Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Location Based Apps

As an avid traveller, I find location based apps to be very useful. If I am in an obscure place, having an app telling me where someone who has similar interests or mutual friends is near me would be a lot of fun, and very helpful. Especially if I am in a country with a low percentage of people who speak English and it helps me to find someone who is multilingual.

I will be in Bucharest in less than a week, and while I am there I will be using many location based apps in order to find people to meet and things to do. One app I will be using is Triposo, which finds travellers intersting things to do in foreign places.

Location settings on games is also kind of cool. On games where you play against other people, it's cool to see where your opponent is from.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Social Media

Social media existed before smart phones, but smart phones have take social media to new heights. Posting updates and photos from anywhere about anything have become the new norm. Facebook, Twitter, VK, Kik, Whatsapp, Skype, FaceTime, Tinder, Snapchat are all ways people keep in touch via their mobile device.

Because of these, the world has become a much smaller place. People are able to stay in contact with acquaintances and friends from all corners of the globe at all times. In just the click of a button, you can see what everyone you know has been up to. You can get in contact with celebrities. You can get news before it breaks on CNN.

Sharing of art, movies, songs and articles is so much easier with the social apps. You post a screenshot of your phone showing what you're listening to. You check in to whatever movie you're watching at the cinema. You post a picture of your favorite painting.

As social media progresses, I think we can expect these apps to include elements from other apps. Like using FaceTime and Skype to connect with people live on Facebook. Already people like Ricky Gervais and publications like Hot Rod Magazine are streaming live over Facebook for people to watch. It's exciting to think where it will go in the future.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The future of gaming

What is the future of gaming? Is it virtual reality headsets, like the Oculus Rift? Or is it something further? For the last several years, Microsoft has been working on the next big thing in gaming. Think virtual reality, but without a headset. This new gaming system would project the game in a room 360-degrees around the player/s. There would be no controllers, just the bodies and extremities of the gamers. When exactly this next generation of gaming will be reaching the shelves and homes of consumers in unknown, but it will be something big when it happens, of that you can be certain.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Social Media and Government Surveillance

Over 100-million users, mostly in the former Soviet states, use the social media site VKontakte. The Russian equivalent of Facebook is the ninth most popular social media site in the world. Originally founded by Pavel Durov in 2006, the site quickly became one of the most visited sites in Russia. Durov ran the site independently of the state and held it to high principles. Durov drew fire from the Russian government in 2011 when he refused to take down anti-Putin pages that had sprung up amongst its users. VK had become a bit of a safe-haven for Russian citizens, somewhere they felt safe to talk about things that might not be safe to talk about in public under the watch dog government under Vladimir Putin. In January 2014, however, that all changed as Durov sold off his last remaining stake in the company to Putin crony, and Russia's richest man, Alisher Usmanov. In 2011 Usmanov fired two board members for allowing anti-Putin articles to be published in a newspaper he owns. Durov was essentially forced to sell his stakes through shady legal maneuvers by the government and other businessmen. He was forced to flee the country in April of 2013 after being accused of running over the foot of a traffic cop. There were no witnesses of this incident. Days after this incident, two of his co-founders sold off 48% of the company with no warning. Durov didn't even know of these plans, and didn't hear about it until after it happened. Over the following years, the corrupting became too much for him, and he finally gave in and sold off the remainder of his controlling power in VK. With the Putin cronies now controlling the site, the users can no longer feel safe of their privacy, or of their safety to say what the want in confidence of the site's instant messenger.

App review: VK

For users of VK, their app can be used as a one-and-all program for the phone. Like the site, the app offers access to your own personal page, messenger service, free videos (similar to YouTube, but with full movies and TV episodes) and music streaming. The app is like if you combined Facebook with Spotify and YouTube all in one. That said, it isn't without it's downfalls. The app drains battery like leaving your headlights on all night. And if you're having a conversation with someone on the website, every message comes through on your phone as well. So you get a notification for every time the person you're talking to says something, even if you are reading it as it comes through on the website. Facebook is a better option here, as the site waits for about 30 seconds for you to read a message before it sends it to your phone.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


In this modern age, cell phone accessibility is reaching new heights. Countries that never had the fiscal ability to have cell phones are now getting them. The Egyptian revolutions was fueled by cell phones. The Egyptian government blocked many forms of mass communication, so the revolutionaries took to Twitter. The individuals were able to send text messages to Twitter which were subsequently posted on their accounts giving locations of protests and meetings. It gave people a sense of community and belonging in an oppressive government. As things get more advanced and as more countries get access to mobile phones and social media I think this is a trend we can expect to continue.

App review: Waze
The app I chose to review is Waze. Waze is a crowdsourced GPS app that takes information from users to update the best route possible. In a town like Pullman, this app doesn't have much use, but in cities like Seattle where traffic is insufferable, it comes in very handy. When I am in Seattle I always use Waze, even if I know where I am going. Waze knows where traffic is, it knows exactly how slow the traffic is going, and it knows how long it will take you to get through it, and it knows alternate routes. Other users also update where roads are closed, where there is construction, where there are red light cameras and speed traps, and where cops are hiding out. It has become a must-have app for anyone who lives in a metropolitan area.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The evolution of mobile technology

When I was growing up in the '90's the only people who had cell phones were stock brokers and prominent businessmen. I remember how excited I was when I got a pager in middle school, although, for the life of me, I can't remember actually using it. As I got into high school, cell phones became affordable for the average person. At that time, however, the idea of unlimited talk and text was just a pipe dream. At one point my parents took away my phone for racking up a $300 phone bill. A few years after I graduated high school the smart phone wave struck. Data was added to phone bills, and the price of calls and texts decreased. So the question we have to ask ourselves is, what will be the next breakthrough in mobile communication technology? I don't think any of us have the answers yet.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

About me

My name is Brian Bell. This is my final semester here at WSU, and I hope to start a new career overseas in Europe somewhere. Hopefully London. I'm 30-years-old, so older than the average Coug. I don't care too much what I do, so long as it's in television somewhere. I love to travel, although I haven't done it much. A couple summers ago I went to England, Prague, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Bucharest. I am returning to Bucharest for spring break this year.

I worked in direct mail marketing for eight years prior to coming to Pullman. The job was awful, we essentially were creating and distributing garbage. Our primary market was in real estate advertising, and when the housing bubble collapsed our profits took a huge hit. Eventually hours had to be cut, and that's when I went back to school at Bellevue College. The first time I almost quit was when I was required to mail out pamphlets attempting to recruit people to the local Catholic church. As an atheist, I have many moral issues with this, from the attempts to bring people to religion, to bringing people to an organization who has been protecting priests whom had been molesting children for years. Eventually, the final reason I applied to WSU and quit that job was the lack of pay. I started working there in 2005 and had no received a raise since 2006. The owner of the company had also decided I wasn't doing enough work, despite that I had taken over the position of someone he had laid off, saving him over $30,000 and giving me no extra pay. So the moment I received my acceptance to WSU, I told them I was quitting.

Here at WSU I am involved with Cable 8. I am the director of "Wazzu on Film," a movie review show that I brought in last semester. We are starting our second season this semester. The show features two hosts, who review two new movies every other week. We have a man on the street segment as well, where another host interviews students and challenges them to games. Cable 8 is a great way to build up relationships and bond with peers.

I've also been involved with the Secular Student Association here. Atheism is very important to me, and building towards a secular society is something that I think is the right thing to do. At the SSA we discuss all things religion, weighing pros and cons, trying to figure out things like if religion is inherently harmful to society. We also have presentations about the histories of religions, Bible and Koran passages, and many other subjects. In many parts of the country atheists are trusted less than murderers and child molesters, and this is something I try to work on changing. I think that if people got to know atheists they would see that we are moral people. George H.W. Bush once said that atheists should not be citizens of the United States because we are "One nation under God." This is what I am trying to change.