Archive for July 2009
It’s interesting to see how the whole iTunes U structure works. I’ve been reading documentation about the ‘web services’ enabled within iTunes U. It completely replicates the GUI functions but through a semi-automated interface. Reminds me a little of how you can change the underlying LDAP directory structure using LDIF commands or LDIF files with all the changes embedded within it. In iTunes U, you do an HTTP PUT securely with a signed token, and the iTunes U Web service sucks that up and executes all the commands embedded within your XML file that you put. Very powerful, but very scary too as these changes are made to your production environment. So there’s no real easy way to test the results of your commands without just taking a big risk, leaping in and seeing what happens. This is like SQL commands where you DROP TABLE, not a fun thing to do. DROP TABLE is a big black whole that makes your data disappear in an unrecoverable way. iTunes U has similar functions where you delete the structure AND the data at the same time. You may restore the structure (by backing up your data tree in XML format), but the data embedded within the tree, well that’s gone. So restoring stuff is going to be impossible if you get the syntax wrong in your XML file. The only real benefit to me now is the ability to get a listing of the whole site structure using the Tree command and then forcing an update to any groups that are of the type RSS Feed. The update will be necessary if anyone adds files to a podcast being hosted on servers within our institution.
I discovered or re-discovered a tool called Woolamaloo which was introduced to me during the Apple iTunes training. University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana created it to allow you to use a GUI to control the Web services from a desktop OS. This is good as I was at a loss to adapt the sample code into anything like a reliable generator of tokens to send to iTunes U web services. I couldn’t figure out what parts of the java example to comment out and recompile. Starting this Monday I’m going to put Woolmaloo through it’s paces. If I can force the RSS feeds to update on demand when somebody has a problem updating their Podcast feeds, I can at least speed things up. But I’m still very leery of deleting or merging any section. I will copy so I can make a course appear in more than one place without using the iTunes multi-click interface. But I will not delete or merge.
And just today I also discovered there are Apple Automator scripts readily available that add a graphical layer on top of all the web services goodness. So now I can integrate a bunch of steps from uploading bunches of files, forcing RSS feeds to update to merging/rename whole sections all from Automator. I’m going to test it and se how good it really works.
In the small pocket camcorder market Kodak has fired another shot across the bow of Pure Digital. They are including a microphone jack in their latest camcorder.
It appears Apple is on board for fully pushing through the whole Augmented Reality capability of the iPhone. Follow the link below:
Apple promises that its upcoming iPhone 3.1 release will be the first to officially support augmented reality apps that support the iPhone 3GS’ camera. Also, a new seed of Mac OS X Snow Leopard has been handed to developers.
iPhone 3.1 needed for augmented reality
True to form, Apple is keeping a tight lid on their Mac Tablet. But all rumors are pointing to a release early in 2010. The announcement of the device may come in September of this year at the point where new iPod products are announced. Other scuttle-butt indicates Verizon may be providing it’s Fourth Generation (4G) network for the new device so that it can stay connected to the Internet wherever Verizon cell phone towers are available. It will be interesting to see how the market might fracture between cell phone and tablet users. I would guess this whole project may turn into an Macintosh Cube experience where Jobs reach exceeded his grasp.
However, the past six months have reportedly seen the critical pieces fall into place. Jobs, who’s been overseeing the project from his home, office and hospital beds, has finally achieved that much-sought aura of satisfaction. He’s since cemented the device in the company’s 2010 roadmap, where it’s being positioned for a first quarter launch, according to people well-respected by AppleInsider for their striking accuracy in Apple’s internal affairs.
I wonder if there are any readers out there they may have experience using these web applications for doing work or even for recreational computing purposes? You see some people just want to have fun and kill time on their computers.
Jing – screenshot, or short movie maker – mini version of camtasia mostly used for desktop recording. You record yourself performing some action on the computer and Jing will capture video frames of where you go, what you select and what you type in to accomplish those steps within the application. Then it dumps that out to a movie file you can link to on the Internet, for all to see.
Picnik – online photo editing through a web page. It can link up to a photosharing account you may already have like Flickr. There are lots of special effects filters and tools for cropping and adjusting the color balance and exposure of your pictures. You can add text or change captions for the pictures you have on a photosharing website.
Dvolver – animation maker, but not just any animation. This is the kind of junk you see at Hallmark dot com for making greeting cards or birthday cards to send to people in email. I’m not terribly impressed, but I’m sure it will absolutely knock the socks of my co-workers.
Gabbly – chat tool to use on web sites, or better yet, Simply type gabbly.com/ in front of a webpages URL, you will be able to chat with anyone visiting the page at the same time! For example, to chat on CNN.com, just visit ‘gabbly.com/cnn.com‘ in your browser. Youll see the CNN website with the Gabbly Chat window floating on top.
The days I spent watching educational programs on PBS I think gave me an interesting way of seeing the world. And I am not alone:
Exposure to Samuel Beckett, art-appreciation documentaries, “Masterpiece Theatre,” and grade Z film gave me the rudiments of an aesthetic education. And a good thing, too, because nobody in the local school system would have used the expression “aesthetic education,” or considered it worth offering.
Those were golden halcyon days watching the weird shows fly by. I remember seeing Firing Line briefly and Steve Allen’s program and Dick Cavett’s program. I’m not saying I ‘watched’ them, but I would see them in passing hoping to find a repeat of Sesame Street. My parents would watch Masterpiece Theatre religiously, which I hated because I wanted to watch what else was on Sunday nights. Usually it was NBC’s Police Story or some other violent, low-brow entertainment.
Now all that old TV “content” can be recycled to the public airwaves of the Interwebs. All that was old is new again. Which means I should try tracking down all those old episodes of Omnibus that made the transition from BBC to PBS. Sometimes I think PBS and BBC should have formed up a single International Media conglomerate and shared more costs in preparation for the large scale media consolidation of the ’80s. And certainly they could have hedged their enterprises somewhat against the proliferation of Satellite and Cable TV networks.
Oh, if I could just get the BBC for several hours in the evening or even during the day. I would watch Emmerdale or Eastenders, I would even watch Tesco commercials. Doesn’t matter to me. Too much of what we watch locally on TV is a kind of bubble like prison, meant to reinforce, nay indoctrinate one in the predominant culture. And more choices hasn’t helped as the media owners don’t let the media flow freely cross international borders.
I was raised on the most successful initiatives from Public Television, or ETV as it was previously known (E standing for Educational of course). Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and Reading Rainbow were my bread and butter as a kid. And yet while those educational programs were major successes, television’s promise of bringing education and instruction to a wide audience was left largely unfulfilled in the United States. Proponents of educational TV faced the harsh realities of the large amounts of funding required to create and maintain television programing placed upon them. The need to satisfy the large …
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As a kid I watched PBS a lot. One reason being in the 1970s funding for PBS kids shows and educational programs was better than it is now. As kids we would watch hours of programming and then we would be rewarded, REWARDED with a fund-raising drive once a year. The reason I say rewarded is PBS went out of its way to entertain and bring in new viewers. They would air special programs especially for the fund-raising drive. I remember one year they aired Woodstock as the centerpiece of one year’s fund-raising campaign. That was the cool part, you never knew what they would pull out to reward us when they were asking for money. And what did we get in return?
WGBH, the Boston superstation for PBS and WNET 13 in New York would crank out the jams. Some of it was experimental, some of it was just downright good. There was Sesame Street, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Electric Company, Zoom and eventually 3-2-1 Contact. And even in school our teacher’s would fire up the TV in the days before the VCR to show us certain science programs different times of the week. Sometimes it would be a reading program, or a science program. At one point during the Carter Administration, all the kids were encouraged to learn the Metric System. So for about one year we watched a program once a week to teach us the metric system. Turns out we didn’t go metric.
After school was good too. We had a TV show produced by a “local” TV station in Sioux Falls, SD. It was hosted by the weatherman on KELO-TV. It was called Captain 11. I knew kids who had gone down to Sioux Falls and gotten on the TV show. And there was also a drawing for a prize on each episode. It was a giant plastic tootsie roll with tootsie roll lollipop candies inside. I never saw any of my friends on that show. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. I saw every Hanna-Barbera cartoon, and a few Our Gang short films along the way. Why I spent more time watching TV than I can even add up. It’s a lot that’s for sure.
Super-jet Dinosaur Fun-monkeys
Each of the people on the chain had to waste time navigating the chain merely because everyone else was too lazy to summarize what had happened up to that point.
Don’t I know it! Which makes me think about what other technologies we’ve adopted for help resolve enduser problems. Prior to working at my current job at a University I never had heard of the term ‘trouble ticket’. But soon like so many corporate trends outside of the University, this one slowly infiltrated the educational enterprise, only through our telecom help desk. The level of support their helpd desk attendants were expected to fulfill meant they needed to have full logs of every call that came in, and then a running log of steps followed to remediate the problem. That way no matter who was on call, who was on vacation, the work could be assigned to ‘somebody’ and the work would get done. Endusers love guarantees that someone is responsible and will do the work to fix the problem.
Faster Forward to my poor friend @ dandube.com. All he gets is email forwarded from person to person, with no log other than the reply field from a previous recipient. Which is never detailed enough to determine what’s been tried and what hasn’t been tried. Oh I feel your pain. Unraveling the email mess to get to what the original problem is through email sucks no doubt. Maybe one issue is the number of intermediaries who couldn’t fix the problem? If the first point of contact had sent the email straight to Dan, he wouldn’t be sorting through any intermediate steps. But I think there’s a real problem with the workflow of how a technical problem is escalated to someone with greater knowledge, experience, expertise.
So an executive decides to impose a trouble-ticketing system to help codify that workflow, right? The rush to trouble-ticketing systems is no help for very similar reasons. It comes down to the human tendency for what is expedient. Whether it’s forwarding an email or assigning a trouble-ticket, you’re not “SOLVING” the problem. You’re merely “CONVEYING” the problem. My experience with trouble-tickets is just as bad as it is with email. People don’t assign categories, people can’t be bother with logging what they tried and failed at doing, and worse yet with the routing of the tickets you get assigned something sometimes by algorithm, not by an actual person. And unlike email you can’t simply delete it and say you never got the assignment. Those tickets are the measure of your productivity. Every manager gets the report monthly how many tickets collected, how many closed out, how many outstanding. Those outstanding tickets are the strikes against you as a service/support person no matter what your actual title or responsibilities are. So whether it’s email or trouble-tickets it’s the same damned problem.
I will say though that the logging inherent in a trouble-ticket system will at least give you some insitutional memory or history of a particular problem, that the email completely obfuscates. But I agree with Dan, there’s got to be a better way that doesn’t rely on the Desktop/File Cabinet metaphor. Thinking about it more, the whole metaphor seems to be geared towards ‘collecting things’. You collect new emails, you file them away. You collect new tasks in Outlook, you file them away. You download a document to your desktop, you set it in a certain spot. You go to someone else’s computer in their home, you look at their desktop and it is FILLED WITH ICONS! Desktops and Filing Cabinets are for collectors. Dan is not a collector. Dan is the one fixing the problem, so he needs a metaphor that fits better.
I’m beginning to think the iPod touch is not an end-of-life product that should be ignored. Oh, I did at one time due to the torrid pace at which Apple was releasing new iPhone products. Seemed like the old iPod was absolutlely superfluous. As the iPhone models increased their storage and speed, the iPod touch tagged along, but not too closely. Currently the iPod touch is consider a second generation device (2G) versus the iPhone in its 3G and now 3GS forms.
Like most of you who may not own an I phone, I have felt the pressure of seeing all my friends of Facebook buying iPhones and cross-posting from Twitter to Facebook via their iPhone. So caving into peer pressure, I’m considering buying an iPhone maybe in October when I reach the 3 year mark as a customer with AT&T. I have some things working in my favor though. I lucked out with being a Cingular customer before they combined with AT&T and before the exclusive distribution deal for the iPhone. But do I really need to buy an iPhone to get all the benefits of the App Store? Do I need to pay for the big hefty data plan?
Maybe not. Just this past week Mark Sigal @ O’Reillycom followed up all the rumors and speculation about Apple entering the netbook market with a Tablet PC. He claimed then Apple was already making a netbook and it was called the iPod touch:
But, perhaps the real story with respect to the forthcoming Apple Tablet Device is that Apple has already released a tablet computing device.
It’s called the iPod touch, and because it’s often overshadowed by its noisier sibling, the iPhone, we sometimes forget that it has already sold 15M+ units.
Today J.P. Morgan is also saying, Apple is already in the netbook market. They have a device called the iPod touch.
The J.P. Morgan report views the iPod touch as Apple’s netbook, of sorts. At least, the analysis says, until Apple officially enters the netbook market – something the firm expects the Mac maker to do.
Given the confidence level of reading these two articles I am more willing to consider an iPod touch. It seems like a more frugal choice without the burden of un-ending data plan fees. True the cost is not susidzied by AT&T, but that one time shot of money is about what I was willing to spend on a netbook anyways. So maybe an iPod touch is the better option if you want to save a little cash by not purchasing a huge data plan from AT&T.
Intel is finally going to ramp up it’s newest production lines to include Flash memory chips, thereby shrinking the design rules down to 34nm. Density of the new Flash memory chips is going to allow even larger Solid State Drives (SSD) and in some cases the prices may be less for the newer drives than the equivalent preceeding generation of SSDs. Price points quoted in the article are projected to be around $276 possibly as low as $261 for the 80GB/34nm based SSD from Intel. The closer to $200 the better, that’s the point at which you can buy some of the higher capacity traditional HDD’s from Seagate, and Western Digital. The day of the $200 Flash Drive is coming soon.
A Canadian RedFlagDeals technology website expects an announcement within a week and says there will be 80GB, 160GB and 320GB models.