Category: iPad

The case for your own computer

You know that someone’s having a bad computer day when you see them rubbing their trackpad in desperation.

That was the case for me for one of the sessions that I proctored at the CSTA Conference.  To her defense, this presenter did ask me if she could connect her computer to the data projector over the lunch hour to make sure that it worked.  That’s the way that I handle things myself; I hate scrambling at the last minute and so, of course, I said to go for it.

Maybe it was premonition but I felt myself drawn to the room earlier than I normally would and that’s where I found her rubbing that trackpad.


“Yes, the computer won’t display on the data projector.”

I looked and, yes, everything was connected.  The computer was an ancient computer running Windows 10 so it was really slow to respond.  I thought that it might be even older than my clunker.

As if anticipating my next question, she said “No, it’s not my computer.   It’s the university’s and the presentation is on here, given to me.  I’m much more at home with my own computer running Linux.  Can you help?”

So, I went into the controls and made sure that the computer thought it was duplicating itself.   It thought it was, only, it wasn’t.

No problem, I thought.  I’ll just put the presentation on my computer and let her use it.  I pulled out a memory key and she said “I don’t think that will work”.  True to her word, it didn’t.  Mounting external devices had been disabled by the university IT Department.  OK, on to Plan B.  I’ll just get her to email it to me.  “I can’t do that.  The machine is limited to connecting only to the university wireless”.

I had this urge to start rubbing the trackpad.

People were now starting to come in for the presentation.  One in the audience came up and let us know that he had been in a previous presentation and the SVGA video in wasn’t working on the data projector.

Rats.  (or some such similar words)

I noticed that the data projector also had a connector for HDMI and a cable attached.

Mr. Helpful from the audience spoke up again.  “The last presenter had to use that.”

So, I grabbed the cable and headed for the HDMI port.  It didn’t fit.  The computer had a mini-HDMI port.

But, we were getting warm.

I made a connection with the AV supplier and he did have a mini-HDMI to HDMI converter.  A second later and we were good to go.

The presentation went well and, as we were packing her things, I asked why she didn’t use her own computer.  It was her partner’s computer and, rather than moving the presentation over, it seemed easier at the time to go this route.

“I’ll never make this mistake again.”



Are we witnessing the end?

I can recall how impressed I was with mobile technology on Star Trek.  In particular, there was that tablet thing that would be passed around for stylus input.  Many things that we see and take for granted these days came from that wonderful show.  Even today, I still enjoy watching the reruns.

And, it’s one of the reasons why I never wear a red shirt.

The concept of writing on a tablet that wasn’t tethered to anything always impressed me.  I’ll admit to being skeptical about the iPad when it first came along.  I had an iPod and it did everything that I ever needed in portable technology.  It just seemed that a bigger iPod was overkill.  Then, I got one as a gift for speaking at the Waterloo Region’s summer institute.

I quickly set it up and quickly got into the promise that it delivered. It still seemed awkward compared to carrying the iPod or a laptop.  Each had carved their own place into my world of technology use.  But, I stuck with it and got to use some pretty incredible applications and do some mobile things previously reserved for the laptop.  These days, though, it’s pretty much relegated to playing some games with friends or to quickly scan Twitter.

For the longest time, I tried to make it a laptop replacement.  I did write a few blog posts on it but came to realize that I’m really not a “typing on glass” type of guy. I prefer a real keyboard.  In a moment of weakness, I was in Hamilton with my friend Zoe and she talked me into going to BestBuy to purchase a bluetooth case/keyboard.  In this case, the bluetooth worked really well but the physical setup always felt wonky and it certainly wasn’t something that I could place in my lap to use while watching television.

Backups are done by syncing with iTunes which I’ve always found a difficult application to master.  Recently, my iPad doesn’t sync to my computer so I can’t have a current backup.  I get the message that “iTunes can’t backup iPhone because not enough free space is available on computer”.  My computer is full?  I checked – nowhere near being full.  The only consolation was that an internet search reveals that I’m not alone. There were lots of suggestions about how to solve the problem but nothing works here.

There’s been much said about the declining popularity of tablets recently.  In particular, statistics about declining iPad sales are pretty staggering.  Almost quietly, this week, Apple released a new version of the iPad.  Like most things Apple, a new hardware requires a software update and sure enough, there’s a new iTunes to be downloaded.  Maybe they’ve fixed my problem?  A quick try this morning shows that the problem is still there.

I was curious about the new iPad itself.  What is new and innovative? Apple is always good for that.  From what I can see it’s cheaper and has a brighter screen.  Other than that, there’s nothing to add to the functionality that has always been there.  I was thinking that maybe the success of the Chromebook and the ability to run Android applications on it might inspire a new way of looking at the iPad.  Sadly, there’s nothing that I can see.

On a positive note, cell phones have never been more popular,  With larger screen and better applications, they seem to really have taken over the portable computing area. And, they do it very nicely

As a result, now I’m thinking and wondering.  Has the technology that drives the tablet got as good as it’s going to get?  Maybe this is it and there isn’t anything more?  Is the true innovation going to continue to be in cell phones?

What do you think?  Have we seen the end of innovation on that type of technology?  If you could improve on the tablet, what would you do?

Here’s the course I failed

A couple of years ago when the concept of Sketchnoting was new, I was bound and determined to learn how to do them.

I started small; scribbling things on my iPad.  The results varied between childish and embarrassing with a severe tilt towards embarrassing.

I’m not sure what I would do with sketchnoting but I had a couple of ideas that I think would present well nicely using this artform.

I tried; I really did.  

I tried various applications; my daughter bought me a stylus for my birthday; I had a number of other styluses that I’d obtained from here and there but nothing seemed to improve when I was done.  I reverted to my finger.  I’m now convinced that I have a defective finger.

At a Bring IT, Together conference a couple of years ago, I had my chance to learn in the class of the master – Sylvia Duckworth.  I still remember it.  I sat in the front row, eager to learn.  My friend Colleen Rose sat next to me.  I should have known there that I was out of my league.  I’m convinced that when Colleen breathes out in the cold northern Ontario air, it is a beautiful piece of art.

So, I followed Sylvia’s instructions to the letter.

The results were still embarrassing.

The best, positive takeaway is now my Twitter avatar.  Colleen drew it as I tried my best to learn.

I guess that I need to keep on keeping on.

Fortunately, Sylvia has made her presentation available for us to enjoy in the form of a Google Slides presentation.

I’ll keep at it.

Maybe someday I’ll surprise myself.

In the meantime, we can all enjoy her lengthy slideshow here.

I’m not on the playground

Yesterday morning, I had just finished playing my online games with my friends and had noticed that there were some updates for apps on the iPad.  For those of you on this platform, you know that it’s quite common to get a rush of updates whenever Apple does something with its operating system.  In this case, iOS10 is the reason.  People have been downloading and updating but it’s always a good idea to wait and see if it goes well or if there’s a point release.  That was indeed the case – all kinds of articles like this one have been floating around.

Beware: Apple’s iOS 10 Update Bricks Some iPhones and iPads

Anyway, I took a look and there wasn’t any application that I use frequently enough or have a problem with so I wasn’t in a hurry to download.  As I always do, I took a look at the Featured applications and the release of Swift Playgrounds caught my eye.  I had been reading so much about this application and how it was going to be yet another game changer for education and those who wish to teaching coding.

Off I was to download it – only to find this:

Fair enough, I guess.  I was a little hesitant since iOS has been getting progressively slower and crashier for me since roughly iOS7.

But, if you’re going to be in the game, you have to play by Apple’s rules.  So, I checked to see how long this was going to take to download.  Settings | Software Update and “Your software is up to date.”  with iOS 9.3.5.  Time to do a quick bit of research and …

Goodbye, A5: iOS 10 ends support for iPhone 4S, iPad 2, and more [Updated]

Sigh.  My iPad2 isn’t eligible for the upgrade and it looks like it never will be.

This is the second iPad that I’ve owned.  I had an original iPad and it always felt like it was rushed to market.  This iPad2 was a real trouper.  Except for the slowness and crashing, it still works well when it works.  But all good things come to an end, I guess.

I’ve always been puzzled by the timing of the release of Apple things.  For example, in the case of Swift Playgrounds, it would have been nice to have had that all summer so that teachers who wanted to teach coding could a) become familiar with the application and b) ask their IT Departments to have it installed in cases where, by rules, teachers are not allowed to install their own applications.  I guess that a c) would now be important – update the operating system.

Apple was always seen as being so friendly to education – the timing makes me question that now.

So, $660 would allow me to upgrade my device buy a new device to test out this application.  Obviously, this won’t happen any time soon.  Like so many, I’m waiting with real interest to see how Android applications run on Chromebooks.  For half that price, you could have so much more.  In the meantime, there still remains the excellent applications Hopscotch and Scratch Jr.  For the many schools that have purchased their many iPad2s, that’s the only coding option.

But I will remain curious about this Swift Playgrounds.  I hope that someone kicks the tires and shares the experience with the rest of us.


Doug gets cultured

One of the things that I really like to do anywhere I go is explore.  There’s so much to see if you just take the time to do so.  I don’t know, for sure, if my wife enjoys it but I certainly do.  With Google’s “new” Arts & Culture application, I can extend my exploration into places that I’d never think possible just be being connected.

It’s not that there’s a shortage around here.  Just across the border is the magnificent Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village complex.  So much to see and yet so little time.  And, as we know, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  In Windsor, we have museums and galleries of our own.  I’m certainly not an expert at any level, but I do enjoy looking and resist the urge to touch. 

Given what’s happening in the US political process right now, it’s a interesting to take a look at “Electing Lincoln” from The Henry Ford.

Of course, politics isn’t the only topic in this curation of culture. 

One of my all-time favourite visits was the Harry Houdini museum in Niagara Falls.  Sadly, it’s gone now but artifacts from Houdini live on as a result of a simple search within the application. 

And, it’s not just stuff.  Check out the categories.

Even just poking around, you get the sense that there could be more categories and the use in education just smacks you between the eyes.  You’re only limited by your imagination and desire to inquire.

Check out the details and launch of the app on the official Google Blog.

What really puts it over the top for me is the integration with Google Cardboard and Streetview.  Some of what you’ll have seen may be a one off situation just exploring on your own.  The application brings it all together.

Download the application here.

When you do get your copy, you’ll absolutely want it installed on your device and your classroom devices.  If the time isn’t right for your district’s IT Department, you can always plan to enjoy it on the web here.

It’s just a storage drive

Well, actually, my iPad is much more but it turns out that it can be much more than that.  I just hadn’t used it that way.

Here’s my own personal story of discovery.

It started when I was writing the post “What does the fox say?“.  I had taken a screen capture and was about to bring it into the post I was creating.

I had just forgotten about where I was. 

iPad owners know that if you plug your device into a Macintosh or Windows computer, it launches the iTunes or iPhoto applications.  (Which, by my terms of use are the most unintuitive piece of software.  Friends have suggested alternatives!).  The applications are there to let you view your media and play it.  Increasingly, iTunes seems to be an advertising program for further Apple services.  Why can’t the default view be the media on the device instead of something for sale on the store?  Rhetorical, I know.  We know the answer.

I never plug my iPad into this PC.  I did when I first got the computer to transfer media when it ran Windows 7 but it never charged the iPad.  Why?  “Why Doesn’t an iPad Charge When Connected to a Computer?”  It just isn’t an issue; I typically use the USB charger that came with the iPad and everything works well.

Now, I don’t know why but I was writing the post and decided to use the screen capture image.  I’m writing the post using Scribefire in a Firefox tab.  It’s how I write most of the posts.  Out of habit, I plugged the iPad into the computer and was going to transfer the file.  The second I did that, I could have done a face whack.  There’s no iTunes or iPhoto for Linux so how am I going to do this?  Probably like I would any other time – go to the iPad, find the picture and email it to myself.  As I reached for the iPad, I stopped in my tracks.

Two things happened.

First the iPad was displaying the green icon indicating that it was charging.

As I turned back to the computer, I noticed that the Launcher had an icon wiggling.

Son of a gun if it hadn’t mounted the iPad as an external device.  It was sitting right over the Windows 10 icon which is a permanently mounted device.  Does this mean I can just get in and explore? 

I try and … nothing.

But, it’s a good nothing.  I shouldn’t be able to just start exploring.  The iPad was locked.  So, I unlocked it with no idea of what I might find. 

What I found was interesting.  I now had access to a completely visible file structure.

If you’ve ever poked around a hard drive, you’ll recognize or guess what might be in those folders.  Of course, what I’m looking for is in the DCIM folder.  I quickly located the image that I wanted, saved it to my desktop, and brought it into the post.  I feel good.  Maybe this computer stuff is starting to “take”.

But then I started to poke around everwhere to see all kinds of stuff that I guess Apple doesn’t want you seeing when you’re navigating with iTunes. 

Ubuntu was good enough to suggest, as you’ll see in the top right, that I could use Rhythmbox to play the music and Shotwell for the images.  I’ll admit; I was really excited.  It was a whole new world for the geeky me to explore.  I took advantage of it to feed the inner me need to learn.  Oh, and play some music just because I could.

Normally, at this part of any blog post, I’m looking for something interesting to wrap it up.  I’m stumped.  It’s probably no big deal to the majority of blog readers, I’m sure. 

For me, it was a great moment.  By documenting it here, am I doing the visible thinking thing?  Let’s run with that as this post concludes.

What does the fox say?

It’s one of life’s great mysteries, I guess.  

At the same time, sounds of animals are one of the more interesting and engaging things for the youngest of our learners.  I’ve got one app on my iPad that has stood the test of time through three kids.  It’s called SoundTouch and it can’t come more highly recommended.  There is a Lite version if you’re a little leery about shelling out money right off the bat.

For the little fingers, it has the greatest of interfaces…

Click on a cartoon animal and the screen changes to a random image of it, the iPad speaks its name and the name is displayed on the screen.  It’s guaranteed to keep attention for at least two or three minutes but also guaranteed for repeat visits for another go at it.  Animals aren’t the only categories – you can pick a different category from the bottom of the screen.  The imagery is absolutely first rate.

The only real problem that “we” have is forgetting to tap with a single finger and end up sort of mashing the screen with a palm instead.  Experienced iPad users know that that will generate an app switch to something else.  So, if an errant Twitter message gets sent from my account, you now know why!

If you’re not ready for the app yet, how about turning to Google?  If you have the time and patience, there’s lots of goodness in YouTube.

For immediate satisfaction, just send the search message directly to Google “what does a dog say”?

Turn up your speakers and let it woof, er, rip.

Of course, you’ll want to check out all of the sound collection.

You won’t find the fox though.  It still remains one of life’s great mysteries.