Computing in a School Cirriculum

I recently have been reminiscing about my leaving cert in secondary school and am now thinking about how two of my subjects barely apply to what I do now in college which is mainly a computing course. When I was doing my leaving two years ago my school did have a ton of computers in some rooms which was enough to hold two full classes during certain times of the day. If you wanted to learn anything other than Microsoft word you would have to do it yourself when you can in your spare time as a hobby.

In my school you had your three language subject, your three science subjects, your three business subjects. If you where someone who had any interest in computing you where always encouraged to do BIS (business information systems) as the teachers believed that was where the money was with computing. I wished at the time there was one subject that would teach you coding as a few schools during that time other then mine where giving such classes but they where not official. Computing as it was those two years ago was still seen as the weird hobby that was more a nuisance to education rather than a benefit.

At that time however other countries where only starting up with computer classes. As of today its the case that if you don’t have computing as a subject in schools you are not preparing students for the working world, your giving them a handicap against the other students they will be competing against for work. Currently many schools in the country feel the need to have computing as a subject after groups such as CoderDojo appeared presenting students with very unique skill sets. The education department have as of recently decided to include a new subject for the junior cert that will get students working on how to do task like coding to break them into the world of computing.

As a computing student I can see this being a success and a good way to encourage students. It will make it easier for students to consider a computing course when entering college. This was a problem cause a student had insecurities when entering the computing course when thinking about could they actually do what the course ask. The only problem with this introduction however is that it is not only a trial which means it is prone to changes and it will only be provided to a small number of schools in the country. In time hopefully all schools in the country will include it and in more time as a leaving cert subject.

 

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Crowdsourced Participation on Zooniverse

 

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I recently had a look at Zooniverse which is a website that allows users to participate in many different collaborative projects. I browsed the site where a lot of the projects caught my eye. In the end I only fully collaborated in two of the projects “Operation War Diary” & “Chicago Wildlife Watch”.

When using Zooniverse I had to make an account to have input on the projects available which only took a few seconds. The site had many projects that required users of Zooniverse read something or take statistics. I chose “Operation War Diary” & “Chicago Wildlife Watch” as they were the ones that most intrigued me and were ones where I felt as a user I can do the best input. Other projects I found on Zooniverse had one of the following issues. The topic of the project did not appeal to me, the interface was not really good and some projects required the users to know some knowledge about the topic of the project.

The project “Operation War Diary” allows users to access the diaries belonging to soldiers on the front lines. The diaries come from national archives and have not been available to academics till recently. The aim of the project is to get users to transcribe the large amounts of data to make is usable for academic use. I found the project interesting as I am a fan of world war history and I see the importance this project has in developing an understanding of a key part in history. The users will read scanned diaries and highlight important pieces of information using tools provided. The types of information a user can isolate includes basic details like dates names and places to more specific details such as soldier Id numbers and ranks.

When using “Operation War Diary” I choose one of the diaries to analyse after going through a very informative tutorial. The diary I choose was a diary of a soldier who was stationed at a hospital in France in 1915. The first thing I did was tag the various dates on the page followed by any names I could see. The tags I used for names had sub tags that included the person rank in the military and their number and other minor details. By putting in these details I am helping academics gather a story about the soldiers under those names and number so that their entire story can be tracked through many other diaries. The other things I was able to tag where the patient numbers and events such as resupplies and casualties.  My only difficulty in participation was that I had a very difficult time reading some of the handwriting.

The second project I got involved with was “Chicago Wildlife Watch” that ask collaborators to look at photos captured in certain areas of Chicago that have been affected by urbanization. The users must look at a photo and if they see an animal weather it is a small bird or a raccoon they must add a tag to the photo for that animal. The photos are captured on motion cameras that are deployed multiple times during the year for the purpose of capturing the local wildlife.

In my participation for the project I was shown a photo that was taken from one the cameras. Since they are automated motion cameras my job is to go through the photos and say if there is an animal in the photo and what animal is it. A majority of the photos given to the users to look over are empty as they were photos that where taken as a result of something else moving other than an animal such as a branch. Through my participation I have contributed in the sorting of these photos to make the data within them easier to access for researchers interested in the distribution of animal species in different areas in urban Chicago.

In the use of the Zooniverse I learned that collaborative projects could be very appealing depending on what they ask of their users. If I were to make my own collaborative project in the future using something like Zooniverse I would think of the following based on my own experiences. The task given to users should not require users to have an equal level of understanding as the people behind the project. The point of a collaborative project is that users are any member of the public and not someone of a certain profession. Some projects failed in this category as they assume all users to be of a certain profession and have made it difficult for a majority of users to participate in their collaborative. If my project was to create an archive for a certain group of documents, I would have it so users can point out that key data in similar fashion to how it was done in “Operation War Diary”.

D3DGear (Game Recording Software) Review

These days gamer’s are hitting it big with the use of website’s like You-Tube & Twitch to post or stream there best moments in games. All these people would use different types of software to record their game play to get their videos to be the best quality possible. D3DGear is an example of one of these software applications for recording games and I bought it a month ago since I am interested in recording.

I have so far used D3DGear to record about 20 hours of game play footage from various games that include Hearthstone , TF2 , Resident Evil , Garrys Mod, Metal Gear Solid V and the Star Wars Battle-Front beta, First I will get into the interface of the software.

The interface of D3D is pretty simple despite all the features and setting. The settings you can alter include quality of the footage, frames , resolution, audio and other various things in terms of recording. Voice recording is included as long as you have a microphone. The software also include streaming capabilities that are easy to change to due to simplistic design of the interface. To be fare I think people who are very new to this kind of software might be a bit confused with the interface if they are unsure of the meaning of some of the settings but if you know your computers it should be fine.

The streaming is very straightforward if you know what is involved with streaming to websites like twitch. You must have a good internet connection for streaming games so if you are planning to stream be sure of that before buying the software. Apart from streaming and recording of games D3DGear also can measure benchmark and it can also be used to record your desktop. Recording of the desktop is handy if you plan on making videos that involve teaching people how to use computer, programming and how to use other types of software.

So the important question for the gamer’s is how does D3DGear run with games. D3DGear unlike other recording software doesn’t take a lot of resources away from your PC so the main factors are if the hardware on your computer is really good and how optimized is the game your playing. Games like TF2, Heartstone and Garrys Mod record effortlessly due to the low requirements on those games. Metal Gear Solid V and Star Wars Battle-Front beta had about three frames dropped but those games in my opinion ran greatly in my opinion. DayZ and Resident Evil was where there where complications.

DayZ still is not optimized I feel but when I used the D3DGear on the game it dropped by around 20 frames which forced me to bring my settings to low but that did not help much. The Resident Evil game Revelations 2 which was already suffering before I used the recorder crashed during key moments in boss fights. Considering Star Wars Battle-Front was a beta not a finished game I feel it really depends on the game how performance works with the recorder.

The only other problems I found with the recorder is the lack of a face cam setting cause I know a few gamer’s who see that as a deal breaker when getting this software. The last problem I have with this software is the amount of disk space the videos it produces takes up which can be after ten hours of recording over a hundred gigabytes. To edit the video clips for YouTube upload you will have to get a movie making software separate to D3DGear.

Overall D3DGear is a good recording software for playing most video games and offers flexibility to the user. It offers a lot to the user if they are gamer or a fan of messing with computers. If I make later post I might use the recorder to make some video content.

Using Reclaim Hosting and Drupal: Deploying a Tool

www Recently I have claimed a Domain on Reclaim Hosting and was told deploy one of the many apps available to a domain owner. The App I choose was Drupal which I spent some hours on after deploying. Firstly what is Reclaim Hosting and what is Drupal, Reclaim Hosting is basically buying a name for a website and having a server to function as that website in another part of the world. The need for this is if you have problems getting a server to run your website. The reclaim hosting provides its users with Apps, which use the server you are renting to manage files that are possible webpages and content you want public and this is where Drupal comes in.

drupal

Drupal is a content management app according to Reclaim Hosting, the purpose of Drupal is to allow its users to create great web pages and publish content. It can also function as a blog like WordPress. Why I choose Drupal is due to it being recommended to me and it had blogging features that I was interested in. In my research into Drupal I found it is not the most popular app due to the difficulty of making web pages with it, I like a challenge when it comes to software for making projects such as webpages and offers a lot of options. Now I want to discuss my experience with Drupal which was a lot of hard work to achieve what I would call a small time blog. To Deploy Drupal I had to install it by going to the c-panel of reclaim hosting, find my app which was Drupal and install it on my server in reclaim hosting. The first thing I did with Drupal was choosing a Theme for my Drupal site. The Theme I wanted to use for my Drupal page was called the BlueMasters Theme which is a very clean styled theme. What made me want to use the theme was that it is made to be very responsive and adaptable for phones and tablets. I had lots of friends who prefer using a phone to using a computer to browse the web so I don’t want them to leave my site right after visiting it because it has performance issues on their phones. There was a bit of frustration with putting the theme into my server for reclaim hosting so I had to download the files for the theme and upload them to my Drupal themes folder. I opened up the public HTML in reclaim hosting and put the BlueMaster theme into a themes folder for Drupal. When I got the theme working on my site it held some stuff from the developer’s version of the same theme you can find on Drupal. I wanted to change the some items in the Javascript of the theme to make it more personalised. This included changing some words and text the developer of the theme left behind. internet collective Since I was using a reclaim hosting server as a Public HTML I was restricted to changing the code of the theme. This is my major problem with using reclaim hosting which is that it’s very frustrating to change the code of files. This was problem when I wanted to personalise features of the theme such as a slide show that would be displayed. In the end I had to remove these features of the theme and kept the ones I can personalise. Next stage of my Drupal page was to make a post and develop the main page. The article was easy to make but having it show up on my main page was really challenging. I had to create a thing for the main page known as a block and used HTML code to write what would be in my block. In the case of my site I have three blocks on the main page, one for my most recent article which includes and image and a link written in HTML and two other blocks which is a list of links to articles and a block that displays comments. When making the blocks I got involved with various technical problems I had with Drupal that made me very frustrated.

space invader

With all that and some minor tweaks I managed to make a nice site which is http://ryanmurphyhosting.com/ . How this will help me in the future is that I can work on my skills with Drupal more to make a better site. Companies hire people who know how to use Drupal to make web pages, if I improved my skills further at some point I can be hired to make a page using Drupal. These companies would be the like of small businesses such as shops and businesses that don’t specialise in working with computers. I will say one thing about Drupal is that it is not for everybody since it is a lot of tedious work to get things going. I talked a lot about how it took me ages to get a working theme for my Drupal site that suited me but that was not the only area I struggled in. I was able to cope with those struggles because I had some knowledge of how to use Drupal I wouldn’t recommend Drupal to people who don’t know much about technology as Drupal is tough to use especially with reclaim hosting. The people who would get the best out of Drupal would be the people who know how to use it to make a site and the businesses that are looking for a way to advertise their company online.

Using Tools To Visualise Stories.

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I was asked to look up some text visualisation tools and give my opinions on how effective they are on analysing and visualising a text. I went over three different tools and I will give my opinion on each starting with Voyant.

Voyant more for analysis than visualising text as a tool as it does not give us an idea of what the story is by looking at the results of using Voyant. How Voyant works is that you input the text you want analysed into a text box. The text then gets analysed based on the words on the text and number of times the words pops up in the text. An image is created that is supposed to be the visualisation aspect of Voyant and here was my first result in a text I analysed after changing some settings.

walkingdeadvisualising metamorphosis

The text you see analysed is a story arc in graphic novel I read called “the walking dead” and the second is for a book known as “metamorphosis”. The Handy thing about Voyant is that it tells us the things we expect to find in the story if we do read it such as the main characters names and such. Its big disadvantage in terms of visualisation is that you don’t know how the story begins and ends as you get more of what is in the middle. It also can miss vital things such as the main character being turned into a bug in “Metamorphosis”.

The second tool I used was Many Eyes which I didn’t like it as I faced too many frustrations when putting in a text. My problem with many eyes is that it is not for visualising big text such as books or novels that can be over a thousand to twenty thousand words long. It is more of a tool for analysing and visualising text such as speeches which are not as long as a book.

I tried using two massive texts in Many Eyes at separate times which resulted Many Eyes having script errors on me or causing extremely long load times on the site. When I did get something to work I found many of the templates were preferably for stat type data as many templates where the like of bar charts, pie charts and such. I also tried using a speech by Winston Churchill in Many Eyes but I still had technical problems. I would have given Many Eyes more of a try but I spent 3 hours on it without getting results only errors and issues with the site.

storymap logo

I also used StoryMap JS which is a timeline type tool that helps visualise a story so I decided to visualise The Walking Dead All Out War arc I put into Voyant. I actually enjoyed StoryMap JS because I got to be very creative in using it and I knew the story I was visualising well. I also liked how easy it was to use the interface for StoryMap JS as I could make changes quickly and easily. One problem with StoryMap JS is that unless you know the text your visualising well you will not be able to use it well as everything in StoryMap JS requires user input.

I think with StoryMap JS you can visualise a story well based on your knowledge of the text and use of a map to tell the location of a certain part of your story makes looking at the visualisation more interesting. I also like how you can set up images that make presentation on your storymap nice and professional. I actually really liked using StoryMap JS for visualizing text and I would like to use it again in the future to make other nice visualizations.

The following link leads to my Storymap:

http://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/1d95300fb1bcba7f75781fbc44cb78e5/test/index.html

Tool Review: Open Street Map

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I was asked recently to use a service named open street map and explore its Pros and Cons. Firstly before I discuss the Pros and Cons of open street map I will have to explain what it is and I want to describe my own use of the tool.

Open Street Map is a website that provides a world map that all users can edit to create the most accurate map possible. The users will need to gather information about the area they are mapping from roads, forest and even certain buildings. Users can enter any details they want to enter into the map and change anything already entered they believe is wrong.

Users are the only ones who can change the map but non-users can view the open street map as they wish. This is the purpose of open street map which is to provide everybody the most accurate world map possible. As of now the nearly the whole entire map has been filled in and this has effect on my own experience with street map.

Capture3 Capture4

When I downloaded street map I first tried to find a place in my own country to map only to realise that all the roads and most of the buildings have been mapped. Then I decided to look for places that were likely very far from society. I actually tried to map Chernobyl where the place itself and surrounding areas where abandoned and not well known to many people. I found out that the whole place was mapped too and someone even managed to map the radiation pockets.

I checked out many places that where likely not to be mapped but it was proving difficult. I wonder could I change a mistake in the map but everything seemed perfect. I checked my hometown to see if there was anything I could change there. In the area I live there is this old building that used to be a piggery that has been shut down ever since I remember. The building was not highlighted and the route from the town to it was not marked on the map.

I marked the road leading to the piggery on the map then followed with highlighting the piggery as an industrial building with the title “derelict piggery”.  As soon as I made these changes I had the road removed by another user but the not the building.

My Pros with using Open Street map is it is easy to view the map weather you are a user or non-user. The tools to edit the map which is referred to as IDEditor is very simple to use and allows changes to map to be quick and accurate. The map also in terms of accuracy is very accurate to the users who would need a very accurate map that highlights not only roads but areas.

The cons of Open Street map are that since it is user made it is possible that it might not be all that accurate as I have previously suggested. The users have the power to change the map if they wish and it is really possible that some users will purposely cause disruption of the map. A road I made for example was deleted a couple hours after I made it and I had to put it up again.

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There is one other thing that I thought of as a Con at first but could be a Pro in reality. Once you make a change on the map the information you change will not appear until it goes through many application using open street map. This process is frustrating for the map editors who want to see their work on the map but at the same time it makes it frustrating for people to disrupt the map all the same.

The implications of my use of open street map resulted in users being provided knowledge of a building and the road that leads to the building. If they wanted to know what the building was later on if they are in the area of the town they can now look it up on open street map and find the route to it.

The whole map is literally done on open street map but if you want to make very small contributions to the map you can join Open Street map on https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=11/53.3714/-6.2704 .

DH Tool Review: SketchUp

sketch up house

The tool known as SketchUp 2015 is a CAD (Computer Aided Design) software used in the design of 3D models that can be later exported to other programmes for use. If you have used CAD software before this then learning how to use SketchUp will be very easy, If you are a beginner at 3D modelling and you feel you don’t have the skill or the money to pursue a career or hobby in 3d modelling then sketch up is the perfect answer for you.

Gathering information

I first heard of sketch up from a friend and then I found it in the Dirt Directory. I went to the official website and found that it is 3D modelling software with a simple layout. The website gives information about SketchUp and has a page providing information on fourteen different areas SketchUp can be used for. The website also includes the 3D warehouse for SketchUp that is a catalogue of different 3D models by different users using SketchUp.

In other Articles and websites outside of the official website I found two different types of opinion on SketchUp. The first opinion is in many articles and reviews is that SketchUp is very good tool and easy to use. The second opinion I found in other articles and reviews is that SketchUp is a step back in CAD software because it is too simple. Any other pages I have found on SketchUp are usually blogs or forums about how it does not run well but this would be due to computer requirements to use SketchUp. In what I gathered I think SketchUp would appear to be a popular tool among its users.

Now since there were opinions that were against the simplicity of sketch up I went ahead and downloaded the free version from the official website. The information I wanted to gather from using it is to know if it is truly too simple and that should I Consider it a real CAD software or should I not if it is too simple.

Maturity / stability of the tool

The first version of sketch up was known as SketchUp 2000 which was designed to for use by everyone that does not have experience. The first version of SketchUp was designed to include very simple tools.  A new version of SketchUp would be released every year with some new features and changes while still keeping SketchUp easy to use.  The main differences between SketchUp 2000 and SketchUp 2015 are that that SketchUp 2015 includes more tools, it is more advanced and the interface is nicer.

I want to discuss the pros to SketchUp that includes how it is a decent tool for beginners who have never used CAD software before. The thing that makes SketchUp good for beginners is that it has feature that is an instructor window. The instructor window is a window that describes what each tool you move the mouse over does with a little video that shows to tool at work. Not only is the instructor window convenient but it prevents the user being unaware about how each tool works.

In my use of SketchUp at home I have only been using the main tools to design simple shapes and objects. To make an ordinary cube in SketchUp will only take about five minutes while making something much more difficult like a car or a plane could take hours. In my own experience of using SketchUp I find the user interface very convenient.

The user interface is simple as the main tool bar isn’t cluttered like in other programmes. The interface does not have every tool a person can want. Some key actions can only be performed using various buttons or methods. In other CAD software a person can find many tools to complete actions but in SketchUp it is lacking in those tools but actions can be still completed only with more difficulty. SketchUp performs well on my home computer I haven’t found any technical problems such as crashing or bugs. I have found some reviews online however that says that they have experienced crashing of the software. This problem would have to do with the power of the computer.

You can export 3D models in SketchUp in a number of formats as 3D models or 2D images. Unless you have the pro version of SketchUp you cannot export in all formats. If you have the free version like I have you can’t export in most of the 3D formats. The main one you can use in the free version is COLLADA which is a format that is used in many 3D programs meaning even if you don’t have the pro version you can still export to many other programs.

Sustainability of the tool

SketchUp has its own form of community of people who share their designs and information involving SketchUp. In the main toolbar I have already mentioned there is a tool that allows you to get objects from the community and include it in your SketchUp design. This tool is 3D warehouse that I have already mentioned. The SketchUp community includes many published objects by its members that other users can use if they were designing something like a house or vehicle or just for fun. If you go online you can find various videos by people making objects in SketchUp including tutorials.

A scenario where you would need something like the 3D warehouse would be if you were making a model of a house and you needed to include some furniture. You can access the 3D warehouse to get models of chairs, tables etc. When doing such actions in SketchUp you will have to consider the size of objects you are getting from the 3D warehouse so that the objects are not too big or too small. From what I have gathered I have confirmed that SketchUp has a very active community supporting it as new versions come out each year.

Sustainability of my research

After gathering information and using SketchUp at home I am able to understand how the tool works and the opportunity’s it provides to the user. I have said that SketchUp is an easy tool for beginners but once you do get beyond using the basic tools some things become rather difficult to do without practice. In doing some action you will need to go through some menus or use a combination of buttons on your keyboard. One of these things will be making assemblies of multiple objects. Without practice and the use of guides on the internet using multiple objects will be difficult to do.

In my evaluation of this tool I want to express my overall opinion on this tool. When I gathered information from the web about the SketchUp I stated I found two different types of opinion. I share the opinion of those who believe that sketch up is not a step back as CAD software. I think it simplicity can be considered overrated as I feel its simplicity does not make the program incapable of making advanced 3D models. Overall I believe that SketchUp can provide a learning experience when it comes to CAD and that anyone interested in CAD can get a learning experience through the use of SketchUp.

Using Mind Maps In Study

I had an archaeology test a month ago. While studying for the test itself I gathered my notes on the subject and put them into a mind map format. I had two weeks before the test and I just downloaded a mind mapping tool called X-Mind onto my laptop so I decided to make the mind maps during free periods.

xmind

I expected in when I made the mind maps certain things would stick as I type the notes into their spaces. I also expected that it would not take me long to do each map and read over it. I had other ways of studying for the test and wished at the the time to try those methods in my spare time as well. In the end I did get a good score in the test but I did have some problems with the mind mapping I should address.

Firstly the maps took a lot of time to make, I would have spent between an one or two hours on each mind map when I was expecting around forty minutes. That problem would have been due to the content which leads to the second problem of the map becoming too cluttered too easily. Thirdly it did not make revision easier but it still helps with learning like notes would for a student.

I think the problems where mainly caused by the amount of content I put into each map which made me spend more time making the maps then using them for revision. I would have been wiser to make them as each section of the course ended meaning they would have been on hand. It wasn’t all bad even though I used the mind maps I still got above the average test score meaning it in some way worked.

why are streaming services so popular.

streaming

In recent years it is noticeable that streaming services such as Netflix have become extremely popular in the recent 3 years. Some people wonder why this is the case. I read a paper recently as part of a course and it mentioned an idea of a super complex society. I believe that concept is the reason for the recent popularity of streaming services.

According to the paper a super complex society is a society where an individuals life is too complicated to put into routine meaning you cant plan your day. Services like T.V. that run on schedule lose their influence due to the fact that a portion of their viewers cant meet the routine. Streaming services can be used anytime the user is free thus a streaming service can a apply in the super complex society. There is a second reason and that is the availability of content.

Streaming services are popular cause you have access to content. The content may be about five years old and not shown on T.V. anymore or It has not been on T.V. in your country. A good example of what I just mentioned is how Breaking Bad has not been on any T.V. station in my area yet everyone watches it due to streaming services. Its not only video type streaming that has this but its the same with books for similar reasons.

The popularity is also due to the improvements in networks to provide quality streaming however this is not available in all areas. A lot of areas don’t have fiber or other reliable networking standards for streaming. Even though it is only a subscription fee for services you can be charged for using your allowance of gigabytes for the month by your provider. With more improvements in networking, streaming will only continue to get more popular.

My views on net Nutrality

I am a fan of using the internet and its many sources of information and media. I use it to conduct my study’s, watch videos on You Tube, communicate on Facebook and play video games. A good question is what if someone wanted to profit by making it more difficult for me to use Facebook in order to force me to use Twitter more, what if someone wanted to charge Netflix for delivering video streaming services to me. Well good thing there is no such person for now.

The case is there are among the I.S.P.s (internet service providers) who are the service we pay each month to give us access to the web. For a while many forms of documentation have been brought to governments to grant powers to I.S.P.s to allow control of the flow of information. This means if the I.S.P. does not like a particular site that is a service or a source of information they can lower the service the I.S.P. conducts for the site. In a sense if I had high speed internet but I start lagging on a page for a history site.

This development even if it does not seem entirely major it actually  is and can have some devastating effects that can go on for years into the future. We would not only have to face connection problems caused by the forces of nature taking down telephone poles but we would have the face problems from the individuals responsible for keeping those poles standing. What is worse of all is that we can lose the freedom of speech the internet gives us. The internet gives the population the ability to speak as whole and think as whole which makes it a development that can follow Gutenberg s printing press.

A pay-wall on our speech should not be allowed in my opinion. Speech is our most powerful weapon against oppression ever since the revolutions in the past to the corrupt governments in third world countries today. The internet is greatest amplifier for speech and it should stay that way. Apart from freedoms the world of business will be affected as many web based and small business that rely on web services can go bankrupt if another company is charging them to run their company.

I have pointed out that I am not a fan of I.S.P.s having all that control and would like if things would stay the way they are. The problem that surround net neutrality is that not many people know what it is and how it affects us. I have included a video from You Tube that will shed more light on net neutrality.