If you asked me to name a shipwreck, like many, I would give you Edmund Fitzgerald and Titanic. That’s about all that comes to mind.

It’s not that I haven’t been aware of more. I grew up close to Lake Huron and now live close to Lake Erie. Watching big ships glide past has always been a pastime, and an exciting one at that. I always stop to watch when I have the chance to see one up close or even one sitting on the horizon.

There is always something intriguing about a marine museum and I’ve visited many. To be honest, I can visit them many times and it always seems like the first time.

The latest one around here is an outdoor museum in Olde Sandwich, Prosperity Place.

An interesting resource came to my attention recently. Michigan Shipwrecks indicates that there have been 6000 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes and some 1500 are in Michigan waters. I don’t know about you but those numbers just blow me away.

This website, and corresponding application, identify those that are in Michigan waters.

The locations are identified by difficulty for underwater divers.

But, you can learn about each by just clicking on a point and reading the details.

A searchable database of Ontario Shipwrecks is available here. Yes, the Edmund Fitzgerald is in there.

A new way to read

This is a cool concept and it comes courtesy of the New York Public Library. They’ve embarked on a program to make traditional books available on Instagram.

Now, if you think of it, classics like Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” are available in text form in just about every library in the world. It’s even available for download on your device since it’s in the public domain. I have a printed copy in my bookshelf and a copy on my iPad.

It’s been interpreted in many forms…

Alan Parson’s Project (second song)

Vincent Price (a reading)

And now on Instagram, courtesy of the NYPL!

It was interesting to see what it looks like on a cellphone.

The collection, so far, is available here:

What do you think? A viable new media format?

Cheering for the crab

Yesterday, I did one of my least favourite things – went to the dentist. The good news is that I had no issues. I got them cleaned, polished, and then I was on my way.

But what would any visit to a doctor or dentist be without a long wait in the waiting room? A long time ago, I would have leafed through an old magazine. A short time ago, I would check things out on my smartphone.

Things were different today. Business must be good because, in the waiting room, there was a huge Samsung television/monitor tacked onto the wall. It wasn’t there a year ago at my last visit.

The image was huge and crisp. And I mean HUGE. There was no model number on the front but it had to be in the 70-80 inches category. There were at least five chairs side by side under it. I’d have to take something off an existing wall if it was ever to land at our place. I remember thinking that if my blog was on that screen, people could read it from the other side of the parking lot!

I suppose they could have displayed some news channel or a weather network but those that come to the dentist aren’t there for that sort of thing. Despite all the times that I’ve been to one, there’s always that nagging feeling that this will be the visit where they find a cavity. I’m guessing the logic is that something soothing is required.

So, they had an aquarium running on it. The people in the chairs were there staring at the digital fish as they swam back and forth. I watched for a while and made a point of finding that aquarium when I got home. After all, it was playing from YouTube. How hard could it be?

Actually, it was quite difficult. Try it for yourself – go to YouTube and search for aquarium and marvel at the number of results.

But I did it. Fortunately, the author had left a signature cat in the bottom right corner. That made it a bit easier. As it turns out, there’s a whole YouTube channel.

I will say; there are a LOT of good aquariums there. It must have been difficult to decide which one to use for their purpose. As it would turn out, when I finally did get in to visit the dentist, there were a number of displays throughout the office with more aquariums running. I guess nothing succeeds like success. Or, it does at least in their minds.

As I was waiting though, it was interesting to hear the conversations. For me though, I wasn’t watching the fish. You see, in the video, there’s a crab who is trying to capture any fish that happened to swim close enough. I know – probably not very helpful in regulating one’s feelings before sitting in the chair.

But I found that at least gave me something to do during my half hour plus wait. I was cheering for the crab and throwing a bit of body language its way as if to help.

I kept thinking that watching the crab would totally freak out any little kid who happened to be watching! I came to the conclusion that it must be tough to be a crab or the one that was in the movie was deliberately inept.

It also got me into a little bit of learning. In the bottom left corner, the resolution of 2560×1440 was displaying and it identified itself as WQHD. I’ve got to check out the pricing next time I’m at a suitable store. It’s never too early to start dropping ideas for my birthday.

Repurposing Christmas pictures

I hope that you enjoyed my Christmas picture as much as I did. To refresh your memory, or if you didn’t drop by the blog yesterday, here it is.

That’s such a great picture and I can use it in other places. Yes, I could bring it into Photoshop and do some work with it. I’ve done so many workshops showing exactly how to do that. It works fine and it’s a great skill to have. But now, there’s a quicker and easier way.

Photoscissors has designed an application to do the deed for you. For those moments when you need a quick background removal, there’s an online version of the application as well. You can find it here.

It works as promised. Just drag and drop and image and then indicate the background. Voila!

Now, it gets interesting. Suppose you want a different background or a coloured background. From the options on the right side of the screen, make your choice. In my case, I thought it would be nice to put Jaimie at the Navy Yard in front of the tunnel.

Then, there’s the whole thing of perspective. Using the handles on the sides of the image, I resize Jaimie and then try to background again.

Much better.

And it’s so very quick.

If you use this sort of thing often or you think you might in the future, make sure to bookmark this one. If you’re doing a lot of this, a downloaded and installable application will be nice. But for the quick and easy or Chromebook users, you’ll have fun with it right on the web.

Keeping control of your email

Is email a thing anymore? <grin>

In my world, there are other ways to get in contact with me. My email address is generally used as a repository for blog post notifications and newsletters…

But, your mileage may vary.

If you’re using Google’s mail system, you might be interested in this feature. Suppose you send an email to someone. The natural assumption is that it goes there, they read it, and then act on it. But, sometimes, the “act on it” can be not nice things. Like forwarding it to someone else, for example. Hopefully, it isn’t printing it and putting it in a binder. (Don’t laugh; I know people who did that)

Some of this Gmail addresses in a new feature set.

You can access the feature at the bottom of a message you’re creating…

Before you send that message, clicking the little padlock/clock combination icon reveals…

Check out the functionality. Want a message to expire – there’s a pull-down menu for that. The concept of a passcode in order to read the message is intriguing. Much like two factor verification, it adds a new level of security to things.

The whole thing is an interesting concept. I’m sure that the tech savvy are right away thinking of ways to get around this (screen shots anyone)?

It will be interesting to see if this feature has any legs to it. Will it be picked up by the emailing, er, gmailing population? If it’s popular there, will other email providers provide the same feature? What happens when you send a Gmail message to another provider? Will this invoke a new standard for email that all providers will have to observe? Lots of questions at this keyboard.

How about you? Do you see this as a must-have feature that you’ll be using regularly?

Another phishing quiz

I don’t think that you can get enough of these things. You have to realize that while you may be getting smarter, those who would do nasty things are at least keeping pace.

Quizzes like this are a fun way to make sure that you’re on the top of your online game.

And, in the classroom, it shouldn’t be a matter of a “one and done” approach to online literacy and safety. It should be done regularly and constantly revisited to make sure that the lessons are learned and reinforced.

With that introduction, I turn you to a Phishing Quiz posted on the withgoogle site.

It doesn’t take too long to complete if you know what you’re looking for. There are eight examples to work your way through.

I like how the authors personalized it by asking for a name and email address which will appear in the questions so that it approximates what might happen in real life. The site claims this information never goes anywhere but I didn’t give out my real stuff just in case.

I am proud to say that I have been paying attention and got 8/8 on the quiz the first time through. I even did a screen capture to prove it. But, I decided to step back the ego just a bit and not include it in the post.

If you’re reading this on the Saturday morning that I post it, take five minutes and put yourself to the test.

Step it up

One of the more fun, active, and interesting things that you can do with your micro:bit is to turn it into a step counter. These things are so popular in today’s world; a phenomenon starting with the Fitbit device. Now, you’ll find that counting steps is just one feature of a watch or smartphone that you own.

Making your own using the micro:bit is a pretty easy task and is one of the activities that you’ll find at the project page of the makecode resource. Or, another resource that goes a bit further in Python here.

While a lot of things can be created and run in the editor at the site, this activity is one that you’ll want a real physical micro:bit to play around with and to test.

The key to all this working is an example of another way of having the micro:bit accept input. You’re not going to use either the A or B button here but rely on the fact that the micro:bit can detect when it’s shaken. The assumption here is that each step will generate a “shake”.

I found that it worked nicely. Accuracy isn’t necessarily the goal here; it’s to get the excitement from seeing the activity in action.

In order to fully test it, you’ll need to attach the battery pack (and batteries $$) to the micro:bit so that, once you’ve loaded your code, it will work without being attached to your computer.

I took mine and tucked the micro:bit and the battery pack inside my sock and then took it for a walk. I did so some counting and it did display a count after I stopped and removed it. Unlike my watch, it’s a little more different to get an ongoing count while actually walking! I need transparent socks.

For your morning smile, I will admit that it did feel a little like being under house arrest and having to wear an ankle bracelet. (not that I’d really know) But, with the exercise complete, there really was a bit of a Wow! factor. You really can do some pretty sophisticated programming with this thing.

I think back to my original post for this series of posts about the micro:bit. Could I have done this in an hour when I first started to program? Absolutely not. Even the concept of the step counter would have been foreign at the time. But, in today’s world, what a wonderful introduction to the concept of real-world application programming for students!