Microsoft’s ‘Surface’ tablet aims for productivity

Microsoft has made software for tablets since 2002.

Microsoft has unveiled a new tablet computer, Surface, that attempts to take advantage of one of the few criticisms of Apple’s iPad, particularly among educators—that it is better for consuming content than creating it.

The software maker said June 18 that its device will attach to a removable rubberized keyboard that also acts like a book cover.

CEO Steve Ballmer said Surface will be an entertainment and media consumption device “without compromising the productivity that PCs are uniquely known for.”

Microsoft Corp.’s broadside against the iPad is a dramatic step to ensure that its Windows software plays a major role in the increasingly important mobile computing market.

“They are saying it’s a different world now and are trying to put the sexy back into the Microsoft brand,” said Gartner Inc. analyst Carolina Milanesi.

Microsoft is linking the Surface’s debut with the release of its much-anticipated Windows 8 operating system, which has been designed with tablets in mind. The company hasn’t specified when Windows 8 will hit the market, but most analysts expect the software to come out in September or October.

One version of the Surface, which won’t go on sale until sometime in the fall, is 9.3 millimeters thick and works on the Windows RT operating system, which was made for tablets that run on low-power chips designed by British chipmaker ARM Holdings PLC.

It comes with a 0.7-millimeter thick kickstand to hold it upright and a 3-millimeter-thick touch keyboard cover that snaps on using magnets. The device weighs under 1.5 pounds.

The size is similar to the latest iPad, which is 9.4 millimeters thick and weighs 1.3 pounds.

Surface has a screen that measures 10.6 inches diagonally, compared to 9.7 inches for the iPad, but it comes in the 16:9 aspect ratio, which is suited to watching video in the widescreen format. The iPad’s screen size ratio is 4:3.

Microsoft said the Surface’s price tag will be similar to the iPad, which sells for $499 to $829, depending on the model.

A slightly thicker version—still less than 14 millimeters thick and under 2 pounds—will work on Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 Pro operating system and cost as much as an Ultrabook, the company said.

The pro version comes with a stylus that allows users to make handwritten notes on documents such as PDF files. It will be released about three months later.

The touch keyboard resembles the lightweight “Smart Cover” that Apple Inc. sells for $38, but comes with a full QWERTY keyboard. It is rigidly flat instead of foldable. A slightly thicker keyboard with depressable keys also will be available.


The internet usage patterns of depressed college students

Switching quickly from Spotify to email to Facebook can be a telltale sign of depression. A recent study extensively correlates specific web habits, such as jumping between different applications, with depression, Mashable reports.

The study by Missouri University of Science and Technology associates observed how 216 university undergraduates surfed the web for a month. About 30 percent of the students had depression, according to the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, an official screening test for the mental condition. These numbers match the national average. Depression affects about 10 percent to 40 percent of the national population of college students at one time. More than 90 percent of U.S. college students use the internet regularly.

So, the opportunity to look at the relationship between Internet activity and depression presented itself. This may be the first study relating depression and Internet use, according to the researchers who looked at a huge range of online activity including downloads, duration, sharing and flow…

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A contraception emergency? College students stumble finding info online

Despite being known as the “digital generation,” today’s college students have trouble navigating the Web to get information about how to use and purchase emergency contraception, a new study suggests, LiveScience reports. In the study, about 200 college students were asked what they would do if a friend called them late at night and asked how to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. The students were allowed to search the Web for information to answer the question. Two-thirds were able to conclude that their friend should seek emergency contraception, but fewer than 40 percent gave the ideal answer: to purchase such contraception over-the-counter at a pharmacy.

“These results suggest that despite their highly wired lifestyles, many young adults do not have the necessary skills to navigate the vast amounts of information available online with expertise,” said study researcher Eszter Hargittai, an associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern University.

Being aware of emergency contraception before the study made a big difference, the researchers found…

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Report: Elite business school altered GPAs

Allegations of “pay-to-play” schemes, in which interested parties are expected (with a wink and a nudge) to contribute money for the privilege of influencing opinion, are not new to politics. And while accusations of engaging in such behavior draw heat in the political arena, they tend to be limited to that realm, the Huffington Post reports. According to a report in the New York Post, however, a variation of such a scheme seems to have infiltrated Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business. A recent investigation there revealed that an administrator may have forged professor’s names in order to artificially raise the GPAs of some students whose employers covered their tuition.

“It was done for money,” said someone with inside knowledge to the Post. “They get a lot more money from those students. They don’t want to lose these people, so they changed their grades.”

A statement from the college confirms 15 students were a part of what they’ve termed “irregularities.” Those students will be permitted to “complete any work necessary if it is found they have not properly completed all of the requirements for their executive master’s degree.” None of the students are likely to have their degrees stripped. The statement further adds that “appropriate personnel actions have been taken,” including placing the administrator responsible on leave…

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In Beta: Brain Shift Radio Helps Listeners Improve Focus, Reduce Anxiety or Fall Asleep

For Immediate Release

Strong Institute
7 Avenida Vista Grande, Suite B7 #517
Santa Fe, NM 87508

Beth Kaplan Strong

In Beta: Brain Shift Radio Helps Listeners Improve Focus, Reduce Anxiety or Fall Asleep

The Strong Institute, leader in custom auditory brain stimulation programs, beta tests innovative streaming internet radio. Interactive and prescriptive, Brain Shift Radio helps users accomplish their goals

Santa Fe, NM. June 18, 2012 — It is beta test time for the streaming radio that provides the therapeutic benefits of improved focus, reduced anxiety, and a swifter drifting off to sleep. Created by the Strong Institute, the leading custom auditory brain stimulation research and therapy center, Brain Shift Radio redefines how music can help us. Brain Shift Radio offers episodic improvements in areas as diverse as sleep and calm, focus and energy. Brain Shift Radio streams the music as separate rhythm and ambient tracks, giving listeners unprecedented control over their experience.

“Simply put, you can take control of your brain,” said Jeff Strong, cofounder of Brain Shift Radio. “Brain Shift Radio is the world’s only interactive and prescriptive radio. Our years of research provide complete confidence in the therapeutic technology; what we are needing now is feedback on Brain Shift Radio’s ease of use and fun factor.” Beta testers can access the public beta at

Brain Shift Radio begins by asking users how they want their brain to shift. If, for example, a user selects ‘I want to focus’, the radio’s second question asks what degree of focus the user wants. Brain Shift Radio then generates a series of rhythm and ambient track pairs to accomplish this goal. Listeners are then able to mix the balance between these tracks and rate each track’s or the combination’s success. The system learns in response to user feedback, adjusting it’s presentations to reach the user’s goals.

By streaming the focusing tracks students and techies can sharpen their focus while studying and writing code. Or imagine the child who now falls asleep easily because Mom turned on his sleep track. Or the hordes who can reduce their anxiety by playing the calm tracks. As one beta tester said of her BSR experience, “Love the Brain Shift Radio!!! It’s absolutely wonderful. Sucks the anxiety right out of you!!!”

Technically speaking, Brain Shift Radio is the most advanced streaming internet music service available. “We thought it would be cool to separate the elements of the music so users can customize the experience even further.” said Jeff Strong. Brain Shift Radio has split out the rhythm and the ambient tracks, letting users modulate the impact of the rhythm and ambient components. BSR also encourages users to discover the subtleties of different rhythmic and ambient combinations. The possible therapeutic combinations are currently at 50,000 and growing every week. The Brain Shift Radio community will link each user to other members’ mixes. Users can save their mixes, rate them, and share them, building an entire community of custom created mixes.

Users have responded enthusiastically to the user-controlable mix options. Mark Hurwitz, a techie, reported, “Wow! I’m logged in. This is awesome! Just the feature of mixing tracks is awesome in itself. That almost makes it seems like a synth, or a cool app where you actually manipulate the song. It totally works. I’m excited to create some new ‘focus’ tracks to use while I work.”

Users can either rely on auto mode to let Brain Shift Radio select the rhythm and ambient mix for a foolproof method of meeting their current need (sleep or focus, for instance) or they can use manual mode to discover for themselves the perfect pairing. Either way, this is a completely new way to experience music. And it will take users wherever they want to go.

“Music is often used in prescriptive ways,” Strong said. “Brain Shift Radio takes it a few steps further and turns streaming radio on its ear. We’ve put the entertainment back into entrainment.” Streaming radio is indeed exciting these days, as the footprint tilts toward 100’s of millions of users. Many of them simply want to improve their focus. Or reduce their stress. Brain Shift Radio will help them accomplish their goals.

The Strong Institute, founded in 1994, is a leader in the field of custom auditory brain stimulation. Known primarily for their work with individuals on the autism spectrum, the institute also has a major impact in ADHD, Anxiety Disorders, Traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and Sleep Disorders, among others. The Strong Institute’s mission is to utilize technology and data to research, develop, and deliver the best possible auditory brain stimulation programs for individuals with neurological disorders. And for those without. The REI Custom Program and Brain Shift Radio are the current manifestations of this mission. Please visit and for more information.



College president: Improved federal rules needed to cut costs, grow online education

Thanks in part to the more than 150 new rules and regulations which emerged from the current version of the HEOA, higher education in America has never been more expensive, Ebersole writes.

While still wrestling with the many initiatives and regulations spawned by the 2007 renewal of the Higher Education and Opportunity Act (HEOA), it is already time for colleges and universities to start worrying about 2013, and how an updated HEOA could expand — or shrink — online education.

Hopefully, Congress and the U.S. Department of Education will see their coming negotiations as an opportunity, and unlike the current version, will use any new legislation to reduce the cost of education, improve access, and provide incentives for innovation.

Thanks in part to the more than 150 new rules and regulations which emerged from the current version of the HEOA, higher education in America has never been more expensive for students in the traditional lecture hall or the online classroom.

Read more about online regulations in higher education…

Online college officials cheer court ruling on controversial federal regulation

Commission examining federal rule that could ‘impeded access’ to online learning

While many critics would lay the blame for this at the feet of college administrators, Congress and the Obama administration must share in the blame as well. Each new regulation requires more than 4,000 accredited colleges and universities to conduct an analysis, determine applicability, and take appropriate compliance action.

Is it any wonder that administrator payrolls are increasing at double that for faculty?

In one example alone, the need to obtain separate authorization from 54 jurisdictions in order to extend federal financial aid to online students, the costs are expected to run over $500 million per year.

For many online education providers, the results of this requirement is to withdraw from jurisdictions, where requirements are especially costly or onerous, or to discontinue online offerings altogether. Thus, a single department regulation, known as “state authorization,” has increased student costs (as the expense is passed on) and reduced access to higher education.


‘Data center in a box’ could ease virtual computing

Virtualizing software can prove expensive for schools.

Managing a virtual computing environment can be challenging for school technology departments, which traditionally have had to buy separate servers and software and then piece everything together—often with a limited budget and staffing.

Now, a new disruptive technology aims to help schools and other organizations cut costs and streamline the deployment of virtual computing by combining servers, storage, and virtualization in a single box.

The new product, HC3 from Scale Computing, converges all of these elements—servers, storage, and virtualization software—in one stack. Currently in beta testing and expected to be released later this summer, the product reportedly will enable school technology staff to set up and provision multiple virtual machines and assign software, memory, and storage from a single, eRate-eligible device.

As educators become more dependent on systems such as gradebook software and online assessments, any failure of those systems can cripple a school’s function.

To safeguard against losing important data, school technology departments often set up multiple server systems so that if one server fails, all the information it contains will move over to another server.

But more data requires more servers, and more servers come with increased maintenance needs.

If schools need additional horsepower to run more virtual systems, they can add another HC3 node into the cluster without breaking the sense of managing a single-server system.

By using an average cluster size of four to eight nodes for about 50 to 100 virtual machines, schools can ensure their applications run faster and host more applications.

Even if any server fails, information on the server will move to other parts of the system without requiring manual maintenance, Scale Computing claims.

“Instead of adding more virtualization servers, [if] I don’t have capacity in my HC3 cluster, I just add another node. I don’t have another set of hardware that I’ve got to monitor,” said Brian Beck, chief technology officer for the Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation charter schools in Indianapolis and another beta tester.

Ordinarily, schools must purchase multiple servers, storage devices, and virtualization software separately. But because each HC3 node contains all of these components in a single device, schools can see savings of 50 percent or more, depending on the size of the deployment, Scale Computing says.


11 worst public university grad rates

The 4-year degree isn’t what it used to be — for many, it takes 6 years to earn a bachelor’s degree. And for the university with the lowest graduation rate, only 1 in 25 manages to do that. If you’re graduating from college this year, consider yourself lucky, the Fiscal Times reports. Just 56% of college students complete a four-year degree within six years, according to a 2011 Harvard Graduate School of Education study.  Among the 18 developed countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the U.S. was dead last for the percentage of students who completed college once they started it — behind even Slovakia. College dropouts tend to be male, and they give reasons such as cost, not feeling prepared, and not being able to juggle family, school and jobs, according to the Harvard study. An American Institutes for Research report last year estimated that college dropouts cost the nation $4.5 billion in lost earnings and taxes. One factor in these disappointing statistics is America’s for-profit schools, which have garnered plenty of recent media attention…

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Phones gain ability to learn by touching

There’s a form of extra-sensory perception called psychometry, whose practitioners claim to learn things about objects by touching them. Smartphones set to be released this month by Samsung and Sony will have some of that ability: they’ll learn things when you touch them to pre-programmed “tags,” the Associated Press reports. For example, you can program a tag with your phone number, and stick it on your business card. When someone taps the phone to the card, the phone would call you. Or you can put a tag on your night stand. Place the phone there, and it goes into “alarm clock” mode, holding your calls until the morning. Samsung Electronics Co. announced this week that it will be selling these tags in the form of stickers it calls “TecTiles” — $15 for 5 of them. They’ll work with its new flagship Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone, set to launch in a few weeks, and several others already in the market, including the HTC EVO 4G LTE sold by Sprint Nextel. Sony Corp.’s Xperia Ion, to be released June 24, will come with the ability to read different coin-like plastic tags that read “Home,” ”Office” and so forth. The tags cost $20 for four, and the phone can be programmed to react differently to each tag. The “Car” tag can launch a navigation application, for instance. Tapping “Home” can send a text message to the rest of the family that you’re home, and set the ringer volume to maximum…

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Is University of Virginia’s ‘reputation gap’ growing?

In a strategic memo that University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan had written before she was forced by the school’s governing board to announce her resignation, she spoke of a “reputation gap” at the elite public institution, Valerie Strauss, columnist for the Washington Post, reports.

“In a number of critical areas we are reputed to be better than we actually are,” she wrote in the memo.

If the school had a reputation gap before, the drama over the fate of Sullivan is only serving to widen it. My colleagues Daniel de Vise and Anita Kumar have been documenting the surprising episode at the Charlottesville school that exploded a week ago when Sullivan, who was hired two years ago and had been a popular president, announced that she was soon resigning.The reasons that the school’s governing board forced her out were not made public and so rumor filled the empty space where fact should have been made clear by the people behind her ouster…

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