Monthly Archives: September 2013

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

Rain after the drought


The rain came. The dirt was turning to dust and everything was drying up. The rain was late for the mono crops. Such a weird weather pattern. A very wet Spring followed by a flash drought. There are no bugs this summer and the hummingbirds are hungry. They mob the feeders. One soaking rain with just enough water to get the grass to grow again. Global climate change is about weather extremes. Who cares if it is man made. Working on climate change is a win-win situation.

So there is no rain in the forecast. Does the drought continue?

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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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Filed under Computers, Ecommerce


There are a group of hummingbirds that are using our feeders. We are in a drought so there aren’t insects to eat and very few flowers. They are going through several cups of fluids every day. I’ve never seen so many nor so many flying so quickly near the feeders. I count at least 6 hummers or more. Normally we see maybe one or two. They are very active chasing one another off the feeders. They are probably stressed due to the drought. I know we get hummers migrating south about this time. They are so incredible to watch. They can hover in one place.

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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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Dave and Griffin

I kind of want a dog. This is an old photo of Griffin. He was only visiting. As I told Jo, dogs need more love than cats but they give more love too.

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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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Filed under Classroom, Computers, Politics

Technology at Home

Danny Novo outlined his plan for his home computer system. The reason I invest in technology at home is three pronged. First, I need to know what is going on in the electronic gadget marketplace and watching the electronic shopping channel doesn’t really cut it. To this end I just shop. Purchasing equipment at NewEgg, Bestbuy, or OWC is what keeps me amused and informed. What turns my head at this moment is SSD drives and the discussion of their life span. Another prong is entertainment. The computer system in the studio is the hub of watching off-air channels, radio, and Internet stuff. And the third prong is making content and having the capacity to work creatively at home especially if I loose employment. I’ve always thought of the home computer as an hedge against being unemployed. I try to do this without breaking the bank.

A current goal is to create an off-site backup of our picture libraries, we have a safety deposit box. I just wonder if I should just dedicate a HDD to that task or burn BDR discs. I kind of let my archive get too big in iPhoto. And there is residue from various version changes to iPhoto. Big iPhoto archives are hard to backup and if it becomes corrupted too big of a failure. I think what I am going to do is duplicate the archive and then delete half on either copy to split in half. And in the future make new archive files every year.

Another goal is to organize my files more carefully. It must be a genetic predisposition to making a mess that I inherited from my parents. They were always messy in their offices and drawers. Clutter is so depressing.

So the three big prongs; shopping, entertainment , and job security are behind my technology interests.

I was reading a blog (I think it was where someone posted a question. They asked if anyone knew of a museum of old technology that they could send their outdated technology. I hold on to old stuff but I could help build a great museum. I must have 100 yards of RCA cables. I have some original boxes of Apple branded DVDs. Some copies of Mac Addict demo CDs. I have a box of Magneto Optical discs and no drive. I have one floppy disk. I even have a cassette 4 track recorder off in the corner.

But I hang on to stuff. Things that have no value but are increasingly part of the past and history of computer technology. Maybe I should start a museum?

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Filed under Computers