Tech Spec

  • Tech Spec: Why I Love Technology

    Back in August, I took over this technology blog for the State Press Magazine (which might be pretty obvious) and was ecstatic at the chance to let my creative juices flow in a field I love. Since then, I have worked with my amazing editors to produce posts that both held relevancy and interest to you, my readers. Since this is the last Tech Spec post of the school year, I wanted to go out the same way I started my blog: by sharing a personal story about technology.

    I recently went over to my grandmother’s house to catch up and to help her out with everything she needed done. As I was talking with her, I noticed that she now owned an iPad Mini (my grandma is good with technology). Of course, I had to talk to her about it: when she got it, why she got it, if she liked it, etc. She spoke about how impressed she was about how it can effectively cut out most of her use for her desktop computer since she can answer emails, write documents and browse the web with it. As my grandma shared these positive points, she told me about her favorite feature, which is FaceTime. I immediately thought that I understood, because she has many friends across the world (so FaceTime could become be her new outlet to catching up with peers), but that was not the reason. Her main use of FaceTime is to check in on my uncle.

    My uncle suffers from multiple illnesses, including epilepsy. He has been in a care home almost all of life, making communication between him and my grandma strained. Everyone gets to see my uncle around holidays as he is brought to my grandmother’s house to celebrate with us, but that is pretty much it. Since my uncle has an iPad that he can use as another form of communication, my grandma realized that they could also video chat each other. She had one of the workers at the care home help set everything up and then the magic began. Since my grandma cannot leave the house frequently, she never gets to go visit him. FaceTime changed that. My uncle, with help, is now able to see and interact with his mom whenever they call one another. The part of the story that touched me the most was when they were ending one of their first calls. My grandma was able to give him a kiss goodnight for the first time in ages. She kissed her hand and held it to the camera, and my uncle picked up the iPad and kissed the screen. see more

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    April 30, 2013 at 8:39 am


  • Tech Spec: Showcasing a Technologically Innovative Student

    On every college campus, there are students who are working on interesting projects, creating useful items or just dabbling with ideas. Especially in the technology (engineering) field, you can always find out about some person who is working on something fascinating. One of these people is computer science sophomore Greg Littlefield, who has come to produce some interesting programs that can be taken advantage of by anyone. While Greg Littlefield loves building unique programs, he also enjoys using the programs himself. Photo by Courtland Jeffrey

    Let me start out by saying that Greg is a close friend of mine, but I feel that he has some interesting projects that could come of use to, or could entertain, my readers. I have known Greg for eight years now and he has been so interested in the programming aspect of computers that he began to teach himself code in middle school (he created a program that allowed him and his friends to chat over the school server). From then on, he has found many different projects that utilized his passion. Since he has entered into college, Greg has created, and has continued to improve upon, a couple applications in specific: his ASU Seat Checker and a program called “Granular.”

    Over his freshmen year of college, Greg realized that at the end of every semester, he and his peers ran into the issue of trying to find open seats in full classes. Most people know that if you want to get into a full class, you are stuck either hounding your advisor for some sort of help or constantly refreshing the online class roster in the hopes that someone decided to drop the course. Since Greg ran into this specific problem and did not want to occupy his time with always pressing F5, he created a Java Applet (a program that will run on any operating system with Java) that runs on PC, Mac and Linux that does this task for you. It runs in the background and, once you input the class information, it will periodically check to see if a spot has opened up. Once a seat becomes available, the seat checker will display a notification, letting you be the first to pounce on that hard–to–get class. Coincidentally, as I spoke with him, a full class that he wanted opened up and The Seat Checker notified him, so he got in. see more

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    April 27, 2013 at 6:35 pm


  • Tech Spec: Uniting Social Media Through Path

    Many find some sort of use for social media. Some people use it to connect with friends, share news or even look at filtered photos of food. The issue for many (with myself included) is balancing usage on the growing list of popular social sites. Usually the social focus lands on one site over the others, so some accounts are left to collect dust. Some sites allow users to post to multiple media sites as well as their own, which can be a big draw. The new app, Path, looks to jump on this idea and unify social media. Path is a new social media app that is quickly gaining some attention. But is it time to head over to a new social media platform? Photo by Courtland Jeffrey

    The main premise of Path is to connect you to your family and close friends so you can share with them your personal information like statuses, photos, locations, etc. While this feature is nice (cough, cough, Facebook…), the feature that you would probably find the most useful is that you can connect your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare accounts and share your posts all at once. Path feels like a more in–depth social site; you can show different emotions for posts, use stickers, hold private chats and, since the app only allows for 150 friends, you have to choose your Path friends carefully.

    Now, before you instantly go downloading this app, there are some other points of view that you should take into consideration. While it is nice to cover all of your social media bases at once, it can get dull for your friends and followers to see the exact same 140 characters from you, everywhere. Variety in social media keeps people’s attention and Path can easily take that away. Path also does not (to my understanding) have any way to import posts from the other social media sites, so you are stuck looking at just Path posts and need to venture over to the specific media apps to view their activities. see more

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    April 23, 2013 at 8:15 pm


  • Tech Spec: The Dangers of Texting While Dating

    Previously, I wrote a blog post on using technology to interact in the dating world, through the use of social apps. I have heard of some personal experiences and while that remains true, there have also been some negative outcomes from today’s technology that can put a damper on the dating game. The biggest issue is that having this instant method to connect and share data has left many with the impression that social norms have changed. What I am writing about is when people use text messaging to convey important information. Their personalities are lost when they go fully digital. Messaging has become one of the simplest ways to contact one another. But it is too simple to convey some of the more important information in a relationship and people need to remember that. Photo by Courtland Jeffrey

    Simply saying a couple sentences to someone out loud can easily convey emotional whims, either positive or negative. But having a smartphone in your pocket that allows you to type out messages with a 150–character max, people fall back on this option rather than talking to someone face–to–face. The reasoning behind using it is pretty obvious: it is easier to send off a message that can have negative repercussions than it is to talk to them (it can be quite stressful to break some news to someone that you know can dampen someone’s mood). I will be the first to agree that, yes, it relieves some stress, but relying on different forms of messaging to convey what you need to say is dry and impersonal. This action used to be a huge social faux pas that everyone would avoid, but it is quickly becoming lost among the emoticons.

    If you want to convey any information to someone you hold close and you want to avoid this faux pas, just talk to them! Using your voice (literally) will help make everything better. It may seem easier to just shoot a text or catch someone while they are logged on, but this form of communication is not designed to handle all of the emotions that are involved; you can miss those great moments when you decide to share sweet nothings when you write it down. I still stand behind what I said in my previous post about how love can be found through the internet, but I am just clarifying that interacting with someone cannot (yet) be replaced by the web, in my opinion. The point of this post is to just say, stop texting, look up and say what needs to be said. It is ALWAYS the better choice and everyone will feel better about it. Plus, you won’t miss out on some of the best moments because you chose texting over talking. see more

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    April 19, 2013 at 6:04 pm


  • Tech Spec: Technology’s Part in Crises

    Social media. It is what dominates many people’s free time. People share news about their births, post photos from last weekend’s party and tag themselves at the new restaurant down the block. But these instantaneous means of communication do much more than let you brag about your goings on; they make for a prime pipeline of communication in times of emergency. Yesterday was a great example of this with the Boston Marathon bombing. Twitter has become a news ticker for the masses. It allows users to share fun events, but it also becomes critical in times of need. Screenshot by Courtland Jeffrey

    Television or radio used to be that the first place one would hear about tragedies. But with the advent of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, the slower information, spreaders got superseded. Today, it is faster for people to pull out their smartphone and load Twitter for their news than it is for them to make their way to a TV and find the news channel. People utilize these websites to get the word out about something immediately, informing the masses about events as they unfold. That was the case with yesterday’s bombing. Runners, spectators and others who had some sort of knowledge were sharing their accounts of the events. We here in Arizona could not have received as much information, as fast as we did, if it had not been for communication on the Internet. For example, the news source CNN tweeted about the bombing from immediately after it happened and are still covering the story today.

    Technology offers another aspect of help to this type of situation: it allows for rapid communication between the people that matter to you. Today, when I heard about the bombing, my thoughts immediately jumped to my close friend who is studying at Tufts University in Boston. With services like Facebook and other instant messengers, I could get a hold of him and hear back in seconds (luckily, I did not have to because he posted right away that he was safe). Having this right at our fingertips can quickly put many relatives’ minds at ease. see more

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    April 16, 2013 at 8:17 am


  • Tech Spec: Facebook, What Are You Doing?

    About six years ago (back in eighth grade for me), everyone started to hear about a new social website called Facebook. It was the hip place to go to connect with friends on the ever-growing Internet. Most people who signed up to join the site loved it and bragged about it being the future of communication. It did become a giant in the cyber world, with more than one billion active users. But something changed over the last six years that has soured the relationship between Facebook and a multitude of its users — and that change was Facebook itself. Facebook was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now, people can’t get far enough away from it. Why? Screenshot by Courtland Jeffrey

    Mark Zuckerberg has transformed a site that allows for quick and simple ways to share life events into a huge financial profit. One of the most recent indicators of this transformation is the newest Facebook phone that is available for purchase starting today (through AT&T). The Facebook team has collaborated with HTC to put out a device that brings Facebook to the front, making social connections the top priority. Zuckerberg’s crew is planning to release a new home launcher app that can be installed on any android device (a tablet version is further behind the phone launcher app). These updates are, arguably, improving the overall user experience of Facebook. But as these improvements continue to roll out, more and more complaints pop up from users. Although Facebook is working to improve user satisfaction, they are achieving the exact opposite and that is because they are forcing unwanted changes onto the public.

    New features are usually a plus to any website, but, to many, Facebook may be the exception to this rule. Every time a new addition to Facebook is released (like games and emotions), there is immediate and unwavering backlash towards the change. The argument that the opposition usually takes is that these updates are either too intrusive (they require that you share more personal information) or are the cause of more obnoxious posts from that random person you met twice who is obsessed with his cats. see more

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    April 12, 2013 at 1:57 pm


  • Tech Spec: An Open Source

    The Internet has given society so much. We can find out whatever information we need, share news with friends in an instant and even keep up with an onslaught of cute animal photos (yeah, we both know you love them too). One of the best aspects of the Internet community is how society combines its offerings to make things possible that could not have occurred without it. The open source community is one of the biggest achievements thus far. Now, you are probably thinking, “how can this open source stuff be such a big advancement, if I have not even heard about it?”

    You probably have not heard much about the open source community, other than some software (like Google’s Android OS) being “open source,” and the reasoning behind that is “open source” comes from the developer community. As defined by our good friends at Wikipedia, open source “is a philosophy, or pragmatic methodology that promotes free redistribution and access to an end product’s design and implementation details.” In other words, open source is the sharing of ideas so that the end result can come together. Wikipedia is a popular example of being open sourced because anyone can go in and add to the knowledge base. Being open source is probably one of the best things that can happen nowadays; progress comes much faster and the list of possibilities becomes endless. Wikipedia is a largely popular open source website. Taking part in the open source world will not only better you, but everyone.

    This has become such a big deal that an initiative was started to promote and educate what positive outcomes form from open source projects. Going back to the Wikipedia example, there can also be negative outputs from this setup. Since everyone can input, there can be errors. People can upload the wrong information (either intentionally or unintentionally) and negate the truthful work that has been implemented. Unless there is some sort of hierarchy overseeing (but not controlling) the inputted data, which Google and Wikipedia have, open source setups are basically faith systems; you should put in something that will help better the overall end result. Whenever you see an open source product, be thankful that everyone has put in their part to give you this product. Just be sure to give back to the open source machine whenever you can, so it can grow! see more

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    April 9, 2013 at 8:43 am


  • Tech Spec: Weird Technology News

    There is always something new happening in the world of technology, from new ways to interact with your car to any sort of other improvements and innovations. Any news in the tech world is intriguing (for me, at least), but sometimes there are stories that just make you go, “. . . Why? Why is that a story? That is so weird!” Especially with April Fool’s Day this week, there were some . . . how can I put it . . . interesting posts. Here are some of the recent articles that caught my eye:

    Probably the most obvious weird news pieces of the week were centered on one day, April 1. Monday was the day of pranks, jokes and other tomfoolery. Some companies really got into the spirit of the day, including two radio show hosts in Florida. They decided to pull a prank on their listeners by talking about “dihydrogen monoxide” coming from their taps. For those who do not know, dihydrogen monoxide is just a technical term for water (di equals two, hydrogen, mono equals one, oxide; you have H2O). Because people did not make the connection, they assumed something was wrong with their water and the utility company got flooded with calls about the issue. The entire dilemma with this situation is that certain people did not pay enough attention to the story to realize it was just water, but heard just enough to think something was wrong. It was April Fool’s Day; people should be paying closer attention to details on this day (you can just Google it and find out what it is, am I right?).

    Speaking of April Fool’s Day, there were quite a few pranks done by companies, with Google playing one of the bigger roles. There was the announcement of “Twttr,” which is Twitter, but users cannot use any vowels (they have to pay a monthly subscription to utilize vowels), Netflix posted video categories like “TV shows where defiantly crossed arms mean business!” and some companies even used this time to poke fun at each other.  While both Google and Microsoft took part in April Fool’s Day, they also made a point to joke about each other’s features; Microsoft made fun of how plain the Google search page is and Google joked about Microsoft’s blue color scheme. When two big players (that have quite bit of marketing money) decide to screw around with each other, it turns into a hilarious show for the consumers. One of Google’s many jokes on April fool’s day was Google Nose, which, in essence, was smell–o–vision. Photo by Courtland Jeffrey see more

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    April 5, 2013 at 4:37 pm


  • Tech Spec: Driving With a Smart Car

    No, I am not reviewing the Smart Car. I am, however, discussing a way to make your car smarter. The Automatic app and Link unify you with your engine, giving you all of the information to take better care of it, and save you money. Photo courtesy Automatic

    Nowadays, you can find technological improvements implemented in just about everything. Society has improved the television (by adding functionalities like Internet connectivity and apps), kitchen appliances (digital cookbooks, new heat–transfer methods and more), and even the home thermostat (the Nest). Almost everywhere you turn, new advances in technology have come out to improve the overall efficiency of everyday life. Of these improvements, one of the biggest changes can be seen with the car. Car companies have released cars with better gas mileage, higher acceleration rates and impressive entertainment systems; but when has anyone improved the partnership between car and driver? No one, that is, until now.

    Automatic is a “smart driving assistant” that greatly strengthens the relationship between you and your car; think of it as marriage counseling, refining the already existing bonds between driver and vehicle. What Automatic does is it collects your driving information and habits (like slamming on the brakes or gassing it at green lights) and GPS location to inform you on ways to save gas, save money and maybe help save your life.  You can now be easily informed of what the issue is when the dreaded “check engine” light comes on, find out what improvements you can make on your driving to save gas, and remind you of where you parked all from your smartphone. see more

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    April 2, 2013 at 8:48 am


  • Tech Spec: Finding the Right Tech Gift

    I am a huge fan of getting someone a unique gift. It has to be something that shows the relationship between that person and me. But as everyone knows, it can be quite difficult to find that perfect item for a holiday or birthday. Luckily with the Internet, gift options are nearly endless. While I have a couple sites that I rely on for most of my digital spending, there have been a couple that have caught my eye.

    For the videogame guru, you should check out Gamer Print. Gamer Print is a site based in the United Kingdom that offers products like T­–shirts, phone cases and posters. All of their products have unique designs of gaming hits from Pokémon to Portal to Zelda. The pricing is pretty average across the board; every item comes at a reasonable price (once you convert it from euros). This site is perfect for that friend who owns every game known to man but still wants something more.

    Another site that offers a plethora of unique goods, which has gained popularity from Pinterest recently, is Etsy. This site is a sort-of marketplace that allows for users to both buy and sell arts, crafts and other goods. Before you write off this site because it sounds like some sort of place for your grandmas to swap sweaters, check it out! Since it has a large following, you can find that one–of–a–kind gift for anyone. If you know someone who has a liking to a sports team or maybe the recipient is requeseting a specific item, just run a search and you are likely to find something that fits your requirements. I have had my eye on these Super Mario Bros. 3 themed coasters for a while now (it may soon be time to purchase them). see more

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    March 29, 2013 at 11:33 am