Dear Sony re: Qriocity streaming media failure. Please can you send me a postal order for £4.50

December 20, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Cloud Computing, Digital Era 

Dear Sony

I apologise for sending you a memo so close to Christmas, I am sure you are very busy. I am myself disappointed to be writing to you in my holidays when I should be having a break. However your lack of service this evening has forced me to put virtual pen to virtual paper to express my frustration. If you don’t mind indulging me for a moment I will add a little context to explain why you have angered me so much.

You see  this memo stems from the fact that I am a huge fan of streamed services and the cloud. 5 years ago I had a long discussion with my close ‘geek’ friends about the death of physical media when the emergence of Blue Ray/HD DVD was on the horizon.  I became firmly of the belief that you no longer needed to purchase physical media and could download and hopefully eventually stream all your services when broadband speeds developed. I was so convinced of this that I detached the DVD drive on my Dell Latitude 630 and left it at work to show I did not need it. Need to install a printer driver? Download it off the companies site. Want to watch a movie? Download it from iTunes.

I have been that committed to the removal of physical media that it took 9 months for me to realise that my new Dell XPS Studio arrived with a broken DVD drive. I only worked this out when someone handed me some urgent logos on a CD which I needed to get to someone and had to use the drive. Imagine my excitement therefore when I was hunting for an LCD television in early 2010 and I saw the new Sony range came with Internet TV. Having finally purchased a 32 inch mid- range device today I was excited to hook my Ethernet cable up and check out the Internet options.

Taking pride of place above Love Film was Sony’s new service Qriocity which was another key factor in choosing your product. Most importantly the emergence of HD quality streaming directly to my TV made me feel I could finally break the shackles from iTunes and select HD movies right on my TV to play instantly. Your service has a terrible name (who thought Qriocity up?) but I was not put off by this and signed up online before paring with my TV and choosing my first streamed HD service. I promptly agreed to spend £4.49 and was pleased to see your service offer a caution that it needed to check my broadband speed first having let me know that I would need at least 4.5Mb/s to use the HD element of the service. I consented to your checking in the full knowledge that I have a great broadband network at home and have over 16Mb/s. Please see the image below as confirmation.

I am pleased to say your service came back with a confirmation that I can stream HD and with a speed nearly 4 times the required I was not surprised. I confirmed my purchase and settled down to watch a breathtaking film with Mrs Herrity. From here on in it all went horribly wrong. It has taken me 20 minutes to watch 1 minute 44 seconds of heavily buffered HD content and what is clear is your service is far from as advertised. How did you manage to make such a claim and yet fall so very short of delivery. As a serious glutton for punishment I have even gone back into your service and paid for the SD version of the film just to see if it would play. Although watchable I am sad to say it does regularly buffer, despite the requirements being just 1.5Mb/s which is nearly 12 times lower than my broadband service.

It is therefore with a heavy heart that I request an immediate refund. Given it is the Christmas season and we clearly have not come as far as I had hoped I feel we should go thoroughly old school and I have decided to request the refund in the form of a Gift Postal Order. These things may be as old as the ark but one thing is for sure- they do exactly what they say they will. Please email me for postal details. More importantly, can I ask that you undertake an immediate review of your service ‘Oriocity’ as it is clearly not fit for purpose. Can I suggest as a starting point you take a look at a service called BBC iplayer which suffers no such problems.

I look forward to a prompt reply.

Your in anticipation

Mike Herrity

The evolution of Cloud Computing and the changing anatomy of a Microsoft data centre.

October 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Cloud Computing, Digital Era 

Now for something a little bit geekier! Last week I was at a meeting at Microsoft’s UK base in Reading to look at a wide range of different topics. One of the agenda items was covering the cloud and as expected topics including Live@Edu and Office 365 were covered. One aspect of the discussion I did not expect was a presentation which showed the changing anatomy of the data centre. I managed to get some shots of the 5 current stages of Microsoft’s data centre evolution which I thought you might like to see. Whilst not a fully fledged geek I was fascinated to see how things are evolving and later on I will show you the latest thinking on what data centres will look like in the next year and beyond.

1st Generation Data Centre

Servers on shelves Ikea style

2nd Generation Data Centre

The development of racked servers

3rd Generation Data Centre

The modern data centre with flashing blue lights!

4th Generation Data Centre

We were then shown what the modern day Microsoft data centre looks like. The focus is on size, reliability and scalable units with entire shipping containers ready to go. These units are dropped into place and instantly activated into the centre. They are also sealed and for efficiency they still run and will not be opened unless 35% of the environment has failed. The video also shows the cooling system which again is locked straight into the units.

Sitting there I thought this was very cool…. and then I was shown the real future of data centres in terms of mobility and the private cloud. More of that later.

Cloud Computing with SharePoint 2010 and more. Office 365 brings a rich cloud experience.

October 26, 2010 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Cloud Computing, SharePoint, SharePoint 2010 

It has been an interesting month for talk of Cloud Computing and specifically the availability of Office in the cloud. Microsoft announced a much needed upgrade to its BPOS and Azure offerings by launching Office 365. Using Microsoft’s extensive data centres Office 365 will bring together 4 key pillars of Microsoft’s productivity and communication tools in Office, SharePoint, Exchange and Lync. Whereas the lack of maturity within current cloud offerings was a barrier to moving resources off site the ‘full fat’ nature of Office 365 is likely to represent a big change from the view that hardware must always be on premise.

Check out the video below which gives a 5 minute overview of Office 365

Are schools likely to be moving to the cloud with all services in the near future? At a meeting I attended last week opinion amongst Network Managers was divided with a number needing to see the level of functionality available off site before commiting. Of course the greatest concern remains the quality of broadband connection into the school. As this hopefully improves we are likely to see a big move to the cloud over the next 3-5 years.

Voisse brings podcasts and presentations alive? New tools for audio assessment of learners.

Over the summer I shared a series of reviews on tools I have been looking at to use with students for creating presentations. If you missed these you can look at them below.

  1. Prezi for engaging presentations which show overview and depth.
  2. PptPlex which allows you to produce linear presentations which have ‘prezi like’ functionality.
  3. Animoto for compelling videos on the fly.

Over the weekend I saw a new cloud based presentation site which flipped the primary focus from the visuals to the sound. The site is called Voisse and the best way to introduce it is the two minute presentation below.

For me what Voisse does that is different to the other presentation tools above is it allows students to create an audio feed which they can use to produce podcasts. The interface is really easy and there is very much an ‘on the fly’ feel which students can easily get used to without complicated podcast software.

 As well as this they can add key images to their audio to produce a presentation. Whilst there are many times you would want students to produce a visual presentation which they speak over as they present in lessons there are other time where you want to be able to review student work when not in the classroom. I have spent many hours drudging through homework PowerPoints which show little real insight into student understanding other than their capacity to find information on the Internet. If students submitted a Voisse presentation it would enable them to demonstrate their understanding of a topic through their presentation combined with audio. Teachers are always looking for ways to assess oral pieces from students and for me this tool fits the bill. I can think of dozens of times I could use this across the History curriculum and I suspect this is the case in most subjects.

BBC Click also reviewed Voisse this week and you can see their thoughts here

Thoughts on ‘Death by PowerPoint and Prezi’ Responses from the blog and twitter

August 10, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Cloud Computing, Digital Era, e-learning 

The last post on ‘Prezi- the end of death by PowerPoint?’ led to a good debate on twitter and the blog and I thought it would be useful to share what others had to say. I also have some examples from a few people which are worth sharing.

Nick Dennis an Assistant Headteacher @nickdennis commented

‘I agree that Prezi is not the solution but that is because the tool is not the main thing (Keynote and PowerPoint 2010 included) but the human behind it. Some of the best presentations I have seen consisted of nothing more than pictures and that was because the presenter had really thought about it..’

Also in agreement was @simfin who said

‘Rubbish in-rubbish out. and PowerPoint doesn’t kill interest, bullet points do.’

He also shared a blog post on effective presentations he has written which can be viewed here

Witty thoughts from other twitter members can in the form of @tonyparkin who said:

‘Is death by Prezi any less painful than death by PowerPoint, or merely less expensive?’

and @stevegillott who made the same observation as me in saying:

‘Prezi – the start of motion sickness due to badly designed Prezis.’

Beyond the comments a number of people shared what they felt were good examples of the capability of Prezis.

@mattmoo2 has created a presentation introducing the Internet to people:

@chrisrat has a presentation on emarketing and social networking:

Prezi- the end of death by PowerPoint?

August 7, 2010 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Cloud Computing, Digital Era, e-learning 

As many of you will know I have never been one to be on the bleeding edge of new technology. I tend to pick up things which have been around for a year or so when they are more mainstream and this is probably the case with Prezi. A few weeks ago I was in a meeting when I saw Prezi for the first time and it certainly caught my eye. Prezi is a reaction to the dullness of presentations such as those labelled ‘death by powerpoint’. It has zoomable functionality which allows the presenter to show the big picture and also zoom into detail. A video explaining Prezi in greater detail can be viewed below.

I found this video in itself a bit dull as a form of presentation! I had a look around at examples of actual presentations using Prezi and the one below is probably a good example in showing some of the functionality that comes with the web based software.

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