Just a Mystery

But, it’s a time saver so I don’t mind.  It’s just my own personal note of inquiry.

Recently, Google has added a new service to Google+.  It’s called Collections.  The first descriptor I read about it was that it was “Pinterest-like”.  I took a look at it and it was easy enough to access.  It just is another service added to Google+.

Then comes the million dollar question.  What would I use it for?

Well, what would I use Pinterest for?  It turns out that I use Pinterest as just another place to collect my blog posts.  It started out as just a demonstration in my presentations about how to use Pinterest.  Instead of collecting recipes and clothing ideas, I wanted to show that you could easily collect anything.  Depending upon the browser that I’m using at the moment, I either use the Pinterest Pin Button or Shareaholic to post my stuff there.  It takes just a couple of seconds and I had another way to collect blog content (and another backup).

So, I decided that I might use Google Collections as a way to collect my own blog posts.  I’m not short of ego so I set up a collection for the task.

Now, I already share my post posts to my Google+ friends.  It just gets added to my Google+ stream of consciousness.  It actually works very nicely – I just paste the URL to the post in a new message and Google reaches out to the blog to get the details and include an image to spruce it up a bit.  I changed my morning workflow just a bit.  I paste the URL in my main stream and then open my collection and paste it there.  That’s it.  Nothing else done on my end.

But, a couple of days in, look what happened.

Unknown to me until I thought I’d look at my collection and see how things were going, Google+ somehow made the connection that I was posting URLs to my blog both on my main feed and in the collection.  I guess the folks in the “Let’s make things easier at Google” department decided to streamline things for me.  It appears that it recognized what I was doing and made the post for me automatically.  Me, being somewhat oblivious to things, continued to post the URL in both places.

I did a “Whaaaaa?” and decided to test the theory for a few days.

Sure enough.  When I post something in the main stream, Google+ was adding the entry to my collection automatically for me.  Now, I might understand it if I was using Blogger for a platform but I use WordPress.

I’m at a loss to explain this and would appreciate any insights that anyone, anywhere have for this.  Artificial intelligence?  Learning how I work?  Did I touch a setting?  (I swear that I didn’t purposely.)  I really can see the advantage of a Collection taking a big stream of things and breaking it into little digestible pieces.  (See my Diigo account for a dog’s breakfast of things)

Right now, it’s just a mystery and I hate it when I can’t explain things. 

Hey, There’s My Fridge

For a chance to expand your mind a bit, take a read of this article.
Ubuntu: Make Wonderful Things Possible!
It’s not just another article about Linux or Ubuntu so don’t necessarily get turned off by the title.

It’s a story about a refrigerator.  But, not just any refrigerator.  It’s a smart refrigerator.

And yes, this will be the future for us.  Maybe not right now; our current fridge does a nice job but there will come a time when it needs to be replaced and we’ll have to buy what’s currently available.  (Just try to buy a rotary phone now…)

It’s the latest in the topic stream “Internet of Things”.

Now, people freak out when they realize that the internet knows where their phone is.  What about all of the other current and future devices that will be smart?

Check this out – A Map of Every Device in the World That’s Connected to the Internet.

It’s pretty impressive, but as one of the commenter notes, that’s only devices that have explicit IP addresses.  We know that there are lots more devices.

So, how to you find these things?  It’s time to introduce Shodan.

I think that we’ve become so used to using Google or Yahoo! or Bing or Lycos or DuckDuckGo to find content.  What if we want to find devices connected to the internet?

Take Shodan for a test ride.  Read about it.  “Shodan: The scariest search engine on the Internet

I suppose it was inevitable, and yet, there’s something incredibly addictive about being able to search for webcams.

This is a great conversion starter for all classrooms and certainly the technical aspects are terrific for Computer Studies classrooms.

Last to Know

I’ll admit it.  I seem to go through life missing so much.

There’s nothing more embarrassing that going for a drive with my wife and asking her “Was that house always there?”  The look I get in return confirms that she really is a saint.

But, when I do clue in on good things, I’m so happy.

I had one of those moments this week.  I was bored and at my MacBook Pro and so decided to see if I was running the latest version of Firefox.  It turns out that I wasn’t.  I’m on the Beta channel and so there are often more updates than on the other channels.  Normally, I just sit there and get the notification the update had been done in the background and that all I have to do is restart.  Why I elected to check manually now, I have no idea.  It was a 60MB download so I knew that I was in for a fair wait with the slow internet connection that I have.

When I rebooted, life went on as per normal. I’m now running version 38.0.5.

I’m plugging away and I notice this little icon.

Was that always there?

I fire up Firefox on my Ubuntu computer, running version 37 and go to the same webpage.  Nada.

OK, it must be new.  I’d be best to look at the release notes.  I don’t see a reference to it.  There is some discussion that a reader mode would be available in version 39.  Am I looking at a work in process on the Beta channel?

Time for some investigation.  I give it a click on an open Hootsuite window and get this.

It looks like a Reader Mode.  It doesn’t work on all pages and seems to kick in intermittently.  Now, I’ve been a user of Evernote’s Clearly for a long time now.  I like reading in a clean, no-distraction environment.  If this is going to be an integral part of Firefox like it has been in Safari for a while, I’m all for it.

In the classroom, the concept is perfect.  Displaying a web page?  Steal the focus from the extraneous and get right to the content.

I just wish I could find a concrete reference to it.  It would be nice to know why it works on this page but not that.  Is there a configuration option?

More importantly, has it always been there?

Around Every Corner…

….there’s a picture….

When you’re not from a particular town or city, you never really fully understand the history of the place.  So much is told in the buildings and architecture.  Downtown Windsor is such a place for me.  You can drive around and look at the spectacular buildings and homes and just imagine the stories that go along with them.  You recognize part of the history from the names of the places.  There are so many locations with “Walker” in their names or anything with “shire” in it.   Sometimes buildings actually have the name of a local historical person attached.

Such is the Paul Martin Sr. Building in the heart of the city.  It’s a building that I’ve driven by many times.  It’s such a beautiful building that would have been far more magnificent in its day.  These days, sidewalkers need to be protected from falling pieces from structure.  It’s so sad.

Last night, while watching the evening news, they reported that the Federal Government is committing $6M towards restoring the outside of the building.

Now, short of hopping into the car and driving in to take a look to see the “before” picture, I did what any digital citizen would do…I loaded Google Maps, zoomed into downtown Windsor and did a streetview look at the building.  It’s a discovery activity that I really enjoy doing.  I’ve mentioned before that I’ll do the same thing to get my bearings before a Formula 1 race.  It’s probably more useful there since I can’t just get in the car and drive to Catalunya.

Now, Google Maps shows the images as it does its drive-by pictures.  There’s so much more in this day of taking pictures and tagging them by location. 

Another way to explore a location is through Google Views.  Just the random landing page when you launch views is worth the trip to the site.  Clicking on any of the location dots takes you in to a picture and story that go with it.  In my mind, it was like my Streetview routine but powered by images provided by the user rather than the Google images.

At this point, I’ll admit to losing focus — big time.

I launched Google Views and headed to downtown Windsor to look for dots.

What I found consumed the rest of my waking hours!  As you might expect, there is a rich collection of pictures taken along the Sculpture Gardens and Riverside Drive, many featuring the Detroit skyline.  It was like feeding time at the zoo for me.  I want another one and then another one and then another one….  There were also images of what Google calls Photo Spheres.  I’d call them panoramas but hey…

I did eventually remember what I was looking for but, sadly, there was no complete image of the Paul Martin St. building.  But, there sure was a lot else!

For the geo-picture lover, this is awesome.  In the classroom where you’re trying to put a location in context, the combination of Google Streetview and Google Views just can’t be beat.

Oh, and here’s the view from the Spanish Grand Prix!


Maps, Oh My!

I was originally going to call this “Nostalgia Finds Maps” and that would have been good too.  The bottom line, this was a personal exercise in inquiry that took me to a place I didn’t know existed – and I’m so glad it did.  Like most people, I suspect, Google Maps is the place to be to map things out.  Seconds and thirds might take me to Bing Maps or Mapquest but now….

I logged onto Facebook this morning and a friend had shared this beautiful picture of the square in Goderich, Ontario, close to my childhood home.  The picture is from “Your Life in Stills Photography“, a Goderich photography service.  To respect their work, this is just a clip of the original picture that begs the question “Why do they call it a square?”  Follow this link for the original image.  This, and many of the images from Your Life are incredible.  The Square was a favourite destination in my youth, only it was filled with trees.

As I was poking around, I saw that the image was also shared on the Ontario’s West Coast Facebook page.  Now, when you grow up away from Lake Huron, you think of the West Coast as Kincardine, Goderich, Bayfield, Grand Bend, …  All were popular day trip destinations in Huron and surrounding counties, but there’s more.  “Favourite Five Stops on Day Trip Through Huron County“.

I continue to post around and notice that Walton is listed as part of the West Coast.  I was surprised since it was further inland.  My memories of Walton is of a little village part of the amazing softball community. The Wikipedia lists it as a population of 96 so, even with rounding errors, it’s still on the small size.  So, I’m reading the article, remembering great times and I notice the map section, with the latitude and longitude.  (43.67784°N 81.30168°WIt’s actually a link so I give it a click.

Holy gold mine.

I end up on a site called GeoHack, really new to me and part of the Wikimedia Tool Labs

And look at what we find.

Obviously, it would be presumptuous to label this as every mapping service ever but I suspect you’ll have blisters on your mouse clicking finger before you’re done exploring them all.

And, Canadian resources…

And this is the beginning.  Discover everywhere in The Wikipedia that has made reference to this location as well so many other resources like Geocaching, Planet Spotter, …


Tangential Learning

No, this is not a memory from the past post.  However, the “But the operator says forty cents more for the next three minutes” is really a blast from the past.  That, and the image of the telephone booth.  When was the last time you saw/heard either of those?

What started all this was just a reflection on just how tangental learning or, at the least, reading can be when you’re connected and you let it happen.

You probably don’t care but one of my curations is of my own blog.  I tuck away blog posts here on Flipboard.  It started as just a challenge to myself to see if I could make it work but it’s turned out to be a real time saver.  Often, I’ll want to revisit a post where I’m aware of the concept but not necessarily the crucial keywords that would let me search for it with the WordPress search feature.  It’s the old concept of “I’ll know it when I see it”.  So, there are times where just flipping through the past posts can be one of the most efficient ways of finding something.

It was simple enough to do; I just added “Stories matching “dougpete.wordpress.com” to the topics that I’m following.  I open it to see the latest entries and then flip them into the above mentioned Flipboard document.  It’s about a two second effort.

This morning, I was doing this and noticed this page.

In true Flipboard fashion, it had captured a bit of the post and any related image.

You’ll see Jaimie’s beautiful image as well as a recent Sketchnote from Sylvia Duckworth.

None of this is particularly news.  But look closely at the Sketchnote.

One of the powers of working in the Flipboard environment is that somehow it’s analysing the content of the article and creating a category for it.  In this case, it’s notified me that there’s a category (or at least a search for “Sylvia”).  Just tap on it to follow.  All of a sudden, I was off in a different direction reading things about Sylvias.

Sometimes, the best learning comes just from a random thought or interest.  I guess it’s kind of nice if it’s related to a topic.

Now, I’m not ready for an AMA session about Sylvias but I do know a bit more than I did when I woke up.

I blame it all on Sue Waters who challenged me to find new and different ways to use Flipboard.  Thanks, Sue.

But Is It Art?

I know what Cubism is.

I don’t “get it” but that’s OK.  There’s a great deal of artistic expression that goes over my head.  I’m not hating here so Picasso fans relax.

Let’s step it up digitally by reading this.

Called Kubist, you can turn your traditional images/pictures into your own Cubism originals.

It’s all done through this web application.

Upload your own image and watch the magic happen.

So, what’s the fun of dog ownership if you can’t have a little fun.  Jaimie was up for the task.

Let’s Kube him!

At 50 points, he’s pretty abstract!

But at 1000 points, he’s stylin’.

For model #2, I turned to Jaimie’s cousin.  Instead of white, he’s a beautiful mixture of boxer brown and black.  Check out the difference between 1000 points and 100 points here.

As you can see from the adjustments on the right hand side, you have some control over how things will appear.  They’re a great deal of fun to adjust and see the results immediately.

Want to talk mathematics?  Flip between triangle style to cell style and back again.  Grab a vertex and resize elements.  Based on the number of points in the image, can you create a formula that will determine the number of distinct objects?  The original article is a pretty fascinating technical read in itself.  The source code for the project is available on github if students are so inclined.

After abusing the family pet, where else could you do this?  How about a cubism representation for your school logo?  Or a further appreciation for the original artists who created the original cubism art?

Set aside a bit of time to play with this.  If you have any ideas, please be sure to share them.