Whatever happened to …

… file pathnames?

In many ways, I had it easy.  One of the more abstract concepts that we all eventually assimilate is the concept of “where” that computer file is stored.  My first networked experience in K-12 was on the Unisys Icon computer.  By its nature, it was networked; there was no local drive attached to the computer and everything has to be stored on the fileserver.  You would log in and be plunked into your “home” directory and everything was stored there.  

The concept was actually easy to teach new computer users because they didn’t have any baggage.  The popular home computer at the time was the Commodore PET and teaching a “new” way of storing files was a bit more difficult with those fortunate enough to have one.  Yet, it wasn’t terribly difficult because there really wasn’t another option.  Only the administrator actually had access to the floppy diskette drive located on the server.  They had to swim or sink.

Time and technology moves on.  Eventually computers had one or two floppy drives of various techniques and capacity and later a fixed hard drive internally.  That wasn’t enough to confuse the computer user so throw into the fray external hard drives, thumb drives, tape and other massive storage schemes, storage on a cell phone or mp3 player and now cloud storage.  Who doesn’t have a Google, OneDrive, and Dropbox account these days?  You might even have duplicates of them if you have a personal account and then a school account.

What got me thinking about this was a comment that my friend Andy Forgrave made recently about innovation and change.  If I recall correctly, he was defending the lack of a headphone jack on the new iPhone.  His comment, very true, dealt with a symbol that we long time computer users just take as granted.  To save a document in most computer programs, you simply click on the diskette icon.

The bizarre thing is that it furthers the abstraction by using a device that today’s student will probably have never seen and yet we hang on to it as something that’s crucial to the operation of the software.

Of course, in order for all of these things to work and your computer (or others) to be able to access it, you need to have a name for it.  Then, once you get the actual name, you need some way to navigate the device to find what you’re looking for.  Here’s where it gets interesting and a really abstract.  As I write this post, I’m using my computer booted into Ubuntu.  

My “Home” looks like this.  It’s not dissimilar to whatever your computer calls “Home”.  There’s a spot for my documents, my downloads, my pictures, my music, etc…

You’ll see, in the left pane, that my computer has access to Windows 10 which is also on this computer.  For Ubuntu, it’s mounted as a drive and is located at:

I like the comparison of the two.  In the first picture, everything is basically an icon and a double click will open whatever I want.  In the second, you get the actual details about how the drive is mounted.  And, I could dig deeper and get to everything that’s stored on the Windows side if I want.

In the beginning of the personal computer, the navigation scheme differed from computer to computer.  One thing was consistent though, installed things or saved files were tucked away nicely where you wanted them.  You’d get back to them by navigating from the C:\ prompt or double clicking on the Macintosh HD icon.  

Things got more sophisticated when installing software; I can recall working with our IT department to build an image for all our computers.  We had to track where things got installed; I remember distinctly the comment made after monitoring a pretty sophisticated program “It barfed all over the hard drive.”

At the heart of all this is navigating to the appropriate file.  Whether you’re using the latest or the greatest or the oldest and most stable system with or without cloud storage, it’s mission critical that you are able to find what you’re looking for.  In my case, going from school to school where there might be a networked computer or a standalone, I needed to have my files.  My failsafe was to create whatever document I needed and save to the desktop of my computer.  Then, I could drop it into the cloud or the local hard drive, or a thumb drive that I could carry to that non-networked location.  Success was guaranteed because of the pathname structure that works reliably.  It’s just that so much effort has gone into providing a user interface that hides it from you!

Some thoughts for a Sunday…

  • If you were stranded on your computer with no user interface other than a terminal prompt, could you find that resume that you know is stored on your hard drive?
  • Have you ever lost a file on your computer because of relying on the computer to save it rather than your own scheme?
  • If you have more than one piece of cloud storage, have you ever gone to the wrong cloud?
  • How do you transfer files from one computer to another?
  • If you were approached by a software company to provide an alternative to the diskette for the “Save” icon, what would it look like?

I’m dying to hear your thoughts.  Please take a moment to share.

Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts?

Please visit this Padlet and add your idea.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!


Hater, not a phisher

Who doesn’t like to get new followers on Twitter?  I’d like to think that it means that you’ve done something interesting or worthwhile and the follower wants more.  After all, isn’t that how it works?

It doesn’t seem so lately, at least for me.

I like to know when I get a new follower.  If I have time, I’ll check them out and, if they’re interesting, will follow them back.  It’s also my way of spotting a new Ontario Educator so that I can add them to one of my lists.  Or, I can just ignore them.  

In Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, you can open a list to follow your new followers.  That quickly lets you spot these folks 

Not everyone that follows you is nice though.  You can generally spot them a mile away.  They exist to promote themselves or their products.  

Generally, my response is “No thanks”.  If I want to buy your product, I’ll go looking for it.  Chances are I’ll find it for a better price somewhere else.

Lately, there’s been sort of a hybrid scum that’s been following me.  

I know this is heavily censored but I don’t want to promote this in any way, shape, or form.

This is a “slightly” modified version of the profile as shown by Hootsuite.  If I was to click the timeline icon, the account does indeed share some things that I might find interesting from someone else.  In another time, I might indeed follow them back.

However, look at the Bio.  

Things used to be so much easier before Twitter started converting links to its own t.co links.  Now, you need to click through in order to get to the original shared site.  Who knows what sits there waiting for you?  Upon further inspection, you’ll see that they’ve elected to use a different sort of collection of characters in the Bio.  I’m guessing it’s to bypass any detector that would normally flag the account.

What can you do?

Well, first, don’t follow their link.  Just like the scams that you see show up regularly in email, you haven’t any idea where you’re going or what might land in your browser.

Secondly, block the account.  They won’t be able to see you any more and, more importantly, won’t be able to see your own list of followers and who you are following.  

Thirdly, you can report them to Twitter.  I don’t know how quickly or seriously Twitter is about these reports.  I know that it makes me feel good though.

Fourthly, get your followers the old fashioned way.  Be interesting.

And, fifthly, if you have $59 to burn, send it to me instead.

Whatever happened to …

… computer startup sounds?

It was a common request that I used to get.  It was particularly important to those people who would start up an entire lab of computers using a remote access tool and the computers would all chime in at roughly the same time.

“How do I get the computers to stop playing that annoying startup sound?”

Personally, I always felt that it was a helpful thing.  On my home computer, it was a signal that the computer was close to stopping thrashing my hard drive and would be ready for actual use.  Like all computer-y things, the sound changed from version to version of the operating system.

And, thanks to the internet and people who like to curate these sort of things, turn up your speakers and I present…

Ubuntu Startup Sound

Macintosh Startup Sound

Windows Startup Sound (wait for it)

Of course, there were also shutdown sounds but they weren’t nearly as memorable.

On this Sunday morning, how about sharing your thoughts?

  • Do/did you have a favourite startup sound?
  • Have you ever tweaked your computer to have your own startup sound or disable it completely?  (I’ll confess to a “Hello Dave” on a computer long time recycled.  It got me noticed at meetings…)
  • Do you even hear it anymore or do you just put your computer to sleep and wake it instead of rebooting?
  • These are the ones that I’ve used; if you’ve used a different operating system, how about searching for its sounds and sharing them in the comments?

Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts?

Please visit this Padlet and add your idea.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!

Is courage in my future?

Like so many, I suspect, I was hoping that the rumblings that Apple was going to do away with the 3.5mm audio jack was just a bunch of hype leading to the announcement of the new iPhone 7.  Then, it would be bait and switch to something else.

And we were wrong.

Do an internet search for iPhone 7 and courage and you’ll find all kinds of thoughts about it.  I remember one article that I had read that showed the back of a desktop computer with connectors that many of today’s youth wouldn’t recognize.  The parallel printer port, a nine pin serial, and then the standard audio jack.  That audio jack worked well then, it still works now, and there’s no reason in my mind that it wouldn’t work into the future – provided it’s available on the device.

The internet was quick to respond and parody – probably the best and well done is the Apple Plug which shows how to upgrade your current equipment to iPhone7 status.

it’s the nature of the business of technology that there has to be something new and shiny with each introduction of a new product.  The audio jack was the thing to be revolutionized this time around, I guess.

As I look around and take inventory in this room, it’s kind of scary.

  • Everything electronic that I have within reach has one of these standard jacks in it, although not all are currently in use
  • I do have the television with the tinny internal speaker connected to my desktop computer speakers (always buy a set with two inputs)
  • Of course, my computer is connected to the other input
  • My phone and mp3 player are both charging and they play back that way
  • Even the Bluetooth player that my son gave me as a gift has a jack (maybe for a backup connection?)

Then there are the things that plug into the jack

  • Every device comes with its own set of ear buds but my inventory doesn’t stop there
  • I’ve been to conferences where one of the vendor takeaways is a set of ear buds
  • I have a set of noise cancelling headphones which are excellent for airplane use
  • I own a set designed specially for running so that they don’t fall out

I guess the bottom line is that I’m pretty much vested in the technology.  And the nice part?  In a world with proprietary connections, this is one spec that just works everywhere.  If I leave a set a home, I can always dig into my computer bag and dig out another one.  If I don’t want to wear things in or over my ear, I can just plug into a set of speakers.

I’m not the type to run out and dump my Android phone just because Apple released something new anyway so my initial reaction was to just sit back and watch.  It will be interesting to see how the fanboys react to it.  While I don’t think I’ve ever lost a pair of ear buds, I think that can be attributed to the fact that they’re generally connected to an anchor in an audio player.  Without that, I could almost guarantee that I’d lose things without wires.

Then I read this.  Samsung next to ditch 3.5mm headphone jack

Say it isn’t true!  It also has that expensive word in the article.  Proprietary.  

I think I’ll hold my existing equipment tightly until the industry gets its act together.

The Art of the ReBlog

Ever since the blog post about posting other people’s content without permission, the concept of sharing blog content has been weighing on me.

On the one hand, there are blogs and people who wish that you visit their blog so that you can read their content.  Particularly when they earn money via advertising, it’s to their benefit to serve up advertising and also to keep track of the analytics of their blog so that they can report a large number of visitors.

There are other people that blog for a hobby, to share their learning, to promote this and that.

I guess I’m in that second category.  It’s not that I don’t like a large number of readers; it’s just that I don’t need them for financial reasons.  In my case, I think I’m pretty liberal should anyone else to use the content from here elsewhere.

If you check the about page on the blog, you’ll find my wishes:

I just ask that you attribute things to me, don’t use it commercially, and don’t edit the content.  I can make enough mistakes on my own.  That should give enough latitude for proper reuse.  I encourage those who I’ve interviewed to report to their blogs.  I even think it would be nice for a district to share the interview on their website like they do other good news media stories.

There’s an even more liberal approach and one of my favourite Ontario bloggers, Donna Fry, goes that route.

When I make reference to other blogs, I always do my best to ensure that I give credit to the original author by only taking a snippet and making sure that there’s a link back to the original.  My “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” series is an example of that.

I like to think that it completely honours their work, gives others a highlight of what I’ve read in the previous week, and gives me a chance to comment on a topic in public usually for something that I wish I’d originally written.

The process takes a bit of work.  First, I have to read the post and I actually start the post for the upcoming week on this blog.  I’ll paste the URL to the post and throw down a rough idea of what struck me as noteworthy from the post and then schedule it for the upcoming Friday morning at 5am.  Then, on Thursday, I’ll revisit the post and decide what I’m going to say and create my actual post.  I make sure that I don’t just copy/paste their entire post.  From my perspective, it’s important that the reader links back to their original so that they get the content and the original author gets the statistics hit.

There’s actually an easier way – WordPress has a “reblog” feature.  If you are publishing on WordPress, you can show “reblog” as you see fit in the configuration.

I also have WordPress configured to let me know a number of things that happen to this blog.

It makes for a noisy mailbox but there’s just something nice about knowing that someone, anyone has interacted with the content.

WordPress also has a built-in reader/curator for you – on the web or standalone for Macintosh/Windows.  I have many of the blogs that I read tucked away in there so that I don’t miss their content.  There’s so much that you could read.  I even have this blog in the reader so that I can read it in the reader.  How’s that for redundancy?

Reblog is built right into the reader.  So, suppose I stumble on another post and I want a copy for myself.

I can just share it on my own blog.  Or, quite frankly, if you want a copy that only you can see, start a private blog and just share the content there.

So, back to Donna.  Recently, she shared a post about Digital Identify and Mental Health.  It’s an important and interesting read.  I would encourage you to read it when you have a moment.  In it, she shares her presentation materials.

By using the reblog feature, I would get this

Recently I have been fortunate to be asked to present at two different venues (Refresh2016 in North Bay, and the DSBONE Professional Learning Day) on the importance of understanding how digital identities impact mental health in teens, and where we as educators can find resources. Here are the reading slides for this topic.

via Mental Health as a Priority: What’s Digital Identity Got to Do With It? — Learning About Learning

That could appear on my public blog, should I desire.  Or, if I’m tucking it away, it might appear on my private blog for future reference.  I like what she’s doing here and it’s something that everyone who works at the Ministry should be doing – being very visible about their activities and sharing their thinking with us.  The official word can come in the form of a formal document with the trillium but it’s nice to see her thinking on a regular basis.

Most importantly, all that’s contained in the reblog is just another snippet.  You’ll notice that the reblog contains a link back to her original post.  That way, she maintains ownership of the content, her blog holds the complete post, and she gets the analytics for the visit.

There’s a great deal of benefit to sharing information this way.  It’s a real art and I think that it can only serve to enhance the blog of anyone who chooses to use it.

We all have different networks of readers and it would serve to expand readership – providing that the original author approves of it.

And the best part, is that you never lose track of it.  It’s posted on your blog.

Check out these articles if you want more detail about reblogging.

A refresher or an introduction

With the new school year on the horizon, this may be a timely resource to take a look at.

  • If you’re an experienced user of the internet, there are still things to learn
  • If you’ve taken a break from things this summer, you might want a refresher
  • If you’re taken the leap for the first time, there’s a whole different collection of jargon to learn
  • If you’re teaching any computer concepts, it’s always nice to have a collection of resources

The bottom line is that there’s something here for everyone.

I had to use it myself this morning.  Someone had texted me a message with an acronym that was new to me.  

I actually couldn’t find the reference so I’m wondering if the message was the victim of an auto-correct.  However, I did find a couple new ones that I just might inflict on someone else.  The internet is like that!  <grin>

Check out the resource here.

Whatever happened to …

… dominoes?

I haven’t thought about these or even seen them in years. 

I suppose that I could somehow make this fit into a suggestion for making in the classroom.

After all, who doesn’t have 3,242 dominoes at the ready for such a purpose.  I checked the Walmart site and you can buy a classic set of 28 dominoes for $29.98.  So, do the math before approaching your principal.

I can remember playing the game as it’s intended as a kid.

I also remember the big setups for television to start an activity with the knocking over of the first domino and then it cascades into knocking down the rest.  I was always impressed the proper positioning of the dominoes allowed them to actually climb a hill.

But, this video puts it over the top for me.

It’s labelled a “Fail” but it certainly would surpass anything that I ever dreamed of.

So, …

  • does anyone play dominoes anymore?  I can remember watching people play on the Danforth when I lived in Toronto.
  • have you ever “made” something with dominoes?
  • do you still own a set?

Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts?

Please visit this Padlet and add your idea.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!