This week in The Internet Course, we will be looking at how the internet works. Members of the class have started collecting and connecting readings on the topic, and we’ll be discussing them on Tuesday and Thursday.
I’m going to throw a short video into the mix. This was done by Professor Michael Wesch and his class several years ago, and it looks at both how the internet has evolved and how it works, and hints at what that means for us.
We’ve actually all been looking at how it works, or at least part of it, through setting up our blogs and domains. The Web is made up of hyperlinked documents on the internet. When we blog and tweet and link, we’re building the web – more documents, more pages, more links. When we upload Cmaps to our domains, we’re interacting with the web at the server level. We put files in folders, making path names that make URLs.
The Cmap program generates HTML pages, which is another part of how the internet works. If we look at Dalina’s map, we can see the icons that indicate links back to the original readings and links out to further information. If we look at the source code behind it (CTRL-u in Firefox), we can see all the script and code that makes the page function. Most of it is pretty confusing if you don’t know the language, but if you scroll to the bottom you can see some a href tags that point to the hyperlinked documents.
The web is only part of the internet though. Where the Wizards Stay Up Late talked about some other fundamentals, like packet switching and servers. The readings cover topics like languages, search, the cloud, apps… I’m looking forward to where this goes.
I think this video is an absolutely fascinating view of how we can maximize our internet usage. In the video, Dr. John Barrett explains how the internet has progressed from the very first public web servers in the late 80’s and early 90’s to the web today– which contains over 4000 exabytes of data. He explains how the internet now, or in the near future– the “internet of things”– is an internet in which the physical world is entirely connected and monitored by the internet. He talks about how some of our applications like traffic, news, travel agency, and restaurant apps can tell us exactly when things are available for us to use or not. For example, you can use a restaurant app to not only see how long the wait will be at a particular restaurant, but to book a table as well. In a similar manner, he says that the “internet of things” could be used in the future to improve the quality of life for everyone, especially those living in cities. For example, to send feedback from a patient’s heart monitor to a hospital, no matter where the patient is. He talks about how we can expand the use of green energy by limiting nonessential electricity use through the internet– your washing machine only turns on when there are enough clothes in it, and when energy levels are high enough to warrant it. This way, no one goes without energy, and no one has a surplus. Essentially, Dr. Barret talks about how far we’ve come, and how far we have the potential to go.
Barrett addresses the idea of “big brother” in the video as well. In order for his “internet of things” to work, basically everything important has to be monitored. But he says that he would hope that the benefits of such a system would outweigh the lack of privacy. He also addresses concerns about security risks, where one hack could bring down a vital system and cause loss of life or limb.
In any case, I think it’s good food for thought.
In a world where everyone is glued to a smartphone, the market for Applications, usually shortened to Apps, has exploded virtually overnight. Apps allow users to do… well… pretty much anything. “There’s an app for that,” after all. Apps have been created to serve what seems like every form and function: mobile gaming, mobile banking, and mobile learning have all become phrases commonly used in our vocabulary today. It seems like things we once had to go out and do in the “real world” can just as easily be done from a phone’s touch screen, and you can bet that people are making a profit from it. But what exactly is an app? And how does it work?
As explained in the article, How to Create an App, Apps can divided into two categories: Native and Web apps. As you might be able to guess, Native apps take advantage of built-in hardware and software on the device to perform whatever functions they were designed for, and Web apps use the internet to do the same thing– that is, they actually function in the web browser, but “look and feel like a Native app”. Many apps are a combination of the two, having features that can be accessed with just the phone’s hardware, and additional features that are only available with an internet connection.
Once past learning and writing the basic code for the app, app builders can use storyboarding design tools to format the layout and look of the app. Next, they program the logic and data storage of the app, which ensures that the app functions as you would expect it to. For example, you press a button and the button responds by leading you to a new page, where you then enter information, press another button, and have your information stored in the app for future reference. Once this is complete, the app can be tested, and then published for public consumption.
The article goes more in-depth about the programs available for app creation and development, and concludes by stressing the importance of continued development of mobile apps as people continue to demand these applications on their mobile devices.