Category Archives: Computers

Flow Chart



I worked on this chart tonight. I don’t know if I have the energy to go to level 3. You have to click on the chart to see it in full scale.

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Filed under Classroom, Computers, Distance, Media

Notebook 1 Mid Page


Drawing 1996, ink and paper, 3″ x 5″ Artist Collection

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Media development


I work as a media developer in the field of continuing education or distance education. Some of the things I do is setup classrooms for recording, train faculty and student staff to run the recordings, edit the recordings, and publish the recordings for the web. It is a job that is constantly changing. Maybe not so fast that you can see the change in one semester, but over a year there is usually change.  There are constant updates. Back in the early days of computers you made a program and you had one shot at it. It was burned to a CD and that was it. Today, we have updates and new versions. What were we thinking back then? Of course you worked harder to get your program to work right. Now programs automatically check if there is an update and ask you if you want to install the update. That is the norm. I understood this at one point but people weren’t ready for a change. They thought that a program had to work right the first time and had no patience for updates. Now that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I think it is good as bugs are detected and fixed, new features are added. But at one point it was all or nothing. I don’t cherish those days as the stress was enormous.

Now if I miss an edit. I just make the edit and re-post. That doesn’t even rarely happen. More likely faculty decide some part of their lecture doesn’t work after all and they want it out. It is an easy fix. This occurs before the video is released to the public.

What is stressful now is the number of platforms. There is android, iOS, OSX, 7 flavors of Windows. There isn’t one platform to publish in to, there are several. And tools and standards are constantly changing. Flash was the technology, html 5 is the future. Companies are coming out of nowhere, old giants are disappearing. And there are new versions of all the creative tools every 18 months. And, a real stress is that the model for software is changing. No longer is the perpetual licenses the norm. Now you have to pay a subscription every month for Adobe or Microsoft tools. This means more money to these companies plain and simple. Some developers are revolting and looking for new players in the development tools market. We shall see. I am not ready to go to a subscription for Adobe CC. But when my job requires it, that new tools have an advantage, I guess that will be the time to move. So, I stay with an older version of MS Office and older version of Adobe Web Premium. They really aren’t adding features they just want more money.

So I am looking at the market, at the little guys that aren’t well known. They may only provide some of the tools I need but together with other little players I can get the job done.


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Apple again?

blog 1

This wordle is based on this blog, up-to-date. The word “Apple” pops out. That doesn’t surprise me. If anything I talk about Apple Inc. too often. What is the opposite of Apple? Microsoft? Android? I certainly am not a Apple purist. My workstation at my job is a Windows 7 machine. I do the majority of my day work on Windows but I create at home at night on a Mac. I don’t have a problem with that. It is great to have both platforms under my belt. But Apple has my curiosity. Watching them over the last 15 years has been watching the rise of the phoenix. I just wish I had the money to buy shares of Apple stock when it was $12/share. I just read that Apple (AAPL) is no longer considered by some to be a growth stock. I wonder if that is an underestimate? again?

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The irony of Apple


It is truly ironic that Apple, Inc. has fought back from the brink of extinction to what it is today–a highly successful company. There are several ironies. Micheal Dell’s comment about what he would do with Apple has come back to haunt him. Microsoft was once the 800 pound gorilla in the room that you dared not complain about because there were so many fanboys. Microsoft is having a difficult time without leadership that understands what the consumer wants or as they say where the puck WILL be. I get a little satisfaction with Apple’s success.

And this week Apple does it again with record sales of the new iphone 5s and 5c. They are working on selling in China’s huge market. And yet they aren’t making junk- according to Tim Cook. I read a good explanation of what people think when they think of the Apple brand. It is “luxury within reach”. Windows has always been, “cheap but if you’re patient it might work”. Apple’s line is “It just works.”

I stuck through the lean times with Apple. Through the time when Steve Jobs was running Next. I snarfed up a 20th Anniversary Mac that was available through educational channels in a heart beat. I had the Newton. But I sold them before they were obsolete and they held their value. I was sad about Apple Media Tool. I lost $500 on that title. It was a great tool. Jobs axed it right away on his return. The first iteration of products from Apple after Job’s return didn’t really catch my interest. Clamshell laptops were awful. And they axed the Newton. They could have at least spun off the Newton and Apple Media Tool like they did with Filemaker Pro. It really wasn’t until the first generation of iMac flat screens that I became interested. Though I think I bought all the Power Macs and G5 towers. I remember the 8500. I could take it apart, which was no easy task. I either sell my stuff on ebay or hand it down to family members.

The new Mac Pros that are due late 2013 aren’t all that interesting to me. They are small. They require external storage. I will wait until they are reasonably priced before I make the purchase. I am happy with the budget Mac Pro I just bought. If it lasts as long as the last one it will last me 6 years and have value to sell on ebay.

I am on the 5th year of owning a refurbished macbook air. I can’t afford to replace it. But I haven’t had any problems with it even though it is a refurbished item. I don’t think it has much value since I must honestly state it is refurbished. It has one quirk. After you hit the start button there is an 8 second delay until the chime.

Once you go to a SSD (solid state drive) you will never want to return to spinning drives. Take my word, they are that great! The Samsung 840 is the best of the best. The only challenge is fitting your boot drive on a smaller footprint. Prices on SSDs are falling. If you want to breath new life in an older machines just put an SSD in it.

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Filed under Computers, History

My media bias


This is a wordle of my software expertise. Err. What software I use as a pro. So wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could identify their bias? I am partial to Apple and Adobe. Most professional media developers I would imagine are partial to these companies as they make great creative tools. The words “pro” and “studio” factor as well. I run two studios, I use professional tools like Dreamweaver, and Photoshop. Next is bias toward Microsoft and software in general. Microsoft makes tools that run the enterprise. Every other faculty person has a PowerPoint show by the dozen. I’ve used PowerPoint for so long and so often that nothing surprises me in terms of supporting that tool.

Apple is big because I use Apple at home. I know Apple well enough to consult with people and small business that run on that platform.

There is a third tier of bias and that is Camtasia. I like it. I know everything it can and can’t do. It is one of my top 5 applications. I think it is a prosumer tool. Not quite professional but not for beginners. It is easy to edit in it. It does great screen capture. I’ve lived through version 5 (it would crash now and then and you would loose everything) to the current version that rarely crashes though it will choke on large files.

So I am bias toward Apple, Adobe, Pro software, and software for the studio. I am biased toward Microsoft PowerPoint. I could argue this is a bias that is shared throughout the media development industry. But look between the big words and you find dozens of little players. I like them just as well. Each specializes and does something well. Maybe in 10 years they will be the big words in a wordle on expertise.

You might ask why I am bias for Apple. Well, they are the 800 pound gorilla in the room now. Apple doesn’t want to own the enterprise through the desktop. The desktop is dying. I have a desktop because I need storage for media assets and speed to process them. But the day is coming when the media decisions will be made on a tablet. Today a tablet is a powerful computer and something that moves with you.

I am never bored. I have the Internet 24/7. Waiting for the doctor, pull out the iphone. Waiting for someone at the supermarket, pull out the iphone. Check a score or a price…you get the drift. I have over 200 apps on my iphone. And these are just the valuable apps that I have found. I can do slow motion photography…you name it. I just heard that the iphone will be able to be used for medical self-diagnosis. This includes, monitoring blood pressure, glucose levels and more.

UPDATE: I guess it would be inaccurate to say all media developers share a bias for Apple and Adobe. Many of the Final Cut Pro 7 users didn’t migrate to FCPX. I read they moved to Avid or Premiere. Not sure if that is true. I know that FCP was a standard that studios followed, but not by choice. These are two different shops. The broadcast shop or the web media shop. Broadcast shops have very high standards. I am part of a web media shop. Tools include Camtasia, Premiere, Premiere Elements. At home I use iMovie, FCP7. At either place I don’t work with broadcast quality material, RAID and high end cameras. At work we use prosumer cameras, webcams, and screen capture. At home I use an AVHD camera and iMovie and publish on DVD or YouTube. Web media requires software that compresses the hell out of the movie without loss. H.264 is the standard.

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Filed under Computers, Media

Wordle results


So this wordle is of my blog at this point. The word “Group” sticks out so I must be using that term frequently. The words “distance, rain, drought, feeders, one, and faculty” are next. So I will talk about being part of groups.

I belong to several groups. The work group is about 4 people in the same room with one another and 10 or so people that frequently visit the room. There is a group dynamic. Each of us are good at one or more different tasks. It all centers around distance education. One person specializes on technology hardware, another specializes on media development, another on trouble shooting courses, and finally another specializes in course development. But we can also do each others speciality.

Another group is quite different. A bunch of clowns that I play golf with each year. About 20 people that play weekly, or in tournaments, or in the annual Sasso Memorial. Actually you have to be able to play a fairly decent round of golf to be a part of the group. Nobody is a beginner. But handicaps vary from 3 to 25. And there is always a game to play for a quarter a point. Sometimes I win 5 dollars, sometimes I loose 5 dollars.

Another group is the satsang group. There are a few people that get together to talk about spirituality, though the discussion invariably turns to our love of animals. Occasionally there are trips to regional or national meetings and seminars. Many people in the group I’ve known for 20 years. It is somewhat akin to group therapy I guess.

So the next tier in the wordle includes the word “distance”. And I am very familiar with that term. Distance is what I do. As media developer for continuing education at the University of Iowa I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen highly successful classes and those that don’t even have the numbers of students to go online. I don’t think enrollment is a complete metric of success. A required course that goes online is going to be successful. Sometimes going online is the only alternative to having your program cancelled. Distance means tapping into the region and students that can’t travel to Iowa City to take a course. But ironically distance also means taking a course online even if you live in Iowa City. Distance gives students options for enrollment. But I was surprised how many distance students are actually in Iowa City.

Is distance a threat to F2F (face-to-face)? I don’t know. It doesn’t have to be. Distance really means staying current with technology and student expectations. Our aim is to make “distance” at least as good as F2F. There are two goals of distance. One is to provide students more options to graduate on time. The other is to provide students with a diversity of courses to chose from. The question is where is the money and where is the beef? The money is in compensation to faculty that run the distance courses. The beef is in the technology and strategies faculty use in the distance course.

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Filed under Classroom, Computers, Distance, Golf


I looked into Ecommerce at Dreamhost. It is complicated. I installed the software but need to buy the book on it to make any sense of it. The book is $40/US. So the experience of setting up ecommerce is another continuing education activity in my area of expertise. I already have one friend that I moved to goDaddy. Now I wish I had used Dreamhost. But they recognized goDaddy.  So it is possible to setup your own shopping cart without a dedicated service and a large monthly fee. But the question is do I have the time and patience to learn about setting up an online shopping cart?  I have a stack of Art prints and photos I would love to sell on the Internet. I can see spending a week of evenings just getting the hang of it. The big question is how do you handle credit cards? and Paypal? and shipping around the world?

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The myth of the mixed mode classroom

It is rare that faculty are successful with the mixed mode classroom. It is difficult to handle F2F and distance groups at the same time. The distance group seems to suffer in this type of class. If there is more than one instructor in the classroom it is possible to accomplished the mixed mode. It is hard to reach out to the F2F group and not forget about the distance group if you are not careful. And it is easy to forget to share visuals and read chat while lecturing and teaching to the F2F group. We try to bridge the short fall with tech support personnel watching the chat. But they are mainly there to help the distance group get online. The mixed mode requires at least a TA/Faculty combo to be successful.

It is sad to watch faculty flail away trying to keep the class togeather. One faculty member even laminated that they wished they had a TA. Is professional staff being asked to step in and provide guidance like a TA in this situation? I took an interest at the start of such classes. I’m not sure what to do. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

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Computers in the classroom

There are reoccuring issues with technology in the classroom. The first issue is whether the technology even works in the first place. The second issue is whether the technology is effective for all the activities in the classroom.

You might think that putting technology in a classroom is easy. When you have a CPU dedicated to the room then an IT staff usually controls and maintains it. My expereince is that there are problems putting everyone’s needs on one computer. What happens when class A increases the recording audio levels and class B doesn’t check the recording audio levels? One advantage of bringing your own laptop to the classroom is that you control the computer. But will your computer interface with the audio system? For along time PCs didn’t even have sound cards. Who would need them? Of course if you bring your own laptop you are responsible for it.

The other issue is the effectiveness of the technology to follow and document the interactivity in the classroom.  This is where things really fail. If the recording doesn’t capture a student question and faculty don’t restate the question the recording has a dead space.

The trend toward flipping lectures changes the issue. If faculty are pre-recording a lecture, distributing it via the Internet and hold discussion during class time, the need for lecture capture is diminished. But some faculty are experimenting with virtual classroom technology and virtual office hours. I would like to see what replaces the lecture in the flipped lecture scenerio. I am skeptical that class time will engage students.

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