NUMBERWISE: Free online tool set to transform maths in SA

MATHEMATICS has advanced some wonderful things in this world. Grand architecture, engineering, modern medicine and astronomy would not be the same today without maths. Unfortunately this isn’t something that is generally taught at a school level; and at a university level, lecturers have the habit of telling students to forget everything they learnt at school.

Maths is not everyone’s forte and many South Africans have children who are battling with the subject at school. With trials looming, it may be wise for educators and learners alike to look to the wonderful web for some help with their maths homework.

mathsNumberwise is one such service that has proved to be a very successful tool in teaching learners to master maths basics and improve their mathematical abilities. The Numberwise program was originally written by Durbanite Trevor Lagerwall for his youngest son, Ross, who was struggling with maths at school. After completing the Numberwise course, said son achieved 100% for First Year Maths at UKZN, has re-written the Numberwise program, and is currently studying Computer Science. Trevor’s eldest son, Brett, achieved 100% for second year maths with the help of Numberwise.

For the past five years, Numberwise has been used in the Department of Civil Engineering at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). The results have been so positive that the Numberwise course now forms a module of the Civil Engineering Program at DUT.

Trevor Lagerwall illustrates the recent success of Numberwise at DUT: “Despite having just passed matric maths and been accepted into civil engineering, the average mark of students coming into DUT is 30%. Yet all those who complete the Numberwise course pass with 90% or more. Even more encouraging is that there has been a 25% improvement in maths marks at first year level”, says Lagerwall.

The Numberwise website describes how maths is layered and requires mastering the basics before being able to advance in the subject. In the five weeks that Numberwise has been available online, it has registered over 1 000 students from schools in Pietermaritzburg, Pretoria, East London and Namibia, and has even reached as far as Bolivia and Australia.

Numberwise is freely available for anyone to use and encourages educators to enlist their learners and monitor their progress. Learners are then encouraged to do a maths Assessment Test, and all completed work is recorded on the Numberwise server. This allows learners to compare their maths results and times with classmates or anyone else making use of the program. Peer competition not only encourages learners to perform better but soon there will be a chance to win prizes too.

“We have used these last five years to polish Numberwise into the interactive web-based program that it is today, says Lagerwall. Knowing that Numberwise works, it’s a no-brainer that all learners at school ought to do the Numberwise course. We believe that it will make a huge difference in maths in South Africa. Plus it is a fun way to learn one’s tables & bonds (addition & subtraction).”

To use Numberwise requires registering for free as an administrator and downloading the Numberwise program, which is less than two megabytes. Teachers or parents are then encouraged to register and enlist their students or children. Once the software is installed, users are ready to start their Numberwise journey. The maths website offers user-friendly, step-by-step support on how to get Numberwise up and running on your home or work PC. Learners can also use Numberwise at home and teachers can monitor their progress remotely.

Lagerwall explains: “Even though they will be registered at school, learners can do the course either at school or at home. However, the teacher (as the administrator) can still monitor their progress, print reports and certificates and so on, all via the website.”

Numberwise is entirely free for all to use but is currently looking for sponsorship. “Once we have sufficient numbers we are hoping to attract a sponsor, in part to monetise the project but also to sponsor stunning prizes that will drive the use of Numberwise”, says Lagerwall. can handle multiple sponsors at a school, provincial, national or global level.

To see Numberwise in action, maths courses are held every Friday between 10am and 4pm at the Indumiso campus of DUT in Pietermaritzburg, where students do around 200 000 calculations. The goal is not only to prove that Numberwise really works, but to spread awareness of its free availability to all schools and educators country-wide.

“My hope is that all schools register all their learners and incorporate the Numberwise Course as part of their curriculum, says Lagerwall. Since every child in the world needs to learn their tables and bonds, our vision is that they do this using Numberwise, which we hope to grow first here in South Africa.”

For any questions regarding Numberwise, or if you are interested in becoming a sponsor of this project, you can contact Trevor Lagerwall on 084 568 2461 or 031 767 3247; or email him at

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CLOUD COMPUTING FOR DUMMIES: And how it could help fight global warming

This guide to cloud computing for dummies attempts to explain what cloud computing is, how it works and how it is beneficial to the IT industry.

One might think of the Internet as some intangible entity that exists somewhere in the clouds and is simply powered by the people that use it. In reality, the energy required to run the Internet and associated hardware and IT infrastructure is on par with the airline industry.

To put it simply, the Internet consists of huge data centres worldwide that host web pages and online content — some of which act as Internet service providers. The reason for the web’s extra large carbon footprint is that each data centre requires power as well as cooling systems in order to function. Furthermore, information technology is the fastest growing industry on Earth, and is becoming a real threat to sustainable development.

Cloud Computing for Dummies

Cloud Computing for Dummies

The concept of cloud computing, also known as distributed, Internet-based computing, is the idea of decentralising these data centres and sharing the available infrastructure on a global scale. The goal is to have applications and files stored on large, centralised supercomputers or networks. Rather than storing files and programmes on individual PCs, end users are able to store and access their files via the web.

According to, the concept is very simple: “On your desk, you would have a very low-cost computer with just a processor, a keyboard and a monitor. There would be no hard drive or CD/DVD drive. It would be hooked up to the Internet and would link to a central supercomputer, which would host all of your programs and files.”

Servicing the cloud with Google

In 2007, Google and Apple had a plan to take things forward. Apple was to develop inexpensive consumer computers that were small and portable. This was to leverage the computing power of the vast data centres Google has been building to hold the apps and the data for millions of users.

Unfortunately, development was halted due to different market demands, but Google has made progress since then with its growing library of Google apps. Apps like Google Documents, Spreadsheets and Gmail are all examples of cloud computing that people already make use of.

If we think about it, we do not use an installed programme to check our e-mail. Rather, you log into a web e-mai­l account, such as Gmail or Hotmail remotely. The software and sto­rage for your account doesn’t exist on your computer, but rather on the ser­vice’s computer cloud. We can think of the term cloud simply as a metaphor for the Internet, or a part of it.

How cloud computing works

How cloud computing works - Cloud Computing for Dummies


So, we have cloud computing to thank for storing all our e-mails and spam and there is more than enough web-space to go around. Gmail accounts alone provide users with close to seven-and-a-half gigs of space. I don’t think I have ever exceeded over two percent of my e-mail quota.

Things get a little more exciting with Google Documents and Spreadsheets. Developed in part as a solution to e-mailing documents back and forth, Google Docs allows several people to edit or revise the same document in real-time. This simplifies the remote process by having a single updated document and speeds it up by having Google store the data.

There are, however, privacy implications, as any data stored by Google has the chance of being accessible to anyone on the Internet. As a small safety measure, one is able to access previous versions of a Google document and is notified when others are using it. As with everything concerning the web, one simply has to be wary when publishing anything online.

Cloud computing: Cloudy Business

Cloud computing has huge implications for business in terms of cutting costs. Web-based companies invest millions into their IT departments — a large portion of which is spent on software licences for each computer that uses corporate software.

With cloud computing you would only have to load one application, which would allow employees to log into a web-based service, which hosts all the programs and files required. Remote machines owned by another company, such as Google, for example, would run everything from e-mail to word processing to complex data analysis programs.

"This technology allows for much more efficient computing by centralising storage, memory, processing and bandwidth. In September 2009, an Aberdeen Group study found that disciplined companies achieved on average an 18% reduction in their IT budget from cloud computing.” –

Of course, all these open-source applications are as good as they are by virtue of the fact that they are free; or at least still free. No doubt more complex apps would demand some sort of fee in order to be used so extensively. I don’t foresee many large web companies hosting the world’s data for nothing, and as much as it makes sense to decentralise the existing infrastructure, monopolies will emerge (or stay in power) that will profit hugely from cloud computing.

The cloud allows sharing of infrastructure and reduces the carbon footprint of IT. The prophecy speaks of creating something that is globally sustainable — providing greater capacity and higher performance at lower costs. This utopia would bring the world together by moving away from indivi­dual silos and data centres and “into the clouds”. Unfortunately, this is not nearly a reality for bandwidth-stricken countries such as South Africa, and will not be as cheap and fair as it should with the existence of Internet monopolies.

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DEEP WEB: The darkness that lies beneath ...

According to QI researchers, more than 90% of the Internet is comprised of spam, while less than 1% is pornography. One might have expected there to be far more nooky than Viagra adverts on the Web.

In truth, there is actually very little known about the ever-changing world that is the Web as new discoveries and developments are forever being brought to the table. In fact, it is almost impossible to even predict what the Internet will be like in ten years time, let alone the distant future.

There is, however, one quite interesting dark side of the Internet that has existed for some time, yet which very few people know about. This is something known as the Dark Net or Deep Web.

The Dark Web, also known as the deep web, invisible web, and dark net, consists of web pages and data that are beyond the reach of search engines

The Dark Web, also known as the deep web, invisible web, and dark net, consists of web pages and data that are beyond the reach of search engines.

What is the Deep Web? How did it come about?

Once upon a time (during 1995) in Edinburgh University, an Irish teenager named Ian Clarke produced a thesis for his computer science course proposing a revolutionary new way for people to use the Internet without detection.

He called his project a “Distributed, Decentralised Information Storage and Retrieval System”. The idea was that by downloading Clarke’s unique software (which he intended to distribute for free) anyone could chat online, share files or set up a website with almost complete anonymity.

To cut a long story short, Clarke’s tutors weren­’t too impressed, but this didn’t stop the student from going ahead with his project. He released his software, called Freenet, in 2000. Since then, at least two million copies of Freenet have been downloaded, which is also now readily available on several websites.

Entering the Realm of the Deep Web

After downloading the 10 MB file, installing the software takes barely a couple of minutes and requires minimal computer skills. Then you enter a previously hidden online world where you can find resources such as “The Terrorist’s Handbook: A practical guide to explosives and other things of interest to terrorists”. Freenet is also the portal to accessing pirated­ copies of books, games, movies, music, software, TV series and much more.

What perhaps started as a seemingly innocent project has today become a means for a plethora of online criminal activity. From creating and sharing viruses to accessing and distributing child pornography (all anonymously of course) the Deep Web has created a subculture of Internet users.

The Internet has always been associated with openness and is often labeled as the ultimate form of freedom; a place where free speech, free access and lack of censorship have prevailed. Yet where do we draw the line when it is simply becoming easier to engage in online criminal activity without been traced?

To put it into better perspective, the Dark Web has grown so fast that it is estimated to be at least 500 times larger than the surface web.

How is the Deep Web different from the Surface Web?

To put it very simply, the web is defined as a collection of hyperlinks that are indexed by search engines. In other words, the pages/content that appear when we do a Google search, is the Internet as we know it, and is called the Surface Web.

The Dark Web, also known as the deep web, invisible web, and dark net, consists of web pages and data that are beyond the reach of search engines. Some of what makes up the Deep Web consists of abandoned, inactive web pages; but the majority of data that lies within have been crafted to deliberately avoid detection in order to remain anonymous.

According to Wikipedia, Michael K. Bergman — who first coined the phrase “deep web”, describes how searching on the Internet today can be compared to dragging a net across the surface of the ocean. A great deal may be caught in the net, but there is a wealth of information that is deep and therefore missed.

In 2001, Bergman published a paper on the Deep Web that is still regularly cited today. “The Deep Web is currently 400 to 550 times larger than the commonly defined World Wide Web,” he wrote.

“The Deep Web is the fastest growing category of new information on the internet … The value of Deep Web content is immeasurable … Internet searches are searching only 0,03% … of the [total web] pages available.” - Bergman

How deep does the dark net go?

No doubt the Internet has changed significantly in the past eight years, yet researchers today have only just begun the plunge to the depths of the Deep Web. The bottom line is that there is simply too much data available for any search engine to index the entire deep web.

Coupled with this issue is the deliberate use of invisible web space by individuals who do not want to be found. This is the origin of groups of criminals who sent out millions of spam e-mails suggesting that you have won the international lottery before quickly disconnecting. No matter what developments are made toward catching such crooks, they will always find new ways to remain hidden.

Craig Labovitz, chief scientist at Arbor Networks - a leading online security firm, was quoted in an article in the Guardian saying, “In 2000 dark and murky address space was a bit of a novelty,” says Labovitz. “This is now an entrenched part of the daily life of the Internet."

"Defunct online companies; technical errors and failures; disputes between Internet service providers; abandoned addresses once used by the U.S. military in the earliest days of the Internet — all these have left the online landscape scattered with derelict or forgotten properties, perfect for illicit exploitation, sometimes for only a few seconds before they are returned to disuse … it just takes a PC and [an Internet] connection." - Labovitz

Is there any light to the darkness?

Surely it was not young Ian Clarke’s vision to create a breeding ground for online criminals, which is sadly the predominant direction that the Deep Web seems to have taken. He merely wanted to offer free software to those seeking anonymous online communication.

There are secretive parts of the Internet that were specifically designed for U.S. secret service field agents and law enforcement officers to surf questionable websites and services without leaving tell-tale tracks. However, these merely seem to be more to the advantage of the crooks been sought after.

Perhaps the domain of the Dark Net would make sense in oppressive regimes such as China­ where the government goes to farcical extremes to censor images that contain large expanses of supposedly naked flesh. It could certainly have a positive impact in countries such as Iran — allowing people to rally support against oppressive governments without fear of being apprehended.

It’s a shuddering thought that due to the immense size and growth of the Deep Web there is virtually no way to stop it. It may not all be bad but there is a large enough criminal aspect to it to warrant concern. Clarke even admits that child pornography exists on Freenet, yet claims that it would be detrimental to try and put a stop to it.

“At Freenet we could establish a virus to destroy any child pornography on Freenet — we could implement that technically. But then whoever has the key [to that filtering software] becomes a target. Suddenly we’d start getting served copyright notices; anything suspect on Freenet, we’d get pressure to shut it down. To modify Freenet would be the end of Freenet.” - Ian Clarke

Perhaps for the meantime it's safest to stick to Google.

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GOOGLE: Top Google logos and best designs for 2009

Good to be Google

IT must be good to be Google. Bringing joy and information to millions around the world every day, while earning billions in the process must feel really fulfilling. Getting the opportunity to work for Google is the dream job of many Internet junkies.

I’ve always imagined that the job of creating customised designs of the Google logo is one of the most coveted in the company. Imagine being asked what you do for a living and being able to respond with, "oh I’m just doing a little graphic design work at the moment creating logos. Have you ever heard of Google?" You’d have Internet geeks polishing your shoes and bringing you freshly-squeezed orange juice.

However, it seems that this is not the case. There is no single Google King-God who is the master behind every customised logo. That is why it is usually just the standard blue, red, yellow and green logo.

But, every little now and then we are pleasantly greeted by a customised logo — creatively crafted to commemorate a significant event in history or to celebrate an important person’s birthday. I’ve been excited to see these designs appearing more often than usual, which is largely due to a new annual Doodle 4 Google competition, and 2009 has seen some of the best designs yet.

If Google is not currently set as your homepage, do that now. Open up your web-browser (e.g. Internet Explorer) and click on "tools" then "Internet options" (on the top-right of the screen). Type in the following in the white home page box: and click "apply." I’ll wait ...

It’s really worth doing the above for you may be missing out on these visually-pleasing bits of knowledge. When a customised logo appears hover your mouse over it to get a description of what it’s all about. If intrigued enough, click on the logo to be presented with a wealth of information on the event.

So, without any further ado I present you with some of the top logos and best designs for 2009.



Google displayed this logo on July 22, 2009 on Google China and Google India homepages to commemorate the longest solar eclipse in both countries for at least a century. The solar eclipse lasted as long as six minutes and 39 seconds in some places. This eclipse is also considered as one of the most watched eclipses of all time because of the path it takes, it is clearly visible from some of the most densely populated places on earth.



400 years ago (on August 25, 1609), the Italian astronomer and philosopher Galileo Galilei showed Venetian merchants his new creation — the telescope. The instrument was to bring him both scientific immortality and, more immediately, a whole lot of trouble. Galileo’s discoveries were, perhaps predictably, not best welcomed by the Catholic Church, and he spent the final decade of his life under house arrest.



Google pays tribute to comics by displaying this logo (on July 23, 2009) with the launch of a new super Google logo by DC artists Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair. The logo marked the start of Comic-Con festivities.



On May 17, 2009, Google celebrated the birth anniversary of Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky by displaying this logo on all its homepages. Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (June 17, 1882 to April 6, 1971) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor, who was considered by many to be one of the most important and influential composers of 20th century music. He was a quintessentially cosmopolitan Russian who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the century. In addition to the recognition he received for his compositions, he also achieved fame as a pianist and conductor<!--, often at the premieres of his works.

KIDS DOODLE 4 GOOGLE: "What I wish for the World"

EVERY once in a while, Google passes the creative baton into the hands of interested Internet users to design the next Google logo. Creative minds are given the chance to have their logo displayed to millions on Google’s home-pages for a day, as part of a competition appropriately called “Doodle 4 Google.”

The 2009 Doodle 4 Google competition saw school kids from all over U.S. submitting designs for the Google logo based on the theme “What I Wish For The World”. Twenty-eight thousand designs were received this year. Here are the top four logos with a little snippet from each of the young designers:

Stop to save the flowers

"What I wish for the world is that people would slow down to see all the beauties of life of the Earth around us. So many people rush on with their lives never stopping to say hello to a lady bug who’s watching the world spin by.” - Blakely Linz (aged 13)

A New Beginning

"My doodle, A New Beginning, expresses my wish that in the current crisis, discoveries will be made. That in these discoveries solutions will be found to help the Earth prosper once more. That those solutions will help the world get back on its feet and create a better place for everyone.” - Christin Engelberth (13)

From the Ashes

"The world will be reborn in peace, harmony and prosperity. Pheonix is reborn from ashes; blossoms and lotus symbolise peace. Earth is a prosperous like an apple. Kois symbolise harmony. Wheat is a prosperous crop. The clock represents time for the world to change. The butterfly carries it on its journey.” - Emerald Lu (13)

Friendship around the world

“My wish for the world is that everyone would get along and treat one another in a nice and loving way. We could all be friends!” - Miriam Elizabeth Lowery (5)



On July 10, 2009 the Google logo was transformed into a Tesla Coil to celebrate the birthday of Nikola Tesla. Tesla (July 10 1856 to January 7, 1943) was an inventor and a mechanical and electrical engineer. Tesla is often described as an important scientist and inventor of the modern age, a man who “shed light over the face of Earth”. He is best known for many revolutionary contributions in the field of electricity and magnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tesla’s patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current (AC) electric power systems, including the polyphase power distribution systems and the AC motor, with which he helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution.



Google celebrates the anniversary of first manned spacecraft (The Eagle – Apollo 11), which landed on the moon on July 20 in 1969.



Google celebrates the birth anniversary of Mary Cassatt (May 22, 1844 to June 14, 1926). Mary Cassatt was an American painter and printmaker. She lived much of her adult life in France, where she befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists. Cassatt often created images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children.



The Perseids are a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle. Meteor showers occur when the Earth moves through a meteor stream. The stream in this case is called the “Perseid cloud” and it stretches along the orbit of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. The cloud consists of particles ejected by the comet as it passes by the Sun. Most of the dust in the cloud today is approximately 1 000 years old. The shower is visible from mid-July each year with the greatest activity between August 8 and 14, peaking on August 12. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. They can be seen all across the sky, but because of the path of Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, Perseids are primarily visible in the northern hemisphere.


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TECHNOLOGY: How it may be rewiring our brains

THE Internet is not just changing the way people live but altering the way our brains work with a neuroscientist arguing that this is an evolutionary change which will put the tech-savvy at the top of the new social order.

Gary Small, a neuroscientist at UCLA in California who specialises in brain function, has found through studies that Internet searching and text messaging has made brains more adept at filtering information and making snap decisions.

But while technology can accelerate learning and boost creativity it can have drawbacks as it can create Internet addicts whose only friends are virtual and has sparked a dramatic rise in Attention Deficit Disorder diagnoses.

Small, however, argues that the people who will come out on top in the next generation will be those with a mixture of technological and social skills.

"We're seeing an evolutionary change. The people in the next generation who are really going to have the edge are the ones who master the technological skills and also face-to-face skills"
– Gary Small

In his newly released fourth book iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind, Small looks at how technology has altered the way young minds develop, function and interpret information. In his book Small explains that the brain is very sensitive to changes in the environment such as those brought by technology.

A study of 24 adults using the Web revealed that experienced Internet users showed double the activity in areas of the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning as Internet beginners did.

"The brain is very specialized in its circuitry and if you repeat mental tasks over and over it will strengthen certain neural circuits and ignore others," said Small.

"The environment is changing. The average young person now spends nine hours a day exposing their brain to technology. Evolution is an advancement from moment to moment and what we are seeing is technology affecting our evolution."

Small said this multi-tasking could cause problems as the tech-savvy generation, whom he calls "digital natives," are always scanning for the next bit of new information which can create stress and even damage neural networks.

"There is also the big problem of neglecting human contact skills and losing the ability to read emotional expressions and body language," he said.

"But you can take steps to address this. It means taking time to cut back on technology, like having a family dinner, to find a balance. It is important to understand how technology is affecting our lives and our brains and take control of it.”

•Gary Small is the director of the Memory & Aging Research Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior and the Center on Aging at UCLA.

- original copy supplied by Reuters

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