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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Kickstarter: A community funding new ideas

by Mark Ollig     

Hopefully, by the time you read this, the outdoor temperatures will have become more “spring like.”

Our Minnesota winter put up a gallant battle, but the calendar says spring, and I am ready for some warmer weather.

With the spring, comes renewed optimism to pursue goals we may have contemplated upon during those cold, snow-filled, winter months.

During the course of this past winter, what if someone had developed an ingenious, brand-new type of solar energy-collecting device?

Say this person meticulously wrote down the details of how it works, and even completed the mechanical system drawings of the specific parts needed for this project, and is ready to build the prototype.

Regrettably, the person is lacking the funds to build it.

What’s needed is a financial kick-start; an initial monetary goal to be reached in order to get the ball rolling.

This person probably wishes there was a large community of people readily available who could see what his idea was, engage in correspondence about the project, and back it by making a financial pledge.

Well, there is such a crowdfunding platform community.

This popular Internet online community is called Kickstarter.

Since 2009, Kickstarter has been an online venue for hosting the presentation of ideas for a vast assortment of unique projects, including: music, film, fashion, technology, gadgets, software, games, publishing, photography, books, works of art, theater production, and others.

Each project has a specific dollar amount as its funding goal; this goal must be reached in a certain allotted number of days.

It’s an all-or-nothing funding campaign, as the funds will only be awarded to the project’s creator if the monetary goal is reached. This safeguards the project creator from receiving only a fraction of what they actually need to successfully fund their project.

The risk to the financial backers is minimized, as their contributions would only be used if the project’s funding goal were achieved.

Project creators are encouraged to make a short video explaining their idea to potential backers, along with pictures about the project on their Kickstarter page.

Most people have a desire to be associated with an exciting, brand-new product, film production, or art creation. It is hoped these folks would contribute to a project which interests them, as a financial backer.

These backers are rewarded a variety of items and/or services having to do with the project, based upon the tiered dollar amounts pledged.

The creators of each project being funded, keep the backers up-to-date with the project’s progress via their personalized project page, social media networks, and email.

The financial contributors, aside from assisting with the funding, can enjoy the feeling of being a part of the project. They stay involved with the project by learning more about its progress via correspondence with the project creators, and updates on the project’s Kickstarter page.

A certain number of days are made available for each project to become fully funded.

If the project is not fully financed by the funding goal deadline, no funds will be debited from the contributors, no money changes hands, and the project is listed as being unfunded.

Creators can re-launch their project idea again, using lessons learned from their previous project launch attempt (such as ideas and comments from community feedback) to improve their next project idea presentation.

If, however, the project successfully reaches its funding goal, Kickstarter will charge a contributor’s credit card for the amount pledged.

The project creator will have access to these funds in about two weeks.

As the project progresses, the backers are regularly updated with news on how things are developing, by the project’s creator.

To date, Kickstarter statistics report 5,857,030 people have contributed as backers for various projects.

In Minneapolis, 1,359 Kickstarter projects are currently listed. You can see those projects here:

The listing of project types can be categorized.

Under the art category, one recent, successfully funded Kickstarter project from Minneapolis was for an MCAD (Minneapolis College of Art Design) unique deck of playing cards.

Some 54 MCAD student artists were involved with creating 54 individually designed playing cards.

The funding goal was reached, with $4,227 being raised from 144 backers of the project.

You can see the project’s Kickstarter page, which includes a video made by MCAD students at:

As of this writing, Kickstarter has a total of $1,037,732,052 pledged to Kickstarter projects.

There are currently 58,560 successfully funded projects.

To see the daily updated Kickstarter stats, go to:

So, if you have an exciting project idea you think would make the world a better place, and you want to get your message out to a community of like-minded people who could be interested in backing it, give Kickstarter a try.

Kickstarter’s webpage is located at:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Print and television sources still dominate

by Mark Ollig


Due in large part to the Internet, we are finding ourselves being exposed to greater amounts of news and information.

Throughout the day, countless news sources are broadcasting their stories to the public using a variety of mediums.

These sources utilize websites, with live-streaming news feeds, online citizen reporters, videocasters, podcasters, and bloggers.

There are also social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, providing news content, as well.

And, of course, information originates from 24-hour cable news networks.

It seems just about everyone in the world is typing out their individual opinions concerning the news of the day; as they can be seen flooding the comments sections of most mainstream websites and social media networks.

In a seemingly by-gone era, before this torrent of news reporting and commenting was augmented by the Internet, life was a bit different.

Each new day found most folks learning of the overnight news developments while reading their traditional print media; namely, the morning newspaper.

This newspaper was delivered early each morning to their front door, by the town’s local newspaper carrier.

Throughout the working day, people stayed up-to-date with current news events by listening to the top-of-the-hour radio broadcasts, or by catching a quick news update on a television set during lunch breaks.

When they came home from work, the evening paper would be waiting for them.

As a youngster, I recall two separate Minneapolis newspapers being printed each day. There was an early morning and late afternoon edition. Each contained state, national, and world news.

Of course, most small towns publish their own newspaper, serving the people who live and work there.

These papers provide the local news and goings-on in the community, and are usually printed once a week.

Going back years before the Internet, television, and even radio, newspapers were the main source of our news.

The oldest continuously-published newspaper I could find still being printed is located in Britain.

It was originally called The Oxford Gazette. It first appeared in November 1665; a few months later, it was renamed The London Gazette.

Its beginnings came about in order for it to meet “the need for authoritative news.”

The London Gazette obtained news outside of Britain during peace time via its foreign correspondents, and from British generals during times of war.

Its website is located at

The oldest continuously-published newspaper in the US is The Hartford Courant. It began publishing Oct. 29, 1764.

More information about the history of The Hartford Courant can be found at:

The honor for the first American newspaper goes to a Boston publication published by Benjamin Harris, called “Publick Occurrences.” It was printed in 1690.

It was four pages long, and had just one issue. Its stated purpose was to “report the news accurately and fairly.”

You can learn more about America’s first newspaper at

By the end of the 18th century, some 235 newspapers were operating in the US.

The first commercial radio station in the US began broadcasting in 1920 in Pittsburgh, using the call letters KDKA.

On Nov. 2, 1920, KDKA transmitted over-the-air, the results of the Nov. 2, 1920 US presidential election.

It was broadcast to the approximately 1,000 people who had earlier learned of the KDKA’s existence, and had gone out and obtained or built their own radio receivers.

Leo Rosenberg was radio’s first announcer.

He voiced the broadcast from KDKA of Warren G. Harding becoming the 29th president of the US.

Today’s tech-savvy, social-media generation is getting a lot of their news online; however, a recent study finds print and television as still being the source mostly used by people for getting their news.

Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press, published the study.

It said the majority of Americans “across generations now combine a mix of sources and technologies to get their news each week.”

Of those asked in the study how they obtained their news, 24 percent said television, desk or laptop computers. Cellphones came in at 12 percent, and mobile tablet computing devices polled at 4 percent.

The study reported 45 percent of Americans saying they had no favorite device or technology for getting their news.

I still feel traditional media, such as newspapers, television, radio, magazines, and books, continue to be an important source of news and information – even in this age of digital access to these sources over the Internet.

One of the first things I do each workday morning (while the eggs are cooking on the stove), is to turn on my MacBook computer, jump on the Internet, and visit a few news websites for a quick check of what occurred overnight, and to learn of any late-breaking bulletins.

On weekends, along with my morning cup of coffee, I enjoy spending time reading through the printed newspaper.

Being on the Internet each day, I will, of course, check on those up-to-the-minute news reports.

And yes, yours truly regularly visits his hometown’s online digital newspaper, and subscribes to its print edition, too.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Incredibly fast 5G approaching

by Mark Ollig

Imagine being able to download an 800-megabyte movie file in less than one second.

This, and much more, is the promise of the next generation in mobile cellular technology.

Currently, many of us are using the fourth generation (4G) of wireless cellular technology in our smartphone or mobile device.

This latest generation of high-speed, cellular data service operates over a 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network.

LTE’s upper packet data-layers are built upon TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) technology.

On average, an individual user’s 4G LTE data speeds will range from about 2 Mbps to 20 Mbps.

We have been using 4G LTE for a few years now. So, what will the next quantum leap in high-speed, mobile technology be?

Folks in the information and communications technology industry are calling this next generation of mobile technology: 5G.

Some have described 5G as “ultra broadband.” Others say it has the potential of transmitting data 1,000 times faster than the current 4G LTE.

One company’s research paper states that their 5G HyperService Cube will provide users a 1Gbps minimum data rate speed, while users of mobile cloud services will experience “fiber-like” data-rate speeds of 10Gbps.

With the ongoing advancements in communication technology, I question how long it will be until we permanently “cut the cord” and become a virtually wireless communicating populace.

It has taking, on average, 10 years for each new generation of high-speed, wireless mobile technology to be developed and implemented commercially.

The first 1G cellular network in the US was activated in 1983, by Ameritech, in Chicago. Motorola’s DynaTAC was the first mobile phone using this network.

Late in 2010, 4G LTE became available in the US.

Will we need to wait until 2020 for the 5G version to become fully developed, and commercially available from the cellular carriers?

I’m not so sure. It seems some folks across the big pond just can’t wait that long.

Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom said, with the “world on fast forward,” the UK risks being left behind, without ultra-fast broadband.

Cameron recently met with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, during the CeBit trade show in Hannover, Germany.

There, Cameron announced a partnership to develop 5G wireless technology between the UK and Germany.

“We are on the brink of a new industrial revolution and I want us – the UK and Germany – to lead it,” said Cameron.

This partnership includes the University of Dresden in Germany, King’s College University in London, and the University of Surrey in southeast England.

“It is our ambition to make the UK the most digital nation in the G8, and it is my mission to show the world that we’re getting there,” Cameron said.

And it’s not just the UK pushing for 5G, as South Korea has scheduled to roll out trial services of 5G in 2017, and to have it fully commercialized by 2020.

Huawei, an information and communications technology company in China, said it also plans a 5G rollout by 2020.

“Any mobile app and any mobile service will be given the potential to connect to anything at any time – from people and communities to physical things, processes, content, working knowledge, timely pertinent information, and goods of all sorts in entirely flexible, reliable, and secure ways,” said Huawei in their “5G: A Technology Vision” paper. The complete 16-page paper can be downloaded at

It is said that 5G technology will bring about, more quickly, “The Internet of Things” or IoT.

IoT has to do with intelligent components, called “smart sensors,” being attached to, and gathering information from the electronic devices we use. These are the “things” which will be connected to the Internet.

Techopedia describes IoT saying: “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things – using data they gathered without any help from us – we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss, and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing, or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best.”

Examples of IoT devices include smart sensors on water pumps and water meters. These smart sensors will constantly monitor and report on water pressure, levels, usage, and locate any leaks.

Smart sensors connected to homes’ and businesses’ electrical meters will be communicating with the power grid over the Internet.

Wearable health monitoring devices will instantly relay information back to the healthcare provider.

And when the milk is almost gone in the refrigerator – you guessed it – a smart sensor will order more for us.

It seems the future of the IoT is predicated on having the computers, appliances, and other devices in our businesses and our homes becoming attached to the Internet’s computing networking cloud.

When considering 5G’s potential, along with the promise of enhanced, super-fast broadband networks, and the Internet’s IPV6 addressing structure, virtually every device on the planet could be interconnected, thus creating a truly globally-networked society.

It’s still early in the 5G game; however, the excitement is beginning.