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Posts Tagged ‘free

As I start another teaching semester, I draw inspiration from someone whose blog I added to my RSS feed a long time ago.

In a recent post, Lisa Lane shared how she helped her students keep the cost of higher education down by offering a free textbook.

She lamented how policies stood in the way of progressive change. She could not tap an Open Educational Resources (OER) fund as compensation because the grant was for those adopting OERs, not for those creating them.

Furthermore, the grants were for those who could prove cost-savings over the previous semester. Lane relied on the free model the previous semester, so she could not justify how free was better than free.

Such policies punish progressive faculty who move ahead of policies written by those who do not teach or have forgotten how to.

But there is a silver lining. Lane’s students valued the gifts of free books that they were treated gingerly. Some were good enough to be used another semester. She inadvertently developed a method to sustain the good will.

I take inspiration from the fact that Lane shares her trials, tribulations, and triumphs. I know full well how moving ahead quickly means taking difficult paths that few initially follow. But I take comfort in that more eventually will.

It seems to be a point of pride for some Pokémon Go (PoGo) players to highlight how little money, if any at all, that they put into the game. That is what I gather from anecdotal interactions with other players and from Facebook group posts.

If they wish to play that way and grind a maximum of 50 coins a day, they are entitled to do so. What they are not entitled to do is getting those coins by spoofing, sniping, and shaving.

What these players are also not entitled to do is putting others down for paying to play. Closet PoGo players do not reveal they pay to play in order to avoid the condescending question, “Pay for what?”

PoGo shop.

I pay to play to the tune of just SGD 1 a day. I enjoy the game and wish to support the company and the people it employs. I benefit from the ecosystem it has created in the form of YouTubers and other social leaders.

I do not think that it is helpful to expect a company to provide an app, a service, and an entire ecosystem for free. Doing this entrenches a mean and closed mindset.

I challenge the notion that the best things in life are free. They are not, not even the intangibles. Take family time for instance. Think about how much time and effort it takes to carve it out or set it aside.

Born free. Became expensive.

Free or freemium apps get cashflows eventually. They could offer micro-transactions that fool users or sell user data without the users’ knowledge. When the latter happens, we become the product, not the customer.

Thinking or wishing that you can get away with “free” has its price — continued ignorance, unrealistic expectations, and futile actions. We might be born free of burden, but we become expensive very quickly. The lesson at birth is something we should not forget.

Born free. Became expensive.

No, I do not work for free.

No, I will not endorse your product or service.

No, you cannot expect handouts all the time.

I have been approached by various agencies over many channels to give free advice, to share professional connections, and to embed third party offerings like “infographics” into my blog.

To them I say: You do not work for free, so why are you expecting me to? Not convinced? Refer to the pick-my-brain section of my contact page.

While I share some of my thoughts and musings daily and openly in my blog, this does not mean that I offer all of my professional services and distilled wisdoms for free. These took time and failed efforts to build up and learn from.

I do not work for free.

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Vendors often want my advice for free. I take pains to contextualise instead of generalise. What I offer is a distillation of wisdoms that combine critical practice, reviewed research, and reflection that is both wide and deep.

Try putting a price on that.

Vendors also want my connections for free. They want me to put them in touch with “sure things”. I have built connections and nurtured relationships with time and trust. They want my endorsement, but what they risk is my reputation.

Try putting a price on that.

Overall vendors want my time for free or on the cheap. You would not expect anyone else who does any kind of work — from a doctor to a janitor — to do their job for free or for something below their worth.

Before you ask me for my advice, my recommendations, or my time, consider what those are worth and what I am worth. I am professional and I ask you to be one too.

 
Thanks to this LifeHacker article, I found out that that I did not have to wait for Microsoft to let me know when my lone PC could have its free Windows 10 update. (The PC is surrounded by Macs and already suffering from an inferiority complex.)

The article recommends doing this:

  1. Back up your data.
  2. Download and run Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool.
  3. Select the “Upgrade This PC” option.
  4. Let the upgrade happen.

As with most things, the process was not as simple as described.

For example, when running the Media Creation Tool, I first had to know if my PC had the 32 or 64-bit version of Windows. I also ran into the vague “Something Happened” error message and the upgrade process stopped dead.

To counter the Something Happened error message, redditors suggested installing all existing Windows Updates first. They also said that changing the default language to US English would help.

My system already had the latest patches so I changed the default language to US English and the upgrade went through its paces.

So here is my suggested sequence to get the free Windows 10 upgrade now instead of waiting in line.

  1. Back up your data.
  2. Install all windows patches by running Windows Update in the Control Panel.
  3. If necessary, change the default language to US English.
    • Control Panel > Region and Language > Administrative tab > Change System Locale > English (United States)
  4. Check the bit version of Windows (keyboard shortcut: Windows key + Pause/Break).
  5. Download the correct bit version of Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool and run it.
  6. Select the “Upgrade This PC” option.
  7. After the upgrade downloads, the tool will ask you what settings you want to keep. Make your selection.
  8. Let the upgrade happen.

I have a very fast Internet connection so the downloading did not take long.

It was the upgrading that took a while. Step 8 took about 90 minutes from the time I made the selection in step 7 and left the device to itself. I had enough time to potter around, leave home to run an errand at a mall, and return home to see that the process was still at 92%.

Happy skipping!

The Straits Times had a report on Coursera, a joint venture by five universities in the USA that will offer courses for free. The original reports was from Reuters.

Here is the ST attempting to provide a balanced perspective by highlighting a disadvantage of the programme:

Here is the Reuters original:

For whatever reason, ST decided to end the article on a negative note. I guess it is entitled to.

But if you remember basic cognitive psychology, you might recall that people tend to remember beginnings and endings, not bits in the middle. So the subtle message ST sends is: There are free online courses, but they are not as good as what you might get face-to-face.

I would flip Winckler’s argument. How about considering the forms of collaboration and collaborative learning that take place online that cannot or do not happen face-to-face? How about the sheer relevance of these sorts of collaboration today and tomorrow?

But I do not have to convince Winckler since Reuters reported that he considers the free courses rigorous enough for his students. I might have to convince those who read the ST article and did not bother to get a second opinion.

The phrase above has been attributed to Gina Trapani in the context of social productivity.

It’s arguably also the context for Seth Godin’s free e-book, What Matters Now.

The short book is essentially a mash-up of the thoughts of over 70 thinkers of our time. You can also read the book in the Slideshare embedded above.

Want to read (or listen to) a book titled “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” by Chris Anderson for free?

Then head on down to The Long Tail.

I mentioned in an earlier entry how schools in Singapore might equip all students with low cost netbooks. Other than a secure wireless network and perhaps projectors, that should handle most of the hardware needs.

The next need is software. Instead of paying for licensed software or pirating, schools and individuals could rely on free or open source software. (We just need to learn that free does not mean poor quality!)

For information retrieval and communication, users can rely on alternative Web browsers like Firefox and Opera, email clients like Thunderbird, Web-based email like Gmail, and cross-provider instant messengers like Trillian (PC) or Adium (Mac).

I highly recommend Firefox because 1) it is updated more often than MS Internet Explorer, 2) it is more customisable, and 3) you can install an extension called Ad-block that can remove image, iframe, and Flash ads. This last affordance is critical if we want to reduce the likelihood of students being distracted or led astray. As for email, the Gmail has secure options at the levels of login, usage and transmission.

To create content, there are Open Office (to replace the MS Office suite), GIMP (to replace Adobe Photoshop), and an assortment of Web 2.0 tools. In fact, almost the entire office suite is available in stripped-down versions by Google (Documents, Presentations, Spreadsheets). Those who need to make technical or three-dimensional drawings can use Google SketchUp. Let’s not forget the range of online mind or concept mapping tools or the standalone Cmap.

I think the future lies in creating content online and there are many Web 2.0 tools to do this. Think of free blogs, wikis, photo hosting sites, video-hosting sites, podcasting sites, social networking sites, etc. And there are free RSS aggregators to monitor all that is going on at these sites.

Google is everywhere nowadays, but the good thing is they provide a lot of good, free stuff (think Search, Gmail, Docs, Maps, etc).

Now they are offering an alternative Web browser, Google Chrome. It is currently only available to PC users. Mac and Linux users have to wait for a while more.


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