Author Archive: Jared Padgett

New Web Site Launched

The School of Law now has a brand new web site. A lot of hard work was put into the site, from the University Communications team to the IS team here at the School of Law. While we are still working out some of the inevitable bugs, the site is looking good.

For those who don’t remember what it used to look like, here are the before and after images:

Much better now, don’t you agree? One of the newer features you may notice are the links to social networking sites. This is a huge step forward for the University. Social networking has been around a long time, and most educational institutions have a limited presence on these sites. What is social networking? It is Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and a vast sea of other web sites and web apps that allow people to connect with each other. The inclusion of these sites is a huge step forward, and I am looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Another thing you might notice is the size of the layout. This page is much larger than the original, and it is a lot easier to read. Ease of reading is important to a web site, and this is a good improvement.

Our videos and images also improved with the new look. Instead of embedded media, there is now an overlay which darkens everything on the screen but the video. This eases the viewing experience and is easily closed by clicking the standard “X” button on the top right. As we continue to add video content, this feature will be very useful.

I think overall the site can speak for itself. I just wanted to introduce it to those who may not have seen it yet. As always, you can find the School of Law at law.pepperdine.edu. Check it out, and let us know what you think.

VoIP

When I was in college I discovered something I thought was pretty cool. I could go to a website called DialPad, click out a phone number on their “keypad”, and call anyone I wanted from my computer. Back in the late 90’s this was a relatively new concept, and was certainly something pretty cool. The geeks out there know that people had been doing this with a modem for some time, but this was much easier and more reliable. I would use a basic PC mic and my stereo speakers that were doubling as computer speakers at the time, and I could talk to people on their phones. There was a small delay, but once one got the hang of it one could talk for quite a while this way.

As much as I liked DialPad, I was able to find another service I liked even better. I don’t recall the name of the website, but it took internet phone calls to a new level. I would type in my phone number, and the number I wished to call. I would then click the connect button in rapid succession until I got a success message. The site was so novel, and since it was free there was always a long line. Once I successfully connected, the website would call my phone, and once I answered would instantly connect me to the person I was calling. No more computer speakers, no more delay in the conversation. The only problem was the 15 minute time limit. All I had to do was click connect again, multiple times, and usually within a minute or two the conversation could resume. I talked for hours at a time with this feature.

By the time I graduated, calling people online was becoming mainstream. They even popularized a method to describe the service, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). As with many free services that suddenly get popular, the companies I was using decided they could make some money, and began charging for the service. That was when I moved on and gave up my hobby of calling from my computer.

skype_logo

A few years went by, and chat software such as Yahoo and MSN started offering chat to chat calls. I was certainly interested, and used the feature from time to time. Ultimately I discovered Skype. Skype had all the features of Yahoo and MSN, but had some extra features. I started using it as my chat service, to the exclusion of Yahoo. Somewhere around this time I also heard of a company called Vonage. Vonage offered VoIP services, but for a monthly subscription of around $20, I didn’t think it was worth my while.

skypecall

Skype would ultimately bring me back to the VoIP fold. By offering really cheap rates for per use service, and cheap rates for a subscription, I was able to resume calling people from my computer on their phones. No long distance charges, no waiting until 9pm to use my cell phone.

Skype has been useful for personal calls, including the weekly video call to my parents so they can visit with their grandsons. It has also been useful for business needs. I live in an area with spotty cell reception, so when I needed to call into a meeting while tending to my sick kids, I relied on Skype. The meeting lasted for over an hour, and I didn’t pay a thing for it. My monthly subscription is somewhere around $2. I can afford $2 a month. For the value I have already received, it is more than worth it.

The world of VoIP is constantly improving. Both Skype and Vonage can be capitalized on by purchasing a VoIP phone. Some of them look like traditional phones, and connect via Bluetooth instead of the standard USB connection. AT&T sells some pretty good models with these features. I am content with my built-in laptop mic and webcam, so I haven’t upgraded to the traditional phones yet.

VoIP is getting easier and easier to use. It offers reliable service and the price to get started is continually coming down. I recommend Skype, but I have no problem with Vonage other than the price. They do offer a number of features, but if I wanted a traditional phone, I would use a traditional service, not VoIP.

I am looking forward to seeing where the future of VoIP is going. I imagine that video phones will mainstream and then Skype will let you video call a landline. There are numerous possibilities, and each one seems pretty cool to me.

Twitter – An Introduction

It seems that you can’t go anywhere without hearing about Twitter anymore. Thanks to Ashton Kutcher, CNN, and Oprah, Twitter is no longer something just for geeks and bloggers. So what exactly is Twitter? According to the Twitter website:

“Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

While it has expanded beyond this, the definition is still useful. You use Twitter to tell people what you are doing in 140 characters or less. Another way to describe Twitter and even its competitors is “Micro-Blogging”. Micro-Blogging is a great way to update interested people when you don’t have time to sit down and write a full blog. This could lead one to ask what a blog is, but if you are reading this, you probably already know.

What Can I Do With Twitter?

Twitter can be used for a variety of things. I use it to update my Facebook and other social networking status messages. I type the entry once, and each site I belong to gets the update. Some sites, especially Facebook required a bit of engineering to pull off, but nothing too difficult. Twitter can update people when you have entered a new blog post. Combined with an RSS feed, Twitter can share things for you automatically.

Where is Twitter Going?

One thing Twitter users can do is to join causes of various sorts. I recently participated in a Twitter campaign to save a television show I liked. By adding what is called a hash tag to the end of my posts, and in this case even changing my Twitter background, I joined the cause. A hash tag, simply, is a pound sign (#) with a brief topic following. People interested in the recent Sandra Day O’Connor lecture at the Pepperdine University School of Law could follow the event by searching Twitter for #peplaw. By using Twitter’s search feature, you can often assume that a topic will have already been discussed, and simply search for it with the # in front.

What Do I Call My Posts?

Twitter being an unusual name, one hears all kinds of versions of what a post is called. Some say it is twittering, some say tweeting. Some have even called them twits. The general consensus is to call a post a tweet. Multiple posts would be tweets.

Is Twitter the Only Choice?

While Twitter certainly has name recognition, there are a number of other products out there. One company is working on a business-centered Twitter tool. Others are more direct competitors. I use another site as a tool to combine my multiple Twitter accounts. As I find new products I will be posting about them.

While this has not been an exhaustive introduction, it should provide a general idea of what Twitter is about. Twitter’s website is found at www.twitter.com. The Pepperdine University School of Law hash tag is #peplaw. If you want to follow me on Twitter, search for jaredp_peplaw.

Until next time, happy tweeting.

Web Apps and Google Chrome

For the readers out there that aren’t aware of it, Web Applications (Web Apps) are entering the mainstream in a major way. One can find scores of apps that do a variety of different fun – or even useful things. Take, for instance, Google’s Chrome browser. Chrome allows you to make your own web app as simply as adding a bookmark. What would one do with a Chrome App? A number of things.

One way I use my Chrome Web App is with Dictionary.com. I am a frequent visitor of Dictionary.com. When I learned what Chrome could do, it was one of the first Apps I made. What Chrome does is create a modified browser window that sits on your desktop. You get to see the web content but the traditional menu bar and navigation buttons are missing. See the image as an example.

When I need to look up a word, I just click the icon I saved to my desktop, and am instantly on the Dictionary.com page. I look up my word and simply close the app, just as I would close Microsoft Word when I am done with it. This is extremely useful to me, and Dictionary.com isn’t my only Chrome App. The load speeds are superior to a similar desktop application, and I can take it with my wherever I go, without worrying about licensing and user privileges.

I use Chrome to make a variety of apps, from Dictionary.com to HootSuite (Twitter) and Facebook. Give it a shot and see how it suits you.

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