 29.3 seconds
    2. Shutdown Time was about 2.3 seconds
    3. Time Launching Apps
      1. iTunes was about 1.5 seconds
      2. Safari was about 1.4 seconds (40% increase)
      3. Firefox was about 2 seconds (100% increase)
  3. Used Drive - running Snow Leopard (elapsed time: 1 week)
    1. Boot Time was about 31 seconds
    2. Shutdown Time was about 1.9 seconds
    3. Time Launching Apps
      1. iTunes was about 2.1 seconds
      2. Safari was about 1.75 seconds
      3. Firefox was about 2.3 seconds

When comparing the previous data sets with the new data sets you should know that Snow Leopard boot and shutdown times should be directly comparable across the "New", "Used" and "Formatted" test categories. However the Windows 7 tests should not be directly compared to the Mac OS X results because not everything is equal. Since Windows 7 has to go through Apple boot camp the whole machine operates a little bit slower. For reference my MBA has a Windows Experience Index of 3.6. It gets a 5.9 for the SSD Hard Drive but only gets a 3.6 for the CPU.

Here are the subsequent results:
 

  1. Formatted Drive – running Snow Leopard (elapsed time: >4 months)
    1. Boot Time was about 43.6 seconds (40% increase over "used" boot time)
    2. Shutdown Time was about 2.2 seconds (15% increase over "used")
    3. Time Launching Apps
      1. iTunes was about 1.6 seconds
      2. Safari was about 1.6 seconds
      3. Firefox was about 3.2 seconds (60% increase)
  2. Formatted Drive – running Windows 7 on boot camp (elapsed time: >4 months)
    1. Boot Time was about 54.9 seconds
    2. Shutdown Time was about 14.3 seconds
    3. Time Launching Apps
      1. iTunes was about 5.5 seconds
      2. Safari was about 2.0 seconds
      3. Firefox was about 2.3 seconds
Windows 7 has the fastest boot and shutdown times for any Windows version but you can clearly see that Mac OS X smokes it. Also, if you know anything about SSDs you might expect the Windows 7 machine to be faster for read-modify-writes speeds since it supports TRIM the problem is the drive contained in my MBA doesn't support it. Of course neither does Mac OS X Snow Leopard.

As I stated in the previous article I should have tried to encode a video file or mp3 because the write speeds show the largest performance decreases over time. (I'll have to remember that when I test the new MacBook Pro I just picked up). These numbers are rudimentary at best but the idea is to show you how fast a MacBook Air could be with a Solid State Drive. Is it worth the extra +/- $300? Well that's for you to deicide. Despite the drop in long term performance a SSD still feels much faster than a regular spinning hard drive and the extra battery life attained is impressive.


Continue to the MacBook Air’s AD SSD Benchmark statistics here.




Related Articles:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

IE9 Public Beta out today

I just finished downloading and installing the Internet Explorer 9 Beta on my Macbook Air (I run Windows 7 of course) and will probably be playing with it for the next year before the full release (or next beta comes out).

Ars Techncia reviewed the latest IE Beta and includes a bit of a background on Microsoft and IE's development efforts from the early days to now. The article is pretty kind to Microsoft and the IE 9 beta but it's worth a read.

Some of the things I've noticed (both good and bad):
  1. Page and History loading can be slow and sometimes shows blank pages.
  2. I like the simplfied UI. The less "chrome" the better.
  3. The combined URL / Tabs location sucks. You are forced to do with less of both. It would be great if they could put the tabs at the Top of the Window like Chrome does.
  4. Still no saving tabs when the browser is closed!
  5. Much much faster than IE8.
  6. Hopefully the next beta release and/or final release will be out in less than a year. Unlike IE8 which took more than a year to be released after the first beta.

http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2010/09/inside-internet-explorer-9-redmond-gets-back-in-the-game.ars/

As a software tester and technophile I find it fun to play with new software and so I want the newest version of IE soon. At the same time it's good when companies take some time develop new products because it gives companies like mine time to prepare.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Posterous

I've been using Posterous for a about a month now as a micro-blog for work. I find it incredibly handy to email small blurbs about what I'm working on or planning to work on. In the past when it came time to write down what I've done, I used Graffiti to blog on my Windows Home Server. Graffiti isn't the easiest format to use, especially when having to remember what I did at work.

I'm not going to give away the domain I chose nor the password I protected it with. (Feel free to hack it if you can find it! - j.k) Hopefully this will help when review time comes around.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Xbox 360 S(lim)

Since I saw the pre-release photos of the Xbox 360 Slim (or S) a few months ago I've considered upgrading from my old, original release 360. I wasn't one of those crazy people to stand in line for days to get the original on the release date, but I picked one up a few months afterwards.

The new 360 Slim has a nice new look, touch sensitive buttons, quieter operation, less power consumption and an 802.11n wireless port. The problem with upgrading is that those few things I just listed are the only reasons to upgrade. As far as I can tell it isn't any faster, doesn't contain a Blue Ray player and the original can sync with the Kinect without any problems. So why spend the money to upgrade?



Selling your old Xbox 360 on eBay seems to be a loosing proposition considering entire setups with HD DVD players, multiple controllers and games go for less than half of the new premium version.

Luckily if you plan to get a Kinect when it comes out Microsoft has offered an Xbox 360 S bundled with the Kinect for about $50 less than you'd get for buying them separate. In the end that may be what I do. I may opt for the less expensive 4GB version (plenty of space for me) and the Kinect all in one for about $300. Hopefully I can get a little bit of money for my old Xbox 360 Pro but I think I'll keep my old, white, gear to use with the new machine. No reason to run out and buy all new equipment!

Check out the Wired.com review.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tools for a Readable Web

I just read Scott Hanselman's Two Must-Have Tools for a More Readable Web and I have to say both of these tools recommendations are great.

Readability is a cool tool that will convert most websites into a more readable format. This way you get all of the information without the distraction of ads, random and poor web designs, etc. Hopefully no one does this here! =)

The second tool Instapaper is a simple way to store websites for reading later. They offer a great JavaScript bookmark that allows users to quickly mark a site or article for reading later (as long as you are signed in). Plus they offer a few mobile apps, which I've installed on my iPhone for easy reading.