Tag Archives: tools

Tools We Use: iPad Edition

Fake Steve Jobs (AKA Daniel Lyons) wrote a letter to “The People of the World” saying “You’re welcome.”

Spiritually speaking, we are living in the Great Depression, and you are waiting in line for sustenance. We, all of us, are experiencing the world that Deleuze and Guattari described so presciently in Capitalism and Schizophrenia… The truth is, all over the world, across every culture, there exists a sense of yearning. A kind of malaise. An emptiness. At the risk of sounding like Dr. Seuss: There is a hole in your soul. That is what we’re addressing at Apple. That is the hole we aim to fill. Sadly, as you may have begun to suspect, that hole can never really be filled. The truth is that modernity, the condition of living in our modern world, has inflicted terrible wounds on your inner self. These wounds can never be healed. They can only be treated. At best we provide palliative care. Not a cure. Because, my dear fellow human beings, there is no cure for what ails you. The products we create provide only temporary relief. Their magic eventually wears off.

So, having received my iPad via special delivery from a friend who was attending a conference in Denver last week, I thought I’d write about it before the magic wore off. Continue reading

New Tools: Sophie and Apture

Just a random couple of notes on two tools that I’ve looked at recently.

1) Mary Murrell points out that the Institute for the Future of the Book has released Sophie 1.0 and has announced a competition for a workshop at the institute for multimedia literacy at USC. Sophie is a multi-media authoring tool– a bit like Macromedia Director, for those who can remember that far back into the last millenium, but much much better. It’s open source, it has a very nice interface that allows for rapid construction of multi-page documents which can incorporate sound, video and images. It has a timeline for creating time-based presentations and it handles most of the main formats without trouble. It does take a bit of energy to learn, but it could be used to create really rich presentations or documents. It’s kind of the perfect in-between-film-and-text tool. The only shortcoming is that it produces its own file format which requires the sophie reader (also free, and available on mac-windows-linux) to read a book produced in sophie. This means that docs can’t be easily displayed on the web, but requires the viewer to download and install a piece of software. Better for presentations than stand-alone docs, I guess. However, it looks like one could export the time -based stuff to a movie format, and the text-based stuff to a pdf, so it’s not that bad.

2) On the extremely cool, but maddening side is Apture. Apture is an amazingly clever add-on to a web-site that allows beautifully clever links that pop-up and move the window around and allow you to quickly add photos and video to any site. It’s hard to explain (go play with the the demo). The down side is that this is 1) so NOT free and open source software, and as far as I can tell a direct route into allowing apture to basically display whatever it wants on your site, in order to get this functionality (it uses a remote application server that essentially serves content on top of your site, so it’s a bit like an annotation service); and 2) it ruins the “view source” aspect of the web by overlaying content that cannot be easily investigated, as one can with normal content displayed in a browser. Apture is hardly the main culprit here, but they are part of a trend towards the obfuscation of web technologies, towards a re-closing of the source so that it becomes harder and harder for individuals to teach themselves such new tools. Indeed, Apture is not intended to be learned and re-used by anyone except at the interface level, unlike the wealth of tools (HTML, PHP, perl, python, ruby) that we have come to expect as part of our information environment. This makes me sad and mad. I wish they could see the light 🙂

Tools: Blinkx Video/Podcast Search

Blinkx is a media search engine with some academic potential, especially for finding interesting material that might be useful in the classroom. A search for anthropology turned up several videotaped lectures by folks like Clifford Geertz, Marilyn Strathern, and Brian Ferguson, as well as podcasts and, of course, the usual irrelevant material (although not too much of that — maybe search technology is getting smarter after all!). The interface is a little awkward. On one hand, they have RSS feeds for any search terms; on the other, there’s some funky controls (like a slidebar labelled simply “date” and “relevance” at opposite ends — I assume you can sort by date or relevance, but what does “2/3 relevance, 1/3 date” do?), it appears that all searches are limited to 5 pages of results, and the interface is (apparently) flash-based, so you can’t go back and forward using your browser toolbars and, most strangely, the page numbers to move forward or backwards through your search results are activated simply by mousing over them (rather than clicking the traditional way). I would venture that as Blinkx moves forward, they’ll lose the funky interface and put their content front-and-center, where it belongs.

Tools: Free Basecamp Accounts for Teachers

Via The Office Weblog comes news that Basecamp is offering free Basic accounts for teachers. Basecamp is an online project management tool that offers users the ability to create todo lists, file sharing, and collaborative editing and has great potential for educational use — say, allowing students to collaborate on group projects. The Basic account lets you manage up to 15 projects at once and to upload files (while their trial-level Free account only allows 1 project and no file sharing) and should be more than adequate for those whose classes aren’t 300-student lecture-hall types. They say “drop us a line” if your interested; the only email address I’ve come across is support@basecamphq.com, which I’ve sent an email to; I’ll post an update if this turns out not to be the best way to contact them.