Edward Snowden – LiveLeaks interview

On LiveLeaks you can view the full interview of Edward Snowden done by Norddeutscher Rundfunk, a German television broadcaster, watch it here: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=f93_1390833151.

Early in the interview Edward Snowden refers to a Buzzfeed article where government officials has been interviewed and they’ve shared their thoughts about Edward Snowden and what they think should be done with him. What’s really interesting is that many of those officials say that they wants to shoot Edward Snowden. Although what he’s done may not be correct from their point of view, that’s a little harsh I think.

Snowden also shared his own thoughts on what he’s done, and he states that what he’s done is in the public’s interest. He felt that he had to do what he did, what he’s released is in, again, the best public’s interest.

Obama hasn’t said much regarding Snowden, but he has, in the time after the unauthorized disclosures, talked a lot more about surveillance, NSA and national security. On Friday 17th 2014, Obama said the following regarding Snowden’s case: “Given the fact of an open investigation, I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or motivations”. Meaning since it’s an open investigation he wouldn’t talk about that particular case.

He also said: “If any individual who objects to government policy can take it in their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will never be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy.”

Although I won’t state my own thoughts I will say this: if the American government had been more transparent with what they did they would’ve probably been in a different situation today.

During the interview done by the German reporters Snowden hints to more German officials being wiretapped, with that we can probably expect that more non-German officials are also being tapped.

What I find really interesting is what he says about a program called XKEYSCORE (XKS). Which is basically a program where you could get access of all the information you could possibly want. 

He describes it as follows:
“You could read anyone’s email in the world, anybody you’ve got an email address for. Any website: You can watch traffic to and from it. Any computer that an individual sits at: You can watch it. Any laptop that you’re tracking: you can follow it as it moves from place to place throughout the world. It’s a one-stop-shop for access to the NSA’s information.

He adds:
“…You can tag individuals… Let’s say you work at a major German corporation and I want access to that network, I can track your username on a website on a form somewhere, I can track your real name, I can track associations with your friends and I can build what’s called a fingerprint, which is network activity unique to you, which means anywhere you go in the world, anywhere you try to sort of hide your online presence, your identity.”

XKS is described as a system with different user interfaces, a bunch of back-end databases and servers. The system apparently gathers information that the NSA already has gathered and gives the end-user easy access to everything. Snowden’s description is basically a system where you can search for and get access to information once believed to be secure and only shared between two parties.

The system, XKS, is being shared with other intelligence & spy agencies among others we have Australia’s Defense Signals Directorate, New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau and the German Bundesnachrichtendienst. This means that it’s not only the US that has access to your email, but also agencies in other countries.

As a computer enthusiast I would love to know how it all works, because this is crazy!

Although we unknowingly known a lot of what Snowden leaked it still came as a shock to basically the whole world. He is now in Russia, after he got granted asylum there. He applied for asylum in many European countries but no one would grant him asylum in fear of getting off on the wrong foot with The United States.

Finally, as an assignment I’ve been asked to answer whether or not I agree with Snowden’s decisions. I think that’s a difficult question, I would say that I’m all for what’s in the public’s best interest. Obama should think the same, and I think it’s important that he’s been more transparent regarding what they’re doing in terms of tracking and surveillance of the public. Lastly, my final thoughts – I think what Snowden has done is important and although I may not agree with all of his methods I think he has done the general public a favor.

The school of the future

We are currently seeing a major shift in technology in the classroom. Many schools are moving to a 1:1 system, meaning every student get some kind of technology device that being an iPad or a computer of some sort. We are in the phase of moving all the aspects of the school over towards an electronic platform. Although there are several aspects that have yet to be dealt with, and many aspects that has yet to be perfected we are steadily moving forward.

What will your school situation look like in five, ten and even twenty years? Will it be similar or quite different? Will you study from home or will you still have to “go to school”? These are all questions that has yet to be answered, the fact is that no one knows for sure how it’ll turn out. I want to tackle the question from a student’s perspective, what do I think and what do I hope. To make it simpler, I’ll focus mainly on high school, and my own situation regarding devices and system (mainly 1:1).

In five years, 2019, I don’t think it’ll be much of a difference, we’ve had time to perfect our platform and device choices. Although there’s been a big change the past few years I do not the next five years will bring the same type of change. Now that we’ve all gotten a computer or have the ability to BYOD there’s little on the hardware side that has to change. There’s a different situation on the software side, currently our school platform still has a long way to go regarding usability and manageability. I expect the a revolution on their side in the next five years, I expect the provider to manage easy integration into each and every student’s lives. What I mean by that is the ability to get information out of the platform and into your own system. Personally, I want to spend as little time as possible on the platform and more time learning and writing. By making the platform integrate-able with the applications and services I use I can mange my time better and focus on what’s important; learning.

Another aspect of the life of a student is note-taking. I think this is a really important subject which isn’t being focused on enough. Taking notes is a big part of the student’s life. With the recent release of OneNote for Mac and the upgrade we expect on the Windows side this is starting to become less of a problem. I expect a great solution to be released within 2019, that being a few more iterations of OneNote, an Evernote revolution or an application made for students. I would prefer the latter, just because I want to be able to have my school-life inside one solution. Think OneNote with Evernote’s search capabilities combined with Google Calendar, Itslearning and Todoist – that would be my perfect solution.

Flipped classroom will be an ongoing project for the next decade. In 2024 I expect to spend less time home with homework and more time watching lectures. This means going through new things at home and then practice and perfect when you get to the next class. Our system will probably change quite a bit in the time running up to 2024, there’s probably a different focus on what you have to learn. Hopefully school will prepare us for our future life better than it does now.

Finally, twenty years. My hopes:

  • Choose your subjects, a few obligatory but mostly self chosen subjects.
  • Completely different subjects to choose from, more focus on technology and engineering.
  • Most subjects will be taught online, no need to go to school every weekday.
  • School platforms & student note taking software have improved greatly.
  • Long shot: Ability to download new information & knowledge to your brain?

Well, maybe school won’t change that much – has it really changed in the last 50 years? Not counting the technology that’s been brought into the classroom. We still “go to school”, we will most likely do it for a few more years. When you think about it it’s not really a bad thing – for many it’s where they meet their friends and socialize. Your tangible school probably means a lot more to you than you realize.

Smartwatches – The technology of tomorrow

This is the text only version, if you’d like to read the whole article with images (++) download it here: Smartwatches – The technology of tomorrow.


The wearable space

One can define wearable technology as follows:

Technology you wear that incorporates computer and advanced electronic technologies. The designs often incorporate practical functions and features, but may also have a purely critical or aesthetic agenda.

There’s no doubt that there’s many use cases for wearable technology; Google Glass, Smartwatches, different biometric sensors all represent a different segment of the wearable space. Google Glass and all kinds of biometric sensors represent the technology of the future; smartwatches represent the technology of tomorrow.

Watches have been available for quite some time, in spite of this it’s only in the recent years that smartwatches has taken off as a consumer product. With Google’s recently released Android Wear this space is now really heating up.

In just a few years we have moved our lives away from the desktop computer and into our smartphones and tablets. It’s been a drastic change, and our lives have changed accordingly. The wearable technology that’s being developed right now will bring the same type of change. We’ll be able to have real glanceable information just a glimpse away. No more taking out your phone to check the latest messages, flick your wrist, see the message and reply using voice commands.

Only one question remains; is this just a fad, or are smartwatches here to stay?

The history of smartwatches

After failing to attract investors Pebble Technology sought out help from Kickstarter, a worldwide crowd-sourcing platform. In April 2012 their campaign for funding the Pebble Smartwatch went live on Kickstarter. After raising over $10.2M it was the most successful campaign ever to be launched on Kickstarter.

As if this weren’t enough, on the 20th of March 2014 Pebble announced that they sold over
400 000 Pebbles in 2013, not bad for a company that employed, at that time, under 50 people. It’s been estimated that this brought in over $60M in revenues for the company. According to George Zachary, a Charles River Ventures partner and Pebble investor, the smartwatch maker is on track to double its revenues in 2014.

The second iteration of the Pebble, the Pebble Steel, was introduced at CES in early 2014. Although priced $100 over the original Pebble smartwatch the device is in high demand. The new version features many improvements over the first Pebble, and reviewers seem to agree that the price jump is justified.

One cannot write about smartwatches and not include Samsung’s Galaxy Gear. Introduced at Samsung’s Unpacked event on September 4th 2013, the electronics manufacturer was the first of the major companies to introduce a smartwatch to the market. Some critics argue that this device was designed and pushed in a hurry just to beat Apple and Google to the finish line. The watch received generally negative feedback and was criticized for poor battery life and lack of apps available. Despite the negative reviews Samsung continues iterating the device; the second generation of the smartwatch, the Gear 2, was unveiled on February 23rd 2014 and it’s expected to hit the shelves sometime in April.

The biggest news so far in 2014 is undoubtedly the announcement of Google’s new OS, Android Wear. Since being revealed on March 18th, technology enthusiasts all over the world have dubbed this the biggest step for smartwatches ever. Built on Google’s already open Android platform, the OS is made to work seamlessly with a smartphone. This is the first step by one of the three big ones into the marketplace. Seeing a major company like Google releasing its own dedicated smartwatch OS is a sure sign that we’ll be seeing some rather great products in the near future.

On the same day, LG and Motorola also revealed their smartwatch plans, and yes, they’ll be running Android Wear. Both companies say that their watches will be available sometime this summer.


The watch as an assistant

Google Now will play a major role in Google’s smartwatch move. Google Now is of course Google’s take on a personal assistant, and if the experience is anything like it’s on the mobile platform, it’ll be nothing short of amazing. Glancing at your wrist and having the device instantly knowing what information you’re looking for is something that one could only dream of 5 years ago. Being at home and your watch buzzes because you’re late for work or your eTicket shows up just as you’re about to board the plane, it’s a phenomenal thought, and it’s soon becoming your reality.

Android is built on openness, and Android Wear is no different. Developers can take advantage of loads of API integrations and by that help building the perfect assistant. We should expect to see some great apps and great design languages being developed for the new platform.

Apple takes a different approach, as usual. They have yet to release anything regarding a smartwatch, but the rumor-mill has it that they’re building a watch to be released either in Q3 or Q4 of 2014 or early 2015. One theory is that we’ll see something this summer at Apple’s yearly WWDC conference at the same time as they’re showing of iOS 8.

The latest spinning out of the mill is that Apple is heavily focused on health and fitness for their new iOS, and with the iWatch they’re expected to ship a version of iOS 8 that includes an app called Healthbook which will mark their entrance into the world of smartwatches, health and fitness.

We also expect Apple to tightly integrate Siri into the iWatch. Analysts seems to think that it’ll play a role much like Google Now will on devices running Android Wear. It will however be essential for Apple to figure out how to make Siri faster. Google Now usually parses voice right on the device, and if unsure they send the voice clip to the cloud to be parsed. Apple approaches this differently; everything is sent and parsed in the cloud. This is a major drawback and it’s something that the Big Green has to figure out before launching the iWatch. They cannot send voice commands from the watch to the phone and then to Nuance’s servers – it will not be the Apple experience.

Apple likes to “keep it closed”, but recently it has opened their products and services slightly for third-party developers. CarPlay, Apple’s new dashboard for your car, currently includes support for Spotify, Rdio and YouTube, in addition to a few essentials like phone and messages. Although currently “invitation only”, they’ve said they want to open it up to all third-party developers in the near future. This marks a big step for Apple regarding their openness. We never expect Apple to open the iOS platform the way Google has done with Android, but it’ll be a nice addition for developers to get a little more freedom. If this freedom will make its way to the iWatch is currently unknown. It isn’t unheard of for Apple to include third-party integration opportunities, even though it has usually come as a possibility for the second or third iteration of the product or service.


The main hurdle

As with phones, a smartwatch can’t do much without energy. Hardware engineers have for the past few years been struggling to find a solution to smartwatches’ battery consumption and battery capacity. Pebble managed to overcome this problem by using e-paper technology. Unlike a regular LCD display, which emits light, e-paper is designed to reflect light like ordinary paper, thus making it easier to read and giving it greater battery life.

The two biggest drawbacks of using e-paper technology are the display’s refresh rate and color saturation. The Pebble smartwatch incorporates a black and white screen, whereas the new Moto 360, from now Lenovo owned Motorola, will have a beautiful and colorful display.

Little has been said about the Moto 360, including battery life and performance. It’s been speculated that the black bar at the bottom is a solar panel in order to increase battery life. Though we won’t know for sure until Motorola reveals all the details.

We know Apple has been having a hard time figuring out how to manage the battery consumption on their devices and how to fit a big enough battery into them. There have been a few job openings for battery specialists at the Cupertino based company. Even though we can’t be sure they’re for the alleged smartwatch it won’t be surprising if they’re. It’s however, also fully possible that these job openings are “only” for the iPhone and directed towards its share of battery issues.

One way one could solve the battery issue is to know the user, for example knowing his or her habits. This would mean that the device could allocate battery power differently throughout the day. If the device knows that you’re not usually using it between 9am and 11am, there’s no reason for it to use power during that period of time, it could go into power saving mode. Google already know a lot about us, they know your calendar and they know where you are. They could use this information to distribute battery power differently; thus increase battery life greatly.

The interoperability between operating systems

The major companies have all taken completely different approaches to the interoperability between devices before. Will this change this time around? Will the iWatch be compatible with an Android phone? Will Google still support iOS devices?

Currently there’s no info on whether or not Android Wear will be able to pair to an iPhone, if history is anything to go by it should be possible, we should however, expect limited functionality and features. There’s also the possibility that Google’s new OS won’t be available for iPhone users at all, because Wear is simply a modified version of Android, and no Android device has ever played nicely with Apple’s phone and tablet OS.

One can argue back and forth on whether or not it could be a good move for Google to close its ecosystem a little more. On the one hand it’s a good thing, simply because Google can focus on making two Android devices work flawlessly together. On the other hand, Google is closing the door to a big audience by doing so. This is also the audience who is very well known for their willingness to pay good money for great experiences.

Apple will surely not open up its watch to other platforms. It’s not in Apple’s nature in doing so. Except for iTunes and Safari there’s few examples of Apple software ported over to other operating systems. Apple likes to keep everything within its own ecosystem. This way they can ensure that anything that leaves Cupertino Headquarters has the famous “it just works” factor. Apple is so dedicated to their own platforms that they do not “waste” time on others.

The future…

The introduction of Android Wear, the recent rumors about Apple’s iWatch and the latest sales numbers from Pebble all point to a bright future for smartwatches around the world. In a few years we could see smartwatches dominating our wrists. Apple will most likely introduce their version of a watch later this year; several companies have already announced that they’re bringing smartwatches to the market this summer. When engineers manages to overcome the battery hurdle, and manages a seamless integration with your smartphone we should see some really great accessories for your wrists.

Despite of everything, sometimes it seems that only technology enthusiasts are interested in the smartwatch. Unlike “regular” people, this is a group who knows what they want and how they want it. Is the general public really interested in wearable technology? Are they ready for the smartwatch? Will the regular Joe understand what this new type of device is, what it is for and will he be able to take full advantage of it? Finally, will he be willing to spend several hundred dollars on a little personal assistant?

These are all questions that have yet to be answered, if the trend is something to go by the answers will be here sooner rather than later.

The question will most likely be; which watch should you buy?

My in-depth project – Online Advertising (mobile)

This year we’re going to write an in-depth project, one can write about basically everything one can imagine, there’s just one catch – it has to be either from the English curriculum or from another subject from my own program area. I’ve chosen to write about Online Advertising, in regards to my accounting and entrepreneurship class.

I want to specifically go into the world of mobile advertising, how Facebook and Twitter (with others) has struggled to make money from mobile, and what they’re doing about it – how they’re changing it. I want to tackle the other aspects of mobile advertising as well, that being the space used (area of the ad), what kind of ad is being used and which one (type of ad) is more effective.

Do you have any more questions or fields I should cover? I would love to hear them, let me know in the comments below or connect with me on Twitter: @HaakonHBakker

And as always, thanks for reading!


Final thoughts about The Joy Luck Club

I finally finished The Joy Luck Club… No, it was not a joy to read…

The short summary from my other article about The Joy Luck Club went as follows:

“The Joy Luck Club consists of 16 different but related stories. They’re all told from a different point of view, the view of four daughters and four mothers. The mothers tell their story twice – first they tell their childhood stories and then they tell their story as adults.”

So basically this book is a collection of 16 short stories, one can argue about this form of writing. Personally, I like the idea – but I’m not a big fan on how this book turned out. This can have something to do with the book was written, by dividing up the book like this you have no main person to follow – you have a few (here 8) persons you will follow. I felt that it was too much going back and forth between different situations.

As said above, I think one can write a good book with interwoven stories and with several main persons – I think The Joy Luck Club did too much of it.

That being said (written), I really liked a few of the stories. My favorite was “Half and half” which in from the point of view of Rose Hsu Jordan. The moral of the story is never giving up.

The story starts with a description of the Bible to Rose’s mother, how there was a time she always used it and how she now, in contrast, uses it as a prop on her kitchen table.

When Rose tells her mother that she and Ted are getting a divorce she tells Rose that she must do everything to save the marriage, Rose knows there’s no hope. After this we get to read the story from her childhood. When the family was at the beach Rose was instructed to keep an eye on her four brothers and her little brother Bing, 4 years old, being the main responsibility.

Bing asked to go to her father, who was out on the reef fishing, he got clearance from Rose. When her three other brothers started to fight, Rose’s mother called on Rose to separate them, meaning she had to focus on them instead of Bing. Rose lifted her head, and saw that Bing fell into the water.

A major rescuing attempt was launched, but it was unsuccessful. The day after Rose’s mother and Rose returns to the beach, looking. They were there for hours, nothing. Rose had to tell her mother that they weren’t going to find him; she had to let it go.

The story ends with Rose picking up her mother’s Bible, where it on the page called “Death” it is written “lightly, with an erasable pencil”: Bing Hsu. That being a symbol of never giving up, the hope of Bing returning was still there.

I want to conclude this little post about my final thoughts about The Joy Luck Club.

It’s an interesting book, although it’s a little hard to follow. Following eight persons is a little much – if it could’ve been cut in half I think it would’ve been a better story and reading experience.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks for reading!

Who was issued the first driver’s license?

Ever wondered who issued the first driver’s license? Although not issued quite as described in the video below by Allen Davis – it wasn’t far off. The first driver’s license was issued to Karl Benz, yes – Mercedes Benz upon his request. The one issued then is not exactly as the ones issued today – I think it was easier to fake it before – see the image below.



Here’s the QI clip describing how the first few licenses were issued. Take it with a grain of salt though.

We all know it’s very important with security while driving, it’s important to know all the rules. I’ll leave you with one little tidbit of information, until 1977 you were not obligated to have passed a driving test in Belgium.

And as always, thanks for reading.

Water – a limited resource

This week we watched the movie “Last call at the oasis”. The documentary features the water contamination problem in both the States and Australia. A lot of places here tapped water is so intoxicated that people get sick from drinking, showering and bathing in the water There’s reason to believe the situation is the same in several other countries as well.

One might think water is one of the sources we have the most off, if not the most. Sadly, the fact is that the water that’s clean enough to drink it, “drinking water”, is only 1% of all the water. We drink, shower and bathe in it and we’re wasting an enormous amount of perfectly good water down the drain. That is not a problem within itself; the problem is how the water is handled after it’s been used.

Some places the water just goes to the ground, called a septic system. Here the water with goes downhill until it reaches surface water. Other places, and most adopted is the regular sewage system. One would think the water coming out of these systems is clear and free of “stuff”. Again, sadly, that’s not the truth. A lot of the water coming out contains dangerous chemicals. People just draining chemicals down their toilette.

The problem doesn’t stop there, it seems that officials are just pushing things & situations under the carpet. They are not taking this serious enough, people are dying and children are born with diseases. If not acted upon this will just spread and the already dangerous situations will become even more dangerous.


There’s one place in the world that has it all figured out, that is Singapore. The water people have access to is affordable, efficient, universal and lastly but certainly not least of high quality. They reuse their sewage water, which is not happening in the State nor in Australia at the moment, at least it’s not widely adopted. The reclaimed water in Singapore is cleverly branded NEWater, and is just reused water. Yes, that is water coming from your toilette!

The task ahead is a big one, for many countries. As with the movie Invictus, we have to come together as one and we cannot fight each battle by ourselves. Follow the example of Singapore and hopefully make our lives better and the lives of our next.


And as always, thanks for reading!

The Joy Luck Club – First thoughts

The Joy Luck Club tells the story to four Chinese immigrants and their four daughters. The four mothers have made a club where they play Mah Jong, and you guessed it – it’s called “The Joy Luck Club”.

The Joy Luck Club consists of 16 different but related stories. They’re all told from a different point of view, the view of four daughters and four mothers. The mothers tell their story twice – first they tell their childhood stories and then they tell their story as adults.

My first thoughts about this book were that it was an interesting storyline. Learning about people’s stories and experiences is always fun. It turns out to be a good book – even though I don’t really read much this book is an interesting read.

The book itself isn’t hard to read and when reading on the iPad with the built in dictionary it’s no problem!

Finally I will end by saying that I look forward to reading the rest of the book, I think the time it will take to read it will be worth it.

Have you read it? What are your thoughts?

Invictus – more than just a movie

The movie Invictus is about coming together as one country. Play on the same team. Mr. Nelson Mandela was a man of great dignity, compassion and courage. Mandela managed to make people come together and respect one another despite their skin color. Now, Mandela is no longer with us, but he will be in our memories for a long time. He will be remembered as the man he was & his accomplishments.


The movie is about the Rugby World Cup in 1995, the year after Mandela was elected to become the new president of South Africa. Mandela enlists the rugby team on a mission to win the World Cup.


It’s no easy task to bring a whole country together, especially not South Africa. South Africa is a country that’s been under the apartheid regime and that’s experienced serious oppression. Thankfully, it’s much better today – much thanks to Nelson Mandela.


One thing I find interesting is how Mandela could forgive the “people” who put him in jail for 27 years. Another is that he used just four years to become the president after he’d been released from prison. Lastly, how he managed to lead a whole country that’d been under apartheid & oppression to victory. The victory is more than just a victory in terms of a trophy; it’s a symbol. Bringing people together and make their differences disappear.


Sport does really make people’s differences disappear. And this movie shows that perfectly. How people who basically hate each other come together and cheer for the same team – it’s amazing!


Sadly, Nelson Mandela is no longer with us. He will however stay in the memory of countless people as a reminder to be kind and accept differences.